Hoop Days Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, September 03, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What They Say
A strange new girl shadows the team and appears to know Taku. Mutsumi gets furious over this which gets to her game. Coach Shimojo pulls her out and orders Mai to take her place. With the girls team making it into the tournament finals, will they pull it together for a win?

The Review!
While the boys game finishes out, we get to understand these kids a bit more before checking out the girls action.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is really quite good because they opted to be minimal for a lot of the track in terms of ambient sounds and effects. What they kept in is making things like the noises of shoes and enhancing that, particularly on the basketball court. When the players are in motion the forward soundstage is very active as they're everywhere. The mixture of the tracks from Avex blend in perfectly and doesn't overwhelm the dialogue or the action from the show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing back in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials used for the show overall look good and the transfer does an excellent job of bringing over what the creators did visually but it's not completely free of problems. One of the areas that's minimal but noticeable is that there's some bleeding going on with the reds, generally seen on the scoreboards with the team names. There's some slight aliasing that shows up in a few areas throughout as well where there's some tight line work on the uniforms but otherwise it's pretty clean. There's a lot of visual tricks done with the photography of the show that either soften or sharpen areas of the show and those came across well but could be confused for authoring issues.

I'm really glad that Bandai used the original Japanese cover art for this series but turned it on its side. I'm still ambivalent about the covers being done in the other direction but with how they turned it here, it allows for the headshot on one side that takes up most of the space and just looks good with the face shot against the bright orange and yellow background while the rest of the empty space can be used in the back panel to provide a bit of continuity. The back cover provides one action shot from the show and does a decent job with the summary and listing the discs episodes and features. The technical information is a bit haphazard to find but it's at least together but I wish they'd be much more detailed about what's available on the disc. The reverse side of the cover features the same artwork as the front but without what's covering up the back cover as well as providing the original series logo and design. No insert is included with this release.

The menu layout is a nice static piece that sets the tone for the show with a cast shot of the five leads in their team uniforms set against an action shot from one of the games. It's all done with a lot of blue line work that gives it an interesting feel and isn't a color or style you'd normally associate with basketball, or at least I don't. The menu looks good overall and navigation is quick and easy. The disc unfortunately only read one of our players presets properly as the full English subtitle track is the second listed English subtitle track. Access times are nice and fast and everything loaded just as it should otherwise.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For better or worse, the last volume ended in quite the cliffhanger as things were getting nasty with the first full on game that the Mizuho guys get to play. Between it being their first as a team and against the coach that caused so many problems for Fujiwara, it certainly has a lot riding on it. Add in the physical problem and that the guys are really all just starting to get back into the swing of things, it was a pretty exciting match and played out that way right until the end, which is covered in this first episode here. It's a bit awkward coming in at the end of the match but once it gets underway it all comes flowing back.

With the game being played out as expected, the show takes a fairly simple turn by bringing the team together with the women who have been supporting them heavily in this first instance and they head back to Aikawa's place for a celebration meal. It may seem kind of cheesy in how it's done, but it works in the context of these kids and their lives. Over the meal, a relaxed and happy event, we get to see the various events that have brought them all together over the years, from the way Fujiwara brought Miura on board to Mizuho so that they could go to Inter-High together and his desire to learn under the Mizuho coach because of his training in America to the rivalry they had with the other two at their own junior high. Aikawa's material comes into a bit as well but over the course of the episode we really get to understand the basic motivations that these kids have in wanting to play basketball.

And that's the thing to remember. They're just kids, teenagers, who have very basic goals and are focused solely on them because they can be at this time in their lives. It avoids some of the things you'd have in a normal after school special as there's no drugs, no sexual issues really or other distractions. It's all about their love of basketball. That's not to say love of other kinds doesn't enter it. Mai is really swooning over Aikawa but she's doing it in the right way by not letting it overpower her or throw her game. Mutsumi on the other hand is having problems with Fujiwara because of his somewhat standoffish nature which is combined with other problems that come into play. The big one initially is the arrival of Satomi Anzaki, a fellow student who knew Fujiwara from junior high school and has some sort of issue with him.

To the team's surprise, she's been made the manager of the boys' team and she puts them through a rigorous series of basic training drills while insisting that Fujiwara work on his physical fitness and some doctors' visits to work over his knee. Fujiwara, having been made team captain, finds himself in a very different position than when he was a freshman and getting into trouble with the coach so he takes things very seriously. Unfortunately for him, so do the seniors who were forced to miss a year of basketball and are not happy that Fujiwara's playing again and that the school has a team. Between the grief they lay on him and the apparent agenda of the vice principal, there isn't an easy path for the kids to follow as they work towards the Inter-High match but they all have the enthusiasm and energy for it.

In Summary:
I've seen a lot of criticism of Hoop Days and I can certainly understand it but when I sit down to watch this show it does exactly what I thought it would do. It inspires me. It makes me feel good. And it entertains me. While it has its areas where the characters have problems, the show is all about a bunch of teenagers who love playing basketball and want to excel and achieve. It's a very positive show with a feel good story about kids who surmount the obstacles in front of them. That's the basis of pretty much every school sports show and Hoop Days, whose animation certainly isn't anything to really rave about, tells the story wonderfully. This is a series that will get repeated viewing from me.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hoop Days