What They Say:
In this 1920s tale of dark intrigue and romance, Japanese exchange student Kazuya Kujo strikes up a fast but uneasy friendship with the doll-like genius Victorique. Both outcasts, Victorique and Kujo explore the unsolved mysteries at their school. As they begin taking on more cases, a sinister plot begins to unfold in the shadows around them.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the newly produced English language track gets a 5.1 bump to it. The show is one that is largely dialogue focused so it doesn’t have a lot in the way of big standout moments but the 5.1 mix has its uses in some of the bigger scenes it does get with certain reveals and the like. The show works the dialogue side well with placement hitting some good notes throughout while the music score itself is one that blends well into the background but heightens the mood of many scenes. What we get is a show that may not stretch your sound system much but is well represented with what the original mix was intending to heighten the mood as needed and provide for some good ambient moments throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout for both mixes and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Bones, Gosick has a very appealing look to it with some richly detailed backgrounds, great looking character designs, and an earthy color palette that fits the 1920’s period well. It’s not a slick and glossy show in a way but it has such a solid visual design to it that it helps sell the location and characters very well. The encoding captures all of this very well since there aren’t a lot of high motion sequences for the most part and that lets the detail stand out in a big way, especially for the backgrounds. I love the look of this series and it was one that made an impression when it first aired that looks great here to finally have in physical form.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork, albeit with bright and better colors thanks to the cardstock. The front cover image is a good one with our two leads in Victorique’s favorite place but with the framing used it’s given an additional bit of elegance about it that works very well. The lighter backgrounds, the more illustration style look of it, and the appealing expression of the characters all come together in a very good way. The text block on the front cover is just a little too unnecessary but it was part and parcel of the overall design. The back cover is just as detailed with its framing in a very natural kind of way and we get some decent if small images from the show here that lets you know more of what the final work looks like. The summary of the premise is a bit small in terms of font size and content but it covers a decent bit and sets the tone for it. The rest is made up of the usual with a clean look at the extras as well as the technical details of the release. While there are no show related inserts here we do get artwork on the reverse side that has more of the Japanese cover artwork with the cast that’s just as detailed and appealing as the front cover.
The menu design for this release doesn’t surprise too much as we get a simple static piece for it and not a clip based one. The left side features the key artwork from the broadcast period that was used of the main characters and it works well to set the tone for the show with the softer colors and the illustration style approach. The right half is given over to a large clear space that has the series name across it while the bottom has the navigation strip in a light brown where we get the standard selections that all load quickly and easily. It doubles as the pop-up menu as well and while it may be a bit bland it gets the job done and works without issue.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the light novel series written by Kazuki Sakuraba and illustrated by Hinata Takeda that spawned a manga as well, Gosick is a twenty-four episode series that was originally licensed by Bandai Entertainment but never released before they closed up shop. The series caught a lot of attention early on since animation studio Bones worked on it and it’s one of the elements that helps it to still look very good several years after first airing. The series is one that steps outside of the norm for anime by taking place in 1924 and in a European country named Saubure (background sites list it as Sauville). Putting it in these elements gives it a different feel overall visually, but a lot of the anime norms are here as well with character designs, uniforms and the like. The show focuses on Kazuya Kujo, an exchange student who has just arrived here at the behest of his older brother.
Kazuya comes across as a decent young man who isn’t exactly thrilled to be where he is, but he’s discovering quite a lot of beauty there even as other students talk up ghost stories, the grim reaper and other elements of the occult while keeping him at arm’s length. What seems to set him down a path that will change his life is when he ends up in this lush room where a young woman is sitting on the elaborate floor that looks like a doll and tells him what his future will be like. He’s convinced she’s a doll but it’s actually a fellow student that’s never at her desk named Victorique. Victorique lays into him pretty easily as she pins down his personality traits and place in the world which sort of disarms him, but also puts the two rather quickly into a position where they’re somewhat comfortable around each other. At least until the handsome dandy with bizarre hair named Grevil arrives and adds the comedic element to the series. Well, outside of some of the more outgoing students we’ve seen.
Grevil’s actually an inspector who has some business with Victorique and he uses Kazuya as a conduit to talk to her about a mystery that happened involving a dead grandmother and an inheritance. While he’s trying to get Kazuya to answer with what may have happened in this case, it’s more a way of getting Victorique to reveal it as she has the ability to reconstruct such scenes with ease, seeing all the fragments of chaos as she puts it and putting it all together. The back and forth with it is amusing as he won’t really give her direct interaction for the most part while talking about it, but when she reveals the killer as someone different than Grevil, Grevil throttles Kazuya about it. The reconstruction is done in fairly classic detective story style, something every Detective Conan fan will recognize, but it’s really nicely done in terms of style and animation.
