My-Otome Zwei (also w/Limited Edition) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Meister’s find themselves in a dangerous situation when the Predecessor is absorbed into something incredibly power and goes on a world destroying rampage.

What They Say:

One year has passed since the end of the Windbloom  incident. Just as the denizens of Earl have begun the process  of restoring peace, a mysterious shadow figure descends  from the heavens systematically neutralizing the most  powerful Otomes and summoning a mass of Slaves for a  world ending rampage. It once again falls onto the slender  shoulders of Arika Yumemiya to save the day, only an  ongoing dispute with Mashiro has limited the power of the  Blue Sky Sapphire. When the Queen of Windbloom  becomes trapped in the Black Valley leaving Arika unable  to materialize her robe, world saving duties are passed down  to fallen Otome Nina Wang. Can Nina discover the origins  and means to defeat this shadow beast? When Mashiro and  Arika are reunited can they overcome their differences and  unlock the true power of the Blue Sky Sapphire?

What We Say:

Audio:
My-Otome Zwei has a really solid audio production to it which really comes across with a theatrical feeling with how immersive it is at times. The two languages each have a pair of mixes associated with them. The stereo mix, done at 224kbps, is pretty good and feels like the TV series did for the most part. Each language also has a 5.1 mix done at the full 448kbps which really is very strong. The opening sequence to the first episode in particular sets the stage for how this series will play out and it’s simply very engaging with the surrounds and bass level. It doesn’t overpower but rather accentuates and strengthens the basics. This is a great mix and one that reinforces the need of the Japanese creative side to get in gear with 5.1 mixes for appropriate shows.

Video:
Originally released in late 2006 and into 2007, the transfer for this four part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. From all appearances, this is simply a movie broken down into OVA form so the quality level is very solid throughout in the actual animation. Bandai’s authoring of the release is pretty solid as well as it works the variable bitrate appropriately throughout which gives it a generally strong look. Colors are solid throughout with only a few minor areas of noise here and that that creeps into it and cross coloration is virtually non-existent. Even line noise was very minimal, to the point where it’s barely noticeable unless you’re really critiquing scene by scene. The money that was poured into this series is on the screen and the work done to bring it to DVD shines really well here.

Packaging:
The limited edition release of My-Otome Zwei is an interesting release to be certain. This is a surprisingly oversized box for a single DVD release at a time when companies are compacting their releases like crazy, even the limited edition ones. Bandai continues to put out bigger sets and more unusual shaped ones at that which can be problematic for some fans and for most retailers. This release is really attractive to look at as the box is brightly colored with yellows and blues. The top piece has a great picture of Mashiro and Arika together with big smiles on their face. The back cover is laid out at a different angle and has the pair again but adds Nina to it as well. The sides make the whole thing look like a proper box with some text on it as well. Each of the sides pulls open to reveal different things. The left side has a tray that opens to reveal the keepcase while the right side opens up to a section that contains the pencilboards and the t-shirt that’s included. These are really good extras and be sure to check the image gallery to see them in more detail.

The keepcase uses the artwork from the back cover that has the trio together but adds a bit more color to the background which draws the eye to it. There’s a lot to like about it with all the detail and the vibrancy of it. The back cover has a bit of elegance to it with the framing and layout where the summary is clean and clear along the top with some cute artwork just above it. The center has a strip of shots from the show while below that the discs episodes, titles and features are listed alongside a serious shot of Mashiro. Add in the standard production credits and you’ve got those basics covered. Unfortunately, Bandai again completely drops the ball on selling their show because their technical grid lists the languages and not clearly. What does “English and Japanese – English” tell you? Where’s the listing for dual 5.1 language tracks? The anamorphic video? We had better listings from some companies back in 1998, never mind 2008.

Menu:
The menu design follows the very simplistic approach used by the TV series releases as it features a small box in the center with clips from the show playing while the background around it is purple with some wavy lines moving around. The navigation strip along  the bottom is simple and straightforward – with no individual episode access as is the norm for Bandai – and submenus load nice and quick. As is also the norm, the disc didn’t read our player presets as it defaulted to English language with no subtitles. After experiencing a few Nightjar menus from Bandai in the last year, I continue to wish that they’d give that company all of their work so the menus didn’t come across as so pedestrian.

