It’s been a long time since humanity unlocked the barrier between us and the infinite cosmos, truly becoming a member of the interstellar community… Hell, you know it’s been a long time when aliens have even become commonplace in a racially exclusive country like Japan… And they’ve become such a normal part of our everyday lives that nobody questions the slug monster sitting in the seat in the back by the window, just waiting to star in his own anime. But this story isn’t about that slug, it’s about the far more human looking aliens from the planet Valhalla. There are eight princesses on Valhalla, each more beautiful than the last… But none of them are more fair, or more elegant, than the blonde bombshell Valkyrie. And thus, none of them are more suitable for political marriage.
With her long, loving link to one loser of a lothario looming in the immediate future, Valkyrie jumps ship, and then crashes that ship into the planet of Earth… Whereupon her reckless flying has cost the life of one Japanese youth with a bathhouse to run and what should have been a long, happy life to run it. Feeling guilty for her actions, Valkyrie gives the young man half of her soul, resurrecting him as good as new… although, due to her own sacrifice, she’s reverted back to a loud-mouthed brat of a toddler! With the two of them now bound together by a promise much stronger than the red thread of fate, will their newfound romance survive in the face of… Wait, romance? How the hell did they get a romance out of that? Screw this, plot summary over.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyire was produced by Media Factory Inc. from 2002 to 2004, around the same time that they did such great looking gems as Ikki Tousen and Green Green. Yes, this was indeed a dark time for them. This company HAS produced some great looking shows in both it’s earlier and later years, but the early 2000’s saw Media Factory release some of the cheapest, ugliest looking anime I’ve ever seen, and while Valkyrie’s not even the worst one, it was produced by a company that, at the time, was pumping out consistent crap, a load from which it was no exception.
To be fair, there are a few impressive looking scenes in this show. There’s an early scene that features Valkyrie in both child and adult forms dancing in the rain that’s actually kind of beautiful in it’s simplicity. The transformation scenes, while kind of creepy, are also well done. But shots like these are few and far between, as the rest of the show just looks awful. I’ve complained about characters being frozen in the background before, but most shows have the brains to put those frozen characters in positions where they’re standing still looking at either each other or the main characters. In Valkyrie, extras are frozen all over the place, sometimes in situations where it would be physically impossible to stand perfectly still, like in the pool.
Action on screen in minimal, and what action we do get is often repeated shot for shot as recycled stock footage, and I’m not just talking about the transformations. For the most part, the art is just as bad, with characters constantly off-model, moving in unnatural ways through even less natural spurts of activity. Their designs are generic and bland looking, at least in terms of the human characters. The aliens actually do look quite inspired and creative, especially with the awesome designs of the princesses of Valhalla, despite obvious resemblances to Ah My Goddess. Yes, I noticed.. There is some creativity here, though… This is a world where giant bananas walk around with legs, and quite frankly, Space Dandy would have a field day here.
The music, on the other hand, is fine. It’s not great, but it’s also makes for a pretty pleasant listen out of context. The variety of beautiful harp and rock-orchestral background tracks work really well with what little material the show gave them, and it was even pretty damn clever how many different versions of the tune Ride of the Valkyries you can spot. The one they used as the theme for Child Valkyrie is, on it’s own, a lot funnier than the character it was assigned to. The opening and closing, unfortunately, are nowhere near as impressive. I don’t hate either of them, there’s really nothing substantial about them to justify more than a couple of watches before just skipping them outright. I think the biggest problem either one has, despite the catchiness of Itoshi Kakera and the decent groove of Save, is the metallic sound quality applied to both vocalists, which just gave me headaches every time I listened to them.
The English dub was a decent enough effort by ADV Films, and god bless these actors, they were really trying to make their characters work. well, most of them were… I have no idea what Cynthia Martinez was doing, other than overacting and trying to project as much emotion as she possibly could. Greg Ayres was surprisingly boring in the lead male role of Kazuto, especially considering what he’s been proven to be capable of in other shows. I honestly blame bad direction for that one. Monica rial varies up her delivery a little bit, but it’s still a cookie-cutter performance from her.
