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Mikagura School Suite Complete Collection UK Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Mikagura School Suite UK Blu-ray CoverThe fine line between funny and annoying has never been so close…

What They Say:
From the studio behind Laughing Under the Clouds and Yuruyuri comes a high school fantasy unlike any other! Like most awkward teens, formerly reclusive gamer Eruna Ichinomiya struggle to find her place at Mikagura High School. But her experience is far from ordinary, as the mischief-making members of the schools manga, calligraphy, drama, and other cultural clubs vie for total school domination in a rather extreme way ULTIMATE ATTACKS. Get ready for the high-energy high school adventure youve only ever dreamed of.
Contains the complete series on Blu-Ray and DVD with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio has a 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese – I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese to compare – and with the Japanese release I did have to raise the volume a little from my default settings, however, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. The dub sometimes verges on too loud at times but the combination of music and foley (the fighting effects add to this as well as near the end of the series it does go surprisingly dark albeit briefly) works well and is transferred perfectly.

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in a more traditional sense, with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release, and one with no real effects in terms of CGI or anything, the colour scheme just works throughout, albeit a straight over transfer from a Funimation release.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu on both discs basically has a shot of all the main characters in various poses on the right, whilst below are your selections of Play All, Set Up, Episodes and Extras on a red bar. Static screen with music in the background, it functions quickly like most Blu-Rays and also like most Blu-Rays has a pop-up screen allowing you to change your selections even during the show without resorting to returning to the main menu bar extras. Very standard but very accessible.

Extras:
A lot of the Funimation releases to the UK are straight transfers from the US releases and thus have very similar extras – Mikagura is no exception and we have the dub commentaries for episodes 9 and 10.

Episode 9 has Chris George (ADR Director for episodes 10-12), Sonny Strait (ADR Director for episodes 1-9, also VA of Bimi) and Monica Rial (Eruna). Basically this commentary reflects the character of Eruna, which was pretty much Monica being herself but somehow with extra sugar…

Aside from the obvious casting choice here, it actually deals a bit into how long she and Sonny have been in the business (17 and 20 years respectively, Monica mentions her first Funi roles was Kiddy Grade, and yes I swear Monica hasn’t aged a day since I met her back at Amecon 2004) to the point where other veteran Vas have forgotten some of the earlier roles they worked on (mentioned Collen Clinkenbeard forgot Sonny did the voice of Krillin in DBZ when asking if he could do action/fighting scenes ^^) – they do discuss that people ask them how to become a voice actor (and stern glares to those who think it is just turn up at Funimation and say you have a good voice), directing processes, why repeat voice actors do occur in other works, other forms of acting they are in involved with, and wanting one day there to be a southern anime…yeah, it’s a mix of intelligent and wacky with this commentary.

The second one has Chris and Sonny return but with Jamie Marchi (writer, VA of Seisa) where a similar serious nature for part of it (how acting changes whether it is VA work, theatre, college, comedy, radio, music, etc) and some a bit more unpleasant (Jamie re-counts that her voice is apparently rather…er…pleasing to some of the male fanbase and we’ll leave it at that) – there are some fun tidbits they mention with their fellow Vas (Chris Sabat’ band Bullet Machine is mentioned which was also discussed in the recent Show By Rock commentary) and overall is your general fun but factual commentary.

After that, most of the remaining extras are your standard ones – you have the textless opening, all the clean endings (the regular one, and the unique ones for episodes 1, 8, 9 and 11), a promo video, the TV spot, the Blu-Ray/DVD Promos, the US Trailers, and standard trailers for Rainy Cocoa, Barakanon, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, The Rolling Girls, and A Good Librarian Likes A Good Shephard.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mikagura School Suite wasn’t a show I was familiar with, but I did know it was a Vocaloid inspired show – basically the original novels were named/inspired by Vocaloid songs. With the focus on their songs used in the anime, they may also need to remember one other thing….

The anime itself.

You see, it is good that a franchise is selling stuff to a fan base, but it needs to remember that the actual show needs to be good. And this….is….strange.

We are introduced to our lead character early, Eruna, a rather perverted young woman who has no goals or ideas in her life aside from playing video games. However her cousin Shigure asks her to come to his school Mikagura Private Academy. As he is clearly in love with her (and Eruna clearly prefers girls and also hates him) she initially refuses…but then sees the picture of the chairman of the school’s granddaughter and falls in lust…er love immediately. She applies but the school is a tad…different.

Mikagura School Suite Episode 3You see, whilst this idea has been used before (Gakuen Alice springs immediately to mind), the clubs at this school are very battle heavy, and the better you do in battle, the better your perks are. Art club members use their paint like explosives, whilst astronomy members shoot firecrackers out of their telescopes. However Eruna has no luck with finding a club and is stuck with literally a sleeping bag, and no club she feels she can do. However by chance, the girl she saw in the brochure, Seisa, sees her and invited her to her Going-Home club on the grounds she acts like the clubs rep in a battle. She of course accepts…and then realises she has no powers.

Except somehow seeing a talking cat named Bimii, one of the teachers…

Eruna basically has to learn pretty quickly if she has any skills, as she faces one of the calligraphy club members, a short pretty lady named Himi (which of course Eruna drools over, she isn’t subtle our lead) but during her escape, a mysterious woman says she already has a power…and then voila, super speed and an attack called Toy Gun, she wins and cue rest of the series.

