Reviewby Theron Martin, May 23rd 2007
DVD 12 - Akito's Rival
Valentine's Day has arrived, but this year Sana only has chocolate for one person: her co-actor/new “boyfriend” Takeshi Gojo. But why hasn't he shown up for the taping of the show, and what from his past could be getting in the way? Later, Sana's first essay about her life has been released, and it's a big hit. The one problem: she neglected to even mention Mami, one of her best friends. Though she had her reasons, Sana finds herself uncharacteristically reluctant to face the disappointed Mami and explain. When the apartment she and her mother had been living in gets demolished before their new house is finished, Sana finds a placed to stay temporarily with Takeshi, must to the consternation of her friends and manager Rei. Trouble looms as the slimy paparazzi returns, and this time he has fresh dirt on Takeshi's past, a revelation which could change everything.
Those who have followed Kodocha so far keep coming back because it has proven to be one of the most reliable anime series over the course of its run to date. In each volume you can expect a lot of laughs, a fair amount of good drama, past characters and situations popping back up again, and the occasional bombshell. Volume 12 is another great example of that. The double-barreled blast it drops on the viewers in episodes 47 and 48 is so typical of what the series has shown before: one part viewers are likely to see coming, while the other part is more of a shock (although astute viewers who remember previous volumes well may figure it out a couple of minutes in advance), but neither lacks in the solemn impact they have on the story.
Time has proven that Takeshi Gojo is the best new addition to the cast since its earliest episodes. He gets some nice dramatic moments, but his poor-taste humor, play-along attitude, and spry spirit make him an ideal complement to Sana's dense hyperactivity. Watching the two of them together in lighter moments is pure fun, and they fit well in more serious times, too. As neat as the Sana-Akito relationship has been, her connection to Takeshi has a spark to it that she and Akito have never managed. That he gets nearly as much screen time through these four episodes as Sana, and that both of the bombshells directly involve him, is a sign of the status he has gained.
For all the considerable comedic value the series has, its ongoing story continuity is what really sets it apart from other series of its ilk. While some events may eventually be set aside, rarely does an episode ever feel like filler or a stand-alone, because even the more innocuous events become integral parts of the ongoing story. As these episodes prove once again, details from 20+ episodes in the past regularly have a habit of resurfacing to affect current events, so you cannot forget anything if you want to fully keep up. So important are past developments in this volume that here is not a good jumping-on point for someone new to the series; knowledge of what Akito did to Mami in the past, who Sana's birth mother is and what her circumstances are, and the indirect consequences of Sana's previous bout of Valentine's Day chocolate distribution are all needed to fully understand and appreciate this one.
Nothing much can be said about the artistry, animation, and soundtrack that has not been said before. The artistry is still a bit rough and flat by recent standards but is sufficient for what the content is doing; the emotional scenes are particularly well-handed. The series will never be an example of quality technical merits but, again, gets by, and the soundtrack is just more of the same. The one notable difference is the way the Next Episode preview for episode 49 is handled, but its dramatically different tone is consistent with what happens at the end of episode 48 and what is projected to happen in episode 49.
The English dub does its normal great job, with one exception. The English script has always been more of an adaptation than a true translation, which usually works out fine, but in two scenes in episodes 47 and 48 a crucial time factor is inconsistent between the dub and subs, and given the context the dub is clearly wrong. Normally this would not be a big deal, but in this case the inexplicable changes obfuscate the importance of a critical plot detail. Dub fans should turn on the subtitles on at least during the second half of episode 47 and the first part of episode 48 to catch these details they may otherwise hear wrong.
As has been the habit with more recent Kodocha releases, Extras are not present beyond company previews.
If you are enough of a fan of Kodocha to follow the series this far, then volume 12 will offer you a lot to like, as good humor, quality dramatic content, and key story developments highlight another satisfying volume. At the time of this writing FUNimation has not confirmed that the series beyond the end of the second season (volume 13/ep 52) will be picked up, so get out there and buy your copy to help convince them that more needs to be licensed!
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B
+ Humor, plot developments, good voice acting.
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