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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: Season 2, Vol. 1 - Washing Up and Wigging Out
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: Season 2, Vol. 1 - Washing Up and Wigging Out
ADV Films // Unrated // November 14, 2006
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted February 25, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Background: Every once in awhile I get hold of a guilty pleasure anime release months after it has hit the stands and generally faded away into oblivion. The inevitable questions about reviewing something so long after the initial release aside, I find such a practice has the benefit of letting all the marketing hype die down a bit to see if the merits of the title are half as good as some of the shill review websites claim them to be. This time, the series in question is UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie and their second season that started right after I finished reviewing the OVA. Was it so hot or markedly superior to all that had been sold by the company before or was it another series destined for the scrapheap? With this review of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: December Nocturne, I hope to explore that idea, first going back to look at the initial season and OVA volumes to provide the requisite background needed to know what's going on:

Series: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: December Nocturne kept the same basic flow of characters and situations from the earlier season (which is not always the case in anime). The main characters of the show are Kazuto Tokino, a young man still in high school that runs his ancestral bath house, and Valkyrie, a princess from an alien world. The gimmick is that they are about the same age and when she landed on Earth, her spaceship crashed into his bathhouse, just about killing him in the process. In order to save his life, she used half of her own life force to restore him to health but it came at great cost. The cost in this case is that her physical form reverted to that of an 8 year old girl with all the mental maturity and girlish troubles associated with the age. Given her very high status in politics back on her home world, this leads to an assortment of problems as she girlishly chases Kazuto around with a crush the size of Texas.

Interestingly enough though, when placed in peril, she can go back to her older form for a very short period of time, sporting a great body (including well defined nipples) and an assortment of magical powers to boot. This seems to be activated by a kiss from Kazuto although the series is still just starting at this point and the limitations of her abilities have not yet been completely explained. In any case, he has a crush on her older self but isn't enough of a pervert to take advantage of her youthful self (thank goodness for that!) and each episode of the show seems to revolve around the couple getting into trouble and her juicing up her super powers to save the two of them. If you've heard this story a few dozen times in the past, that's largely because it borrows considerably from other sources yet still made me smile more for the situational comedy than the fan service that seemed so prevalent here. Another facet of the opening volume of the show was how the story seemed to be told backwards in some of the episodes with the origin (and many parts of the pacing/outline needed to understand the show) coming afterwards, not at the beginning. Here's what the back cover said about the show:

"In the future, Earth is a very different place. Interplanetary travel and alien encounters are commonplace. In fact, maybe a bit too commonplace - considering that a mystical, otherworldly maiden named Valkyrie has crashed her spaceship into Kazuto Tokino's bathhouse. As Kazuto tries to rebuild his business (and his life), things get crazier by the minute! His bouncy, bubbly and bare bathhouse clients just want to relax, but certain individuals from Valkyrie's homeland of Valhalla want their beloved princess back - and they'll do just about anything to get her home. Get ready for hilarious battle scenes, mishaps galore, and an army of oh-so-cute catgirls on the prowl! It's the riveting, revealing first volume of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie!"

Okay, the second volume of the series, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2: Crash Course in Craziness continued the madcap exploits of the Tokino bathhouse as discussed on the back cover: "At the Tokino bathhouse, life seems to get weirder by the second. The Interstellar Pirate Guild wants to kidnap Valkyrie. Yet another spaceship crash-lands on Earth, piloted by a deceptive, shape-shifting she-devil who will stop at nothing to win Valkyrie's love. And finally, when a gaggle of overworked catgirls boards a bus to head for a vacation at the beach, the hilarity goes into overdrive! There's plenty of skin. Lots of outrageous skirmishes. And a sinfully silly karaoke session that you've got to see (and hear) to believe! So sit down, strap in and get ready for a laugh-out-loud ride – in the second zany installment of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie!"

If you've ever watched any of the earlier Tenchi series, you'll know how a harem show revolving around a hapless teenage male is supposed to work. The females either openly throw themselves at his feet or they act like he's poison while secretly coveting becoming his number one lady. There really isn't a lot of character development or variations in the basic scheme of the formula that fans (often female fans) find so endearing but there is something appealing about the situations nonetheless. I liked that they kept to providing four more episodes (it's only a three volume series with an OVA and a second season to be released) and if you enjoy the concept as much as I have over the years (UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 1 had some creepy twists but was mostly handled in an amusing fashion), you'll like this set of episodes too.

The UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie V3 volume was the last set from the first season and it ran right back into even more clichés yet for all the fussing by some, the material seemed to work better when not saddled in the confines of the high school and bathhouse as the majority of other episodes were. The back cover said it like this: "Our outlandish adventure reaches its final frontier... in outer space! And there's more action and intrigue than you can crash a spaceship into! Kazuto is forced to sell his bathhouse. He builds a new bathhouse on an unassuming asteroid! There's a heated battle with the Interstellar Pirate's Guild! A hot spring gushes out of the asteroid! And then, a Valhallian leader makes a proposal that Valkyrie can't refuse: return home and get married immediately! When Kazuto battles his way to the royal planet to rescue Val, things don't exactly turn out as planned. Nothing is certain and anything is possible in the final, frenetic volume of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie Season One."

