Vampire Princess Miyu-Volume 1: Initiation (1998)

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Released 18-Sep-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio-loud!
Credits-opening credits in Japanese
Gallery-design sketches
Trailer-six other Madman titles
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 60:24 (Case: 75)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Toshiki Hirano
Studio
Distributor
TokyoPop Anime
Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Click
RPI $34.95 Music Kawai. Kenji


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Vampire Princess Miyu is not for young children - its M rating is not an accident. The reasons given on the cover for the rating are: "supernatural themes, low-level animated violence", but I would suggest the real reasons you wouldn't put this in front of children are two-fold: not everyone gets a happy ending, and some of the ideas might be rather heavy-duty. I am surprised the cover didn't say "adult concepts".

    Miyu (as you will learn very quickly, so I'm not giving away the plot) is not your average schoolgirl. Oh, she attends high school like a regular teenager, but she is somewhat aloof, somewhat detached. This may have something to do with the fact that she's been doing this for a long (unspecified, but probably centuries) time. Miyu is The Guardian. It is her responsibility to locate stray shinma and return them to the darkness. The opening narration to each episode describes shinma as "possessed demons" (I think "possessing demons" might be more accurate - they can possess a human) who take advantage of humans who are vulnerable ("with an open door to their souls"). Miyu must find each shinma, expose it, weaken it, and then return it to the darkness - kinda like slaying it (not that I'm hinting at any similarity to another teenage girl slayer...). Catch is, Miyu is a royal vampire, and there seems to be a bit of confusion as to whether vampires count as shinma or not - some of the shinma talk of her betraying her own kind.

    Miyu doesn't work alone, mostly. She has the aid of Lava (sometimes spelt Larva), a former stray shinma now fighting on the side of good (we assume Miyu is good, right?). She is also accompanied by Shiina, a creature whose powers are, as yet, unclear. She looks rather like a rabbit with an evil eye. We get to learn more about Lava in the third episode on this disc.

    Miyu is not an easy character to like - she seems aloof, distant. But there is a gentle sadness about her. She does what she must to deal with the shinma who are terrorising humans, but she does it more in sorrow than in anger (mostly!). I do like her, maybe it just takes a while.

    The episodes on this disc are:

Number

Title Description

1

The Fang Knows! Students are turning up dead, with fang marks in their necks...

2

At the Next Station Beautiful women disappear when they ride the last carriage of the train at night

3

The Forest Calls What's the relationship between an African shaman's mask, and the strange behaviour of a fellow-student's brother?

    The first episode introduces us to Miyu at one school, the second takes us to a different school. We stay at this second school for a while (certainly the next several episodes). At this second school (identified on the next disc as Tokiwa) Miyu hangs out with three girls: Chisato (a redhead who becomes a real friend for Miyu), Hisae (a brunette who seems to be the real brains of the bunch), and Yukari (a taller, bold girl, whose hair colour varies from black to blue and back in different scenes).

    We only see Miyu in two outfits: her school uniform, and her "working clothes" - a thigh length white kimono with bare feet, but a red ribbon around her right foot. She always wears her hair the same way, asymmetrical, with red ribbons braided into the left side. I suspect there's some significance to the red ribbons, but I don't know what it is. She is often pictured playing a bamboo flute - I'm not sure if the flute has magical significance, but the music is nice.

    The animation style is quite attractive. There are many scenes which are simply stills, but with an impression of depth, that the camera pans across while the soundtrack carries the story. There are other scenes with real animation, but only the foregrounds are animated - the backgrounds are generally static. Even so, the drawing is quite beautiful, and subtly eerie. I can't quite label it, but I find this particular series pleasant to look at.

    The music to this series is distinctive, and hauntingly beautiful. The opening and closing themes are excellent.

    This first disc is different from the rest. The three episodes have been blended into one long sequence, with only one set of opening and closing credits. I suspect that is why there's such a discrepancy between the running time listed on the case versus the disc. This is not the best way to present a series, and fortunately they realised that later - the next disc is presented in individual episodes, each with opening and closing credits, even with "next episode" teasers. I prefer that presentation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, as you might expect for a TV series. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is sharp and clear. Shadow detail is meaningless in animation, but there's considerable shading in the drawing. There is no low level noise.

    Colour is excellent. There is a much wider range of colours than is customary in animation, with rich deep shades. There are no colour-related artefacts. There are some scenes with a white cast over the entire frame, but this is intentional: these scenes are like dream sequences.

    There are some fine film artefacts, but they are uniformly tiny and never troubling.

    There is quite a bit of aliasing and if mild aliasing troubles you, I suggest you avoid this title. There is no moiré. There is quite a bit of dot-crawl on the black edges that define the foreground characters. There are occasional interlacing artefacts, where a single frame shows a blend of two adjoining frames, but this is always momentary - blink and you will miss it. Although this sounds like a litany of artefacts, you may be surprised how pretty the picture looks.

    There are subtitles in English. They are presented in yellow, in an attractive rounded font. They don't match the English dub exactly, phrasing thoughts somewhat differently, although the content is very much the same. I suspect that is because they are a more literal translation of the original Japanese dialogue (that's a good thing). They don't subtitle the closing theme song, unfortunately (an oversight remedied on the next disc).

    The disc is single-sided, single layer, so there is no layer change. That's cool - there is not enough content to stress a single layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and in Japanese, which should make the anime fans happy. Both tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 224 kbps. I listened to the whole of the English track, and to most of the Japanese track. Both tracks sound mono a lot of the time, although the English track has some serious stereo imaging at times.

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood, at least on the English track. The Japanese sounds clear, but could be completely garbled for all I know! It's hard to judge audio sync on animation, but there are no egregiously obvious flaws: if you want to get really fussy you can see a few slight glitches, like at 45:45 on the Japanese soundtrack (funnily enough, the English soundtrack seems more obviously synced to mouth movements - this disc is not unique in this).

    The score is from Kenji Kawai - it's excellent. He arranged the opening and closing themes, too, even though he didn't write the closing theme.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are not used by this strictly 2.0 soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, with very loud music. Be warned - this music is five to ten dB louder than the episodes; I really hate that.

Japanese opening titles

    The opening titles in Japanese (on the feature they are in English). Worth a look, but it's rather short.

Gallery - Shinma

    Eight pages of images showing design sketches for the shinma in these episodes: Ga Ryu, Roh Sha, and Kamen.

Trailers

    Labelled Madman Propaganda (as usual), we get several trailers on this disc:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc sounds pretty much the same as ours, but without the Madman propaganda. It has a gallery, but different content. I wonder if the R1 might be free from the interlacing artefacts?

Summary

    A good start to an interesting series, on a reasonable DVD.

    The video quality is fair, but there is quite a bit of aliasing, and some interlacing artefacts.

    The audio quality is very good for a 2.0 soundtrack.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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