Kanon Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 08, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What They Say
A past that continues to haunt can hardly be called the past.

After the incident at the school ball, Yuichi's relationship with Mai has grown even more uncomfortable and complicated. It cannot be left alone. But, in order to understand the reasoning behind Mai's strange devotion to thwarting the mysterious demons lingering about their school, Yuichi must first confront Sayuri. He will need to delve deep into all of their pasts to find the connection acting as the catalyst for the number of bizarre events that have befallen them. Also, Shiori finds herself in the hospital. While there, Yuichi will discover more about both her elusive illness and her secretive connection to Kaori. All this and more on the fourth volume of Kanon.

The Review!
Mai's storyline draws to a conclusion across three episodes which then segues into Shiori finally taking center stage.

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.

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.

With Mai being the central focus of this volume, it certainly makes sense to let her have the cover all to herself. While she could fit into the same style as we saw with the first couple of covers, this one works with something more familiar as she's in a fighting stance with her sword while inside the school at a late hour. The artwork is very appealing and the layout works very well for her and the storyline we've come to know. 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.

Unlike some previous volumes, the menu design is done with a shot of the lush fields from Mai's past at sunset which has a very haunting yet inviting feeling to it It's very rich and warm and certainly conveys different emotions than the cooler winter ones we usually see. The navigation is kept to the left 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.

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 again which runs just under five minutes and focuses on the actual animation process itself.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The fourth installment of Kanon moves us easily through the storyline involving Mai and touches upon many of the same kind of supernatural elements that we saw in previous episodes. This story arc has been a bit more forward about it in comparison to Makoto's storyline but it still contains that element of wondering just how much of it is real. Similarly, the storyline involving Shiori still has one wondering whether she's even real, even after she meets with some of Yuichi's friends.

Mai's storyline has had me a bit ambivalent from the start because she's been such a closed and cool character. Unlike the other girls though, she's had a certain strength to her that has helped balance it out. Yuichi's nature as a catalyst is one that would naturally draw him to her since she practically screams out that she's looking for someone to help her. And his role really is one that's fascinating as we start to understand his real connection with her past. After the incident at the dance in the previous volume, Mai's being threatened with expulsion and that has Yuichi becoming even closer to her as he wants to protect her as best as he can since he's the only one that really understands what she's going through and believes her after what he's seen.

That's a bit conflicting for Sayuri who sees the two of them getting closer in a way that she's only mildly misinterpreting. While they've been able to forestall her being expelled, Yuichi is still quite concerned about the way she's dealing with these strange demons that come after her at the school. That gives him the idea that he needs to learn something of the sword and borrows one from the kendo club and begins his own training regime. Mai does her best in her understated way to discourage him from pursuing this but he throws himself into and does his best to try and help out. Of course, the two aren't on the same wavelength when things actually come to a head in the middle of the night at the school, but it does start them down a brief path where they're actually focused on getting it taken care of so she can resume a normal life.

But what is normal for Mai becomes the real question. Her past, like so many in this show, is kept to the shadows until it's time for the big reveal. Her past is brought out in full force here and it's one that certainly fits her as she's shown growing up as someone with strong occult powers. Not surprising though is that after several traumatic experiences for a young girl, she latches onto Yuichi when the two of them meet in a field during one of his summer vacations and they begin to bond. That bond has lasted far longer in her heart for obvious reasons and has led to the situation they're in now. It does push the limits of believability when it comes to the things that Yuichi has been involved in, but not so much that you just roll your eyes at each new thing. His personality and the way he gets involved in his teenage years points to him being the same in the past which is why he's had such an effect on so many girls.

With Mai's storyline out of the way, the last episode begins to refocus on where it's going next and presents a few different options which lay the groundwork for the remainder of the series. While there are teasing moments about what may be going on with Nayuki and Ayu, the series is far more intent on bringing Shiori to the foreground. She's been the oddest character in the show as she really has an ethereal feeling to her and her lack of connection to others outside of Yuichi for so long before she met Ayu really pushed the possibility that she wasn't really there, especially with how Kaori dealt with her. Her storyline is only starting up in this last episode but it reveals a fair amount as she and Yuichi go out on a bit of a date and things start to become clearer. Even though she's younger than everyone else, she has an older feeling to her with the way she acts and carries herself which is fairly disconcerting when she gets all silly and has fun.

In Summary:
Kanon continues to be an enjoyable series but Mai's storyline left me feeling a bit leery of it in a way that Makoto's did as well when it was all said and done. I hadn't really expected a supernatural element to the show when it started and it still feels somewhat out of place at times. This volume does provide some good material and Mai certainly gets the coverage she needs as her past is fleshed out and her connections made clear. At the end of it though, I'm looking forward more to seeing where the show will go next with Shiori's storyline and the hints about Ayu and Nayuki. Kanon continues to be fun and a beautifully animated show that just captures my attention and holds onto it strongly.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Anime Production House Feature

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: TV PG
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