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ADV Films presents
Princess Nine #1: First Inning (1998)

"That girl is going to pitch? The Wildcats must be out of their mind!"
- Dolphins

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: October 23, 2001

Stars: Miki Nagasawa, Mami Kingetsu, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Sumi Shimamoto
Other Stars: Taketo Koyasu, Tetsuya Iwanaga, Yasutsugu Ishii, Akiko Yajima, Kyouko Hikami, Naomi Nagasawa, Ayako Kawasumi, Rumi Kasahara, Kokoro Shindou, Mayumi Iizuka, Taeko Kawada
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (12+ for adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:05m:32s
Release Date: October 23, 2001
UPC: 702727006920
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Batter up! It's a double header as ADV steps up to the plate for their first foray into the world of shoujo (girl's) anime with the release of Tomimo Mochizuki's Princess Nine, based on an original story by Kensei Date. It also marks ADV's first sports-themed anime, and one of few to be distributed in North America, despite the popularity of others like the Battle Athletes OVA and its spinoff TV series, Battle Athletes Victory. Originally airing in Japan from April to October, 1998, this 26-episode series centers on the world of girl's baseball, giving it a refreshing atmosphere from the world of transforming robots and morphing monsters prevalent in shonen (boy's) anime. While battles are still being waged on an emotional and competitive level, their nonviolent nature is a welcome change.

Keiko Himuro (Yoshiko Sakakibara), is chairman of the Kisaragi Women's Senior High School, and president of the multi-billion yen Himuro corporation, which sponsors a professional baseball team. Despite the sport being restricted to males, she has dreams of creating an all-girl baseball team and taking them to the national high school tournament at Koshien stadium. Her inspiration is Ryo Hayakawa, the 15-year-old daughter of a famous baseball legend, who has inherited her father's natural pitching ability. Ryo's only memories of her father are of him teaching her baseball, and since his death when she was young, she and her mother Shino (Sumi Shimamoto) have lived in their oden restaurant, but their income isn't sufficient to send Ryo to high school. Although she wants to help her mother run the shop, Kieko's offer of a baseball scholarship to the prestigious girl's school is an opportunity Ryo can't pass up.

Kieko's own daughter, Izumi (Mami Kingetsu), a champion tennis player, also lost her father at an early age, and despite her success, often feels neglected by her mother, especially when she hears the announcement about creating a girl's baseball team from the press. To make matters worse, when Ryo shows up at the high school for a scholarship interview, Izumi's long time friend—and star batter of the Kisaragi boy's school—Hiroki Takasugi (Takehito Koyasu) appears to be emfatuated with the new arrival, a fact Ryo seems oblivious to.

With her pitcher in place, Kieko has the daunting task of filling the other eight positions necessary for her team, and enlists her new coach, an alcohol-permeated, former star catcher, Shinsaku Kido (Yasutsugu Ishii), to scout recruits. Each new member acquisition presents a new challenge, one that is matched in the baseball organization's refusal to allow a female team into the league.

Princess Nine capitalizes on the natural drama and excitement offered by sports, and the rivalry that ensues. With these opening episodes there is much groundwork laid for a very fun series, as the competition, both on and off the diamond, is established. We have our primary love triangle in place, and potential for some interesting character conflicts as a result. The pacing is gradual, with well placed cliff-hangers between episodes. Though I doubt very much the eventual outcome of this series is in question, the road to the tournament promises to be one of adversity and eventual triumph, with many humorous sidelines along the way.

One other interesting note with this series are the eyecatches, which normally aren't worthy of mention. However, Princes Nine uses these commercial breaks to feature the characters in super deformed mode, with a listing of their statistics and personal information. At this point in the show, they are a bit spoiler-ish, as they contain characters not yet seen in the series, but will be worthy of a revisit once we get deeper in. You'll need the pause button to actually read everything contained in these brief interludes, however.

Thankfully, ADV abandoned their original concept of releasing Princess Nine as a nine-disc set (one for each inning); instead, this looks to be a six disc release in total. I thoroughly enjoyed this first entry, and am anxious to see more. This looks like a home run.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a very nice looking picture, colors are strong, as are black levels. However, there is a fair degree of aliasing and interlace artifacting present. There is also something I hope we don't start seeing more of in anime: a small amount of edge enhancement-induced ringing, present throughout. I only noticed a few generally insignificant rainbows.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: A pleasing Japanese stereo soundtrack, with some directionality at appropriate moments. The score is nicely mixed, leaving dialogue clearly framed. No defects to report here. An English dub is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Nadia Of Blue Water, Queen Emeraldas, Reboot, Martian Successor Nadesico, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Ruin Explorers.
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Textless opening and closing credits
  2. Player statistics
Extras Review: While there are some goodies in the dugout, the bases aren't fully loaded here. Leading off are textless opening and end credits, which are always nice to have (though don't need repeating on every disc in the series!). You will want to make a short stop for the player statistics, which mimic, though don't fully replicate, the eyecatches, as the animations are much reduced in size. However, you may not want to strike at these until more discs are out.

Rounding out the play are six more trailers for other ADV titles: Nadia Of Blue Water, Queen Emeraldas, Reboot, Martian Successor Nadesico, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 and Ruin Explorers.

The disc opens with a short video segment set to the theme, and transitions feature short, appropriately themed animations.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Swing, batter, swing! Princess Nine promises to be a fun baseball adventure, as the challenges of breaking an all girl team into the exclusively male finals unfolds. A nice assortment of unique characters, interplayer rivalry, and the inherant trials and tribulations of sports combine to make this a worthwhile viewing experience. If you're looking for anime with a different swing to it, step up to the plate and take Princess Nine for a run around the diamond. Recommended!


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