Nobody's Boy Remi Vol. #5 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, November 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, November 13, 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.
If I didn't know people in real life that have lives just as hard as Remi's, I'd call this show far too unrealistic. Instead, I'll just call it an exercise in cruelty to fictional characters that depresses the hell out of me.
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 seven episodes here there wasn't anything that really stood out, not even noticeable film issues such as tears or dirt. The seven 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 Lise outside her house while Remi and Cappy are in the background 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)
Nobody's Boy Remi moves into the second half of the series and bumps up the episode count a bit to seven episodes. This starts to strain the visuals of the show a bit, but not that much all things considered. It's certainly not a show that's going to stand out for a number of reasons but the increase in episode count only downgraded the visual quality slightly. What did increase was the amount of cruelty used in the story as applied to our young lead Remi. There's tragic and then there's heaping tragedy upon tragedy for twenty five weeks in a row.
Ever since Remi left the swan, he's been happy simply because he's back with Vitalis. Tragedy has struck repeatedly since then however as first Zerbino and Duclie were eaten by wolves and then Joli Cour bit the dust from the weather. The once happy troupe, even if they had hard times, was reduced to just Vitalis, Cappy and Remi. The dream of rebuilding is strong however and the need to get to Paris to start over was paramount. Upon arriving there and finding that the man Vitalis was going to leave Remi with was dead, their options started to get smaller. The only hope at this point is a man named Garofoli that Vitalis knew. He'd be someone that Vitalis could leave Remi with and Remi could earn some money and have a place to stay while Vitalis got things underway with a better paying job and time spent training whatever new animals they could get.
Garofoli is actually a very cruel man, and we learn that he's the boss behind Mattia who we saw in Paris previously. Vitalis won't leave Remi there so the two are back out hoofing it in an attempt to find a place to stay during the coldest day of the winter in Paris. With no money and no food, they're both practically on their last leg, only to both finally collapse out in the middle of nowhere. Though it's a question I've been asking since Vitalis got out of prison, it's finally been answered as he finally dies. His death was preordained simply because of how French literature like this goes, and it was even more predictable when the animals started getting killed off. His death marks a real changing point in the show though as Remi must now find his path in life on his own, with only Cappy as his one true friend and companion from what he remembers as his happy days. Even his time from before he met with Vitalis is a distant memory, not something that he has a desire to return to even though he can now.
What makes this tragic loss all the more tragic is that Vitalis died right outside the house of a family that is completely and utterly wonderful. The head of the household, a father named Acquin, he quickly brings Remi and Cappy into his family which consists of the sisters Etiennette and Lise as well as the brothers Alexis and Benjamin. Remi is distraught at first over everything but the Acquin family treats him as one of their own and tell him as much. Remi is at a loss as to what to do with his life but he knows he can't do anything in the middle of winter, so he settles into their family life and works with them in the greenhouses that they own and have a huge debt on. It's telegraphed easily, but you know that there is trouble afoot for this family as well.
Remi is the harbinger of doom. Everywhere he goes and everyone he gets involved with ends up meeting some sort of tragic end. The only ones who have made out fairly well are his real mother and brother, but even there is some tragedy in that they don't know that they're really related. What works in Remi's favor is that he handles adversity incredibly well for someone his age. Half the time I suspect he's not even aware of the tragedy that's hit. Yet the words of Vitalis keep him doing exactly what needs to be done and that is to move forward. Though he continually is set back, several steps sometimes, he's always picking himself right back up and moving forward. He does have some luck to him though, such as when he came across the Swan and now the Acquin family, but he's always intent on finding his way in the world and living by what his Master has taught him.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure I can handle another volume like this one. Things are just so awful and tragic for Remi and those around him that it truly depresses me. It's great to see a show that takes risks and doesn't leave things in the status quo, but sometimes it's simply too much too quickly and it overwhelms. While this volume does end on a positive note that makes me want to see more, I can't help but wonder what big tragedies are right around the corner. These first thirty-one episodes of the series are far more compelling and engrossing than I ever thought they would be based on what little I knew of the show when it was first licensed. While I don't know that I'd want to see a show of quite this level of despair again, I do want to see more shows that aren't quite as happy and bubbly as many are these days. Nobody's Boy Remi is a great show in general, but not one to watch if you're feeling sad or depressed at all.
Japanese 1.0 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