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DVDs - Steel Angel Kurumi Vol. 3: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Item Description
The Academy has sent its deadliest assassin to destroy her fellow Steel Angel, Kurumi. Using Kurumi's friend Saki as bait, the ruthless Karinka sets a trap to finally rip out Kurumi's powerful Mark II Heart from her chest. But Kurumi’s Heart has a dark force within that Karinka didn’t count on. A force that frightens Kurumi's young master and Kurumi herself. So the Academy is forced to take even more drastic measures—namely, a mysterious stranger who tries to persuade Kurumi's master to use his mystical power to stop Kurumi before her dark energy overtakes her.

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

Much like the last volume, Where Angels Fear to Tread picks up from the cliffhanger at the end of the last episode on volume 2, with Karinka essentially using Saki as bait, drawing Kurumi into a fight. They go toe to toe, but eventually Kurumi gets the upper hand, while Nakahito tries to help with his prayers. When Kurumi levels a building, and Nakahito sees black wings on her shoulders, Karinka is defeated, but saved from a final blow by Nakahito.

Karinka is predictably not happy at all with her defeat at the hands of Kurumi, thinking she is the better Steel Angel with her two Angel Hearts, and wants to discover Kurumi's secret. Meanwhile, Dr. Amagi and a group of scientist begin the repair of Saki, leaving Kurumi and Nakahito alone for a week. Kurumi being Kurumi, decides that she wants to go on a date, and so off they go to an amusement park (while still being shadowed by the two mysterious people). Karinka follows Nakahito and Kurumi, attempting to trick Kurumi with undercover disguises into letting her secret out, but is thwarted at every turn by the mysterious pair. Despite the setbacks, she remains determined to find Kurumi's secret.

The following episode sees the repairs to Saki continue, and Karinka pursuing her efforts to find out Kurumi's secret. Kurumi sees through her disguise this time though, so Karinka has to play nice. Kurumi trusts her immediately (since she revived Karinka with her kiss), while Nakahito registers his distrust for her. Nonetheless, Karinka ends up working at a café with Nakahito and Kurumi, but Kurumi does not make a good waitress, and has to rely on Nakahito's help to stop her spilling things everywhere. Karinka seems to be falling for Nakahito's charm in the mean time, as he tells her he should trust her. Karinka decides to pull Kurumi aside and asks her secret out-right, but Kurumi doesn't come up with an answer, so Karinka runs off (on the way bumping into Nakahito and blushing). Kurumi later tells Nakahito that it was his kiss that gave her the power, and Karinka overhears.

The remaining three episodes explore Karinka's new relationship with the gang, with Saki fixed and the group continuing their journey. Karinka spends her time vying for Nakahito's attention while trying to push Kurumi together with Saki, which suits Saki fine since she has a crush on Kurumi anyway. Karinka eventually gets her kiss, but of course, no new powers, although she does gradually seem to be falling for Nakahito anyway, and the attention seeking continues. The group also finally get to Dr. Ayonokoji's lab, where yet another Angel awaits to lend some revelations, including the reason for creating the Angels, and the purpose of the Onmyou mystics being involved and more explanation of what the Angel Heart Mark II is for. We also are introduced to yet another character, who kidnaps Nakahito in an attempt to have him help his own cause.

While the arc seemed to be forming at the end of the last disc, the revelations drop back mostly for the opening episodes here, for the hilarious Karinka antics that ensue. Of course, the final two episodes on this disc mainly seem to be setting up for the final six episodes that complete the season. The episodes continue to flow well, and although at times there's not much substance, and story-wise it becomes a bit repetitive in places, it always seems to remain well paced and the key to the series continues to be fun. The great thing about Kurumi is that while the series is firmly rooted in the comedy side and in endearing the characters, the writers seem to know when to bring in some serious aspects, and some overall plot, and it works well. The show won't rock your world, but it can easily provide another ninety minutes of great enjoyment.

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 is involved in the next 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), and Karinka's foul mouth is a bit over-the-top for my tastes.

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 Karinka, with the logo well-placed. Just remember that despite the revealing covers, any nudity is very brief and not graphic. This is not an adult show.

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 meaty extra for this volume is part two of the photo shoot on the last volume, and really there's nothing more to what was said there. If you liked hearing about why certain shots were placed and general chit-chat, you'll enjoy more of the same here. If you didn't like it before, chances are you won't have changed your mind here. This runs nearly twenty minutes.

We get a great detailed text-based extra that is extremely useful, and that's the "Steel Angel World" extra, which provides background information from the original manga, and really helps explain certain things. There's also a series of text-based interviews with the creators (the manga creators, anime director, character designer and screenplay writer), which are informative and again provide some more nice details on the show. The translator notes continue to help flesh certain things out. We get another gallery of nice production sketches and design sketches, which are always nice to have.

The disc also contains 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 third volume of Kurumi provides yet more fun adventuring and great character interaction with the group of Angels and Nakahito, and if you liked the last two volumes don't hesitate to pick it up. Again, if you're getting it just for Claudia Black's role, she doesn't appear in anything meaty until the next volume, but nonetheless it's easy to recommend this show if you're looking for something light-hearted and fun. And the opening song is just so darn catchy!


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Item Details
Item: Steel Angel Kurumi Volume 3: Where Angels Fear to Tread
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: 13 to 18

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