What They Say:
Firiel’s life has always been a little unusual… after all, how many girls are raised by caretakers because their father spends all his time studying in a tower with his apprentice? But when Firiel goes to the Queen’s Ball wearing a necklace that belonged to her mother, she makes a shocking discovery: she’s a missing member of the royal family and a contender for the throne!
Trapped between opposing factions and manipulative parties, Firiel finds her life in danger, and her best hope is to learn the queenly skills her rivals already know. Unfortunately, the place to do that is at the same school her bloodthirsty competition already attends! Things are looking Grimm indeed as the darker side of fairy tales is unleashed!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only as we get it in stereo and encoded using the Dolby DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show works a decent balance of the action and dialogue side of things so that it delivers a strong enough mix so that the design serves the material well but isn’t one that will stand out much. The opening and closing sequences have a bit richer of a feeling about them due to the way they’re recorded while the rest of the show plays to the forward soundstage well. Dialogue moves across the screen as needed and has decent placement as well while the action has a decent bit of impact where it calls for it, both in terms of weapons and magic as well as the various creatures. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Hal Film Maker, the show is one that looks about ten years older than its actual production year and leans more into the designs from the original novels to some degree. There’s a kind of flat feeling to it with colors that are muted but with a decently solid feeling throughout. There’s a touch of grain to be seen in some scenes, more so with the solid gray fields more than anywhere else, but mostly it’s just a show that looks like it was made on a smaller than usual budget and it shows. The encoding is clean and problem free and it brings the materials to life as they were originally animated.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray cast that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover goes for an older looking design with the framing while showcasing the main cast in the middle, which is brighter and a bit more detailed and engaging than the actual animation designs. The logo is kept to the upper left in a nice oval that fits the feel of the show but something about the look overall just has it feeling a bit older than it actually is. The back cover uses the same darker framework with muted text for some aspects of it that makes it harder to read in less than clear lighting but it does do well by the summary of the premise. We get a couple of nice shots from the show as well which focus on distinct color filters that’s an interesting approach to take. The technical grid breaks everything down clearly and we don’t get any inserts with this release nor any reversible cover material.
The menus for this release are pretty nice as we get the static image using the background from the cover for both discs while the character artwork is split up between the two discs, giving the leads the first volume and the supporting cast the second one. This is bright and colorful as it sets the tone well making for a good first impression. The navigation panel along the left breaks out the episodes by number and title in an in-theme form with a signboard that’s like parchment and a good script design overall. Everything is quick and easy to load and move around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The only extras included in this release include the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Noriko Ogiwara, The Good Witch of the West is a thirteen episode anime series that aired in the spring 2006 season. The original light novels ran for eight volumes from 1997 to 2003 and TOKYOPOP initially picked them up along with the manga that ran for eight volumes. The anime run was something that was under the radar in the pre-simulcast/streaming days and when Maiden Japan announced it there was a lot of curiosity about it. The distributor tends to go for a mix of eclectic titles that fans have hoped to have or have back in print and some little-known titles that can be pretty hit or miss. This one, sadly, is in the miss category as it just doesn’t make a lot of sense at all. It’s the kind of series where after watching it over the course of a day that you can see the superficial approach to it and wonder why it just didn’t work right.
The series revolves around two primary characters as we’re introduced to Firiel, a young woman who discovers in the first episode that her heritage is not what she thought. While she was basically living a normal life she discovers that she’s actually part of royalty with the lineage to give her entry into the event coming up that could place her in line for the throne. The series offers up three candidates overall over the course of it and that sets up some of what the action and events are about but it’s mostly about Firiel moving from her simple life to a more complicated one. What helps to ease her journey is the friction-filled relationship she has with Roux, an apprentice of her father’s that ends up getting more involved in her life as she’s sent off to a convent to learn how to be proper for what’s to come among other things.
The first half of the series revolves around what’s essentially a finishing school of sorts, which she needs to be considered a proper candidate based on what the necklace she has reveals about her lineage, and that mostly gives us some pretty uninteresting semi-school material. With it being an all-girls school we also get Roux showing up there all dressed up as a girl in order to blend in and this introduces its own complications. But the problem is that these characters are barely superficial in a lot of ways and little feels like it has meaning. Frankly, this feels like they either didn’t know how to bring the light novels to life in a way to make the characters come alive or the light novels are just weak pieces of work that doesn’t have much to them. This series moves around in odd directions, spending a lot of its early time in the school before moving onto various journey’s, before hopping all over.
There’s just not a lot that makes sense here. Yes, the bigger picture is who will control the throne and there are a lot of different factions looking to figure out how to take advantage of the situation but none of them really feel like they have any weight. The cast is fairly expansive but it also takes on its own weirdness along the way, such as Cain Abel being a character, the use of what looks to be a dinosaur/unicorn hybrid, and a range of other characters that simply don’t fit. Even Roux has an alternate name of Rumpelstiltskin and that just adds to the mishmash of character pieces that don’t connect. Firiel has most of the focus as she moves from place to place and situation to situation but she’s like a leaf on the wind with no real control over it and no sense of what she really wants. And as the show goes on that reflects the series as a whole as it just kind of floats from situation to situation without any true sense of purpose and character. Yeah, there’s a kind of will they or won’t they between Roux and Firiel that you know will be dealt with in some way by the end of the series, and invariably closer to the end than anywhere earlier where it might be interesting, but none of the characters are interesting. And none of the situations are interesting, which results in a show that may be busy and doing things but feels like it accomplishes nothing.
The Good Witch of the West is anything but. For fans of it I’m very glad that it got picked up and that they can get their hands on a good quality release of it on Blu-ray. For me, the show was a slog to get through which is unfortunate because I’ve enjoyed some of the hidden gems that Maiden Japan has picked up that weren’t on my radar from the pre-streaming era. This series just doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to do or has a clear purpose throughout the run and that just makes it feel listless and uninteresting when combined with simplistic characters that have little to them. It’s a solid release that I’m not surprise didn’t get a dub but am glad it got both the DVD and Blu-ray treatment for the fans.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.