Kamichu Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, May 11, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 06, 2006
What They Say
What would you do if you suddenly became a god? When little Yurie, a Junior High School student, discovers that she is a god, she is beside herself in indecision and asks her friends. Thus begins her new life exploring what it means to be a god and her struggle to properly fulfill all the responsibilities it entails. From finding stray gods to dealing with Martians, her life is about to become more than ordinary.
If Miyazaki in his current form came back to creating a TV series, Kamichu is one very likely result.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a rather good stereo mix that makes use of the various vocal and incidental across the forward soundstage that gives things a good bit of life. The show is primarily a dialogue piece but there is a lot of little moments that sneak in with the way the stories are woven to bring interesting sounds to it. The track overall is pretty good though and we didn't have any problems with either language track with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the show primarily taking place in the real world, it has a lot of the standard colors we're used to seeing in small town and school settings. But there is just such a richness and depth to a lot of the colors that when some of the very fluid animation kicks in, it simply looks gorgeous. The show is fairly slow in how it plays out which allows for it to really shine when things pick up. The transfer for this release just looks gorgeous with beautiful colors, great solid looking areas and a lack of problems such as cross coloration or aliasing. The opening sequence is also kept in its original Japanese and soft subtitled due to the creative nature of its design.
The cover for the first volume is rather simple and deceptive but it fits the show so perfectly as it features Yurie being led on and pushed by those around her into doing something while the background shows off the town and its close to nature kind of setting. The more I look at the cover the more appealing it gets, especially with the original logo style kept and little clutter to it. The back cover features more of the background setting but is covered up with the usual features such as listing the episode numbers and titles, a few shots from the show, the summary and what to expect on the disc. It's all nicely laid out and the text is done in a cute font that's still readable which is a plus. This area gives us a bit better of an idea of what the show is like as it shows off the quirky nature of it. The reverse side features a full length piece of artwork featuring the three main characters all hugging each other and looking upwards that's really cute. The insert for the release is also rather cute as the cover features the three lounging by the water eating popsicles and it opens up to a two part overview of how the show came about being made.
The menu layout is nicely done as it has a similar feel to the front cover with images of the characters and their setting running through it while framed by shrine related items and materials. The relaxed feeling from the menu works well to again accent the kind of show that is on the disc while managing to keep to some good basics by being quick to access and very easy to navigate. The disc didn't read our players' language presets correctly though and defaulted to English with screen text subtitles.
The extras for this seem weak at first but once you get into it, it's a great piece to have. The production art gallery covers the materials used to make up this volumes packaging and details their origins which is a real plus and then it goes into various other illustrations and character artwork but with additional comments by the staff about what they are. The ghost sections provide names and translations and details about them which brings the usefulness of this section up several notches, as well as just being amusing in being able to see some details about these creatures that would get missed during the show itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the advantages to not knowing much about a lot of series before they get released is that going into them can be a real surprise. Without expectations or the baggage of hype, many shows are able to reveal themselves in their own way which is something that I've learned to value over the years as it keeps me from feeling jaded and bored. Kamichu is one of the more interesting surprises that I've seen this year by its first four episodes and the kind of show that I want to just gush about.
Kamichu focuses on a little town with a close knit community where everyone seems to know each others names. It literally drops us into the lives of a young girl in Junior High School named Yurie who tells her best friend Mitsue that she feels only a little different than yesterday since she became a God. Something is definitely different about her though as before she knows it, another classmate named Matsuri comes up to their desks and tells Yurie that there's something very different about her. It turns out that Matsuri is something of a maiden at one of the local shrines so she's very sensitive to these things. She encourages all of them to go up to the roof where Yurie can show off her powers. Yurie's nature in all of this is that of a very quiet and shy girl so she's very unsure of what she can do as a god now but follows Matsuri's lead in which they try to call out some wind. It's a simple thing and we see it occur in a butterfly effect where the wind she calls starts far out to sea and doesn't arrive in the area until a day or two later in the form of a typhoon, amusingly called Yurie.
A lot of the charm of the show comes after things start happening with the typhoon as Yurie becomes more able to see the creatures, gods and other magical elements that make up the world that regular people cannot see. Through the help of Matsuri and her sister Miko, a new world within their town begins to open up. At the same time, the news about Yurie being a god spreads throughout the town and combined with the welcoming nods of the magical creatures, the regular citizens also accept this as a simple truth. Matsuri helps this along pretty well as time goes on by taking advantage... or rather, promoting Yurie as a god by having her do things with the students to figure out their problems as well as pushing the idea of starting a festival to celebrate her arrival as a god.
Some of her early adventures are really interesting as it sets the boundaries of the tale. One of them has Matsuri talking about how the god of their shrine had left three months earlier and has left the place almost in shambles because of it so they all spend time searching around the town for him and meeting many of the creatures that inhabit it before they find the portal that leads to a realm where the gods go to get away from things. This is vastly amusing for some of the little jokes that they sneak into it since almost anything can have a god associated with it, including video formats that don't quite make it or die off over time. Another episode brings the god of poverty into the area, a god that has to travel on a regular basis since nobody likes it to be around since it obviously brings nothing but being poor to those around it. Yurie and the others come up with an idea in order to try and push it away but it takes some amusing turns as it finds a host to stay with and brings something more personal to the situation for Yurie. It also has some hilarious material as you see Matsuri trying to kill a cat with a bow and arrow. It just has to be seen to really get the humor of it.
The first three episodes of this volume do a really good job of creating the setting and working with it in a way that has a very laid back but exciting feel to it. The nature of the kids as they figure out Yurie's powers and she tries to understand the workings of being a god is amusing. She gets some help from another god along the way and starts to learn about the Gods Association that will help her in dealing with things like requests from people who offer up prayers and such to her. The fourth episode though takes a bit of an odd turn as it takes Yurie outside of her town to where the government of Japan actually seems to recognize her as a god even though "she's just like my granddaughter" as one of them says. She's brought in to help in dealing with something that they've found and locked up underground which turns out to be a big pink martian that got lost on its way to NASA. It's just a weird turn of events and in a way takes the show out of its normal environment as established while also bringing in things like national politics, albeit in a light way, that doesn't feel like it should belong on here.
The look and design of this show is just gorgeous at times and that's partially due to the way they are minimal with a lot of things until they really want to do a big action piece which then takes on a greater feel. The character designs avoid looking like carbon copies of standard characters seen on many other shows and with them being in Junior High they're kept to more realistic proportions thankfully so there aren't any massive big breasted women running about. The natural feel, particularly in the first three episodes, is something that the color palette really runs with as these areas tend to look gorgeous. One area that stands out in terms of creativity is what's done with the opening credits in that the people involved are listed in various items and elements that come across the screen, such as a paper flying across lands on a fence and you see the animation director. Since it's not the standard overlaid credits approach, the opening credits are soft subtitled but what really got me was just that simple creativity like this in displaying credits is so far and few between these days.
Kamichu is a highly charming and engaging little show that seems to really have a great sense of style and imagination with it. It's another in a small but strong line of original creations coming out of Japan that buck the formula of so many other shows. Just about everything with this show turned out to be appealing, from its pacing and designs to the way its working the idea of a god into everyday life and what kind of impact it has on things. In a way, it feels like the show is peeling back a layer of reality and showing the unscientific side and how it all works together. This sixteen episode series looks to be a real treat if the first volume is any indication of what to expect.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Gallery w/Staff Comments,Box Item: Three Limited Edition Mini-Pencil Boards included,Box Item: Limited Edition Mini-Wallscroll included,Box Item: Collector's Box is a rigid full color design with a wooden O-sleeve
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2