Everyone's future is a gamble, but Kenji Nakamura's C: Control - The Money and Soul of Possibility (2011) offers a more literal interpretation of that fact. This 11-episode series introduces us to Kimimaro Yoga, a 19 year-old economics major with, ironically, very little money to his name. That's not the only handicap Yoga's working with: his mother is dead, his father disappeared years ago and he works for little pay at two meager part-time jobs. With few prospects and the dream of a "normal life" (house, wife, kids, etc.), Yoga is approached by an esoteric man named Masakaki and given a proposition: he can actually gamble his future at the mysterious Financial District, risking what little he has for something much better.
On paper, C: Control does little to differentiate itself from most other anime productions: you've got your Average Teen thrust into a mysterious world, strange and mystical figures (including "assets", who fight alongside their owners in battle), turn-based duels, fan service and faint political overtones. C: Control's trump cards are visual flair and...well, the backdrop of finance, which ends up being a lot more compelling than you'd imagine. Each episode throttles by at a brisk pace, keeping your eyes and brain consistently engaged with imaginative color palettes, impressive character designs and an appealing mixture of hand-drawn illustrations with occasional CGI. These visual elements help some of the clichéd elements go down a little easier...and in "today's troubled economic climate" (the author says, reluctantly), C: Control feels strangely appropriate. Long story short: come for the pretty colors, stay for the high-stakes gambling.
Complete List of C: Control Episodes & Summaries (via Wikipedia)
FUNimation's Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is pretty much par for the course, pairing a solid A/V presentation with only a few helpful bonus features. Of course, the packaging's pretty nice, but at the end of the day you're still paying $40 or more for 11 episodes. Though C: Control definitely feels like an above-average production, its staying power might vary from viewer to viewer. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
This 1.78:1, 1080p presentation of C: Control is a fine effort that fans should enjoy from top to bottom. This visually ambitious production absolutely bursts with color, especially within the hazy atmosphere of the Financial District. Image detail and black levels are strong, CGI/hand-drawn hybrids are distinctly crisp and digital eyesores like edge enhancement and banding are virtually non-existent. The DVDs even look quite good within the limitations of standard definition, but I'd imagine most folks will go straight for the Blu-Rays. Overall, it's a top-notch presentation that doesn't leave much room for complaints.
HEADS UP: This images in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's fancy-pants 1080p resolution.
Delivered in your choice of English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio or the original Japanese DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, C: Control sounds terrific but loses points for favoring the dub track. Don't get me wrong: this is a well-done translation with strong dynamic range, a wide sound field and plenty of surround activity, and fans will enjoy it from start to finish. But the original track can't help but sound less impressive in direct comparison (purely due to the format, not the quality), and that's a shame. Optional English subtitles are available during both mixes, though they're somewhat incomplete during the English dub track.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the plain-wrap menu designs are smooth and functional. This four-disc set is housed in two separate Blu-Ray branded keepcases (one for each of the included formats) with double sided artwork, one promotional insert and an episode listing on each back cover. Both cases have been packed inside a sturdy and attractive outer box. All four discs appear to be locked for Region A/1 playback only.
Just of a few, unfortunately. The best of 'em are two Audio Commentaries
during "Cultivation (Training)" and "Control (Future)" featuring principal English voice actors J. Michael Tatum (Mikuni), Monica Rial (Q), Brina Palencia (Mysa) and Todd Haberkorn (Yoga). As expected, these are casual but informative chats that largely focus on their respective characters, the production experience and a bit of joking around. I've enjoyed most of the commentaries included on past FUNimation titles and these are no exception.
A pair of Trailers (HD, 2:10 total) are presented for the U.S. and international markets, while a few short Commercials (HD, 1:05) are also part of the marketing gallery. Finally, two text-free versions of the Opening and Closing Songs (HD, 3:02 total) are included for the music junkies. Considering C: Control's layered story and strong visuals, it's a shame there weren't more meaty supplements to chew on.
As an infrequent follower of anime, I can't say with authority that C: Control is a purely original series; perhaps it's just a notch above average, compared to all the wacky stuff I've missed in recent years. Either way, the ambitious visuals and interesting stories overshadow some of its more clichéd elements, so those looking for a swift kick in the occipital lobe should enjoy what C: Control brings to the table. FUNimation's Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is decent but expensive, pairing a great A/V presentation with only a handful of modest bonus features. A rental might be in order for the budget-conscious, but its perceived replay value makes C: Control a worthy investment for anime fans. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.