I primarily listened to the English stereo mix for the purposes of this review, but briefly checked the Japanese track as well. Both are pretty solid although directionality is almost non-existent in the dub. The track makes up for it by providing appropriately rich sound effects and it is layered very well with no one item ever drowning another out. Outside of adding more directionality, the track could only sound better if it were in 5.1.
Originally produced in 2002, the show is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The palette of this series is extremely vibrant with solid designs, and ADV gives it a chance to shine on DVD. The transfer is very clean with no instances of noise or artifacting. I would not be surprised to learn that this season had a higher budget than the first. Although the first season looked clean, this one is virtually spotless with better contrast, richer colors, and some nicely incorporated 3d effects.
In my review of the first season, I found the packaging to be a little schizophrenic, or at least gender-confused. This was because the first season boxset had pastel colors and floral designs accompanied by some over-the-top fanservice. The packaging for this season doesn’t suffer the same problem with beautiful muted profiles and light colors. They’re clearly aiming for the shojo fans here. It was surprising to see them completely do away with the fanservice… then I took off the plastic and the info sheet came off the backside revealing Miss Sanada flashing her panties. Once someone sees that image though, they’ve bought the show and know that the show is filled with pointy nipples and panty-flashing. The boxset is manufactured just like the first with individual slim cases housed in a thick, sturdy box
The menu design is very simplistic, but it gets the job done. The main menu of every disc features full-color characters over a bright single-color design. The front menu has options for every episode on the disc and the language select screen. The first disc also features an option for trailers to other shows. Everything’s legible, and access times are fast.
There’s one extra here although ADV doesn’t really call it that. I contend that anything that lies outside of the advertised content is, by definition, an extra. The first disc which contains the OVA also has the entire first season condensed to less than an hour. The decision to include this seems like bad business and disrespects the show. I wasn’t a big fan of the first season, but the majority of it was well-paced and it was all the cute moments in the character’s lives that made it worth watching at all rather than the thin underlying story. The inclusion seems especially odd since it’s doubtful that many people who buy this season haven’t seen the other.
Content: (Content portion may contain spoilers.)
When we last left Val and the gang, Kazuto was formally announced as Valkyrie’s fiancée by the royal family, but she still is afflicted by the curse of being a kid most of the time. Life is much the same as it was. Miss Sanada and her catgirl squad are taking care of the bathhouse, Akina is still pining for Kazuto and Spot continues to surprise with minor revelations of his shrouded past. Soon though, new characters emerge to complicate their lives including a mysterious “Valkyrie ghost” who bears an uncanny resemblance to the princess and threatens to steal away Kazuto and her happy life.
I ended the first season of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie hoping the show would change things up in future episodes. The first season was cute and could induce a smile but never provided any laugh-out-loud moments or a plotline that lasted more than a couple of episodes. This season did both, but was uneven in terms of quality. This season’s strengths and weaknesses are represented well by the show’s new characters.
After starting with a cute OVA that’s on par with previous episodes, the series begins by introducing the audience to a new character from Valhalla, Cyborg Princess Chorus. While the character has some potential, it’s never fully realized as all of the stories built around her fail in concept and/or execution. For example, her premiere episode is a loose connection of melodramatic clichés. (She’s introduced as a cyborg that will soon “deactivate” who wants to know what it is to love and changes all the characters’ lives.) The plot reveals itself as a farce in the ending moments but there was nothing to suggest that it was a parody before that so the vast majority of the episode just seemed stale. Almost all of her comedy falls flat which wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t immediately take a prominent role in the show. She even seems to receive more screen time than some of the main characters for the first half of the season which drags it down in terms of quality.
Whatever damage Chorus does is quickly undone by the introduction of Akidra. In one of the two episodes that actually made me laugh, Akina and Hydra discover that they can join into one body that can exploit both of their powers. The catch? They can only remain combined when their friendship is being tested. This leads to a schizophrenic magical girl who turns back to normal fairly quickly since the two are pretty happy with their new form. It’s convoluted (which the show explicitly acknowledges), but it’s also a unique twist on the magical girl genre that provides some genuinely funny comedy. If the show took more risks like this, the rest wouldn’t be so forgettable.
Probably the most noticeable improvement in the season is the inclusion of a plot which extends over the entire season and a villain that actually feels threatening. “Valkyrie Ghost” isn’t threatening in the sense that it feels like the characters are in mortal danger, but her desire to take Kazuto seem threatening enough that the dramatic moments work. She doesn’t appear until halfway through the season though and unfortunately the seemingly disparate stories aren’t tied together until episode ten of the twelve episode run.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie Season 2 is a more uneven experience than the first. The opening OVA promises more of the same, the first half of the series gets worse with the introduction of a character that rarely works and the second half ties the story together while providing some genuinely tense drama and the funniest moments in the show so far. If you can slug through the overall mediocre first half, you’ll find a rewarding conclusion. The video, audio and packaging are all top-notch on this boxset. If you watched and enjoyed the first season at all, this is worth a look. The inclusion of a condensed version of the first season makes this more accessible to those who haven’t seen it, but they probably won’t care much about the characters once their relationships are put in harm’s way.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
37” Olevia 16:9 LCD HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 (upconverted to 720p through HDMI), Kenwood 550-watt 5.1 surround system