Michael Scott

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The Case of Hana & Alice


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

As an avid fan of animation in general, and anime in particular, I’ve been very much pleased with Shout Factory’s choices in anime that they release on home video. As such I was more than eager to check out The Case of Hana & Alice on Blu-ray even though I hadn’t heard much about it. After doing some research I actually found out that this is a prequel to a live action film, called Hana & Alice done by the same director and same actresses back in 2004. It seems that director Shunji Iwai had wanted to do another film in the same franchise with the same actresses, but due to the fact that both Aoi Yu and Anne Suzuki had aged 11 years (this was made in 2015) it would look a little ridiculous trying to de-age them back to middle school looks, so Iwai instead decided to animate his prequel in an effort to mask their real life ages.

There’s a glut on the market for anime that follows the genre of “cute girls doing cute things”. While The Case of Hana & Alice (which was originally theatrically dubbed The MURDER Case of Hana & Alice) may seem to follow this genre trope in many ways, it’s more like “kooky girls doing kooky things”. The film’s trailer and first act set it up to be a paranormal (or maybe not so paranormal) murder mystery, but fools the audience with a seemingly meandering plot that turns out to be the true focus of the narrative.

Arisugawa Tetsuko (nicknamed Alice, played by Aoi Yu) is a newcomer to a small town after her mother and father break up. Integrating into a new school is never easy, especially from a mid year transfer, but things are made worse when Alice finds out that she’s sitting at a “haunted” desk. You see, there’s a sort of rumor/legend about the empty desk that she’s sitting in about a mysterious boy named Judas (which turns out to be just a butchered form of the name Yuda) who was murdered and whose soul was sent to hell after haunting the class. The school bully Mutsu (Ranran Suzuki) and the rest of the classmates seem to be terrified of the ghostly tale, but Alice is having none of it. Supposedly only one person alive from the previous year when this “murder” supposedly happened lives right next door to Alice (ironically Alice lives in the same house that the “murdered” boy lived).

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Digging into her neighbor, Alice stumbles upon the mysterious student, a girl named Hana (Anne Suzuki), who is a shut in after her experience a year or so back. It seems that Hana doesn’t know if Yuda was actually murdered, only knowing that he supposedly transferred away during the year, which spawned the insane rumor that he was “murdered”. Being middle school girls, Alice and Hana decide to figure out what ACTUALLY became of the young boy who transferred, and embark on a little sleuthing of their own to figure it all out.

The Case of Alice & Hana is a bit deceiving at first. The entire first act is a little meandering and strange, as the whole rumor mill about a murdered student seems bizarre at first. As the film unfolds it becomes even more confusing until the simple realization hits the viewer. The film is not ABOUT a murder mystery. It’s a tale about two young middle schoolers and their view on the world. If you slow down and look through their eyes, you can see the strangeness starting to make sense. Everything is seen through the simplicity of a child, and what may seem banal or crazy to us is actually highly intriguing and mysterious to them. The movie is really about how Hana and Alice met, and their silly (to us) adventures that bond them to each other through the trope of a murder mystery.

The film is highly addicting upon the second watch, and does so through the use of some very likeable characters. Both Hana and Alice are your typical middle school pre-teens, but they are also incredibly realistic and raw at the same time. Their entire worldview is based upon their limited experience, and thusly fall into the depths of despair, or the ecstasy of the highs much like Anne of Green Gables would. The two are incredibly sweet together, and by the end of the film you can see how the two girls of opposite backgrounds actually have way more in common than initially expected. It’s sweet, charming, and a completely relaxing experience once the viewer figures out that the murder mystery isn’t MEANT to make sense as a traditional mystery.




Rating:

Not Rated by the MPAA




Video: :4.5stars:
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Shout Factory’s Blu-ray come with a great looking 1.78:1 AVC encoded transfer of the original rotoscoped animation. For those not aware, rotoscoping is when they film live action actors and then animate over the top of that. What results is an animated film that has a very unique look to it, but one that can imitate the fluidity and nuances of live action. The rotoscoping here is really nice for the most part, but the side effects of it is that some panning effects (especially walking) in wide angle shots can look “off” or blurred as if there is some judder. This is naturally not a problem with Shout’s encode, but rather a byproduct of the rotoscoped source. The detail levels are really impressive, with the CGI taking on a sort of water colored scheme that blends nicely with the pastels and primary color grading that makes up the film. All of the lines and creases are beautifully rendered, with only some VERY mild color banding in a few backgrounds to mar the image.






Audio: :4stars:
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I was actually surprised that there was no English dub for this release. Nor was there the typical 2.0 DTS-HD MA down mix that Shout usually supplies. What is there is a single 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in the original Japanese, and it is a rather well done mix. The film is a very low key film to begin with, so don’t be expecting some major action oriented mix. The 5.1 track is soft and nuanced, with background effects making up most of the surround effects, as is the piano based score. The rest of the time the track is firmly planted in the center of the room with the dialog and the two mains making up the bulk of the content. LFE is used sparingly, but effectively, accentuating the score as well as a few things like the train station or the giant truck that they hide under near the end.








Extras: :2.5stars:
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• Interview with Yu Aoi and Anne Suzuki (voice actors)
• Film Completion Press Conference
• Film Premiere Stage Greeting
• Interview with Director Shunji Iwai
• Message from Makoto Shinkai (animator)
• Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots








Final Score: :4stars:


The Case of Alice & Hana surprised me in several ways. Being a feature film over the typical series based anime, and according to the trailers, I was expecting something a bit more epic in nature. However, the film turned out to be a much lighter bit of entertainment, and while rather nuanced in many ways, tends to satisfy on a much more laid back note. I say I was a bit surprised simply due to the fact that I’m used to to the over exaggerated and intensely emotional stories that typical anime films are about, so a nice and laid back childhood drama without any of those trappings was extremely refreshing. The film isn’t a perfect film (there’s some slog in the 2nd act), but it was an incredibly charming movie that worked more as a live action film than an anime one (which is actually understandable as this was a prequel story TO a live action film from 2004). Shout Factory does a good job with the technical specs here, and despite some mediocre extras is a very solid home video release. Worth Checking Out for sure.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Yu Aoi, Anne Suzuki, Shoko Aida, Sei Hiraizumi, Tomohiro Kaku, Ryo Katsuji, Midoriko Kimura, Tae Kimura, Haru Kuroki
Directed by: Shunji Iwai
Written by: Shunji Iwai
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: Japanese: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 99 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 17th, 2019
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Recommendation: Worth Checking Out

 
Last edited:

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will check this one out. :)
 
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