Final review: An eagerly anticipated Blu-Ray Box

Everyone has something that can be called a comfort. For some, it may be a food item. For others, a piece of clothing. For myself, that is the Haruhi Suzumiya series. I was taken aback by the incredible story and visual quality when I first watched the show in 2007. Since then I have seen it uncountable times both dubbed and subbed; fan-subbed and official releases from both Japan and North America; and now in DVD and Blu-Ray.

Last week the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu Blu-Ray Complete Box was finally released. Priced much lower than expected, it sold 31,000 copies the first weekend available which shattered Darker than Black‘s previous record of 9,703 total sold. It contained all 28 episodes, both concerts, and a load of special features. The set would also be the first time the English dub from Bandai/Bang Zoom Entertainment was used on a Japanese disc as well as including the subtitles from the North American releases.

This box contains three amaray cases with 8 discs total. The main series fits onto five discs and take the first two cases. The final case has three bonus features discs: one of the disc special features and one for each of the musical concerts (rock and classical). Each case and the box has artwork from Shoko Ikeda made specifically for this set. The discs themselves have the cover art from the 2006 Limited Edition DVDs and the menus have the cover art from the 2009 Limited Edition DVDs, so there was no need for an art gallery.

I’m sure that anyone who is reading this review knows how the TV series went. Obviously it hasn’t changed for this release, so there’s no need to go episode-by-episode and re-cover what everyone knows. Melancholy is still one of the best arcs in anime, the short stories are wonderful, Sigh has so much of heroic!Koizumi, and Endless Eight has never looked better.

Here’s what’s on the first five discs along with a few images from that disc:

Disc 1

  1. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I
  2. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya II
  3. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya III
  4. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
  5. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya V
  6. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya VI

Disc 2

  1. The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya I
  2. Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody
  3. Mysterique Sign
  4. Lone Island Syndrome (First Part)
  5. Lone Island Syndrome (Final Part)

Disc 3

  1. Endless Eight I
  2. Endless Eight II
  3. Endless Eight III
  4. Endless Eight IV
  5. Endless Eight V
  6. Endless Eight VI

Disc 4

  1. Endless Eight VII
  2. Endless Eight VIII
  3. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya I
  4. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya II
  5. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya III

Disc 5

  1. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya IV
  2. The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya V
  3. The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina: Episode 00
  4. Live a Live
  5. The Day of Sagittarius
  6. Someday in the Rain

Included on the first bonus features disc is all of the promotional spots for the series when it first aired on television and the re-airing, the television spots for the DVDs, all 8 segments of the “Making of Haruhi Suzumiya” footage that was included on the 2006 DVDs (in 4:3 format), the special dance version of the Hare Hare Yukai ED (upscaled rather than re-animated), store promotional footage for the Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody DVD, the location scouting footage from the 2009 DVDs, and 8 new HD segments of the “Taniguchi Goes!” series. This first disc by itself is over 4 hours and 30 minutes long (mostly due to the location scouting and “Taniguchi” segments).

On the second bonus features disc is the live concert of Suzumiya Haruhi no Gekisou, the event that took place in March 2007. Only the concert portion is used, so the interviews and skit will only be on the DVD. This is the only disc that was encoded in 1080i, and it looks terrible compared to the rest of the set. The original DVD had heavy pixelation and the upscale doesn’t do the event justice. The music comes through clearly, but the video mars this special feature.

Finally, on the last disc of the set is the classical concert Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensou. Listening to the CD of this event is what started my spiral into listening to the BGM of the series, and this transfer is very well done. While not filmed in HD, the upscale is well done with little errors. The music is just as good as it ever was, so those that enjoy classical music will enjoy it.

As for physical extras, the only extra included was the pencil board mentioned earlier. It was a collaboration with the movie, so those character designs were used. As usual for my luck, my pencil board was of Kyon. Also included were advertisements for the Haruhi Blu-Ray/DVD series, novel/manga series, and iphone/twitter applications.

