Mania Grade: C
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98/39.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Sister Princess
Sister Princess Vol. #1 (also w/box)
By Chris Beveridge
October 11, 2004
Release Date: October 19, 2004
Sister Princess Vol. #1 (also w/box)
What They Say
© ADV Films
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!
Twelve sisters all at once... What would YOU do?The Review!
After a computer glitch sends his school career into a tailspin, Wataru ends up at a strange island university where he meets his thirteen younger sisters.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. 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.Video:
Originally airing back in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. 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. There was some light blocking going on during some of the all-black sequences but it was very minimal.Packaging:
Looking unlike most of the other releases in their library, the cover artwork used for the series opening volume here is really nice. A strip goes through the lower center with the series name with a bit of a tagline to it as well as the volume number and volume subtitle. The artwork along the upper half has a full color shot of one of the girls and a sketch of Wataru while the lower section has all thirteen girls in a row in full color and their distinctive outfits. It's a bit crowded and busy in that area but it looks right
. The back cover is laid out in much the same way but with photographs taking the place of the strip and production information along the bottom. The top half has a small character shot of Karen alongside the summary paragraphs. The discs extras and technical information is all nice and clearly listed. Some of the extras listed aren't actual on-disc extras though but rather packaging pieces. For example, the reversible cover has a full image shot of Karen (with the subtitle of Angel 01) and is what I believe to be the Japanese rental cover as it also has the original Japanese text for the logo. The back cover version of this though has biography/profile data for Karen and Hinako, things that you would expect to be on the disc based on the extras listing. The insert for this release uses the English language logo for the series and looks like a postcard. It opens up to a two panel spread where it's a letter from Karen to Wataru about her dreams and feelings towards him. It's just a little bit creepy. The back of the insert showcases twelve of the girls. Also included inside the keepcase is a postcard book where there are twelve postcards. This is actually really handy since the back side lists their names and you can use them as flashcards during the show to remind you who is who. For anyone reviewing the show, this is an essential guide!
In addition to the disc release, a disc plus box release is also available. The box design is similar to the front cover of the release with the orange stripe that goes around it. On one panel you've got a large headshot of Wataru along the top while six of the girls are along the bottom. The other panel is done in a similar way but with the other six girls. The spine takes the cake with all of them shown together with Wataru and the dog. The top of the box, usually ignored by most boxes, includes a couple of photograph images of the various girls. It's a good looking box that fits nicely in theme with the show but suffers from being of the thin puffy kind of box instead of a solid chipboard box. Menu:
The menu layout is surprisingly simple with a static image of Karen and Hinako outside of the house so that there's a view of the mountain and sky where the menu selections are lined over. Episode access is nice and quick and the navigation is simple and easy to use. There are some brief transitional animations to the submenus, such as a postcard taking up most of the static image when going to the extras menu, but they're very fast and without problem. As a continual plus with ADV release, our players language presets were correctly read when the disc started up.Extras:
The opening volume to the series has a couple of extras included with it. The opening and ending sequences have their textless versions provided while a production artwork gallery is done in video form with a look at several of the character designs. The original extra here is a ten minute or so interview piece that talks with the English voice actors for Wataru, Karen and Hinako. It's a light piece with parts of the show mixed in and they talk about their roles in the show but there isn't anything terribly in-depth.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sister Princess, which originally came out in 2001 and was followed-up by a thirteen episode sequel, has its basis in a video game. I have no knowledge or experience of the game and generally speaking such things shouldn't have any affect on the show itself since the series has to stand on its own. Sister Princess manages to do that but whether I'm missing anything or not I can't say.
In the first few minutes of the show, we're thrown all over the place as we're introduced to Wataru (as in "wah-tah-roo", not "water-rule" as it sounds in the dub, something that really made me cringe). He's the top of his class and he's studied hard for his entrance exams and is fully confident in himself but he's still always studying. So when everyone goes to check out who got in where, he's shocked to find out that he didn't make it in. And he put in at only one place at that so his hopes for any kind of education are dashed at this point. And, come to find out, it's all due to the test reader being misaligned when it came to reading his test. Before Wataru can even lament about this when he returns home, the butler informs him that as per his families wishes, now that he's passed his exams he's to be given a money stipend in the form of a monthly allowance through a debit card, all his clothes have been packed up and he's being sent on his way. But apparently they know already that he didn't get into the school he wanted. So what's going on?
