Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: C+
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 17 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- 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 Vol. #3
By Way Jeng
June 13, 2003
Release Date: August 27, 2002
The third installment of Steel Angel Kurumi continues a fine series with its usual style and humor. In this disc the main emphasis is on Karinka, the Steel Angel introduced at the end of the second disc. In this disc we see more of Karinka's personality as she interacts with the group, eventually joining them and changing from friend to foe. Although the disc ends on a somber note with portents of danger in the future the third volume of Steel Angel Kurumi is overall still very funny, and the action scenes are as energetic ever.
Picking up where the second volume left off, the third volume starts on a serious note. However, after the fighting is over the show moves to the slower and more character-based episodes much in the same fashion as in the previous disc. The overall structure of the plot is slightly changed insofar as many of the episodes of this disc take place in the same area, but in spirit are the same and describe the same day or so of time. Each still deals with one primary idea, though occasionally we are shown short scenes linking to ongoing events, and the early episodes are fairly self-contained. To some extent this changes in the disc's fifth episode when the overall plot takes a much more active role.
The quality of episodes in the third disc are about as good as in previous volumes of the show, though with the introduction of Karinka there's obviously a different tone to several of the episodes compared to when the primary focus was on Amagi and Saki. Karinka is a character with much harder edges, and she's an interesting contrast to the rest of the group. In particular she adds a certain friction inside the group that hasn't been present until now, which is an interesting change. It's interesting to watch the conversion of Karinka into one of the heroes. We've arguably seen this before, but this time the process is much slower and therefore is has a greater depth to it.
Overall Steel Angel Kurumi seems to do its best work during the stand-alone episodes dealing with the development of the characters, and this is evident in the quality of the episodes dealing with the development of Karinka as she interacts with Nakahito and Kurumi. The only down side to all this is that Saki is not present in several episodes, but the smaller cast does allow for the characters to interact more closely. Just as in the second volume these episodes are funny and compelling without resorting to drama or some other artificial hook. This becomes especially apparent in the last episode on the disc, number eighteen, as the long plot expositions don't hold up with repeated viewings.
The audio for the third volume of Kurumi is no surprise considering the quality of the previous discs. The music is the same, which is a good thing considering how strong it is in general. As far as the voice acting goes I found the English language track more compelling than the Japanese. Primarily that was because I found Karinka to be a much more interesting character with English voice acting. I found her to have a great deal more hostility in the English version, though that may be due to the fact that as I am not a native Japanese speaker I fail to catch the same nuances in the language.
It's worth discussing the fact that the English version seems to include profanity that is either nonexistent or much more subdued in the Japanese, assuming of course that the subtitles are a relatively direct translation. Undoubtedly many will take issue for a number of reasons. I found the profanity to be used mainly for comic punctuation and to emphasize the difference between Karinka and the other characters in the series, who are by and large very calm and gentle people. It was not profanity simply to be cursing, and generally advanced the comic aspect of the show. Given also that it is relatively limited in scope and the fact that the disc is suggested for ages 17+ I found it unproblematic.
Turning towards the visual aspect of the show there's a lot of good things to be said. Animation and production values continue to follow the trend set by previous discs, and are excellent. The fight scenes involve a lot of movement, and though they go to stills for many of the shots it has the feel of an emphasis of force rather than cheapness on the part of the animation.
The backgrounds for Steel Angel Kurumi continue to be noteworthy. Although this is a period piece that particular aspect of the show is never directly addressed, but all the same the backgrounds are so distinctive that the era comes across clearly. A specific year might not come to mind, but it's obvious that this show takes place quite some time ago, and it melds well with the innocence and hope of the characters.
The packaging for this disc gives almost everything you could reasonably ask for. The cover shows a picture of Karinka, quite fitting considering the material on the disc, and the volume number is clearly labeled on the side. The back lists extras, an episode count, and a brief synopsis. The insert has a Karinka fortuneteller with a picture on the back. There isn't anything exceptional here, but neither is there any room for complaint.
Menus for this disc are pretty average. The only noteworthy aspect is the fact that yet again we have the Onmyou prayer read before the main menu is displayed. Just as in previous discs it's interesting the first couple of times around, but it's just too long to really be entertaining. The menus themselves contain all the usual selections. Individual episodes are selectable from the main menu, though a scene selection is also given. Once again the episodes themselves are not broken into chapters past the prologue, theme, and closing, and as such the scene selection isn't too helpful. However, this is a small complaint considering how short the episodes are.
Once again we're almost bombarded with a fine selection of extras. By now a few have become standard fare for the series, such as the inclusion of the printable file for the fortuneteller, translator notes, episode previews, and art galleries. This time around the art galleries are particularly interesting, as seeing the preliminary design sketches is a rare extra. On one hand they don't have much to do with the show itself, but on the other hand it's interesting to see where the show came from and how it evolved.
This disc also includes a number of text interviews with people who worked on various parts of the show. These provide yet more insight behind the scenes, and are a good addition. It might have been nice to have music for these sections, as they're long enough that it takes more than a few seconds to read through, but it's not a problem. The disc also includes a section detailing some of the background of the manga. While a lot of the information isn't applicable to the anime it's interesting to learn how the two differ. Along with the other extras on this disc a lot of background into the show is available. Together these provide a deeper overall experience of the show.
The largest of the extras is another short feature, this time about another photo shoot. It's hard to judge this extra. On one hand it gets somewhat repetitive and not too much is going on visually. Mostly you watch the voice actresses sit on a couch while people arrange furniture around them and talk about how to take the pictures. It's interesting for the first five minutes, but after there's not much visually to hold one's attention. On the other hand the commentary itself was a little more interesting than for the second disc's photo shoot extra. Once again it would have been much more interesting if we had been given the option to listen to the original audio as well as the commentary track.
On the other hand, this is a rare extra that provides a look into the English voice acting that generally isn't available. Fans of dubbing will probably enjoy the fact that this extra is here, but simultaneously wish that it had more substance to it. This is a good extra to include on the disc, and if it disappoints it's only because while it's good it could have been better.
Sharp 13" television, Sony Playstation 2