What They Say:
What do you do after your parents spend all their money unsuccessfully trying to take over the planet Di Gi Charat? If you’re an Alien Princess with cat ears and a tail, and shoot ray beams from your eyes like Dejiko, you travel to Earth and try to become a famous singer, of course! That’s harder than it sounds however, and Dejiko, her sidekick Puchiko and their balloon-like protector Gema soon find themselves working in a game store in the only place where cat girls and living balloons seem completely normal: Akihabara in Tokyo, Japan. Now all they have to do is sell a few games, fend off various intergalactic invaders, outperform wannabe singers from other worlds and maybe learn about a strange little Earth emotion called love in the ultimate collection of Di Gi Charat!
Di Gi Charat Ultimate Collection contains the Summer Special, Christmas Special, Flower Viewing Special, Summer Vacation Special, Rainy Season Special, and Winter Garden Specials directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and presented on a Standard Definition Blu-ray disc.
Contains episodes 1-16.
The audio presentation for this release uses the same materials as we saw previously as we get the original Japanese language track as well as the Sync-Point created dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. That lossless aspect isn’t going to do much here since it’s mostly dialogue-driven and there’s little in terms of directionality to it – even the music is kind of minimal outside of the opening and closing. The series is not one that stands out all that much and is basically a center channel based work where it’s straight dialogue and silliness with a touch of music along the way. It’s not a badly done mix, but it is representative of the short form material of the time and what they did. The music is what stands out since it uses both channels well, but that’s not really saying all that much. The language tracks themselves are solid and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released back in 1999, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The episodes are all presented in standard definition on Blu-ray so they take up little space and you can put a lot of material here. This sticks to MPEG-2 and the bit rate looks like this is just a more direct port of the 2013 DVDs that Sentai Filmworks did. The set has the 16 main episodes, three of the runs of specials that ran for four episodes, the Christmas special, two omake specials, and the two winter garden specials. There are variables to be had in each of them as they were animated at different times and with different budgets, but overall the transfer itself looks good and is representative of what the show looks like since it was done in very small quantities. There’s plenty of the Madhouse charm to how it’s animated but each episode is still just less than five minutes for the TV episodes for example. Colors look good, cross coloration is non-existent and overall the animation just has a certain feel to it that works well for what it’s trying to get across. This is not a show that was ever going to look great since it was made on the cheap and without a ton of detail at times but it comes through as I expected it to. It really is just welcome to have it all in one place.
The packaging for this release is a standard-sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc that has all the episodes. The front cover is a cute visual of the three main girls in their cute costumes done with a lot of detail for the illustration. We get a simple pinkish and yellowish background that works nicely and largely complements the overall design. The logo along teh top is standard and it sits just under the SDBD listing. The episodes included – and the designation as an ultimate edition – is kept small along the bottom. The back cover keeps the same kind of background and has several shots from the show spread around nicely with good colors to it. The summary of the larger premise is well-handled and we get a better clearer breakdown of what’s included in the set. there are a lot of production credits for the various series along the bottom and we get a clean and easy to read technical grid that covers everything accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is essentially a static screen with a ton of numbers and text on it, so you can do only so much. The left side breaks down the episodes by number and title with a tab for just the TV series and then a tab for the OVA series, giving each their own space to spread out. The right side features some good key visual artwork that we’ve seen previously for core trio and it looks good here with bright colors and lots of details. Language navigation is easy with what’s offered but it’s worth remembering that with SDBD releases there are no pop-up menus during playback so everything has to be set at the top level. They look good but are kept simple in design as it has to deal with listing so many episodes.
