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Norn9 Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Norn9 Blu-ray PackagingA fascinating story – eventually.

What They Say:
It’s been so long since someone used her name that she’s forgotten it. Suddenly, she’s ripped away from everything she knows, chosen by a mysterious organization called The World for a secret mission. However, from the moment she steps on board the incredible spacecraft Norn, she knows that she’s found home. The other young people aboard the ship are just like her: gifted with unexpected skills and abilities. Now, to protect the future of peace and harmony, they’re at The World’s beck and call. Maybe she’ll find more than just a purpose. Maybe she’s finally found a family and, possibly, even… her soul mate? Join three amazing girls, nine incredible guys, and a mysterious kid as an epic odyssey begins.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as the only option, though it’s at least done in DTS-HD MA lossless form. The show leans a lot more toward dialogue than action but it has its moments where things go bigger. Some of these moments are a little subtle in some ways, focusing on the effects of the destruction and the like, but for the most part it handles it all well with some decent directionality and depth as needed. The dialogue side is the bigger piece and that area works very well too as there are a decent number of characters involved when they’re all together and the movement of the dialogue is well handled. Everything comes across in a clean and clear form and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2016, 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 Kinema Citrus and Orange, the series has a really great look to it with some detailed backgrounds as part of the intriguing world design. The characters are also well designed with a good level of detail to them in costume but also in color, which makes for a pretty engaging world to take in. There’s a really nice smoothness to a lot of this, especially since it works simpler moments for a lot of it, but it also comes across well in the busier areas with some good fluidity. The encoding brings this all together just right with a crisp clean look and some great color definition with solidity to it. It’s definitely a very appealing show to watch just on this front.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover artwork blends well with the case itself as it uses the main key visual promoting the show with three of the young men from it and their ship behind them in wispy white colors amid the clouds. It has some really nice detail to it that fleshes it out nicely. The back cover carries the background from the front through it and it has some shots from the show done in squares but also smaller shards that’s an interesting way to do it. The premise is well covered as are the extras, filling us in on what the show is about without giving away too much. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and an accurate and easy to read technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is definitely appealing as it uses a great pair of illustration pieces that shows off the cast and the setting well. The greens and blues from inside the ship are striking as are some of the hair color pieces, but not overly done. The layout is also one that works well with the positioning of the characters and the logo itself. The navigation is kept to the left side with episodes broken down by number and title while the second disc has the addition of the extras and trailers. There’s little in the way of submenus here due to it being a monolingual release but that just means there’s extra space to enjoy the feel of the design overall. It’s functional in terms of navigation but the presentation definitely looks good.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the otome game of the same name that came out in 2013 and has had a bit more since then, Norn9 is a twelve episode TV series that landed in the winter 2016 season. Animated by Kinema Citrus and Orange, the show is one that leans into the otome elements well enough – frustratingly so at first – but also actually has an intriguing story to work with and serves to change everything by the end of it. A lot of series end up being very still and in-place within this genre but this one clicked for me pretty well in how it worked its characters and intent as it progressed. It also didn’t hurt that the visual design and animation are fantastic and it was just a delight to watch it play across the screen.

The series focuses on a world that looks much like our own but is a weird kind of alternate 1919 or something. The primary character of the largely ensemble show is that of Koharu, a seventeen-year-old girl who has lived alone in the woods for years, so long that she doesn’t recall the name she was given by a mysterious traveler at a young age. What she was told was that she would be found by someone someday and brought into a group where her power would be important in changing the world. What that power is and the objective of the group wasn’t imparted on her but it’s little surprise that the series starts off with her being discovered by a young man named Kakeru that brings her back to someplace that fits the bill.

What this place is is fascinating itself. It’s like a small village that has some wonderfully classic European elements to it but it’s inside of a floating sphere that circles the world. In here there are something like nine other people that Koharu gets to meet, each of which has been brought here because of their powers and their importance at some future time. They’re all kind of reclusive in some ways, especially as none of them really want to share what their powers are, but there are some relationship dynamics in the works here with some of the young men and women. These get touched upon as deeply personal issues, interests, and fears along the way and it adds some welcome color to the show, giving all of them some personality – just to different levels. They’re not time wasting pieces but they’re also not hugely critical.

The main focus is on Koharu and the young man that brings her here, Kakeru, as he’s very interested in her. It’s through him and his eager approach with Koharu that she gets to see the place and understand a bit of what’s going on there, though the bigger role that this all serves is a mystery for much of the show. What it does well, however, is to show the way that she and Kakeru get closer together through understanding the greater world and what it faces. It’s, unfortunately, an abbreviated kind of relationship as a lot happens quickly to get her to be so utterly faithful and believing in him, you really do have to suspend disbelief, but at the same time it has that kind of rawness and urgency that comes from some young relationships. And when you realize that Kakeru has not seen anyone since she was very young it’s very easy to be overcome upon reconnecting with others.

What drew me more to the show, and makes it one that I want to revisit sometime in the future, is that the bigger storyline in the background is interesting as to what the kids are all brought together for. With them believing that the world is at peace yet not, and that there are bad things that will happen in the future, the reveal that they’re responsible for the next (and final) rebooting of history is intriguing. The science of it is anything but that but what we get is something that shows some large scale thinking to try and fix the world at the expense of everything. Touching upon past reboots and the original reason why they went this root with all that had happened adds to the urgency and puts you in a conflicted place as to how you want it all to unfold. Material like this is the kind of stuff I gravitate towards in novel form where it really digs into it and I don’t get that here, nor did I expect it. But just working the concept made the show a lot more enjoyable for me as it altered my view of it.

In Summary:
I was fairly leery of going into the Norn9 anime series simply because it looked so predictable. And, to some degree, that’s true as it works some of the basics of the otome genre. But it also introduces some grand scale material that I really adore and digs into some strong things for the characters to deal with and react to. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s beautifully animated with some great details and designs that simply click. Sentai’s release isa bit simple in that it’s just the show with no dub and the basic extras but in the end it’s the show itself that counts. Getting this in high definition is definitely the way to go as the encoding pays off big time with the quality of the work.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 20th, 2017
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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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