Review for Is the Order a Rabbit? - Season 1
Let’s face it, if you’re not Sony, the anime industry is looking a little anaemic when it comes to new titles. Sony own Funimation, Crunchyroll, what used to be Manga Entertainment, Aniplex, Wakanim, VRV, and Madman Entertainment. We’re heading into monopoly territory for anime, which apparently leaves slim pickings for everyone else. Sure, Diskotek have the retro anime scene well covered, but for Sentai Filmworks, who for a good while were rivalling and even exceeding Funimation for new licenses, there doesn’t seem to be much left over, counting the shows that Funimation can’t be bothered with. You might think that issue would run down the licensing tree to MVM, who have been picking up Sentai licences over the last several years, and sure enough, when you see shows like Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher? and My Girlfriend is Shobitch on the schedule, your heart might begin to sink at the prospects outside Funimation for the UK anime industry. But MVM have access to other company titles too, like Aniplex.
More importantly, when a show like Is The Order A Rabbit? arrives on UK Blu-ray, I’m immediately reminded that while Sentai may be struggling for new licences today, there is still a 12 year back catalogue of Sentai titles that never came to the UK, and which MVM could really do well with here. The idea of shows like Chihayafuru, Non Non Biyori, Tegami Bachi, Natsu no Arashi, or Space Brothers getting UK releases would pry open my wallet in a heartbeat, and there are several other anime classics from Sentai that never got a release here. Is The Order a Rabbit? is one such show, whose charms I fell for when I watched it streamed to the point that I was determined to own it. Alas, the US Blu-rays were geolocked/Region locked, so I wound up getting the US DVDs instead, but now MVM are bringing the Blu-rays of Seasons 1 and 2 to the UK, and hopefully the recently broadcast Season 3 as well. Admittedly watching this ‘cute girls doing cute things’ slice of life show on DVD didn’t impress me as much as my first watch did, but hopefully re-watching the show again, this time in HD will get me hooked on the show anew.
Cocoa Hoto is transferring to a new school and moving to a whole new town in the process. It’s a picturesque, European style setting where rabbits run wild. Speaking of rabbits, she gets lost on her first day, and pops into an inviting cafe called The Rabbit House to rest and get her bearings. It’s pure coincidence that she’s actually found the place where she’ll be living. The Rabbit House cafe is usually run by Chino Kafuu, a young girl who usually has a talking Angora rabbit named Tippy on her head. Cocoa will work in the cafe in exchange for room and board, and seeing the adorable but shy Chino, she decides to be her older sister as well, whether Chino wants it or not. Another waitress in the cafe is Rize, daughter of a military family and skilled in combat techniques. As Cocoa gets to know her new home she also meets waitresses from rival cafes, Chiya, who has a passion for Japanese confectionary, and Syaro a hard-up girl who has to conceal her poverty as everyone thinks she’s a high society princess type.
12 episodes of Is The Order a Rabbit? Season 1 are presented on this Blu-ray disc from MVM.
1. I Knew at First Glance That It Was No Ordinary Fluffball
2. The Girl Who Loved Wheat and the Girl Loved By Azuki Beans
3. Do You Remember the First Time You Got Drunk? You Tried to Light a Campfire in Your Own Home
4. Your Lucky Items are Vegetables, Crime and Punishment
5. Cocoa and Murderous Intent Without Malice
6. A Story About Telling a Story
7. Call Me Sister
8. Getting Wet in the Pool, Wet from the Rain, Wet from Tears
9. Aoyama Slump Mountain
10. The Anti-Big Sister Battle Corps A.K.A. The Chimame Corps
11. The Girl Dons a Red Coat and Drives a Team of Rabbits Across the Christmas Eve Night Sky
12. If It’s For You, I Can Oversleep
Is The Order a Rabbit? gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image on Blu-ray is an immediate and obvious improvement over the DVD, clear and sharp throughout, with smooth animation and with a minimum of compression, aliasing or banding. Colours are rich and consistent, and detail levels are impressive. The characters follow the usual ‘cute’ aesthetic, with a little infantilism assigned to the designs. The real beauty of the show comes in the location and world design, the European style town with its historic streets and arcades all looking very pleasant and enticing. There might be 12 episodes, plus extras on just one Blu-ray disc, but there are no compromises when it comes to the image quality.
