Kanon Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2008



What They Say
What was once so close can sometimes feel miles away.

Yuichi's relationship with Makoto grows more and more confusing each day. It seems the closer the two become, the less they understand about one another. The bond between the two has developed from a once volatile exchange of insults into a caring and protective union. Their connection has swelled beyond friendship and reached a level which the two of them may not be able to handle. Meanwhile, Mai has begun to open up to Yuichi - albeit, very cautiously. Seeing signs of her gradual acquiescence, Yuichi feels compelled to work even harder to bring Mai out of her shell. On the one hand, his efforts are commendable, but the outcome could send things in the opposite direction.

The Review!
Playing the emotions almost like a master, Kanon takes us through Makoto's storyline before it begins to explore that of a few more characters.

Audio:
ADV Films has presented a good bilingual presentation with this release. With the show being all about the mood and dialogue, the two stereo mixes done at 224 kbps work well in setting the tone and atmosphere. The music is the only area where there's anything resembling a full on mix that utilizes the entire forward soundstage, but even then it's often more to just accent the moment rather than dominate it. In terms of dialogue, both tracks cover this pretty well with some mild directionality and placement at times while still working within the overall stereo framework. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Kanon is a series that really teeters on the line when it comes to the grading portion simply because it has so many beautiful scenes as well as some problematic areas. Many of the scenes look quite beautiful and rich but there are several moments throughout where there's a fair amount of background noise going on and even some light cross coloration. Banding shows up in a couple of scenes as well, but there are moments where it's coming up in a darker scene which leads to a bit more blocking and noise because of it. Colors in general look quite good though and the bulk of the program is solid, but it's not clean and solid throughout.

Packaging:
The third volume of the series is a dramatic shift in color design as it features Makoto running along the hilltop field with the sun setting, which is very warm and inviting unlike the cooler snow filled volumes that came out previously. There is a much softer look to this due to the lighting used and it works nicely but it's a very drastic shift from what has come before. The original Japanese logo is retained which is a really nice touch as it adds to the light and airy feel of the cover. The back cover is similar to the front one in that it's using the imagery of Amano on the hillside with a lot of late afternoon sun hitting it. There's such a variety of colors here that it feels almost like it's clashing. In particular, the white text with a black border feels a bit stark against the white background while the other text around it with the blue and white border is somewhat difficult to read at first glance. It looks decent overall once your eyes adjust to it though. The production credits are very difficult to read though due to the size of the text while the technical grid is nicely laid out and very easy to read. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design continues the simple approach that ADV Films has been using for the last while as it takes the cover artwork, zooms in a bit and adds a brief bit of music. The navigation is kept to the right with individual episode access and quick submenu navigation for language setup and extras. The menu works well in helping to set the mood with its artwork and music and is overall fairly pleasing. Submenus load quickly and we had no problems getting around the disc. In addition, the disc properly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
Kanon features some of the basics we've come to expect from anime releases by including the clean version of the opening and closing sequence. In addition, we also get a new video extra entitled "A Close Look at an Anime" which looks at the animation process for Kanon. This volume only has one installment as they look at key animation and the director talks a bit about the HD version of the show and some of the problems they ran into with it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kanon moves smoothly up through its halfway mark with this volume and it's intent on really working the viewer over. During the majority of the first half of the series, I found myself finding Makoto to be the weakest link in the show and being far more interested in some of the other girls. Yet with these episodes and a bit of blunt emotional tampering, they've managed to turn my opinion around completely by providing a very emotional story that connects very well, even if some of the characters act far above their obvious age.

With the first two episodes, Makoto's story is wrapped up pretty nicely and with only a possible hint that there may be something more to it in the future. Makoto's time in the household has been one that has made it very lively and more of a family than one would have expected otherwise. Her outgoing and almost childish ways were problems to be sure, but you could tell that Yuichi rather enjoyed the way that she tried to get him on a regular basis but he was able to brush her aside easily each time. The little playing that went on during the various meals and so forth added a lot to her set of personality quirks and everyone came to accept her as who she was while trying to figure out who she really is due to the memory loss.

Having her begin to lose her sense of humanity, with it showing first by gradually losing motor control of her body and then slowly losing some of her emotions, they push it to the edge by reducing her vocabulary to the most basic with just an uguu from her. This downward spiral for Makoto is hard on everyone as they've come to love her quite a lot, but for Yuichi he takes it very hard since he has a flashback connection that tells him that Makoto may really be someone from his past time spent in this town a decade earlier. This is another one of the elements that slowly takes you out of the slice of life aspect of the series and into the supernatural, but Kanon manages to handle it pretty well because the emotions are so seemingly strong and pure. The only issue that comes with all of it is that Yuichi really seems far more stable and mature than his years would indicate.

When Makoto's story ends, the show has to figure out the best way to get things moving forward again without becoming too depressing. Not all that surprisingly, Ayu fills that role pretty well as she gets closer to Yuichi and his family of Nayuki and her mother. Ayu's amusing in that she's spent a lot of time at the house but hasn't met Nayuki yet because of how she tends to oversleep. Their first meeting is like an instant bond and that helps to bring a bit more life back into the house after what happened with Makoto. Ayu has her own issues as well and there are things that feel decidedly off about it but her story is just beginning and the details are only just starting to be revealed. She and Nayuki make an amusing pair however and their quick bond feels pretty natural and rather cute.

What proved to be the most enjoyable about the second half of this volume is the expansion on the relationship between Yuichi and Mai along with Sayuri. This trio has been intriguing since they were first introduced and they've gotten a bit closer what with Yuichi bringing her dinners at the school pretty regularly and trying to honestly and innocently getting to understand what her deal is. When he ends up really seeing what's going on with her, though how much is unclear, he begins to get a better idea of it all and the seriousness of it. It's also well balanced against the lighter social side where he's convincing her to attend the formal ball so that she'll gain a few more friends and some popularity since he sees nothing but good about her. That leads to a really enjoyable sequence where Mai and Yuichi pair off in a way that again feels too mature but at the same time is just completely wonderful. Kanon is the kind of show where you can easily see the lead spending his life with any of them once they open up to each other. And it's equally easy to see why they like Yuichi, which is rare enough in itself.

In Summary:
Kanon's third installment brings in some much needed clarity and resolution in its first half before beginning to explore some more of its themes and characters in the second half. The show is still very much all about the mood and atmosphere of the events but it's also filled with very personably characters with some mild quirks that are well played. While the show doesn't always bring a smile to my face, since it's not meant to be a show about pure happiness, there are so many moments that warm the heart and do bring a smile, that I can't help but to think positively on it even after it puts you through the shredder for a bit. While it certainly won't appeal to everyone, it's a show that can easily find an audience and one that will be very dedicated to it, its characters and what they go through.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Behind the Animation

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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kanon