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UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: OVA Special - Bridal Training
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 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. Still, a rating of Rent It seems fair enough and I did look forward to the second season of the series, even if this could've been much better than it was.
Picture: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: OVA Special 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 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 lighter 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, more of the Valkyrie World Notes giving language updates, the usual clean opening and closing bits, as well as some trailers. I'd have thought this would have been the perfect opportunity for ADV Films to add in some extras with their voice cast or other extras to augment the value of the DVD but my hopes were dashed quickly.
Final Thoughts: UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: OVA Special was best viewed as a quick fix of material to keep fans interested in the show while they wait for the second season to come out or as a means to get newcomers into the show without lending them your precious three volumes from the first season. The second episode was pretty funny and I think all couples getting married should have to go through the sort of virtual marriage testing/training device shown here (maybe to make them think about what they're getting into if nothing else) but the first was strictly a recap best left as an extra for the second season and the weaker extras didn't help me much. In short, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: OVA Special wasn't as special as it should have been but fans will likely appreciate that it gave them a good episode to assist in tiding them over until they get their next fix by ADV Films.
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, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.