Supernatural: The Anime Series Release Date: Available now Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2011 Rating: NR Running Time: 22 episodes, ~8 hours MSRP: $54.98 THE EPISODES SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 1.78:1 High definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Japanese 2.0 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, French, German SDH, Chinese, Spanish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish Variable The Season: 4/5 If literary classics like "The Scarlet Letter" can be made into comic books, why not a long-running television series into anime? Though it would never be deemed "necessary," it would have the potential of exploring roads not taken in the original live action program, or give familiar characters and story lines a fresh spin. So "Supernatural: The Anime Series" tries to prove this point, offering 22 episodes drawn from and inspired by the first two seasons of the CW's occult-themed series (now gearing up for its seventh season). To help smooth the transition from live action to animation for its stateside debut on Blu-ray and DVD, the program taps the stars of the show - Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles - to voice their respective characters, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (although Ackles for only the final two episodes). As with the live action series, the brothers are on a long-running road trip investigating paranormal activity, with the ultimate goal of tracking down the demon that killed their mother when they were still infants. In the original series this foundational story arc was resolved at the end of the second season, making for a much more condensed narrative through line for the anime but one that still works given the number of "monster of the week" scripts that filled up the original series' first 44 episodes. While the anime series still has its share of these standalone stories, about half of them being new, the show also remakes key episodes from the original series, most notably the first season finale and the second season's final three episodes. So how well does "Supernatural" play out in animated form? Pretty well actually - the English voice acting is effective, the animation style appealing and dynamic, and the scripts are well-paced despite having less time in which to tell the tales (not surprisingly the stories often skip over the boys' research phase). But the series is better suited for existing fans of the live action show, as it starts out with a remake of the first season's sixth episode, rather than the pilot. Since the brothers' back story is assumed as common knowledge, the anime gets up and running quickly and - more importantly - avoids becoming a re-tread of existing material. Even with the so-called remakes, the visual look and scripting vary enough from the originals that the question of their necessity largely goes unasked. So longtime series fans should be intrigued by the new interpretation, however this means anyone entering the "Supernatural" universe for the first time is better off starting with the original series for a suitable introduction. If you're simply a fan of the anime genre alone, the series is worth a look, though expect to feel you've stepped into the middle of things if you're wholly unacquainted with its source material. And regardless of where you stand on familiarity, rent before you purchase as the technical merits of the Blu-ray transfer (see below) ultimately undermine a blind-buy recommendation for this direct-to-video release. It's unfortunate, considering the quality of the production and the often compelling interpretation of a long-running show. "Supernatural: The Anime Series" on Blu-ray includes all 22 episodes that aired in Japan beginning in January 2011. Of the 22 episodes (each running about 22 minutes), nine are new stories, one is drawn from a comic book, and 12 are "remakes" of season one and two episodes. Disc One Episode 1 - The Alter Ego (Remake of Season 1 Episode 6 "Skin") Episode 2 - Roadkill (Remake of Season 2 Episode 16 "Roadkill") Episode 3 - Home (Remake of Season 1 Episode 9 "Home") Episode 4 - Ghost on the Highway (Anime Original) Episode 5 - Savage Blood (Anime Original) Episode 6 - Till Death Do Us Part (Anime Original) Episode 7 - Temptation of the Demon (Anime Original) Episode 8 - Everlasting Love (Anime Original) Episode 9 - The Spirit of Vegas (Anime Original) Episode 10 - Moonlight (Remake of Season 2 Episode 17 "Heart") Episode 11 - Nightmare (Remake of Season 1 Episode 14 "Nightmare") Disc Two Episode 12 - Darkness Calling (Anime Original) Episode 13 - What Lives in the Lake (Anime Original) Episode 14 - Reunion (Remake of Season 1 Episode 20 "Dead Man's Blood") Episode 15 - Devil's Trap (Remake of Season 1 Episode 22 "Devil's Trap") Episode 16 - In My Time of Dying (Remake of Season 2 Episode 1 "In My Time of Dying") Episode 17 - Rising Son (Comic-Based) Episode 18 - Crossroad (Remake of Season 2 Episode 8 "Crossroad Blues") Episode 19 - Loser (Anime Original) Episode 20 - What Is and What Should Never Be (Remake of Season 2 Episode 20 "What Is and What Should Never Be") Episode 21 - All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1 (Remake of Season 2 Episode 21 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1") Episode 22 - All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2 (Remake of Season 2 Episode 22 "All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2") Video Quality: 3/5 Though presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the image doesn't always look the part, frequently coming across as upconverted standard definition. The line art lacks crispness and detail, the overall picture sometimes looks hazy (though some of it is an aesthetic quality), and black levels aren't always the deepest. Colors are fairly subdued, but could also be the nature of the animation style. Color banding also pops up on occasion, thought that's not unusual for most animated works. I'm not sure what happened here, especially with the overall detail. Some have speculated the series was rendered in standard definition, but I find that a little hard to believe given where we're at with the adoption of high definition. Whatever the reason the video presentation is pretty mediocre. Audio Quality: 3/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear, detailed and intelligible. Surround activity and LFE is minimally used, though appropriately balanced when present for things like music cues and directional effects. Special Features: 4/5 The extras provide a thorough look behind the scenes of adapting and producing the series, through interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Those interested in the animation process will be especially intrigued by the second part of the making-of documentary, which focuses on the actual production processes. Episode Booklet includes descriptions and disc content information. Introductions feature Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles introducing all 22 episodes. [Disc One] Making of Supernatural: The Anime Series Part 1 (28:23, HD) details the inspiration, process and challenges of developing the anime series, with interviews with the co-directors and animation team at Madhouse Studios. Interview with Directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka (13:11, HD) includes the directors talking about their respective styles, interpretations of the characters, and personal likes and dislikes. Interview with Eric Kripke (18:55, HD) features the "Supernatural" writer-creator talking about things like his initial reaction to the anime version, his impressions of the final product, and the advantages of the medium. Interview with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (13:00, HD) features the "Supernatural" actors talking about things like developments in the fifth and sixth season of the live-action series, as well as their impressions of the anime version. Interview with Jared Padalecki (10:38, HD) features the "Supernatural" actor talking about his anime voice work as well as his impressions of various anime elements. Interview with Jensen Ackles (9:32, HD) features the "Supernatural" actor talking about things like his first impressions of the anime series and his experience doing voice work for the last two episodes. [Disc Two] Making of Supernatural: The Anime Series Part 2 (41:05, HD) continues to chronicle the process and challenges of developing the anime series, looking more closely at the storyboarding, animation, voice acting, and post-production efforts. Interview with Hiroki Touchi [Japanese Voice of Dean] (13:49, HD) features the actor talking about things like his voice work, understanding of the character, and impressions of the final product. Interview with Yuuya Uchida [Japanese Voice of Sam] (17:57, HD) features the actor talking about things like his voice work, understanding of the character, and impressions of the final product. TV Spots and Trailers used to promote the series in Japan. Original Japanese Trailer: Storyboard (:21, HD) Original Japanese Trailer: Shape Shifter (:34, HD) Original Japanese TV Spot Horror (:17, HD) Recap The Season: 4/5 Video Quality: 3/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3/5 Warner Brothers turns in an average quality presentation for an intriguing and well made anime version of the popular occult-themed TV series, "Supernatural." The special features offer a significant look behind-the-scenes of the animated production, but given the quality of the video transfer, anyone interested in the release is better off renting before buying.