Reviewby Theron Martin,
Queen's Blade: The Exiled Virgin
DVD 2 - The Beaten Path
Though Leina survives her fall from the cliff into the river, she soon washes up in the domain of Menace, a former Queen of the long-lost kingdom of Amara who has been resurrected by the Swamp Witch and now seeks to reestablish her former kingdom, with the spiritually enslaved Leina as one of her first servants. After an encounter there with Tomoe and the angel Nanael results in another big fall, Leina next washes up in the Elven Forest, where she encounters the panty-less half-elf Nowa and the more dignified elf Combat Master Alleyne and also does battle with Airi, a scythe-wielding maid who, along with Menace and Melona, is another servant of the Swamp Witch. Meanwhile, the bumbling Nanael gets called back to Heaven over her ineptness in managing the Queen's Blade matches and is given one more chance to redeem herself else she be sent to Hades or, nearly as bad, exiled to Earth. Tomoe and Shizuka also have their share of additional problems as they encounter difficult terrain and run afoul of Elina (who is out searching for Leina with her entourage) and a skilled female assassin under the guise of Elina's page.
The first four episodes of Queen's Blade made the series' modus operandi quite clear: take scantily-clad, generally full-figured female characters from a variety of fantasy backgrounds and put them through their paces in a fantasy RPG-styled setting that is a mix of classic Western and Eastern fantasy elements, with every opportunity for fan service exploited along the way. This second set of four episodes certainly continues that, but those who watch these episodes just to enjoy the gorgeous gals and tawdry T&A may find a little bonus: a surprising degree of character development, which makes the series at this point feel a bit less trashy than it normally would.
The primary emphasis is, of course, on the fan service. The camera never hesitates to show an angle on the angel Nanael which flashes her panties as she's flying along; that the other angels do not do that is another visual indicator of how much of a screw-up she is. That is the mildest form that the series' fan service takes, however, as the norm is putting its female characters in positions where clothes get knocked off or revealingly torn up in fights or the characters otherwise have reason to be partly or totally naked, such as bathing scenes, having medicinal leaves applied to a chest wound, being tied up shibari-style, forced to strip by an enemy, and so forth. One unsophisticated character goes commando (which is almost a plot point), we learn that elven women typically use leaves in place of panties, one character wears a maid outfit for no good reason, Ms. Snake-For-A-G-String and Ms. I-Have-Hands-Cupping-My-Breasts are back (the former in cameos, the latter in more regular appearances), and there are even a couple of scenes of girl-on-girl lip-locking. Naturally, the only male character with a significant role is a very randy animated staff – and yes, the inherent joke that represents is almost certainly intentional. The opening and closing visuals are also loaded with nudity.
The plot at this point primarily emphasizes introducing new characters and establishing their particulars, although it does drop hints about two bigger threads: that the reigning Queen may be up to something and that a new archvillainness, the Swamp Witch, wants to disrupt the Queen's Blade competition for some reason. It also allows Leina to start to show a little more durability and strength, though the story still keeps dropping her (sometimes literally!) into abusive situations and moving her around with improbable alacrity so that she can interact with all of the new characters, while Claudette gets a further opportunity to explore her own motives. Introductions include the villainous maid Airi, the somewhat tragic Nowa, the dignified Alleyne, the assassin Irma, and an angelic friend of Nanael's who does not really count since she is not one of the featured babes. These episodes also delve into the backgrounds of some of its characters, with Nowa in particular shown as struggling through sad conditions and Nanael coming off as a little more sympathetic – though she is still undeniably the series' resident klutz.
The key draw of the series is, of course, the mix of petite and buxom babes, and the artistry continues to shine in that department. Menace provides the alluring, full-figured Egyptian look, while Airi and Nowa offer slighter builds as options and Irma and Alleyne stand somewhere in between. All are sexy and attractive in their own ways, as is the recurring cast from the first volume. These uncensored episodes show fully detailed nudity and an impressive variety of creative costuming, but the latter is to be expected since the character designs in the source material came from a wide variety of popular artists, including My-HiME character designer Hirokazu Hisayuki, who designed all three of the Vance sisters. The colors used come out very vibrantly and backgrounds offer a suitable variety of exotic fantasy locales, including a convincing rendition of Heaven. Fight choreography is not up to the same standard and is, in fact, the weakest element that the series actually makes an effort at; the only battle which even comes close to carrying the same punch and flash as those in the first volume is Nanael's battle against the minions of the Swamp Witch, where she shows that, whatever other aspects she may be lacking in, combat ability is not one of them. Overall, though, the animation is not a major weak point in the regular episode content.
The music through this run of episodes is not as impressive as it was in the series' early episodes but continues to prove quite capable at playing up the mood and energy of the scenes in question. It still offers a good amount of variety, from fully-orchestrated numbers to hard rock themes. The opener and staple closer seen in the first four episodes also continue in their uncensored forms, with the TV broadcast version of the closer (i.e. the version which actually has the ladies covered up) provided as one of the Extras.
The English dub is a little better through this run, partly because Nanael sounds less irritating, but still has its weak points. Amongst new roles, the biggest disappointment is the performance of Menace, which strays markedly from the original and sounds much plainer in the process. All of the other new roles are much more accurately-cast and reasonably well-performed, with Billy Regan doing an amusingly appropriate “dirty old man” voice for the staff Setora. The script stays relatively close except for when Setora is being dirty-minded, in which case he uses sexual euphemisms much better-suited to English.
Media Blasters' Anime Works label has had some trouble getting this series out in a timely fashion, but at least they include a solid set of Extras. Included on the menu screen are clean versions of both versions of the closer and the third and fourth Gynos Academy bonus mini-episodes; the third one features the Vance sisters in skimpy school apparel while the fourth one focuses on the delinquent Swamp Witch servants. Both are pure excuses for further fan service, although the fourth one is actually funny, too. This volume also has an (unintentional?) Easter Egg in the form of a series-specific interview with the seiyuu for Leina and Tomoe. It can easily be found by merely clicking down from the last option on the Extras menu, which one would do anyway to get back to the main menu.
At this point the series is still building its story, but since the story will seamlessly continue on into the second series there is no concern about this series wrapping up in time. Though it still has some flashy battles and pervasive use of fully-detailed fan service, this middle run of episodes is actually carried nearly as much by a surprising degree of character development. It may still focus on lowbrow appeal but is not a one-trick pony.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Plentiful nudity, appealing character and costume designs, solid musical score.
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