Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B+
- 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 Owens
February 16, 2002
Release Date: October 23, 2001
Ahhh, shoujo anime! Another fun and exciting shoujo series being released by Media Bla--er...by Pio--no...by....ADV?! What the heck?! Batten down the hatches and tighten those radiation doors, the world's ending!
Princess Nine is, as mentioned everywhere the title is mentioned, a shoujo anime and is being released by, of all companies, ADV. And good for them. I had no clue what Princess Nine was about apart from it being a baseball anime, but I gave it a shot based on several factors, namely that ADV seems very pumped about it (good thing), they are releasing it over 6 discs with 5/4 episodes per DVD (good thing), it's about my 2nd favorite sport behind hockey (baseball), and the best thing of all: in most places, it's available at a VERY low MSRP of $19.99! YIKES!!!
So based on all of that, and some of the hype from this site, I picked it up one fine night. I took it home, put it in, saw the animation, and shut it off and went to bed because I was tired.
I watched it the next day and although it's cheesy at first, I really got into it by the 3rd episode, albeit with some minor nitpicks and whines. ;)
First off, the video on the DVD, as far as quality goes, is rather good. It's not quite BGC2040-realm from ADV, but it's still hands-down one of their nicer looking DVDs. The art of the series itself I'm still not completely sold on, as while I like Ryo's look overall, some of the other characters just plain bug me. This would be one of those "nitpicks" I was talking about.
The audio on First Inning is also pretty well done. The English dub was done with some decent castings overall in my opinion, but then I'm a Hillary Haag fanboy and I've liked her performances so far. To hear her in the leading role is more than an added bonus, but she pulls off a 15-year-old high school girl extremely well.
Kelly Manison (Lena from BGC2040, Minato from Nadesico) voices Keiko Himuro, and to be honest she does okay, but nothing spectacular. I was very impressed with her as Lena; this role sort of leaves me ambivalent for some reason I can't put my finger on.
Monica Rial voices Izumi Himuro, Keiko's daughter, and seems to turn in a good performance as well, and most of the other voices are fairly well-done, as I said. It's not a cringer, that's for sure, and Hillary Haag seems to have a harem of fanboys lately after her role as Nene (self included) so as she goes, so goes the dub, most likely. :)
The cover, both sides, are nice and catchy for the first volume. Like I said, the series animation and art is a little weird, and the picture of Ryo on the cover shows what I mean. If you think the cover looks normal, then you'll like the series animation. ;) But to me it just looks...odd. The cover itself looks good, with nice coloring. The insert is fairly straightforward, and there's no numbering for the DVD volume or episodes on the back. Hmmmm.
Extras are typical fare: clean opening and closing, and some player profiles, which are basically the Japanese eyecatch information translated on a static screen, with the original Japanese eyecatch set into the left half. It's pretty nice actually, since the eyecatch only lasts about 5 seconds, and there's a LOT of information on them. Is it just me, or does Nene seem to enjoy everything under the sun?
Menus are nice. About average, as usual...I find it a little bit off that they have the cover picture of Ryo throwing a pitch with the baseball right next to her hand as if she just threw it, and then when you make a selection, you hear a bat cracking as the ball flies toward you (again, as if she threw it). Maybe it's just me, but watching the World Series the past couple days, usually the sound of a bat hitting a ball happens when someone hits it, not when someone pitches it....;) But again, this is just a silly nitpick. Overall, the menus are nice. There's a nice picture of Ryo on the Extras menu too, but the background music for the menus reminds me of the background music when you call up Publishers Clearinghouse and get put on hold for several hours.
Princess Nine itself is, allegedly, all about story. Make sure you stick around long enough to prove those allegations; I didn't the first night, but luckily I corrected myself the next day. The first episode starts out predictably and, honestly, really slow and boring. It's introduction and exposition, go figure.
This series is about a baseball team at a girl's high school; baseball, NOT softball. Keiko Himuro, the chairperson of the board at said school, has a burning ambition to prove that women are equal to men, and to break the gender barriers by sponsoring a team of girls that will compete at Koshien, a really big cool ballpark where the national high school championship is played. To that end, she bullies the other chair members to go along with her (woohoo!) and begins to recruit her team.
Gee. Three guesses as to who her first choice is. If you guessed Ryo, you get to go to kindergarten. Anyways, like I said, the first episode IS predictable; did you expect anything less, really? At any rate, Ryo then goes for an interview at the school with Himuro, to see if she's worthy of receiving the 100% paid baseball scholarship.
Along the way to her interview, she re-meets this self-absorbed, arrogant twit (i.e. "shoujo love interest", i.e. "why do girls like these kinds of guys when nice guys are right under their noses?") Hiroki Takasugi, who continues to call her Tofu, continues to be an arrogant self-absorbed twit, and continues to completely baffle me as to why anyone would want him except for the fact that he's a prettyboy fancy lad.
Well. Whatever. I guess my one nitpick with most shoujo is showing again. :)
Again, predictably, Ryo passes the interview (shock!) and goes to the high school. She meets her coach, and eventually also meets her first two teammates, Hikaru and Yuki, the first baseman and left-fielder. Next up, the coach goes out to snag himself a feisty redhead second baseman in Seira Morimura (ooooo! Hey baby!), and then sets up to go grab a slugger, Koharu Hotta. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond his control (like, sleep) he sends Ryo off alone to bring back Koharu.
Basically, this DVD is five episodes of background. There's no real baseball competitions here, but there's plenty of personal conflict and development. Apart from girls swooning over lamers like Takasugi, everything here is pretty kosher and bodes well for the rest of the series...once you get past the first episode and maybe some of the second, the series really begins to get much more enjoyable as you fall back into the characters and enjoy them. I found myself re-watching this disc, from episode 3 onward, over the weekend, and now I can't wait for more.
Definitely a recommended title for any shoujo fan, this would also be recommended for baseball fans (self), people who liked "A League of Their Own" (similar, although Princess Nine goes more in-depth into the characters I would imagine, just by virtue of it being a 26-episode series versus a 2 hour movie), or anyone who wants to support ADV in providing quality anime with a great release scheme and schedule and good production values, for an obscenely low price.
Pioneer Elite 610 HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive DVD Player, Pioneer Elite VSX-35TX Receiver, Pioneer ISO-drive speaker setup, Monster component cables and digital coax cable