Shuffle Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shuffle

Shuffle Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     June 16, 2008
Release Date: June 17, 2008


Shuffle Vol. #4
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The long sought-after Rin is being pulled in a million different directions, and he just might go crazy from the emotional whirlwind. Crushes and competition are temporarily set aside as poor little Primula becomes deathly ill. The heavy truth about the girl's sad life is unveiled as the gang travels to the Realm of the Demons, hopefully to help with the healing. Everything is already confusing enough, and now Asa can't keep from passing out! What is up with this group of girls? Throw in a convoluted tale of cloned cuties created in labs, and it's a wonder that Rin has any time for himself.

The Review!
Shuffle turns largely serious for the bulk of this volume - and lessens the panty count - as the drama involving Primula takes over the series.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using the cover artwork from the Japanese release of the series, Primula takes the cover for this release and she looks just as good as the previous covers have. Similar to Sia, Primula isn't one of my favorites but she looks really good here with the uniform and the detail to her design. 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. 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 all the girls in various kinds of summer outfits as they're riding in or hanging outside of a classic convertible.

Menu:
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 Primula 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.

Extras:
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)
The second half of Shuffle is what this volume is all about as it deals with the issue of Primula. With her being a character that doesn't do much for me, personality or story wise, devoting three more episodes to her slows things down considerably. On the plus side, she is really absent from a lot of it and the cast deals with the repercussions of what she is. But dealing with that puts a morose face on just about everyone as Rin is completely out of it because of her being gone.

Primula is kept mostly to her sealed chamber for the first three episodes and there's little real interaction for her, which doesn't really mean much. Even when she's not in such a state, she doesn't emote all that much and is just cared for by everyone because of the way she carries herself. The real drama is in watching Rin go through such a depression because of what he's learned about her from Sia and Nerine's parents. He's become quite attached to Primula and knowing that she's going through something so terrible is a real burden on him. He's very empathetic with her, almost to the point where it's potentially destructive.

The destructive aspect comes more in how he handles his other relationships. In keeping the secret from Kaede, he's become more withdrawn which only makes her more upset. She keeps a lot of it inside, but she can read him easily enough after all these years and she can tell when he's lying to her. With Nerine and Sia, he's fairly decent with but his general withdrawn nature affects them as well. The relationships do take an interesting turn at first when he finds out that they've known everything all along and he's not sure how to take that. The most telling thing however is that Rin is completely lost without advice and input from Shigure. She's dealing with her own illness which has taken her down fairly hard and set up a few potential revelations for later as she conveys a story of her past with her mother to Rin in order to get him to see what he needs to do.

The most interesting part of this entire story is the part that doesn't revolve around Primula bit instead gives us greater insight into Nerine. Each of the girls has their own reason to love Rin but when we get down to her interest in him, it's really fascinating as we find that she's another of the experiments of a sort. The story of her "clone" sister Lycoris highlights what the other worlds are doing to achieve their goals and how it's affecting everything else. Using Nerine as a baseline and seeing how her clone deals with it is certainly a creative approach, but the way it ends up becoming quite twisted - both in regards to Nerine and later to Primula - is really nicely done and keeps your attention quite well. Nerine hasn't exactly been a favorite of mine but with this she has grown considerably. Understanding her deep interest in Rin and how she's dealing with it in the aftermath of the Primula storyline really sets things up wonderfully for what's to come.

The visual style of the show is one that is very much worth watching, particularly as the storylines change in this volume. Much of the show through the first three episodes is very dark and moody, with many scenes taking place in darkened and shadowed interiors or outdoors as the sun sets which casts an ill feeling over things. The four episode opens with a very bright sunny morning shot of Rin's house and it's like a breath of fresh air after all that's happened. There's tough material to be found in that episode as emotions and feelings are dealt with, but the visual shift in tone is very noticeable as you realize just how near oppressive it was getting at times. Even when they went for the panty shots, there was an air of despair about it that was almost intimidating.

In Summary:
As much as I've enjoyed Shuffle, getting past the Primula story has been the best thing it could have done for my enjoyment. The storyline has produced a number of interesting plots for the next eight episodes but it was definitely a chore to get through them. Of course, part of this could be that I've become such a Shigure fanboy that with her lesser presence here it just didn't feel right. As the show gets "back on track" with the last episode and deals with the various relationships and how everyone is feeling about Rin, my enjoyment picked up considerably and it has me quite eager once again to see more. Shuffle may definitely be an acquired taste but it's one that is worth acquiring and savoring.

Features
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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