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ADV Films presents

Princess Nine #4: Strike Zone (1998)

"This is only the first step for our baseball club. The real fight is from here on out."- Ryo Hayakawa (Miki Nagasawa)

Stars: Miki Nagasawa, Mami Kingetsu, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Sumi Shimamoto, Hilary Haag, Monica Rial, Vic Mignogna, Kelly Manison
Other Stars: Taketo Koyasu, Tetsuya Iwanaga, Yasutsugu Ishii, Akiko Yajima, Kyouko Hikami, Naomi Nagasawa, Ayako Kawasumi, Rumi Kasahara, Kokoro Shindou, Mayumi Iizuka, Taeko Kawada, Chris Patton, Christine M. Auten, Andy McAvin, Tiffany Grant, Shelly Calene-Black, Cynthia Martinez, Kira, Kelly Cousins, Jennifer K. Earhart
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (12+ for mature situations)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: 2002-05-28
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+A- C+


DVD Review

The fourth disc in Tomimo Mochizuki's Princess Nine series contains another four episodes of this enjoyable baseball anime. A team of young girls face the challenge of breaking into the male only baseball league, with their sights set on the ultimate privilege, playing in the national championships at Koshien.

The road thus far hasn't been easy, as there is strong opposition from all sides. The league wants nothing to do with girls in baseball, and even the Kisaragi Women's Senior High School principal objects to the idea. It has been the singular determination of Keiko Himuro, the school chairman, and the band of young women whose dreams she has inspired that has gotten them the opportunity to prove themselves in a national televised exhibition game against an experienced boy's team, and when we last left them, things were not going very well.

The first episode picks up from the previous cliffhanger by playing out the remainder of game, which for the sake of spoilers, is all that will be said about that. The media attention the event spawned will be the next hurdle the girls will face, as its effects will threaten to tear the team apart. For Yoko, this has been her chance to gain the spotlight she had been after, so when she is scouted by a talent agent, she is off in another world (as if she wasn't already). Kanako is under house arrest for her part on the team, after her father learns of her participation.

Meanwhile, a long time baseball journalist begins digging into the star pitcher's background, uncovering a major scandal that forced her father out of the professional league. This discovery sparks an uproar from the student body who want the girls expelled, and the Parent Teacher's Association want the team shut down. With this news of her father, Ryo is sent into a world of confusion, not knowing what to believe, and fearing that her presence is jeopardizing the team's future. At the same time, Izumi, having been defeated by this girl, is enraged that her bitter rival may not stand up to the heat being placed on her, which would cause Izumi further humiliation. When Ryo vanishes in search of answers, she has no idea what lies in store for her or her teammates, which may be life or death fight, more than she ever imagined possible.

From a visual aspect, Princess Nine has a bold, identifiable look in its character design. While having its own style, the animation quality isn't as elaborate or as full of eye candy as some other shows. The real heart of this series lies in its characters and compelling storyline. As the personal side of things come into play, there is a lot more going on in terms of character development throughout these episodes. Drama on and off the field is tense, leading to a succession of cliffhangers concluding each installment. While perhaps not as nail-biting as some previous discs, it fleshes out of personalities, and adds more depth to their histories, which keeps the enjoyment level even. With only a pair of discs left to complete the series, I'm looking forward to seeing how this all turns out, and what further obstacles the girls have to overcome to fulfill their destiny.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is on par with previous discs. Colors are strong, black levels solid. There is some rainbowing in places, and the ringing on outlines that has been present since the first disc remains. Aliasing is moderate, but doesn't detract from an otherwise nice-looking disc.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio remains strong, if not overly flashy. Both Japanese and English tracks are comparable from a technical standpoint, with good definition and moderate use of directionality. Dialogue is clearly discernable, and no detrimental artifacts were noted.

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 Robotech, Orphen, Power Stone, Soul Hunter, Evangelion and Dai-Guard
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Clean opening and closing credits
  2. Voice actress profiles
  3. Princess Nine karaoke
Extras Review: Once again the menus are themed nicely to the show, and the extras have a few fun features.

Leading off at bat are karaoke versions of the show's two theme songs, allowing either a singalong with Japanese vocals or music only tracks (with harmony vocals) for that true karaoke experience. Romaji lyrics are accompanied by a cute bouncing baseball, though I found this to lag behind the actual singing. English translated subtitles are simultaneously presented.

Up next are more voice actor profiles for the cast. Included here are English actors Kika (Koharu), Tiffany Grant (Yoko), Shelley Calene-Black (Mao), Aninda Praptiningtyas (making her VA debut as Kanako), Monica Rial (Izumi). Third to the plate are similar profiles, unfortunately with no photographs, for the corresponding Japanese actors; Akiko Yajima (Koharu), Mayumi Izuka (Yoko), Kokaru Shindo (Mao), Rumi Kasahara (Kanako) and Mami Kingetsu (Izumi). The information available varies from actor to actor, but includes a variety of trivia from astrological signs to favorite foods.

Clean opening and closing credits bat clean up.

Rounding the bases ad taking us home are ADV previews for Robotech, Orphen, Power Stone, Soul Hunter, Evangelion and Dai-Guard.

The disc has a "play all" feature, or the individual episodes can be accessed. While not available from the menu, each episode has 5 internal chapter stops at the expected locations.

Extras Grade: C+

Final Comments

Princess Nine continues to be an enjoyable series, full of great drama, and strongly defined characters. This collection provides more background on the players, with less emphasis on field play. Thankfully, there isn't a huge cliffhanger at the end like the last disc. Highly recommended.

Jeff Ulmer 2002-09-19