Nobody's Boy Remi Vol. #4 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, October 25, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What They Say
Remi is a boy living happily with his mother in the French countryside. Unfortunately, everything changes when his estranged father comes home and, in desperate need of money, reveals that Remi is adopted, and sells him! Heartbroken, Remi ends up with Vitalis, a traveling musician, and his troupe of animal entertainers. Together, they travel the country in search for Remi's real parents, along the way learning the harsh lessons of life.
Vitalis and Remi begin their journey to Paris before the snows set in but the trials they face are almost insurmountable.
Unsurprising considering its age, Nobody's Boy Remi is presented in its original language of Japanese in a mono format. The 128 kbps encoding isn't one that will wow anyone but it's serviceable enough for the material and is essentially problem free during playback. The show is just dialogue for the most part outside of a few musical cues that work to build atmosphere so it's not a very demanding mix. It is a touch low at times but it's in good condition and certainly comes across rather clean and clear during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1977 and 1978, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series received a remaster and box set release in Japan back in 2002 which has certainly helped to clean up the elements here. Beyond some minor speckling here and there, the print is in surprisingly good condition. Through the six episodes here there wasn't anything that really stood out, not even noticeable film issues such as tears or dirt. The six episodes on this disc are done on a single layer DVD and it shows but the effects are pretty minimized considering an average bitrate of 2.5 to 3.2. The progressive encoding certainly helps to minimize things as does the coloring of the series as it has a lot still backgrounds and muted colors. There is a good deal of noise throughout the series though that's simply unavoidable and while it avoids any serious blocking the look of motion throughout it is prevalent. In watching this across different sets after our first full viewing, it's continually apparent that the smaller the screen size the better this will look. The problems we had were less on our 50" than our 70" and less still when we shifted down to a 34" CRT.
Remi is one of the anime titles to be released under the TitleMatch program in which all the authoring is done as normal but instead of replication it's done through burning to DVD-R, giving smaller publishing houses a chance to do some Print On Demand DVDs. Containing some copy protection, it's essentially the same as a regular release except in how it's actually put to disc. We popped this disc in a few of our players to see if we'd have any compatibility issues and it worked in just about everything except for our Toshiba TV/DVD combo unit.
The menu design is simple but fits nicely with the show though that TMS Classics logo is a bit bigger than I care for. The static background is an illustration that has Remi with the members of the troupe as a bit of music plays along to it. The left side has the logos along it while the right has the navigation strip which is simple considering how little is really here. Access times are good and fast and everything loads without a problem.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As this series progresses forward, you have to wonder what else they're going to throw at Remi to really rub his nose in it. His life has had its ups to be sure, especially the two months he spent on the Swan, but the downs are so cruel that it's hard to imagine how such a young boy could bounce back as he does. As Vitalis says though, Remi is such an incredibly kind person and that helps to carry him through life.
That kindness is a sizeable part of the early episodes on this volume as the troupe begins to head towards Paris in order to ride out the winter. There is only so much time to get there though so they have to move fast and keep things light since they don't have much money. That means a lot of living in abandoned places or out in the open itself as they've gotten further and further away from the river. Some towns are better than others for what they can do, but so many villages are in the same position they are that there isn't much money to be made or anything worth staying there for long.
Through these places we get to see just how good Remi is, particularly when they stay temporarily with a family whose cow is getting sick just before it can give birth. With no doctors and no veterinarians nearby, the livelihood of the family is threatened. Remi has some history with cows, as we saw with his love Rousette, and he's able to help out here even though there are quite a few things going on at that time that should merit more attention from him. That kindly nature does work out for him in the long run though and it's something that draws Vitalis even closer to him. The two have spent so much time apart due to his prison experience but it's really just strengthened their bonds even more.
The troupe's journey takes a rather dangerous turn though as the winter starts to set in early as they're making their way through one of the mountain passes. As the heavy snows have fallen and the food that the creatures of the land can find dwindles, it's become much more dangerous for people to go through. There are several dangers to face, such as just dealing with the cold and snow itself, but there are also wolves out hunting for something to eat. Vitalis is fully aware of this but tries to keep it from Remi so that the boy doesn't needlessly worry. It's an area where Vitalis really fails however as he should be making Remi aware of those dangers. His lack of understanding of this leads to a real tragedy.
And that is a very surprising sequence of events that plays out before the troupe arrives in Paris. Nobody's Boy Remi hasn't been a show that plays by clichés when it comes to anime, though it may hit upon some that are regular in French novels. The level of tragedy that the characters face is more than equal to the cruelty of fate as evidenced by Remi finding his real family and yet not knowing it. The troupe faces some serious dangers in their journey here and it really alters the dynamic of the show. Changing the cast isn't entirely unexpected, especially since you've been wondering when Vitalis will kick it from the start, but actually carrying through on changes like this can be striking. It removes the show from a feeling of being safe in how it will tell its tale and keeps a great air of unpredictability to it.
Nobody's Boy Remi manages to delight in many of its scenes simply because of the fortitude of Remi's character. The challenges he faces are daunting even for an adult and even more so for a boy his age. Yet his kind nature hasn't diminished and he continues to reach out to others to help while still wanting to stand out there on his own. The things that Vitalis has been teaching him will guide him strongly into the future, a future that we get some glimpse of in Paris when we start to understand more of Vitalis' own past. This series has been one that I was the least interested in but has become one that I cannot wait to see more of. It's a true diamond in the rough.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles
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: C
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ImaginAsian Entertainment
Running time: 144
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Nobody's Boy Remi