Steam Detectives Vol. #2 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Steam Detectives

Steam Detectives Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     December 28, 2003
Release Date: December 02, 2003

Steam Detectives Vol. #2
© ADV Films

What They Say
Orphaned boy detective Narutaki finds himself up against a tour-de-force of thieves, tyrants, and an archenemy who may yet prove more than his match! With the city overrun with crooks and villains of all breeds and creeds, Narutaki must protect Steam City at any cost from those who would destroy it with their nefarious desires.

Squaring off against the dastardly schemes of Crimson Scorpion, Baron Machine, Le Bled, Night Phantom and Dr. Guilty, Narutaki must thwart evil and unravel the mysteries of each crime, before it can happen!

Part gothic, part mystery noir, part industrial-age mechanical mayhem, Steam Detectives is a one-way ticket on the adventure express!

The Review!
The second installment inside the city of steam has a few more standalone tales as well as an interesting two-part adventure.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is done in a pretty basic stereo mix that’s fairly center channel based but has a number of stereo moments of directionality that come across nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1998, Steam Detectives comes across decently in this print but suffers from some intentional issues. With it being part of the traditional animation time, we get some good colors throughout and some of them are very vibrant, but most lack much in the way of depth but avoid being over saturated. Cross coloration is minimal while there is a bit more aliasing going on, mostly during panning sequences. With the show having a heavy design on steam and clouds, there’s a grainy feel to the print that’s accentuated due to the way the backgrounds are. With the darker scenes and some of the blue skies, it becomes even more apparent.

Released in white keepcase, it helps accentuate the white background used in the cover art that gives a stronger focus to artwork itself since its set to be something of a wipe, where the Phantom character is along the top overshadowing the city below with Narutaki taking the center stage. The logo is a bit difficult to read at first, but the cover does get props for listing the volume number on the front and the spine. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a character design piece for Ling Ling alongside the story summary paragraphs. The back cover is a mix of yellows and whites with the discs features and production information listed (but no episode numbers or titles). The insert is a great little paper piece that folds open to three panels that shows various pre-production sketches that Asamiya did for the animation team to help them get familiarized with the show.

The menu is a simple piece with a bit of somber instrumental music playing over it where the central image is of Narutaki in his traditional outfit with gun in hand set against a yellow cityscape backdrop and some black circles bubbling up over it that turn into the selections. It’s an interesting looking menu with good access times and quick submenu loads with no transitional animations.

The only extras included in this release are the original Japanese opening sequence (which is what’s in the show itself, but with the addition of English translated credits around them), a textless ending sequence and a few minutes worth of production sketches that showcase the various characters and equipment of the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Steam Detectives plays up its episodic nature nicely with this set of episodes, providing more stories similar to what was seen in the first volume while expanding on the rogues gallery of villains nicely as well as getting to see some of the secondary cast members get a bit more involved. It’s all quite enjoyable, particularly if you’ve read the manga and know what to expect, but a life altering series it isn’t.

This set has some good episodes to it and some that I remember vividly from the manga, which almost caused some déjà vu making me wonder if I’d seen this disc already. Crimson Scorpion continues to make her presence strongly felt in this series, such as the first episode where a princess from a neighboring kingdom has come to visit not only to show off the Mermaid’s Tear jewel around her neck but also to announce her engagement to the prince of this kingdom. With such a tantalizing jewel within her reach, it’s only natural for the Crimson Scorpion to be interested and Narutaki knows it as well, accepting the job to escort the princess after only a bit of back and forth.

There’s actually some danger to things, at least on a psychological level, as the princess informs Narutaki and Ling Ling that over the three thousand years that the jewel has been passed down between queen’s and princesses of her kingdom that it’s only come off of them three times. Each of those times has caused all sorts of ruin within the kingdom, from famines to plagues and more. So with the threat of theft by Crimson Scorpion, she’s intent on not letting it be stolen. But at the same time, she insists on not removing it as it may cause problems. So when Crimson Scorpion strikes, which necklace does she go after having bugged the room previously? It’s simple in its own way but amusing at the same time and plays out to the strengths of Narutaki well.

My favorite episode on this disc is one of my favorites from the manga as well, where Le Bled enters into Narutaki’s agency and issues him a challenge to find a number of hidden treasures within the city during a time frame of eighteen hours. If Narutaki wins, Le Bled will turn himself into police and confess to everything. If he fails, Narutaki will not stop anything Le Bled does in the future. While Narutaki knows it’s obviously a trap, Le Bled would do something else should he turn it down so he opts to play along with it. Le Bled shadows Narutaki as he starts searching, laughing at Narutaki as the treasures instead turn out to be bombs placed around the city. Le Bled’s need to have a proper foil for his games, or thorns has he likes to call them, is the impetus for continually testing Narutaki to ensure that he’s worthy of the game.

In Summary:
Having read six out of the eight volumes of the manga, I don’t expect to see much different such as long arcs or any real character growth. This is a series that plays to the mystery aspect of things with some dashes of action and a strange setting. At it’s core, it’s truly a simple reinvention of Sherlock Holmes with a few slight twists. That particular genre still provides a great deal of interest to me since I enjoy seeing the variations on the theme, and Steam Detectives provides that perfectly.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Japanese opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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