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Belle – Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Back in March, Shout! Factory released 2021’s Mamoru Hosoda film Belle to Blu-ray for the very first time. That release was a pretty fine one, with lots of nice, lengthy and in-depth bonus features. However, on August 30th, they are already going for a pretty nifty upgrade on the title by debuting it on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Aside from the uptick in image transfer and presentation, you’ll also be getting a Dolby Atmos track (Both for the original Japanese language track and the English dub). There are some more featurettes that will be in tow as it has an extra bonus disc. Its also getting put in some special packaging that’ll carry some other physical goody collector items to round out the “Collector’s Edition”. You can pre-order it on the Shout! Factory website or by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

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Film

Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into the online persona of Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.

Mamoru Hosoda’s latest, Belle, is a quite a whirlwind of a take on the age old tale of Beauty and the Beast. Its a brilliant adaptation and reimagining that fully embraces modern times to some fantasy levels. The film is also smart and takes to reflecting on said times and making some good commentary on living in virtual worlds, social media influence and more. There’s also little animation flares and story elements that pay tribute to the Walt Disney iteration of the same tale for good measure. This is truly one of the more unique retreads through familiar territory, so much so that it feels of its own world and creation entirely.

The animation on the film is quite gorgeous. Blending some more traditional anime stylings for the “real world” and more advanced and fancy technique for the “U” world, its a real treat on the eyes. The U world is one that is just full of eye candy. There’s bursts of Avant Garde elements and just beautiful blends of stylings. Music plays a big part in that world that really helps. Its not quite a musical, per se, but a movie that at times has some great concert sequences in it. And when it hits those marks, its hard not to fall for and just kick back and let your eyes feast on the candy.

I’m not the world’s most luxurious anime fan. Its not really my forte and I’m lacking in any sort of knowledge, probably not even to a novice degree. So, I don’t know where I’m going to fall when I say that Belle really did catch me and I found myself plenty engaged, enjoyed and impressed by it. The film has a lot to say, to have a viewer think, while equally dazzling them with spectacle and pleasuring their ears with song.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Belle arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a much more well saturated and nuanced picture than its Blu-ray counterpart. Its a bit more crisp and confident, able to pull more definition and contrast. The colors look a lot more improved and can really pop in some nice areas.

Depth:  This animation has some nice 3D qualities to it, especially in the U world sequences. Good movements, that are smooth and space between objects. No motion distortions occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. It helps with sharpening, shadow and adding some textures and definition to the drawings. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are are quite well saturated and pretty gorgeous. There’s a nice approach to the real world and the U world as its a hair more muted and restrained in “real life” but is quite radiant and bursting with color in the U. HDR casts a nice glow in many areas really helping this to pop.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Japanese Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, English for Original Language Version, Spanish for Original Language Version

Dynamics: Belle upgrades to a really nice, rock solid Atmos track. It feeds all around the room to bring an effortless feel to both the real and virtual worlds. There is a nice balance to the vocals/music/effects that has them all getting time to shine without stepping on one another’s foot. Good layering and depth on display to make this animated film feel as real and lived in as it can be.

Height: There’s a lot more coming from above in the U world, with characters flying around and such. Music also comes from above to add a bigger concert field to it.

Low Frequency Extension: This one bumps pretty good, primarily in the song and scoring department. There are some sound effects and such that provide the punch you’d want from them.

Surround Sound Presentation: This one swims around the room with ease. Real life stuff has a bit more front loaded approach, while the U world travels around the room and rolls up and down and back and for with some good power.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and the step into song is pretty natural and at a nice even playing field with the dialogue.

Extras

Belle – Collector’s Edition is a 3-Disc set that comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a Blu-ray bonus disc. It comes in a collectible hard shell packaging that also contains a 60-page book, poster, 6 art cards and a sticker. All bonus features are found on the 2 standard Blu-ray discs.

Blu-ray Disc 1

The Making Of BELLE (HD, 44:05) – A pretty comprehensive look and the entire process of making this film. Plenty of interviews abound, but it also has a load of sketches and behind the scenes work captured. Showing everything from the animation, to motion capture, voice recording and more. This literally could have been the only bonus feature and extras would’ve been given 4 stars.

A Conversation With Director Mamoru Hosoda (HD, 29:13) – A little more personal here with the director one on one where he gives us his insight into his new version of the classic tale and much more.

The Music of BELLE (HD, 15:32) – There were lots of composers and music supervisors on this film and this shares a look at their collective effort in producing one of the most important aspects of this film.

Finding the Voice of Belle (HD, 11:49) – A look at the casting of the film’s lead.

Scene Breakdown: The Station (HD, 10:37) – Hosoda provides a focused breakdown on this specific scene.

Scene Breakdown: The Ballroom (HD, 12:06) – In this one he shares some of the touches and inspiration he got from the Disney iteration of this story.

Hosoda Animation is Film (HD, 18:05) – A compilation of some Q&A’s with Mamoru Hosoda, one of which is conducted by Leonard Maltin.

Hosoda Draws Belle (HD, 8:50) – Pretty much says it here. Watch the creator draw his title character.

Design Gallery (HD, 13:57)

Kylie McNeill Performs “Gales of Song” (HD, 2:37)

Trailers (HD, 7:05)

Blu-ray Disc 2

Behind the Japanese Dub (HD, 41:31) – This is a pretty intimate look at the recording process, letting you see the layout, the actors and director at work and includes interviews with the cast intermixed.

Promo Events with Hosoda and Cast (HD, 40:27) – A collection of three post-film presentations and Q&A’s with the Hosoda and cast.

Special Dialogues with Cast (HD, 24:17) – A pair of members of the Japanese cast sit and discuss topics regarding the making of the film and their experiences.

Interview with Takeru Satoh (HD, 6:02) – This looks like it might be from the same session as the previous bonus feature, but its just the actor, no interviewer, answering some additional questions.

Eric Wong Interview (HD, 26:33) – Mamoru Hosoda joins Eric Wong as they are interviewed virtually with Jonathan Clemons regarding the design work on the film.

Summary

Belle is a pretty terrific spectacle and rather engaging commentary on virtual worlds and social media in a way something like your Ready Player One’s never really sink their teeth into. Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition of the film on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray enhances the image of the Blu-ray, making for such a more saturated and confident playing image, to go along with a full Atmos track. Extras on the discs are a lot and then some with the added bonus of physical goodies inside the special packaging. Its an above and beyond set for fans of the film to collect and hold onto.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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