Vanilla Series: Story of Little Monica (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2005



What They Say
Mix the sweet and sexy character designs of Jyouki Satsumaya (SEX WARD) with the expertise of Vanilla Series veterans Shiyuuta Biwajima and Chikara Nikki (I LOVE YOU / ENDLESS SERENADE / GIRL NEXT DOOR), and what do you get? Why, THE STORY OF LITTLE MONICA, of course - a light and lustful romp through a pastel-colored land full of exotic pleasures!

One Cat Girl & Tons of Trouble!

After years away, Will is finally returning home to the town he grew up in to see his childhood friends. But it’s far from the city of beauty and culture that he remembers. Little Monica has been taken over by the evil Kajo, the city has become a place of debauchery and lust. A city where a stripper like the famous feline beauty Meow can really haul in a lot of cash. When Will ends up as part of her sex show, he isn’t about to miss out on his chance to make this kitty howl! Will he be able resist the city’s new hedonistic lifestyle in order to restore Little Monica to the wonderful town he once knew?

The Review!
Returning to his home city, Will finds that Little Monica isn't what it used to be anymore.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is very much a dialogue driven show with just some ambient music throughout it and a couple of action scenes where the stereo channels are used. The dialogue is pretty much center channel based and has a full feeling to it and comes across well. As with most adult shows, it's not the most dynamic mix out there but it gets the job done. The ending sequence sounded quite a bit lower than the rest of the show however when listened to on the English track. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2002, the transfer for this two part OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This is one of the higher end production values series under the Vanilla Series banner and it really shines through here with the authoring for it. This is just bright and vibrant throughout, wonderfully colored and pretty much without blemish that I can see during regular playback. The richness of the color palette combined with very smooth animation and solid backgrounds results in a very enjoyable viewing.

Packaging:
The cover art for this is highly attractive as it features the three sisters together with each of them wearing a different colored top that barely goes over their hips while the background is a bland colored piece that has the big cat ear symbol from the show. This is just adorable on multiple levels and it's so eye-catching with the designs and colors. The back cover goes with a pink backdrop and provides a few shots from the show with full nudity while providing a sizeable summary of the premise and a paragraph worth of the discs features. The runtime is hard to find with it being such small print and almost hidden among some of the production information but otherwise this is a really good looking package all told. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
Using the artwork from the ending sequence to frame the menus, the layout has a nice feel to it with the detailed designs and earthy feel. The selections are all lined down along the left with a cute cat ear hat icon bouncing along when you move along them. The empty section on the right, which is a fair bit lighter than in the show itself, plays various clips from the show to the vocal song. Access times are nice and fast and the layout very easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our player's language preset for the audio but didn't register on the subtitles due to them being listed as Japanese.

Extras:
The only extras included here are the basic ones but there's some fun to be had. The slideshow has various images from the show itself but the fun extra is the outtakes section, some of which do very much sound scripted, where they have a lot of fun with being able to use whatever dialogue they want.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Little Monica has been one of the more sought after releases from the Vanilla Series line since they first started bringing them over and it's arrived at long last. And unlike what you would think if you don't know anything about the show, Little Monica is actually the name of the city where all of this takes place and not the name of a person. That certainly led to some confusion upon first glance.

The series focuses around a young man named Will who had left the city some time earlier and went off to get himself an education and become a worldly man. He found out while out there that women love a man who knows his stuff and has the air of confidence (but not arrogance) that carries him so he's had quite a life and plenty of experience. He's left behind a number of woman in order to return home so that he can use the knowledge he's gained to help that place prosper even more than it already does. The city, as he recalls while on the boat he's taking back there, is one of immense arts and culture and a shining beacon that's akin to the renaissance. He blathers on about this not realizing there's an attractive young woman next to him dressed up as a catgirl.

As it turns out, she's going to Little Monica for work and can't reconcile the differences in what he says the place is like and what she's heard it to be. As it turns out, in the intervening years since he left, the city has fallen to the rule of a twisted man named Kajo who has changed it from a place of arts and beauty to lust and debauchery. The old grand amphitheater is now a dark and stank place where the stage is used for people like the young woman, named Meow, to perform her striptease and then to select on man from the audience with which to have sex with for the show. Will learns all of this after following her there and winding up as the person selected, so his crash course into the new reality of Little Monica is quick and hard.

One of the main reasons he came back was to reunite with a woman who meant something to him a long time ago named Celia. She runs a little shop in the city with her two sisters, Tina and Mei, and thankfully he discovers they haven't changed much other than some strange little puff creature that's arrived there one day and just floats about. They're all happy to see Will back and to his eyes they've all certainly grown up a lot and become attractive young women. So he ends up staying there while trying to learn what the city is like now and how he can be a positive influence in it.

His time ends up being spent in two ways. One of them is that the two younger sisters express their desire to him to wanting to know what men are like which leads to some amusing and cute first encounters between them. Will's got his confidence there and just plays it out like only you can imagine an adult anime release would and eventually he's got both girls wrapped around his member while he's still pining away for Celia and having very enjoyable memories of Meow. The other way his time is spent is finding out how the city has changed under Kajo's rule. Music has been outlawed and all the culture has dried up, leaving the city to fear him. For example, he shows up at the shop at one point and demands the girls strip before him so that he can determine if he can use them in one of his shows.

There's some larger plot about a woman who has the spirit of Little Monica in her and a prophesy about this year being one where the control of the city can be placed in full in someone else's hands which is what Kajo is after and Will has to stop but that's all just fluff to spread out the well done sex scenes that are here. The character designs are highly attractive throughout this piece and they're all consistent for the most part in terms of character heights. Though there's a heavy young feeling to them, they all look this way other than Kajo and his evil goons. Overall, the plot serves things well but the bulk of the enjoyment really comes from the characters that are getting it on.

In Summary:
Long sought after and filled with great looking animation and character designs, Little Monica is one of those shows that has certainly earned its reputation and will likely be a title that a good number of people get their introduction to adult anime with. It's one of the cleaner releases out there though still explicit, it avoids the nastier edges of the genre but still titillates effectively and just has a lot of fun with itself. This is one of the jewels in the Vanilla Series releases and one that most adult anime fans will have seen or will own at one point or another. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Outtakes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Critical Mass Video
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vanilla Series Collection