Sana Kurata returns in a comedy-filled and crazy drama. Not everything is bright and cheery in Sana's life. Just when she thinks things are all as normal as they could be, life throws the little heroine for a loop. One thing is for sure, almost nothing can keep her down for long.
What They Say
Trying to fix a feud with a bunny-suit song and dance? Marrying Aono's noisy chicken to Zenjiro so the neighborhood can sleep? Taking on a top-secret job? Watch it all unravel in the hilariously unstoppable mayhem of Adult-Sized Secrets!
For the purpose of this review, the English audio track was used. There were a few difficult spots at the beginning of this set were it was hard to understand what was going on. During episode 25, it was hard to hear Akito's voice in a couple places. Mama's voice was also a bit difficult to hear when the music was playing during this episode as well. This was probably due to the fact that the mother's voice had a low pitch to it. From episode 27 onwards the vocal track improved greatly. It also became easier to hear Mama's voice over the bgm tracks. The sound effects were well placed. They did not interfere with the vocal track at all. The English voice actress for Sana did a good job in making Sana come alive. The energy that burst forth from her added to Sana's sheer insanity. Sana's random songs also sounded nice as well. The "Casio keyboard" sound was a bit odd to get used to at first, but the songs were always funny on the whole.
Originally airing back in the later half of 1996, this series relied heavily on cel-based animation. On average the transfer is comparable to others from this time period. At the beginning though it did seem as if the video source had been compromised. Having it at full view on our setup caused some scenes to become slightly blurry. Aside from this, there was also a slight color shift as well. These issues did not seem to continue after episode 29. The episodes on later volumes transferred over very well.
Volumes 7 through 13 came housed in a compact season box about the width of two traditional dvd cases. The outer box utilized the thin cardboard used on most of Funimation's thin pack releases. It featured cover art of our heroine clad in a pretty off the shoulder red dress. On the back of the box, a more casually dressed Sana poses in front of a star. A short summary for these volumes was given and it was accompanied by a list of extras and the episode count. Inside were 4 double hubbed thin pack transparent cases. The artwork on them was nice and they all featured Sana and various other cast members. On the back cover of each thin pack, there were two smaller summaries of the disks inside. This was followed by an episode list and any applicable extra features that might have been included. The reverse side of the covers were pretty nice as each cover had a subtle pattern that used the two background colors for that particular cover. The interior backdrops featured balls, chrysanthemum heads, hearts and swirls Opening up the double hubbed thin pack cases, it was easy to see that these hubs were susceptible to breakage, as all of them came with many of the 'teeth' broken in little pieces and floating around inside. The dvds themselves came out unscathed. They sported clean images of individual characters from series. The volume numbers for each one were labeled inside a babbit shape.
The menus were easy to navigate. The main menu for each volume tended to feature a static image of Sana. The same music was played during all the volumes. The sub menus had their own background music. The 'Episodes' subsection had a title listing for each episode on the disk. Along the side were Polaroids taken from various scenes in those particular episodes. Selecting one of the titles would then bring you over to a shorter selection list where you could go directly to the opening, prologue, closing or the next episode preview. The 'Audio' menu was short and to the point. It was nice that they included a disclaimer that the Japanese audio had to be altered to conform to copyright restrictions.
The 7th and 8th volumes had a small setting data gallery that featured a few of the main characters. The depth that they went to in including all the intricate details of the characters was nice. Multiple views were included of several of the main characters signature outfits. Details were given on how the eyes were drawn and on various facial expressions. The other extra was an actor commentary for episode 51 with the voices of Sana and Akito. Some of the things they talked about were what they liked about being in 'Kodocha.' It should be noted that they repeatedly mentioned that people should write in to Funimation if they wanted to see the second season of Kodocha.
Content: (Portions of this review may contain spoilers)
Scandals abound as rumors run rampant. Sneaky reporters, sleazy production companies and more zany happenings than you can count take place in this second box set.
Sana was basically a very spunky and enthusiastic young girl with the energy of a mini-tornado. Despite the fact that she was an actress, she generally acted true to her self in every situation. Unfortunately for a girl who had her friend's best interests at heart, she had the tendency to not look before she leaped. This usually tended to involve her in some form of mischief or another. A few of the episodes in this set dealt with the inevitable fallout of choices she made earlier on in the series. One of the first examples of this was the baby chick episode. All Sana had wanted to do originally was to make Tsuyoshi's younger sister happy and keep her innocent perception of things intact. As a result Tsuyoshi's family now had one full sized adult rooster, several angry neighbors, a sad little girl, and a lack of sleep in general. In order to fix the situation she had caused, Sana again jumped head first into the problem by deciding to take the rooster with her to her eccentric home. This of course caused Akito and Rei to berate her for her general lack of "thinking things through." Some may remember Akito as having been described as Sana's "natural enemy and friend" in previous episodes. Akito had the ability to serve as a counter-balance to Sana's enthusiasm. Where she was loud and energetic, he was reserved and quiet. Akito also had a tendency to rarely mention when things were bothering him and had a perpetual "poker" face. Even when he was told that his father had a gal pal it failed to elicit even a flinch from him. At this stage in the series however, Sana usually understood his unspoken cues.
