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Boys Be Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

16 min read

Boys Be PackagingThe life and loves of several students is explored in this sweet and tender show that warms the heart.

What They Say
There are two sides to every love story, and Boys Be… reveals what’s really going on – from the guy’s point of view!

Meet three normal high school guys with just one thing on their minds: girls. Quiet Kyoichi has been friends with Chiharu ever since they were young, but lately, his feelings have begun to change. Lecherous Makoto, a self-proclaimed master of the rules of romance, is ready to sweep the ladies off their feet. And Yoshihiko, a handsome sports nut, is unfortunately a bit clueless in matters of the heart.

Join this hapless trio for a year of romantic misadventures that will change their lives forever!

The Review:
The audio design for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are in stereo. The series has a fairly straightforward stereo mix encoded at 192kbps where the majority of it is focused around dialogue as there is precious little real action to the series. There are a number of good ambient sounds used throughout such as traffic or general school sounds that come across well while the music track makes good use of both channels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Boy’s Be is one of the shows that had managed to get to the point where digital productions started to look good and not quite as poorly layered during its original airing and it stands up well over the years since it came out. The show is set in standard school territory and is done in a real world color palette that allows for some very vibrant areas but keeps to mostly standard muted colors. The transfer comes across very well overall though there are a few moments where you have the boy’s school jackets showing some blocking. Colors otherwise tend to be very solid and full while the print overall avoids cross coloration and very little aliasing. My main issue with the layout of the discs video, and it’s a standard problem across several recent Right Stuf releases, is that with each episode set as an individual title, when you get to the end credits chapter you cannot skip past it to get to the next episode quickly. You either have to menu or fast forward to get past it. This is easily alleviated by adding another chapter to the end of the title that’s basically an empty chapter that would then force it to go to the next episode.

The thinpak collection release of Boys Be is very slickly done as it takes everything about the original four volume release and basically compresses it down to an even better package. Utilizing the same box that came with the first volume but shrunk down to contain only the thinpaks and the book, it looks great and feels solid as it’s a heavy chipboard release. The front of the box has a full cast shot of all the women in various outfits while the back cover features the three main men in a full pose. While the show is definitely about the girls, the guys tend to get quite a lot of love as well which helps to balance it out. Inside the box we get a fantastic booklet that takes the four insert booklets and compiles them into one larger booklet. It’s very solid cardstock and the color reproduction is fantastic which results in a great book.

The individual keepcases for the release is done in clear thinpak cases and the artwork utilizes the same as the original releases which in turn were slightly reworked versions of the original Japanese covers that I liked. The back cover continues the background style and provides a number of paragraphs covering the basics of the shows premise as well as a few shots of the various characters. The discs features are clearly listed and most of the technical information is covered in the grid along the bottom. Unlike the original releases however, the reverse side covers with the original Japanese logos are not included.

The menu layout for the release uses the same elements as the front cover but with a slightly zoomed in shot of Nitta while still using the same background and shifting it to the right so the logo can take up a good part of the image. There’s a brief loop of some of the opening vocal song included here while selections are lined along the left in standard form that are easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our player’s language presents and played without issue.

This series hasn’t had a lot of extras in the past so the standards are pretty much what we get here with a series of line art pictures in gallery form as well as a clean version of the opening sequence on the first volume and line art galleries on the remainder. The third volume provides us with a pair of promotional clips for the show as well as the newest line art gallery. For English language fans, there’s a commentary track on this release which is easy to miss if you don’t use the language section which is where it’s located, and not in the extras themselves. The final volume includes some additional good extras such as the bonus track that has a brief special mini episode of sorts that details some of the relationships in flashback via the airing of Shoko as the lead vocalist for SAIL, which gives a nice bit of closure to that episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In its original broadcast, an attempt was done according to the series director to create an anime that would be viewable by the general populace. Anime had become so fractured and shifted further and further away from being a mainstream entertainment, particularly for teenagers, as it was during the seventies and eighties that they wanted to get back to something that was a lot more accessible. It eventually landed on DVD across six volumes in Japan and even received a brand new box set release in 2005. It was hoped some years ago that it would be picked up by Pioneer due to Pioneer Japan’s involvement but it never happened.

Many fans ended up seeing it through a region three release via Odex Pte Ltd and that’s where we got our first taste for it and fell in love. Boys Be is the kind of tender and sweet kind of anime that breaks out of the standard mold where the characters either never reveal their feelings or do it at the last minute of the series. Very few shows actually portray the really interesting area of what happens after the chase as that’s where I think the real drama can begin. While the show had been in a virtual limbo for the North American market since 2000, Right Stuf has stepped in and picked up the show in 2006 which fits in really well with the kinds of titles they’ve been building their library up around in recent years.

