To Heart Vol. #4 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • 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: 19.98/24.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: To Heart

To Heart Vol. #4 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     August 31, 2007
Release Date: August 28, 2007

To Heart Vol. #4 (also w/box)
© Nozomi Entertainment

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

Episode 11: A Warm Gaze
Multi has proven herself to be more than just a robot - she's an irreplaceable friend. But soon, she'll have to return to the lab, and if she isn't up to their standards, she'll be scrapped! Can Hiroyuki and Akari teach her how to be a proper maid before her time is up?

Episode 12: The Season of Emotions
Christmas is coming, and Shiho's usually excited about it. But this year, something's different. Shiho seems quiet and withdrawn - not at all like her usual boisterous self. Her thoughts keep drifting to the past; to when she first met Hiroyuki...

Episode 13: On a Day of Snow
Akari, Shiho, Hiroyuki and Masashi have been friends for a very long time. But as close as they are, there are words that have been left unsaid. As the days wind down to Shiho's Christmas get-together, the time has finally come for true feelings to be spoken.

Special Mini Episode 5
What do robot maids do in their spare time? They get jobs at a bookstore, of course!

Special Mini Episode 6
All the world's a stage, and the To Heart cast merely players! But why is Serika's butler wearing a pink cat suit...?

This limited edition includes a collectible artbox designed to hold all four volumes of To Heart!

The Review!
Finishing out much like all that's come before it, To Heart is simple, sweet yet nicely effective in telling a wistful tale of young love.

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.

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.

The original character artwork concludes with this volume as we get Multi once again, a lucky girl indeed, along with Akari as the two are in their school uniforms looking all cute and innocent with their smiles. 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.

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.

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 and there. This volume finishes out the special mini episodes with the last two that are silly and fun, a very welcome change from the series in general.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final three episodes of the series, To Heart provides a little more closure on Multi's storyline before going in to deal with the romantic triangle that's not quite there yet. Varying little from what has come before, it's a simple and sweet approach to the issue which also allows for Shiho to get some more screen time before they trot out everyone that has made an appearance in the series.

After the introduction of Multi in the previous volume, it threw me off a bit even with all that's come before since she didn't really seem to fit into the worldview that the show was working within. Not only that, but the character as a whole felt out of place and a bit too easy to manipulate in order to tug at the heartstrings of the viewer. The story arc didn't quite finish for her there either, as she makes another appearance and dominates another episode on this volume, something I don't think too many other girls have done outside of Shiho and Akari. With Multi getting ready to end her two week tour of the school, Akari and Hiroyuki decide that they want to try and help her expand her knowledgebase a bit as well as showing her how to have fun as a human does. There isn't much meat to the episode but it has the kind of mild humor that can cause a few smiles as Multi handles it all poorly.

Where the real story is in this volume is with the final two episodes as it focuses more on Akari, Shiho and Hiroyuki. Hiroyuki is actually pushed to the background for most of it even though he's the catalyst. As times have changed since the group has formed, a chance meeting that Shiho has with an old classmate reminds her just how different things are now. This bit of wistfulness and nostalgia has her coming to terms with the fact that she does indeed like Hiroyuki, quite a lot, but is in the awkward position of not wanting to hurt her friend either. This causes her to run the gamut of emotions over it while trying to come up with a Christmas party that will bring everyone together for the holidays. It's an effort to recreate a feeling that she had a few years earlier with people that she knows now. Sadly, it's hard if not impossible to recreate situations like that and attempts to do so will likely end in disappointment.

Across the two episodes, Shiho really gets fleshed out nicely though there is still plenty we don't know about her. The nature of her relationship with Akari is given a bit more examination as well as the first meeting that she had both with Hiroyuki and Masashi. The bonds that the group has formed in time is felt through some well done visual flashbacks to the series, which of course also drags in other characters, but it's all preamble to really looking at how this relationship is at the present. Naturally, with a Christmas party at hand, there are plenty of moments where it tugs easily at the heart strings but they also make a point of bringing back all the main girls from the series and letting them have a short but sweet moment. Though there is some nice depth to the relationship aspect here at the end, it's still somewhat shallow in comparison to most other series.

But therein is the point of To Heart. It's not meant to be truly deep or introspective, but rather an almost innocent look at teenage romance. There is a certain kind of love that shines through from the animation and is imbued in the characters themselves that allows this to work as well as it does. It isn't slick or glossy, nor is it filled with big moments of music to accentuate the situations. In fact, many scenes that are key to the story pass by with nary a sound but the dialogue. It feels so unusual and out place in comparison to more brash series out there but it's highly effective here. The lack of sound to the show will highlight the ambient sounds within your own room and may get you to turn things off that distract from it, which surprised me when I realized what I was doing.

In Summary:
To Heart has certainly earned its reputation over the years from its origins in a game that changed the way that market was handled. Its anime adaptation appears to follow many similar themes and has that kind of laid back feeling that could make some folks jittery. For me, even though it felt slow at times, it worked well as we got to know the surface of these characters and some of their inner thoughts. There are few shows of this nature in terms of animation that are brought over anymore since it's all on the digital front now but something about this brought out some serious nostalgia in me. Combined with the sweet and innocent approach of the characters and writing, it tugged at me even though I could sense it a mile away. It certainly won't be for everyone, but it is a title that very much deserved to brought over and treated as well as it has been here. Recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English,Art Gallery,Translation Notes,Character Bios,Special Episodes

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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