What happens when you take a gratuitous amount of fanservice and toss it together with catgirls, aliens, and all manner of anime archetypes including harem comedy? UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, that's what.
This quirky series created by Kaishaku (the guys behind Steel Angel Karumi and Magical Meow Meow Taruto) was originally released back in 2002 in manga form and later in the year as an anime. Stretched across multiple seasons and story arcs UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie garnered 32 episodes and an OVA before coming off the air. Reception among the Japanese audience was obviously fairly decent considering the long run but has it been equally so in America?
To be quite honest I never got around to checking the series out when it was released on individual volumes. A complete collection, however, makes it much easier and more affordable to see what I've been missing. And that, for the most part, was a fun and quirky series with an eclectic cast of characters, perverse sense of humor, and plenty of obligatory anime morsels. In other worse there are many things about this show that I liked and many that I didn't.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie tells the story of an archaic bathhouse in a time when there really is no need for such a thing. You see, in the future there is high technology and aliens galore roaming about. Sure the occasional being enjoys a dip in a bath of hot water but for the most part everyone has their own tub at home (or on their ship). Kazuto Tokino has decided to keep with his grandfather's traditions and dreams and keep the bathhouse open despite his naysayer parents. It's Kazuto's stubborn nature that separates him from the rest of the pack but there's something else going on in his life that is even stranger.
On one fateful night just like any other Kazuto was working in the bathhouse when something disastrous happened. A spaceship came crashing down at high speed smack dab in the middle of his building. Actually, the ship landed on his head if you want to get technical about it. Instead of dying Kazuto had a vision of a beautiful and busty girl who gave half of her soul to bring him back to life. This alien's name was Valkyrie and in the process of being bonded to Kazuto she became quite small in stature, reverting back to an age half of her current one. As with any good fanservice anime series Valkyrie moves in with Kazuto and the two make something of an odd couple.
Kazuto's friend, Akina, takes to calling him a pedophile every time Valkyrie decides to hug him, hold his hand, or kiss him. To be quite honest it does make for some rather uncomfortable watching. I realize that it's a tool for comedic implementation but the strong loli theme and references are a little more awkward than they are funny at times. If you appreciate this brand of humor let's just say there's plenty to go around.
In any event Valkyrie is soon joined by fellow a Valhallan princess, her sister Hydra, who also has reverted into a child thanks to Akina's seal. A cat-girl servant comes into the picture as well and like you'd expect, Kazuto finds himself going from one situation to the next.
As far as the episode count with this complete collection, there are twelve that season one is comprised of. They are, for the most part, very episodic. I do have to say that I was confused by the way the show started out. The very first episode here features a little adventure that you'd think would have taken place during the middle of the show's run because nothing was explained. Valkyrie was a kid, Kazuto awkwardly spent time with her, and everyone seemed quite comfortable with the situation of things. It wasn't until the second episode that we finally were shown what happened and the origin of Valkyrie's problem.
The show goes on to coast for a few episodes where nothing major really happens. Towards the beginning Valkyrie's maid joins the party and one of her first tasks is to whip out a gun that turns girls into dedicated catgirls hell-bent on doing little more than serving her and the princess. This part was particularly hilarious but like any good episodic show the wrongs are all righted at the end. The catgirl army becomes the workers that Kazuto's bathhouse desperately needed and in no time he's back up and running.
Once the structure is set in place, the brand of humor written, and the cliché checklist has been brought out UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie's first season hits a lull. The midsection of this series was really a drag to be quite honest. I found myself not laughing at the gags, under whelmed by character development, and disappointed with the lack of innovation. This first series had an interesting premise going in but it didn't capitalize on it like it could/should have. Then again that's really the tricky part about doing a harem show. You have to do it right and you have to do it better than everyone else. Unfortunately, neither is the case with this series.
What UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie lacks in originality as a show it makes up for with its presentation. The video quality here is downright lovely and strong design is a big part of the appreciation for the material. Character artwork and animation is attractive and backgrounds are livelier than most. All around this is simply a well-produced series.
As far as the transfer is concerned it is presented with the original full frame aspect ratio. There are precious few flaws to complain about aside from some grain in parts and a minor amount of compression in a few scenes. Overall this is a vibrant looking show that doesn't get dinged for poor quality. Sure it could have looked better with an anamorphic presentation and higher production values but it's still a capable series in terms of video quality.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie comes with English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks. The dubbing quality for each is above average though the Japanese language track edges out the English one. In both cases there are still plenty of annoying voices to go around but they aren't horrendously irritating, even at their worst. As far as technical merit is concerned the presentation is strong for a stereo track with a decent presence on the soundstage. Granted it's all front channel with no immersion but there were no problems with pitch or distortions.
Seeing as this is an ADV thinpack release the only things you're going to see on the discs other than the show itself are some trailers.
If you're in the market for a harem comedy UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is not the worst option out there. Plenty of laughs await you with some fun characters and a cute premise taking the center stage. This show's problem stems from its lack of originality and fact that it doesn't really move the bar any. It finds a comfort zone and it basically stays there from start to finish. Add to that some pedophile humor and you have a series that doesn't necessarily stand out when going toe to toe against other entries into the genre. A rental would probably be the best way to experience this series.