Tenchi Muyo! : Magical Project S: Volume 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, December 05, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002



What They Say
Drafted! Sasami Kawai suddenly finds herself transforming into a magical girl, teaming up with a talking rabbit (that claims to be a cat), wearing embarrassing clothes, and battling bizarre enemies. All consequences of the coronation of Tsunami, the new queen of Juraihelm, who has Sasami as her champion to restore the balance of good in the universe. Unfortunately for Sasami, this job will not be easy since Tsunami?s rival has also selected a magical girl to cause trouble and discredit Tsunami, but no one knows that this Pixy Misa is really Sasami's best friend!

Thirteen full episodes of the Japanese language Magical Project S (Pretty Sammy TV) series with English subtitles.

The Review!
After years of begging and pleading, Pioneer has finally released one of the remaining Tenchi-related shows to DVD, thus completing the circle and bringing joy to many, especially those who waited for this show to be done on laserdisc.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Unfortunately, no English dub was created for this show, as the sales of the OVA series that preceded it didn?t do all that well, causing this series to be a very low priority. The show features a solid stereo mix with lots of surprising moments of directionality throughout the episodes and a solid center channel mix for the dialogue. Throughout the first thirteen episodes, we didn?t notice any dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in the fall of 1996, Magical Project S looks to have had a good budget, or a very wise use of the monies allocated to it. The transfer here overall looks very good with bright vibrant colors, practically no cross coloration and only a few areas of bothersome aliasing. The most that really gets noteworthy at times is that during some mid-range shots, there?s little detail to the characters faces, causing things to look a bit softer than usual. But otherwise, this is probably a very close representation of the original source materials.

Packaging:
A first for my collection I think, Magical Project S is a two disc set packaged in a clear double keepcase. The front cover has a great vibrant and shiny image of Sasami in both regular and Pretty mode as wel as Ryo-ohki in the corner. The back cover provides more shininess as well as a shot of Washu wrapped in the American flag. There?s a brief summary of the show, a listing of all thirteen episodes and numbers and the discs features. There?s a reversible cover here as well, with one side having a Sammy attack pose and the other providing a shot of both Sammy and Tsunami. The insert is full of artwork, with Mihoshi and Kiyone gracing the front while it opens up to a nice Misa layout before finishing up with a Sentai team pose on the back part. Also included with the first pressing run of the series is a great mini pencil board with Sasami and Ryo-ohki on one side and a perfect Misao image on the reverse.

Menu:
The menus here are fairly simply but very nicely done, with a static image and a moving background with some music playing along. Particularly nice is the second volume, which has Misao against a tree as the clouds drift by and some leaves blow by as well. It?s quite relaxing, since I?ve had it looping here for about twenty minutes while doing other things. Access times throughout the menus are nice and fast and thankfully the show defaults with subtitles on, though they do provide a setup menu to handle it.

Extras:
The second disc contains a really good number of extras, something I was somewhat surprised existed. There?s the standard textless opening and ending sequences as well as an art gallery that has thirteen full color images. Also included are three different shorts, each running around three minutes or so. The Misa Cinderella Story, 26 Secrets of Sammy and Secrets of the Kawai Family are essentially very amusing little shorts that add some extra character to the show and are definitely a great way to close out the first double disc set.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The life of Pretty Sammy is slightly convoluted, first showing up in the Mihoshi special, then getting a reboot into the three part OVA series before getting a full blown TV series. Thankfully, the TV series reboots yet again and the concept is much more fleshed out from the start. To enjoy this show, you do not have to know the Tenchi universe of characters. Knowing them will add humor to it, but Magical Project S is a great send-up of magical girl shows in general that it can move beyond its origins in the Tenchiverse.

The story is pretty simple, but serves to help skewer the overall concept. We?re introduce to fourth grader Sasami, your average every day Japanese schoolgirl whose good at a lot of things, has some really strange parents, has a shy quiet friend at school and is generally very well thought of by everyone that knows her. Little does she know that her life is about to change. Off in a magical dimension on a place called Juraihelm, three young women are vying for the position of Queen and ruler of the place. Ramia is convinced it?s hers after all she?s done, while Tsunami appears to be pretty non-worried about it. The third woman barely even registers.

So naturally it goes to Tsunami, who must prove that she?s truly right for the position by bringing balance to the forces of good and evil. To help her do this, she chooses Sasami as her operative and heads to Earth to inform her. Ramia takes this badly and sets up opposition on Earth with the help of her younger brother Rumiya. Though there?s some bumbling and mishaps along the way, Tsunami ends up giving the role of magical protector to an unwilling Sasami and leaves behind Ryo-ohki to help teach and train her. Ramia ends up selecting Sasami?s friend Misao as her operative. So when she transforms to fight Sasami, she becomes Pixy Misa but forgets all about her other self, and vice versa.

So sets forth the weekly conflict of Misa versus Sammy. Pixy Misa does something based on the events of the show and brings forth an odd creature, a ?Love-love? monster, that attacks Sammy and tries to overpower her. Sammy of course fights back and wins the day. This isn?t much different in layout than most Sailor Moon episodes. What makes it so easily recommendable is the way they execute it. Sasami doesn?t really want the role but keeps getting into the situations. Misa doesn?t remember her shy self, so her outgoing personality is so different and brash, it?s fun to watch. She becomes so full of confidence early on she simply strolls down the street singing her own theme song.

The amusing level to this show plays out in varying ways. Those familiar with the Tenchi universe will get a lot of extra mileage out of it, seeing things like Washu show up as a teacher as well as having Mihoshi and Kiyone as competing teachers. Tenchi takes a bow later on in this set as do his father and grandfather an interesting roles. There?s also some nods to AIC shows in general, such as when one of the students express her desire to ?rule the world alongside my cousin Jinnai?. That had us rolling with laughter. But there?s also a general second level to the humor aimed at older folks to get, thereby letting kids and parents enjoy it equally.

With the first volume having thirteen episodes, or the first half of the series, there?s a huge load of solid content here. The episodes didn?t get repetitive at all, and the way it?s building out slowly works very much in its favor. The cast here grows nicely as it goes along and adds a lot of flavor to things. Sasami?s parents alone look like they could carry a show, never mindjust being supporting cast. The real star of the show so far though is Pixy Misa, whose mix of Japanese and Engrish is beautiful as well as the flamboyant style she manages to pull off, considering she?s in the fourth grade as well.

A lot of people will pass this over since it?s not dubbed, but those are the ones that will miss a rather witty and very enjoyable magical girl show that pokes quite a bit of fun at itself. Getting half of the series as cheap as you can get it online just makes it all that much more of a bargain, one that?s worth at least trying out.

Features
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Textless opening,Textless ending,Magical Girl Pretty Sammy Bonus Theater: Cindrella Misa - The 26 Secrets of Sammy and Secrets of the Kawai Family.


Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 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: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 44.95
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tenchi Muyo