Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 27th 2009
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue
DVD - Collection 2
The submarine procured from the three brothers gets put to occasional good use – when not being stolen back by the brothers and their sister May, that is. Further trouble arises when Maia's mission to recover a runaway boy dredges up a past connection for Rena and inadvertently gets two Nereids branches deeply involved in a terrorist attack designed to crash a plane Maia is on. Later, a seemingly abandoned baby causes complications for Yu, while association with a con man causes problems for Shizuka. Although Maia continues her dedication to testing into the Ocean Agency throughout, the gradual resurfacing of her long-forgotten memories eventually creates a distraction so great that it interferes with her work for Nereids, too. As Maia comes to realize that everything she was told about her past was a lie, the ramifications run deep, for her truth is connected to long-buried secrets that some never want to see resurface. In the mystery of Daphne, some of the greatest hidden truths under the Brilliant Blue can be found.
In a pair of bonus episodes, some of the girls engage in a friendly hovercraft race, while an encounter with an old vending machine has a dramatic effect on Maia and Gloria.
Since its earliest scenes the trademark of Daphne has been costuming so skimpy that it might make a Vegas showgirl blush, and the second half of the series does nothing to change that. By this point, however, most viewers should be so inured to the near-overexposure that it no longer registers as prominently, thus allowing concentration on the rest of the series' content. In some senses that is a Bad Thing, as the lessening of such a distraction allows viewers to realize how much the series is merely retreading stale one-shot story ideas without doing much to freshen them up. In other senses that is a Good Thing, though. For all the faults that the series has, it can be genuinely entertaining once one gets past the whole costuming thing, and that shows through a bit better in the second half than in the first.
Any listing of the story elements used through this run shows a decided lack of creativity. A fish-out-of-water story about taking care of a baby? Humoring an old kook on an underwater hunt for a sea monster? A heroine having to land a commuter plane under distressed conditions? A case of amnesia hiding a dire secret? A seemingly benevolent organization with something to cover up? A character getting charmed by a con man? Chasing down a runaway kid? Yawn. All of these are “been there, done that” material from other anime series, in some cases many times over; the amnesia gimmick, which was dropped on viewers out of the blue toward the end of the first half, is particularly guilty of this. Not helping matters is the lack of depth the series shows on any character other than Maia, as what little true glimpses viewers get into the backstories of other characters barely fleshes them out at all. (That Rena once rejected a guy in a way that took him ages to get over is hardly a shocking revelation.)
What the series does do well, however, is to find a way to make things entertaining despite how moldy its ideas are. The characters may be fairly basic archetypes, but they are used effectively to generate a lot of spirited content, some of which even becomes outright funny; somehow, Yu's deadpan contrast to Gloria, and the way she regularly beats Gloria into submission whenever the latter goes too far out of control, never gets old, nor does the way Rena flaunts her sexuality when off-duty. Maintaining the three brothers and sister May as recurring characters is one of the few places where the series shows inspiration, as they serve well in the way they mix comic relief with crises and never disappoint on any of their appearances. Maia also has her turns as the comic fall girl.
Perhaps most surprising is that the series actually successfully pulls off turning serious for the exploration of Maia's true past, although it does dillydally around until episode 19 before fully devoting itself to that close-out arc. The direction it goes in should not be entirely unexpected by veteran anime fans, but in exploring what was being hidden, and the reasons why it was being hidden, the lost-memory arc gives the series what little meat it actually has and a vague sense of drama. In bringing Maia to a sense of completion it also, in a sense, brings the entire setting to a sense of completion, in the process finally explaining the series' curious name and what the deal is with the mysterious guy in sunglasses who has occasionally popped up in the vicinity of Maia since the first episode.
And then there are the final two episodes, which are bonuses apparently included with the original Japanese DVD releases. The first is a bit on the dull side, while the second certainly has its moments of comic genius even if it does use a plot device as old as the hills.
The visuals, courtesy of J.C. Staff, emphasize characters designs and extreme costuming at the expense of most everything else. The backgrounds are generally decent, but the animation is a decided disappointment; too many of the scenes too clearly show characters merely being moved across a scene rather than giving at least the illusion that the character is actually moving through the scene. The animation fares a bit better in action scenes, and the artistry does offer a few nice comedic touches, but this is not one of J.C. Staff's better visual efforts. The musical score is also wholly unremarkable, as is its opener and closer, although the visuals for the latter do update with episode 17.
Sentai Filmworks salvaged this original Geneon release earlier this year and are now releasing it basically unchanged save for condensing the second 13 episodes onto two disks from the original four. Extras found on the disks include clean opener and closer, original trailers, and an original Japanese DVD covert art gallery. The original New Generation Pictures dub is also present, and by this point in the series the actors have worked their way into the roles well enough that the only disappointments might be a couple of the casting choices. (Kirsten Potter, whose only other significant role is Ran Tao in Bleach, gives May a conspicuously deeper voice than she has in Japanese.) The English script stays remarkably tight.
Nearly smothered under outlandishly risqué costuming and retread story ideas is some surprisingly entertaining content which mixes humor with a semblance of true sentiment and actual plot. Although still far from great, the series is definitely better in its second half than it looked like at first.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : B
+ Can be quite entertaining, involving arc concerning Maia's true past.
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