Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

Review Date: Monday, June 27, 2005
Release Date: Friday, August 06, 2004

What They Say
Normal high-school student Takeru Takemoto encounters a bright light during his part-time motorcycle delivery job. He stops and looks around, and sees a beautiful girl named Hikari emerging from a shining cocoon in the woods. Takeru falls for her instantly, but a monster suddenly appears and attacks her.

Takeru's pleasant days pass by with the mysterious Hikari, Akari, his classmates, and cousin Mari.

These days are normal days, but to Hikari they are all wonderful.

The Review!
This volume was viewed with the only audio track, a linear PCM Japanese 2.0 track, which sounded very nice. Unlike Dolby Digital tracks, PCM tracks aren't compressed and can offer a better auditory experience. The mix is well done, with good directionality, subtle background sounds, and clear dialogue.

Being from 2004, the show makes use of the latest in digital animation and the results on DVD are excellent. The show is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, which lends a greater sense of scope to the proceedings. The transfer looks great with lush and vibrant colors, clean linework, and few artifacts.

The front cover features a nice shot of Mari and Hikari in school uniforms illustrated by character designer Kazuhiro Takamura, which is also used on the booklet and picture-labeled disc. The back is pretty standard with screenshots and episode summaries along with a staff and cast listing. First edition bonuses included two semi-transparent illustration cards and a proof of purchase to collect and send in for a special omake DVD.

The only menu available is straightforward and well-designed, with animated episode clips and moving sparkles over the image used on the cover as the background. You can access all the chapters as well as the extras from the main menu while the music from the pre-opening sequence plays in the background.

The on-disc extras include a pair of TV commercials, a short music video for the opening song featuring singer Yoko Takahashi in a slightly goofy-looking outfit, and a few trailers for other Geneon series released on DVD.

Content: (may contain spoilers)
The preceding pair of episodes didn't do much aside from introducing a new character, and the show's continued leisurely pace belies its short run. The cast is added to again here, and the main story starts moving along, albeit incrementally.

There have been a lot of new experiences recently for the girls from space, but real life sets in and everyone has to go to school. Thanks to Jennifer's help, Hikari is able to transfer in and spend the days with Takeru and everyone else. The show seems to be using colors as a theme, highlighted in the ending song and in things the characters say, especially Hikari. Seeing new colors is akin to exploring the world and experiencing new things.

Hikari seems disappointed that school isn't more exciting, and wonders why everyone else would go there. Her line of thought highlights how little she understands about the world, especially that there are always bad times in addition to the good ones. This isn't dwelled on for too long though, as the school runs a disaster drill. Everyone assembles outside except for Hikari, who has taken on her evil-looking appearance from the first episode. She smiles a creepy smile and places her hand on a support column, activating a blue crystal inside that brings the school down behind the assembled students and faculty outside.

Looking through the rubble for Hikari, Takeru finds not only her and the class rep, but a huge robot-like creature who calls Hikari his master. Back at Takeru's place he introduces himself as Ioneous, and the blue crystal we glimpsed is at the core of his being. When Hikari woke him, he broke the column and accidentally destroyed the school. We also learn that Kuon is similar to Ioneous, just a lot smaller. A boozy Jennifer bursts in and plies Ioneous with beer, which he loves.

The next day everyone heads back to school to help with the cleanup. Hikari's mood brightens when she sees a lot of people there and realizes that it's not such a bad place to be after all. Later in the evening everyone gathers around a bonfire and the evil voice inside Hikari says that everything is transitory and that it will all end soon. Depressing stuff, but she snaps back to her normal self as an announcement is made that summer vacation is starting early this year. Takeru promises to show Hikari a lot of new and exciting things, making her happy.

The gang decides a trip into the mountains is a good way to start the summer off, and everyone finds something fun to do, even Jennifer and Ioneous, who drink from an impossibly large stash of alcohol. Takeru's male friends Shinichi and Daijirou keep up their two-dimensional act, serving only to pop in and act jealous or to fantasize about getting a girl. I'm glad they're not given much screen time, and Hamaguchi and Kawahara from Mahoromatic were far more entertaining.

As the evening comes to a close the group's final activity is a test of courage by going through a dark forest to get to large rock at the top of a hill. Takeru and Hikari set off together, making Mari jealous, and on the way up get to know each other a little better. They're interrupted by a monster that chases them to the top, where they're cornered. The monster turns out to be an extremely inebriated and angry Ioneous, and he breaks the rock at the top, releasing heated water. Everyone then hops into the impromptu hot spring to enjoy themselves. As the episode comes to a close, Hikari is sad even after her happy experiences, and Takeru does his best to cheer her up. The two sit together under the stars in each others' company and look forward to what the future holds.

In Summary:
Halfway into the show, I still have no idea where things are going. At this point the show is largely slice-of-life content mixed in with small hints at the serious storyline that will begin to unfold in the latter half of the series. Things are kept light and fun here, and the budding relationship between Takeru and Hikari is fun to watch in all of its awkwardness and baby-step progression.

Episode Notes:

- In episode 5 there's a small cameo by Guri (Suguru's dog in Mahoromatic) inside the class rep's scrapbook.

- The onsen scene in episode 6 features a lot less steam compared to the broadcast version.

- The distinctive voice of Ioneous is provided by Keiichi Noda, previously heard as Slash in Mahoromatic.

Japanese 2.0 Language,TV commercials,'Metamorphose' music video,Geneon previews

Review Equipment
Sony KLV-23M1 23" LCD HDTV, Toshiba SD-4900 progressive region-free player via Acoustic Research component cables, Sony STR-DE897/S receiver, Sony SA-VE367T 7.1 channel speaker system.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Geneon Entertainment, Japan
MSRP: �5000
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: This Ugly Yet Beautiful World