Diamond Daydreams (Kita e) Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Diamond Daydreams (Kita e)

Diamond Daydreams (Kita e) Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     February 13, 2006
Release Date: February 07, 2006

Diamond Daydreams (Kita e) Vol. #1
© ADV Films

What They Say
Atsuko Akanegi is a simple girl helping her mother run the struggling family business. She works hard, stays out of trouble and tries to not let life get too complicated. But then, she discovers that she has an arranged marriage waiting for her in the future. And to make matters worse, she thinks her groom-to-be is a bit boring and self-centered. Then, more complications. Atsuko meets Kurata – a mature, interesting and passionate soul who mingles his way into her life. She is torn. Atsuko must find within herself the delicate differences between the comfort of firm stability of and the pain of a wanting heart.
Karin Shiraishi is very ill. She has been hospitalized for a over two years with little hope of recovery. And her physician, Dr. Amakasu, doesn’t make her feel any better – neither in a medical sense nor emotionally. He is cocky, brash and aloof to her needs as a person. The only thing that keeps Karin going is her web blog. There, she vents and expounds upon her experiences and manages to find some warmth and sanity in the otherwise cold and sterile confines of the patient ward. Eventually, her blog gathers quite a following, and she meets someone wonderful. Kind and caring, her new friend is everything she’s been longing for. That is, until they come face to face.

The Review!
Squarely aimed at those who love the slice of life material, Diamond Daydreams is a series that touches upon the lives of six women.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series, being primarily dialogue and not that big on action effects, has a solid stereo mix that does some good work with forward soundstage directionality as the cast interact with each other and cast their inner thoughts about. The music and some of the minor incidental moments are about the only places where the stereo channels really get any sort of workout but the vocal pieces for the opening and closing sequences are strong and sound great. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and in listening to both tracks we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented n its original full frame aspect ratio. The show's recent vintage works to its advantage here as it has some very good looking clean but detailed artwork and character designs throughout it. With it being focused on the slice of life material and many real world locations there is a good bit of attention paid to the details and designs so it's got a bit more to it than some of the bland backgrounds you might get elsewhere. The real world coloring style accents it nicely though they play with some very vibrant colors in a few areas as well. There is a bit of aliasing in a couple of scenes here that have a lot of close line work and there and some mosquito noise break-up in some characters hair during a few scenes but overall it's a pretty solid looking transfer.

Fans of the show will make out really well with the packaging style used here as the clear keepcase allows for the first and second Japanese covers to be used here so you can have the girl of your choice on the front. The front cover for retail has Atsuko laying on her pillow on the tatami mats as she looks at a magazine and it has a very soft and homey feel to it with its relaxed nature. The logo along the top mixes in snowflakes in its design while along the bottom it shows headshots of all six girls that comprise the series. The back cover provides a strip down along the right of the two leads from these episodes and provides a nice shot of Karin along the left. Between the two it covers the basic premise for the show and these two storylines. As busy as it already sounds, they do a nice job of also putting in the discs features and a technical grid along with production information without making it feel like it's impossible to find anything. It's very well laid out here. The reverse side provides the cover art from the second Japanese volume with Karin in a much nicer bed than she has in the show with all sorts of frilly things around her while the back cover is reworked a bit for Atsuko. It's all very well done and a cover that really works to please fans of both girls that at featured here.

The main menu layout for this release is nicely done and one of the ones from ADV recently that shows a bit more effort put into it. Using the character artwork for Atsuko and Karin side by side, it has them laying on the white indistinct background as snowflkes of different sizes float down from the top and the background shimmers with white flashes as the music plays along. It's got a nice bit of life and energy to it and is well laid out as well, with each of the two episode blocks for each girl separated and named while the basic navigation is along the bottom. Access times are nice and fast as the various menus are loaded or the show is started up and the disc played according to our players' language presets.

