Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 19th 2011
Queen's Blade: The Exiled Virgin
DVD 3 - Journey's End
Her heirloom sword damaged, Leina seeks out the renowned blacksmith Cattleya, a former dragonslayer who has retired to a domestic and business role. Ymir, a dwarven princess from Steel Mountain, also seeks out Cattaleya, but for different reasons: she's irked that Steel Mountain is losing business for their top-quality weapons to Cattaleya's cheaper productions. Battles, of course, ensue. In the wake of that incident Leina finally runs across Risty, who is now traveling with Tomoe and Shizuka, but gets a rude shock when Risty rejects her for her continuing weakness. Leina makes an arrangement with Echidna to get special intensive training to help her overcome her biggest flaws, which gives both her older sister Claudette and her younger sister Elina a chance to catch up with her; before either can move on, a reckoning between Leina and Claudette over their relationship and respective roles must be had. Afterwards, most of the prospective Queen's Blade participants approach the capital city of Gynos, but so, too, do the minions of the Swamp Witch, who are intent on slaughtering the prospective contestants before they can even participate. Before the gates of Gynos a climactic battle rages, one in which Leina must prove her mettle in the face of daunting odds and Queen Aldra herself might get involved.
Though one could cynically (and not necessarily inaccurately) view Queen's Blade as a whole as merely a fan service-intensive romp involving sexy women fighting fantasy battles against one another, its first season has, in general, served two specific purposes: assembling a broad and varied cast of female fighters and showing the progression of Leina from being a wimp unable to protect herself to a toughened-up combatant who can actually hold her own in a Queen's Blade-caliber fight. Despite some cheesy design and execution to some of the action scenes, the final four episodes accomplish all of the above purposes satisfyingly well.
Although a couple more new combatants will show up in the second season, most of the rest of the key characters debut here. The practical blacksmith Cattleya is possibly the most notorious of the QB fighters because of her ponderously huge breasts and a sword that could match that of Berserk's Guts, although she also gets to be the character wearing glasses and the mother. Ymir, who looks nothing like a traditional fantasy dwarf beyond her height, fills out the position of the series' requisite ultra-petite character and has some neat gauntlets to boot. Über-chested Melpha, who appears only in the last episode, is the priestess who uses some rather unconventional “Holy Poses” to activate her powers, while the petite Queen Aldra, with a mask that covers one eye, also makes a formal appearance at that point. All of the other fighters who have appeared previously also make appearances to one degree or another and the angel Nanael is still around making a nuisance of herself, too.
Leina is the principle protagonist of the series, though, and she does get the lion's share of attention in this volume even though episode 9 mostly focuses on Cattleya and Ymir. Though she still has some difficult fights, Leina gets abused much less here and, by the end of this volume, is actually capable of defending herself and even developing her own signature move. The credibility of her progression is hampered some by the hyper-concentrated training regimen gimmick the series pulls, but at least Leina is, thankfully, no longer pathetic by the end.
The fan service and humor continue to be all one could reasonably ask for, too. Ditzy Nanael provides the volume its requisite quota of panty shots, while her efforts to find replacement divine milk, including her encounters with assorted varieties of fruit-flavored goat milk, and slovenly sleeping posture provide solid running jokes. Other characters get regular opportunities to flash their breasts and the continuing high caliber of the artistry assures that such service gets rendered in loving detail. All of the new female characters get cosplay-worthy costumes, too.
As good as the series otherwise looks, the fight choreography in the big fight in episode 12 is a weak point. Director Kinji Yoshimoto, who has very limited experience with action-heavy titles beyond this franchise, seems uncertain exactly how he wants to set up and execute a complicated battle involving nearly the entire cast, resulting in an awkward-looking affair which allows all of the fighters to show off their moves but not in a smoothly-flowing manner. The excellent musical score, which continues to be the series' greatest strength, does what it can but still has to have material worthy of being backed by its gracefully-soaring numbers.
The dub, unfortunately, reverts to being fully hit-or-miss. Eva Christensen (the rarely-used voice of Giant Robo's Gin Rei) is a good fit and performance for Cattleya, as is the uncredited casting for Melpha, but the uncredited choices for Ymir and especially Queen Aldra are much more questionable; the latter, in fact, fails to generate any sense of royal authority. Amongst recurring roles, Trina Hilbe's sultry-voiced take on Echidna continues to be the stand-out performance. The dub script remains tight throughout.
Media Blasters delivers the DVD versions of the opener and closer intact on each episode, with the English translations and (incomplete) English credits only following at the end of the volume. Included in the Extras are clean renditions of both the tame on-air version and nudity-laced DVD version of the closer, as well as episodes 5 and 6 of the Gynos Academy omake episodes; this time around they feature Cattleya's seemingly sexual late-night kitchen adventure and the “election” to replace all-powerful Student Council President Aldra, respectively. Also present is a public recording of “Radio Queen's Blade” recorded at the 2009 Tokyo Anime Fair (i.e. only a few days before the first episode was broadcasted) which features the seiyuu for Leina and Tomoe and lasts about 24 minutes. Boxed set DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the entire series are also supposed to be available.
While fan service and fantasy action are still the core emphases of the series, the final volume reaffirms that there is at least a bit of a story worth caring about here, too. Some lax fight choreography and story execution at the end prevents the series from hitting its full potential, but this content still has enough going for it to succeed even without the nudity. This last volume also affirms that the entire first season is just a set-up for the serious Queen's Blade action, which will be portrayed in the second season scheduled to start American release in late spring.
NOTE: The lower story grade below more reflects the reviewer's overall downgrading of the series' story grade rather than actual weaker story content in this volume.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Musical score, plentiful nudity, Leina finally comes into her own.
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