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

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, August 18, 2008
Release Date: Monday, August 18, 2008

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, they say, and Suzuka seems to be finding that out now that Yamato's with Honoka.  But this volume throws enough spanners into their young relationship that Suzuka may get her chance soon enough…

What They Say: 
Yamato and Honoka are dating...somewhat. For a young man blissfully in love, he sure is spending a lot of time with Suzuka. First getting stranded, then birthday shopping...Already bound and determined to screw things up on his own, with Yasunbu cheering this race on, Honoka's gonna be outta there before the starting pistol gets a chance to go off!

Episodes Comprise
15 – Bellflower
16 – Impulse
17 – Boyfriend
18 – Present

The review
Audio:
Audio is provided in both English and Japanese 2.0 tracks - this time around, I listened to the Japanese track. Like it English counterpart, it's a fairly basic stereo mix - the setting doesn't really give much opportunity for working out the soundstage, so there's no real direction to things, but it's clear and easy to make out.

Video:
Video is presented in its original full-frame aspect, and makes good use of a bright- colourful palette to bring the show's setting to life. The transfer itself is also good, with no noticeable problems.
 
Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu features an image of Honoka, back to the camera and looking over her shoulder as she opens her shirt.  Options are provided for Play All, episode selection, language setup and extras, and a piece of the show's background music plays over the top. There are no transition animations, so it's all suitably quick & easy to use.

Extras:
No much here - a gallery of screenshots dressed up as the school yearbook, and creditless versions of the opening and closing songs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Suzuka and Yamato's predicament gets worse when they realise that they've got next to no money - meaning they can't afford anywhere to spend the night.  Yamato finally thinks of calling his parents, who live in Haroshima, and asking for their help - but that doesn't solve the problem of Honoka, who's almost assuming the worst.  Given Yamato's well-known attraction to Suzuka, could them being stranded together really have been an accident?  Meanwhile, Suzuka's more than a bit curious herself about how Yamato came to be dating Honoka.  Later, Suzuka seems to realise what she's missing and make the most of some opportunities to spend time with Yamato – and seeing how much Yamato enjoys her company soon lands him in trouble with Honoka…

These four episodes all work to the same basic idea – trying to show that Yamato's relationship with Honoka is a sham, and that the fates seem more interested in hooking him up with Suzuka, even if she hasn't quite got to the point of realising that herself.  In each episode, Yamato and Suzuka spend "quality" time together, Honoka gets to know what's going on, and the resulting issues have to be dealt with, with Honoka's reaction growing stronger each time.

There's also a focus on the more negative side of Yamato's personality, both in the way that he doesn't seem to realise when it's better to keep his mouth shut – he'd get on along with Honoka much better if he just realised that – and, more worryingly, the way he doesn't seem to think twice before trying to take advantage of Honoka when he tries to move their relationship to a more physical level.  The more you see of him, the more you realise that he really doesn't deserve someone as sweet and innocent as Honoka – and that while Suzuka's not without a few glaring personality flaws herself, you maybe wouldn't want to inflict him on her, either.  Is all this the result of him being young and just finding his way with the girls, or is there a more sinister side to him?  That's up to the viewer to decide, but the way he keeps mis-stepping is hugely infuriating.

Almost as infuriating is Suzuka's apparent inability to decide what she really wants – the more you see of her, the clearer it becomes that she's got feeling for Yamato.  She's just not capable of admitting this to herself, as seen when Miki tries to raise the subject with her and gets a firm denial.  On one level she knows what she wants, she's just not confident enough to go out there and get it – so you get to see her sitting on the sidelines, usually with a slightly sad expression and watching Yamato and Honoka.  Every so often you think she's about to work up the courage to say something, only for her to quickly back down with a "just joking!" or something similar.

For all the infuriating to'ing and fro'ing, though, I do enjoy this series – the characters feel real, with most of them being similar in personality to people I've met in real life.  At the moment there's the distinct feeling that Honoka's dream of being with Yamato is about to come crashing down – the title of the series pretty much assures you of who Yamato will eventually end up with – but for all that you have to feel sorry about the situation she's landed herself in, there's also a desire to see the lead couple finally get together that may finally be about to be answered – although I doubt that'll run smoothly when it happens, either.

In summary:
You know that Yamato and Honoka represent a disaster just waiting to happen, but in a roundabout way that just makes this volume even more enjoyable to watch, and while some of Yamato's decisions don't exactly paint him in a positive light, he's not so bad that he begins to ruin the show.  If you've seen previous volumes you'll know what to expect, and if you've enjoyed them then this release won't disappoint either.

Features:

Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Aoba High School Yearbook, Textless Opening & Closing Sequences

Review Equipment:

Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12+
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2