A magically creative endeavor.
What They Say:
Japan’s fashion hotspot, Harajuku, is known for having some unusual visitors—but culture-thieving aliens from outer space? Well that’s just crossing the line! Banding together, three kawaii high school girls aren’t about to let anyone take away the beloved district where PARK, their new pop-up shop, has just opened for business!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets the 5.1 boost, both of which used the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that’s largely dialogue based with some nice incidental elements here and there with minor action and wackiness occupying a lot of that. The score for the series helps to give the show a little more oomph when it comes to the audio side of it but it’s mostly a dialogue-driven series with everyone talking to each other, so it’s mostly center channel based. The bigger moments with some of the abilities and things they get into ratchets it up just a touch but it’s one of those more relaxed series overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with 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 twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by EMT Squared and Shirogumi, the show has a really great design and look about it that has a lot of detail and fluidity, but works a simpler approach in a way since it’s a dialogue based series. There are some busy sequences and plenty of silliness that keeps it active, but it can get away with a lot of strong looking backgrounds because it’s not a high-motion series by designs. The encoding captures the feel of this just right as it’s one that feels more film-like than a lot of anime tends to. I really like the visual design for this series and the encoding brings it to life wonderfully.
The packaging design for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case to hold the four discs of the two formats on hinges. It also comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork but with more color and pop to it because of the cardstock. It’s a busy and colorful cover with the three main girls and a lot of, well, noise behind them but it gives you an idea of the visual design well. I even like that the format stripe along the top ended up with a lavender shade so that it fits in with everything. It’s a colorful cover with a busy logo and it all comes together well even if it’s not something that really attracts me. The back cover uses similar background elements across it with a good summary of the premise kept short, a breakdown of the extras, and a range of sizes of shots from the show to highlight the designs. The rest is filled out with the usual red stripe of digital copy as well as the technical grid that covers both formats cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included but we do get a two-panel spread of more character artwork on the reverse side.
The menu design brings in most of the elements from the packaging pretty nicely, though it’s a bit brighter and clearer here than in print form. Both discs feature some nice character combinations that shows off some good detail and I like the use of the soft greens to attempt to tie it all together as it lets the burst of color from the character designs stand out all the more. The navigation box is kept to the lower left area with standard selections that you’d expect from a slim release like this. Submenus load quickly and are easy to get around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included with 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 webcomic by Patrick Macias and illustrated by Mugi Tanaka, Urahara is a twelve-episode anime series that aired during the fall 2017 season. Animated by EMT Squared and Shirogumi, it saw direction by Amika Kubo and that definitely helped the show in a lot of ways. This was, I believe, her directorial debut and it worked to bring something that’s bright and colorful to life in the right way. This feels like a girls series for kids that aired during the late night period but would work well for both audiences without doing things that would alienate the other. That said, I struggled with this show because it works with a basic concept and doesn’t really change it up much, giving us something familiar.
The basics of the series involve a trio of fun high school girls named Rito, Mari, and Kotoko. The group are all creative types when it comes to artwork, fashion, visual design, and the combination thereof. They’re modern Harajuku girls when you get down to it as it’s more than just the fashion itself. We see the nice creative space that they work out of and how appealing it is along with how supportive they are of each other. You get the standard personalities that you’d expect out of them for a three-lead show and it doesn’t deviate much from there. What changes for them, however, is when a group of aliens begins a series-long invasion as they attempt in different ways to steal the culture of the world. As the simple logline puts it, the trio then band together to fight this off in their own particular way.
The aliens are doing this because they lack the ability to create themselves and if there’s one thing Earth has, it’s creativity. The show works through some interesting ideas at times and not too deeply about how everything is put together when it comes to original versus unique, adapted and interpreted, sampling and so forth, and it’s filled with a lot of great style that’s definitely appealing. There are a lot of familiar elements to be had but I also appreciated it since, with a little research, you find out more about the “back streets” of Harajuku with the ura-aspect of it where it goes more retro and bigger in terms of style and size that you don’t get through the main thoroughfare. Some of the reading I did about the series and the location left me wondering if maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the fun thing about the show is that it really is open to a lot of interpretations because of its creativity and how each individual views such things.
With a very loose and “cartoony” style to it when it comes to the backgrounds and the aliens, this is a show that may bother some more than others. I liked aspects of it because it made it accessible to younger audiences that may glean something – especially one of the episodes that focuses on creativity and how down on ourselves we can get about it – but I can also see the visuals being a very frustrating point for others because it has such a haphazard and almost unfinished feeling about it. But I liked it just for something different – though I don’t recommend binging it. The show does get beyond the superficial as it progresses as the characters grow a bit in their views of culture/creativity and what they as individuals bring to the table, but I’m not quite sure I’ll call it a deep theme in the show but I don’t want to write it off as just superficial either. It’s walking something of a fine line most of the time just in trying to find its audience that you can tell they laid their ideas out but weren’t going to go as weird and crazy as they could have.
Urahara is the kind of series where I know other people are going to get a lot more out of it than I did. I liked a lot of parts of it and it lead to some interesting background reading on it and the ura-harajuku stuff, and I loved the kind of freehand approach to illustration here that made it distinctive and not the usual cookie cutter stuff most projects have some element of. But I had a hard time really getting into sync with the girls, the aliens, and the fights because it was kind of freeform itself. That said, Funimation did a spot on job here with a great looking release that includes the standard extras and a solid package to hold it all in – along with a fun dub as the cast has some real enjoyment with it. Creatives will definitely see themselves in this.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 18th, 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.