To Heart Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     June 28, 2007
Release Date: June 26, 2007


To Heart Vol. #3
© Nozomi Entertainment


What They Say
Episode 8: A Tranquil Time
Midterms are fast approaching, so everyone's getting together at Akari's to study! Except... Masashi gets called away at the last minute, and Shiho's sick with a cold. So Hiroyuki and Akari suddenly have the house and the whole day to themselves!

Episode 9: Where The Heart Is
The Cultural Festival is here, and everyone's excited, except for Tomoko. As the Student Rep for Class 2-B, she's in charge of the cafe they're going to hold, but the other students keep changing plans behind her back. Is the cafe doomed to failure before it even opens?

Episode 10: Dreaming Smile
There's a new girl in school - and she's like no one you've ever seen! Multi has charming eyes, bright green hair and the strangest metal ears. She's a prototype maid robot, and she's been sent to Hiroyuki's school for a final field test. But no one expected things to end up like this!

Special Mini Episode 3
The girls' personalities are all mixed up! Have they lost their minds, or is it Hiroyuki that's nuts?

Special Mini Episode 4
Lesson for the day: A rich girl and a maid robot make interesting fishing companions.

The Review!
The slice of life continues for the gang but it takes a real strange diversion when lifelike robots become a part of the series.

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. 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:
Using the original character artwork of Multi where she's holding onto the broom handle, the colors are soft and a rather cool with a green tint that doesn't look all too good. Multi 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 details look good and again invite a warm and open feeling when tied to the opening vocal music. The lime green from the cover doesn't translate well here though and gives Multi a bit of a sickly look. 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. 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. This volume continues with the 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)
To Heart progresses on much like the second volume in that there is some greater depth with the various characters as well as with the leads but that's about it. To Heart isn't a series with a plot as was evident very early on but it continues to provide some very good realistic high school drama. At least up until the robots arrived in the schools.

With so many women being introduced in the series, it's easy to imagine that Hiroyuki would become distracted by them. There's been a brief flash of it occurring from someone else's perspective but for the most part Hiroyuki has been pleasantly oblivious about it. While Akari may be providing some very mild angst about wanting to be closer to Hiroyuki and Shino is freaking out at the thought of anyone getting closer to him, Hiroyuki is just getting through his days. His laid back nature is amusing at times since you can see how much it frustrates the women around him that know him. At the same time though it makes for a difficult male lead because there's just so little to actually root for.

While things don't exactly heat up in this volume between Akari and Hiroyuki they do finally get some good alone time together. A study date among the group of four ends up not happening as planned as only Hiroyuki shows up at Akari's place. As luck would have it Shino ends up sick and Akari's parents won't be home until late. The two are just good kids though so they do focus on studying but with some breaks that allow them to talk more about themselves in a casual way. The usual events do occur such as her cooking dinner for him and lots of frantic calls from Shino as she can't believe Akari can be trusted so there isn't anything surprising going on here. It does help to show the bond between the two that Hiroyuki hasn't quite realized is as strong as it is. To Heart succeeds well on this level in having the quiet moments take up most of an episode and building from there.

The range of girls that get dealt with beyond this episode is pretty good but it makes an unusual turn with the second one. First up is a better look at the class rep, Hoshino. She's been the quiet girl with glasses type for the most part but the culture festival preparation has her being dealt with more. With some of the bossier girls in the class making changes to the plans and doing that without checking with Hoshino, the whole thing starts to spin out of control into something more troubling. With Hoshino not being a friendly type the others are quick to blame it all on her which just gets Akari upset. Akari's good natured attitude has her sticking up for just about anyone regardless of what it'll cost her. Hoshino's story is pretty basic but the way this plays out is enjoyable enough as a nice mild twist on the usual culture festival episodes in so many other series.

Where things go poorly is in the introduction of Multi, a humaniform robot designed by a big research company that has strong ties to the school administration board. A couple of schools in the area have been sent them and Multi has ended up with Hiroyuki and the others. She's pretty much the not so swift but good natured girl that doesn't even have much in the way of strength. She's got the good soul within her approach and is eager to help out and do the cleaning but even she realizes that compared to her sister robot at a different school she's nowhere near as advanced or likely to be the chosen model for mass production. Her time in the school is both cute and awkward but the introduction of something so far fetched within what has been a rather reality based series just brushes away a lot of what it has built up so far. Multi simply feels so completely out of place here that it damages the structure of the show in my eyes.

In Summary:
To Heart continues to have a lot going for it though it certainly has a case of being a series that inspired what has come since. That has left it feeling relatively quaint and out of place in a much more expanded and detailed market but its true charms still shine though. These charms don't take a hit in this volume with how things play out but the show overall loses some of its luster with the introduction of a science fiction theme into a real world situation. While I certainly expect such things to happen some day, it isn't something that fits to me within the structure of the show to date. The last episode on here which carries over into the next volume has me just shaking my head over all of it and almost lamenting the poor turn that the series has taken.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Reversible cover,Translation notes,Line art gallery,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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