Rumbling Hearts Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2007



What They Say
The entire world has gone crazy! Haruka has collapsed back into a coma and Mitsuki has left Takayuki - this time for good. When Haruka wakes up for the second time, she realizes that three years have passed and things change. But Takayuki denies having anyone else in his life. When Mitsuki visits, Haruka learns the truth.

Upset, she wants to know why she lost three years and why she woke up now with everything all screwed up. But most of all, she wants that time back, the three years she slept through. Faced with unpleasant reality, the young girl must have courage enough for them all...

Contains episodes 11-14:
Where the Blame Lies
Friends to Enemies
The Past Will Catch Up
Mayal's Gift

The Review!
With the relationships now at and past the breaking point, all that's left is confrontations and understanding as the series draws to a strong and emotional conclusion.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both this and the English language track are in a very basic stereo mix at 256kbps which leaves it feeling somewhat barren at times. The mix isn't terribly expansive to begin with so it doesn't impact it too much. With it being mostly a dialogue driven show, there isn't a lot going on with the audio even when it comes to placement. The songs are where the stereo channels get their most use but even those are fairly mild compared to some other shows. We listened to the show through on both tracks and didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release reverses a recent trend from FUNimation where several of their new shows haven't looked as good as they should, due to both gradient blocking issues as well as simply looking a bit fuzzy. Rumbling Hearts is one of the best looking releases from them in recent memory with a very clean print that is essentially problem free outside of the last episode. Episode 14's ending, which is done with credits over the show itself and not a standard closing, suffers from some significant blocking and artifacting in general. The multiple angles once again cause trouble. Beyond that, some minor bits of noise crop up in a few areas but they're negligible as is the very minor gradient areas which tend to show during fade in and fade out moments. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is hardly an issue at all. This is a very pleasing on the eye transfer even with its occasional bit of intended softness.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release utilizes the Japanese artwork but it does is reduces it in size and surrounds it with a lot of white space. I'm not sure if this works or not but it is an interesting change of pace as it softens up the edges of the artwork and allows the title to feel more like a novel title than a TV series title. The character artwork is good with some nice vibrant colors and plenty of detail. The back cover continues with the very soft look to it as it has lots of whites and really blends down the imagery used of the clouds and sky. There are a couple of pieces of character artwork and a decent summary alongside the episode title listing but there are a number of shots included as photographs laid out around the bottom half that look really nice. The very bottom has the technical grid and other production information but is very difficult to read due to the small font and the soft blues on the white. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu really works the soft approach with a white background that has Mitsuki and Narumi in the background while a more vibrant image of Haruka is in the foreground. With the music that it uses and the design, it has an almost ethereal feel to it that's very relaxing. The navigation and title are done in very light colors as well that almost blend into the white at times but is still quite usable and easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast but we opted to use the manual language/subtitle selection due to the angle issue and the continuing lack of labels on their subtitle tracks for on the fly changes.

Extras:
The only extras included for this release is the opening and closing sequences in their "textless song" format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final four episodes of the series, I found myself sitting there at the end with this desperate need to reaffirm my own connections to those closest to me. The emotional impact of this show is something that I think is far stronger when you yourself are in a relationship. But it also has such a strong emotional impact for those who aren't that it really stands out. Rumbling Hearts conclusion is one where I wish there was more of an epilogue but the way it's handled is so close to perfect that I can't complain.

With the way the events of the previous volume played out, there isn't anything too surprising going on here at first. Haruka's relapse into her comatose state is a dramatic one and it left Takayuki completely devastated. His mind being drawn in so many ways over the conflicting feelings and emotions has drained him heavily and left him in a state where he'll easily hurt Mitsuki. For her part, Mitsuki has let her feelings and hurt lead her to just become a hollow shell for a bit. That ended up leading her to Shinji and the two of them crossed a line between them that has now left her almost as shell shocked as Takayuki is. She tries to push most of it on Shinji at first but even she realizes how foolish that is and simply disconnects from not only him but also Takayuki.

Though it was easy to see that Shinji would be drawn into this in this way at some point, his reactions to it when Mitsuki pushes him away is interesting. Rather than lash out at Mitsuki for her going with Takayuki or the way she helped him, he lashes out more at Takayuki for putting them all in this situation. It's a series of feelings that are expressed to Takayuki by several people over the series but the words are now ones that are starting to have a real impact on it. Everything has been building up in the back of his head and it's all close to spilling over into understanding for him. All it takes is one more thing, which of course is that of Mitsuki leaving him since she can't believe he really wants to be with her anymore, and Takayuki has to actually confront himself and his feelings.

With everything starting to come together, it's obvious that Haruka won't spend her time asleep again for another three years. The interesting twist this time is that she wakes up without remembering the last time she woke up, though part of me wonders how much of that just might be a ruse on her part to get through it all. Instead of the slow reveal that was originally planned the first time, Haruka has awoken with the intent of realizing what's been going on and just how long she's been asleep. Her mindset becomes vastly different than before as she's now more aggressive and intent on getting back up on her own two feet. It helps that she'd been awake for some time already before this and her body was building up some strength which allows her to really tackle the physical rehabilitation side of things this time.

Like most anime series revolving around relationships, everything seems to hinge on the same thing. If only they'd all actually talk to each other. If Takayuki or Mitsuki had actually told Haruka what they were going through, or what the other was going through, things wouldn't be quite so rough on Haruka. If she knew from Mitsuki what Takayuki went through when she had her accident and the time thereafter, she may not have quite so harsh an opinion of her as she did the first time around. There was certainly reason to mask it from her at first, but the charade simply went on too long and began to really drastically interfere with their present lives. As Haruka says at one point, the person she fell in love with three years prior is no longer who Takayuki is. None of them are the same, even Haruka to some extent, and these changes, this growing and going forward, is what has made the show as engaging as it is.

If there are any complaints I have about the show it all comes down to two things at the end. The first is on the side of the creative staff of the show in that I longed for more in the epilogue dealing with either Takayuki or Mitsuki. Both of them get very little time compared to Akane or Haruka or even Shinji in some ways. Extrapolating where the Takayuki and Mitsuki would end up based on how the series goes is one thing but seeing it would have meant far more. The other is that FUNimation dropped the ball on the ending with its key scenes. As it shows pages from a children's book, there is Japanese text there that mirrors what they've all been through. The text is left untranslated " though some text on separate material later in the epilogue is translated. The lack of onscreen text translations has always been FUNimation's weak point but it's highly pronounced here.

In Summary:
I had little in the way of expectations with this series beyond being a high school romantic comedy. Knowing next to nothing about it going into it, it floored me with how it dealt with these characters and their evolution and pain. There are few shows where you can really feel the pain of what they go through but it's plainly evident and striking here. The drama at times is a bit much and some of the characters act in erratic ways, but it all works together within the context of the premise. Rumbling Hearts has quickly become of the most engaging and emotional series I've ever seen and will stick with me for quite a long time. Few shows really achieve this kind of emotional connection with the viewer but Rumbling Hearts is in a class all by itself with what it did here. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Closing,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> 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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rumbling Hearts