What They Say:
Rei Kiriyama, 18 years old. Occupation: Professional shogi player. After losing his family at a young age, all Rei had growing up was a shogi board to cling to. The three sisters Akari, Hinata and Momo were the ones to gradually bring light back into his life. When Rei learns that Hinata has become the target of bullying at school, he desperately searches for ways to protect what is important to him.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub (!), both of which are done in the uncompressed PCM format. The show is one that is largely dialogue oriented without much in the way of action as even the shogi move sequences aren’t overplayed dramatically. There are some nice moments where the dialogue moves around and some dramatic sound effects from time to time, but the big sequences for the audio are still the opening and closing moments. That said, the dialogue is very well handled here with some big dramatic moments taking shape but also some really strong pieces where quiet is key and that takes on its own disturbing tones. It’s a very good show in this regard throughout and with the background music that wells nicely from time to time, but it’s not a mix that’s going to attract a ton of attention.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes for this set are spread across three discs in a four/four/three format. Animated by Shaft, the series has an exceptionally strong look about it with the details, quality of animation, and color design. It’s not a movement-heavy series for the most part but what it does is create such an authentic world and setting that it just draws you in through that quality. The encoding is top notch here with a high bit rate that lets the colors really shine with all their variation while also keeping all the details in both characters and backgrounds looking great and problem free. There’s a real richness to what we get here and watching this on a large screen just makes it so easy to be absorbed in it all with what it does. This is a fantastic looking show made so by a fantastic encode.
The packaging for this release comes in a really sweet heavy chipboard box that holds the oversized clear Blu-ray case. The box has some of the really appealing character artwork on both sides that we’ve seen where there’s a really strong look to it thanks to the paper quality that lets the blues come through richly and the back brings the silvers and greys to life just right. With so much white background material it definitely has a striking look to it. Within the box, we get the case that’s done up with the colorful elements from the front cover set against a white background with it wrapping around with no character artwork, which is a change from the previous two sets. The reverse side does essentially the same with just a light touch of line work but comes across as blank upon first glance.
The set also comes with a really nicely done square bound booklet included where across the thirty-six pages we get character profiles in full color, reproductions of the end cards, and a nod toward the credits at the end.
The menu design for this one is nice as we get some good soft visuals of backgrounds that are lighter in color tone for the background. The foreground brings in various circles that bubble in and rotates various character moments through those in more vibrant colors while the rings around them flow in shades of blues as well, making for an active but natural looking design overall. It’s one that definitely works better than a static menu and gives you something that draws you in because of the quality of the animation and designs. The navigation strip along the bottom is a soft white that breaks down the standard selections while also noting the volume and disc. Everything functions well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences along with the promo and commercial for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second season of this property draws to a close with this volume, though many will hold out hope for a third season as Chica Umino’s manga is still ongoing. While I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to more of it being produced as it’s an intriguing show overall and one that lets you get into the characters far better than most other series, what we get here shows things being stretched out just a bit but also with an ending episode that simply feels as perfect as it can get. Honestly, there’s plenty to enjoy about this season overall and this half of it but that ending episode is what will be the most memorable for me overall as so much is said with so little and almost nothing by our leading character. That’s definitely an achievement.
The early part of this half does offer some very good material as well as it focuses on the return from the trip that Hinata was on and just how different things feel now in the class. She knows she’s on the outside after what happened but the way she handles it is fascinating. While in the classroom with the teacher, she knows who is orchestrating things while everyone remains silent. But she reaches her limit and stomps her way hard to her desk and confronts her, not striking her, but coming at her with such intensity that it unnerves everyone as she lays the accusations bare. Unfortunately, this spirals out of control as the teacher, who has been teaching for years, snaps and breaks down. You have to feel for her as she sees the same kind of stupidity year after year, changing with each grade, and her shoutdown is hard to watch as you see someone become undone.
What I love is that we see Akari called in to deal with this as a parent/teacher/student conference gets underway. You can understand why Hinata is unhappy about all of this, just from bothering her sister with this at all considering all that she does, but family takes care of family. Akari has been an appealing character from first introduction as she stepped up well and is basically the mother of the group after all that has happened. So when the other student’s mother begins to go off about Hinata and what she did to her precious daughter, understandable since you know she went to default protective mode without doubting her own child, Akari simply goes off on her in a huge way. It’s a little different from Hinata’s snapping but it’s beautiful in its own way and even Hinata is shocked by it. I love how all of these interactions work out because situations like this may not hit every family but seeing how family protects itself when shown with a raw and realistic way as it is here is very engaging.
The season focuses on a few other areas, including some nice if too-short time with Nikaido, as we see some of the supporting side working through their storylines. One piece that runs nicely even if it doesn’t feel like it connects as strongly as it should is the match between Rei and the Meijin Souya. The two are definitely not on the same level but there’s something about the way both of them sense the other that makes it work and there’s a kind of quiet camaraderie that works well for me. The age and distance between them in skill is definitely there and while Rei does manage so interesting moves, it’s more the time away from the board and the commentary from others about it that’s interesting. But even that’s something that feels a little superficial as it’s not a storyline that seems to go anywhere significant. More significant was what followed as it delves into Someji a bit, a healthy bastard at his age if ever there was one, and how he’s trying to do his best by the three girls and not really trap them into what he’s created in his life. It’s a difficult journey because of how family businesses are handed down and expectations placed upon kids, but there’s a lot to like in seeing him talk about it and what he wants from them – though he’s definitely of his generation and time in going on about how he just wants to live long enough to see them married off. That’s at least more about his wanting to be in the pictures so they have someone from the family beyond the three of them there.
What worked for me the best, however, is the first story in the final episode – not that the final story is bad either. But this focus has Rei going back to his adoptive parents home to spend some time with his adoptive mother there. The two basically just sit quiet and spend time together, plus a little dog time, but it’s told mostly from her point of view through narration. It’s utterly heartrending as she goes through the things that happened, how she felt about it, what she now realizes Rei did all while saying nothing – even now, and just how different things could have been if Rei had been a more “normal” child. Not that she wants that from him but just that nod to what could have been is sad in itself. There’s a tragic aspect to all of this in what could have been for a family but we also have people who have made their choices and both Rei and his adoptive mother are very much the same, silently doing what they feel they must in order to make others happy.
If this is the end of this property in anime form then I think it ends in one of the best ways possible as it deals with real character motivations and why they do what they do. This half of the season has some good material to it and some that just didn’t register as strongly with me but was still enjoyable. I really enjoyed everything that we get with the sisters and how they are together, along with their grandfather, but I loved the short sequence that it is overall between Rei and his adoptive mother. The series does a fantastic job of really putting us into these characters and their lives and it’s beautifully animated in a way that really enhances it. Aniplex’s releases have been great and this final set is no exception as it delivers the quality of the project in all its glory.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening & Ending, Trailers, Commercials
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 16th, 2018
Running Time: 275 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.