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The Show
Here’s a brief rundown of the Steel Angel tale as told in Steel Angel Kurumi, Volume 1. Dr. Ayonokoji is a scientist who once worked for the military, however he left to work independently on the development of the ‘Steel Angels’ project. Yet the military has decided that it wants Dr. Ayonokoji and all of his Steel Angel research back in their hands, and they begin an offensive on the doctor’s mansion. Fortunately for the dedicated Dr. Ayonokoji, a young eleven year old named Nakahito unsuspectingly enters the fray. Nakahito and his buddies are attempting to break into the mansion too, but for reasons of their own. They eventually manage to gain access and force Nakahito down into the mansion basement. After a frightened dawdle, Nakahito stumbles across something quite unexpected. A young woman is lying against a wall, seemingly asleep. Nakahito cautiously approaches the lifeless body. The trembles of the attacking army cause the young woman to lose her balance and gracefully fall on top of the ill-prepared Nakahito. They kiss. She consequently awakens, and so it is that the Steel Angel Kurumi, the product of Dr. Ayonokoji’s research, is forever devoted to the service of the young Nakahito.

Steel Angel Kurumi, Volume 1

As a fully operational Steel Angel, Kurumi will only obey the instructions of her master, Nakahito. Utilising this to their advantage, Dr. Ayonokoji, Nakahito, and Kurumi manage to escape the mansion, regrouping at Nakahito’s brother’s residence. It is here that Nakahito, under the instruction of his brother, is in training to become an Onmyou priest. It so happens that the military were able to obtain another Steel Angel, Saki, from the remains of the doctor’s mansion, and she is instructed to seek out and destroy Kurumi. After a lovely skirmish between the two Steel Angels at Nakahito’s residence, Kurumi performs the ritual kiss, and Saki is incorporated into the team.

Kurumi, the flamboyant star of the show, is an energetic, playful, affectionate young lady who is absolutely devoted to Nakahito and his every need. Her confidence and affection plays against Nakahito’s youthful innocence and shyness; this is where most of the humour in the series is generated as Nakahito often finds himself quite literally caught in the bosom of an overtly protective Kurumi. So we are given some nice giggles as Nakahito attempts to come to terms with his newly acquired companion and guardian.

An appealing quality of the series is that it is set in Japan during the 1920s; the Taisho era. We’re first made aware of this when we are introduced to Nakahito and his ‘buddies’, all of whom are adorned in Japanese outfits that are reminiscent of days of old. It’s further reinforced as we catch a glimpse of the town, its features all reminiscent of this era in Japan. This approach works to a positive effect when the 1920s setting is placed in contrast with the advanced technology of the Steel Angels - it’s all very fantastical. It’s just nice to see some variety in the setting of this series, and it definitely adds to the overall appeal.

Steel Angel Kurumi, Volume 1

Another interesting feature of the series is that each episode is 15mins in length (Steel Angel Kurumi is made up of 24 episodes on 4 discs, with a fifth ‘Encore’ DVD with bonus episodes also on the way). I’ve been told that this approach was taken as the series was originally presented as part of an anthology on a Japanese television network. Although I was a little frustrated in the earlier episodes, perhaps due to the somewhat collapsed and brief narrative progression, the story certainly moves along at a swift and exciting pace towards the latter episodes, fleshing out a lot of the narrative.

Video
Steel Angel Kurumi is produced by studio OLM, which you will most likely know from the hugely successful Pokemon series. There are several sequences in Steel Angel Kurumi where the characters are playfully reduced in size, and this adds a nice sense of variety to the episodes. The visuals are lovely and bold, though perhaps not as sophisticated as some other series which have come out of late. All episodes showed no signs of abnormalities, and the transfer, presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen is without any problems.

Audio
The English dub has quite a few big names, with Monica Rial (Gasaraki), Hilary Haag (Bubblegum Crisis), and a special appearance by Claudia Black (Farscape, Pitch Black). The Japanese audio track is well produced too, complemented by some appropriate music and effects. I found no significant evidence of distortion or irregularity on either the Japanese or English audio tracks.

Steel Angel Kurumi, Volume 1

Extras
You’ll be pleased to know that there are some fantastic extras on this disc. First up is a Conversations With Angles: Behind the Scenes, Part 1 offering, which is a roughly half-hour chat with the English voice talent, each voice actor commenting on the series and discussing their approach in the English dub. It’s great to be able to put faces to the voices. There’s also a Historical Background: Taisho Era Japan segment, which contains a text introduction to the history of Japan in the Taisho Era. The Onmyou Tradition is a similar offering, with a text introduction to Onmyou (Yin-Yang’) mysticism. Then we have Production Sketches, Translator Notes, a Clean Opening Animation, Extended Episode Previews, and a Kurumi Fortune Teller link to a PDF on the disc to print out. Then we have the usual offering of previews, including Excel Saga, Noir, Martian Successor Nadesco, Samurai X: Reflection, Rahxephon (looking forward to this one!), and Burn Up Excess. All in all, the extras will surely impress.

Overall
Steel Angel Kurumi certainly kept me entertained. With a unique setting, nice battle sequences, a nice sprinkling of comical innuendo, and bright visuals, Steel Angel Kurumi is a great addition to any anime library. The disc is also packed with extras that are sure to impress.


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