What They Say:
When Ao found the package on her doorstep, she thought it was a present from her father, but inside the box was something truly unexpected: Gourai!
A Frame Arms Girl, Gourai is a walking, talking, a miniature artificial person with the intelligence of a ten-year-old human and a selection of snap-on weapons and armor. And the reason Gourai needs armor quickly becomes clear as two more Frame Arms Girls, Stylet and Baselard, arrive intent on testing Gourai’s combat capabilities! It seems that Ao has been chosen to help test a new toy line and the good news is that she’ll get paid for hosting her diminutive charges’ battles! Of course, since they’re mainly interested in fighting and gathering information, things are going to get awkward when they follow her to school.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. With no dub produced for the show, we get a pretty good presentation of the original track as it handles the quieter dialogue moments, of which there are many, with the bigger action pieces within the virtual game itself. The dialogue is well handled with some decent placement, particularly as more of the characters arrive in the story, but also giving them some good range throughout as they yell and shout amid the fights. The action side of it is similar well-handled as there’s a range of attack styles and weapons that are used, and a learning curve, that allows it to move all over the place in general. It has some decent impact without going too big or crazy and the end result is a solid mix that conveys the show well in a clean way with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series 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. Animated by Zexcs, the series has a really nice design about it with some good detail and color definition. The CG side of it stands out a bit more in an intentional way to make them feel a little more figure/doll-like but the majority of the standard animation stuff is solid with appealing designs and good colors. The show has its big action pieces that step up the visuals a good bit but it’s in general a pretty good looking show with lots of detail to it. The encoding captures everything really well with solid colors and high-motion sequences that are problem free. It’s a clean and appealing looking project all around.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with both discs held against the interior walls. The front cover uses the familiar key visual of the girls all suited up in the foreground while Ao is in the background having some breakfast, giving it a little more reference in terms of sizes – not that it’s immediately apparent considering how some shows laya out their key visuals like this. The logo is cutely kept to the upper right and I like the details on the table itself. The back cover goes for a nice shot of Stylet along the right while to the left of her we get some hex panels that showcase shots from the show and lists out the extras. The summary of the premise is clearly listed with the white text on pink and we get a clean breakdown of the production credits below it. The technical grid lays out how the disc is put together in a simple and accurate easy to read way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is one that I don’t care for too much even if it does work decently. The layout is one where the top half features a photo with the main girls all lined up next to each other with the logo along the left. Below it we get the grid breakdown with the navigation that features just the episodes by number and title. With each episode featuring two stories there’s a decent bit of text. But with almost all of Sentai’s menus going vertical in order, a horizontal one just feels profoundly weird and leaves me kind of weird about it. It’s fully functional and easy to use so there are no problems to be had here but it just looks like of odd.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing in the spring 2017 season, Frame Arms Girl is a twelve-episode series that’s based on the figure line from Hobby Japan. It did well enough that a feature film is in the works for it as well and it’s the kind of show that I thought might get a dub simply because it’s a bit more accessible. Animated by Zexcs and written by Deko Akao, someone that I’ll generally follow to see what they do, it’s certainly going to provide some casual flashback to shows like Angelic Layer for obvious reasons. They’re really not comparable in the grand scheme of things but they both fall within the same general realm because of the dolls aspect of it. They’re fairly different once you get past that though.
The structure of the series is one that really does work for the best in that each episode gets an even split with two stories per episode. This keeps things from running on too long and it also makes it easier to take breaks as it’s a show that doesn’t exactly marathon well. And that’s really just because it is a kind of slice of life thing to a degree where little changes beyond the addition of new characters. The shorter stories also helps it avoid feeling too drawn out for each on as they get padded with pointless bits or with jokes and repetitive elements that slows the whole thing down. It ends up streamlining things a good bit and left me with a series that while not hugely memorable wasn’t one that didn’t have me being driven up a wall.
The central focus is on Ao, a high school girl who ends up getting gifted with a Frame Arm Girl for testing purposes. The doll is named Gourai and it plays up how there are elements to it through her phone app and that there are battle platforms that can be set up with other Frame Arm Girls so they can compete – and there’s financial incentive to do so though that’s not really brought into play too much here beyond the dolls themselves getting competitive. The gimmick here is two-fold. The first is that the dolls are obviously intelligent in that they’ve got a limited AI placed into them that has them at the emotional age of about ten, allowing them to learn things. So, naturally, Japan sexes them up regularly which makes me cringe. The second part of it is that the whole modeling aspect is given a decent push since Hobby Japan is behind this and making modeling alluring is certainly a draw and one I don’t mind. They don’t overplay this aspect of it but having Gourai instruct Ao on the right things to do and later getting a visit to the design factory is fun as we see how it all comes together.
Ao presents a good way to be introduced to it all as we see her putting together weapons and the armor for Gourai and then seeing how to apply it within the battle platforms through the phone app. The actual fights themselves take place in a virtual space and not her room, though I’m not sure which would be more interesting to be honest. As you can expect, it doesn’t take long for the box that Gourai came in to reveal that there are others in there and we get the bossy Stylet and the Loki-like Baselard thrown into the mix. It later expands to include White and Black that are known as the Materia Sisters and there’s also one simply known as the Architect. It gets even fuller in terms of dolls later on with Jinrai and the overly powerful Hresvelgr whose overpowered self ends up causing Aoi’s place to lose power as it overloads the system – something that the Frame Arms company apologizes for and helps figure out. Which is part of the background story in that Ao is helping to test these dolls out and sending back lots of data through them with interactions, weapons usage, and their emotional growth as well.
The personalities are fairly distinct and as it progresses we get some good and silly bits, such as Gourai ending up at school and Stylet and Baselard sneaking there only to have Baselard deciding that she wants to swipe everything because she’s like a crow building a nest out of cool stuff. A lot of the first half is just the regular introduction of more of the girls but it has lots of other things going on such as a fireworks festival that leads to some fun dress-up moments and there’s even a storyline where the girls are imagined as human and finishing out high school with Ao. That whole thing actually left me curious to see it done in full as it could provide for some twists to work with. The fight sequences themselves are generally pretty competitive and while the backgrounds for them don’t do much to excite it really comes down to the dolls themselves. It moves well, it provides plenty of fun as there’s no real tension to any of it, and seeing the slow pace of progress move forward steadily has you enjoying the bits of growth that they do get.
Frame Arms Girl surprised me a fair bit with what it did as it proved to be more fun than I expect and left me grinning through a lot of it. There’s a simplicity to what we get here but it’s very well executed and there are only a few areas where I cringed a bit at the whole dressing them up in sexy ways thing because that just doesn’t fit with the described emotional age and just felt a little too much like a fetishist issue. That’s thankfully minimal and it’s more focused on the dolls with their camaraderie, the fights, and the closeness with Ao that exists – even if it is stronger with Gourai than anyone else. Sentai’s release is pretty basic with what it does but it succeeds with a clean looking release that looks and sounds great and comes in a solid package. Definitely good for fans and something that I hope gets a revisit when the next project hits.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
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.