With the structure behind Boys Be, it’s easy to look at the show in its individual volumes as each one encompasses a particular season. Right Stuf released the individual volumes to follow that setup which meant an unusual 3/4/3/3 release style as the Summer season was four episodes long. Even more interesting is that the show really is an ensemble cast that’s held together by the main storyline involving Chiharu and Kyoichi. It’s through them that we meet everyone else and the various tangents that ties them all together. Almost all the characters go through some growth during the series and it’s much more apparent when you watch all of it in this box format in comparison to the bi-monthly releases we originally had.

Boys Be focuses primarily on about just under a half dozen characters, each that come into contact with various people that affect their lives. The introductory couple, which can basically be considered the leads, is Chiharu and Kyoichi. The two characters lead us into the story of old childhood friends becoming something more in their high school years. Their tale isn’t told with a lot of flash or heavy action or even all that much in the way of gratuitous shots. It’s a slow paced affair with some fan service done in a real world way, things you would normally expect to see and to find the boys intrigued by. It’s these moments throughout the series that resonate well, in that they’re universal and for the most part, almost everyone experiences it.

While Chiharu and Kyoichi provide the overall arc to the series, friends for both of them come into the mix and take over the storyline for entire episodes. The more lecherous of the main trio of boys is Makoto who has a cute PDA of sorts where he tracks all of the attractive girls in the school. He ends up in the hospital for a bit of time and falls hard for a nurse that’s there, an attractive girl named Takano. Their relationship is explored through the way that a teenager like him would approach things, resulting in an amusing moment with a frog, but it shows growth not only for him but for Takano. The most enjoyable story here though is Kenjo’s as he comes across a girl in a library who he saves from a fall and she repays him by kissing him. Not just a peck on the cheek but a real solid adult kiss. He keeps returning to the library to see her again and reads various books there while waiting which he uses to re-imagine his time with the girl, such as a fantasy adventure, a science fiction epic or a classic beach romance.

Some of the issues of the first volume are carried over, mostly in the form of the tension and odd feelings that both Chiharu and Kyoichi have between each other now. Since she sort of freaked and ran off to her training camp, he and Makoto ended up by the beach where they work at a surf side shop. Makoto had the grand idea of being around women in bikini’s for the summer but didn’t grasp how much work would be involved while working at the shop that Chiharu’s cousin owns. While Daisuke runs roughshod over the boys and has them working hard, Makoto finds himself distracted quite often not only by the beauties on the beach but also from Nao, Daisuke’s sister who has a bit of a condition that keeps her weak and indoors. There’s a touch of potential summer fling and romance going on during it but it’s the kind of thing where it’s just a sensation and little more.

Probably my favorite part of the summer arc is the dip into the baseball world as it deals with Yoshihiko as he discovers that very brief period where he realizes he’s falling in love. Since he wasn’t able to go with the others to the beach due to game commitments, he’s not exactly all that keen on practice and is feeling out of the loop. He gets his motivation back though when Horikawa starts helping out a bit more as the team manager by showing how good of a pitcher she is and gets to take down Yoshihiko without him realizing it. She’s a crafty type in that she manages to get him to go out on a date without him realizing that’s what it is and before he knows it he finds himself realizing that she’s more than just the team manager and a girl he knows, but someone he’s developing feelings for. It’s such a nicely paced little self-contained romance in its own way that doesn’t deal with girls being on the team or other issues but rather just the two of them figuring out how they all really feel about each other.

A good bit of focus throughout the four episodes tends to filter back to the main relationship of the series between Chiharu and Kyoichi. There are flashes to what each of them are going through during the forced summer separation which has led to them being really unsure about where they stand with each other and imagining the worst at times as well. Their relationship serves as the book ends to what goes on in this volume since each of them has to deal with temptations that come their way. Everything that goes on in between helps to accent it as we see how others are dealing with their own first blush at love. And just as much a character as those involved in the relationships are the settings. The visuals for the series continue to be very stylized at times, such as the episode that deals with the flower gardens and photography, where the colors mixed in with the rain just create such a great atmosphere. Some of the style does look a bit dated since this came out as the shift to digital was underway but I think it holds up far better than a lot of other shows from that period.

It’s back to school time and the relationship issues from the summer are still causing problems, mostly in that it looks like Chiharu and Kyoichi are formally apart now after he saw her make the kiss that didn’t mean what Kyoichi thought it did. With nobody talking to each other and basically ignoring each other, they find different things to focus on in order to take their minds off the pain.

For Kyoichi, a lot of it tends to fall into an area where he moves on to looking for someone else to be with and he comes up with another of the semi-social outcasts like Chiharu in the form of Shoko. Shoko’s a fairly average teenager in this but he notices her when she catches the ire of a teacher for falling asleep in class and listening to an MD player at that. When he manages to get closer to her, we find out that she’s actually the leader singer in a band and rather good at that as she’s now on her third band. Kyoichi’s view of her changes as he sees her on stage and the kind of different personality and energy and he finds himself very drawn to her. What makes it problematic is that she doesn’t quite believe that he’s over Chiharu and she’s grappling with her own self-worth issues as she prepares for an audition with a much larger band. This one is more music filled with some great lyrics that help to tie it together emotionally in a stronger way and making it a very good episode all around.

