Wookiee Hut Animated Series Reviews presents:
Steel Angel Kurumi
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo, VagBoy

Director: Naohito Takahashi

Screenplay: Naruhisa Arakawa

Creators: Kaishaku — Hitoshi Ota and Terumasa Shichinohe

Production: OLM, ADV Films

Rating: Imperial Star Destroyer (popular crowd pleaser)

Steel Angel Kurumi takes place during the short Taisho era (which is after Japan was introduced to "westernization" and unified but before integration of these very different worlds could be accomplished, and in the years which included WWI), when Japan was putting into motion and developing its Imperialistic military policies. It's a unique time when old and modern co-existed, and this is important to the plot ... but that's a spoiler, you should just trust us on this one.

Basic story: a brilliant scientist named Dr. Ayanokoji creates a new weapon for the Japanese Imperial Army with the assistance of his devoted and beautiful female co-worker, Dr. Anagi. The so-called "steel angel" is apparently indestructible, pleasing to the eye, is programmed to be absolutely obedient to the person who activates it. Ayanokoji runs away with the results of his experiments, for he despises the military's desire to use his invention as a weapon. To him, a Steel Angel has a soul; the more powerful they are, the more "human" they become. He intends for his creations to be used to benefit humanity, not to use them as weapons against it. He calls them steel angels because they are meant to fight evil, and they are metal androids with special hearts.

Alas for Ayanokoji, his work is too valuable to let him stay in hiding, but it appears more than the Imperial Army is after him and his angels. Before he is injured and snatched, his ultimate and strongest steel angel — code-named Kurumi — is "activated" by an accidental kiss with a 12-year-old mysticism priest-in-training: Nakahito is peering into the face of what he thought was a life-sized doll when an earth tremor makes her fall against him. Apparently, an old-world mystic — not electricity — is what is needed to actually activate this creature.

Kurumi is absolutely devoted to her young "master," ignoring the man who had created her, beating up on the boy's flustered brother (and anyone else who tries to separate her from her master), and throwing herself almost violently at Nakahito. She has pink hair, a fluffy weird maid's outfit, long legs, big boobs, and an exuberant personality. She also turns out to have "sisters" — other steel angels, built or designed by Ayanokoji, as well as those created by some mysterious others. These other angels are ordered to destroy Kurumi, for reasons she doesn't understand.

The series has a good story — the archetypal "power of love" thing — but is woven with comedy and period accuracy (other than the existence of the angels and their skimpy clothing, of course). It was interesting to see the cultural accuracy of the costumes, the sets, and situations — an unexpected "plus" of this animé series (makes it educational!).

The main angels: Kurumi is ditzy, yet obsessive, yet clueless. Saki, the second steel angel, is devoted, "nice," and long-suffering. The third angel, Karinka, is brash, girlish, mean, sassy. They are all sexy, dressed as they are in whatever men think are what women should wear ... including boob-enhancing maid outfits, strips of fabric, thigh-highs, stewardess, and waitress costumes. Being that they are androids, they have perfect bodies and superhuman abilities.

The 12-year-old Nakahito is overwhelmed by the attention paid to him by these hot, life-like robots; his brother — a fully accomplished mystic with Jedi-like skills — is good-naturedly envious. The older Kamahito DOES understand the significance of what has happened and accepts the angels into his formerly-quiet home. On request by Dr. Ayanokoji, he releases his brother into the care of the scientists responsible for the androids. Otherwise, the Imperial Army and others might do something awful to him, the angels, and to the world.

It sounds like a silly adolescent wetdream story, and there are certainly elements of that. The sexy dolls fight, fawn, get naked, take baths together, fall in love, have catfights, etc. But at the core is a strong tale about how love is the most powerful force in the universe. So it's violent, nude, sappy ... what's not to love about this tale?

The animation is high-quality, the English dub is actually very good (except for some of the "calm" voices, which are just boring) with good voice acting delivered by the cast. Of course, there are always "dubs suck" detractors, but the English language actors were directed well and caught the spirit of the script. There is also the "cute doll" animated versions of the characters whenever they are experiencing strong emotions — tiny doll versions, or when their heads bloat up to triple size when the scream in frustration, etc. There is a "mecha team" which is responsible for the animation of machines and the like (after all, the Taisho era is the machine age of Japan) and movements and sets are solid — not wobbly. You forget you are watching a cartoon; in fact, the cartoony bits enhance the story nicely.

While quality-wise in terms of plot, it's not quite on the level of other animés reviewed before, it's good fun and delves a bit into the possibility that machines can have souls and desire (investigated in many other animé). It's light entertainment and the drawing quality is excellent. In fact, we'd go so far as to say the illustrations are inspired by the work of Miyazaki, author of such works as Tonari no Totoru, Princess Mononoke, Panda, Go Panda, and Spirited Away. There is a beautiful luminescent watercolor quality about the backdrops.

There are 24 episodes, but they are half-length, so they don't take as long to view. Beware, however, that there is nudity, lots of violence, some blood, and a sort of pedophilic thing going on with poor Nakahito being pursued by half the female population, it seems ... But it's not really a big deal, since Nakahito is truly perplexed by all the attention and resists any efforts Kurumi and the other angels make to kiss him!

Also, remember that the Japanese and Europeans do not consider nudity in the same light the relatively prudish Americans do, and a scene with beautiful naked women bathing together or embracing or poking each other's boobs while discussing back pain does not carry the same "punch" in those places. Minor plots — an unrequited lesbian love thing and the unrequited love of Kurumi and Karinka and an army spy for the young Nakahito, or the unrequited love of the General or Kamahito for Karinka, etc. — merely serve as comedy vehicles. Really, it will only offend you if you're the type of person looking to be offended. That said, although it's bright and colorful and loud, it's not really for young kids. Oh, and there is strong language delivered by steel angel Karinka, who is pretty bitchy and has a heck of a potty mouth. Overall, it should be rated PG-13.

Like other Japanese animations, this animé uses drawn images to convey a story which would be too expensive or otherwise prohibitive (or even stupid) using live action plus special and visual effects. It makes this fluffy story much more charming and cute, too. The music is repetitive, bouncy, bubbly, and full of hooks to draw you in, but it's used well throughout the episodes. The scenery is really very beautiful — whether they are watching fireworks, standing under waterfalls, watching the ocean from a train window — and the characters are sympathetic.

The other reviewers consider one of us to be Karinka-like ... excuse me while that one person goes to kick some co-reviewer booty ...

Images from www.advfilms.com

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