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Blu-Ray: the little technology that can - part 3: Anime

Movies look like they did in theaters, the quality of DVDs is improved, but what about anime?
Movies look like they did in theaters, the quality of DVDs is improved, but what about anime?
Blu-Ray Disc Association

With money I received for graduation, I bought a 19" LCD HDTV. This year, for Christmas, I received a Blu-Ray player. The two combine to form what is supposed to be the next generation of video viewing in high-definition. I have performed a series of tests on it, comparing its capabilities and formats with those of theaters and DVD players to find out if it is worth your time and money.

The first article in the series looked at how Blu-Ray held up to the movie theater experience.

The second article focused on what Blu-Ray means for your DVD collection.

This third article focuses on Blu-Ray and anime.

Standard DVD vs. Upconversion

Much like I did for live-action media, the first test I performed involved the DVDs from a couple series being played in my regular DVD player and my Blu-Ray player.

The first series was Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, a 6-episode 1989 video series. The difference was immediately noticeable and rather shocking - while the art style and animation framerate can not be updated, it was incredible how much finer the lines and places where the color changes looked.  Comparatively, on standard DVD, everything looked a little blurry.  I've considered using the analogy of looking at something with glasses off vs. glasses on, and it seems an appropriate one in this case.

The second series was Samurai Champloo, an action-heavy hip-hop-influenced anachronistic take on the traditional world of the samurai. The show aired in 2004, and the advances made over the 15 years since Gundam 0080 are apparent on standard DVD. But how does the show hold up to itself upconverted?  Honestly, quite well. The difference is rather minimal.  After all, anime is really just a bunch of lines and blocks of color. There is usually only nuance in backgrounds, and even the lines in the newer series are pretty sharp already.

Anime on Blu-Ray

So, what about Blu-Ray?  Again, I turned to Samurai Champloo, one of the series Funimation has recently released on the new format.

Compared to DVD, the difference is noticeable. Compared to upscaled, it looks only marginally better. It seems that the three formats are like looking at three close shades of a color. If you hold the first up to the second, they look pretty much the same, hold the second up to the third, they look pretty much the same, but the first and third ones held next to each other clearly look different.

I imagine that Gundam 0080 would look incredible if it were rereleased on Blu-Ray. I'm also interested to see how Hayao Miyazaki's movies would look in high-definition. Considering the latter were formatted for theaters and would have more natural definition in their masters, they would probably make the transition even more impressively.

The next article in the series will look at whether or not size matters when it comes to seeing the differences in format.


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