Makoto gets himself another interesting episode since he’s even more easily the type to fall in and out love, or casual love as it may be since he hasn’t found that one true love yet. With his efforts to use his computer to determine the best women to go after, he finds his sights set on one of the more popular girls in the school now, Erika. But in order to really carry it off, he finds that he needs Yumi’s help since she’s her best friend. Yumi would know just about everything about the girl of his dreams so he ends up taking Yumi out on a date and it’s a mix where Yumi doesn’t want to be there but she does and she doesn’t want him to go out with her friend so she tries sabotaging things along the way. But in the end she can’t help but want to do right by those two that she cares about so even though she made some bad choices, she tries to set things right for Makoto and let him make the kinds of blunders and mistakes that only he can make. Yumi’s a really fun character and the kind that you can’t help but to root for even when she does things she shouldn’t, so seeing her and Makoto paired isn’t really a surprise but falls under that category of him not realizing how lucky he’d be if only he really knew.

The volume rounds things out with an interesting episode that brings more male bonding to it as Kyoichi helps a friend he works with, Takaya, to work through his own relationship issues which in ways seem to mirror his own troubles from the dreams he’s having. The episode provides for some good material into the quasi-fantastic as it delves into his dreams and they avoid getting overly weird which helps to cement his problems in reality more. This episode does a bit more to bring the three guys back together as friends and having them talking together to work things out rather than individually. It also has a bit of fun with Makoto accusing Kyoichi of falling for the male side of things as he catches him spending more time with his co-worker and dealing with his problem. It does a good job overall of having Kyoichi working through his problems and showing him an avenue from which he may be able to go forward.

The three tales for this volume cover a good deal of ground among all of them but the focus tends to be heavily on Kyoichi but also on Yoshihiko. Yoshihiko gets pretty much an entire episode to himself again as he finds himself out wandering around bored out of his skull and still not completely aware that Horikawa is interested in him so he doesn’t react to her flirtations properly at all. While wandering around, he literally bumps into an attractive young woman named Jyunna who’s dressed up as a sexy Santa Claus for a Christmas TV special. She’s actually in search of someone and had skipped out on the special so she decides to berate Yoshihiko at first and then to make him her bodyguard and guide of sorts as she looks for her missing boyfriend. Yoshihiko doesn’t have a clue about her real popularity or who she is so he’s surprised along the way but it’s appealing to her. The two have an interesting time together as she’s focused and unaware of the kinds of signals she sends out, resulting in some very sweet moments that really punch up areas of the storyline.

In order to recap the series to some extent, more so in the nature of showing where everyone is now and how the relationships have changed, a New Years Eve episode comes into play. With it being the countdown to the millennium, there are a lot of rumors and superstitions to go with it about whether you should or shouldn’t be with someone at the time of the change, so we see that with both Makoto and Yoshihiko and their significant others. There is a lot of focus given to Kyoichi and Chiharu’s relationship throughout this as we see bits of their past and how things went badly for them and it does things in a way that brings it all together nicely, if far too cleanly. But that’s sort of the point of things here at times and it has a really positive and warm feeling to it but it also tinges it with reality and the kinds of emotions you’d have in young men like Kyoichi.

The series has a good episode to close it out, though it moves us away from the cast in general for the most part and leaves us with Kyoichi as he takes an extended trip to Hokkaido in order to get his thoughts in order and to do some sketching that will hopefully help him find what he’s looking for. Like many from the city who go to Hokkaido for the first time, it’s an eye-opening experience that has him feeling like he’s in a completely different country. From the change in the colors he’s surrounded by to the difference in the quality of the air, it inspires him to achieve more but he has to find out what the more is inside of him. Interestingly, he ends up spending a lot of time with a woman who helps him out after they bump into each other but where you’d expect the storyline to show how she helps him find his way, it’s far more the opposite, though in the long run Kyoichi is able to realize things about himself that are important.

In Summary:
When I first saw Boys Be, it reminded me of the kind of shows I wanted to see more of after my first experience with Kimagure Orange Road. Heartwarming romantic tales of first love and the kinds of simple and sometimes silly problems that arise from it. In the years since first seeing it, I’ve come to know the manga a bit more and have enjoyed that for its differences and wonderful fan service. Coming back into the anime version about two years after seeing the Right Stuf single volume releases and I’m finding that this is very much an “ever green” title for me in that each new time is simply a wonderful experience. It’s rare that I can watch a show more than once and even rarer that I want to watch a show more than once. Boys Be is now on its third viewing and it’s just as charming as each of the previous experiences. This is the kind of show that will never do well but will earn some long term die hard fans. This is certainly as mainstream as you can get for a premise and one that is a great gateway show for a younger mixed gender audience. Very recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Line Art Galleries, Textless Opening and Closing, Japanese Promotional Spots/Commercials, English Directors’ Commentary

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

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: March 11th, 2008
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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