Super Milk-Chan Show Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, July 04, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 06, 2004



What They Say
Meet Milk - a foul-mouth, selfish smarty pants superhero with no real superpowers. Not quite you're A-list superhero, but that won't stop the idiotic President (of "everything") from hiring her to solve the world's problems. And if that wasn't enough to quench your thirst, just wait till you meet her friends.

The Review!
Producer, director and adapter Steven Foster wondered aloud in the commentary whether he had done sufficient amounts of drugs to be able to handle working on this show. All I know is that the original creators certainly did and I wish I had a fair amount handy myself for watching it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. For one whopping episode. When then switched to the English language version on the 100% Whole disc. All the language tracks available are in stereo so there's not a lot going on here that's really going to stand out but it's all quite serviceable and sounds solid. Dialogue is nice and clear and free of distortions (that aren't supposed to be there at least) and dropouts.

Video:
This is sort of all over the map in some ways. Milk-Chan was originally released back in 1998 as fourteen episodes that ran about 4-5 minutes each. These episodes have an interesting look to them, a 'vintage' look one might say, where the quality is very much up to date but the style feels very 60's and it has some of that hazy graininess to it. Once that went over, and it must have done well enough, in 2000 they released a series of twenty five full length episodes. These are much more vibrant and colorful while using the same basic but very eye-catching and unique designs. There are a lot of dark heavy lines around the characters and the colors are very bright and it all looks fantastic. In addition, there's a lot of live action footage as well and that all looks solid as well. Cross coloration throughout is virtually non-existent and aliasing is very minimal, giving this transfer a very smooth and enjoyable presentation.

Packaging:
You can tell exactly what kind of animation to expect right from the front cover with a shot of Milk-Chan set against a yellow backdrop, complete with her drool reaching down towards the ground. Add in the slug and you've got an eye-catching piece of work here. The back cover provides a few small shots of animation and a multi-colored brief summary of what to expect. A lot of space is given over to explaining what's on each of the DVDs as well as the usual array of production information and the helpful technical grid along the bottom. The cover for this release is reversible with this side being just about identical to the front cover except it has a gray background and some different shots of animation on the back cover. With this being a two disc set, the second disc is put on a flippy piece that's hooked to the side as opposed to the spine. I've not had a crappy case like this in ages as the second disc was completely broken free from where it was supposed to be connected.

Menu:
The menu, if left looping for days on end, must be considered a war crime. Each disc is essentially the same with a shot of Milk's house interior with her sitting in her chair with the selections lined along the left. The only real difference is the picture on the wall. All of this plays to the Milk song and it just goes on and on? The menus are pretty minimal in general and they all are done in-theme and look good. Access times are nice and fast and everything loads quickly. The disc correctly played to my players presets where applicable.

Extras:
On the Original Japanese Disc, we get a few extras in the form of a new opening animation entitled "Disco Milk" which is amusing and hypnotic and you must love it. Also included are the original Japanese opening and ending sequences which have the helpful note that there is no audio associated with them. This only further proves what kind of drugs the original creators were on when they did all of this.

On the first disc, there's a section of Q&A information done in character with Milk that's all text. The other extra is a bit more interesting and it's a commentary track by a good number of the English voice cast that rotate in and out of the booths during the course of it and they talk about the shows production itself, the usual array of inside jokes and gags about each other. For those who enjoy their voice actors, this is yet another enjoyable and entertaining commentary. For those that hate the English voice actors, please go find something worthwhile to hate.

Mmmm, Hilary looks good in a professional outfit I must say. And Christine looks good from just about every angle that I can check out here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As noted above, there's no content grade. Any content grade would not properly reflect how I feel about this show. It's really that simple.

To start, I really have no clue to the real history of this show and why it is what it is or what it's parodying. This is even mentioned in the commentary in that there were so many obscure Japanese references (which are fully translated and are there) that make so little sense that it's not something that probably even a good number of the average Japanese person will get. But not knowing that, we started this release off by going our traditional route. We started with disc 2 that has the episodes with the openings, content, endings, credits for each of the episodes. This disc is bilingual with (I believe) the English language track faithfully reproducing the gags and jokes that are obscure to even a native Japanese person.

