The series draws to a close with a short third season worth of OVAs and a fourth two episode OVA series.
What They Say
It's time to scrape your jaw off the bathhouse floor and get an eyeful of the wildest maidens this side of Valhalla! Watch your favorite girls wiggling and jiggling in and out of outfits so revealing they may as well wear nothing. Except glasses. Because Princess Pharm's in town, and she's cruising the local high school looking for chicks that can pull off the bookish and busty look.
Wanna see more? Sanada loves stripping down to her unmentionables in public phone booths, and Princess Inarba's watching for naughty behavior, so she can punish the wicked as she sees fit! These ladies may sound crazy, but who are we to cast judgment on girls and their fetishes?
Besides, once the action winds down, there's a good chance someone will tie the knot - thus rendering their bedroom behavior fully legal and binding!
Contains OVAs 1-6 of Season 3 and OVAs 1-2 of Season 4.
This series features a good set of bilingual audio tracks that reflect the previous seasons as they’re in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. Both language tracks are done up in a straightforward stereo mix that have some good moments of directionality throughout them for both action effects and for dialogue. The show has a lot of spastic moments for the characters so they're often all over the place and dialogue is matched up nicely with them. The music is good here as expected but there aren't any musical pieces that really make the stereo mixes really stand out. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2004 and 2006 respectively, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The third season is all on one disc while the two episodes of the fourth season are on a second disc by themselves. With the show being focused around bright and colorful aliens you can imagine what the color palette is like. Much of it revolves around a very normal looking neat future world but the numerous characters and aliens, ships and more give it a very bright and vibrant feel at times. The mixture of the two works well here and the source materials are in very good shape that allow for very little in terms of blocking visible. Colors are strong, aliasing is very minimal and we didn't see anything of note in terms of cross coloration. This is a pretty smooth looking transfer overall that captures the shows details nicely.
This single keepcase release mirrors the style of the previous seasons from FUNimation as it has a good looking white border framing the artwork of several of the women from the show. The character designs are all very nicely detailed and quite different with their costumes that you spend a good bit of time really looking at it and taking it in. The framing works nicely to tie it all together and give it a distinctive feeling, particularly with the appealing logo strip towards the bottom. The back cover is laid out the same with the framing while the interior is made up of a surprisingly lengthy summary for these two seasons. There’s a good amount of small shots from the show in two strips and a cute picture of Valkyrie in her older form hugging her younger form. There’s also more dead space here than I would have guessed which leaves it feeling more empty than it should. The remainder is given over to the production redits and the usual thin hard to read technical grid. The release does have a full two panel spread of artwork on the reverse side which is very appealing as it features the bulk of the cast in front of the bathhouse with lots of smiles, having fun and being silly. It’s got a really nice illustration style to it that’s very appealing.
The menus for this release are identical with each volume as it uses the soft white coloring and look of the front covers with a piece of character artwork of Valkyrie as its central focus. The colors look good, though a touch muted like the covers, with a strip along the bottom that deals with the navigation. It’s a decent looking menu that sets the mood right for the show as Valkyrie looks good and it has a sort of soft and inviting look to it. The navigation is standard FUNimation fare with no top level episode access but good quick loading menus. The discs did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on their respective volumes. This release lacks the commercials we saw on the previous versions as well as the ADV Films created pieces for the translation notes and the “messages from the voice actors” screens.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though damning it with faint praise, I ended the second season of this series by finding that it wasn't as bad as I thought it could be. Particularly based on how the first half of that season went. So with season three being a series of six OVAs, I had to wonder whether going back to something a bit more standalone in nature would push me back into the old mentality on the series.
Surprisingly, the standalone tales here are actually pretty cute even as they suffer from some of what made the end of season two so hard to deal with. Repetitive scenes with Akina and Hydra coming together to form Akidra practically drained me when watching several episodes in a row. Thankfully that process only has one instance here and Akidra is basically a secondary character but the repetitive animation fits heavily into the second episode. Revolving around the arrival of Princess Inarba, she's come to get this whole wedding thing into shape as Kazuto and Valkyrie have been dawdling long enough. She's a harsh taskmistress as what she wants done is what will be done as she backs it up with a massive book of Imperial Law. Everyone seems to fear her and even some like Hydra simply look to get out of town.
