Blu-ray Review: The Case of Hana & Alice

Hana and Alice was a hit back in 2004. The live action film had two school girls fighting over the attention of a boy. In a strange move instead of a quickly released sequel, director Shunji Iwai decided to make a prequel in 2015 and keep the same leads as Hana and Alice. How would this be possible? The actresses were no longer school girls after a decade had passed. Iwai came up with a creative solution. He recorded their performances live and then animated them using rotoscoping techniques so their characters could look a bit younger than before. The Case of Hana & Alice goes into how the two girls first came together to locate a missing classmate.

Alice (Yū Aoi) finds herself in the Fujiko neighborhood when her mother moves. She spots a neighboring girl spying on her. As she unpacks her new bedroom, she finds the former residents didn’t clean up everything. There’s a pile of old tests in the closet. Her first day of school gets very awkward as she finds herself a complete outcast among her new classmates. The desk they give her is rather dusty. Later in the week when the teacher leaves the room, the kids go nuts. Mutsu talks about how Alice released spirit of Judas, an evil ex-student who had four wives. They must have a ceremony to seal the spirit back. Alice wants to find out if the Judas was a real student and what truly happened to him. Is he really dead? This leads her to encounter Hana (Anne Suzuki). The duo come up with a plan to find the mysterious student by stalking his father. Alice uncovers a lot of raw emotions in Hana during their investigation.

The Case of Hana and Alice is different from most animation because the art is based off live action filming. The characters and backgrounds look a bit more real to reflect the previous film. More importantly is the audio which appears to have been recorded on the locations. This is a big change from most animation that’s the voice actors in front of a microphone in a recording booth. There’s a real sense to the voices that makes the action more believable. A sense of space matters.

Because the movie is a prequel, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything by not having seen Hana & Alice. Probably its best that you have very little sense of the two from the first film. You’re able to enjoy the present tense of the film without relating the character to their future adventure. The film doesn’t rely on the “you should have seen the first one” nag that haunts so many sequels. The Case of Hana & Alice is a fun visit to a time when you’re curious about the mystery of “whatever happened to a missing classmate. Now you just find the people on various social media sites and proceed to ignore them.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the colorful beauty of the backgrounds and the various styles used on the characters. This is a very beautiful film with its depiction of the school kids. The audio is Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1. There’s no English dub which is fine since it would take away the atmosphere of the location filming. The movie is subtitled in English and Spanish.

Interview With Voice Actors Yu Aoi And Anne Suzuki (30:01) reunites the two actresses to discuss their unorthodox revival of the characters. They both rewatched the original film to see how they performed back then. The two have maintained their friendship over the years. The interviewer is the director. All bonus features are in Japanese with English subtitles.

Film Completion Press Conference (11:48) has director Iwai discussing writing the books for both movies and then bringing them to the screen. There’s a lot of passing the microphone in front of the silver screen.

Film Premiere Stage Greeting (12:00) is a different event. Iwai talks about feeling exhausted after all the work.

Interview With Director Shunji Iwai (37:53) has him discuss how the idea came up while he was working on a commercial that didn’t get made. But eventually he did more with the characters.

Message From Animator Makoto Shinkai (26:22) talks a bit about seeing the original live action version of the film before he animated the characters and motions.

Theatrical Trailers And TV Spots (3:24) includes the US trailer, Japanese Trailer and Teasers. The good news is the teaser has clips from the original film so you can see how the girls looked the first time around.

Shout! Factory and GKIDS presents The Case of Hana & Alice. Directed by Shunji Iwai. Screenplay by: Shunji Iwai. Starring: Yū Aoi,
Anne Suzuki, Ryo Katsuji, Haru Kuroki, Tae Kimura, Sei Hiraizumi, Shoko Aida & Ranran Suzuki. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 98 minutes. Released: September 17, 2019.

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