Trouble Chocolate Vol. #1 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, November 11, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2002



What They Say
Micro-Grand's resident "B.M.O.C.," Murakata, assembles the members of the Scientific Mission Attack Team to destroy the enormous purple beast ravaging their beloved school. Enter Hinano - she's made of wood for a reason, but will Cacao believe Professor Ganache's explanation? Then, Truffle's the newest kid on the Micro-Grand block, but he's not about to be the new scapegoat. In fact, he's got so much money he can buy himself anything he wants - Hinano's heart.

The Review!
What if Urusei Yatsura was remade and reworked for today’s audience? And what if it just ended up sucking completely? Well, if that’s a question that’s been on your mind, this is the result.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show features a good stereo mix with some nice moments of forward soundstage directionality while dialogue is nice and clear throughout. We noticed no distortions or dropouts on either track.

Video:
Originally released in 1999/2000, Trouble Chocolate is a good recent show that looks to be one of the ones that was going completely digital and not quite mastering it all that well. The show has a lot of bright colors, almost too bright in many instances, but they all retain a good solid feel here. The first episode is the most problematic in terms of cross coloration, with it showing almost everywhere. Subsequent episodes ease off quite a lot, reducing it to a very low level. There’s some minor aliasing going on, but no real trouble other than that.

Packaging:
Giving the feel of a chocolate bar, this is a nice cover that has mimics the image of a chocolate bar being ripped open. There’s a good logo and a nice shot of the shows lead female, Hinano on it as well as a quick note that there are five volumes coming out for the series. The back cover provides episode summaries and episode numbers and titles for all that appear here as well as the basic production information and the amusing “nutrition” information. There’s a few screenshots here and there, but nothing that does more than show off a few characters. The insert provides the chapter listings for the four episodes on this disc while the reverse side just has the big TC logo.

Menu:
Bright green is the main theme here, with the image of Sakai Town in the background while on top of that is the imge of Hinano in a heart with a microphone as she talks about the basis of the show (yes, in English). Episode titles and numbers are selectable here (in green) while the play/scene selections for each episode is below them in pink. Far too much text, far too much green and pink. It’s an ugly looking menu in general, and provides too many keystrokes to just move around to the basics. Access times are good once you make a selection however, and submenus aren’t as bad or as crowded, but still fairly gaudy.

Extras:
There’s a couple of good extras included with this volume, though one aspect of it gets rather infuriating. The opening and endings are presented in textless form here, which is a good thing since the opening is rather busy. What’s really good about them is that they also provide the romaji and English translations of the songs! Fantastic! But why aren’t they placed in the show itself?!. There’s a brief character artwork gallery and a small gallery of animation shots from the episodes on this disc as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Trouble Chocolate takes place in “crazy” Sakai Town, a place where a lot of strange things seem to happy (such as being decorated by the gentleman who did Batman Forever). One of the big draws of Sakai Town is the Mega Grand Academy, where 100,000 students go to participate in 666 classes and over 1600 clubs and activities. It’s the place to go if you want to have real choices. Ostensibly, our lead character is a young man named Cacao.

We’re introduced to him as he wakes up with an attractive green haired woman sleeping next to him. She introduces herself as Hinano, though he can’t remember for the life of him where she came from. As it turns out, she arrived when he was at the school, and botched one of the professors magical conjurations of summoning. Sneezing and blowing the drawn lines all over, the summoned wood faerie ends up arriving but being drawn into the body of a life size female marionette. So Hinano resides in there and treats Cacao as gods gift to women and wood faeries. Cacao’s a decent guy about it as he learns what happened, and does his best to take right care of her.

With a school as large and varied as Mega Grand Academy is, you know there’s going to be some interesting characters to supplement the leads. In addition to Cacao and Hinano, there’s the magic professor whose just a bit off kilter at times, Murakata of the Science Mission Attack Team, his ladyfriend Deborah and the rest of the team, some odd looking little “master” character who has two Chinese dressed women doing his bidding around town. And then there’s all the strange things that show up, like the fifty foot tall slug monster that follows Hinano around, though she’s oblivious to it. She’s more interested in telling people about the feelings of the flowers in the garden.

The final new character introduced here of any significance is Truffle, a young attractive man whose got money coming out of his ears. In just about every way, this man is the Mendou character. Other than the actual looks, there is virtually no noteworthy difference. And once that clicked in my head, most of the other characters started to fall into similar categories, from the Cacao/Ataru to Hinano/Lum. Now, I didn’t say they deserved those roles, but that’s what’s essentially playing out here.

Trouble Chocolate is weird for the sake of weird. And with it trying to be funny weird, you’re either going to succeed or fail based on the humor itself, of which I found practically none in these episodes. I had initially watched the first episode when this disc first came out, but fell asleep halfway through it. I ended up doing that again two weeks later when I tried again. The third try was the charm, armed with lots of caffeine and sugar, and I managed to stay awake for all of it. But I found nothing that made me laugh, nothing that showed me any reason to really even want to watch the show.

It simply tries way too hard.

There’s other things that bothered me about this release as well. In addition to the lack of song subtitles during the opening and ending (but which they have during the extras in textless form), you even have the characters singing parts of them during the episode, and those are subtitled. If it’s a legal clearance issue, then Viz needs better legal people because it’s 2002 folks, and this company is the only one out there that’s having trouble with nearly every release in getting songs subtitled. With Sakura Tange singing the opening song, and her being an absolute favorite of mine, I hate the inability to sing along to it.

During key points of the episodes, there are moments where we go to a static screen that has a computer screen. On the screen, quotes of various types come across, usually related to the episode in some way. For one thing, they’ve got the subtitle bug here because when they pause and start up again, they all blink. The second is that all the quotes are western based, which raises red flags about the translation quality. I’m not one to instantly think that because there’s a western quote it must be wrong, but when they start with Lily Tomlin and go to George Bernard Shaw and an uncredited Han Solo quote, I’m going to believe that these aren’t the original quotes. So gone is the original text, leaving only the soft subbed new quote.

Trouble Chocolate is one of the very few shows that for the reasons above, will not be pursued beyond the first volume. Even with series I’ve not liked in the past, I’ve muddled through them to give them a full chance. But I can’t bring myself to do that with this one, just as I can’t give it a recommendation to anyone.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Character Artwork,Animation Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: D
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Trouble Chocolate