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The Life of Gusko Budori Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

When the world changes, one young man must find a way to save his sister.

What They Say:
In The Life of Budori Gusuko, his life was wonderful, living in the forest with his father, mother and younger sister. Then, the weather changed, the villagers he knew moved away, and tragedy stole his sister and parents from him. Forced to wander until he found another place to live, he again settled into a peaceful existence… until the weather changed, and it was all taken from him once again. Now, as he’s grown older, Budori has found a job with people who study volcanoes, and when the weather starts to change again, Budori must make the biggest decision of his life.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track done in a 5.1 format while the English mix gets the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film is one that’s more about mood than anything else but the mix handles it well with the music that it employs as well as some of the incidental sounds in the quieter scenes. The bigger pieces swell appropriately but it never felt like a really over the top big piece kind of project. Dialogue is handled well as it’s fairly straightforward and it doesn’t get a lot of extra use through the 5.1 format for it. But everything is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2012, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Tezuka Productions, the film has a really strong look to it with its designs as the colors are fantastic, the details in the backgrounds great, and the character coloring – particularly for Gusko, really has a deep and rich feeling to it. The encoding captures all of this very well with what it needs to do as there are no problems with background noise or blocking throughout it and the more fluid sequences of animation are smooth and problem free. There’s a lot of locations to be had here and a darker feeling to many of them that’s well-handled with detail holding up very well but the color design throughout is strong and vibrant with the contrasts really giving it a great feeling.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single Blu-ray encoded as it’s not a DVD/BD combo release. The front cover goes with a really nice simple framing to it with the lush background obscured around it in contrast to the more vibrant interior piece. Within that we get Gusko in the center on his journey with some of the key locations and characters mixed into the various quadrants. It’s simple but with the right kind of color design and dreamlike aspect to it. The back cover uses the same washed out background with the leaves and natural setting where it’s covered with a lot of material. There are two good strips of shots from the film and a key visual piece of Gusko and his family. The premise is kept simple in the summary but effective while the bottom brings out the production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release keeps things simple but with just enough detail to engage you with it. The static image of Gusko and Neri together early on from the film with bright smiles and happy faces is appealing as they’re set against their home with its darker wood and all of its details. To provide some contrast to that we get a nicely designed menu that uses whites and purples with the selections and some well placed and detailed flower designs to draw it out more. The submenus load quickly and easily as you setup the languages or hit up the trailers and extras so it’s pretty simple but effective in working the mood of the show while being problem free.

The only extras included are some promos for the feature.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With most fans knowing the anime adaptation of Night on the Galactic Railroad, initial views of The Life of Gusko Budori will make you think that film has been remade. Animated by Tezuka Productions with Gisaburo Sugii writing and directing it, it’s definitely a more personal kind of film where there’s just that sense of it being a passion project wanting to capture Kenji Miyazawa in a certain way. I had liked the Night on the Galactic Railroad work well enough but I’ve long struggled with Miyazawa’s storytelling and designs. There’s a dreamlike and wondrous fable aspect of it all but it’s not something that really connects for me. I can appreciate it but it doesn’t move me like it seems to move many others.

Based on the story written in 1932 of the same name, the film focuses on the Budori family and on the son primarily, Gusko. The family lives well in one of the forest areas where it’s just starting to deal with industrial aspects but it hasn’t made too much of an impact yet. Living with his younger sister and parents, it’s an almost idyllic life where nature abounds, hard work accomplishes things, and people are largely self-sustaining while still working as a community. The problem comes in that a cold winter has arrived and ends up overstaying its welcome the following year right through the summer. With crops dying, people dying, and even Gusko’s father disappearing, it doesn’t take long for it to get even worse when their mother goes off in search of her and the kids are left with a small amount of flour to try and make something from before they’re at the end of everything.

The film delves into a lot of things as it uses that as a kind of launching point, with Gusko’s younger sister Neri being abducted by a wizard of some sort that can travel between the boundary of real and the spirit. Pacts are made and Gusko journey’s to the big city to try and find his sister while also getting and education and looking at ways to try and bring warm weather back to the region he’s from. There’s an interesting angle pursued along this area where they explore forcing an already active volcano to blow its load in order to warm the area in a controlled way and it’s an interesting path to see play out. It’s the grounded side of the film that plays alongside Gusko making these journeys to the realm of the dead and spirits where he’s trying to find the wizard and his sister but runs into trouble there. It’s creepy and dreamlike in a lot of ways and the visual design for it is just strong throughout in really setting the tone.

That said, the film is one that like the story that it’s based on simply doesn’t do much for me. Watching Gusko’s journey is interesting but it never feels grounded in a way that I can connect with. There are so many odd choices taken and then the supernatural aspect, which at times makes it less than clear if it’s a dream sequence or not, provides a further disconnect. There’s a real unease that comes from aspects of the story with how it plays out, such as the disappearance of the parents that’s left open and the initial cold that comes down into the valley as well. There are areas that are touched upon with sort of explanations but that isn’t the point of the film. It’s to follow Gusko’s journey and to try and make sense of it. Sadly, I didn’t.

In Summary:
Adaptations of Kenji Miyazawa’s material in anime form are few and far between and I like that they did it with the whole cats angle again as it’s distinctive and creative in all the right ways. While the film falls short for me in being as engaging as it should be, I love the technical aspects of it as it’s beautifully animated with great designs, beautiful backgrounds, a lot of great creativity with how the more fantastic elements are put together, and just a strong color design that ties it all together. Sentai’s release takes it up well with a great encoding and putting together a solid dub that brings it to life. Fans will be very pleased by it and those curious as to what a Miyazawa story would be like are definitely encouraged to check it out.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
MSRP: $29.99
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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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