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Aoi and Mutsuki: A Pair of Queens Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

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Aoi & Mutsuki CoverWith Aoi now as a girl and also as the Queen of the Galaxy, she must deal with the arrival of the First Queen who also just happens to be, well, god.

What They Say:
Aoi was raised as a normal boy on Earth. Little did he know he was the heir apparent to Mito, the Queen turned Space Pirate of an alien race that chooses their sex at puberty. Aoi fell in love with Mutsuki, the policewoman who was chasing Mito, and the three of them saved the Universe. The only side effect was that Aoi had blossomed into a beautiful young woman.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only and in stereo. Though the first season was done in a good bilingual format, the likely low sales for the series have turned this one into one without an English dub. The Japanese language mix here is your basic late 90’s stereo mix done at 192 kbps. As you can expect, there isn’t a lot to really talk about here as it’s certainly serviceable but it lacks anything in terms of real directionality or placement as well as depth. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout it however and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in late 1999, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Whether from poor materials or just too many episodes per volume, this release really suffers in a few ways. A good bit of it is just the materials though as the original Mito release has several of the same issues. The main one is that this show is quite soft and has a fairly low average bitrate which introduces plenty of noise and background blocking. Add in some cross coloration throughout it and you’ve got something that’s just not terribly good looking. The character animation and the backgrounds have enough noise to it that when combined with the color palette the softness really just seems even stronger.

The cover art for this two disc edition is pretty nice as it provides a shot of Aoi and Mutsuki together in wedding dresses while some of the others from the first season are in action poses around them. The mixture of the pair and their quiet moment combined with the action around them and the really great looking evening sky background brings it all together pretty well. I’m a bit surprised that Media Blasters didn’t push that it’s a two disc set but they did push that it’s the complete series. There’s no mention of the first season of the series but I’m not sure if it’d help or hurt to mention that it’s more of Space Pirate Mito. The back cover is cutely laid out with numerous character shots strewn around which are done inside of the Greek symbol for a woman. The summary covers the basics of the series and a bit of background on the first while listing that it’s all thirteen episodes and the discs extras. The bottom is filled out with the production information and a solid technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for the series is the same across both volumes as it features the main cover art image of Aoi, Mutsuki and Mito along with a lot of blue space for the stars and other shapes. It’s nicely color and much more vibrant than the cover artwork would lead you to believe. Add in a bit of upbeat vocals from the opening sequence and it certainly sets the mood right. Access times are nice and fast and with there being only one language on here our player presets certainly weren’t an issue.

The second volume is where all the extras are. There aren’t a lot nor should anyone expect much as it’s just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which I was glad to see make an appearance.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first season of the series ran through the first quarter of 1999, the third quarter saw the second season hit in Japan. The first season, known just as Space Pirate Mito, came out here back in 2002 and promptly drove me nuts with its pacing, character designs and execution. Something about the character designs just unnerved me and when combined with a really simple story that had so many nonsensical moments to it just pushed me over the edge. I dreaded pretty much every volume and I couldn’t even get anyone to take a stab at the collection for a review.

After all that happened in the first season, the series kicks off with life going on as usual for Aoi and company in the village of Amonhara. Aoi is now the Queen of the Galaxy and as such is fulfilling her duties as best as she can with a wide variety of servants who keep the galactic government running. Mutsuki has stayed on as her personal bodyguard while others have filtered about either in the town or back into space. Kafuko is still heavily interested in Aoi even if he’s a she and she can’t stand that Mutsuki is so close to Aoi. Mutsuki for her part isn’t sure about being able to properly protect Aoi but she’s quite close to her and is trying to work through those issues.

Life would be fine if not for events unfolding in the background though that threaten not just the relationship between Aoi and Mutsuki but the very fabric of the universe itself. Unbeknownst to everyone, the First Queen of the galaxy has been revived by a small sect that has waited billions of years to do so. Gathering some of what’s needed, Hikari has resurfaced and she’s intent on not only getting back into position as the true Queen in place of all these fake queens. She’s also intent on having Aoi to herself as she believes that Aoi is actually the reincarnated version of the one man she was interested in back in the day.

