When a cute girl arrives on Earth, it’s really a sign that the world is about to end as she is its destroyer. With a smile.
What They Say
"There's nothing I can do to make a difference. Wars will be fought. People will die," Takeru said. "I'll never matter." He didn't know how wrong he was.
Takeru has a very special place in this universe, and he doesn't know how special until he meets a beautiful girl who falls from the stars. Hikari seems to have no memory of who she is (or, for that matter, where her clothes are), so Takeru takes her into his care. That's when things get nasty, for Hikari is not like other girls. Her name may mean "light," but she has a dark history - and an even darker future. One that will change Takeru and his friends forever, and show them all just how beautiful yet cruel this universe can be!
The bilingual presentation for this release is rather straightforward as it has a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 224kbps. The series has a rather good sounding stereo mix that makes good use of the left and right channels for directionality both in dialogue and in sound effects, but the bulk of it is a full sounding center channel based piece. A lot of the show focuses on dialogue and quiet moments of nature and these sound great with clarity and distinction. The English track comes across quite well and mirrors much of what we heard on the Japanese side. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2004, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode series is spread across three discs in a 4/4/4 format and the discs mirror the singles that were released originally. The source material for this show is unsurprisingly in gorgeous shape with lots of bold striking colors and a mix of more muted pieces to help accent the real world the characters inhabit. Similar to other recent Gainax shows, the character designs are a bit more simple and rounded which allows for the colors to blend well and without much noticeable banding. Some of it may feel a bit flat at times but overall the print looks great here with only a few areas of noticeable mosquito noise. The episodes themselves looked fantastic throughout and the opening sequences had a touch of aliasing going on with some of the character designs but it was pretty minimal. Overall this is a real pleasing looking transfer but the jaggies in the opening brought things down a bit overall.
After the previous high quality tin, it’s little surprise that we’re seeing this show released again in a smaller and more affordable keepcase version. The front cover has a shot of the two sisters in minimal clothes reaching across each other while in between is an action shot of Takeru in his transformed mode. With the white of the outfits streaming across the bottom and the beautiful if haunting logo over it, it all ties together very well. The back cover is very appealing as it has a group shot along the bottom half where they all look serious. The top half has a good plug for the episode and disc count along with a series of small shots from the show and a very good summary of the premise that makes you want to know more. The special features are very clearly listed which is really nice and the remainder is given over to production and technical information. The layout and colors really is appealing here in making it a serious show. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover..
The menu layout takes some of what was done with the cover and runs with that as it takes the visual of the Earth and places it in the center while having a drop of water hit it from above, creating the visual of a water ripple over the entire screen, including the menu selections themselves. The layout looks good but the artwork of the Earth suffers from some aliasing and jaggies. The episode selections are along the left while the right has the setup and extras all while a bit of instrumental music plays along. Access times are nice and fast as we've gotten used to with ADV releases as well as the way their discs consistently play according to our players' language presets.
Disc 1 - The extras are pretty standard for this release and we get the extras as laid out during its original release. We get the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences as well as some advertisement spots, this time for the CD and DVD releases. The useful section comes in this volume's round of translator notes; most of them are fairly standard translation pieces such as honorifics and the like, but they also go into some of the naming details and how each of the girls really end up with different names from the same idea.
Disc 2 – In addition to the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a new round of translator notes for some of the quirks of the show, we get a brief live music video as well as one of the promotional videos put together to sell the show to audiences.
Disc 3 – The final volume goes a bit further with the extras, though it again has the standards in the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a new round of translator notes. New to this volume we get a video interview piece with the series director. It's got a fair bit of fluff to it and clips from the show but it does let him talk about things. The piece runs about twenty three minutes in length and there are unfortunately no chapter marks in here at all, making it difficult to skip to specific areas easily. Also included is an advertisement that was shown in theaters for the DVD release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally known as Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai when it aired in Japan, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World was one of several shows that Gainax pushed through back in 2004. During my initial viewing of it when it was released across three single discs every other month, the show left me feeling less than impressed. In fact, I rather disliked it as it played through the situations it presented until it came to a sudden epic moment where the fate of mankind is at hand as the age of man is about to end. It all felt very forced and almost comical at times.
The twelve episode series is focused, at least initially, around high school student Takeru. He lives with his aunt and uncle and cousin Mari. For his aunt and uncle, he helps out in the family delivery business as a motorcycle courier. As we start to understand Takeru, we find that he's an otherwise normal kid who has little motivation and just doesn't see the world as nothing but more of the same. Crime will always be around, people will always do stupid things, and things never really change. If anything, it's just slow increments here and there but otherwise it's nothing new. What's to get excited about?