Kazuya’s interactions with Grevil later on go a long way towards explaining some of the mysteries that exist here as Grevil gains all the glory from Victorique’s exposure of the true criminal. Unlike other leading men, Kazuya goes right to him and demands satisfaction for Victorique but ends up being told that she’s not allowed to leave the building without permission. There are some nice little quirks, obvious as they may be, introduced because of this encounter since Kazuya doesn’t want Grevil getting away with the attention and the lavish gift. Seeing him being forthright about it and going after Grevil was really nicely done and shows a different face for a lead character, even though he looks to be kept largely under Victorique’s heel a lot of the time.
What this first half of Gosick is like is essentially established in that first episode. Though there are teases along the way that furthers the relationship between Kazuya and Victorique a lot of what we get are the various mysteries du jour. The downside is that the background on Victorique largely comes in small fashions and occasionally tied to a new event, but it isn’t a primary or moving focus early on. One of the fun early episodes takes place on board a ship called the “Miniature Garden Box Evening” where it’s a big fancy event for a relatively small group of people, numbering just over twelve or so. It’s a very proper affair overall but it takes a turn for the worse when in the midst of their meal, everyone slowly blacks out. When they awaken, they’ve all been moved to a nearby lounge and the same number of people are no longer there. The mixture of men and women in their elegant clothes and in a very elegant setting turns decidedly dark as people start being attacked from different positions around the ship from there on, with the first one going down hard in the lounge which sets the rest off in a panic.
Gosick plays the mystery well here as it moves further into what’s going on. The panic the party guests start to feel is heightened well as they make their way around the ship. Attempts to escape onto lifeboats are met with disaster as incredibly rough seas are abound. The passengers that are left all have very different natures about them with who they are and what they represent, but there’s a certain class of people here overall, from a foreign minister to the daughter of a coal mine owner to an actor as well. The winnowing out of the group brings events to a deeper exploration of what’s going on with the ship having quite a history to it. It’s a strong mystery that’s slowly revealed to good effect. It’s the combination of the strong characters and very strong design of the backgrounds and overall cinematography that elevates it to an engaging thriller of a mystery.
Another episode deals with one of the quirks of Kazuya in that his mind can get away from him a bit in interesting ways that’s often overlooked in other shows. Early on here, the pair are investigating the library as Victorique has found rather easily the book that Avril had and that leads them to leafing through it to try and find a clue. While Victorique talks along about various stories, there’s a very interesting picture of a fairy in there that looks very much like Victorique. You can see him wanting to ask about it, or just to say something, but after the clobbering he gets for looking at the book too closely, it’s understandable why he’s a little gunshy at the moment.
Kazuya’s life is taking another interesting twist as it goes along as Grevil reveals to him alter on that there’s a phantom thief about town, flitting around and causing trouble and reports. Not surprisingly, there’s going to be a connection to Kazuya’s life as he starts to get the clue that there’s definitely something more to Avril and that she could be in cahoots with this thief for some unknown reasons. With the way she’s coming across so oddly at times, Kazua is easily suspicious of her and puts everything she says through a magnifying glass, trying to find out an angle. Yet he’s also rather open with her about things, talking about Victorique and her investigation some, which gives Avril a bit of information she didn’t have before.
Victorique’s revelations about the original phantom thief starts Kazuya and Grevil down the path to figuring things out more since it relates to the book that Avril had and it eventually leads to them finding her tied up in the dark in the storehouse. It’s an interesting spiral of events as we learn exactly what’s been going on with Avril and the truth of her personality since arriving at the academy and how she’s essentially manipulated everyone. It’s not all that surprising in a way, considering the time period and the ease in which this kind of trick can be pulled off. Kazuya’s confrontation with her is appropriately moody, but it all feels just a bit too wordy in a way, more talking than is necessary in order for Avril to do what needs to be done. But therein lies the problem with many characters, good and bad, when the situation really requires action instead of talk.
A later episode, one that I’m reminded was when the show returned after the earthquake and tsunami that interrupted its original run, is on the simple fun of the characters themselves, though it’s done with a soft style with a smile. This was critical at the time as a way to ease back into things in regards to life in general and it worked well The episode is rather fun one as it brings in a female character that’s unlike most of the others so far in the form of Jacqueline, the wife of the police superintendent. She’s very good friends with Blois, though there are issues there, and he asks Kazuya to be the one to take her around the grounds of the academy. Jacqueline has her own goal in mind though as she gets them to go the library where Victorique resides and she’s hell bent, in a funny way, on getting to the top of it all so she can see Victorique.
