Vampire Princess Miyu TV Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Release Date: Monday, October 06, 2003
What They Say
Sharing a dark journey through the weaknesses of the human heart with her only companion, Lava, once an evil Shinma and now her devoted guardian, Miyu lives an endless quest as both the hunter and the hunted.
Red Shoes: Chisato and Miho audition to be singing stars. New shoes from the producer give Miho more than just confidence...
Your House: A black cat's owners commit suicide. The young couple living next door take in the cat but are unprepared for everything that goes with him.
Swamp Of Promises: The girls wander into a swamp where a boy mistakes Chisato for a girl he made a promise to a long time ago.
A Supple Face: A man is shot, and wakes to find himself very much alive with a new face, and chance at a new life.
The Miyu TV series continues in its now established pattern, yet remains considerably enjoyable.
For my main review I listened to the Japanese stereo track, which sounded good, with no dropouts or distortions. The music in the series is extremely atmospheric and generally fits the scenes very well. The opening theme, "Heartbeat of Shinma", is a very different composition but really compliments the tone of the show.
Video is mostly on par with the last volume. There are nicks and scratches, and a bit of grain, but overall it's a good transfer. Tokyopop have slightly changed their method of fading in English text from the last volume, and now have some interesting patterns behind the text, as opposed to just a black slate.
The main cover image is an excellent picture of Miyu holding Chisato in her arms. It looks extremely nice, and the border around it compliments the picture well. The back cover is laid out similar to previous volumes, with a screenshot and brief summary of each episode, and overall series synopsis, and a convenient box listing the technical aspects of the disc.
The menu is exactly the same style as before, which means it's still very basic, with the menu image being a zoomed shot of the cover image that fades in after a few seconds. Access times are still nice and fast, but there's still no scene selection from the menu – only a list of episodes which takes you to the start of that respective one.
Extras are also the same as the last volumes. The original Japanese opening credits are always really nice to have, and I rather like the idea of having them on each volume, but it's painfully obvious they were struggling to get extras for this release. The Shinma gallery presents some good line art of each of the Shinma that appear throughout the volume, and is longer than the last volume, but still not very meaty.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Vampire Princess Miyu continues with four more standalone stories, each telling a different tale, but ultimately coming back to the Shinma.
"Red Shoes" has Chisato deciding to go off and audition to be a singer. When Miyu refuses to go with her, their timid classmate Miho asks if she can go, and Chisato agrees. At the audition, Miho, who's not even scheduled to try out, is singled out by Kashiwabara, a famous agent type, and is soon picked as the idol. But it's clear something's afoot since Miho can't actually sing, at least not until Kashiwabara gives her some red shoes to wear while she does. He calls them "magic shoes" which help with her confidence, but their actual effects are far more grim.
This is yet another well-told tale, focused around a vulnerable high-school girl lacking in self-confidence. My biggest complaint about this outing would just be the predictability; the entire plot is fairly easy to read after just a few minutes. The only other thing is that the focus is removed from Miyu; we see little of her here that we haven't seen before, which is a disappointment after her reactions in the previous episode on the last disc.
The next episode, "Your House", opens with Chisato asking if she can come to Miyu's house one day. Miyu is most reluctant, so Chisato says its OK, but Miyu is welcome round her house any time. The show then shifts to an interesting tale, which sees a man kill his wife, then throw himself off a balcony. His neighbours take in his cat, which has two different coloured eyes. Both are keen business people, and have agreed in the past not to have kids together. When they take in the cat, things really start going their way, but then the woman begins to get extremely attached to the cat. She soon starts calling it her "baby boy", and seems to see it as her own child, which has serious repercussions on her relationship with her partner.
This episode is pretty enjoyable, but it does suffer from similar problems to the last episode. Miyu is barely seen, Larva pops on-screen merely to do his standard "hit the Shinma" bit and vanishes again, and we see little reaction from Miyu to what's going on. One of the things that really drew me in on the first two discs was watching her unique reactions to the events that took place, whereas this episode she just had a few brief lines.
The other two episodes follow a similar pattern to the first two. "Swamp of Promises" sees Miyu and friends going on an outing, and as they're wandering through town, Miyu feels the presence of a Shinma, so leaves the bunch to try and find it. Meanwhile the other three girls wonder where Miyu went off to, and Chisato is separated from the others. She stumbles over a rock after being scared by a snake that's roaming the street, and is suddenly in a swamp. There, she meets a boy who is waiting for a girl at the swamp, and she spends some time with him. Miyu is soon back on the case, though, when the seal on the swamp is broken and a Shinma appears. Another good outing, this story sees a bit more Miyu involvement, and also adds Reiha back to the mix. One nice thing about it was that the Shinma wasn't as obvious as I thought it was going to be.
"A Supple Face" rounds out this disc, and sees a man shot by a gang, only to wake up and find that his face has changed. He soon gets back into the life of his girlfriend, who is having a tough time dealing with his death. She ends up falling in love with this new man, but a Shinma is involved, which can only bring tragedy. Once again, this episode was a nice tale that took the more difficult option at the end; there was no reconciliation here. What happened to the man was tragic in one way, yet given what he'd done (albeit with the Shinma's involvement), which was pretty unforgivable, it was almost getting his comeuppance.
The series continues to tell some enjoyable individual stories, but it's not without it's problems. In some senses, the general predictability and formulaic nature of Miyu is what's holding it back from greatness. The episodes all follow a standard pattern, and while the stories are again very entertaining and don't often take the easy way out with the ending, it's still quite easy a lot of the time to tell exactly where things are going. Not only that, but this batch of episodes suffered a little in my eyes for the lack of Miyu. She's actually far less prominent in this volume, and since she's such an interesting character (not to mention, the lead), I found that a little disappointing. At times it can be nice when supporting characters take the front seat, but when it's a different set of new characters for a particular story each time, the lack of Miyu is a little overwhelming.
One thing that is fairly refreshing, though, is that the writers take their time in playing out the episodes. While you know there's always going to be a Shinma battle at some point near the end, it's often not where the story finishes, and the battles are rarely drawn out. Having said that, in some ways it's also a bit of a disappointment. The fights rarely last longer than a few hits back and forth, and themselves seem to follow a standard formula of Miyu trying to seal the Shinma, it grabs her, Larva appears to break her free, they trade a few blows and Miyu seals it. A little variety might be nicer.
Also something of a disappointment is the sheer lack of Larva at all in this volume. He appears in most of the episodes, but only for a matter of moments, and I can't even remember him uttering more than one or two sentences throughout the four episodes. We still know next to nothing about him, and by this point I'd like to see more of him interacting with Miyu, since the first volume had a nice episode that paved the foundations of a good story between the two. I'm still confident that his backstory will be revealed at some point, though. The lack of getting to know the main characters is a bit of a hindrance for others, too. I still have no clue what Shiina is, or indeed its significance, and we still know little about Reiha and her relationship with Miyu (other than they have some sort of history together).
Oh, and one last point: Larva is back to being Larva. I've no idea why there's been such inconsistency here, but let's hope they keep this spelling for the rest of the series.
Despite its flaws, Vampire Princess Miyu continues to be a very entertaining and engaging series. It may disappoint those looking for a deep ongoing story, but the each episode tells an interesting and different tale. The predictability and repetitiveness in some aspects of the show may annoy people, but if you can take it simply as a trait of the series, there is a lot to enjoy here.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Opening Titles,Shinma Gallery
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vampire Princess Miyu