While the extras from the Sync-Point releases are still missing in action, this one gives us the clean openings and closings where available along with the spotlight that Gamers Express put together way back in the day, giving us some live-action fun as they talk about the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The arrival of Di Gi Charat in North America all those years ago was a complicated thing as the various series were split and this original series was one of the later ones to arrive. So while each series does reinvent itself in some ways, the original core work took longer to get here, so when it was seen, we had already seen the variations. That said, there’s always something to be said for going back to what started it all and enjoying it for both its simplicity and honest nature, which is what Di Gi Charat is all about. The show in its creation was just a series of shorts created to promote the mascot created for the Gamers stores where fans go to buy all kinds of goods. The draw of a cute mascot is good but when it evolves into an anime, even one as short as this, it takes on a new life.
The premise of the show is very simple since it has to fit into a very confined space. We’re introduced to Di Gi Charat who goes by the name of Dejiko, a perky young green-haired girl in a cute cat-girl like cosplay outfit who has arrived on Earth via her UFO with her friend Puchiko, a somewhat introverted yet spooky girl who tries to emulate Dejiko in a few ways but not in regards to personality. Their arrival on Earth has Dejiko wanting to become a famous idol but with no money and no home she’s got her work cut out for her. Her wailing about the situation works to her advantage though as a man known only as the Manager shows up and offers her a place to sleep above his store, providing she’s willing to work in the store. And thus, Dejiko began her job at Gamers.
Dejiko’s life at Gamers is amusing. As described by one place, Gamers is where the otaku go and act like morons. Often the background characters, and the manager, are drawn solely as giant walking fingers which certainly are easy on the detail and design. But there are other human types that show up including a couple of fans that interact on a better level with the cast. One of these is Rabi~en~Rose, a fourteen-year-old girl also bent on becoming a popular idol and conquering the world. She ends up working at Gamers as well in competition with Dejiko and the two of them are arch-rivals. She also ends up with a dual identity situation where she’s a normal schoolgirl but in her Rabi-form, she’s got huge floppy bunny ears and an adorable outfit.
A few other characters wander into the series and cause trouble but overall the show in its very brief episodes tends to focus on the things that happen to Dejiko or her friends like Puchiko or Gema, the giant yellow ball that follows her everywhere. With the episodes being as short as they are, the comedy and situations are quick and fast, they hit their marks without much time to really take in the situation so it’s very sight gag based as well as a number of dialogue puns throughout. There’s a bit more of a mean edge at times to this compared to some of the other released Di Gi Chart properties, but much of it remains the same.
After the first brief but fun run of Di Gi Charat as a TV series that was short but effective, it was something that didn’t light the ratings on fire. It worked well enough for fans but it was admittedly fairly niche, even if it spawned a lot of merchandise that continues to this day. Revisiting the series after so many years definitely had me enjoying it more than I recall, part of which comes from being exposed to a lot more short-form anime in the last few years. The simple silliness of the show is what sells it and that TV show definitely did just that as it introduced the characters, setting and simply went with it episode after episode. So while it did well enough overall, it didn’t get more episodes. What it did get instead was a series of seasonal specials of varying length in terms of episode and run time that expanded the whole Di Gi Charat universe.
The first couple of specials run with a particular theme as we’re introduced to Piyoko, a rival of Dejiko’s that has come to Earth with the Black Gema Gema gang. Piyoko’s pretty fun as an excitable blonde rival and her gang is pretty different from Dejiko’s since Dejiko is largely followed by cute girls who are just plain weird in general. For her, she has mostly a group of guys, including some tall ones, that are part of her gang. Piyoko’s arrival begins a lot of chaos and confusion and it just goes from there across most of the episodes as she does her best to insert herself into Dejiko’s life. My favorite is the piece that involves Piyoko and the gang essentially squatting in Dejiko’s apartment and seeing how Dejiko does her best to get it back after the whole place has been ransacked and tormented by the Black Gema Gema gang.
