What They Say:
When Mafuyu Oribe and her adopted sister Tomo rescue a strange wounded man, they have no idea what they’re getting involved with – or what the consequences will be. Alexander Nikolaevith Hell is an Iron Qwaser, one of many opposing factions of super-warriors who can each draw upon the power of an element and wield it as an almost unstoppable array of weapons. Unfortunately for Mafuyu, Alexander’s faction is there to gather the mystical relics known collectively as the High Circuit, which puts her friends, family, and school at ground zero in a battle for the fate of all mankind!
But there’s an even more disturbing twist, as Qwasers require a special liquid diet to manifest their powers, one provided by the women who serve as Qwaser partners. The nursing Mafuyu’s already given Alexander isn’t the only kind of nursing he needs!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this series is presented in its original Japanese language only in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. The series works a good blend of action and dialogue – and moaning – in order to tell its tale and all three areas are well handled. The action uses the left and right channels pretty solidly as events unfold across the screen and there’s a decent bit of impact to all of it as well. Dialogue is straightforward as it runs from the lows to the highs as characters yell from place to place and there’s some good directionality and placement to it, though depth is less of an issue here. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes for this first half of the series are spread evenly across two discs with six on each. With animation by Hoods Entertainment, the show has a really good bright and vivid look about it with plenty of detail where it counts. There’s a glossy nature to how certain aspects of anatomy are conveyed and it gives it a vividness that really shines through. There’s a lot of variety to what’s going on here with character designs and powers as well as school uniforms and the like and it all looks quite good. There’s a couple of very minor instances where some small items, such as Mafuyu’s bamboo sword, looks like it has some line stair stepping to it, but it was for all of five seconds in one standstill scene. Beyond a couple of very small instances of that in one episode, the show is generally strong and appealing.
The cover art for this release is pretty tame compared to the show itself, which is an amusing aspect to it. The front cover provides the three main characters where we get upper body shots of the two main girls with smiles while Sasha cuts across the lower half with an action pose and intense look as his stigmata shines. The colors tend to be darker, blacks and reds, and the logo has a block feel to it that leaves an impact but doesn’t exactly stand out in a memorable way. The back cover provides a mix of shots from the show and some character artwork, but as much as it might tease the sexuality inside, it doesn’t really make it blatant. The tagline and plot summary cover things well but again, it keeps it pretty tame which is amusing. The production credits lists everything clearly in an easy to read form while the technical grid lists all those details accurately and without problem. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is simple but well done overall as it splits the screen in half almost. The left half has the breakdown of episodes by title and number with a cute cursor for it and it changes up the colors overall along the episode list chart. The right side provides the artwork as it uses pieces from the cover art, though not exactly the same way. The first disc for example uses the same character artwork for Mafuyu and Tomo from the front cover but with a different Sasha image and more symbolism behind them than anything else. They’re bright, colorful and feel more engaging than the cover artwork when you get down to it. Being a single language release, submenus are relegated to just the special features section on the first disc. Everything loads quickly, smoothly and without any problems.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Hiroyuki Yoshino and Kenetsu Sato, Qwaser of Stigmata is a twenty-four episode series for its first season that certainly pushes some boundaries. The manga itself was picked up for a bit by TOKYOPOP before they went under and the Japanese broadcast of the series is one that must have been so heavily censored to the point of being useless. The show did have a webcast release though in its native country which was uncensored and certainly was the better way to see the show. Coming into this show, I had heard nothing but derision for it for a variety of reasons, mostly citing it as a massive trainwreck. I’m sure some of the reasons also stemmed from the heavy amount of sexuality to it that really runs the gamut of types out there.
At its most basic, Qwaser of Stigmata is a show that has some powerful people looking for a powerful item. The item in question is an Icon known as the Theotokos of Tsarytsin that we never really get all that much detail about other than it’s being sought after by just about everyone. The world essentially has three factions at this point. Your normals that know nothing of what’s going and are oblivious to it all. You have the Qwasers who are seeking it that are called Adepts and are the powered individuals, each with a different type of element that they use. Some manipulate copper, some oxygen, some elements that are essentially useless. And you also have an organization that’s working against them to stop them from getting the Icon which is known as Athos. This group has Qwaser’s in it as well since you have to fight power with power and the Qwaser’s in general seem to be pretty unstable, cruel and evil types.
