Steam Detectives Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, February 13, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004
What They Say
The villains of Steam City are back at it again! First, Crimson Scorpion has an ingenious plan to steal a pair of priceless black diamonds by seducing Detective Onigawara. Then, Ling Ling?s crafty sister Lang Lang is determined to be ?an angel in black? for a sick little girl, fulfilling her last wishes... even if it kills her!
Nothing compares, however, to the death and destruction that Knight Phantom wreaks when he goes on an underwater rampage in a stolen submarine! Can Narutaki stop this dastardly plan before Steam City is engulfed in a sea of flames?
The standalone episodes continue along with four more here, though the stories take a bit of a more personal tone of some of the secondary cast.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is done in a pretty basic stereo mix that's fairly center channel based but has a number of stereo moments of directionality that come across nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1998, Steam Detectives comes across decently in this print but suffers from some intentional issues. With it being part of the traditional animation time, we get some good colors throughout and some of them are very vibrant, but most lack much in the way of depth but avoid being over saturated. Cross coloration is minimal while there is a bit more aliasing going on, mostly during panning sequences. With the show having a heavy design on steam and clouds, there's a grainy feel to the print that's accentuated due to the way the backgrounds are. With the darker scenes and some of the blue skies, it becomes even more apparent.
Continuing with the white keepcases that look great with the amount of white in the cover art, the artwork for this volume gives Dr. Guilty the nod with surrounding shots of Goriki and another megamaton. The logo is a bit difficult to read at first, but the cover does get props for listing the volume number on the front and the spine. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a character design piece for the Baron alongside the story summary paragraphs. The back cover is a mix of orange and white with the discs features and production information listed (but no episode numbers or titles). The insert is a great little paper piece that folds open to three panels that has an interview with Kia Asamiya about the series creation and what he'd like to see out of it as well as a timeline of what came out when.
The menu is a simple piece with a bit of somber instrumental music playing over it where the central image is of the Dr. Guilty in full costume set against a orange cityscape backdrop and some black circles bubbling up over it that turn into the selections. It's an interesting looking menu with good access times and quick submenu loads with no transitional animations.
The only extras included in this release are the original Japanese opening sequence (which is what's in the show itself, but with the addition of English translated credits around them), a textless ending sequence and a few minutes worth of production sketches that showcase the various characters and equipment of the series. There's also a segment of text comments from the Japanese voice actors, but we skipped reading it since the forward indicates that there are spoilers for upcoming episodes as these comments were done after the series had finished airing in Japan.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Steam Detectives continues on its merry way, or rather, it's dark and dank feeling way with another four stand-alone episodes. Though the episodes here aren't quite as engaging as the previous volume, there's some good material to be found.
One of the best episodes is right at the start, where we follow Detective Onigawara dealing with the security for a ?Dress Bear? that's worth a lot of money. While heading back home for the night, he ends up saving a young woman who was being chased by a couple of thugs. Grateful, she hangs onto him for a bit. To his surprise, he finds out the next day that she's moving into his building. Before he realizes it, he's got something of a pseudo girlfriend who is making him lunches for work and meeting up with him for evening outings. Onigawara isn't quite smitten, but he likes what's going on for the most part and doesn't seem to mind. Of course, his problem is that the young damsel is actually the Crimson Scorpion and she's simply trying to get the secret of the safe out of him, slowly but surely by seducing him.
This episode is fun for just getting to know Onigawara a lot better. We ended up watching this one twice and took it in the second time in English and was rather amused and enjoyed the Australian accents given to him and most of the other officers. There's just something comical about the way he says things, even as simple as ?I'll get you a cup of joe.? It was also enjoyable to watch the Scorpion almost be domestic at times as she's laying out the trap to capture and seduce Onigawara. Narutaki and Ling Ling are more like spectators in this episode, giving most of the time over to the other two characters, which helps immensely.
The other really good episode here, ?Tears of a Black Angel?, is almost heart wrenching at times. The story brings Ling Ling and Lang Lang into play again on opposite sides. While passing under a hospital window, Lang Lang gets a paper airplane note that says ?I want to go to the beach.? A young girl in the window a few floors above looks out longingly towards the ocean. But she's quickly ushered back inside by Ling Ling who doesn't want her to catch a cold. A new specialist is arriving soon and will be performing the fourth operation on this young girl to help her live. But Marian doesn't think she will in the long term and wants to experience the beach now while she can.
So leaving Le Bled to the side for a time, Lang Lang starts her own operation to sneak in and free Marian so she can go to the beach and experience things she won't otherwise. The pain and desire in Marian's eyes are more than Lang Lang can bear, so she takes this route with it. While Ling Ling feels much the same, she feels her route is the better way to go. Each of them are right in their own way and it's that conflict that plays into things here. Lang Lang is great to see again and given a fairly sizeable role at that lets her really grow and flex a bit, being more than just a token character of Le Bled.
While most of the stories here are very character driven, there's a good action episode included as well where the Phantom has stolen a new high-tech submarine from the Steam Navy and is in the process of trying to get it out via the canals in Steam City. This brings him in and out of tight corners while the police chase him and eventually Narutaki in his tiny one-man submarine. It's mostly a straightforward action piece with some mystery at the end, but they blend some nice comedy into it to.
While these episodes didn't grab me as much as the material on the third volume did, this was still quite enjoyable and a fun way to pass the morning. We sampled a lot more of the dub than we did previously and are finding it to be very well done, though with some amusing accents at times. The standalone episodic nature of this show works well in its favor, allowing for the usual Sherlock Holmes style adventures to be played out on a small scale.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese voice actor comments,Production sketches,Original Japanese opening animation,Clean closing animation
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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Steam Detectives