Movie: I'm often surprised by the close-minded nature of some of my friends who think all anime is just a bunch of "kiddy cartoons". While some are certainly directed towards a youthful market, to categorically dismiss such a popular genre of movie is indicative of a mindset that displays the limits of the American audience. Growing up with Saturday morning cartoons might exacerbate the problem but I point to the Japanese as one culture that knows a good show is a good show no matter what age you are. The way I look at it is, why do some adults stereotype programs based on the genre, rather than as individual shows while our Eastern associates often enjoy anime even as middle-aged folks (and older!)? After all, there are shows like Ai Yiri Aoshi, the spy type adventures like NOIR, or even Mech-robot type action, like RahXephon so why can't all of us just kick back and enjoy the genre without fussing? Well, the latest release by the professionals at ADV Films is Steel Angel Kurumi 2.1: The Lips Of A New Master and it was directed at a more mature audience for those complainers that insist that adult anime is all about tentacles and horrible sex rather than light-hearted comedy.
The show is the second set of episodes for the popular series that has been imitated often enough. In a sense, it was much like Maho-Romatic 1 in how it centered on the relationship of a person and an android programmed to serve. If you haven't seen the first series, don't worry because the show is very much a stand alone series although seeing it will likely address some of your questions before you get too far into this set of 6 short episodes. Nako, a young gal who is kind of a geek, accidentally activates a "Steel Angel" which awakens with a kiss and ends up complicating her life quite a bit. Her friend, Uruka, becomes jealous at the close (and intimate) relationship between the two and sets out to end the robot's hold on her friend. One matter that complicates Uruka's plans is that a Steel Angel like Kurumi is all but indestructible and packs a powerful arsenal of weapons. In her favor, Uruka's dad is perhaps the richest, most powerful man in the world with his own army of mech-robots.
Nako, while putting her old school books in storage at the shrine, happens upon a statue that chases her and Uruka around the labyrinth underneath the shrine. Through a series of mishaps, she ends up as the new master of a Steel Angel; one with amorous intentions towards her.
2. Master Is A Girl:
Thinking she dreamed the whole event, Nako finds out her mother is knowledgeable in the technology of Steel Angels like Kurami. Uruka is saddened by the events and her dad takes steps to solve her problems.
3. First Time For Everything:
The first day of school has it's ups and downs with Uruka's dad doing his best to fix what he thinks is wrong. Needless to say, Kurumi has to fight a top-of-the-line mech-robot to protect Nako.
4. The New Steel Angel Saki Mark II:
Dad acquires a Steel Angel of his own but doesn't know how to activate it. Luckily for him, his daughter finds a book on them at Nako's and takes the opportunity to activate it herself.
5. Master And Sister:
Kurumi and Saki meet and we discover that they're "sisters" in the sense that they were made together, many years before. The hi-jinks continue as the 4 friends go to school together.
6. Kurumi Takes To Water:
On a vacation, Kurumi is sent to find a rare yellow pearl. Uruka tries to trick her into getting destroyed by some mechanical robot sharks but all works out in the end (for everyone but Uruka at least).
This is what I refer to as a guilty pleasure type of anime. There was enough nudity and adult sexual themes, primarily lesbianism, that it's really not designed for kids to watch. That's why ADV Films suggests it as 17+ in their rating system. Most of the time, the themes are fairly tame but I know that some people get all upset over such things. The over-the-top humor was funny as could be and I got more than a few belly laughs watching the show. Yeah, the characters were mostly caricatures of anime stereotypes but the way in which they were handled was great. I think ADV has a winner here although I think there's only one more volume to the series and that's a shame. The writing, the animation style itself and the music all combined with decent voice acting (both English and Japanese) to make this one well worth a rating of Highly Recommended.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. It looked very sharp and clear to me with no artifacts, video noise or other problems in a couple of viewings. If you blink, you'll miss some sight gag or other and it had great replay value because of it.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English or Japanese with English subtitles. In both cases, the vocals were clear and the music very appropriate (not to mention fun to listen to).
Extras: The extras include trailers, a clean opening and closing sequence, a character gallery, extended episode previews and a couple of anime cells that allow you to put them on the cover and "clothe" the ladies with either their traditional attire or school uniforms (or leave them in their lingerie).
Final Thoughts: With so much anime on the market, it's good to see ADV branching out into adult style anime that isn't gross (think: hentai) and leaves you with a smile. There was a lot to like about this one, from the music and adult themes, to the very silly nature of the episodes. I just wish the episodes were longer since they flew by in no time and left me wanting more.