Shuffle Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shuffle

Shuffle Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     May 13, 2008
Release Date: May 06, 2008

Shuffle Vol. #3
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
It's summer break, the sun is shining and Rin's life couldn't be more complicated! All of the girls are getting a little worked up from the heat and they're jumping out of their swimsuits to get his attention.

Nerine wants a hands-on lesson in swimming even as Asa goes top-off in the waves, and Sia trumps them both when she and Rin get a little private time... stranded! The beach is supposed to be relaxing, but the beauties surrounding Rin are keeping the poor boy's blood pressure up. He can't possibly keep all of them happy. There's boy-crazy, then there's Rin-crazy. Then there's just plain crazy!

Contains episodes 9-12:
Survival Swimming at the Beach
Moonlit Confession
Girls of Summer
Frozen Summer

The Review!
Summer break comes and goes rather quickly - and amusingly - before the show turns decidedly serious with some of the larger mythos behind Shuffle.s

Shuffle's bilingual audio presentation is pretty standard material for a show of this nature. Both the English language and Japanese language tracks are done in a stereo format at 192 kbps. With the show being far more focused on mood, dialogue and some accent music, it doesn't really require much and the stereo mix provides a good full sound overall. There's some minor directionality here and there - often more noticeable in the English language presentation than the Japanese - but for the most part there aren't any surprises here. It's well done for what it is but it won't really make you stand up and take notice. We didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Shuffle is one of the first series to benefit from changes in FUNimation's authoring changes and it's pretty much all for the better. The series is very brightly colored but not garish which brings out a good deal of vibrancy both in the characters and backgrounds. It's not exactly lush, but it doesn't have a drab or basic feeling to it but rather something with life and flavor. That comes through here due to the encode which has a much higher bitrate than most of what FUNimation has released in the past couple of years. The lack of gradient problems outside of a few minor scenes and having backgrounds and characters that are generally very solid gives it a great feel.

Using the cover artwork from the Japanese release of the series, Sia steals the cover for this installment and looks just as good as the previous covers have looked. The character design isn't my favorite of the group we've gotten to know but she looks great here with a lot of detail and some wonderful colors with it. The sunflowers in particular really work well with the covers by giving it some extra peace and serenity which very much fits in with the tone of the series. The original logo is used, both with its English and Japanese variants, as is the way the volume numbering is done though in different places from the original. The back cover shows FUNimation's love of the sideways design as it features the arrows pointing in different directions to contains blocks of information including the tagline of "Which girl would YOU choose?" There are a bunch of character shots throughout and some small scenes from the show itself mixed around the episode listings and titles as well as the extras. The summary covers the very basic amount needed for the premise while the remainder is filled out with impossibly hard to read production and technical information done as white text on an orange strip. The reverse side cover is nice in that it's a collage of numerous shots from the show and plenty of sunflowers along with the tagline. No insert is included but they did provide a nice four panel fold out poster with Asa and Kaeda sitting in very pretty dresses with pillows on their laps as they have very relaxed looks on their faces. It's a very interesting picture overall but again, one that fits well with the show.

The menu design for Shuffle is rather simple but it's done with some nice style as it brings in the arrow strips to hold the navigation. The menu for this volume features a full color full length image of Sia in her school uniform. The background is done with a very large close-up of her face in grayscale which looks really nice when done with the added background elements of the blue strips. Add in a bit of bouncy upbeat music to a surprisingly long 60 second loop and it comes together well with as simple as it is. Access times are nice and fast and language selection determines what branch the video takes so choosing through the menu is important. It's also worth noting that FUNimation continues to list full translation subtitles as Japanese which means most players won't pick it up properly.

The only extra included is a clean version of the opening and closing sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shuffle makes its way to the halfway mark with this volume and it really hasn't lost any of its luster for all that it's done so far. While the show hasn't exactly blazed a new path for harem style romantic comedies, it's been taking a somewhat more mature approach with it by treating the characters well and letting them not come across as crazed loons. While it was all fun and hilarity back when we first saw Tenchi Muyo some decade plus ago, it's worn incredibly thin since then. And until we get an actual polyamorous harem show, this is likely the best it's going to get for quite awhile.

