What They Say:
Sometimes life leads us in circles. Sometimes it takes us on strange detours. Takaaki and Konomi have been friends since they were kids, but now that they’re in high school, Takaaki’s finding out the fact that he’s a boy and she’s a girl can change everything, especially since there are a lot of other attractive girls who are also suddenly demanding his attention. Between the Himeyuri twins: electronics geek Sango and brash Ruri; the awkward class representative Manaka; mystery loving Karin; mountain biker Yuma; the mysterious Yuki; and even Lucy, who’s convinced that she’s an alien, Takaaki’s not sure which way to turn. And when his OTHER female childhood friend, Tamaki, arrives having changed so much from attending an exclusive boarding school that the others barely recognize her, things are really going to get romantically complicated!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The series is one that’s straightforward dialogue for the most part and one that doesn’t stretch itself all that much either. What it does work with it does well as the dialogue itself is well placed as needed and comes across problem free with what it needs to do. The minor bits of placement help from time to time but this is a simple mix that doesn’t stretch itself and the basic encoding is all that it really needs at this level. It’s functional and that’s about what you expect from it. Everything comes across cleanly and clearly and we had problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes are spread across three discs in a four/four/five format that gives it plenty of room to work with as a monolingual release. Animated by OLM Team Iguchi, the show is definitely a product of its time with a more layered digital look that has the characters standing out more as well as going for more vibrant colors with hair design and simplistic character designers. The series is definitely an on a budget show and with it being standard definition and from a transitional time to some degree the source materials don’t hold up too well. There’s a good bit of cross coloration to have in several places, more noticeable by the third disc than the earlier ones, and some line noise as well. Colors are generally solid and problem free in that area but the digital coloring look is one that definitely has it standing out as part of this era of anime.
The packaging for this is done up in a standard sized DVD case that holds two of the discs on a hinge while the third is against the back wall. The front cover gives us a great key visual that has the main girls from the show all together looking up at the viewer. It’s framed by a really nice red layout with hearts that clicks well but also makes the logo feel a bit out of place with all of its colors. I do like the logo but the combination with this just feels a little weirdly off. The back cover without that piece looks really cohesive with a good summary of the premise taking up the top half with some decent artwork of one of the girls. We get a good two-level strip of shots from the show that gives us a look at all of the girls while the remainders runs down the standard production credits and technical grid that lists everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu for this release works the packaging design nicely as we get some really good background designs with the red that’s filled with hearts and petals to give it a detailed look without standing out too much. The right side has a window through which each disc gives us a different character from the show that’s well detailed and adds lots to the mood with their expressions. The left side gives us a standard layout for the navigation itself with the multi-colored logo along the top that’s followed by the episodes by number and title that has some nice thematic elements with the hearts. It’s quick and easy to get around since it’s just the episodes themselves and the menus set the mood just right.
This release doesn’t come with any extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the first game and the second game that landed in 2004, it was no surprise that a second anime series was commissioned for To Heart. The first series is one that I have fond memories of and like a lot of others that got into it we kind of lamented that the sequel never got picked up until Maiden Japan acquired it this year. The show is one that works a familiar angle considering the material that it’s based on but it manages a certain kind of charm that works because of what it does and how it does it without being overly dramatic or drawing things out too much. The only downside for me with it is that it’s certainly showing its age and that it was a budget show at the time so it’s something that’s going to struggle a bit here in standard definition.
The framework of the series is a good enough one as it focuses on Takaaki, your average student that is now in high school as a first-year. He’s our primary character throughout all of this and is consistently in each episode as he interacts with a wide range of girls that he becomes friends with and has varying degrees of relationships with. He’s not the sale guy, which is a plus in my book, as his best friend is Yuuji. The two have a decent enough friendship and just having a little additional male influence is definitely welcome even if it doesn’t amount to much. It goes Taka someone to spend time with that doesn’t lean into a potential romantic relationship and as a kind of sounding board at times. It also helps because Yuuji points out how lucky that Taka is from time to time and also for some moral support for himself when dealing with his own sister, Tama.
With Taka as the focus it’s also made clear from the get go that while we’re going to meet a range of female characters that the one we’re supposed to align with the most is his childhood friend Konomi. The opening episode shows their bond and how they interact with each other and why she’s smitten with him as she’s growing up and coming into her own while looking at the guy that’s been in her life for so long. The show dances around this relationship over the course of the series with Konomi showing up at various times but it gets into a more serious mode toward the end because she’s close to revealing her true feelings to him. The problem is that because of how their relationship has been for so long he just views her as a little sister of sorts, which sends her on a spiral. Familiar material and the right kind of drama to bring the show to a close but it resolves it nicely without going into a full commitment mode or frustrating a fan of any particular girl, Konomi included.
Once things get underway we get a pretty decent range of characters, though they do suffer the usual problem in that they’re fairly standard high school girls without a lot of personality or interests behind them to really make them stand out. They’re created in service of ticking the boxes for the male viewers and drawing them in there. And while with most shows of this nature I always find one or two characters that I think are a good fit for the main character, To Heart 2 left me not really feeling any of them because they’re such archetypes overall. Konomi gets the most attention while Yuuji’s sister Tama gets a good bit as well as she’s returned from an all-girls school and is pretty active across the season in getting involved in things.
The class rep character with Manaka is decent but just a bit odd while Yuma, who plays up the physical humor because of her bike, is largely forgettable. I did like the brief bit we got with Karin and her mystery club, especially since some are looking at her more like it’s an occult club, but like Yuma she’s also largely forgettable. I intentionally did my best to forget about Lucy as she’s an alien and that kind of outlandish element just doesn’t fit (similar to how it was done in the first series) and let’s not even talk about the robot character. The pairing that I did like as the show went on was with the twin sisters Ruri and Sango as they play off each other more than they do Taka to a large degree. The initial misunderstandings as to who is who is familiar as is the way one likes Taka more than the other does, but the fear of loss of sibling and the changes that they’re going through as they get older and aren’t quite the same was nicely done. They also basically get a two-episode story so that gave them an advantage in fleshing things out and having some better emotional beats.
Finally getting to see To Heart 2 after all of these years is definitely a treat and like a fun nostalgia trip back to a very different time. I can imagine if this was done today it would be a lot more theatrical in style with more moody and atmospheric pieces as opposed to this more basic by the numbers approach. But that simplicity is part of its appeal as well as we get to know the girls in Taka’s life and to see how all of these connections work. The series is certainly dated in terms of animation and the standard definition presentation doesn’t do it any favors but it is what it is. For those who have long wanted to have a legitimate copy of it with a professional translation it’s definitely very welcome to finally have as part of your collection.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: November 7th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.