Of course, “back in the day” is actually back when Hikari created the universe. You see, it turns out that she was the first life form to actually exist in this universe and she created numerous things to play with that resulted in worlds and civilizations being born. But she was constantly bored and destroyed them before creating new things. All of that changed when another being like her was seemingly born named Akitsu. The yin to her yang, the pair ended up in a situation where Akitsu was more sympathetic to the lives of those that Hikari created than Hikari was and that caused a falling out between the two. An accidental death later and Hikari decides to put herself to sleep until he resurfaces so that she can be with her true eternal love again.

That leaves Aoi in a bad position since she wants nothing to do with Hikari and is still struggling with the fact that she’s a girl and has all these problems of being a Queen. The problem becomes even worse when her servants end up making the village the official capital of the Galaxy which draws even more danger to the village as well as Earth in general. Hikari isn’t completely up to speed yet as she requires a few more devices to unlock her powers and that leads to some space romps in the midst of a falling out between Aoi and her mother. At the same time, Mutsuki is beating herself up since she can’t protect Aoi from Hikari and has ended up leaving her service. That makes her ideal for Hikari as a host and things only go downhill even worse from there.

Not unlike the first season of the show, this season is pretty spastic and frantic in how it tells its story. It’s also subject to a bit of an authoring issue that really makes no sense. The first volume contains the first seven episodes, but they’re split into two titles. The first two hours are together while the second hour is on its own title. If you play the series episode by episode and watch the timer, you’ll think there’s only two hours on here. When you pop in the second disc and realize you missed two episodes, you start to wonder. The second disc is similarly designed except that only the last episode is on its own title. All of them are available through the scene selection section however but the entire design of it just feels really messed up.

This season does bring back some characters from the first one that works well, particularly when it comes to Ranban. With her as the main villain, turning her into a teacher and protector for this one works surprisingly well and adds some nice connections. Forcing her to work alongside Mito part of the way and having the two of them dealing with an uneasy alliance and respect gives them both some good scenes to work with. The secondary characters, of which there are far too many, provide a lot of the comic relief here as they’re involved in one form or another throughout. Initially they all start off as protectors of Aoi but along the way Hikari corrupts them in an amusing manner and makes them her own. They all have their one joke however that gets run through far too many times when taken in total. Maybe as a weekly exercise they would have played out better.

Some of the things that bothered me about the first season are still present here. The character designs are just awful to look at. The designs just have a strange smoothness to them and a kind of squatness that’s reminiscent of what you’d get from Hana Barbera back in the 60’s. They’re so short on details and the outfits tend to blend together that it provides for an unusual look and one that just doesn’t work for me. It is consistent with the first season but in general it doesn’t feel like everyone is quite as short as they seemed in that one. There is a bit more CG animation mixed into these episodes which stands out as it was 1999 and it never blended well back then. Backgrounds are generally a bit minimal but still decent but overall the foreground and background animation tend to blend into each other so often when it comes to the darker colors that it’s just awkward to look at.

In Summary:
With some awkward authoring issues, a story that should have been told in half the time and some very spastic storytelling methods, Aoi & Mutsuki was essentially everything that I dreaded. I’m still surprised that it came out here five years after the first season but I’m not surprised it didn’t receive a dub. The series has some charm to it but its overall execution and design just drives me up a wall. It took quite a bit to watch this and I had no intention of even watching it at all for quite awhile. In the end, everything I expected about it came about. With a storyline revolving around what’s essentially god in human form falling for a transgendered lead, Aoi & Mutsuki didn’t have anywhere to go but down. Fans of the first season will likely find a lot to like here but this one just made me cry quite a lot inside.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: July 31st, 2007
MSRP: $16.95
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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