With a title like Blackmail, it’s pretty obvious what it’s going to be about and that nobody is doing anything they want to do. At first…
What They Say
Asuka Akiyama receives a confession from Ryousuke Kamimura, who happens to be the most popular male student. Miku, sister of Asuka, Tamami Aoki and Yuki, who is Asuka's best friend, are all collaborating about the situation at school. AYA is dejected because she had strong feelings for Ryousuke before meeting Asuka. With a smile on her face, Asuka told Aya what had happened. Aya promises to support her in what turns into trouble beyond her imagination. The tragedy of it all begins with a letter from Yumiko Miyazaki. Aya's letter says "If you don't want to show this picture to Ryousuke Kamimura...you must stay away from him." The picture is pornographic. From this moment on, Asuka is humiliated and disgraced for a lifetime.
Blackmail isn’t a surprise in getting a bilingual track as it utilizes the same one as the original from NuTech Entertainment, though none of the production crew for it or the actors are credited. The stereo mix encoded at 192kbps is pretty solid for what it is but there isn’t anything that really stands out here. Like most adult releases, it is pretty much dialogue/moan driven so it doesn’t have much in the way of actual placement but rather does a good job through the center channel/full feeling. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2000, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Unlike the original release which was done on three volumes with one episode each, this one has the entire show on one disc. The quality of the original was quite good as Blackmail features some really strong production values. This release mirrors that pretty much spot on as it’s a clean and appealing transfer. Colors are bright and vibrant and is free of noise, cross coloration or aliasing. The depth and vibrancy of the colors alone is fantastic and that provides for a very appealing presentation. It does retain a bit of the digital glossy look that was prevalent at the time but there’s little that can be done about that since it’s how the show was made.
Kitty Media continues to put out some of the best looking covers for adult releases and this one is no exception. Dark and powerful, it features a shot of Asuka laying down with her bottom exposed while her hair flows around her. The darkness in the background and the way everything flows between her hair, her skirt and the chains points what kind of content is really in here, especially with the inclusion of the videotape. The restrained logo also works well for pushing the content of the show. The back cover is a bit simpler and brighter as it features a large chunk of shots from the show along two thirds of it while the left side has the summary of the premise. The shots look good as it shows many of the characters expressing themselves sexually – but not explicitly. The production credits and the and technical grid covers everything about the release in a clean and easy to read form that’s accurate.
The menu design for Blackmail is a standard static piece that has a very soft and obscured piece of background artwork of Asuka that is done in various shades of purple. Through the center is a strip of shots from the show in full color just below the logo, which brings in some vibrancy to all of it. With a bit of instrumental music to complement it all, the menus are rather standard but very much in the theme of the show and sets the mood just right. Submenus, what few there are, load easily and quickly and without any problems. As is standard on their releases though, the sign/song subtitle track is first so player presets grab that instead of the full subtitle track.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Eight years after its original release in Japan and seven since it made it out through NuTech Entertainment, Kitty Media has rescued this release and given it a proper one just for the disc count itself. Converting it from a three disc box set with porn actresses on the cover to a much more appealing single disc release, Blackmail is the kind of show that can easily find new fans these days, especially since the bulk of the animation for it looks better than a lot of shows out now from some of the second tier companies.
Not unlike when I first saw Blackmail back in 2001, the series is one that doesn’t appeal on a content level, though it does do it fairly competently. The show revolves around a storyline involving Blackmail obviously where we have a young woman named Yumiko who was betrayed by her friend at one time and not helped when she needed it the most. Of course, it wasn’t a simple betrayal as Yumiko ended up being turned into a sex slave for a group of men who continue to use her, only now they’re using her to expand to her friends by having her set things up. Yumiko isn’t anywhere near an innocent in this, but she’s clearly got issues going on.
Mixed into this framework is some of the basic high school jealousies that creep into any school based show. The core of it revolves around Asuka who is really interested in Ryosuke, who coincidentally has very little screen presence overall. Aya is actually not all that happy about this relationship since she has an interest in Asuka herself. In order to mess things up, she sends an anonymous letter out to try and shake things up, but Yumiko gets involved and swaps it out for something else. That ends up putting Asuka in a bad situation where she’s kept in a hotel room and taken advantage of while being filmed. Everything spirals out of control once Yumiko makes her move and she takes in Asuka’s sister Miku and her mother with the help of the group of men who made her a slave herself.
Across the three episodes, Blackmail runs through a fairly twisted series of events as it breaks down the boundaries of the girls involved. Some of them are better in trying to help each other, but more often than not one doesn’t help the other because they’ve got enough dirt being held on them. When Reika comes across Asuka being taken advantage of on the train, she tries to help her but ends up being held down by Asuka as the guy is one of Yumiko’s. These kinds of situations occur regularly but none is more “dangerous” than when Yumiko and her guys end up causing Asuka and Miku’s mother to give in to what’s going on. This situation has her putting the safety of her children to the side as she gives in to what the men want and almost goes numb in her expressions from all of it. It’s amusing that she’s actually called on this, not that it really leads to anything.
Like other shows of this nature, Blackmail is rather straightforward in its approach to the story and what it’s trying to do. The domination of the women is blunt and without any subtlety. The sex itself does change over the course of the episodes as early on it wasn’t all that explicit but it gets more so later when the men get actively involved. What saves the show to some extent is that the animation is solid in general but has some very strong scenes during key moments. The character designs are wonderful as they have a real vibrancy and life to them at times. The expressiveness is fairly standard but with the good production values, they stand out all the more. On the downside, the sex itself is all non-consensual which has the women crying out against it. There are some really good scenes for it, but there are also some that include material that turns off a few people such as the scatological material, the bathroom moments or the enema quickies.
When I first saw Blackmail, it really left me cold and uninterested. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve seen a whole lot of similar material in the years since then and this no comes across as relatively tame. I mean, after watching Night Shift Nurses, Blackmail doesn’t really break any barriers or push any boundaries. The show is pretty standard non-consensual material with great looking character designs that will surely find an audience, but that audience still isn’t me. It’s easy to appreciate what’s done here, bad pacing and all, but when it comes down to it, Blackmail provides some decent rough sex that comes across as a bit tame by current standards. It’s one that may be a good test to see if you can deal with this kind of material.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 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.