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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, June 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What They Say
Emotions boil over as Sana is faced with some harsh realities. Takeshi is in the hospital, but Sana is led to believe he is on the road to recovery. In reality, his days are numbered. Sana isn't dealing with any of it very well, when a tragic turn of evens leaves her reeling. Despite the support of both family and friends, she just can't find the strength to go on.

Seeking to recapture the good times from the past, Sana makes a dangerous decision and travels deep into the winter-locked mountains... Putting more than just herself in jeopardy. Will the distraught diva come to her senses before it's too late? Or will tragedy breed tragedy?

Contains episodes 49-51:
The Final Scene
Through the Tears, Spring Comes
Goodbye Yesterday, Hello Tomorrow

The Review!
Kodocha's first half comes to a close and while it hits the emotional notes just right it's a fairly down set of episodes that's capped off by a recap episode.

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.

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 character artwork for the covers rarely match up with the content inside and this one is no exception as it has a good image of Sana in the foreground while Gojo is behind her. Several of the other characters appear in small form along the bottom to provide some mild levity which is a plus. 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 purple 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.

Although it's been a bit since the last one, a new episode commentary is included but just for the recap episode which features the English voice actors for Sana and Akito.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the first half of the series through which we learn a lot of things about Sana's family origins along with several other trials and tribulations, the show is in a place where things just aren't all that sure anymore. With a sad storyline that's capped off by a recap of some key scenes from the first half of the series, that alone would make it difficult. The additional revelations in the last two months that the second half of the series isn't coming along quite as planned makes it all the worse however.

This volume drops the episode count down to just three in order to stop just before the middle school arc gets underway. That leaves us with two episodes that have Sana at her lowest as she deals with the sickly Gojo. His illness has been a long time in coming and was plainly obvious from very early on but it still tugs on the heart strings a bit here. A lot of this is due to Sana's belief that he's going to be better even as all the adults are exchanging darker looks as they understand the truth. Each of them has different reasons for keeping the truth from her, such as her mother not wanting to inflict more pain on her due to Gojo really being her father, to Rei panicking about how the writers of Chaos Theater have written him out of the show in a death scene. Nothing like a heavy dose of foreshadowing there.

What turns out to be the most surprising during the early difficult times in these two episodes is how the snake report Kurosaki turns out. Sensing that there is something more going on here than others are willing to admit publicly, he manages to find out what the real deal is with Gojo's health and hopes to score a future hot interview. It turns into something very different as the knowledge of Gojo's impending demise affects him the more he talks to him but it also ends up affecting Gojo more than he realized. Gojo's relationship with Sana has always been a bit off in some regards but there's something that he realizes is really there with her and he can't spend his last moments in the hospital.

With all of this ending with a recap episode that has some minor new animation sprinkled around it, there isn't a lot to be upbeat about here. Even worse is if you listen to the commentary track for the recap episode afterwards and you have the folks involved there going on about people needing to demand more Kodocha since as of the time of the recording it wasn't going forward. As much as they try to sound upbeat and positive about the second half of the series it certainly doesn't feel like it's going to happen. At least the next episode preview is included here for episode 52 but even that's almost a mean tease considering how long if ever it'll be before it comes out.

All that said, Kodocha has been a great series to finally see a large chunk of. The show has a manic energy to it that even when it slows things down there is still plenty of hilarity to be found. It manages to mix some very different things into the larger storyline and doesn't shy away from the darker moments. My children happened to come in while I was watching this and they sat down and became enraptured by it and how sad it actually was. While it's not something I'd want them to watch every day it does provide a needed balance in what they do see on TV. If only the dub script wasn't so completely off in so many ways. So many segments have their meanings inverted or distorted completely that to anyone watching it with the subtitles and listening to the dub would just cringe.

And this is where FUNimation simply ran into so much trouble. With a small number of fans who really wanted the show and even less who would get into it with the large number of releases involved, it seemed like everything they did made it harder to buy into. The dub has some great moments as Laura Bailey really nails Sana's songs and hyperactive voice in the earlier episodes, but these episodes reminded me once again about the dubs failings. FUNimation also ran into a lot of problems in regards to the audio issues which just set off a small contingent of people who would want nothing to do with it. And as much as I like the cover art it's not material that will really sell the show. As with any title a company puts out there is both some real love put into it and some lip service. Kodocha has some obvious real love to it but as the series progressed things simply seemed to get weaker and weaker. The end result is that now at episode 51 we're sitting here wondering if we'll ever see the second half. I'm usually very optimistic but this time I have strong suspicion it'll not come out.

In Summary:
Kodocha plays it close to the vest and with a more limited range of manic energy with the two main episodes here that deals with Gojo. Sana's discovery of her origins with her mother and then through the books that were put out have helped her deal with things. The loss of the first father figure she's ever really had is bad enough but the fact that he's also her true father just makes it all the more heart wrenching. Kodocha has a lot of great material to it and this first half of the series closes out on a note that many things in life do, with a somber look at reality and being forced to grow up and deal with things as an adult.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary Track

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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: 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: Kodocha