What They Say:
Machi has spent her entire life in a small mountain village with no reception, no asphalt, and a whole lot of nothing. She also happens to be a priestess that lives with a talking bear named Natsu—typical country life! But now, she’s ready to venture out into the big city and Natsu isn’t so sure she’s ready. Can she bear the grizzly trials he has planned to prepare her for city life?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only, a rare subtitled-only release from Funimation, in stereo and encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a familiar approach with it being largely dialogue oriented but the music moments give it some additional boosts along the way since they’re a bit richer and more engaging. The dialogue side is well handled with what it has to work with as there are some big moments of overacting but mostly just familiar and standard material. The opening and closing sequences make out well with the richer music and the score in general is pretty solid, though not terribly memorable.
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 EMT Squared, the show has a strong and distinctive look to it with the character designs and some really fun stuff in related to how the bear is handled. The encoding works a good bitrate for it so that the colors come through in a bright and clean way with no breakup or noticeable gradients to be had. The visuals here definitely make out well with the space and encoding tools to bring this to life and fans of the show will enjoy just how appealing it looks from start to finish.
The packaging that we get here is fairly standard form with a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold both discs and an o-card to wrap it all up in. The o-card replicates the case artwork itself with better cardstock to let the colors pop and it delivers the familiar key visual of the four main characters together outside the shine looking upward. The back cover has some of the nice blocking elements from the show along the top and gives over a decent bit of space to the summary of the premise. The key visual of the two leads sharing a drink along the right is definitely fun as well. The extras are all clearly listed and we get a solid technical grid that lays out how both formats work in a clean and easy to read fashion. No show related inserts are included but the reverse side does give us some good additional artwork from the Japanese releases to enjoy.
The menu for this release goes for the static image approach that uses the key visual from the cover to set the tone which works well with the color palette used. It’s minimal but it looks good because the colors from the designs have a lot of appeal as do the designs. The logo is kept to the right along the top with its colors and musical elements but there’s a lot of dead space below it until we get to the very basic navigation selections since this is a monolingual release. Everything loads quickly and is smooth to move around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as the standards but we also get the two OVAs which run 16 and 13 minutes respectively, adding a bit more fun to the property. They’re kept entirely in tone with the show itself rather than going all out in some crazy weird direction or overly laden with fanservice.
Based on the manga of the same name, Kumamiko is a twelve episode anime series that aired during the spring 2016 season. The manga comes from Masume Yoshimoto that began in the spring of 2013 and has six volumes to its name with them being released in North America by One Peace books. Funimation simulcast the series as it aired but it was one of a number of shows that didn’t get a simuldub and didn’t stream well enough to qualify for one for the home video release. Animated by Kinema Citrus and EMT Squared, the show plays to some fun ideas when it comes to a girl and her bear but it ends up having the main problem of just not being all that interesting overall.
The premise is straightforward enough in that we’re introduced to a fourteen year old girl named Machi that’s a shrine maiden in a remote area. She’s like a lot of girls her age in that she wants more than this out of life and yearns for the big city life as opposed to this sleepy and terribly uninteresting little village. What helps her pass the time a bit is that she has a good friend in Natsu, a talking bear that’s pretty laid back and conversational in general. Natsu’s not exactly a parental figure but is more like a mildly protective older brother for the most part. He’s a pretty fun character in that he does all the things people normally do with a few quirks along the way as you’d expect but is otherwise no different than a roommate that’s just around all of the time. Machi gets along very well with him and the two are close but she also views it as a relationship where he needs her more than she needs him at times.
These two dominate most of the time and there are plenty of simple and charming little vignettes almost that populate the show. The cast has some background villagers from time to time and it uses more characters when it shifts to the big city in the last couple of episodes, but there are only two other name characters of note. The first is Machi’s cousin Yoshio that’s in his mid twenties and works in the village government. He’s always trying to get Machi to kind of accept things and her station in all of it while looking to Natsu to kind of keep her even and balanced. Contrasting him is his friend Hibiki, a kind of rough and tumble young woman that’s definitely into him and is aggressive toward Machi. And with her smoking and having a motorcycle and generally looking a little gang-like in a cute way, it’s easy to see why she kind of terrifies Machi more often than not.
Kumamiko is the kind of show that’s fun in the moment but is hard to pin down afterward, more so if you’re marathoning it. I can imagine it working better if you’re watching it weekly or in smaller batches because there’s a cuteness to the way the characters interact. Machi often goes over the top in her expressiveness and energy and that contrasts nicely to what Natsu brings to the table. So many of the situations are just simple though, such as using a rice cooker for the first time or the concerns Machi has if she’s not around with how Natsu will get along. There’s a push for tourism toward the end that’s cute as they dream big but that just leads us to the whole big city arc that involves Machi thinking she can become an idol. I hate that so many shows lean on the idol side but at least she recognizes that she’s going up against people that are really working at it whereas she’s just playing for fun and gets really nervous and uncomfortable with the idea.
Kumamiko has its charms and I definitely enjoyed a lot of it. But it’s also a show that’s built on being superficial and doesn’t lean in enough on its concept when it comes to having a talking bear. Things are kept minimal as to the why of it all, which is fine, but this is a completely no-stakes kind of show that’s all just about enjoying the moments and simplicity of it. That will work very well in small doses but may be the worst kind of show to marathon as it all blurs. It’s well animated with some great designs overall and it has a good quality about the production that will make it very enjoyable for fans of the original work. Funimation’s release is solid and it’s understandable why it didn’t get a dub but it’s also one that you wish it did as it’d be fun to see that play out.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, OVA 1: Day of the First Snow, OVA 2: Natchan’s Shocking Debut!, Textless Opening & Closing Songs
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 11th, 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.