After reviewing the official region one release, why not follow with a review of the bootleg of the official region one release?
This post feels incomplete, so I expect to update it sometime in the future, if I can figure out what should be added.
Box Art and Quality
These are the front cover arts for an unnamed (no company name, no hint at country of origin) low-quality bootleg. See also the back covers:
The boxes are low quality, but sturdy, plastic, and I actually like their build. The printing on them is even lower-quality.
Comparison of a legit US back cover and the bootleg’s back cover:
Legit US back cover:
Bootleg’s back cover:
DVD Art and Quality
I don’t know enough about DVDs to rate the quality, but they do feel a little flimsy. The artwork is nice, as the US licensed DVDs had no artwork on them. My complaint on the artwork (besides the very low quality of the images) would be a lack of consistency. Some have Sakura with a lighter background artwork of Sakura, whereas others have Sakura with a simple, lone background. Check out the DVD covers:
DVD Playback Quality
This is what really counts. Assuming the DVD plays, the quality of the video and audio are what will make or break the chances a bootleg has when there are multiple to choose from, and no (reasonably priced?) official sources to buy from.
The original series spans 18 DVDs, and the bootleg is spread over 8 DVDs. This alone means to expect a reduction to 44% filesize per episode, thus 44% quality. Take any screenshot from a Japanese animation of your choice, and resize it to 640×480 pixels if it’s larger than this. Shrink it down to 280×210 pixels, then resize it back to 640×480. Notice any quality loss? It’s not quite the same with compressing video, but the same basic idea applies: quality is lost.
The bootleg DVD menu (left) and US licensed DVD menu (right) both have the black borders, but the bootleg’s quality is so compressed and artifact-filled that my collage-generating software could not understand the black as a black border to remove it.
The subtitles are turned on and off from the main screen, rather than a separate screen. Also, there appears to be no menu for the DVD features, something found on the US release this is a bootleg of.
The first episode of the first DVD has an error at the opening theme portion, which causes the player to not be able to read the DVD at the start. There’s no way to skip over this via menu options (such as an option to go to the start of the episode as found on the official release). While it might only be my DVD with this error in this position, I would not hesitate to believe many other DVDs from this vendor have the same kind of error in various places.
The bootleg episode title screen (left) and the US licensed title screen (right) are the same, as the bootleg is a copy of the US licensed release. The quality difference isn’t too visible here, but it’s there if you look carefully outside the edges of the episode title text.
The video quality which really matters is the episode itself. Seen here are comparisons with bootlegs on the left and legits on the right. The fullsized screenshots are: bootleg with subtitles, legit with subtitles, bootleg with thought subtitles, and legit with thought subtitles.
In these comparison screenshots, the difference compression makes becomes very obviously. While this may not matter to anyone raised on VHS fansubs, which often had horrendous quality, it should be an issue for anyone paying a decent price for what they’re getting.
I’m about the worst judge of audio quality there is, so I cannot compare the two here. I would figure the audio quality is lower, although I don’t now if it’s noticibly lower.
Chapters between at the start of the opening theme of each episode. There’s no easy way to skip to the start of an episode, or to an episode’s midway point.
Extras and Omakase
Creditless openings and endings are included where appropriate, but extras otherwise are removed. “Leave it to Kero” is included.
Verdict: If money is an issue, but you want Pioneer’s translation, give it a go. Keep in mind, this is a bootleg of the region one release, with all the video problems inherited. I’d recommend waiting for reviews of bootlegs of the Japanese release and the subtitling those share before making a choice.
If money is no object, I’d say don’t waste your money on this one. It’s one of the cheaper ones out there, but that cheap prices comes with cheap quality DVDs which might not work, and with cheap quality video.