I’m still bogged down by work, but with the Holy Week holidays upon us I suddenly find myself with a surplus of time – and an opportunity to publish this long-overdue post.
Today the spotlight falls on Volume 2 of ADV’s Kanon Region 1 DVD series.
Just a quick note: This product-centred review contains no detailed episode summaries and offers little information on the plot/story beyond that supplied in the DVD blurb (next section). If you’d like to read more on what the series is about, I can recommend Theron Martin’s review of Volume 1 on Anime News Network and Chris Beveridge’s reviews of Volumes 1 and 2 on Anime On DVD (links at the bottom of the article). Garten on Memento (spoiler alert!) has a complete set of episode summaries and loads of great screencaps.
Note – This is a direct quote from the back panel of Volume 2’s DVD jacket. These are ADV’s words, not mine.
“Between hunting demons, looking out for his charges and keeping his cousin awake, Yuichi has had little time to work out the mysterious events of seven years ago. But the longer he stays in this town, the more the memories drift back to him, piece by piece… A quiet girl who wears a sword and moonlights as a demon hunter offers some ominous advice: watch out for Makoto and protect her, no matter what. But with no memory of her past and no evidence that anyone is looking for her, Makoto has become an even greater conundrum. It’s as if she simply appeared from nowhere!
“How can Yuichi protect her if he doesn’t know why? Or from what? The next clues will be revealed in the second volume of KANON!”
Volume 2 contains the following episodes:
A complete list of the extras included with Volume 2 follows.
Item #s 3 and 4 are the second and third installments in a series of short documentaries featuring Kyoto Animation, the studio that produced Kanon. Part Two deals with storyboards while Part Three focuses on layout. It’s not much more than a quick peek into the animation process, so don’t expect to come out of the experience an industry expert.
Language set-up options are as follows:
Volume 2 is available either with or without a special collector’s box that’s designed to hold all six (?) DVDs of the R1 release. There’s no difference in the contents of the DVD itself (as far as I’m aware), so this isn’t a case of choosing between a “special edition” and a “regular edition”. A ten-dollar premium (based on list prices) will get one the box and nothing else – it’s as simple as that.
Needless to say, I coughed up the extra dough for the box.
The first side panel features the five leading ladies of Kanon, with Ayu given pride of place (Grrr…).
Moving on to the spine, we have the demon slayer and her best buddy in evening dress.
Shiori and Kaori are depicted in a lovely double portrait on the other side panel.
Taiyaki dreams. Sleeping Ayu takes the top panel (Grrr… but at least the fish is cute).
The Iron Butterfly’s dread curls of doom make for a dramatic front panel on the DVD jacket.
Finally, the usual screencaps and blurb on the back of the jacket.
I’m quite pleased with the art on the collector’s box, although I think the design team could’ve done better than the Mai+Sayuri combo splashed on the spine (which by default is the only panel visible when the box is stored in a bookcase). Nothing wrong with the characters themselves, mind – I just think the colours seem a little bland in the image that was used. The side panel depicting Yuuichi’s five angels has a wonderfully rich palette of colours and is quite nicely composed, Ms. Uguu’s dominance notwithstanding. And there’s no need for me to extol the virtues of the other side panel; Shiori’s presence alone is enough to carry the scene. (Seriously though, I love the combination of Shiori’s playful smile and the Ice Maiden’s melancholic gaze.)
Ultimately, it’s for the purchaser to decide whether the box is worth a few extra dollars or not. There’s also the size of the premium to consider, and this depends on where one intends to acquire one’s copy. Over at Amazon.com, for example, the “w/o box” version sells for US$21.99, whereas the “w/ box” version retails at US$35.99 – a premium of US$14. If you’re getting it at the suggested list price (say from YesAsia), the differential shrinks to US$10. Keep in mind that there’s (apparently) no difference in the actual DVDs, so if one is only interested in the series itself then the plain vanilla version (sans box) is probably the better choice.
Note – If you’ve read my review of Volume 1, this part may read a bit like a copy-and-paste job. No surprise there: substantial portions of text from my review of Volume 1 that are relevant to Volume 2 have been re-used in the present article, although new text has been added (as well as old text edited) where necessary.
Character design. Freakishly huge eyes and broad, puffy,
taiyaki-fattened cherubic faces don’t always translate into viewing pleasure. In Kanon‘s case, I’m glad to report that it actually works. There appears to have been an improvement in the arrangement of female faces from the 2002 Toei adaptation, with slightly rounder features and marginally smaller eyes giving the cast a more palatable appearance. I give the show a full ten out of ten in this category.
