Battles, Blades and Breasts-and not necessarily in that order.
What They Say
In a land where a queen is chosen every few years solely by winning a tournament, there can be no short supply of formidable opponents. For one woman warrior however, an early defeat clearly shows her that she is lacking in experience though she may be bountiful in body.
Fortunately, while defeat could spell one’s doom, her life is saved by a powerful stranger. But unfortunately for this savior, less-than-pure motives and shrewd family members mean her reward is a prison cell. Her release is prompt when the unseasoned warrior she saved, tired of her current lifestyle of nobility, sets off to prove herself.
The audio portion on this release contains both an English and Japanese 2.0 track and for the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used. For the most part it is a fairly solid track with only one small distortion noted but beyond that it seemed that the recorders largely did the most they could within the 2.0 confines. Directionality isn’t a major factor because of this but dialogue is clear and the background effects are done in a way to make it at least feel like a very strong and a bit vibrant 2.0 track. The strength of the audio in the feature is further set off as the opening and closings both are much less vibrant and feel flat, especially in comparison.
Originally created in 2009 the feature is presented in its 1.78:1 ratio and it is encoded in anamorphic widescreen. The video is a major weakness on this release as it has a whole host of issues pop up-some compression artifacts, noise, color intermingle problems, minor ghosting, jaggies, color bleed on strong red, dot crawl, interlacing, and distortion were all noticed at one point or another across the scope of the three discs. It distracted me at times from the onscreen action but those not looking for flaws may find they are much less likely to see them. It certainly isn’t in the conversation for worst picture I have seen but after my experience with it I would suggest that people with a more advanced set up that are more likely to see such issues contemplate getting the Blu-Ray release as unless these issues are material related the difference in disc encoding will hopefully correct for most of them.
The release uses an image of Leina in the center with her sister Claudette much larger on the left behind her and a similarly large Tomoe on the right. All three are wearing their battle gear (or seeming lack of given the amount of skin Leina and Claudette are showing) with the Queen’s Blade logo at the top in stylized font set over the image of a crown that has some radiant beams shining on the characters. The background is a yellowish white and an image of one of the broadcast spheres can be seen on the left and it carries over on the spine to the back of the label. The reverse side features the angel Nanael as well as six stills from the feature. The DVD case uses a double sided flip insert to hold the first two discs while the third disc is on the right inside of the DVD case. The discs themselves use the images from the single’s release with the first disc having Leina, Nanael, Claudette and a character who is a little bit of a spoiler, the second has the Swamp Witch’s three minions and the final disc features Leina and Claudette.
The main menu screen for the first disc uses the image off the disc/single cover with little red diamonds for the horizontally listed selectable options. The biggest fault here is that the diamond gets highlighted in red that is just a bit brighter than its standard color but subsequent discs address this. The various screens for the options use the same yellow- white color from the cover but it is used as the palate for different scenes of the characters from the series. The second disc menu uses the image from the disc cover/single as well for the main menu and the same shots of yellow-white pallet for the other screens though the changing of the highlight color for highlighting selections to green is greatly appreciated. The third disc uses a slightly different image of Leina and Claudette against a pink and white background than is found on the disc label. The images for the other screens change as well to captures from the series and the pink and white look really helps the images stand out far better than the yellow and white did on the two previous discs. The menus are quick to respond to changes in selection and the implementation of the selection.
This release is bountiful with the extras as it contains all six of the short alternate reality OVAs , all three clean opening and closing animations along with the TV broadcast standard versions, TV spots, promo date and a twenty four minute long Queen’s Blade convention special internet show from the Tokyo Anime Fair.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Welcome to a land where every four years a tournament know as The Queen’s Blade occurs to determine the strongest and most beautiful of the competitors and grant her the right to become queen of the land. The competition even has the blessings of Heavens itself as it has dispatched angels throughout the land whose job it is to send the images of the fights to the crystal spheres that hover over the continent and display the matches to all residents. Due to the amount of power that comes with the title the number of people competing for the title is fairly sizable and diverse both in the location they come from and the reasons for their entry.
This year is different however as a shadowy figure has decided to dispatch her force of monsters and the undead to interrupt the proceedings for reasons that are known only to her. Into this mix a young woman (Lena Vance) is interjected who may become a wild card as she grows form naïve, unskilled and sheltered noble woman going where others tell her and seeing what they would have her see to someone who may have found a purpose of her own in her life and is willing to pursue it in the face of mounting danger. She starts her journey as she encounters a slime woman who has been attacking strong fighters and has mistaken Leina for her famous and very strong older sister Claudette. Leina is terribly overmatched and would have been finished if not for the intervention of Risty-a thief with a large heart but an ulterior motive.
