What They Say:
Nothing on Midorijima has been the same since the powerful Toue Konzern forced the original population into the Old Residential District and converted the rest of the island into the exclusive resort Platinum Jail. Despite that, Aoba Seragaki has tried to build a normal life for himself, working part-time in a junk shop and hanging out with his friends and his A.I. “pet” AllMate, Ren.
But when Aoba is drawn into the shady underworld that surrounds the popular virtual game Rhyme, the universe that he thought he knew falls apart. If deja vu describes the sensation of experiencing something that you think you may have done before, what is it called when other people seem to recognize you for doing things that you don’t remember doing? All Aoba knows is that there are gaps in his memory, people are disappearing, and a secret buried in his own mind may be the only keys to revelation!
The audio presentation for this release continues to be a surprise and yet not as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and an English language dub, also in stereo, and both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that spends the bulk of its time on dialogue with a few action sequences here there to punch things up a bit. These don’t really stand out all that much but it’s well executed in terms of being problem free. The dialogue aspect of the show is fairly straightforward as it has a full feeling to it as it’s often the character in the center that’s talking, but there are a few moments of minor directionality here and there to give it a bit more impact. The action elements beef things up a little bit with more movement and engagement since it goes with that virtual reality feeling to things, but there’s not a lot more to get excited about there. Both tracks come across clean and clear however and are problem free during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series plus OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78;1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, giving it a good bit of room to work with. Animated by NAZ, the series has a distinctive enough look and plenty of 3DCG material to it that it certainly stands out. While the animation isn’t terribly fantastic or anything, the transfer captures the look of it well enough,. Colors have a lot of pop, especially the blue in Aoba’s design, and some of the more active sequences hold up well when there’s a lot going on in the Rhyme game. The OVA tends to stand out a bit better as that feels more traditionally animated in a lot of ways. The show isn’t one that would win (positive) awards for its animation, but the transfer captures it properly.
The packaging design for the release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The cover artwork is a solid and appealing piece as we get the five main male characters of the show sitting along the rooftop with the city below them in the background. With no skyline to be had, it does have a slightly odd feeling but it works to give it an almost claustrophobic element while forcing its focus on the characters themselves. The logo across the middle at an angle isn’t my favorite thing, but with the split of characters across it there’s little other way to do it. The episode and disc count and mention of the OVA inclusion is also on the front which is a nice touch. The back cover goes more traditional with the top two thirds breaking down the premise and a few shots from the show while set against a white background for the most part. This lets the color of the shots stand out as well as Aoba and his design along the left. The premise covers things well enough, probably more so than the show itself, and we get a small but decent nod towards the extras adn the OVA here. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits as well as the technical grid that brings clarity to how the disc is encoded and set up.
The menu design kind if figures into the weak design nature of the show in a way as the right side has the navigation where it’s done up like low-rest web buttons from a decade ago that I use to put on the site. With it using sea-blue/green shades with thin white text done in old school data form, it’s not unreadable yet you don’t want to spend time with it. The rest of the menu is given over to the static image which is different for both volumes. The first has a nice shot of the main characters all in their only outfit as they float around, pup included, while the second lets our sharp dressed men take the stage and show off for a bit. Navigation is straightforward enough and it works decently as a pop-up menu, style excluded.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the boys-love oriented visual novel game series from Nitro+chirai, Dramatical Murder is a twelve episode anime series and OVA that aired during the summer 2014 season. Animated by Studio NAZ, the show is one that garnered attention for its more budget oriented approach when it came out as well as the more prominent CG elements that are in it. A lot of shows use it for background characters these days but sometimes they stand out more than they should. The series also garnered a lot of attention because of its boys-love origin and that outside of the Grams character here there are no female characters of note to deal with. Having enjoyed a number of hardcore boys-love material before, this is not something that bothers me in the slightest because it can be done well and offer something different from the norm.
