Daphne In The Brilliant Blue: Volume 1
There's something universally depressing about post-apocalyptic visions of the future, beyond the necessary end of the world scenario. Such films or shows are set after an unspeakable Earth-shattering event, and we usually join the story some time after, where the survivors are barely hanging on, now dressed in animal skins, living in tribes and only recognisable to us in that they live among the ruins of a previously advanced society, and that they speak perfect English. It's the Mad Max effect, where people who are faced with adversity simply cannot adapt, and fall into a feral society of savagery. Basically it's cheaper to dress your cast up as pseudo-Indians rather than put some thought into a story. It would be nice if someone could put a more positive spin on a radically different future. The threat facing us today is one of global warming and rising seas, and to explore that vision on the big screen, we got Mad Max on water-skis, with Kevin Costner drinking his own urine. Thankfully the creators of Daphne In The Brilliant Blue give mankind the benefit of the doubt, and assume that we can face adversity without the skills set that will enable us to tan pelts.
The oceans have indeed risen in Daphne In The Brilliant Blue, the polar caps have melted, the coasts have been inundated, and habitable land is now at a premium, but humanity is doing just fine thank you very much, and has adapted to its new circumstances with relative ease, now inhabiting the few remaining islands and floating cities. The world government now controls the remaining resources through the Ocean Agency, an elite organisation responsible for Maritime Safety and Resource Management that many aspire to. One of the aspirants is 15-year-old Maia Mizuki, a young orphan who dreams of working for the Agency. But life is never that simple, and failing the entrance exam is just one of a whole host of calamities. Destiny leads her to find a job with the Nereids, a private firm who offer all kind of services to those who are willing to pay, whether it's fighting crime or rescuing cats. The first four episodes of this 24 episode series are presented on this disc from MVM.
1. Maia's Longest Day (Part I)
Maia's well on her way to becoming a full-fledged Ocean Agency recruit. She's aced the exam, is the best on her underwater testing, and all that's left is the interview, and soon she and her best friend Tsukasa will start their dream jobs together. Maia's so confident that she has already applied for a change of address, intending to leave her late grandfather's house and move to the Agency dorms. But then it all goes horribly wrong. Sitting down for a cup of tea at a restaurant, she barely avoids a hovercar crash when a pair of fugitives fleeing from a couple of scantily clad crime-fighters interrupts her relaxation. Then she finds out that she didn't get the job, while bureaucracy means that she has been evicted from her home. It means moving to the scummy side of town to find somewhere else to live that is within her means, as well as another job. After walking for hours, she lands a job in a hotel, way below her education, although it doesn't start for two months. Looking for shelter, a pickpocket relieves her of her remaining cash, then one of the fugitives from earlier returns, running from justice and looking for a human shield. If that isn't enough, the perfect day is capped when Maia is shot.
2. Maia's Longest Day (Part II)
Thank God for non-lethal weaponry. Maia wakes up on a sofa in the Kamchatka branch of the Nereids Agency. The two crime fighters from earlier turn out to be Shizuka and Rena, and they have a proposition for Maia. Rena offers to help her find a job and a place to stay if she agrees to help them in their case. The fugitive is currently in custody, but his partner is still at large. Maia is of a similar build to the captive, and Rena plans to use her as a decoy to help capture his partner while recovering a significant amount of cash. They obviously haven't thought this plan through…
3. There's No Business Like Nereids Business?
Maia is now a Nereid, and she has a roof over her head, but she's on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, and she's saddled with all the odd jobs that they get, chasing lost cats, trying to get unpaid rent, sneakily photographing serial adulterers, all the stuff that Shizuka and Rena would rather not do. But when a victim of a theft shows up, hoping that the Nereids can retrieve his money before his daughter's wedding, Maia gets a chance to show her true worth, especially when one of her rent defaulters appears to have suddenly come into a heap of money.
4. Chaka Chaka Bang Bang
There's a statuesque blonde in town, with a big gun and a bigger grudge against Rena. And so Maia gets an explosive introduction to Gloria, the true leader of the Nereids, who after a month away has returned to reclaim the money that is owed her. It's money that isn't there, leading to a good deal of animosity between her and Rena. It's not helped by the fact that Gloria got left behind in a thieves' stronghold while Rena and Shizuka escaped. While she waits for her money, Gloria takes Maia under her wing to impart her own special brand of training. But while they are out shooting lost kittens out of trees, a couple of suspicious characters come knocking on the Nereids' front door, looking for the woman in charge.
