This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: This Ugly Yet Beautiful World

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 14, 2006
Release Date: July 04, 2006


This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


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. Because 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. And 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 Review!
When a pair of streaks of light arrive on Earth and take human form, a group of students find love and more through them.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. 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, also done in stereo, 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.

Video:
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 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.

Packaging:
Using mostly the same artwork as the Japanese release but removing one character and reworking the background entirely, we get the pairing of Takeru and Hikari together set against the Earth and space. This works out nicely since it appeals to that part of the logo about the world and doesn't feel quite as cluttered and almost garish as the Japanese cover did with its neon pink background. The characters take up a bit more space here as well but it looks good and the detail shows off nicely. The back cover brings more of that subdued pink hue as it has the large background image of the moon there with shadowed butterflies flitting about, but it does make for reading the text a bit hard as the two tend to blend a bit at times. The left side has a nice strip down it where it showcases some shots from the show and the bottom portion is made up of the usual material such as listing the extras and some of the creative staff's vintage. The technical grid is solid through and through in what it covers along with a small block of production info. Surprisingly there's an insert with the release and it's a very well put together piece where the front and back have interviews with the Japanese voice actresses for Hikari and Akari while it opens up to a smaller interview with the character designer but also providing a breakdown of all the main characters so far with comments on them. This insert is one of the best kinds to have.

In addition to the disc only release, there is also a disc + box release to hold all three volumes of the series. While the character designs and artwork aren't quite as detailed and strong as I would like for a box, it's representative of the show itself and the layout is great; each of the main panels has a shot of either Hikari or Akari reaching up and over while wearing a fantasy version of a toga and their hands just about reach across the spine, which has another shot of them at a different angle doing the same along with the logo and the world behind them. The box artwork is a real mixed bag in some ways but the overall concept is solid.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras are pretty standard but still good; 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With several of their titles being among my favorite shows over the years and only becoming more enjoyable over time, I'm always interested to see what Gainax has in store when they start a new show. Their recent boom a few years ago led to a number of new shows but none of them ended up capturing my imagination and love like their first works as they seemed to lose their way in what made them so appealing. For their twentieth anniversary though, they decided they needed an "anniversary showpiece" that would fit in with some of their real jewels they've made.

Going by the first four episodes, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World is not likely to be one of them.

The thirteen episode series is focused, at least initially, around high school student Takeru. He lives with his aunt and uncle who have a daughter, his cousin named 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, 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.

Before any of that can happen though, a mysterious segmented creature that's like a giant monster appears and wants to take Hikari from them. As it turns out, when Hikari impacted, something of her light essence must have gotten into Takeru as he's able to become powerful and transform parts of his body into weapons, as well as being able to fly and have some sort of invulnerability to him. With the image of Hikari being molested by a giant bug monster after he promised to take care of her, he goes almost psycho and launches into the creature in a very Go Nagai fashion. Between this and the elements of Arjuna that the show has played up early on with the talk about the cycle of life, the influences look easy and obvious but are then put into the background for almost the rest of the volume. Gainax teases us easily at the start and the shifts its focus away.

And what does it shift to? Standard school style comedy material. Takeru does question the powers he seemingly gained and he didn't like how he got into the violence aspect of it, but that falls away as his small group of friends find out about Hikari and her openness about being an alien that traveled through space as a piece of light that was lonely. There's the gags about what kinds of clothes to wear, about whether Takeru will be able to admit he likes her and just about every other cliché from this kind of storyline that we've seen before. They then decided after a couple of episodes to double up on it by having Ryou, who lives with his younger sister off of their parents money from when they died, discovers the other split of light in the forest in the form of a slightly younger girl named Akari who has a different hair color. Everyone accepts her just as easily and they all joke lightly about them being aliens before starting to get them registered for classes.

Very little of what makes up the first episode is expanded upon as it progresses, but it does go for a different angle after a bit. With the introduction of Akari and Ryou's obvious interest in her, we find that she's a bit different in that there's a companion with her, a hand-sized puppet basically that's made up of a cloak, hat and a pair of eyes named Kuon. Kuon is the comic relief of sorts as he's basically her servant and gets her anything she needs, especially food. The obvious influence comes from Please! Teacher, especially since they even visually reference that show when talking about the kind of alien that they want Hikari to be. Kuon's easily the most likeable character in the show which is really damning the rest of them. Takeru doesn't have much of a personality, they bring in his cousin as a potential love interest as she realizes she does love him after Hikari arrives. The friends from school that come by are basic archetypes with no real personality of their own yet and even the aunt and uncle are basically ciphers.s

One theme that seems to be strong here though is the loss of parents; I was surprised to see that they dealt very early on with why Takeru doesn't have at least one of his parents around as they do a flashback scene that has a very young version of himself seeing her leave. It's so poorly done however that they use the visual of him dropping a toy car and it breaking to mirror how his heart feels. All I could think of though was how absolutely cheap and poorly made the toy must be for it to fall a foot or so and break to such a degree. But Takeru's not the only one in this situation; Ryou and his younger sister have lost their parents as well some time back and are living off of the inheritance in the house they were raised in. Ryou's such a laid back character to begin with that even when Akari really gets into his life and the two spend time together, he's not all that much more engaging. It's easy to see her attracted to his calm nature but there's calm and almost dead.

Of course, there's also a group of scientists with some clout that are involved along the way as they investigate the remains of the mysterious creature that Takeru battled, but that's given very little time to start and only serves to introduce yet another cliché, the loud drunken American girl Jennifer Portman. She has a moment where she seems as if she's in power by her rank as Chief during the investigation, but for the rest of the show we don't see her as anything more than a raunchy, socially clueless and drunken blonde who has bursts of inspiration about Hikari's alien nature, something she's included in as she now rooms between Hikari and Takeru.

Visually, the show is fairly attractive and has a lot of nice designs to it though there is a sense of stereotype to some of them. It doesn't have quite the rounded feel of Mahoromatic but it works with much the same color palette when it comes to the characters and their skin tones which is a plus. There are moments of great detail to it but it also swings the other way with very basic outlines and simple designs. Thankfully, the cast tends to change outfits on a regular basis during the opening episodes, though Hikari favors the first real outfit she gets, but it's not a show based in everyone wearing only their school uniforms.

In Summary:
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World feels like it was hit way too hard by the cliché stick and they all stuck. I don't know that I really had high expectations for the show since some of Gainax's recent shows have not won me over but I was surprised by how much parts of the show felt like direct riffs on other series and then it shifted into a show about nothing really. It does have the trappings of dealing with ones place in nature and the real beauty of the world, something we saw plenty of in stronger fashion in Arjuna, but there isn't much to entice or connect with here once the first episode ends. Of course, it could change handily in the next two volumes but seeing as the previews has Hikari heading to school in the next episode, I sense that volume is getting hit hard with the cliché stick as well.

At least Gainax has the guts to put nipples on its characters when they're drawn in the nude, i.e. every episode.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Translator notes,Original Japanese television,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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