If I had gone only by this disc, I would have given the show an F. We watched the first episode in full and sat there expressionless. Nothing was funny. Nothing. In fact, it was horrendously difficult to get through watching it with the monotone voices used by Milk and Tetsuko. The way their voices are done is so annoying that it is the only show I've ever seen that made me want to turn it off from that alone. Between the lack of anything striking us as funny and the highly annoying voice work I had no incentive to check anything else on this out. It was that bad to us. We made a brief dip into the English track and just noted that it was close to the Japanese script for the small area we checked.

Since I can't bring myself to write a review without actually watching the entire show (all right, certain exceptions apply to those of you laughing right now), I went to check out the first disc, the "100% Whole" disc to see what the differences are between the two. I was surprised right from the start in that there's a lot of live action material included around the episodes and during the eye-catch. What this disc is like is quite different from the other disc. Whereas that had each episode on its own title and the standard anime episode layout, this one is a ninety-minute movie instead all on one title, intended to be watched as one piece. The live action pieces are the "Behind the scenes" of the dubbing of Milk-Chan. There's an actual story here as it goes along here that's related to the episodes themselves as they swap out sections where Japanese actors were used.

But that's not the only difference. The dub script for this one is completely different. Sometimes there's similarities in terms of plot, but a lot of the jokes is done completely different than the more faithful script. And unlike the original script, I couldn't stop laughing throughout this version. From the live action material (which is fun since you know some of these people in person as well) where you get to see the actors all sort of playing against each other and having fun with personalities to the anime side itself where they basically make it much more pop-culture referenced with politics, religion and more, Milk-Chan in this form is just highly entertaining. And there is a high amount of swearing, which is part of Milk's character to some extent, and Hilary nails it beautifully. And is even called on it in a perfect scene during the live action segment.

So what's the show itself about? The premise is very simple. Milk-Chan is a five year old superhero who works with her trusty robot Tetsuko (who is infatuated with high celebrity culture), the Slug and a robot dog. They're often called upon by the President to deal with whatever emergencies that come up, from counterfeiters to Punishment missiles incoming into the country. Milk actually has no powers and often doesn't even get involved in the actual adventure; sometimes because she's avoiding her landlord and keeping the lights off and can't go out. Depending on which version you watch, you'll get significant differences in what the plot and jokes will be like. But the basics will be there in each of them. Milk always yells at Tetsuko and is trying to save what money she has. Tetsuko always tries hard and wants to move up in life. The President will always be an idiot on one level or another.

In Summary:
After checking this out as many times as I did, keep coming back to that the original version is just way too cultural and unfunny and the adapted version is something that would play well on Comedy Central or MTV but only if they didn't bleep it all out. While I've ragged on Steven Foster in the past for altering shows in their dubs and adding profanities where there were none before, his style and sense of humor is perfectly suited to a project like this. While I personally can't stand the original version, I'm very glad that they've gone and created the two different dubs to keep both sides happy and I'm even happier that they let Foster behind the camera for some live action material. The efforts of the cast and crew for these sequences is a huge payoff here to me as they took a show that I would otherwise have never touched another volume of and caused me to have a completely opposite opinion about. Milk-Chan is a show that I think is better suited to a real proper adaptation to the local culture rather than a port of its original culture. Both camps are happy here though and that makes me even happier.

Super Milk Chan is not going to be for everyone. I'm not sure who is going to like what but I'm really looking forward to seeing the discussions about it and how this release was handled.

Features
Disc 1: Three complete episodes and four vintage episodes in English 2.0 audio, Live behind-the-scenes breaks, Cast commentaries, Character Q&A, ,Disc 2: Original Japanese episodes in both English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 language versions with English subtitles, Original video haiku breaks, New opening "Disco Milk" animation,Original opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 135
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Super Milk-Chan