UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2 Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, March 26, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 06, 2007



What They Say
That Valkyrie Ghost always looked like trouble and now she proves just how much trouble she can be! This cat-eyed beauty with a fashion sense that leans toward the dominatrix line is back and no man is safe from her charms! Particularly not Kazuto, who becomes the spiky-haired pawn in a super-powered grrl-fight that threatens to destroy everything! In this corner we have our heroine Valkyrie and her loyal pals, struggling to win the day for goodness and light. In that corner we have the personification of sex and evil. Only one will be left standing. Get your ringside seat and witness the Bathhouse Smackdown of the Millennium in this the final volume of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie!

The Review!
Bringing this season to a conclusion with an actual plotline, the roles reverse as Val must now save Kazuto.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese but sampled an episode in English as well. Both language tracks are done up in a straightforward stereo mix that have some good moments of directionality throughout them for both action effects and for dialogue. The show has a lot of spastic moments for the characters so they're often all over the place and dialogue is matched up nicely with them. The music is good here as expected but there aren't any musical pieces that really make the stereo mixes really stand out. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With the show being focused around bright and colorful aliens you can imagine what the color palette is like. Much of it revolves around a very normal looking neat future world but the numerous characters and aliens, ships and more give it a very bright and vibrant feel at times. The mixture of the two works well here and the source materials are in very good shape that allow for very little in terms of blocking visible. Colors are strong, aliasing is very minimal and we didn't see anything of note in terms of cross coloration. This is a pretty smooth looking transfer overall that captures the shows details nicely. The opening logo is left intact and is soft subtitled with the English language version.

Packaging:
Using artwork that appears to be from the Japanese release, the front cover has a good mix of artwork as it presents Valkyrie in full form in the foreground while the softer design of Akidra is in the background. There continues to be a lot of white background and white in general so the few colors that are here, even when soft, are still striking and vibrant. The back cover is split into a few sections with strips of shots from the show separating them. The summary is a couple of plain paragraphs that cover the basics, the discs features are clearly labeled and the bottom is filled with the production information and the always welcome technical grid. The reverse side uses artwork that's presumably from the rental or reverse side of the Japanese releases with an intricate framing that has Akidra inside of it while the back cover is laid out different but carries the same information. No insert is included with this release.

Menu:
The menu layout is simple but effective with its layout and design. Done in a faux letterbox style with a really appealing forest green filter, the background is of the bathhouse while the foreground on the left has rotating flat images of various characters and aliens and the right has the navigation that's got instant episode access to it as some of the music plays along. Though not terribly active it does showcase some eye-catching character artwork and above all else it's simple to navigate and quick to access. Like just about every other ADV Films release out there, the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
With so many of their releases having such a heavy amount of Japanese extras, I keep wondering why they get criticism for not putting them on in general. This installment has another solid round of extras that will please the fans of this show. The standards are present in the clean opening and closing sequences as well as another round of world notes to cover the various cultural tidbits. The "anime encounters" section provides some notes on various anime related jokes and explains them while also providing a quick clip from the scene itself which is a plus. Two new videos are included with the "video jukebox" section this time which are nicely subtitled and easy to follow along for those who want to sing as well by providing both the Japanese and English. The text interviews round things out with a couple more of the creative staff, this time giving a couple of pages each to the animation director and the character designer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Much to my surprise, the final three episodes of UFO Ultramaiden didn't make me want to tear my hair out too much. The first episode did that plenty but the remaining three that deal with the overall storyline of this season was actually fairly interesting. At least in comparison to the fact that the show is generally a whole lot of something about nothing.

The opening episode is one that's done solely so that Akina and Hydra can be of more use in the upcoming storyline. Either that or so that they could introduce one more new female character. Akina and Hydra have had an adversarial relationship with each other to say the least but it's a surprise that their discord could actually come to some use. Discovered accidentally when Hydra breaks something of Akina's and she tells her when she's trying some new incantations, the two end up fusing into one being that they call Akidra. Both of them share the body and alternate talking through her. It's like a blend of each into the middle but with a combined set of powers that are raised to a new level. The mixture is a cute enough character and Akina makes out better by having some extra skills to her. Where it really annoys is that in the first episode with her they go through the change process no less than three times. Talk about a shortcut in animation. Add in that they do it again multiple times across the next three episodes and the disc just didn't start off well.

Once past that however, the show starts to delve more into the Valkyrie Ghost storyline. Her attempts to capture Kazuto start to take on more meaning and before long she's been able to do just that. Val is naturally distraught and the rest of the girls, who are being visited by a princess from Valhalla, are ready to help her in getting Kazuto back. With the aid of the princess they at least have something to use to get back to Valhalla with. There is quite an impetus to get back to Valhalla in addition to this as all communication has been cut off with it. To everyone's surprise, the entire region has fallen to a space blizzard, something that princess Mehm is able to explain in more detail.

Called the Blizzard of Time, it's something that hit Valhalla quite some time ago and ended up causing such a massive upheaval that it separated the place into eight lands. Even worse, four of the moons of the Twelve Moons were sucked into it when it was finally defeated by four princesses who sacrificed themselves. A bit of a history lesson is given on all of this and it explains a lot of the way that Valhalla is made up and the way it became the utopia that it is now. The Blizzard of Time has struck quickly though and all that's left of its citizens are those that were on the outside, such as Mehm and those on Earth. Tied to Valkyrie Ghost and her intentions of keeping Kazuto for herself forever, everyone has a vested interest in stopping this from destroying all of Valhalla.

With a fairly large cast at this point that's accented by having both the new Akidra character and Chorus, everyone has a part to play in saving Valhalla. Of course, only Val can save Kazuto but this is a nice reversal from the previous season where Kazuto had to go and save her. With the lackadaisical way that UFO Ultramaiden deals with its storylines, it's no surprise that it takes about three episodes for all of this to come to a culmination. It does build nicely on some of the past encounters with Valkyrie Ghost and manages to tie up some of the things that she's done as well as nicely explaining away her appearance. A lot of it hinges on things happening just for the sake of happening but since that's what this show is at its core, it's easy enough to dismiss it.

If there's anything I didn't like about this season though, it's Chorus. Her character just feels incredibly tacked on and I can still say that even after the arrival of Akidra. She has her role within these last episodes but they're not critical and could have been dealt with in a number of other ways. But it wouldn't be a Kaishaku property if they didn't keep introducing more and more characters in a series.

In Summary:
UFO Ultramaiden's second season manages to outstrip the first season but that's almost damning it with faint praise. The final volume brings us a storyline that takes the tidbits scattered throughout the earlier episodes and does something fun with it that's tinged with some decent emotion and sacrifice. The series is still one of the weakest things I think ADV Films has put out in some time and this season has not changed that opinion in the slightest. This volume has some good flashes of storytelling to it but as a whole it's fluff. Occasionally pretty looking fluff but fluff nonetheless.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Valkyrie World Notes,Anime Encounters,Video Jukebox,Interviews with Japanese Staff,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via DVI 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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV MA
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: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie