What They Say:
Tomoko Sakai has loved the sport of diving since he was a child, and there’s no place he’d rather be than the high board at the Mizuki Diving Club. Unfortunately, the MDC’s having hard time staying afloat financially and there’s a sinking certainty that the club is about to drown in a sea of its own debt. Fiery female coach Kayoko Asaki has a bold plan to throw the club a lifeline, but it’s going to require achieving something that’s almost impossible: get one of the club’s members on the National team for the next Olympics! Can this struggling group of young athletes pool their talents in time to resuscitate their club, or will they make the ultimate belly flop? It’s time to sink or swim as the whole team leaps for the gold!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo that’s encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show works some decent dialogue throughout it but the action scenes, in terms of the big swimming scenes, tend to not have a lot going for them. They’re captured well but they lack a sense of real impact or something to really make you feel like you’re there overall in the experience. It’s fairly straightforward but at a time when people expect a bit more in comparison to other similar works, Dive falls a bit short there. The encoding, however, captures everything well with crisp and clear dialogue throughout and a solid presentation of the highs and lows and what little directionality we get overall.
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 in a standard nine/three format, giving it plenty of space. Animated by Zero-G, the show has a decent look about it as it works the whole diving concept. This isn’t as water-heavy as you’d expect in a way as it’s more about the characters while the pool time is more about preparing for the dive and the jump itself. There’s plenty of time in the pool, mostly focusing on them getting out, and lots of reflective water elements on characters that just feels a bit weird to me. The release captures it all well as the colors look great with a solid feel throughout and the high-motion sequences avoid break-up or any other problems in how it’s encoded. It’s clean and clear throughout with a good bit rate but that can do only so much for fairly average materials.
The packaging for this release works with a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs held against the interior walls. The front cover uses the familiar main key visual for the cast as we get all the guys leaping and diving where we barely see anything below the waist, so most of it looks like it’s raining naked men – plus the coach in her full swimsuit. The colors look great when it comes to the blues of the background but the characters just make me cringe a little as some of them look a little off-model or off-reality depending. But it’s a dynamic and eye-catching piece and one that defined the show as there weren’t a lot of promotional materials out for it during its run. The back cover gives us lots of fanservice with Okitsu while the strip along the top has a lot of shots from the show that are just a bit too small to work well. The summary of the premise captures things right with how the show is setup and we get a clean listing of the discs extras and production credits. The technical grid gets the setup of the release down right and without any issues. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple but definitely in theme as we get a static image layout. This sets a number of the boys across the screen in poses where they’ve got their small bathing suits on and are flexing and posing wildly, which when put together as they are here almost looks comical. The blues in the background look good with some nice definition to it while the logo below is really nicely done with the design and the use of color for the episodes by number and title. Everything moves quickly and easily, especially on the first disc where it’s just episode selection as there’s no language setup and the extras are on the second disc.
The only extras included in 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 novel series of the same name by Eto Mori, Dive!! is a twelve episode anime series that aired during the summer 2017 season. The original novels ran for four volumes back in 2000 to 2002 and it spawned a manga adaptation in 2007 to support a live-action film that was released in 2008. Another manga series launched to support the anime as well, which Yen Press has, but it’s moving pretty slowly. The anime adaptation saw streaming through Amazon initially and you could see the appeal in another show about swimming boys that might get people to flock to it for obvious reasons. Sentai’s pickup was welcome but the show is one that didn’t warrant a dub produced for it, which is unfortunate since there’s some fun material to work with here.
The show is an interesting one with its focus as we get mostly middle school students but also a decent array of adults to interact with as well. The central focus is initially on Tomoki, a young man who had become enamored with diving several years ago and ended up pursuing it thanks to some encouragement. Now, six years later and in middle school he’s part of the Mizuki Diving Club along with Yoichi Fujitani, a high school student who had given him the encouragement before. Fujitani is definitely dedicated to diving as both of his parents are divers and his father is one of the coaches at the club and he himself ranked as the middle school champion during his time there recently. Both young men are complemented by Shibuki Okitsu, who is a touch older himself but comes from a different environment as he learned his diving skills through the open environment as opposed to within a diving club or the concrete of the modern world.
Okitsu isn’t a part of the MDC at first, though he has a deep family connection to it, and only becomes so when Kayoko comes on board to coach within it. The MDC is close to closing down and they need to do something to garner attention and reputation. Kayoko’s intent on doing that with the younger group that’s there and she believes Okitsu is the type that will do well if he can just make the adjustments while also understanding the family history that goes back to the ‘64 Olympics. The main thrust is that Kayoko and the MDC want to get onto the upcoming Olympics team in the here and now and work their talented younger members in that regard. With it being the dream of someone like Yoichi and with Tomoki finding himself more and more drawn to all of this, they’re ideal candidates. Kayoko’s the type that works them in unexpected ways owing to her own time as a diver and many years living and training in America, so there’s a good sense of variety and worldliness to all of it.
Dive!! is an interesting series in what it wants to be and how it tries to get there. Diving is obviously the main focus and that’s very different from something like Free! as well as just the differences in ages. I get the feeling that this does take place not in our present day but earlier as it doesn’t feel as technology-connected and that helps to keep things a bit simpler in a way. What it wants to focus on is the push to get on the Olympic track where there are three slots for men and three for women. With one guy already slotted from elsewhere, the push to get the two other slots for MDC members means plenty of competition there. But as interesting as that could be it really wants to focus on the politics of it with governance boards and the like orchestrating the slot so that both Tomoki and Yoichi are the ones lined up for it. Even if they do horribly at a key meet where their slotting would be revealed they’d still get it, which seriously sets off Yoichi. Exploring the nature of slot selection is definitely an interesting thing to dig into but it also doesn’t feel like it comes together well during this, especially with how there are several ways to look at it. The business side of it does have its merits, though depending on your view of the whole competition aspect of the Olympics and more comes into play will color it.
But that’s the thing. The show is less about diving and more about the other, though it keeps it down on the divers level for the most part. There’s a swaying back and forth over involvement because as we get Yoichi struggling with it all and there’s a general group issue with how the selection is done, especially since Okitsu should be favored but has his own medical issues that complicates everything. It’s not a clear cut thing where any one side really comes out well and some of the kids remind you that they really are just kids in how they react to it. Which is frustrating because during a key training period you have one that ditches for almost three weeks, which alone should have disqualified him even if there’s some sliver of justification for it all.
Dive!! leaves me conflicted in a way. I do like that we get something that explores the less than savory means in which people can get Olympic spots on teams but it also does it in a kind of simplistic way. It’s the kind of show where I’m hard pressed to find anyone coming out good by what goes on here and how they act, though if there’s anyone it’s probably Kayoko and maybe Okitsu. The show has some decent diving moments here and there but this is a mid-range kind of production with its animation style and that only goes so far in really making it work because expectations are set high for this particular sport in general. Some of the choices are just plain odd, such as the reflective water on their sides, and sticking with middle school kids and mixing it upward from there doesn’t work as well for me. Sentai’s release is solid in terms of production, though lacking a dub, with a good looking and sounding release that will please the fans.
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: December 11th, 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.