Spa of Love Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 29, 2006
What They Say
This was a well known spa resort that made history in its days, but now that glory is merely in the past. It's seen many quiet days ever since, however, things aren't as quiet as they used to be ever since Yuji came here as an employee. Currently, 3 beautiful housewives are staying at this resort and Yuji steams up a plan to make this spa resort a place they would never forget!
With control over the female staff, Yuji makes weekend getaways at the hot springs a real treat for female visitors.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is essentially what you'd expect from the show as it handles dialogue well and the few music pieces and ambient sound effects are well placed. There isn't all that much in a real sense of directionality but it works for the content at hand. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we did not have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2005, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. While no fault of the authoring or transfer itself, the materials here are simply soft across the board. By design likely to add to that kind of feeling of a haze you get from a hot spring, the colors look good and maintain a solid feel but they just aren't as vibrant as you would expect. This is a good change in general from when a lot of adult shows went digital a few years back and the colors were far too vibrant. The softness here like helps to minimize the digital gradient issue though, which while visible isn't as strong as it has been in some other shows. This is kept to a few areas such as clothing and occasionally some backgrounds but it doesn't stand out as strongly.
The illustration for the front cover artwork is rather solid as it has the visual of Ryoko sitting on one of the outcroppings in the spring while holding a very flimsy towel to her chest. It manages to show off a great deal of skin while still providing something of a tease. Overall, it's very enticing, particularly when combined with the simple but good looking background to all of it. The back cover is a bit simple in design with another image of Ryoko but this time with her robe falling off around her. The cover is otherwise basic with a couple of shades of gray, a brief summary and a few shots from the show. The production and technical information rounds out the area.
JapanAnime continues to have some of the smoothest menu transitions out there though the menus are fairly basic otherwise. This release uses the artwork of Ryoko from the back cover as its main image and puts a close-up of some of the rocks from the spring to fill up the background. Where it's nice in its animation is that there is a good bit of steam rising from off screen. The menu selections are quick and easy to use and the transitional animation for them gives the entire menu process a bit of a smooth feeling. Access times are nice and fast and due to there being only one language, our player presets were a non-issue.
Other than the inclusion of an "all sex" chaptering feature and the standard and still welcome PSP/iPod options, there are no extras to be had here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having a show centered around a hot spring certainly isn't new but at least there are a number of ways you can approach it. From historical shows to supernatural thrillers, you can do something with the basic idea and just run with it. Spa of Love goes for a simple approach and one without any real hooks to it but it still manages to make it a surprisingly enjoyable quick little romp.
The show is centered around an inn that used to be quite popular and heavily frequented but is now just a shadow of its former glory. The inn itself still looks to be in great shape and is certainly a good place to hit up for a vacation, but there are always a number of factors that play into why someplace isn't popular anymore. One of the recent additions to the rank of employees there is a young man named Yuji. His time there has been spent well and he's managed to bring the staff under his control other than the male chef. Using his "sister" from which to gain more control, he works as a basic employee but spends most of his time taking care of all of the women who pass through the inn's doors.
This time it's a group of wives who have come for a weekend getaway. Yuji manages to move quickly to take them down one by one and give them a real workout, be it in their rooms or elsewhere. All of this is done with the help of his "sister" Azusa as well as a new hire, a young woman named Wakana. The help comes both in making sure nobody else is coming and that they're not distracted, but also for getting directly involved in the action. It doesn't take long before the women just become completely subservient to Yuji and desire nothing more than to pleasure him and to receive pleasure from him.
While the plot is as thin as a piece of thread, I was surprised at how enjoyable the show is. The character designs, though soft looking, are all very good here. We don't have anything with far too young look girls running around or devilish school boys manipulating things and that's a step-up alone. Naturally, I though that the green haired Saori was the most attractive and the one that had some of the best scenes, but the red headed Ryoko is a solid design and has a pair of very good scenes. Even more surprising was how enjoyable the girl with glasses character of Wakana turned out. Not only good looking in design but they did a good job on making her introduction and submission scene a good one. There isn't anything groundbreaking here but it's a good fun show that doesn't break the bounds of reality " other than how many times Yuji's able to rise to the occasion.
Spa of Love mixes some good looking animation, solid character designs and a basic but workable concept and turns it into a surprisingly enjoyable show. Without anything really unique to it, it doesn't stand out against some of the other hot spring based shows. What it does do is to take the "slice of life" kind of shows and give you the hot springs episode you wish that they'd all do. There isn't a lot to really say about Spa of Love but it was a very enjoyable way to spend thirty minutes.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: JapanAnime
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Spa of Love