The Princess of Disaster is about to strike on Earth and the Leafe Knights are in search of the woman they can bond with to defeat her.
What They Say
Himeno Awayuki should be happy. Her family is rich. And when Himeno merges with a Leafe Knight, she transforms into an all-powerful superhero: the Pretear! But a discarded lipstick leads Himeno to learn that her archenemy Fenril, Princess of Disaster, was once the human Takako and the previous Pretear. Worse, Hayate--Himeno's current love interest--spurned Takako and turned her to evil! Devastated, Himeno loses her Pretear abilities.
The bilingual presentation for Pretear is a pretty solid one and something that ADV Films did regularly back when this first came out. The original Japanese language track is presented in its original stereo mix encoded at 224kbps and it comes across solid and problem free, though it certainly isn’t something that stands out either. The English language track is bumped up to a 5.1 mix at 448kbps but it comes across more as just an increase in volume and a bit more clarity in placement. There isn’t any significant gain in it overall but it does provide a smoother feeling overall. The music on both tracks makes out the best and even more so with the 5.1, but it’s a very small gain at best. We didn’t experience any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Though the original singles release from ADV Films was done in 2004, the first thinpak set was done in 2005 which is the vintage for this particular set. Pretear was given some shrinkage as it went from four discs down to three back then and that’s exactly what we get here. Spread in a 5/4/4 format, the presentation is rather solid overall as the series has lots of bright clean colors that work well with the movements and design of the show. It’s not one that goes for an immense amount of detail for a lot of it but enough to give it a strong feeling. The presentation of the source materials here is good and the show doesn’t disappoint with how it looks. It’s a generally problem free release outside of the usual few areas of mild banding here and there and some background noise that’s likely inherent in the source material.
While the discs are basically the same, the packaging design for the release has changed a bit from the previous thinpak collection and that’s all for the better. The previous box was a bit too dark blue for my tastes and this one lightens things up a fair bit. Though snow doesn’t actually figure into the show too heavily, the main panels here utilize the snowflake effect in the framing nicely. The main panel has a good shot of Himeno and Takako together, inverted from each other, with a very wispy snowy feel to the background. The back panel has Himeno in her ultimate form outfit while Go and Kei lean in and watch over her. With the three individual cases inside, artwork from the original covers are repurposed here nicely, some better than others, with a great bit of framing to all of them to give it a bit more elegance. The back covers are straightforward with episode listings that have a series of shots from the show alongside it along with the usual production credits and a solid technical grid. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
As is the norm for many of the thinpak collections from ADV Films, the menus are barebones essentials at best. Pretear at least feels like it gave a nod to some of the themes as it’s a partial faux letterbox style where the center strip has the logo along with various crystal-like flowers throughout it. The colors are kept to deep blues and reds for the background and it’s appealing on a basic enough level but it’s certainly not something that drives home anything about the show. The top bar contains the basics for such things as language setup and trailers while the bottom has the individual episode access. Submenus load quickly for what little you’ll use them for and the discs all correctly read our players’ language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Pretear, which also goes by the name of “New Legend of Snow White”, was originally a manga done by Junichi Sato and Kaori Naruse. Though he’s written this one, Seiko Sayama took in the directing duties for this thirteen episode series. The manga ran a little bit past when the series first aired so there was certainly some overlap in the creative process. While this is generally something fans fear, these 13 episodes do a fantastic job of presenting a beginning, middle and ending that doesn’t feel like it crammed in too much or left many dangling subplots. Fans of the manga may feel differently, but if your only exposure is to the show, you’re going to be pleased.
The story is somewhat of a straightforward one and one that you’ll find similarities and resonance’s with elsewhere. In a place known as the Leafe Garden, we’re introduced to a beautiful area that’s lush with greenery and life. But within it, things are beginning to die off from some “red snow” that falls to the ground. We’re given introductions to seven male characters from the twenty something down to the single digit age. These are the Leafe Knights, otherwise known as Hayate the Knight of Wind, Sasame the Knight of Sound, Go the Knight of Fire, Kei the Knight of Light, Hajime the Knight of Water, Mannen the Knight of Ice, and Shin the Knight of Plants. Four are the older Knight’s while three are the younger ones. Going by looks alone, you know Hayate is the lead, but in one form or another, these are all definitely pretty boys.