Daphne gets a 4:3 regular transfer that offers no apparent flaws or glitches. Everything is clear and sharp, colours are strong, and the image comes across without any major sign of artefacting or significant aliasing. It's your bog standard anime disc. The animation itself is pretty unspectacular. It's a mid-budget show that gets an adequate investment, and it all looks pretty average. The world design is nice and futuristic, if a little bland, and lacking in detail. The underwater sequences are the most impressive aspect of the show. Actually the brevity of the costumes makes the biggest impact, but against a very angular and birdlike aesthetic to the character designs, it's more of a clash than an enhancement.
You have a choice of DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, alongside optional translated English subtitles or signs. The dialogue is clear, the music suits the show's tone, and there is a bit of separation to the sound design during the more action packed moments. The English dub is something that I don't want to hear again, with cartoonish voices playing up the comedy aspects of the show.
No extras at all, although you do get a nice static menu and a jacket picture as is the norm for your average anime disc. I guess the credit crunch is beginning to bite if MVM are dispensing with the trailers and textless credits. If you want the textless credits you'll have to look up the Region 1 disc, but that's the only extra that you'll see there (Good luck with finding that by the way, it is a pre-freeze Geneon disc).
Those screencaps must have given you a hint what this show is truly about. Yes, it's fanservice, fanservice as you've never seen it before. The Nereids are a detective agency style outfit who hire out to resolve all sorts of situations, dangerous and mundane, but the more dangerous the situation is, the less they wear. If you can call it that, a postage stamp and some string constitutes a uniform, and maybe some carefully applied duct tape. It's all absolutely ridiculous, unrealistic, absurd and nonsensical, but it's the sort of thing which appeals to the hormone addled brain of a twelve year old male, the sort who suffers a trouser tent by looking at a shop mannequin. And look at that BBFC rating, it looks as if Daphne In The Brilliant Blue has hit its target audience. I have enough of an inner teen still extant to appreciate the odd moment of scantiness, but the trouble is that the character designs are so unpleasant, with birdlike faces and oversized eyes, that it's hard to see these so called objects of lust as anything other than just freakish. Of course your opinion may vary, and it's amazing what a little dental floss and bit of frilliness can blind you to.
The show itself is an utterly mundane, futuristic, comedy action show with a hint of the Charlie's Angels about it. It follows a distinctly basic anime staple, that of the unexpected failure leading to new opportunity and adventure. Just as Keitaro's failure to get into University led to him becoming the manager of an all girls' dorm in Love Hina, Hideki's similar failure leading him to encountering Chi the persocom in Chobits, here Maia's failure to get her dream job in the Ocean Agency leads her to the utterly unconventional Nereids group, where she joins them in all manner of adventures as they hire themselves out as hi-tech and armed dogsbodies. Maia is the requisite go-getting, hard-working heroine of the show, all wholesome, but with a sad past. The comedy comes from the diverse Nereid characters, with Rena, fiery and clad in red, mercenary and manipulative, and apparently lacking a conscience. Shizuka on the other hand is maternal (blessed with a cleavage to suit), friendly and warm, and we later on meet brash Gloria, who's more of a tomboy, apt to shoot first and forget the questions, and who's always looking at the bottom line. Naturally the characters clash in comedic ways, not useful for their hapless Bosley, the male receptionist who looks as if he is withering away in the presence of such forceful females.
It's only the first volume, but it looks as if the show will follow an episodic mission of the week scenario, played on the lighter side of things, with one eye kept on the humour. This is one of those shows where physics and reality take a back seat, as Maia often falls victim to events that would hospitalise anyone else. When a simple door is slammed open in her face, it slowly closes again to reveal her pushed into a wall, leaving a Maia shaped hole in the plaster. It's that kind of show.
I have to admit I was disappointed with Daphne In The Brilliant Blue, and it's not just the character designs, or the lack of anyone called Daphne in the cast (It's a reference to Greek mythology), but for a show that has as its premise a future world inundated with oceans and risen seas, there is a distinct lack of sea bound action. Aside from a couple of interesting underwater sequences in the opening story, it's pretty conventional. Still, maybe subsequent volumes will change that. It also looks as if MVM are practically going to barrel through this series, with one volume a month. Indeed, delays to this first volume mean that it comes to shop shelves just a week ahead of volume 2. Daphne In The Brilliant Blue is distinctly average, run of the mill anime, with nothing to make it stand out as anything special. But you can switch your brain off, and tie a bib around your throat to catch the drool, and enjoy 90 minutes of clichéd, uninspiring, and mindless fun.