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Skip Beat! Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

What starts off as revenge will end as… ?

What They Say:
Welcome to Skip Beat!, the story of humble 16-year-old Kyoko Mogami unleashing her true talents as a powerhouse actress. She’s passionate, wacky, vulnerable, and bold – sometimes all in the same scene. These 25 riveting episodes are as fun and unpredictable as Kyoko Mogami herself. She is alternately inspired and frustrated by the guys in her life, but ultimately she strives to achieve her own dreams of making it in showbiz.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are done up with the uncompressed PCM format. The series works a fairly standard design for this mix with it balancing a lot of dialogue (and inner monologue pieces) along with wacky effects and incidental sounds. There’s some decent placement across the forward soundstage throughout while dialogue itself is a bit more relegated to the center channel in general. It does stretch its legs well enough as various story elements play out and characters move about which includes giving it some good use of placement and depth, both for serious and comedic effect. With some good music included in the release and a solid score, the show has a clean sound throughout it for both language tracks and we were pretty pleased with this uncompressed presentation.

Video:
Originally airing in 2008 and 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-five episodes are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/seven format with the extras kept to the third disc. Animated by Hal Film Maker, the show is one that captures the intent well as it feels like it’s something that’s from the 90’s in a way with the designs, the movement, and just the general tone of it rather than something going for smooth or real-world. It shifts in style pretty frequently but it has a clean and consistent look throughout it. The encoding brings the details to life, especially in the costume and hair design, while ensuring a solid look to the colors throughout. The layout for the episodes gives it plenty of room to work with and the end result is one that should please fans of the series greatly as it’s clean and problem free, ensuring a very enjoyable viewing experience.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside to hold two of the discs. The front cover uses a good piece of character artwork that puts Kyoko and Tsuruga together with the simple polka dot background behind them that provides a nice contrast. The pink is carried into the logo with a few other warm colors there as well as the amusing mini-logo inside of it. It’s a cover that to me feels a bit older than the actual age of the show and there’s a kind of throwback charm in that. The back cover gives us a piece with Shotaro holding onto his guitar looking all serious and it works the same kind of pinks and whites with a different background to it. Shots from the show are included that highlights some of its odder elements which is welcome. There’s a very, very, slim summary of the premise here that doesn’t really sell the show all that much while the remainder fleshes out the extras in clear form as well as the technical information. While there are no inserts with the release we do get a stick and there’s a great reversible cover with two pieces of different character artwork pairings to delight fans with.

Menu:
The menus for this release keep things simple with static designs that presents some good pairings across the three volumes with colorful setting backgrounds. The navigation is kept to the bottom with it using a good sized chunk of space to hold the logo in large form while below it we get the selections themselves – which includes a marathon play feature that we don’t see nearly often enough. Everything is quick and easy to access, though I wish the episode selection would allow for it to loop up or to the side to exit out of it instead of tabbing down through all of them. Access time is fast and it works good both as a pop-up menu during playback and as the main menu itself.

Extras:
The extras for this release will definitely please fans, especially for the English language production as it dominates what’s here. While we get the clean opening and closing and the previews for episodes, the dub makes up a lot of what we get. This comes in the form of a couple of fun, if short, interviews that were produced with the cast talking about the project. There’s about half a dozen that run between two to five minutes each and are just fun. We also get a fun behind the scenes piece that clocks in at a couple of minutes with a mix of recording footage and still pictures that shows the work and the fun that went into it. We also get a similar one that shows the music recording side with the dubbed songs that will make fans smile to see. Add in a couple of slideshows and then dig into an extended liner note piece on how the honorifics were done and it’s all good here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Yoshiki Nakamura, Skip Beat is a twenty-five episode anime series that aired in late 2008 and early 2009. The original manga began back in 2002 and is still ongoing at this point with forty-one volumes with Viz Media still releasing it. The anime adaptation is something that always felt like it should have gotten picked up but it aired during the big crash period and consolidation so it wasn’t a surprise that it languished until Pied Piper went all in on a big and bold kickstarter program that got it produced – with a dub no less. With that phase all done it’s getting a regular edition release as well and it’s something that makes me very glad that it did get a release eventually because it’s quite a fun show filled with some pretty problematic characters.

