Now and Then, Here and There DVD Collection (Box Set) Review
Central Park Media released their Collector's Series box set of Now and Then, Here and There (Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku) on the same day as the concluding DVD volume hit the street, so there are no doubt many fans out there who own the three individual volumes and are wondering whether or not they should flog them on eBay and go buy the box set instead. This review is for them... and for anyone else who may be contemplating a purchase of this series and wants to weigh their options.
However, bear in mind that the first three of the four discs included in the box set are the exact same DVDs available individually. As such, really the only difference between buying them separately and getting the box set is that in the latter instance you get a bonus special features disc and a nice cardboard slipcase to keep all 4 Amaray cases in. If you're looking for write-ups of the three volumes that comprise this 13-episode series, please consult my prior reviews below. (By the way, I've updated the Volume 1 review since getting the box set; it now has episode synopses and other small improvements.)
The bonus DVD does indeed contain 'never before seen' features, as promised by all the promotional materials for the box set. For fairness, though, it should be noted that it also contains a great deal of 'seen before' features, although all of these have been shunted off onto the DVD-ROM section of the disc. First let's cover the things you have to buy the box set to see...
Never Seen Before
- full trailer
- teaser trailer
- original Japanese opening credits
- just over 60 production sketches
- complete storyboards for episode 13
- From Then To Now: Behind the Scenes
There's some good stuff in this category, but the trailers aren't really it. You'd generally expect a teaser trailer to be super-short and leave you with absolutely no idea of what the show is about, but in this case both of the trailers fit that description. They're almost exactly the same length (about a minute and a half), but the teaser aims for an evocative feel whereas the full version endeavours to paint Now and Then, Here and There as some kind of action show. Neither would have sold me on the idea of watching this series.
The original Japanese opening credits are certainly a nice touch, and primarily demonstrate that Central Park Media avoided making any unnecessary modifications to the sequence when it made its version, which is laudable. (Other distributors have made a mess of this particular task.) We also get three of the usual four slideshows – what happened to the 'Art Gallery', I wonder? – containing in total about 60 new images.
One of the two really 'meaty' extras here is the complete set of storyboards for the last episode of the show, which you have to admit is impressive. Alas, CPM apparently decided against continuing with the stylish 'tracking frame' presentation that they had used for the storyboard-to-film comparisons on the other three Now and Then DVDs. Instead, they've gone for the more standard split-screen format, with each full storyboard page on the left and the finished animation playing in a small block to the right. The benefit here is that you get to see not only the individual storyboard frames, but the entire page... with all voice and blocking notes clearly visible as well. On the other hand, the rightmost edge of the animation window was placed a bit beyond the 'screen safe zone', which means that on some television sets (like mine), a thin strip (maybe a tenth of the window) gets cut off, never to be viewed. Just my luck, really.
The other major special feature is a 20-minute behind-the-scenes look at the production of the English dub of the show. I have to say, this one really starts off brilliantly. First there's an eye-catching 'spoilers inside' warning screen undercut by a sound clip of Abelia demanding, 'Attention, all personnel...' It really got me to wondering why no one else has ever bothered to do this for DVDs; it wouldn't have to be elaborate, but a simple warning screen letting viewers know when they're about to stray into a particularly spoiler-happy special feature is something most people would appreciate. And to demonstrate that their wittiness wasn't a one-trick pony, the very next screen goes on to gently take the piss out of the little 'poem' that opens each episode of the show.
Once you get into the featurette proper, you meet the bulk of the North American voice talent behind the English dub, as well as the ADR director, the dubbing co-ordinator... even their dog (who, yes, does voice acting too). The behind-the-scenes proceeds to alternate between straight interview segments with the various voice team members and shots of them actually working on the dub. Although it's not exactly riveting, it is an interesting little feature and it's great to see how much enthusiasm and respect they all had for their roles.
- just under 290 stills and production sketches
- complete (subtitles) scripts for all 13 episodes
- cast and production credits
The remainder of the bonus DVD's content is all material that was previously distributed across the three individual volumes of Now and Then, but here it's collected in one place for handy reference purposes.
The cardboard slipcase, as with each of the individual Amaray cases it holds, runs with a super-stylised take on the show's artwork which may cause the unwary to do a double-take, as it's not really an animé style of illustration. Indeed, what you see on the packaging bears no resemblance to the actual cel animation style used in Now and Then... but this is a matter of artistic interpretation rather than false advertising. (It is interesting to note, though, that screen shots do not feature on any of the packaging, despite the fact that it's fairly standard practice to provide at least one such still to give potential buyers a frame of reference.)
The paintings which adorn the packaging are lovely pieces steeped in sun and earth tones (burnt sienna, orange, red, yellow, brown), appropriate for a series set in a scorched-desert future Earth. The artist has also imbued them with something of a hazy impressionism, as if specific details have been washed out by waves of heat and glare.
As mentioned in the individual reviews, Central Park Media used transparent Amaray cases for all of these discs, and provided sleeve inserts printed on both sides to take best advantage of this. The reverse of each insert is illustrated in muted charcoal tones and includes a quick cast breakdown as well as a complete list of chapter breaks for all of the episodes on each disc.
So what's the verdict? Well, if you were an early fan of the show and bought the three volumes individually, I'd personally say stand pat. The fact is, CPM was kind enough to provide sample storyboard-to-film comparisons for scenes from each episode on the individual DVDs, so unless you are a die-hard storyboards devotee, you don't need to see all of episode 13 presented in that format. Though the BTS featurette is entertaining, it's the kind of thing you're unlikely to ever watch more than once, and the remainder of the missing extras are just two trailers, an alternate opening sequence, and threescore more sketches to add to the hundreds you've already seen. All good, but stuff you can live without.
On the other hand, if you like the sound of this series and haven't bought it yet, then it's a no-brainer: get the box set. It works out to exactly the same price as buying the three volumes individually, and you get the cool-looking slipcase and the bonus DVD into the bargain.