Saint Tail Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2001
It's Saint Tail! Magical Girl Goodness! And in an odd case - an anime I'm watching after I've started reading the manga.
I watched the whole disc through in Japanese and spot checked the English. The audio sounded decent - no drop outs or anything odd coming from my speakers. The English track had a more "hollow" feel to it. The main strange thing about the audio is the use of the karaoke versions for the OP on the English track and for the ED on both tracks. Already a strike against them for not using the proper song - but using a karaoke track is just wrong. Unlike instrumental versions, in which an instrument is assigned the melodic part usually sung, the karaoke version is just the accompaniment. This gives the songs an empty and very out of place feel.
Clean and pretty to look at. The subtitles are nicely bordered and easy to read - though I did see a small shimmer at the very edge of them in a few scenes. The animation is clean and well done for a TV anime, stock footage used for Meimi's transformation of course. The animation for the "omake" in-between episodes 2 and 3 is simpler, but goes well with the super-deformed style of it. The missing opening and ending have been covered at length, however I will point out they are the correct ones. The really strange thing is the that opening is clean, other than a replaced logo. No credits are over it at all.
The cover has Meimi in full St. Tail mode, though I found the logo to be oddly small. The back lists features and is easy to read, plus the episodes are numbered. If future volumes do this it will help make up for the lack of volume number anywhere on the package. The pictures on the back do show a character who has not appeared as of this volume - which is always a little odd. The addition of the insert with the Japanese cast is nice, since that means they get included, but distressing since it really should be in the video. Plus some of the names are presented in Japanese name order and other western style. And some characters listed for episode 3 don't appear in this volume.
The menus are rather simple, with some animation. They could use a better way to indicate language choice. It would also help if the episodes were numbered as well as names as the layout didn't make it that clear. Access times were good.
The only extra is an image gallery of a decent size. Quite a bit from cels.
Simply put - if you are one of those people who has an allergic reaction to Card Captor Sakura, this is not a show for you. However if you enjoy really cute and sweet stories, Saint Tail is just your cup of tea. Forgive me if I make some references to how things were changed from the manga, for I find that aspect rather interesting.
Meimi Haneoka is a magical girl - but her magic comes from an interesting source, magic tricks, like those a professional magician uses! She doesn't fight supernatural monsters either, instead she steals things back for good people. People who have had something precious from them stolen go to the church seeking guidance and tell their troubles to a young nun in training, who just happens to be Meimi's best friend. In many ways Saint Tail is much closer in style and spirit to magical girls shows in the Pre-Sailor Moon era.
This disc presents the first three episodes, so much time is spent introducing most of our main cast. Seira, Meimi's best friend, does take some getting used to. Just accept that this is a non-existent religion loosely based on Catholicism, for there is no way a 14 year old girl today would be accept for training as a nun, she would certainly not wear a habit and nuns never hear confession. But once you get passed that, Seira is an incredibly fun character. The clever way she gets Meimi to do things - she has a very devious mind! A lot of time is spent setting up Saint Tail's main rival, Asuka Jr. The son of a prominent, but bumbling, detective, Asuka Jr. is determined to catch and reveal Saint Tails identity. Of course, he's also a classmate of Meimi's and possibly the object of her affections, which leads to many moments were Meimi almost blows her cover!
The first episode, in which Saint Tail is trying to replace a fake gem with the original it was copied from mostly sets up this rivalry. Trying to aid a jeweler who in a moment of weakness stole a precious gem, Saint Tail stumbles into a group of professional swindlers who sell gems and then steal them back to re-sell them. And as happens often in this series, in the end, not only does St. Tail manage to pull off her caper, but the cops end up looking good as they catch a group of real thieves. But this isn't good enough for Asuka Jr. whose detective skills do seem to outpace his father's. He wants Saint Tail - and so he issues a challenge to her, warn him when ever she is going to attempt a theft, to give him a fair chance to catch her. This "warn before theft" idea will probably seem familiar to viewers who've seen other thief anime like Lupin!
The second episode, involving a tiara that was taken from its proper owner, puts this into action, as Saint Tail sends a massive warning to Asuka Jr, and in turn makes him look like her accomplice! (A note to Tokyopop, tiara is spelled with one "r" - the episode consistently misspells it with two.) Seira is not happy Meimi is doing this, which is priceless to see. But Meimi can't help it, toying with Asuka Jr. is just too much fun. Asuka Jr. also shows he has his own code about how to catch Saint Tail, and that he knows she doesn't just steal for stealing's sake, even aiding her when she is about to be hurt. But just because he knows she's no ordinary thief doesn't mean he wants to catch her any less!
The third episode is the biggest divergence from the manga as it introduces the cute wittle mascot, Ruby the Hedgehog, much much much earlier! In fact at the time of this volume's release, Ruby hasn't even shown up in the American release of the manga. But she is cutie. How can you not love a mascot that laughs it head off at the main character when it first shows up? I should also mention the little "omake" that is in between episodes two and three. Done in super-deformed style, it features no thefts or magic. Just a silly quest to get some baked sweet potatoes from a vendor. Ever chased down an ice cream truck in your youth? Well, these potatoes are sold the same way, and seem to cause a similar reaction in Japanese children!
What really fascinated me was how stories from the manga were stretched out to make TV sized episodes, mostly by giving the elder Asuka and the police a larger part to play. Also interesting is that we've only been given hints to the background of Meimi's very odd parents - what was mom's former profession? Hmmm.
The end result, a likable show with fun characters and so far, a fluffy plot. Not that that is a bad thing! Of course it will be interesting to see what kind of twists can be thrown in to carry this through 43 episodes! There is enough action to keep things moving, but no real violence to scare most children. I only stop checked the dub, but most of the main characters seemed decently portrayed, the main issue being the removal of many references to God. Considering one of the main character is a nun and the kids all go to a Catholic school, this seems really silly. Especially recommended for the younger crowd, but older folks who like their anime sweet will get a kick out of this show too.
Magnavox 19" TV, Panasonic A112 DVD player, wired through Zenith VCR and using the TV speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saint Tail