I used to be a huge fan of Kira Vincent Davis back in the early 2000’s, back when she was still active and did more roles than just Strike Witches reprisals. She plays dual roles in this show, both the adult and… Ahem, child form of her title character, but her performance falls far short of what she was able to pull off in Elfen Lied. She plays the roles as they’re written… Boring in her adult form, and nightmarishly obnoxious in child form, which is pretty much on par with the standard the legendary Megumi Ogata set in the Japanese track. I can SAY that a better actor could have made the character in both forms sound more interesting, but if somebody like Ogata couldn’t do it, then I guess Davis did a serviceable enough job.
On the other hand, there were a few performances I genuinely did enjoy. I’ve made fun of Nancy Novotny in the past… And after Elfen Lied, she deserves it in endless portions… But she is awesome in the role of the cantankerous Princess Hydra, and the best part is that she even manages to make her character’s child form sound a lot more tolerable than Valkyrie’s. Some of the only laughs I got from this series were from Christine Auten’s over-the-top turn as Miss Sanada, an obsessive, single-minded maid who has devoted her entire life to serving Valkyrie, especially now that she finds her highness’s child form so damn cute. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that, since she’s kind of a terrible character, but we’ll get to that later. Chris Patton is also on point and very funny as Valkyrie’s louse of a fiance, Prince Triam.
I’d say what’s most impressive about this dub are the in-universe songs, all of which were translated into English. It’s no Beck, by any means, but whoever was in charge of writing these deserves to be commended for their effort. The director involved also did a great job on these, as they got one hell of an awesomely bad recording of Cynthia Martinez rocking out like there was nobody in the room but her bathroom mirror, which… Believe it or not… Was the original intention. The catgirl songs led by Miss Sanada were also really funny, despite the troubling implications behind them. There weren’t a lot of huge changes to the script… The company was still a few years off from Ghost Stories starting that unfortunate trend… But it’s still pretty impressive. I would personally recommend the Japanese, but if you’re a fervent dub fan, this one is pretty good.
Now, having read my thoughts on the English dub, you may have come to the conclusion that I don’t like the two main characters of this series very much. well, you wouldn’t be wrong. There are just over a dozen regular or prominent characters in this particular season, and I like a grand total of four of them… One of which, surprise surprise, is actually in the main cast. But getting back to Kazuto and Valkyrie, well, they don’t have a single interesting quality between them. Adult Valkyrie does get some explanation of her personality, insofar as the fact that she bottles up her emotions and pretends to be strong, but that really only comes through in the first episode. We barely get to see her as an adult, and as a child, she’s just an insufferable whiny little brat who abuses her alien dog, throws tantrums, breaks things, and says creepy things about her relationship with Kazuto that seem specifically designed to be taken the wrong way.
And as for her knight in yawning armor, Kazuto falls into a very special category for me. A seriouis pet peeve of mine is when the main character of a story has only one goal: to preserve the status quo. I want my protagonists to want something, whether it be love, status, or something they don’t yet realize they don’t need. Kazuto owns his bath house, and he wants to serve his community with it, and… Nothing. The only conflict he ever faces is the possibility of change, which, thanks to constant coincidences, never truly occurs in ways he can’t handle. New characters appear, shit gets wrecked, and weird things happen to his friends, but as long as his own personal routine isn’t changed, he’s a fairly inactive character.
Their relationship, too, is extremely troubling in the message that I sincerely hope I’m misreading… Kazuto and Valkyrie are in love, despite having nothing in common, no chemistry and him showing no affection whatsoever towards her, and in order to turn her into a much more mature and voluptuous adult, all they have to do is share a magical kiss. So, if I’m reading between the lines properly, This series is trying to tell us that all it takes to turn a little girl into an adult woman is some intimate contact. sounds kind of pedophilic to me. All things considered, I should be rooting for the underdog, Kazuto’s childhood friend Akina… Because let’s just be honest, the childhood friend is always the underdog in these shows… But Akina’s only personality trait IS her unrequited love for Kazuto.
