An amusing tale of a boy and an alien girl who fall in love while all sorts of events happen around them in predictable fashion.
What They Say
Narue is an adorable schoolgirl with a secret: she's really a superpowered alien! But growing up is never easy, and our spunky heroine faces androids, alien invaders, and the most terrifying challenge ever... her first date with the boy next door!
The bilingual release retains what we saw with the original CPM version in that we get a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 224kbps. The series doesn't sport a really expansive audio mix to it since it's primarily a high school drama show with some science fiction elements, but when it does kick in it does it nicely. The music comes across very well, particularly the opening sequence, and there are some good sound effects utilizing the stereo channels with regards to the science fiction aspect of the show. We did sample some of the English track while writing the review and had no issues technically with that track either, nor the brief listens to the various commentary tracks that we sampled along the way.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for the World of Narue is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Like the CPM release, it is disappointing for a large chunk of it. In general, the show has great colors and a lot of detail that comes across well, lots of vibrant pieces and plenty of sequences where the darks and blacks come across very solid and problem free. The problem areas turn to be the amount of cross coloration that shows up throughout the show. There's a lot of during the first couple of half of the series where it's so strong that it's like the characters are extra alive at times with the way they shimmer. It affects hair quite a lot but also the overall character designs. Backgrounds aren't free of it either and it does show up in various locations. It does seem to settle down over the course of the series but it's still plainly visible during the final batch of episodes. With as much of this as there is, there's a fair amount of aliasing and to crawl along the edges of characters as well, adding to the feel of extra motion on the character designs. This is a problem that may be less visible on other systems or blurred more into the animation itself depending on the cabling used as well as the player and TV settings, but on our main system it wasn't an easy show to watch since the cross coloration was fairly distracting.
The packaging for this release is a bit slimmer than what we got with the CPM release, which is to be expected since it’s got less discs and it’s only a single keepcase without a hinge. The front cover uses the same artwork of the core group of characters floating in the air with smiles about them as the clouds move slowly behind them. It’s an upbeat and happy looking cover with a imple logo that hints that there’s a bit of a science fiction element to it perhaps. The back cover is more of the same as some of the same characters appear in different outfits along with a few small shots from the show. The summary gives a very brief idea of the premise and the discs numerous extras are clearly listed. The remainder is rounded out with the production credits and a good technical grid that covers everything in a very easy to read and clear format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for World of Narue are simple but nicely done as each menu has the same layout with different character artwork. The basic layout involves the mix of clouds against the blue sky which has dominated every release of the show while also laying an orange circle over it which contains the navigation. The two discs have different pieces of artwork of Narue mixed into it which shows off different sides of her. The menu navigation is standard ADV Films style with top level episode selection and a language menu that read our players’ language presets. Submenus load quickly and the extras menu is very easy to navigate.
There's a huge list of extras and we only barely managed to scratch the surface of them since we were more focused on the show itself. This is something of a drawback with a large set since once you finish a disc you often don't go back a volume to check out extras. For fans of the Japanese language creative team there’s a commentary track with the series director, Toyoo Ashida, as well as the director Hiromitsu Morita (who is strangely uncredited on the packaging). Also sitting in with the interviewer is John O'Donnell, of CPM. The episode also has a second commentary track with the voice actors for Kazuto and Narue, though they're a heck of a lot more giggly and energetic than the serious directors are. We sampled bits of both tracks and liked what we were reading, particularly the tidbits you glean from the directors about the show. Both of these tracks give the show a fairly high replay value if you enjoy commentaries and those by the original people involved in the show.
There are a lot of the standard extras spread across the volumes as well, such as the textless openings and endings, storyboards and the art and sketch galleries. A set of Japanese commercials and trailers for the show are also included and the increasingly common "alternate" previews for episodes. The anime to manga comparison was something we touched on briefly but not too much since I don't want to know much about the manga before I read it and there's a section of character introductions.
Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the 2003 season of anime series in Japan, the World of Narue ended up becoming pretty popular and was rated quite well by fans in various magazines and polls online. The series takes the usual high school romance angle and slaps some science fiction elements into it and mixes it lightly. The resulting twelve episodes are pretty much what you'd expect it to be, so there's little in the way of surprise.
Back when this show was first released by Central Park Media, it was something of a surprise because it was the entire show in one set. While we had that for some shows before when they came to DVD, they had VHS releases beforehand. This was something one of the first in that it was a brand new series getting a full season box set release, something that’s now the norm.
The show centers initially around high school lad Kazuto, a young man who's basically your good kind of guy who has some simple hobbies but is otherwise a general unknown in the class. He's not ultra popular, he's not forsaken and shunted by anyone but he also doesn't leave much of an impression on others. But like all boys at this age, he's thinking of girls and would really like a girlfriend.
On a walk home from school in the rain, he comes across a cute little puppy in a box that's sitting outside. His good guy nature gets the best of him and he starts to lean down to take the young pup in, but before he knows it a fellow classmate, a girl named Narue Nanase, yells at him to stop while she's wielding a metal bat. This stops him completely but what causes the real shock is when the puppies head morphs into a giant four-mouthed creature with a giant eyeball at the center and tries to eat Narue as she defends against it. The entire event is over with quickly, but Narue ends up leaving the bat with Kazuto and disappears into the rain.
