Review for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
I’m not going to unashamedly gush about this film yet again. I watched it again last night, and my opinion hasn’t altered in the slightest since the last time I saw it, when I reviewed the 2-disc collector’s edition DVD. I’ll point you to that review if you want to read more about the actual film. Last night I took a look at the Blu-ray release of the film and this is a quick review of its technical qualities. Would you believe that I still have Blu-rays that I bought with my player that I have yet to watch? I purchased The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with Summer Wars as a Blu-ray double pack two years ago now, and only now have I had the time to watch one of the films. Subsequently The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was also released singly, and I’m reviewing it as such here. My initial inclination was to double dip on Blu-rays as little as possible, saving my money for the new goodies that high definition had to offer. That intention didn’t last long, but this film was one of the few on my initial re-buy list, as the DVD offers only a fair NTSC-PAL standards conversion, complete with the softness and lower resolution that comes with it. I thought that with high definition audio and visual, double dipping on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time would be a win-win situation. It turns out not to be quite that simple.
Once again, here’s the review for the DVD release if you want to read about the movie.
The image is presented in 1080p 1.78:1 widescreen. If your only sample of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in HD has been via the trailers on other Manga Entertainment Blu-rays, then rest assured that the actual presentation of the film here does it full justice. That trailer was up-scaled to HD from an SD source, and it in no way reflects the quality of the final Blu-ray. You can buy this disc in confidence. For the first time you can read the tiny text, English language translations in the opening credits that are printed next to the Japanese credits, although you may have to get up close to the screen to do so.
The image is clear and sharp throughout, and the smoothness of the animation becomes clear from the outset. One thing that may be a grumble is that the film has something of a subdued colour palette, and consequently those expecting a ‘pop’ from the Blu-ray visuals may be disappointed. The character designs look much like the DVD in that respect, although you can see freckles on Makoto’s friend Yuri in the Blu-ray that you never could before. It’s in the nature of the film that the character designs are simplistic and not too detailed, as that really allows for expressive and fluid animation. Where the Blu-ray comes alive is in the backgrounds, as it’s here that the detail is much richer, and the quality of the colouring becomes apparent. You’ll also notice a total absence of aliasing, colour banding and compression artefacts, especially in more frenetic animation such as the Time Leap sequences.
It’s a significant improvement over the DVD, but doesn’t quite push the limits of what Blu-ray can do. I can’t tell whether that’s down to the source material, or how it was transferred onto disc. I can say that it was a more enjoyable experience than watching it on the big(ish) screen in a multiplex, which I didn’t expect.
While it was a comparatively late arrival to the UK, this disc has existed for some time in the EU, released as it was some time previously in Spain. Hence the menu options when you place the disc into the player. All in all, you can watch the film in DTS-HD MA 5.1 English, Japanese, Spanish, and Catalan, with translated subtitles and a signs only track in English, Spanish and Catalan. You’ll probably choose the English menu; although the same conditions apply across the disc, namely that audio and subtitle choices are remote locked during playback, but can be altered via the pop-up menu. From the English side of the disc, you can set up any permutation of English and Japanese, subtitles and signs. The only thing is that you can’t turn the subtitle stream off altogether.
Lossless sound is a delight with this film. I chose the Japanese audio, and found the experience to be a major improvement over the DVD, in terms of clarity and impact. The film’s music really gets the space to breathe, and the surrounds are put to excellent use conveying the film’s action and effects. Once again there is that strange issue of missing subtitles on one or two occasions where characters are speaking off screen, but that was apparent in the theatrical print, the DVD and this Blu-ray, and I doubt it will change anytime soon. It’s a small matter of changing the audio to English if you need to at this point, but the context is clear enough.
And here is that annoying niggle. In the US, when Bandai eventually released their Blu-ray of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, they did so as a 2-disc release, sourcing the bonus disc from the Special Edition DVD, and making sure that the extras features were all there. Manga Entertainment didn’t do that for the Blu-ray, and what you get here is just the movie on a barebones disc. One of the main reasons for double-dipping is to ‘retire’ the older version, and I find that I now have two cases on my shelf, one for the film on Blu-ray, and DVD for the extras.
The disc comes in a Blu-ray Amaray, and the sleeve is the same as that for the DVD, with an added Blu-ray logo, and minus a DVD logo. The inside of the sleeve offers some artwork, but the blurb at the back is a simple cut and paste from the DVD release, down to anamorphic aspect ratio and Dolby Digital audio options, and the DVD logo.
Put the Blu-ray into your player, and you are offered the choice of English and Spanish Menus. The Spanish menu offers you the film, scene select, Spanish audio and subtitle options, and trailers for Evangelion 1.11, 2.22. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and Sword of the Stranger.
The English menu has no trailers.
This film is wholly worth the double dip. It’s one of my favourite films full stop, let alone in just the anime genre, and I definitely want my favourites given the best presentation possible. Whether the film can actually look better on Blu-ray is debatable. I feel that its subdued colour palette is a smidge too subdued here, but in comparison to the standards converted DVD, there really is no contest. The only fly in the ointment is the barebones nature of the release. You’re going to have to hold onto that DVD if you want the extra features. Bandai’s Region A locked release was a 2-disc release that actually moved its DVD audio commentaries onto the second disc, so you don’t actually lose anything there. But it has gone the way of Bandai, out of print. Madman Entertainment on the other hand merely took the SE extras disc and bundled it with the Blu-ray, so the cast commentary is missing there, but that is a Region B release. Alas the UK Collector’s Edition DVD is out of print now, or I would have suggested buying that and the Blu-ray. But if you aren’t a collector fiend, and merely want a brilliant movie to watch, then the Blu-ray alone will be more than sufficient.