As much as I loved Christine Auten’s acting, and as funny as Miss Sanada’s obsession over Valkyrie’s well-being may be, I just can’t over the fact that she is a literal slave driver. The first thing she does after landing on Earth is take out a transform an entire legion of unassuming teenage girls into cat girl, complete with ears, a tail, and a complete brainwash to go with them. She turns them into slaves whose only purpose in life is to serve their extraterrestrial leader without question and likely without payment. I can’t laugh at this without wondering how their families are being affected by it. Also, I like the fact that Kazuto’s sister is an over-achiever who tries to manage money to make up for her brother’s sinking of their finances into the bathhouse, and there was some potential for depth with her attempt at having a modicum of a social life, but the series did absolutely nothing with it!
So who were the four characters I liked? Well, the most important one was Princess Hydra, the blue-haired fireball who came after Valkyrie when the marriage duty was shifted onto her shoulders instead. She was turned into a child herself, and from there, she became one of the only characters in the show who had the audacity to call little Valkyrie on her behavior… And since she’s the only one who’s not in love with Kazuto, she’s the only one who’s able to antagonize her without an ulterior motive. She’s a lot more entertaining than Valkyrie, in the same way that Donald Duck is more entertaining than Mickey Mouse… Yes, the latter may be the star and icon of the series, but the former actually faces consequences and does amusing things.
Even on a less comedic note, while Valkyrie may say that she was tired of facing the stress and expectations of royal life, it’s a lot more subtle in Hydra’s case, as soon after being turned into a kid, she calms down and accepts it, developing a love-hate sort of sisterly relationship with Akina. As for the other three? I’m talking about Marduke, Spottenheim, and Mur, the three little white aliens that I’ve taken to calling The Three Marshkateers. As soon as I heard that they had a backstory that extended back to some intergalactic war that the three of them were notoriously a part of, I instantly wished I could have seen a spin-off OVA series about them, instead of the piece of shit they were introduced in.
In any case, let’s get back to my problems with Kazuto and Valkyrie. Because really, the setting and concept aren’t horrible… The characters really do comprise at least 80 percent of my beef with this show. If the pedophilic relationship between them and Kazuto’s refusal to accept change weren’t bad enough, both of these elements are cranked up to the extreme as this season builds up to it’s climax. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but… No, you know what? I don’t care if I spoil it. I’ll spoil, at least, the penultimate episode. Not how it ends, but how that ending is set up. If that’s still too much for you, skip the next paragraph.
While Miss Sanada is making some purchases online, Valkyrie screws around with her laptop and accidentally orders an asteroid. In their attempts to return it, they find out that there’s a hot spring inside, so they open a hot spring on the asteroid, drumming up brand new business! But here’s the problem… The bath water has unexpected healing properties that are giving her her soul back! And while the rest of the cast struggle to accept this as the good thing that it is, they can’t lie to themselves. If Valkyrie turns back into an adult permanently, their relationship will stop being a pedophilic, passionless, chemistry-free romance based entirely on guilt over a manslaughter, and they’ll have to carry on as actual adults without supernatural obligations to each other. This is about the part when my bemusement at how stupid the series was turned into raw anger. Yes, I know harem shows like to be as chaste and asexual as possible while shoving fanservice in our faces, but this is a depth I wasn’t expecting them to stoop to. I won’t tell you how this conflict is resolved, but it does in fact involve random convenient coincidences. Because of course it does.
