Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: TOKYOPOP
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Saint Tail
Saint Tail Vol. #2
By Bryan McAvoy
February 18, 2002
Release Date: October 30, 2001
This is a title I really had no interest in until I heard about the problems TokyoPop was having. As I want them to continue to release the titles which they have licensed, in the fan friendly way they have been doing as of late, I did the only I could do to show my support - I bought their product. As a fan of character driven anime, I was very pleased with this title.
Well, there is one rather glaring problem with Saint Tail. The Japanese audio, which is a mono track, has an annoying hiss throughout. After a while I didn't notice it much, and being a fansub veteran, I have a soft spot for hiss. Still, the idea of buying a digital medium is NOT to be haunted by analog ghosts. They lose a half a letter grade for this. They would lose more, but I'm sure this was something not within their control, and it is not THAT bad. The Japanese voice acting is top notch, as usual.
As for the dub, it is quite good. However, the translation is very, very far from literal. All the muddy references to God were removed and whole conversations were completely different from the sub, though the overall meaning of things is preserved. The actors are not nearly as flat or off character as you would hear in something like an Ocean Studios dub (a place that must occupy some kind of parallel, 2-dimensional universe). In fact, there is a fair amount of life and emotion put into the dub. The acting still is a far cry from the Japanese track, but it much better than average. And, for a young, English speaking audience, I think it would play wonderfully.
Colors in St. Tail are very subdued. Oddly, the op, ed and eye catches are much more colorful. So the question is, was this intentional, or is there some problem with the brightness and color saturation of the source materials they had? I'll go with the former, and as such, I like it. This separates the show stylistically from a couple of the other magical girl shows out there. I always enjoy a show with different production values (like Hana Yori Dango for example). While just about all backgrounds in anime are watercolor (or digital now), these scream watercolor. I mean they are what you think of when you think "watercolor". They almost look unfinished. Again, this soft touch worked very well for me.
The video quality is very good. The disc appears to be a DVD-9. The bit-rates frequently maxed out at 10 Mbps, and active scenes seldom had significant pixelation. There was neither any shimmering nor rainbows at all that I could see. Toward the end of the last episode, the video seemed to go south just a little, with a fair amount of pixelation evident in a couple shots of St. Tail doing her usual gravity defying antics. Still, I'm very happy with the video quality. It does seem that they went from 24 fps to 30 fps, which means some merged frames (I'm sure my terminology is wrong). But, you'll never notice this unless you are stepping through the frames :)
Fast, simple and cute. Why can't they all be like this?
Nice as well. A big, splashy picture of St. Tail, arms upraised, in her usual state of geinki-ness. Perhaps a little simple for some folks' taste, but I really like it. I suppose this could be a little misleading to those who don't know anything about the show. Here we have a title called "Saint Tail" and a picture of a girl in a short skirt. There is a quote on the front which explains the basic premise and should dispel such notions, if a customer takes the time to read it.
Only two extras. There is another picture gallery on this disc. I don't really care much for galleries, but the pictures are nice. The other extra is a series of out-takes from the dub. While very short, this is one of the funnier extras I've seen in a long time. My favorite since the Blue Seed omake where they talk about the perils of cels vs standard backgrounds. Of course, that's an omake and this is an extra from the English production, but you get the idea. This alone is worth a B ("Tell Asuka I'm late!" -ha ha HA!).
Content: (some spoilers ahead)
You should know the premise by now, so I won't waste time on that. Besides, Chris Beveridge did a great job, as usual, in summarizing the content. This will be more my impressions of the volume, particularly how it stacks up against my other favorite magical girl show, Card Captor Sakura (CCS), than anything much pertaining to the plot.
Meimi-chan's trials and tribulations - other than when she is bending Newtonian physics into a pretzel as St. Tail - are far more normal, and down to earth than those in CCS. She is confident in her ability, takes charge, doesn't whine incessantly and only gets insanely moony every now and then. Guys like girls and girls like guys, all within the same age group. This is definitely more suitable for children. It feels more like Mizuiro Jidai and less like Jerry Springer. Not that I don't like CCS, but it is something of a freak-show in many respects. Also, I find myself much more drawn to the characters of Meimi, Asuka and Rina Takamiya than those in CCS. Rina is introduced in episode 6. She's taller than Asuka, a Tom-boy and has an endearing, spunky character. All three of these traits are used to great comic effect in the first 5 minutes that we meet her.
The only somewhat enigmatic character is Meimi-chan's friend Seira. She is a 14 year old nun-in-training, who apparently hears confession. This would be bent even by Flannery O'Connor's standards, but if you treat it as a plot device, and don't think too hard about it, then all should be well.
Much like CCS, things really pickup once the third leg of the venerable love triangle is added with Rina. She is the mayor's niece (maybe) and wants to help Asuka catch Saint Tail. She also takes a liking to Asuka. By the last episode on volume 2, things are nicely set up to continue on in this way, and I could watch another 20 episodes with this chemistry.
St. Tail does not, however, have the high production value of CCS. Also, Meimi's side-kick, Ruby, is nothing but a dull hamster compared to Kero-chan. Still, I'm far more interested in seeing these characters interact than those in CCS. As I like character driven shows, I will certainly continue to pick up Saint Tail. I could almost see it replacing CCS in my collection, though I imagine I'll continue to get both. It is a shame that more adult anime fans, and kids alike, are not aware of this pleasant, good-hearted and funny series.
Sony DVP-S530D connected via SVHS cables to a Sony Trinitron 27" TV. Audio: Run from DVD player through a Sony STR-390 Receiver to Bose Interaudio 2000 speakers. Only 2 channels for now.