Mao-Chan Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, April 03, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2004
What They Say
Mao-Chan and her fellow Unified Defense Force partners are in for more adventure and mayhem! Mao-Chan loses her clover-shaped badge, so Misora and Sylvia are dispatched to defend against another alien attack, but it is not quite the same without Mao-Chan. Can the two girls make it without Mao-Chan? Then tragedy hits the Unified Defense Force. A boar alien steals mao-Chan?s treasure, the Kuni-chan doll, and a heartbroken Mao-Chan decides to resign from the Defense Forces. Her fellow Unified Defense Force members and friends come to the rescue, but will the girls successfully find Mao-Chan's precious treasure? Will Mao-Chan regain her winning smile?
The cute alien invasion comes to its conclusion with this volume as the Defense Forces take the defending right to the attackers.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English dubbed form. The series sports a decent stereo mix that has some nice moments of directionality, mostly with the aircraft or the sounds from the tank while the majority of the dialogue is center channel basic. During regular playback we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on the English track and noticed no issues on the Japanese track in spot-checking that.
Originally airing in 2002, Mao-Chan has a very sharp looking and vibrant transfer here that really showcases the colors well. The only real problem that cropped up for us was some chroma noise like issues with the red plane in a few areas where it seemed a touch more pixilated and alive than elsewhere. Other than that, colors are rich and solid throughout with no noticeable cross coloration or aliasing. This is one of those nicely vibrant recent shows that really display how far the digital coloring has come.
The front cover is set up like the previous volumes with its background and this time we get the entire cast of women, including the two 'secret agent' style alien girls, with Mee-kun supporting them. It's definitely a nice way to cap off the series since each primary girl got their own cover. The back cover shifts between pinks and purples with a shot of trio and listing the six episodes and their respective titles. A little summary is there as well as a good listing of the discs features and basic production information. With this being a clear keepcase, the reverse side of the cover has a full color series of sixteen various images from the show, each showing off a character or location or some other little item. The front of the insert replicates the front cover while the reverse side of the insert replicates part of the back cover with Mao-chan and lists the individual episodes and their titles as well as the various chapter stops.
The menus here bothered me right from the start with a load-up segment of one of the girls talking in English that goes on briefly before loading to the menu itself. It is thankfully skippable. The menu layout itself is similar to one of Sylvie's poses in the show with the green rising sun behind her while wearing her official uniform. The actual static menus themselves again aren't all that good either; the character artwork looks decent but all of the selections look very blurry and out of focus. Submenus load quickly and access times are fast, making navigation a breeze.
The extras are again fairly similar to what we've seen. There are a couple of minutes of mildly amusing outtakes and bloopers from the English dub done to static images. I think that's one of the things that ended up killing the humor more than anything else. There's also the second part of the interview with the shows director taken at Otakon 2003. The interview is mildly amusing mostly because he doesn't seem to want to get pinned down by an answer to some of the more personal questions, things like favorite movies or actresses even.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final six episodes, Mao-Chan continues to move along in its fun little fashion and doesn't do much harm overall, as is to be expected. Since the series ends with this disc, you'd almost expect something of an arc to bring it all to a close but there really isn't, unless maybe you consider the last two episodes an arc. Up until then, it's almost business as usual.
Or unusual as the case may be. Pulling one of the stereotype classics out of the bag, the Defense Force trio get a surprise guest from America, a young girl named Carol who has come to learn their ways so that she can enjoy similar successes back home. Naturally, she's blonde, outgoing, taller than all the other girls and cocky as hell, age considered. The obvious gags are played and there's even a chuckle-worthy moment at the end where Carol praises Japanese technology as the best in the world. Carol's appearance is cute but it really doesn't do much overall for the story.
One area I did like that did help the story is the continuing change of heart of the 'president' as she really likes Mao-chan and her friends more and more. Though she her and schoolmate/alien friend continue to call in the cute aliens to go through the artifact collection in Japan, neither of them are feeling good about it. But it's even worse for Lily since she can't hold back her feelings about it. When she ends up getting the little green transformation button off of Mao-chan during one attack, she takes her nature to the next step and turns into the Lady of Purple and helps defend against the invasion. She becomes quite adored by the trio from this and ends up helping again later on, though through some trickery.
Throughout this volume there's a subtle arc about just what it means to defend and what needs defending. So through the evolution of that discussion, the Defense Force trio decide that it's time to take the battle to the moon where the cute alien invasion is being directed from and deal with things properly. Well, that's what the press release would say if this was real, but the real reason they're going is because one of the cute aliens captured the doll of Mao-chan's that her mother gave her and that she values above all else. She's going to the moon to defend her happiness against the cute aliens! All of this is really done in the space of an episode and a half, or less than one full-length episode, so there's just the basics going on without much frills. The show does provide an amusing an cute epilogue that does a good job of actually providing a sense of closure.
While I've been told that I wouldn't be enjoying this show as much as I have been if not for watching it with my daughter, I've definitely enjoyed it overall. The series stretches reality quite a bit in many places but everything fits within its own world context. I loved the tank that's really just a huge model kit. The girls are all fun and their supporting grandfathers are just like a few I know of. While there isn't much depth in the series or anything big to say, it's mainly just cute fun aimed at young girls. For that age bracket, I'll hazard that they did quite well based on my own daughter's reactions to it. Mao-Chan was a pretty niche show in Japan, even its director claimed it so, so it's not surprising that it's a hard sell over here. But for those who did get it and 'got' it, it's a nice little treasure that you know not many people have partaken of.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Bloopers and Outtakes, Interview with Yoshiaki Iwasaki
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: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 81
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2