Kodocha Vol. #03 (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, November 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
What They Say
Sana's world is turned upside down when she learns that her relationship with her manager and "boyfriend" Rei Sagami is not what she believed it to be. After a most unexpected first kiss from her archrival Akito, Sana decides the only solution is to run away from home! Right or wrong, it seems Sana will be lost forever - unless Akito can bring her back!
Meanwhile, a whirlwind of guilt-inspired work gives Sana a taste of grown up life, but is she up to the task? She'll find out when Akito's family suffers yet another crisis! And what's going on with Tsuyoshi?
Gags from the start of the show turn into serious moments as Sana and some of the others are forced to grow up the way most kids are " the hard way.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is listed as being in stereo but it's very much a product of its time and is a very center channel oriented track that's a touch low overall. While I don't have any problems with the track itself, it definitely does feel less full than a lot of other titles of its time and especially against anything more recent. In general however, the dialogue is clean and clear and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
* - In the audio selection section, there is an asterisk that's selectable. Loading this up, FUNimation has provided a text screen explaining the audio issues found in the series. This includes the opening song being unavailable as well as bits of audio from the first two episodes and the episode previews. While I do think they could have made it a bit more noticeable, I will completely give them credit for not only talking about it at conventions and online, but making it clear to the other 95% of the buying market (after purchase unfortunately) exactly why the presentation for the audio is off in a few areas. As of this volume the issue is essentially down to the opening sequence being different and no audio during the next episode previews as the episodes themselves were problem free.
Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this series overall look pretty good considering its age and all but it's not completely problem free. With it being done in the traditional animation style, there's a touch more fuzziness around some areas such as the hair but it's very minor. It wasn't all that visible on my 50" set but was more noticeable on the 23" set. The other noticeable issue is that there's a bit of frame jitter during various scene transitions. It doesn't appear during every transition but it's there. The show overall has a slightly soft feel to it which is accentuated by the light color palette used.
Using artwork similar in design and layout to the Japanese releases, the artwork used here keeps its focus strictly on the characters with a bland purple background while the five principal characters of these episodes are ringed around each other with varying states of emotion. The logo does a nice job of trying to capture the original piece and the color scheme is pretty much as expected. I love that they use Babbit for the volume number for what's apparently being called the "Babbit Box" so you can tell what box the volume belongs in. The back cover is done sideways for most of it with the summary and episode listings being angled like that while the artwork sort of goes across all directions. The discs features, production and technical information fill out the bottom and it's a bit cramped but it's all there and still fairly easy to read depending on how good your eyes are. The colors at least don't clash here. No insert was included with this release.
The main menu is a cute simple static piece with a shot of Hayama and Sana together with a befuddled Rei behind them set against a wavy purple background as a brief bit of instrumental snappy music plays along. The layout is pretty standard and it's bright and colorful and fits the show nicely but it is pretty simple overall. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc doesn't handle the player presets too well for subtitles since they're unlabeled but it picked up the audio fine. However, with FUNimation titles it's always safer to select via the menu since that will change which angle you view it for the opening and closing sequences.
The extras are a bit minimal but I don't expect any to begin with so whatever shows up is pretty much welcome. The character profiles are dropped with this volume so the only extra is the actor commentary where they tackle another episode and how they dealt with its production.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kodocha serves up another four episodes and the show covers a lot more ground as it moves through some new storylines and sets up others. One of the that separates Kodocha from so many other shows is that you don't exactly get the formula episodes each time as a self contained piece but rather they introduce parts of it several episodes ahead, touch on it occasionally, and then move into it. This gives the stories a more natural flow and feel and keeps each of the episodes from feeling like "morals of the week" kind of episodes.
The focus on Sana's relationships as they grow and change as she gets older is what makes up the bulk of the episodes here. With the introduction of Asako recently, she's had to struggle with the possibility of Rei not being quite as faithful to her as he should be so she's either stuck to him like glue or given him the cold shoulder while trying to figure things out. Their relationship has been strong since she essentially adopted him but she's been completely clueless about what has been going on, such as her mother actually paying his salary and her completely lack of understanding of what the word pimp means. This phrase thankfully made it back into the dub after a few episodes of being toned down and that's important because it's a key moment here when her mother confronts her about it since Sana doesn't seem to be getting what's going on between Rei and Asako.
While it doesn't always happen in real life, she does get a parallel to work with as she finds the positions reversed when she meets Tsuyoshi's younger sister Aono in school. The little girl came up to her class to get an autograph and Sana learns that she's taking care of an egg, keeping it nice and warm, so that it'll hatch. Of course, it'll never happen but Sana has fond memories of some of her own childhood dreams and she wants to be able to give Aono some of that childhood fantasy that every child should have so she plots to swap out the egg for a real chick. Not surprisingly, Akito is completely against it and has no issues saying it which only infuriates Sana. Akito's against the idea since she'll eventually learn the truth and just be completely embarrassed about it, which is something that Sana actually makes the leap with in regards to her situation with Rei.
Akito has a lot of fun in this set of episodes as it all starts off with a recap of the kiss that he gives Sana which totally messed with her head. She's been freaking out about that which lead to her being more with Rei for awhile and eventually taking on a lot of work as they hash out their own relationship. Sana's still very confused by Akito in general though her expression is great when she realizes that he was over at the house because her mother wanted to meet him to see what he was all about. Her understanding of the situation is spot on and she's enjoying watching her daughter struggle to figure it all out, especially when Akito says things about how he doesn't hate her, which she starts to get the real meaning of later when Akito's family goes through a medical crisis and the possibility of losing his father is introduced into the show.
With the way new things are weaved in and out of the show it really gives everything a great flow. There are some interesting hints along the way about the book that Sana's mother is writing, timed to very much confuse and torment Rei, but we also get some of the more obvious hints of something bad coming up for Tsuyoshi when comments are made about him always being bruised or hurt lately. It probably flies better with the younger set who don't have as much experience with basic storytelling concepts because it's just such an obvious thing. Of course, with a show like Kodocha, whatever is obvious may not really be so when it actually plays out. This volume also goes to have a heck of a lot of fun with Zenjiro as he gets to suffer under Sana's methods both in the Child's Toy studio and when he takes on a lot of commercial work with her. FUNimation does a decent job of trying to get his speech pattern across without making it too difficult to read which helps a lot.
Across the four episodes there is a lot of things going on as the kids find themselves on the cusp of the age where a lot of things in life start moving away from the dreaminess of childhood into the much colder and harsher realities of adulthood. What makes this show so enjoyable is the great balance that Daichi brings to the work by knowing exactly what elements from the manga work in bringing out the zany nature of Sana and the way she lives and mixing it with the equally mature storylines with an interesting cast. While the kids do act older than real kids would be, the end result is a very funny and very touching show that turns on a dime when you least expect it. Kodocha isn't for everyone but I cannot recommend it enough.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,English Commentary
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2