Suzuka Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, August 23, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
What They Say
Yamato has fallen in love at first sight and the race is on. Yamato's heart takes him on an impulsive trial of heartache and self-discovery as he pursues Suzuka Asahina, the most popular girl in his new school. Personalities clash as the competition for Asahina's love and attention grows with every life event.
Contains episodes 6-10.
As Yamato tries to understand Suzuka a little better, he takes a plunge with her that most people avoid by actually admitting his feelings to her.
The audio side of this release is pretty straightforward but with a bit of a twist to it. Each of the language tracks are standard 256 kbps stereo mixes that handle this show well as it is mostly just dialogue and music. We listened to the show in both languages and didn't have any real issues with it terms of its presentation as it's mostly a full sounding mix. Surprisingly, the opening and closing songs on the English language track have been dubbed, something that FUNimation seems to be trying to do a bit more these days. The Japanese track retains the original vocals. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show has a bright and colorful palette to it with its basis in a real world setting that comes across nicely here. Colors are strong and generally solid both in the background and foreground. There is a bit of mosquito noise creeping in from time to time but it's minimal overall and not terribly noticeable. Aliasing is generally non-existent and there wasn't any visible cross coloration either. On our 70" setup the backgrounds did show a bit more blocking than on our 50" setup with both players outputting standard 480p. There are some small moments throughout that will continue to be problematic for those sensitive to the blocking but overall it's a decent clean looking transfer for the five episodes that are here.
Using the artwork from the Japanese release, the second volume of the series isn't quite as eye-catching as the first but it provides a good looking character shot of Honoka in her school uniform set against a yellow backdrop. Colors look good and there is some nice detail within the overall design. The back cover is fairly traditional with a cloudy sky background that has a number of shots from the show strewn about as photographs. The summary covers the basics and the discs episode titles and numbers along with the extras are all clearly listed. With as much empty space as there is here though I wish the technical grid could get a little more space so it's not quite so cramped. The reverse side of the cover features a good illustration of Yamato and Suzuka sitting together at the top steps of the shrine while the back cover is identical to the main back cover.
The menu design is the same as the cover as it uses the still of Honoka in her uniform but set against a blue sky background with some white clouds. Unlike the front cover though, the colors are really punched up here and maybe a bit too vibrant. A bit of soft instrumental music plays back during this for the standard loop length. The menu overall is appealing but it's pretty minimal yet functional and easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and the disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and instead defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The extras included for this volume are a bit better than the first volume. The clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief photo gallery done up as a yearbook make a return appearance while the new extra is an audio commentary by the English language staff.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first five episodes of Suzuka proved to be a rather entertaining show even as it played within the realm of very familiar and standard territory. There are only so many stories to be told in the world so the trick is in how you tell it. Though Suzuka doesn't break any new ground with what it's doing, it is doing it in an enjoyable manner as it uses the clichés but also provides for some good character interactions.
With all the setup out of the way in the first volume, this installment of five episodes moves us right along into the early stages of Yamato and Suzuka's relationship. That relationship is still very much in the sort of friends stage as Suzuka doesn't mind him now even though aspects of him alternately annoy and entice her, often without her realizing it. For poor Yamato however, he's simply smitten by her and is constantly looking for ways to get closer to her. He even goes as far as taking a newspaper subscription in order to get a pair of tickets to Fantasy Land so he can take her on a date on her rare day off from practice. That goes horribly awry even before he can ask her as Yamato simply seems to be unlucky at times. Of course, once teased with the promise of a date the two do eventually get that but it's even worse for Yamato as Suzuka seems to be upset with the entire thing and the downpour doesn't help.
What is interesting during it is the way that the two gradually do have fun together even as Suzuka tries to fight it. Her past is slowly coming to light throughout these episodes so the viewer gets a better understanding of her. Yamato on the other hand is just unaware of what's going on and even though his obliviousness can be a bit annoying you can't help but feel sympathetic for him because of how Suzuka is handling the whole thing. When Yamato finally does express his interest in her in a more formal way, something that will definitely help set the series apart from the usual will they or won't they concept, his life just takes a serious hit in how she responds. The way Yamato has to deal with it both at the moment and later on when they return to the apartment complex has a good deal of emotion to it. It's unfortunate that we don't get to see too much of Suzuka's side of things with what's going on in her head though.
When it comes to relationships, one of the things that people often do is the right thing for the wrong reasons. Even though he's basically been turned down, Yamato can't stop thinking about Suzuka and just wants to get closer to her. With the praise he received during the sports day events and the invitation to join the track and field team, it's little surprise that he pursues that angle in order to get closer to her. It doesn't happen at first, but once he gets going at it for all the wrong reasons he starts to find the right reasons for it. It's not happening quickly either, though he is getting better at the events he's participating in. The majority of the time his mind is focused either on her and the state of the relationship or trying to do good in order to impress on her how he's doing. Suzuka's attitude is really poor with all this, for good reason as we later learn, and she's nothing but dismissive of him about the entire idea.
The shift to the track and field side does some good in bringing in new elements to the show to help flesh it out. The best is in the introduction of Miki, a fellow track and fielder who has competed against Suzuka in the past but is now a friend of hers on the team. She's the more outgoing type with the skintight small uniform who has all the good rugged looks and she's got an obvious interest in Yamato after seeing him get involved. She's actually keeping her distance from him though since it's obvious why he's doing everything but she can't help to tell Suzuka how poorly she's treating him. At the same time, Honoka hasn't given up her interest in Yamato either and has joined the track and field club as a manger to be closer to him only to find that it involves a lot of work that keeps her away from him. The cast has been working well with the show, though it does have the usual "why is everyone interested in this guy" vibe to it.
Suzuka doesn't break new ground but it does entertain quite a lot. The progression of Yamato from someone uninterested in track and field to someone who may actually excel at the sport is engaging since you want to see him discover a real love of it. Doing something for the wrong reasons can often lead to the right place and this just might be it. At the same time, as much as I like Suzuka and sympathize with her situation as it gets explored, I can't help but to root more for other women to win Yamato over. Honoka and Miki both have attributes to them that would make any man happy but Yamato is simply all tied up with Suzuka now. This volume brings us through the first ten episodes of the series and it's been quite the fun ride. Bright, colorful and inspirational even to me as I've been doing a lot of physical exercise lately, Suzuka just clicks very well even with its simple teenage angst and drama.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Commentary,Yearbook,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver 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: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2