Sister Princess Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sister Princess

Sister Princess Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     July 26, 2005
Release Date: May 17, 2005


Sister Princess Vol. #5
© ADV Films


What They Say
Wataru tries hard to be a good big brother, which means spending a lot of quality time with thirteen younger sisters! He’s found that his sisters have a lot to teach him, and Haruka shows him that a girl who knows martial arts can come in very handy! As an eventful year draws to a close, Chrismas time comes, which can only mean that Wataru needs to buy his sisters a gift! In the end, Wataru discovers that the best gift of all is love.


The Review!
Maybe it's just the summer heat or too much air conditioning, but Sister Princess actually turns out to be fairly enjoyable for this volume as it shows more sides of the girls to Wataru.

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:
Continuing what I think is a really good design; the fifth volume of this series changes up a few of the colors but keeps to the same layout. The top half provides us with a great full color piece of Haruka and Aria together with a pencil sketch of Wataru next to them. Below the light blue strip we get another full length shot of the other ten girls and it all just comes together very well. 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 Shirayuki 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 Shirayuki 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 Shiyayuki and Aria, 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 Shirayuki to Wataru about her dreams and feelings towards him. I'll say it again, it's just a little bit creepy. The back of the insert showcases twelve of the girls.

Menu:
The menu layout is surprisingly simple with a static image of Shirayuki and Aria 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:
Though not terribly filled with extras, there's some good material here. The standards are ever present with the new clean opening sequence and the ending sequence but there's no new portfolio of production sketches this time. The new inclusion this time is a Behind the Scenes piece that talks with the English voice actors, Jessica Boone and Mariela Ortiz, where they share some of their past roles and talk about their impressions of the show and what it all means. Most amusing to me of course is trying to explain away just why Aria is the way she is.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While I do overall still find Sister Princess to be at the least mildly creepy and that a lot of its fans try to make more out of it than there is at times, this particular volume just seemed to flow better and have much less material that made it stand out as completely creepy. That's almost sounding like I'm damning it with faint praise, but with four episodes here and not a moment really spent wishing it was over, that's a fairly significant change. And I can't even blame it on new medication.

As expected, each of the episodes focuses around a particular girl and situation and runs with it. Depending on your interest in the character that will probably impact how much you like each episode. The opening episode with Haruka is fairly straightforward as we get the eternally shy girl who is wanting to go dancing with Wataru for her first real dance experience. She manages to get him to agree to it but before it can happen he ends up spraining his ankle which causes them to miss the event. Naturally, everyone chimes in to help out but there's a certain sadness to Haruka over all of this, which ties into the subplot of a man wandering around the island looking for a pin that Haruka came across very early on in the episode. Waiting for the two plots to coincide so that they can do the payoff is a bit grating at times but watching what Wataru goes through to make Haruka feel better about things is worth it.

To my surprise, Chikage gets an interesting episode here where it deals with her past and this really opens up the doors to the possibilities of what this series might be all about since we've had hints of it before about everyone having some sort of past relation to Wataru, if only he'd remember (and thereby probably claim them as his true love). As Chikage is often seen talking to spirits or invisible people, she manipulates things for Wataru so that he's in that phase himself while his body sleeps heavily. This allows him to see the house through a different outlook but it slowly falls away is moves more towards a story where we see a slightly different Chikage dealing with a lost love and Wataru being wrapped up in it. There's a surprisingly good amount of emotion and actual heartstring tugging going on here which reinforces my belief that Chikage is my favorite character. This episode really does the most in total in regards to making the show really seem like there is more to it.

The volume is rounded out by two very different episodes. One of them focuses on Yamada manipulating things in an attempt to get himself setup with the bountiful meals that Shirayuki makes and it's very much focused on her and her attempts to get at Wataru's love through his stomach. There are a number of humorous moments throughout it as each of the groups of girls find the heavy portions of meals to either be useful or dangerous. The better episode is the last one here though that deals with Christmas and has the very big problem of what does everyone do for each other. With that many people it'd be impossible to do proper gift giving. The gifts are an interesting aspect of the episode and it does play into the way viewers minds work; either you accept the episode for itself or you keep wondering, "but how will they deal with this in the future when they can't all be together?" If you take that part out and leave it as a here and now piece, it flows much better.

It's also an episode that I really have to do the tip of the hat to ADV for as they actually dubbed the Christmas song that the girls sing. While I am very much partial to Japanese music (less on the j-pop side though), having this many girls since one song just felt wrong in Japanese. The English dub of it really came out well, especially when they allowed the visuals to focus on just a couple of girls and they highlighted their voices briefly for the segment. Something like this show just how far the world of dubbing has come since Viz dubbed a Ranma ½ Christmas song a decade or so ago. Everyone involved in that song should get a special nod. I can't imagine what went into recording that piece.

In Summary:
Sister Princess churns along much as usual and doesn't really reveal too much to the viewer but keeps its focus on getting each girl to tell a tale and showing some hints of what the overall goal may be. This volume worked out better for me since it gave much focus to Chikage for an episode and then let my other favorite character, Sakuya, gets some real quality time with Wataru in the Christmas episode. My opinion of the series overall hasn't really changed but these episodes were much more enjoyable than I expected and kept me from my usual runtime countdown checks.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes interviews with Jessica Boone (the voice of Shirayuki) and Mariela Ortiz (Aria), Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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