Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: N./A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
- Released By: Odex Private Limited
- MSRP: S57.90
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Pretear
By Paul Grisham
April 28, 2002
Release Date: April 01, 2002
What They SayThe Review!
© Odex Private Limited
Singapore publisher Odex has a few DVD titles under their belt now, and they have committed to becoming a world-class anime studio. My first experience with them was Boys Be...
, a title not yet available in Region 1. That disc was a fine release, but had a few problems that I hoped would be worked out as they grew into the business.
Now, here comes Pretear, another reasonably priced title which has yet to make an appearance in the Region 1 market. I have to say that I'm very pleased with how this release turned out, and it bodes very well for Odex and their future releases.
Oh yeah..., and the show's pretty darned good as well.Audio:
This is a new show, and there are a few stereo and low frequency effects, though most of the action takes place in the center soundstage. When heavy action scenes called on the use of lower frequencies, I did notice some distortion, particularly on disc 1, though not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the program.Video:
The whole 13-episode show is released over two dual-layer discs (6 episodes on one, and 7 episodes on the other.) At first, I was quite worried that the video quality would suffer as a result of trying to put too many episodes on the disc. Well, 99.9% of the episodes look absolutely gorgeous. It's the other 0.1% that's problematic. During extremely busy action scenes – mainly when Shin summons the pocket universe – the picture becomes very pixellated. Five episodes on a dual-layer disc seems about right, but six or seven, especially for a newer show with busier animation, just may have pushed it a little too far. Fortunately, the affected scenes are limited to about 3 seconds per episode. (A US release, if it ever materializes, would likely be stretched over four, single-layer discs, and I can't imagine it looking much better than this.)Packaging:
Packaging is, in general, very nice. The set comes in a transparent, flippy-style, two-disc slim case, and there is an image on the reverse side of the cover, though it is not a reversable cover. The flippy disc holder isn't fully transparent, but is a kind of translucent white color, and is rather unstable. On my copy, the disc mounted on the flippy was still secure (which was a problem on early 2-disc sets like Outlaw Star or Saber Marionette J) but the flippy itself had come loose from the case and was sliding around.
My only real complaint about the packaging is the lack of the word, "Pretear", on the spine, either in Roman letters or in Hiragana. The spine instead features only the Kanji for "Shin Shirayukihime Densetsu" (The New Legend of Snow White), which simply isn't as distinctive as the main logo. For a Chinese-speaking population, it is probably more meaningful than Hiragana, though.Menus:
Menus are simple and clean, with looping audio behind each page and animated transitions. Menu options consist entirely of subtitle and chapter options, and it is easy to navigate around on them.Extras:
None.Other Technical Issues:
I wanted to mention a couple of other technical issues for which I had to fault Odex on the Boys Be...
discs. Unlike the Boys Be...
discs, which featured each episode in its own chapter and title, making navigation within an episode or between episodes difficult, All episodes on a disc are in a single title, with each episode broken down into multiple chapters in the normal way. (Prologue, OP, Part 1, Part 2, ED, Preview) I'm really glad Odex came around on this issue, as this will make future titles easier to recommend.
The other issue people had with Boys Be...
were the English subtitles. The English subtitles still have numerous errors including both grammar and spelling errors, thought they tend to be accurate with respect to the intent of the original Japanese. There are some minor translation errors, especially with regard to the translation of some Western words and names. (e.g., Mikayalu for Mikhail and Rodolicus for Rodriguez) The subtitles are better than the ones included on Boys Be...
