DearS Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 27, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2006
What They Say
Takeya worries that he will be held back if he doesn't pass his midterms, so Miu takes the initiative to lead a study group in his apartment. However, little does Takeya realize that there are larger forces at work in the universe that will affect his life in ways unimaginable to him. Ren has been recalled as a defective DearS and, not wishing to return to the DearS ship, Ren runs away only to discover what the true meaning of community is.
The recall of Ren becomes the main focus here as everything in the Community seemingly resides on Takeya's choice in the matter.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix for a TV show which means it's all based on the forward soundstage and has a few moments of decent directionality to it, usually some key moments for dialogue and a number of action effects, but is otherwise a full sounding mix. There's nothing terribly outstanding or underwhelming about the mix and it avoids any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a recent TV series it's filled with a lot of what makes shows attractive right now with bold colors and very clean lines and backgrounds. The opening half of the first episode or so looks somewhat soft which initially looked like it was due to the fog in the scene but seemed to carry on beyond that for a bit before it evened out. The growing trend of slightly lighter colors in the character skin which obscures some of the details is also done here, so areas like eyes tend to blend a bit more as well. The transfer appears to be pretty much problem free as there's no visible cross coloration or color gradation where there's large areas of the same color and aliasing is very minimal. The transfer for this feels a bit hard to pin down whether the way it looks is intentional or not having not seen the original release.
The final cover in the series is rather nicely done with plenty of detail and great looking colors once more. This time around it focuses on Rubi with her arms wrapped around Ren which of course pushes her bosom up nicely. This is the kind of aim that Rubi's had all along so it's an amusing and good way to round things out. The pale green border around it and the stylized logo all works really well here and provides for a very soft and appealing cover while still providing plenty of detail to the illustration. The back cover goes for more of the same in mixing the two types of colors and artwork. The right side does a breakdown of episode numbers and titles with a shot from each episode while the full summary is in the center. The discs features are easy to find and all the production information is below it. The insert replicates the front cover artwork while it opens up to a very erotic picture of Ren and Miu coming together for a kiss. The reverse side of the dual sided cover has another good looking piece of artwork with it being the only one to provide a near full cast shot of everyone revolving around Ren.
The layout for the main menu is pretty simple and gets the job done with a blue background that has floating air bubbles going up while the image from the reverse side cover of Miu and Ren. The selections are to the left with the basic navigation and easy episode selection as well as the series logo, all set to a brief bit of instrumental music to it. The design and layout is good but it doesn't excite all that much but it works well and is easy to navigate. Once again they've combined the set-up and extras menu though it seems like I'm the only one it bothers but I'll keep saying it since it leads to a cluttered menu. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
The extras are pretty much as expected with just another art gallery presented here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
DearS comes to a conclusion with the final three episodes on this volume and at the end of it I found myself sitting there wondering what the point of all of it was. Then of course I realized there wasn't supposed to be a point as most harem shows today are little more than fanservice fests. The storyline goes through the paces here about where Ren really belongs since she's not exactly a standard model of the DearS community but it's kept so far to the end of the show overall and even within the last couple of episodes that it almost feels like it was tagged on.
Before the show moves into dealing with the problem of recalling Ren to the Community, the cast have to deal with the problem that Takeya is doing so horrible with his schooling that he may have to repeat his sophomore year. Considering how chaotic his year has been with Ren moving in with him and then everything else that came with it, it's not surprising that his grades are horrible. In a nice change of pace, they actually decide to form a study group so that Takeya will be able to pass so Miu offers her notes and to provide some guidance since DearS are already sent into the world with a university level education. There's a fair bit of amusing comedy that ensues from it, including the arrival of Nia who is of course drawn to Takeya, and for a school based episode with plenty of gags about where Ren lives it all works well and provided for some good chuckles.
As the show winds down, Ren's trying to figure out more and more about what it is to be in a relationship and how to interact with Takeya. Taking cues from TV about wives who basically please their husbands constantly in an unrealistic manner tend to be the method that she uses the most but Takeya isn't up for that and just reacts badly to it. She tries to work through this as best she can and she ends up in an empty classroom with Hiro, the suave and sophisticated student who basically is the darling of most of the women. Ren's na´ve nature gets her close to making out pretty well and becomes such an incident that when Takeya walks in on them he can't believe what he's seeing. It does get him to realize that they aren't quite in a relationship that's normal and his balking against the master/slave thing only makes him further unable to really figure out what he's really thinking or what he really wants.
Everything eventually comes down to the point where Ren's being told she must go back to the Community where she'll be kept in a permanent frozen state since her nature means she's vastly different than mostly conforming society of slaves that she comes from. It's given only a few blips worth of comment that tend to be vague in general but Rubi is set on forcing the issue and making Takeya choose whether to stand by her or not. She's actually wanting a confrontation but the weak willed Takeya won't even give her that since he's still trying to pretend he was like he was before about his distaste for DearS and everything associated with them. There's a few showdown sequences as one of the Biters are sent to retrieve her but for the most part the show ends with a whimper.
And that's where a lot of the problem with the ending here is. While it does resolve some things with the show, the overall feeling is still one of "so what" since it effectively has everything going on the same as before. With the manga series being only eight volumes, there isn't exactly a lot of material for the show and we likely got the bulk of it in the anime version. There's a lot of potential for new material to be explored here with what their society is, their actual history and so forth, but the mystery of Ren isn't even given much lip service here as it ends. The relationship between her and Takeya is where they keep the focus but even that tends to push other potential things to the side and characters like Neneko and Miu get pushed to the background. DearS had some interesting moments along the way and I liked some of its style, but this is one of the least accessible harem style shows I can think of and one with the least satisfying ending – and that's saying a lot considering how few even try to have an ending.
The conclusion to DearS left me pretty much in the same state of mind as a lot of the plots that were introduced throughout the series was pretty disinterested. Like the previous volumes, there were some good moments to be had and jokes and fanservice moments that work, but as an overall presentation the series has little replay value for me. I couldn't make it past the first volume of the manga which told me plenty. The anime fared a bit better but in the end this is one of those series I'm not sad to see finish.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2