What They Say:
From housewife rumors to bankrupt businesses to changing careers after 30 years, Japan’s social customs and expectations can create heavy stress without any more identifiable source than gossip. Rumiko Takahashi (Inu Yasha, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura) explores three individuals under duress and the bizarre situations that spring from their lives!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English language dub, both of which are kept simple with encoding at 192kbps. The series is very much a dialogue-driven piece with it being a slice of life stories project and the like so there isn’t much wide use of the stereo channels here. The mix sounds pretty full in general but most of the dialogue comes across as center channel based. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during either language track.
Originally broadcast in 2003, this Anthology series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is done with a real-world intent so a lot of the colors and designs are somewhat mild and almost bland, but they reflect the show properly and look good here. There’s a certain bit of softness and grain to the print that causes some of the wide sections of colors to look a bit shifty but there isn’t any visible blockiness or break-up. The transfer in general looks good as there aren’t any visible cross coloration issues and the aliasing is kept very minimal. There were only a few instances of some noticeable color gradation problems as well, mostly just in some of the sky sequences.
The layout for the cover is really nicely done; the background is set as some red curtains draping down while in the center is a frame that has the various characters from the episodes on this volume together. I really like the way it’s designed and brings everyone from these episodes together into one piece. The back cover works in a similar fashion but with a series of marble steps leading down that has a red carpet along it. This lets other characters sit around and fill out the artwork nicely. The show’s premise is clearly presented as are the discs features and extras. The production information and technical notes are all listed along the bottom in the usual fashion. The insert replicates the front cover on one side while the other lists the chapter marks for the episodes.
The menus for this release are nicely done, to a point. The imagery used is that of a series of stairs that lead up to curtains and the various characters from the episodes are all huddled together on the stairs. When it moves from menu to menu, a brief curtain comes down and back up. Normally transitional animations bother me but this is fairly quickly and nicely in theme. The strange downside to the menus, especially the main one, is the lack of music associated with it. You almost wonder if something’s wrong with the disc since it’s so quiet. Access times are nice and fast and the layout pretty easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players’ language presets which are a big plus.
The extras for the third volume are a bit less than the previous as it drops the clean opening sequence and just provides a brief series of production art to check out.
The anthology series continues to be something that I really enjoy and wish we had more of in general but at the same time find myself having a hard time actively getting into this one. The release has an appeal as a reviewer because it is so short and the stories are stand alone so it doesn’t require a lot of continuity to be kept in memory to cover it but there’s just something about it that doesn’t get me to want to put it on right away. But as soon as the show starts in, I’m smiling almost the whole time and just enjoying the simplicity in the show’s workings and finding that it’s all over far too quickly.
Like the previous volumes, this one has a couple of tales that are just a lot of fun to watch. The second tale on the disc, “In Lieu of Thanks” goes back to one of my favorite kind of housewives stories and that’s the one of dealing with the queen of the complex. With the way apartment complexes are set up, at least by anime standards, there’s always one or two queen bees in each building who rule the rest of the women who live there either by fear or intimidation. Often they’re able to do it by the position their husbands hold since a lot of apartment complexes are filled with employees from the same company, but there are also standard apartment complexes where this happens, often because one woman gains power in the tenant’s committee or other organizations similar to that.
The tale here covers this fun story as a relatively new arrival in the complex finds herself being warned off of an elderly woman who lives on the top floor near where the queen bee lives. Kobato does everything right when she arrives at the complex and provides the appropriate gifts to the various ladies around her and pays extra special attention to Mrs. Shiratori since she’s the president of the condo association. Shiratori’s a very outgoing and happy person but you can sense she’s a manipulator as well. Kobato ends up through no real fault helping out the elderly woman above her and she then quickly becomes ostracized by the bulk of the ladies of the building. The politics of apartment complexes like this starts to come into play as Kobato finds herself being subjected to all sorts of duties and other harassment. The struggle is fun and cute to watch, something I’ve seen before in manga and other shows but it never fails to entertain in its display of the bigger social picture there.
Another tale on this volume that was a lot of fun is the last one where we have a couple who are probably in their fifties who are pretty much just friends at this point though there’s still something to the relationship. They’ve grown comfortable with each other and spend as much time apart as they do together. When the wife dies though from eating something outside of her regular diet, she doesn’t quite leave and ends up haunting her husband a bit. Or rather, just nagging or berating him from beyond as it was as she continues to watch TV and just annoy. The husband has no clue how to deal with this and just stays out as often as possible with his co-workers since he’s a section chief. One of his subordinates, Hitomi, feels bad for him and goes above and beyond by bringing him meals and spending time at his house which only has the chief’s dead wife causing problems for everyone else as she haunts them about it. There’s a couple of mysteries left in here with the wife and Hitomi and it’s cute as it plays out as you really feel bad for the husband and hope that he gets through this without too much trouble. He’s just such a nice guy that you hate to see him subjected to all of this.
The Rumiko Takahashi Anthology is far from the most taxing of series out there in content but it is something that showcases her work quite well. With voice actors from her past series lending their talents here and some of her best works from respective years on display, it’s quite enjoyable seeing things from her that don’t involved ten or more years worth of commitment to watch and enjoy. These tales won’t change the world or your viewing habits, but if all you’ve seen are her bigger works, you owe it to yourself to see some of her more personal stories like these.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: MAy 24th, 2005
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamoprhic 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.