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UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, V3
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 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 last volume in the first season 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."
This being the final volume of the first season, a lot of ground had to be covered and the breakneck pace from the original volume reappeared with a vengeance, elevating the action substantially. The initial material had Sanada's space internet buying spree turn sour when young Valkyrie started hammering away at the keys when the others had left the room. That led to the purchase of an asteroid without the funding available in the account to pay for it. Kazuto stepped up to the plate yet again to assist in paying for it by selling his beloved family business but that was only the start of the problems with the problem when they find the isolated location to be neighboring on the headquarters of the pirates that had been trying to kidnap the princess in the last volume. It got a bit crazy and Bob once again went from being lowly household pet to being something of a scourge to be reckoned with as Kazuto uses his expertise to make best use of the asteroid as a means of calming everyone down and restoring his business in a whole new way. Unfortunately, those plans weren't the end of it when Valkyrie was formally recalled home in order to have her prearranged marriage take place before the others could stop it. Her planet on full lockdown until the ceremony takes place; can Akina, Hydra, Kazuno and others make it past the most heavily guarded planet in the universe to save the day? It gets kind of hairy as the planetary defense forces step in but the numerous insider jokes revolving around each episode made this one the best of the series to my way of thinking and that had me giving it a rating of Recommended, even for newcomers to the show.
Picture: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 3 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: One of the most bizarre extras was the visit to a real life bathhouse by pop singer Mocchi Poyoyon and China Tatsunoyu. The look on the attendant's face was priceless as he clearly felt uncomfortable with the two pop sensations gleefully yelling and screaming their approval at the similarities between the fictional Tokino bathhouse and the real one. Another decent extra, though far too spoiler ridden again, was another 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 original director and sound engineer 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 as well as the OVA.
Final Thoughts: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 3 reminded me that the series was fun and full of a great many homages to other anime clichés that are such because the fans seem to like seeing them so much (if you've read the various online forums, you'll know what I mean). The ecological idea that the natural bathhouse water had superior restorative powers and made Valkyrie whole far sooner than would have otherwise been possible was a cute idea and having watched it in both languages, I again noted some differences between the two in terms of slight variations of where the directors were taking their visions (the dub went all out to "enhance" the dub by making it more contemporary). In short, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 3: The Pirates, The Princess, & the Proposal was a lot more of the same but handled sufficiently well to make me believe that many of you will enjoy it more than the previous volumes in the short lived series. If season two patterns itself after this one, especially the latter two episodes, I think it might actually rate even higher.
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.