Spring & Chaos (Remastered) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

What They Say
Directed by acclaimed anime creator Shouji Kawamori (Macross), this is the animated biography of Kenji Miyazawa, a poet and writer who lived between 1896-1933 in Iwate, Japan. With the use of cats as characters in the story, expressive editing, and computer graphics, the animation captures the fantastic and surrealistic world of Kenji Miyazawa, whose works are often known to be allegorical and abstract.

The Review!
This review is of the remastered release of Spring & Chaos. The first version had a number of problems, and TOKYOPOP went back to their authoring house to have fixed. While such errors obviously shouldn't have gotten through in the first place, the quick response and the remastering earns TOKYOPOP a round of applause in my book.

We listened to this in its original language of Japanese, but we did peek a few times into the English language track. The English track sounds a few notches louder all around than the Japanese track, but this is noticeable on a number of other studios releases as well. There's not a lot of directionality in this show, so the front soundstage is used fairly well in getting the dialogue and music across. There were no problems here otherwise.

Unlike all the blockiness in the backgrounds or the couple of outright horrid sequences, this version of Spring & Chaos is a significant improvement. The colors look nicely vivid, particularly during the blue lines with the birds early on. Backgrounds do look a bit soft but the artifacting is minimal to non-existent, which is par for the course for many releases. The outright horrid scenes detailed in the earlier review is now flawless and makes that entire scene work much better since it doesn't pull you out of the show when it happens. Being that this is an important title for anime, I'm truly glad that they went back to fix this.

While the initial release had the special packaging, the remastered release is in a standard Amaray case. It does lose a bit of its specialness when you've seen the other, but this works well. The cover is the same image of the artsy Kenji catface while the back lists all the features and technical information. Amusingly, there's no summary of the show on the back here, so it's something of a hard sell to those who may not know anything about the title. The multipage insert provides some information about Kenji and the revival of his material 100 years after his birth, which leads into Kawamori's interest in the title. Also, one of Kenji's poem's is reprinted here as well.

The main opening menu is the only one that contains music, but all of the menus are nicely designed and laid out. The theme of the gears are used for the menu pieces and to hold character animations over the larger backgrounds. Access times to the submenus are pretty solid and everything works nicely. No problems here.

The extras included are pretty nice, with the highlight being the video interview with Kawamori that talks about what changes he made to the project when he was offered it as well as his thoughts on Miyazawa. The interview with the sound director also brings a lot of interesting things to light. The trailer is pretty much what you'd expect as it's the one for the US audience (or at least has the US release logo). The art gallery contains some interesting pictures as well. There's a brief two minute biography on the real-life Miyazawa, and the menu also allows you to play all of the video interviews as one continuous piece.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Spring and Chaos is a small dramatic biography on a period of time in the life of Kenji Miyazawa, the proclaimed greatest Japanese poet of the 20th century who was misunderstood for his poetry during his brief 37 years on Earth. After his death, his work took on a new life and has propelled his name to worldwide recognition among those who follow the art of poetry.

The story here focuses generally on the period of 1923 or so, when Kenji was a teacher of agricultural school and had spent time farming himself. It's during this time that we see him teaching his students about how the world speaks to them as well as seeing flashbacks to his earlier days when those around him influenced him and his growth. The story doesn't have a true beginning/end feel to it as it's more of a way of imparting the feel of Miyazawa's personality and his take on life as well as some of his inspirations for his work.

The show deals in the less than linear style of storytelling with a lot of visuals. To see how things inspired Miyazawa, the normal life that we all see takes on an unreality to it that only pushes his pen to write faster and more furiously the longer it continues. It's these visuals that work so well in illuminating the world through Miyazawa's eyes. It's an interesting look and one that's done with regard for the man and for his work.

The main other problem folks had with the first release was that the subtitles were actually dubtitles, i.e. the script was the changed one for the dub and not the original script that matches what the Japanese dialogue is saying. With much appreciation, this has also been corrected for this release and we've got a properly subtitled version, making this even more enjoyable for myself.

With the corrections made and the disc now looking nice and proper, this is a release that's going to appeal to a certain segment of fandom, but definitely needs to make its way wider so as to get more people familiar with Kenji and his life. It's definitely interesting and it's definitely not your everyday story being told here. Kawamori and those with him have crafted an almost unique presentation here about someone's life in this animation. Recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles,French Subtitles,German Subtitles,Video interview with Shoji Kawamori,Video interview with Atsumi Tashiro,Art Gallery,Trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 56
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Spring & Chaos