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16 home / october 2002 / reviews Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Saber Marionette: J to X Vol.3
Bilingual DVD
100 minutes
Bandai Entertainment
Akahori Satoru
The super-cute series takes a turn for the dire in this installment of Saber Marionette: J to X. Despite newfound crises, it remains as entertaining as before.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Saber Marionette: J to X Vol.3
By Patrick King

After a long weekend filled with an inordinate amount of strife, I was looking forward to nothing more than a good night's sleep. Yet, my duties as a reviewer called in the shape of a little DVD case with an alluring illustration of Bloodberry on the front, and I answered. I'm glad I did; the show lifted my spirits and helped put into perspective all the bizarre events I had to handle, giving me a legitimate excuse to laugh for an hour and fourty minutes.

This offshoot of Akahori Satoru's Saber Marionette J presents the continuing exploits of the inhabitants of Terra 2, and in particular those of Otaru and his three Marionettes, Cherry, Bloodberry, and Lime. It's a bit happier than the other Akahori creation I covered this month - Sorcerer Hunters - but no less engaging. The planet, Terra 2, was populated by a handful of all-male survivors on a spaceship that decided to clone themselves to keep the human race going. Unfortunately, their cloning skills were not able to successfully recreate women (perhaps ladies are more complex?) and so to fill in the void, they created the first Marionettes. Marionettes are fashioned in the form of women and, being robots, were used to perform all sorts of manual labor. However, a handful of Marionettes exist that actually have a soul, and the aforementioned Cherry, Bloodberry, and Lime are a part of that handful. Set in the aftermath of a terrible war, Saber Marionette: J to X focuses on the characters of these emotionally endowed Marionettes and how they deal with life. This series is certainly character-driven at its heart, but mixes the evolution of characters with a good amount of humor and drama as well as engaging science-fiction action.

This particular volume begins as Otaru vows to search for Lorelei, the only actual woman on the planet, who was abducted in the last episode. The threat of war is rising once again as shadowy characters from Otaru's past plot something nefarious and most likely dangerous to the state of peace Terra 2 has enjoyed for more than a year. One of the four episdes is more like the first 8 episodes of the series, though, focusing on a side-story that may just be the justification for the "X" in the title of the series...

Especially after feeling a bit down, I enjoyed the story very much. The antics of the Marionettes are still cute and amusing (even after 14 episodes), and their philosophical struggles kept me interested in what they were saying. This isn't really a show that will alter your life, but perhaps it will make you appreciate it more. There is a large focus on accepting one's life for what it is, for taking note of the smaller things in one's daily activities, and for accepting change when it occurs. It's simple stuff, but solid advice, nonetheless.

This is a very pretty show, and I tend to like Hotobuki Tsukasa's angular character designs. It's a matter of personal preference, however, since this show looks drastically different from its elder incarnations. When there is action, it's animated well enough and the backgrounds are typically attractive. I really enjoy the juxtaposition of classical Japanese culture (temples, small houses with sliding doors, horse-drawn carriages) with sci-fi (robots, odd technology, spaceflight), for it gives this series a feel unique from others. For the most part, Japoness (the main town in this series, as well as the origin of the "J" in the title) looks like late Tokugawa or early Meiji (after the Restoration) Japan. It's a time period that's always fun to see in action, and the addition of fantasy elements simply enhance it.

The music in the series is above average, but sadly there weren't any original songs (sung by Hayashibara Megumi, the voice of Lime) in this volume. There was more attention paid to the story than to the music within these four episodes. Sound effects are good, and in particular the mechanical squeaks of the Marionettes' joins make my ears happy. Stereo sound is employed effectively, though it isn't spectacular. Easily one of the best parts of this DVD, the Japanese voice actors and actresses are excellent. As mentioned, Hayashibara is at her highest level of naive cuteness. For a dramatic series, emotion is the key to getting viewers to care about the characters, and the original crew does just fine. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the dub isn't one of the best I've heard. I'm not sure if it's a case of WORDFIT gone wrong, bad direction, or unskilled voice actors (I'd lean toward the first more than anything), but this series loses a chunk of its charm in the English dub. Emotionally gripping lines are chopped up and slowed down to make sure the words match mouth movements, something I've never been concerned about. Small things are also lost in the translation (something the subtitles don't necessarily catch, either) such as the wide range of differing honorifics applied to various characters. In Japanese, Lime's character is revealed by her use of language (such as saying "Boku wa" or attaching -chan or -kun onto names as opposed to Cherry's far more deferential -sama), and that simply cannot be adequately displayed in English.

All in all, this is a very entertaining series consisting mostly of lighthearted prodding of the question, "Do Marionettes Dream of Electric Sheep?" There's an interesting interview with Kotobuki Tsukasa as well as a small photo gallery and a few previews on the disc as extras. This is not a bad amount of added material compared to other releases. The price is a little high (I found mine for $20, so I can't complain), but if you're looking for a cute series mixing historical Japan with the philosophical aspects of Blade Runner, this show is a safe bet to place. It certainly brightened my day.

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