His and Her Circumstances Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 180
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: His And Her Circumstances

His and Her Circumstances Vol. #1

By Chris Collette     July 06, 2002
Release Date: July 23, 2002

The Review!
In John Clements' and Helen McCarthy's entry for His and Her Circumstances in "The Anime Encyclopedia" (2001, Stone Bridge Press), they make the following jaded quip that has personified the apprehension of many an otaku concerning this show's North American release:

"Though an English-language version from Right Stuf is forthcoming at time of writing, the authors doubt whether the show's chaotic onscreen action could survive translation intact." (p. 174)

I can now whole-heartedly assure the authors and anybody else that The Right Stuf (TRSI) pulled it off. Oh man, did they ever pull it off.

Already being familiar with the Japanese language track, I focused much of my time instead on the new English-language dub. Not possessing a fancy audio set-up, I can only say that audio was clear and consistent on my Panasonic television for both tracks, with no noticeable dropouts.

There is a single issue with this disc involving the video, which I will address later on. But first, let me go over a how TRSI succeeded in their subtitling of this show.

His and Her Circumstances (aka "Karekano") is a chaotic show full of visual humor and gobs and gobs of on-screen text. Anime fans, put off by early attempts to cover up on-screen text like this with "cheesy overlays," made rather vocal remarks that they'd want none of that with Karekano. TRSI came up with an excellent solution, and it's one that requires a bit of explanation:

If you start up the disc and automatically play it without making any modifications in the setup menu, the show will play its Japanese track with spoken dialogue translated and subtitled. These subtitles are fairly easy-to-read, white with a thin black outline, very similar (if not, the same as), TRSI's earlier Boogiepop Phantom release. However, none of the on-screen text is translated, which gives your eyes a bit of a rest, but also means you risk missing some important information or humor.

This can be rectified by going into the setup menu when the disc first loads up. Here you can choose the language the dialogue will be spoken in (English or Japanese), as well as the language that the subtitles will be displayed in (English or Spanish). Following this you are given the choice of having Dialogue subtitles which is turned on by default, in addition to another subtitle track called "Titles". Turning this on will subtitle all the text that frequently appears on screen. Let me emphasize that these are SOFT SUBTITLES, and not overlays.

But what's really cool is that these aren't the simplistic dialogue subtitles being used. The title subtitles are displayed in dozens of different font styles, colors, and patterns. The level of effort to have these subtitles match the mood of the original Japanese text is phenomenal. It truly is something that needs to be seen to be fully understood, and I sincerely hope that other companies are taking notice of this. TRSI has just raised the bar for anime dvds.

What also impressed me was simply the video transfer. I was a little scared that, not only with six, 24-minute episodes on a single DVD, but also all these other options in subtitles and extras given would cause for a shoddy video transfer. Fortunately, I saw no cross-coloration nor any artifacting or other transfer problems. Being a mid-90s tv show, the video doesn't have that crisp, computer-edited "perfect" look that we now see most shows possess. There's some occasional jitteryness and the occasional scratch, but all-in-all, nothing horrific nor unexpected.

I'd also like to point out at this time a few minor touches that really help make this production go a long way. If you choose to watch the Japanese-language version of this show by using the setup menu, you'll be given the opening "Warning" screen in its original Japanese, as well as the opening and closing credits, eyecatch, and next-episode previews in its original Japanese form. If you choose instead to watch the English dub, the opening screen will now be presented entirely in English, the opening credits will no longer have the credits or title in Japanese (is the title screen an example of a graphic overlay? Well, it's not cheesy, and it's only presented this way when you choose the English dub, so I call it a nonissue), as is the same with the eyecatch and closing credits.

Then we have the next-episode previews. In the original Japanese version, we have a live-action presentation given by the Japanese voice actors of Yukino's two younger sisters. Pretty much they read from the script and act goofy. If you choose to watch the English dub, you'll instead be given a live-action presentation by the ENGLISH voice actors of Yukino's two younger sisters. They well, read from the script and act goofy. The makers of this dvd really went above and beyond the call for duty in the presentation of this disc.

But that doesn't mean I'll let them entirely off the hook. What keeps me from calling this greatest anime dvd produced to date is a video issue that occurs twice on the disc. If you choose to watch Karekano in its original Japanese with both subtitle tracks turned on (remember, by default the title tracks are off), then you could very well have a glitch occur early in episodes 1 and 5. On my Toshiba SD-1600, what would happen is that about two minutes into the episode, both subtitle tracks would simply vanish. According to the setup, they're still on, but they're not being displayed. So I was left scrambling, trying to turn them back on, backtrack the dvd, switch off one track, turn on another, etc. Frustrating, really. And if I simply did nothing and let the disc continue to play, it'd freeze up about a minute later.

