Magical Meow Meow Taruto Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, April 07, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 12, 2005



What They Say
To prove that she is the legendary princess of the Kinka, Taruto decides that it is her duty to protect and help the people of the city. She starts by trying to make the town troublemakers, Chips and Nachos change their wicked ways.

Then, when Taruto meets a sad, old cat who can’t leave his house, she and her friends take it upon themselves to set him free! But Taruto’s biggest challenge comes after something very precious to her master is stolen! Will Taruto’s magic be enough to help her get through it all?

The Review!
Bit by bit we get to explore more of Taruto's world as she interacts with the other catpeople and continues to try using her magic.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is about average and there isn't anything really noteworthy about it. The dialogue comes through clean and clear and the bulk of it really feels center channel based, though the music makes good use of a full sounding stage for both the opening and ending. We listened through the English track as well and didn't note any problems with it during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this show looks really good for the most part. It's a very bright and vibrant show with a wide range of colors but has a certain softness to the background ones. The only area where we really noted any trouble is during a couple of the scenes with the eye-patch characters as the black eye-patch showed some blocking throughout it while the character moved. The transfer is otherwise pretty much free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing. This release marks a surprising change for Bandai though in terms of how they present their shows. The opening and ending sequences are done via alternate angles based on language selection. One angle has the original Japanese text credits while the other has the translated credits. The end credits provide both voice casts in the English translated credits which is a plus as it's something that's often forgotten and the Japanese actors are never credited. The actual show logo is the same in both versions and the title cards are also done via alternate angles. The only thing that's noticeable between the two is that the English one appears to be a bit brighter. While I'm not huge on alternate angles because half the time they're not done properly, they're well done here and done as I like to see them done.

Packaging:
Using the same art as the Japanese release but accentuated by the purple keepcase that brings in the color all the more, Charlotte takes the main focus of the cover here as she eats away at something while others are running around in near super-deformed mode in the background. It's a soft looking piece with the illustration style used but it really sets the visuals right for the show and just looks adorable. The back cover keeps the same simple feel to it with an off-white/pinkish background that's littered with little cat prints. Small circles showcase cute images from the show and each of the episodes is given a summary. The staff for both sides of the production are kept together and a small block of technical information is provided at the bottom, though it's a bit odd. It actually lists that there is a single DVD inside and there's no listing of any of the extras from this release here. The keepcase is actually clear and the reverse side of it uses the cat prints all over it in varying colors and looks really cute. The insert has a really neat shot of Chips and Nachos doing a pose while Taruto watches on curiously from behind and opens up to a two panel piece that has the episode summaries on one side and small character profiles for the bulk of the main cast not covered in the previous volume. The back of the insert has the full translated production and voice actor listings and the English cast is tied to their roles which is a plus.

Menu:
After a brief animation at the load-up that sets into the background of a tree household, the menu pieces float in on bubbles and the menu finally becomes usable. A brief bit of instrumental music from the show plays along here and it's overall a very cute menu and one of the better ones from Bandai as of late, which is why I'm feeling forgiving about some of the transitional animations. Moving to the submenus has a brief piece play as well but it is very short and keeps everything in theme. The only area that works right but could be done better is in the language selection area as once you have your languages selected (or preset), it doesn't provide any way of telling on the screen what you're actually set at. This happens across a number of releases from most studios and it's something I still consider one of those "step 1" procedures that just must be done.

Extras:
The extras are relatively the same as the previous volume with this one having a third music clip and a textless ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Taruto continues to strike me in much the same way with this second volume in that it's an interesting show in how it presents itself, and surely something that catgirl fans will simply adore, but it's also a show whose setting is just so different in subtle ways that it can be difficult to really figure things out. Some of the basic answers to things can be found in the character profile descriptions on the insert which may be plain to some in the show but a bit more difficult to discern based on how everyone interacts. With the first volume, I wasn't completely sure that the cats and their masters couldn't understand each other based on how some of them interacted, but apparently they can't.

The three episodes on this volume play out in fairly similar ways to the first volume in that Taruto and friends end up getting into some sort of misunderstanding or they try to help someone and things get excited as either Taruto tries to use her magic (badly) or Chips and Nachos create more problems. For example, Iori goes on at length with Taruto about his passion for cooking confectionaries and he shows her one of his most valuable tools which is a small glass bottle that means a lot to him that he keeps his vanilla in. Being able to help in the preparation has Taruto all excited about it but in the time that Kinako comes in and rushes her out, an accident happens in the kitchen and Iori's bottle is stolen. As it turns out, Chips has something of a passion of her own for collecting such bottles and has swiped it. And so a big hunt goes on to find the bottle by Taruto and her friends while Nachos tries to convince Chips that she's in the wrong on this one. It's simple material and almost morality plays really but it's does it with some very adorable characters.

One of my favorite parts to this volume is that we do get some character back story in one of the episodes. The episode initially is about Taruto as she comes across a fellow cat that's seemingly kept in a house in a way so that he can't get out at all. This strikes Taruto as not exactly right so when she tells Charlotte about it, she's all set to bust him out of there, especially since the male cat in there seems to want to say something but isn't sure how. So they craft a plan to get him out of there by distracting his owner and making their way in to snatch him up. This balances out nicely with learning about Charlotte's own past as a little catgirl when she was apparently kept in a room with numerous cages and dozens of other cats but managed to be the only one who escaped from there. It's not said what the place is or the fates of the others but it's dark enough to let the imagination run wild. It also serves to give reason to her motivations for wanting to free others.

The relationship side of things, which is almost entirely human based, also makes a bit of progression and through the help of the insert some of it gets clearer. Iori and Kinako's relationship is weird going by the dialogue as both of them refer to Iori's mother in a direct lineage manner; he as his mother and Kinako as her grandmother. The first impression you get is that Kinako would be Iori's offspring but she's actually his niece which I don't think was ever really mentioned before, or such a throwaway instance as to be completely forgettable. Bringing the grandmother into the picture ties into another story but it's one that's nicely done if a bit predictable. Kinako's challenged a bit in these episodes since she's not friendly with her grandmother for something she not longer even remembers as well as her growing jealousy over Iori being more interested in the next door neighbor girl. Add in Taruto who gets his affections as well and her familial needs aren't being met to her expectations.

In Summary:
Taruto's feel is still very much what we got with the first volume. It has some confusing aspects to it since the world is different in such a subtle way but the premise is interesting to be sure. The characters continue to be adorable on numerous levels and while the stories are really simple in nature, there's such an interesting variety of back story that's coming into play from Taruto's potential princess nature, the magic and the world itself that you really want to see where they're going to go with it and hope that it's not just more of the same. That wouldn't be bad but it would feel like it's squandering its potential.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Music Clip 3,Textless Ending 1

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: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magical Meow Meow Taruto