Suzuka Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: C
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Suzuka

Suzuka Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     June 14, 2007
Release Date: June 12, 2007


Suzuka Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Yamato has fallen in love at first sight and the race is on. Yamato's heart takes him on an impulsive trial of heartache and self-discovery as he pursues Suzuka Asahina, the most popular girl in his new school. Personalities clash as the competition for Suzuka's love and attention grows with every event.

The Review!
Yamato's interest in a girl brings him to a high school in Tokyo where his life changes slowly but surely.

Audio:
The audio side of this release is pretty straightforward but with a bit of a twist to it. Each of the language tracks are standard 256 kbps 2.0 mixes that handle this show well as it is mostly just dialogue and music. This release has a few problems with it but will depend on your sensitivity to audio. On the Japanese track, the 2.0 mix is actually mono for the entire first episode and the clean opening and closing sequences. The remaining four episodes in Japanese seem to alternate back and forth in its presentation from stereo to mono. The English mix is identical except that for episodes two through five it was far less pronounced in its dips into the mono side. On our setup with our speakers spread across about seventy-five inches of space, it was hard to really distinguish the issue at all. Our initial listening in Japanese for the first episode we weren't aware of the issue at all. Going back to it afterward learning about the problem it was still very hard to really distinguish it during normal playback from a ten foot seating distance. The problem is there however as there is technical data to back it up as several readers have posted about.

Surprisingly, the opening and closing songs on the English language track have been dubbed, something that FUNimation seems to be trying to do a bit more these days. The Japanese track retains the original vocals. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show has a bright and colorful palette to it with its basis in a real world setting that comes across nicely here. Colors are strong and generally solid both in the background and foreground. There is a bit of mosquito noise creeping in from time to time but it's minimal overall and not terribly noticeable. Aliasing is generally non-existent and there wasn't any visible cross coloration either. On our 70" setup the backgrounds did show a bit more blocking than on our 50" setup with both players outputting standard 480p. There are some small moments throughout that will continue to be problematic for those sensitive to the blocking but overall it's a decent clean looking transfer for the five episodes that are here.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the fourth Japanese release, this release is certainly one that will catch the eye as Suzuka is sitting down with her legs open after falling from a jump. Wearing her uniform and covered in sweat, it doesn't look quite as racy as the Japanese cover since this is zoomed in a bit. The addition of a pink background and a large logo to change the focus a bit helps. Colors look good and there is some nice detail within the overall design. The back cover is fairly traditional with a cloudy sky background that has a number of shots from the show strewn about as photographs. The summary covers the basics and the discs episode titles and numbers along with the extras are all clearly listed. With as much empty space as there is here though I wish the technical grid could get a little more space so it's not quite so cramped. The reverse side of the cover features a good illustration of Yamato and Suzuka sitting together at the top steps of the shrine while the back cover is identical to the main back cover.

Suzuka also comes in a disc+box variation that includes a solid chipboard box to hold the entire series. The Suzuka box is a pretty traditional box in comparison to other FUNimation boxes but it certainly gets the job done. One of the main panels features the same shot as Suzuka from the cover of the first volume while the other main panel has a character that hasn't been introduced yet. The spine has a small piece of line artwork of Suzuka but is otherwise dominated by the logo. With a lot of whitespace that's similar to the Japanese covers, there's a good feel to the artwork but I keep coming back to the far too large logo both on the spine and on the top of the box.

Menu:
The menu design is the same as the cover as it uses the still of Suzuka in her uniform but set against a blue sky background with some white clouds. Unlike the front cover though, the colors are really punched up here and maybe a bit too vibrant. A bit of soft instrumental music plays back during this for the standard loop length. The menu overall is appealing but it's pretty minimal yet functional and easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and the disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and instead defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras included for this first volume are pretty minimal with just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief photo gallery done up as a yearbook.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Kouji Seo, Suzuka is a twenty-six episode series that looks like it's a slice of life romantic comedy of sorts with a sports angle to it. The sports side of it isn't the dominant aspect, at least in these first five episodes, but it is an element that brings the leads together and provides the connection needed to move beyond the physical spark that exists.

