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Mr. Tonegawa Middle Management Blues Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
It’s not easy being middle management.

It’s not easy being middle management.

What They Say:
Nobody knows what it’s like to be the bad man… except the bad man’s right-hand man, who has to take the boss’ deranged ideas and turn them into functioning plans. So, when the sadistic president of the Teiai Group decides he’s bored with the routine leg breaking and widow/orphan evicting, he assigns the task of coming up with something “special” to his ruthless Number Two, Yukio Tonegawa. But how do you amuse someone who destroys a dozen lives before breakfast?

There’s a huge pool of potential victims in the form of TFO’s swollen roster of defaulting borrowers, but if Tonegawa and his team of nearly identical men in black look-alikes can’t create a “game of death” that tickles the boss’ demented funny bones, they may end up playing the game themselves!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo along with the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that while it does have some action from time to time, and it’s well utilized for the most part, it’s really all about the dialogue. The action elements are more the overacting in some ways because of the antics that the cast gets up to and it works well in handling the chaos they create but also the varying levels of dialogue – again, largely with overreactions. The encoding works well as everything is placed properly and there’s a clean and clear aspect to it but it’s not a track that’s going to stretch much in either language, instead opting for simple humor and just running with it in a fun and enjoyable way.

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 twenty-four episode run is spread over three discs with an even split across them. Animated by Madhouse, the show is one that captures the look of the manga well as it goes for the more angular and blocky look that dominates the source material. Madhouse is usually known more for their lavish productions but they work a number of these and other “simple” shows as well. There are some moments of really nice fluidity to the animation but a good chunk of it is just dialogue so it can manage its budget really well. There are a lot of fun visual cues brought into it at times to keep it active and the talents of the staff are well-used to take this up a level from something that might be a bit more basic in other hands..

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that has a hinge so that it can accommodate the three discs that it has. The front cover uses the familiar key visual from when the show first launched and there are no surprises there as it’s pretty standard method. It’s a decent piece with Tonegawa in the foreground while the black suits ring around him all while the danger looms behind them all with the big boss. It’s colorful and eye-catching while making it very clear the look of the show and the kinds of characters involved with it. The back cover has a blending piece with some minor action for the characters and we get a few comical shots from the show as well spread about. The summary of the premise covers the basics right with an easy to read design and we also get a good listing of the extras. The production credits fill out the bottom a bit as does a solid and accurate technical grid so you know exactly how the show is put together. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The static menu design is pretty straightforward as we get a checklist approach done along the left with a font that looks dangerously close to comic sans. The use of white and blue with a bit of purple fits well overall and it connects with the general design of the show and all of its promotional material. Each disc uses a different grouping/pairing of characters with a foreground and background piece while adding in some of the location aspects as well a bit. They’re bright and colorful in all the right ways and while it might be a bit garish it’s completely appropriate to the show. The navigation is quick and easy and the strip along the left doubles well as a pop-up menu during playback.

The only extras included here are the clean versions of the closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name, Mr. Tonegawa is a twenty-four episode anime series that aired in the summer and fall of 2018. The series brought in Madhouse to animate it and they brought it to life really well as the original manga is distinctive. The series, written by Tensei Hagiwara and illustrated by Tomohiro Hashimoto and Tomoki Miyoshi, is a spinoff of the Kaiji manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. You don’t see projects like this come to life quite like this so it’s definitely an interesting piece and an interesting subject to work with. This series began in manga form in 2015 and started in Monthly Young Magazine for most of it, putting out eight volumes as of this review and still going. You can imagine there’s a certain audience for this property.

The premise behind this is simple and it’s something that makes this an easy series to almost watch at random. Its focus is on Tonegawa, the middle manager of sorts for the Teiai group that operates under the boss, Hyodo Kazutaka. Tonegawa is essentially his right-hand man but Kazutaka is kind of nuts in a sense because he’s got wealth and little that interests him, resulting in looking for ways to be entertained. Kazukata doesn’t show up for every episode or dominates them as it’s more about Tonegawa and his attempt at mitigating things while keeping his own subordinates where they need to be in order to deal with the president’s demands. Managing a large staff of black-suited men with sunglasses (and a woman, as we get toward the end of the season) means that he’s all over the place in what is a highly stressful and exhausting job.

The series does do a decent job at the start to recap some of the Kaiji series so that you get a good handle on things but I thought the show just worked better once you got past that as I don’t think it’s quite as critical. The general premise above is what defines things and each episode is standalone in putting Tonegawa into difficult situations with his subordinates. And these guys are not helpful at all, though they try to be. They want to serve the boss well but Tonegawa struggles with them, often because they all look alike, and some of the initial humor is just in him trying to remember their names and figuring out how to deal with that when some are way too similar. If he could just put numbers on their lapels he’d probably do that in an instant in order to relieve himself of a lot of grief.

Tonegawa in general kind of likes those who work for him under the president but he also knows just how they really are. One early episode is comical as we see how they work late to look productive but are anything but that. That leads to him coming up with a complicated version of mahjong to play with them as the pieces the next day that just turns disastrous – partially because I find that game too complicated for my little brain and it leaves me frustrated. Another episode has him trying to work nametags on the black suits and he puts them through the motions of doing a presentation to come up with a good restaurant for the president. It’s amusing seeing some of the suggestions and why they chose that one, but it’s main focus is on one of the guys, Ebitani, who just does everything completely wrong with it. It’s a good way to get a handle on Tonegawa’s “management” style with his subordinates and then to watch how the whole thing goes hilariously wrong after that.

With the show running twenty-four episodes, there are a lot of stories going on here that are all pretty much wrapped up within each episode. There isn’t a large overarching storyline playing out here, which is for the best. This is about the daily life and struggles of Tonegawa as he deals with an outlandish boss of his own and a range of conniving and not altogether swift subordinates. It delves into the various businesses from time to time in order to challenge everyone with what needs being done and watching the way Tonegawa tries to get away when he can is certainly delightful. Each little bit delivers a different aspect of the character and his life – including the hilarity of his being concerned about how few Twitter followers they have when he discovers that toward the end of the run. Tonegawa is definitely an amusing character to watch and I really have to give props to David Harbold as he brought the dubbed version to life incredibly well with what “feels” like a very rough voice to do.

In Summary:
I spread this show out over a few days instead of binging it hard because it is just “so much” when you get down to it. Comedies are hard to binge and they blur because it moves through so much material that’s disconnected from subsequent episodes overall. Tonegawa’s a great character to watch – just having someone like him as a lead is a wonderful change from the norm to begin with – and what we get here definitely delights. He’s got a hard job working with those above and below him and you really feel all the pressure that he does. The subordinate are hilarious throughout in how awful they can be and the president is terrible in his own ways as well. Sentai’s release captures the source material well, which in turn adapts the manga wonderfully, and they put together a fantastic dub for it. I do think this is a bit of an acquired taste but those that “get it” will love it so much and will want a whole lot more.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 15th, 2019
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 699 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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