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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Water Boys [Blu-ray]

(aka "Waterboys")


(Shinobu Yaguchi, 2001)








Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Altamira Pictures

Blu-ray: Toho



Region: A

Runtime: 91 min.

Chapters: 30

Size: 25 GB

Case: Blu-ray Book w/ slipcover

Release date: October 24, 2008



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080i

Video codec: AVC / MPEG4



Japanese Linear PCM 2.0; Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1



English & Japanese



• Trailers for the feature film in SD

• Promotional Trailer for Happy Flight in SD




The Film:

Make way for the synchronized swimmers in the crowd-pleasing zero-to-hero youth film Water Boys! Directed by Yaguchi Shinobu (Swing Girls), this hilarious and heartwarming 2001 sports comedy about a bunch of high school boys who take up synchronized swimming received eight nominations at the Japan Academy Awards and won a Best Newcomer trophy for heartthrob Tsumabuki Satoshi (Nada Sou Sou). Water Boys not only launched Tsumabuki Satoshi to fame, it also provided a start for many other newcomer actors, most notably Hiroshi Tamaki (Nodame Cantabile, Midnight Eagle). The great success and popularity of Water Boys also inspired a spin-off television drama that eventually ran for three seasons and launched even more careers.

Swimming team member Suzuki (Tsumabuki Satoshi) has a problem: he's the only person on the team. Team membership skyrockets when the school gets a hot new coach, but it turns out she actually teaches synchronized swimming! Persuaded by her beauty, the guys clumsily give the unmanly sport a try, but she soon bails out for maternity leave. Refusing to give up, Suzuki and his remaining four teammates - Sato (Tamaki Hiroshi), Ohta (Miura Akifumi), Kanazawa (Kondo Koen, Ping Pong), and Saotome (Kaneko Takatoshi, Azumi) - enlist a wacky dolphin trainer (Takenaka Naoto, Nodame Cantabile) to be their new teacher!

Excerpt of review from YesAsia located HERE

Image: 5/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.



Perhaps in order to squeeze the content onto a single layer disc, the movie has been transferred to 1080i – which, as far as I am concerned, is not Blu-ray standard. That said, I can't say that the image suffers a great deal. The picture is fairly flat and low contrast to start with. Otherwise the image is quite serviceable, defect-free and without noticeable glaring artifacts or enhancements. The color is natural, but deliberately neutered of contrast, probably in order to deal with the glare of the water in sunlight. Skin tones are good, and the water, in all its various venues, is convincing. Bit rates tend to be lowish - in the mid 20s.














Audio & Music: 6/7
There's not a whole lot going on here besides dialogue and splashing about. The scene with the dolphins gives the surrounds something to do, as does the final water carnival when the announcer speaks through a P.A. system. Otherwise this is what it is – a 2-channel original, presented in clear lossless PCM, with an optional subtle Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. I had a slight preference for the PCM – it seemed a little snappier.



Operations: 8
The BIG plus here is the packaging. This is how Blu-rays should have been offered in the first place – not those chintzy plastic affairs, but a solid, simple book that opens to an easily removable disc. Major kudos. The menu is in Japanese and partly in English – the part that isn't is the Index of extra features, which all turn out to be promos and trailers. English subtitles are only on the feature film. Curiously, what we would call "scenes" or "chapters" they call "Bonus Tracks".


Extras: 1
Sadly there is nothing about the making of the movie, just a couple of trailers in SD and a short promo for Shinobu Yaguchi's new movie, Happy Flight. I feel this absence of bonus features devalues the set, especially given its price.



Bottom line: 6
The Blu-ray has two things going against it: the lack of supportive bonus features about the movie and its 1080i transfer. Even if the resultant image is not a whole lot less good than 1080p, it's the principle of the thing that is at stake here – especially at the price.

Leonard Norwitz
March 16th, 2009









About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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