One young man discovers he has thirteen sisters on a remote island where he’s now going to high school. His first impulse? Run away!
What They Say
Wataru Minakami was at the top of his class in middle school and had a pretty comfy life in Tokyo. When he unexpectedly fails his only high school entrance exam because of a computer glitch, his life is suddenly thrown into utter chaos! Jeeves, Wataru's trusted butler, sends him off to attend school at Stargazer's Hill in a mysterious place called Promised Island. Upon his arrival, Wataru encounters many friendly, cute girls. This isn't a problem - until he finds out they are all his sisters!
For most kids, adjusting to life at a new school in a different town is tough enough. But for Wataru Minakami, high school will be the easy part!
Sister Princess was a big deal during its original release when it came to the English language track since it has a lot of popular voice actresses for it. The series maintains two language tracks, giving us the original Japanese language mix in stereo at 224kbps as well as a 5.1 English language mix at 448kbps. The show has a solid stereo mix that makes good use of the range of character voices as they're often spread well across the forward soundstage. There isn't a lot to the show outside of the music and the character dialogue since it's a very much dialogue driven show but it's a good mix that was free of distortions and dropouts during regular playback. We listened to parts of the English track which got a 5.1 mix to it but it's essentially the same just a bit sharper and more distinct in placement.
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. Originally released on seven volumes, this collection mirrors the previous thinpak collection with just five discs. The release has five episodes per volume with the fifth volume having six and it’s all pretty good with no real differences from the original single volume releases. The show is filled with a lot of vibrant colors and clean lines so it stands out with the bright levels but also in the way that there is so much space given over to areas that it feels expansive yet almost empty at times. The colors for the show are fairly rich at times with lots of very vibrant colors, particularly the reds, mixed in with other colors. The island town isn't a typical town so there are lots of non-standard colors used for roads and buildings but they're mostly pastel in nature. The transfer manages to avoid just about all the usual problems so there's no noticeable cross coloration or much in the way of aliasing going on.
One of the things that the series had going for it in its previous single volume release as well as the thinpak collection was that it was able to use a lot of artwork. The seven single volumes gave a lot of the girls time and even the thinpak collection provided for a good bit of artwork. Unfortunately, this collection really comes up short in this area though it’s obviously a way to save money and resources. This is a brick release pure and simple as the oversized keepcase has the spindle inside where all five discs reside. I’ve never cared for these kinds of packages as they remind me of the cheap bootlegs from the early DVD years where they’d just put burned discs inside. It just feels cheap.
The cover artwork is well done however as the front uses the same style we’ve seen before with the strip along the lower section with the series logo in a very elegant way. The top portion features a big cast shot of the characters while the lower strip has a trio of them there as well. The back cover provides for more character artwork and a number of good sized shots from the show with a bit of fanservice thrown in as well. The summary does deal well with the premise of the series and they make good mention of the number of episodes here. The remainder is straightforward in that it has the usual production information and the clean and solid technical grid, even listing how many discs are inside. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design is very simple for the show but it has the right atmosphere to it as it uses a portion of the exterior of Welcome House where it looks out over the fence. In front of the appealing blues and greens each volume has a different piece of character artwork that’s nicely vibrant and well detailed. It sets the mood right with bright upbeat colors and characters set against a very welcoming background. Submenus load quickly for what little there is here as it’s just the episodes for the most part. Access times are fast and each of the discs correctly read our players’ language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sister Princess finds its origins in the light novel series of the same name as well as the manga and game series that were released around the same time. The anime series, which runs twenty-six episodes, has things that are very specific to it that don't show up in the other places. The US release of the series was something that was anticipated for a lot of reasons, one of which was that it was a series that could bring in a number of voice actresses for just one series and let them all work together. A lot of fans of the series go back to the dub as one of the reasons they enjoy it so much.
The premise of the series is sort of like a harem show to the extreme but done in an incredibly mild way. We're introduced to Wataru, a very serious and studios young man who has been working very hard on being accepted to the high school of his choice. He's only applied to this one and all his efforts are focused on that. His life revolves solely around studying and all things serious, so when he ends up not getting into the school, he's almost adrift. Even worse, he finds that he can no longer live in the house he's been in for so many years and he's being sent away. It turns out that he's been accepted to the new Stargazers High School on Promised Island. The high school is being opened ahead of everything else on the island, which has a very strong resort feel to it, and this is the first year for students to go there.
