Review for IRODUKU: The World in Colors Collection
P.A. Works is a studio that is always worth keeping an eye on, especially when it comes to their original works. They can make shows which appeal to mainstream audiences, with likeable characters and a warm, gentle sense of humour, yet with wholly original and inventive premises. I got that ‘best thing since sliced bread’ feel the first time I saw Hanasaku Iroha, and they continued that thread with a ‘girls at work’ trilogy with the subsequent Shirobako and Sakura Quest. Then there is A Lull in the Sea, a fantastic tale by Mari Okada that posited two worlds co-existing, one on the surface and one under the sea. And now we get Iroduku: The World In Colors, a story set in a world where magic exists, and where the main character is sent back from the future to meet her grandmother when they were the same age.
In a world where magic co-exists with technology, Hitomi Tsukishiro is an isolated and introverted girl who dislikes magic. That’s not good in a family of mages. But from a young age, she lost her colour vision, can only see in monochrome, and that has left her detached from her emotions, clinging to the few memories of colour that she has. Her grandmother Kohaku tries to help, but there is a gap of experience and understanding between them. So Kohaku uses a magic spell to send Hitomi 60 years into the past, so she can meet Kohaku when they were the same age. The younger version of her grandmother and the new friends she makes help Hitomi awaken the magic within her and the world of colour that has been missing from her life.
13 episodes of Iroduku: The World in Colors are presented across two Blu-rays from MVM.
1. Where You Belong
2. I Can’t Stand Magic
3. No Rain, No Rainbow
4. Stop Calling Me ‘Granny’!
5. A Modest Recipe
6. Golden Fish
7. The Burden of Venus
8. Fragile Fragments
9. Wandering Words
10. Monochromatic Crayon
11. The Waning Moon
12. On This Bright, Shining Day
13. The World In Colors
Iroduku gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. It’s par for the course for an HD presentation of a recent or modern anime, making the most of the resolution. The image is clear and sharp, colours are rich and consistent, and the animation comes across smoothly, with no issues with compression, aliasing or the like. There might be a smidge of banding in darker scenes, but that’s about it. And P.A. Works get to literally apply their magic to the story, with memorable and distinctive character designs, a detailed and realistic world design, and a whole lot of anime special effects applied to make the magic sequences work. Iroduku is a fine looking anime show, and these Blu-rays do the show justice.
Iroduku offers the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with translated subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate track, with one exception. The audio is fine, and for the majority of the show, I watched the Japanese version with subtitles. The dialogue is clear, and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. The actors suit their characters well, and the stereo is put to good use when it comes to the magical effects and music. The show also gets a couple of decent theme tunes.
The review copy had an issue though, in that the final episode 13 lacked subtitles and signs completely, and I was compelled to watch the English dub of a show for the first time in ages. I wasn’t that impressed to be honest, as Sentai releases often go for a closer, less natural sounding translation, that doesn’t flow instinctively. MVM should have corrected this problem for the retail release, but apparently some uncorrected discs have made it into retail packaging. Contact MVM for replacements if you are affected.
The discs boot to static menus and each episode is followed by a translated English credit scroll.
Disc 2 has the extras, which comprise the textless opening, three textless closings, and 4:50 of Japanese Promos.
The thing about generation gaps is that it’s hard to relate across that gap. Kids don’t have the perspective of their parents, and given experience and the burden of responsibility, parents can lose touch with their youths. It’s that thought that inspired Back to the Future, which saw Marty McFly travel back in time to meet his parents when they were his age, and faced similar life issues. And that is what inspires Iroduku: The World In Colors, and the show makes use of that premise to evocative effect.
Hitomi Tsukishiro is a girl who suffers from depression and abandonment issues. It’s something she relates to magic. Her family has a long tradition of mages, but her mother had no magic at all, and left when she was a little girl. Since then, her world has been monochrome. She can’t see colours at all, and try as she might, her grandmother Kohaku is unable to help Hitomi with her depression, or alleviate her isolation. So she comes up with the idea to send Hitomi to the past, back when they were the same age, sixty years in the past, 2018 to be exact.
As the magic would have it, Hitomi appears in the bedroom of a high school boy, and although she manages to sneak out, she leaves a magical earring behind. Luckily her family accept the idea that she has been sent back in time by her grandmother, and her great grandmother and great-great grandmother invite her to stay with them, and also attend the high school while she waits for Kohaku to come back from a European trip, and then figure out the magic spell to send her back.
At the school she encounters the Photography Art Club, an amalgam of the school’s photography club with members Sho, Asagi, Kurumi, and Chigusa, and the art club, with solitary member Yuito Aoi, coincidentally the boy whose room Hitomi appeared in. They invite her to join, but a big impetus is Yuito’s art. In Hitomi’s monochrome world, Yuito’s art is the only thing that she can see colours in. Naturally she wants to see more. Soon after that Kohaku returns from her trip, and she joins the club as well to hang out with her granddaughter. And the club becomes the Magical Photography Art Club.
Hitomi has been in self-imposed isolation since childhood, and it’s quickly made apparent that her depression and her colour-blindness are linked. Now as part of the club, she has an instant roster of friends, people to connect to, and the wall of depression starts being chipped away. It’s not just a one-way street though, as the club members have issues of their own, and Hitomi’s presence among them becomes the catalyst to solving them. Club president Sho develops an attraction to Hitomi, although he’s oblivious to the fact that childhood friend Asagi is sweet on him. Kurumi and Chigusa have an abrasive relationship, always teasing each other, while Kohaku has a reputation as a walking disaster zone in school, always apologising for her magical experiments going wrong with explosive effect. The more Hitomi sees of Yuito’s art, the more she starts to fall for him, although she doesn’t realise that he’s something of a kindred spirit.
Iroduku unfolds in a light, episodic, slice-of-life way, as Hitomi experiences time-travel culture clash, and gets to know her strangely familiar, but unfamiliar home town, sixty years in the past. Hanging out with her new friends, she starts to come out of her shell, and even starts learning how to do the magic that she previously hated, as it turns out that Yuito is just as fascinated with her magic as she is with his artwork. It’s not all plain sailing, as personalities can clash, and misunderstandings do happen, but generally, Iroduku is an inventive take on someone overcoming depression and re-engaging with the world.
Iroduku stays true to the most basic and fundamental rule of time travel, the inconvenient one that most other stories ignore, which ultimately means that there is a bittersweet inevitability to its conclusion, which I kind of hoped it could cheat. It does still tell a heart-warming and effective story for its main character, and in that regard it is a success, and well worth watching. I also wish that niggle with the subtitles could have been sorted before release, as even in the English version there is some on screen text that goes by un-translated. But MVM are on the ball, and if you do wind up with a faulty copy, contact them for a replacement.
Iroduku: The World in Colors is available from MVM’s webstore Anime Online, United Publications, Anime Limited, and mainstream retailers.