Step Up Love Story Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Kitty Media
  • MSRP: 19.95
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Step Up Love Story

Step Up Love Story Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 08, 2007
Release Date: November 27, 2007


Step Up Love Story Vol. #1
© Kitty Media


What They Say
Makoto and Yura Onada are a newly married couple. They're happy and deeply in love. There's just one problem: they're both inexperienced in the ways of intimacy. As a result, their expressions of love and passion tend to be a little awkward. Seeking advice from wherever they can get it (neighbors, relatives, co-workers, etc.), the couple begins to explore all the ins and outs of the married life.

Contains episodes 1-2.

The Review!
When a pair of newlyweds from an arranged marriage finally starts spending some quality time together, the realization that both are virgins leads to some less than pleasant – yet hilarious – incidents.

Audio:
Media Blasters has opted to not give this a dub which means we get the straightforward stereo mix encoded at 192 kbps. The show is very much dialogue based so it's not something that really shines when it comes to the audio but it is good for what it wants to do. There isn't anything really noticeable in terms of directionality when it comes to dialogue placement but some of the background sounds and ambient effects cast a wide feel that works well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2002, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. While the show certainly isn't old, it's one that feels like it was done towards the end of the transition to current animation methods. That means that it feels a bit choppy in some ways, such as showcasing a good amount of line noise during pans and zooms, as well as looking a bit less dimensional than other shows. Part of this may just be the style of the show as well, and the end result is that the series looks good for the most part but also feels a bit older than it actually is. Colors generally look good though there are some moments of noticeable noise in the backgrounds and the two episodes here are generally free of cross coloration. It's not a bad looking show but for an OVA you tend to expect a bit more.

Packaging:
The cover art for this is definitely cute and almost a bit quaint as it features Yura with her blouse unbuttoned so that we see the curves of her breasts and a bit of her panties. The background shows off the two other characters of note here, such as her husband a potential rival, while mixing in various hearts and steps around all of it. The logo is done in a very loose and appealing manner and they've been good enough to include the original name alongside it. The character artwork is certainly appealing to me, but it may not be quite what most folks look for right away, but that's sometimes an edge. The back cover is cute as well as it puts Yura in an apron and nothing else as she flashes a perky smile while it also uses much of the same material from the background of the front cover. The summary runs through the basics well enough without really spoiling anything and it provides a number of shots from the show that highlights its near-nudity moments. The bottom portion runs through the standard elements such as the discs features and production credits as well as the always solid technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover. Note to Media Blasters however – it's not Winter 2007 anymore. Please use a new catalog…

Menu:
The menu design is fairly simple as it takes the artwork of Yura from the cover and puts it through a few filters. The logo runs along the top and the navigation along the right covers all the basics. I'm surprised that they included the language option as it's something that they've been dropping on other subtitle only releases recently. Submenus do load quickly though and navigation is a breeze. With only one language and a default setting to on for the subtitles, player presets are basically pointless here.

Extras:
A couple of extras are included but there isn't much material to begin with. We get the original trailer for the OVA series as well as a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally called Futari Ecchi in its manga form, Step Up Love Story is a four episode OVA series based on the works by Katsu Aki. The manga, which started back in 1997, is still going and is now up to some thirty-five volumes as of this writing. You almost wonder what they could still be doing in the book considering where it all starts here in the anime version.

The story that we get in the first two episodes is a bit slow at times but it's one that works well because we get familiar with the characters and their situation. The story revolves around a couple that's just getting married after having it arranged by their parents. Both are in their mid twenties and are reasonably attractive and certainly not social rejects of any kind. Yura and Makoto are basically a pair of normal people that you'd easily get along with and find everywhere in life. Some of the lead up to their wedding day is shown, which is pretty short but not a surprise, but the real story begins when they're finally spending time together alone as a married couple.

The first night together as a married couple is actually quite amusing as Yura falls asleep before anything can happen. Considering the stress and excitement of the day, this actually happens a lot and is a common story among family members of mine. When things pick up the next night though, Makoto is all excited and has dreams of a somewhat aggressive and sexily clad Yura coming to their bedroom. The reality is different though as it is revealed that not only is Yura a twenty-five year old virgin, but so is Makoto. For the two of them, this means that they really have no idea what they're doing or how to properly pleasure their partner. Guilt, concern, selfishness and more starts to impact things as they try to do what they think is right.

Which, of course, rarely is. What makes matters worse is that everyone else is getting into the advice game and offering them suggestions. Yura's sister Rika is pretty much a very promiscuous girl which means she's getting it on regularly and wants to make sure her sister is happy. Yura's friends are also the same way, though married to older men, and they have their own way of offering advice. There's nothing like watching a trio of women eating bananas together in order to show one of them the best way to go down on a guy. Makoto isn't free of problems either as there's a girl at work who seems to like him and then a new woman shows up who is actively interested in seducing him because she wants to have a baby by him. It's all quite silly in its own way and the method through which it all comes together is simply comical.

Step Up Love Story is an interesting release because it really does follow through on what it's original title is, in that it's fairly ecchi, or dirty. It's not porn, though it could be called as much depending on your purity level, but it doesn't shy away from the basic reality of human sexual interaction, particularly among novices. What keeps it from being outright porn, at least in my opinion, is that it avoids any actual display of genitalia. The lack of that keeps it feeling much lighter even if it comes across as achieving some of the same goals of "classy" or "women's" porn. It's about the characters, the feelings and emotions that are all wrapped up in sex. Watching the characters move through this new relationship and trying to understand how to please the other rings very true in a number of ways.

If there's anything that really surprises me about this release is that it's under the Anime Works "general" label from Media Blasters. The production credits indicate that it was likely going to be a Kitty Media release first since it's chock full of the usual pseudonyms but there must have been a belief it could be marketed better in the general. I'm of two minds with this, mostly because Kitty's releases almost always get dubbed and I would have loved to have heard a dub of this, which in turn would have made it more appealing to folks. But then, it would be 18+ and harder to market to people. It's not exactly a lose/lose situation but it's not one that can be easily or quickly decided. In the end though, I do think they made the right choice for how things are right now, but I would love to see it revisited someday.

In Summary:
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this show since it's had rather positive word of mouth for several years now, due both to the anime and the manga from which it came. These first two episodes certainly proved enjoyable, though not to the level I thought it might based on various comments over the years. What it's actually done is made me far more interested in the manga since that's considerably longer and likely more detailed in terms of character designs. These first two episodes are quite enjoyable though, but they're done in a real slice of life manner that's got a fair amount of soft core sex mixed into it. Parts of it made me smile, some of it made me laugh, others worked well in creating an arousing atmosphere. Step Up Love Story certainly has my attention.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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