Saber Marionette J Again (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2002
The marionettes are back, so of course hilarious adventures ensue. I will be making a few references to the original Saber Marionette J series and its release, so I guess you could consider it a pre-requisite for this set.
Three language tracks are provided: Japanese, English and Spanish. Having listened to both Japanese and English, there were no technical problems here.
The English track was dubbed by Animaze, so it's a big jump from the original series (which was dubbed by Ocean). Personally, I like the Ocean dub more. It will probably hinge on who you like playing Lime more, Julie Maddelena (SMJ Again, Animaze) or Maggie Blue'O Hara (SMJ, Ocean).
RAINBOWS! There, I said it. This has been the worst disc I've seen by far, ever. There are rainbows in every scene, on every character, and in every background.
What's worse is, if you're someone like me who's never really noticed these before, now I see them in every disc I watch. This is very sub-par for POP/Cinram (the authoring house), and I am very disappointed.
Another thing was the brightness of the animation. Given that this was an OVA, there was probably more money to be spent on animation, and they sure did go crazy. The colors (on my setup at least) became so bright that it strained my eyes to focus on the characters (Bloodberry had to be the worst to watch).
Saber Marionette J Again is a 6-episode OVA which comes in a two-disc pack. It made sense to release the original series (a 25-episode season) in this format having three sets total, but releasing SMJ Again on two discs seems wasteful. I assume that Bandai was trying to follow the style of the previous releases. Honestly, I wish they would use this two-disc set release style with more shows (so far only Outlaw Star, SMJ and the forthcoming Brain Powerd use it).
The cover features a shot of Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry, very attractive.
The one thing this set really does well is the extras. We're provided commercials for all three Saber Marionette J series (J, Again and J to X) on Disc one. Disc two features all six openings and closings (each episode has a different one) in creditless fashion. One nitpick is the lack of subtitled lyrics on the creditless openings and endings, but I'll live.
The menus are exactly the same as the ones from the original three sets, with Marine being the one booting up. Anyway, response times are good and they are easy to navigate. No problems here.
Our story picks up not long after the ending of the original series, to the point that SMJ Again is billed as the twenty-sixth episode.
The story begins with daily life in Japoness. Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry all survived saving Terra II and rescuing Lorelei, so life is back to normal for Otaru and company. He and the marionettes have opened up a restaurant which has helped ease his money problems.
Things start to get interesting when we meet Lorelei again. She has provided the necessary genetic material to create female clones (thus giving Terra II a normal population) and is feeling restless. She feels guilty for her "sins" that she has committed and seeks atonement. Luckily Otaru and the gang get wind and save her before she gets hit with a plasma bolt on top of a mountain.
Enter Faust's Saber dolls: Tiger, Luchs and Panther. Tiger is still damaged from her fight with Lime (see SMJ Volume 3) and is being sent to Lorelei to be repaired. Meanwhile Faust has requested that Otaru teach Luchs and Panther some womanly qualitites. It turns out that neither Luchs nor Pather can cook or do anything well, so they follow Cherry and Bloodberry respectively around to learn how "a marionette should behave". There is a real change in the personality of Luchs here, but Panther is basically the same flat character she was before. Still, we get to see a number of funny scenes, including later episodes where 4 of the marionettes try to come onto Otaru with hilarious results.
Yes, there's lots of fanservice here.
We also meet Marine, a new marionette who, unlike all the others, has three built-in Maiden circuits. Aside from almost being named "Sea-Man" and going through her "hating boys" stage, she's the most normal marionette yet. Not that it's hard or anything.
The other major plot item is this gigantic plasma storm that is brewing in the bowels of Terra II. Of course, it happens once every 80,000 years and Marine is the only one who can stop it.
*ENDING SPOILERS AHEAD*
One of the major complaints about Saber Marionette J was its ending. To summarize, the three marionettes (Lime, Cherry, Bloodberry) save Terra II but sacrfice themselves causing Otaru a great deal of pain. Life goes on... until the credits roll. In the very last second the marionettes are back and they all live happily ever after. It's these last 30 seconds of the show that ruin it for a lot of fans.
Needless to say, SMJ Again does it also. Marine sacrifices herself to save Terra II (her body can't handle all three maiden circuits) and the ending scene is Lime saying goodbye. Credits roll, and we see the marionettes, Otaru and others at the beach. Enter Marine (who is miracuously better).
It's just upsetting that the creators feel a need to always have the show have a happy ending, even if it makes little to no sense.
Being a fan of the original series, I thought this show tried too hard. The jokes were forced and I thought most of the story was too over-the-edge. I felt very disappointed in this release.
Still, I would recommend this to people who have seen the original SMJ and liked it (or didn't). It is not really "more of the same", but you may like it, if you can get past the video problems.
Sony DVP S560D DVD Player, Zenith 27" TV, Aiwa Mini-Home Theater System (WITH 5.1 sound), Monster Video Cables, Generic AV Cables (for sound)
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: D+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 180
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saber Marionette J