What They Say:
When Mari Wakatake arrives at the gate of the exclusive Kaihou Academy, she is a girl without a past. Five years earlier, something happened to her. Something that took the lives of her parents and every other human on Kamioki Island then wiped her mind clean of even memories. But if Mari’s past is an unknown nightmare, her future may soon become even more terrifying.Because while she was the sole human survivor, there is something else that lived through that same night, and her path is about to cross Mari’s again. Something in a female skin has invaded Kaihou Academy, and Mari is its target. The subjugation of Earth has begun, and the heart of one young woman may be the key to our race’s ultimate salvation or damnation.
The audio presentation for this series gives us a monolingual release in that we get a good stereo mix of the Japanese language track encoded at 224kbps and that’s it. The series is mostly a dialogue piece as most episodes focus on the day to day lives of the girls at school, but the action sequences when they do come up have a bit more impact to them and utilize the soundstage better. The dialogue scenes work well too though most of them only have one person talking at a time and there isn’t a whole lot of depth to be found during it. It’s a good solid mix overall that serves the material well and it’s free of problems such as hiss, distortions, and dropouts.
Originally airing in late 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in the slightly unusual format of six/seven. Blue Drop has a good clean look to it though there are some areas where it feels a little soft intentionally to create a mood. Colors have a good look to them throughout with only some scenes, such as a sunset, showcasing a bit more noise than you’d normally see. Line noise is very minimal during panning sequences and there’s just a hint or two of cross coloration in a particularly busy scene. Blue Drop doesn’t intend to be a strong visual show so it plays with softer colors throughout, but when it wants to do vibrant colors such as the purple on the ships, it does so very well as they stand out beautifully. There’s very little to really do more than nitpick with here and fans of the show will likely be pleased by what they see.
The packaging design for this series uses a good piece of artwork from the original Japanese releases by having Hagino and Mari reaching across to each other, hand in hand, while the Blue ship is behind them moving across the water. The light background draws all the attention to the characters and the ship while the shades of blue help to give it a bit more definition. The Japanese logo is also a really good one as it uses the title along with the Earth itself in an eye-catching way. The back cover keeps to the same light shades of blue and white as it has some design artwork in the background while the foreground is given over to more color. Slim shots from the show are done up along the sides of the cast while the middle has a decent summary of the overall premise. There’s also more good larger character artwork here along with another shot of the ship that looks a bit more like a whale than the front cover angle does. Production information is clean and clear to read and the technical grid covers everything very well though it does list the show as being in 5.1 when it’s a stereo mix. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for Blue Drop is rather straightforward as it uses some of the futuristic designs from the back cover of the series as its background here while placing different pieces of character artwork on each volume. It’s a simple menu design with some nice moody instrumental music that plays along for about half a minute before looping back again. The lower middle section of the menu features the navigation strip which allows for top-level access of each episode as well as dipping into the special features section. Because of this being a monolingual release, no language selection menu is available but you can turn subtitles off on the fly during regular playback. Everything loads quickly and smooth and because of its monolingual nature our players’ presets weren’t an issue at all.
The extras are made up of the clean versions of the opening and closing sequence as well as a really nice little gallery of full colors pieces of artwork. Some look to be from the Japanese DVD releases while others are conceptual pieces of artwork of the various ships.
Based on the world created in the two short form manga series by Akihito Yoshitomi, Blue Drop is a thirteen episode series with some rather mild yuri overtones to it simply because it’s an all-girls cast at an all girls school. What makes this series interesting is that it isn’t an adaptation of an existing manga but rather serves as a prequel story to it as the events here are before the war between humanity and the Arume. The manga material takes place after the war, which is what the bookend periods of the show deal in for about a minute at the start of the series and for a minute at the end of it.
Blue Drop takes place in a present-day world where we’re introduced to high school senior Mari Wakatake. Her life has just been upended as she’s being forced from living with her grandmother to living at one of the dorms at Kaio Academy, a somewhat privileged place where very few people without some money behind them go. Mari is completely against it and can’t understand why her grandmother is doing this. Unfortunately, her grandmother is keeping a secret from her that she’s close to dying so she doesn’t want to be a burden on Mari and wants her to get on with her life.
