What They Say:
Aoi Tsubaki is suddenly swept away to the hidden realm when a handsome ogre lord comes to take her as his wife! He claims that she must pay back her grandfather’s debt, but Aoi’s not willing to give her hand over so easily. Instead, she makes a deal to work at the Tenjin-ya, a bed and breakfast for ayakashi, to pay back what her family owes. As she wins the spirits over one dish at a time, Aoi will find much more than a job in this hidden realm.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub that gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series has a few fantastical moments from time to time but largely operates in the realm of the slice of life genre. That means it’s pretty dialogue-oriented throughout and there’s some nice placement with it in how it sets the stage with the three girls. This can bring in some decent depth from time to time in how they’re laid out and what they’re interacting with, but a lot of it is a standard and natural design that flows across the forward soundstage. The music is the richest part of it as you’d expect in this lossless form and we didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
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 thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/four format that gives it plenty of room to work with. Animated by Gonzo, the show has a really appealing color palette and works its details well for some of the costuming at times and the backgrounds to give it a richer look. There’s no scrimping here but it plays with a slice of life style show that has its slower moments and times of the cast just standing around. But that allows the atmospheric elements to stand out better as well. There’s a lot to like from rainy scenes to the eye-catch moments and more and the encoding captures it well. Colors are solid throughout with detail well-handled in the darker scenes while the bright and more colorful side of the has a lot to like in how it comes across. It’s an appealing looking show that captures the tone of the manga and the encoding works wonderfully.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case comes with hinges inside to hold the four discs spread across the two formats with nothing held against the walls. The front cover is the same for both the case and the o-card as it uses the familiar key visual for the series broadcast run that gives us a look at the main cast spread across it. The illustration style definitely is appealing and the colors for the lanterns, in particular, stand out a lot more on the o-card. The back cover has a light approach with the tapestry style background with a short summary of the premise filling up space nicely. The character artwork and shots from the show are pretty nice and we get a good breakdown of the extras along with an accurate and easy to understand technical grid for both formats. No show related inserts are included but we do get a great layout on the reverse side that features two of the Japanese release covers spread across it.
The menu design for this release works the right approach with some static imagery for each disc. Going with the character visual of the two leads together where each disc has them in a different position. There’s a large empty space next to them that the series logo fills nicely. The navigation is a simple block toward the lower left with the basic selections that are easily accessed as both the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras included with this release are the clean openings (of which there are two) and closing sequences (of which there are several).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi, the anime adaptation landed in the spring 2018 season and ran for that and the summer season with twenty-six episodes total. The first half of the series makes up this set and it largely works through the setup and easing us into the overall world. The novels come from Midori Yuma and began in 2015, making it a pretty recent series, and it has nine volumes out as of its North American release. The anime made out well with Gonzo animating it and Yoshiko Okuda directing it from the scripts by Tomoko Konparu. It’s got solid creative involvement all around and with it going for the “supernatural romcom” in light and soothing tones, it hits all its marks just right. While I do hope for things to get a bit more serious as it progresses, the opening does a great job of easing you into its world.
The premise is pretty straightforward in a way that only usually works in anime and light novels as we’re introduced to Aoi Tsubaki, a college student who has a rare gift to see ayakashi in the world. It’s something that does run in her family as her grandfather had it as well – and it turns out it was something that he used quite a bit in his life. What she discovers is something certainly upsetting in the worst way possible. When she’s making her way home at one point, she ended up giving some food to an ayakashi because of her general kindness and it ended up taking her to the Hidden Realm upon doing so. The ayakashi, named Odanna, actually knew her grandfather and lays claim to a debt that he owes him. That sets up the basics of the show in that the ayakashi asks for her to marry him and she instead negotiates down to work off the debt by working in the inn in the Hidden Realm that Odanna owns.
It’s a fairly standard improbable situation as you’d expect, especially with Aoi accepting everything so easily and taking on what could be quite the long job, since her grandfather owes something like a hundred million yen. It’s also problematic since by not being married she’s not as protected as she could be and the Hidden Realm is all buzzing about there being a new human bride there. That does raise interest in the inn itself and a chance for Aoi to really establish herself as she deals with events that play out because of it. Particularly since her grandfather has quite the reputation here, which we see some of from the second episode with some Tengu that he had saved at one point. It becomes amusing because the debt there is now attempted at being paid and it’s another marriage kind of thing, which of course she doesn’t want, but it provides a way for her to establish herself more. That the result is her opening a breakfast side to the inn may seem weird but it flows well in-story and it gives her something distinctive to bring to the story.
This half of the series does have its serious moments but it mostly eases us into exploring more of the Hidden Realm through its inhabitants and how things operate. It’s certainly old school as you’d expect and there are some “old ways” that they do keep trying to adhere to which are amusing. Around halfway through the season we get the moment where Byakuya make sit clear that the place has to start making money, since Odanna hadn’t really handled the place well for the longest time, and that if it can’t then Aoi has to marry Odanna since that would be the right way to pay off the debt. Byakuya amuses me in this since he’s the serious type and looks after the finances of the place and plays well against the young and easy to get along with Aoi. He’s also a welcome contrast to the other main character that plays alongside Odanna with Ginji. As the resident nine-tailed fox of the show, he’s the one that seems to treat Aoi right and as a person herself and less of just a walking debt to be taken advantage of. He provides the bridge for things that helps to ease Aoi into this world more and there’s a playfulness and kindness to him that’s soothing and appealing.
What I like about the show is that it’s almost like watching a kind of food show/home show in a way combined with a travel show taking us through the Hidden Realm. Aoi makes it easy to see it through her eyes with right questions and how she handles all the various personalities, but there’s almost a travelogue-ish approach to it at times in exploring everything. The visuals aren’t exactly radically different or standout material in a way but it has a good unified and cohesive feeling about it as it adapts the from the visuals from the novels. It’s the kind of work that you can see being adapted into a live-action form easily enough and being unique in doing so (at least overseas). With the central focus of the restaurant and the inn and those that work there, it’s an ideal place to work with and the show handles it very well.
Kakuriyo plays to some familiar ideas to be sure but it does it with some nice style and a bigger sense of self that builds over the course of it. There are a lot of characters introduced here that you can see coming around again later in the run to connect with and it’s thoroughly enjoyable watching as Aoi experiences this world and its mysteries more and more – though you have to get past that part about her being kidnapped and forced to take over her grandfather’s debt. That’s just a very Japanese/anime/manga kind of thing though. Funimation’s release is nicely handled here with a great looking package, a fun dub put together for it, and a great looking encode that makes it easy to immerse yourself into.
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: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 7th, 2019
Running Time: 325 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.