The initial focus is on Kyoko, a sixteen-year-old young woman who lost her parents at a young age and was taken in at an inn where she worked and grew close to the son, Shotaro. While she didn’t realize it at the time she was being groomed to take over the inn with him someday but Shotaro wanted nothing to do with the provincial life and booked it to Tokyo where he’s now a hugely famous star. He also took Kyoko with him, offering her the choice, and she’s spending all her time working jobs and taking care of the apartment and making meals for him. What she didn’t realize was that he was using her as a maid while using the true from a certain point of view idea that she agreed to be his maid. That’s a shock for her and when she accidentally overhears that she basically snaps. It’s a very busy first episode that introduces all the background and setup and then breaks out leading lady.

What the series does is launch Kyoko into revenge mode where she’s going to show Sho what he’s missing out on and, in the back of her mind, will try to win her back over. Selling everything and shifting gears with a new cut and color, Kyoko basically does what a lot of male leading roles of this nature does in that she gets aggressive and pushes her way into a competing agency to take forge a path forward. Now, I would be just as frustrated by a male character in this kind of situation as well because while it’s played for laughs (and there are lots of funny moments) it’s the kind of stuff that would get most people thrown into jail for a bit. With some really comically creepy moments, Kyoko gets into the LME agency and has to figure out just what it is she’s capable of as she goes through the audition routine, makes some frenemies, and begins to take classes to really understand the world of acting.

Skip Beat reminded me of a lighter version of Glass Mask where our lead is more “modern” and realistic in a lot of ways. Kyoko isn’t a natural per se at acting, though she has a lot of things that allows her to tap into it better than most newbies, and some of that stems from her extensive time working in the inn and how she was trained to handle customers, or guests as she was taught. This is applied to the acting in a way that most wouldn’t think of and it’s something that lets her put on a game face and really be in the moment in that part. It also doesn’t hurt that some of those she works with are at the top of their game as well, with room to grow, that push her in new directions as well. But it’s Kyoko’s ability to go so completely into the zone that works as we see how it shakes the confidence of others as it’s not something you see often. Again, it’s not a natural talent for acting because there’s a difference, but what she brings to the table here is something separate from how most actors come into the business and their background, allowing her to be free of many of the learned restraints and rules.

What the series does is move through a lot of the challenges that she faces while on this revenge quest, which includes making a strong friend/enemy type in Kanae, who has all the hallmarks of your competing villain but turns into the kind of friend that pushes you as much as you push them to better work. The two don’t have a conventional friendship but it works wonderfully in this cutthroat industry. The other big main character is that of Ren, the ostensible love interest, who is the big talent at LME that finds something unique about Kyoko over time and is drawn to her without understanding why. They have a familiar arc throughout this with the usual misunderstandings amid the workplace side of it, mostly as she’s learning and he sees something special in her, which makes for a lot of good fun. He’s also interesting in how he reacts once she reveals how she’s doing this out of revenge, though the revenge side falls off quickly as the busy nature of her work and the passage of time eases a lot of that. The competitive side does come up with Sho eventually as he comes back into Kyoko’s orbit, but he’s not a constant in presence or in her mind, which is a huge plus.

In Summary:
While there isn’t any real closure when it comes to Skip Beat considering how much more material there is, what we get is a great opening run of material that introduces us to the world. It’s actually a rare property that when finished actually makes me a lot more curious about the manga than I usually am. Kyoko is not an easy character as she embodies some of the worst traits of male characters that frustrate me in how she deals with her problems. But, like my favorite series Glass Mask, we get some really strong stuff in how she applies herself and draws upon a kind of natural talent that she didn’t realize she had which had been honed in another industry. Pied Piper did a fantastic job in putting this project together originally as a Kickstarter and I’m beyond glad that it’s going to be out in wider release for people to enjoy. There’s a lot of heart and soul in the show itself and just as much in the production of this release.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Dub cast and crew interviews, “Behind the Scenes” dub photos & video, “Behind the Beats” dub music recording photos & video, clean opening, clean ending, previews, Honorifics presentation, Localization credits

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

Released By: Pied Piper
Release Date: June 26th, 2018
MSRP: $59.95
Running Time: 600 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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