This is the last time I’ll mention Utena for a little while; I promise.
I’m pretty satisfied with the DVDs so I suppose I have no choice now but to buy the rest when they’re released. I think you’re supposed to take the paper stuck to the back off, since when I did I saw that there’s a beautiful illustration of Miki and Kozue underneath, but I’ve never been very smart when it comes to packaging: I leave the spine cards on my CDs.
The three DVDs come in slim plastic cases that fit inside a sturdy cardboard box with some very attractive illustrations on it. It also comes with a 46-page book that I haven’t completely read through yet, but it contains many illustrations, interviews with staff, translated liner notes from the Japanese LD releases and other interesting bonus material, including a feature on the appeal of shoujo anime and where Utena fits on that spectrum.
Not that I buy very many R1 anime DVDs, but there were a couple of things included in these discs that I did not expect, based on the justifications people use for preferring fansubs to legal R1 retail subs. There’s a strong belief out there, perhaps a misconception, that R1 DVDs contain neither sign translations nor song lyrics or karaoke. That was probably true some years ago, but I think it’s more common these days, it’s become an expectation that these things will be included. Nonetheless, it was slightly surprising for me to see that, based on my viewing of just two episodes, there appear to be both sign translations and lyrics for all songs, even the duel songs. Unlike the other songs, however, the duel songs don’t have romaji; the translated lyrics appear on the top of the screen while subs for dialogue appear at the bottom.
Make no mistake though: I don’t care if there are lyrics. I don’t sing along to these songs while watching; just in the shower. I do recognise, however, that there are many viewers who care about this quite a bit, so I commend whoever is responsible for the decision to include both translated lyrics and romaji in most places. Many people were surely very happy about that choice.
I’m no encoder, so I can’t say anything about the video quality. I also don’t have the R2J DVDs, so even if I were qualified to make a comment about the video quality, I still wouldn’t have much of anything to say without a reference point to contrast it with. It certainly looks good to my untrained eye though. Some screens from the first episode:
Finally, there are two more seemingly small, but ultimately significant, inclusions that I thought were great about these DVDs. The first is that the eyecatch in each episode is included. You know, this thing and the accompanying music:
The eyecatch is important for the mood. I can’t explain exactly how, but things would feel quite off without it.
There’s also the next episode previews, which are fully dubbed and subtitled in English. Next episode previews, if they exist in the original show, should always be included on a DVD. A show just isn’t complete without them. It recreates the experience of watching the show for the first time. DVD distributors, are you listening?