Princess Nine Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Princess Nine

Princess Nine Vol. #1

By David Smith     February 16, 2002
Release Date: October 23, 2001



The Review!
Menu:
It starts off with a series of animation clips of each of the players in the anime, then settles into a static screen with music playing. The animation only runs the first time when you put the disc in. Fast access times, and generally pretty clear. My only minor quibble is that it isn't immediately obvious which choice is currently selected in the Languages submenu (the baseball is drawn behind it). It also doesn't have a setting for the third subtitle track.

Extras:
Clean versions of the OP and ED, as well as character info. The character info is essentially the same information provided during the eyecatches, but also has a little inset window that shows a clip of the character in action along with the Japanese version of the eyecatch for that character. More on eyecatches later.

Video:
Video is pretty clean all the way through, or at least as much as you can expect for interlaced video. There was only one place where I noticed any real macroblocking, in a shot of Himuro's office where there's a wide swath of floor space and the blocks flicker a bit along a color gradient. Other than that, there was nothing that I found distracting, and it was pretty enjoyable, visually. Bitrates were generally held fairly high (6-8ish).

Audio:
I had no problems with the audio in either language. However, I'm not enough of an audiophile to know about what sort of things to look for. It's mostly dialogue and music, in any case.

Other technical:
The episodes are each on separate Title tracks rather than consecutive chapters within a single title, as ADV has done in the past. They do not, however, have that annoying intermediary Title that Bandai uses, so the flow from one episode to the next is quick and clean.

There are three subtitle tracks. The first is the standard subtitle track (although they also subtitle the episode title, which is already in English (??)). The second subtitle is signs and songs, and the third is for signs only. There was only one sign that I noticed got missed. Also, the blocks in the locker room with the player names are subtitled in such a way that they appear to be the reverse of the actual order. IE: When the left-to-right order of the plaques read Seira-Yuki-Hikaru-Ryo, the subtitles make it look like they're ordered Ryo- ikaru-Yuki-Seira. Not a big deal, though.

A nice extra on the subtitle track is that the Japanese food names are left intact, and the English equivalent is given in parenthesis (eg: daikon (radish)).
The eyecatches are in English, though I don't know if they would be overlays, or if the Japanese provided an English variant. In any case, they would look pretty bad if you tried to subtitle all the screen info, so I'm happy with the way they are. Well, except for a minor quibble with the font. It's extremely narrow lettering, and they're a bit fuzzy on my system, so it's really hard to distinguish between the letters l, t, f, and i.

ADR:
I listened to the first episode first in Japanese, then in English, then the second episode in English followed by Japanese. I listed to the other three episodes in English, occasionally re-listening in Japanese. There are a few places (very few, though) where I think liberties were taken with the script that didn't need to be, or where it changed the meaning of the dialog (eg: Ryo and Seishirou's conversation as the dessert shop). There are a few extra inserts
that were pretty funny (especially with the episode to recruit Seira). The only thing I really had to get used to was Ryo's name sounding as if it were pronounced "'Yo". Though comparison with the Japanese seems to indicate that it's closer to the Japanese pronunciation, it still seemed a bit odd not to really be able to distinguish the 'R'. Or maybe it's just me. Not really a gripe, just a peculiarity. Overall, it was pretty solidly done.

My thoughts on the English voice actors:

Ryo Hayakawa (Hilary Haag) - She does quite well in the role, without the moderately whiny voice she had as Nene in BGC 2040. Much more natural, and certainly enjoyable.

Izumi Himuro (Monica Rial) - A bit stilted in the few lines she gets in the first couple episodes, but OK after that.

Nene Mori (Jennifer K Earhart) - Wrong. Just wrong. Wrong as in disturbing, not that it should have been somebody else. She plays the ditzy blond (sorry, even though she has blue hair, I just can't help but think of her as blond) to perfection. Creepy. ;)

Koharu Hotta (Kira Solar) - She did an excellent job here. She manages a sort of Southern hick-type accent (or perhaps trailer trash, according to Hilary ;) extremely well, so that it's noticeable enough for her to have a distinctive voice without being overwhelming or over-the-top.

Keiko Himuro (Kelly Manison) - I was actually most disappointed by Kelly's job on this. The voice of Chairperson Himuro comes off as very placid, soft, and breezy, rather than a strong woman pursuing her dreams over the objections of a recalcitrant board of directors. She had a much stronger presence as Linna in BGC 2040. This was probably closer to Minato from Nadesico. The Japanese voice had the sort of strength I was expecting, whereas Kelly sounds like she's enjoying the colors on a happy aid trip.

Others - Pretty much all of the rest of the cast did a commendable job. Nothing particularly noteworthy comes to mind, though the cast who did the Kochi-area citizens also did pretty well with the accents.

Compared to the Japanese seiyuu, I think most of the voices tended to match up pretty well. Most importantly, there weren't any voices that made me cringe.

Content:
Not terribly deep or mysterious, just a nice simple shojo series, and quite enjoyable for what it is. Ryo is the daughter of a famous pitcher, and has a pretty incredible throwing arm herself. Chairwoman Himuro has a dream of sending a baseball team to the nationals at Koshien Stadium, and hopes to do it using Ryo as the core for the team. She aims at winning within the three years that Ryo will be in high school.

Ryo herself didn't originally plan on going to high school, instead intending to stay home and help her mom run her shop. When she's granted the scholarship pretty much out of the blue, she has to be pushed to pursue her own dreams (this theme crops up with several of the characters so far).

Obviously there are difficulties. Aside from a lot of the people in power being opposed to a girls hard-ball baseball team, especially one that's to compete against the boys' teams, they need to recruit enough people to actually -have- a team. The progression so far is basically having an episode dedicated to each person they recruit, though there's a starting set of three who accepted the initial scholarship offers.

Each character has her own particular strength, and also her own particular weakness. At the same time, though, they all seem very human, with real aspirations and fears (well, except for Yuki; she's from Mars.) (no, not literally ;P) At no point did the characterizations feel forced or overblown. Though primarily focused on female characters, there's also no
"helpless/overwhelmed female lead that needs saving/support by the dashing romantic hero". These are all people who I can easily see myself having known in high school, and it's rather refreshing to watch a series that's so... mundane.

The plot is fairly predictable, but that's not really the point. It also doesn't kill you with an overdose of saccharin sweetness. It's a great little series to just sit back and relax with, what TV-types would likely call "family friendly". I would probably compare it with Jubei-chan, without the combat (or focus on certain parts of the anatomy), though there is obviously competition.

Overall:
Definitely worthwhile, especially with an MSRP of only $20.



Review Equipment
Pioneer 626d, Quasar 32" TV, standard cabling

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