Rumbling Hearts Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Rumbling Hearts

Rumbling Hearts Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)

By Chris Beveridge     December 13, 2006
Release Date: December 19, 2006


Rumbling Hearts Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Meet four high school friends: Haruka, Takayuki, Mitsuki, and Shinji. Life's promise shines brightly on them until an accident leaves Haruka in a coma. Her boyfriend, Takayuki, can't forgive himself, and seems determined to follow Haruka into a comatose state. Mitsuki dedicates her life to taking care of the tragic young man, and the pair fall into a relationship floundering in guilt.

When Haruka awakens after three years, everyone must pretend no time has passed. Torn between his unhappy real-life relationship with Mitsuki and the daydream high school romance with Haruka, Takayuki feels the tiny silver lining left in his life being mercilessly and methodically stripped away.

Contains episodes 1-5:
Friends to Lovers
Waiting
Betrayed by Love
Moving On
Lead Astray

The Review!
Youthful romance with strong connections plays out far more seriously than one would expect, with very emotional results.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both this and the English language track are in a very basic stereo mix at 256kbps which leaves it feeling somewhat barren at times. The mix isn't terribly expansive to begin with so it doesn't impact it too much. With it being mostly a dialogue driven show, there isn't a lot going on with the audio even when it comes to placement. The songs are where the stereo channels get their most use but even those are fairly mild compared to some other shows. We listened to the show through on both tracks and didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release reverses a recent trend from FUNimation where several of their new shows haven't looked as good as they should, due to both gradient blocking issues as well as simply looking a bit fuzzy. Rumbling Hearts is one of the best looking releases from them in recent memory with a very clean print that is essentially problem free. Some minor bits of noise crop up in a few areas but they're negligible as is the very minor gradient areas which tend to show during fade in and fade out moments. Cross coloration is absent and aliasing is hardly an issue at all. This is a very pleasing on the eye transfer even with its occasional bit of intended softness.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release utilizes the Japanese artwork for the first volume but what it does is reduces it in size and surrounds it with a lot of white space. I'm not sure if this works or not but it is an interesting change of pace as it softens up the edges of the artwork and allows the title to feel more like a novel title than a TV series title. The character artwork is good with some nice vibrant colors and plenty of detail. The back cover continues with the very soft look to it as it has lots of whites and really blends down the imagery used of the clouds and sky. There are a couple of pieces of character artwork and a decent summary alongside the episode title listing but there are a number of shots included as photographs laid out around the bottom half that look really nice. The very bottom has the technical grid and other production information but is very difficult to read due to the small font and the soft blues on the white. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu really works the soft approach with a white background that has Mitsuki and Narumi in the background while a more vibrant image of Haruka is in the foreground. With the music that it uses and the design, it has an almost ethereal feel to it that's very relaxing. The navigation and title are done in very light colors as well that almost blend into the white at times but is still quite usable and easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast but we opted to use the manual language/subtitle selection due to the angle issue and the continuing lack of labels on their subtitle tracks for on the fly changes.

Extras:
The only extras included for this release is the opening and closing sequences in their "textless song" format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, which roughly translates to The Eternity You Wish For, is a fourteen episode series based on the game that was released in 2001. Initially, the series is one that feels akin to Boys Be and other reality based romantic dramas that focus on the relationships of high school students learning the world of love. Unlike shows like that, it actually takes some risks and puts the characters " and the viewer " through the emotional ringer. Due to the way this show plays out, talking about it is incredibly difficult without revealing key things that happen in the second episode that change the premise dramatically.

The series revolves around four characters, high school seniors Haruka and Mitsuki as well as Narumi and Taira. Mitsuki and Narumi are friends, the kind that tease each other a bit and can be a bit rude, and they're the common link that brings in Haruka and Taira. Mitsuki and Taira are long time friends but at one point Haruka revealed to Mitsuki that she really likes Narumi. In this kind of setting, "liking" someone is the same as being in love with them but just said politely. With Haruka being such a dear friend, Mitsuki works things along with Taira who is Narumi's friend so that the pair slowly gets together. With a lot of effort on Haruka's part, she manages to tell Narumi how she feels and he eventually agrees to date her. But their relationship is very slow and awkward; it's months before the two do more than walk home together and even that took time for them before they even held hands together.

Watching this relationship reminds me a lot of watching a lot of high school romances in anime as well as the real world. Narumi and Haruka don't have much in common which makes their initial approaches with each other awkward and unsure. While it's easy to understand there's a general attraction, finding that connection between them isn't as readily apparent to those outside of the relationship. In some ways it's the embodiment of a simple first love that's not really destined to go anywhere. There are some ups and downs in their relationship as it does progress as they try to figure out how they really feel about each other, but eventually Narumi does admit that he has grown to truly care for her and can return the feelings that she has. As close as they get, they don't go all the way but their relationship is certainly headed in that direction.

The dynamic of the group of course has some elements of a triangle in it, similar in some ways to Kimagure Orange Road. Though Narumi hardly ever sees it because Mitsuki hides it so well, she's obviously got feelings for him but won't interfere with the relationship because of how much she values both Narumi and Haruka. But there are times where her jealousy does get the better of her and it manifests in ways that has her keeping Narumi from being on time for things with Haruka but always with something of a layer of truth to it that keeps Haruka from being upset. You can sense the pull that each of them is dealing with and it feels honest and sincere.

Events that happen do cause the show to forward three years, moving past entrance exams and into the lives of the characters as they exist later on. This is where the risk is taken as they spend some time over the three episodes afterwards to explore why these characters are all in the places they are now in their lives in a non-linear fashion. The relationships have changed, the circumstances are vastly different, but the emotional intensity that has caused all of it is slowly revealed. There are moments where you agree that some anger by secondary characters, like Haruka's younger sister, is fully justified but then a new layer is peeled away that explains something. Mitsuki's internal issues about how to deal with friendships and pain that others have to go through burdens her immensely and in so many ways she tries to do the right thing while also trying to be true to herself. But it's Narumi who ends up being placed into the worst of I think by the end of the volume as a lot of things are revealed and everyone finds themselves having to face some very bad decisions with nothing good in sight.

The design and animation for Rumbling Hearts is solid through and through. Though the presentation is ever so slightly soft because of the color palette it uses, it works very well for this show. Right from the start we get some great vibrant designs with the characters both in their uniforms during the school days and their future selves. It's all done with a real world style but keeping some very solid animation to it. There isn't a lot of action in the show so it doesn't exactly stretch itself in that area but it makes up for it by taking the real world areas, such as the swim club scenes. With the very good looking encoding done here, the quality of the shows production really shows through here.

In Summary:
Rumbling Hearts was a real surprise of a show based on how many chances it seemed to be taking with the characters. From the emotions it puts them through as well as the situations, these are characters that are in just as hard and difficult a situation as those that faced the leads in Koi Kaze, but obviously for different reasons. With its origins in a game, it's not designed to have the same kind of generic approach to its storytelling that most romantic drama manga tend to so it's very refreshing and engaging to watch. In a season where FUNimation is releasing a lot of testosterone based shows, Rumbling Hearts is a very welcome change and one that could be a very solid title if the remaining volumes continue to take chances.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Closing,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, 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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