Suzuka Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, October 04, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What They Say
Yamato and Honoka are dating...somewhat. For a young man blissfully in love, he sure is spending a lot of time with Suzuka! Already bound and determined to screw things up on his own, when Yasunobu adds some racy to the rapture, Honoka‚€™s gonna be outta there faster than the Indy 500! And the pit crew doesn‚€™t even stand a chance of salvaging this wreck‚€¶ One thing about Yamato, he is fast! For someone as socially-inept as this kid, actually getting a girlfriend is like a dog finally catching a car‚€¶ Okay, now what? (Ooh, there goes another car!) One of the reasons love will never be a spectator sport ‚€“ Why bother watching when you already know how it‚€™s going to end?
Fortune favors the bold but it also tends to crucify the indecisive and inconsiderate, as Yamato is quickly finding out.
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 fourth volume is my favorite of them all so far as it features a great image of Honoka looking over her shoulder. With the green background and the gray of her outfit, it all just comes together in a very pleasing manner to me. 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 great illustration of Nana and Honoka together in some casual outfits.
The menu design is the same as the cover as it uses the still of Honoka 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 pretty much on par with the previous releases as it has a clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief photo gallery done up as a yearbook.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When watching this series, there is a general feeling that you want to just slap some of the characters around and tell them to open their eyes a bit. So much of it is just basic insecurities and confusion that comes from being a teenager that you know, at least as an adult, that you have to let them experience it. It doesn't make it any less bitter however if you see parts of yourself and your relationships showing up in how it all comes across here.
The relationship between the main trio only gets more confusing as time goes on, mostly because the title character hasn't really figured things out for herself. The usual kinds of jealousies and uncertainties are very prevalent here, mostly due to the way Yamato poorly handles the situations. The show picks up where we left off in having Yamato and Suzuka stranded in Hiroshima. That has Honoka quite unsure of everything since she and Yamato are still very early on in their relationship. Yamato does his best to set her at ease when they talk but his father, who comes to help out, makes it worse by bringing Suzuka back to the house instead of putting her up in a hotel.
Suzuka flat out wanted nothing to do with it at first when the situation was getting settled, but his father just walks over both of them and sets it how he wants it to be. Where it gets worse is that Yamato does his best to be sociable and considerate in the midst of the verbal beating he gets from his parents. Suzuka is completely set against him however and is just biding her time to go back home. But even then, with his friendly nature and earnest attempts to make her feel welcome, she gives in and starts to let her feelings show a bit more. She's somewhat cruel and teasing at times, which makes Yamato even more uncertain of where their relationship really stands, but Suzuka is squarely at fault here for not abiding by her decision and then playing both sides of it with Yamato.
When the pair do finally make it back to Tokyo, Yamato again tries to do good by being what he believes is a proper boyfriend. At this age and with no experience for any of them, their understanding of who to be and how to be around each other causes them to make unusual choices. Yamato is intent on not hurting Honoka's feelings so he does things he believes will make her happy. Of course, he usually goes a bit too far and says a bit too much but that's fairly normal. It becomes clear that he does have feelings for her and is clearly attracted to her, but the uncertainty of his relationship with Suzuka with how she's been acting has him suitably distracted. Honoka is dealing with her own insecurities at the same time in addition to coming across Yamato and Suzuka in situations that could easily be misinterpreted.
There are a number of incredibly sweet moments throughout these episodes in addition to all the usual drama. Yamato and Honoka do get together in some positive ways with simple things, such as a kiss or holding hands. There is a beautiful simplicity to these scenes and the honest reactions that you can't help but to feel warmed by it. Though much of it is fairly standard for the romantic comedy genre, Suzuka manages to execute it in a way that doesn't feel completely trite. While Yamato may not be a "real leading man" that you imagine women flocking to, he's believable in a way that you can understand Honoka being interested in him and the reasons why Suzuka is finding herself more and more interested in him. These simple but honest moments are what really carry the show and makes it so engaging.
Yasunobu however needs to be shipped off to a more hip show where he can be shown up for how simple he is.
As the second half of Suzuka moves along it manages to become more fun and engaging to watch. With a series that revolves around a romantic triangle you tend to have one character that's weak and you generally don't root for much. Some sort of personality quirk keeps them from being the visualized ideal for the lead. With Suzuka, the title character herself is the one that doesn't seem like the best fit for Yamato. Honoka and Yamato certainly have their issues but there is a belief that in the long run, or potentially upon a meeting again in the future, the two would be perfect for each other. The allure of the more high maintenance Suzuka cannot be denied however and her own issues are what's keeping everything in play. Watching it all being dealt with in the way that teens can is still fun and enjoyable to watch, making Suzuka a show that's easily worth recommending.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening,Clean Closing,Aoba High School Yearbook
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, 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: TV PG
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