This series has a pretty strong selection of extras for the fans here. The standards are available in the usual form of the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a number of promotional TV spots from Japanese broadcast. Thought not lengthy there's a short video interview with the series director Bob Shirahata that talks about the origins of the project and his appeal to it. A radio show feature is included with plenty of video called DDD Time as it lets the voice actresses have a bit of fun with their characters and the franchise in general. The first two of these are included and run about ten minutes in length total. With so few shows having taken place in Hokkaido, a nice multi-screen travelogue is done for the show where it covers some of the cities and sights of the region. This is covered in another extra here as well called the Food of Hokkaido which deals with how that was mixed into the show, from the bumpers to the actual meals that you see served during the episodes. The last and most curious extra is the "Panda's DVD Diary" which is a multi-screen diary piece from one of the PR folks working on the show during its initial creation and airing that took on a persona of a panda in order to just be a little different. This offers a number of behind the scenes looks and quirks about the production.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Diamond Daydreams, originally called Kita E * Onto the North *, is a twelve episode series that covers the lives of six girls with each of them getting two episodes each. Each of the storylines so far appears to be self contained as you learn about their situations and their lives up in the various towns in Hokkaido. Based on a video game of the same name, Diamond Daydreams is the kind of slice of life show that has a very distinct segment of fans here and will please them a lot.

The first two episode storyline revolves around a young woman named Atsuko who lives with her mother above the fish market that they inherited after her father died. Things had gone badly in that they couldn't keep their house so they make their lives just through the store now which is going through tough times as many small businesses are. Atsuko is a happy girl in general but she feels like she's missing some of her youth as she spends most of her time dealing with the store or deliveries. At the same time, her future seems assured as years ago she was part of an arranged marriage with the son of the owner of a very profitable inn in the same town of Hakodate. Atsuko isn't too sure about all of this though as there are a lot of things on her mind that she hasn't resolved and some fears that keep her not wanting to commit.

Atsuko's story is slowly told as she starts taking up with an older man named Kurata whose given up everything in his life to follow his dream so he's looked down upon by many others in the tightly knit community. But she tries to figure out what she may be missing in watching how he is but while there is some potential tinges of a relationship skirting around the edge of her mind, she's far more interested in him as someone who isn't someone she's known all her life that she can talk to without being judged and questioned as others would. Watching her trying to figure out what she really wants and some of the illogical reactions she makes to what happens is interesting to watch as well as the kind of resolution that's brought to all of it.

The second storyline shifts to a younger girl named Karin, who at age fifteen has spent two years in the hospital for a disease she has that can be treated but not cured by drugs and other practices. What she really needs is surgery in order to make the disease cured but she's fearful of it and has refused it even though it will free her to see the world and her friends once more. She's not been to her home in Tokyo in all this time and her friends have long stopped coming to visit so all she has is her older brother that goes to college in the area and the nurse that does the most for her, Yuki. Karin spends most of her time transcribing her dreams into an online diary so that she can never forget them.

When a new resident doctor is introduced to her he finds that his somewhat blunt style at times causes her trouble since he calls her a spoiled child right from the start based on how crying about being afraid of surgery. While she does have reason for it that we learn as the episodes progress, she and the good doctor are mostly adversarial. At the same time, she's become good friends with someone online who listens and sympathizes with her and gives her an emotional need she wasn't aware of. The relationships that Karin is involved in and those around her are slowly revealed as the storyline progresses and we see just what kind of people are trying to get her to feel better. It's an interesting tale though I'm glad that it looks like the stories will alternate between younger and older girls as the younger ones tend to have weaker storylines in general.

In Summary:
Diamond Daydreams is a very well animated show that plays to an area that I enjoy a lot which doesn't get a lot of play over here and is still a relatively small market in Japan as well. With its basis in videogames, which is mostly covered in the narration done during the episode previews, it's goal of getting you to like and become attached to the characters is well done as they're given some interesting personalities and situations to work through without being controversial or divisive. The show is meant to be fairly simple and inoffensive and its taking place in Hokkaido gives it a really great feeling since so few shows take place there. The differences in locale and the kind of people you encounter is definitely a plus and it gives the show that little something extra that makes it all the more enjoyable.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese TV spots,Interview with director Bob Hirohata,DDD Time Segment,A Hokkaido travelogue,The Food of Hokkaido,Panda’s Diamond Dust Drops Diary Part 1,Clean opening animation, Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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