What They Say:
It’s time to re-open the doors to Rabbit House, where good friends are ready to take on the next exciting adventure, and there’s always something unusual going on. After all, how many cafés have waitresses who collect firearms and a rabbit that actually talks? However, trouble may be burrowing into the Kafu residence when a magazine runs an article on places to eat and neglects to mention Rabbit House! Will an investigation into what’s been “haunting” Syaro’s house be a wild goose chase, or will someone get a lot of grey hare as a result? Is the sudden appearance of Cocoa’s big sister a blessing or a disaster waiting happen? Still, nothing is as scary as the prospect of graduating school! Will everyone make the grade, or will some friends be left behind? The tail will be told as Chino, Cocoa, Rize, and the gang all return in Is The Order A Rabbit?? Season 2!
The audio presentation for this release is absolutely delightful, though it is only available in Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps. An optimistic feeling is immediately felt with every episode once the audience becomes enwrapped within the orchestra instrumental or upbeat contemporary jazz always playing in background, setting the mood for the show, becoming a beautiful part of the scenery. However, while these endearing melodies are essential to the anime, at the same time, it feels they are at times competing against the seiyus for front stage and then conversely bothersome when they are barely audible as it melds into the background with the rest of the atmospheric ambience. While I can understand a need to communicate emotions via these musical interludes, I cannot comprehend how at times it can be blaring, almost drowning out everything else, then becomes surprisingly understated as it is toned down after such a cacophonous session; it is startling how you don’t realize the tonal accompaniments are missing until after another one rouses you from the brief moments of tranquility and silence.
Even if the accompanying melodies of the show are disconcerting at times, what especially establishes the full emotional vigor of the anime are the defining themes by which mood and general attitude are principally established and projected to an expectant audience. The cheerily upbeat opening called No Poi! is a part-song where each singer answers each other with their own melody, ensnaring us within an uplifting and cheery song praising the need not to give up and enjoy each day to the fullest; but what makes it all the more appealing and enchanting are the singers, being the same seiyus who provide voices for the elder girls and appropriately call themselves Petit Rabbit’s: Ayane Sakura (Cocoa), Inori Minase (Chino), Risa Taneda (Risa), Satomi Satō (Chiya), and Maaya Uchida (Syaro). This bouncy song creatively sets the scene for the show and even if you don’t understand what they are saying, the lilting tune is encouragement enough to watch what will be a delightful show. Then as if the cuteness of the anime itself wasn’t enough enticement to watch, we wrap up the episode with an equally charming spoken song conversation by Chimame-tai (a nickname Risa gives to the three little sisters) – which of course is sung by the seiyus Inori Minase (Chino), Sora Tokui (Maya), and Rie Murakawa (Megu). You cannot but smile and laugh seeing this end theme called Tokimeki Poporon with the normally reserved Chino dancing around and playing with her dear friends while chanting this tune about encouragement and making an adventure of every day. Both of these songs are so lighthearted that you cannot but become ever more enticed to watch this show and wish that it would never end.
This wonderful series is broken down into three disks spanning the breadth of twelve episodes, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16×9 aspect ratio playback helps to expand the panoramic views of this series with magnificent landscapes that at times looking like it was gleaned from a carefully painted watercolor. The premise of basing the town on real life European environmental elements such as wooden framed stone buildings and cobblestones make the scenery all the more realistic by the addition on nuances which most studios would have missed by using imaginary surroundings. And to give the actors more emphasis against this magnificent setting, the animators decided on another change against the normal trend, a delightful adorableness which works for the series, but at the same time, it also does get in the way of the more serious aspects, even if they are few and far between.
Instead of employing the standard practice of using the same palette for every element in the scene, they opted to give the characters more weight by applying watercolor tones to designate background terrain and traditional solid colors for the movable details in the foreground, all within a sunlit atmosphere. By using this technique, the viewer is treated to scenery which looks like it was gleaned from a Renaissance painting while the animation moves forward via a modern standard. However at the same time, due to the use of naturally lit scenery, there are times when the actors appear to be overexposed, erasing facial features or making them seem almost pale white instead of pale peach tones. This may also be due to the choice of using a mixture of coloring techniques since at times the two do not mesh correctly and the balance becomes uneven. Although these awkward times are infrequent, they do occur at the most inopportune times, especially when Cocoa is trying to comfort an embarrassed Chino. While you can also deem this as a animation faux pas in the drawing style, it is not something which will ultimately ruin the show and can be ignored so that you may enjoy the overabundance of suffocating cuteness.
