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 drop down a bit more for the last volume to just a series of production sketches.
While I continue to shy away from Takahashi’s more recent long-running series and it took awhile for me to actually get to finish Ranma ½, I’m still very much enjoying watching some of the short stories she writes come to life in this anime series. Covering four more tales from across her prolific career that probably won’t come out over here in manga form, the Anthology series continues to show her sense of style, wit, and overall approach to storytelling.
Of the four tales here, three are kept pretty much in the real world realm and were all quite enjoyable. The opening tale is one that I can see being very frustrating as it deals with a housewife who keeps finding the street corner of their house to be a local dumping ground even though the pick-up area is further down the street. Even worse, someone keeps dumping some atrocious junk there these days and really causing problems. When it turns out that her husband’s boss has just moved into the area and it’s his wife throwing out his precious items, it turns comical as they try to rescue the items at night to return to him while accepting them from her in the morning all while avoiding telling them that their house isn’t a dump spot. It’s a fairly standard office-related story dealing with the boss but it has some cute details such as the boss’s love of African and foreign artifacts and the way the housewife’s father and her kids try to keep some of the items themselves.
Another amusing tale deals with a high school reunion but is centered around a classmate who left halfway through the semester as his family was being transferred to Singapore. For Shinonome, it was really terrible since he had a crush on a girl named Shima there and she was on the cusp of revealing her feelings for him as well. His life has gone on since then and he’s married and has a son going through entrance exams, but his life isn’t exactly what he wanted and he feels very disconnected from his family. With the invitation to the event, the first one he’s ever been invited to, and the knowledge that Shima will be there, we see how he builds all of it up in his mind and how he wants it to play out, which then goes into the reality of the situation which is just as amusing in its own way. It’s a cute tale that deals with high school romance from a different angle.
My favorite on the disc has to be the last one though where the hard-working husband gets wrapped up in his friends’ mistress trouble, first by taking in a very well-bred dog of his and then the mistress herself who ends up winning over most of the family. It’s a small house filled to capacity in some comical ways and it has some very cute bits of sexy fanservice throughout it that just keep it flowing nicely. This goes for the mildly outlandish situation escalating up several layers but comes back to the way an employee must save his boss for fear of losing his own job. Watching them all deal with it and how it gets out of control is a good part of the fun.
While some of the episodes across the entire anthology series haven’t been some of my favorites, I love seeing the diversity of Rumiko Takahashi’s stories and the way she weaves things back and forth as well as the overall positive nature of the stories. As bad as things get, and they never truly get that bad, there’s always hope and a way out which plays up the uplifting angle of these works. These are the kinds of episodes that do a good job of reminding those who only know of her major works just how versatile she is and let fans of her older shows get to see some new material and a number of favorite voice actors from previous material come back once again. This was very enjoyable and I only wish there was more like it.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: July 19th, 2005
Running Time: 100 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.