What They Say:
Join us for a musical delight about devils, danger, and love from the studio behind Princess Jellyfish. Ritsuka Tachibana goes from a normal life to wrapped up in a demon’s game. After she is summoned to meet with the mysterious boys of the student council, her life changes forever. Between dangerous hooded figures, demons, and vampires, a dark family past could lead to her doom!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. Both tracks serve their needs well as the stereo design for the Japanese side gives a good full feeling throughout while the songs are certainly the richer and warmer parts of it. Dialogue is well placed and it has a good natural feeling to it in small and loud sequences alike. The English mix gets a good boost to it where the music comes across a bit louder and there’s a touch more power to the mix as a whole but the dialogue itself is largely the same as the stereo mix, with some decent placement and depth as needed throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, 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 Brain’s Base, the show has a better level of production quality than you might feel it should and it serves it well. With great character designs that have some really nicely done details to them, beautiful settings that feel opulent, and some very fluid “music video”-like sequences in most of the episodes with the song and dance numbers, it’s a great looking show that shines through with a strong encoding. Colors are rich and vibrant where needed, mostly within the character designs, but the song sequences have some really neat design elements that pop as well. It’s a very engaging looking show and the release brings it to life wonderfully.
Not surprisingly we get a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case here that holds the disc across the interior walls and a hinge for both formats. It also comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork but the o-card has better color reproduction and looks a whole lot better as we get the main cast ringed in front of Ritsuka in a very appealing garb while in the dark and dangerous setting. It’s an appealing looking piece with the designs that lets you know what you’re getting but has the darkness to stand out. The back cover goes a little formal with some of the edging design and we get a decent summary of the premise next to a good shot of the main cast around Ritsuka in her school uniform while sitting in a chair. It has a good richness to the leathery background and the style of script for various pieces stands out. The extras and options for the show are clearly listed and we get some decent shots from it as well. The technical grid breaks down both formats clearly in an easy to read form and is accurate as well. And while there are no inserts included with this release we do get artwork on the reverse side from the Japanese releases that showcases our two male leads in their own panels that’s definitely appealing.
The menus for this release keep things simple as I expected with static imagery used that lets the cast of characters shine. Using some of the fun background visuals, such as the library, with the character artwork brighter and more vibrant laid over it we get something that has a certain richness to it and looks great. The navigation itself is a welcome change with a red stripe through part of the lower section that looks a bit more opulent with end pieces and sets it apart from the usual big block of color we get for most releases. The logo looks great as well to the upper left, setting a nice tone as a whole. Submenus load quickly and the navigation functionality is problem-free both as a top-level menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this set have some fun pieces with the clean opening and closing sequences but also a pair of audio commentaries that let the cast talk about their experiences, which is always fun. I was just disappointed they couldn’t cut the song sequences from the individual episodes into its own mini music video like section for easy viewing after the fact.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Part of a multimedia project from Rejet, who does some interesting work and puts more effort into their projects than one might expect, Dance with Devils is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the fall of 2015 with animation from Brain’s Base. The show falls into a familiar bit of territory with what it does but it succeeds so well in execution that it just left me enjoying it far more than I expected. The show came with a manga series running alongside it at the time and it had a game land a few months after the anime ended for the PS Vita, but what was most impressive was that a feature anime film was also announced that’s arriving in the fall of 2017. This particular genre isn’t overly served in general and when you get a strong quality presentation like this and with all the associated merchandise it can have a pretty good run.
The show focuses on a high school girl named Ritsuka that’s got a pretty decent if familiar life. She lives with her mother while her cousin lives elsewhere at the moment, but she and Lindo were basically raised as siblings. Ritsuka’s a standard kind of appealing character in this with a positive outlook on life, happy days, a good school education she’s getting, and the impression of friends though we really only get to spend time with Azuna, who becomes her one main sort of link to normalcy as events begin to unfold. A comfortable and safe life is established well at the start and it’s an important piece as we see how dramatically her life turns when she comes home to find nothing but damage in and outside of the house and then discovers her mother bleeding inside and thieves ransacking the place. With her mother warning her away before she’s discovered, Ritsuka’s call to the police just turns it all upside down even more. When they come to investigate, everything is back to normal and her mother has simply disappeared.
This slowly introduces Ritsuka to a larger world just beneath the surface as it turns out that the people who took her mother are vampires and they’re looking for a grimoire that they believe she has, which will let their master, Lord Nesta, return them to the rightful rule of the demon world. What Ritsuka becomes caught up in only because it’s the lesser of two evils in a way is that the student council body at school is actually made up of devils, lead by Rem as the head of the council and heir to the Arlond family. They’re also looking for the grimoire to shore up their own power and position and to ensure that the vampires don’t take over. This as Rem and the other beautiful young men protecting Ritsuka but she’s hesitant early on to throw her lot in with them simply because the whole situation is what it is. But with Rem playing a careful game, understanding that getting closer to her in a less threatening way is the best way to bring her into their camp, it’s obvious how it’s going to go.
The series follows a fairly familiar pattern and there’s no denying it or any reason to because most anime shows do this. There’s a good run of episodes where we get Ritsuka exposed to the various other members of the council with their distinct personalities and costumes (that are fairly standard in the grand scheme of things) and how she interacts with them. It’s no surprise that Lindo comes back to protect her and has his own dark secret to reveal which makes him a foil for both vampire and devil alike. Nor is it any surprise that she becomes closer to Rem than anyone else and a real bond forms between them that clouds things for both of them. What makes it work is the animation itself with some solid pacing and structure to it so that it flows well as Brain’s Base just nails it scene after scene. But even more important is that there’s regular musical/music video numbers here with the devils looking to woo her or influence her. They’re largely with them singing to her in dangerous and dark ways that’s beautifully executed but we also get some larger pieces toward the end to up the ante. It’s not idol material and it serves the story and they’re so well done that they’re like mini music videos that had me wanting to check them out again after the series was over.
I feel like Funimation really missed the boat on promoting this show since they dubbed all the songs and got some very fun performances out of it. That alone makes this a must-see show for many fans to see some of their favorite actors get to do something that they rarely do, and to do it well. But beyond that this is a strongly executed series of familiar material with great style and a good sense of pacing to it. I wasn’t expecting too much going into it with it a seemingly late-announced home video release and I’m still surprised it got a dub. But this is one of those overlooked shows that deserves more attention in general. Funimation put together a good release here overall and put in some extra work with original commentaries for a couple of episodes but it really feels like it wasn’t given the promotion it needed for it to reach beyond its core audience.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 4 Commentary, Episode 8 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 26th, 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.