Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #2 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 21.99
  • Running time: 130
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kujibiki Unbalance

Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     July 04, 2008
Release Date: June 24, 2008

Kujibiki Unbalance Vol. #2
© Media Blasters

What They Say
After the eventful start of their apprenticeship, the four student council candidates are finally allowed some breathing room as summer arrives. Now if only the insanity would take a vacation too, as they are mysteriously transported to a deserted island, encounter aliens and secret psychics, and deal with spies and a ninja. Even Ritsuko's innocent birthday party ends up giving Chihiro some surprising news, as well as a confession from Tokino.

In the bonus episode of Genshiken, Saki encourages Madarame and Ogiue to be more fashionable, and the

The Review!
The latest Genshiken OVA deals lovingly with the relationship between Kusakabe and Madarame in typical fashion. And there are four more episodes of Kujibiki Unbalance for those who are interested as well.

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 front cover mirrors the first installment pretty well as it has a really inviting pairing of characters with Ritsuko in her reserved mode while Tokino hangs onto her with a big happy smile. The white background with the fluttering cherry blossoms adds a really nice touch. The side strip with the volume name and the mention of the Genshiken OVA continues to feel a bit out of place but there's only so many ways to really promote it and hardly any of them look good. The back cover has a lot of white space and has an amusing picture of Renko along the left 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 Renko from the back cover in a pretty dress. 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 closing sequences as well as a three minute promotional piece that was used to plug the show prior to its airing. 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)
After the initial volume of the series, I find myself in much the same mindset in viewing this as a Genshiken OVA release that has four bonus episodes of Kujibiki Unbalance. The Kujibiki Unbalance OVAs that were included with the Genshiken TV series were never that enjoyable and the series has carried much the same problem for me. With just about every episode, it feels like I can sense my brain cells dying from watching it. It quite simply drains away my enthusiasm in general, which is sad since I watch the Genshiken OVA first.

The second Genshiken OVA, episode fourteen, is quite a lot of fun as the focus shifts to the very amusing relationship that's shared by Madarame and Kusakabe. Kusakabe has been a favorite from the start since she's the outsider looking in, but an outsider that has found herself dragged into things and becoming accepting of what's around her. She's nowhere near becoming an otaku, but she's gotten to the casual side of things a bit more since she cosplayed and simply hangs out with everyone. She's even been gaming a bit more as she's found some casual games that her boyfriend has and spends some time with them, which makes her even more understanding of Kohsaka.

What's amusing about this episode is that it revolves around fashion. Madarame's new square glasses has Kusakabe mocking him and that launches a discussion about fashion. It prompts him to actually explore the garment district some and to challenge himself to doing something about his look. His mental viewpoint on it is one that has to adapt to how he views things like games, anime and doujinshi by looking for things he likes and not caring about the cost since it'll mean a lot to him. When he does make the change and the two of them meet up, there is a growing closeness between the two that is very sweet and engaging. It's not so much that you can see them together - because you can see them as an odd couple - but rather the way that Madarame is growing as a person in being able to deal with women and changing himself into who he really is now that he's gaining a new perspective on life. The growth of Madarame is one of the better part of the show. Of course, it doesn't hurt to see Ogiue go through a fashion change either...

Then there's Kujibiki Unbalance itself. I wish I could figure out why this show just doesn't appeal in the slightest. The four episodes for this volume carries the show through more of what we've seen the basic setup to be, which is having the upcoming potential Student Council kids going through the trials and tribulations that Ritsuko and the other existing Student Council members have set up for them. And along the way there's weirdness as well. The weirdness isn't a surprise but it's frustrating, such as when an entire episode revolves around the group working to come up with a scoop for the school newspaper and it in the end reveals that Koyuki is really an ESPER and part of a big ancient ninja family. And aliens crash into the school as well and only the school paper gets the scoop because nobody else is allowed on campus. None of it is a surprise, but it just feels so weak and uninteresting that it's near impossible to properly connect with any of these characters or situations.

The core cast of characters are just weak as well with very bland and basic personalities to them. The idea of having the next generation train in the ways of the academy isn't a bad one, and using unusual characters to become that next generation works considering how the current one is, but none of these really stand out in any particular way. Koyuki as the youngest isn't exactly bland but she falls into the standard traps of being too cute and unsure of herself, even after we get the big revelation about who she really is and who she's related to. Renko and her obnoxious superior attitude gets old very quickly as does her anything-goes creations which play too sexual sometimes. Even worse is that the ostensible leads of the show in Chihiro and Tokino are bland beyond words with only the potential of a mild uninteresting romance ahead of them if they can actually get the words out about how they feel. And if Chihiro can deal with not having Ritsuko if he even really realizes he may have some sort of feelings for her.

There are some interesting moments to be had on this volume, but they're compounded by the way everything feels like it's dragging and generally dull. The kids are set up to deal with the issue of spies within the academy in one episode and they have to track them down, only to realize that there's one in their midst. The school is one that has so many issues to it that the organizational side of it is immense yet hidden, which is also helped by the alumni that continually come in to help in obscure ways. This episode helps to show just how important the school is but nothing is really touched on specifically about why such data is so truly important. A little more interesting is the episode in which we learn that Ritsuko is betrothed to a handsome purple haired pretty boy and that puts Tokino and Chihiro in an awkward position when they find out at her birthday party. There's a really bizarre little love triangle at work here with a clueless guy at the center. A clueless guy and two girls who you have to wonder who anyone would really be interested in. And that unfortunately sums up much of the series to me.

In Summary:
If I treat this as an expensive Genshiken purchase, the release is very much worthwhile because of the love I have of the characters and the sheer enjoyment I get from the story and settings. If it was for Kujibiki, it'd be one of the more draining purchases I've had in some time. I'm hard pressed to find anything appealing about this series at all and I'm already quite glad that there's just one more volume left so that I can get it off my plate and forget about it. For those that like it, Media Blasters has done a solid job with it for the most part and I can't imagine anyone having any serious issues with it. If Kujibiki Unbalance had done something different to earn itself this series, it would have been different, but it just did not successfully make the leap from an in-show show to a show of its own.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Closings,Promotional Video,Audio Commentary

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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