What They Say:
The Armed Virus plagues a small percent of the female population, turning girls into living weapons that are activated with a special…touch. Afraid of the power they hold, these girls are sent to islands where they either survive or die trying. Mamori Tokonome is sent to Mermaid Island and thrust into a world where she is paired up with the mysterious and buxom beauty, Mirei Shikishima. Pressed against a corner, a passionate kiss releases Mamori’s power and she becomes a mighty sword that, in Mirei’s strong grip, is a fearsome weapon. Together they’ll face the Wärter, a group that believes in ruling with a firm hand, who seek the most powerful weapons. Wanting nothing to do with this organization, Mamori and Mirei must find their own way home before the Wärter can claim them for good.
The audio presentation for this series bring us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are done up using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that works some decent action sequences throughout its run and these make out better in 5.1 to be sure, but the stereo mix has some nice placement and impact during them as well that gives it a solid feeling. The bulk of the show is more stereo focused in general, however, where it’s dialogue driven and filled with lots of moaning and gasping as well. This is handled pretty well too as there’s some good directionality as needed and you know they recorded this kind of material for maximum impact. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV serie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which also holds the bulk of the extras. Animated by Arms, the series is one that has a strong visual design with a whole lot of detail, fluidity, and great color palette work that results in a great end result. The encoding brings all of this life in a big way with solid colors and the very fluid motion sequences coming across all the better because of it. Though there are awkward design choices along the way the encoding captures everything in a crisp and engaging way as this isn’t done up to look like a cheap knock-off show done on a whim. There’s some real detail and quality put into this that pays off well for the fans.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case with an o-card that uses different artwork. The o-card is appealing as we get our two leads in their wedding gowns in a deep kiss that’s set against white that they fade into, giving it a very ethereal feeling. The logo along the bottom has a lot of text but the design is great with the colors used and the character artwork blended into it as well. The back of the o-card carries the white background design and has a nice image of the two together in their school uniforms and just as close. The premise is summarized well with an easy to read form, albeit a touch small, as are the extras. The shots from the show are cute and avoid really making it clear how smutty this is while the remainder is given over to the standard technical grid that breaks both formats down clearly and cleanly. With the case itself we get the school uniform visual used as its main image that works nicely while the back cover is the same as the o-card. Surprisingly, a real rarity here, there is nothing on the reverse side of the cover.
The menus for this release go for the simple approach but makes out well because of it. Utilizing the same artwork as the cover and using it on both discs, the stark white background makes the colors in the character artwork stand out all the more. With the logo taking up some decent space along the left it has a minimal approach but one that’s got some great detail and color to it. The navigation strip is the standard oversized bar along the bottom done in red with white text that’s easy to read and navigate both as the top level menu and as a pop-up menu. Everything is quick and easy to load and the extras have two layers to it since the mini OVAs are kept to their own page.
The extras for this release have the familiar pieces such as the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a fun audio commentary for the third episode from the English language team. The big extra for most will be the twelve or so minutes of the mini OVAs that basically take it one step closer to porn without actually achieving it while making you wish that they did. The show really does just need to do a single 18+ spinoff to be honest about it all.
Part of a multimedia project from Marvelous, Valkyrie Drive arrived in the fall 2015 season as a twelve episode TV series animated by Arms. The show was one that I only partially paid attention to with its marketing drive as little of it seemed to stand out and it didn’t get a lot of attention during its simulcast, also handled by Funimation. That leads me to view it as a title that didn’t really rise to a high enough level to generate a lot of dialogue. Those are the kinds of series that I often find some nice little hidden gems in because they’re a little under the radar or they’re doing things in a familiar way but with little tweaks that I enjoy. So I went into this show with a pretty open mind having liked the visuals for it and the overall look from what I had seen and what little I remembered.
Then I realized that we basically have a hentai title here.
Okay, it’s far closer to a Cinemax After Dark show (many of which I enjoy; where are my Life on Top and The Girl’s Guide to Depravity fans?) that really has me wondering how badly this must have been censored when shown in Japan and in the initial overseas streaming runs. These kinds of shows I can have a certain amount of fun with and have written in praise of many over the years. Sadly, Valkyrie Drive kind of frustrated me with what it was trying to do at times, the ridiculousness of the designs that went so far beyond the absurd in a lot of ways at times, and really kind of lost me in full around the halfway mark when the main character is essentially mind raped but blows it off afterward with nothing to come of it. With a series focused so heavily on sex and sexuality, and aimed at the crowd it was aimed at, I wasn’t too surprised by that. But it left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the series and just colored my view of it. And with it so heavily invested in the sex and sexuality, well, it just tainted all of that. That said, from a technical perspective, if you’re looking for quality animation that’s full of sex without being hentai, this series will definitely deliver.
The property focuses on a world where there are a group of people that have been infected by a particular unknown virus that has them being labeled as either Liberators or Extars. So far, at least in view of this series, it’s only women that are affected by it and that has them being shipped off to a group of islands with this one focusing on the Mermaid island. What this virus does is allow the women to unlock certain abilities. For the Extars, they can transform into creative and powerful weapons when bonded with the right Liberator. The Liberator is able to use them but they have to unlock them first. And that’s done by a lot of groping, sucking, licking, fondling, and by all appearances some decent fingering as well – though that’s played a little below the screen in most case. But you get the gist of it. With the girls all sexpots of different archetypes and wearing as little as possible with camera angles that accent every little details, it’s quite the show from an observer’s point of view if you enjoy the tantalizing aspect of seeing all of this play out. It’s so well detailed and animated that you know where the budget went to and that it’s entirely on screen.
The main focus is on the character of Mamori, a newly arrived sixteen year old girl who is confused by all of this and is essentially the chosen one that will change everything once she’s unlocked by the right person. Mamori is totally confused by everything and she quickly becomes a tool that people want as fresh meat, but ends up drawn to the aloof Mirei, who eventually ends up partnering with her and unlocking her in a big way. The story arc is easy to figure out from the first episode (if not early on in the episode for most) and there are no big surprises as it progresses. Hell, even the moment where we’re introduced to the only male on the island with the governor named Akira you know that he’s really a she. Everything is just so painfully obvious. What provides the salve for that is that it’s full of so much sexuality that if this is your thing it makes everything else not a problem in the slightest. And I probably would have been fine with that, weak storytelling and all, if not for that rape sequence and the way some of the characters are just so beyond proportion that it regularly took me out of the show.
Valkyrie Drive Mermaid is the kind of show where after finishing it I really felt like I didn’t want to say much of anything about it beyond “hey kids, softcore porn!” and leave it at that. There’s nothing fresh or original here and the execution of story hits all the familiar beats you’d expect. I do love that it embraces the sexuality side as much as it does but it’s also a show that feels like it really should have just gone the extra inch and just been a full on high quality hentai production and gotten a broadcast run just by excising the actual sex. You really don’t see shows like this often and that’s unfortunate because when we do they tend to be low quality in terms of story and structure as there’s no real impetus to take it up a few levels. Funimation put everything in with this release to give it a great look and a fun dub cast that at least avoided coming up with porn names to cover their identities in some cases. If you can get into the mindset and style of it you’ll have a lot of fun.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Mini OVA Collection: Episodes 1-6, Episode 03 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing, and Trailers
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.