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Pretear Vol. 1

It's amazing how common it is for anime heroes or heroines to lack one or both parents. Sakura's mother in Cardcaptor Sakura, Tohru Honda in Fruits Basket, Ranma's mother in Ranma 1/2, Seiya in Saint Seiya, and countless other characters in other series all suffer from partial or complete orphanage. Perhaps this device is employed by the author to generate sympathy for the main character, drawing the reader close to him or her before we even get to know the person. Whatever the reason, Himeno Awayuki is yet another anime protagonist who is sadly motherless.

Luckily for her, she has a very powerful spirit, and remains cheerful despite her mother's absence. It's possible that she never really had much time to dwell on the loss of her mom because she was too busy taking care of her goofball father, Kaoru. Kaoru is the author of a number of corny romance novels, but he hasn't been working much after his wife died, so Himeno had to take charge of the household and make sure he was eating right. And bathing regularly. She's a trooper, that Himeno.

The situation changed, however, when Natsue, one of Kaoru's biggest fans, decided to marry him. As it turns out, Natsue owns the largest company in the region, and Kaoru is whooshed along to her nation-sized estate along with Himeno after the wedding. Things should be looking up for the plucky sixteen year old, but having a rich stepmother doesn't ease Himeno's life. Her stepsisters treat her at best with cold indifference and at worst with outright dislike, and the townfolk can't really befriend her at all because of her connection to the family that essentially owns them all.

Himeno finds some solace in the plants and trees around her estate, as they are the only objects that accept her for who she is, but even that is beginning to wear thin.

Then, things change again. In Pretear, Leafeania is a parallel realm to our own Earth, and Leafe is the source of vitality for both worlds. However, the Princess of Disaster has escaped from her prison in Leafeania, and she is using her minions to soak up the life-giving Leafe from all living things on Earth.

Enter the seven Knights of Leafe. Their only hope is to discover the Pretear, a person who has the magical ability to merge with one of them, creating a powerful force that can destroy the demons intent on draining Leafe from the world. When this story begins, Himeno knows nothing about Leafe or Leafeania. After the first episode, however, she's going to have to learn a lot more, for she discovers that she is the missing Pretear.

This is a new show, and it's filled with some bright colors. The character designs aren't very unique, but they are attractive, and I'm sure no fans of the female persuasion mind the delicate good looks of the Knights of Leafe. Battle scenes are well animated, and a wide array of emotions is expressed by the characters, lending personality to the work. Overall, it's a very sharp looking series.

Voice acting is rather good as well, and Himeno's actress is particularly good in Japanese. She's a hard character to pin down, for one minute, she behaves like an excited schoolgirl (which incidentally, she is), and in the next minute, she's acting like a mother, and then she's yelling and screaming at Hayate. She's a very complex character, and it's hard to get each aspect of her personality to show without being flattened out by volume versus quality. Luci Christian, someone we're seeing quite a bit more of in dubs lately, voices Himeno in English, though I have to admit I only listened to the Japanese track.

The background music was good, but not especially memorable, but the opening and ending themes were very pretty. I'd get the soundtrack for them, at least.

The disc is available with a box, though it's one of the cheaper folded lightweight paper boxes instead of one of the fancier boxes you can get for FLCL or L/R, for example. Clean opening and closing animations are provided, along with two interviews (one each) with Luci Christian and Illich Guardiola, the English actress and actor for Himeno and Hayate. David Williams conducts the interview, so those of you who were itching to get a look at the mastermind of many of our addictions should appreciate this particular extra. There's also a collection of production sketches and some previews.

In the end, this is a series that seems familiar at first, but ends up being quite unique. The characters are interesting, and while I only had four episodes on this disc to get into the story, I can tell that there's much more going on than has been revealed so far. Attractive artwork, a good plot, character-driven humor, there's not much to dislike about this series. It's only problem may be that there is so much new anime coming out these days that it might get overlooked for something bigger, and that would be a shame. This is a great fantasy story, and one worth picking up if you enjoyed Rayearth or Cardcaptor Sakura. It's not a very childish show, but it's endearing and dramatic, and evokes memories of both of those classic CLAMP series.

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