The show basically spends its time showing us the fight between the two sides while normal people are caught up in the middle. The first twelve episodes we get here doesn’t really stray from this concept, but it builds up events a bit along the way to give a good tease towards the end about some of those who are really working to gain the Icon. It’s easy to go through the first half and just enjoy the battles as they’re used to explore the Qwaser abilities and how they work, can be manipulated and what’s needed to really power them. And the way different power sources can impact how effective they are. Taken from this context, Qwaser of Stigmata is a pretty straightforward concept show that you can easily plug in any number of other shonen type shows.
What sets it apart is the blunt sexuality. The Athos Qwaser we get as the main male lead is Alexander Hell, a young Russian kid who prefers to be called Sasha. At the school where Athos is searching for the Icon, believing it to be there under the previous director, he ends up saving a pair of girls named Mafuyu and Tomo. They’re related to the director in different ways (a ward and a daughter) and they’re still at the school out of a bit of pity in a way due to his not being there. Sasha’s saving of them draws them into the battle and they take to the situation easily, finding bond with Sasha though there’s naturally an adversarial aspect to it between him and Mafuyu while Tomo is just the bouncy one that feels just a little lighter in the mental processes. With Sasha spending time at the school, an array of Adept’s show up as well as other Athos members and more people that are aware of what’s going on as more and more believe that the Icon must be there.
The kicker with the sexuality though is that it really is blatant in a way that some people, such as myself, always wonder why it never is explored more. It’s pretty much skating just over the line into the world of hentai with what it does. For the Qwaser’s to power up, they need “soma,” which is a life energy that they can get from other people. Each flavor of soma is different in taste, but also the emotions behind its generation can change the level of power. When drained from a person, if they’re afraid or ashamed it provides some good nutrients and power. But true love can trump all the other emotions, which is why it’s the hardest. How to retrieve the soma? The Qwasers suck it from the nipples of people. Well, in this show it’s just women that get sucked off.
And therein is where the trouble starts since the show animates it so… beautifully. There’s lavish attention paid to it and it really is the money shot. The show provides numerous ways and characters to have it occur and that means there’s a heavy focus on skin being shown. They don’t play coy here, it’s full on display. Sometimes it’s rough, sometimes it’s tender, but it happens. And that also means that sexual humor, hands on moments and innuendo are rampant as well. One of the other Athos members, Katje, takes it in a pretty distinct direction as she has a superiority complex even as a “good guy” and takes on girl, Hana, for her own as a slave. And she’s brutal to her in what she does, truly treating her as a slave, but there’s an affection there as well. And Hana really, really takes to it as a submissive and that’s something that people can really struggle with understanding. If you’ve watched a lot of hentai though, the various sexual configurations that come up here really don’t surprise you that much. And if you have a varied real life understanding of sexuality, you won’t be surprised either. For those that aren’t, the show can be pretty shocking, surprising and even unsettling.
Maybe the trainwreck everyone talks about is in the second half of the series. Or maybe the sheer amount of sexuality, pervertedness and twisted aspects here is what turns so many away. The core of the series in terms of concept and structure is fairly standard and it handles it decently here as we get the growing introduction to the types of people involved, their abilities and what the basic goals are. There’s not a lot of info dump going on here and mostly it’s character material time as we see the back and forth among the main trio of Sasha, Mafuyu and Tomo while the supporting cast is involved to varying degrees. But what it does is wrap it all up in a huge dose of sexuality that I found appealing for its bluntness and the fact that we rarely really see it acted on in this way. There’s always implied material and plenty of skin shots in shows, but this one takes it to the next step and just has fun with it. It’s certainly not high art or fantastic storytelling, but it made me grin, laugh and eagerly look forward to each episode as the set played on.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 31st, 2012
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.