Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jul 24th 2007
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 3
DVD 2 - Time Trippin' Terror & Wedding Woes
As if two Valkyries weren't enough, Laine goes back in time—thanks to a super-dimensional massage machine—and ends up in her own company two times over. While the three Laines go around wreaking mild havoc and doing unspeakable things to the laws of causality, they may just have the chance to facilitate a long-ago meeting between little Laine and her best friend that was originally never to be. When an argument over snacks gets nasty, Little Valkyrie runs away... sort of. But, to everyone's surprise, after returning she runs away again, this time as Big Valkyrie. And then it's time for Kazuto and Valkyrie's big day as the season ends with the one event that every good story ends with... a giant space battle.
Enjoy the series as one may, there's no escaping the fact that much of UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is complete crap. Even as the series gears up for a big wedding, it's impossible to actually care whether or not Kazuto and Valkyrie can achieve wedded bliss, in part because of misgivings about the wedding of a teenager and a woman who is half preschooler and half over-ripe submissive sex-object. Attempts at gentle humor often don't register as humor at all (though blatant laughs, like Sanada's newfound cosplay habit, do work sometimes) and each episode is peppered with gags that may or may not be intentional (a wedding chapel that has more laser defenses than the Death Star anyone?). Attempts to play the heartstrings are either so obvious as to be crass or so precious (Laine and her friend as preschoolers) as to induce diabetic shock. And stupid is the only way to describe the plotting, rife as it is with artless plot devices and complete lapses in narrative logic—there's no explanation for why Laine is so different from her past incarnations, and don't even think about counting the time-travel paradoxes without an abacus in hand. Even the omnipresent fan-service is poorly integrated—slapped in at random intervals with no discernable purpose—and suffers from the generic look and sometimes odd proportions of the characters.
Nevertheless, the improvements made this volume are manifold—there're no repeated transformation sequences, the naked little girl quotient is far lower, and the tendency towards painfully over-the-top sci-fi hijinks only rears its ugly head at the end of the sixth episode—and they clear away enough of the truly awful material to allow the series' one overriding positive quality to shine. There's a laid-back rhythm to life in UFO UMV, in which characters take even the most outrageous developments (time-traveling massage treatments, pirate attacks, Valkyrie's condition itself) in stride, blithely accepting them and getting on with enjoying their lives. It's a surprisingly seductive worldview, one that is capable of turning a hideously abrasive character like Laine into a sympathetic lead once she succumbs to its calming effects and spends time just hanging out with Chorus. Under its influence previously inexplicable quirks of the show's production make more sense. The focus on background artistry and incongruously atmospheric set-pieces over animation (which is only slightly improved by the OVA budget increase) emphasizes the magic that the characters take so utterly for granted. Kenji Kawai's uncharacteristically frivolous score, a forgettable collection of silly fluff compositions, actually seems appropriate, as a strong, memorable score would undermine the easygoing core to the show.
There isn't a whole lot wrong with the English version that isn't wrong with the Japanese version. English Big Valkyrie continues to be a comparative treat, Little Valkyrie sounds a tad older, and the rest of the cast (perhaps due to the length of time they've been working on this title) have gotten nicely comfortable with their roles. Perhaps a little too comfortable. Some rather questionable changes are made in the name of adding extra laughs (Spot's dialogue, turning the robotic railroad employees into metrosexuals) and Laine is actually brattier in English than Japanese.
The extras available will be familiar, once more, to those who've made it this far. The messages from the voice actors are from the English actors this time, fashioned after the drawings and comments that were customary for the Japanese versions of the same extra. The Valkyrie World Notes are a collection of explanations for various aspects of the episodes, cultural notes dealing with parodies and cultural references, and fairly lengthy written comments by original creators Kaishaku.
With a greater focus on characters casually living their objectively bizarre lives, and less sci-fi bombast, fewer excruciating plot contrivances and no endless transformations, this is perhaps the first volume that doesn't trigger a storm of guilt for enjoying it. Don't take this as unconditional praise. This is a show that peaks at a B- and until the end is filled with much that is offensive, poorly executed, and downright idiotic. Even its restful rhythm is but the palest shadow of similar tactics used in far superior works of magical realism such as Kamichu and Someday's Dreamers. Enjoyable it may be at times, but this isn't a work of any kind of skill. Though if the shocking eleventh hour twist of fate that caps off this season is any indicator, the writers may have promising careers in magic, provided they learn to pull things besides plot twists from their rears (like perhaps a string of flags or Jimmy Hoffa's skull).
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Allows some time to relax with the cast without being constantly subjected to the series' more painful elements.
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