What They Say:
High schooler Kaho Nikaido is having trouble adjusting to her new life in Tokyo. It doesn’t get any easier when she is nearly hit by a truck and saved by the handsome Kanade Takahashi! Infatuated with Kanade, she works up the courage to confess. But he warns that if Kaho learns who he is, she won’t want him. What could possibly keep her from this stud? Maybe the fact that he’s…a fifth grader?!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while also including an English language dub with a 5.1 mix, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is fairly straightforward with what it’s doing as it’s largely dialogue based with some comical action bits along the way. These play nicely across the forward soundstage when they hit but it’s not something that stands out in a big way. Mostly we get a lot of back and forth dialogue and overreacting moments from the cast and those are about as you’d expect with some decent placement from time to time and movement across the forward soundstage. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout while the standouts are generally the opening and closing sequences where it’s a bit richer and warmer.
Originally airing in 2016, 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 in a nine/three format. Animated by Studio Deen, it’s a pretty well-animated production overall with some nice character designs and very attractive still scenes to highlight the characters looks but it plays to a more standard piece with the movement, or lack thereof in many cases, and some of the playful elements. This makes for an easy encode with lots of standing around and the like but it results in a good-looking show with appealing colors that hit that sweet spot of not too vibrant and not too flat so that it looks just right. There’s a good bit of detail at times that holds up well within the characters while settings are fairly standard but work well within the context of the show.
The packaging design for this release is done up in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case to hold the two discs for both formats as well as an o-card. The o-card replicates the case artwork but it reminds you again what some better cardstock does for color quality and creating the right appeal and catching the eye. It’s a standard shot with the cast together hovering around Kaho as she sits at her desk and you get to know who each archetype is by their expression in the mix. The back cover carries over the yellow background design nicely and has a decent shot of Kanade while bringing in snapshots from the show as pictures along the bottom. The summary of the premise handles things well and we get a good breakout of all the extras. The remainder fleshes out the production credits and the technical grid for both formats. No show related inserts are included but we do get a nice piece of artwork with a two-panel spread of Kanade on the reverse side of the cover – which is used for the static menu that’s not even worth talking about.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the basics that we always like in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. We also get some additional pieces with a round of promos and commercials but also two music videos for the opening and closing that run between 4 to 5 minutes each. For dub fans, we get an audio commentary for the fourth episode with several of the actors participating.
Based on the manga by Akira Hiyoshimaru known as Hatsukoi Monster, First Love Monster is a twelve episode series animated by Studio Deen that landed in the summer 2016 season. The manga isn’t a fast producing one with just five volumes since it began in 2013 but Yen Press has picked it up and has been releasing it. The anime adaptation for a simuldub during the simulcast period and I imagine that if it hadn’t had one done then we probably would have a barebones release now. The show is one that can certainly produce certain reactions and I imagine that there are a number of people who jumped off after – if not during – the first episode.
Way back in a different time almost twenty years ago, I got a lot of flack from some quarters while talking about Fancy Lala. I had a problem with the way that the show took the pre-teen lead character and she transformed into a magical girl that was ten years older and had to navigate the adult business world and all that comes there. Suffice to say, girls of the actual age aren’t equipped to handle what’s thrown at them in the idol business at that age – but it’s also worth noting that girls of the original pre-tween age are also subject to a lot of sexual harassment. Accelerating it and normalizing it as the show did left me conflicted because it did have a lot of good stories but it didn’t tackle what were the real stories it should have been telling.
First Love Monster goes in a different direction but it creeps me out just as much – and for essentially the whole run of the show rather than specific instances that occurred in Fancy Lala. Here, we’re introduced to pampered princess Kaho,a spoiled girl who is actually fairly well grounded that has left the mansions and the like in order to have a good high school experience as a fifteen-year-old. She doesn’t have friends but desperately wants to make some as she prepares to move into Kasumi house. So it’s little surprise that when she meets a hot guy outside of there she’s all excited to be friends and gets confused with how brusquely he cuts her off and deals with her. Of course, it’s also no surprise that he’s one of several residents of Kasumi house and that she’ll end up getting closer to him and the other guys that live there.
Standard setup, you can imagine how the remaining eleven episodes will unfold and no real resolution to be had by the end. It’s just a matter of the execution with how fun it could be. So, what do we get here? Well, our initial character of Kanade and a small selection of other guys in her new circle are all revealed to just be fifth graders. While she’s dealing with her high school life and thinking this hot guy is close to her age, he’s actually several years younger and acts that age most of the time. We see him and the others in the class with other normal sized fifth-graders several times throughout the series and it’s all treated fairly normally, but that core piece is what drives it.
She’s dating a fifth grader.
A nine to ten-year-old.
As a freshman in high school.
And they are dating as he agrees to date her if she can handle what he is, though obviously his version of dating is different than hers. Yeah, they attempt to play things cute from time to time but then you get the ongoing gag of the gaggle of friends within the boys that do the whole sticking a finger attack up someone’s butt. And the immaturity of the boys that gets its due here and there that you’re supposed to forget about because they sometimes act normal and look older. The show plays to plenty of familiar high school-ish romantic plot devices, nothing terribly deep or meaningful, but at its core it has them dating. And breaking up – with jan-ken po being involved in that. Will they get back together? Will more fingers get stuck up someone’s butt? Will these kids have an unfair advantage during the sports festival when you toss the balls in the hoops?
Having a fifteen-year-old daughter myself as of this writing, I know how generally implausible this all is because she and most of her friends don’t even want to associate with the eighth graders because of how immature they are, never mind fifth graders. Amusingly, she had started watching this show previously and dropped it mid-episode after learning what the gimmick was.
I watched it all.
And I’m just kind of ashamed for a whole host of reasons.
First Love Monster looks like it adapts the manga pretty accurately from what I’ve seen and for fans of that and the anime itself, Funimation’s release is solid with a good encode, a dub that attempts to have fun with it all, a nice package (hello!) and some good extras to give you a little extra. That said, unless you think this kind of material is for you, this is a series to simply avoid. There’s little in anime that skeeves me out at this point but this kind of material does. Junior high school romantic comedy series are bad enough, never mind this. And realize this key fact – Funimation never put out any dub clips or trailers for this release. ZERO promotion.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 4 Commentary, Opening Music Video: “Innocent”, Closing Music Video: “Kimi ni Sasageru Chinkonka”, Promo Videos, Commercials, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 7th, 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.