What They Say:
Shu’s a detective; the brooding, enigmatic type with an eye for the ladies. Together with his kid brother Akira and “the girls” Manami and Ayaka he runs an investigative agency that takes on the odd case here and there. Okay, odder than usual, given that their main broker is a cross-dresser and their closest associate’s a doctor with a “thing” about cosplay. Then the oddest case of all comes through: a “package” intended for “delivery” that turns out to be a lot more trouble than expected.
Shu’s always considered himself a quick study (he can see through most lies in a second), but when he goes head on with a girl who doesn’t even know who she is, he’ll be seeing through more than he ever imagined seeing through. Unfortunately, there are other people who want Sara back and they know a lot more about who – and what – she actually is than she does!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is kept in just its original Japanese language form in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is largely about the dialogue and some loud dialogue, but it has a touch of action at times as well but there isn’t much in the way of a discernible difference. The music is a pretty strong component of the show that stands out well as one of the few positives of it with the way it has a light jazz feel and some rhythm that separates it from other shows. The show doesn’t have a strong design to it so it’s rather straightforward and plain but avoids any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread evenly across two discs so there’s a decent amount of space for each episode, especially since it’s not a hugely active show. The show doesn’t have a strong look to it with its design and there isn’t much in the way of good detail to be had here which leaves the show feeling bland and kind of murky. It has some brighter segments but the bulk of it takes place indoors, underground or at night so it works in the colors that provide for a bit of noisy backgrounds like the greens and blues. The show doesn’t look bad in terms of its transfer, but there’s a good bit of noise overall with all the solid colors and average bitrate. It’s not distracting unless you start to look closely at it though, so during regular playback it’s not a distraction.
Glass Maiden is the kind of release that has an appealing cover to it that can draw you in easily enough. The darker colors with the mixture of dark greens and black works well to give it a good sense of atmosphere and the mixture of having the leads sitting on a car, something you really don’t see often, combined with the softer girl in the background provides for a layout that makes you look twice, especially since it’s generally not filled with cute, bouncy or moe-styled girls.The back cover keeps to the same color scheme but with more solid black for the background which is where we also get the summary. That covers a fair bit of ground and the shots from the show definitely makes it look appealing across the board. Add in the basic technical information and production credits and you have a good looking release that covers all the bases just right. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Glass Maiden use the same style as the front cover with the mild streaking effect that brings in some light tones to an otherwise dark piece with some solid character illustration artwork serving as the main bcakground. But it has a lot of dark colors as well with the green and the black itself which helps to give it a decent atmosphere to start off with. The menus are the same across each where other than the special features on the first, you select the episode you want and that’s all it has. No language selection menus are available here but you can turn subtitles off on the fly during playback.
The only extras on this release are on the first disc with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Maiden Japan hasn’t had too many releases so far but the basic idea behind them seems to be that there’s a bit more of an edge of sex to it, or something “mature” along those lines that may not click well with other publishers/labels. There hasn’t been enough released by it yet to really say what their long term goal and plan is, but when you get a release from Maiden Japan, it could go in a couple of different ways. In watching this series, the only thing that separates it from other anime releases is what seemed like a single scene involving some mild bondage, but mostly just as a fun bit of costume play overall and nothing that last more than a minute. If that’s all it took to get relegated to this line, there’s a lot of shows that should go here.
Glass Maiden, originally titled Crystal Blaze, is an original work from Studio Fantasia and feels like an ill formed idea. The show revolves around a place called Rags Town, a city that’s been given over by the government to man named Porilyn who dresses as a woman and watches the city through tons of surveillance cameras. In the deal by getting the city, he has to ignore the waste transfer station out on the edges, and if he does that he can do what he wants with Rags Town. What the place has become over the years is a small city where nobody asks questions, you can run away from whatever troubled you elsewhere and just become your own person again without having to have any real connection to anyone else. It’s not exactly the best place to start over, but if you just want to step out of life for awhile, it’s where you should go.
The catalyst for the series is what’s going on under that transfer station as there’s a sub-basement level where some nefarious types operating seemingly for other mysterious bosses are looking to create some completely easy to control human weapons. With the way that those living in Rags Town have skipped out on life and aren’t likely to be missed, they’re able to capture a variety of women to operate on and use their serums to create what they want. And what they’ve created is something that turns the person to a very hard glass that at first allows them to overpower opponents, including a sequence involving a strong SWAT team, but eventually causes their bodies to turn to pure glass, shatter and disappear. That’s been the stumbling block and things went very wrong when one of the subjects, HW-9, ends up escaping and having her control color come off.
What happens with HW-9 escaping is that she ends up with a pretty varied group of people at a small doctor’s office called Happy Clinic where the floor above also has a detective agency. With the rash of girls disappearing as of late and the rumors online about glass maidens, they’re starting to investigate more and HW-9 gives them something to work with. When you add in the police themselves which are being bought out by people above them and the people behind the actual program under the transfer station, there’s a decent sized cast here that’s working through the problem.
Of course, the real problem here is, well, just about everything. The series doesn’t manage to actually come together in a good way. It’s an ensemble cast, ostensibly with the glass maiden herself as the lead, but she’s a woman with no real memories of anything that they call Sara who spends a lot of her time in bed. That leaves Shu, the owner of the detective agency upstairs. But he doesn’t get to have a strong role here because he’s avoiding his own unknown issues and doesn’t want to get involved for awhile and is only dragged into it by his assistants who are simply annoying on every level, including naming the dog Lil’ Q. The supporting cast have fairly active roles here but it’s the kind of series that you realize after an episode or two that it’s not even worth remembering their names. They’re defined by their personalities and all of them are annoying and cliched.
The show has an annoying back and forth feeling to it when it comes to Sara and the organization that wants her back, the kind where it’s hard to believe that with the resources they have on hand, they can’t just storm in and take what they want. But it’d cut the series short by about ten or eleven episodes. The same can be said for the animation and design here as it’s all horribly familiar with nothing that really defines itself. The idea of the glass girls has its appeal, but even that is never really executed well. The concept behind it can draw you in, but it’s so poorly and ineffectively used that it’s hard to believe the show goes by that name. There’s only one brief instance where it works well, and that’s when one of the good girls gets injected with the process and we see her go through the stages and eventually shatter in front of everyone. But even then, it was hard to remember exactly who she was because the series makes you not care.
At the halfway mark of Glass Maiden, I lamented that I hadn’t a clue as to what was going on. Or rather, why I should care because the series had done an ineffective job of giving me interesting characters with compelling stories to work with. With everyone generally keeping to themselves about who they are, what they want out of life and anything resembling more than a paper thin personality, there was nobody to latch onto and actually want to see what will happen to them. And the story itself involving the main glass maiden, Sara, is juts so lifeless with her lack of memories and blank slate personality that you don’t care if she’d end up turning to full glass and shattering. The show wants to try and have a cool, mysterious kind of detective feeling with that whole quasi jazz flavor to it, but it misses the mark in just about every way and left me bored, episode after episode.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: October 4th, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.