November 21, 2012

3 gripes about Pony Canyon's Utagassen release

It's no secret that I think YuruYuri is the best managed seiyuu PR vehicle in the last decade. The show was so effective, it singlehandedly pushed a squad of no-name rookies into my A list. I care more about JD Baum than Taketatsu Ayana. Looking at the weekly radios, soundtrack naming events, DJ shows, iron-man autographing marathons, nation-wide tours, and fan appreciation festivals, no other show in my memory has ever gone to such lengths to promote their core seiyuu in such a huge variety of appearances.

Which is exactly why it's also kinda disappointing when the ball is dropped in other ways. And Pony Canyon did that just a little bit on the YuruYuri Nanamorichu Utagassen concert release.

First, I have to say I have no issue with the content itself. The setlist was just perfect, the performances were more polished, and the extras were exactly the kind of stuff they knew seiyuu fans would like. There's backstage footage of the pamphlet photoshoot, S2 PV, and concert. They even included a full 2.5 hr audio commentary track for the concert, where you can hear everyone squeal along embarassedly to their actions on screen or reveal trivia like how Yukachin invented the first "po~po~" call for Akari's theme song at a Nico broadcast event, how/why Tsuda did away with the stand-mic for her performance this time, and what people were doing backstage in between songs.

And to make up for Ainama's absence, they brought in Mizuki Nana Kuraguchi Momo who was just amazing in every way. So, I really have no problem with the content. In that aspect, it is one of the best releases of the year.

Kuraguchi Momo, the best surprise of the concert. She's sooo good.

The real problems were with certain aspects the presentation of that content, and that manifested in three ways.

1. Packaging

This is my release? Even though it's a limited edition BD release, it's just a generic white plastic DVD box with a cover insert. That makes it look really cheap. No printed case, no digipak? You know, fans are willing to pay a premium for limited edition partly because it looks good on a shelf. But the bigger issue was the lack of a box. For the premium release, PonyCanyon decided to include a special booklet featuring a collection of photos from the concert. 40 pages of full-color photos printed on premium paper. That's great, but when you pack something like that, you need either a box, or at minimum a slipcase to keep the disc and the booklet together. Instead, the book was just bundled outside the case and wrapped in flimsy throw-away plastic wrapping. So where exactly am I supposed to store the booklet once I've unwrapped the thing? The wrapping isn't the resealable kind.

Companies like King Records understand this well. For example, take a look at this Yukarin "I love rabbit" bluray from earlier this year. Packaging was nicely done here, with resealable wrapping, outer slipcase, and inner fold-out that held the discs and booklet. Hocchan's Q&A is another good example, which put the booklet and case in a decent looking box.

Couldn't you have given me something like this. Heck, charge an extra 500 yen for it.

2. Video quality

This is a 100% crop that I saved saved at maximum quality when the camera was fairly still. I didn't pick this as an example of the quality at the worst point, it's the AVERAGE. Now lighting can play a huge factor in terms of noise, but if it was just noise, I wouldn't be complaining. You can play spot-the-defect bingo with this screenshot. And many of them were completely avoidable just down to crappy compression. There should just be a rule that you do not try to cram more than 3 hours of 1080p concert footage onto one 40GB disc. Again, I'll bring up King Records because even though they fuck up audio CD releases badly, they actually put out a pretty good product as far as concert BDs go. They uncompromisingly keep H.264 video near max at 36mbps which is why you sometimes get Disc 1 with 90% of the concert, and then a Disc 2 with 15 minutes left over. That's exactly what should have been done here. Put the concert on disc 1, and put the extras on disc 2.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather change discs than see blocky artifacts, blurring, and banding everywhere. Grainy concert footage does not compress well compared to other video, and 27mbps is just NOT ENOUGH. The inconvenience of multiple discs can be easily fixed with the magic of AnyDVD. Poor video quality can not.

3. Editing

Finally, and this is probably my least legitimate complaint, but it's a matter of personal taste: who was selecting the shots for this thing? Why would you go for upper body close-ups when the girls in the commentary are specifically saying "oh the dance for this part is cute?" or going wide audience shot when they say "I love the hand motion for this." It seriously needed more full body shots because YuruYuri songs are full of cute dances. The worst thing was BOTH of Yukachin's "henkawaii" dance motions during the chorus of Miracle 1 2 3 happened OFF SCREEN. WHY?

It's a shame in some ways, because even though the concert itself was more enjoyable, this particular blu-ray release was worse than Nanamorichu Recital (which also suffered from problem #1, but just narrowly avoided #2 and #3). I can only hope next year's live concert isn't handled the same way when released to video.

Edit: Rereading what I wrote, it's a pretty negative post, but overall, the commentary and performances made the watching experience enjoyable so I'm not slamming it or saying that I shouldn't have bought it. I just wish the things I mentioned above weren't botched.

To lighten the mood, here's an Ootsubo Pro gif

Posted by Paranda at 2:21 AM | Comments (0)

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