Diamond Daydreams (Kita e) Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, May 01, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What They Say
The stuff of dreams is a cloudy haze - that is, until one comes true. Take a trip up north for a series of stories from six women and their trials of love, loss and life in Hokkaido.

Kyoko is an aspiring young filmmaker. To create compelling stories and capture them in an engaging way has become her only goal in life. It is her passion - and she will stop at nothing to make it happen.

In pursuit of her dream, she spends her college days obsessed with her craft and neglecting everything else around her. As her intensity for directing grows, so does the rift between Kyoko and her closest friends and colleagues. She has begun to lose her touch for the intimate world around her; unfortunately, that is exactly where a true master of cinema draws their inspiration.

Suomi was born to be on the ice. Graceful and strong, she always commanded her skates to glide with delicate ease. As children, she and her friend Hanna often dreamed of winning tournaments and sharing medals when they grew up. But that was a long time ago. Suomi's star has faded and she and Hanna are no longer friends. Life has moved on - leaving Suomi's dreams behind.

When it appears that Suomi may get the chance to perform again, a flood of memories take her back to her humble beginnings, to her once wonderful friend Hanna, and to a promise made long ago.

The Review!
Diamond Daydreams hits up two more tales of young women which includes one that has an unaired episode.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series, being primarily dialogue and not that big on action effects, has a solid stereo mix that does some good work with forward soundstage directionality as the cast interact with each other and cast their inner thoughts about. The music and some of the minor incidental moments are about the only places where the stereo channels really get any sort of workout but the vocal pieces for the opening and closing sequences are strong and sound great. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and in listening to both tracks we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented n its original full frame aspect ratio. The show's recent vintage works to its advantage here as it has some very good looking clean but detailed artwork and character designs throughout it. With it being focused on the slice of life material and many real world locations there is a good bit of attention paid to the details and designs so it's got a bit more to it than some of the bland backgrounds you might get elsewhere. The real world coloring style accents it nicely though they play with some very vibrant colors in a few areas as well. There is a bit of aliasing in a couple of scenes here that have a lot of close line work and there and some mosquito noise break-up in some characters hair during a few scenes but overall it's a pretty solid looking transfer.

The covers again are something that gives the fans of the show exactly what they want as it provides for the different arcs and original artwork. The front cover has a subdued shot of Kyoko in her apartment just being herself in an everyday moment, which while it may be hard to use a a show seller it's one that really reflects the content. The logo along the top mixes in snowflakes in its design while along the bottom it shows headshots of all six girls that comprise the series. The back cover provides a strip down along the right of the two leads from these episodes and provides a nice shot of Suomi in the center. Between the two it covers the basic premise for the show and these two storylines. As busy as it already sounds, they do a nice job of also putting in the discs features and a technical grid along with production information without making it feel like it's impossible to find anything. It's again very well laid out here. The reverse side provides the cover art from the Japanese volume with Suomi in a kimono against the trees while the back cover is reworked a bit for Kyoko. It's all very well done and a cover that really works to please fans of both girls that at featured here.

The main menu layout for this release is nicely done and one of the ones from ADV recently that shows a bit more effort put into it. Using the character artwork for Kyoko and Suomi side by side, it has them laying on the white indistinct background as snowflakes of different sizes float down from the top and the background shimmers with white flashes as the music plays along. It's got a nice bit of life and energy to it and is well laid out as well, with each of the two episode blocks for each girl separated and named while the basic navigation is along the bottom. Access times are nice and fast as the various menus are loaded or the show is started up and the disc played according to our players' language presets.