With the later specials, things are a bit more random and less about Piyoko and the others and instead the core group. One episode focuses on Usada as a new transfer student in the school seems to know who she is and keeps calling her by her costumed named. The two end up on a quirky adventure together and it was fun watching Usada handle all of this since it gives her a chance to shine on her own for the most part. We also get a two-part story that has Puchiko going out for errands and ending up in America of all places where she meets Rod Young, a young fan of Dejiko’s who knows Puchiko and just begins a whole lot of idolization. Of course, Dejiko sees Puchiko being there as a way to begin her movie career – even if Puchiko is in New York City – and that brings everyone there for some simple hilarity. The view of America through the character’s eyes isn’t deep but it hits a lot of the expected and regular gags.
With Winter Garden, a two-part Christmas special that came a couple of years after everything else had ended, JC Staff ended up going a very different direction with it. So much so that unless you were told it’s a part of the Di Gi Charat property, you’d never know.
The show revolves primarily around Dejiko again, but it’s not the Dejiko we know. She and her sister Puchiko are simply normal young women where Dejiko is about twenty and working in a bakery while Puchiko is going through middle school. There’s no gags, eyebeams or weird costumes and no hint that it was ever part of them either, which turns this into a pretty standard slice of life special. Dejiko isn’t exactly an introvert here but she’s pretty quiet and simply going through and enjoying the basic aspects of work and life while taking care of her sister. She wants something more though as you can see how she craves a bit of love and relationship, but such things are hard to come by since she doesn’t take chances, even as Puchiko encourages her in her own way. For Dejiko, she’s simply taking life as it comes and does her best to enjoy it in that form.
With it taking place just before Christmas, we get the usual excitement of a baker since there’s cakes to sell and people being upbeat. Dejiko’s life takes the kind of unexpected turn when she walks home from work with some leftover Christmas Cake and ends up falling, causing it to be a bit ruined. What saves her a bit is the arrival of a mysterious young man named Takuro that swaps his brand new cake for hers and she’s just completely moved by it as he disappears into the night. This starts the whole romance between the two, a very restrained thing of course, as their lives intersect a few times over the two episodes from there on out and the start to develop a relationship. It’s all very sudden in some ways and it’s hard to reconcile the couple of dates to something being a lot more intense than it comes across, but it fits the usual kind of slice of life romance narratives we get. There’s a cuteness to seeing the two of them together and some of the supporting cast as they pop in, including a great Rabi-en-rose bit, and it all flows fairly well.
Giving us an older and more mature Dejiko and working this slice of life angle is weird. It even takes awhile before any of the characters use their familiar names and even then that’s kind of weak in some ways. The look of the show is definitely appealing though as we see it play out since it has some good detail to it and I like the mood and atmosphere of it all. It has such a feel of winter in a way, the kind of overcast nature to it, that really hits a sweet spot in making you feel a part of the world. I really liked the various backgrounds to it and how it was designed with some of the little details, but I also really liked seeing these more realistic depictions of some of the characters that we’ve known for years in a new light. There are a few hints of their original designs in them, more with Puchiko than Dejiko, but it’s definitely interesting to see how they would progress and be in a more realistic setting.
Di Gi Charat will always hold a special place in my heart since it was a show I originally watched with my daughter when she was young and she actually cosplayed as Dejiko when she was six or seven years old. The characters are simple but work perfectly for this kind of humor and the way background characters, in-jokes and other aspects of the show work definitely fits the bill with what it needs to do in a short time. These kinds of episodes weren’t done often back then but have grown a bit now and I can definitely appreciate this material more now. Sentai’s release brings us a new collection from what they had released earlier in the decade and it is definitely welcome to get it all in one set at a low price. It’s put together well, has a couple of fun extras, but delivers where it needs to in that there’s no disc swapping here, no messing with DVDs, and just being able to pop it into the player and choose from a wide range of episodes to watch. The show was always the scrappy little outsider when you get down to it so it rarely had a high-quality look to it and the standard definition side impacts that. But in the end, it all still makes me laugh and smile and brings back a lot of nostalgia.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Gamers Express Di Gi Charat, Spotlight, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 17th, 2019
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P 3D HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.