Human Crossing Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, January 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2005
What They Say
Ordinary people muddling through life and intersect with one another in random ways. Like people walking along road crossings in different directions with no apparent destination in sight. Human Crossing is a realistic portrayal of everyday people in modern Japan in all its beauty and ugliness. In this volume, Human Crossing examines the lives of a boxer whose dark past is rekindled by his estranged mother in "The Wound," an idealistic lawyer who fights for an underprivileged young mother in "The 25th Hour," a workholic businessman who rediscovers what's most important in life in "A Promise," and an independent woman who reunites with her deadbeat father in "Direction." Human Crossing is a collection of short stories (vignettes) about hope and a reminder of the small victories one can achieve amid the vicissitudes of life.
Based on a manga series, Human Crossing is a series of individual tales of real people trying to live their lives in a complex society.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. Being a series that's based on the lives of Japanese people, it only makes sense to listen to it in its original language to me. The series is a pretty standard stereo mix that's not terribly overactive since it's heavily dialogue driven and there aren't really all that many scenes that you could term action scenes. The opening and closing segments have probably one of the fullest sounding areas of the show and comes across well. During regular playback, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The material in the show is done with a real world style but without going for the somewhat traditional dull and pale look that a lot of shows in this vein tend to go for. Instead it's well animated with some good vibrant colors throughout and a certain lushness in a lot of scenes. The color palette is pretty lively with a rich choice in a lot of the background and character design colors. The transfer is pretty much free from most problems such as aliasing and cross coloration and it was also good in that there wasn't any noticeable color gradation issues. There's a slight bit of macroblocking going on in a few scenes with solid colors but when the player was reset to 480p they disappeared.
The Japanese artwork wasn't used with this release though the logo is kept in an opaque form under the English "translation" of it. The Japanese covers looked like they were pretty heavily focused on the logo so it's not too much of a surprise here. The top and bottom halves of the front cover are made up of shots from the show itself so it's easy to get an idea of what the animation is like and that it's a pretty character driven show. The back cover provides a good summary of the premise of the show and lists each of the four episodes and their title while putting shots from the front cover to each of them. The bottom section contains the mixture of production and technical information. The technical information for a number of new Geneon releases is getting harder and harder to discern as the text for it is getting much to small and placed out of the way in making it easy to find, such as the running time on this volume. The insert is a bland piece that has little real artwork to it and lists the chapter stops for each of the four episodes while the reverse side lists the tentative release months for future volumes.
This is probably one of the most understated Nighjar menus I've seen them do yet as it doesn't even have any sound. Using a mixture of images from the show's live action opening and ending sequences and doing it in a creative collage style, there's a neat indistinct nature to much of how this looks with some areas brighter than others while some are overly dark. Going through the center at an angle is the series name with the Japanese logo and below it the English translation and the navigation list. It's a very simple menu and easy to navigate with fast access times. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which is another plus.
The extras are a bit interesting here. There's a clean version of the opening sequence but there are also translated versions of the opening and ending sequences. The ending translation is done once and covers all the credits for the four volumes which are mostly differences in voice actors where leads are only credited and the script writers as well as some of the directors. Since the show retains the original Japanese opening and endings the information had to be included somewhere (though I had hoped for it to follow each set of credits with a full list for that episode) this is better than nothing but not by too much.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when I first got into anime and roughly the next eight years or so, most of what was out there was shows like Robotech and then the first groups of releases like Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, and a lot of other action heavy OVA or films. At the initial age and then the couple of years following, there was definitely a lot of appeal for shows like that. But in the early 90's I managed to get some exposure to other shows like Video Girl Ai, Kimagure Orange Road and Urusei Yatsura. Each of them had outlandish elements to them but they were also very much based in reality in a lot of ways, or with Urusei Yatsura it was based in a long and detailed cultural/religious heritage that was easily had fun with. These are the shows that had me change from being a fan of action anime into someone who became fascinated with Japanese culture itself since they opened a window into a new world that was different than what I had known.
Now that doesn't mean my view of Japanese culture is just based on anime and manga, so don't misread. But my enjoyment of shows that deal with the slice of life aspect is something that I enjoy immensely and something like Human Crossing appeals to me quite a bit. Just like any series that deals with the lives of people in any country, there's a fountain of story ideas to work with and a wide range of things that can be told. Human Crossing, which runs for thirteen episodes, looks to tell a separate tale in each episode about different people and a critical point in their life. These aren't world toppling stories or things that are going to change the perception of anime in general, but for someone like me, these are very fun and enjoyable pieces that showcase parts of what anime is able to accomplish that's rarely done with western animation.
