A popular cult series from the 90’s resurfaces at a new home.
What They Say:
To retrieve the Talisman stolen by her beloved, Tiara hunts the night, battling monsters with her awesome shamanic powers. Disguised as an ordinary schoolgirl, she arrives at his lair to find her archrival already on the scene… protecting the thief! Why has her dearest love betrayed her so utterly?
The audio presentation for this release mirrors past ones as we get the original Japanese language in stereo along with previously used English language dub, both of which are are encoded at 256kbps. The show has a pretty basic audio design here owing to its time and that has it being a center channel based feel about it. There’s not much in the way of placement or directionality to it but it uses the full sound of the forward soundstage well enough for the dialogue and the sound effects. The music is where it tends to play out the best in terms of being warm and full, but the show is one that is a product of its time. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released between 1996 and 1998, the transfer for this six episode OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Animated by Triangle Staff, the show has a good looking design about it that is purely 90’s in many ways, but there’s an appeal to the traditionally done animation and the character designs themselves. The transfer is one that is in rough shape as it uses what appears to be the same materials as before and they have not held up well. There’s a lot of cross coloration throughout the show, though it feels like ite eases off slightly as it progresses, but not by much. The show also introduces a fair amount of grain along the way which gets problematic as well as it keeps the colors from feeling solid through a lot of it. There are some good vibrant areas and some where the darker colors holds up well, but overall the transfer is a very difficult one just from the cross coloration alone.
The packaging for this release is quite nice as we get a standard sized DVD case where the front cover has a dark and indistinct background to it that allows the character artwork to stand out. It uses the primary characters of the show with Tiara as the central focus as others are ringed around her in different ways. The character artwork is very detailed and looks great, making them look fresh and new with a clean design but with plenty of solid detail and colors. The back cover continues the darker and murky look which isn’t bad as it again lets the shots from the show stand out better – and they look very clean here – with a listing of how many episodes are here and a brief but decent premise summary. THe discs features are listed clearly as well and we have a basic rundown of Japanese production credits. The technical grid is solid as it presents everything accurately and with an easy to read format.
The menu design used here is really quite good as it plays with the shades of dark blues for a solid background that has an appealing feel to it. The left side has the navigation box, with a great version of the logo along the top of it, with an easy to use layout that’s very much in theme and style. The right half of the screen goes with the artwork that’s used from the front cover but it’s so much more vibrant and attractive here, allowing the detail to shine through even more. The brightness of it may be pushed a bit, but it definitely makes the characters look very modern and current. Submenus are simple but easy to use and language setup is a breeze.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief set of TV spots promoting the original releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Shamanic Princess was first released in North America on DVD, it was a pretty solid release in that we got all six episodes as once, something we didn’t always get with a lot of shows at the time, where they’d be spread out a lot. In fact, there were some releases at the time where it was still a single VHS tape per OVA episode and then there would be dubbed and subbed ones. So Shamanic Princess all together at once was a big deal and certainly colored impressions a bit at the time well over a decade ago. This show also stood out at the time since it was an original work, which meant that it told a single and complete story, which also made it appealing since it didn’t come from an ongoing manga work, a problwem we still have today with a lot of TV series.
Admittedly though, Shamanic Princess is a series where even having all six episodes together may not help in making sense of it all. The show begins things quickly, with young Tiara arriving from the Guardian World with her new partner Japolo. Her mission is to retrieve the Throne of Yord from Kagetsu, a renegade negator from the Guardian World who has stolen it for some unknown reason. Tiara’s first encounter is with her childhood friend Lena, a generally quiet girl. A bit of verbal sparring goes on, with Tiara figuring out that Lena and her partner Leon are protecting Kagetsu.
The setting for all of this is a European style village from some time in the past, though it looks as if it could be the present at times as well. The setting tends to be just that, as we don’t encounter people from this world, just those visiting from the Guardian World. Most encounters on Earth tend to take place at night as well, adding to the mystery of it all.
As things progress from battle to contemplation, we learn that Kagetsu has stolen the Throne of Yord because it has absorbed his sister, Sarah, into itself. Kagetsu’s purpose is noble in trying to rescue her, but he lacks the ability to do so due to the powers he was born with, generally only able to neutralize others powers. Lena’s had no luck in getting through herself with Leon. But with the arrival of Tiara, there’s a hint that they may try to bring her in to make an opening into it.
In one sense, it’s very hard to talk about this show without giving away a lot. While there are six episodes of the show, the creators have done something not seen too often. The first four episodes deal with the actual adventure and ending itself while the final two episodes deal with the time before it all happened, focusing on the lives of the characters when they were friends and growing up in the Guardian World, where their cliques formed and where they learned to use their magic, as well as to gain their partners. We used to see this done more with OVAs back in this time period than we do now, and it’s still something that feels pretty awkward with how it’s done, even if it does answer a few questions along the way while opening up others.
The character animation, being an OVA from the mid-late 90’s, is quite gorgeous. The characters are very lushly drawn with vibrant colors and detailed looks. The eyes of the characters are also quite lush looking, adding more depth to them than usual. To contrast with this beautiful animation, the backgrounds used are of a pastel variety in a lot of scenes, many looking simply stunning here. A few of the scenes are done without any character animation at all, letting the view simply take in the setting. The backgrounds here are very much a character themselves.
The show has a definite earthy feel to it, a very naturalistic style. The magics aren’t the typical anime brand, focusing more on detailed motions and intricate designs for summonings. The magic isn’t the centerpiece to things, but does an excellent job of adding to the vibe of the show and giving it the, well, shamanistic feel that they’re striving for. And I have to admit it, this partner of Tiara’s is just great. Japolo does fall into the cute sidekick character, he’s got more spunk than most and has a great attitude throughout it all. He’s not the blindly following sidekick either, but rather someone with a purpose to follow through on. When we learn the origin of Tiara’s previous partner later on, it only brings Japolo’s contributions and what he has had to deal with into more perspective.
Shamanic Princess is a very engaging show on a lot of levels, but it’s also one that requires a bit of effort in some ways. It’s a show that really merits a number of repeat viewings fairly close together, requiring the small details to be looked at and to look beyond the normal storytelling style to see what the creators are trying to see. Shamanic Princess continues to grow on me the more I think of it after the fact, but it’s also one that I don’t think I could rewatch right away. I enjoyed the show more the first time I saw it years ago, but it still holds up fairly well in terms of content, even if the transfer and source materials are pretty weak..
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, TV Spots
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: D
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.