Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 17 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 24.98
- Running time: 90
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Steel Angel Kurumi
Steel Angel Kurumi 2 Vol. #1
By Way Jeng
September 14, 2003
Release Date: August 12, 2003
Following a good act is often a hard job, especially when that job involves trying to top a show like Steel Angel Kurumi. This series avoids many of the problems and criticisms it might have suffered by not trying to be a retelling of the same story, and while fans will undoubtedly argue about whether or not it should have tried to be the same as the original it's hard to deny that Steel Angel Kurumi 2 does a good job of being what it is: a comedy. With some very likable characters, great artwork, and general hilarity Steel Angel Kurumi 2 offers a lot for viewers. However, fans of the first series' more dramatic and serious moments may find this sequel somewhat lacking.
Before continuing further I should stop to note that as a fan of the first Steel Angel Kurumi series it's impossible for me to be completely impartial and unbiased while watching this show. Readers seeking an unbiased opinion should look for a review written by somebody unfamiliar with the first series, or at least somebody who wouldn't judge themselves to be a fan of the original.
This is also as good a time as any to note that while the plot of Steel Angel Kurumi 2 isn't a direct continuation of the original series the Steel Angels are essentially the same characters. It's therefore helpful to have some basic knowledge of the first show (what the Steel Angels are, the relationships between them, etc.) before beginning Steel Angel Kurumi 2, though having seen the first series isn't strictly necessary. All of the episodes are short 15-minute mini-episodes, which some viewers may find somewhat odd. For the most part the format works well, though at some points the episodes end abruptly during the beginning of the show when there's a lot of background that needs to be established.
This disc spends a lot of its time introducing characters much the same as the beginning disc of any other series does, though this time the process is a little bit faster because the show assumes at least a passing familiarity of the Steel Angels. The show starts by introducing some of its most important characters: Nako, a clumsy but otherwise average ninth-grade student, Kurumi, a Steel Angel who's basically a perky and somewhat spacey girl with superhuman strength and speed, and finally Uruka, who's snobby but also a longtime friend of Nako as well as also being one of the show's villains.
While running an errand Nako and Uruka accidentally activate a statue that passes ownership of Steel Angel Kurumi to Nako. Kurumi now regards Nako as her master, and fawns over Nako continually. Uruka has a lot of problems with this new arrangement, as she's very jealous of their relationship. This is pretty much the premise of the show, and from here things progress as Uruka and her father try to find ways to get rid of Kurumi so that Uruka can have Nako all to herself.
Partway through the disc Uruka's father discovers Kurumi's sister, Steel Angel Saki, and after becoming her new master Uruka tries to use Saki to get rid of Kurumi, though her plot doesn't turn out the way she'd like. Saki is an extremely devoted and sweet character who has some awfully bad luck when it comes to falling in love. Some viewers may note the general lack of male characters at this point. However, whether or not they will complain is uncertain.
In general the episodes of Steel Angel Kurumi 2 are mostly episodic. There's definitely a continuing story here, but none of the episodes end on a big cliffhanger that just demands that the next episode be watched. The plot mostly consists of Uruka, or her father, trying to come up with some way to get rid of Kurumi. Nako and Kurumi are oblivious to Uruka's darker side, and for the most part they're just concerned with getting through the day. It's a highly comedic situation, especially once Saki is added to the mix.
Trying to determine where the series is going is pretty hard at this point. The tone of Steel Angel Kurumi 2 is definitely much lighter than the original series. At this point there's no big threat about to destroy all life, and though that might change in the future at the moment the show revolves firmly around the comedy of these characters and the bizarre relationships they have with one another.
Upon first viewing the show I found the lack of major conflict to be somewhat disorienting, as I kept waiting for the next episode to finally explain what big threat the Steel Angels are going to have to fight to save the world. It's difficult to say if this is good or bad. Taken as a pure comedy Steel Angel Kurumi 2 works pretty well, and people who want the fights and drama of the original series are going to be disappointed. While there are a few fights, as Kurumi beats up a few robots, there isn't really anything on the same level of what was seen in the first series.
Overall, watching Steel Angel Kurumi 2 was a good experience. It's a chance to revisit the Steel Angels and see them in some funny new situations. Seeing some of Kurumi's new powers was definitely amusing, and the relationships between the characters in this series are just as hilarious as in the original if not more. It's true that Steel Angel Kurumi 2 is a little more over the top and lacks the moments of stately grace the first series had, but we're not watching the first series and it's not entirely fair to judge it on those terms.
