Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 24.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ultramaniac
Ultramaniac Vol. #2
By Chris Beveridge
June 27, 2005
Release Date: June 21, 2005
Ultramaniac Vol. #2
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
In order to return to the Magic Kingdom, Nina Sakura must locate and collect the five Holy Stones. However, she isn't the only one looking for them. Nina's childhood school friend has come to the human world to obtain the stones as well, and she isn't about to let Nina capture a single one. From hidden rooms, to haunted forests, to oversized pets and overly energetic cousins, Nina has to rise above it all if she wishes to graduate and become the princess of the Magic Kingdom.The Review!
With the introductions out of the way, we get to see a bit more of what the story is all about and the girls get to flex a bit.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports are rather good stereo mix with a lot of moments where the sound is coming in from varying directions but generally not for all that long. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and that had a few good areas of directionality as well. The mix has a good full sound to it and comes across as problem free. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track. Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With it being as much of a girls show as it is and being such a recent production, this is one of those transfers that really just stands out because it's so bright and visually vibrant that you can't help but appreciate how gorgeous it looks. Between the lush reds and the solid blues for the backgrounds and skies, this is just eye-candy all around. The transfer appears to have no noticeable problems with cross coloration or aliasing and it even looked blissfully free of blocking and color gradient banding. This just looked gorgeous from start to finish.Packaging:
By the looks of things, the Japanese release came in three double-disc box sets and none of them have the artwork we have here, though it may have shown up inside of it. The cover for this release lets Maya take center stage as she sits on her chair in her full outfit, which means sexy thigh high's and a great flowing dress, while the three kids from the last episode are all around her. They layout for this is nicely done with bits of magic items along the top and bottom though the series logo is a bit confusing at first glance. The back cover goes minimal on shots from the show with just a small strip of four down the center while giving most of its space over to a fairly detailed summary of the premise. The discs features and episode numbers and titles are clearly listed while the production and technical information is squashed down a bit to get it all to fit. With the pinkish-purple background though it's all easy to read even at the small font. The insert replicates the front cover but with some additional images of a couple of the guys from the show while the reverse side lists the expected months for future volumes to be released.Menu:
The menu layout is cutely done with an attractive image of Ayu and Nina together in the center while various glittery lights emanate from behind them in a swirl of stars other thingamajigs while a bit of simple instrumental music plays along to it. The navigation is a bit awkward since it's laid out in a way that moving in direction can take you to another but it's easy to see where you actually are. The only thing I really don't like and it's something that seems to be becoming more common on Geneon releases is putting the set-up and extras in the same section. Access times are nice and fast here but the discs subtitle layout did not provide us with our expected subtitle stream; the first stream is the signs and songs stream so it picked that up instead of the second one as both are listed as English.Extras:
The only included extra is a clean version of the ending sequence. Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ultramaniac gets things moving ahead ever so slightly with this second set of episodes and we get an idea of one of the reasons that Nina is here on Earth as well as taking the Maya character and really getting her involved with things. This is most definitely a pure shoujo show however so it follows a lot of those conventions, one of which is that things just don't happen fast until the end of the show.
The main change to the storyline here is that Maya is given much more prominence as she's here searching for the Holy Stones. As we learn from Nina, these stones help increase the power of those who use it and they're scattered all over the Earth but are hard to find and often in places that aren't easily gotten to. Nina's grandfather keeps sending her clues to find them but he's usually wrong but he's doing what he can to ensure that Nina finds them. There's definitely more to what these things are but Nina keeps it pretty much a secret and gives out only the smallest bits of information about them, even to Ayu. Ayu goes on faith with it though since Nina isn't the type to lie, though she'll obviously withhold information.
Maya and Nina end up crossing paths during the first real search for one of these stones and Nina is surprised that Maya is there and that her childhood friend seems to be as cold to her as she is. Nina doesn't register that for too long though and just talks about the good times they've had not realizing that they're in competition. As she tells Ayu about her, we learn that Maya's the daughter of the school principal of the Magic Kingdom and she often gets into trouble because she likes to dabble in the black side of magic. Maya's not keen on her past with Nina and looks down on her now while she focuses on acquiring the stones.
So naturally, Maya decides that the best way to find the stones that seem to be hidden so well in this particular area is to join the same school as Nina. And even end up in the same class. This is highly amusing though since she sets into her school routine much like she did in the Magic Kingdom, such as laying out candles and putting a magic ward around her desk. This freaks out both Nina and Ayu who are trying to keep the entire magic thing secret, especially since Kawanakajima is intent on proving that Nina is a witch. Maya practically screams out witch material so he's able to think the same of her, though Maya does seem to intimidate him a bit more than Nina does. Kawanakajima spends a good portion of this volume chasing the girls and causing them grief just as someone of this character type should. I do think his annoyance factor lessens up a bit with these episodes though but not by too much.
The stories we get here are pretty standard fare however and it's only thanks to the cast and some of the visuals that they rise up a bit above the norm. One episode has the baseball and tennis teams going off for a combined practice, though Nina gets to tag along, but the real focus for this episode is to have one of those night time dares of sending a boy/girl pair off into the woods on a path in order to get a stamp. This ends up running into a search for the stones and Maya's there which causes all sorts of confusion and supernatural chaos. The dare episode has been done so many times that it's old hat and little here really salvages it until close to the end with Nina and Kawanakajima.
Another episode focuses on how bad some of Maya's spells are when she accidentally sets things to grow big. Instead of growing just a bit bigger, they get massively big, such as a cactus that she plants outside. That's not bad but it's when her pet lizard Ruru gets a dash of the potion that the real trouble starts. He gets bigger and bigger based on how much he eats and he flashes in and out of view to reality but his movements are fully in reality. So when he gets so big that he stomps down a hallway, it looks like the girls chasing after him are causing the ruckus. This was mostly harmless fun and again felt pretty average, but it was the kind of episode I'd rather watch than the one where the three kids from the Magic Kingdom come across to help Nina out and cause so many problems. I just don't like these kinds of characters because they all need a serious slapping and much discipline.
In watching these episodes, Nina takes more prominence than she did in the original four episodes but Ayu really takes something of a backseat other than some minor potential flirtation with Kaji. Maya of course takes up more of the time since she's the new antagonist, but the character that I've found I've enjoyed the most is the teacher, Mikami. He ends up getting messed over the most by seeing strange things happening, such as people disappearing into closets, while trying to maintain some order. He's close to some breakdowns and ends up in nurse Tamura's office a lot which spawns rumors of a love affair going on, which he certainly wouldn't mind but is too timid to even try approaching. He's got a lot of great face moments in these episodes and is a great comedic piece that helps break up the flow a bit.In Summary:
Ultramaniac's a fun little show and it has some neat ideas to it but it's still very much playing by the book when it comes to the stories and plots that it's using. There isn't anything all that groundbreaking here but it has enough nice twists and creative ideas that it's still very much an appealing show. The mix of modern and magic is well done, though it'd be nice if Nina was a fair bit more competent, and the animation continues to be a real highlight, but the stories are definitely nothing terribly new or fresh. With little shoujo as pure as this out there these days, it's an easy and good way to get your hands on some. I like what they're doing but am still hoping for something more out of it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.