What They Say:
With its elaborate makeup, gorgeous costumes and stylized pantomime, there are few forms of entertainment that are as iconically Japanese as the ancient mix of dance and drama known as Kabuki. And yet, modern Japanese students tend to have little interest in it, which frustrates Kurogo Kurusu.
Kurogo has loved Kabuki ever since he was a kid, and the fact that his high school has a drama club but no kabuki club drives him crazy. So, naturally, he’s decided that the solution is to make his own club. Even if it means drafting other students, getting a faculty sponsor who knows nothing about the art, and “bending” some of the stricter rules about things like allowing girls to participate in the classwide culture shock that will become Kabukibu!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language only in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that’s very much focused on dialogue as there’s not much here that can really qualify as action when you get down to it. The bigger moments come from the kabuki stage performances but that’s just some elevated dialogue with more placement at times than some of the other scenes. By and large, however, what we get is straightforward material that uses the forward soundstage well to bring the performances to life. The placement hits well as needed and there’s some good areas of depth as well but beyond that it’s a clean and problem free stereo mix that comes across clean and clear throughout.
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 and OVA are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated Studio Deen, Kabukibu is a really nicely designed work that gets to handle some great character designs and costume designs because of the kabuki. There’s some great colors used throughout this and the detail to the costumes hits a certain sweet spot as well. The backgrounds aren’t basic but they’re not overdone in a realistic way but it all fits together well in a cohesive way. There aren’t any moments of really high fluid animation to be had as it’s not that kind of show but what we do get have a really good look about them and the series as a whole has a very clean and solid encoding. The colors really stand out in a lot of positive ways and it’s easy to get drawn into this area of it.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with the two discs held against the walls with no hinges used. The front cover is nicely done with a distinctive read and white look for the background and the umbrellas that they cast carries. They’re mostly headshots done up along the bottom in their full performance mode so it’s not hugely engaging because of the placement but the cover really grabs you in a big way because of the red and white and all the umbrellas. The back cover is a bit more traditional with a nice sprawling montage piece along the top and some decent shots from the show further down. The premise is well-handled and we get a clean listing of the episode count and OVA plus the extras. Add in some production information and an accurate and easy to read technical grid and it’s a solid package overall. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The extras for this release are kept simple as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Yuri Eda with artwork by Ishinoya, Kabukibu is a twelve episode TV series that had an OVA produced as well. The light novels have five volumes as of this writing and it spawned a slow moving manga series as well just before the anime series premiered. The anime was produced by studio Deen and they did a really good job of capturing the look and feel of the kabuki aspects of the show in terms of the costumes and the stage design. This is very much a character interaction/dialogue piece so there isn’t much in the way of action here but it’s a lot of fun in terms of the actual performance side of the kabuki.
The premise is a familiar on to many as we’re introduced to Kurusu, a young high school kid who has a deep love of kabuki. Kabuki is very much something that was once for the commoners a few hundred years ago but in the modern sense it’s fallen off a lot as people have a hard time with the antiquated dialogue and the structure of it all that doesn’t have a really full feeling – especially in an age where stage musicals are so huge with so many niche productions. Kurusu has deep love of the form though and has been keyed in on it since he was a little kid, going so far as to really understand some of the performers in a big way – including a fellow classmate that’s part of a big legacy who struggled when he was starting out as a young performer. Essentially, Kurus’s love of the form is very apparent and it’s held up for years, which has him really wanting to share it with others.
Naturally, Kurusu decides that his best course of action to share it is to form a kabuki club at school so they can put on performances. He’s followed it most of his life and knows it all by heart and acts it out himself so it’s a natural fit. Of course, there isn’t one in the school and it’s a hard journey to get people on board with it as most people find it difficult for reasons mentioned before. But over a few episodes we do get a small group that forms with him, from his best from Murase that works set production to Akutsu that has a background in it with his family. This is also something we see with Ebihara that goes back a long way, though he’s a harder one to draw in as he views what Kurusu is doing as a joke compared to the real thing. Asagi provides for some much-needed female presence as she balances this with the drama club and we also get Janome, who helps out as the costume designer.
Essentially, we get the standard drawing together of a diverse crowd with connections to the theme at hand and some struggles along the way. With a couple of them having connections to some others in the family that have performed for years and have reputations, we get to see how they view the club as a positive thing because of how niche kabuki has become and the need to find new avenues to draw people in. There’s discussions and arguments about the purity of it and what Kurusu is doing being the wrong thing, but it’s all fairly superficial in a way so as to not really offend anyone with a different opinion. What really drew me to it along the way, however, was that upon taping their first performance Kurusu realizes that he is, indeed, terrible. His mind’s-eye view of himself built it all up but the reality is that he’s just bad.
But what he does isn’t the norm in that he doesn’t throw himself into it in a huge way and learns massively from supporting friends and legacy players. No, he ends up becoming the black clad stage hand that does all the hard work of ensuring things happen. This ties in well since he’s also the club president and director for the shows so this lets him be involved in every facet of it and its success but without having to actually perform. The kuroko aspect of his work is something that I think could be a good series in a different project to explore because those that do this are interesting to be sure. I definitely appreciated that the show didn’t force Kurusu into becoming great – especially with legacy players with strong skills in the mix – and instead found a good supporting role for him as they work toward the big performances that caps the series as you’d expect.
I’ve watched a lot of shows that have introduced me to a range of things through the whole club aspect of high school shows. Some of them prove to be interesting and educational while others are all too familiar and boring at this point. Others end up providing an interesting theme to work with but just can’t get it to connect. I’m curious about the kabuki world itself but the way it was approached and handled here just didn’t connect for me as the cast didn’t resonate nor the way the whole premise was brought about. It’s something that works and isn’t bad but it just didn’t click for me, leaving me interested in smaller moments and some of the ways it progressed, such as with Kurusu, but otherwise not finding a connection with any of the cast. Sentai’s release is a clean and well put together project that will please fans wanting to own the show. It’s definitely an interesting experience.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Running Time: 325 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.