Wednesday, December 1

Fragile: A Ghost Story (機械じかけの小児病棟) (Frágiles) (2005) - 2007 Shochiku Home Video Japan HD DVD

HD DVD never really was given much of a chance by the public and ultimately the major studios picked the winner of the high def disc war. Warner's Blu-ray exclusivity announcement was the Toshiba-backed format's death kneel. Despite defending the underdog to its collapse, I'm not particularity bitter since most of the doom-and-gloom of a Sony-controlled home video market hasn't materialized. Blu-ray's DRM scheme offers complete access for studios to do what they wish with the intrusive software, instead of HD DVD's unified structure that only authorized changes after the controlling committee agreed. Complete region free-ness also rocked.

Personally, I was more annoyed by all the effective misinformation spread by BD (and PS3) fanboys about HD DVD's capabilities. Hearing their bull back then, you would have thought the loser was only 720p with DVD quality audio. Currently the winning HD format is viewed a supplement to DVD rather than a dominating force, which is a good thing, Blu-ray media and player prices keep becoming increasingly competitive with the alternatives. My HD DVD players, the tank-like HD-A1 and HD-A35, are still in my racks and I haven't gotten rid of any of my discs. Plus it's nice to pick up brand-new $3 titles every once and again at discount shops. 

In the format's relatively short life, even Betamax lasted (much) longer, imports were all the rage for addicted enthusiasts. Jaume Balagueró's Frágiles was one of those and remains its only HD disc release. The 1080i/60hz transfer is encoded in MPEG-4 AVC. The format was fully capable of 1080p/24, but for some unknown reason Shochiku's few HD DVDs were natively interlaced. The dirty secret that no Best Buy or DirectTV salesman will divulge is that 1080p displays worth their salt deinterlace 1080i signals to 1080p anyway; so 1080i isn't much of a perceptible step down especially with a high bitrate encode like this release. The audio is offered in a lossy 640kbps Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track. Again, HD DVD supported all three lossless codecs, but the studio opted to only offer Dolby's go-between. The 30GB dual-layered disc has what looks like four extras but I don't speak Japanese. I haven't opened this disc and probably never well due to its extreme rarity nowadays. Balagueró's film finally made its North American video debut with Fangoria's Frightfest DVDs this past September (check out Freddy in Space's review).  

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