Across the four episodes on this volume, three of them are pretty much focused on lighthearted material that helps to push the characters along lightly while just having a good bit of fun. Summer break has hit and the characters are either dealing with supplemental classes or the copious amount of homework they have to get done before the next semester starts up. This set kicks off with a good bit of fun by putting the bulk of the leads at the beach where they're just showing off their swimsuits and the sheer amount of bounce their bosoms contain. It's positively uplifting! The standard kind of frivolity ensues there with Rin showing one of the girls how to swim while Sia ends up getting a bit jealous over it as she watches on. That leads her to being a bit pushy in getting some quality time alone with him and that means they end up washing out to sea where they then realize just how close together they can actually get, especially when faced with the evils of the jungle they eventually become lost in.

What this really ends up doing is providing a way for the show to dip into its first round of seriousness with these episodes. The closeness that the two share apparently sends off some sort of signal flare to Sia's father who kicks off the wedding plans for the two without their knowledge. It takes time for it to filter down to others, but eventually their friends find out before Rin and Sia even realize what's going on. It has some of the usual comedy associated with such things, but it also plays to a more serious angle as the two think seriously about it and the consequences of it. Sia actually shows a great deal of maturity over all of it and the way they deal with it in regards to their friends - realizing how it will affect them in fact - paints the show in a very positive light. Moments like these are pure fodder for fun with a show like this since everyone has their own favorites and can get very involved when things turn in this manner, even if you know nothing will change just yet.

The fun is what really keeps drawing me back to the show though, as much as I enjoy the serious side. The fun, done in a manner that doesn't involve wacky magic, outlandish expressions or improbable situations, is almost endearing because it feels so honest for the most part. One time when it goes a bit beyond the realm of believable is when dealing with Mayumi, but I find that I can let it pass since it's all about providing pure fanservice. The beginning of summer break provides an opportunity for a split story to be told from different angles, but it's Mayumi's that has me laughing as she's very out there with exposing her panties, first to Rin and making sure he knows it and then to a little boy who is filled with laughter when he sees she's wearing striped panties. What really makes it a fun small story is when she gets roped into working in Kareha's café in a proper maid style outfit and she forgets to put on the panties. Never mind going into the back and putting them on lickity split, oh no. She struggles out in public for awhile without any underwear and with a bunch of lecherous guys who want her to bend over. Creepy yet... intriguing.

Shuffle does a good job of balancing the light with the serious but it does get quite serious towards the end of this volume as the mystery of Primula is exposed quite plainly, though just to Rin. When she starts to suffer a fever of sorts, she's laid out pretty quickly and Rin and Kaede can't seem to do anything for her which isn't a surprise. That Sia and Nerine seem to know what's going on but won't say anything just makes it all the more frustrating, but Rin really shows some good backbone here as he goes to the two Kings and demands to know what's going on. With his potential future position, they're actually quite accommodating on what's going on though they do obfuscate on some of the details. Primula has been my least favorite character of the show and none of this new back story for her does anything to endear me to her. It does make Rin more attached to her, but in a brotherly way which works, but it's the kind of subplot that just feels like the show is treading water until it gets to more interesting material once again. After the wonderful serious story involving Asa in the previous volume, this installments serious story just felt weak due to not aring for Primula all that much.

In Summary:
While this volume of Shuffle didn't end on a particularly high note or all that interesting of one, regardless of how it may play into future episodes, overall it really kept me very entertained and smiling throughout. The cast of characters is fairly well balanced in who gets what time, some are kept off screen for awhile so others get the spotlight, and there isn't a huge sense of outrageous rivalry going on among them. At the moment, everyone is just trying to enjoy the time they have together and make the most of it which is quite a positive and mature thing to do. Shuffle is the kind of show where you really want to see all of them make a go at it - together. Not that I'm advocating orgies or anything, but serious group love thing. They all just seem so damn mature that they might pull it off and thereby unite the three worlds! That aside, fans of the first two volumes will find more to like here as the characters go through the summer break mode and deal with some new situations. Good stuff and definitely a series that defies my basic expectations while still giving me a ton of boobies and panties. And nipples.

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

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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