Arisa Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, November 17, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005
What They Say
Shinichirou and his step-sister, Kotomi, run a cafe that their mother ran before she passed away. Life was peaceful and quiet in their little town as brother and sister worked hard to earn a living. Their father, a top scientist for the empire, was working on a secret project creating sex androids... but one day, an accident occurred at his lab that released an android girl into the public. Get ready for a raunchy time now that Arisa the Android is on the loose!
If the writers behind Steel Angel Kurumi could do what they really wanted to do, we'd have had Arisa a number of years ago.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Like every other release from this studio to date, there is no English language track. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix so that outside of a few minor action sequences and the music track, the dialogue is basically focused around the center channel with some mild directionality to it. It's essentially what you see in most adult series so it's quite serviceable here. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally released in 2004, Arisa marks the arrival of the first anime series encoded in HD for North American distribution. Two discs are included in the release; the HD disc which most players won't read (such as our Zenith) or it will just churn through the menus if the player can recognize a data disc (such as our Ilo DVD Recorder). Playing this disc back on our Dell XPS system gave us some great looking results but our monitor isn't calibrated for movie/film playback but rather gaming so there was some fuzziness in the backgrounds but the character animation looked fantastic. The package also includes the SD disc which is the same as their other releases and reads fine in all our players. The transfer for this release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Green Bunny hasn't done many of these as they don't have a new opening sequence for them and instead windowbox their original logo sequence. The quality of the transfer is solid overall with the exception of some minor grain and shiftiness during the first opening scene taking place in the dark clouds. Once it settles into the show proper, the character animation is vibrant and smooth, aliasing is non-existent and cross coloration simply doesn't happen. It's a great looking transfer overall.
The keepcase for this release is the single style that has a spot on each side of the interior for the discs to snap into place so there is no flippy hinge holding things together here. The front cover has an attractive shot of Arisa being fondled from behind with her clothes being in disarray while the back cover has a shot of Kotomi being tied up and showing through in various places as well as a few shots from the show. The summary covers the basics of the plot and the discs features are the standard layout and listings we've seen on numerous releases from this studio. The cover is of course reversible so that the nudity is hidden but unlike a lot of other recent covers from them it looks like they're using original artwork and not spruced up pieces. The covers look good here and while I wish they'd use the non-nude cover on the front, I know that these are being sent more to adult stories and via online only than showing up in regular retailers so it makes sense to show the goods. No insert is included in this release.
The main menu of the release is a simple one with some mildly naked character artwork along the left of Arisa and Kotomi while the nicely detailed logo is to the right above the selections. Unlike past menus there's no music playing along here. That is, until you go to a submenu and then return and then the instrumental music will kick in. The layout is straightforward and easy to navigate and with only one language and set of subtitles our players' presets were essentially a non-issue.
The extras are decent if amusing in their own way. The only real extra in a sense is the photo gallery showcasing shots from the show but they include another Bonus Video similar to what we've seen on other releases and it's again one of those clips that looks like it was made using MS Paint. Maybe in realizing how bad these actually are, no subtitles were included for it so it's simply raw Japanese.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are few widescreen anamorphic adult series out there but Arisa's the first that's managed to be done in via an HD code for PC's and that comes out pretty solid here and is definitely a selling point for some folks. But while the technical side of it may work out well, how does the content go? At first it looked kind of strange how they were approaching things but then when you suddenly realize it's a completely blatant "homage" of Steel Angel Kurumi it gets fairly amusing.
Taking place during the Taisho period, we see an aircraft hit some turbulence which causes a crate to fall out of it and from the sky falls down a solid grey female body. The naked body summarily crashes into the restaurant/home that Shinichiro Morisaki owns which was left to him by his mother when she died. His father supposedly disappeared ages ago to work on some sort of electric doll project and he's now currently helped by his childhood friend Kotomi in running the place (she affectionately calls him brother just to introduce the pseudo-incest possibility) as well as helpful advice from his grandfather who is pretty smart about things but still maintains that crazy old coot feel about him.
It doesn't take long before the electric doll goes from grey to full color as she comes to life as Arisa when Shinichiro ends up registering her with his voice and information. She becomes bonded to him as a master/slave relationship of sorts and while he tries to pawn her off to the dust bin she ends up working as the latest serving girl and maid inside the restaurant. The downside is that she's a complete klutz that's always spilling things or breaking plates. The upside is that people like her and her cute maid outfit that contrasts Kotomi's kimono so they're getting much more business now. So much so that Shinichiro has to put out a call for more help which results in the arrival of the slightly demure Yuuri. Yuuri's not all that she seems though as she's actually a military agent that's come to find the missing "Fire Bee" electric doll and bring it back before bad things happen to her. And she's got a bag of naughty tools that apparently is the only way to tell who is really an electric doll.
Never mind the giant metal maid ears sticking out of Arisa's head or her completely open nature about being an electric doll.
All the allusions to Steel Angel Kurumi are pretty blatant but that doesn't really impact that show in a negative way, particularly since so many adult shows are basically ripping off mainstream shows. And Steel Angel Kurumi was close enough to being an adult show anyway that it only seems fair to carry it through and they avoided – thankfully – making the lead male character ten years old. The character designs, outfits and setting all have obvious relation to that series but it pulls it off nicely enough. The sex scenes for the show are actually surprisingly minimal but the two we get here are fun to watch, one with Shinichiro and Arisa when her programming kicks in and another between Yuuri and Kotomi as she tests her whether she's an electric doll or not. There's plenty of nudity and other nudge-nudge bits here and there so it has a fairly balanced flow to it but there could have been more and better sex scenes to it. But that may be what the second volume is for.
As a fan of the series on which this is based, seeing a smuttier version of it is certainly enjoyable but what it comes down to is whether the show can manage without that. There are certainly some interesting things that come into play here and it has some potential but the first episode, while not exactly weak, isn't a stunner right out of the gate. The character designs are good and the sex well done without getting into anything scatological so it's certainly kept out interest from that alone. Visually it's quite attractive and the anamorphic print is a big plus since it makes this look even better on our larger set. Arisa has a lot going for it but it still has to exploit it before it can really get interesting.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Photo Gallery,Bonus Video
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: C+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Adult Source Media
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2