A Double Scoop of Vanilla: Timeless Ecstasy (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Alex Roberts
Review Date: Monday, August 25, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The most recent entry into Critical Mass’s A Double Scoop of Vanilla line shows flashes of promise but ultimately does nothing to separate from the rest.

What They Say
Two favorites for one desirable price! This Vanilla Double Scoop contains both Campus and Endless Serenade. Both titles were produced by Shiyuuta Biwajima and Chikara Niki (Girl Next Door, Spotlight, Love Doll) and feature screenplays by Rokurouta Makabe (I Love You, Sex Ward).

A dream of the past and an improbable future... Night after night, Takakage's dreams take him away to another life long ago. A life of love and sorrow. To a single passionate night in the arms of the beautiful priestess Ayame, and the painful death that separated them forever. But they're all just dreams...

When Takakage goes to a festival on campus with his friends, a fortune teller describes his immediate future - he'll fall madly in love with a woman - and his distant past - which sounds exactly like his dream! Could his re-occurring dreams of Ayame have been flashes of a real past life?

When gorgeous Chisato crosses his path on campus, Takakage begins to believe that Chisato might just be the woman from his fortune. But is she also the woman of his dreams?

Endless Serenade
Yuji can't deny it: he's infatuated with Satsuki. She's the center of his every waking thought and the star of his every wet dream. There's just one major problem. Satsuki is his late brother's fiancee.

Now, a year after his brother's death, Yuji is hoping the day has finally come to make his move, but a steamy night with Miki, the shy red-headed girl at work, could change everything. Should he be with the girl he's always wanted, or the girl who's always wanted him?

The Review!
For this viewing, I listened to the English Dub, which is offered in 2.0 for both titles. A Japanese 2.0 track is also available on both. The mix is decent, if not spectacular. Dialogue and other sounds come through clean, with no dropout or other interference, which is nice since both shows are dialogue based. A solid effort, but nothing to shout about.

The video, on the other hand, was definitely a mixed bag. At times, Campus looked really nice, with clean lines and solid colors. However, on numerous occasions, the show was inflicted with quite a bit of graininess. At first, I thought the grain was an artistic choice, as I only saw it during flashbacks, but it started appearing during the regular footage too and was distracting. Even worse, Endless Serenade looks like an early 80s anime despite having a 2003 release. There was a lot of indistinct coloring and hazy lining which was distracting even at the best of times. The brownish-green, puke color they used for Yuji’s hair was a bad choice as well. I’ve seen better.

This has a pretty simple, standard design. Both DVDs come in a single sized Amaray case, with a slot on each side for the discs. The front cover has original art from both shows of some of the girls set in a pink border with the series logo along the top. Timeless Ecstasy, the title for this version of A Double Scoop of Vanilla is in bright blue lettering near the top, with the titles of the individual show much small along the bottom. The back of the case has two sections, each dedicated to on of the titles, and each include another piece of art as well as the show’s summary.

Again, a mixed bag here. The menu for Campus has an image of Ayame in the background, with the show selections set off to the left. While the selections are easy to read and follow, the choice of color and font for them leaves a bit to be desired as it makes the menu look like it was thrown together by an amateur. The menu for Endless Serenade, though, is very stylish. The background image is a silhouette of Yuji and Miki standing in the sunset, with the selections offered in a nice script font. A heart is used to denote the selection highlighted. Overall, it has a very soft effect, and is very well done.

Not a whole lot for extras. Both titles have Animated Art Galleries—roughly one minute of images set to music—and trailers for other Critical Mass titles. Endless Serenade also includes its Original U.S. Trailer.

Content:  (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Like all A Double Scoop of Vanilla releases, Timeless Ecstasy includes two relatively short titles: 2002’s Campus and 2003’s Endless Serenade. Both shows have a healthy mix of story and sex, though there is little present to make them stand out from any other release.

Campus has a somewhat mystical story. Takakage and his younger sister, Mieko, live alone after the deaths of their parents. In recent times, Takakage has been troubled by a dream of a young soldier and his shrine maiden girlfriend during the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The dream itself is of their last night together, and all that goes with it, before he goes off to war. While the subject matter is not particularly troublesome, the vividness of the dream is.

Takakage is able to put the dream out of his mind until a fateful encounter. When Takakage’s fortune telling, childhood friend, Mayumi, prophesizes that Takakage will fall in love with a girl he will soon meet, he takes it to mean the lovely Chisato who seeks him out a few days later. However, on their first date, Takakage meets Ayame, a shrine maiden who is the spitting image of the girl in his dream. From there, it is love at first sight, but the dream still bothers Takakage, and the revelation that Mieko is having the same dream does nothing to make things easier.

Endless Serenade is a more down-to-earth story. Yuji spends all his time helping to run a convenience store with Satsuki. Yuji’s brother and Satsuki had run the store together, and were engaged to be married, up until his death a year earlier. Yuji took his brother’s place at the store both to honor his brother’s memory and to help Satsuki out. Satsuki was a wonderful clerk, but had no business sense.

In their time together, Yuji has developed a crush on Satsuki and dreams of a day when they can be together, but struggles to tell her so. His desires also suffer setbacks as it becomes increasingly obvious that she only views Yuji as a younger brother and that she still has not forgotten her former lover. In a rare moment of weakness, Yuji finds himself in the arms of Miki, a standoffish employee of his. This encounter steels his resolve towards his almost sister-in-law but begins to open the question of whether she is really right for him or not.

Both titles are fairly short: Campus is comprised of two, thirty minute OVAs, while Endless Serenade runs about thirty-five minutes. As such, the stories are relatively basic. Thanks to the longer runtime, Campus’s story is a bit more solid, as at times Endless Serenade felt like one really long exposition. Campus allows time for the characters and story to develop a little bit, while much of Endless Serenade is spent inside Yuji’s head.

And of course, while the plots got a fair amount of time to develop, plenty of time was spent on the sex too. For both titles, the sex was decent, though fairly run of the mill. Campus mainly focused on Takakage’s exploits, as he manages to get it on with virtually every girl he meets, while Endless Serenade gets everybody in on the action at one point or another. For both shows, it is all good fun as there are no uncomfortable or disgusting moments.

In Summary:
Both titles presented in this collection are solid, but unspectacular. The plots are decent, and the sex is solid, but it is all fairly straight forward and plain. As such, it is a collection that could probably find a place in anybody’s collection, though nothing that will stand out from the rest as they reflect the collection’s “Vanilla” title quite well.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Campus Animated Art Gallery, Endless Serenade Animated Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Critical Mass Video
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vanilla Series Collection