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DVDs - Steel Angel Kurumi Vol. 2: The Trouble with Angels

Item Description
She's beautiful, powerful, passionate, and too dangerous to exist. She is the Steel Angel Kurumi-and she's marked for termination. Her enemy? The Academy, a floating fortress of mystery and military might. Their weapons? Powerful androids as lethal as they are lovely. Can Kurumi and her friends reach her creator's secret lab without being detected by the Academy assassins? Or will her Steel Angel siblings succeed in ripping out her Mark II Heart that makes Kurumi so dangerous?

Steel Angel Kurumi features breathtaking animation from acclaimed studio O.L.M. - famous for their work on the Pokemon franchise - along with an English dub starring some of the hottest actresses in anime: Kelli Cousins (Princess Nine), Monica Rial (Gasaraki), Hilary Haag (Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040), and Kira Vincent-Davis (Martian Successor Nadesico), with a special appearance by one of the most popular actresses in live action sci-fi, Claudia Black (Farscape, Pitch Black).


Review
by Dani Moure

The Show

The Trouble with Angels picks up right where the previous volume left off, with Nakahito, Kurumi, Saki and Dr. Amagi on their way to Izumo, where Dr. Ayonokoji's lab is situated, via train. Unfortunately, Nakahito gets ill from the eating something, so Dr. Amagi books the group into a hot springs hotel (hot springs are a widely recurring episode theme in anime, for those who don't know), while Kurumi, Amagi and Nakahito go to see a doctor. Kurumi isn't best pleased about another woman touching her master, but he tells her she should always listen to what the doctor says. Unfortunately, the doctor has a hidden agenda, and knocks out Dr. Amagi and Nakahito, and proceeds to "examine" Kurumi. The doctor discovers that Kurumi has Angel Heart, Mark II, which apparently makes her special. All the while two mysterious people watch over the group. Additionally, Saki, who went to check the group into the hotel, continues to fantasise about Kurumi. In short, Saki ends up coming to the rescue, and thus the first episode ends.

As the disc continues, the show starts to enter a nice little arc. The second episode on the disc is a nice little story. A boulder is blocking the train route for the group to continue, so until the military move it they're stuck where they are. Of course, Kurumi and Saki could move it easily, but not without just about everyone noticing, and since they're trying to avoid any attention, Dr. Amagi forbids them. Nakahito finds out something personal about Dr. Amagi though, and so secretly sends them to move the boulder.

The next episode sees the group back on the move, and we see a bit about Kurumi's obsession with fireworks, and of course as she continues to fantasise about being with Nakahito, Saki continues to have thoughts about being with her. By the end of the episode though, Nakahito has been kidnapped, and Kurumi hears voices calling her, running off to her master's aid.

The next three episodes reveal ever more Steel Angels, with the kidnappers and yet another "relative" of Kurumi and Saki. Since the story is kicking into gear though, I won't reveal anything more to keep you spoiler free.

As the disc continues the episodes just get better, with the first three being fun, while hinting at some future plot lines, while the latter three form more of an arc (even though the show itself is ongoing with each story). The show flows all the better this volume, with the cliffhangers not coming off as forced, and the pacing being much better in general. While not a particularly deep show (at least not at this stage), it's immensely enjoyable and really good fun. The somewhat love triangle between Nakahito, Kurumi and Saki provides a great many laughs with the wonderful fantasies and comments they have, and Dr. Amagi is fleshed out a lot more in this set of episodes. The new Angels introduced provide some great viewing, and Karinka is fantastic thus far.

Steel Angel Kurumi is just so cute, but is well written and at times things can get quite emotional. The characters are all well likeable, especially as they are exposed further (in terms of character, you rude person!), and the episodes, with their short running time, really do fly right by.

The one thing that I adore about this show though is the opening theme. My word, it's so catchy! I just love to sing along (it's a guilty pleasure, sorry), and bop to it every time it comes on! The pre-episode "stay away from the TV" warnings are also cuter than cute, especially in Japanese (I don't think they come off quite the same in the dubbed version). Incidentally, these warnings, either like this or in the form of text, are shown on every TV anime nowadays, stemming from a Pokemon episode several years ago causing many young viewers to have epileptic fits (this was widely publicised, and I believe the episode was dropped from the English language version).

