What They Say:
High school is complicated for any young centaur, but shy, sweet Himeno won’t have to clop through it alone! Surrounded by friends, she’ll face life’s trials one day at a time. But her world isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. In this society of hooves, horns, and halos, there’s no room for discrimination, and prejudice—even if accidental—is punishable by law.
Hang on to your horseshoes—this slice of life will take you for a ride!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets the 5.1 treatment, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that has a couple of small moments where it stands out a bit more, though not really in an action sense, but the other 99% of it is essentially dialogue. This is a slice of life show overall and that means we mostly get some decent areas of placement here and there and a good flow as the conversations move across the screen. Everything here is basically serviceable with what it does with some decent placement as needed and a good sense of directionality during the movement sequences but beyond that this is a straightforward dialogue piece. Everything comes across clean and clear 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 Haoliners Animation League, the show has a pretty good look to it with some nice detail and design work since it’s not a hugely active show in terms of motion. That doesn’t mean it’s all stills but it’s a more relaxed piece with simpler movements that flows well. The encoding captures the colors really well with them looking solid throughout and a really good blending of the gradients in a few scenes. The costume and creature design is solid throughout and this is a pretty clean looking transfer that’s problem free throughout.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. The front cover brings us the familiar key visual for the series but it’s one that I think works even better here with the color definition and especially the logo used for it with its color design. The format stripe along the top even feels like it helps to frame things well. The back cover goes for a dark red background so that we get a simple and easy to read summary of the premise and a few larger shots from the show along the right. The extras are clearly listed and the technical grid breaks down both formats in an accurate and easy to read form. While there are no show related inserts included we do get an insert from Seven Seas about the manga and the reverse side cover artwork is a red piece that gives Himeno a starring spot.
The menu design for this release goes simple with a static image that uses the front cover artwork but kind of expands it a bit so that it fits the widescreen perspective. It’s bright and colorful with the backgrounds while the characters in the foreground look good as well. The logo to the left of the characters is appealing and the navigation is kept very simple here with a small block along the bottom. It doubles well as the pop-up menu during playback but with the really lengthy titles per episode it’s pretty much a crazy dense piece when looking at episode selection itself. Everything functions smoothly and without problems though which makes for a quick and painless experience.
The extras for this release includes the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences only. I’m hugely disappointed that the live-action material produced in Japan did not make its way over here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Kei Murayama, A Centaur’s Life is a twelve-episode anime series that aired in the summer 2017 season. The original manga began in early 2011 and has sixteen volumes released so far in Japan with Seven Seas Entertainment bringing them out in English. The anime is one that got what looks to be a solid adaptation but it also has that sense of being something that wasn’t meant to be bigger as no OVAs were produced for it or bundled releases of any kind afterward. The manga does decently in Japan but I don’t think the anime gave this much of a boost in the end.
The premise is simple enough in that we get a world like ours that took impossible evolutionary turns. Creatures of myth in our world are the norm there with centaurs, mer-creatures, demons, satyrs, and even angels of sorts. The show takes an unusual approach in that it doesn’t really provide for an introduction and just drops us into another day in the life of a group of high school girls and then runs through their stories. Each episode is done as half-stories so there’s a lot going on here but it avoids running any particular gag too long or spilling into other episodes. It also has a big plus in my book in that we don’t get a serious arc toward the end that feels out of place, instead just sticking to the smaller stories with the characters and their silliness.
The main focus is on Himeno, a centaur girl who has a bit of anxiety about this time in her life like many girls as she’s very self-aware of herself. Being a centaur means she takes up a good bit of space but she’s also really developed recently and she’s just uncertain about things in sexual terms – which leads to a comical bit later in the show where some of the girls check each other’s genitals out due to curiosity and just to make sure they all seem alright. Himeno is the core of the show with a gentle personality, a friendly tone, and just generally being someone that everyone can get along with. She’s not from a wealthy or poor family and provides a kind of easy access. She also gets to help mentor some younger characters along the way, including more centaurs, and that helps her to deal with her body image issues as well.
Himeno’s got a number of friends but her initial close ones include Nozomi, the spitfire demon type with a rough personality, and Kyouko, the satyress that’s very calm and mellow having had to deal with her father, an author that’s so focused on work. As time goes on we get to add the angel Manami, which brings in four very young sisters for some awkward scenes about girls kissing, and eventually Quetzalcoatl Sassassul, a snake-like race that’s closer to birds. She’s the most curious of them all because her species is very rare and often the subject of horror films that devour other species. She’s listed as an Antarctican and she’s definitely paid attention to by everyone she comes across while she’s trying to understand normal interactions in the world. I was most grateful they didn’t my her a sexpot or anything – most characters are fairly normal when you get down to it – and they spent some good time with how she’s viewed by others. The concept of racism is strong in this world even if it’s fairly minimal within the group as a whole but Quetzalcoatl provides us a way to look at it. She’s just so good natured and curious that it makes it all the harder to watch what she goes through.
There are some male characters in this series, though it feels like the school is largely an all-girls one, but there are a few brothers in play here as well as a few dads. This helps it to not feel like it’s so limited but it doesn’t lean into relationships all that much. That’s not to say it doesn’t cover it from time to time, such as when Manami starts explaining to her sisters that it’s not right when girls kiss other girls after a certain age. That lets a certain lesbian couple make their point in front of her which provides some pushback but it was a welcome scene just to show something in this realm that’s usually avoided in general. The series also goes into the racism side in a lot of ways and while Quetzalcoatl Sassassul is the main focus we get a half-episode story later in it that essentially gives us a World War II concentration camp storyline with one species above the others and lots of calls about these other inferior species and all their problems. It’s blunt and doesn’t try to hide things which was certainly interesting and unexpected.
But the series also just has a lot of fun with the situations, from Himeno’s archery to coming up with new hairstyles that will fit their personalities. One of the last episodes has the girls putting together ideas for a fantasy game and that basically has them acting it out in super-super skimpy costumes that make you question just how sexy they can make a centaur. The show doesn’t mind playing with sexuality in an easy way, this is a series that brings actual nipples into play during topless scenes, and it examines it culturally when we get to the mer-creatures. With a kind of class trip to a mer-school, we get to see how the girls there are always topless and the boys are turned on by swimsuit tops. We also see some of the neat ways a place like this functions and some of the questions that both sides asks when really getting time to sit and talk and actually understand each other.
I won’t say A Centaur’s Life is a high-end show or a big thinkpiece kind of work but I also went into it expecting utter junk because of its concept. What I got was something that touches on sociopolitical issues far more than most other shows do and doesn’t just give it a glancing look. Yes, it’s not deep or anything but it digs into more than most and doesn’t play it easy with how it unfolds for some of the characters. It’s a bit simple in terms of animation since it’s mostly all about the dialogue but it looks good, the acting for both tracks is pretty solid, and the variety of stories keeps it from feeling repetitive. It is a show I wouldn’t recommend marathoning and just doing a couple of stories at a time but it’s a more interesting show than I expected it to be.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 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: Funimation
Release Date: July 3rd, 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.