Cyberteam In Akihabara Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, December 24, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2004
What They Say
Like all girls, Hibari Hanakoganei covets the latest fashion in mechanical pets – a PataPi to call her own! But when a strange White Prince provides one, an equally mysterious Black Prince plots to steal the prized pet. It’s PataPi Densuke to the rescue, however, transforming into a powerful Diva with astonishing battle agility and amazingly bears a striking resemblance to Hibari herself! Together with the Cyber Team, the Black Prince will certainly get a run for his money!
Starting junior high and getting her hands on a toy she's wanted, Hibari finds herself now at the center of a group of super-heroes.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a very simple mix to it that's listed as stereo but is more of a full feeling soundtrack than anything else. There's a fair amount of action and sound effects throughout the show but there isn't much in the way of real depth or directionality to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1998, the transfer for this series is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. Done in the traditional animation style and avoiding most of the obvious bad digital animation that was cropping up at that time, the transfer here looks good for the most part with a clean set of materials to work with. The main problem that some will see throughout will be the aliasing during some of the action sequences but otherwise it's fairly problem free. Cross coloration is very minimal with only some slight sight of it in a few scenes. Colors look good and maintain a solid feel throughout and you can see a good amount of detail in the animation when it's there.
Using some bright and vibrant artwork of Hibari and her Pata-pi together, the cover here is definitely an eye-catching piece that showcases a cute girl in her school uniform with lots of pastel colors around her. The style of the artwork mixed with the sleek logo gives it a really current feel and overall looks pretty sharp. The back cover has only a couple of very small animation shots and is instead filled with lots of pastel colors that hold the sizeable summary and the large section of production information. The discs technical features and extras listings are easy to find and are all accurate. The insert goes for a simple look with a listing of the episode numbers and titles and most of the technical information on one side with some Pata-pi artwork while the other side has just boxart advertisements.
The menu layout continues to use the same design and colors as other parts of the release with a static background of Hibari's Pata-pi lined across it several times that changes color as it goes along to the music. On top of that there's the usual selections and a cute image of her Pata-pi on top of a stack of books that sort of dances along. While not the most amazing menu, it's nicely in theme and gets the job done without slowing you down in getting to the sections you want. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players' language presets without issue.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal and probably all we'll see for the entire run. In addition to the opening and ending sequences in clean format there's a section of production sketches for things relevant to this volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there was one kind of show that was very popular during the 90's, it's the ones that took the Sailor Moon formula and re-applied it to different genres and styles over and over. And over and over. Towards the end of the decade, the already tired idea was still getting done but it had kept most to the younger girls set and wasn't really getting much notice or notoriety among the older boys or men anymore since there were so many other things coming out at that point that could be even racier. Cyberteam in Akihabara is something that feels like one of those last gasps of a genre that's in need of being re-invented or truly taken to the next level.
It's setting is the fairly familiar one of a modern day Tokyo but with the difference being that most people have access to a learning doll called Pata-pi. These things are everywhere and are mostly used by school age kids who get them and end up teaching them various things and personalizing them. The dolls learn as they go along at different rates and have different things that they're good at so they're all the same across the board. These things start off as your basic cute toys with big eyes but there is some amusing customization to it depending on how hardcore the user is.
Since it's her first day of junior high, energetic and spunky Hibari wants one from her parents as her starting-school gift but finds herself missing out on it just due to circumstances. In a way, this works out when she gets to her new school as one of the first things that they all learn is that Pata-pi's aren't allowed on the school grounds at all as they're considered a distraction. Hundreds of girls are disappointed by this but Hibari finds herself even more frustrated since she doesn't even have one. All this changes that afternoon though when an old man tells her to go to a hill to find what she's looking for, which is something that mirrors a dream she had the night before about meeting her prince. While her prince isn't there, she does find a Pata-pi that goes right to her arms which she eventually names Densuke.
Once Hibari has Densuke, a series of events starts to flow from there with a group of people that want to take it from her since it signifies the arrival of something new that must be stopped while someone else is manipulating events so that Hibari and Densuke end up getting into these rough spots to force them to grow into what's about to happen. The first encounter that Hibari has is with a strange older woman named Falcon Blood (who Hibari affectionately calls cow-tits) who traps her in a lot between the buildings. She calls forth her own magic that creates weird creatures that steal her Pata-pi from her. The relationship between Densuke and Hibari is the key though and when he's taken, her emotions reach through to the little guy and he transforms!
Into an older, bustier version of Hibari complete with skinsuit and some pieces of armor in key places, as well as a helmet to try and hide part of its identity. The transformation sequence almost borders on obscene, particularly when you consider that it's a toy or a version of a twelve-year old girl. There's massive jiggle and shifting hips and all that to this new transformed thing, but it doesn't talk. It uses whatever powers it seems to need at the moment to defeat the villain, defeat being that they flee before they can be hurt. And as it turns out, Hibari's isn't the only one to be like this as some of her friends end up getting caught up in all of this manipulation as the show progresses and a team forms, obviously enough, to fight off whatever evil this mysterious group is really after.
So, it's a fairly typical show in a lot of respects but there's just something about its approach that drives me nuts unlike other shows that I've seen like this. Hibari's no more the typical airhead than most of the other ones that are the leads in the series but here she just seems to take the cake and just grates on my nerves. Her close friend Suzume who has what she considers the best Pata-pi in the world named Francesca is equally annoying as she has an incredibly over-polite speech pattern to her which makes Kenshin sound like a gutter rat. The only character that's interesting is Tsugumi, a new friend that they make who is the athletic type due to her parents being very into physical sports, but she'd rather be a pop idol and spends her time imagining what that'd be like. She's amusing in that she takes over the leadership of the team so quickly and without much issue other than from Suzume.
I think a lot of what bothers me with the show is those Pata-pi's themselves. They're all cute and since they're distinct to their owners they have their own personalities, but there's just something that feels like they're too much. Even worse, there are multiple "eye-catches" within the show where when something happens, the show pauses and a Pata-pi border is thrown up around it to show off just how cute it is. This changes between the different Pata-pi as we get to know more of them. It's just so forced and so over the top in some ways that I was glad they slowed down as it progressed. It felt like it was happening every couple of minutes during the first episode or two.
The character designs themselves are pretty cute and the girls all look smart and sharp in their very stylized uniforms. There's a lot of pop idol stuff brought into it due to Tsugumi's interest in being one so there's plenty of singing as well. With the villains group being taken from the standard handbook of designs, there isn't anything too surprising there other than the way they decided to throw caution to the wind and make them with such massive free-floating breasts. The minions that make up the organization are the usual self-interested types who only want to impress their master in order to get him to like her more, which leads to plenty of in-fighting there.
With five episodes here, it took several sessions before I could get through all of it. Some episodes took a couple of times of starting and stopping before I could actually get through it which is a rarity in itself. Though the genre doesn't bother me much and there are plenty of shows that I do like in it, this one just feels like it's too much in a lot of ways. It's almost too hyperactive at times to be able to take in when combined with a mixture of uninteresting near-airhead type characters and the Pata-pi itself. Add in the very adult transformed versions of the girls which feels very out of place as well as a few other sexual references and the show just doesn't feel well balanced.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production sketches
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: D+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Cyberteam in Akihabara