Steel Angel Kurumi Complete Collection
This seven-disc boxed set consists of the 24-episode Steel Angel Kurumi, 4 encore OAV episodes, and the 12-episode sequel Steel Angel Kurumi 2. The OAVs are more of a bonus disc added to the original series, each entirely optional and with a self-contained plot, bearing no tie to Steel Angel Kurumi 2 and adding no new plot. Since this is a repackaging of the two series into one convenient set, and Animefringe covered Steel Angel Kurumi previously, I will focus my review on Steel Angel Kurumi 2.
We all know about the problems that sequels face in regards to keeping the balance between originality and staying true to the formula of the original. It's hard to compete with the original and still remain a true sequel. A good follow-up movie can stand on its own merits, while a bad sequel goes straight to video.
I really don't know why ADV picked up Steel Angel Kurumi 2, as it is a very bad sequel. Probably because they already had the rights and good sales for the original 5-disc Steel Angel Kurumi, and a 7-disc complete Steel Angel Kurumi Complete Collection boxset looks pretty and costs more.
This 12-episode show takes place 75 years after the original series. The Steel Angels have been put to sleep until they will be needed to battle for Earth's future, which is apparently still a long time away. Nako, a middle school freshman and descendant of Kurumi's master in the first show, accidentally kisses the sleeping Kurumi and awakens her. Kurumi immediately claims Nako as her new master. Nako, only naturally for a demure young girl, is utterly embarrassed by Kurumi's non-stop affection.
Nako's rich neighbour, Uruka, cannot stand the sudden loss of Nako to the clinging Kurumi. (Think Asuka from Evangelion or B-ko from Project A-ko, and you have this girl nailed.) So her father finds a Steel Angel rather coincidentally, and Uruka activates Saki while daydreaming of Nako. Saki has somehow maintained some of her memory from 75 years ago, so she's still in love with Kurumi (who remembers nothing) and now with her new master, Uruka.
Kyanwan, a corgi puppy, is introduced in the first episode as a new type of Steel Angel. His main function seems to be being cute and being Kurumi's utility power pack. He enables her to fly, transforming into a jetpack, and to form a mermaid's tail for swimming. Nice idea, but only if it weren't so overused.
Karinka, the youngest of Kurumi's sisters, also makes a return. Awakened by a hundred chanting monks, she is sent to bring Kurumi and Saki back to what seems to be the descendents of the first show's Academy. Personality-wise, she's still the same, still lusting to be the most powerful Steel Angel through Kurumi's master's kiss.
Poor Nako has now become the main character of an all-female harem comedy.
You know what must have been going through the mind of the director. 'We need a filler show, something that's 10 minutes per episode. Hey, let's remake Steel Angel Kurumi, except in the modern age and with nothing but girls! Think of the panty shots! Oh, and we'll have school girl outfits too!' Then someone else chimed in, 'And we need a dog, a cute Ein dog. Let's make it a Steel Angel too, and use it as Kurumi's power-up weaponry!' Then the writer sitting quietly in the background wanted to make this a mini-tribute to Project A-ko.
It's worth noting that all of the previous Steel Angels are now "Mark II" versions; they introduce themselves as "Steel Angel Saki Mark II", and etc. Perhaps that explains the changes in their costumes. Kurumi's maid outfit is pretty much the same as before (got to please the maid-loving fans!), but Karinka has had a complete overhaul. Gone is her little hat and short hair; now she has pigtail ringlets, perhaps to emphasize her position as the youngest sister. Her clothing is actually less revealing than her original design, and she can fly now, without the need for Kyanwan.
The Steel Angel Kurumi opening song, "A Miracle That Begins With A Kiss", has also been upgraded to an upbeat techno "Mark II" version. At first, I found myself preferring the original, but the remix grew on me. The ending song, "Beyond the Lucid Blue Sky", however, was nothing really to note. Just your standard anime ending song.
I missed the manga-drawn fight illustrations during fight scenes (which are abundant) that were fairly standard in Steel Angel Kurumi. Instead, it pauses on a particularly exciting cel of animation. I don't know, but I found the sudden flash to a manga picture of motionless action very pleasing, adding to my enjoyment of the fight, like the "Bam! Crash!" visual sound effects of the 60's Batman show. I also didn't like Kurumi's demon side materializing in the final episode as only flashing red eyes, not the impressive black wings and glowing eyes of the first series, but that's just an aesthetic complaint.
I wasn't joking about this being a Project A-ko tribute. Several scenes and situations are copied directly, including Kurumi carrying Nako to school, Uruka sending robots to fight with Kurumi in front of the school, and Uruka donning a barely-there battle suit to fight with Kurumi herself. Perhaps my opinion of Steel Angel Kurumi 2 was lowered due to the fact that I'm not a fan of Project A-ko.
The discs themselves were disappointing, particularly when compared to the plethora of extras included in the original five Steel Angel Kurumi discs. We get a clean opening and ending, the usual ADV previews, and an automated art gallery (I hate it not being able to manually flip between pictures). The menus were rather plain, and the music clip repeating over and over very annoying.
If you've seen and liked Steel Angel Kurumi, don't pick up the two volume Steel Angel Kurumi 2. However, if Steel Angel Kurumi Complete Collection costs less than buying the first series on five individual dvds... then I'd go for it. Just ignore the two discs in the back unless you are really, really bored. The plot is pretty much the same, and you will be bored to tears. Nako does become more assertive as the series goes on, but she is a poor substitute for Nakahito, Kurumi's original master. The animation quality is the same as the original, which makes this a good selection if you want a series that's short (10 minutes per episode) and only two discs, with pretty pictures and a mediocre story. In the end, Steel Angel Kurumi 2 fails as a sequel, but succeeds as a near-hentai collection of robot girls behaving... well, not as protectors of the world.