The audio presentation for this release has the original Japanese language track and the Geneon English language track, both of which are in stereo encoded at 192kbps. We listened to this show in both mixes and neither of them stand out a lot in any real way but they are decent sounding and cover the basic range required. There isn’t anything really noticeable in terms of directionality but it has a solid forward soundstage that works well for the material. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in early 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Originally released on three discs by Geneon, it’s on two discs here using the same source materials as the credits are identical. It’s spread over two discs in a seven/five format as well. Using a range of vibrant colors and very clean artwork, Disgaea is the kind of show that intends to look bright and silly but still retaining some of the aesthetics that most anime fans expect when it comes to details and backgrounds. The source material for this is in pristine shape which means no actual issues with what we have here. Colors in general do look quite good though and maintain a mostly solid feel without much in the way of general background noise and there isn’t anything to note in regards to cross coloration.
Disgaea comes in a single sized keepcase but gets the added bonus of having a cardboard slipcover over it which replicates the front facing side of the keepcase itself. The front cover gives us a good look at the main trio of Laharl, Flonne and Etna with his scarf piece providing a good bit of dark red for the background. There’s a bit more shadow on Laharl that really doesn’t feel like it serves it well, but the combination of the three of them with the varying hair colors and their placement gives it the right kind of mixture of darkness and light. The back cover has a good look at the logo again which I always find cute with the Prinny against the moon. Laharl makes up the main draw here along the left while the right has a decent look at the shows summary without giving away too much of it. A good little strip of shots from the show is near the bottom along with a clean look at the discs extras. The part that doesn’t work so well is the production information along the bottom and the technical information is done in red against a black background.
The keepcase cover is identical to the slipcover which doesn’t look quite as sharp and vibrant as the slipcover does. The reverse side of the cover has some good stuff to it though with the left side featuring just the episode number and title breakdown with each disc while the right side has a very appealing shot of the three leads, with very big eyes, huddled together with Laharal on top. Flonne’s expression is priceless here which really sells it all the more. No show related inserts are included with this release though.
The menu design for the show is very straightforward as it uses the purples and blues for the background while letting character artwork of the leads take center stage on both of them that’s reminiscent of the Geneon covers as well as the overall packaging design here. The navigation is kept to the left a bit with a large simple font that works with the look of the show here. There’s little to the discs in general as the extras are on the second disc and navigation is simple and a breeze. Submenus load quickly when you need to access them and the discs do not read our players’ language presets and instead default to English with sign/song subtitles.
The extras for this release are all on the second disc and there’s a couple of good ones to be had here. The main thing we get are the special talks with the voice actor for Laharal which are spread cross four pieces, though parts three and four are in one segment as that’s how it was put together previously. The run a combined time of just under twenty minutes or so and covers the games and the anime with him. In addition to that, we get the original promo for the series, the clean opening and closing segments and a trailer for the Disgaea 3 game from NIS America.
As seems to be something of a commonality when it comes to shows like this, you can never quite be sure what you’ll get when you deal with a game becoming an anime. The two do go hand in hand in Japan pretty well but the results, just like with manga to anime adaptations, can really go a number of ways. Disgaea in its original form managed to hit western shores as well so there is something of a built in audience there that other games don’t have. While I didn’t play it myself, I have a few friends who did and they all swore by how enjoyable the game was. They also swore at how awful the anime is in comparison for a number of reasons that don’t mean anything to me since I never played.
Thankfully, the anime itself comes across as quite enjoyable for me. I have no idea if playing the game will expand on what’s here but there is something of a classic feel to the humor and style of Disgaea. The show opens with a simple premise of our following an angel in training named Flonne as she makes her way into a crypt in the netherworld. She doesn’t realize it’s a crypt as she thinks it’s a castle and proceeds to bust open the casket inside so she can get to the gentleman in there. To her surprise though, it’s not the demon overlord she’s there to assassinate but rather his son Laharl.
Flonne isn’t the epitome of a ditz but she’s working her way hard towards being one. She’s a good kind-hearted angel in training who sees the goodness in everyone. When confronted with someone like Laharl, she sees the same things in him and is determined to have him understand that. Her mission suddenly becomes one of not assassinating the overlord anymore (since he’s been dead for two years they find out) but rather to make him realize the true meaning of love. So instead of heading back to Celestia, she starts following him as he tries to figure out how he can assume the title of overlord of the netherworld. The two are essentially the odd couple personified and as traveling partners they’re quite comical.
