What They Say
Ranmaru is a promising Kendo champion. Kei is from a mafioso family. Doubts and mistrust are creeping into their already shaky relationship. Phone calls from mysterious women, and love hotel trysts among the cherry blossoms will not help their stability. Perhaps the only thing that can save these men are the memories of when they first met.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track that’s in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. With this release just having the Japanese language track, it’s a pretty basic stereo mix that doesn’t really have all that much activity to it and is fairly full sounding in general with the bulk of the dialogue being placed through the center channel. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2001, the transfer for this OVA episode is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a recent release at the time, the materials here are very clean and clear and this is essentially a flawless looking transfer. The shows colors are a fair bit muted as the show is done in a real world style so there isn’t a lot of vibrant moments but when there are they stand out nicely here and without problem. The transfer avoids pretty much all of the usual problems and is simply quite good looking and easy to watch.
Providing a decent looking if somewhat bland piece of artwork, the front cover has a shot of the duo standing next to each other with Kei wrapping his arms around Ranmanu. The simple shot does show off their personalities well enough though by look and style and it does give enough hint as to what the content inside may be without making it over the top blatant or obvious. The back cover goes with a simple approach with some basic artwork and a simple summary to cover the basics as well as a summary of the premise. The discs production and technical information covers the bottom part and is accurate, though I still think the show should at most be 17 rated instead of 18 since there’s no actual nudity in it.
The main menu is a simple piece since there’s nothing here beyond the show and trailers and not even any language setup. The central image is of the two in their dojo outfits leaning into each other and kissing set against a white backdrop as the navigation selections are lined around them. It does have some surprising transitional animations as the scenes fade in and out between menus. It’s all done with small simple objects related to the characters but it’s a nice touch for a show that would ordinarily not even get such transitions. Access times are nice and fast and the player preset issue isn’t an issue with a release like this.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Our first encounter with Kizuna came quite some time ago when a company who had no idea what anime probably even was released it onto DVD as a port of their VHS release of it. Between their lackluster translation, presentation and overall release it was a pretty souring experience. So now the next entry in the series finally arrives, some seven years after the start of the OVA series, and it does itself a good job as serving as a recap and reboot point for the next generation of fans of the material.
Kizuna centers on the relationship between two men, Kei who is the son of a Mafioso family but has abandoned as much of it as possible, and Ranmaru, someone who at one time had a bright future as a Kendo master but lost it along the way. The two of them live together and as we can see from the first few minutes, their relationship is still somewhat undefined by conventional standards. The two are very close by all appearances and there is something more but events later on give way that it’s not a relationship that’s been fully up front or consummated yet. That doesn’t mean jealousies don’t enter into this though as we find Ranmaru dealing with Kei coming home drunk from his time as a worker in a club but this time with the scent and signs of being with women, something he can’t compete with. This sends him into despair and he heads out of the house and tries to get his thoughts in order.
What he does, probably subconsciously to a large extent, is walk around to places that mean something from his past. This allows us to see how their relationship grew in flashback sequences, such as their first meeting on campus in high school to their first kiss as kendo students. This isn’t an original way of showcasing a past relationship but it’s nicely paralleled with events in current time as Kei wakens from his drunken stupor and realizes what Ranmaru might have thought when he saw Kei with the lipstick and all and he tries to go to all the places where Ranmaru might be so he can reassure him. It’s a fairly standard story both in the past and present and the genders really don’t enter it at all outside of one incident in their past that made Ranmaru question whether they should even continue but that’s it.
With this being an OVA, the animation for it is rather well done and has a lot of the elements and feel of some of the shinier looking adult releases with its smooth designs and colors layouts. The show in general has a very polished feel with lots of detail to the characters and their backgrounds and settings. As attractive as it looks in general, this is still very much a dialogue driven piece with the characters going through their reminiscing and talking things out to themselves or those that wander into their life during this time.
In a way, the plus of the show is also a minus of the show and that’s that the story itself would be essentially the same even if it was mixed gender. It’s good to see that the stories are essentially the same and that you can experience a good male/male relationship without it being something flamboyant or over the top, but at the same time we’ve seen the story a million times before with mixed gender couples. But these are the kinds of first steps that are out there to help push the genre forward and will hopefully allow for more varied and more interesting stories as time goes on that focuses more on the things that are relevant to couples like this, at least in addition to the standard relationship problems. In the end though, the title of this particular OVA really covers it all; it’s much ado about nothing.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Kitty Media
Release Date: May 31st, 2005
Running Time: 45 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.