Kanon Vol. #1 - 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: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kanon

Kanon Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 21, 2007
Release Date: January 01, 2008


Kanon Vol. #1
© ADV Films


What They Say
Yuichi Aizawa used to visit his cousin Nayuki all the time when he was younger, but now he can hardly remember a thing about those visits. And upon his return to finish his senior year in high school while living with his Aunt Akiko and his cousin, the blank spots in his memory have become more and more worrisome. After a seven year absence, Yuichi makes a valiant effort to adjust to his vaguely familiar surroundings.

Bits and pieces of his past come back to him, but his memories elude him still. Why can't he remember? What is he blocking out?

Contains episodes 1-4.

The Review!
The power of uguu compels you to own this series.

Audio:
ADV Films has presented a good bilingual presentation with this release. With the show being all about the mood and dialogue, the two stereo mixes done at 224 kbps work well in setting the tone and atmosphere. The music is the only area where there's anything resembling a full on mix that utilizes the entire forward soundstage, but even then it's often more to just accent the moment rather than dominate it. In terms of dialogue, both tracks cover this pretty well with some mild directionality and placement at times while still working within the overall stereo framework. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Kanon is a series that really teeters on the line when it comes to the grading portion simply because it has so many beautiful scenes as well as some problematic areas. Many of the scenes look quite beautiful and rich but there are several moments throughout where there's a fair amount of background noise going on and even some light cross coloration. Banding shows up in a couple of scenes as well, but there are moments where it's coming up in a darker scene which leads to a bit more blocking and noise because of it. Colors in general look quite good though and the bulk of the program is solid, but it's not clean and solid throughout.

Packaging:
With Kanon long be associated with the phrase "sad girls in snow," the first volume cover art reflects that completely. The cover fits in perfectly with the season it's being released in as well as the white keepcase that houses the artwork of Nayuki in her school uniform with a slightly somber look to her face draws you in with the falling snowflakes throughout it. The background doesn't dominate as it uses the school grounds to give it an additional cool look as well as making sure the focus is entirely on Nayuki. The original Japanese logo is retained which is a really nice touch as it adds to the light and airy feel of the cover. The back cover is a bit tougher as it wants to use the white snow theme with a large background shot of Ayu walking through town. The white text with a black border feels a bit stark against the white background while the other text around it with the blue and white border is somewhat difficult to read at first glance. It looks decent overall once your eyes adjust to it though. The production credits are very difficult to read touth due to the size of the text while the technical grid is nicely laid out and very easy to read. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design continues the simple approach that ADV Films has been using for the last quarter as it takes the cover artwork, zooms in a bit and adds a brief bit of music. The navigation is kept to the right with individual episode access and quick submenu navigation for language setup and extras. The menu works well in helping to set the mood with its artwork and music and is overall fairly pleasing. Submenus load quickly and we had no problems getting around the disc. In addition, the disc properly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
Kanon features some of the basics we've come to expect from anime releases by including the clean version of the opening and closing sequence. In addition, we also get a nice video extra entitled "A Close Look at an Anime" which looks at the animation process for Kanon and how it came about to be made into a show (again).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel that was released by Key in 1999, Kanon is one of a very few series that has been remade over the years. It was first made into an anime series back in 2002, which was shorter and also spawned an OVA, and then it was adapted again into this longer twenty-four episode series in 2006. The birth of this version is interesting in that it came about after Kyoto Animation began work on the adaptation of the Air visual novel, also by Key, and included several characters from Kanon into it for some fun little background moments. That got the fans in Japan all atwitter and they wanted to know if there was a remake in the offing. That enthusiasm got the entire thing rolling which has led us here, where we're now seeing it fully translated and dubbed in the US market.

Kanon's, much like Air in a way, is all about the mood and atmosphere. There are several little stories going along in here among the various characters and their relationships, but from first appearances it doesn't look like there's going to be a sweeping storyline to it. Instead, we're getting small vignettes that are strung out along the series that involve numerous characters. Being based on a visual novel, it's obviously heavily populated by girls and one very lucky male lead, but beyond that it's a very entertaining and engaging show. While its strengths certainly are in how it deals with the interpersonal relationships, it has the opening weaknesses of feeling like it is introducing girls too quickly in succession which reminds you of how the games play out.

With Kanon being all about the moment and the mood, it's light on how much it really goes into, especially at the start where we're getting to know everyone. The catalyst for everything is the arrival of Yuichi, a high school student who has transferred to a new town to live with his aunt and cousin so that he can go to school there. Yuichi and his cousin Nayuki used to play together often when he and his family would visit years ago, but that fell off and he hasn't seen her in quite some time. Nayuki has been anticipating his arrival and the changes that he'll bring with him for a bit now and she's almost radiant in appearance from it. Outwardly pleasant and enjoyable to be around, she's not a wallflower with no personality. Decent at school, captain of the track team but without a heavy competitive edge to her, Nayuki has the kind of classic inner and outer beauty that's appealing.

Yuichi for his part comes across as a decent guy but there's fairly little known about him at this point to really say much. For the first four episodes, he spends his time settling in and getting to know the people that end up populating his life surprisingly quickly. Nayuki is his most problematic in a way since he seems to continually disappoint her with the things he does, such as being late or not staying where he says he will be. Yuichi a somewhat standard catalyst character in that his arrival brings out events from others. In walking around town, he ends up bumping into a young woman named Ayu that he had actually bumped into years before and was something of a friend with. The two have some shared history to them that starts to come up and their relationship is very amusing since he seems to always be saving her from her semi-thefts.

One of the moments that sort of takes you out of the show a bit is the introduction of Makoto, a woman that seemingly falls into Yuichi's life on the street. It turns out that she's got a case of amnesia, though she starts to piece together some small parts of her life relatively quickly, and ends up living in the same house as Yuichi and Nayuki along with Akiko, Nayuki's mother. Makoto in and of herself isn't a problem, and the amnesia certainly has its reasons for being included here, but the living situation just builds it too quickly into a traditional harem model and adds some unnecessary grief and angst for Yuichi within his household. I actually like Makoto and her outgoing ways, which is very necessary in a show like this considering the rest of the female cast, but the living situation just has me throwing my arms up in the air.

While Kanon's story may only just be starting to scratch the surface of what it's about, the visuals for it are highly polished. Kyoto Animation has rightly earned the praise they get in their productions and Kanon is no exception. Even something as simple as their closing sequence here is completely engaging. The colors, the flow of it all and the general sense of depth and atmosphere simply stand out. This shines throughout the show both with the character designs and the backgrounds. This is a show where the world the characters inhabit has to feel real, it has to have a presence, and they nail it completely in just about every scene. With fluid character animation, lush backgrounds and a real sense of modeling to all of it, Kanon just oozes beauty on the screen.

In Summary:
While I had enjoyed Air on some level and I really like Kyoto Animation in general, I was very hesitant about this show just because of everything that's come from it. I mean, I own one of those "Sad Girl in Snow" blankets that Megatokyo put out a few years back. I'm familiar with the concept but hadn't seen the show, a show that had been remade at that. To my surprise, not only was it quite enjoyable and engaging as it starts to reveal itself, but it even interested my young children. From the cute phrases and the realistic yet silly ways the girls act, everyone has a lot of personality, more than some other shows manage after dozens of episodes. Kanon has only just begun to reveal itself and I'm already very interested in seeing what's at the root of it all. The production values on this are wonderful across the board and the US release will likely please the majority of the pre-existing fans.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Inside Look at the Making of Kanon, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Review Equipment
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.

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