Shuffle Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, April 03, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
What They Say
It must be a pretty tough life, what with all the girls competing for Rin's affections. Kaede's running herself ragged to keep his belly full and his house clean. Spunky Asa can't keep her hands off him, even if most of the time she's just slapping the poor boy silly. Nerine's making omelet after omelet, immensely proud of her first cooking achievement. Sia's seeking divine advice and the perfect pair of panties. And the ever-silent Primula just stares after Rin with her big, sad eyes. They all have their charms, that's for sure. But summer break's around the corner and the action's sure to heat up!
Contains episodes 5-8:
Where I belong
Dating with Panties
Shuffle moves along by letting us know the characters more and ensuring that we see a whole lot of panties!
Shuffle's bilingual audio presentation is pretty standard material for a show of this nature. Both the English language and Japanese language tracks are done in a stereo format at 192 kbps. With the show being far more focused on mood, dialogue and some accent music, it doesn't really require much and the stereo mix provides a good full sound overall. There's some minor directionality here and there - often more noticeable in the English language presentation than the Japanese - but for the most part there aren't any surprises here. It's well done for what it is but it won't really make you stand up and take notice. We didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Shuffle is one of the first series to benefit from changes in FUNimation's authoring changes and it's pretty much all for the better. The series is very brightly colored but not garish which brings out a good deal of vibrancy both in the characters and backgrounds. It's not exactly lush, but it doesn't have a drab or basic feeling to it but rather something with life and flavor. That comes through here due to the encode which has a much higher bitrate than most of what FUNimation has released in the past couple of years. The lack of gradient problems outside of a few minor scenes and having backgrounds and characters that are generally very solid gives it a great feel.
Using the cover artwork from the Japanese release of the series, Kaede gets the cover this time and is just as serene and beautiful as the first installment was with the sunflowers. The numerous sunflowers in the background as well as the few in her hands provides for some great color when added to the soft blue sky and the earth tones in her school uniform. The original logo is used, both with its English and Japanese variants, as is the way the volume numbering is done though in different places from the original. Overall this is a really appealing piece that's easy on the eyes and represents the show well enough. The back cover shows FUNimation's love of the sideways design as it features the arrows pointing in different directions to contains blocks of information including the tagline of "Which girl would YOU choose?" There are a bunch of character shots throughout and some small scenes from the show itself mixed around the episode listings and titles as well as the extras. The summary covers the very basic amount needed for the premise while the remainder is filled out with impossibly hard to read production and technical information done as white text on an orange strip. The reverse side cover is nice in that it's a collage of numerous shots from the show and plenty of sunflowers along with the tagline. No insert is included but they did provide a nice four panel fold out poster with the bulk of the main girls as part of an all girl band performing in slinky black outfits.
The menu design for Shuffle is rather simple but it's done with some nice style as it brings in the arrow strips to hold the navigation. The menu for this volume features a full color full length image of Kaede in her school uniform. The background is done with a very large close-up of her face in grayscale which looks really nice when done with the added background elements of the blue strips. Add in a bit of bouncy upbeat music to a surprisingly long 60 second loop and it comes together well with as simple as it is. Access times are nice and fast and language selection determines what branch the video takes so choosing through the menu is important. It's also worth noting that FUNimation continues to list full translation subtitles as Japanese which means most players won't pick it up properly.
The only extra included is a clean version of the opening and closing sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Maybe I just wasn't paying proper attention during the first volume, or I had seen some far more risqué material before watching it, but this installment of Shuffle really ups the panty level. Not that I'm complaining about it since it's a fun aspect to the show that pulls in the horny crowd nicely. Shuffle doesn't really break new ground with this set of episodes but what it does do well is really grabs you and establishes a connection with several of the girls. All of it is based on the viewers' personality so it's easier to connect with some more than others.
The four episodes of Shuffle on this volume are pretty strong for what are typically simple character building pieces. Each episode spends time dealing with an individual character and providing a few tangents to the others along the way that slowly builds up that whole ensemble feeling in a good way. This is an area where it can be difficult with a show like this since if you don't care for a particular girl it can be a trying episode. The only one that was like this for me was the one involving Primula since she's essentially a one note character so far that hasn't gotten proper exposure. Her becoming "sad" in a way over the state of her stuffed animal has her getting closer to Rin as she wants help in fixing him. Primula's quiet nature and the way she keeps to herself doesn't change much here and we really don't get enough to connect with her outside of that feeling of protectiveness that people are supposed to have for her. The only really great moment of that particular episode is when Primula comes to school and everyone realizes that Rin has yet another girl in his harem.
On the plus side, the other three episodes range from pretty good to surprisingly solid. Kaede's story kicks off the volume and it helps to establish more of the connection she and Rin share from their childhood. Kaede fills the role of the traditional Japanese girl who is helpful and pretty much servile in her need to please the one she loves. The evolution of those feelings is something that could be explored really well as this goes on and we get some nice hints of where it may go. The story doesn't really go too deeply here but it does provide us with the moments that we need to see just how close the two of them are. There are some amusingly sexual scenes as the two get close when Kaede finds herself falling ill from over work in trying to take care of everything but for the most part it's an enjoyable piece that helps to get us into the mindset of Kaede and how Rin deals with her.
When it comes to the connection with the character, the one that has totally captured me here is the episode involving Asa. When she has a popular schoolmate confess to her his interest in her, the situation takes her completely by surprise and she can't properly respond to him right away. This causes a sensation among the other students who are surprised that he's shown interest in any girl, not that Asa is one not to be sought after. Within the circle she runs with, her girl friends are all curious to see what she'll do about it since they understand what's going on with this particular boy. For Asa though, she's in a state of neither liking nor disliking him and is just not interested in relationships at this time of her life. Of course, it's obvious that she's interested in Rin and is concerned about what he thinks when he finds out. That leads to really giving the viewer a great insight into how their relationship works, particularly when he helps her home after she hurts her ankle. Asa has quickly become my favorite character of the show because of this episode and has made me want a series just about her and Rin.
As serious as Asa's episode gets, it's balance pretty well with the last episode of the disc which is squarely about the panties. Sia sets things up so that she can get Rin out on a date without him realizing exactly how planned out it is at first and the two have a good time together even though everything seemingly goes wrong. While the two of them are cute together and Rin cleans up very well with his dating clothes, what makes this episode work is that it's all about the panties. When she spends time at home trying to figure out which pair of panties to wear for going all the way with him, it's just very funny to watch as her room is littered with them. Plenty of panty related situations crop up along the way as well but there's just a good deal of simple fun undercurrents running through the date and how it plays out.
While Shuffle hasn't established me as a fan of all the girls, it's certainly increased my interest in a few of them far more than I would have guessed after the first volume. It also really made it blatant with the sexual overtones that I felt were fairly mild and mellow in the first volume. The plus side is that while I do see it as more apparent now, it doesn't feel out of place nor is it something that makes me roll my eyes. I actually like that element a lot in how it plays out in this show. Some of the deeper elements to the characters are slowly being exposed here but it hasn't quite reached a good level of depth yet. There are hints of something more here that will certainly bring me back for more as will the beautiful animation and the characters that are becoming more and more engaging with each episode. I suspect the third volume is where the show will really hit its stride.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs
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: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2