As each of these Princesses seem to have their own thing, we learn that Inarba's is that with the wave of her hand and a turn of a phrase she can send her victim into their own personal hell. These punishments are meant to force the Royals into following proper codes of conduct. Hydra's torture is hearing Akina sing, Spot's is seeing his place by Valkyrie being replaced by another while Akina sees her chance with Kazuto disappear. Possibly the most amusing outside of Laine's though is Pharm's version of hell where she finally gets Valkyrie to wear glasses (along with some really skimpy lingerie for some reason) only to lose her own glasses and be unable to see her. These little vignettes are great but they come so frequently and with Inarba tossing out the phrase and wave that it gets old very quickly.
The same can be said of the opening episode that has Princess Pharm coming to Earth as the newest teacher at Kazuto's school. She's completely into the role of a teacher, conveniently crashing her ship into the roof of the school, but she has a master plan behind her as well. With global conquest in mind, she begins a Girls with Glasses club and starts brainwashing girls into wearing them and building up her plan through that. This is a disturbing episode since not one girl looks bad with glasses and only serves to promote it heavily to the viewer. Sanada has some great moments in this one as her maid staff gets sucked up into it and she has to taken on a feudal era samurai general role.
Quite possibly my favorite episode of the series so far is the latest episode on this volume. The plot is paper thin as Inarba sets out a "good luck" quest for Kazuto and Valkyrie to perform together. A series of pieces from an expensive piece of the Valhallan treasury have been scattered about town and the pair have a device that lets them search it out. Akina and Hydra are supposed to act like they're causing trouble but not really cause trouble as the whole thing is just a feel good sham of tradition. Akina of course goes over the top but it's Sanada who steals the show. Her love of Valkyrie and her inability to help directly due to Inarba forces her to take on an alter ego to help out. As the "mysterious" Caped Catgirl, she ends up causing more harm than good but she's just so earnest and spunky throughout it that it can't help but make me laugh. Every aspect of her, from the costume to the phone booth changing seen and her little "ooooh" as she puts on the head piece just has me in stitches.
The second half of this season are all leading up to the big Celestial Day wedding between Kazuto and Valkyrie but there isn't much focus on that until the third one. Outside of some minor plot points in the first two episodes, such as Akina realizing her time to make a move is running out, each of the episodes focuses on a main plot. At this point in the franchise this isn't a problem and while some of it does feel slightly like filler, it does a decent job of expanding on the characters a bit. If only some of the plot elements didn't bleed into other episodes…
The worst offender of this batch of episodes is only so because of what they actually bring to the table. The idea itself isn't bad and the story behind it works well enough but the end result just makes me cringe in other episodes. Laine hasn't exactly had a high profile story for quite some time as she's mostly been relegated to just popping in when needed for transportation or plain weirdness. This time around she ends up time-stepping to the past and comes across herself as a little child and during her time at the Academy. Each of these instances has her dealing with an event from her childhood in relation to another princess which is a simple enough story. The fun part is that all three versions of herself go time-stepping through all three time periods and deal with the overall plot. Having three Laine's show up is certainly disturbing in the present, especially as everyone wonders what caused the present day Laine to go so wrong.
The downside is that they leave it open-ended for all three to time-step with each other whenever they want, so you have the youngest one coming to visit later in the OVAs and it just feels like too much. Thankfully this gets pushed back a bit as the second episode focuses on Valkyrie as in her small form she decides to escape the bathhouse for a bit by staying with others. She's not necessarily running away but her feelings about the relationship and what little she can provide has her with something akin to cold feet. Over the couple of days that she does this we see her in different forms with most of the characters she stays with and it goes a good way towards cementing her feelings and relationship with Kazuto. In the long run, this is a good episode that helps to flesh the two of them out from Valkyrie's perspective but also helps to establish her more as an adult character.