As the show goes on, there are a lot of demons searching after Laharl based on the bounty on his head, Flonne is still trying to teach him the ways of love and positive thought and Etna is hoping to be able to get Laharl taken out. Mix in a few other characters that get involved and it all rolls along in an amusing way that doesn’t actually require any kind of commitment. You could easily skip and episode or two here and not really miss anything in terms of plot progression. When it comes to the core characters and what they’re doing, changes aren’t really expected here since their personalities are where the humor comes from.
The comedy through the middle arc of the series is pretty good and kept us laughing throughout. One episode is a bit of fun since it removes Flonne from the equation for a bit and pits Etna and Laharl against a demonslayer that’s trying to collect on Laharl. She’s not altogether there as she questions her abilities and how things will happen constantly but she’s still better at what she does than Flash Gord… I mean, Captain Gordon. Where she’s useful is in that she’s able to lead Laharl to the one that actually put the bounty out on him, which in turn has Etna concerned but also curious to see how it will play out. Add in the amusing Mid-Boss to the equation and the situation turns into what a lot of these turn into, something with lots of confusion, spells flying all over and Laharl getting completely frustrated.
With a lot of this series being basically a road trip that has the leads as the only real fixture to it, each new episode brings us something new when it comes to location. Some episodes have a good bit of fun as it deals with the group being attacked or dealing with the demon who has something on Etna. The last episode though is where all the good stuff truly is, particularly if you’re a Prinny fan. These little creatures have been hysterical from the start and all the more so when listening to this in English. After listening to the first volume in both languages, we did this one in just English and this was particularly important for humor in the last episode. With the netherworld in a state of uncertainty after the death of the Overlord, the Prinnies have decided it’s their time to move up and stop being such slaves to the demons.
All of them have left their positions throughout the netherworld and are now heading towards a pair of floating islands in the sea. Under the control of one particular Prinny who is using idols to his advantage, a Prinny Rebellion is underway with one of them assuming the title of Prinny Overlord. It’s simply hysterical watching dozens upon dozens, hundreds of Prinnies, trying to become organized. It’s almost like trying to herd cats. The Prinny Overlord manages to accomplish it to some extent and the visuals of all of these Prinnies in lockstep is both frightening and amusing. Of course, this isn’t something that Laharl will stand for and without much help from Flonne and Etna who are just giggling over the entire concept, he has to deal with this massive rebellion.
Not content with dealing with humanity, Laharl also has his eyes set on Celestia. Flonne’s influence has certainly been a positive one on him but circumstances haven’t changed his overall opinion that he needs to rule all three of the basic dimensions. Once Celestia becomes involved in a more formal way than just Flonne we get to see some of what’s really been going on behind the scenes. It’s a slight plot and one that fits in with everything that Flonne has been espousing since she first came on stage with the series. It also keeps with the kind of light and simple storytelling that’s made up the show so far. While that could be detrimental to some shows I think it actually works here, particularly in its English language adaptation.
While there are dimension-shaking events going on at the end of the series, some of the best material comes with an episode that focuses entirely on the Prinnies. These creatures have been positively hilarious in general but also are even better in English with their inflection of the word “dude.” With one episode on here we get a real look at what the Prinnies are all about and how they evolve for lack of a better word. They’ve been a strange group of throwaway creatures since the start and have had some really weird moments but in tying it to Laharal’s origins and foisting more of that “love freak” stuff on him, it’s just a great episode. Even as forced as it gets in terms of the emotions, the comedic side of it just stands out stronger.
For reasons that I can’t quite pin down, the English language dub for this series simply stands out to me. I’ve never been a big fan of Sandy Fox but she just made Flonne all the better with her performance here. The same goes for Michelle Ruff who did a fantastic job as Etna. Both of them brought more to their roles than the Japanese cast did for me. Barbara Goodson was probably the weakest of them for me but since Laharal is such a one-note character with the way he deals with things it’s not too much of a surprise. I’m still very disappointed that once again PCB Productions does not provide it’s cast list for inclusion in the end credits. I want to know who was in these roles, particularly for the Prinnies as they just did a fantastic job.
Disgaea’s a show that continues to make me laugh. It’s the rare show where I far prefer the English language adaptation over the original Japanese. When I first saw it, the whole thing just made me laugh and I found myself doing the same this time around, especially as I watched a lot of it with my kids who love the Prinnies. It’s a straightforward series overall and what makes it work is the comedy of the characters as they essentially perform a road trip story. The characters simply click really well for me and the lack of a connection to the game makes it even easier to enjoy without doing comparisons. The first time I went in with no preconceptions and came away laughing. I’m still laughing and enjoying it and am glad to see the whole thing in one nice little package.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Special Talks 1-4, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Video Game Trailer, Japanese Promo, Textless Songs, Trailers.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.