as there are no lines that leave a native English-speaking viewer absolutely confused. As some will likely point out, many of the phrases that will strike an American speaker of English as odd, are actually correct usages in Singapore English. Still, many of the errors are simply errors. It looks like Odex has worked to improve the quality of the English subtitles, though they still have a ways to go.Content:
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)Pretear
is billed as "The New Legend of Snow White", and as you might expect, the show takes most of its cues from classic European fairy tales. For this story, our "Cinderella" is 16-year-old Himeno Awayuki. Himeno's mother died when Himeno was very young, and her father, Kaoru was once a popular novelist, who stopped writing and started drinking. Himeno's life changed forever, when Himeno's father remarried to the town's richest widow, the tough-nosed businesswoman Natsue. As with any good fairy tale, Himeno gains two "wicked" stepsisters, Mayune and Mawata, both of whom seem determined to reject Himeno and attempt to make her life miserable. While Himeno is now, suddenly, rich and famous, she is also something of an outcast at school and in the community. Most people feel that her father married in order to gain access to Natsue's countless fortunes.
In actuality, Kaoru and Natsue are deeply in love with each other. Natsue fell for Kaoru through his novels, and pursued him, eventually falling in love with the man himself. Kaoru has never written again, though with Natsue's help he has recovered from the grief of his dead wife, and pursues many, other, creative hobbies. Mawata still has not fully recovered from the death of her father many years ago, never having allowed herself to cry for him. Mayune isn't hateful of Himeno, exactly, but acts out of the need for the attention denied her by her compulsively busy mother and sullen biological sister.
Even at this high level, the depth and meticulous detail of characterization in Pretear
should be obvious. None of these characters are mere stereotypes or caricatures, though they do draw initially from a traditional anime bag-of-tricks to draw the viewer in. Every character has an independent set of strengths and flaws, each one interlocking the other. It is the tragedy of the show that they cannot see past their own fears to trust the very people capable of completing them as human beings.
Already, there is enough dramatic material for an interesting series, but the core of Pretear
is a magical girl show, complete with magical powers, an evil villian bent on world domination, and beautiful transformation sequences. In the world of Pretear
, all life draws its power from Leafe, a mystical and powerful force which pervades every living thing. Leafe is being drawn from the world by Fenryl, the Disaster Queen. Fenryl is breeding monstrous worms that steal Leafe and corrupt it into a distructive force. A group of seven knights led by a young woman known as the Pretear is charged with protecting the world's Leafe. Sixteen years ago, the knights imprisoned Fenryl in a terrible battle that resulted in the deaths of three of their members. Now, Fenryl has escaped and threatens the world again. The Leafe Knights (their ranks now replenished with three junior members) must find a new Pretear to lead them in the ultimate battle to destroy Fenryl and save the world.
At the show's outset, the knights are desperately searching for the new Pretear. Purely by accident, Hayate, the group's leader, encounters Himeno and discovers that she is the new Pretear. At first Himeno is reluctant to believe the fantastic story she's being told, but given her unsatisfying home and social life, she joins up with the knights for the sense of belonging. It is then that she learns the source of Pretear's power. In order to utilize her power, she must "merge" with one of the knights, taking his power into her body. Himeno, as Pretear, then works with the remaining six knights to defeat Fenryl's monster worms, and seal their power.
The team represents a nice blend of characters and powers, and gives the show a variety not necessarily present in other magical girl shows. Hayate, the Knight of Wind, recognizes the need to find the new Pretear to fight Fenryl but seems reluctant to unleash the power and responsibility of Pretear in Himeno. Sasame, the Knight of Sound, is sensitive and compassionate. Kei, the Knight of Light is narcisistic, and often lazy, but powerful and determined when the need arises. Go, the Knight of fire, is like your cool older brother, and usually winds up babysitting the junior members: Mannen, the Knight of Ice; Hajime, the Knight of Water; and Shin, the Knight of Plants. The presence of the team's younger members adds a nice dimension, as the team itself is divided between those who have previously fought Fenryl and know the secrets of her dark power, and those who do not. Moreover, the team must work to protect, not only Himeno, but their own members as well.
