Hare+Guu Vol. #1 (also w/box and LE wig) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 02, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2006



What They Say
Ten year old Hare enjoys a peaceful life of school, video games, and households chores until his mother adopts an orphan girl named Guu, a girl who's not exactly what she seems. The insidious Guu turns poor Hare's life inside out when she reveals that she's actually a pan-dimensional, mind-reading, magic-using monster with a sarcastic wit, an unlimited appetite, and a taste for driving Hare insane!

Contains 4 episodes:
Begining Beginning
Siesta Guu Guu
Go with Chest hair!
Morning Smooch

The Review!
Sometimes the most outrageous comedies are the ones that play on a more subtle level and while Haré+Guu has both, it has a certain subtlety to it that just makes it all the more enjoyable.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is fairly standard when it comes to the audio track here for a TV series so there aren't too many surprises to find here. The mix is very well done though with some good directionality throughout some of the more wacky sequences as well as some good moments that suck you in with the depth. We did listen to both tracks in the end and had no problems with dropouts or distortions with either of them during regular playback.

Video:
Originally broadcast during 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Having seen only some second hand versions of the show in the years prior to its license, this transfer was simply surprising with how vibrant and smooth it is. The show has a very good sense of color to it with the kinds of palettes it uses, such as some very vibrant colors for the character designs and things they interact it while the backgrounds have a much more natural and muted sense of color. The characters tend to stand out a bit more but they still feel like they belong where they are. The materials here look really good with a clean look, solid colors and an essentially problem free transfer.

Packaging:
The release uses the same cover artwork as the Japanese release but with the logo translated into English but still retaining the same style and elements to it which really just work perfectly. The shot of the two leads smiling and happy may not give off the right impression of what's inside the show but the back cover manages to take care of this with a summary that simply captures Guu perfectly and will intrigue most people. The back cover is fairly busy here with lots of little shots and dialogue added to some of the shots so you get a feel for the wackiness. Episode numbers and titles are included as well as a good rundown of the discs features. The production information is kept from taking over a large chunk of territory and AN Entertainment once again nails the technical grid perfectly. While most companies are moving away from inserts, at least the completely useless ones, we get a really good multi paneled one here entitled Jungle News that covers various liner notes for the show in general, particular parts of episodes and other areas such as character designs and other illustrations. Some of this is translated into the on-disc extras which is good but enough of it is unique to the insert as well.

The first volume was also released in a disc+box variety which will hold all seven volumes of the first series. The box fits in tone with the series very well as it keeps to that jungle style and each of the side panels features characters from the continually expanding cast. The spine panel is the one that has some of the best artwork though as it has the main trio doing their dance together surrounded by all sorts of critters, people and jungle nature items. It's a bright vibrant looking box that really fits the show well. The first run of the box also comes with a rather unique extra in that it has a wig inside. This will really mean absolutely nothing other than just being an odd extra if you haven't seen the show before but once you finish this volume, that wig will take on a whole other meaning. I love that I have the wig now but I'm admittedly afraid to take it out of the bag that it comes in just yet.

Menu:
The menu layout for this series is really nicely done with a straightforward static image in the foreground of the two leads together presumably from a dance shot of them while the logo and selections are arraigned around them in very much the word and graphic style of the series. The bottom has some of the jungle grass to root it all together while the background itself is one of the jungle themed strips that rolls past, all of which is set to a little bit of jungle beat music. It's very cute and fits very well overall. Our players' presets didn't make out too well with how the disc is set up though; the audio selection was fine as it could correctly read the label for Japanese however the sign/song subtitle were the first selectable English subtitle track so it went with that instead of full subtitles.

Extras:
The extras included for the release are solid and a good way to open up a show with. The opening and ending sequences are done in their clean form and there's also a neat extra in a preview of the first episode that was made before its Japanese airing. A good portion of the cultural and liner notes from the insert are carried over onto on-disc "language lessons" and there's also a production art gallery. And an always amusing extra is included with a series of dub outtakes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Haré+Guu, originally known as Jungle wa itsumo Hare nochi Guu, is the biggest show yet licensed by AN Entertainment with its twenty-six episode run. It's also the most well known title as it's had appeal among the online crowd at least for some time now. Based on the manga series by Renjuro Kindaichi, the show is a surprisingly fun and weirdly wacky show that hints at many larger things but starts off by simply showing you how weird it wants to be at times while still keeping within a strangely normal framework.

The show gets underway by introducing us to ten year old Haré and his mother Weda. They both live in a simple but surprisingly modern house in the jungle complete with 128 bit console games. Haré's father hasn't been around for some time and is given little thought as the focus on mother and son is what's important here and their relationship is amusing. Weda's fun right from the start since she has some basic understandings of things that mothers typically don't in most shows as she knows exactly how much work it took him to get to a certain point in his game. She also knows that hitting the reset button on him will get her point across about how she feels about his not doing things he was supposed to do. So with that button pushed, Haré heads out to get the bananas that she wants.

