Though uneven, one of the best relationship series arrives in a new priced down collection that doesn’t reduce what’s on the discs in the slightest.
What They Say
Like a drug, Yukino Miyazawa was addicted to admiration and praise from those around her. She worked hard to become the perfect student, the perfect girl. But that was before... him. Souichirou Arima. The instant she met him, she hated him. Without even trying, he snatched the very glory from her hands by easily acing the high school entrance exam that should have made her the class representative. To take back what is rightfully hers, Yukino is putting all her efforts into plotting her revenge; but was love part of the plan? Contains all 26 episodes of the television series in a single keepcase!
The bilingual presentation for this series is the same as what’s come before with a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 224kbps. Though a late 90’s release, there’s only a basic stereo mix with nothing being thrown to the rear speakers. The forward soundstage is used quite nicely however with some amusing moments of directionality, but the majority is fairly center channel oriented outside of the music. The music tends to stand out the best overall with how full it sounds but it’s a good mix overall that serves the material well. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 1998 and into 1999, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release has the exact same discs that were released back in 2002, with the twenty-six episodes spread across five discs in a 6/5/5/5/5 format. Unlike before, where I had very different gear and setup, the cross coloration is more noticeable this time around, though it avoids being really distracting thankfully. There’s some visible aliasing going on, which isn’t a surprise with the varied source material used. What’s most noticeable though is that the Gainax Effect is in full force here, which means that their masterful editing process provides us yet again with frame jitter during scene transitions. This will bother some people more than others though.
There’s a huge amount of onscreen text in this show, so there’s two ways things are done. If you playback in Japanese via the menus, you get angle 1. Angle 1 provides the original text during the opening about sitting in a well lit room. Angle 1 provides the original Kanji credits at the end of each episode. Angle 1 provides the Japanese actresses in the next episode previews talking about what’s coming up. If you select English language in the menus, you get angle 2. Angle 2 provides a full English translation of the well lit piece in the beginning. Angle 2 provides English credits over the original Japanese video (minus Kanji credits). Angle 2 provides the US actresses in the next episode previews talking about what’s coming up.
With all the onscreen text, you have the option of having it translated or not. If you have the option off, your eyes get a rest but you miss a huge amount of the show. If you have it on, you have what I think is the best subtitling job on any DVD I’ve ever seen. While we’ve definitely applauded each studio that’s taken to using soft subtitles for onscreen Kanji translations, those are generally the same simple white or yellow font in varying sizes. Here, they’re all different styles, colors and designs. They’ve done an incredibly admirable job of mirroring what the intent is with the onscreen text. When we see a crate that says “Orange” in Kanji, we get a similar sized English soft sub that says “Orange” and is orange.
Using a rather happy looking couple shot, the cover features a bright and energetic pairing of Yukino and Souichirou leaning against each other with big smiles as you can see the real cherry blossom trees behind them. The logo is small along the bottom, allowing the character artwork to really dominate. The background plays up the school angle nicely with lined paper, pensil and so forth with little notes providing the sections where it talks about the discs features, or its origins. The summary is solid and there’s a nice selection of images from the show used around all of it. The technical grid breaks the whole show down nicely with a clean look that makes it easy to figure out what’s what. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
With some construction imagery in the background, the main menu is a large billboard that has rotating images that fill out a larger image while some of the instrumental music plays along. Selections are laid out along the bottom in the form of buttons, and this menu looks great all told. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is straightforward. The only thing I would have liked to have seen is what I mentioned in regards to the subtitle selection, is some kind of explanation of what’s what.
This release retains all of the extras as found on the original releases, which are spread out well across all five volumes and most of them are US made. There’s a two minute storyboard video of pencil sketches showing one particular scene that uses the onscreen subtitle script that’s interesting to see. There’s a good segment of translators notes, done as the two translators questioning each other on things. The directors notes talks about the shows journey to completion while the production journal is what we’ve seen on the TRSI website, broken down into three calendars where you can select the dates that updates were posted. There’s also several pages worth of character bios with some nice animation shots accompanying them. The Japanese extras that are on here are pretty good as well with several pairings of the voice actors doing interviews and talking about the show and their characters.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Masami Tsuda, His and Her Circumstances (originally known as Kare Kano), is a twenty-six episode series. The series was unfortunately one of those who was made during the midst of the manga run with it covering about seven out of the twenty-one volumes made. For a lot of people, this makes the show very problematic, but it shouldn't discourage most from checking it out. Though it's been some five years or so since I last saw it, when Right Stuf released it for the first time in single form, this is a series that has a lot of staying power to it because of what it does, how it does it and the honesty of the emotions portrayed within it.
