My Dear Marie (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2004



What They Say
Ever met the perfect girl, but she already had a boyfriend? Well why not just build your own? An amateur mad scientist attempts to build a robotic duplicate of his dream girl, and Marie is the result. As you can probably guess, there are some unexpected complications. Stay tuned for mayhem and disaster!

The Review!
If you're a geek in love, the first thing you must do to woo your true love is to build a fully functional robot version of her apparently.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show sports a simple stereo mix in both languages but since the show is primarily a dialogue based piece there isn't a huge need for anything terribly active. The stereo channels are well used in moments such as the music and the couple of action sequences but otherwise it feels very much like a center channel mix that's clean and clear throughout. We didn't notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.

Video:
Originally released to video in 1996, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. All three episodes look fantastic here with only some very minimal nitpicky kind of problems. The three episodes have a very solid feel with the colors and backgrounds with no noticeable blocking going on, which is impressive considering the show is done in the traditional animation style and that seems more susceptible to blocking when upconverted. Some of the scenes look intentionally soft but look great. There's some cross coloration scattered throughout the three episodes but nothing more than something visible for a few seconds per episode. Aliasing is pretty minimal as well and the overall result is a very smooth and pleasing transfer.

Packaging:
The artwork for this release looks really good with a shot of Marie in a simple dress but with angel wings. The background accentuates the character artwork nicely as it's a dark blue circuitboard image with bits of light across it. There's some good detail to parts of the cover, such as the little doll she's holding you may not notice at first but it's overall a very clean and simple image that looks very pretty. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and some character artwork for Marie through the center of the cover while also providing a simple but accurate summary of the show that doesn't make it feel as smutty as some of the VHS summaries did. The discs features and technical information is all clearly listed and easy to find. No insert is included in this release but the cover is dual side. The reverse side has a nice mix of character artwork on one side while the other lists the episode titles and the previews available on this disc. I'd much rather see discs done like this than with the generally useless single-page inserts that are in so many releases.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty basic wit a static shot of the front cover with some of the instrumental music playing along to it. Episodes are easily accessible along the left side as is the languages and the fake extras section. The menus are quick to load and easy to navigate and have the bonus of reading our players language presets properly.

Extras:
None. And no, the previews and credits should not have been listed under extras either but on the main menu. Previews are not extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My Dear Marie, a three part OVA series, has been one of the longer awaited back catalog titles from ADV to finally hit the DVD market. The show won over a lot of fans back when it was first released due to it being a pretty sweet and happy romantic kind of show. Now after quite a few years, it's finally here for those who didn't want to delve into the VHS realm anymore.

The three episode series is quite a bit of fun and it's definitely a throwback to the simple kind of romantic comedy stories that aren't filled with tons of women surrounding one guy, cute or not. Instead, it has our lead character, a somewhat geeky college student names Hiroshi Karigari, madly in love with a fellow school mate named Marie. He's so in love with her, though he can't bring himself to actually ask her out, that he's in a lot of her classes and even participates in the same sports club of tennis just to be close to her. Karigari is the epitome of the nice guy geek who doesn't cause much trouble or really just get in the way.

But he is definitely in love so the next best thing he can do to help himself is to build a robotic version of Marie. Through some amusing methods, he gets his data and builds a near-identical version of Marie and before he knows it she's come to life. But she's also very outgoing and headstrong about certain things so she doesn't take well to Karigari telling her she has to stay indoors and can't go out and meet people. Unlike a lot of other shows though, the two Marie's end up coming face to face pretty quickly and some of the lighter nature of the real Marie's mentality shines through when she easily believes that a virtual twin is actually Karigari's younger high school sister.

Before you know it there's cross-dating going on and people starting to reveal feelings for each other all while the robotic Marie is trying to come to grips with her own place in the grand scheme of things. Should she help Karigari get together with her real life version or should she let her own feelings grow for him? Add in those who are also after the real life Marie and see a new possibility and a childhood friend of Karigari's that returns to make him hers and there's some good fun but not overly chaotic romantic comedy fun to be had with this. Even when there are more interests that start to take shape, such as the old friend that returns, she's given almost the entire episode over to just her and the real Marie takes a back seat to the plot, so you don't have a train wreck happening of so many characters at once trying to get their plots in.

The show is simply sweet on a lot of levels. Karigari is definitely in love with Marie but he's also very caring of his robotic creation as well and only wants to see good things for her. To go to the lengths of creating a way for her to have dreams, very scary dreams at first mind you, shows just what he's capable of but also willing to do for her. That's the real draw of things here in how there isn't any real streak of jealousy or anger or even wacky misunderstandings for the most part but rather just a group of people trying to get it all sorted out in typical Japanese shy style. It's quite a lot of fun to watch them go through all of this.

The animation and character designs for the show really make it all work even better. Being an OVA, the quality is just great throughout and it has some beautiful artwork to it in a lot of places, particularly in the design of the backgrounds and color palette for it. The character designs themselves aren't the typical ones we get in a lot of shows where things are a bit more rounded but rather a touch more angular and definitely thinner than what's been the norm for the last few years. The animation for the characters is also quite expressive and avoids a lot of the stills and panning moments that are used for lower budget shows.

In Summary:
My Dear Marie is a very charming self-contained three episode story that hits just about every right note that it can during its all too brief run. The characters are sweet and endearing and you like just about all of them as you get to know them more. It avoids a lot of the overly active material of recent comedies with large casts and really keeps its focus on the core group and plays its strengths well. It's very easy to like the characters here and it's a rarity to actually like the male lead but My Dear Marie pulls it off successfully. There's a reason this is a fan favorite and long requested for a DVD release. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: My Dear Marie