The "merging" system of Pretear's powers generates an interesting complication through the jealousy it creates between the Leafe Knights. Certainly the younger knights – fearing that they are being left out in favor of the older, wiser knights – are desperate to merge with Himeno. But there is a darker, almost sexual, connotation to the merging, and nowhere is that clearer than in the sometimes rivalry between de facto
team captains Hayate and Sasame. Though it is clear that Himeno has romantic feelings for Hayate and only brotherly affection for Sasame, the two elder knights seem to use Himeno's attraction in a complex pyshological game against each other. The motivations of the two knights are revealed over the course of the story, and it is a tribute to the excellent writing and direction that this part of the story develops in a way that is both logically obvious and yet still utterly shocking.
For a TV series, this series sports some excellent production work. The writing is excellent, but so also are the direction, animation and character designs. One always expects the transformation sequences to be well animated, and they are, but what is amazing is how excellent the rest of it looks. Character designs seem to take a page from the CLAMP handbook, but characters seem fleshier and less emaciated than you might expect for a shoujo show. Himeno's battle costumes when she becomes Pretear are varied and well thought out. One of the really surprising aspects to the show is how much of the humor is handled. Generally, a magical girl show will rely on having the characters become super-deformed, but Pretear
opts for a coarser animation style, more remenscent of other, recent programs like Excel Saga
or Digi Charat
, with lots of broad, physical comedy. I expect that this approach will make the show more appealing to those who would normally avoid magical girl shows.
The final episodes rush forward briskly, bringing together all of the story's threads into a grand battle with Fenryl. During this battle, everyone's fears and doubts about themselves and each other come forward, and give the viewer one more chance to see how each character has grown in both mind and spirit. For many shows, the final battle is just an excuse to create an exciting finish, but in Pretear
, much to the writers' credit, the final battle is a metaphor for the show's themes. And the fight isn't for conquest, but for forgiveness and understanding and acceptance. Nowhere is this clearer than with Mawata herself, whose anger, self-loathing, and emotional detachment have become the very source of Fenryl's world-destroying power. Lost and afraid, only the love and dedication of family can save her. Disaster Queen Fenryl, herself a mere shell of the woman she once was, seems powerless to stop the events her rage has set in motion. The Pretear's power is nothing more complex than Love, obviously the source of the word "leafe". Compare this to other, more typical magical girl shows, where the team unites to destroy or imprison a powerful foe.
If I had any complaint about the show, it's that I found the final five minutes to be a little to "Happily Ever After" for my tastes. Watching the show, and it's mature, honest take on love and acceptance, and loneliness and depression, I was expecting the show to stay true to its course and leave the viewer with some hard truths. The ending, as it stands, is both satisfying and beautiful, though it could have been profoundly moving as well. It's my fault really, for forgetting that Pretear
is a fairy tale. (Here's a hint: Even though the show takes most of its cues from Cinderella
, Himeno herself is really a Snow White
So who would probably enjoy Pretear
? Well, for fans of magical girl anime, Pretear
is simply a must buy. I don't know if it's the single best magical girl show on the market, but it certainly the best I've ever seen. The relatively short length gives the story enough room to breathe, but avoids most of the repetition and filler of most magical girl shows. And the able direction and fabulous writing help the show break free of the usual, formulaic trappings of such shows. Fans of Fushigi Yugi
should note that Pretear
features the same type of cast chemistry, and those looking for something similar should give it a try. The basic plots may be very different, but the appealing combination of action, romance, and humor is similar. The plot moves forward quickly and confidently, leading to a less epic feel, but Pretear
may appeal to those who hated Fushigi Yugi for its length and repetition as well. Okay, pretty much everyone should give Pretear
a chance, but for my money, it stands as the best of its genre.
Simply put, this is a great show, and a very nice treatment of it at a very reasonable price. For those with a region-selectable DVD player who don't have the patience to wait for some US studio to license it, the Odex version of Pretear
is an easy recommendation. If Pretear
is indicative of the quality of work that Odex will be doing, the future is very bright indeed.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)