Wataru is very disturbed by all of this but he finds himself with little choice in the matter. Once he arrives on the island, he finds that he can't get off of it as there's just one boat and the island has a sizable number of sharks that swim around it. Strangely, and amusingly, there's one old man who is running just about every store and it's the same man who served as the household butler back in Tokyo. Wataru can't figure him out but he just sort of accepts it along the way since it's pointless to fight it. Jeeves takes on many roles, denying that he's each of them, and helps to push Wataru in the right direction. The big one once he's on the island is getting Wataru into a proper house. Instead of the apartment he initially gets into, Wataru is sent to Welcome House to live.
It's here that Wataru finds that he's now living with his thirteen sisters. Whether these are truly his sisters I can't say, but they all seem to believe they are except for the one that knows she's not as she's there to watch him for her mysterious master. Each of the sisters has their own unique thing and they fall into very basic archetypes. Some are more blatant than others but they're all very familiar. The age of the girls do vary a bit, but most are close to Wataru's age. You have a few younger ones like Hinako and Aria, but the majority are ones that you can imagine being very close to Wataru. Some do seem a bit older though, like Chikage, but that comes more from her personality and style of dress than anything else.
With twenty-six episodes and thirteen girls, you have a pretty obvious pattern of what's going to happen. After the initial setup episodes and the big “closure” arc at the end, the bulk of the episodes allow one girl to shine per episode. There are stories where things take in more of the girls and there's an admittedly fun two parter revolving around the summer pool experience, but the general idea is to highlight each girl and their personality as well as their connection with Wataru. None of the characters really have any depth, but some are more interesting than others. Karen and Sakuya in particular come across well since they're a bit more mature in their demeanor. The younger set is what bothers me as Hinako is too childish and Aria just never clicked with me with her almost otherworldly feel in how she deals with the world. Their individual stories just don't work well at all for me.
It's been a few years since I saw this series in single disc form but I find the same problem with it that I did then overall. This is the kind of series where the viewer is supposed to feel protective of the various girls that are in it. It's the basic idea of the whole moe angle and for me it very rarely clicks in that way, which I think is a good thing. Watching Wataru living with these girls, especially in the early episodes, is awkward as he's simply not in the right frame of mind to do so. And once he is, it's very sudden that he's taken on the role of being a big brother and looking after them in a very brotherly way. When you add in the way that they are supposedly related and that it's never explained and it just feels even weirder since some of them seem to love him in a stronger way. Wataru does keep things platonic and he doesn't seem to fall in love with them, but he does grow to love and care for them. Unfortunately, this just never worked for. Wataru is given such an excellent and amazing experience here but it takes him forever to truly appreciate it.
One of the interesting quirks of the series is the way that the girls all address Wataru. In the original Japanese, there are so many different ways to deal with familial relationships that each girl essentially has a unique way of addressing him. Some are more formal than others while some are very casual. In translation, this is very awkward to do because there's a lot of limits depending on the language you're going into. In the English language adaptation, some work better than others. I really didn't care for Mami's “bud” term and Aria annoyed me even more with “mon frere” in her particular voice. Reading the numerous versions of “brother” throughout the twenty-six episodes in marathon for really felt overbearing after awhile.
I wasn't that big a fan of Sister Princess when ADV Films first released it, but it's been a few years and things change. Unfortunately, my opinion of this show didn't change much in watching it in marathon form. I still find a lot of the appeal in it is for dub fans who got so many of their favorite voice actors together in one show. For me, it's one of the shows that's filled with all that's wrong about this particular genre taken too far. If it had been even half of the girls it might have held up better and given more time to each of them so they could be developed better. As it stands, it's too overloaded and has too many characters that dilute what appeal there could be. The series didn't play out better in marathon form compared to the singles and it just exacerbated the flaws that I found in it. Things that start off cutely can become trite and annoying surprisingly quickly. This edition is the same as the previous thinpak collection in terms of the discs, but I'd still recommend the thinpak version over this if you're a fan simply because of the better packaging.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
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.