Movie: One of the benefits of reviewing is that I get to check out titles I might have otherwise missed due to limited advertising campaigns by the production companies. Sure, it's easy to review the latest blockbuster since such titles get tremendous press but my interest in that kind of movie is limited to a handful of genres as I'm not a pack animal. This is one of the reasons I'm into anime, a style of entertainment largely attributed to Japanese tastes (though I see little difference between anime and "animation", a point my Japanese associates seem to agree with me on); basically, it allows a company to show anything they can think up and opens the doors to a lot of interesting ideas. Such is not always the case though and today's review of Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is a case in point. Much like the limited show that was MAPS, the show was one of ADV Films back catalog titles given a second chance on DVD, perhaps having been lost in the shuffle earlier in the company's history.
The DVD actually left out the first two parts of the show's title and settled for calling itself Yuna but those familiar with the OVA will likely remember it was tied to a SNES videogame once upon a time. If there was a series to this OVA, I never came across it but here's the general idea of what was on the DVD release: The five episodes were part of two separate, but related, storylines. The first, Sorrowful Saline, sort of introduced the characters as though the audience knew who they were. Yuna is a high school gal that had apparently saved the Galaxy on two separate occasions (it might have been two separate videogames) as she donned a super-powered mechanized power suit giving her unique abilities much like the generic super heroine you'll find on dozens of female based anime science fiction shows. Her closest pal is an android named Yuri, whose distinctive trait is the ability to eat more food than a football team and they are joined by a tiny mechanical device/robot named Elner.
In any case, the focus of the first show was a female enemy, Fraulein D, convincing the Galactic Council that Yuna was a threat to civilization, not its savior. They send a spy, Misaki, who is tricked into believing Yuna is truly a threat and the ending result is that Yuna is sentenced to be thrown into a black hole before her friends come to save the day. There was much more to it than that but without spoiling all the fun, suffice it to say that it wasn't too lame to enjoy at least once for fans of female oriented super hero battle shows with a sense of goofy humor.
The next set of episodes were centered on Fairy of the Deep Darkness. This second story was very similar to the first except it had three sisters with tremendous power attacking Yuna and company. While I thought it was even more derivative than the first section, at least it gave the cast a bit more to do than stand around and look silly when so much was going on around them. Further, the comedy aspects were played up more this time and I enjoyed that aspect of it more than in the first as well. In all, I thought far more could've been done with the material at hand and the characters made more than one dimensional but that's a problem with a great many OVA's; they tend to be one shots unwilling to spend the time to develop the characters enough to sustain a full season or set of shows.
Okay, so the show had some major limitations in terms of writing, themes, and even anime style but was it really all that bad? Well, I suppose it was worth a look for genre fans but I can't see giving it more than a rating of Rent It and even that was generous. I'm sure ADV Films released this one on DVD years ago and why there were no extras added or enhancements to the picture is beyond me but as someone who bought a couple of the episodes on tape (yeah, I know…) when ADV first released it, I have a slight fondness for it nonetheless. I've seen far better of late but if you find it cheap, check it out for some mild fun.
Picture: Yuna was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was shot in about ten years ago. There were some visual flaws seen, primarily in the darker sequences, but it looked about as good as I remember it on tape so long ago. If that's a backhanded compliment, so be it, but I just didn't think ADV Films did anything special with the print here (there were some scratches and cell issues too) as they've done with bigger "name" franchises of late. At least there were few compression artifacts to contend with and that's a plus in my book.
Sound: The audio was presented in the usual 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with a choice of either the original Japanese or the aging English dub, and subtitles that approximated the dub (usually referred to as dubtitles). I thought the original language track was superior this time in all ways but the separation between the channels was so slight that I had to use headphones to hear the relative few times when it came about. The dynamic range, especially on the dub track, was far less than I've enjoyed from ADV Films in the past, leading me to believe they had left the original dub alone. I've noticed older dub tracks of theirs being substantially less engaging and figure the company hasn't been enhancing them until recent years (the Japanese taste for audio differs from our own according to some directors at ADV so the company tries to cater to the differences).
Extras: There were no true extras this time, not even a set of trailers or a paper insert in the DVD case, but there was a textless opening Easter Egg on the main title page (I found it by accident so there could be others).
Final Thoughts: Yuna or Galaxy Fraulein Yuna (depending on the source), is one of those shows that tries to successfully combine strong female leads with action, science fiction, and a sense of humor that many can enjoy but often falls flat due to the way the OVA was conceived as a supplement (some critics might claim as a way to cash in on a videogame) to the original material. It was originally called Yuna and Yuna Returns but the minor differences didn't make much difference in a show that I found a mildly amusing way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy day. The replay value was limited, even though I remembered it as being better when I first saw it years ago, but just as tastes change, the market has a lot more entertaining titles these days so as the competition gets better, older titles tend to look worse with time. Yuna is one such title.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article!