Extras:
The extras are pretty weak for this offering, which isn’t too much of a surprise. The Japanese releases don’t appear to have any extras but they did get limited edition releases with CDs. This release simply has a clean version of the ending sequence as its sole extra.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a strong and successful TV series, one that I found more entertaining than the solid My-Hime, what better thing to do than to bring out an OVA series to sort of tie up a loose end or two? My-Otome Zwei is just that, a four episode OVA that seemingly has a near theatrical budget to it and plays out much like a movie broken down into four parts. With a nearly two hour runtime, they’re able to give most of the main characters from the series a chance to shine without coming across like they’re shoehorning them into everything.

Taking place a year after the events of the TV series, life has moved on and everyone has gotten into their new respective roles for the most part. Mashiro has really taken to becoming queen but she’s becoming bogged down in the day to day details and less at the bigger picture of the kingdom of Windbloom. For Arika, she’s still very much devoted to Mashiro, but their friendship is strained since Arika really doesn’t see the issues that Mashiro does and Mashiro has begun to overlook some of the basic aspects of her citizens while trying to serve them. The two do still have a very strong connection with each other but things are simply strained at the moment.

Into all of this a little trouble must fall and that’s through some mysterious shadowy being that shimmers like the stars that arrives on the planet. She’s quickly able to absorb the Predecessor and the Pure White Diamond and begin her movements across the land. Never truly named, this creature then begins to move against other Otome’s in various nations and uses her powers to absorb theirs as she turns them to stone. They continue to live in this state of suspended animation, but their abilities and even some of their physical traits are absorbed into the shadowy enemy. This enemy is also able to raise from underground things called Childs which come out to wreck havoc all over the place. The story starts to shift from different nations in order to show the scope of the problem that the Otome’s have to deal with.

The pressure is then on for the Otome’s to figure out how to fix things and save the world but their ranks continue to dwindle as the shadowy enemy is able to take them down one by one. It plays out in a somewhat predictable fashion in this manner but the uncertainty of the enemy and the way some key players are shunted off to a mysterious island during the attacks raises a lot of questions. That uncertainty is reflected in the eyes of many as they try to ascertain what’s really happening but continue to come up short. That they even think of going to Nagi for information says a lot about how dire the entire situation is. It all ratchets up nicely as it goes along and it starts to bind together those that are left to dealing with the problem.

What was appealing about this short series was that it really felt like a theatrical movie for the franchise. One that didn’t jettison some of the issues that came up during the finale of the series at that. The issues that were left unresolved with Nina about what she did while serving under Nagi continue to haunt her and she’s seeking redemption here at long last. She’s spent so much of the last year wanting to be away from it all as a way to atone, to not be involved, that when she is forced to because of the situation she sees it as a way to make some amount of amends. Her relationship with Arika has always been contentious, though Arika was the kind to not see it nor understand it, but having them pair up once again and do what needs to be done is exactly who they both are and it was wonderful to see that.

In Summary:
My-Otome Zwei gave me exactly what I wanted out of the franchise at this point. I had hoped for a big budget theatrical movie and I really got close to that with this. The money is on the screen as the animation is beautiful, the sound mix is one of the better ones out there for a 5.1 mix and the story works just right to provide epic action while cleaning up a few loose ends from the series. While I’d love to see where these characters continue to end up, this release takes care of a lot of things and does it with style and substance. My-Otome was a really highlight for me when it was coming out and getting a little more love from the franchise makes me very happy. Though the overall plot is formulaic, they hit all the right notes and it comes across as very polished and highly pleasing. This is a great release overall and one that’s very easy to recommend.

Features:

Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Ending – Episode 4

LE Contains:  My Otome Zwei T-Shirt  and My Otome Zwei Pencil Board x3

Review Equipment:

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.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98/49.98
Running time: 120
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2