Leina’s family has placed a bounty on her to have her returned to them though when Risty attempts to collect the reward she is arrested as she also is wanted but for thievery. Risty manages to escape her prison cell and is hidden by Leina after Risty has raided the family vault. In return for her kindness Risty leaves Leina the warrior armor that Leina’s mother had worn in the past which Risty had nicked from the vault. Leina chooses to don her mother’s armor and decides to try to find her own road in life. Her path finds her however as the monster she fought earlier returns for vengeance after being insulted by Leina in their previous encounter. Between this fight and Risty encountering Claudette there is a tremendous amount of damage to the castle and Leina is afforded a means to leave-though she may require saving again to do so but the cost to her sense of world may be high as she may discover that her perception of the world and her families role in it has been a lie.
At the same time another participant Tomoe-a warrior priestess from a far eastern country-is introduced. She briefly has a moment of respite from her training which is interrupted by the arrival of her friend Shizuka, who is a former ninja enemy of the priestess order Tome belongs to. Tomoe is entering the tournament to save the countries Mikado who is a pawn of the consuls who are using her in their own corrupt power play to the detriment of the land. Tomoe is about to embark when the order is attacked by the group of ninjas who re their enemies and the order is almost wiped out. With the sacrifice of her fellow maidens and the order’s sacred sword Tomoe will survive and she and Shizuka will leave for the mainland with only a hundred year old map and some outdated ideas of the people who live on the continent to guide their way into the Queen’s Blade.
From this set up most of the episodes will take their time to introduce some of the other characters who will be playing a role in the upcoming tournament as Leina encounters all sorts of new people and tries to grow as a person and fighter. She will learn truths she had not noticed when it comes to her land, family and her impressions of how to gain strength as well as her own abilities when it comes to influencing the world around her. As the various characters meet and clash they will learn more about themselves as well as each other’s motives for entering the tournament and also about the land that they hope to gain the right to rule. Along the way they will also see the machination as the forces of darkness move against the various fighters-will the women be strong enough to reach for their goals or will the shadows swallow them as they strive for their dreams?
I love a good fantasy/RPG story and like fanservice when done well so I didn’t have any problems with the basic premise of the show-which is good as fantasy and fanservice are the main courses on the menu. I liked very much that care had been taken in establishing a believable fantasy world for the characters to exist in. The down side here is that there are a good number of characters and not all of the material establishing them seems to work as well together when constructing a cohesive narrative. Many of the characters introduced from episode 3 and on feel a bit like a character of the week story and while they finally get together near the end of this set at times it feels like the planners had ideas for what would make a great character back story in an RPG but getting them all to flow as a gestalt piece isn’t as easy to accomplish.
There is also a bit of lack in the initial story and character building of the main character Leina that allows for quite a lot of growth but hampers the audiences ability to connect with her. One other quibble-sometimes the continuity people can miss the boat as armor damaged in a previous episode can suddenly reappear whole in another. Not major but it seems to blend with the writing each episode as its own stand alone story rather than chapter in a greater story. Thankfully by the last few episodes it seems all the characters are now together and the writers can focus on telling the story as more of a tapestry than focusing on individual threads and there are signs that the payoff for this may be a case where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. By itself this isn’t an incredible set but it does work nicely as a set up and while series should stand or fall on its own a great deal of whether this title has long term appeal will be determined by how they build off from what is established here in subsequent series. It is a competent though not stunning work that has flashes of really great material as well as stretches where it seems the writers can’t think of a more interesting way to introduce all the characters.
Queen’s Blade may either be the best of both worlds with its fantasy set combat/RPG type stories with copious amounts of female “flesh” or the worst depending on your taste in series. The series takes the fantasy staple settings and gives it some rather modern appeal with a lot of fanservice-there is more going on, but the fanservice is likely to be what makes this title stand out initially. It works to help build a bridge as many of the initial 12 episodes feel a little disjointed with all the character interactions but throwing out a rather large visual bone for fans may help keep them interested long enough to get to the part where all the introductions start to pay off.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, OVA Episodes 1-6, Textless Ending, Textless On-air Ending
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Media Blasters
Running Time: 300
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.