Musically Steel Angel Kurumi 2 is a good series. The opening music is catchy and fun, and though some may not like its style it does match the setting and energy of the show. The closing music is average. I did not find it made much of an impression on me either good or bad.
As far as the voice acting is concerned I will comment exclusively on the English language version, it being the only version I have listened to at this point. Voicing in general for the disc is good. I thought Saki's voicing was the strongest and most compelling. Kurumi, in general an excellent performance, is just a little too energetic at times. However, that's understandable and maybe even in character considering that Kurumi is even more perky than in the first series, assuming such a thing is possible. Performances for Uruka and Nako were also good, though I felt that Nako occasionally sounded too low-pitched for her age.
Visually Steel Angel Kurumi 2 offers the same great experience that its predecessor did. The animation and production values are on par with the first series, and are good in any league. The backgrounds and character designs are well detailed, though in some scenes it appears that Kurumi has been drawn with somewhat fewer lines, primarily for her hair. The super-deformed modes are still hilarious, though are not used very much. Viewers should be warned that there's some brief nudity in the show, and it's suggested for audiences seventeen and older.
As far as character designs go Nako and Uruka do fairly well. Both are well detailed, and even though they spend a lot of time at school there's a good number of scenes outside of the scholastic setting that give them outfit changes.
As far as the Steel Angels go we only get good looks at Kurumi and Saki. Both characters have detailed designs, and their nature as robotic Steel Angels is hinted at by the screw-like fasteners and ornaments on their outfits. Kurumi's outfit is pretty much unchanged save for the simplified hair mentioned earlier. Saki has undergone something of a costume change, however, as she no longer wears an apron and her skirt has been significantly altered. On the whole Saki looks much less like a maid, which may suit some but I found unfortunate.
Packaging for this disc is hard to rate. Things start pretty well, and there's no room for complaint. The spine is clearly labeled with the title and volume number. The case itself is clear, and the opposite side of the cover shows a picture of Kurumi and Karinka fighting over Nako. The back cover lists the disc extras, and also has a plot synopsis for the disc.
However, it's the cover that's really the treat for this disc's packaging. Although the cover isn't fully reversible the disc does come with two overlays that change the clothes of the girls. You get the choice of Kurumi and Nako in their underwear, wearing school uniforms, or Kurumi in her maid outfit and Nako in a shrine maiden outfit. On the whole it's sort of an interesting alternative to reversible covers, and I enjoyed having the choice. On the down side the overlays are difficult to line up to make the image look just right, and I found no insert included beyond the second overlay for the cover.
The menus for this disc are straightforward, and while they don't do anything spectacular they get the job done. The main menu has a lot of movement caused by animated spinning gears with pictures of the show in them, but they don't distract from the menu choices themselves. The music for the menus is long enough to make your choices without repeating, and the load times are fairly quick.
The menu choices are also well marked with the exception of the trailer menu, where it's difficult to tell exactly which selection you have highlighted. But that's a problem in a section that's probably going to be accessed only a few times, so it's not too big a deal. The main menu does lack a scene selection feature, but considering that the episodes are so short it's just as good to be able to choose the episode out of the main menu.
Evaluating the extras for this disc is hard. The first Steel Angel Kurumi series included some excellent extras, and while this disc doesn't live up to that legacy it's arguable that it shouldn't have to because the two are distinct entities. Judging the disc by itself we've got some solid extras.
There's a clean open and close, both good additions to a disc though the clean close is somewhat unfulfilling simply due to its minimal animation. There's also a short art gallery with both good and bad points. It has music in the background, which I enjoyed, but it's also an automated slideshow, which I find less fulfilling than the manual versions. Rounding things off is a collection of extended episode previews. These are interesting to watch if you want to see a slightly longer version of what's in the show, but in general they say about the same thing. It's a decent addition that's appreciated though not especially profound.
On the whole the extras would be solid on any normal disc, but given that in the first series there was so much coverage of the behind the scenes process, especially the extras concerning the voice actresses working on the show that the dub fans could really enjoy, that there's an almost inevitable feeling of disappointment. Again, this isn't to say that the extras are bad. On the contrary, they're relatively good. However, where Steel Angel Kurumi was once known for excellence in its extras this disc is merely above average.
Comments? E-mail me at BitRMann@aol.com
Sharp 13" television, Microsoft Xbox