This series once more has a pretty strong selection of extras for the fans here. The standards are available in the usual form of the clean opening and closing sequences. Similar to the first volume, there's a short video interview with the director that talks about the show and what went into it. The DDD Time radio show makes another appearance as it lets the voice actresses have a bit of fun with their characters and the franchise in general. The travelogue in Hokkaido is back and it's one of my favorite pieces since it shows just how close a lot of the animation is and just to see the real places. The last and most curious extra is the "Panda's DVD Diary" which is a multi-screen diary piece from one of the PR folks working on the show during its initial creation and airing that took on a persona of a panda in order to just be a little different. This offers a number of behind the scenes looks and quirks about the production. Rounding it all out is a small next episode preview for the unaired episode so that all parts of it are complete.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Diamond Daydreams was something that simply appealed to me on a number of levels. The brief stories of humanity as seen through a different cultural lens is something that's always interested me and there've been a number of good shows in the anime realm that have done it as well as other mediums. While they're not exactly Decalogue or even approaching it, the chance to see a bit more into Japanese culture through the details is something that's kept me enjoying the hobby as long as I have. Diamond Daydreams feeds that particular need much as Ghost in the Shell feeds the inner geek.

This volume has some good material on it, though I think it's a touch weaker than the first volume, but it also has an interesting layout to it. The first story is like the others in that it's two parts but the second story was one where they designed it to be a two part piece but you could get a sense of accomplishment and closure with just the first episode. As has been guessed, it looks like the show was slotted for a certain number of weeks but they ended up with an extra episode and used the layout like that to provide an unaired original episode for the Japanese DVD run. It takes the second story and does almost a "And then..." kind of feeling after doing the "Happily Ever After" ending. That gives the second half a rather interesting feel and pacing to it.

The pair of stories here are quite different and welcome. The opening tale revolves around a young woman named Kyoko who is in college and spends a lot of her time in the cinema club. This is the equivalent of a film club where they go about making movies with their limited budget and equipment " equipment Kyoko bought with the prize money she won the previous year in an amateur contest " and generally having a good time. They typically alternate who is directing and it's landed on Kyoko as she's trying to win the prize again and has become completely focused on it, to the point of not figuring out what her movie is really about and alienating those around her. This becomes almost obsessive on her part and she's eventually able to even force away her very laid back boyfriend as she tries to find out what it is inside of her that's changed. The tale is fairly somber at times but provides a lot of great backdrops of the region and its historical locations that are a character unto themselves. What's most amusing is that the club could only get two actresses to take part and indicate that they're the only ones on campus. Considering how many college age students also dabble in theater, that's scary that it's so little.

The second tale has roughly the same pacing to it but has a bit more action to it in some scenes as it deals with the goals of two girls who've grown into women. As children, they each made a promise to each other to win the gold in skating and left the details of figuring out how both of them could win to the future. The story focuses initially on Suomi as we find out that she dropped out of things three years ago when she was a huge national star and was run into by someone on her own team. She recovered but she didn't go back into the rink and ended up with some deep seated issues about friendship and what choices one makes in life. The aired episode covers her meeting a young boy who has problems with his own friend similar to hers at the core and she sort of walks him through it like an angel before it goes into the unaired episode that deals with the more adult aspects of her own problems. It's in interesting pair of episodes that has a different style of pacing from the previous three girls since it wants to give some closure in the first episode but as it goes on it really is neat to see it all tie together as well as it does in a bigger context.

In Summary:
While the first volume had tales that I would have liked to have seen continued on for more than the two episodes we were given, these leave me with more of a sense of closure. The appeal of the opening episode with its amateur film crew material and the details involved was pretty strong for me since that's an area I have a lot of interest in. The second tale had a bit less in general because skating isn't a huge draw and coming from Boston where we were subjected heavily to the entire Kerrigan skating incident years ago I had flashbacks because of how this one played out. On the whole though, this is a series that's definitely got appeal to it with well defined if erratic characters who are going through the "twixter" stages I guess you could say and trying to figure out where it all goes. If you liked the first volume you'll really like what's here, especially if the extras were a big appeal.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with director,DDD Time Segment,A Hokkaido travelogue,Panda's Diamond Dust Drops Diary Part 2,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation,Unaired Episode Preview

Review Equipment
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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Diamond Daydreams (Kita e)