I just talked about the Zaizen Jotaro manga in my second "JManga 13" post, but let's take a small detour and go back to the anime. When I reviewed the anime back in October I mentioned that the show did receive a DVD release in Japan called the "Special Box", and one of the big bonuses of that DVD release was that the animation had been improved. They even included a "Bonus Disc" that was made up of nothing but the original TV "O.A./On-Air" version of Episode 1, so that you could see how improved the animation was. I really wanted this boxset due to how much I enjoyed the show and how astronomically unlikely it is this show will ever see a North American release, but the price tag of 25,000 Yen (or close to $300 USD) kept me far away... Until now.
I didn't know about this until recently, but Japanese online storefront Rakuten has opened up an international site, the Rakuten Global Market, which is literally Rakuten but with an English translation. It can be a rough translation, though, but if you search using the original Japanese kanji, hiragana, & katakana you should be fine. Anyway, to finish up the boring part of this post, I accidentally came across a seller who was selling a brand-new, shrink-wrapped copy of the Zaizen Jotaro Special Box for roughly $80-$85, and with EMS shipping it all came to $105... Anyway you look at it, I got a deal. So, what's up with the DVD release? Is the animation truly improved?
For this comparison, we'll be looking at screenshots from Episodes 1, 3, & 9, though Episode 1 will be saved for Part 2, since the original version was included on the DVDs, and that can only mean more fixes than usual. The other episodes' TV versions will be coming from the fansubs/raws I watched, so ignore the image quality for the most part. Remember, this is about what we see, not how it looks, per se. For each pair of screenshots, the TV version will be on top, and the DVD version will be on bottom, so let's get started with Episode 3!
As you can see, this is a simple fix. In the original TV version, the building worked fine as an establishing shot, but in the DVD version Trans-Arts decided to actually use those banners and add some messages on them. A minor change, but it's something.
Now here's a fix that's both for ambiance's sake, as well as for continuity. In the original TV version, Todou's desk was pretty bare, though later shots showed that there was stuff on the desk. The DVD version fixes that little continuity error and adds in the lamp & papers. It also just helps add a little bit of ambiance to the shot, making the desk where the head of the GCIA sits at look a little more like an actual business desk.
Ah, now here's a real ambiance shot. In the TV version, Zaizen & Jinnai's little drinking match looks interesting, but the booth they're in looks pretty bland. The DVD version fixes that by darkening the shot and adding in a spotlight in the middle, giving it better ambiance as well as making it look more accurate in terms of being in a club.
Now this fix is only somewhat noticeable in stills, but it's very noticeable in motion. In the TV version, when Todou introduces himself as the head of the GCIA his mouth barely moves as he's speaking, a true sign of limited animation. The DVD version fixes that by actually having Todou's mouth move when he's talking, making the shot look much better. More than likely there are other moments in the show where the DVD version adds in actual mouth flapping, and that's always welcome. That ends the big changes I could find in Episode 3, and, quite honestly, I couldn't find all that much different in Episode 9. It is the episode where Zaizen and Jinnai fight so more than likely Trans-Arts made sure that the episode ended up as good as possible... But I was still able to find one difference.
This is a shot of the main GCIA office floor, and in the TV version it looked busy enough, but in the DVD version Trans-Arts decided to make the GCIA look a whole lot bigger and busier... Almost too much so, admittedly, but I'm not going to be picky here. But from these comparisons, though, we can tell that by "improved animation" we're not talking about the show animating more than before and removing the use of cut-ins. The cut-ins are still in full-effect and the show is still limited in animation, but at least now it looks better, especially with the DVD-quality video, and corners aren't cut anymore to save money.
In Part 2 we'll look at what Trans-Arts did for episode 1, and trust me when I say that there's a lot to talk about. All I'll say for now is background fixes, daytime changes, & CG, oh my!