Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 05, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kujiun comes to a close at long last by trying to be serious and all that, which doesn’t work since you never connect to the characters.

What They Say
Life goes on for the four student council candidates as they continue their apprenticeship in hopes of proving themselves worthy. Unfortunately, life also keeps throwing ridiculous obstacles in their way, including kidnappings, vendettas, and political machinations. And throughout it all, Chihiro and Tokino find themselves drifting apart as they both face their own growing doubts and insecurities. Fortunately, their childhood friend Ritsuko is there to support them in her own way. Will Chihiro's unlucky lot in life finally turn for the better?

In the bonus episode of Genshiken, it's cosplay time again and Saki encourages Ogiue to try it out, dressing up the introverted girl into one of Kujibiki Unbalance's outspoken characters!

The Review!
Audio:
The Kujibiki Unbalance TV series and the Genshiken OVA share the same technical specs when it comes to the audio side of the release. Both shows are presented in bilingual format since they’re fairly popular and they’re done with a straightforward stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. Both shows a pretty much dialogue driven pieces with a bit of physical comedy thrown into it so outside of the music within the episode and the opening and closing sequences, it has a full feeling to it without much in the way of depth or placement. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2007, the transfer for this TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The Kujibiki TV series is one that looks decent but isn’t without its problems as it has a surprisingly grainy feeling which lends itself to a fair bit of noise. This impacts the show in general and not just backgrounds as some of the characters demonstrate a bit of blocking within some of the larger areas of color. It also becomes problematic during some of the more noticeable areas where gradient is obvious. The Genshiken OVA holds up a bit better overall as it doesn’t have quite the same grainy look and maintains a better feel, though there is still some noise to be found within the characters clothes. Neither of these shows look like standout pieces but they aren’t bottom drawer pieces either.

Packaging:
The front cover mirrors the earlier installments pretty well as it has the main pairing of Tokino and Renko together, though this time they’re in some form of sexy cosplay. They’re surrounded by other characters from the show in various outfits, some from school, and overall it’s a very bright and appealing piece. The white background with the fluttering cherry blossoms adds a really nice touch. The side strip with the volume name and the mention of the Genshiken OVA continues to feel a bit out of place but there’s only so many ways to really promote it and hardly any of them look good. The back cover has a lot of white space and has a shot of Kisaragi along the left and a couple of shots from the show along the top. The summary covers both Kujibiki Unbalance and Genshiken this time which is a nice change of pace from the previous installments. The discs episodes are listed clearly and the extras have a good section that’s easy to see. Add in the production information along the bottom with the technical grid and you have a decent looking cover overall but one that is aimed more at those aware of the show than the casual purchaser. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design is a bit of a surprise as it pulls away from some of the standard ways Media Blasters does things. The artwork used isn’t adapted from the front cover as it has a decent image of Kisaragi from the back cover in her traditional garb. The menu is very brightly colored with lots of white space and it even features some animation as cherry blossoms fall down across it along to the soothing vocals from the show. The layout is easy to navigate and they include a separate submenu to deal with the Genshiken OVA where you can adjust the language settings from. Navigation is quick and easy and we had no problems in getting around. As is usual with Media Blasters though, our players’ language presets were ignored due to placement of the subtitle tracks.

Extras:
The extras for the release are split up between the two shows with the Kujibiki extras actually in the extras section. Within there we get a couple of good things that are fairly standard in the clean versions of the closing sequences as well as a thirty second Special Announcement in which the second season of Genshiken is talked about. Genshiken isn’t left out when it comes to the extras though you’ll be hard pressed to find some them easily. Located within the language setup section for the OVA episode, there’s a commentary track included with the Japanese voice actors for Sasahara, Ohno and Ogiue. Not unlike a lot of other commentaries, they aren’t terribly experienced in them but they have a fun time talking about the show and passing along the occasional director’s comment. The clean ending is available through the extras section of the Genshiken menu.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final four episodes of the series, Kujibiki Unbalance finishes things out in a way that closes out the story of Ritsuko at the academy and sets the stage for the oncoming year. Before the old council can shuffle off into the distance however, the new council must be put to the test and have their real baptism of fire. And what better way to do that than to completely frustrate them?

