Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 21.99/26.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kujibiki Unbalance

Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 23, 2008
Release Date: April 29, 2008

Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Media Blasters

What They Say
The Genshiken show-within-a-show takes on a life of its own!

Once a year prestigious Rikkyouin High School has a lottery to determine the next year's Student Council membership. On their first day of school Chihiro Enomoto wins the presidency while his childhood friend Tokino Akiyama picks the vice-president's ticket. There is one catch, though: they must first pass a one-year apprenticeship under the current Student Council and any failure to perform the tasks assigned, however minor, will result in immediate expulsion from the school.

The Review!
After experiencing popularity in the Genshiken world, a new adaptation of the metafictional series hits in its own TV series.

The Kujibiki Unbalance TV series and the Genshiken OVA share the same technical specs when it comes to the audio side of the release. Both shows are presented in bilingual format since they're fairly popular and they're done with a straightforward stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. Both shows a pretty much dialogue driven pieces with a bit of physical comedy thrown into it so outside of the music within the episode and the opening and closing sequences, it has a full feeling to it without much in the way of depth or placement. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in late 2007, the transfer for this TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The Kujibiki TV series is one that looks decent but isn't without its problems as it has a surprisingly grainy feeling which lends itself to a fair bit of noise. This impacts the show in general and not just backgrounds as some of the characters demonstrate a bit of blocking within some of the larger areas of color. It also becomes problematic during some of the more noticeable areas where gradient is obvious. The Genshiken OVA holds up a bit better overall as it doesn't have quite the same grainy look and maintains a better feel, though there is still some noise to be found within the characters clothes. Neither of these shows look like standout pieces but they aren't bottom drawer pieces either.

The cover art for Kujibiki Unbalance is quite bright and inviting as it features the primary and secondary characters from the show while only providing a text notice that there is something Genshiken oriented to be found here. With some bright and inviting colors working with very smooth and straightforward character designs, it's eye-catching in general though it won't instantly attract fans of the original since those characters are kept to the background. The back cover has a lot of white space and has an amusing picture of Ritsuko along the lfet and a couple of shots from the show along the top. The summary covers only Kujibiki Unbalance but there is a small shot of the Genshiken crowd as it promotes the OVA in a very meager way. The discs episodes are listed clearly and the extras have a good section that's easy to see. Add in the production information along the bottom with the technical grid and you have a decent looking cover overall but one that is aimed more at those aware of the show than the casual purchaser. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design is a bit of a surprise as it pulls away from some of the standard ways Media Blasters does things. The artwork used isn't adapted from the front cover as it has a decent image of Ritsuko eating her favorite snack with a bland expression on her face as she wears her usual attire. The menu is very brightly colored with lots of white space and it even features some animation as cherry blossoms fall down across it along to the soothing vocals from the show. The layout is easy to navigate and they include a separate submenu to deal with the Genshiken OVA where you can adjust the language settings from. Navigation is quick and easy and we had no problems in getting around. As is usual with Media Blasters though, our players' language presets were ignored due to placement of the subtitle tracks.

The extras for the release are split up between the two shows with the Kujibiki extras actually in the extras section. Within there we get a couple of good things that are fairly standard in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as some of the TV spots which runs about ninety seconds. Also included a two minute promotional piece for the show which uses material from the first episode to go over the basic premise via a scrawl along the bottom while also highlighting the voice cast. It's really a gimme to the fans of the show as it doesn't sell it to a general audience but rather those familiar with the shows origins. The lengthier extra here is a nearly ten minute piece from the summer of 2006 in which the voice cast for the show is announced through a promotional event at one of the anime festivals. Along with the producer, they talk about the property, its origins and how they went about getting it into production from a very top level view.

Genshiken isn't left out when it comes to the extras though you'll be hard pressed to find them easily. Located within the language setup section for the OVA episode, there's a commentary track included with the Japanese voice actors for Sasahara, Ohno and Ogiue. Not unlike a lot of other commentaries, they aren't terribly experienced in them but they have a fun time talking about the show and passing along the occasional director's comment.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kujibiki Unbalance has a slightly odd history as it started as a show within a show which got three OVAs made to highlight key episodes of that series. The characters were quite popular among the Genshiken fans that saw it and it eventually got adapted into a new twelve episode series that we have here along with two manga volumes and two light novels. In all honesty though, the only reason to own this disc is to watch the Genshiken OVA. When the original Genshiken TV series came out, the Kujibiki OVAs that were on it as extras were some of the weakest things I'd seen. When referenced within the show itself, it left me quite disinterested and almost bored. Kujibiki Unbalance just wasn't something that connected with me and it left me dreading the majority of this release.

