Kodocha Vol. #01 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/44.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kodocha

Kodocha Vol. #01 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 27, 2005
Release Date: August 02, 2005

Kodocha Vol. #01 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Sana Kurata may be a famous TV star, but her life is anything but perfect! Her classroom at school is controlled by the boy bullies, all of whom are led by the nasty Akito and his gang of hooligans, who are at it again, wreaking havoc in the classroom. But has Sana discovered Akito's secret weakness? Will she be able to exploit it to her advantage or will she just make a fool of herself in front of everyone? Sana had better be cautious because when she acts on her plan the consequences aren't exactly what she expected! What adventures await our heroine? Find out on Kodocha!

The Review!
Long considered a title that would never be licensed, Kodocha has finally arrived and Sana insanity will spread.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is listed as being in stereo but it's very much a product of its time and is a very center channel oriented track that's a touch low overall. While I don't have any problems with the track itself, it definitely does feel less full than a lot of other titles of its time and especially against anything more recent. In general however, the dialogue is clean and clear and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

* - In the audio selection section, there is an asterisk that's selectable. Loading this up, FUNimation has provided a text screen explaining the audio issues found in the series. This includes the opening song being unavailable as well as bits of audio from the first two episodes and the episode previews. While I do think they could have made it a bit more noticeable, I will completely give them credit for not only talking about it at conventions and online, but making it clear to the other 95% of the buying market (after purchase unfortunately) exactly why the presentation for the audio is off in a few areas.

Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this series overall look pretty good considering its age and all but it's not completely problem free. With it being done in the traditional animation style, there's a touch more fuzziness around some areas such as the hair but it's very minor. It wasn't all that visible on my 50" set but was more noticeable on the 23" set. The other noticeable issue is that there's a bit of frame jitter during various scene transitions. It doesn't appear during every transition but it's there. The show overall has a slightly soft feel to it which is accentuated by the light color palette used.

Using artwork similar in design and layout to the Japanese releases, the cover art provides for Sana to get a large chunk of real estate here as she bounces around while Hayama's head pops up a bit as well. It's filled with the kinds of things that make Kodocha what it is with the colors and little bits like the tiny versions of various supporting cast members. The logo does a nice job of trying to capture the original piece and the color scheme is pretty much as expected. I love that they use Babbit for the volume number for what's apparently being called the "Babbit Box" so you can tell what box the volume belongs in. The back cover is done sideways for most of it with the summary and episode listings being angled like that while the artwork sort of goes across all directions. The discs features, production and technical information fill out the bottom and it's a bit cramped but it's all there and still fairly easy to read depending on how good your eyes are. The colors at least don't clash here. No insert was included with this release.

The main menu is a cute simple static piece with a shot of Hayama and Sana together arm in arm against a purple backdrop with a brief bit of instrumental snappy music playing along. The layout is pretty standard and it's bright and colorful and fits the show nicely but it is pretty simple overall. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc doesn't handle the player presets too well for subtitles since they're unlabeled but it picked up the audio fine. However, with FUNimation titles it's always safer to select via the menu since that will change which angle you view it for the opening and closing sequences.

A couple of extras are included with this release. The big one is the episode commentary done for episode four by the ADR director and a voice actor. Unfortunately, they just start talking with the episode when it starts and they don't introduce themselves. As enjoyable as the commentary can be, when there aren't even proper introductions, it loses a lot of its initial steam and makes it easy for the casual people to simply turn it off. The only other inclusion is a series of brief single-screen character profiles. The Japanese releases don't look to have many extras themselves, but I really hope FUNimation is able to get the Daichi "written" commentaries somehow.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'll have to declare this right up front. I have a heavy bias towards Kodocha. It's one of the few series that I saw on nth generation tapes almost a decade ago and simply fell in love with. I rekindled that love a couple of years ago when the entire manga series came out and have pined for the anime to be picked up. It's arrival here is something that many considered completely out of the realm of possibility due to its length, it's shoujo origins and that it's something that while not heavily culturally dependent, is fairly pop culture imbued. Sitting down to watch these four episodes on a proper DVD has been something I never thought I'd see so on a lot of levels I'm simply thrilled.

There are, however issues, which we'll cover in two sections:

The Understandable: The main issue that's come up with this release is the audio/music. As explained briefly in the notes on the disc, some materials were unavailable for license and could not be left on the audio for either language here. The opening song was done by a popular group back in the day and the lead singer had a brief part in the show and references were made elsewhere. Due to (likely the music agencies) restrictions, these had to be purged from the foreign release. The opening is replaced by the second opening. In the show itself, the dialogue is handled in two ways. In the English track, it's easy to deal with since it's all dubbed over and the names of the people and groups are simply changed. Easy. For the Japanese, it's trickier but I will agree with FUNimation that what they did is better considering they could have just edited it out entirely. What they did was eliminate the audio from that section (I have no idea what the M&E materials were like for it). So when the singer shows up, there's simply no audio. It is subtitled however and whenever the group or person is named, they replace it with X's. This compromise keeps the show's content flowing and understandable. It's not the best thing in the world, since completely untouched is that, but this is something that I'll deal with, particularly since FUNimation was very up front about it.

