Kyoukai no Kanata -I’ll Be Here- Japanese Blu-rays review

In 2012, the producers at Kyoto Animation decided to make one of the honorable mentions in 2011’s Kyoto Animation Awards into an animated TV series. To helm it, they chose Taiichi Ishidate to direct a production for the first time. The Kyoukai no Kanata TV series ran from October 2013-December 2013 for 12 broadcast episodes, 5 joke shorts, and 1 unaired prequel to the series. It was decently received, though the series suffered from being overly ambitious with the setting and providing little emphasis on why the viewer should like the main two characters over the side characters. With the final Japanese Blu-ray in July 2014 came an announcement that it would get a movie adaptation. Later on, that adaptation was clarified: there would be a recap film called the “Past” and a new piece called “Future.” “Past” was originally sold only at the theatres playing the films in March 2015, but got a limited release through KyoAni and Pony Canyon’s online store. “Future” got a wider distributed release to most retailers in October 2015. Since the two are part of the same work, this review will cover both Blu-ray editions of the films.

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Let’s start with “Past” as it’s easier to review. “Past” comes in a standard opaque G1 DVD-size case with a small booklet providing basic information about the story and the character relationships. The staff of the film are printed on the reverse of the cover art. The disc itself has standard (for the series) artwork depicting broken barrier shards flowing away.

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On the disc itself is the film with 2 audio tracks: a Dolby True HD 5.1 mix and a Linear PCM stereo mix. Additionally, Japanese subtitles are included. The bonus features include a full version of the “Yakusoku no Kizuna” promotional video adapted from episode 6 of the TV series, theatrical announcement commercial, and the “news flash” announcing that it will be two films.

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Though the release is bare extras-wise, the content itself is really good. The video encode is decent, with only a small amount of banding near areas of color difference like with the backgrounds for Akihito/Mirai in Kyoukai no Kanata itself. Audio-wise, the mix is just as good. The 5.1 sound is used to its full potential and the new soundtrack is full of great pieces. The original opening and ending songs are used effectively as well. I simply can’t recommend this release enough if you can get a hold of it. There’s good reason why fans were annoyed that the wider retail release lacked this version.

And now to “Future.”
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“Future comes in a digipak housed inside a thick newly drawn slipcover case. Also included in the case are a postcard book and replica recording script from director Ishidate with his notes included. Inside the digipak is a special booklet that gives character information, sample images Ishidate used to visualize the story/poster art/cover art, messages from the staff, and key frames.

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On the disc itself is audio commentary from Ishidate, Risa Taneda (Mirai’s seiyuu), and Yuri Yamaoka (Ai’s seiyuu), digests of the stage greetings for “Past” and “Future,” and the two trailers for the film series. Again, Japanese subtitles are included.

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Visually, this work surpasses most productions I’ve seen. The animation, artwork, color usage, 3D CG, etc, are combined with good photography and use of filters to make a visual spectacle. The encoding again is really good, but some spots have some banding issues with subtle color changes (likely an issue with IMAGICA’s mastering as Tamako Love Story had similar problems). It’s a good example disc to show the variety of color usage for your system with how Ishidate alters their usage to reflect the differing tones of the situations Akihito/Mirai find themselves in.

Audibly, this disc is another treat. In addition to the Linear PCM 5.1, stereo, and audio commentary tracks, KyoAni and Pony utilized DTS’s Headphone X technology to provide a third track for people watching on portable players. This allows for the 5.1 channels to be synthetically replicated through 2. I can’t examine this mix personally, but the other two tracks were fantastic.

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Finally, since I ordered the “Future” film from the KyoAni Shop, I also got a bonus book from the store. This book contains storyboards for the main emotional moment in the film, a symposium with the main staff at KyoAni, a second dialogue with Ishidate/Ogawa, and key frame artwork/BG art.

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By itself, “Future” is a decent film, but when combined with “Past,” I feel both pieces tell a good story that has some meandering parts which degrade the whole from being a truly fantastic work. I enjoyed watching both and would easily re-watch it soon if I didn’t have other obligations to fulfill. I’d recommend getting both on BD as they are a visual feast.

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