This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • 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

By Bryan Morton     May 22, 2007
Release Date: March 19, 2007


This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


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. And that's when things get nasty.

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!

Episodes Comprise
1 - Dawn is the Dividing Line Between Light and Darkness
2 - You're My First
3 - Two in the Shade of a Tree
4 - Life From Now On

The Review!
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World (Kono Minikuku wo Utsukushii Sekai, for those who prefer original titles, or KonoMini for short) comes from the same people who brought Mahoromatic to the world " so expect comedy, cute girls, and a more serious story running underneath the gloss. KonoMini certainly seems to have all three " but is it as enjoyable as the series it follows..?

Audio:
Audio comes in Japanese and English 2.0 versions " I listened to the Japanese track for this review. This series is heavy on the dialogue, which in this case means a series that relies heavily on the centre channel and doesn't provide a huge amount of directionality " there's some there, particularly during the action scenes, but it's not the main focus of events. Background music and effects are restrained, leaving the dialogue easy to pick out. There were no obvious encoding problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen format, enhanced for anamorphic playback. There's the slightest bit of noise visible on some areas of solid colour that spoil what would otherwise be an excellent transfer " these probably wouldn't be too noticeable on smaller screens, but if you're watching on a large-screen TV you'll probably spot them. Colours are bright and vibrant, with a good amount of detail put into backgrounds.

Packaging:
A good-looking piece of artwork featuring Hikari and Takeru, against the globe of the Earth in the background, graces the front cover of this release. Definitely eye-catching. The rear has the usual screenshots, episode summaries and technical information, while an inlay sheet contains interviews with Japanese VAs Ayako Kawasumi (Hikari) and Ai Shimizu (Akari). The reverse of the cover (hidden inside a black keepcase, sadly) has cast profiles and an interview with animation director & character designer Kazuhiro Takamura.

Menu:
The main menu's options surround a reflected image of the Earth, disturbed every so often by the ripple of falling water. Direct access is provided to each episode, along with submenus for language options and extras, and a preview of the next volume. The girls and Takeru feature on the submenus. There are no transition animations when making selections, so it's all quick and easy to use.

Extras:
As well as the usual clean opening & closing animations, there's a selection of Japanese TV spots for the DVD release and soundtrack CD, and a set of translation notes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Takeru Takemoto is definitely the class layabout, in complete contrast to his friend Ryou, who's more than happy to be helpful - or taken advantage of, even. His layabout nature often leaves him on the wrong end of lectures about his attitude, but Takeru really doesn't care. Things change, though, when he sees what appears to be a shooting star impacting in the forest just outside his hometown. Arriving on the scene to see what's happened, he encounters a bright light, from which a young girl, Hikari, emerges. Hikari's no normal girl, unsurprisingly, and her arrival in Takeru's life brings a large dose of danger with it " she claims to be alien, and the monstrous creatures that soon begin chasing after her would seem to back up her claim. Takeru finds himself strangely drawn to her, to the point where he declares he'll be the one to look after her and protect her. Two problems with that idea: Takeru's not exactly Mr Superhuman Hero (something Hikari's fortunately able to correct), while under her cute & innocent exterior, it seems the real monster of the piece may be Hikari herself.

The first episode of KonoMini certainly gets the series going with a bang, as once the character introductions are out of the way, Hikari's arrival & the first battle between Takeru and the creatures chasing her gives you a real feeling that you're going to get a real action piece. There's then precisely zero action for the rest of the disc, as character development quickly takes over. That's no bad thing, but the first lesson of the day is: don't judge this series by the first episode alone.

There's a wide and varied cast here, too " mostly female, mostly very easy on the eyes, and sadly mostly playing to the usual anime stereotypes. There's Mari, Takeru's short-tempered cousin who quickly develops jealousy issues after Hikari's arrival but who at heart is a sweet young thing; his classmates Sakurako and Amika, who do their best to torture him at every opportunity; best friend Ryou, who appears to have zero interest in girls and would much rather spend his time with Takeru; and Ryou's little sister Kimi, who's taken on the role of lady of the house after the deaths of their parents. Between this little group, and Hikari once she gets settled in Takeru's home, there's plenty of enjoyable high-jinks that are definitely fun to watch but don't play any important part in the story.

The first sign that Hikari's not all sweetness and light comes at the end of episode one, where a cold look in the eyes and a creature reduced to an almost-unidentifiable mess provide a hint that Hikari's quite capable of taking care of herself, should she choose to do so. Scientist Jennifer Portman quickly puts two and two together and, thanks to convenient lodgings with Takeru's aunt and uncle, gets the chance to keep Hikari under close observation. Jennifer fills the heavy-drinking comedy role, but every so often she switches to a more serious mode where she becomes a source of useful information, and for that reason alone she's a character to watch. The final character to be introduced is Akari " technically an offshoot split from whatever spawned Hikari, but perhaps best thought of as her little sister. Where Hikari attaches herself to Takeru, Akari latches onto Ryou in much the same way.

With the gang all introduced, and the curiosity suitably piqued about what these cute aliens are doing on Earth, the show moves on to.... not doing anything much, really. A lot of this disc is spent fleshing out the human personas of Hikari and Akari, but outside that it plays out more like a typical high-school comedy than a science-fiction mystery. There's a whole heap of possibilities with the premise of KonoMini, but very little effort so far to do anything with it. What you get is enjoyable but unoriginal " it's the sort of shallow comedy that's been done a thousand times before, and I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated that the setting wasn't really being stretched as far as it could have been.

I can't complain about the presentation, though. As mentioned, the character designs are easy on the eye, while the usual set of personalities means that any fan should find someone in the cast that they'll find appealing. Add in some beautiful scenery, and this is one show that, from a purely visual viewpoint, is a joy to watch.

In summary:
This volume of KonoMini does a good job of introducing the large cast of characters, but then sits back and doesn't worry much about moving the story along. The setting and presentation have a lot in common with Mahoromatic (not surprising when both shows were by the same people), but so far at least KonoMini's coming off second-best in the comparison. If presentation alone made for a great show, KonoMini would be onto something. Presentation isn't everything, though, so the series comes up as missing the spark that would make it something special. Hopefully the next volume will start correcting that.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Clean Opening & Closing Animations,Japanese CD Spots,Japanese DVD Spots,Translator Notes,Interviews with Ayako Kawasumi (Hikari) and Ai Shimizu (Akari)

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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