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Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens Vol. #1 Anime DVD Review

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Kannagi Volume 1 CoverWhen her abilities as a goddess diminish because she has few followers, Nagi decides the path to gain back her power is through becoming an idol.

What They Say
The goddess Nagi has arrived and wants you to worship her!

Nagi is the local deity spirit of the town of Kannagi and she was able to take a physical form when Jin Mikuriya carved a wooden statue of her out of a block of wood from the sacred tree of his family shrine. Nagi’s mission is to cleanse the impurities that plague the land, but since her sacred tree has been cut down, she can only do this with Jin’s help.

While pursuing an impurity, Nagi is reunited with her sister, Zange, who happens to have converted to Catholicism. Zange’s power is greater than Nagi’s due to her scared tree still being in tact and becoming a local celebrity taking confessions on the street at night. The only way for Nagi to regain her power is to gather her own followers and gain popularity.

Will you become one of Nagi’s worshippers? Contains episodes 1-7

The Review:
Bandai’s release of this series is unfortunate as it has only the Japanese language track which is encoded at 192kbps for its stereo mix. This is a show that really needed an English language dub because it’s one that would have been a lot of fun to hear. The Japanese mix is pretty solid, though I do wish if they’re going to do one language only, they give us more than a 192kbps encoding. There’s some good directionality at times with this show, but a lot of it is just straightforward dialogue with some placement across the forward soundstage. There’s nothing wrong with this mix at all and it does good by the material with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in late 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release contains the first half of the series with seven episodes on a dual layered disc. The show features some very strong animation and the authoring by Nightjar manages to do quite a good job with it. While there are some average area bitrates to be found, overall it’s a very clean and pleasing presentation. Colors are vibrant, cross coloration is non-existent and the line noise is very minimal overall. I’m always a little wary with a seven episode disc, but I’m less so when it comes to Nightjar does the authoring.

Bandai doesn’t use sideways covers all that often but it’s really nicely done here. The background is very inviting with the wooded area of the shrine spread out there with light filtering through. It’s very green and serene which is made even more with Nagi herself sitting on the wood stump with her hair flowing in the breeze. It’s got a lot of detail throughout it and a great sense of coloring to it which makes it very inviting. The logo along the right is done Japanese style with the letters going down in a slightly off manner with the Crazy Shrine Maidens tag next to it. The back cover is laid out more traditionally and it follows through on the same kind of background, but softer and more indistinct of the woods. The text on it cover a lot with a good summary of the show that talks about a lot of things. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed and the extras are laid out prominently. The rest is given over the production credits and the technical grid. The only problem is that they list the runtime as 325 minutes, which even if this was everything it wouldn’t be entirely correct. The disc itself is 175 minutes. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu for this release mirrors the cover artwork but with Nightjar behind it, it gets juiced up in an appropriate way. There basic artwork is the same with Nagi sitting on the stump with the woods behind her, but they add some lighting through it with motion that plays across the ground, which with the soft instrumental music feels just perfect. It’s the kind of menu you don’t mind letting run for a few minutes. It’s also the kind of menu that reminds you of the old days before companies started doing static menus with no music and very minimal interaction overall. Submenus load quickly and with the disc being monolingual, player presets are a non-issue.

The only extras on this release is the clean version of the opening sequence and a clean version of the special ending with the seventh episode.

Based on the manga series by Eri Takenashi, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens is a thirteen episode series with an additional OVA that’s from Aniplex. Kannagi is a slice of life show with a supernatural element that arrives. In the town of Kannagi, the local area shrine is being taken down and merged with another shrine and that’s about to cause a problem. High school student Jin ends up getting intimately involved with the problem as he’s made a wood carving from one of the trees that was cut down. Living alone as his father is away, Jin is your typical good kid with a good head on his shoulders and he doesn’t stand out much. Not hugely atheltic, not overly smart or highly talented, he’s average yet has a bit of charm and personality about him. His life is turned upside down when the carving he’s made suddenly comes to life as the goddess of the shrine has inhabited it.

That goddess is Nagi, a very cute girl who can’t believe what’s happening to the shrine and her role in the town. After spending so many centuries there protecting everyone, her powers have grown weak because she has so few followers now. With Jin being the first person she sees and the fact that he basically carved her, she forces herself into living with him while she attempts to gain more followers. Nagi is sort of brash at times, very self centered and she takes advantage of Jin on a regular basis. For example, she has him do all the cooking because she doesn’t have a clue how to do that, which makes sense considering her origins. But when she has to compete with a few others over Jin, she’s able to whip up an amazing meal.

Nagi plays to some familiar themes as it moves along. Initially, we see that she uses the meager powers she has to deal with the impurities she finds in bug form throughout the area, impurities that bring down others in various ways. Nagi isn’t the only goddess to populate the show either as we learn that she has a sister that came from the same tree that was split off years ago. Zange is playing the same kind of role as Nagi, but she’s nowhere as weak because her tree still exists. That means she can deal with the impurities herself and doesn’t need the help of Jin. Add in a few school related story ideas here and there and the childhood friend in Tsugumi who watches over on Jin while his father is out of the country and there isn’t anything that’s really heavily different in terms of story ideas from other similar shows.

Where the difference comes is in the execution. While there are slapstick moments to be had here and there, and a decent amount of comedy, it has a more relaxed pace overall. It’s not rushing through to hit point by point and instead has a little more leisure to it. Nagi and Jin spend a lot of time together at first before they slowly start bringing in everyone else. The art class group is cute in how they interact and the way they all take advantage of the normal looking otaku within it. Kannagi really comes across as the right kind of slice of life show where it’s mixing in the goddess element. It is strong at times as is to be expected, but the bulk of the show falls into the social interactions or Nagi trying to figure out how she can gain more followers.

What helps this leisurely pace is some very highly appealing character designs and animation. The animation by A-1 Pictures is very strong and in the same category to me as what Kyoto Animation does. The characters are very well detailed and the costume design is spot on, especially with the appealing school uniforms. The detail carries over to the backgrounds as well which only adds to the impressive look of the show. Everything here has a very lived in look, settings where you can easily believe that these characters inhabit these spaces. The school is a bit less defined which isn’t a surprise, but overall the town of Kannagi really feels alive here. One area where this really hit home is a small one, where Jin and Tsugumi are talking as they walk through the town and there’s quite a lot going on in the background that gives it a sense of presence. So many shows in this genre keep things very minimal in this area that it’s very noticeable when they don’t.

In Summary:
The first half of the series is something that really surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect considering most shows of this nature play up the busy harem aspect quite a lot. There are a few moments that revolve around there which are rather amusing, but it doesn’t spend entire chunks of each episode there. Kannagi has some really great looking animation, very appealing character designs and a small but fun cast that I want to see more of. They move between outfits often which is a big plus while also showing us a very detailed town that they live in. It’s a laid back show but one that is moving along rather well in how it introduces new things and sets up the next piece. There are stories here, but it’s not completely focused on telling big or important stories. It’s fun, simple and enjoyable.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Episode Seven Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: July 21st, 2009
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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