Animation quality. Volume 1 successfully delivered the top-notch animation quality that many fans have come to expect from KyoAni, and Volume 2 serves up more of the same. Hauntingly beautiful backgrounds, well-designed props and smooth, natural movements lend Kanon an incredible amount of depth and richness. I’m also impressed by the fact that in spite of its snow-bound setting, the series actually fills me with a sensation of warmth – an effect achieved mainly by the use of bright, glowing colours and the judicious utilisation of light in various forms, both natural (e.g., sunlight at different times during the day) and artificial (e.g., the light of a lamp-post filtered through falling snow). Shining example (no pun intended): the opening scenes of Episode 5.
Voice acting (original Japanese soundtrack). Strong performances all around. As one might expect, Horie Yui’s famously sugar-sweet voice turns out to be wonderfully appropriate for the overgrown baby that is Tsukimiya Ayu. (The voice is a trifle annoying, but then so is the character.) Sugita Tomokazu’s Yuuichi isn’t Kyon 2.0, as some have described it. There’s a very strong resemblance, true enough, but here the snappiness and sarcasm – which in my view depend more on the actor’s delivery than on the lines of the screenplay – are skillfully toned down to fit a character whose sympathy is called into action more often than his wit (although the latter is also put to good use). In her role as the sensible Nayuki, Kouda Mariko manages to sound cute without coming across as saccharine. Makoto isn’t one of my favourite characters, but Iizuka Mayumi succeeded in capturing the spirit of the part quite beautifully, and I think her ‘Auu’ is one of the more endearing catchphrases in this series.
Music. Volume 2 is better than its predecessor, but not by much. The opening and ending sequences are quite good, but it’s got more to do with the accompanying animation than the songs themselves. The score is still pretty unremarkable. Case in point: the last scene in Episode 5 plays out to a piece that sounds as if it had been composed for a cheap video game. Having seen the entire series, I know the music will get better, but we’ll have to wait for some of the later volumes before our ears start getting treated to higher-quality stuff.
Story. Volume 2 takes us deeper into the first major arc of the series. I’m not a fan of the Makoto saga (and the character herself annoys me to no end), but her interactions with Yuuichi are usually a delight to watch. We start off on a light note, with Episodes 5 and 6 serving up even more of Makoto’s backfiring pranks and an amusing night at the movies with Yuuichi and Ayu. (‘Uguu Variations’. I could watch that scene on a loop for hours.) Stronger links are also woven between Yuuichi and a few other characters of whom we’ve only had a few glimpses in the first volume. The mysterious sword-wielding beauty at the end of Episode 4 gets more airtime (as does her friend, who seems to have a knack for assembling professional-level bento), and we’re treated to a succession of schoolyard encounters with the sickly girl introduced in Episode 3. In the process a few more hints are laid down for what will clearly become two other story arcs, although nothing particularly significant is revealed at this point. Right now the interactions are very light-hearted and more likely to provoke smiles than head-scratches.
But we’re getting into the middle of an arc here, so revelations are in order – and when they finally strike, they strike hard.
Extras. Make no mistake – this isn’t SHnY redux. It doesn’t matter how much you’re willing to unload on this series since there are no special or regular editions to choose from: just one, very pedestrian version with a dearth of good extras. As I wrote earlier, a fancy collector’s box awaits those who are willing to shell out a little more money – but that’s it.
DVD composition. Same as Volume 1: a mix of the good, the bad, and the downright disastrous. The menu backgrounds are well chosen, although I can’t say the same for the font that was used in the menu text. The subtitles are generally accurate (as far as I could tell) and are displayed in just the right size, neither straining one’s eyes nor blotting out the scene. But I’m afraid ‘right’ is a word I simply cannot use for the modified on-screen credits. While the original Japanese credits are quiet and unintrusive (and easily ignored if one chooses to focus on the beautiful animation), ADV’s botched attempt at rendering them into English for the R1 release nearly chokes the life out of the OP/ED sequences with big, bold letters that cannot be mentally sidelined. The worst damage is done in the ending sequence, where the stationary (and comparatively discreet) Japanese credits are replaced by a scrolling list of names in bold font that blots out the classic scene of Ayu running across a snowy landscape.
In conclusion. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but I’m quite satisfied with the final product.
Yay! = Stunningly beautiful animation; great voice acting (Japanese soundtrack); excellent character design; engaging story; good video and audio quality; nice menu backgrounds; well-designed jacket art; impressive collector’s box.
Meh. = Uninspired score.
Boo! = Altered opening/closing text; shortage of extras; unimpressive menu text.
LINKS TO OTHER REVIEWS OF VOLUME 2
Anime On DVD