Saber Marionette J Collection 1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, February 15, 2002
Release Date: Friday, February 09, 2001



What They Say
Welcome to Japoness, an all-male society where the only females are high-performance emotionless androids known as "marionettes". Martial arts student and all-around nice guy, Otaru, accidentally discovers and wakes a marionette named Lime. He soon learns that Lime is very different from other marionettes; she has emotions! After waking two more emotion-filled marionettes, Cherry and Bloodberry, Otaru faces tough challenges ahead of him as he battles the evil Faust and his Saber Dolls. Can Otaru rise up to the challenge while teaching the marionettes about human emotions? Get ready for the love comedy of the year!

The Review!
Saber Marionette J was among the first TV series that Bandai released in the US after their founding the AnimeVillage imprint and it was sub only at that time for all their titles. The dub has finally been done and now more people than before are being exposed to the marionette that is Lime.

Audio:
For the purpose of this review, we listened to the disc in its original language of Japanese. Throughout this track we had no real problems with it at all, it's a fairly typical two channel soundtrack with little in terms of directionality outside of a few key moments. Dialogue is clean and at a normal level and there wasn't any noticeable distortions. Bandai went above and beyond here by including a Spanish language track on top of both the Japanese and English tracks.

Video:
For the most part, this is a pretty solid looking release. Bandai delayed the initial release of the set to get better master from material from Japan and it does pay off fairly well here. Colors are solid with only a few noticeable areas of color banding, line noise is practically non-existent and rainbows are extremely minimal. There's a fair bit of grain in a number of scenes that cause some mild artifacting, but the majority of it seems to be source related. A few nicks here and there also show up, but hardly noticeable to a large number of fans.

Packaging:
Our copy arrived in the slim amaray double disc case and looks nice. The front cover has the bright and chipper looking Lime smiling outwards. The reverse side has a good summary of things as well. I'm still not a big fan of the double amarays with the flippy piece inside, preferring the double alpha cases instead.

Menus:
The menu system is laid out using various bits of animation mixed in from the show with a numerous musical bits throughout each of the submenus, such as animation playing in scene select along with music. Things are laid out in a fairly logical way and everything's easy to get to. Access times are fairly slow though, especially when navigating between episodes, making the play-by-episode route fairly cumbersome.

Extras:
Of the two extras, the music video winds hand down. The character bio section is good, covering three of the characters and providing a couple of stills for each of them while talking about them, but the video simply shows a lot of love of this show. Specially mixed by "Lord Richard", the opening music is remixed to 5.1 with a great rhythm and some solid directionality during certain segments. For those like me who try various buttons while playing things like this, you'll find that it does have English subtitles as well as romaji subtitles and Japanese subtitles. This is one sweet extra.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the more mined genres is the sci-fi comedy one. The most recent one has left me a bit numb, which may not have helped in watching this show.

Saber Marionette J takes place several hundred years in the future. A colony ship crash-landed on a planet dubbed Terra II with the only survivors being six men. Having the will to carry on, they each forge ahead and create varied clones of themselves and eventually form six city-states where each rules supreme. They continue to clone themselves undisturbed over the next three hundred years, simply because as great as their technology is, they can't create a female.

The world three hundred years after the crash is a fairly interesting one. Each city-state has its own unique style to it, reflecting on the leader and their way of thought. The one the show focuses on primarily is Japoness. As you can easily guess, it's a Japanese style city-state that looks much like 19th century Japan with a variety of modern conveniences thrown in here and there, albeit in an unconventional way sometimes.

Enter our main character, the always working and always poor Otaru. Otaru's a decent guy just trying to get by on his own and move up in the world. His encounter early on with his friend Hanagata (whom shall be forthwith known as The Dandy) that causes him to spill the fish he's selling ends up costing him his job. Discouraged at this point he wanders off just to get away from everything and ends up checking out a mueseum/temple like building. Once inside, he accidentally kickstarts some of the ancient machinery and suddenly springing to life is Lime, a rather emotional marionette.

Marionettes, robots that look like women, are basically emotionless. They provide some needs and do various labor for the men of Terra II, but things they don't do is laugh, cry, get angry or disobey orders from the men.

Can you see where this is going?

Lime, being some sort of ancient (poorly) hidden marionette, does all of the above and then some. And her programming has made sure that her being unlocked by Otaru has her following his every word and his alone. This leads to a variety of amusing encounters with the inhabitants of Japoness as well as Lime having many encounters with The Dandy, who feels that Otaru's time should be spent with him instead. Regardless that Otaru doesn't even like The Dandy.

Along the way, Otaru and Lime end up dealing with the ruler of Japoness through the "I'm going to conquer the world" leader of one of the other city-states. We learn a bit about him in the flashbacks to when there was just the six men, which helps build upon the foundation of why this world works the way it does. As the episodes progress, Otaru also ends up unleashing two more of these special marionettes into the world in the form of the cute and friendly Cherry (whose constantly picked on for her small bust size, a traditional piece of Japanese humor) as well as the older somewhat more mature Bloodberry, who simply wants to marry Otaru and manages to get the first kiss with him.

The first six or so episodes of the show is fairly much formula. Introduce character through obvious circumstance, then proceed to next episode with character development of that new character. Repeat twice. With the final few episodes on this installment of nine episodes, we start to get more into the world conquering enemy as well as the history behind the world. It's fairly interesting and isn't quite as cookie cutter as it could be. The opening part of any series can be much like the first fifty pages of many novels, where once you get past them they're great. These first few episodes were definitely a bit of a challenge to get through.

But with the series being released in three compilation sets like Outlaw Star, you get to check out the good stuff beyond the beginning. Slowly we're warming up a bit to the series and look forward to seeing if it improves with the second collection. Of course, I could do quite well without Lime in this series.

Fans of this series are definitely going to be happy here though. Having so much of the series in one collection for a good price and with the best the show has ever looked is no small thing. I hope we'll continue to see more of these collections.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,Spanish Language,English Subtitles,Music Video,Character Bios

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 44.95
Running time: 225
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saber Marionette J