An invitation by recommendation has been put in for him at the Stargazers Hill University which is located on Promise Island. This island isn't actually open to the public in a sense yet as it's set to open in the next year but there's already a number of people living there and going to school and working there. Wataru finds himself pushed along like caught in a wave of events and he's quickly given lodging, only to find out that it was booked by someone else, enrolls in school and then finds himself without a place to stay. His entire time on the island during the first few hours of the first day are chaotic. He comes across a number of girls who are all extremely nice to him, all the men he meet seem like they're variations on his family's butler and the only other guy he meets is a strange classmate of his named Yamada who is trying to restart his life by actually having friends in this school.
When Wataru stumbles into a house that looks like he could get some kind of room to rent or at least a place to crash for the moment, he's surprised to find the four girls he's come across are there and they're just waiting for him to show up to kick off the celebration. Apparently they're all his younger sisters. And over the course of the four episodes on this volume, we're introduced to more young women who are all his sisters and love him and adore him and want to squeeze him and call him George. Well, not exactly, but it's not long before you get that kind of feel in how all the women treat him outside of the very youngest of the bunch. Wataru finds himself staying at the house there where calendars are quickly drawn up about who spends what time when with him on what day, each have their own interests they want to pursue and so forth.
Each of the girls is pretty unique in their design and style, from their regular clothing to how they accessorize and wear their school uniforms. Even at school Wataru can't get away from them as a couple are in his class and he sees the rest throughout the day. Each of the girls has a different way of addressing Wataru as brother, some are a stretch to translate into English ("bro-bro" being the worst I think) but there are limits to moving phrases between languages. Some of them are a bit more accented than others but you can usually tell who is who by personality which is usually fairly strong in comparison to the others. Unfortunately that makes this the third series of this kind of nature being released at this time and just like the other two it wears thin real quick.
While all of the girls have different levels of affection for Wataru, some are more pure than others, there are plenty of areas where their expressions of such affections just seems to be far too much. The fluttering of hearts and all that. Wataru's not a bad character but he fits the mold of most who end up in this role in that while he's not spineless he can't handle the situation in a way to make it work for him. Instead of trying to lay down some ground rules he instead tries to escape the island – something he has no luck in accomplishing. He gives in to things as the number of girls continue to increase and while he is the lead character, he's not the one you really pay attention to since he's either bemoaning his fate or just trying to get a few moments of peace and quiet.
Visually, the show is fairly attractive as it uses a lot of clean lines and wide shots that make a lot of the island places look empty like it is. There's a certain softness to the backgrounds with the colors used that works well in helping with that expansive but empty feeling. The character designs are rather detailed at times and there's some really good designs with the various girls but with thirteen women your luck of getting a couple of really good designs is pretty good. They're all unique in their own way and each is given a unique "play" outfit that they're wearing whenever out of their school uniforms so you can get their personalities from that alone. In Summary:
At the end of the volume all I can think of is that there are six more volumes of this and I really have no idea where it's intending to go. Much of the first four episodes is given over to just setting up the environment and introducing the numerous girls that if there's any sort of actual storyline here it's so minimally alluded to that it's barely a blip. If there isn't a story involved then it's going to be twenty-two more episodes of the same where Wataru has to deal with whatever problems the girls or his friends end up causing. There are some amusing moments throughout – Yamada in particular steals a number of scenes – but there is only so much that you can do with these kinds of shows without repeating what's been going on in harem series for the past ten years now. Either that or I'm missing the point of this series entirely and am just supposed to enjoy how cute it is and leave it at that.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean open and ending animation, Production sketches, English Behind the Scenes with Hinako; Karen & Wataru,A "Letter from Karen",Character bios,Reversible cover,BOX Extra: a postcard book featuring all of the sisters
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.