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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 19, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 06, 2006



What They Say
Nothing sends chills down the spine like a wish finally realized. Shoko runs a local radio program where she discusses with listeners their relationships and offers guidance as to how they can keep the fires burning. Her show is successful, her fans love her " she couldn't ask for a better job. The problem: she is having an affair with a married man. As their shaky relationship grows even more unstable, Shoko is forced to ask herself some very important and painful questions " questions she found much easier to answer when someone else was asking them.



Akari has lived alone with her father ever since her mother died. She spends her days working at the local confectionary, doing household chores and taking care of her father. He is an unsuccessful gold digger and a drunk. He spends the majority of his time and Akari's money at a small bar down the street from their house. Each night, he eventually drinks enough to get into a fight and gets kicked out. That's when Akari picks him, takes him home and puts him to bed. It looks like things couldn't get any worse. Until, Akari finds out about her father's illness.



The Review!
With a final pair of stories and then a big coincidence episode to wrap it all up, Diamond Daydreams is a perfect tourism seller for northern Japan.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in 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.

Packaging:
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 for the final volume lets a more adult character take the stage with Shoko going through a bit of personal grooming while looking somber. 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 Akari along the left. 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 Akari in her home clothes doing a bit of cleaning with a bit of a maid look but a more realistic looking one. It's all very well done and a cover that really works to please fans of both girls that at featured here.

Menu:
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 Shoko and Akari 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.

Extras:
This series rounds things out once more with a pretty strong selection of extras for the fans. The standards are available in the usual form of the clean opening and closing sequences. Similar to the previous volumes, a new behind the scenes piece talks about what went into the show. 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. And there's also the amusing Love Dilemma extra which covers Jurota's issues.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Diamond Daydreams finishes out its run in the way I had hoped it would by providing another pair of essentially standalone tales of life in northern Japan that revolve around romance and then to do some sort of closure episode to bring the series together. The two new stories are quite good and build upon the kinds of feelings we'd seen in previous stories while the closure the finale brings is just spot on and doesn't over do with the coincidences.

The opening story is one that I think is likely to become my favorite of the series as it focuses in on Shoko, a woman who works as a radio hostess that does a mix of advice and music. She's popular and gets plenty of faxes and emails but she's coming to a point in her life where she questions her ability to do her job. How can she give advice when her own life is such a mess? As we learn about her, we find that she's involved with a married man who has children. Their relationship is even more awkward than what you'd expect of an affair as they seem to go months without seeing each other and he's completely unavailable to her unless he's with her in person. It's certainly something that works to his advantage but even there it seems to be strangely extreme. Her confusion during all of this comes at the same time that something of a stalker who listens to her show starts doing things for her and getting into places he shouldn't. She takes an amusing turn of being frightened at first and then taking advantage of it as everything in her life otherwise seems to crumble around her.

The second story on the volume is one where a changing perspective in my own life has me identifying more with the parent character than the teenager which alters some of the stories intent I think. It revolves around a father and daughter who are close and have been for the most part since the mother died some years prior but even with that closeness secrets are still kept. It turns out that Akari's father has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and has let it go, which will now end his life sometime relatively soon. Akari has to deal with this while her friend Kurokawa is there to try and help her. The two have a long history between them from their own childhood and each are wrestling with issues, such as Kurokawa trying to find his role as a confectionary maker. For Akari, she's obviously trying to deal with the emotions of knowing her father won't be living long and trying to understand the relationship her parents had and making his last days as enjoyable as possible. The final bonding between the father and daughter is tinged with plenty of emotion, which is supposed to be viewed as the hardships of the daughter, but I kept seeing it from the father's point of view of how difficult it'd be to leave her, which is why I found a lot of the ways he acted to be just so... well, wrong. He just had a certain level of self-involvement that didn't feel really parental.

With a series where everything stands alone, bringing it all together at the end is a dicey proposition since it can feel really forced. It's been done in a lot of movies where you have all these different stories running at the same time and then bring them all together for one event at the end but some don't work as well as others. For Diamond Daydreams, they did a good job of tying a lot of them together in cute ways, some no more than just walk-ons really where they pass each other by in an airport or something, but the overall end piece that really brings it all together over the region is what worked the best and made it all worthwhile. The individual tales get a touch more closure in some of these little moments while others are just minor epilogues, but overall it's one of the better closure pieces that I've seen for a series like this.

In Summary:
Diamond Daydreams is the kind of series where it's got a bit more of a limited appeal to audiences but those that love these kinds of shows will gobble this one up. The series of standalone tales that only really overlap at the end allows for more concise tales to be told without dragging on but still sticking within the framework of the series premise. While some of the tales were weaker than others, all of them had their strengths and built up the different perceptions of what Diamond Dust is all about. This is a series that's definitely aimed at its fans and those that enjoy these tales, especially with the inclusion of copious amounts of extras and attention to providing the alternate covers. It's a release that's essentially problem free and all you could ask for. Definitely recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the scenes in Japan,Panda's Diamond Dust Drops Diary Part III,Jurota Toukibi's Love Dilemma,Hokkaido Travelogue Part III: Jurota Toukibi's Love Dilemma,Japanese language blooper reel,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
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: 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: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Diamond Daydreams (Kita e)