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DVDs - Steel Angel Kurumi Vol. 4: Fallen Angel

Item Description
Now that the Steel Angels have found the powerful Academy, they plan a daring break-in to save Nakahito, who is being pressured by the mysterious Mikhail to betray Kurumi. Unfortunately, the Academy is aware of their every move, and they successfully succeed in dividing and conquering the group. Saki and Karinka are trapped within a powerful force field. Dr. Amagi is captured by the Academy scientists. And when Nakahito makes his stand, he inadvertently activates Kurumi’s greatest threat. Now Kurumi must face her most powerful foe—a ruthless killing machine that has the same supercharged Mark II Angel Heart that Kurumi has. Will Kurumi’s better nature win out? Or will her dark side get the better of her? Find out in the exciting conclusion to the most thrilling, action-packed anime smash of the year!

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

It's no surprise that the final volume of Steel Angel Kurumi kicks off from where the last volume left off, as the Steel Angels and company infiltrate The Academy in hopes of rescuing Nakahito, who was kidnapped by Mikhail. Things take an interesting twist as Kurumi, Saki and Karinka come face-to-face with several other Steel Angels (who also appeared on previous volumes). As per usual, nothing is quite as it seems and with Nakahito's refusal to help Mikhail and The Academy stop Kurumi, Mikhail shows her true form, by transforming into a female Steel Angel (who, incidentally, is voiced by Claudia Black).

As Kurumi and Steel Angel Mikhail face off one-on-one, it's clear that Kurumi is no match for Mikhail's combination of an Angel Heart and an Angel Heart Mark II. Meanwhile Dr. Amagi is with Dr. Ayanokoji, who wakes up and is less than happy at events and faces off with the Academy, who tell him of the creation of Mikhail while he was in his coma. They believe that Kurumi will succumb to the demonic power Ayanokoji used as part of the Mark II heart, and want Kurumi shutdown. Unfortunately, Kurumi was not given a shutdown system, so the battle between Mikhail and Kurumi continues. Karinka and Saki manage to rescue Nakahito, but the three can only stand and watch as the battle takes place.

In the third episode on this disc, things go somewhat awry. As Mikhail continues her relentless assault, Kurumi's black wings appear and the demon powers foreshadowed throughout the series awaken. The battle continues and Kurumi defeats Mikhail, but with the demon inside her now having taken over, Kurumi must be stopped.

To say any more would really ruin the ending, which is something I'd rather not do. It's fairly predictable, and at the end of the day you just know the day will be saved, and it's not hard to guess how. Nonetheless, it's nice to watch the final episodes pan out and see if you're right. It's the characters that provide the charm in Kurumi, and it's their reactions and emotions that make the series, and the ending, enjoyable.

While Kurumi's short episode format could have easily been a hindrance, by the time these episodes rolled around the creators were in their stride and played up the cliffhangers extremely well, and essentially I did find myself drawn to finding out exactly how the next episode would play out right after the previous one ended, which can never be a bad thing. While nothing deep, Steel Angel Kurumi is a very enjoyable ride, and has a nice conclusion, which many anime series don't, especially those that continue (as Kurumi does). If you're looking for a fun show that's simply enjoyable to watch, this one fits the bill perfectly.

Audio (including the English dub)

Finally, Claudia Black's character Mikhail appears on this disc, although it's a little sad to see she only appears in three episodes. Nonetheless, Claudia does a great job, and for Farscape fans who've been enjoying the series her role will be a great bonus. As with previous volumes, she also reads the Onmyou prayer at the start of the disc, and also voices the next episode previews. Again, I will say that if you are only buying the series for her involvement, you might want to think twice about it, because it is still limited, even on this disc.

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 are generally good, and really the acting is nice.

So while in terms of directing, Steven Foster produces a good result, it's his ADR writing that frustrates 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), although at least Karinka's foul mouth doesn't make much of an appearance here.

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 cover this time around, while still good, is a little disappointing as it's merely Kurumi again, with basically the same image as the first volume. None the less, it's still as risqué, 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

Finally on this last volume we get to see part two of the "Conversations with Angels" featurette, that first appeared on volume one. While this is shorter, running just over 11 minutes, the majority of that is spent behind the scenes in the ADR studio with Claudia Black recording her role, now that she can talk about it. Of course, there're spoilers here for viewers that haven't watched the episodes themselves. This extra is a really nice piece, as it's always great to see the actors and actresses in the studio recording, but for us Farscape fans it's an extra-special treat to see Claudia recording her role. Personally, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't longer, but nonetheless, it's great.

We also get more text-based extras here, with "Character Bios" that give a little background on each character and who they have a relationship with, or a crush on. Then there's the comprehensive "Kurumi Travelogue" which goes through each of the places visited by Kurumi and co. on the past couple of discs, with a lot of background information on each. There's also the "Translator Notes", which are mainly relevant to the Japanese version, and explain a few of the sayings and translations in depth. Another gallery of nice production sketches and design sketches makes an appearance, and is 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).

The extras on the whole for the Kurumi series have been very, very good, and much more comprehensive than one usually sees on an anime release. The two featurettes were great to have, and the text-based extras really help flesh things out in much more detail. A big thumbs up to ADV for trying to make this series good value for money.

Overall

The final volume of Steel Angel Kurumi is basically on par with the rest of the volumes. If you've liked what you've seen so far, you'll like this, and if not, you won't. Kurumi has been a fun series, and greatly enjoyable to watch, and is a show that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a light-hearted adventure. There are darker overtones every now and then, although they're never explored in much depth. The characters really add a lot of personality to the show, and it's well worth a watch. If you've only jumped in for Claudia Black's involvement, you may be disappointed, as she doesn't appear for very long, but if not, you'll likely be please with this sweet little journey.


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Item Details
Item: Steel Angel Kurumi Volume 4: Fallen Angel
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: 19 to 24

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