What They Say:
Miracles don’t happen every day. But when something impossible happens that seems to be the work of supernatural forces or higher powers, it’s the duty of the Assembly of Saints and their agents to investigate. Their job is to determine whether each incident is explainable via previously undisclosed information, a part of some plot to take advantage of the people’s faith, or a genuine miraculous event. Priests Josef Kou Hiraga and Roberto Nicholas specialize in unveiling the truth and unearthing secrets that others might wish to keep buried, but when they’re sent to Mexico to investigate reports of a virgin birth, they end up in danger of being buried themselves. Murder, demonic summoning and deals with the devil are just the beginning of a new war against the ultimate darkness.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo only using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that has some jump scares that work well and some decent directionality at times to ramp up the sensation of things going on and that makes for a fun mix overall. It’s not a big in your face kind of piece like an action series is with explosions but there is some creative use of the sound design to make the supernatural aspects work really well here. The dialogue side of it has some elements of that as well but it also just deals with a lot of subdued material with how everyone interacts, almost in conspiratorial tones at times. 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 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 in a nine/four format, giving it plenty of room as a monolingual release. Animated by J.C. Staff, the series is one that plays in the dark tones really easily and that makes for a lot of murky scenes. This works in its favor for the most part in creating the right atmosphere even if it just feels a little off because of it. The use of lighting, dark colors with the interiors, and the costuming, it all becomes not exactly fuzzy but it has that kind of classic horror feeling to it. It’s a good looking encoding in that it captures the intent and atmosphere of what was put into it and it does it without introducing any problems such as breakup or noise.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the walls with no hinges. The front cover works with the familiar key visual of our two leads along the right while supporting characters are shifted to the background next to them. It’s a dark and murky background offset by the intentionally out of focus stained glass windows to give it a little more color. The logo doesn’t have much in the way of style to it but it has a kind of simple classic design about it. The back cover puts out leads to the side while the center has the summary of the premise in the soft dark gold color with a small font on black, which makes it very hard to read. The background works a nice chapel piece that’s moody and the shots from the show are indistinct in the strip further down for much the same reason. We do get a clear and easy to read technical grid and the production credits are a touch easier to read with a white/gray color used against the black. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release go a bit simple in a way since it’s static material but it uses some really great illustration material. This takes up the bulk of the screen and really gives it a distinctive and appealing look with all of the detail to it with the character designs and some of the iconography in the background. The navigation is kept to the left which uses a religious style text and design with it along with Roman numerals for the episode numbers before digging into the titles. Everything is quick to load and easily accessible both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. It’s not a real attention-getter in a way but it’s a solid menu that fits the show and will please fans with the nods toward the source.
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 light novel series of the same name by Rin Fujiki with illustration work by THORES Shibamoto, Vatican Miracle Examiner is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the summer 2017 season. It was followed up with an OVA that was bundled with one of the novel releases. With thirteen volumes out in Japan and still ongoing under the Horror Bunko imprint, the anime adaptation is one that doesn’t have an ending but does feel like it closes the first large arc of events, giving it a sense of closure that I quite honestly wasn’t expecting. The series was animated by J.C. Staff and they do a solid enough job on it but with so much of this taking place in the shadows and darkened musty areas of various locations, it’s a murky show from start to finish and that definitely helps create the right atmosphere for it.
The general idea behind the show, told in arcs over a few episodes with a few standalone-ish pieces mixed into it, focuses on two men that work within the Seat of the Saints within the Vatican. These are the priests that are sent out into the world to look at the various reports of miracles sent into the Vatican and deal with them to find out of if they’re true and, if they are, harmful to the church and its orthodoxy in general. The two-man team that we follow is Josef Hiraga, a young man of science and math that’s of Japanese origin, and Roberto Nicholas, who comes across as a bit older and is very much an in-depth kind of adherent to the church, Italian-born and filled with a lot of ancient knowledge, languages, and desire to know more. The two of them are well-paired that came up from a position of bringing out the social aspects of each other when they first met, which is tied to Hiraga’s younger brother Ryota that’s hospitalized with a really dangerous and deadly disease.
There are few shows on the anime side that deals with the church like this in the present day and it’s generally not something you get a lot of in entertainment in general, so I was certainly curious about the show. I have little interest in the church in reality but there can be some fun stories told through this form and what we get here has just enough to make it interesting but suffers from the translation from book to animation. The arcs themselves are probably just a bit too long but would likely work very well in novel form as you get to sink into the personality of the characters and what they’re thinking and doing. Here, there are a lot of little twists and turns, almost like a murder investigation mystery series, and that keeps it moving pretty well. But it almost feels like it has too many parts which would have frustrated me with it on a weekly basis but worked well in marathoning them by arc over a few days.
The stories are interesting enough as we get the pair traveling to different areas, such as the first arc to northern Mexico where an immaculate conception has been reported. This leads to the investigation of the basics of the facts and then trying to piece together the reality, especially since there can be no other immaculate conception beyond Jesus himself. Another arc deals with them going to Africa where someone that seemingly had clairvoyant abilities had died some time ago but the body wasn’t decomposing and there are more deceits going on here. Another focuses within Italy itself where a small village has a lot going on in terms of smaller miracles that are pretty common and it ties into an amusing and interesting legend in the area about a Headhunter Clown. In all of these we get the standard mystery structure of assignment, traveling, meeting the locals, finding the weirdness around them, and digging deeper into the truth. There’s just enough uncertainty to some of these areas that you can see why most would view events as actual miracles and there’s some enjoyment in watching how the team works to not destroy the myth of miracles but find ways to explain them so that true miracles will be what’s left. They don’t want to crush the beliefs of the faithful but they also don’t want to let untruths stand, making for a complicated element to the story.
There’s definitely something interesting about this and I can see why the novels have been running for as many as they have. There’s not a lot of material of this nature and exploring the church and supernatural/horror elements has a lot of appeal around the world and through different cultures. The series works well enough but suffers a bit from translation from the novel format to animated format and it doesn’t really make the two lead characters all that compelling. We get their quirks and some of what drives them but not enough to really feel invested in them and where they’re going. Sentai’s release is a solid production with a good looking encode and presentation of the original Japanese language as well. It’s no surprise it didn’t get a dub but for those that enjoyed the simulcast and wanted to own it, it’s well-handled here with no problems to be had.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 11th, 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.