Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: C+
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 24.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Popotan
Popotan Vol. #2
By Chris Beveridge
February 18, 2005
Release Date: February 22, 2005
Popotan Vol. #2
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
The mystery of Popotan is becoming clear little by little... What fearsome adventures do the sisters face now? Bathing in hot springs, selling ice cream at the beach and even spending Christmas at a Shinto shrine! But why? As they continue their wandering quest with the help of the popotan, they meet a mysterious man who may know, but soon the sisters have a bigger problem when they don't all make it back to the house when it transports!The Review!
Slowing moving forward with its story, Popotan pulls out a few interesting surprises along the way.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly simple stereo mix but it's not utilized all that much since it’s a pretty dialogue heavy show that doesn't really do much, even with incidental sounds and the like. The music uses both channels and reminds you that they do exist when it kicks in though both it and the dialogue come across well. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Popotan is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Overall, this is a very pleasing transfer but there are parts of it that look like they're intentionally off but having not seen the original I can't be sure. The colors for the show are very vibrant and richly drawn from in order to give it a very positive and happy feel. From the characters hair to their outfits and home, it's a great palette of colors but one that also mixes in a lot of the standard real world colors. Some scenes come across a bit softer than I expected considering how sharp and clear the show is in general but it may be intentional for those scenes in order to give it more warmth and feeling. The only noticeable problem, and it's very muted here due to the combination of my player and my monitor, is that there seems to be some cross coloration showing up along the edges of the characters hair, particularly if they're darker colored. Packaging:
Geneon continues to work well with the Japanese cover art as the cover this time around has Mei in her usual outfit giving a wink while in the field of dandelions. This is actually the "tame" version of this piece as the insert cover has the other version where she's blushing and pulling up her shirt. The back cover continues the flower theme with a layer of them along the bottom and a big blue sky above. The sky section has a breakdown of the four stories to be found inside while the flower section contains all of the technical and basic production information. The insert artwork is similar to the front cover but a little more risqué as mentioned. This opens up to a two page spread that talks about the various characters that we encounter during these episodes while the back lists the projected months of release for the other two volumes. Geneon also scored reversible covers with this release; the main panel has Mea in blush-mode while wearing precious little of her maid uniform while the other panel has relatively the same image but a more dressed up version of her.Menu:
The menu style used here has shown up in a couple of Geneon releases lately and for some reason it still doesn't sit right with me but I can't quite put my finger on it. The layout is nice enough with the shot of Ai from the cover here set against the countryside with plenty of tanpopo around and the Popotan logo next to her with it making all sorts of blips and bloops along the way. There's a bit of nice animation to it overall and it's not overly distracting or simply too much. The selection layout is where the problem lays with the extras and setup being placed together. It just doesn't feel right to do it that way, especially since they then put the previews on the top level when tradition (which I admit can and should change at times) has it in the extras section. The other problem is that like one or two other recent releases, the sign/song subtitle track is placed first, so language defaults grab that instead of the full English translation.Extras:
The extras for the opening volume are pretty slim with just an art gallery and a textless ending. Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Popotan continues on, it manages to provide some rather interesting stories and situations as things become slightly more explained about the girls situation but it also keeps to what it does best which is lots of breast jokes and fanservice.
Much like the first volume, I'm still feeling at a loss for how to properly treat this series. It's so obvious with its attempts at fanservice, from the large breasts to the tiny ones, the numerous skin and nipple shots, and the entire loli aspect that Mii brings into it, which is amusingly something they're very up front about at one point during this set of episodes. In a way, it's almost refreshing that it's so honest with this side of things but there are a number of series in recent memory that are like this so that doesn't end up adding to it in the end. What does get interesting is the other side of the show where there's a story that's still wrapped in mystery. Why are the girls talking to all these dandelions?
This one starts off with Ai having found a dandelion that's actually quite knowledgeable about what the girls are looking for that Ai takes it home with her in the little pot. She converses extensively with it but what it wants in return for the information is to be taken on a bit of a tour of the town, to get to see things and to live life as a human does a bit. This means hitting all kinds of shops and other local tourist attractions but it also means hitting just about every hot spring in the area. This feeds into the first thing above with all the fan service but there are some comical elements to it. I especially liked how the dandelion insisted that visiting hot springs like this is the elegant way to travel and must be experienced at least once.
While this episode initially comes across as massive filler, we do end up getting a hint of what it is the girls are searching for as they arrive in a massive field of dandelions and they all get a vision of someone dancing in the light of the moon, the person that they've been searching for. Even as brief as this is, it doesn't quite save the episode but what happens after does as both Mai and Mea have decided to spend time at one of the hot springs a bit more (one designed to enhance ones breast size no less) but when they return, they're too late as the house starts to disappear on its next jump earlier than expected, leaving the two stranded while Mii and Ai are unable to help them from inside the house.
It's from this that we start to get a better idea of things and of just how wide ranging this is. Apparently, each jump skips five years worth of time and the house doesn't come back to the same place twice. But presumably since Mea and Mai were left behind and are important to the mission, the house comes back to the same place this time so that Ai and Mii can find them. With the five years difference they're going to have a difficult time actually finding her since she could have changed quite considerably. It's a bit of luck that they do come across each other again though and the show takes the focus on Mai and her desire for a life. We've seen this in a previous episode with her wanting to live out a life with friends and actually grown and she's seemingly done that here, completing school and now a college girl with friends and a life with Mea. Ai understands what she wants though Mii throws a fit about the entire thing, her age really showing.
What's even more interesting is that during another jump, where we learn they finally reach the year 2000, they land in a place where a young girl gets her picture taken so there's photographic evidence of the place. The picture ends up in her fathers hands and though it's not quite obvious at first, it doesn't take long to figure out that this is Daichi, the young boy from the first episode. It's been thirty years since his encounter with the house that changed his life completely and now he's trying to figure out just what's going on and starts researching it, though a mysterious man has now entered the picture at the same time to not only dissuade him but to utterly seduce Ai as well.
The inclusion of the time span jump information changes the perception of the show a great deal I think, as does the aging problems that the girls have with the house. Perhaps it was more understandable to a native Japanese person as possibly the settings, clothing and other things in each of the previous episodes gave clue that things occurred earlier in time, such as the first episode taking place in 1970, but it was a surprise to me and a very intriguing one at that. Bringing back one of the characters from a previous encounter is something that I think worked really well since it got to put the problem into perspective for both sides and how they have to deal with such a thing.In Summary:
With two-thirds of the series already done, I'm still really ambivalent about this show. The first volume was interesting enough in providing some character driven material alongside copious amounts of fanservice and nudity but this volume just goes in with something completely unexpected and adds a new layer of depth to it. If you can't see beyond the nipples then this may not have quite as much appeal but shows like this where I can't pin down how I really feel about it are generally rare and often the ones with some really interesting conflicts to it that make it to be somewhat controversial at times. That alone generally makes it better than a bunch of the usual cookie cutter shows and this one manages to really keep my interest as it reveals more and more of itself.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Textless Ending
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.