You get a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese track with player locked English subtitles. The dialogue is clear, and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. The show’s a dialogue heavy, light comedy piece, so it doesn’t exactly set the soundstage alight, while the cast of cute girls get just the sort of voice actor performances that you’d expect. The incidental music suits the faux-European setting well, with plenty of accordion thrown in. The theme songs are an oxymoron, in that that they are catchy and forgettable at the same time.
The disc presents the content with a static menu. Each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
You also get the textless opening, and 12 textless closings, as well as trailers for Super Sonico, One Week Friends, Gingitsune, and Place to Place.
With Is the Order a Rabbit? Season 1, we hit peak slice-of-life. The cute girls can’t get any cuter, and neither can the cute things that they do. Is the Order a Rabbit? is the show that tries too hard to fulfil its genre responsibilities, and the minute that becomes obvious, is the minute this show slips into mediocrity. It’s watchable, it’s entertaining, and it does give you that warm glow of appreciation that these shows are meant to do, but you can see the swan paddling furiously beneath the surface of the water, and the show loses its elegance as a result.
What could be cuter than bunnies after all? The show is set in a picture postcard town where bunnies hop wild, and there’s always a ball of fluff around to cuddle up to. That’s good as the protagonist, enthusiastic and outgoing Cocoa is the cuddling kind. She’s transferred to attend a local school, and immediately gloms onto the cute little girl who works in the bar/cafe where she’s to stay. Chino is the cute little grey-haired girl with the slightly emotionless voice (a sort of grown up Renge from Non Non Biyori), who usually has the rabbit Tippy on her head, an Angora ball of fluff (who happens to be her grandfather). Chino doesn’t like to be hugged, is a little introverted, and certainly doesn’t want an older sister, even though Cocoa has volunteered for the job, as well as working part time in the cafe for room and board.
Also a waitress at the Rabbit House is Rize, a tall elegant girl whose family has a military background which has rubbed off on her (she carries model guns), but she’s easily embarrassed. There are a couple of rival cafes as well. Ama Usa An specialises in Japanese sweets, and the waitress there is Chiya, often found wearing a kimono, and with an odd, quirky style, especially when it comes to naming things. Syaro works at Lapin de Fleur, wearing a bunny waitress outfit, serving herbal teas, and she has a complex about her poverty in the face of everyone assuming she’s a rich society princess. She’s also terrified of rabbits and has a crush on Rize. The show follows the five girls as they hang out and interact. We also meet two of Chino’s friends, Megu and Maya who have more of a role towards the end of the collection.
There’s not a lot else I can say about a ‘cute girls doing cute inconsequential things’ show. It goes through the usual motions, the introductory episodes where the characters are initially developed, some fun moments at school, the odd petit drama and the heartfelt resolutions (such as the time Cocoa completes Chino’s jigsaw puzzle for her as a favour), some fun at the swimming pool, and of course a Christmas episode. There are a couple of threads running through the show, particularly Cocoa getting close to Chino, and helping her come out of her shell, and there is the bizarre tale of Chino’s grandfather as the rabbit Tippy, as well as a local author by the unlikely name of Aoyama Blue Mountain, and the fond memories she has of Chino’s grandfather who was something of a mentor to her.
Is The Order a Rabbit? belongs to the ‘iyashikei’ genre of anime, shows that are meant to ‘heal’ the audience, with characters living peaceful, mellow lives in calm environments. The last time I watched this show on DVD, I didn’t quite see it that way, but now that I come to think of it, Is The Order a Rabbit? is a little too good at relaxing and calming the audience. I’m ashamed to say that I fell asleep to a couple of these episodes, and for once I can’t blame them for being dull, or of low quality. They are entertaining, and enjoyable. Just watch them during daylight hours, not the last thing at night. But as I said, with Is The Order a Rabbit? you can see the seams in its formula, and there are better genre shows out there. But if you have all of them, and still have room for more, then this show will deliver the dose of feelgoods you require, and on a Blu-ray that looks and sounds pretty nifty, even with twelve episodes on one disc.