During one of his deliveries when he was out with his best friend Ryou on the motorcycle, the two are surprised when a stream of light appears overhead and then turns and comes down right at them. Before they know it though, it goes almost right through them and then splits into two. To their surprise, they eventually make their way into the forest where they think one of the pieces of light split, only to discover a young woman about their age completely naked. In talking about the light surrounding her, Takeru says that word and she reacts as if she's just been named after it, as Hikari translates as that. The young girl isn't quite aware of what's going on and her command of Japanese is almost non-existent, but when Takeru takes her home, she starts to understand things and soon has a strange but functional understanding of the language.
A similar situation of sort occurs a little later where Ryou discovers a younger sister of sorts for Hikari named Akari. She’s a bit more childish in a way and she bonds very quickly with Ryou and his sister whom he takes care of since their parents died some time ago. That family unit adapts rather quickly as Ryou is quite taken with Akari, but almost in something of an elder brother kind of way. Watching that relationship play out is a bit awkward since he wants it to go a bit further, but it doesn’t feel natural or even right considering the way they all act. In a lot of ways, Akari is just like Ryou’s sister which makes it all the more uncomfortable at times, especially with her innocent like view of the world.
The two girls aren’t exactly left free from problems even though they’re well taken care of by the men in their lives. Hikari is being sought out by strange creatures that simply shouldn’t exist as they try to kill her, sensing some sort of danger from her that must be dealt with. To her advantage is that Takeru is able to transform into some sort of hyper-human that looks a lot like Devilman and he’s able to protect her. He’s unsure of where this is coming from, but when he transforms he feels the violent side of him trying to be free and some of the fights has him going at his opponent almost brutally. His need to protect Hikari stems from some deep seated emotional issues he has regarding what happened with his parents as well as the feelings that he has for Hikari, cipher that she is.
The series isn’t too much of a surprise in how it plays out since a good chunk of it is the group of characters that live and go to school with Takeru getting involved with what’s going on. Or rather, it’s perhaps more of Hikari becoming a part of this life until events start to take hold with what her real mission is there. So much of this is a basic introduction to humanity – and the humanization – for Hikari. She’s not exactly incapable of figuring things out, she doesn’t treat the world as a big shiny ball that is fascinating and mysterious, but she is more drawn to the way humanity itself interacts with each other. It’s an emotion based series as Takeru and Ryou are coping with their pasts and it reflects on their relationships with the girls.
Unfortunately, nothing really stands out here. A lot of it has that “been here, done that” kind of feel to it. And with the rather leisurely pace to it, it doesn’t do much to truly draw you in. There are some rather good moments to be had, and I have to admit that the scenes with Jennifer tended to be the most fun as she had that whole outgoing busty American thing going on, but by and large you can peg an episode pretty easily within the first couple of minutes if not sooner. Taking in the series in full like this does help it however, as the progression doesn’t feel quite as drawn out as the smaller threads are tied together more smoothly and quickly. A bit of time does pass in the show as events play out, but the connection that is needed to bond these characters simply isn’t given enough time. And that’s something that hurts it.
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World is a very appealing looking show in its design but it’s not one that really stands out in the way that a lot of other Gainax shows have over the years. It’s a very by the numbers kind of show with a few moments of flair here and there, such as the E.D. monsters that show up and the scenes involving the butterflies towards the end. The characters themselves don’t really stand out, though Gainax does continue to be overt with its use of nudity which is actually appealing. So many shows tend to play around it at times or use props to hide key things, but here they’ll go and show the nipples – like they did in the old days! Though this is appealing, it doesn’t make a show or the designs overall. None of the characters are all that memorable in the long run which is rather disappointing.
After a rather poor first impression of the series in single form, I was curious to see how it would play out a few years later in collected form. While at times it did seem to flow better in this manner, once it got the real meat of things towards the last few episodes, it all fell down again. It was relatively obvious from the start what would happen, but the way it segued into that sort of felt like it leapfrogged at times. With only twelve episodes, it’s certainly a compacted storyline considering the kind of charcter connections that need to be established, so it feels lacking. Looking back on it, the thing that is the most memorable about it is the character of Kuon, Akari’s assistant of sorts. That little guy always brought a smile to my face, unlike the rest of the show.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.