Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: C
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 24.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Trouble Chocolate
Trouble Chocolate Vol. #1
By Sean Kennedy
April 13, 2003
Release Date: October 22, 2002
Given the definitive nature of an AoD review, I was motivated to do an alternate angle for this series (which yes, I just happen to like). I have to give props to Viz for licensing Trouble Chocolate, something I thought would be unlikely when I saw fansubs of the show.
I have run through the entire disc in both Japanese and English. Good, solid stereo mix, though the English track briefly drops out in episode 1. Apparently Viz will replace defective discs by request (see AoD forums).
Attention: "Sub-only" Elitists! Watch this dub for at least two episodes! It starts out a little slow, but it is the funniest/best dub I have heard in a while. The VAs are clearly having fun with the script (sample line: "I can taste my spleen." - Cacao). If you can get past Richard Ian Cox (Inu Yasha, most every other Viz male lead) as Cacao, and Debra with a huskier voice than the Japanese, you should enjoy the Westwood dub.
This show has nice clean visuals, punctuated with some eye-searing colors. There are a few moments where things look a little rough and low-budget, but overall things look quite good. There seemed to be some artifacting in the opening titles, but that may be from my less-than-ideal setup.
The packaging is a clever "chocolate bar" motif. The R2 covers have the standard look (character art, flashy colors); I like this one better. It even has chrome "foil" edging, which is normally only found on "limited edition" stuff (for whatever that's worth).
Honestly, this menu hurts your brain. You've got Hinano in the middle telling you the basics of the show, surrounded by the episode selections (usually a separate page). The colors are in shades of pink and green. Bright shades. You will find yourself dazed by the colors/sounds of the menu; it may take a few seconds to get your bearings. Of course, you can avoid this by hitting the chapter skip when the frontloaded logos start; this will dump you straight into episode 1 (YMMV).
The big ones here are the clean opening and ending. They include english AND romanji subtitles for those who want to sing along to the excellent songs. These subtitles do not appear when you watch the show for some reason, nobody has stepped forward to say why. There is also some nice character art (with colors!) as well as some still scenes from the show. You also may be able to find a "secret" 2 minute techno montage of Viz titles, I found it by hitting the menu button a few times; it is Track 2 on the disc (YMMV).
This is definitely not a show for everyone (Chris? ;-)). It is a weird show, but one of those shows that takes all the strange things about the setting and events and treats them as completely normal. There is a lot of parody in the show, though it seems almost a parody of a parody when it happens.
Trouble Chocolate is your basic boy meets girl, boy finds out girl is made of wood, girl makes boy giant pancakes, boy gets drunk on chocolate... um, love story? Okay, so it is a hard show to summarize.
Cacao is a lazy compulsive eater who lives in a candy store run by a small alien in Cranky Sakai Town. He goes to Micro Grand Academy with 100,000 of his closest friends and deals with your typical school problems. One day, he gets a little drunk on some expired magical chocolate and botches a spell in his magic class. This causes a tree fairy named Hinano to be summoned into a large wooden doll, as well as some sort of wacky rift in the space-time continuum. Hinano is incredibly devoted to him, which is good for Cacao since she can cook large amounts of food. Too bad incredible humorous misfortune plagues Cacao every moment of his life.
The first two episodes follow Cacao as he attempts to unravel who/what Hinano is, and why she was sleeping in his bed that morning. They also introduce all the regular characters, who are either bizarre parodies (i.e. a sexually confused Frankenstein monster) or are named after food (i.e. Professor Ganache).
Episode three introduces Truffle, the wealthy transfer student who is Cacao's rival for Hinano's hand. If Cacao or Hinano actually acknowledged his existence, maybe his life would be a little more fulfilling. Many expensive things blow up in this one.
Cacao is under suspicion by the entire school in episode four, since all the food on campus is disappearing. All the major characters get to wear purple body suits and a wall of shirtless, muscular men fight a tornado.
There has been some controversy about the end-of-episode quotes. Basically, some text types out on a computer monitor. The original kanji was removed and replaced with different, English-specific quotes (see below).
Fansub: "A life without love is equal to death" - From the Summoning Magic Textbook
DVD: "If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question?" - Lily Tomlin
Fansub: "History is made while you sleep" - From the Summoning Magic Textbook
DVD: "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history" - George Bernard Shaw
I can't speak for the authenticity of the translated quotes; I am at the mercy of the fansubbers. It seems to me that the basic idea behind the quotes (love, history) remains, and the original quotes weren't any great loss.
Viz has done a good translation job on this series, given all the food-based names and Japanese language puns. This could have been a "more perfect" release, but the fact that it was brought to R1 at all and treated well is enough to make me happy. If you're looking for an entertaining show that's a little bit off-kilter, but not too deep, I recommend it. It can be picked up fairly cheap, and the opening and ending songs are excellent (and will be stuck in your head FOREVER).
Toshiba SD-M1212 DVD-ROM, Sigma Designs Hollywood+ DVD decoder card, Sony STR-DE545 surround