Sentai Filmworks carries over the shojo manga aspect of the series by decorating the packaging with overwhelming amounts of cuteness. They draw the buyer in with a pure white background portrait of Cocoa and Chino in matching outfits, surrounded by flower petals. The simplicity of the image amplifies the sweetness of the illustration, a gentle picture of the duo trying to mirror the actions of the other, all as they picture frame with their fingers a pair petals falling in slow motion, and coincidentally creating a heart. The lightheartedness of the illustration makes you want to examine the cover even more and then you notice the addition of photos essential series elements like a cup of coffee and the other big sister, you cannot but smile at the completeness of this beautiful image.
This same design motif is wonderfully carried over to the interior, allowing for this wondrous display of simplicity and adorableness to carry on within the packaging. But the effectiveness is a bit watered down as it was on the cover with a pure white background which has the effect of muting the colors. The disks are decorated by a silk screened image of a group of girls in matching costumes surrounded by a pastel ring edging the outside, and you cannot but smile as you see Chino trying to fit into the situations. With each disk they have a common motif of closeness and comedy, but at the same time you can tell they are having fun, which is the emphasis of this series. It is that cheeriness which pushes through the image and brightens the illustration, making it something which you want to invest in by placing the disk in the machine and pressing Play.
The Victorian lacework pattern dotting the pastel peach background is barely noticeable since your eye immediately draws toward the main characters in matching uniforms displayed on the left side of the menu screen. They make you want to visit the series with this inviting image, offering a bouquet of flowers and the mystery of a glowing top hat in the other hand. On the opposing side of the screen is displayed the chapter names, but of course they are not labeled in any normal sense but in keeping with the rabbit theme of the show and called Bunnies. Then to complete the usagi-centric setting, we close the menu off with an appropriately shaped rabbit cursor to allow you the choice of any episode, all it needs to do is hop to the right choice.
However, as with many other collections from Sentai Filmworks, they continue to repeat the same flaw on these screens by repeating the first minute of opening theme No Poi! in the background for the primary menu; though this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with the charming rhythms, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipate the viewer to spend much time in these areas since they are driving us away with the endless, if however apropos cacophony.
The extras for this collection are supremely disappointing considering the possibilities for this shojo series since they did make a sequel. Although we do have the same decorating scheme of Victorian lacework on a pastel blue background with Aoyama-sensei being chased by rabbits, there is not much coming from this set. While we still have the same general trailers for Sentai Filmworks’ other properties, the only other supplements which they deemed necessary are clean opening and closing animations, which is the norm for this licensing company. Although it is a delight to see the girls dancing around on the screen without credits blocking the view, it is especially true with the end credits of Chino as she tries to fit in. And while this piece is the best from all of these extras, from some reason Sentai put a glitch into the playback whereby it constantly repeats instead of cutting off upon completion. Too much sweetness can be too good and this may be such a time.
However, as in previous menus, the one continuity we do have is the first minute of closing theme Tokimeki Poporon, echoing in the background. Although I can fathom the appropriateness for the music in the main, why put it in a side section when all other shows have silence? While the melody is pleasing enough, I still don’t understand why put it in a place where most will only spend a few seconds before making a choice – seems like a waste of a wonderfully charming tune.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It has been almost a year since she arrived in this small European town to attend high school, and now Cocoa has become accustomed to life at Rabbit House. She gleefully attends classes with her best friend Chiya and returns for work in the cafe with Rize and her new little psuedo-sister Chino. However even with the passing of months indulging this hapless co-worker, this granddaughter of the founder still finds her a nuisance and barely able to complete her tasks without causing a mess of things. But as time passes her Big Sister obsession has begun to grow and the contagious nature of Cocoa’s infectious smile and charming attitude has worn thin the veneer of her sheltered personality. This is exactly what her father hoped for and as he watches from the shadows, Takahiro graciously approves of this smothering friendship, no matter how long it may take to teach his child the need for smiles and laughter.
It is another pleasant morning at Rabbit House and of course Cocoa is making a mess of things by ignoring her work in lieu of snapping away on a camera. With the anniversary of her arrival, this happy-go-lucky girl has decided to send a multitude of pictures home accompanying her next letter. But the one thing she wants the most is far out of reach – a smile from Chino to prove how cute her little sister is to her family. With her shyness preventing any clear shots of this elusive prey, the clumsy hunter tries various tactics to lure her into a sense of false security, but Chino is too smart for her. Shot after shot are nothing but blurry after images of this self conscious girl, too vague for any detail and out of focus for any clarity. Even after Rize begins to feel pity for Cocoa, the two still cannot urge a smile out of the elusive child, not matter how hard they try. It is only after an embarrassing fault by the photographer do they tease out a meek grin and for now, that is all they can claim as a prize this day.
