What They Say:
Chiya was raised in the woods and most of her friends were animals. But now she needs to find something, and since it may take the skills of an Urara, or fortune teller, to find it, she’s come to the town of Meiro-cho to learn to become an Urara herself.
It won’t be easy adjusting… and not just because Chiya still tends to check to see if people have tails or want their tummies rubbed! But the other girls studying at the Natsumeya teahouse are all unusual in their own ways, and it’s clear from the beginning that Chiya’s going to be great friends with studious Kon, rambunctious Koume and shy Nono. And that’s good, because if Chiya’s going to find her missing mother, she’ll need all the help and support she can get!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. No English language dub was produced for this release. The series is one that’s largely dialogue based with some nice incidental elements here and there with minor “action” and wackiness occupying a lot of that. The score for the series helps to give the show a little more oomph when it comes to the audio side of it but it’s mostly a dialogue-driven series with everyone talking to each other, so it’s mostly center channel based. The bigger moments with some of the abilities and things they get into ratchets it up just a touch but it’s one of those more relaxed series overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, 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 JC Staff, the show has a really great design and look about it that has a lot of detail and fluidity, but works a simpler approach in a way since it’s a dialogue based series. There are some busy sequences and plenty of silliness that keeps it active, but it can get away with a lot of strong looking backgrounds because it’s not a high-motion series by designs. The encoding captures the feel of this just right as it’s one that feels more film-like than a lot of anime tends to. I really like the visual design for this series and the encoding brings it to life wonderfully.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs held against the interior walls. The front cover goes for a full cast shot of the four main girls together with some really nice background elements that definitely provides a feeling for what the series is like visually. The logo is kept simple with the oranges and browns mixed together nicely along the top and they came up with a creative way to present the episode count and completeness of it within the artwork. The back cover carries over the tan and orange aspects nicely with shots from the show taking up a lot more real estate than usual, to the advantage of the show. The premise is a bit smaller than I’d care for in font size but it covers the basics clear enough so you know what the show is about. Extras are clearly listed while the remainder breaks down the production information and technical information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design brings in most of the elements from the packaging pretty nicely, though it’s a bit brighter and clearer here than in print form. Both discs feature some nice character combinations that shows off some good detail and I like the use of the oranges, reds, and tans to tie it all together as it lets the burst of color from the character designs stand out all the more. The navigation takes up about half the screen space, especially on the first disc, with episodes broken out by episode number and very lengthy episode titles. Submenus load quickly and are easy to get around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series of the same name from Harikamo, Urara Meirocho is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the winter 2017 season. The manga began back in 2014 in Manga Time Kirara Miracle as a four-panel work and it’s still ongoing with four volumes out. Adapting four-panel works can be dicey depending on the approach but also with what the material is. Some are better suited as shorts while others have good reason they can be expanded to something larger. But going into a full-length project means it has to work over that whole episode and a lot of four-panel works end up being very drawn out because of it. And there’s appeal in that for a lot of viewers but it’s like you start whittling away at your potential audience depending on how the adaptation is going to go.
With Urara Meirocho, we’re introduced to a young woman named Chiya who has come to the big city of Meirocho in this period style piece. Chiya’s spent her life beyond where most of those who are in Meirocho have come from or even visited as she was raised in the woods and has come here in an attempt to find her mother. She hopes to achieve that by being a first ranked Urara, which are basically fortune tellers. But it’s not fortune tellers in the more traditionally thought of sense in a way but a field where there are so many different ways you can be one. The city is filled with them and they all work different approaches and needs due to the different things that people are looking for. Chiya’s definitely an innocent walking into all of this but we’re also being introduced to a place where it feels like nary a mean or unsavory thing will ever happen. It’s just not that kind of world.
Naturally, the show opens with Chiya getting into a little trouble with Saku, the caption of one of the patrol units who’s very strict. Chiya’s unaccustomed to this world so it’s no surprise, but she lucks out in that she’s taken in by a friend of Saku’s named Nina who’s younger sister Nono is in training. We also get a group of friends in addition to Nono that ends up in the place with Kon and Koume. Kon’s fun in that she has the fox-like aspects to her and works in kokkuri style fortune telling while Koume goes for the classic witch style with tarot material. Nono gets the creepy side with a doll that she does things through that’s related to her mother who passed away some years ago. There are all familiar traits and approaches that people can connect with and tied to cute girls who are learning the craft and trade overall under Nina’s gentle tutelage. When she’s not ready for a nap, at least.
What the show ends up becoming once all are living under the same roof with Nina is a cute girls doing cute things series. Which is more than fine because the cuteness is well-animated and there’s a lot of neat little moments that come in because of the various styles of fortune telling. Each of the girls gets a light amount of exploration as to who they are and there’s some fun with Saku as she’s regularly involved in things while trying to play up her position a bit to keep everyone in line while also wanting to be accepted. The result is a series that’s very fun in the moment as it’s charming, whether exploring an abandoned building and talking about themselves or some of the things they explore with the spells and other aspects of fortune telling. I’m hard pressed to say there are really stories to be had here in terms of forward progress but rather it’s a series of character explorations that unwind slowly and mix together as the bonds of friendship are formed. So while we can pluck out individual things that happen in the episodes while they slowly work on their path of achieving rank toward first rank, it’s more about the experience of the journey. On the plus side, they did wait until the final episode for the hot spring episode and they avoided coming up with a serious threat to round out the last couple of episodes with. That’s a very big plus.
Urara Meirocho is a really nice little show that explores the lives of four girls as they look to really engage in the trade of fortune telling in this semi-period piece. It’s a beautiful looking show in terms of design with both character and setting that makes it really easy to immerse yourself into the world. But it is, primarily, a journey of friendship between the young women and that means some small conflicts that come from different personalities. It may be very familiar but the execution is good and it has a strong “in the moment” quality that allows it to engage in a really good way. It left me feeling good about things even while recognizing that there’s not much story or meat here because that isn’t it’s intent. It’s about the journey of friendship. Sentai’s release is solid and while it’s no surprise that there’s no dub to it they put together a great encode for the release that will please the majority of its fans that can own it now.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 17th, 2018
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.