What They Say:
Haruto awakens in a dream world of a witch’s design. As he wanders the dreamscape, he meets professor, Katsumi Kanzaki, who studies witches in the real world. He says they’re the consciousnesses of young women afflicted with “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” and are trapped in their own minds. Haruto and Katsumi must work together to uncover why various witches’ actions are physically affecting reality.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub that gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that does stick to largely dialogue-driven pieces when you get down to it but it has some good bits of whimsy and fantasy to it as well with the dream world that allows it to stretch a bit. The stereo mix has some good placement throughout and everything moves and flows well when the characters interact. The more fantastical elements aren’t really action pieces but it gets to go a bit bigger with some of what the characters deal with such as the concert performances or just some of the weirdness it runs with is well-handled across the forward soundstage and with some fun nods to the rear channels in the English mix. Both tracks are pretty solid overall with no problems such as 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 thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/four format with plenty of room to work with. Animated by Gonzo, the show has a really good look to it with the color design that can range pretty far and wide depending on who is directing the episode but there’s a good consistency across it overall with character designs (for the most part). The series is one that’s pretty open-ended with what it can do and the encoding captures all of this really well. Colors are strong with some really neat layers to them while avoiding any real issues with gradients or breakup during it. The show does lean into the dialogue side of things pretty heavily but when it steps up to something bigger and more fluid it maintains it really well with a clean and problem free look. It’s a good strong encode that will please fans that love the visual design of it.
The packaging design for this release is pretty nice as we get the standard thicker Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for the two formats on hinges and it comes with an o-card slipcover. The o-card and case artwork are different as the o-card has a key visual with the staircase that Haruto is walking along with a lot of detail mixed in while the case artwork uses the initial key visual of Haruto being sucked into the pink and black checkerboard pattern. Both work the same back cover as we get lots of good shots from the show of varying sizes to them, giving us a better look at it, and a good summary of the premise even if I don’t care much for the font used for it. The extras are clearly listed and we get a clean and accurate look at the technical side with how both formats are put together. While there are no show related inserts included with it we do get artwork on the reverse side that provides for two pieces of Japanese cover artwork with different character pairings from the core group.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple when it could have been busy as we get the key visual nod with our central character of Haruto as his mind slips away visually. It’s done with the checkerboard pattern for part of it, curving, but done in pink and black in a way that makes it even more unnerving. The navigation is a full black strip along the bottom that provides for quick and easy selections that work well both as the main menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are fun with the clean opening provided as well as some of the commercials for it. We get an English language commentary for the tenth episode where things start to reveal more but it’s the “18if Explained” piece that’s fun. It’s basically mini recap/promos for each episode and they run the gamut quickly of what’s involved with that particular episode with a countdown ticker on it for all the episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Part of a multimedia project known as The Art of 18, 18if is a thirteen episode anime series that aired during the summer 2017 season. I have no real knowledge of the other aspects of it but the anime stands largely on its own, which is always a good thing for those like me that are just stepping into it. With Gonzo handling the animation production, Koji Morimoto served as the general director for the series while Atsuhiro Tomioko worked the series composition. What made this title stand out a bit was that each episode basically had a different hands-on director that them bring their own style and approach to it. Some went a bit weirder and bigger than others but there’s definitely distinctive differences between the episodes in how they’re approached that’s interesting to watch unfold.
18if is, essentially, an anthology show. That’s a little rougher to marathon sometimes but can make for some good extended one-off viewings where you do still get to see the various threads tie together. Its central focus is on Haruto, a young man that has found himself waking in a dream world that he’s unable to leave. There are hints of how to leave, such as the blue door in the first episode that takes him back to the beginning, but for the most part he’s trapped here. The world is being controlled by a range of witches that exist within it and have their own mini-dream worlds where they reside. The reality is that these are people that are suffering from Sleeping Beauty Syndrome in the real world and aren’t waking up as the world created within has given them all that they need. Haruto leans this through Professor Katsumi, a man that’s found a way to get into this dream world and has taken on the form of a human with a cat head.
Katsumi has provided the way in which Haruto can figure all of this out by figuring out how to help these witches break free of the dream worlds that they’ve created and go back to reality. The hope is that once the ten of them that are controlling everything in this world are dealt with, Haruto can find his way back at the same time. It’s a solid enough plan that provides for the right trappings to draw a series out with. The final few episodes expand on everything and while some of it feels a bit too drawn out for my taste in what Haruto has to do to succeed, the idea of bringing all of these witches back into his dream in order to help him isn’t unexpected. It’s the “everything is a circle” moment that I like in storytelling and it showcases the growth of all involved so that when it’s all resolved it does feel like some real success has been achieved.
The stories themselves are interesting as Haruto, often by himself and sometimes with Katsumi to varying degrees, has to figure out why these witches have created the worlds they live in. Naturally, they’re mostly young women or teenage girls that have retreated but it avoids going for something that feels like fanservice, which is good since the stories are dealing with their pain and suffering that has caused them to retreat. Haruto has to understand them through not just what they say but where their worlds take place, the hints in the backgrounds, and those that they create to exist within these worlds as well. The Sleeping Beauty Syndrome is touched upon in the real world several times with Katsumi out there that allows us to see some of the reality for some of the women and that just adds to the overall idea here really well. There’ve been shows like this all over before and I’m kind of a sucker for them and this one executed it well and most viewers will find some stories that resonate better than others.
I had little idea what to expect going into this series and while the general “gimmick” of it is easy enough to figure out early on, the journey itself worked really well. Haruto is a blank slate for the most part and Katsumi adds some color to it all but this just lets the focus be on the women themselves and what they’re dealing with as they try to figure it all out. It’s really well animated with some neat concepts and ideas thrown in as the various directors tackle it in their own way. It’s a good anthology-style series with some good connective tissue to bring it all together across the whole run but especially in the final few episodes, even as drawn out as it does feel. Funimation put together a solid release here that delivers a good story with a very good looking set, a fun dub, and some engaging extras to take you beyond the show. It’s a solid self-contained piece that we don’t see often in a world of adaptations of ongoing works.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 10 Commentary, 18if Episodes Explained in 18 Seconds, Commercial, Textless Opening Song, and Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: August 28th, 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.