After a few days have passed, Chiya returns to Rabbit House to show off an article written about her family’s tea house Ama Usa An. The local magazine blissfully praises the unusually named menu and charming Japanese style cafe, much to the disappointment of Chino. In order to cheer up their friend, Maya and Megu begin to pretend they are paparazzi and bombard her with nonsensical questions to prepare her for the impending fame of being interviewed. While it may seem like simple play for the trio, the efforts are rewarded a few days later when a large double page spread about Rabbit House is seen in the next issue, touting the cuteness of the three sisters … which does not outwardly please Chino. But as the hectic chaos of this latest escapade calms down, another one rises once Cocoa receives a letter from home.
The difference in Cocoa is immediately apparent, this normally cheerful and scatterbrained girl walks into the cafe in a daze. She does not smile and the lack of trying to hug Chino is absent, instead it is replaced by someone who is overly studious and pays attention to her work, as much as she can being Cocoa. Rize is alarmed while Chino thinks her constant haranguing has finally begun to sink in, but the former is worried, immediately thinking something is wrong. Their normally talkative friend barely says a word and when they do manage to get out a comprehensible sentence, all they can make out is: Big Sister is coming. Now they understand this new attitude – Cocoa has always held her sister Mocha is high esteem, thinking her as the ideal for what a big sister should be, or limited to her abilities of copying those traits. And now that her idol is coming for a visit, with all of her goofing off and vain attempts to mimic those elements which she thought of as being essential, Cocoa is stressed out into trying to correct her mistakes. But is it too late to change anything before Mocha swoops in and takes everything she has worked so hard for … or is Cocoa worrying over nothing? After all, Chino is the one at stake in this contest of being the best Big Sister!
If I had one major criticism about this series, it would be that there is no straight forward premise to the plot aside from having fun and in turn, trying to bring Chino out of her shell. While this is not a bad thing, the slice of life theme for this series does project the best temperament in arranging what would seem to be random chaos on the surface into an amazingly cheerful and sympathetic mood for this isolated girl. We finally see her father Takahiro had an ulterior motive in hiring Cocoa within this second season and on a tangential story the link the sisters also have with the city and his family. Although it may not seem too important to drive the story forward, the tying up of loose ends which were hinted in the first collection does bring some closure to what can be a continuing narrative. Plus the expansion of craziness by adding the Ultimate Big Sister Mocha and turning the need for competition over Chino’s supposed affections opens up new venues which I hope are explored if there are any additional episodes in the future.
But of course most importantly this series is about the relationship between Chino and her Big Sister Cocoa. From the first season we saw how shy, isolated and insulated this heir to Rabbit House was, never thinking of anything aside from inheriting the cafe within her own world of coffee and bunnies. While she did attend school with Maya and Megu, even the help of those friends did not effect in cracking her seemingly invulnerable shell of self imposed solitude. It was only after a certain bubbly ball of boundless energy entered her life and disturbed that silence did Chino begin to show any signs of emotion, and that exposure did not happen overnight. The constant pestering which Cocoa introduced into her life, the need to become a Big Sister to her, wavering on the brink of an insane obsession, the zaniness which this red headed girl brought in the form of a hurricane shattered any sense of sanity … but all in a good and beneficial way. Plus the approval of this nonsense by her father only made the entirety of Rabbit House a much happier place.
And now that Chino has begun to accept the love, care and friendship of Cocoa, we can see this young girl beginning to blossom from the start of this second season. While the ever elusive smile is a rarity, we can still see the relationship between the two is becoming that of true siblings, even if she may never openly approve or accept it, we can still see the joy in her daily life. Every day is now a random adventure, hopping forth like a bunny, never caring what may lie ahead, as long as it opens up a new door to the next delight. Is the Order a Rabbit?? Season 2 is a wonder to watch, entertaining to participate in and even happier to see how all this lunacy will end, even if we wish it will never stop. Never mind that it may be considered a shojo manga, whether you are male or female, this show will be something you return to just to reignite the spark of happiness inside.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles Clean Opening/Closing Animations & Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i mpeg-1/2 video codec
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player