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ADV Films presents
Steel Angel Kurumi #1: Angel On My Shoulder (2002)

"I can't have things like this keep on happening."
- Nakahito (Houko Kuwashima)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: May 21, 2002

Stars: Atsuko Enomoto, HoukoKuwashima, Rie Tanaka, Tamio Ohki, Kelli Cousins, Kira Vincent-Davis, Monica Rial, Shelly Calene-Black
Other Stars: Tomomichi Nishimura, Ai Orikasa, Yasunori Matsumoto, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Tomoko Kawakami, Michiko Neya, David Matranga, John Swasey, Andy McAvin, Christine Auten, Emily Carter, Claudia Black
Director: Naohito Takahashi

Manufacturer: JVC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (17+ for violence, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:26m:18s
Release Date: May 21, 2002
UPC: 702727012228
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Please sit back from your monitor. ADV brings the first of four discs for the Steel Angel Kurumi (Koutetsu Tenshi Kurumi) TV series, which was originally broadcast in 1999, and consists of twenty-four, 15-minute episodes in total. Set during the Taisho Era (1912-1926 AD) in Japan, the show is based on the original manga by Kaishuka. For those who enjoy fanservice-laced relationship comedies with a sci-fi edge, Steel Angel Kurumi is one to take a look at.

Nakahito Kagura is a shy, 11-year-old boy, in training as an Onmyou priest. When his so-called friends bully him into sneaking into the house of a reported mad scientist, he stumbles across a military secret being developed by Dr. Ayanokoji, a former army member who took his research into androids out of government hands. The doctor has created the Steel Angels, incredibly powerful robots who can easily handle the most formidable opponents, even whole armies. Their power makes them a perfect weapon for those with nefarious plans, something Ayanokoji wants to avoid at all costs. The androids, fashioned to look like gorgeous young women, require a special mystical energy to bring them to life. Unfortunately, the doctor didn't forsee young Nakahito being able to awaken his angel Kurumi with an accidental kiss—which also means he is now Kurumi's one and only master. Nakahito doesn't know how to handle the situation, and isn't used to having such a bouncy young woman showering him with affection. Ayanokoji isn't thrilled with the idea either, especially since he was grooming Nakahito's older brother to energize his creations.

Meanwhile, the military, headed by lustful General and his accomplice Dr. Amagi, are trying to recapture the technology behind the Steel Angels. After destroying Ayanokoji's laboratory, they acquire a second Steel Angel that they manage to bring to life on their own, since she is their only hope of defeating Kurumi. However, as is often the case, things don't turn out quite as expected.

Steel Angel Kurumi has a lot of things going for it. The look is terrific, with a quality that is well above standard TV series. The characters are adorable and extremely funny, and the show's use of super deformed segments highlight the comedy, while darker moments are presented in a stylized, still frame, comic book fashion. The relationships are central to the series, and are set up nicely. Kurumi's dedication to Nakahito leads to numerous embarrassing moments for the young boy, and when another Steel Angel makes the scene, things get even more interesting. The story is progressing at a good pace, with each new development increasing the complexity. The setting also makes things interesting, as the newly westernized Japan is evidenced in the costuming seen throughout the show. The episodes breeze by pretty quickly, and their short running time doesn't allow for a lot of filler. This is great fun so far.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Colors are strong and vibrant, black levels are solid. There is some minor aliasing, some occasional rainbow artifacting, and dot crawl in a couple of places, but nothing too glaring. This is a very nice looking series, and comes out quite well here.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Japanese and English dub tracks are available in stereo. The soundfield is well utilized, with good use of the extremes, but dialogue is kept fairly anchored to the center. Both tracks have good frequency range, though neither have extreme low-end content, but are nicely mixed to keep dialogue easy to discern, with no excess sibilance or harshness. Sounds good desu.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Excel Saga, Sakura Diaries, Dirty Pair Flash: Random Angels, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, Princess Nine, Burn Up Excess
1 Documentaries
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Behind the scenes: Conversing with Angels, Part 1
  2. Historical background
  3. Translator notes
  4. Clean opening animation
  5. Fortune teller game
Extras Review: ADV continues to push the envelope with their menu design, which is exceptional on this release, and with the extras collection found here. Conversing with Angels, Part 1, a32m:06s behind-the-scenes featurette, is highlighted by interviews with ADR writer/director Steven Foster and English dub actresses Kelli Cousins, Monica Rial, Hilary Haag, Kira Vincent-Davis, and Claudia Black (Farscape), who talk about their roles and the job of voice acting. This is a great addition, and one I hope we see more, even for those like myself who aren't dub watchers.

Each episode is preceded by a preview, but as a bonus, there are extended versions collected here. The running gag with these is the instruction to keep a safe distance from the TV, which is taken to new lengths in these segments.

Clean animation is available for the show's opening, as is an image gallery with production artwork.

An essay dealing with some of the English translation issues covers some of the unique challenges to this series, such as Kurumi's constant use of the suffix -desu.

An historical overview of the Taisho Era when the story takes place is included, along with some background info on the Onmyou Tradition, and how it applies to the story.

DVD-ROM content includes a PDF file with a Kurumi fortune-teller game, also seen on the inset card.

Previews for Excel Saga, Sakura Diaries, Dirty Pair Flash: Random Angels, Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, Princess Nine and Burn Up Excess complete the set.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Humorous and charming, those who enjoy the likes of Hand Maid May will find another great adventure here. A strong premise, good story, likeable characters, and a fun animation style combine in this collection of half episodes to start off the series. The theme is also a nice sing-a-long. Steel Angel Kurumi is wonderfuru.


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