What They Say:
Even though her ridiculously wealthy family tries to give her everything, it’s not until the sheltered Wakaba Kohashi fails to get into an upscale school that she finds what she really needed: a group of friends who want to know the real her, and not her status. Her new school mates may not be up to date on haute couture, but Wakaba is enthralled by their knowledge about the outside world, including the flashy “gyaru” fashion. Soon, Wakaba is helping (or TRYING to help) her newfound friends with their newfound high school girl problems. From helping innocent Moeko though gymnastics, standing in for Nao in a beauty contest, and inadvertently helping Mao act like a rich girl, to simply enjoying the joys of girl talk and sharing ice cream, there’s a whole new world of everyday wonders waiting to be discovered in WAKABA*GIRL!
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks are encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. The spoken dialog often overlays background music and sound effects. While not a problem with the discs, the sound does often muddy as the balance of the dialog and music have similar dynamic and volume range.
Encoded in variable bitrate MPEG 2, most of the series looks fine from a normal viewing distance. Much of the series is soft colored in a way that masks many artifacts, so it probably will look good on most laptops or home theaters.
The series comes in a standard keepcase size box. The hubs on the front and back of the box offer eight points of contact and hold the discs securely, and they mimic the eight leaf clovers that appear throughout the series. I doubt this is purposeful, but it still warrants note. The front cover has the four main characters in a colorful shower of leaves and petals. The back cover has Wakaba and Moe standing on either side of the summary with a field of green leaves and instant photographs of scenes from the show. The summary is written in green font on a white background, so it is easy to read. The credits and copyright information appear in black font on a butterscotch background. The technical grid is clear and easy to read.
Menus are simple and work as expected. Disc one repeats the cover image with a vertical list of episode titles and extras. Disc two has an image of the four main characters along with Wakaba’s mother and sister.
Clean Opening Animation and OVA
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sometimes you might want an anime with no surprises, and one that never challenges you as a viewer. Wakaba Girl may be for you.
Wakaba Girl is based on a seinen manga, but there is nothing here that would prevent this from being a great show for younger viewers, as long as they can read subtitles. This series fits in the cute-girls-being-cute slice-of-life subgenre of comedy. So many hyphens just to say that it really isn’t about anything. For some viewers, this is what this genre should be: easy to watch and gentle as a spring breeze.
I’ve read that some believe this type of anime exists for older male viewers to escape in a world where there are no consequences nor responsibilities. Unlike many of the cute girl series that have come to DVD over the last year, this series doesn’t try to create depth or complex identity for the characters. We have a cute rich girl, Wakaba, who has never learned to be part of a group because her rich family constantly moves. The group of friends includes an otaku who reads BL and plays games. Another girl is a good cook, and one girl is socially inept. I never bothered to learn their names because the stereotype is all that ever matters.
The series is a group of shorts that feature Wakaba as she squees about everything a common person might take for granted. Going out for ice cream might make her cry. She becomes very concerned when she cannot get her cordless phone to work as a cell phone. Oh, and she has an early evening curfew. Wakaba absolutely believes that giving people money is the best way to show her appreciation for their interaction.
There is no plot or arcs that would allow this series to have a developed narrative review. Instead, it works like the four panel comic it is based on to set up the girls in situations where they can be cute, loyal, airheads, or appreciative of each others’ talents. Their obligation to academic studies is minimal, but their obligation to socializing means they always seem to be encountering new situations, like going to visit one of their group for the first time. As Wakaba stands in the entryway with her toes hovering over the house slippers, we feel her hysterical enthusiasm.
Artwork for the series is as soft as the narrative. Nothing looks realist or super detailed, including the near-chibi character designs. The series is colorful and pleasant to look at, but after not watching the series for a few days, all I can remember is Wakaba drawn in that state between ecstasy and mourning where her eyes well up with tears and she almost weeps at getting to do something mundane.
If you cannot tell, I really didn’t find the series memorable or engaging. It was never meant to be more than a show that gives a viewer ten minutes of saccharine and mild spice, everything nice, pallid girls are made of. I really do believe that kids who can read the subtitles will enjoy this with their older siblings or parents. I know there are some seinen readers who will love this no matter their age.
The name Wakaba and the use of flower imagery in the opening informs the viewer they are going to see young girls starting to bloom. They do this by just being girls and going about their lives thinking of ice cream and trips to the pool. This series offers a type of comedy that caters to a very small group of viewers, but it does so in a way that it remains appropriate for audiences of all ages and genders. A viewer who wants very gentle humor, characters with unsafe swings of emotion, and a guarantee of nothing bad ever happening may appreciate this colorful collection of shorts.
Japanese DD 2.0 with English subtitles, Clean Opening, and Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 20th, 2016
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG2 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung KU6300 50” 4K UHD TV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.