Kimikiss: Pure Rouge Collection 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 04, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Young love blossoms in many different configurations in this surprisingly strong romantic drama.
What They Say
Kouichi always thought of Mao as his little sister, but when he wakes up from a dream and she walks into his house, he doesn't even recognize her. Probably because, after living in France for several years, Mao is definitely not anyone's little sister anymore! To further complicate things, Koichi's mom has invited Mao to stay at their house while she attends the same high school as Kouichi and their mutual friend Kazuki. But given that Kouichi's been trying to build a relationship with Yuumi, the revelation that he's now sharing accommodations with a non-related girl is definitely going to cause some emotional waves. Or maybe a tsunami by the time Kazuki's sister Nana, her best friend Narumi and all the other kids at school get overly involved.
The language options for this release are unfortunately a bit short as we only get the Japanese stereo language mix encoded at 224kbps. The strength of this show is in its dialogue and it really deserved a dub. The Japanese mix is really good though as it works the forward soundstage to good effect with dialogue well placed and clear throughout. There's a lot of low moments to be had but it's all discernible and clean. Sometimes we do get a fair number of characters talking across the screen at a time and it does a good job of providing placement and clarity for it. This isn't a knockout attention getter of a mix, but it's one that does a very good job with the material.
Originally airing in late 2007 and early 2008, the transfer for this TV is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is spread across two discs in in a six/seven breakdown which Sentai favors with its thirteen episode releases. The show is done with a real world style to it so it has some good colors but nothing too terribly vibrant while using a lot of soft pastels as well. Some of the backgrounds when it comes to interiors has a bit more noise than normal, but for the most part it's a good looking transfer even with the average bit rate since it's not a terribly active show. It's a lot of dialogue, a lot of simple walking around and school based real world that doesn't stress an encoder all that much. The show is generally clean and solid with no visible cross coloration and only a touch of aliasing during some panning sequences.
Kimikiss gets a standard single sized keepcase for this release which holds the two discs against the interior sides. The front cover goes with the style of having multiple pictures with a shot of Mao by herself and Yuumi by herself with different background colors and positions for the characters themselves. The logo is simply and girly, something we see elsewhere in the release as well, but it fits in an okay kind of way. The character artwork looks good and is nicely detailed but not flashy or distracting or even all that filled with fanservice, short as the skirts may be. The back cover has another shot of one of the first year students and a nice collage style shot along the bottom for the clips from the show itself that ties it together well. The summary is a bit text heavy but not overly so as it covers the basics well enough. The episode and disc count is clear as well so you know what you're getting into. Add in a solid technical grid with everything laid out in a very easy to read manner and you've got a good cover overall, but one that doesn't sell the show too strongly and ends up being a touch too girlish when it really shouldn't. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Kimikiss are pretty straightforward and girly in its own way, because anything relating to romance must be girly I suppose. The background is made up of pinks and purples with a different piece of character artwork for each disc. The artwork is good with lots of detail that has a vibrant look without being too much. To complement it, the right side has a sheet of paper, with some feminine style to it, where we get a bit more than normal. Usually we just get the episode number with Sentai releases but here they give us that plus the episode title in a nice script font that gives it a more personal feeling. Submenus are minimal overall here since it's a monolingual release and the extras are on the second volume. Everything moves smoothly though with cursors and access times making it a problem free experience that sets the mood right for the show.
The only extras included are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the PlayStation game from several years ago, Kimikiss: Pure Rouge is a twenty-four episode series with an additional OVA that tells the tale of young love. The first half of the series is covered here with thirteen episodes that introduces us to the lives of these high school students that range from first years to third years, though the principal character depending on your point of view is a second year student. Unlike a lot of shows about teenage romance, Kimikiss is focused on capturing the feeling of young love, the uncertainty of it all and the quiet nature of how we approach each other at this time in our lives. There are amusing situations to be had and moments of laughter, but it avoids outright comedy and bad stereotypes.
Kimikiss centers on second years student Kouchi, a generally nice guy who aspires to be a writer of some sort when he grows up. His school life and life in general is about to be thrown off kilter when a mysterious girl is suddenly in his house and he learns that it's actually his childhood friend Mao. Mao's a year older than him and she used to play with him and his friend Kazuki but she moved away at the end of middle school to go to France for reasons that aren't entirely clear. She's returned to Japan now though and most of the girls in her new class suggest that it's because she wants to get into a Japanese college and has to get back into the swing of how things are done here. Mao gives in to that idea, but there's a sadness about her that speaks volumes that it may be something else.
Working through their spring semester and into the early summer months before break, Kimikiss introduces the three leads here to many other characters in the show. Kazuki has a younger sister who has a friend where both of them have a pair of little plush frogs they play with. That's really the most outlandish part of the show and that in itself is really very tame. As the kids go into their new semester, there are several other characters that come into play as a small loose group of friends forms. Kazuki's friend Asuka is a strong soccer player who can get only so far because she can't play in official games but she's very interested in Kazuki. Which is a problem as she watches him slowly get close to Eriko, the most unusual girl in the group who is a huge introvert and looks at life a little askew when it comes to performing unusual experiments about life and having really bland taste buds.
With Kouichi, he becomes interested in Yuumi, a somewhat quiet but really nice girl who has a definite interest in him, but she harbors her own secret. The slow relationship that forms between them over a film that the film club Kouchi is in is making brings them together pretty nicely. What becomes very neat about the series in its first half is that we see this group come together through different friendships, partially because of the film club itself, and everyone gets along to varying degrees but there's a number of interests just below the surface as well. It's not a tension, but what you can easily attribute to teenage hormones running amuck and causing them to look at friends in way they may not have done in the past.
None of the relationships are really complicated, but the one that has a few different elements to it comes with Mao. She's not bringing in a childhood marriage proposal from Kouichi and being a year apart meant their relationship was different from the start. She ends up taking up with a guy in her grade named Eiji who is moving differently than most other students. He's not focused on school because he's not pursuing a college career and is instead looking to have a music career of some sorts. He's not a bad boy, but he's a bit aloof and gruff at first and that pushes away Mao, but she's also interested in him because he's not following the usual path. But her own heart isn't quite so clear at times as when she sees Kouchi involved with someone, she's not sure exactly what those feelings she has are. It's all done very tenderly, quietly and with a good sense of emotion that gives it the extra weight to work.
Animated by JC Staff, Kimikiss has a really good visual look to it that complements the style of the story. It's all very real world, but with that soft illustration look to it that allows for lighter colors in the background that almost makes it ethereal at times. While school and building interiors are stronger in their colors, the firmness of that part of the world, the outdoors are done with more pastel colors and not quite filled in background sections that adds a touch of lightness to it. The character designs have this kind of effect as well, which is really nicely noted in how they all blush, something that happens often. It's light, subtle and you often can tell more about it from their eyes than the blush on their cheeks. The designs are a bit angular rather than the soft round shapes we tend to get with high school shows, but that pushes it more towards the realism side which suits it well.
With its origins in a video game that has heavy harem origins, Kimikiss: Pure Rouge is simply a romantic drama. It's not a harem show in the slightest as it avoids the problem of having all the women interested in one guy or one guy going after all the women. It's about a group of diverse high school students who have connections to each other which creates a loose group through which several different relationships form and play out. And each of them has a slight edge to them while avoiding being overly dramatic, comical or even romantic. That real world angle to it helps to elevate otherwise basic material because the execution is done so well, so authentically, that you can't help but get wrapped up in it and want to see what happens. There's a lot to like about all the relationships and many people to root for, a rarity in a larger cast like this, but Kimikiss has hit all the right notes.
Japanese 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.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2