What They Say:
It’s an insidious invention, originally created to control animals. Now it’s the ultimate rush for a dark cult of jaded thrill seekers. Place one SCM in your mouth and your opponent does the same. Then play a game… any game… and the winner literally takes control of the loser, binding them to their will and turning them into a personal plaything until the winner decides to set them free – if they ever chose to free them at all. And as the use of SCMs snakes its way through the undercurrents of society, with increasing numbers of unfortunate players bound into submission as drones and harems, the even more terrifying discovery of SCMs that can take over anyone, at any time, threatens to enthrall the rest of the population.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that has its moments where it steps up a bit more but it is mostly a dialogue-driven show. The moments that separate that is woven into the music to ramp up things and that works well as it’s a decent score but the other bits mixed in with some of the action elements, loosely speaking, hits some good notes as well for their respective areas. But dialogue dominates and what we get there is generally kept to the center channel with some decent movement at times as needed. There’s some placement from time to time as well when you get more than a couple of people really interacting and that’s handled well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, 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. Animated by studio Zero-G and TNK, the show is one that has a kind of basic look to it but tries to work what looks like a smaller budget approach to get things done as best as it can. The character designs are decent but certainly not what the cover promises for a design while the backgrounds have some details but uses a lot of darker colors in many scenes to help smooth out some of the weaker areas. The show is one that feels a bit more middle of the road overall with what it’s doing but something just feels slightly askew. The encoding works well with clean and solid colors throughout and the higher motion scenes that hit are problem free with no noise or breakup happening during them.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs. The front cover artwork uses the familiar key visual piece that definitely paints a picture, one that the show definitely doesn’t live up to. It’s dark and murky in all the right ways and there’s a really good sense of something different about it that’s appealing, though I can understand why it would be problematic for some. The back cover goes for an all-black background but we get a better idea of the animation style with some character material along the left and several shots from the show along the bottom. The summary of the premise is kept simple but effective and the breakdown of the discs extras are listed clearly. The production credits round out the bottom along with an easy to read technical grid that covers how the set was put together well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release works a static image approach that works well and applying materials from the cover artwork isn’t a bad way to go with it. With the black background, we get more of the different character material where we see them in both their normal look and then the mostly undressed with mask look side by side. The logo is kept to the middle against the black and it gives it some decent weight overall. The navigation has some nicely stylized aspects to it with the colors and fonts so that it feels a little more unorthodox but it fits well. There’s little in the way of submenus here beyond languages and extras so getting around is easy both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The only extras included 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 manga that translates as Slave District: 23 Slaves and Me, Doreiku is a twelve episode anime series that aired during the spring 2018 season. The original manga ran for ten volumes between 2012 and 2016 and there’ve been some novel spinoff series since then and a live-action film. The anime landed from studios Zero-G and TNK with Ryoichi Kuraya serving as both writer and director for it. It was a series I was pretty interested in based on the promotional artwork because it does stand out and felt like it had the potential to be something else. Unfortunately, the anime adaptation is one where after the first episode I felt lost and like I didn’t have enough of a connection with and that just piled up episode after episode, leaving me uncertain as to what it was wanting to accomplish.
The general idea behind the show is that there are devices called SCMs, or Slave Control Method, which is like a retainer that you wear behind your teeth. When two people wear them together and engage in a competition/bet of some sort, the winner’s will is the dominant one between the two and they basically force the other into subservience. There are some variables to this but you can imagine it gets pretty intense but it’s a huge adrenaline rush in engaging in the game with what’s at stake. We see that in the first episode where a young woman named Eia is complaining about her boyfriend to her friend and gets an education about the SCM from her and decides to to engage in all of this. It has that sense of danger but the episode also shows how it’s used for revenge, when we see Lucie getting her rapist to wear the SCM and then manipulating events to win so that she can begin an extended torture upon him.
The show delves into a lot more dynamics as we get introduced to the cast beyond Eia and there’s some sexual charge to a lot of this, though it’s nothing that feels like it’s presented well or engaging, to the point where it feels like they really missed out on how to do this properly. A lot of it turns to people trying to turn the other into slaves for different reasons and it has this kind of rolling extension that’s going on where it’s almost viral. The duels that happen are interesting to see who is playing fair and who isn’t, and how they aren’t, but at the same time it feels like it doesn’t have a strong narrative to hold it all together. It almost feels like there are too many characters here as there’s no narrative throughline to connect with since it shifts between multiple characters. And then as it tries to introduce a larger plot to the series it can’t quite handle it because it’s felt both episodic and weirdly disconnected even while using some fairly regular characters throughout.
Frankly, after the first couple of episodes in just seeing how the whole thing operates with the SCMs and the dark nature of people, I started to really lose my place within the show and understanding what’s going on. There’s no strong central character to really work with, to go into this world and experience with, because it’s an ensemble show. But at the same time pretty much all of the characters feel one-dimensional at best and not all that interesting because it’s focused mostly on the SCM duels themselves. There are little tangents here and there but by the time there’s potential for interest, the whole thing has been going on for too long and that disconnect only widens.
I was interested in this series from that first key visual piece because the potential for something neat angling down the “mature” realm was a draw. And there are a lot of elements of that here but it’s not something that feels well-structured in a way that makes sense. Whether it’s from the source side or how it was adapted, it just feels weak and difficult to access in a way that I rarely encounter. The ensemble side, the overly dark nature of much of it, and a budget that can’t quite bring it to life like it should holds it back. The release itself is well-put together with a solid round of dub performances, a good looking encode, and a solid package that will please fans who want to own it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English 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: April 23rd, 2019
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.