That brought me to the OVA Special which was actually two slightly longer episodes that totaled about 70 minutes. The first of these was strictly a recap volume that took a whirlwind look at the first season in a single fell swoop. It hit the highlights pretty nicely and will bring any newbies up to speed but if you've watched the show until now, you may feel slightly cheated as it used stock footage and provided almost nothing new by way of insights or material. The second episode was actually a very cute little homage to some of the popular card games like Pokemon though as it allowed for the cast to pair up and either learn or display their marriage skills. That's right; it was used to show the level of preparedness the royal couple (Valkyrie and Kazuto) with the others joining in more as a dare than anything else, with often hilarious results. The back cover said it like this: "Dearly beloved, The big wedding is just around the corner, so it's time to get prepared. Nope, it's not the rehearsal dinner; it's the rehearsal for married life! Princess Mehm is worried about the obvious complications surrounding the relationship between Kazuto and his age-challenged fiancee Valkyrie. So, the blue-lipped beauty has ordered the two to participate in a role-playing sim to see how they handle the day-to-day drudgery of 'til death do us part. Plus, just for kicks, the rest of the gang will be paired up and tested as well. Why? Who knows! Who'll win? Who cares! But you don't want to miss the ride, so pucker up and get ready to kiss the bride!"

For me, the initial OVA seemed too weak to really interest me much; after all, it seemed to be just a mish mash of footage from the first season that I had already watched with nothing new at all. The second OVA episode was far better but it didn't seem like enough of a reason for a separate DVD release, making me wish it was added onto the UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie V3 and the entire initial episode dropped altogether. Completists will want to own a copy and those into the show will definitely want to see it but I wonder about the market for a single episode these days or for the double episode given that anyone picking up a copy will probably have access to the first season. So, what about the second season you ask? Okay, here goes:

The four episodes picked up pretty much where the first season left off; the cast of crazies all got along well enough and Valkyrie would transform into her adult form just long enough to save the day each time. Clueless Kazuto felt about as ill at ease regarding his affection for the gal (remember, she gave up so much of her life force that she is usually just a young girl in order to save him). The main draw this time was the introduction of two new plot devices; a sword in the form of the Key of Time and a new character in the form of cyborg Chorus. The key allows the right person to do just about anything, a dangerous device in the hands of young Valkyrie as seen in the silly Ultraman parody it creates (with more than a passing nod to the show as well). Chorus is the type of geeky internet addicted wacko that may or may not be suffering from a variety of maladies but the strength of the initial episode starring her was dashed a bit by relying on a time tested plot twist that gave her a bit more time to enjoy life on Earth. The rest of the volume was even parts of weirdness and silly antics, all handled tongue in cheek (for those who are too dense to understand the homages to various anime and Japan culture; almost every phrase and visual queue in the volume related to a number of other shows). The fun part about the show is that it actually explains some of the references in the extras section, with a couple of websites popping up to go into greater detail for the semi-clueless. I actually liked it more than I remembered the series (thanks to a weak OVA) so I'm rating it as Recommended to any of you that appreciate just a hint of fan service with your humor; following in the footsteps of many near classic titles that are as much fun for fans of other shows as this one itself.

Picture: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: December Nocturne was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as directed by Shigeru Ueda for broadcast on Japanese television. The colors were the overly bright style displayed on the front DVD cover and the animation style relied on the kind of computer generated material that shows relatively limited movement (panning the equivalent of cells, moving small parts of the picture to convey movement, etc.) but they suited the material fairly well. There were no major visual defects with the source material or DVD mastering that I could see although I would've preferred it look a bit higher budget. While this came out a year after the series, it was made concurrently according to the crew in the extras section and with relatively minor changes in the production staff, provided a reasonably decent place for newcomers to the show to jump in and not feel completely clueless.

Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo in the original Japanese soundtrack or a newly made English language dub. I have been able to enjoy both versions of most shows made in the last few years; fully appreciating that many of you are firmly for subtitles and others more into English language dubs. This was one of those shows that only a few dubbed voices irritated me (and I think at least one of them was designed to do so; Nancy Novotny's Hydra but thankfully, her role was minor this time) but the overall quality of both tracks was similar and should appeal to those who like whichever version they lean towards. The music was perky and cute, the vocals well handled, and other than the limited number of mature body parts on display, I think it was designed for a youthful audience initially and then got switched over (earning it a TV-MA-SL rating from ADV Films).

Extras: The extras were decent this time with some more of the interview text material that really didn't go into great detail but provided additional information for the obsessed Otaku, a couple of videos using music from the show and clips, more of the Valkyrie World Notes giving language updates, the usual clean opening and closing bits, as well as some trailers.

Final Thoughts: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: December Nocturne is not going to appeal to everyone into anime but a lot of us like seeing cute nods to our favorite shows tossed in casually, a certain level of humor that can go too far at times but typically shows the secondary characters pulling their hair out more than anyone else, and the episodic set up where the super powered heroine can save the day with a kiss from her boyfriend. There was an innocent sort of charm to the show that I started to remember as though I had picked it right back up with no hiatus (has it really been since September?!?). I watched it twice and was still picking up amusing anecdotal references from other shows, a tribute to how well the creators thought things out when making it; a shame that I had to wait so long to see it though. Still, you can find this one on sale these days pretty cheap so get a copy for yourself and see what I mean when I say it was better than average.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.

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