The series revolves around a core group of four freshmen students in high school who have come to a well known sports oriented school in Tokyo. Yamato has visited his aunt in Tokyo ever since he was little and lived just outside of Hiroshima. With high school being a phase of life where changes are expected and you want to shake things up a bit, he opted to go to school in Tokyo as his aunt offered to provide him with housing. The housing aspect of it is fairly amusing as she runs a public bath that has a decent sized apartment complex attached to it. Yamato gets his own room which is pretty spacious but he has to work for it by helping out in the baths. It tries to be even more amusing by the simple fact that the dorm rooms are women only, making him the only male to live there.

Before he arrives at his new home however he stumbles across what turns out to be the girl of his dreams. Walking by his new school, he sees a young woman doing a high jump with a real sense of passion about her. From there he's simply completely attracted to her and is hoping to find out who she is when he gets to school. The series sets up early the kinds of coincidences that will dominate it when it turns out that she lives in the same dorm as he does and is in fact his next door neighbor. Suzuka has come to the school after surprising herself with a strong performance in a recent high jump event. She's not exactly excited to be here after leaving all of her friends and there looks to be an unrequited love interest in her background as well that has left her with a dour and curt personality. She's admittedly in the bad situation of having a new neighbor that's not only male but also ends up acting foolishly around her since he's just got bad luck with women.

While these two are the leads, there are a pair of characters that help to facilitate the usual awkward situations as well as other distractions. On the male side this role is filled by Yasunobu, someone that Yamato used to get into trouble with when he visited his aunt. Yasunobu is a true ladies man who has all the right moves and words as well as the looks to make it all come together. He's interested enough in Suzuka, possibly simply because Yamato is, but he also comes across as interested in helping Yamato actually get involved with her. On the female side we get the quiet and relatively shy Sakurai. She knew Yasunobu in her last school but also has something of a connection with Yamato. When she first sees him at school she's instantly friendly because of it which throws off anyone who knows her. The friendliness is something more to her as she's genuinely interested in him and unsure of what his relationship is with Suzuka.

Add in a cute array of other background characters such as the slutty drinking college girls that live in the dorm as well as Yamato's aunt and cousin and you have all the trappings of a standard high school romantic comedy. These first five episodes cover most of the basics in terms of introduction and setup without breaking any new ground. It does have some good hooks to it though as the relationships between the main four come together a bit quicker than usual as well as the sports angle. One problem I usually have with so many romantic comedies is that the male lead often has so little going for him that you wonder why all these women are after him. Yamato doesn't have much to him but he is easy going and friendly. The interest in him grows after he starts to exhibit some of his track ability and he realizes he may have something that will make him appealing to Suzuka. So many shows just revolve around standard classroom issues and the like that having something that could be pushed forward because of how the male lead performs in a sport is an enjoyable change of pace.

Another aspect that works well is that the characters are all very likeable, both in personality and in design. Suzuka stands out against the usual bombshells that seem to populate series. With somewhat short hair and a fairly curt personality at first which leaves her with not too many friends, she's not the usual standout type that everyone is longing for. She has a certain beauty to her but she's not concerned with how she looks in an over the top way. Since she spends a good deal of her time in shorts and a tank top that's drenched in sweat, she has a much more real feeling about her as well as a sense of attainability. Sakurai tends to follow the more traditional model in that she's the quiet near Japanese ideal of a woman but her inner monologue reveals something more about her as she tries to find a way to get closer to Yamato without being cruel or malicious.

In Summary:
Suzuka has a lot of potential to it to be a solid romantic comedy and drama series with a sports angle. These first episodes don't really stand out that strongly until towards the end with Yamato finally shows something of actual effort in what he's doing. That small change however could make the series that much more interesting to watch. With so many shows focusing around characters who seemingly have no real interests or no real lives outside of the classroom, Suzuka looks to have a broader and more interesting view. The stage is set with what's here and it's made me interested to see more of it but it hasn't won me over handily. There's a lot to like here and it has the potential if it can avoid falling into some of the usual manga to anime pitfalls.

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

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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