Metal Fighter Miku (of 1) (Mania.com)

Review Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001



What They Say
In the near future, the sports world is dominated by a new sport, Neo Wrestling. Metal Fighters challenge each other in the ring, their strength and endurance complimented by special armored suits. The stakes are high both in and out of the ring as the girls fo the Pretty Four face off against the champions, Team Sapphire. The skills of the Pretty Four are stretched to the limit in this game where beauty, grace and style are just as important as strength or speed. Miku is the Pretty Four's newest member, a big fan of the grand champion Metal Fighter, Aquamarine. Miku has dreams of fighting her way to the top of the wrestling world along with her teammates, Gingo, Sakaya, and Nana. With a burnt out drunk named Eiichi Suo for a coach and all the determination she can muster, Miku prepares for an all-out war against Team Sapphire. But Miku's real enemies are outside of the ring and her real challenges can't be overcome with just a body slam or a drop kick. Only by protecting her friends, understanding her enemies and challenging her idol, can Miku understand Eiichi's purpose and the secret behind Neo Wrestling.

The Review!
While it looks like just another Shoujo/Shonen crossover, Miku has some interesting moments that make it worth watching once if you like the genre.

Audio: For my primary review, I watched the series in Japanese with English subtitles. The music was okay, and the audio transfer was solid in most places, though the English track seemed to have some blips in the background music. There was also a reasonable amount of directionality. The dub came across as average; though it suffered from the usual problems of inconsistent scripting, timing snafus, and some poor casting choices, I could listen to most of it without cringing.

Video: The video transfer looked pretty good. As a shoujo series, Miku uses transformation sequences, and of course the ones for the disposable bad guys were poorly done, but the overall quality was clean. In some backgrounds (especially in the ring), the darker colors were blotchy and the lighter ones bled, but not too badly. The character designs were clean and reminiscent of "Sailor Stars". Overall, the animation was decent for a show aimed at younger audiences in the mid-90's.

Packaging: The front cover is a group shot from the end of the team's transformation scene, combined with the logo. The back contains several overlapping screen shots. Inside, there is a plain but functional insert describing the chapter breaks. The CD just has the logo with a gray and black design behind it. Except for the back of the case, this packaging gets the job done but doesn't interest me.

Menus: The main menu is the group picture from the DVD case and some secondary characters in the background. There is no music. Like the packaging, the menus are functional but not very interesting.

Extras: There are no extras.

Content: Miku is a bit of a Shoujo/Shonen crossover, with elements of both styles. The wrestlers are all girls, and they talk about their beauty, but they also worry about being the strongest and having the best metal suit. The series is mostly unusual in that it emphasizes practice; training scenes take up a large chunk of time in the first few episodes. Combined with the "fight of the day", this leaves relatively little time for relationships, so the Shoujo elements of the story are toned down compared to most stories.

Miku and her teammates are fairly typical examples of Shoujo heroines, but they have distinct personalities and are fairly likable (in Japanese- I make no promises about Ginko in the dub version). The surprise is the Pretty Four's new coach, Eiichi Suo. As an anti-social drunkard who beats the girls up in his first day on the job, he doesn't strike me as a typical male role model. Throughout the story, he emphasizes only one thing- practice. He doesn't teach the girls new moves; in some of her most endearing scenes, Miku figures these out for herself from real life. Suo contributes most of the story's background and relationships.

However, the wrestling champion Aquamarine is a very strong role model for Miku, despite the older woman's mysterious past. Perhaps this show's real difference lies in its willingness to complicate both its heroes and its villains in pursuit of an unusual conclusion- that wrestling is just a game. Not that any of the characters take it any less seriously for that, but I found the attempt at realism refreshing.

Still, the back of the DVD tells you most of the story. There are few plot twists and the personal revelations take the usual three times as long as they need to. Still, as a 13-episode series in one small box set, it's a bargain if you like Shoujo or crossovers. If you like what you read on the back cover, you'll probably like the series. Otherwise, the cheesy enemy of the day may get to you.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
25" Samsung Stereo TV, code-free Pioneer 333, Sony STR-SE391 receiver, Sony speakers, and the cables that came with the set.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 39.99
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Metal Fighter Miku