Haré's jungle world is similar to how the house is. Some things are very much archaic or simple in a sense but then there's also some very striking modern things such as the school, statues or other things that the adults bring into it. The jungle side is very amusing as it's filled with plenty of normal creatures but there's also an interesting creature called the Pokute that are unique to this area and are considered gifts from the gods as well as being good eating. While Haré is out getting the banana's he's supposed to get, things go horribly wrong when a giant black shadow rises out of the jungle treetops and chases him until he's back home. The sense of pure evil from it was overpowering but everyone else just writes it off as a childhood fib of some sort.

All of this is prelude to the real danger that's come to Haré's household. When his mother returns from the last town meeting, she's got a very cute little girl with pink hair and light skin in tow and introduces her as Guu. It turns out that she has no parents so she'll be living with them from now on. Guu is entirely adorable with her bright pink eyes and happy smile and just wins over Haré right from the start and the two are quickly great friends. So he's quite surprised the next day when she wakes up that her eyes are black, half open and her demeanor is completely deadpan… so deadpan that you'd suspect her of being actually dead at times. Her entire nature just freaks him out at this point.

And it doesn't stop there. The reality behind Guu becomes readily apparent as Haré finds himself in the position of trying to minimize what she does around him. She's certainly not normal by any stretch as Haré finds her eating up everything and anything she wants. It started innocently enough with a little bird that he knows but when walking to school, she eats up Pokute's, long armed monkeys, elephants and even the giant school statue. Her mouth just wraps around these things are starts gnawing away until it all ends up in her stomach. As Haré finds out when he himself is eaten, her stomach is some sort of pan-dimensional world where everything ends up including several people who don't seem to mind their situation. It's so decidedly bizarre that you can't help but laugh at how it plays out. So Haré spends much of his time trying to get her to not eat the other villagers, getting her to spew them back up or trying to hide her nature since it would just be too much.

There is a lot of situational comedy that comes from this though the gags don't revolve entirely around her eating habits. Guu is so different from the rest of the characters here that just standing next to them causes differences and comedy to ensue as does her deadpan nature. Haré avoids becoming a one note panic character in the early episodes but it's something I can see becoming a problem as it goes on unless something changes in how their dynamic works. For here though, it's very amusing and well done as he tries to keep it all secret. Guu's seemingly not aware of how strange she really is which adds its own fun to it just as she reacts to the things she does with nonchalance.

The animation for the show is quite good as the characters are rather fluid at times and they mesh well with the backgrounds, avoiding that "on top of" feeling that some shows still had at this time. The character designs are fun with their wide eyed look and full colored circles instead of the usual multi-layered eyes we get in other shows. This helps with the gags around Guu's differences in personality but it also casts everyone in a look that's just different enough in general that it helps to reinforce their jungle location and that it's not just another kids school age comedy show. The characters aren't all that rounded at times for looking dimensional but what they do here really does work well for the comedic nature of the show.

With the nature of this show, I spent some time with the English language adaptation of it since it's something that I felt was offbeat enough but still safe enough for my kids to watch. The folks at Bang Zoom, who are co-producers on this series with AN Entertainment, did a wonderful job overall with the production as the English adaptation feels just as full of life and energy as the Japanese version. Alex Simon really nails down Haré right from the start with the frantic nature coupled with his moments of thoughtful observance on things which I thought captured Rikako Aikawa's performance just right while bringing his own spin to it. The one area where I felt that the show has some early misses comes with Jennifer Sekiguchi's performance as Guu. I absolutely adore Jennifer in so many other shows and she does get a lot of Guu's material spot on here but some of it just doesn't get that same kind of style that Naoko Watanabe was able to bring to Guu. Any scene in which Guu is basically burping just felt like it didn't cause the same reaction since it was just so different. She does get a lot of the character right, such as the shifts in personality and doing the Kansai dialect in a sort of gangster version, but it's a performance where I'm hoping more time with the character and new situations will allow the two to really come together better.

In Summary:
Haré+Guu was a show that I knew little about really prior to seeing it since what little I had been shown by others just didn't seem to appeal to me. Sitting down with it in this beautiful looking version though, it just won me over scene after scene. From the first main eating sequence you see Guu going through to the entire episode revolving around the town elder it had me laughing at the right time while still keeping me curious about what this show is really going to be about and what mysteries it has yet to unleash. Haré+Guu is one of those potential cross over comedies within fandom as it should have wide appeal but it also possibly has enough appeal outside as well to bring in some new fans should they see it.

The wig still scares me though.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Dubbing Outtakes, Clean Opening and Ending Animation, Original Japanese Episode 1 Preview, Production Art Gallery, Lazy Sensei's Language Lessons (Translation & Cultural Notes),Limited Edition Release: This serially numbered limited edition includes a colorful series collector's box and a "chest hair afro wig" prop from the show's fourth episode.

Review Equipment
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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AN Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95/39.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Hare+Guu