Now, hopefully, I’ve already turned a good amount of you off from ever watching this show, but there’s still one group that I know I haven’t reached yet… The booby hunters. Yes, fanservice is abound in the anime medium, but explicit fanservice… AKA, nudity with actual female nipples… Isn’t that easy to find outside of hentai. Well, anybody who came into this show through ADV’s advertisements know they were promised lots of naked girls, and if that’s really enough to make a series worthwhile to you, then yes, you’ll find that here. You can find it in bucket loads… Provided that you don’t mind naked little kids, badly drawn characters, and constantly recycled animation of random bathing girls with horns on their heads. Oh, also? I know the nipples are going to be a big draw for this group of viewers, so let me clarify something else… There is never any variation in skin tone between areola and breast, making the actual detail you were looking for extremely hard to make out in several scenes.
In the time that I’ve been reviewing anime, I’ve often heard people telling me that I’m too hard on the medium, and that I take it too seriously. When I bring up problems, I’m told that I’m nitpicking, and that of course I won’t enjoy a show while I’m taking a negative attitude into it. When I watch a harem show like this, or Haganai, or Girls Bravo, I’m not supposed to focus on the fact that a creepy woman is filming kids in the changing room, or that she’s basically producing child porn, or that the manager readily accepts her offering of a bribe. I’m supposed to laugh at how silly the situation is. In regards to Kazuto and Valkyrie’s relationship, I’m not supposed to pay any attention to the fact that she fled one forced marriage just to fall head over heels for her own reckless driving victim, or that she’s traded one forced loveless romance for another, or that anybody she landed on could have reasonably taken the brunt of her affections… I’m just supposed to root for them because they’re the main couple.
Well, I’m sorry it looks like I take my anime seriously… But I do. I have standards, and even if you don’t agree with them, I enjoy picking apart a show and experiencing it on a deeper level than most will be willing to reach for. I like writing down my thoughts, and if I’m proud of how they turn out, I like to post them online for people to possibly read. That’s why I stick to my guns through a show no matter how much I might hate it. To be fair, if I’m enjoying a show enough, I may overlook or even forgive it’s flaws. I saw Yuki Yuna is a Hero a few weeks ago, and I liked the characters, animation and tone so much that I was ultimately able to forgive it for being dumber than a box of hammers and a complete rip-off of a superior series. I like to pick apart a series without being disgusted by what I find, and I’m sorry, but this series just makes me sick. Maybe if Kazuto had started the series resenting Valkyrie for barging into his life and forcing the burden of her soul and child self on her, but then learned to love her over time… well, it would still be creepy, but at least it wouldn’t feel so forced! But hey, if seeing Ah! My Goddess retooled and aimed at the pedophile market appeals to you, then please, by all means… Don’t come near me.
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is available stateside in way too many formats. It was originally released in individual four episode sets, each of which ran for about thirty bucks apiece,. The series was rescued by Funimation for some ungodly reason… They probably knew that they could make a mint off of the booby hunters in their audience… And can be found in thinpack sets, as well as two SAVE sets that cover it’s third and fourth seasons, as well as it’s one terrible OVA episode. The manga is not available stateside. I haven’t seen the third or fourth seasons, but I have seen the second, and from what I remember, it was a slight improvement over the first. I might review it at some point… Hell, I should, since I bought both seasons.
In truth, I saw this series ten years ago, at which point I considered it the worst anime I’d ever seen. It no longer holds that title a decade later, but it’s remained very faithfully in the bottom ten ever since. In the years since I saw it, I’ve been happy to see it lost in eternal obscurity, and hell, one of the few people I’ve spoken to who’ve seen it was even aware enough of it’s flaws to call it The Pedophile anime. Others have defended it, calling it funny, which I don’t get. Maybe these jokes are new to you if you’ve never seen them before, but I have, and they all fell flat for me. It’s a dreary, uncomfortable series that I knew I’d eventually have to revisit, and yet I still can’t call it completely awful, as it does have a pretty good soundtrack, some much appreciated creativity, and if I’m being completely honest, good pacing too. But those few good points just don’t save it. I give UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie a 2/10.