Otoboku Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Otoboku

Otoboku Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     August 28, 2008
Release Date: August 19, 2008


Otoboku Vol. #2
© Media Blasters

It’s more cross dressing fun for one very female shaped young man as he lives life as an Elder at Seio Academy.

What They Say
Summer is here, and the pool at Seio Girls' Academy is already in use for gym class. Unfortunately for Mizuho, a guy can't wear the school swimsuit without giving his secret away, so Mariya gives him a believable but embarrassing way out. Summer heat quickly gives way to autumn chill, and as the ladies break out the winter uniforms, the student body president, Takako Itsukushima, starts stirring up some trouble with dress codes and personal vendettas. Everything from Kana's ribbon to Yukari's running to Mariya's feelings comes into play, and at the end of it all, Takako seems to want to know more about Mizuho.

The Review!
Audio:
OtoBoku is released only in its original language form so what we get here is a pretty straightforward simple stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. Outside of the music in the opening and closing sequences, the series is really just about the dialogue as there aren’t many action moments and what music there is in the background tends to be rather mellow. The mix doesn’t offer much because of what it is so the low encoding doesn’t come across too badly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of it.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. OtoBoku has a fairly soft look to it, intentionally, which causes the show to have a fair bit of noise at times with some of the backgrounds. In general, it has a pretty clean look and is free of issues such as cross coloration, but there is some aliasing creeping in during the many panning sequences that the animators employed. The design of the show is one that has a lot of bright colors to it, especially with all white uniforms, but it’s wonderfully contrasted by the very richly colored an detailed background shots. Many of these are scenes you’d want as stills to look at separately. OtoBoku is all about atmosphere so the soft look is likely pretty intentional and it does give the show a distinct enough feel at times.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release naturally suffers in the same way as the first one when it comes to the awkward logo. Using the short-form version of the series name along the top with the subtitle under it, it simply comes across as too busy and nonsensical. The “t” in OtoBoku is used as a gender symbol which completely throws off the readability of it as it looks more like it’s saying “Ooboku” instead. The character artwork does help to make up for this though as it has Mizuho holding onto Takako’s shoulders from behind while Takako looks positively chilled in a way. The soft and indistinct background helps to draw all attention to them. The back cover is rather busy as it has a full length shot of Yukari along the left while the right has the basic summary of the premise. Along the top and behind part of all of this is a number of shots from the show. The white background and the orange used for the accents draw it all together well and gives it a very light and bouncy feeling. The discs technical grid along the bottom is cleanly done and the standard bits of production information can be found here as well as the listing of what extras are on the disc.

Menu:
The menu design takes the natural page from the front cover artwork as it reworks the layout to a wider setting. The character artwork along the right is brighter and more vibrant in general while the left side features the awkward logo, which does not look as good in this brighter shade of orangen. The navigation menu is straightforward but rather laggy, especially when it comes to the scene selections as it wants to use highlights when it hits different chapters. This works exceedingly well on Blu-ray releases but it’s still a chore for DVD releases to handle. Submenus load quickly themselves and getting around is easy enough otherwise. With only a single language on here and no separate sign/song subtitle track, player presets are pretty much pointless as it defaults to what’s needed.

Extras:
The familiar extras included on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences from the “summer uniform” versions. In addition to this however, Media Blasters has grabbed the very length Web Radio extra from the Japanese release. This piece runs just over forty minutes and it follows two of the lead voice actresses as they show you how the web radio stuff is done, goof off about the equipment and run through a program with what’s involved. It’s interesting for those unfamiliar with the web radio material and the voice actresses have a good sense of humor about it all as they joke about all manner of things.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
OtoBoku moves through its middle arc with another four episodes of cross dressing fun. The opening four episodes of the series had a fairly fun feel to it with the stories it was telling but it through off the dynamic rather strongly for me with the introduction of the supernatural element, namely the ghost girl Ichiko. Ichiko thankfully doesn’t have too strong of a role here so the focus is on the other more normal girls. If you can consider Mizuho normal.

Like most series set at an academy or school of any kind, we get a number of the fairly standard story plots used. OtoBoku is no exception with this unfortunately as we get the familiar stuff in spades. The most prominent one involves the school play that’s about to be put on. The play is picked by the students as what they want to be done for the festival and this year they’ve chosen Romeo and Juliet. Little surprise that Mizuho gets selected as Romeo nor is it a surprise when Takako is picked for the role of Juliet. The actual play rehearsal piece only makes up one episode but it does have some fun with the gender issues as the two of them have to kiss as well as having a bed scene together.

Where the story plays out in a more interesting manner is the change in the relationship between Mariya and Mizuho. The two have known each other for an age now and this entire situation has been strangely liberating for Mizuho. With the role of Elder thrust on him, he’s had to become more outgoing and less like his usual self and that’s led him to being far more social, especially after a few things have come up. This is a strong change for him and for the dynamic between him and Mariya as she’s been used to him following her. But now he’s leading the way and getting involved in things and she’s starting to feel left behind and out of the picture. This takes a bit to play out but it’s a good story idea that challenges the way each of them looks at each other.

Mariya also has this happen in another way as she continues to come up against Takako and challenges her for past issues. The two of them are fairly adversarial and the reasons for it finally come out when Mariya challenges her to a swim-off. Mizuho has been avoiding going to swim class since she doesn’t want to get in the girls swimsuit for obvious reasons and has been feigning “girls issues” which only embarrasses him greatly. Mariya tries to intervene on his behalf but she makes things worse and ends up challenging Takako who is trying to set Mizuho on the right path. Understanding what’s gone on between the two of them in the past certainly explains the present as well as underscoring how Takako looks at things. She sees everyone as either a friend or enemy and people like Mizuho confuse her since she can’t tell which way the wind blows there.

The weakest part for this volume for me revolves around Kana, mostly because she’s a character that feels out of place. Or rather, too strategically placed to elicit that moe feeling that doesn’t sit so well with me in this particular genre. Kana’s being picked on by Takako over her choice of ribbon to wear in her hair and that leads to a confrontation that Mizuho can’t back down from. At least, she can’t back down from it after Mariya gives her grief for not standing by her little sister as much as she should. This turns into another situation where it’s difficult and odd for Mizuho to defend someone over their choice of accessories since it’s not something he thinks about. But in reality, he’s becoming more effeminate than he would have guessed otherwise and he’s becoming far more comfortable with all of this than anyone would have expected. It all leads to a rather predictable big appeals session with the whole school attending and it simply comes across as very predictable and bland.

In Summary:
OtoBoku had me rather interested with its ideas at first when it started but it lost me towards the end with the Ichiko character. With her being minimized here, the story kept to rather traditional school days stories while playing up the odd gender issues a bit. The positive side is that it’s never too brazen with it for the most part – swimsuit selection aside – but that’s also its weak point. Without being brazen about anything, it ends up keeping to rather predictable material that doesn’t really grab you. The characters are all pleasant, nicely designed and with mildly interesting personalities that could lead to something more but never does. OtoBoku is at this point fun but entirely forgettable.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, WEB Radio, Clean Opening

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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