What They Say
A sci-fi superhero adventure from the screenwriter of Photon.
Mad science runs in her family, but Hikaru has always been an ordinary girl. It?s a dream come true when she discovers that she’s really a super-powered alien! With her hyper-speed battle mecha, the Grandoll Armor, she is humanity’s last hope against a hideous alien invasion!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps The track is a pretty simple stereo mix though each track does have moments of directionality to the forward speakers that are noticeable (more so on smaller sets) but not overwhelming. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no noticeable problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 1997, the OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Looking like it owes more to traditional animation methods than some of the digital work that was starting back then, the show has a good sense of fluidity about it and some really nice detail that shows through. Some of the scenes look a bit soft but more by design than anything else. The color palette used is a pale one without too many really vibrant pieces but when those do show up it’s pretty noticeable. Colors are nice and solid and cross coloration looks minimal. There’s some normal aliasing going on in various panning sequences in the details but nothing too distracting.
A rather good liking and colorful cover, we get the image of young naked people set against the backdrop of Earth and Hikaru in her armor in its full power-up mode. The artwork is surprisingly colorful and strong here and it looks pretty good. The back cover, which suffers from the awful “You Go Girl!” tagline, has a few animation shots and a large shot of Hikaru in the armor. The summary paragraph is little more than two sentences and information is pretty minimal but easy to find. They’re obviously trying to sell more on the looks and not on the story itself. The reverse cover is a simple black and white piece with one panel being a shot of one of the armors while the other panel has the chapter listings (poorly done; they don’t list actual episode start and stop points) and the usual cast and production information. Amazingly, they don’t have any information on the Japanese voice actors. This is a continuing disappointing trend with CPM releases.
The only included extra for the show is a brief video art gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of a number of low profile OVA series released throughout the 90’s, Hyper Speed GranDoll is an almost by the book science fiction tale where you can easily visualize where each of the plot points will hit across the three episodes that it runs. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad show, but the formulaic aspect of it is something that keeps it from rising up from a pretty average ranking.
The show starts with an amusing declaration of love between a university professor and his main squeeze while the two are by the ocean one evening. Their date goes awry though when something comes blasting from space down into the area and the two find themselves holding a little girl who has no idea what’s going on. Over the next ten years, the two raise the girl as their own daughter, naming her Hikaru, and giving her some semblance of a normal life. Some semblance because her father is something of a mad scientist type of professor who keeps inventing all sorts of strange gadgets and often tests them out on his daughter. For example, when she realizes she’s going to be late for school, her backpack transforms partially into jet rockets and she’s propelled to the school without any say.
It’s moments like these that cause the most amusing problems for Hikaru and her best friend Haruna. As Haruna says, being propelled like that makes her question the value of being Hikaru’s friend. But the two are good friends in the end and through the episodes here the two rely on each other at times to get through the strange things that occur. Their friendship becomes less central through when an alien spaceship appears over Earth and sends down a young woman named Sigil in a power suit to come take an artifact from Hikaru. As it turns out, there’s an element of “Superman” at play here as Hikaru is a princess from another planet who was sent here to avoid being captured by Friedshalf, a man who once served the kingdom but felt that it needed a strong ruler to get it back on track.
The artifact, something that Hikaru arrived with and keeps on her desk, turns out to be a powerful piece of armor called the Gran Knight. It’s actually sentient to some extent and once it becomes activated it tries to fill in the blanks for Hikaru and she faces off against Friedshalf’s opponents, such as the toadying Peos character who orchestrates many of the attacks until his continual failure brings Friedshalf in to do the job himself. Hikaru’s main opponent throughout most of the show though is another young woman named Sigil who has a good suit of power armor herself. Her love and belief in Friedshalf, the man who taught her how to fight and the rules of proper conduct, has blinded her to what he’s become. She’s intent on pleasing him and thinks little of what the real situation is as she goes after Hikaru to get the Gran Knight armor.
There are some decent action scenes between the two until things start to get serious and Peos is brought in to bring the entire ordeal to an end. The scale of damage caused rises significantly and the stakes go up as well, eventually bringing Friedshalf in himself. Throughout this we get some flashbacks of suppressed memories from both Hikaru and Sigil and get to learn what happened back on the world they came from as well as figuring out just what kind of plans Friedshalf has in store. The Gran Knight tends to be the voice of calm and sanity in much of this but he’s pretty useless against the will of a teenage girl, particularly one in love. Her dream man whom she adores from afar ends up getting caught up in things but mostly as a tool as he’s either being tossed around in the midst of battles as collateral damage or he’s being held for ransom. All he’s got is looks apparently and his role is pretty minimal except as a catalyst.
While GranDoll is a by the numbers kind of show, there is some of the fun that can be found in an OVA series since it doesn’t get caught up in all the details of a TV series. Hikaru’s a fun character and her relationship with Sigil over the course of the episodes changes in an interesting way. There are some amusing moments of nudity throughout it as well. The secondary cast members, such as her parents, don’t get much screen time in the end but their roles are well played and add some good humor into the right area. Overall, it’s a decently told tale but there’s little real surprise here. If you’ve watched any number of OVA series throughout the 80’s and 90’s, you’ll see that this has been done several times before.
My main concern with this release is the way it’s essentially dubtitled. The dub and sub are so close and some of the localized terms, such as fruitcake and “duh”, show up in the subtitle script where they just don’t feel like they’d be the most appropriate translation. They work decently enough in the dub script but the closeness of the two scripts, something CPM has done in the past, is a bit of a concern.
GranDoll is a fun little by the book OVA series that harkens back to some older shows that haven’t really been done all that much recently. The biggest influence you can see is Project A-Ko and since that in itself is a parody of other shows from the 80’s, you can get an idea of just how many times this kind of tale has been told. It’s competently done and has some good moments of flair all of its own but it’s not something that’ll change your views on anything. It’ll provide a good three episodes of entertainment at a good price even before discounts but it’s not something you’ll really come back to repeatedly, at least not quickly.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: July 6th, 2004
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.