Not too unexpectedly, the actual wedding event is sort of just thrust upon everyone as the day arrives. If it was done within a TV series framework I suspect that we'd have more build-up to it but instead it's just there. Even then it's fairly chaotic as the first portion of the episode revolves around some space pirates which you just know will disrupt the whole thing as the episode progresses. The majority of the episode is just varied chaos, be it preparation for the wedding or events with the pirates, but there are some good quiet moments as well. Valkyrie of course fills out a bridal gown perfectly and there is a good sense of the occasion among the guests. The big thing that I get from the episode however is that the franchise doesn't have enough female characters which is why they introduced some in the space navy and on the pirate side. Simply not enough women…
The UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie franchise comes to a close, for now at least, with the final pair of OVAs that were released in 2006. The two part series serves as a decent epilogue to all that has come before but it really is nothing more than some basic filler material that reinforces events of the previous OVA series, mostly in showing how the younger versions of some of the characters are dealing with things.
The first episode revolves around a Planet Academy reunion that's about to be held and it's a surprise to everyone at the Tokino Bathhouse. The main reason it's a surprise is because Pharm forgot to give the invitation to anyone on Earth so they had no clue about it. It's even more of a surprise because the reunion is going to be held at the Bathhouse as it seemingly doubles as the Royal Residence on Earth for those from Valhalla. While that puts Kazuto's sister in a real bind, the show doesn't focus so much on the reunion itself but rather the characters. As if this series didn't have a large enough cast of women already, this one brings in more buxom beauties who once went to school with the likes of Hydra and Valkyrie. There is plenty of confusion over Little Val since she's mistaken as Valkyrie's daughter, something that proves to be a running gag for awhile.
The second episode is a touch more laid back than the first, which isn't saying much, as it revolves around the arrival of a comet near Pluto. The comet, as it turns out, is a significant one for those from Valhalla as they see it enter their realm once every nine hundred years. An elaborate ritual is designed around it wherein three people are able to place their wishes out for the comet to grant. With Mehm being one of them, the duties also fall to the priestess of the ceremony as well as the son-in-law of the Royal household. Akina has found herself being "secretly" tapped for the job of priestess since they believe she's the most qualified one on Earth to do the job. The actual ceremony itself is simple and has the kind of elegance you'd expect from it. They do mix in the usual character issues, such as Little Val being a pill and Akina struggling with her still unresolved issues with Kaztuo.
Not unlike most of the franchise to date, very little changes with these two episodes in regards to the cast in general. Everyone is essentially just spending time with each other while moving through their lives. There are tumultuous moments to be sure, but what the franchise is all about is cute girls in cute situations with weird aliens. Kazuto doesn't even take a back seat in the series anymore, he's practically in another car. The addition in the last OVA series with the younger versions of Valkyrie and Laine allowed them to build onto the existing condition of Valkyrie and that of Hydra while also altering things there. Valkyrie being split is a welcome change as her older and more laid back persona is more interesting in a bland sort of way, but they also get to keep the little version for fun. And like most harem series, fun is what they're really trying to have here, not growing the characters and providing interesting situations.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie was a series that really didn't appeal to me a whole lot during its first season. It started to become a bit more interesting as it progressed in trying to do some overarching storylines, but its general focus is with the character humor and the wacky situations they get into. It's easy to see a long line of similar shows over the years, right down to something like Urusei Yatsura even. But something about the blatant obviousness of being little more than a fanservice grab always bothered me. I've never been a huge fan of Kaishaku's works but this one has been one of the weakest ones so far. All that said however, there is a certain charm to all of it that allows to it work as well as it does. Not every show must be high art or thoroughly engaging and UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie fits into that mold perfectly. Fans of the series will love a few more adventures with them before hoping for more to be made in the future.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.