Gakuen Heaven Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007



What They Say
The campus-wide contest is finally over. Kazuki confronts the Vice Chairman with all the evidence he's collected and a few extra surprises of his own. Meanwhile, the others figure out that the traitor among them has been Doctor Matsuoka the whole time!

The good doctor's best friend has fallen into a coma because of exposure to the X7 virus, and he will do anything to save him... even make a deal with the devil. Niwa and the others try to outthink Matsuoka, but he's already got his claws into Keita, and it won't be long before his plan bears fruit!

Contains episodes 11-13.

The Review!
The series draws to a close as secrets, that weren't quite so secret, are revealed and everyone agrees that yes, we can all just get along.

Audio:
With only one audio track, Media Blasters has opted to not go to the extra expense of a dub for a very limited audience title. Providing a 2.0 256kbps Japanese language mix Gakuen Heaven is a decent sounding dialogue heavy title. Dialogue is well placed throughout but it's a fairly typical mix for a show of this nature. During regular playback we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The presentation for this show in general comes across as very solid and vibrant. The shows design, one where it isn't exactly motion-heavy, helps it a lot but in general the choice of colors helps it even more. Filled with lots of natural colors and plenty of blues it simply looks very clean and generally problem free. Colors are solid and vibrant and outside of a couple of areas, such as some of the red of the guys jackets, are very minimal in terms of compression artifacts. There's a touch of aliasing in a few scenes where there is some panning going on but beyond that it's a very clean looking release.

Packaging:
Keita finally gets onto the covers with the final volume which pairs him up with Kazuki as the two embrace in a very appropriate way. The colors are quite vibrant without being overblown and the simple background keeps all the focus on them. The logo is cutely done with the wings as well as the inclusion of the "Boys Love Hyper" subtitle. The back cover utilizes the same kind of light blue indistinct background while providing a bunch of small shots from the show of the cast. The summary covers the basics and they do a nice job of displaying the discs features in a non-clinical way. Add in the production information and the solid and reliable technical grid and it's a good looking cover all around.

Menu:
The main menu is a simple but upbeat design that has the same artwork as the front cover but with a bit more vibrancy to it. The background is made up of various blue geometric shapes along with the series logo and a simple but straightforward navigation bar. All of it is set to some of the vocal music from the show that plays for a good loop and generally gets you into the mood of the show. Access times are nice and fast and because of how the languages are for this volume our player presets really didn't matter much.

Extras:
Not too surprising for the final volume in the series, the only extra we get is another Hamu Hamu Heaven short which runs just barely over a minute. It's a short but amusing piece that gets right to the point of essentially having lighthearted fun with its characters.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gakuen Heaven draws to a close with the last three episodes of the series and all I can think is that this wouldn't have felt quite so long if they'd done it as three discs. Media Blasters has been good about doing their subtitle only series in that manner this year but this one bucked that trend and I think the weak content over the course of it only highlighted it. These last three episodes are even fluffier than the rest of the series which is really saying a lot.

In a way, the three episodes here are almost purely epilogue pieces that round out the character changes we've seen over the course of the series. The big moments in the previous volume with the competition to determine the most valuable student on campus left us with Keita as the winner and he's still recovering from that experience. His acquiring that title, with the help of others of course, now has him being rapidly pursued by just about every club. That has him doing a whirlwind tour of all of them which means lots of brief scenes that bring in a lot of different characters, situations and outfits before figuring out exactly what it is he wants to do.

That isn't the bulk of the volume thankfully as there are other outstanding issues to be taken care of. The deal made between Kazuki and the Vice-Chairman comes into play when it's revealed just how far he went to thwart Kazuki and put Keita in danger. There are some fun if brief tense moments when this plays out but it's always good to see someone like the Vice-Chairman finally get what's due him. It also allows for the shift to the mystery storyline to be revealed wherein we deal with who has been helping him all this time. That opens up a storyline that reveals a good deal about Kazuki's family and what they've done in the past. At it's core however is the kind of story that would be rather easily resolved if people just actually said what's on their minds and dealt with the problem rather than subterfuge over longstanding grudges.

The relationship between Kazuki and Keita is given a good bit of time as well, which is long overdue considering the number of times that Kazuki put Keita off over it. The exploration of the past that the two do share together helps to explain things a bit more which ties in well to what we've learned about Kazuki's lineage. It's also not surprising that Keita doesn't remember Kazuki from when he was younger but after the amount of time we see them spend together in the past as well as the very distinct locations, you have to wonder a bit more about Keita and his mental faculties. It's not far fetched to understand the way the relationship between the two of them has been built up. It's far more so in Kazuki's mind because he recalls clearly the events of the past so that has left Keita a bit more unsure. Now that's clearer, the two are progressing at a very different pace.

In Summary:
In the end, I have a hard time looking back at this series to find much that's really redeemable about it. It certainly had its fun moments as you have lots of attractive young men in school uniforms acting anywhere from serious to silly while playing up on the idea of romance between some of them. As a whole however, it feels like a very weak piece that could have been done in about half the episodes while still retaining the same result. It's bright, colorful and generally cheerful as it moved Keita about his life at the academy but it is almost the epitome of fluff most of the time. That left the more serious moments a bit out of place and creating a sense of danger that didn't quite fit. Fans of the show will certainly enjoy what's here but the overall release pattern could have been much tighter which would have been far more attractive.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Hamu Hamu Heaven Short

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: C-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 19.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gakuen Heaven