Maiden Japan // 2008 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // October 9th, 2011
A detective noir with a heaping helping of anime sensibilities. That translates into a crossdressing underworld crime boss and a mad scientist making super weapons out of teenage girls.
Welcome to Rags Town, a low rent area of Diver City. Here, people come to be forgotten about and get pulled into a thriving underworld. Shu (Shinichiro Miki, Darker Than Black) is a private detective who specializes in finding hot babes and driving a killer car. He has all the connections in Rags Town and can dig up dirt on anyone, for the right price. Helping him out are the other members of the S&A Detective Agency. His little brother Akira (Yuji Ueda, Witch Hunter Robin) is the level headed center of the team. Then there's Manami (Satomi Arai, Lupin III: Angel Tactics), whose enthusiasm for the job is ten times greater then her skill. Finally, there is the shy and sad eyed Ayaka (Mikako Takahashi, Sacred Blacksmith) who is Manami's best friend. The team also has a canine mascot named Lil' Q.
One night, the local crime boss, a hulking man with a penchant for wearing dresses, hires Shu to pick up and protect a young lady. Through a series of dangerous misadventures, the woman ends up injured and Shu's car filled with bullet holes. This mysterious woman has no name, and is very ill. Manami names here Sara (Yu Kobayashi, Allison & Lillia). It becomes very obvious that Sara is connected a series of murders, where women are found completely turned into glass, after they spontaneously combust. With Sara showing symptoms of becoming a glass maiden herself, the team must decide: is it worth protecting Sara for the money, or is the deadly crew of female assassins going to make things too hot to handle in Rags Town?
Ah, anime. Never content to just tell a simple story, they have to throw in every trick in the book and several from out of it to create something completely bonkers. Such is the case with Glass Maiden also known as Crystal Blaze. It has all the elements of crime noir, a womanizing detective, the determined crime boss, the heartless assassin, the dogged reporter, and even the kid sidekick.
But then you get the whole sci-fi angle, with the women turning into glass, the mad scientist bent on creating the perfect weapon (who happens too look like a little girl), and whole doctor who has his nurse perform S&M games with him.
The result is a show that ranges from exciting and intense to intensely goofy. Shu is a darn cool character, but we end up knowing little about him. Most of the series is focused on where the glass maidens come from and the antics of Manami and Ayaka. This does two things. It keeps the series interesting by constantly shifting focus. But it also ends up with that odd tone disconnect. Some scenes go for over the top laughs others go from mystery and suspense.
We also get a lot of cliche anime moments and characters. Ayaka is that typical character that is melancholy and monotone and usually turns out to be a robot. The main villain is your typical cold, calm and cruel scientist type whose sociopathic devotion to his research overpower everything else. The end result is something that just doesn't quite click. Glass Maiden never becomes bad or uninteresting, but I wish they would have gone with a straighter story, fewer comedy characters, and a harder edge. Something closer to Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom in tone would have been more interesting.
The animation is solid with a pleasing character design and some interesting backgrounds and settings. Most of the action scenes are fluid and fast paced and there are plenty of them. Anyone looking for some fan service will be pleased to note that most of the glass maidens end up nude at some point. I also enjoyed the musical score by Ryo Sakai who worked some jazzy pieces in with the unnerving suspense and horror material.
Maiden Japan puts all 12 episodes on two discs. The 1.78:1 standard definition image is nice and clean with solid blacks and ample clarity. The Dolby 2.0 stereo Japanese mix balances the dialogue and the music just fine. No English dub here. The only extras are clean opening and ending credits.
I had a good time with Glass Maiden, but found the wildly shifting tone a bit annoying. I feel comfortable recommending it, as long as you know what you're in for.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Maiden Japan
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Open/Close
* Anime News Network Encyclopedia: Glass Maiden