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"ADV AniMinis" Quantity Doesn't Equal Quality

Once upon a time, ADV had a brilliant idea: make a bunch of mini-DVDs each containing one anime episode; add a coupon good toward the real series; call the mini-DVDs “collectibles”; and make them slightly less expensive than a four-episode disc.

No happy ending for this fairy tale, though. AniMinis quickly faded. The format is supposed to let you try out a series before investing in a full disc. Could the idea actually work? I had to know, and since they’re on big-time sale at ADV’s website (and I happen to be a world-class cheapskate), I picked up a bunch of them. Results of my research:

Full Metal Panic (Mini Volume 1)
I didn’t know much about Full Metal Panic, outside of the fact it has nothing to do with Fullmetal Alchemist and that it was just boxed for about sixty buckarinos. After watching the first episode I don’t really know much more. I did learn is that it looks like a nice combination of action, oddball antics, and drama. This mini-DVD didn’t give away too much, but it made me want to see more. We have one winner for the format.

Kaleido Star (Mini Volumes 1 and 2)
Sora’s ambition is to be a member of the Kaleido Stage, a circus apparently greater than Barnum and Bailey. She’s flown all the way from Japan to America but still managed to miss the auditions. Still, the owner sees some talent in her and puts her onstage. Now Sora will have to earn the respect of her peers while trying to perfect some moves. I thought this was just going to be one of those “inspirational girl” shows, but they manage to sneak in some decent laughs during the “inspirational girl show” moments. If you’re on the fence about this one, a trial DVD might actually help.

Noir (Mini Volumes 1 and 2)
An amnesiac hires an assassin to investigate their mutual past. The assassin is Mirielle, who goes by the codename “Noir.” The weirdo client is Kirika, who has no memory of her previous life except that it involved a lot of kickin’ ‘n killin’ skills. This is your typical dark, silent, mysterious show. Me? I really don’t give a darn; give me the pair from Kiddy Grade any day.

Princess Nine (Mini Volume 1)
If you’re an animé character and you’ve got a skill—whether it’s fighting or card battling or whatever—it’s always the same story: challengers will hunt you down for the chance to face off with the legendary fill-in-the-blank. For Ryo Hayakawa it’s baseball. This looks like a rather sweet series, though it might be slightly limited by its sports theme. Despite that and the fact that I’m barely a baseball fan at all, I still had a decent half-hour with this show.

SuperGALS! (Mini Volume 1)
The SuperGALS! are the prime example of Japanese high school girls—if animé stereotypes are realistic, that is. At first glance it looks like the anime equivalent of Braceface or Lizzie McGuire, and it’s definitely a fun ride, but then it turns surprisingly dramatic with a plot about teenage prostitution (or semi-prostitution—”paid dating”). While still being funny, the show deals with this matter in an honest way. I’m definitely considering picking up the series. Another winner for the AniMini format.

Wedding Peach (Mini Volume 1)
This is your standard-issue magical girl show, this one hanging its hook on weddings instead of cards (Cardcaptors) or stars (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) or cosplay (Re: Cutey Honey). Not a truly bad show in itself, but it just screams “formulaic.” Lady Raindevila is intent on splitting all couples apart, but Momoko will become Love’s Greatest Champion. (I guess Love has moved on from the aforementioned Sailor Moon and Cutey Honey). Nothing stands out as particularly good or bad.

Azumanga Daioh (Mini Volumes 1 and 2)
I also picked up Azumanga Daioh, which depicts the quirky daily lives of schoolgirls. You, on the other hand, should just skip the trial AniMinis and go straight to the series releases.

No extras on any of these discs. Literally, you put the disc in, skip past the ADV commercials, watch the episode, and see an ad. Game over.

ADV had a decent little idea here, but it’s obvious where it went wrong. The discs are too costly for too little content: one episode and no extras (including trailers, a logical addition!), and they don’t even highlight their best series. Only if you can get them super-cheap are they possibly worth the investment. What ADV got out of the experiment (except for an inventory of not-very-popular discs) I don’t know.

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