Audio (including the English dub)

Once again, and the entire reason this series is being reviewed, is because Claudia Black voices a character later on in the series. While her character makes a short appearance on the next volume, and is involved more heavily in the fourth and final volume, here her involvement is again limited to the Onmyou prayer reading at the start of the disc, and also the next episode previews. So don't expect major Claudia just yet. And again, if you are only buying the series for her involvement, you might want to think twice about it.

While I generally watch the majority of my anime as I get it in Japanese with English subtitles, I end up watching Kurumi twice. First in Japanese, then in English to listen to the dub as I'm preparing the review. Kurumi has a decent dub, not great, but decent. The voices are generally good, and pretty well cast. Kurumi (voiced by Kelli Cousins) can be a little high pitched and grating on the odd occasion, although I think that's just because the Japanese actress just seems to be a little smoother in going up a notch. The rest of the primary cast is generally good.

So while in terms of directing, Steven Foster produces a good result, it's his ADR writing that annoys me. Basically, I personally feel that he takes a few too many liberties. Those who only watch the English dubbed version can probably ignore this completely, as the dub is enjoyable. It's just that, while Kurumi is nowhere near as bad as some of his past efforts, I wish he'd stay closer to the original. Sometimes lines are changed a little too much for my liking (and it doesn't help that I watch in English with subtitles on).

Having said that, this volume seems better than volume 1 in that regard, so that's a nice improvement. The swearing still grates with me though, knowing that profanity isn't used in the Japanese version, but it could be worse. Karinka's foul mouth is a bit over-the-top for my tastes though.

The Japanese seiyuu (voice actors) sound great, and technically there is nothing wrong with the audio at all (no dropouts or other faults).

Video

The video is good with no artefacting that I could see, and only the occasional rainbows on certain characters' hair (notably Kurumi's). On my low-end setup it's barely noticeable though, even less so than the little in the last volume.

Packaging & Presentation

The packaging is lovely, and uses the cover art from one of the Japanese DVDs. It's risqué (much like all the covers), this time featuring a naked Saki, with the logo well-placed. Also bear in mind that despite suggestions the artwork may give, this is not an adult show. Any nudity is very brief and not graphic.

The menus are rather nice and everything is quick and easy to access, including individual episodes. They fit nicely in with the show.

The Extras

The big extra this time is part one of a photo shoot with four of the American voice actresses (the three Angels and Nakahito). Steven Foster also appears, and it's basically him and the ADV photographer and art director talking over twenty minutes of film, explaining the details of the shoot and how they overcame a few problems in placing the actresses. It's relatively interesting to watch, and it's nice to see the actresses in one place and it looks like they had a tough, but enjoyable time. Nonetheless, it seems a little out of place on this disc, but I can understand ADV wanting to pad the show out a little by adding a couple of longer extras.

A nice gallery showcasing both the original cover art used for the Japanese DVDs and laserdiscs is included, as is a gallery of the original manga (comic book) covers, which are all very pretty. We get more translator notes this volume. These are well worth reading, as they really do help flesh out the setting of the show and some of the things that go on within it. The disc also has a gallery of production sketches, which are nice to look at once through.

Also here we get the original US teaser trailer, along with some extended episode previews, which are only presented in Japanese, plus a printable PDF format "fortune teller" (which I couldn't access as I don't have a region 1 capable DVD-ROM drive).

Overall

The second volume of Steel Angel Kurumi really picks up the pace of the story, as the producers become comfortable with the shorter episode length and use it more to their advantage. The plot begins to kick in here as well, and while the fun doesn't let up it does take a step back at times to provide more drama. All in all, this is a highly enjoyable outing, which I'd recommend to most anime fans. As I've said before, take heed that Claudia Black's character has not appeared yet, so her appearance on this disc is brief, but nonetheless, the show more than stands up on its own merits.


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Item Details
Item: Steel Angel Kurumi Volume 2: The Trouble with Angels
Recommended Retail Price: $29.98
Distributor: ADV Films
Region: 1 (NTSC – US, Canada)
Picture Format: Pal 4:3
Sound: English and Japanese - Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Number of Discs: 1
Format: 1 x DVD9
Total Running Time: 90 mins (approx. – minus extras)
Episodes: 7 to 12

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