O.K, it is a little more than that but yeah, basically Eruna is your typical protagonist in trying to get stronger as well as other desires, but also has this Mary Sue like quality of everyone getting to like her despite her nature. The series has quite a colourful cast of characters – ranging from the drama club students in particular Yuto, who hides his true persona behind his acting and can create copies of himself, Asuhi, the adorable first year of the Astronomy Club that even Eruna seems to crush on as he is very girlish in his looks, Sadamatsu, a very quiet person and only rep of the flower arranging club, and my personal favourite Kyoma, the apparently scary Art club member…who loves milk and is very misunderstood. The series for most of the early episodes is basically Eruna meeting all these people, learning their personalities, back stories (Yuto, Asahi and Kyoma all have surprisingly deep back stories in the time they are given) but it is all down to Eruna improving before the rookie tournament, with Seisa in between being very mysterious in what she wants Eruna to be (lets her stay at her place, but won’t let her get too close) – leaving Eruna wondering what the point of the Going-Home Club is and instead trying to do her own club…

Mikagura School Suite Episode #2
Mikagura School Suite Episode #2

We get the tournament, with a few faux pas (the underneath Drama Club members get some nice moments but a fake out with an apparent powerhouse who defeats one of them…only to lose to another one…who in turn loses to Eruna) but it does lead to the introduction of Otone, perhaps the most intriguing character of the show, as it seems she is being set up to be the rival of Eruna…

…who couldn’t care less and just wants to befriend her because she’s hot. ^^ Also Otone also is a bit weird with a split personality and a bit of wanting to be Eruna’s friend but trying to be stubborn about it, and the series seems to change in Otone and Eruna creating a club, with some battles, some silliness, needing to find a third member…

…which does lead to the one good part of the series, when Otone confronts Seisa about her ignoring Eruna – the two fights and Seisa’s ability seems to be locked. Seisa shuts herself in and her ability goes out of control which causes cracks in space and time appear whilst the next tournament involving everyone is happening – Seisa via Bimii’s past is also explained (there is a scene in the first episode which showcases this flashback but it isn’t explained until episode 11) and it leads to the school in dimensional cracks – this leads to who that mysterious woman was that gave Eruna her powers, and what Eruna means to Seisa. It does end with a note that a sequel could be on the way, as well as potentially close the series fully.

Which could work either way to be honest.

Mikagura is a strange series – I’m not sure whether I like it or not. The positives first – the range of characters in such a short series with just enough depth that you like them and remember them is surprisingly good. I mentioned even the underneath drama club members get a few moments (two of them get into battles, the one in particular Tonkyun is fun because he never gets to reveal his real name in a running gag, whilst Kumano is an adorable girl who thinks she’s a bear, and Nya is a tall Russian-esque cat girl…enough said) but each of the other club members who are drawn to Eruna are ironically, more interesting than her.

Yuto for example seems to have a rivalry with Asuhi, but in reality it is because he reminds him of his little brother which gives him a bit of a bad flashback – his acting is a way to hide the way the pain over the years, whilst Asuhi is a sweet boy who was very shy and slowly opens up throughout the series (the party episode in particular) – Himi, the calligraphy opponent is just a little bundle of fun, (don’t ever say she’s short though), Sadamatsu has some great quirks (the running gag of protecting his giant figure that no-one wants) and Kyoma being the tough looking but kind-hearted sempai, handing milk over to help combined with his history with Shigure and past in general make him my favourite.

The latter few episodes also actually hold up quite well – the introduction of Otome and her friendship with Eruna actually helps Eruna’s character as well as the clash with Seisa inevitably happens – and when Seisa’s past is discovered, her earlier weakness (lack of characterization, only coming around when the plot requires, etc) is nullified and you learn of who she is and what her past was. Otome herself with her tsundere attitude is a lot of fun, meaning that pretty much all the cast are memorable and entertaining.

The end will come with a bimi, not a whimper.So what is the problem?

Sadly, it is the main lead. And as she is clashing with everyone, it affects everyone as well. Eruna is a dreaded Mary Sue character with the idea of wondering why everyone likes her, and it isn’t because she is a nice character – she’s nice, energetic and wants to be friends, but combined with her perverted nature and rather full on way of trying to be friends (think Pinkie Pie combined with Sana from Kodacha if they both became oversexed) – with it leading to the serious moments it does suffer that Eruna focuses on Seisa and Otone, whilst the other characters interactions are nullified. Eruna a lot of times just feels really annoying and weakens the scenes she is in when she is full on hyper mode. A lot of the plot is basically Eruna interacting, trying to win Seisa over, becoming more powerful and if it wasn’t for the final episode, you would feel that it is just plot deus ex machina occurring for no real reason except due to protagonist power.

This is why I’m conflicted. The idea of students being gifted powers and needing to do well to get better perks has been done before, and for a Vocaloid inspired show, it isn’t that bad. It feels like it was definitely rushed and more interaction with some of the other cast would have helped and thanks to just enough back-story with them, it does stop the beat down of hyper pervert Eruna taking all the screen time, it is just most of it. Seisa herself is a non-factor until near the end (Otone being far more interesting) aside from yuri pandering, and Eruna’s good moments (which she does have) are minimal and put to the side bar the ending in favour of wacky and ecchi moments – though she does have some comedy as well (her shutdowns of Shigure being a factor), they don’t save the show from being quite annoying at times, which is a shame as if it had been expanded, and toned down her worse moments, the show would have definitely had a better grade. As it is, it’s time filler at best.

In Summary:
Mikagura School Suite didn’t really have much of a plot with its influence, and what they did get has been done before and better. It does have some strong points with some good side characters, and the action scenes are animated beautifully, but the two lead characters are either a non-factor until the end, or too over the top to be completely entertaining and more verges on annoying. Add to that a weakened plot that only really gets interesting in the last 3 episodes, the saviour is the fun other characters who do at least get enough back-story or quirks that it will at least entertain you just enough that it isn’t totally a waste of time.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episode commentaries, Promotional Videos, Textless Opening and Ending songs.

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Anime Ltd via Funimation
Release Date: March 13th, 2017
MSRP: £44.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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