It can be difficult to find reasonly priced sources for good quality anime with original Japanese voices and subtitles. Amazon was my first option, where I had looked to order Youkai watch (妖怪ウォッチ) from Japan. However, none of the product pages seemed to have the episode count visible, but the run-time was visible. From this, there appeared to be about 24 episodes in each box. Quickly, I realized this would be between $40-$60 USD. Quite expensive! The preowned options were cheaper at around $25 USD, however, this relies on trusting the quality of discs. Thankfully, the sellers listed every defect of the disc, packaging, and missing additions. Even so, with the shipping costs included, this would easily become about $40 USD or more. For this reason, I decided to try the Malaysian versions found on Ebay for $20 USD, with 76 episodes, included with free shipping. This is my review.
Apologies for the poor phone camera quality! It seems the artwork has been slapped on without a coherent design, and assumingly taken from images online. The box quality is good, however there is a front panel that opens up without a purpose other than to show more art. The DVD case slides out the top of the box.
Each of the three discs have about 26 episodes. On the packaging, “16:9” resolution and “DVD-9” is written. These discs are 8.5gb, which if the videos on the disc are compressed correctly, they should be 720x480 resolution or above wih 720p quality. However, this is not the case. Although DVD-9 discs are used, the videos were incorrectly compressed at a 240p level of quality at 720x480 resolution. I know this is incorrectly compressed, because I was able to download the first episode from the official Youtube and compare file sizes. Below is a comparison of image quality:
Malaysian Version (Viewed at 1920x1080):
Youtube (Official) Version (720p) (Viewed at 1920x1080):
Even when at the same resolution, the Malaysian version is poorly compressed. The quality is blurry, and many artificats can be seen, especially around the purple aura above. At the top right of the Malaysian version, there is also a blurred square that is probably hiding a logo. The Malaysian version is probably a ripped bootleg from the tv version of the show.
Using VLC Media Player, I was able to change options to improve the image quality using features like scaling, sharpening and de-noising. For example, by using this guide, I achieved the following quality on the Malaysian version. Although there are still artifacts, it is more enjoyable to watch:
The languages included on the disc are English, Malaysian and Chinese. The included subtitles can be disabled or removed. Because I intended to watch with Japanese subtitles, I found them online here and was able to use them without problem.
For this review, I quickly checked the English subtitle quality. The English subtitles have various problems, and are definitely not professional, but can be understood. In one scenario in the Anime, one of the characters asked for their money back. The other character’s response in the English subtitles said “But you can’t get your money back even if you don’t“. The correct translation would have been “Even if I returned [to try and get your money back], nothing will come out“. In another instance, one of the character’s hand-held “Ghost Wikipedia“ tablet was called a “Happy Spookypedia“. Audible quirks and sounds from characters (which are not words) are combined with English words as puns. For example, the cat-like character named “Jibanyan” had ‘nya/nyo/nyan’ sounds at ends of words and sentences, that are translated to “mew” or “pur-“ in words such as ‘you’ as ‘mew’ and ‘perfect’ as ‘purrfect’. Additionally, some insults were romanized (in English characters) without translation.
Unfortunately for me, one of my discs had problems which caused me unable to view about 5 minutes of an episode. The quality of discs is unknown to me, because the disc brand is not clear. Because I received this through Ebay, I was able to receive a replacement or a refund. Especially because these seem to be bootleg discs, Ebay will side with the customer.
Was it worth it?
If these discs are watched using a media player like VLC Media Player, the quality may improve. However, the subtitles may not be very high quality, and may have errors. The discs may not be high quality either. For those who wish to watch these types of discs on a television, these issues will be more obvious. Additionally, these discs do not seem to support the Anime scene legitimately. For these reasons, these discs are probably not worth it for quality and moral reasons. However, it may be worth it for those who cannot obtain or pay for Anime easily.