Spring & Chaos - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: D+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 56
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Spring & Chaos

Spring & Chaos

By Chris Beveridge     January 30, 2002
Release Date: May 29, 2001

Spring & Chaos

What They Say
Directed by acclaimed anime creator Shouji Kawamori (Macross), this is the animated biography of Kenji Miyazawa, a poet and writer who lived between 1896-1933 in Iwate, Japan. With the use of cats as characters in the story, expressive editing, and computer graphics, the animation captures the fantastic and surrealistic world of Kenji Miyazawa, whose works are often known to be allegorical and abstract.

The Review!
Spring & Chaos has been considered an important piece of anime among a lot of those who've seen it over the years since it came out. It's now finally getting a wider release with the new DVD and also serves as Tokyopop's entry into the DVD format itself.

We listened to this in its original language of Japanese, but we did peek a few times into the English language track. The English track sounds a few notches louder all around than the Japanese track, but this is noticeable on a number of other studios releases as well. There's not a lot of directionality in this show, so the front soundstage is used fairly well in getting the dialogue and music across. There were no problems here otherwise.

The video side of things on the other hand have a number of problems. The first one that's noticeable throughout is the background artifacting that shows up in many sequences, giving the skies a slightly blocky feel to them. There's also a general feel of pixellation in a lot of sequences that give objects a slightly shifty look, as if they're ready to move. What really got our grade down from a C level to the D level though is the image below, occurring at about 14:50 or so. There's another instance later on as well in the show, where the scene just completely breaks up and looks absolutely horrible. How this passed quality control is beyond me. I cleaned the disc and tried multiple players, all of them revealing the same thing.

The way this is packaged is going to delight some and annoy others. The package is essentially a thick cardboard slipcase with a piece similar to the Tenchi box that you pull out and unfold. The slipcase is nicely done and as mentioned, thicker than the usual boxes that come out. The reverse side of it gives a very brief look at what the show is and focuses more on the disc features and the production credits. The interior package folds out to a three panel piece with the DVD in the center. There's a nice multipage booklet included that talks about Miyazawa and those involved in the shows creation. Each of the panels on the interio case has a nice piece of animation for it. The first pressing contains a small cel of what's seen on the slipcase cover partially.

The main opening menu is the only one that contains music, but all of the menus are nicely designed and laid out. The theme of the gears are used for the menu pieces and to hold character animations over the larger backgrounds. Access times to the submenus are pretty solid and everything works niecly. No problems here.

The extras included are pretty nice, with the highlight being the video interview with Kawamori that talks about what changes he made to the project when he was offered it as well as his thoughts on Miyazawa. The interview with the sound director also brings a lot of interesting things to light. The trailer is pretty much what you'd expect as it's the one for the US audience (or at least has the US release logo). The art gallery contains some interesting pictures as well. There's a brief two minute biography on the real-life Miyazawa, and the menu also allows you to play all of the video interviews as one continuous piece.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Spring and Chaos is a small dramatic biography on a period of time in the life of Kenji Miyazawa, the proclaimed greatest Japanese poet of the 20th century who was misunderstood for his poetry during his brief 37 years on Earth. After his death, his work took on a new life and has propelled his name to worldwide recognition among those who follow the art of poetry.

The story here focuses generally on the period of 1923 or so, when Kenji was a teacher of agricultural school and had spent time farming himself. It's during this time that we see him teaching his students about how the world speaks to them as well as seeing flashbacks to his earlier days when those around him influenced him and his growth. The story doesn't have a true beginning/end feel to it as it's more of a way of imparting the feel of Miyazawa's personality and his take on life as well as some of his inspirations for his work.

The show deals in the less than linear style of storytelling with a lot of visuals. To see how things inspired Miyazawa, the normal life that we all see takes on an unreality to it that only pushes his pen to write faster and more furiously the longer it continues. It's these visuals that work so well in illuminating the world through Miyazawa's eyes. It's an interesting look and one that's done with regard for the man and for his work.

What's unfortunate with this release is that not only do you have the video problems mentioned above, but for those who want to sit down and enjoy this classic in its original language, you have to put up with dubtitles. While there are subtitles in several other languages as well, the English ones (and presumably therefore the other languages) are based off of the English language script. I can't say how accurate the script is, but the timing varies from close to extremely off. What's even worse is that entire passages of dialogue aren't dubbed, leaving you no idea what's being said during this area in Japanese. So in one sense, I can't really vouch for what I got out of the storyline as I don't know how close the dub script actually is.

Hopefully Tokyopop will see the problems with this disc and make sure they don't happen on their upcoming releases, which are shows that have much more widespread fans and are more likely to raise a ruckus. Spring & Chaos may slip through the cracks with these kinds of problems, but on higher profile releases they won't fly at all. And hopefully they'll find a new authoring house, as I've seen nothing good come out of ComChoice with the three anime discs they've done so far.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles,French Subtitles,German Subtitles,Video interview with Shoji Kawamori,Video interview with Atsumi Tashiro,Art Gallery,Trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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