Suzuka Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Suzuka

Suzuka Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     September 03, 2007
Release Date: September 04, 2007


Suzuka Vol. #3
© 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 Asahina's love and attention grows with every life event.

Contains episodes 11-14.

The Review!
Fortune favors the bold as Honoka makes her intentions clear with both Suzuka and Yamato, a move that makes the show far more interesting than it should be.

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 stereo mixes that handle this show well as it is mostly just dialogue and music. We listened to the show in both languages and didn't have any real issues with it terms of its presentation as it's mostly a full sounding mix. 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 Japanese release, the third volume of the series isn't quite as eye-catching as the first but it provides a good looking illustration of Miki in her school uniform set against an orange background. 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 great illustration of the three girls together with a killer whale while the back cover is identical to the main back cover.

Menu:
The menu design is the same as the cover as it uses the still of Miki 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 volume pretty much on par with the first volume as it has a 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)
Continuing to defy expectations, Suzuka's third installment takes us past the halfway mark of the series and plays around in interesting territory. While most shows would play up the will they or won't they aspect until the last couple of episodes, or even the last few frames, Suzuka puts things on the table far earlier than that. And the show is much better for it as the drama surrounding the actual relationships is far more interesting than the drama of potential relationships.

The tumultuous nature of the relationship between Yamato and Suzuka has been fun to watch, though not fun for Honoka watch. After the blowup between the two in the previous volume with how she laid into him about his very nature as she perceives it, Yamato has basically hit a depression and hasn't gone to practice for a few days. Though she's plainly made her feelings clear, he's still very much interested in her and ends up being near where she is when it's time for the match that she's in. The situation is a bit contrived as Suzuka shoots her mouth off in front of a competing team in regards to Tsuda which causes Yamato to step in to protect her. The result however puts Yamato back into the track side of things and gets him motivated once more.

All of this is a weak way of getting everything set so that Yamato has a reason to go the Inter-high competition, which strangely enough also draws Yasunobu along as well. A group of fit and athletic teenagers off for a meet in Hiroshima is a recipe for fun even if they are very dedicated in their field. Yamato is doing his best to get back into gear after the regional competition while Suzuka is continuing to work towards her own goal. What proves to be really interesting in all of this is how Honoka is dealing with the situation. With Yamato and Suzuka not exactly as close as they once were, she actually reveals to Suzuka that she has some strong feelings for Yamato and has for a long time.

Of course, a situation where everyone is off in another town and the usual constraints are tossed aside is perfect for making a move. And Honoka does just that in the kind of sweet and almost innocent way that typifies her personality. While Suzuka has that kind of high maintenance vibe that has a lot of payoff to it, Honoka exudes a much more manageable personality that may not exactly challenge you but will satisfy you quite a lot. This puts Yamato in an awkward position since he is male after all and a first kiss can drastically change someone's opinions at that tender age. Having these kinds of choices come up, these kinds of challenges and struggles, brings the series a bit more realism and definitely more uncertainty to how it will all conclude. As much as I like Suzuka, I continue to come back to preferring Honoka as she's not so completely wrapped up in her own issues and she isn't all over the map when it comes to her emotions.

The series does present some past situations in a new form here as the relationships evolve, but it's fairly well done as it comes across as realistic. A chance moment at an outing has a series of fireworks going off that reminds Yamato of the first time he confessed to Suzuka. How could the fireworks going off again not have him think of doing it again? He's not exactly a glutton for punishment, but something about this girl just has a powerful effect on him and he can't help but tell her how he feels. Even knowing that she seemingly has no interest and that she's wrapped up in her own issues, he's still very much interested. Seeing his attentions start to drift, and the affect it has on others, is a major part of these episodes and it's all for the better.

In Summary:
Suzuka hits some really good notes in this volume as it shifts across the halfway mark. While it retains its sports elements, it isn't focused exclusively on it. The show is still very much a teenage romantic piece and it does quite well there. With the pairing of Honoka and Yamato being my favorite, even though it likely cannot happen with Suzuka being the name of the series, these episodes just work wonderfully. Rather than having the standard will they or won't they scenario, Yamato is led around like any teenage male would be in this situation as he starts to realize that there is a big world out there. Suzuka certainly isn't high art but it is a very enjoyable show that has a solid cast with some wonderful hooks to it that still get played this far into it. This is definitely one of the better teenage romantic series I've seen in the last few years.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening,Clean Closing,Aoba High School Yearbook

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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