Saber Marionette J to X Vol. #1 (of 6) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002

What They Say
It's not over yet! Return to Japoness for a visit with everyone's favorite marionettes! Everyone's enjoying the peace and quiet - except for Lime. The winds of change are in the air, and the old ways are being swept aside.

With Lorelei back, TerraII is going to halt production on marionettes. Even the Sanja Festival, the high point of Japoness culture, is undergoing radical change. Will everyone forget about Lime and the others? Amidst all this turmoil is a visit from Hanagata's father, a high-tech float race, a thief, a letter from Faust, and the rise of the Shiritaki Alliance!

The Review!
Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Have I actually started to acquire a taste for Saber Marionette J? After the first TV series and the six part OVA series, I found myself actually finally laughing at parts of this series.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Unlike the original TV series, there is no Spanish language dub here, just the Japanese and English. Listening to the Japanese track we had a good pro-logic experience with the music making good use of the rear channels. Sound effects and dialogue are all forward based and had some nice moments of directionality throughout it with no noticeable dropouts or distortions.

Using a similar style to the SMJ Again OVA release with the digital look, the show fares out better by not being as polished and looking as fake as a lot of that series did. The main offense in the OVA’s was massive cross coloration. In the TV series, it’s pretty minimal to non existent in the first couple of episodes and then starts to lightly creep in during the final three, but nowhere near the horrid level the OVA had. Colors throughout looked good and there was little in the way of aliasing. If it wasn’t for the cross coloration, this would have been a gorgeous looking disc.

The cover for this release is similar in style to the previous TV releases, which works good in looking at them in a complete view. Lime gets the primary nod here with all kinds of text floating around her, and it looks pretty full of varied colors. The back cover provides a number of screen shots and a brief summary of what to expect. Episode numbers and titles are provided here while the spine lists the “Program” number, so we’ll actually get volume numbers here. The insert provides another shot of the cover while it folds out to give brief summaries of each of the individual episodes. The back of the insert provides full credit translations for the main production staff and the Japanese voice actors.

The menu is similar to past releases in using the maiden circuit animation but gets an update by using the new animation of it from the ending. Other parts of the ending animation end up in the various submenus as well. The main menu provides most of the good stuff and moving around is pretty easy and load times are nice and fast. The animation is pretty brief in general, and if you’ve seen past SMJ releases, you know what to expect here.

The only extras included in this volume are textless versions of the opening and ending sequences. I was glad to have the ending in particular since it features a cosplay version of Lime cavorting around in the background. Yum.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
SMJ to X picks up some undetermined amount of time after the TV series and OVA releases that have come before us. The show doesn’t spend much time at all focusing the who’s and the why’s of the world, which will surely confuse someone new to the series or those unaware of the amount of material already released. For those who’ve seen it all already, it’s a welcome change to just get right into things.

Otaru’s done well for himself since everything’s happened, and even the Marionette’s have found themselves honored with a large statue to their bravery in the town square. Everyone except for Cherry has jobs now, and Cherry basically takes care of the house anyway. The restaurant from the OVA series? Who knows…

The show plays out in its normal humorous way, including an early punt to the moon for Hanagata courtesy of the girls. Otaru is spending his time working on the Sanja Fair, something he’s wanted to run since he was a kid. Now that it’s his turn to organize it, he intends to make it everything he remembers it to be from his childhood. The problem he runs into is that the world has been changing since the fall of Gartland in the TV series. Much like the Taisho era of Japan, Japoness is experiencing an influx of other cultures, and the Fair is one of the first places to really feel it.

The others who are organizing the event with him want to introduce aspects of other cultures, such as Christmas, to the Fair. Otaru fights hard against this, not wanting to change. The others push for it, saying that things need to be new and exciting. This plays against something larger as well. In Lime’s new delivery job, she learns off-handedly from her employer that there’s plans talked about in the newspaper about closing down the marionette manufacturing plants. The councils feel that humanity has become too dependent on them, and with the first clones of the women almost ready, the times are indeed changing.

Sense a pattern? Naturally, with Lime being the most child-like of the girls, this leads her to believe she’s going to be phased out and forgotten. When Otaru begins to see the light about changes to the festival, she takes it to the extreme of Otaru being ready to get rid of her and move on. You can see where a lot of it’s going, but it’s pretty well done. One of the nicer aspects of these episodes is the larger feel to things, such as actually talking about the entire situation with the dolls and girls and the politics layer that’s above the personal level that we get involved in.

Much like past SMJ discs, Bandai’s done a good job in keeping all the original logos and end credits, though I wish the translated credits were available on the disc. The show manages to hold up much better than the previous ones for some reason that I can’t understand. I even found Hanagata’s antics funny this time around. What does fall flat, and absurdly flat at that, is the new dub cast. While I’m not a huge fan of dubs, this is a definite drop compared to the original TV cast we had been privy to. It’s an unfortunate change yet again, since I believe the OVA had a different cast as well. SMJ just can’t seem to get the right kind of love.

Fans of the series are going to be really happy with this release, and even those who may have struggled with some of it may find something good here to enjoy. I’m still surprised at how much I’m enjoying it.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening & Ending

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan 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: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saber Marionette J