Knights of Ramune (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, June 30, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Fans of VS Knight Lamune and 40 Fire will love this... and everyone else will be left scratching their heads and/or turning off their DVD players by episode 4.
As a 1997 OVA series, the audio here is a well-mixed stereo soundtrack that's clean and has no hissing or problems. I reviewed the Japanese track with subtitles and spot checked the English, and that brings me to an interesting point. While I'm not saying the disc is dubtitled, the English dub stay REMARKABLY close to the subtitle script, with the exception of a few direct addresses thrown in for voice synchronizing. Now that wouldn't be suspicious by itself, but the translations of the subtitles are... questionable in most cases. I'm not saying it was mistranslated, but when a fourth-year Japanese student can notice whole phrases and sentences being totally omitted in the subtitles, there are problems.
Unfortunately, the video isn't quite what it should be here. There is a lot of grain on this video, as well as some artifacting and blocking. I'm not sure if it's because of degradation of the original sources or bad video compression from trying to fit 180 minutes of footage onto one double-layered disc, or both. Actually it most likely is both, and while just my speculation, it also appears that CPM used the dub masters for this DVD, which also explains the pointless overlays during the prologues of all 6 episodes. More evidence comes from the re-editing of episode 3 and 5 - the DVD starts the prologue, then breaks it a few seconds later, shows ending credits (as each of the VHS tapes had 2 episodes per tape), then shows the rest of the prologue and the episode, whereas in the Japanese Laserdiscs the prologues were continuous, and also lacked overlayed English title cards. -_-
The cover is pretty nice; we have the two villains on the sides and the three heroines in the middle and a small mecha shot below. The front cover is a little text heavy, although it pretty much sums up the major points... "DVD", "Complete series", as well as listing the English and Japanese w/ subtitles. To try and sell more copies, there's also "from the screenwriter of THE SLAYERS" and 4 stars from Gamer's Republic. The original title (kind of, as "Lamune and 40 Fresh") also is there, somewhat oddly placed in Lamuness' hair... The back cover is pretty much the same as other Software Sculptors titles with some art, a glowing description, and a very, VERY small "suggested 16 up" (HAHAHAHA...) The case is transparent and the inside of the cover lists the chapters, casts for both the English and Japanese version, some company info, and two art pieces (read: screen captures) from the OVAs.
The menu is pretty much like all other CPM menus, with some characters and music playing with the standard options.
Most of the extras are on the DVD-ROM side. There's a lot of character sketches, art, and line art galleries, as well as scripts of the show. Very nice.
I'll be honest: I have some real problems with the way Software Sculptors handled this title. It ISN'T "Knights of Ramune". The original title is "VS Knight Lamune & 40 Fresh", and it's in English (Well, English and katakana) Now I'm fine with that... but just a little puzzled at why SS decided to rename the series to "Knights of Ramune", and yet they kept the original title sequence (again, in English and katakana) and subtitled it "Knights of Ramune," even when the Japanese voice actresses say the original title in English. SS also added pointless hard-pressed "Knights of Ramune" title cards with artificially made volume names for the American VHS release in the prologue sequences, painfully overlayed onto relevant animation. Now I know that "L" and "R" in Japanese are interchangeable, (actually, it's halfway between the English pronunciations of each) but consistency with the official spellings by the Japanese creators (ie: "Lamune" & "Lamuness") would have been appreciated.
VS Knight Lamune & 40 Fresh is a six-episode OVA series which is the direct sequel to the 26-episode 1996 TV series "VS Knight Lamune & 40 Fire", which is itself a sequel to an early 90s TV series called "NG Knight Lamune & 40" and its OVA sequels, "NG Knight Lamune & 40 DX" and "NG Knight Lamune & 40 EX." Confused? You should be.
VS Knight has always been a bit hard to describe for me, but try thinking of Slayers with gundams. ^_^
Our story begins with the Lamuness the Third's android, Drum, floating around in space after the battle chronicled in 40 Fire. A quick scene change later, and we're suddenly back with Parfait and Cacao, who are still training in the ways of Holy Virgins. They receive orders from their elder that they are to find the hero Lamuness the Fourth as their next mission. They teleport and find themselves on a strange spaceship filled with barely-clad women and oppressive soldiers. As it turns out, while Lamuness 1-3 were only slightly perverted, Lamuness the Fourth is a brutal, egotistical tyrant who enjoys torturing his female soldiers and wants Parfait and Cacao to serve him in his conquest of the galaxy. Our heroines also rescue a small girl named Lemon and the three escape to a planet in a mecha and then must decide what they are to do next, giving the bizarre nature of the fourth Lamuness.
I really enjoyed the set of OVAs, which are so far the last stories in the Lamune universe; while I sorely missed physical appearances by the first three Lamunesses (and Dacider!), it was nice to see the Third appear in flashbacks, if only in a slightly idealized fashion, conveniently forgetting his blazing shounen impatient, selfish nature. This show has good adventure and comedy, plus some great plot revelations (as did 40 Fire, while also simultaneously contradicting 40 Fire's revelations...), a fabulous ending... and mountains of fanservice... which did bother me to a degree. I enjoy fanservice with its nudity, jiggling breasts with tight buttocks, and borderline lesbianism as much as the next oversexed fanboy, but while the previous Lamune incarnations had some mild, relatively innocent moments of titillation, this series really goes overboard. Pretty much everything in the plot is an excuse to show Parfait and Cacao butt-naked with Cacao's disgustingly oversized boobs flailing in the wind; and then there's Lamuness the Fourth's massive sexual perversion, which manifests itself as his enjoyment of torturing all the scantily bikini-clad females on his spaceship. And while it never gets REALLY graphic or nasty, increase the target audience by two years, add some on-camera sex, and you pretty much have "Cool Devices". On the other hand, the audience in Japan that can AFFORD to buy six 7,800 yen videos is probably a bit older than the elementary and middle schooners who watched it on TV for free.
Unfortunately, other than my issues with the renaming of the title, the video quality, and the translation, I don't understand why Software Sculptors picked up this title, as it is a sequel to 4 series of 70-some episodes... and knowledge of those episodes IS REQUIRED to make sense out of this series, especially when all the major plot revelations and the emotional climax of the last episode occur. Thus, since none of the other Lamune anime titles (mostly importantly VS 40 Fire) is available legally in the United States, most people who see this series dismiss it as incoherent fanservice since they don't understand the back story to this sequel. Such a shame...
Daewoo DVD-5700, 25-inch Panasonic TV, audioquest cables
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 170
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Knights of Ramune