Kazuto is obviously fascinated by this, but more so by the girl than the weird happenings that just occurred. He spends the time until the next day at school when he can meet her by thinking of ways to introduce himself and just to get things rolling. With the help from his friend Maruo, a classmate who's apparently going to become a priest, he gets all kinds of tips and pointers on how to start things up, though he's a bit concerned it's about the 'alien girl' in the next class.
Narue's got something of a reputation. She doesn't seem to have hardly any friends but nobody really picks on her either, though she's called an alien girl and treated somewhat as an outcast of sorts. What makes things annoying in the class is another classmate named Yagi. She's convinced that Narue is faking her alien status and tries to continually prove it. It's a cute reversal of the standard and it plays out well for the first couple of episodes until the gag itself basically dies off.
As events play out, Narue and Kazuto end up meeting formally in school and then end up getting along really well to the point where they're almost an instant couple. Narue takes him home to meet his father though only to end up coming across a scene where the puppy terrorist from the previous day is once more at things and trying to kill her father. And in another reversal, Kazuto tries to protect Narue by attacking only to have Narue knock him down and then take out the terrorist. This doesn't shame Kazuto; if anything, it makes him fall for her even more.
Narue ends up revealing much of what you'd think she shouldn't, that she's the daughter of an alien/human combination but has spent all her life on Earth. She's aware of her alien heritage and takes quite a bit of use of it since there's a massive fleet in orbit monitoring the planet for their own unknown reasons. She even takes Kazuto out into space to show him everything so that he knows what he's getting into, but in the end all he can do is stare at her amidst this wide bounty of beauties before him.
From there, the series plays out pretty much as one might expect though with its own unique qualities. One of the first things that gets added is a sister for Narue to have. We learn that she's the daughter of the second wife and that he'd married previously. This daughter should be about twenty-six years of age based on everything, but the fun elements of traveling faster than light means that she arrives on the scene by only aging a few weeks and turning out to be twelve years old, two years younger than Narue. This adds some complications into things, particularly with the spaceship she has that changes into a new residence that lands next door to the Nanase's.
You also add in more women to the potential harem factor by having a trio of cyborg girls who help defend the orbiting monitoring fleet, all of which wear cute outfits and are just like any other girl. They help out in a few situations but are more critical towards the end of the series when the larger arc starts to come into play again. But overall, they're really just window-dressing for the show and serve to add more females to the cast.
The one area where there's growth that was really surprising was the relationship between Maruo and Yagi. While they start off pretty adversarial, particularly due to them being next door neighbors for so many years and having that relationship change from playful kids to confused teens, seeing them evolve into an actual relationship due to the growing closeness of Narue and Kazuto was fun to watch. Yagi keeps up her attacks on Narue early on but eventually, as more and more time is spent together and with the help of Maruo, she and Narue end up coming girlfriends and quite close. This lets Yagi move away from being a hunter of sorts to being more open to things, resulting in the rise of closeness between her and Maruo.
A number of the typical conventions are followed as the show progresses. You get the sister as we mentioned, you get a beach episode, though this one is more a tansdimensional private beach that gets brought into action, and you also get a hot springs episode. There's another couple that's in love but there are circumstances that keep them apart that are similar to Narue and Kazuto's situation, so you see some resolution for them that gives our couple hope for the future. But mostly, you get a lot of content here with two people who are very happy to be with each other and in each other's company. There's a great sequence early on when Kazuto brings Narue home, the first time he's ever brought a girl home, and the small-scale chaos that ensues. His mother is priceless as she goes on about her son or the way she keeps interrupting. Kazuto scores points for having dirty backgrounds on his PC and trying to explain them, though he loses points for pretty much just showing her an anime series right from the start. While that may work with some girls, I doubt it'll work on someone like Narue. There's also a highly amusing episode where Kazuto is so wrapped up in the fantasy of this show that when he ends up at a series of events that lets him meet the voice actress for one of the characters, he's just smitten in a fanboy way. Narue takes this completely wrong and senses that she's losing him so she, Yagi and Maruo all work hard together to design a costume for her to wear and to beat out everyone else so that she can prove her feelings to Kazuto. It's all quite misguided, but it's done very well and shows some of the stupid things kids in love tend to do.
In the end, the World of Narue is a mildly charming little series that doesn't have any big goals in it other than to entertain. The cast is fun and enjoyable and there's some pleasant growth of the characters over the course of the show in that the people we know at the start aren't exactly the same at the end of it. Narue has its roots deep in the genre that it comes from and pays respects to the pieces that it must, from the alien kid sister to the action oriented scenes that give it the overreaching arc, but it does them competently and without any real flaw.
The series gives the audience what it wants and doesn't challenge them much, so it's an enjoyable romp for the twelve episodes that it does run. Any more than that and you'd start feeling things wouldn't be able to really sustain an audience since the usual key moment of "will they or won't they reveal their feelings" is taken care of so easily in the series. While we enjoy series that do eliminate that usual standard, World of Narue doesn't have anything else beyond that that would keep it afloat well enough for another full set of episodes. For fans of this show, video aside, this release has everything that they could want and it's plenty well packed with extras and the bonus of getting it all at once. For those taking a chance on it, the price and the completeness of it makes it attractive and easy to handle. My basic recommendation is to simply not marathon it but rather spread it out a bit and take it in with some space so that the minor flaws aren't quite as visible.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.