I've heard this happening on a lot of different dvd players, and dvd executive producer Shawne Kleckner has said that future pressings of volume one will probably have this issue resolved. It's still quite disappointing for those of us who get the disc early on, especially because the option of having both the dialogue and title subtitle tracks turned on is bound to be the preference of many an otaku.

I would like to point out that I briefly tested this disc on my Pioneer DV-440 dvd player to see if these glitches occurred on it as well. It didn't. It ran flawlessly. I love Pioneer.

The front cover is a rather vibrant picture showing Karekano's two leads in a happy pose. This continues the growing trend for North American cover artwork to closely resemble their Japanese counterparts. The back cover gives a brief synopsis of the series with a couple of shots from the series, all presented in a format to look like a high school student's cluttered desk. DVD features are listed as well as the episode numbers. The inside of the case is rather Spartan; the case itself is clear, but there is no internal or reversible cover to take advantage of this, so instead we have a solid white appearance. There is a TRSI registration post card, but otherwise no actual insert. The dvd itself is a pastel shade of pink with a shot of Yukino Miyazawa in her school uniform. It's to my understanding that TRSI has pressed several variations of the actual disc (for collectors' sakes, I guess), so what your actual dvd looks like may be different than this. All in all, it's !
simplistic and elegant.

With so much already on this disc, you'd think there wouldn't be much for extras, right? Well, when most of them are text-based, it isn't quite so difficult. There are notes from the director of the English-language production, explaining a bit about what went into the show, as well as translator's notes from the two translators, noting several cultural references that the viewer may be unfamiliar with. In the months leading up to the completion of Karekano volume 1, TRSI's web site had a section called "The Producer's Journal," which documented the day-to-day progress of getting the dvd ready for release. This on-line journal is also fully archived on this disc. In addition to some basic character bios that have become the staple of any anime dvd's Extras section, we are treated to a brief storyboard video of a scene from one of the episodes.

CONTENT: (may contain spoilers)
His and Her Circumstances is about growing up.

In it, we meet Yukino Miyazawa, a high school freshman who has for years hidden behind a mask from her teachers and peers. In school, she is well-mannered, well-dressed, and well-educated. Miyazawa gives off an air of intellect and superiority, to which the student body gobbles up in senseless admiration.

This is not the real Yukino Miyazawa, however. She is in reality, a slobbish, crude, and oftentimes goofy teenage girl who gorges herself on the vanity she has created in school-life. It is only in the safety of her household that she displays her true colors.

It is not until the arrival of Souichirou Arima in her class that Miyazawa finds her inner self torn in conflict. Arima, like Miyazawa, appears in school to be well-refined and extremely intelligent. However, Arima seems to be "the real thing," whereas Miyazawa's scholastic aspirations are purely selfish.

Feeling her popularity being sucked away from her, Miyazawa sets off on a deluded campaign to one-up Arima and to maintain herself as top dog in the student populace. Arima, completely oblivious to Miyazawa's ulterior motives, finds himself drawn to what he sees as a kindred spirit, an equal to him. Even after Arima learns of Miyazawa's secret, it becomes only more clear that appearances are not what they seem, for either Miyazawa or Arima.

This, my friends, is the anti-Evangelion. And yet at the same time, the two shows excellent parallels of the mind of director Hideki Anno. His and Her Circumstances is romantic comedy-drama, that focuses entirely on the extremes of two very different emotions (I often refer to anime like this as simply "crack shoujo"). As with Eva, we are presented with characters who, thinking they have a full understanding of themselves, only learn that they don't have the slightest idea about who they really are. It is a show of self-discovery, and is an excellent profile of the emotions and actions one feels when in adolescence.

As Miyazawa and Arima's rivalry turns to romance, they learn more about each other and what it means to grow up. With the frantic pace of high school life, we are often presented with scenes of extreme seriousness only to be followed seconds later by an injection of extreme wackiness. Like the raging hormones of youth, His and Her Circumstances cannot decide for itself what it really is. And that only makes it all the better.

I spent a good amount of time listening to the English-dub track. It is quite excellent, with the usual cast of familiar English voice actors. Veronica Taylor and Christopher Nicholas both sound at home in the lead roles, with several strong performances coming from supporting roles (I particularly like Liam O'Brien's rendition of Hideki Asaba).

And speaking of Asaba, as volume 1 winds down, we are introduced to this rather arrogant, ambiguously oriented classmate of Arima and Miyazawa. The duet of discovery and emotion between our leads now becomes expanded into a trio with Asaba's entrance, and the viewer can instantly tell that the complexities and interactions amongst our protagonists have suddenly increased ten-fold.

But before you know it, episode 6 comes to an end, and you suddenly realize just how quickly volume 1 went by. While there is no dire cliffhanger for us to be left on, we are nonetheless left adrift and unsure of exactly what's to come next.

Such as it is with the reality of growing up.

Review Equipment
Panasonic CT-27D10 26" TV, Toshiba SD-1600 dvd player


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