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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Rumbling Hearts: Box Set
Rumbling Hearts: Box Set
FUNimation // Unrated // August 7, 2007
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted August 10, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Show:

Ah, romance anime. This genre seems to more popular in Japan than it is here in America but there are still a few heartstring-pulling releases if you look hard enough. Rumbling Hearts is an example of one of the better romantic shows I have seen.

Released by FUNimation, Rumbling Hearts is actually based on a Japanese PC dating game (again, a genre popular in Japan but not so much in America). To be quite honest the example in question isn't particular rare. So many shows have come out as a follow up, or revision, to a videogame that it has almost become a genre within itself. Granted one inspired by a dating game is something of an oddity.

Originally airing in Japan between 2003 and 2004, Rumbling Hearts consists of 14 episodes. The series was released on DVD earlier this year though FUNimation has compiled those discs into a complete collection. The presentation here is essentially a repackaging of the original DVDs in a box so don't come expecting an ultra cool package like Desert Punk or Samurai 7 received. It's safe to say that the packaging here is simple yet elegant, much like the series.

The series begins rather stereotypically and tells the tale of young love. We are introduced to Mitsuki, Takayuki, Haruka, and Taira, who are the four kids involved in the plot here. Takayuki and Taira are good friends that eventually have Mitsuki join their ranks. After a while we learn that Mitsuki has actually befriended them to get closer to Takayuki for Haruka because she's afraid to ask him out. It's kind of complicated and immature but if you think of it as a teenage soap opera you'll get where I'm coming from.

The first episode (and most of the second) features some romantic anime stereotypes. The characters stare into each others eyes, hold hands awkwardly, and giggle at everything that's said. Admittedly it gets rather sickeningly annoying after a while but the gimmick for Rumbling Hearts fortunately happens quickly enough to save the show from dry monotony.

At the end of the second episode Haruka is on her way to meet Takayuki who happens to be running late because he's spending time with Mitsuki. Despite Haruka's feelings for Takayuki, Mitsuki has developed an emotional attachment as well and tries to get closer to him. Well, because Takayuki was late arriving to meet Haruka she actually gets hit by a car, and I'm not talking lightly. She is hospitalized, comatose, and clinging to life.

What happens next is really the heart and soul of Rumbling Hearts. The story fast forwards by three years and many things have happened. Haruka is still in the hospital for starters. Also Mitsuki and Takayuki have a serious, though odd, relationship. They sleep together, go out on occasional dates, and talk about moving in with each other. In between it all they find difficulties with the guilt they feel over Haruka.

Takayuki goes through much of the series feeling a sense of dedication to Haruka. Even though he spent only a couple of days with her three years ago he still seems to harbor emotions towards her and is racked with guilt over his relationship with Mitsuki. Mitsuki on the other hand sees this and feels ashamed because Haruka was her friend. She still gets angry with Takayuki over his zeal for visiting Haruka and this becomes even more complicated when she finally wakes up.

Though Haruka has matured in body she is still the same kid in spirit and mind. She doesn't fully grasp the concept that people are older and times are different and for most of the show she goes on with not a clue as to anything. She things her relationship with Takayuki is still going on and sees Mitsuki as her friend even though she has no idea about their relationship.To make things even more complicated, Haruka's sister stomps about angrily at Takayuki and Mitsuki. She too feels like he betrayed his sister's love and because he left her side she loathes him with a passion.

Over the course of the series everyone actually confronts Takayuki to force him to express himself, speak his mind, and take accountability for his actions. This whole mess started when he didn't come right out and say what he was feeling or thinking when he should have. His journey through this conflict is really the backbone of the series and it's an interesting mechanic. He behaves honestly and you'll really get a sense of what he's feeling throughout the show.

In many ways I was surprised by Rumbling Hearts. I came expecting the same derivative romantic anime but walked away thinking about the characters and the situation. The concept running the series is very original (where anime is concerned) and if you're a fan of the genre you'll most likely appreciate it for being different. There are some lulls in the middle of the series and some things could have been explained better but overall Rumbling Hearts stands out in the crowd.

The DVD:

Video:

Presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio Rumbling Hearts receives a nice transfer courtesy of FUNimation. The picture quality is very clean the entire way through with no noticeable grain or aliasing to muck things up. The image does have a certain fuzzy look to it at times but it looks like something that was intended by the producers instead of a byproduct of this transfer. The show's animation is pretty solid though the art direction is somewhat generic without a lot of flare. You could almost easily transplant any of these characters into another series and they'd fit in just perfectly.

Audio:

Both the English and Japanese tracks in Rumbling Hearts come with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo presentation. Needless to say that leaves very little diversity on the soundstage for either track though you really don't need it for a show like this. Sappy music and drawn out dialogue tends to plague romance anime and this one is honestly no exception. The 2.0 presentation is just fine for the material and though a 5.1 track would have been nice it probably would have been overkill.

Extras:

When this set was originally released the DVDs merely featured some textless animations and trailers as bonus material. Considering this collection is simply a repackaging of those discs that's all you'll find here as well.

Final Thoughts:

Rumbling Hearts is a very uncommon show with a lot of common themes. Betrayal, tragedy, and love come together in a way that is rare for anime but not entirely unlike what you'd find in a daytime soap opera. That begin said this show fortunately offers real emotion and a plot that will keep you spinning episodes to see what happens next. There were a few slow points throughout and the show could have used a kick in some places but overall things came together nicely.

If you're looking for a romantic anime to check out and want something a little different you'll definitely want to pick up this collection. Recommended


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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