Before any of that can happen however, Kujibiki Unbalance actually attempts to finish out a dangling plotline from a previous episode. When the aliens came to steal away Koyuki, a few of them were left stranded behind and unable to get home. They’ve figured out what they need in order to fix their ship and that’s young Renko, the master of all things mechanical. When Yamada is essentially sent away by Renko, it provides them with the perfect opportunity to kidnap her and get her to fix the ship. It’s an amusing episode when it comes to dealing with the aliens since they do feel so out of place here, but beyond that it was more of the same bland material in how everyone fails to come together at first but eventually finds a way.

Kujibiki Unbalance gets back on track a little bit when it starts into its final storyline which is spread across the remaining three episodes. It’s not exactly a continuous plot but it’s one where the effects of one episode change how things progress in the next. Koyuki is next on the list to be kidnapped and she ends up in the hands of her older brother Daiki who left the family over ten years ago. He’s back to ruin the academy after what happened to their father years ago and intends to do it by taking Koyuki and having her help him. Of course, Komaki doesn’t stand for this nor does the student council in training. This is where the problem comes in because they’re specifically instructed not to take action. But how can they not try to rescue their friend?

With a suspension at hand, the upcoming group finds themselves unsure of what to do or how to proceed since it can’t be overturned. That causes some of them like Chihiro to really question himself and his place on the council and that sets the stage for either a tearful ending to everything or a predictable coming together where everything gets resolved in a happy way. Well, not entirely happy as some potential love is lost, but happy enough in that most everyone gets what they want and the school year goes on with everything different but the same. Kujibiki Unbalance has been both predictable and unpredictable throughout and the ending has some of that as we get closure that I wasn’t expecting but it was done in a way that was entirely expected.

Thankfully this volume has another Genshiken episode and it’s what made the whole experience worthwhile. The fifteenth episode of the series is here and it’s time for the festival once again. It’s been a year since Ohno managed to drag Saki up on stage as Ritsuko and they’re gearing up for another cosplay photoshoot since that did so well for them before. Saki’s not game for it this time again but she is up for trying to convince Ogiue to join in the fun as something of a personal challenge. The guys all end up betting as to whether she’ll carry through while Ohno gets upset that Tanaka actually made outfits for her without telling her about it. It’s a simple episode with its structure and story, but it’s a small dose of magic because these characters all feel so real and true. It has some of the standard “anime moments” when it comes to exaggerated eyes for reactions and the like, but by and large it’s kept real and that’s a huge dose of its charm.

In Summary:
It’s little surprise that Kujibiki Unbalance couldn’t redeem itself for me at the end. It’s really a show that I can’t figure out the appeal of since they took the characters from within Genshiken and then kept them generally off screen as secondary characters. Anyone who had any interest in it from the OVAs that came out before for Kujiun would easily feel slighted by this since it wasn’t what they were expecting more of. Having not cared for those OVAs, I’m not surprised that the show didn’t do anything for me either. It doesn’t feel like it’s heart is in it and none of the characters really connected. This is in stark contrast to watching the Genshiken OVAs which feel like twenty minutes of pure love. As mentioned previously, if I could have gotten these OVAs at Japanese prices subtitled, I would have gone for it. It’s one of the few shows that I feel a little fanatical about. So getting them for the price I have, along with four episodes of Kujiun, isn’t a bad deal but it’s easy to see why others find it problematic. This release is a real mixed bag overall unfortunately but the content that I did like, I loved.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Genshiken Clean Ending, Kujibiki Clean Ending, Special Announcement, Audio Commentary

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: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 21.99
Running time: 130
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kujibiki Unbalance