There were two main arcs that were seen in this part of the first season. The first of which was Sana and her family losing their home at possibly the worst time. With inherent silliness Mama had proceeded to sing about how she was the cosigner for a company that had defaulted on a loan. As a result the collection agencies had come after her. The end was a small army with red auction tags storming the family home. Even in the worst of situations, Sana and her mother were able to see the light in the far distance. As Sana had explained, "It's enough just to be alive." As long as they were alive, they knew that they could eventually climb their way back up to a normal life. With quite a bit of luck and help from friends, they didn't stay completely down for too long. However just as they finally had one problem out of the way, another began to loom over the horizon in the form of an aggressive talent agency. The production company had only one goal in mind, to separate Sana from her manager and get her signed to them at any cost.
This time period also overlapped the second arc dealing with her new 'boyfriend.' With the introduction of Sana's new love Take, the audience was introduced to someone that was even odder than Sana herself. Frequently taken with older men, Sana soon formed a strong bond with her TV father on "Murder Mysteries." Constantly pulling one surprise after another, he always followed each trick by asking if he had surprised the person. At one point it became apparent that Take's behavior was not only because he wanted to surprise people, but perhaps because he also wanted to be remembered. He confessed to Sana that he had never been able to follow anything through before. Not only losing the love of his life, but repeatedly quitting jobs because he just didn't feel like continuing them. Meeting Sana had granted him more than just one boon however. She seemed to bring out the part of him that he liked the most. In essence, she caused him to shine. As a result, he had even succeeded in winning a large role in the "Golden Drama." Unfortunately, all this would ultimately come with a heavy price on Take's health. It was then that the bright and giddy series took a turn for the more serious side of things. By the end of the second arc though, all the power that it had built up left us with one of those gut-rending feelings. It was easy to assume from the surface that 'Kodocha' would be one of those bright and wacky series. One that would always have you wondering, "What will happen next?" However with the startling events that took place, it had changed to a drama with very serious overtones.
One of the things I loved about this set was the sheer amount of crazy comedy that was packed in. One part that came to mind was that of the calm Mr. Hayama rapping with Sana. He had started off by stating that he "wasn't very good at talking" because he was so shy. After those oddly stated words, he had then proceeded to do even odder dance movements. This wasn't the only case of weirdness. Before Kodocha had switched gears to dive into the aforementioned arcs, there were two mini episodes that were purely fun. The first of them dealt with a magical place called Kurataland. Sana was naturally the princess. However, they were being plagued by some being that was changing people into moths. As such, Sana took it upon herself to bring the miscreant to justice before he turned all the citizens into moths. The second part of the episode was an incredibly odd piece where everyone was a 'caveman.' I honestly have no idea what weirdness possessed the creators to force them to make such an episode. From Rei's leaf sunglasses to the weird Ewok-ish language of gibberish and 'grunts' it was a strange episode indeed. It did feel a little like they had slammed the breaks on the interesting story line that had just barely begun to unravel. In hindsight though, it was nice to get that last burst of craziness in before things turned serious.
From the very beginning of these episodes, it was clear that 'Kodocha' was anything but normal. One of the things I really enjoyed was its unpredictability. The first clue that the series was going to defy convention was in fact it's opening theme song. "Ultra Relax" was a very bouncy and energetic tune that was reminiscent of the Rednex' song "Cotton Eye Joe." This was accompanied by small groups of the main cast and supporting characters doing a type of line dance similar to the "Macarena." Aside from the other nice music used, I also enjoyed the nostalgic feeling to the animation as well. People familiar with other titles that have run in the girls manga magazine 'Ribon' such as 'Marmalade Boy,' and 'Ultra Maniac' will recognize the similar art style in this as well. The most enjoyable part of this series has been the characters and their interactions with each other. All the drama and craziness that followed was icing on the cake.
More than just a zany comedy, 'Kodocha' is a series that has a strong sense of drama and heart. Seeing Sana triumph over the adversity she faced yet still react normally to intensely sad situations made her feel like more than just a 2 dimensional character. By the end of the Takeshi arc it was hard to keep my eyes dry. My daughters and husband enjoyed most of these episodes as well.
The animation style may seem slightly dated to some, but it is part of it's charm. The real gem here comes in the form of the character interactions and the ensuing drama. There was quite a bit of romance mixed in with this as well. There is no doubt that most viewers will find themselves totally engrossed by the end of this set and eager for more. It truly was a shoujo soap opera with all the energy of a non-stop roller coaster. I can only hope that the second season gets licensed here as well.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
106" 16x9 DaLite HC Screen, Panasonic PT-AX100U LCD Projector 720p native, AMD 64 x2 4200, Windows x64, NVidia PureVideo, FFDShow, CoreAVC, AC3Filter and Various Media Players DVD Upconversion handled by NVidia software, Sony STR-DE835 500W Receiver DD/DTS, Klipsch Reference System (RB-61, CS-52 and RS-42) speakers, Sony SA-WMS5 100 Watt powered subwoofer, DVI to HDMI (PC to Projector), Digital Coaxial Cable (PC to Receiver).