Mari’s life has not been easy and we learn that she’s never even been in school, at least according to her memory. Some five years prior, Mari was the sole survivor of an incident on Kamioki island where all eight hundred or so residents died mysteriously in an unexplained natural disaster. Only it wasn’t truly a natural disaster as when the bodies were discovered, half of the people had died before the water hit and the majority of them appeared to have been murdered in various and cruel ways. Because of the incident, Mari lost her parents and her memory of what happened, so it’s understandable that another big change in her life is causing her to act like quite a petulant child.
Much of the series focuses on Mari’s integration into the school where she befriends a girl named Michiko. Michiko isn’t like most of the girls in the school as she’s a local who was accepted there without much money, but it’s interesting that the other kids don’t come across as fabulously wealthy. They’re a little snobbish and they don’t talk to Michiko at all and Mari finds herself in the same boat, though she doesn’t want to talk to anyone whereas Michiko wants to be a part of things. The dorm that Mari lives in has a small cast of cute characters to it that help flesh things out, but nothing that delves all that deeply though we do get some nice small moments of knowing some of them. Where Mari has things go really wrong is when one of the most popular and respected girls in the school, Hagino, starts to take an interest in her. An interest that initially has her trying to strangle her.
The story of Hagino is the real focus though it’s one that plays out in two different ways. One of them is the aforementioned integration as Hagino ends up being taken by Mari and that causes all sorts of issues. Mari and Hagino, at least in my eyes, have a very strong friendship born here, almost a sisterly love rather than a pure romantic love. What complicates it is that Hagino is actually a commander in the advance fleet that’s come to investigate Earth. Or that’s at least what Hagino was told and believes as the fleet is actually testing out things before its invasion of the world, as her people – the Arume – are close to extinction and they need Earth to continue on. The science fiction elements often feel very out of place here because it lacks a kind of internal consistency to make it work. So many resources are put out in order to eliminate a rogue ship from the advance fleet – a rogue ship that’s in very rough shape – and they have a nearly impossible time doing it. Yet they’re going to invade the world?
The visual design of Blue Drop is fairly standard school material as we get the private-ish academy that’s set off in the woods outside a town that’s fallen on rough times. The locales look good if indistinct overall (and I love backgrounds that put business phone numbers as 123-456-7890) and the school itself works well though it lacks anything that really distinguishes itself. The Arume side of the show doesn’t make out as good in some ways as it plays more for fanservice than being anywhere near functional. The advance fleet has costumes that are basically silvery white swimsuits and they have no obvious issues with it. Only the command level characters seem to wear anything more than this and really doesn’t look good for the cast. The ship designs themselves are interesting, especially where we see Blue moving through the ocean like a dolphin as it introduces a neat design idea, but with the general scheme being all about gray, silver and purple, the ships really aren’t all that compelling. The megabomber moment is another example of this as it looks like one of the ships drops a massive metallic egg which takes you out of the show completely, never mind the sheer overkill of the story moment itself.
Blue Drop left me rather uncertain about it overall. After watching it, I went and read up on the original manga for reference and that material seems like it’s far more interesting as it deals with the war and invasion itself, as well as a story taking place after the war. This prequel to all of it has some interesting moments, but it doesn’t seem to know how to tell it in a compelling way. The concept of an alien invasion working this way isn’t bad, it offers some fun ways of dealing with it, but it gets stuck with overly dramatic moments that don’t connect well for the viewer. Subplots lack impact and much time is spent on the scholastic side. Both stories can be told well at the same time, but it waffles too much between figuring out which one it really wants to focus on. In the end, this series left me really wanting to read the manga more than anything else as I wanted to see the invasion, the war and the aftermath of it all rather than the lead up to it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promotional Video, Japanese TV Spot, Art Gallery, Clean Opening & Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 17th, 2009
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.