Jacqueline has gotten herself caught up in something though as while on the way over to the academy, her servant bumped into someone and ended up swapping the cases they were holding since they were pretty much identical. The crest on it however makes it so that Blois can figure it out easily and it has him feeling very serious about things. The serious side turns with Jacqueline as well as she starts to detail to Victorique about a murder investigation she was suspected in several years ago where a veterinarian had died and left a dying message that implicated her heavily. Even though Victorique doesn’t seek out mysteries, they do enter into her presence quite often and it’s hard to turn away from them, no matter how simple they may be.
What’s interesting is that the story she tells ties back to the murder investigation that Blois himself asked Victorique to reconstruct once before, which now gives it a much more human face. The explanation about the murder that she reveals to just Kazuya is short and to the point, and nicely done, but with it being something from the past, it does lack a bit of resonance to it all as it feels a bit more like an info dump. The storyline involving the case swap in the present is handled simply, with a nice little touch of humor to it all with how they act, but there’s an edge of seriousness to part of it as well when it comes to Blois as he deals with Victorique over Jacqueline. With his easily apparent feelings for her, it’s the kind of straining point between them that can be difficult to deal with.
The schooling side of the series gets paid very little attention overall, which can be kind of frustrating at times – not unlike many other series, but it at least does keep to dealing with some of the basics as we see campus life and all those that Kazuya knows around there. It’s mild material overall, but it does provide a bit of a backdrop that lets you realize that he is indeed in a school and knows a couple of people there. With this episode, it’s time for summer break and Avril is doing her best to spend some time with Kazuya by inviting him to Mediterranean with her. He’s all set to go, too, with the way Victorique gets all bitchy about it.
Since Victorique can’t go, she’s taking things out on him a bit and making her complaints after he’s gone about the sun and so forth, which is rather cute since she gets all pouty about it. Kazuya’s a good guy though, because even after he gets mad about her attitude and gets ready to head off, he finds that he still can’t bring himself to do it and instead spends the break with her, sharing his care package from Japan with her. Summer break with her is definitely an odd thing, though you can see the way the two do find a calming effect on each other. The time spent under the tree with Victorique reading and Kazuya in the tree watching over her is very relaxing and comforting in its presentation and atmosphere.
The show does spend a little bit of time showing some of Kazuya’s home life in Japan when he was younger, and there’s a good bit of material from the packages he’s got about the culture and the like that he both imparts to Victorique and just talks about in general with himself that it does help to flesh him out a fair bit. It’s a very mellow episode in how it deals with these things, but it does have some fun moments, such as having Kazuya walking around his building in his traditional kimono which is very alien to the servants that are still there doing chores and the like, and they do comment on it. It’s a good reminder of how he’s really not from there and something unusual and different to most of those at the academy, something that has largely been lost over the course of the show I think. They do delve into a little mystery closure with a small revelation at the end, and it’s a nice way to tie things up, but it didn’t particularly grab me either.
With this being a Bones production, the quality of the production is definitely very good and solidly consistent throughout its run. It’s quite light when it comes to the music with only some very minor incidental music used here and there outside of the appealing opening and closing sequences. The animation itself is as strong as you’d suspect, though the simulcast is only at 480p so it loses something compared to a high resolution type. But unlike some other shows what they do here is largely a very earthy kind of show with lots of brows and darker colors, but not in a way that feels like it’s too oppressive. It feels more reflective of the time and locales, though when they’re in the library area, it’s truly lush and beautiful, standing out unlike other areas of the show. The character designs are just as appealing, with dark uniforms contrasting brighter hair and expressions from most, and Victorique comes across very well in her role as the doll-like lead. Kazuya is a bit bland like a lot of male anime leads are, but it’s his personality that helps to separate him at this point.
The opening half of the Gosick series has finally arrived and fans of it are now able to own it and enjoy it, something that they’ve wanted to do for years – and Funimation gets kudos for being able to help achieve that. The series is one that has aged well as it’s just as enjoyable as it was the first time around, though marathoning it ends up whittling away a bit at the mystery of each episode that would stand out on a weekly basis. Funimation’s release is solid all around and while there may not be much in the way of extras or packaging they deserve extra recognition for producing a new dub for it, something that you wouldn’t normally see done for a show that missed its original release window by about six years. It’s a very fun show and one worth sinking your teeth into in little tasty bites as opposed to a binge worthy meal.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.