Kamichu Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kamichu

Kamichu Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     August 16, 2006
Release Date: August 15, 2006


Kamichu Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Can a god get sick? Yurie must tackle the challenges of being sick as well as dealing with a rival in love as she struggles with her own morality to help fulfill a young girl's request to be with Ninomiya. Later, the girls visit an old beach hangout that's been closed for years, a place with special memories for the whole town. Then danger returns in feline form when all the cats in town start acting violently. Yurie must enter the cat-world in order to set things right.

The Review!
After a bit of a misstep at the end of the previous volume, Kamichu recaptures much of what made that first volume so engaging.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a rather good stereo mix that makes use of the various vocal and incidental across the forward soundstage that gives things a good bit of life. The show is primarily a dialogue piece but there is a lot of little moments that sneak in with the way the stories are woven to bring interesting sounds to it. The track overall is pretty good though and we didn't have any problems with either language track with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the show primarily taking place in the real world, it has a lot of the standard colors we're used to seeing in small town and school settings. But there is just such a richness and depth to a lot of the colors that when some of the very fluid animation kicks in, it simply looks gorgeous. The show is fairly slow in how it plays out which allows for it to really shine when things pick up. The transfer for this release just looks gorgeous with beautiful colors, great solid looking areas and a lack of problems such as cross coloration or aliasing. The opening sequence is also kept in its original Japanese and soft subtitled due to the creative nature of its design.

Packaging:
Using artwork from the third Japanese volume, we get a really nice relaxed image again this time from the inside of the shrine that Matsuri and her sister Miko live at as we see them relaxing in the summer heat with some incense wafting through the air. It's not a cover that will really sell the show but it's appealing if you're into the show since it really resonates with the kind of feeling that the series has. The back cover features more of the background setting but is covered up with the usual features such as listing the episode numbers and titles, a few shots from the show, the summary and what to expect on the disc. It's all nicely laid out and the text is done in a cute font that's still readable which is a plus. This area gives us a bit better of an idea of what the show is like as it shows off the quirky nature of it. The reverse side features a full length piece of artwork featuring the three main characters and Miko at the beach under their umbrella. This is surely to raise all sorts of people talking about how exploitive it is but they need to just be shushed away. It's a cute picture.

The insert uses artwork from the fourth Japanese cover with the girls waiting for the ferry with their bikes set against a sunset sky that's just beautiful. It opens two a good looking lighter two page spread with overview information about the show and sketches from the Japanese inserts while the back cover rounds that out with release volume information. I lucked out in getting a pencil board with this release and it's gorgeous; each side is done using artwork from a limited edition postcard for the Japanese release, one side of Mitsue and the other side Miko. The illustrations are very good looking and shine more in this form than on a postcard.

Menu:
The menu layout is nicely done as it has a similar feel to the front cover with images of the characters and their setting running through it while framed by shrine related items and materials. The relaxed feeling from the menu works well to again accent the kind of show that is on the disc while managing to keep to some good basics by being quick to access and very easy to navigate. The disc didn't read our players' language presets correctly though and defaulted to English with screen text subtitles.

Extras:
Just like the first volume, the extras for this seem weak at first but once you get into it, it's a great piece to have. The production art gallery covers the materials used to make up this volumes packaging and details their origins which is a real plus and then it goes into various other illustrations and character artwork but with additional comments by the staff about what they are.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With almost no foreknowledge of Kamichu when we started the series, it's an understatement to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly and had only minor exceptions to that, notably the way the last episode seemed to be from another show as it introduced a weird alien and exposed Yurie to the government itself as a god. It didn't seem to fit in with the vibe and flow of the show but considering how good the first three episodes were it was easy to allow for a misstep provided that this volume didn't make it worse.

Not only did this volume not make it worse, it felt like it didn't want to really even think that particular episode existed if not for an offhand comment in the first episode about a reason why Yurie may be so tired. The events of the first volume have hit Yurie fairly hard though and she's come down with a surprisingly strong cold and fever that's put her out of commission for a few days. This isn't anything unusual for a junior high school student but her being in this state has slowed down what she can do as a god, so much that her assistants have decided to not accept any new requests until she's back on her feet. Strangely, her friends don't seem all the eager to visit her or to send much of themselves her way which is a break from other shows but it's something that Yurie notices when she slips in and out of consciousness. Her friends are concerned about her and unsure of what to do. What they end up doing through is trying to understand the consequences of when a god goes sick as it seems many of the spirits and gods in the area are keeping low while their new favorite god is taking it easy.

Ken manages to get a fair bit of attention again in this volume as the girls all tease Yurie lightly about her attraction to him. It gets a bit awkward for Yurie though as she finds out during one of her fortune telling gigs that another girl in one of the classes next door is actually in love with Ken. The slightly more spunky and outgoing Kiyomi causes Yurie some conflict in how to give her advice but ends up keeping true to the concept and suggests ways to gain his favor, including joining the Calligraphy Club so that she can be in the same place with him as her being a grade lower means they have no classes together. Yurie offers to join up in the club herself so that Kiyomi doesn't feel out of place and it leads to some amusing if mild bits of confusion and jealousy as the two girls try to figure out their own feelings and what they think the other is really feeling. It's sweet and tender and continues to push forward what kind of good person that Yurie is.

While the episode that has Yurie being introduced to the gods in general at a party is intriguing and filled with curious little moments, the last episode on the disc simply steals away from just about everything leading up to it now. There have been cute moments throughout where Tama, often being fully possessed by "Little Poverty," is caught doing things no cat should do like shadowboxing or eating watermelon and spitting out seeds. With the focus on cats, Yurie finds out that most of the cats are sneaking out at night lately and going to an abandoned shipyard where they've come under the influence of an older cat that's actually something of a demon named Nekomata. He's turned the shipyard area into a haven for cats and works with them to deal with humans who are cruel to them and treat them poorly. He's split the cat community in terms of support but for those who are with him, he's teaching them to walk on their hind legs and more. With the setting of a rebellion about to break out by cat-kind, Yurie finds herself in the position of working with Tama to challenge him and wrest control of the cats. As if anyone could control cats... that alone should tell you a lot.

The laid back nature of the show is really one of the things that hooks you in but it's also the way that it draws you into the characters and the numerous spirits, gods and other creatures that we see through the eyes of Yurie. The Japanese actors performances in this has to be really understated in a way because it's a shift away from how most kids this age are portrayed in shows though that's slowly changing. Even a character as simple as Tama is wonderfully done since it has to deal with the cat personality and the poverty god personality. It's also why I'm simply wowed by the performances in the English adaptation as well. I generally enjoy New Generation Pictures' dubs more than most others but I think this is one of their strongest ones since the release of Koi Kaze and that I consider a sort of pinnacle in their library of works because of how difficult the content was to work with. Similar to that, the adaptation, writing and performances here are all very enjoyable and really match well to my perceptions of what the characters voices should be in English.

In Summary:
In its understated way, Kamichu kicks ass. .While it did have a misstep in the first volume I think in terms of the stories it was telling, it recovers beautifully here and by the end has you completely enraptured once more. There is a very simple set of stories and slice of life kind of events going on here with the fairly unique sticking point that the lead character is a god. There are hints that she needs to get moving on things and take her position more responsibly as a full god and not try to do junior high at the same time which leads us to wanting to know more about how she became a god, but it's not a central piece. It's the daily dealing with events as they happen where the show shines as its cast of characters are warm, charming and completely identifiable within ourselves. I cannot recommend this enough.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Gallery w/Staff Comments

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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