His and Her Circumstances is a romantic comedy and drama series that takes place in a faraway world known as 1999. The show makes regular references to the time period, the turn of the century, with the way the world is dealing with it. But those references, repeated far too often, have little to do with the show itself. The focus is on a group of characters that are built up when two people come together. Initially it looks to be a very strong piece about the two lead characters, Yukino and Souichiro, but it really turns itself into a very strong ensemble piece with them as its center. The manga plays much the same way, though the focus is greater on Yukino and Souichiro but everyone gets a good run during it as their back stories are explored. Those stories are tapped into here as well, but when they dominate more in the second half, it feels weaker because the first half was so strong with the other two.
The core of the show revolves around Yukino, a very gifted young high school freshman who is the model student with an ordinary family, and Souichiro, a similarly gifted young man who comes from name background with his family. Yukino has hidden her crazier side under this facade of being the perfect student. When she's at home, she's almost frumpy looking with her clothes and appearance, and her focus is on making money and finding power and wealth in the world when she graduates. She hides all of this as it's what she believes her life should be like to others. Souichiro is much the same way, in that he hides his real self at least. He lives the life of a model student, but things in his past and his psychological make-up has him hiding who he is because he views that inner self as something terrible.
When he accidentally discovers Yukino's real personality, it sets into motion a relationship that takes some time to form, but is beautiful to watch, Souichiro tries manipulating her at first, and she falls for it hard as she wants to protect the image she has built, but as time goes on they both realize that they're more alike than they realize. Feelings are explored, emotions surface and they try to deal with everything as best as they can. It's this exploration, done with a mixture of seriousness and comedy, that makes His and Her Circumstances so engaging. The inner monologues for both characters is exposed to the viewer, and through this exposure we get a far more engaging look at a storyline like this than we would have otherwise. Many shows play up these elements, but it's hard to think of any other that really delves into it like this. That puts their thoughts on display with such raw honesty. So as they come together and figure out what they are to each other, they also have to figure themselves out.
While these two are the foundation of the series, there are many others that that help to flesh it out to something more. Yukino's family is hilarious to watch, with a pair of young sister that play well off of her and parents that are a delight. Yukino's father is a very doting type that almost plays it too far, but he's just one of those very involved, very loving and fun dads that makes their lives all the more vivid. Within the school, both have a fairly interesting group of friends that evolve. Yukino hasn't had friends before because of her facade and Souichiro is the same way. But when they change themselves and start dating, they attract others. From Souichiro's past comes Asaba, a girl hungry hunk that's very close to Souichiro and knows more than he lets on. And after awhile, a girl he knew from before, Tsubasa, returns to school after an illness and continues her plans to try and woo Souichiro away as they both have similar childhood experiences.
Yukino's friends come with a little more trial and tribulation though. Because of the facade she put up, there's some distrust from the girls since Yukino isn't involved with them otherwise whereas Souichiro does kendo and, well, guys react differently. Because of what Yukino does, the girls end up forming a group around one girl named Maho who has it in for Yukino. This polarizes some of them and starts a catty fight over time but it puts everything out in the open to be dealt with. It also really creates some fascinating bonds between the girls that grows and changes over the course of the series. And that's a huge part of the show as none of these characters are anywhere near the same from where they start here. And this is really just the tip of the iceberg from what's done in the manga.
His and Her Circumstances takes all of this and presents it in a really engaging way. It goes about a lot of things in a normal way, but the creative team also explores other avenues that were not often used back when this came out ten years ago. There are live action moments in places, they use lots of on screen text for the monologues with voice overs and there are manga elements used as well. There's even a great segment where they use paper cutouts to convey the storyline. All of this is combined through different manners throughout the series that gives it a very intriguing style and sense of expression. A lot of shows picked up this style afterwards, and I'm sure some series used pieces of it before, but here, with this kind of story, it all comes together in a way I don't think I've seen another show do it.
When I first saw this show, I don't think I had read the manga at that point. I know I finished reading it some time after I watched the anime, and it's interesting to go and watch this again and to feel like so much of it was animated because of the style used. Coming back to all of it again after all this time was wonderful. I adore these characters, their expression of themselves and the method through which the series is animated. But in the end, it's those inner monologues, the way that these characters fight against their honest appraisal of themselves and then coping with realizations when they have them. They're too self aware to be sure, but as an exploration of a relationship – and many kinds are explored here – it's incredibly engaging and you want to see more of it. There really did need to be more of this series, but at least there's plenty of manga to read more of these stories. This is a great show, one that really needs to be seen as one of the best things Gainax worked on.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Directors notes, translation notes, production notes, character biographies, storyboard samples, voice actor interviews, English voice actresses outtakes, phone messages
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.