Ramen Fighter Miki Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007
What They Say
In a world where terror grips the land and innocents have no solace from violence and brutality, one girl walks the line between life and death to bring her own special brand of... Ramen. Miki Onimaru works at her parent's Ramen shop, making deliveries, waiting tables, and attracting customers with cute, girlish charm. Somehow, Miki can't complete even one of these simple tasks without the full employment of her extensive bone-crunching, skull-splitting martial arts moves and penchant for unleashing relentless destruction. Can Miki get through the day without messing up and angering her Mom, who makes her look like a gentle kitten in comparison?
Contains episodes 1-4.
Not only is this more fun than a cup of noodles, it's more fun than an entire factory of noodles.
Media Blasters has again elected to go with the single language route so there is only the original Japanese language track available here. The stereo mix is decent enough, encoded at 192 kbps, as it deals with the simple directionality across the forward soundstage and some of the ambient sounds. The music is loud and brash at times, which fills it up nicely, but otherwise it's a fairly stable mix without anything to really challenge it. Dialogue comes through clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Filled with lots of bright colors and fairly simple character designs, the show just leaps off the screen and has a very good look and feel to it. The colors maintain a solid look for the bulk of the show, though some noise does come across in a few background scenes. The usual small moments of line noise during panning sequences is apparent but it's very minimal overall. With no cross coloration or any kinds of real issues to it, this is simply an appealing looking transfer that serves the material well.
The cover design for the show is pretty well in theme but admittedly a hard sell. With a red background and border that's used on many ramen book designs, it's covered largely by the smiling and happy character shots of Miki and Megumi along with various work related items. The colors are bright and they look good overall but Megumi's design has a bit of softness throughout. The back cover uses the same background design which works really well here as it mixes in various food shots and pieces of character artwork. The summary runs through the basics and the discs features are cleanly listed. As is usual, the bottom quarter of the cover has the standard production information and an always solid technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu essentially takes the character artwork from the cover and changes out the background with a surprisingly bland gray backdrop. In the foreground for the menu selections though are numerous ramen cups, all in red, which look like small Pringles containers. The navigation across these is a bit awkward as the direction the cursor goes in isn't terribly clear but navigation design has been weak on several Media Blasters titles recently. With a bit of upbeat vocal music playing along, this is a bright and loud piece overall but it sets the mood fairly well. Access times are solid and since there's only one language on here our player presets were pretty much set.
A couple of good extras are included here that make for some fun watching. The first is a "Star Rangers" opening sequence which is just hilarious as it does the parodies so well. Having twisted versions of the characters and the various Star Ranger gags play out in such quick form really works well. The other extra is a twenty-four minute behind the scenes "voice actor fight" segment that shows the various cast members at work and play at a recording session. Not unlike the show itself, it has a rather good slant for its humor that makes it fun to watch even if there are enough standard fluff moments. I never would have imagined myself watching a Jenga contest like this, but it's just surprisingly addictive.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Jun Sadogawa, Ramen Fighter Miki is a twelve episode series that simply defies expectations. How much could you really expect from a show with this title, or as it is known more in manga form, Noodle Fighter Miki. It just doesn't lend itself to being something that you'd, well, actually want to watch. One of a few titles I was dreading, partially from my memory of the awful covers of the manga releases, the show itself turned into something that had me laughing out loud rather regularly and wanting to show it to other people.
While each of the episodes are full length, the show works around the two stories per episode idea which really works in its favor. Rather than having to sustain a comedic plot for an entire episode, they're able to work with the shorter form to keep things moving along faster and without quite as many lulls between the gags. With most of the episodes starting off with a great little parody of the MGM lion's roar, the mood is set quickly as you get to see what Miki and everyone else will be getting into.
The premise is extremely simple as the show revolves around twenty year old Miki, a young woman who is working in her mothers ramen shop in the shopping arcade. She's got a great sense of justice and a need to stamp out things she views as wrong wherever she comes across them. This sense of justice should be tempered by her klutziness or her mean temper but it all goes hand in hand as she gets involved in so many things. Provided she's not distracted by a cute puppy or something else. As part of her job in the restaurant, she tries to deal with serving the food or performing deliveries but things always end up getting in the way. Her mother lands the hammer of parental justice on her quite often but Miki is superbly resilient and bounces back easily enough.
Miki has her main rival in the form of a competing bakery across the street where Megumi lives and works. Megumi is you typical beautiful blonde in the maid style outfit who has been dealing with Miki since they were children. Their feuding goes back so far that neither of them know why but each of them believes the other wronged them. The frantic nature of their fights and the pure weirdness of the characters at times overpowers everything else but it's all done with a sense of humor that really is very appealing. Watching the pair go back and forth at each other, whether it be normal fights or when they have a big wrestling ring in the arcade itself, there is a great pace and energy to it.
The pair aren't the only characters in the show however. Miki has a neighbor named Akihiko who runs the fruit and vegetable stand. He's got a bit of a thing for her but is often just too frightened by her nature to really do anything seriously about it. He gets caught up in the fantasies a bit too often early on but the reality that Miki presents snaps him out of it. Working more as a narrator or a voice of sanity, Akihiko brings some calm to the show. At least until his entire Star Rangers parody story which is just priceless beyond words. Complementing Akihiko is Kankuro, another young man who has returned from college in order to defeat Miki. He has a longstanding feud with her but she can't remember his name or ever even seeing him before. This seems to happen from scene to scene which just frustrates him and makes her seem even more oblivious than she already is. Like Miki though, he has the same kind of stubborn streak and abilities to outperform normal human levels which lets him keep up with her.
With the short form comedy, they hit up a lot of different scenarios along the way. There's obviously no real growth here but they introduce new characters and expand things nicely enough. Miki and Megumi are the main stars at first but once Kankuro comes on the scene and the relationship side expands a bit more things get more involved. The best material for me however revolves around the storyline where Miki has to make a delivery to the Endo household. She can't bear to actually go by the instructions provided and goes through the gate to deliver instead of calling out. In the yard is a brutally funny looking dog that has a taste for ramen and an ability to keep up with Miki's intense fighting skills. The repetitive fights actually work in the shows favor and the way Megumi tries to take advantage of it is hilarious.
Though not quite as amusing to me but still quite good is the introduction of a teacher named Kayahara. She's the kind of girl who looks like she just stepped out of a modern Japanese horror film, complete with special effects around her that enhance her dread/dead-like presence. Between having to deal with her own sense of drama and the way it affects others, Kayahara brings some nice edge to the show. People react poorly to her and Kayahara herself is positively hilarious when she tries to act like a normal young woman by smiling. As the cast is fleshed out, the series becomes more and more engaging. It kept me laughing far more than expected, especially when I expected the series to be vapidly stupid and inane.
Comedy series can be incredibly hit or miss even if it's in the style you like since your mood can affect it. Ramen Fighter Miki might have just come at the right time because it kept me laughing for a good deal of the show. I love the characters even with their fairly simple designs. The layouts are standard material but it's well utilized as Miki and everyone else rampage through them. With the stories being done in half-episode length format, we get a good deal of humor without a lot of the usual fluff associated with it to fill it out. The end result is a show that really just works from start to finish and doesn't bore you along the way with things. The intent here is to laugh and it succeeds very strongly in that area. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Star Ranger Opening, Voice Actor Fights
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ramen Fighter Miki