Steam Detectives Vol. #3 -

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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Steam Detectives

Steam Detectives Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     January 16, 2004
Release Date: January 13, 2004

Steam Detectives Vol. #3
© ADV Films

What They Say
Narutaki, Ling Ling and Goriki have their hands full with four new cases of murder and mayhem that baffle the local police. When Steam City's legendary protector, the White Dragon, starts "liberating" jewelry stores of their wares, Narutaki suspects a criminal element. Than, Machine Baron airlifts a massive "Megatonman" into the city square, and than leaves him there motionless for a month! What could the devious plan include?

It looks like the boy detective's hardest case may be a grudge match against Ling Ling ... that is, until a famous horror author's work comes to life, murdering innocents at night! There's no room for petty fights when lives are on the line. Steam Detectives is ridding the streets of crime, one case at a time!

The Review!
The episodic adventures continue with four more episodes, though the underlying relationship between Narutaki and Ling Ling takes a turn for the worse.

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.

Continuing with the white keepcases that look great with the amount of white in the cover art, this volume gives a nod to the great Machine Baron, who strikes a wonderful pose here while a partial shot of Goriki is above him. 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 the Baron alongside the story summary paragraphs. The back cover is a mix of greens 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 is filled with song translations to the many songs throughout the series.

The menu is a simple piece with a bit of somber instrumental music playing over it where the central image is of the Machine Baron in full costume set against a green 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. There’s also a segment of text comments from the Japanese voice actors, but we skipped reading it since the forward indicates that there are spoilers for upcoming episodes as these comments were done after the series had finished airing in Japan.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bringing the series to its halfway mark, Steam Detectives continues with its rogues gallery of villains for the first half and brings in a new villain for the final episode. The series really does keep to its mostly episodic nature and plays to those strengths, though they do give some underlying material a boost this time around in playing with the strange relationship between Ling Ling and Narutaki.

Crimson Miroku makes her return appearance, this time by being behind the strange appearance of a dragon in the streets of Steam City that’s bent on hitting jewelry stores. The dragon only shows up in the foggiest of nights and manages to disappear before being seen, outside of one photographer that manages to get some really good shots of the dragon. With the jewelers of the city in a panic, Narutaki is brought in to try and help figure things out, but he’s able to deduce it all pretty quickly. This is a rather weak episode in general since you know there’s no real dragon and you want to write off anyone who does believe that as way too gullible. What makes parts of it fun are the areas where Miroku reveals herself and the banter between her and the “boy” Narutaki.

The episode also serves as the launch point for the relationship problems that Narutaki and Ling Ling have, when he ends up leaving her in a movie theater so he can go outside and just take in the world. Since she wanted to spend time with him and he simply leaves, she takes the grudge about it a bit further than usual and does her best to avoid him for awhile.

This isn’t as strong when the Machine Baron comes back to Steam City with a plan to get Goriki again. His intent is to drop down a powerful new Megatronman in the city square and demand Goriki be brought to him before he unleashes it on the city. His plans go afoul very early when the control steam device falls out of the blimp and into the hands of Ling Ling. As she’s working herself to death on a new diet so she can buy a dress she wants, she sees the device as just a steam bath gizmo and hooks it up in her bathroom. But whenever she uses it, it sets off the tracker that the Baron has and he tries to swipe it from her, not realizing it’s Narutaki’s agency. The Baron is a great comedy character in general but even more so in this episode as he deals with trying to get his device back, only to find a naked Ling Ling in it or Narutaki in the doorway when he least expects it. It’s not over the top but straddles the line so well that it’s just really fun to watch it play out.

What really stands out on this disc is the third episode, entitled “Ling Ling vs. Narutaki: Tiny Battle”. The story brings the movie going issue to the forefront with Ling Ling basically ignore Narutaki and doing everything she can to avoid him, which entails going out early, doing things in her room and just generally turning in the other direction if she sees him. At the same time, Narutaki takes on a rather minor case of finding a missing cat while Goriki learns to bake and Kawakubo spends all his time sleeping over the course of the day that this episode really takes. What makes it so interesting is that there’s hardly any real dialogue at all outside of a few lines for each character. There’s an exaggeration to events at the same time as well, such as a slap to Narutaki’s face causes it to elongate for awhile or he swallows a cup whole (as well as a monstrous sandwich). Kawakubo’s time spend sleeping is surrounded by floating “Z’s” and the like. It’s almost surreal in some areas, but as it goes on you wonder where it’s all going to lead. It turns into a really good episode that simply lets us see the lead characters just be themselves and deal with an unpleasant situation.

In Summary:
While Steam Detectives continues on much as it has and doesn’t really offer all that much new, it’s just a heck of a lot of fun. I spent some time with the dub on this one as well and enjoyed it quite a lot as there are some really good performances on it. With so many series over the years going with similar Sherlock Holmes style setup and stories, this one isn’t all that different. It’s a tried and true formula that’s well executed here with a few twists and science fiction elements that string it all together.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Voice actor comments,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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