Visually, this set goes from absolutely stunning with some of the Endless Eight/Sigh episodes to an abomination of the words “high definition” on the Gekisou concert. The 2006 episodes were upscaled using a technology that a lot of videophiles despise: Q-Tec. There is a severe loss of sharpness due to this and some scenes seem overwashed due to the brightness. Going from Boredom to Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody to Mysterique Sign feels like a slight downgrade in quality due to this shift. Having said that, it still looks decent due to the immense quality Kyoto Animation put into the original work.

The first opening and ending were re-animated in HD format for the set and look incredibly stunning. Bouken Desho Desho? is rivaling Clannad ~After Story~ for most visually impressive animated sequence in an OP for me now. The 2009 episodes look absolutely amazing with incredibly sharpness and the variety of lighting effects done in Endless Eight help to highlight the immense difference between an upscale and a native HD production.

The bonus features are all upscaled from a DVD minus the new “Taniguchi Goes” segments. The promotional commercials, DVD commercials, and “Making of” clips from the 2006 DVDs are all in 4:3 format, which looks strange in a 16:9 image. The commercials were in widescreen format when shot, but condensed to a 4:3 format for TV and as such look very “zoomed out” on this set. The 2006 bonus “Hare Hare Yukai” full dance version was unfortunately not re-animated and is upscaled. Comparing the two versions on this set feel somewhat disappointing, but it is only a bonus feature.

The 2009 special features (promotional commercials, store footage, DVD commercials, and location scouting) by comparison look much better due to a better source. While they are still upscaled, the clarity is outstanding and can fool people into thinking the source was fully HD. Conversely, the new “Taniguchi Goes!” segments look very well and I can’t tell if it was natively shot in HD or a transfer from DVD footage.

The Gekisou and Gensou concerts follow the same 2006/2009 trend with Gensou looking very good and Gekisou having several moments where you wonder if you actually got a Blu-Ray disc in the set. Gensou lacks some minor sharpness that is present in live-action HD, so it’s obvious Movic gave only DVD sources. The less said about Gekisou, the better.

For the main series, the audio is presented in stereo Japanese and English dub with the bonus features having no alternative English audio. There have been some complaints of audio problems, but I have no complaints about the audio as it has sounded clear to my ear.

The English subtitles were the original tracks from Bandai/Bang Zoom, so they have the “professional” feel to them. They do lack the romaji of the songs, but since it’s for a Japanese audience, that’s to be expected. I find myself liking these more since there’s no glaring yellow/green text on the screen, so that is a plus.

So overall, I can’t really count this as a “complete” set. There’s a lack of textless OP/EDs, next episode previews, and the making of the Super Drive PV clips. Having said that, only the textless OP/ED are really missed. The immense amount of bonus features is likely due to the horrible transfer of Gekisou. I severely doubt Kadokawa could sell that separately and thus had to package it and the other corresponding concert into this box.

The re-animation of the first OP/ED is incredible, and I find myself lacking words to describe the feeling I get when I first saw it. It may be cliche, but I found myself falling in love with this series all over again when I re-watched it. I can handle the upscaled episodes and enjoy the newer episodes as a animation bonus.

For me, it was an incredibly easy decision to purchase this set but it may not be for others. It’s a great set for a Haruhi fan and it’s the first time all 28 episodes have been in one package. The pricetag is both cheap and expensive. It’s cheap for past importers, but it’s a big step up from NA market prices. If you really like the series and have the money, it’s a great purchase. If not, then hope Bandai/Manga are willing to license the set.

As always (regardless of the fact that Toonleap let me put so many images in one post), I take way more screencaptures than I can use in a review. Feel free to check them out at my Photobucket account.

In two weeks, we will disappear….

This entry originally appeared on Cartoon Leap and has been copied faithfully (minus image locations) from the original content.

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