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UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, Vol. 2: Crash Course in Craziness!
Story: 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 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.
Things began with Rika spotlighted as she showed how diligently she has been preparing for her educational advancement (coming in #3 out of her entire school during the recent exams) but also attracting some of the popular boys. Until this point, she had been presented as the nebbish sister of Kazuto and completely stereotyped as the bookworm but this made her more likeable, especially when she kept running into a certain little alien that played a role in the rest of the episode, revealing a secret past for Bob (the innocuous mascot). That led to two sillier than usual episodes with one showing Sanada (Valkyrie's loyal servant) in a major role as her protector from the mischievous machinations of a cousin to Valkyrie with special powers of her own (she can make herself look like any living being) to the maid buying a "space camcorder" to make home movies of her mistress. Sanada has had a long standing rivalry of sorts with this cousin, much like Hydra's bothersome nature, and it played out well to see how she dealt with this latest threat to her place in the scheme of things. The movie making episode was a hoot as it showed how someone can edit events around to make them look completely different, reminding me of a pudgy propagandist named Michael Moore in how much alterations were needed to "enhance" Valkyrie's stature in regards to an attack (driving Hydra crazy mad). The last episode was the harem/fan service mandate for a beach party, noting that plans don't always go as planned in the anime world.
Like the previous volume, there was nothing innovative or truly new to explore here but it was handled with the warmest of intentions mixed into the perverted notion of a bunch of hotties that go from jailbait to adulthood with a single kiss. I didn't feel comfortable rating this one as highly as the last volume but it still made me smile a lot of times and merited a rating of Rent It for fans of the genre. When the inevitable boxed set is released, I'll be leading the pack at saying how the lower price makes it all worth it and even without that additional value, many of you will find this an appealing series, I just wish more chances were taken with the scores of clichés employed here to make it something I could more readily appreciate more frequently.
Picture: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2 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.
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 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: For me, the best extra was the recording studio session with Mocchi Poyoyon for her song used so extensively in the series, Our Miracle. She has a lovely voice and it was silly but fun to watch her mug for the camera as she gave her all in the bit. Another decent extra, though far too spoiler ridden, was called Tokino Bathhouse UFO Chat with Seiyuu. It had the Japanese voice actors for Kazuto, Sanada, Hydra, and Young Valkyrie talk about the show, what brought them to it, some of their other work and how much they appreciate their fans. I'd strongly suggest you wait until seeing all three volumes of the series before watching it, a lot easier to do now that the first season has been fully released on DVD. There also happened to be some text messages from the cast and crew that really didn't go into great detail but provided additional information for the obsessed Otaku, more of the Valkyrie World Notes giving language updates, the usual clean opening and closing bits, trailers, a double sided DVD cover and some previews for episodes.
Final Thoughts: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2 was a bit corny and cute all rolled into one seductively sex show that played up certain adult themes a lot more than most shows usually do. This might make some of you feel uncomfortable (I wasn't too keen on the 8 year old version of Valkyrie smooching the much older Kazuto myself). Otherwise, the English language dub did seem to take additional liberties in regards to adding in even more sexual comments and snippy put downs but each language had something to like, giving the show slightly more replay value than the "other" wannabe harem shows. In short, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 2 was far from perfect but as light, fluffy entertainment, it was one of the more appealing to those of us that have been addicted to animation in various forms for decades.
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, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.