Di Gi Charat Nyo! Vol. #05 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 11, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What They Say
Summer is so fun and exciting! The Lucky Cat Shopping District is having annual summer festival, but oh no... I can't think of a way to show off my wonderful talent. But anyway, I have to deliver this whatchama-thing to this scary house where this Yurei girl lives. What a creepy name!

When the whole town went on vacation at the beach, we met a mermaid and Gema found love at first site. Wow! Idol star, Akari Usada, is going to shoot her next film at our junior high and Kiyoshi and I got parts in it. Thank goodness. Dejiko isn't going to be in it.

The Review!
Moving through more similar storylines with only the strange and unusual to give it life, Di Gi Charat really is just more of the same.

Bandai Entertainment has provided two language options with this release by having both the original Japanese stereo mix and an English stereo mix done by The Ocean Group. Both mixes are encoded at 192 kbps and serve the material well as it's mostly just wacky dialogue. There isn't a lot of music to it outside of the opening and closing and within the episodes themselves there isn't much need for placement or depth. As simple as the mix is, it does handle things well and suits the material. In listening to both language tracks we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Similar in design to past incarnations of the series, Mad House has animated something incredibly vibrant here. These bright bold colors come across beautifully here as they pop off the screen. So many areas are made up of solid colors that it's surprising to see practically no noise or break-up associated with it. Even aliasing is very minimal during the pan and zoom sequences. The opening and closing sequences are left in their original form with a full credit scroll following all of the episodes. This is a gorgeous looking full frame transfer that simply pops beautifully.

Not unlike other series, the cover art for Di Gi Charat Nyo! is a great piece as it's an illustration of the leads with a great amount of detail and design to it. The soft colors and tight line work just shines here. Dejiko is given a gothloli outfit for this installment which looks cute, especially as she holds the broom, while other characters are behind her in Halloween themed outfits. The colors used with it blends well with the background and there is some great detail to it. Even the logo is nicely unobtrusive and fits in with the scheme overall with the color choices. The back cover carries over the background design and keeps it soft so that the information over it is easily readable. The summary covers the basics and several shots from the show highlight its cute factor. The episode listings are a bit disingenuous since it is admittedly eight episodes but a casual buyer may not realize they're half episodes. The discs features and production information rounds out the bottom as well as a minimal technical grid. No insert is included with this release nor is the cover reversible.

Bright and garish, the menu for this release certainly stands out and commands attention. With the trio of lead girls in the center as multicolored rays of light shine forth from them, a bit of upbeat instrumental music plays along. The selections are sort of scattered about and you use a flower cursor to move over them which works well though at times it's not entirely intuitive which direction it should go in. Access times are decent and it's easy enough to set up selections in the navigation. The disc did correctly read our players' language presets and played in Japanese with full subtitles.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The struggle continues as another volume in the series has finally arrived and the range of cuteness and weirdness is pretty evenly matched at times. While the previous volume had given us some halfway decent material as it explored a few of the characters more, such as show Dejiko's life back home and bringing her mother into play, this one pulls away from that kind of material and really sticks to doing weird for the sake of weird. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Of the eight half length stories on here, most are pretty unmemorable once you're past them. Some basic themes are used to tie the half episode stories together to larger pieces, which is the only thing that really works in giving an episode some cohesion. The format of the shorter stories does help to keep things from going overlong which is definitely a plus, but when we get two part storylines, that's when you realize just how much the half length format helps. Case in point is the first episode in which it deals with the summer festival. The entire district gets involved in coming up with the theme for it and there are numerous ideas on what the best way to do it is. Of course, the ideas are all based on what the store owner is involved in, so there isn't a lot of camaraderie really being shown here. As it progresses and the festival hits, there are the standard moments from any festival show brought in albeit with the pint sized girls making the most of its cuteness. The inclusion of the strange aliens, blobs and garish colors on heightens it, but in the end it really does little more than to reveal just how little story there is here.

Scary stories enter the picture once again as well as a particular tale has all the girls on edge when they think it's real. Every little thing they come across reminds them of the story that they were told and they freak out easily, which means that there's really nothing to be frightened of and the main point is to watch how badly they all react to it. The show does provide something a bit meatier with its follow-up though as Dejiko and company are brought in to deliver a package form the "something or other" store to a mysterious old decrepit house none of them knew existed. This introduces a nice new girl named Yurei who they all find creepy. Not as creepy as her caretaker however, but it moves the gang temporarily into a haunted house style place and runs with all the very predictable gags. Yurei adds a nice breath of fresh air, but her personality is already reminiscent of some others from this franchise.

Akari makes another appearance in this volume, though it takes some time for her to show up. As luck would have it, the local junior high school is going to be the focus of a new movie involving Akari. Only students that go there can potentially be in it as students in the movie, so Usada is keen about it while Kiyoshi is full of potential stage fright. Dejiko, who has become a huge Akari fan since learning about her, is excited about trying to get into the movie and lording it over Usada. Her luck tends to not go her way, especially when they find out that Akari isn't going to be in most of the scenes since she's too old to play the part at the appropriate age. It doesn't hurt in the long run though as Akari ends up meeting Dejiko and hanging out with her. All that does however is solidify the idea that nobody would really want to spend time with Dejiko.

It's easy to see how she abuses those she doesn't like. We see it with Usada a lot of the time as well as Gema on numerous occasions, though that's slightly different. When Dejiko gets to spend a lot of time walking around the shopping district with Akari, she does her best to show off the place, her knowledge of it and in general tries to impress her. It's actually fairly restrained for Dejiko, but as it goes along you really do realize that Dejiko has very little to offer anyone at this point other than pain from her eye-beams. Or the prattling of her mouth with whatever selfish inanity that comes out of it on a regular basis. Dejiko is a cute looking character and she can pour on the sugar easily enough, but the more I see this incarnation of her, the less appealing it is.

In Summary:
In what is very much starting to feel like a broken record mantra, the problems that plague this series are pretty much the same. The location and the supporting cast just don't let Dejiko and company shine like they should, or can. Maybe it's just a factor that once you take them out of the otaku style setting that they just won't fit in properly with the "real" world. The supporting cast for this is just weak, the leads come across as more mean and spiteful than they should and the weirdness for the sake of it just feels bland. I'm still boggled that this ran for as long as it did as I can't pin down the right audience for it. Even kids seem hard to retain with it as my own wandered off after barely half an episode. And these are kids that I've gotten to watch more than half of 2001: A Space Odyssey in one sitting. Fans of this show will like that they've gotten a great looking release that's well done, but beyond them there isn't much of a draw here.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Di Gi Charat Nyo!