While nobody was looking, they’ve secretly replaced the script with one from When They Cry...
What They Say
Rin can't win. On the one hand he's got more attention from the opposite sex than he can handle... On the other hand? He's got more attention from the opposite sex than he can handle! And the competition among the girls is starting to get a little scary!
Remember the innocent days of trips to the beach and attempting to win a man's heart with some home cooking? Well, those days are over. Kidnappings, physical altercations and forced dates are the new order of the day, and unless Rin takes a stand and reels the girls in, people are going to get hurt...
Contains episodes 17-20.
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.
The series takes a bit of a different turn this time with a pairing used for the cover instead of the single girls as it puts Kaede together with her teacher, Nadeshiko. The two certainly look well together but it doe feel like an unusual choice for the volume, though having Kaede on it does fit in general. Of course, the preference would be for some serious Asa love to be given... 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 Primula and Nerine together. Nerine looks quite sexy with the look and outfit she has on while Primula is thankfully kept to just looking cute.
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 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 moves up through episode twenty with this volume and sets the stage for some serious changes to finally occur. While the series has always had an undertone of seriousness from the start, events have been piling up through the double digit episodes that paint a rather bleak picture at times. There are some fun moments to be had here, but it really doesn’t feel like a joke when I say it felt like someone slipped in the script from an episode of When They Cry here, even down to the way the characters look at times.
The episodes for this volume break down fairly well in that we get an episode of closure at first and then some good natured romantic fun for another episode. After that it’s all downhill into the psychological drama world as events really start to mess with everyone. The opening story does a decent job of cleaning up the strange little mess of a plot that involves Sia and her internalized personality. After letting out her other half for awhile, not exactly willingly at that, she’s forced to really confront that part of herself and deal with it. She’s put Rin in an awkward position but she’s also found herself really trying to decide what her feelings are, and not her secret sisters feelings. The exploration of her own emotions and connections is something that could be more interesting but is instead left to being somewhat overly dramatic and without much serious impact. Sadly, Sia is still something of an uninteresting character for me, much like Nerine.
Thankfully, after all that occurs here and as Sia decides to make a real go at winning over Rin, everyone outside of Kaede seems to come to the conclusion that the real relationship that needs to be dealt with is that of Rin and Asa. With all that’s come before, Rin’s essentially told point blank that he needs to admit his feelings to her by taking her on a very romantic date and confessing. He’s unsure about this particular method, but he’s surprisingly agreeable to the actual intent of it which is a very welcome change. The date, to an absurd place called Cupid Land, is good if only because you get to see the two of them having fun together and connecting in a very real world way as they explore the sights and such of the park. There are naturally troubles along the way, but the forging of a true connection that’s revealed is the main highlight of it.
All of this puts an intense amount of pressure on Kaede who has thankfully finally snapped. If anyone in this series was going to do it, it was going to be her with the way she’s so tightly wound up. Wound up and in complete service to Rin from the very start, which has always felt a bit odd and even more so because Rin didn’t seem to realize it. The past that the two of them share is certainly a tragic one and it’s been touched on before, but this time around we get to see the real aftermath of it as the two of them are now living together. It turns very creepy from the start as she’s feeling vindictive against Rin for what happened and it’s pretty obvious that he’s hiding the truth from her. The zest with which this little girl goes after him fits in with other dark moments of the series but resonates all the more because she’s human and doing all of it at a very tender age.
The breakdown both in the past and present occur in a fascinating way since Kaede is simply unable to handle things. Her issues in the present obviously stem from the past and her feelings of loss, so when Rin and Asa start to get really serious it’s not a surprise to see her completely freak out or shut down over all of it. The shut down aspect of it is well done with how her eyes change and in that Primula is the only one to notice, but it’s when she has her freak out experience that it gets truly intense as she essentially attacks Asa over it and goes over the top. The sudden intensity of it is great and is one of those moments that signals a definite change in the tone of the series and where it will go. Kaede’s story has always been the one I expected to come near the end so to finally get to it is worth the wait.
Shuffle has been a lot of fun from the beginning and it’s played the genre well while bringing in a fair amount of solid serious emotion and relationship material. This set of episodes runs the gamut pretty nicely but it also brings into play a potential element that I suspect won’t get tackled but is ideal fodder in general. In the chase that Sia provides with Rin, she offhandedly mentions at one point that the Gods all practice polygamy. While I don’t agree that polygamy is the proper term to be used (though I don’t doubt it’s what was said in the Japanese), the concept in general is one that I can’t wait to see properly explored in a mainstream anime romantic series. Shuffle is the kind of show where a true polyamorous relationship would provide for a great set of stories to be told and all sorts of fascinating interpersonal connections and issues. The core group of characters is practically involved in it anyway but they’re simply not admitting it, instead going with the traditionally accepted idea that there must only be one. In that context, Shuffle does some really top notch stuff here and continues to be engaging and fascinating. God panties and all.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
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.