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Utano Princesama Maji LOVE STARISH TOURS Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
If you liked the previous concert film release, this builds on that well with the cast and goes all-in in a big way that feels like it's true to the experience.

The journey continues for the performers and for the fans with a new concert.

What They Say:
The members of STARISH were already close, but the events of the Maji LOVE LIVE Kingdom concert have bound them into a single unit, harmonizing their lives as well as their voices. Now there’s just one thing on all their minds: what’s next?

It’s a question that no one has an answer to yet, so maybe it’s time to take a little break to ponder big thoughts as a group. But, of course, the daily duties of being an Idol can never be completely escaped, and just as they’re starting to catch a little R&R, they’re summoned back to the Shining Office for something huge in the two film Utano Princesama Maji LOVE STARISH TOURS collection!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us only the original Japanese language track in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Given that it was a big theatrical project, the 5.1 mix works the music really well and the whole thing comes alive beautifully for fans to enjoy with so many songs and options for it. The strong musical performances in both the vocals and instrumentals really allow it to shine with the format used. There’s a real warmth and richness to the musical moments that you find yourself really appreciating the differences between a 4.8 Mbps lossless track and a 192kbps track. Dialogue is generally well done here as it’s mostly just the cast standing around talking with some emotional moments. Everything comes across clean and clear and has a strong finished feeling to it that’s free of dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally in theaters in late summer of 2022, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by A-1 Pictures, it has a really striking look to it overall with what it offers with the detail of the characters and their designs and the fluidity of the animation in the big dance and song numbers. Essentially, we get all the strengths of the already strong performances from the TV show and it’s placed on this larger theatrical canvas where it can go bigger and longer. There’s a distinctive look to the character designs and their colors with the eyes, which can be disconcerting at first, but the whole thing is just striking from top to bottom and the transfer captures it beautifully. The content of the show is something that may not be to a lot of general fans liking, but A-1 Pictures put in a top-notch effort here and the payoff is definitely strong with what we get as it’s a beautiful-looking film.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case where the cover artwork uses the main key visual that was the theatrical poster I believe showing off the expansive cast together in the stage elements from the film. They’re all done in really detailed costumes and it’s just detail upon detail upon detail. It’s not garish but it’s so busy and close together that it really draws the eye to different areas without a lot of focus. The logo along the lower right is nicely done while avoiding being too big with the stars elements incorporated into it which I like a lot. The back cover uses mostly the same colors as past releases with whites and blues and a few other vibrant areas. The shots from the show round out both sides with a good look to them and we get a decent premise that dominates the center aspect of it while not giving away too much. The production credits cover both sides of the equation well and the technical grid lists all the details accurately and cleanly. No show-related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this keeps things pretty basic with the navigation along the right for the special as well as the film side of things, listing the audio format as well since the special is in stereo while the film side is in 5.1 form. The left side features a pretty basic blank image but with the visual for the logo along the top that looks good with its approach and color design. The navigation along the right fits with past releases well with its font and style and makes for easy access as a pop-up menu during playback as well. While there’s a kind of postcard look to the menu overall, it’s just so bereft of artwork that it feels weirdly plan and unfinished because of it for the main disc. It’s fully functional and easy to use which is the important thing, however.

The only extras included in this release are on the second disc and we get some of the original promos/trailers for the Japanese debut. We also get a nice collection of announcements for the film project through their talk pieces and it comes in at about twelve minutes.

We also get the dancer’s choreography pieces that are fascinating to watch with the multiple angles for three songs and the color coding to do the tracking and identify everyone. The big extra through are the five encore pieces that are available here which have some of the characters with their own highlights as well as a theatrical version and the STARISH version, which vary in length but give you a lot more material to engage with.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s hard to believe but I’ve been watching the Uta no Prince-sama franchise for over a decade. Back when the first season came out in the summer of 2011 period, that was a time when I was watching and reviewing close to twenty simulcasts in order to provide a lot of fresh coverage. I enjoyed the show, especially the designs, and appreciated what went into the creation of it all. That and the following three seasons all played to episodic storytelling that really did some fun stuff in showcasing the guys and the challenges they faced while giving Haruka a good role in all of their development as the muse of sorts. Each piece built well and when other groups and characters were introduced it served well to create this larger competitive environment but one where they reached a skill level that they could also really appreciate what the other groups were doing, and how it drove them to be better.

With the fourth season out in 2016, a big project was put forward with the 2019 film Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love Kingdom, and that then launched the two films that make up this collection as well as the pre-release “journey” special that helps to introduce people to the basics of it all. As with the previous film, this one also got Sentai Filmworks to do a one-night theatrical event in the US for it, which was really surprising since none of this was ever dubbed before and this was going to be a subtitled-only event. But there is a strong if small fanbase for this in the US and that they were given a chance to see this on a big screen must have been magical. I’ve not seen a budget for the film but like the TV show, you can see every penny of the production there on the screen and that is no exception here.

It’s absolutely bloody gorgeous.

And honestly, I find myself in the same boat as the first film because, well, I wish I actually liked it. As much as I enjoyed the TV seasons over the years, the actual musical performance parts were the weakest for me because this style of music simply doesn’t work for me and hasn’t for some time. I’m not the target audience and I don’t fall into it – one of my daughters is a huge fan, for example. The film spends its time like a typical concert of this nature where the group takes time between a couple of songs to talk to the audience about different things having watched enough K-pop concerts with my daughters and how they operate, this is enjoyable for the fans but is largely fluffy meaninglessness to anyone else. I had hoped it might tie into the prior TV series material in some ways and perhaps a few lines here and there do, but by and large, this is all about the concert performance itself.

The release really does deliver well. The first disc has the journey special that came out and the two versions of the film with the Arigatou and Daisuki versions. The second disc is a karaoke version of the film which does the songs up with the scrolling color for it in its Japanese form and makes it very easy to roll along with and enjoy. The regular dialogue is done up as normal so you can still enjoy that part as well. And while I do wonder if the third disc of extras could have been slid onto one of the other discs, they do include some fun things and they’re welcome extras.

In Summary:
Coming from a household with some very big K-pop fans who have done a wide range of big stadium tours, that’s essentially what we get here and I completely see the appeal of it. For me, what drew me to the property was the characters and stories in the series and this is payoff for that – if you like the music. It doesn’t do much for me and while I get some minor character stuff with the Journey special, the draw here is the films. And that just kind of washes over me because it’s not my thing. I can appreciate its quality and that’s what I focused on here in terms of presentation so fans of it will know they’re getting a great set with some solid extras and a really enjoyable experience. If you liked the previous concert film release, this builds on that well with the cast and goes all-in in a big way that feels like it’s true to the experience.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Encores, Japanese TV Spots & Promos; Dancers’ Choreography; Band Comments; and Opening Announcements.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 19th, 2023
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 110 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.