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Grrl Power! Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Grrl Power CoverAkitaro Daichi and short material is like a match made in heaven.

What They Say:
Umi, Sora, and Ao are all sisters in the sixth-grade who together run the best little do-it-all shop in all of Shonan Beach, near Kamakura. And what’s more, their business is a roaring success because of their reputation for being the best at what they do. But hey, what’s this about them not going to school? They are grade-schoolers, after all. Why aren’t they in school?And on top of that, they’re all in the sixth grade. Are they triplets or something? What’s the deal? Evidently, they don’t have any parents. Even stranger, little Ao, the youngest, speaks in sign language.The girls seem to be completely self-sufficient, even generating their own electricity using solar and wind power. Yep, there’s a story behind these girls – that much is for sure.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and the English language adaptation in 5.1 formats. The show is one that works pretty well overall with what it does for sound design as there’s some fun placement in number of areas and a bit of depth as well in order to work the comedy side of it and some of the silly action aspects. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout though it was indeed a fair bit sharper and more distinct in the 5.1 track, but that may be due to it being easier to discern some of the English dialogue by itself. This is a good solid track all around with no notable issues.

Video:
Originally released in 2004 simultaneously in Japan and the US, this OVA is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic playback. With lots of bright colors and fast action, this transfer really shines well here. Colors are solid and vibrant, cross coloration is non-existent and I’m hard pressed to find any aliasing. With only twenty-five minutes of running time here, there’s plenty of space to ensure this looks good and it does.

Packaging:
The front cover goes with the very cute image of the three girls riding the water sled set against the clean ocean background. The show promotes Daichi’s bigger work at the time along the front considering there was a lot of popularity with him at the time and doing the whole bubblegum pop kind of logo with its color and design gives it a little extra accessibility. It’s a cute cover for a show that’s somewhat hard to describe easily in one image. The back cover is just filled with lots of information. There are a number of small animation bubbles showing bits from the show, but it pales next to the amount of text. There’s references to what other shows the crew has worked on, a paragraph that summarizes the show and a full listing of the discs extra features, which are pretty copious. Add in the production credits and the handy technical grid and there’s just a lot of things here. The insert is a cute piece that has one side showing Ao giving sign language lessons with the alphabet for the shows English title while the reverse side has a quick cast list and biography section for the three main girls.

Menu:
The main menu is a cute but simple static shot of the trio of girls on one of the water ski sleds splashing through the water with a great looking backdrop of the blue sky with fluffy white clouds set to some of the hyperactive music playing briefly. The layout is pretty simple and easy to navigate, particularly since there’s only one episode, so it’s a good clean design with no issues and fast load times.

Extras:
There’s a ton of extras included in this release that help flesh out the 25-minute running time of the standalone OVA itself. One of the big extras is the interview section with Akitaro Daichi himself which runs just over forty-two minutes in length. He goes into a lot of detail about it, his work and more as he’s definitely got plenty to say. The Q&A section with the Japanese voice actresses is pretty well done even though they’re just text pieces. Each actress gets their own section and goes through a few basic questions and the usual routine. For the English voice actresses, they get a twelve-minute video interview session with all of them together on a couch answering questions. The best part was just having Monica use sign language to introduce herself. There’s a full-length commentary track for the episode by the English language voice actresses that were in the interview session as well. The commentary is amusing since they shift between talking as the characters talking about the show and themselves talking about the show. Not enough? How about a twenty-minute presentation piece prior to its first showing at the Tokyo Animation Fair in Japan? And just to be complete, there’s even a production art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the time this was released, and it’s still true today, Akitaro Daichi had managed to become one of my favorite directors with the variety his projects encompass as well as the kind of wit that seems to attract him to things. For a director to be able to go from a very fast paced over the top show like Kodomo no Omacha and then delve into something as slow and meandering as Fruits Basket, he’s got the ability to deal with some very different material and do each of them justice.

With Grrl Power, or known as Makasete Iruka in its original manga form, Daichi takes another stab at the OVA market, something he did with some noteworthy success with Animation Runner Kuromi a few years back. Why the name change is beyond me, especially with something as already dated as “Grrl Power” is. With this being a manga that he created and was apparently serialized in Animage for a couple of years, this is a project that’s near and dear to him and one that would probably be hard to get off the ground if it wasn’t for the foreign investment. That continues to scare the crap out of a number of fans, but the track record so far of shows heavily funded by US money has been fantastic, so I’m still liking the idea.

Grrl Power centers around a trio of school age girls who don’t go to school and seem to be sisters, though it’s not gone into much detail. This trio spend their days doing all sorts of jobs and projects for whoever requests things to be done. No mission to small is their basic motto and no fee is too small either. Everything they do is towards earning more money to help support themselves and their operation. They’re up at the crack of dawn and work through the end of the day and then they focus on themselves. Sora, the redhead, is the take charge type and fills in the leadership role of the group. She’s got the guts mentality and a can-do work ethic. Umi’s the one more concerned with beauty, particularly since she’s one herself, and does things like help break up relationships and the like. Add in Ao, this cutie works in sign language and acts as something of a chief of staff for the group and does a lot of coordination and financial calculation. Between the three of them, they can do just about anything they decide to.

The opening of the episode is designed to show the trio doing the kinds of jobs their suited for and then segues into the actual plot for this episode, which is taking on the job of trying to convince grade schooler Riku to go back to school for his mother’s sake. This backfires when he finds out about how they don’t go to school and have their own business so Sora decides to hire Riku and make him part of the company. You can see the obvious where he learns that it’s not as easy as he thought it would be and it’s Sora’s way of convincing him that he needs to go back to school. While it’s a straightforward plot, it’s the zany energy of the trio and the world around them that makes this a fun little comedy. Riku even gets into it when he’s brought along as a cheerleader at a baseball came and shows off his panties.

The main draw of a show like this, much like with Animation Runner Kuromi as well, is in how the world operates and the over the top antics of the characters as they deal with their jobs. The trio can handle anything sent their way by putting their all into it. The design of Grrl Power is set to a rather cartoony style with the near super deformed style of characters and the way they simply exist. A lot of the tricks Daichi’s used in past shows are done here as well, so his style is quite evident even if overall the design of the characters in general isn’t his norm. Then again, with someone like Daichi, I’m not sure there is a norm.

In Summary:
Grrl Power is a very cute and mildly amusing hyperactive way to spend about twenty five minutes of your time. If you’re a dub fan and if you’re into the voice actors themselves, This disc is a cornucopia of good stuff that’ll make you happy. With it only being one episode there is of course the running time issue itself, but with it as well priced as it is and able to be snapped up for under ten bucks if you shop well, it’s a very easy recommendation to make and a good intro to the kind of material that Daichi is very interested in. This is one of those projects that our favorite creators have wanted to do for years so I’m excited that it got done and we not only got to see it, but originally we technically got to see it three days before the Japanese release – something that’s still incredibly rare overall.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, an interview with Akitaro Daichi; Q & A with the Japanese voice actresses; interview with the English voice actresses; commentary by the English voice actresses; Grrl Power at TAF; production sketches

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: June 8th, 2004
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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