Brave Story -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: NA

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Warner Bros. Japan
  • MSRP: 4980
  • Running time: 111
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Brave Story

Brave Story

By Chris Beveridge     December 01, 2006
Release Date: November 23, 2006

Brave Story
© Warner Bros. Japan

What They Say
Based off of the Naoki prize winning story by novelist Miyuki Miyabe! He's of average strength and below average courage! But the thoughts of this eleven-year-old boy are about to launch him into the adventure of his lifetime!

The Review!
The first "traditional" anime to be released in high definition on Blu-ray sets that bar high for future releases to achieve.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in its original language of Japanese. There is only one audio mix on the release, a very solid sounding 640kbps Dolby Digital EX 6.1 track. The film is very expansive in its use of the surround channels during some of the action sequences, particularly an early one where a whirlwind of papers surrounds one of the characters. The music is also very well served by this and just sounds very warm and rich. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout with excellent placement. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally in theaters in 2006, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a resolution of 1080p with MPEG-2. The single layer disc with its runtime of 112 minutes looks simply gorgeous here. This is our first experience on Blu-ray with something considered "anime" as opposed to webisodes so we're seeing something that is much more in line with things like the Ghibli films and other theatrical anime features. On our 50" set at 720p, the only "problems" I could find was that I had to be six inches from the screen and looking at the pixels to see some of the shiftiness in the animation in the scenes where dark blues and blacks mix. On DVD, these are traditionally things you can see on a set like this from a viewing distance of six to nine feet. With this release, unless you're right up close you don't see it. The transfer in general maintains this gorgeous feeling. Black levels are deep and rich while still showing plenty of detail when needed. Some of the scenes are stunning, such as when the lead character is falling from the sky and the blues are almost window-like, or the white area he lands on with the ripples in it being so visible and detailed. One scene that has become a showcase is when he comes home to his mother cooking in the kitchen and it pans over a variety of fruits and vegetables; the white walls, the bowls and the color of the fruit and vegetables are just so lush and realistic.

The same artwork has been used across all three media releases so there isn't anything unusual here, though the included half-obi on it along the bottom provides lots of blurbs and other bits of information relevant to this release. In a blue case, the cover artwork looks rather good as it all blends together with the lead in front of the blue skies while the corners have earth and characters running about. The back cover provides a few character shots together for a larger background while a summary and some shots from the film round it out. The discs features and extras are clearly listed while the bottom is rounded out with production and technical information.

Warner continues to offer some of the worst looking menus with this release. Only a pop-up menu is available, which isn't a bad thing, but it's so slow and unresponsive across all three of our Blu-ray decks that I can't pin it on the player. Unlike most other menus, you have to use the enter button to get a menu piece to load instead of just pushing up. And each enter has a clanking sound emanating from the menu. So not only is it slow, it's annoying. You end up making a number of mis-selections because of this. The design of the menu isn't bad but it's minimal and doesn't really add much to the film.

There are a good set of extras included with this release but they are unfortunately all in 480i MPEG-2. There are some live action pieces that deal with the premier of the film with the voice actors, behind the scenes of its creation and a lot more. It's a very solid making of piece that runs just under an hour and deals with all aspects of it. A healthy chunk of commercials and trailers for the film are provided with individual access from the menu. Some of these are just hilarious in how they approach selling the film to people. Having the anime character playing the role of a contestant in the Japanese version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is priceless. There are a few of these as well. A music video for the film is included along with the commercials for said piece. A good number of commercials are included for the various game platforms that this multimedia adventure was ported to. There's also an amusing little set of webisode material used to help promote the film.

By far my favorite extra is the documentary, where within 3 minutes the voice actor from the film takes a camera to Wizard World 2006 in Los Angeles. Yes, we get to see tons of anime fans, cosplayers and studio reps from various companies, including an amusing sit down with some FUNimation folks at their table. It's all in Japanese and it is pure comedy gold. The English is a bit hard to hear since they overdub it with a translation and subtitles, but seeing the whole segment of people talking about how they're otaku and then have the cymbal's played is beyond words. Displays of various anime goods later in it are equally embarrassing as it shows US fans being something like ten years behind. "Dragon Ball Z? Evangelion? Here, let's show you some new Gonzo shows!"

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Brave Story being the first real anime release on Blu-ray is something that I've been waiting years for. While not necessarily this movie, I've wanted to see what good solid new animation could look like in a high budget piece in high definition. This release simply delivers in spades with both video and audio quality " but even the audio is "hampered" by the fact that it's still a lossy format. If there's any downside to this release, it's the fact that the English language subtitles (which are apparently poor) from the DVD versions aren't included here.

The reasoning is likely that Blu-ray shares its region with the US and the HD DVD format is currently still without any kind of region coding. But really, anyone who wants to see this with subtitles on DVD would have a region free player so it's just another pointless bit of futility by the studios to try and control something they lost control of ages ago.

With no subtitles, this is unfortunately for me a release where I had to revert to my old days of just watching it raw and trying to grasp it for what it is and just enjoying the animation. That was fortunately something that was very easy to do as Brave Story is just a gorgeous piece of work. This isn't a Ghibli movie, it's not trying to achieve that kind of animation style. What we get here is something that's different than a lot of Gonzo's currently airing or recently produced series and something that is more akin to what you could call a standard. What it does mean is that the animation here is very accessible to a wider audience should it come to the US " something that Warner Bros. US has said they currently don't have a license/plans for.

Brave Story's presentation is beautiful here however. Unlike how Warner Bros. US is handling their dual format status, WB Japan is optimizing their homegrown releases for the Blu-ray format. This release regularly hits peaks of 40mpbs and has an average of about 36-38 mbps. The pre-load THX trailer which has the robot mascot being wooshed through a car engine, plays at a steady max of 40mbps for the video. It is as flawless as you can get. Every problem I've had with just about every previous anime release on DVD, generally things that are just limitations of the format and compression, was eliminated here. While anime won't feel so real that it's like looking out a window, this is the first time I've ever felt like I'm truly seeing what the creators worked on with their systems.

In Summary:
Brave Story is a beautiful showcase for what high definition can do for anime, at least when it comes to theatrical features. While there are areas that I' m sure will improve as new tools are available on the authoring side, this title being the start of everything has set the bar very high for the anime field. It also sets things high for those on the creative side, particularly when it comes to areas like posterization because they have to make sure their level of quality is high as well. When all is said and done, Brave Story is a great piece of eye-candy. One that makes it incredibly difficult to go back to DVD afterwards. This is the start of the culmination of what I've wanted my viewing experience to be like with anime.

Japanese Dolby Digital EX 6.1 Language,Making Of Feature,Theatrical Trailers,TV Commercials,Video Game Commercials,Music Video,Music Video Commercial,Webisode Promotional Video

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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