The opening story is one that brings us to the boxing arena once again as we follow a young man whose just won his fourth title defense and is getting close to breaking the legendary Ohba's record. While the boxing segments aren't given all that much screen time in the episode, we do get to see his training period and what got him into it. The show follows two interesting points; one of them is how the character has changed since a little boy when his mother wounded him and he's held a grudge against her since then about many things she's done in her life. The other interesting plot point is how the character is something of a new kind of hero, one that's not had to work hard for anything, not from a down and out family and one that is like many other new celebrities and entertainers in that they're from the good life in general and don't have the real push or drive that really gets them to excel like others. And that it's viewed as a good thing. The two pieces don't relate directly as it's more of a character study of how he has to deal with the changes in his life and what he's done to his mother, but they're both interesting story elements.
One story that I liked a lot had to do with a father who has very strong positive memories from his youth when his own father, who he never saw much at all due to work, brought him a new bicycle. The bicycle gave him freedom to leave his small world and to explore new areas and towns nearby and opened up everything to him. This has been a long held memory of his and as he heads home with a new bicycle for his own son, he's eager to see the excitement and joy there that he once felt himself. So when his son doesn't even turn to look at it and instead continues to watch his show, it sends him into a bit of an internal spiral over the next few months as he tries to understand what he's done wrong, or what he didn't understand in his own past that maybe caused him to misinterpret his own feelings over the years. This delves into his own work ethic and things with his job but what's interesting is that he does take the time to actually talk to his wife about it and try to understand things. Of course, it's easy to understand some of it with the son because you just have to look at the lives of kids today and all that they often have if you're in the middle class range. The number of gadgets and "necessary" toys always seems to go up and for a lot of kids, how can a bicycle compare?
Another story that continues to get some play but not as much as one would expect is the care of ones parents. This one will likely change more in the next decade or so as more young writers have to deal with it within their own families and they have more experience to draw from, but it does appear on this volume. A brother and sister who are at completely different points in their lives had made a decision a few years prior to sell their parents house and that the elder brother would keep all the money from it if he would keep their father with his family. As both of them had issues with him growing up because of his gambling and womanizing ways, neither really wanted him but the elder brother takes him in. For the sister, this works out well until her brother comes and asks her to take him for a month, which brings her to remembering many of the moments in the past and having to confront him about it.
There are some interesting exchanges in it and the way her father is dealing with life now isn't all that surprising. He's either spending his time playing a handheld mahjong game or he spends time criticizing other parents about how sloppily they're raising their kids. Since he knows how badly he did it himself, he feels the only way to make amends for what he's done is to try and get others to not follow in the same path of spoiling too much or letting them get away with not being properly polite and respectful. At a time when many traditions continue to disappear and a lot of what is considered to make up a proper Japanese person going through changes or disappearing, it's a very interesting episode that delves into certain areas of this. But it's also a very emotional episode as so much pain the past has to be dealt with – pain that often isn't remembered. The father laments at one point about how he'd never be able to live another day if he remembered everything he had done in his life. If anyone's grown up with problems in their childhood only to find years later their parents no longer remember doing the things that have scarred you, how do you deal with it? Do you let it all go and try to reconnect or do you subject them to the pain you experienced? This story deals with all of this wonderfully while mixing in a few other interesting pieces to the puzzle.
With a real world focus, the character designs here avoid being the continually beautiful and great looking designs that you normally get. During the second episode where it follows two teenagers who live together and have a child together, the girl isn't overly attractive. In fact, she's even a bit plump and round face which isn't what you usually get in these anime situations. The lawyer himself isn't terribly attractive either in this episode. Some of the characters do have some appeal though, such as the boxer in the opening episode but even he has plenty of time spent with bruises and cuts on him. The family episode at the end is much the same way in that these are normal looking people who have their own beauty to them but they aren't glamour models or studs of the universe walking around. This only adds to the appeal of the show and its level of realism.
For a lot of reasons, a series like this is hugely appealing to me. With some standard stories tied with some cultural issues and the differences of living in a place like Japan as opposed to the US, Human Crossing provides a window into another world where the differences are small but at times critical in just how differently a story will play out. The four episodes here are all rather interesting and provided for a good night of entertainment as well as being something slightly different than what I normally get to watch. While not everything gets a happy ending or truly fully resolved, we get to look into parts of these characters lives and see just what motivates them or confounds them, what helps them excel and what holds them back from achieving success. While it has a more limited appeal than a lot of top tier titles, those that become fans of this show will be very happy that they did so.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Human Crossing