Hanamonogatari: Suruga Devil Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

Hanamonogatari: Suruga Devil Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review The deals we make with the devil.

What They Say:
One morning, Suruga Kanbaru meets Ougi Oshino, who calls himself a nephew of Meme Oshino. He tells Suruga about a rumor of “the Lord Devil” that grants any wish. Suruga is worried that the identity of the Lord Devil is none other than herself because she made a wish on “the Monkey’s Paw.” The item was left behind by her mother, and turned Suruga into a Rainy Devil and made her try to kill Koyomi Araragi. In order to find out the identity of the Lord Devil, Suruga decides to meet the Lord Devil, but who she sees at the meeting spot is the most unexpected person – Rouka Numachi, Suruga’s old archrival…

Sixth arc to the Monogatari series’ second season.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is quite good for a stereo mix as it presents the original Japanese language using the PCM encoding. The dialogue here is what dominates the show to be sure as it comes hard and fast quite often with a lot of placement throughout. There’s some very minor action but the way the mix works is to handle the quick cuts, placement along the forward soundstage and to immerse you in it as best as it can. And it does it very, very well. The nature of the show is one where it has its quiet moments, but when it gets running with the fast paced dialogue and the way it shifts scenes so much, it’s impressive and comes across cleanly and beautifully here.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV special is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With fives episodes to this arc that aired on one day, it’s spread across two discs with two episodes on the first and three on the second. Shows animated by Shaft really require high definition transfers in order to shine and it does just that here, keeping the bit rate steady in the high thirties throughout, the stills and the strong, vibrant colors it chooses to employ. With a range of styles to be had, the transfer brings it all home in a really strong way with no loss of detail, solid colors and very fluid looking animation that stands out all the more because of the encoding. With so many detailed and interesting backgrounds, being able to soak them up when paused or enjoying them in motion is just all the better with what’s done here.

Packaging:
The packaging for this single case release is pretty nicely done with a slipcase for the Blu-ray case that has a few extras inside that fans will like. The packaging has a blue and green design to it to it across the board that works well with what it wants to present. The front cover of the slipcover is nicely done with Suruga in her basketball uniform as she hangs from the rim, all of which is set against a bright blue sky. It has a great sense of energy about it, and a little red hue around her to add to it, and it really does stand out well. The reverse side goes in a very different direction as we get her and Rouka together sitting back to back in their respective school uniforms while the background has a star filled night sky to add to the atmosphere just right. Inside the slipcover we get a great package of postcards with the characters from this arc that are beautifully designed and we also get great twenty page booklet that goes into the show lightly with a lot of character artwork, images from the show and the preview panels in an easier to see form with translated text. It’s not full of really detailed information, but it’s got a great feeling to it and definitely adds some value here. The Blu-ray case basically replicates the front cover artwork with a clean look to it and a white side panel instead of the purple which helps to tie it all together nicely. There aren’t any inserts in here but we do get a nice piece of background artwork on the reverse side of the basketball court from afar that we saw in the show often which is definitely a welcome setting.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is pretty good overall with the character artwork along the left having a vibrant feeling, the logo along the right brings some balance. The first disc uses the Suruga artwork from the front cover while the second disc uses the pairing artwork from the back cover, giving each its own feeling and tone that goes a bit lighter as it works with a white layer to the background The navigation is kept along the bottom where it tiers upwards as you make selections, though they’re all just a little too small and thin. The text is white on varied color backgrounds depending on the disc and it’s easy enough to read overall but could have used a little more definition. The navigation is easy to move though and the disc defaults to the Japanese language with dialogue only subtitles. It also has the option for dialogue+signs as well as the commentary track subtitles.

Extras:
The extras are fairly standard fare here in that we get the new ending sequence in clean form as well as a look at the various promotional spots and TV commercials for the release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on material from the ninth volume of the series, Hanamonogatari is a five episode special that was broadcast as a summer special in August 2014. With the previous Koimonogatari arc having brought things to a close for our ostensible leads of the series as they worked through their final days and then their graduation, there was a good sense of closure – in a sense – with what had happened there. Though a lot of things focused on the pair and the events across the seasons, there are a lot of secondary characters that stepped into the show and providing stories about them and other events that happen in this city are certainly worth exploring. Hence this five episode arc working with Suruga, one of the characters that made a minimal impact on me from her previous use in the series.

Focusing on Suruga as she’s moving into her third year, she’s still struggling with the events that changed her some time ago where she lost her arm to the monkey paw wish her mother used and has kept it under wraps ever since. With her passion and love for basketball, that’s obviously kept her away from it and she’s been kind of lost and listless since then. Even more so since Araragi graduated and moved on. While she’s going through her days, she discovers that there’s some rumors going around that intrigue her and gives her something to focus on. With other students talking about a devil that deals with requests, she does her due diligence and discovers that the supposed devil is actually Rouka Numachi, a competitor of hers from a few years ago on the basketball court.

The two have an interesting history that gets explored a bit about how they were rivals, but rivals that only faced off once and never got further than that. Due to a leg injury Rouka suffered, she ended up not getting back into the game and transferred elsewhere as her high school scholarship was based on her athletic side. A side she couldn’t really be involved in anymore. So when Suruga seeks her out and discovers that it’s here, there’s some good dialogue between the two about their similar pasts and their love of the game in an oblique way, but also a look at what it is that Rouka is really doing. By taking on the role of this devil that others are coming to her about, she’s essentially feeding on their misery over various issues they have. But unlike other darker supernatural elements that you’d expect, she doesn’t actually do anything to help people or hurt them either. In a curious twist, she simply lets time fix their problems and takes the credit for it, which brings more people to her.

Hanamonogatari works events towards Suruga having to decide whether to deal with all of this or not, and that involves just a little bit of background research first through the Fire Sisters. That doesn’t add a lot of depth overall, but we do learn the truth of Rouka and what happened to her when her basketball career ended and she walked away from it. For Suruga, it has her really having to decide what to do with Rouka, and to see if Rouka even knows the truth about herself with what happened. As is the case with alot of those impacted by the supernatural elements in this series, they’re unaware of what they really are and that makes for a fun discovery and unveiling phase. What’s fun is the way it unfolds on the basketball court with some really creative aspects to it in the design and execution, making for a visually delightful piece. For Suruga and Rouka, it’s their chance to deal with their rivalry while also having Suruga do what she can to be like Araragi in a way and bring some closure and help to someone in need that isn’t aware of it.

In Summary:
Hanamonogatari handles things well with this special arc as a kind of epilogue piece and even does manage to bring in Araragi briefly, which is fun to see him post graduation. There’s a good flow to the story here overall with what it does in telling this additional little adventure and letting Suruga get her time in the sun, but Suruga doesn’t have enough to her in order to carry it – especially for five episodes. There are some nice bits brought in that helps her to start living her life again and moving forward, but there’s a long road across this to actually get there. I like the ideas and what it does, and especially the animation and visual design, but I wish it was compacted to three episodes so that it worked better. It’s a solid enough story that’s just too decompressed for my tastes.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Ending, Promotional Video & Commercial Collections

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 21st, 2015
MSRP: $74.98
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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