ADV Films // 2001 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // February 17th, 2005
Thirteen girls on a mysterious island...what's a guy to do?
Wataru, the hero of our story, is a middle school student with a comfortable, average existence. That is, until the day when a strange computer glitch causes him to fail his high school entrance exam, leaving him without future school prospects. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) his butler, Jeeves, sends him off to a remote island and a school that will take him in. The island itself is a theme park that hasn't opened yet, called Promised Island. If that isn't weird enough, the island ferry boat operator looks just like Jeeves, if Jeeves suddenly gave up his suit for a fisherman's tank top and shorts and began smoking. Then Wataru meets two fellow students on the ride over -- one of them seems to be on some sort of secret mission to follow and catalog his movements, and the other is a self-obsessed weirdo with a fixation on vintage anime.
In the words of Wataru, "It can't be true!"
Things get stranger (no, really) after Wataru makes landfall and meets a series of cute, curiously friendly girls. He loses his dopey glasses (which he doesn't seem to need) and has to get some new, chic clothing due to a spill in the water (convenient!). Fortunately, a particularly fashion-conscious girl offers to help him out. Then he goes to the local real estate office to rent an apartment and is helped by a man who looks stunningly like Jeeves, if Jeeves only dyed his hair and became a realtor. In a daze, he checks out his new digs and finds none other than the anime-loving weirdo. Oops, the realtor double-booked, and it turns out the only place left is a gigantic, but possibly haunted, residence on the edge of the island. Joy! No sooner does this happen than several girls pile into his place, all claiming to be his sister.
It is necessary to explain all this so that you'll understand what comes next: Instead of calmly (or possibly hysterically) calling the authorities and bugging the heck off the island like any sane person would do, he just accepts that he now lives in a house with several other girls who are his siblings. This is most likely due to being insane after being exposed to several brain-nuking experiences and unbelievable events. The insanity is no doubt aggravated by a thorough hormone befuddling courtesy of the cuties who turn out to be siblings. Sexy siblings. No, no! Bad Wataru! Sisters. No touching.
It goes without saying that, before sitting down to watch Sister Princess, it would have helped to know that it was based not only on a popular manga series (in which the hero has several sisters who write him letters, possibly explaining the "Letter from Karen" insert with this DVD) but also on an equally popular video game. Thus, before the anime came out, the world of Sister Princess was fairly well known to its potential Japanese audience. Although the anime does not follow the same story as the video game, it has the same characters and the same personalities, so the opening episodes to this series suffer from a lack of coherency that will (at best) confuse the viewer or (at worst) put them off entirely. For added confusion, there's a second series called Sister Princess: RePure that does, in fact, follow the video game story and bears no resemblance to the first series. Feeling crazy yet? Now imagine several cute girls giving you fashion advice and buying you new watches, and you'll know just how poor Wataru felt.
All of his sisters, who are revealed in small groups over the first volume of episodes, have been waiting for the day when Wataru would join them. They seem very familiar with him, as well, as if they know all about him, which gives him the willies since he doesn't know them at all. Certain girls, like Karen and Hinako, are more conversational than others. They all have different ways of addressing Wataru, varying in levels of formality (probably the funniest is "bro-bro," and I have to admit I am partial to this due to the über-cute voice of ADV voice actress Serena Varghese, who also appears in the voice actor featurette), and they all want to contribute something to his well-being, which of course ends up driving him to the point of almost fleeing the island. However, something always makes him stay, such as vulnerable young Hinako, who spends an entire episode searching for a stuffed bear she saw only in a dream.
I wish I could tell you that if you stick with the disorienting first couple of episodes you'll get a gem of an anime that is delightful and unique, but this is not the case. The story of a lone brother suddenly having a gaggle of sisters show up on his doorstep is well-traveled anime territory, as fans of Love Hina will agree. Sister Princess is just as weird (although in a different way), just as potentially overwhelming, just as creepily suggestive of incestuous intent. There's a weird mystery to solve, though (what caused that weird computer glitch, and how did he end up on Promise Island?), and spotting the many incarnations of Jeeves (who insists that every person has at least twelve people in the world who look like them) is amusing.
Basically, cross-genre fans and anyone who liked Love Hina will probably get a kick out of this show. Cross-genre fans will enjoy seeing the parallels between manga, video game, and series (there are some, mostly in personality traits, situations, and certain never-explained supernatural abilities of the sisters), and Love Hina fans will enjoy a different take on the "boy meets sisters, boy wigs out, boy accepts situation without a peep" angle. The aforementioned sweetness is also a draw to this title -- the sisters genuinely adore their big brother, and he begins to warm to them through a series of events that bring out his familial tendencies. Seeing them fuss and coo over him is amusing and cute, as well.
On a personal level, I just want to know what the heck is going on. What's with Jeeves? What is the story with the anime weirdo? How does Akio (Wataru's best friend) fit into the picture? Will the chick spying on him ever reveal her employer? Why won't he leave the island? Are the people in town merely paid extras, put there for show? Is all of this really some sort of purgatory that he is in after having died of a heart attack upon seeing the failing grade on his entrance exam? The list goes on.
As this is a recent series, the video and audio quality for the DVD transfer is about as good as it gets. Deep colors and a clear, defect-free picture show off the pretty animation. Since they are on an island, there are lots of bright colors and sparkling water scenes for eye candy. Sound is also vibrant and active, making use of multiple channels for character voices and some ambient noise. The 5.1 English track is a bit more robust and crisp than its 2.0 Japanese-language counterpart, but both are nice and clear. The reversible cover will be a treat for fans of original packaging, as it features the Japanese title card (with the "Angel 01" subtitle) and a large picture of Karen. The box is clear, so the reversible cover also makes an attractive backing, and has two character bios.
As for other extras, the "Letter from Karen" is an attractive insert that seems to be a holdover from the manga series, in which the sisters wrote to their brother. The featurette with the English voice actors is slick and interesting mostly because you get to see their faces and hear them go into character. Serena Varghese (Hinako), Hilary Haag (Karen), and Braden Hunt (Wataru) all participate. It's nice to put faces to voices if you know their other work. For instance, I really enjoyed Haag's characterization of Nene in Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, and connecting Braden with the voice of Cho Hakkai from Saiyuki was interesting.
In summary, approach this title knowing all the facts in order to maximize viewing pleasure, not to mention understanding. Although it gets off to a rocky start, things do even out and start making a weird sort of sense around episode three or four, at which point things settle into a familiar groove as the sisters devote every waking moment to the happiness of brother -- even the eccentric inventor sister, who constantly asks him for research grants. Sorry, you'll just have to watch for the story behind that one.
Review content copyright © 2005 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (signs only)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Letter from Karen" (Insert)
* Character Bios (Karen and Hinako)
* Reversible Cover
* English Cast Interviews (Hinako, Karen, Wataru)
* Clean Opening and Ending Animation
* Production Sketches
* TV Tome