Sister Princess Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 05, 2005



What They Say
Wataru seems to be adapting well to life on Promised Island, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. With thirteen younger sisters to look after, Wataru always has his hands full. When Karen gets lost and then Aria seemingly disappears, it’s Big Brother to the rescue once again!

The Review!
Allowing the various girls to have individual tales, it's relatively more of the same with the barest hint of something bigger.

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 fourth 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 Mamoru and Rinrin together with a pencil sketch of Wataru next to them. Below the orange strip we get another full length shot of the other ten 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 Sakuya 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 Sakuya 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 Sakuya and Chikage, 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 Sakuya 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 new clean opening sequence and the 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, Monica Rial, Shelley Calene-Black and John Swasey, 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)
With the fourth volume of the series we're moving firmly past the middle point of the series and hopefully into territory where things will start to be explained. In fact, we get an actual brief scene where one of the characters is confronted about carrying out her mission and needing to get on the ball and doing it. Unfortunately, that's all there really is for that and we're left with four episodes that are pretty much standalone pieces.

Even worse, it kicks off with something of a recap episode. These in general are something that I dread unless it's a very long and complex show, something which Sister Princess most definitely is not, but this one almost approaches a comical level since it has Wataru going around the house and checking in on each of the girls to make sure they have all their homework done since school is starting up the next day. Each girl he gets to gets something like a minute of time to them where they're doing something now and then some time spent flashing back to something else within the time we've seen them. With twelve girls, it goes by fast and without much detail and in the end is pretty darn useless.

Over the course of the first half of the series, I haven't exactly come across any character I outright hate or dislike, though most of them seem to be fairly bland outside of their core stereotype, but the one that I dreaded getting her own episode story was Aria. It's most definitely a cute character and I know exactly what kind of appeal they're shooting for with her, but at the same time I almost want to strangle her because of the way she talks. Far too much helium in her life. Her story is like she is, very simple, in that she loses a ribbon that Wataru had given her and with the help of an older gentleman she's able to search around and find it while the subplot has Wataru looking for the perfect thing to sketch for a school project. The two combine in the end but are kept pretty much apart either way. Watching Aria do stuff is like watching a molasses in Victorian outfits being injected with helium.

What proved to be mildly amusing was the school festival episode since it didn't do things as expected. Everyone's all primed to be involved in this years festival and they're all finding their particular events that they want to participate in but a few are trying to figure out what Wataru wants to do since they want to participate with him. Kaho in particular stands out in this episode since she's a cheerleader and wants to cheer for him when he's out there as well as making sure she doesn't screw up her baton stuff. All the girls are fairly involved in their own thing but we get to see that Wataru's not interested in the sports stuff and doesn't like it in general since he's not that good. I was glad to see that they didn't start him as someone whose good at everything or someone who will always win at everything they do if he just applies himself.

In Summary:
Sister Princess is essentially more of the same from the previous volumes which means it's more miss than hit for me. Some of the material here didn't drive me batty and was enjoyable, particularly any scene with Chikage in it, but the telling sign is that I keep checking the countdown counter for each episode to see just how much more is left. Visually, it continues to be a pleasing looking show and those who like it and particular girls will be happy again, but for anyone looking for something more from the show that they haven't gotten yet aren't likely to find it here.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,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