The problem is that Dramatical Murder feels like the kind of series where you have to have an idea of what’s going on before you watch it because it’s not going to make much sense beyond that. I sat through the thirteen episodes here over the course of a day and found myself feeling like I just don’t get it. The show wants to play with the sense that you’re supposed to be as confused as the lead character of Aoba is, a young man who works at a junk shop called Mediocrity, as his memory is not altogether there. Aoba’s got a kind of indifferent attitude towards everything that makes him inaccessible and that’s made even worse by his garish sense of style, both in color and actual item choices. Those boots, man. Those boots. Even worse is that this is the kind of show where nobody ever changes their outfit over the course of it, which feels like it occurs along a few weeks at the least. It felt like months in terms of watching, however.
Aoba is the type that likes the city that he lives in, with it being the Old Residential Town portion of the island of Midorijima. The island itself ended up being bought out by the Toue corporation recently and it’s being turned into a massive resort known as Platinum Jail. Which means it sounds completely like a place you’d never want to visit. Aoba has this desire for things to stay the same and you can understand the appeal of it as the old part of town has a warm and inviting feeling to it, especially compared to the more modern/corporatist feeling of the Platinum Jail area. Aoba’s also wanting things to stay the same because he has this sense of unease about things as his memory isn’t quite what it is, something that gets hammered into him repeatedly.
This comes in the form of the virtual reality game called Rhyme that gets played around the play where it utilizes mobile technology, holograms and overlays onto the actual real world surroundings to create some of the situations. There are some neat ideas with this that I’ve seen played with elsewhere, but it’s essentially an attack-rhythm game and that doesn’t do all that much for me in general. And this one doesn’t exactly hit it out of the park in terms of style. Where it wants to go with the story though is that there are a few challengers wanting to go at Aoba, but there are claims that he was a player in it before – something that has has no recollection of as he believes he’s never played. So when these people start coming into his life, that means a number of men sniffing around. And there are Deep, Dark Secrets that are revealed the further it goes on about his real past in the game and why his memory is blank when it comes to all of this. But, frankly, it’s hard to care because the show does such a poor job of setting up the foundations and actively keeping you interested beyond the minor tropes it employs that you never really connect with it.
There is a sprawling story here as it starts to introduce more of the cast beyond his hairstylist friend Koujaku, such as Noiz the information broker type with an intense and piercing look about him. There are a few gangs that come into play and the whole Platinum Jail side as well. It kind of wants to go for a street tough angle at times, especially with Aoba and his cute data-dog Ren getting picked on, but Aoba has the soft design about him contrast to who he once was and he’s regularly getting saved early on. Even in the virtual world he gets saved by Ren who takes on a humanoid form in there. In the end, Aoba has to step up because he’s the Special One with the rare ability called Scrap, which is a darker side that can be quite brutal in the cyber games that exists. But this area feels like it’s so superficially explained and explored that it never connects well, instead wanting to focus on the feels of it all in poorly done boys-love fashion.
I really don’t know what to make of the show. Dramatical Murder is the kind of series where, yes, it’s working with a basic plot of evil corporation screws with guy that in turn has him destroying them and saving the day in order to keep common people happy and safe. But it just feels like it fumbles around constantly with how it wants to do it, why it wants to do it and the way it wants to animate it. The OVA feels like it’s very instructive as to what it wanted to be though, because this one goes less with the shiny animation and a bit more traditional. And a lot bloodier. A lot smuttier. It’s interesting to see how it goes with Aoba being chained up, bitten deep, scratches all over him, blood all over him, and having some of the other male characters essentially sodomizing him. Again, just like the main series, it feels like it makes no sense. I kept hoping there would be this magical moment where everything clicked and instead I felt like I was just fall further down into the rabbit hole.
Sentai Filmworks is giving the fans exactly what they wanted with a high definition release with an English language dub. The show generated a lot of interest among certain circles when it aired and I totally get why. But for me, this show simply did not click from the first episode and it just got compounded episode by episode thereafter. So when the OVA came around it just felt like a more direct work for the hardcore Japanese fans that didn’t just border on being a fanfic but gleefully crossed into it with open arms. Technically, this release is well put together. But the content is that rare show I come across a couple of times a year where it just utterly frustrates me to the point where I want to fling it out the window.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 24th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.