Based on the eponymous manga series by Tomoya Haruno, D-Frag (2014) is a limited 12-episode anime production that doesn't appear all that special at first glance. Our story revolves around Kenji Kazama; he roams around his high school hallways with his friends Yokoshima and Hiroshi Nagayama, convinced that he's rebellious and is basically destined to lead everyone else around him. His ideas are almost immediately dashed by four unusual girls---Chitose, Sakura, Minami and Roka---who are members of the school's provisional Game Creation Club and somehow convince the young man to join them. It's instantly apparent that their unusual behavior isn't just mental: it's physical, as they claim to have harnessed the elemental powers of fire, earth, lightning, and water.
Not surprisingly, Kenji is almost powerless in their company, and their persistent pestering usually makes him the unlikely straight man in almost any given situation. D-Frag focuses on the main characters' clash of personalities more often than not: it's sporadically imaginative and highly enthusiastic but only fitfully entertaining. The most obvious strengths are the series' stylish visuals and almost overbearing levels of enthusiasm and sheer wackiness...but I'll be honest, it's almost hard to keep up with D-Frag's relentless energy output and thus best experienced in smaller doses. The characters themselves aren't completely likable, but only because some exist as obligatory filler or only to serve some of the series' weaker narrative moments. Luckily, these 12 episodes routinely breeze by very quickly, from Kenji's initial entry into the Game Creation Club to every attempt at clawing his way back out. For the most part, the poor guy's gradual descent into total madness is actually a pretty fun ride.
Tomoya Haruno's manga series appears to have ended its run as of last year, with nine volumes released in Japan since 2009. An English translation of the first volume was released in August of 2014 and, as of this review, the next three volumes have been translated and released as well. It all ties in nicely with Funimation's Region 1 release of this limited anime series, available in either regular or deluxe editions that only seem to vary by packaging styles. Today's review covers the latter; it serves up all 12 episodes and a few lightweight bonus features on two Blu-rays, as well as two separate DVDs with the same content. A list of everything has been included below, but interested parties should keep scrolling down for a summary of the A/V presentation and bonus features.
Individual Episode Summaries (via Wikipedia)
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer of D-Frag: The Complete Series looks impressive from start to finish. The show's distinct visual style has translated quite well to high definition, especially the varying color palettes and detailed line work. Black levels are consistent and the series' sporadic CGI effects---which usually arrive in the form of playful on-screen graphics, fight amplification, and imaginative backgrounds---also look great and blend in seamlessly when they're supposed to. The included DVDs look well above average for standard definition, and both formats show no obvious signs of common problems like compression artifacts, pixellation, interlacing, or other glaring digital eyesores. In short, this is an extremely strong presentation that fans should appreciate.
DISCLAIMER: The resized screen captures in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent this DVD's native 480i image resolution.
Two different sonic options are offered in DTS-HD Master Audio: a 5.1 English dub and the original 2.0 Japanese track. Either choice is more than acceptable, but purists will obviously want to stick with the original. The English dub is a fine alternative and benefits from a wider soundstage, crisp channel separation, modest amounts of LFE, and a few clever details along the way. Presumably for budgetary reasons, though, a handful of background characters and extras from the Japanese version are completely omitted, which means that school hallways and other bustling locales don't sound nearly as crowded in the dubbed version. Overall, though, both tracks are satisfactory efforts that fans will enjoy. Optional English subtitles (not "dubtitles", thank goodness) are included in two formats: one translates the dialogue and partial background text (signs, etc.), while the other only translates the latter.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The menu interface, though substantially different on both formats, features smooth navigation and the content is organized nicely. This four-disc set (two Blu-Rays and two DVDs) arrives in a pair of dual-hubbed Blu-Ray cases inside an attractive, sturdy outer box...but for whatever reason, the discs are packed inside the wrong cases. No inserts are included but separate content lists have been printed on the packaging.
Not much here, aside from the usual stuff. Leading off is a pair of Audio Commentaries with voice actors from the English dubs of Episodes 1 and 10; these are unorganized and tough to follow at times, but there's some interesting stories found on both tracks that fans should enjoy (just pop a few aspirin beforehand and maybe bring a notepad). We also get the obligatory Clean Opening & Closing Songs (2 minutes), an extremely short Production Featurette (2 minutes), a few regular and meta Commercials (<0:30 each), and a U.S. Trailer for the series (1:30). All applicable bonus features are presented in 1080p and look excellent with optional subtitles for translation only.
D-Frag isn't exactly a game-changing anime series, but its obvious enthusiasm, exciting visuals, and almost unlimited energy level makes it a tough one to ignore. Those who like fantasy-based adventure that's heavy on the humor will at least want to give it a once-over, but it's not necessarily a series I'd revisit all that often due to its narrative shortcomings and several paint-by-number characters. Funimation's limited edition Blu-ray release serves up the entire 12-episode series on two discs, pairing it with a terrific A/V presentation and a few surface-level bonus features along with a spare DVD copy of everything. It's much too expensive to recommend as a blind buy to all but the most interested parties, but D-Frag is still entertaining enough to warrant a weekend spin. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, 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.