With knowledge that the red snow is caused by the Disaster Queen and that it could have a terrible effect upon Earth, all seven head there to fight off what the snow causes as well as to search for the woman who can become the Pretear, the one that each of the seven knights can merge with to give her powers to fight the Queen. This makes things rather interesting since it causes a certain dependency on both sides as well as raises the not so subtle sexual aspects of it. How many women would refuse to merge with such good looking guys? These are definitely not the seven dwarves…
While they’re searching on Earth and fighting the monsters that get created by the snow and the “monster worms” that are borne from it, we’re introduced to a rather unique area in Japan and the main character. A somewhat fiery redhead, Himeno Awayuki is the daughter of a novelist who hasn’t written in quite some time, presumably since the loss of his soul mate of a wife. He has just recently married Natsue, who is the richest woman in the lands. Upon their marriage, anything in the town that bore her previous family name was changed to Awayuki instead. And considering that the “island” they all lived on was named after the family, practically everything in the town of Awayuki is renamed. Natsue’s loss of her soulmate has drawn her to her new husband and both are very lovey dovey and rather focused on each other, much as most newlyweds are, even those with teenagers. And Natsue has two of her own as well, the very brash and spoiled Mayune, a firebrand with pink hair, and Mawata, the somber and introspective shy green haired girl. Both despise what’s happened, the loss of their family name and the distancing of her mother to the new husband. Mayune reacts to everything by striking out in pranks and ploys against Himeno while Mawata simply ignores everyone and goes on alone.
Himeno tries to get along with everyone, but builds walls of her own. When Mayune begins turning all the other girls in school against her, she practically can’t take it anymore. It’s during one of her mad races to get to school in fact that her life changes considerably, as she ends up running flat into Hayate. When he begrudgingly helps her up, their touch causes a reaction that tells him she’s got the power to be the Pretear. Initially he finds himself not even liking her all that much, so much so that he hides the knowledge of the discovery from the other knights, but Sasame sees right through him, and they proceed to bring her into their plans.
On the lush grounds of the Awayuki residence is one of the best ways to cross over to the Leafe Garden, and it’s from there that the knights show up during a quiet moment of Himeno’s day and begin to explain things to her. In traditional anime style, a monster worm shows up and surprises everyone. Himeno runs as she’s told by Hayate, who still doesn’t think much of her. But with all that’s gone on in her life, she silently resolves to stop running from things and to make a stand. It’s this surge of confidence and resolve that really pushes her character forward into the series and gives her the strength to merge with Hayate for the first time, to go through the (naked) transformation into a battle costume with the powers Hayate has.
The series then does a natural progression of Himeno getting better at using her powers and merging with the other nights, fighting the various monster worms that show up throughout the city and trying to balance her home life and her crush on Hayate. It’s pretty typical stuff that would normally take up an entire season of most other shows, but is done very well here in skimming sequences over a couple of episodes. It’s just before the midway point of the series that we get introduced to the Princess of Disaster fully and her plans of acquiring the Leafe so she can become even more powerful. And it’s here we learn some rather surprising secrets about her own past with the Leafe Knights and secrets among the Knights themselves.
The second half of the series really surprised me overall. And there was one moment where I was reminded of exactly why I love anime. While the Princess of Disaster is going on about her love for Hayate in the past, we learn that one of the other Knights loved the Princess in secret and continues to have a deep love for her. Enough so that he abandons his comrades and takes up the mantle of her Dark Knight. And this isn’t just one of those momentary turns you find in some shows, this is something deep and profound that changes the way everything has gone before and carries through to the end of the series with some very heartrending consequences. It’s things like this that make anime stand out, in having a character follow his heart even though it brings him against his friends and casts him in the shadows of evil.
This is a very well written series overall and does a good job of mixing both the serious moments with the humorous ones. Early on as we get to learn of the ‘wicked family’ that Himeno lives with, we see mostly the outlandish pranks that Mayune plays on her and the abuse of the short bald driver Tanaka. Tanaka takes the brunt of the damage, but even he has a tale of love that’s snuck into things, giving his character a reason for taking the abuse. There’s plenty of little wild takes and big eyed moments of comedy, but it’s properly placed and I don’t believe ever showed up during the more serious moments of drama and battle. Most of the Knights get the short shrift in general just because there’s so many, but the two lead ones more than make up for it with well defined characters. And in the end, when everything comes together, you really get the feeling that each would act the way they do.
Revisiting this series after so many years has been a lot of fun. Almost everything that I loved about it back when I first saw it through Odex is intact here. It plays in the realm of magical girls and keeps to many of its traditions (or clichés if you prefer). At the same time, it doesn’t wallow in them, providing you with an endless stream of villains of the week or other such banality. What you have here is a complete story, within a larger story that could be easily explored. The completeness of what we get here with the varied and fun cast is spot on near perfect. With the combination of good looking characters, fun characters, solid pacing, wonderful music and a storyline with a beginning, middle and end, Pretear is one that is very easy to revisit every few years. And there are very few series I can say that about..
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.