This new adaptation of the property breaks from the original so that what has come before doesn't really need to be seen in order to enjoy it. Or rather, in order to watch it since I derived almost no enjoyment from the series across the first four episodes here. While the original incarnation focused on Ritsuko and her strange group of friends on the student council and what they had to deal with, they're put more to secondary positions here as we're shown the prestigious Rikkyouin Academy at which the new students are arriving for their first day of school. As is tradition at the academy, everyone's positions within it are determined by lottery from when they first step through the gates. It's just before this that we're introduced to Chihiro and Tokino, a pair of childhood friends who couldn't be more different and have the most obvious romantic potential.

Tokino is something a lighthearted and lightheaded young woman who has quite a lot of good luck to her as things simply seem to just go her way. She's very easy going and hardly anything bothers her which can be a source of frustration for others. Her childhood friend is a young man named Chihiro who simply seems to have bad luck regularly, though not the kind that has him nearly dying or constantly falling into situations that place him in jeopardy. These two find their school lives going in a very unusual direction when they participate in the lottery and Chihiro gets picked as the student body president while Tokino gets the vice president. Though these aren't positions that they'll take for another year, they must spend the duration before it learning the ropes from the current ones who will graduate later.

It's from here that we get the connection with the existing student body council in the form of Ritsuko, Kasumi and Lisa who made their appearances in the original franchise. Upon meeting the existing council, the pair also meet Renko who hit the lottery in the form of the Student Council Secretary. Along with her faithful assistant Kaoruko, they fit the Wile E. Coyote model of being able to invent anything at will which often turns badly as events play out. What surprises all of them upon meeting the existing council is that they have twenty four hours to find their fourth missing future member and that if they don't then they'll all be expelled on the spot. The pressure ratchets up but it's a gimmick that allows the apprentice characters a chance to head out into the vast school grounds to learn about it while hunting her down.

Unfortunately, this the most memorable section of the show as everything else after they discover their fourth member really just goes downhill. Playing up fairly standard school comedy elements while bringing in the outlandish, such as having Renko's vehicle designs include Kaoruko as a part of its structure. The year long apprenticeship that they all go through also provides for some predictable plot moments as Ritsuko and others from the current student council come up with things that they must do which in turn bonds them together while also helping them explore the school. How else to explain them spending time searching out a giant panda that was brought in to help another panda get pregnant but ends up wandering off instead. Another episode deals with the apprentice group having to deal with closing out some clubs that have been shut down only to discover just how intently some of these clubs want to stay open.

Also predictable and not all the enjoyable are the background pieces that get brought in which are used to solidify the relationship that Chihiro and Tokino have with Ritsuko. The childhood friends who were separated when Ritsuko went overseas don't have a lot of bonding moments, though they're very awkward since Ritsuko is almost a cipher since she doesn't display many emotions and just seems to be cold and uncaring. Along with the very basic other members of the current student council, much of what goes on seems to be done as a way of tormenting the apprentices, even though you know it's being done just to teach them the way things are. The worst part of the show though is the inclusion of Chihiro's older sister Shinobu who is a teacher at the academy. Not only is she young looking but she has the hots for her little brother and tries to get into his bed and his pants on a regular basis. With the almost child like designs at times, this is just creepier than I would have cared for.

But like I said at the beginning, the main reason to buy this show is for the Genshiken OVA that's included. Billed as Episode 13 of the series to keep proper continuity, we're dropped right back into the thick of things as the club gets itself a new member in the form of Ogiue. Ogiue is a fairly repressed character who is seemingly angry and introverted which leads her to not making any friends and quick on the attack when anyone asks her anything. She even makes her entrance into the club in an amusing way as she states she hates otaku but also the entire boys love genre. That just cuts right to Ohno who makes it her mission to draw her out into it which causes plenty of simply friction. Genshiken is an exercise in pure familiarity but it's also got a good bit of story progression as Ogiue will bring more to the show as she makes her presence felt. The advantage of reading the manga to completion comes into play here as she became one of my favorite characters. This episode isn't particularly deep but it was wonderful to spend time with this cast once again.

In Summary:
For a number of reasons, I've never cared for the Kujibiki Unbalance aspect of Genshiken. I found the discussion of it within Genshiken to be some of the slower moments, more just because of the time spent with the footage from it. The OVAs that were produced bored me to tears as well. Now that we have a whole new series about it, they decided to adapt it in a different way and expand upon it, which is to be expected, by introducing the whole apprentice concept and running with that. Beyond a few chuckles here and there, Kujibiki Unbalance essentially bored me to tears. It's why I continue to believe that the reason I bought this was to watch the Genshiken OVA and maybe sample the rest of the disc. Kujibiki Unbalance just doesn't appeal to me in the slightest and this was the longest four episodes of any show I've seen in a long, long time.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening and Ending, Promotional Animation, TV Spot, Talk Event, Audio Commentary with Takanori Ohyama, Ayako Kawasumi, and Kaori Mizuhashi.

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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