Suzuka Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: 15.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Suzuka

Suzuka Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     November 01, 2007
Release Date: October 22, 2007


Suzuka Vol. #1
© Revelation Films


What They Say
It’s the eve of his first day as the new kid in class at the big city high school, when Yamato finds himself smitten with the local rising star of track and field. However, any doubts he’ll ever catch another glimpse of such beauty are promptly squashed when she shows up at his aunt’s boarding and bathhouse… As are his hopes of impressing the driven hottie!! Two people could not be more different!

And as Suzuka remains completely uninspired by Yamato’s cheerfully irresponsible nature, things progress from bad to worse with record-breaking speed. Throw in the antics of a handful of high school stereotypes, and the kid’s completely out of his league! Love may not be a spectator sport, but Yamato’s sitting things out on the sideline.

Episodes Comprise
1 – Anticipation
2 – Smile
3 – Sick Day
4 – Field Day
5 – Eye of the Storm

The Review!
Part sports anime, part romance, Suzuka takes a look at the lives of Yamato Akitsuki and the newest girl in his life - high school high jump champ Suzuka Asahina. For Yamato it was love (well, lust) at first sight, but Suzuka's a girl with problems, and building any sort of relationship with her is going to take a lot of work...

Audio:
Audio is provided in both English and Japanese 2.0 tracks – feeling adventurous (and having heard very good things about Suzuka’s dub), I listened to the English track for this release. It’s a fairly basic stereo mix – the setting doesn’t really give much opportunity for working out the soundstage, so there’s no real direction to things, but it’s clear and easy to make out.

Video:
Video is presented in its original full-frame aspect, and makes good use of a bright- colourful palette to bring the show’s setting to life. The transfer itself is also good, with no noticeable problems.

Packaging:
The front cover features a rather nice image of Suzuka in her sports kit, just after making a jump and with the high-jump bar lying across her stomach in a pose that catches her personality quite well. The rear has an image of Yamato, a set of screenshots, and the usual promotional blurb and technical information. The release comes in a clear keepcase, and the main cover is reversible, with the alternate side using an image of Yamato and Suzuka sitting on the steps of a shrine together (one of the more touching scenes from this volume) on the front, and a textless version of the rear cover. All told, a nice piece of packaging.

Menu:
The main menu uses the same artwork of Suzuka as the front cover, just with a different-colour background. Options are provided for Play All, episode selection, language setup and extras, and a piece of the show’s background music plays over the top. There are no transition animations, so it’s all suitably quick & easy to use.

Extras:
Not much here – you get an art gallery dressed up as a school yearbook, and creditless versions of the opening & closing sequences. Unusually, these are available in both English and Japanese, as Funimation have dubbed the songs – which version you get depends on your language menu choices.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Yamato Akitsuki has just moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo to study in high school. No sooner has he arrived than he sees a girl training on the school playing fields and falls instantly in love. She's Suzuka Asahina, a school high-jump champ, and as luck would have it, she's his next-door neighbour - although there's a real comedy of errors while he figures that out, and it's definitely not the best introduction he could have had. When Yamato comes to her rescue when she passes out in the sauna, though, the first signs of friendship begin to appear.

Later, when the time comes for him to start at his new school, Yamato finds he's been placed in the same class as Suzuka and his “best friend” Yasunobu. As days go, it could be better - Suzuka's already made friends amongst the school's track & field team, Yasunobu's been putting his sparkling personality to good use as well, but Yamato has yet to get to know anyone - until shy girl Honoka Sakurai introduces herself. While Yamato can't quite place her, Honoka seems to know him from somewhere - and when Suzuka spots them talking to each other, she seems to start suffering from a large dose of jealousy...

Looking at the packaging, you would be forgiven for thinking that Suzuka’s a sports show, but while there are some elements of that here, it’s not what the series is really about – instead, the main focus is very much on Yamato and Suzuka, and their two-steps-forward, one-step-back sort of relationship. Playing very much to anime stereotype, Yamato simply can't do anything without it being taken the wrong way - sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's annoying, (mainly as it's a situation I've seen repeated so many times in so many different shows over the past few years), but overall it’s done in a way that tries to make you sympathetic towards the main characters. It succeeds quite well at that – Suzuka isn’t quite your typical anime romantic lead, as she has issues that she’s trying to deal with that affect the way she gets on with Yamato. In short, she’s a typical young girl, not an idealised anime one, and that scores the series a number of brownie points right there.

Yamato’s personality plays more to the expected stereotypes – he’s the laid back, nothing-bothering-me type most of the time, with only his rising feelings for Suzuka breaking that image. Yasunobu (who claims to be his best friend but often behaves more like his nemesis) is the trouble-maker and womaniser who can see what his friend is thinking and, in his own over-the-top way, does what he can to help, while Honoka rounds out the core cast and fills the role of the shy girl who’s hopelessly in love. Of the four main characters, I could do with a lot less Yasunobu – his antics just rub me up the wrong way – but the other three are all genuine, likeable characters, and between them all I’m fairly certain that most people will see an aspect of their own lives that they can relate to in some way.

The real comic relief comes from the supporting cast, particularly college students Megumi and Yuuka. Both of them seem to spend a lot of their time drunk - usually in Yamato's room - and Megumi seems to enjoy having her breasts stared at. If I was Yamato, I'd be loving the situation, but he's too nice a guy to take advantage of it (never mind the misunderstandings it causes with Suzuka). There's also his cute little cousin Miho and his aunt Ayano, who owns the bathhouse & apartment complex he's living in. Again, they contribute more to the comedy side of things than the serious, although Ayano again can see the chemistry working between Yamato and Suzuka, and can’t help trying her hand at matchmaking from time to time.

Suzuka’s biggest flaw is the way that, every time it looks as though there’s some progress towards Yamato and Suzuka realising what they mean to each other, there’s a setback that knocks them back to square one – fair enough, you don’t want them to get together too quickly or the series wouldn’t last long, but the constant knock-backs get frustrating, and we’re only at episode 5. On the upside, in any anime it’s the characters that make the show, and the series comes off very well in that department – Yasunobu may be annoying, but he’s a necessary foil, and the rest of the cast are universally lovable, and you have no problem rooting for them all. That makes the show very watchable & enjoyable.

In summary:
Suzuka isn’t perfect, but it’s got a lot working in its favour. High-school romance isn’t up everybody’s alley, but if you’ve got a romantic bone somewhere in your body you’ll find this to be a series that will easily reel you in to its story. There’s a risk they’ll drag out the ‘preliminaries’ between Yamato and Suzuka for too long, but that’s not an issue here – this disc is a good start to the series, and well worth taking a look at.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Aoba High School Yearbook,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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