Kodocha Vol. #09 (of 13) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What They Say
Sana joins a singing trio and her carefree attitude is driving her co-star, Mayu, nuts. If Sana doesn't win Mayu over, there could be fireworks... literally. Back at school, Tsuyoshi has a secret admirer. A test for the lovebirds awaits as Aya's jealousy starts to get the best of her.

Contains episodes 33-26:
Love Tastes Like Curry
Three, Two, One: Sing!
There's a Reason for the Gift
Take Me to Kutatsu!

The Review!
Keeping to standalone stories, Sana continues to get involved in everyone's life and as usual things seem to revolve around her, at least in her eyes.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is listed as being in stereo but it's very much a product of its time and is a very center channel oriented track that's a touch low overall. While I don't have any problems with the track itself, it definitely does feel less full than a lot of other titles of its time and especially against anything more recent. In general however, the dialogue is clean and clear and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

* - In the audio selection section, there is an asterisk that's selectable. Loading this up, FUNimation has provided a text screen explaining the audio issues found in the series. While I do think they could have made it a bit more noticeable, I will completely give them credit for not only talking about it at conventions and online, but making it clear to the other 95% of the buying market (after purchase unfortunately) exactly why the presentation for the audio is off in a few areas. With this volume the issue is essentially down to the opening sequence being.

Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this series overall look pretty good considering its age and all but it's not completely problem free. With it being done in the traditional animation style, there's a touch more fuzziness around some areas such as the hair but it's very minor. It wasn't all that visible on my 50" set but was more noticeable on the 23" set. The other noticeable issue is that there's a bit of frame jitter during various scene transitions. It doesn't appear during every transition but it's there. The show overall has a slightly soft feel to it which is accentuated by the light color palette used.

The covers continue about the same here in that it's an interesting layout in how minimal it really is with the amount of empty space. The background does get filled up a bit more this time as there are a few small-bodied type designs around the central figure of Sana and the dark green does a better job as a background for hiding how open it would look otherwise. The logo does a nice job of trying to capture the original piece and the color scheme is pretty much as expected. I love that they use Babbit for the volume number for what's apparently being called the "Babbit Box" so you can tell what box the volume belongs in. The back cover is done sideways for most of it with the summary and episode listings being angled like that while the artwork sort of goes across all directions. The discs features, production and technical information fill out the bottom and it's a bit cramped but it's all there and still fairly easy to read depending on how well your eyes are. The colors at least don't clash here. No insert was included with this release.

The main menu is a cute simple static piece with a shot of Sana set against a set of wavy dark green lines background as a brief bit of mellow instrumental music plays along. The layout is pretty standard and it's bright and colorful and fits the show nicely but it is pretty simple overall. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc doesn't handle the player presets too well for subtitles since they're unlabeled but it picked up the audio fine. However, with FUNimation titles it's always safer to select via the menu since that will change which angle you view it for the opening and closing sequences.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Already halfway through the second Babbit Box, this volume of Kodocha moves us through the mid-thirties of the series and some rather enjoyable episodes, even if they are fairly forgettable in the long run. Similar to some recent episodes, there isn't anything here that truly stands out as great material in the series but that's only because we've had such great high points already. The show is still working through its run of episodic stories that have little impact from one to the next and it allows the cast to move around a lot more freely, tackling different things without fear of heavy continuity of a big storyline.

The mix of episodes is pretty fun even though it doesn't seem to have much depth to it. One of the first episodes has Sana being part of a new musical group for a one time event and it has her teaming up with a pair of girls to do it. One of the girls is quiet and friendly but the other, Mayu, is one of those problem child actresses that get trotted out along with her far too interfering mother. Mayu believes she's the star of stars and everyone will wait for her but it all goes downhill in a very frustrating manner for her when she realizes that Sana is that person. And even worse, Sana doesn't realize it not really consciously take advantage of it. Mayu ends up competing against her the whole time but Sana doesn't realize it at all. To make it worse, whatever Mayu comes up with that she thinks will humiliate Sana ends up having the opposite effect. Seeing Sana from a much more business-like and ambitious persons perspective is a nice change of pace.

This volume also has a pair of school based episodes. The first is very amusing and harkens back to some of the early wackiness of the series. Sana finds out that through Tsuyoshi, Child's Toy is coming to her school since he writes that it's a virtual paradise now compared to how it used to be and even a couple of the teachers are love-dovey. Tsuyoshi does seem to view the world through rose colored lenses when he's happy. His timing is as usual the worst once again since once it's decided to go to the school, the boys and the girls in Sana's class find themselves at war again. This time it's over who should be doing the cleaning as the boys think the girls are better suited for it and the girls just hate that. The teachers get drawn into it as well and it just builds up more and more steam as events spiral out of control. The cute part is watching Hayama being completely uninvolved really and Sana trying to get him to help as she needs to defuse it before her Child's Toy people get there.

Another episode could be called "Tsuyoshi in Love" as he finds himself being sent mysterious letters and gifts. His heart most definitely belongs to Aya but at the same time he's a weak man, a very weak man in fact in that he sets his sights on whoever sends him presents. There's some very obvious cliché's to go with there and some nice gender reversal. The mystery part of the story is downplayed in favor of Tsuyoshi simply being moon-eyed over his mysterious paramour while Sana tries to make sure Aya doesn't get hurt. Sana's trying to help is what gets her in trouble in another episode when she, Rei and her mother head off to her grandmother's inn to spend some time. Her grandmother is just as crafty as her mother and hatches a not so elaborate plot to snare her a successor in Sana, but the real humor throughout here is watching Rei trying to out perform the head clerk as well as the way Sana's grandmother watches Hayama. Having Hayama and his family show up brought a nice twist to things and seeing the ever so laid back father be himself is just the latest in a series of priceless moments for him.

In Summary:
While I do miss the bigger stories and the emotional pendulum that was Kodocha in its earlier stages, I'm thoroughly enjoying these standalone episodes and all that bring to the table. Sana's getting fleshed out a bit more by experiencing a number of different relationships through those she knows while still fostering the one she has with Hayama in a very slow and careful manner. First and foremost though, she continues to be a very happy person and that exuberance shines through into the rest of the show and makes it addictive. We know she can do both the highs and the lows of emotion but these episodes let us see a bit more of her balanced side. While not a top of the line set of episodes compared to some in the first Babbit Box, this one is solid through and through and a good addition to the lengthy series.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kodocha