To Heart Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: To Heart

To Heart Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     May 25, 2007
Release Date: May 29, 2007


To Heart Vol. #2
© Nozomi Entertainment


What They Say
The heartwarming tale of love, relationships and friendship based on one of Japan's most popular games!

Episode 5: Beneath the Blue Sky
Time for the Sports Festival! It's a day full of games, races, food and decorations, and everyone's having fun - except Hiroyuki. He seems oddly detached, and talking with others only seems to agitate him. What could be the cause of his strange behavior?

Episode 6: Admiration
Rio Hinayama is kind of quirky. She is clumsy, terrified of dogs and compares most things in life to the stories found in her favorite manga. Somehow, she keeps running into Hiroyuki over and over again. Is it fate that keeps bringing these two together...?

Episode 7: Wavering Gaze
There's something... different... about Kotone Himekawa. She's a shy-but-beautiful girl with flowing lavender hair, but no one will be her friend. No one goes near her or is willing to even talk about her. What could this quiet girl have done to be so completely shunned by the rest of the world?

Special Mini Episode 1
When Kotone sits down to write a letter, she really puts her mind to it!

Special Mini Episode 2
Something squirmy has escaped from the Occult Club! Is the rest of the school suddenly in danger?

The Review!
More potential love interests are introduced as Hiroyuki and the others make their way through their everyday lives.

Audio:
Though it's easy to imagine this series getting a subtitle-only treatment, Right Stuf has produced a dub for it. Both language tracks are presented in a very simple stereo mix at 192 kbps. They're decent sounding tracks in that they're essentially just dialogue pieces with very little need for directionality or anything with more impact to it. Each of them come across well and problem free, though the music in its vocals tends to come across the best in a full sense. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This transfer, which received work on it in order to make it presentable, is I believe based off of a composite master which was all that was available for it. The end result is one that's pretty mixed and will depend on taste more than anything else. With it being a traditionally animated show just as they started to go out of style, there is a lot of detail in the artwork as well as the simple fact that it came from a film base. That means there's a good bit of grain throughout which looks like noise. There's also a fair bit of cross coloration to it as well as dot crawl. The dot crawl is most noticeable around the original text in the opening and closing sequences as they shimmer with life. It's fairly similar to how Girls Bravo looked early on. One of the best things about the release is that the removal of the jitter that marred the original is smoothly done and not distracting in the slightest. The show itself for the most part looks good when you take into consideration the materials at hand but it's not one that will wow in its visual quality.

Packaging:
The cover artwork continues the trend of some stylish designs from Right Stuf. Using the original character artwork of Kotone holding her schoolbag close to her, the colors are soft and a bit cool. Kotone stands out here with lots of nice detail and overall design that really gives the show a more current feeling than the animation actually is. The new logo is decent and keeps to the spirit of the original but I would have liked to have seen that since it was already in English. Thankfully, Right Stuf has included a reversible cover that has the original logo on their cover so it's the best of both worlds. The back cover continues the design elements from the front and has several shots from the show along each of the sides. Down the center is a good summary of the four episodes on the disc followed-up by the discs features. The technical grid covers all that important information on what to expect for playback features. No insert or booklet is included with this release.

Menu:
The menu design utilizes the same elements as the front cover with a bit more expansion to allow for the navigation strip. Sitting next to the character artwork, the detail and color choices look good and again invite a warm and open feeling when tied to the opening vocal music. Navigation is quick and easy as we had no problems getting around or using scene selection. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and defaulted to Japanese with English subtitles.

Extras:
The extras continue to roll along and provide a bit more of a fleshing out for the series. The first is a brief series of character biographies that cover some of the personalities. There's also a good line art gallery that shows the character designs. Also included are translation notes. These tend to cover more of the generic translation things, such as what a class rep does and cleaning duties, but they also detail some of Lemmy's poor word choices which are amusing to read. To Heart doesn't lend itself to the same kind of translation notes of a show like Comic Party but there are some amusing nods here, particularly between both series. New to this volume is the first pair of special mini episodes that run a couple of minutes and provide some strangeness to the To Heart universe with a slightly quirky style that's pretty fun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Taking the series up to the halfway mark, the second installment of To Heart continues with the simple slice of life concept that manages to work quite well. While it may be some slight nostalgia or just being a simple romantic, watching the slowly growing relationships in this series combined with the life of high school students is very enjoyable.

The three episodes on this volume play in a bit of dangerous water though as the second and third ones bring in some new characters. With it being a fairly short run series and already in a near-harem mode with the number of girls interested in Hiroyuki, adding more could be a problem. Thankfully as it progresses there isn't quite so much of the harem aspect and the way they all interact is what many would consider normal. With no aliens or anything otherworldly really coming into play here, the situations are fairly normal and easy for anyone to connect with. That makes the mild drama between them seem all the more realistic and fun to watch.

The opening episode brings us the traditional sports festival episode and has all the students being involved in different ways. There are some amusing ones, such as Serika being absolutely awful at the ball toss event and you have Aoi keeping herself to staffing duties since she's so unsure of herself. While people like Shiho and Akari are fairly straightforward in cheering on their respective classes and being involved, Hiroyuki is the most interesting one to watch I think. His laid back attitude is one that's somewhat unusual in a male lead and in this instance he's fairly apathetic about the entire competition. With no real prize worth his time he basically participates but only just enough to get by. The lack of motivation frustrates someone like Shiho but the exploration of the why of it all is where the real meat of the episode is. As Hiroyuki ends up coming across all the girls during the events it helps to illuminate things for him.

Hiroyuki's lackadaisical attitude is one that comes out in a more interesting way when it comes to how he deals with his friends and those around him. The sixth episode in the series introduces a new character named Rio who ends up coming across Hiroyuki a couple of times during the course of the school day and the two end up becoming friendly because of it. While Rio has an interest in him, no more than a simple schoolgirl crush really, Hiroyuki is fairly blasé but still friendly and conversational with her. Seeing her as little more than a friend, something that he does to all the women he knows, they end up hanging out for a bit which sets off Shiho's alarms as it could imperil Akari's hopes. The small confrontations that happen over the course of the episode are mild but are reminiscent of how a lot of these misunderstandings happen. The plus to it is that it's not over the top and nobody overreacts badly. Even Shiho's reactions are comparatively mild to so many other shows that use this trick.

The introduction of Rio is something that does manage to work well but the introduction of yet another girl after that made me worry. The arrival of Kotone, a quiet and fairly mysterious girl has the potential of having too many girls interested in Hiroyuki. Thankfully they shift her focus a bit more to Masashi but before they can even explore that potential they have to deal with her awkward past. Kotone has practically no friends in her class and everyone snubs her. As it turns out, she's supposedly "gifted" with the ability to see the future but she only sees bad things. That's made it difficult to make friends and has kept her from getting close to anyone. Between Akari and the others though, the situation slowly changes and the mystery is unearth a bit. The potential for a mild romantic interest with Masashi is a good one because he needs to get a bit more attention. Being a solid star soccer player and athletic in general with good lucks, it's easier to imagine more girls interested in him than Hiroyuki.

In Summary:
To Heart doesn't break any new ground here but similar to the first volume it works a simple but effective premise. It's easy to see why this isn't something that will appeal to everyone but the mixture of simplicity and straightforward high school drama that doesn't go over the top is very appealing. Similar to other Right Stuf shows like Boys Be and The Piano, To Heart mines one of my favorite genres just right and provides some much needed balance to the myriad of louder and more in your face series that I see regularly.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Translation Notes,Liner Art,Character Bios

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, 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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