What Pisses Me Off: The complete lack of the Japanese cast is extremely bothersome and not something that should be a problem these days. Not including this just feels like a slap to the original actors and to people like myself who thrive on placing voices and like to follow careers as they go along. The other problem I have is one that's a problem on a lot of FUNimation releases and it continues to be the lockout problem at the start of the disc. What's made it worse over the last year is that since they produce trailers for each new volume of a series, they can essentially be spoilers for people. No fast forwarding, no skipping and my deck doesn't have the "top" button that supposedly allows it to be bypassed. I'm generally very pleased with FUNimation releases but the start of each volume has this and it always just pisses me off. Not the best way to start a new show or any show.

What Has Me Giddy: Well, that's the rest of the release. And that's what the other 95% of this disc is. As much as the troubles as there are there, it's such a small portion of the show and several parts are going to be restricted to the first volume from what I recall.

Kodomo no Omocha, affectionately referred to as Kodocha, is the story of sixth grader Sana Kurata. She's one of those kids whose living life differently due to the way she's been raised. Her mother is an award winning novelist who raised Sana on her own and has done things probably a bit differently than a lot of parents. She put Sana into a theater company at an early age and Sana thrived on it and it resulted in her being on the show Zenjiro's Child's Toy with numerous other kids. Sana continues to go to school, does the show, interviews and has a generally busy life but she's ably assisted by Rei. Rei's a young man who looks to be in his twenties who always wears sunglasses that Sana refers to as her manager, boyfriend and pimp in the same breadth. This of course is something that will throw people at first but it comes back to Sana's child-like nature at times since she doesn't understand certain things about the world. This is one of the charms of the show since she's not like a lot of anime kids in that she's all knowing.

Sana's life is looked at through a number of ways across the series but the opening area of the series focuses on her school life as it brings in new friends and enemies for her to deal with. The big problem she has at the start is that their school days aren't spent learning right now because the boys in the class have gone completely wild and don't listen to the teacher, a real milksop who can't get any kind of control. When she calls in another teacher, Mr. Tanaka, he tries to get some order there but one of the students has some goods on him and he continually backs down. This student is the quiet and serious looking Hayama and he's become the de facto leader of the boys that Sana refers to as the monkeys, making him the monkey boss and providing visuals just for that.

It gets so bad that Sana finally takes on Hayama in an all out war. She's over the top in her approach and he's much more subdued about it since in his own way he really doesn't care. The other boys look up to him and he holds the goods over the teachers but until Sana interferes, he spends his time sitting in the back of the room reading his manga and listening to his music. Sana tips that balance but Hayama knows he can't take her on directly. Even worse, Sana takes her plight to the airwaves and names Hayama on national television which certainly gives him a reputation. His way of getting back at her is sufficiently cruel of boys that age and it pushes the war between the two even further.

This is a full on comedy and a lot of is driven heavily by Sana's outgoing and fast paced personality. Her dealings with Hayama show her range though since as with every story things are not as they seem and we get a surprisingly complete arc in the first four episodes that brings out the basics, showcases what does make the series immensely fun, and then shows that it won't belabor a point and gets ready to move on to the next thing. There are a ton of sight gags and word puns, which I think were well done for the most part, and plenty of character gags. Sana's mother for example spends her days dispensing wisdom from her Shriner's style car while avoiding her editor who wants the next manuscript. She also wears some of the best hats ever where a squirrel lives inside of. Rei and Sana come up with a great way to keep in touch when there's trouble with the Burutcha, a device that vibrates when one needs the other. This device is one of the best sight gags I saw in anime years ago and continues to have me in stitches.

In looking at the content of this review, it's unfortunate that for some things each track provides a slightly different experience. The Japanese viewing group misses out on some spoken dialogue but at least it's subtitled. The English viewing group has at least one of the best gags and important pieces of Sana's personality toned down by changing Rei's status as a pimp to just an agent. It's been said at conventions that this was not for TV purposes but rather for the general audience since the show is a child's show. Figuring that kids and parents won't watch it in Japanese, that track was left unmolested. I do think this is really unfortunate because Sana's not understanding what a pimp really means is something that shows that she is a child. So there are discrepancies between the tracks but from all that I've been able to find, the Japanese track is translated properly and without issue while the English version has had only a few small changes like this made. Your mileage may vary but speaking as a parent who will be showing this show to a child, I would have had zero issue with them saying pimp.

In Summary:
When you sit down to write up everything about a release and you spend so much time writing about particular problems, it's easy to mentally downgrade your opinion of the show because you just spent that time talking about such things. It's important in my opinion to go back and think about how I felt while actually watching the show in order to keep the right perspective about it. Kodocha is something that I've wanted for years but never thought I'd get. It's a show that when watching it, I laughed a lot, smiled a lot and finished up by wanting the next volume right now. There's no doubt that there are issues with the release and my categories of looking at them will not be the same as someone else. At the end of the day, I cannot wait to have all of this series on my shelf because the 95% of it that's fantastic outweighs the 5% that are understandable issues and outright annoyances. Kodocha is a show that I'm looking forward to enjoying over it's release in the next few years and sharing it with my kids. Very recommended but with an understanding.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,English Commentary,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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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