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Summer Days With Coo Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
Summer Days with Coo is quite the charming film but it also takes some odd directions

A creature from the past brings much life and joy to the present.

What They Say:
Life changes for fourth-grader Koichi Uehara when he picks up a fossil on his way home. To his surprise, he has picked up a baby Kappa, a mythical water creature, who has been asleep underground for the past 300 years. Koichi names this baby creature “Coo” and brings him to live with his family, and soon the two are inseparable friends. However, trouble abounds as Coo struggles to adjust to life in suburban Tokyo, and begins to miss his family, leading Koichi and Coo to embark on a summer road trip adventure in search of other Kappa.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the Japanese track in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Sadly, no other dubs were produced for this film so it’s a monolingual release. The film is very dialogue-driven overall but it does have some minor moments of action and big events that come about with a swell to it, but that’s not what the bulk of it is. The film is more dialogue-based along with incidental sounds to help bring it all together in an interesting way, which it succeeds well at. There’s a lot of good placement because of the spiritual side of the film that lets it move about well. The bass gets a nice workout from time to time as well as a few things thrown to the rear channels. But by and large, it’s more straightforward but well-executed in how it handles the forward soundstage. Dialogue is sharp, clean and problem free throughout.

Video:
Originally released in 2007, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC. Animated by Shin-Ei Animation, the film has a really good look that holds up just as well against the films made in the now as there tend to be a lot of similarities in approaches, especially with this kind of story. The character animation doesn’t go for overly colorful but is well-detailed as needed, human and kappa alike, and there’s a great fluidity to it where it’s needed to bring it to life. Backgrounds have a lot of detail and the world feels lived in the way it should, but the color design is where it really shines the most. It just brings it all to life in a strong way and the greater view of the film shines because of it. The encoding captures everything beautifully with clean colors, no macroblocking or noise, and colors that pop beautifully.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both formats against the wall without any hinges involved. The first press comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork but with better color reproduction that gives it a bit more impact. The familiar key visual is here with Okko in the foreground and the inn behind her with a few spiritual characters appearing in different places across the cover. It’s colorful with all the blues and greens that captures the nature aspect well while also sliding the logo in, which has a house design, so that it looks like it’s within the mountain itself. It’s an appealing cover all around that catches the eye. The back cover has a nice array of images from the film in a larger size to check out and there’s a good summary of the premise. The extras are clearly listed but it lacks a good breakdown of the language options and subtitle options which is frustrating as they’re a key decision for many. That information is on the case itself and not the slipcover so you can see the fuller breakdown.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty simple as it’s just a green bar along the bottom with the selections in white while having a yellow highlight box but it works well in a way that’s hard to pin down. The colors just click and it has all the right workings otherwise with quick load times and it doesn’t interfere much during regular playback. What the majority of the menu is made up of are clips from the film and it works well with a good bit of color and appealing design in it to get you curious about what’s to come. The logo along the upper right is simple in its overall design and doesn’t obstruct hardly at all, which is an added plus. It’s a solidly functional menu that does exactly what it needs to do.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the TV spots and trailers for the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based n the novels by Masao Kogure, Summer Days with Coo is a lengthy nearly 2 ½ hour anime film that arrived back in 2007. It’s one that I barely remember hearing about at the time and was essentially lost to domestic fandom as there generally isn’t a big push for family focused feature films. They may do well overall but they’re not given the demand to be released unless there’s a heavy genre element to it. This film saw Keiichi Hara writing and directing it and it feels like a bit of a passion project with touches of his own childhood likely sprinkled into it when it comes to that lost summer where your friends aren’t around and you find things that speak to you. It is, like so many films of this nature, a growing-up feature that helps to nudge our lead on to what he needs to be.

Taking place 200 year ago at the start, we’re introduced to some of the elements of feudal living and how to get away with things by two men walking along the riverbank at night. When they come across a kappa, however, the realization that they were overheard causes the lead one to pull out his sword while the other panics and just wants to flee. The kappa has his son suddenly arrive carrying a fish as a peace offering but it just sets the men into more of a tizzy because they’re simply fearful. It’s not played out brutally in truth but it’s brutal to watch a the son sees his father’s arm cut off and then a slice down his body. It’s the kind of grim opening that makes it easier to accept the positivity and enjoyment that comes later, but you’re also thinking of it in the back of your head as you watch the young kappa explore life.

In the present, we’re introduced to a group of kids as they’re getting ready for the summers and where they’ll end up going. For Koichi, he doesn’t have much planned beyond just being with his family so he’s a little frustrated by it. And while acting out a bit on the walk home, it leads him down to the riverbank to get his shoe and he takes his frustrations out by tossing a big rock. That it splits open to reveal a kappa inside is exciting, though it’s all grey and largely lifeless. All that changes once he gets it home and begins to water it, and the family discovers this not long after and becomes involved as well. It’s a real delight that Koichi doesn’t try to hide this from them as it allows them all to be involved with it, including the dog, Ossan. Bringing the kappa back to life is fairly easy overall but the poor little guy has forgotten his name, resulting in them all just calling him Coo.

The first half of the film largely keeps Coo a secret from the world and it’s fun to watch them all interact as a family as Coo becomes kind of a little brother. But frustrations do enter from time to time and we get an extended bit when Koichi takes him on a trip to where kappa should be from as a town has built its reputation around them. It’s pretty interesting in its exploration and the eventual discovery that becomes a matter of public record. All of this leads into the bigger picture of people’s excitement and curiosity in seeing a real kappa while for Coo it becomes about protecting his species overall and trying to find a way to make everyone happy. There are some really good themes of family that are explored throughout this and I liked seeing how Coo had to really step up in order do what’s right for his kind. Which isn’t easy because it requires a huge amount of trust from things that he barely understands. But the ups and downs of it all as it goes on is a lot of fun to watch unfold.

In Summary:
Summer Days with Coo is quite the charming film but it also takes some odd directions, especially in the second half when Coo becomes a public kappa. It’s definitely an interesting angle to take from the usual small town kids hide creature until last minute thing that we get. And with its running time and coming from novels, writer/director Keiichi Hara has plenty of material to work with to tell the tale without rushing through it. It’s not a languid film by any means but it’s allowed to take its time to explore what it wants to be, the things it wants to say, and to let the characters express themselves. It takes a while for Coo to really come to life but once he does, and as more things are discovered, it’s a fascinating experience. GKIDS put together a decent release here even if I wish it was dubbed or had some of the extras it was originally solicited to have.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Trailers, TV Spots

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

Released By: GKIDS
Release Date: January 21st, 2020
MSRP: $26.99
Running Time: 138 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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