Saber Marionette J to X Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Kevin O'Connell
Review Date: Saturday, May 11, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 23, 2002



The Review!
Saber Marionette J to X, the sequel to Saver Marionette J and Saber Marionette J Again has finally begun. I managed to get my hands on a copy of the first disc a little earlier thanks to a retail store that sold them a little earlier then the street date.

Audio:

My primary viewing session for this disc was Japanese with English subtitles. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Dialogue, music and sound effects are all very clear and easy to understand. But the English dub seems to have been recorded at a lower level. The difference in sound is shocking. The English audio is so much lower that I almost thought I was going deaf. Add this to the fact that there is a different dubbing group for SMJ to X (this makes the 3rd cast to dub the Saber Marionette J series. And IMHO, this is the worst cast yet), and you can see why I avoided the English audio. There is no Spanish dub this time around. Because of the 2 different sound levels, I'm lowering the grade a little.

Video:

"Wow" is the one word that describes the video quality. I didn't notice any problems at all. The problems that plagued Saber Marionette J Again are nowhere to be seen. Can you guys tell I love the transfer?

Packaging:

The cover has two shots of Lime. The main shot up front is Lime in her normal outfit looking super deformed and the shot of Lime in the background has an SD Lime cleaning out her ears, after a swim (you can only see a little of her swimsuit as the main image of Lime dominates the cover). Program #1 is shown a few times on the cover (letting you know this is Vol. #1). The back cover has a few pictures from throughout this batch of episodes, a description of the show, an episode list, the DVD extras, the bilingual note, and some of the staff from both sides of the Pacific.

Menus:

Just like all the other Saber Marionette J releases, the menus background looks like the Maiden Circuit with the selection ringed around it. Quick loading and easy to tell what was selected are what I like with a menu.

Extras:

Your basic textless opening and closing (with no way to set up subs). 3 trailers (Betterman (subbed), Escaflowne: The Movie (Dubbed) and Love Hina (Subbed intro song with many images from throughout the TV series)) and a translated credits list. Pretty disappointing compared to what Bandai has given us in the past with SMJ releases. Hopefully later volumes will correct this and give us some good extras.

Content (Contains Spoilers)

After the events of SMJ and SMJ Again, Otaru, Lime, Cherry, Bloodberry and everyone else are doing fine. It's in the first episode that we learn something that scares Lime. With the upcoming festival, Otaru (who is in charge of the festival planning this year) realizes that the age-old traditions need to be changed. Cherry and Bloodberry make Otaru realize that things need to be forgotten in order for new things to happen. Lime begins thinking about this when she learns that the populace of Terra 2 decides to stop making Marionettes. With the female clones almost ready, and humanity trying to move forward, the reliance on Marionettes needs to be lost. Lime feels like she's junk and that everyone forget about her or her friends (including Otaru). Her feelings take a tremendous blow when she almost destroys the festival planning. After Otaru yells at her for doing something so dangerous, Lime runs off. Cherry and Bloodberry (who learn about Marionette production stopping when Li!
me left the paper at home) explain to Otaru and the three search all over Japoness for her. Eventually they find her and Otaru apologizes for yelling at her. They all say they will never forget each other no matter what. Pretty standard friends make up type ending. Although the last scene with Otaru carrying Lime on his back is sure to remind people of the original SMJ scene where Otaru carried Lime.

Episode 2 opens with the festival. The girls wanna compete in the Float Race Battle (yep, they race their floats) and after much talking; each float team will have one Marionette. The floats are all modeled after the upper bodies of the Marionettes ( geez, look at the size of the Bloodberry float's chest). The winner of the float battle is said to have a wish come true, so all the girls push themselves to the limits to win. When Lime's float goes out of control, Lime chooses to stop her out of control float to save people and ends up losing the race. Otaru says she did the right thing. As for the race winner, I ain't saying. But the ending scene is really funny.

Episode 3 takes place after the festival. And Hanagata's father comes to take his son back. It's hard to believe Hanagata was cloned from that big guy. Otaru and co. try to get Hanagata to stand up to his dad. A very good episode for Hanagata fans, and it begins to establish the connection between Japoness and Xian that comes into play later in the series.

Episode 4 has Faust sending a letter to Tiger, Luchs and Panther (Panther has the same haircut she had in SMJ Again. Very cool continuity reference there). When Otaru and co. see the letter, they're shocked that nothing is written on it. But Tiger, Luchs and Panther insist that Faust has summoned them to return to him. Lime feels bad about having to say "goodbye" after they had all become good friends. But trouble brews as someone sends an old Gartlant Android to capture the female clones that are about to be "born". After Lime, Cherry, Bloodberry, Tiger, Luchs and Panther have taken care of the threat, it's time for the "good byes". Before they go, Tiger and co. say they will see each other again.

Episode 5 brings us to the close of the first disc. And it's basically a recap of the original SMJ series with a new threat attacking the clone lab in Castle Japoness. What happens is while a group of visiting foreign dignitaries are taking a tour as Cherry and Hanagata explain the events of SMJ, strange forces attack the clone lab and attempt to steal the female clones (after all, whoever can control the female population can hold a lot of power on Terra 2). The new enemies appear to be working for the nation of Xian, as the Xian leader we saw at the end of SMJ Again was seen stealing some information. In this episode, we get some new details and flashbacks to the first series.

So far, SMJ to X has been very lighthearted and worth picking up if you are a fan of the Saber Marionette series. While the first episode provided some good emotional moments, a majority of this disc is light hearted, with a few mysteries to get us to keep watching. At the very least, I'm hooked. A must get for Saber Marionette fans.



Review Equipment
Sony 32" Vega Flatscreen TV, JVC D723 Progressive Scan Audio/Video DVD Player




Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saber Marionette J