Sister Princess Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, February 04, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2005



What They Say
Wataru needs to get some private swimming lessons, but it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll sink or swim. Meanwhile, Yamada tries to join in on the fun at the pool by taking a hilarious "self-study" swimming course. Then, Wataru and the girls plan to take an exciting summertime trip - if only his sisters would tell him where they’re going!

The Review!
It's a series of water based adventures for the Sister Princess family which means lots of fanservice and skin of all the little girls.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show has a solid stereo mix that makes good use of the range of character voices as they're often spread well across the forward soundstage. There isn't a lot to the show outside of the music and the character dialogue since it's a very much dialogue driven show but it's a good mix that was free of distortions and dropouts during regular playback. We listened to parts of the English track which got a 5.1 mix to it but it's essentially the same just a bit sharper and more distinct in placement.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. The show is filled with a lot of vibrant colors and clean lines so it stands out with the bright levels but also in the way that there is so much space given over to areas that it feels expansive yet almost empty at times. The colors for the show are fairly rich at times with lots of very vibrant colors, particularly the reds, mixed in with other colors. The island town isn't a typical town so there are lots of non-standard colors used for roads and buildings but they're mostly pastel in nature. The transfer manages to avoid just about all the usual problems so there's no noticeable cross coloration or much in the way of aliasing going on. There was some light blocking going on during some of the all-black sequences but it was very minimal.

Packaging:
Continuing what I think is a really good design; the third volume of this series changes up a few of the colors but keeps to the same layout. The top half provides us with a great full color piece of Shirayuki with a pencil sketch of Wataru next to her. Below the green strip we get another full length shot of the other eleven girls and it all just comes together very well. The back cover is laid out in much the same way but with photographs taking the place of the strip and production information along the bottom. The top half has a small character shot of Mamoru alongside the summary paragraphs. The discs extras and technical information is all nice and clearly listed. Some of the extras listed aren't actual on-disc extras though but rather packaging pieces. For example, the reversible cover has a full image shot of Mamoru and is what I believe to be the Japanese rental cover as it also has the original Japanese text for the logo. The back cover version of this though has biography/profile data for Mamoru and Haruka, things that you would expect to be on the disc based on the extras listing. The insert for this release uses the English language logo for the series and looks like a postcard. It opens up to a two panel spread where it's a letter from Mamoru to Wataru about her dreams and feelings towards him. I'll say it again, it's just a little bit creepy. The back of the insert showcases twelve of the girls.

Menu:
The menu layout is surprisingly simple with a static image of Mamoru and Haruka outside of the house so that there's a view of the mountain and sky where the menu selections are lined over. Episode access is nice and quick and the navigation is simple and easy to use. There are some brief transitional animations to the submenus, such as a postcard taking up most of the static image when going to the extras menu, but they're very fast and without problem. As a continual plus with ADV release, our players' language presets were correctly read when the disc started up.

Extras:
Though not terribly filled with extras, there's some good material here. The standards are ever present with the clean opening and ending sequence but there's no new portfolio of production sketches this time. The new inclusion this time is a Behind the Scenes piece that talks with the English voice actors, Kira Vincent-Davis, Tiffany Grant and Greg Ayres, where they share some of their past roles and talk about their impressions of the show and what it all means..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the show gets close to its halfway point, there still hasn't been all that much of a change in how it's all working since pretty much the time that Wataru got to the island. The girls continue to fawn over him without knowing a lot about him, he's leery of doing or saying much of anything around them and all of them tend to sigh a lot over all sorts of little things and end up probably having lengthy monologues in their minds about what they're doing wrong. The four episodes on this volume go a bit further this time in telling something of a narrative over more than just one episode so the dynamic changes a little bit.

The first couple of episodes deals with the start of the summer break which means not much time really spent in the school, though there is some homework that must be done over the period, and it shifts the time to more leisurely activities. One of the things the girls decide to do fairly early on in order to enjoy the beautiful summer sun and view is to organize a pool cleaning party so that they can get it fully filled up and really enjoy their summer. Before they can do the cleaning though they need to all get new swimsuits, which entails a surprisingly brief and not all that detailed visit to the store so they can get them. Since all of them need them, there isn't much time really spent on the shock value factor of each girl getting Wataru's opinion (they go for the cheap pan of the twelve asking the same question at once) but he's still pretty nervous about the whole thing. Not getting a bathing suit for himself since he brought his from home, he tries to avoid most of the girls during this and not let his thoughts linger.

The main reason for avoiding the entire subject as much as he can is the simple fact that he doesn't know how to swim and can't seem to admit it in front of any of them. He spends much of the time initially just looking on as all the others are having fun in the pool and making all sorts of noises but eventually Mamoru realizes what's going on and she starts teaching him in secret how to swim. This is something that's really difficult for him, even just putting his face in a bowl of water. What's amusing is that it's even harder for Yamada who does an at-home tutorial course on swimming but he just can't handle it at all, no matter how much he wants to be close to all the sisters. Yamada gets screwed pretty nicely throughout this volume by the Old Man in a number of ways, from getting his own swimsuit (a very cute pink thong) to being brought into manual labor that causes him to miss more fun.

In addition to two pool related episodes, we get a pair after that where Rinrin has created an interesting boat of sorts so they can go on a mini-trip. Wataru completely missed out on the itinerary meetings so he's clueless about the entire trip after he gets on the boat, but it doesn't matter too much as after some good clean fun in the sun moments the entire boat is capsized and everyone ends up fleeing to the island they're near. Initially it was just Sakuya he thought he was stranded with but a few delusions later and everyone is there. Naturally, by coincidence, there's a large resort house that's just around the corner that looks like it's not been visited in ten years if not for the freshly stocked fridge. Not worrying about how to get home for the most part, the girls then settle in for more fun in the sun with swimming, beach games, lots of good food and romantic evenings on the beach, at least up until the surprise (ha ha) gag ending.

In a way, these episodes didn't feel as bad as the previous ones but in other ways its worse. The fact that the girls are all wearing practically nothing for swimsuits throughout all four episodes can make some people uncomfortable due to the young nature of all of them, never mind the very young looking character designs, designs that at times make their arms and legs look like twigs. The surreal nature of them all being his sisters is something that Wataru is coming to accept quickly now and it doesn't even cross his mind, so he's at least for the most part not looking at them in a particular way, but there are always moments where things happen that one or two of them blush in a certain way.

In Summary:
Sister Princess still has that pretty much all-fluff feel to it though it has some interesting trappings that are kept around the edges, from the setting itself to things like the old man and the entire reality of what the girls all are. Unfortunately those elements are kept so far to the edge that they're almost blink and you miss them moments so they can keep on what they consider the real focus, the wide range of characters getting to know each other and thereby getting to know themselves. Unfortunately most of them are just so simple in their nature, a necessity due to there being so many, that most of them never really get more than episode to themselves – and even that may be too much for what little is there. While fluff, it's something that's just there and doesn't really offend but it doesn't excite either.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Behind the scenes

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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sister Princess