Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol.01: Initiation Review
Maia Mizuki has a natural affinity with the ocean and a useful talent for piloting all kinds of marine technology to boot. For the majority of her fifteen year life she's been working hard with one goal in mind: to become a member of the Ocean Agency, an organization responsible for Japan's maritime safety and resource management. So she's well prepared when the day of the entrance exams arrives, completing all aspects of the practical, written and verbal tests with relative ease – now all that's left is to wait twenty for hours for her results. In fact the exams went so well that Maia's confidence is high enough for her to hand in the almost-expired rental lease on her late grandfather's house in preparation for a move into the Ocean Agency complex. With just two days left before the government comes and kicks Maia out of her old home she waits anxiously for the test results, but when they arrive she gets the biggest shock of her life – she's failed. Her dreams are in tatters and her home is about to be ripped away from her, but Maia is made of sterner stuff and resolves to find temporary work and habitation by the end of the day. This is easier said that done in a city as densely populated as Tokyo though, and after a day of abject rejection she finds herself cold, alone and distraught down a back ally in the rougher side of town. Not the best place for a teenage girl to be at night, and sure enough she finds herself taken hostage by a fugitive fleeing from a pair of sexy female bounty hunters. This fateful encounter is how Maia gets involved with Shizuka and Rena, two agents that work at the Kamchatka branch of Nereids - an organization that fixes people's problems, for the right price.
Don't let the obscenely skimpy outfits and excessively shapely figures of the female leads fool you about this show, Daphne in the Brilliant Blue is most definitely not all about the Fan Service. Flashing a bit (read: mountain) of flesh is just a staple of this Charlie's Angels inspired, female investigators genre that the Japanese lap up with tremendous glee and you'll definitely not find many lingering, lecherous panty shots or bouncing bosoms across the episodes on this disc, that's for sure. No, Daphne is a good old fashioned adventure romp with some fine characters, light comedic interplay and fast paced action sequences. Maia is a normal intelligent teenager with lofty goals that are brought crashing down around her and the only way she can pick herself back up is to join a mysterious "problem solving" agency – not exactly the most wholesome of scenarios for a girl of her age to be in. Her plight is a dramatic one, but proving that the best comedic situations stem from tragic ones, the writers squeeze plenty of laughs out of this "fish out of water" scenario – particularly one running gag were Maia always receives the brunt of the physical damage caused by the carnage her older partners wreck during their mission. In fact a good drinking game to play when watching Daphne in the Brilliant Blue would be to neck a shot every time Maia gets slammed face first into the ground or smashed back into a wall. You'll be happily on your way to inebriety by the end of the volume.
The rest of the Nereids team are similarly lively and enjoyable characters but because the series kicks off with a two-part introductory arc for Maia, we only get to meet three of the four agents already working at the Kamchatka branch in this first volume. Episode three is dedicated mostly to Shizuka Hayama, a bespectacled blue-haired beauty with one of those impossibly curvy figures that women with poor eyesight tend to have in anime shows - Just what is it about Japanese artists and chicks with glasses! Another genre convention she fulfils is that of the technology whiz who can fix and tweak anything with a moving part. Put her in a shootout though and the results are comically bad, as she'll hit everything but the intended target – innocent passers-by included! Her easy going, down to earth nature also comes in useful on the streets of Shibuya where she grew up, a vibrant hotbed of criminal gossip where she has plenty of contacts to tap into for street info. If you classify Shizuka as the big sister of the group, then the mother would undoubtedly be Rena Honjyo, the mysterious team leader who seems to know a little too much about the other girls and is not above morally ambiguous tactics to get her missions done, usually at Maia's expense.
In episode four it's Gloria's moment to shine when she comes back from a dangerous mission where Rena and Shizuka left her behind and demands her cut of the rewards, only for Rena to inform her that the expenses she racked up took care of all that. Gloria is easily the funniest character in the series so far, a Gung Ho weapons expert whose first reaction to any hostility is to whip her gun out and go hell for leather until the problem is solved. The only thing she loves more than guns is money, obsessively stopping to pick up any coins that are left out on the street and always harping on about how much cash Rena owes her – much to the discomfort of Maia, who doesn't really know how to deal with her loud abrasive sempai at all. These two bounce off each other pretty well and episode four contains more belly-laughs than the previous three put together because of this effective clash of characters, as Gloria decides it's her civic duty to take Maia under her wing and teach her the fundamentals of the job. This essentially boils down to imparting her considerably simple fiscal philosophies and demonstrating how to rough people up in as destructive a manner as possible.
Daphne's story has so far remained as stripped down and simple as possible to introduce the main characters and establish setting, however some peculiarities and mysteries hint at a larger arc simmering to the fore. For instance there's a big question mark hanging over Maia's failure to pass the Ocean Agency exams when it seemed like she completely aced them, not to mention the strange silver-haired individual who's seen stalking her from afar. Then there's Nereids, an organization whose dealings run the gamut from legit to extremely non-legit operations, I'm sure there's plenty of intracompany transactions to come from here as well, so Daphne in the Brilliant Blue certainly has the potential to rise above the level of a fun, disposable female detectives show.
While I have tried my best not to reveal too much about each episode in these synopses, please bare in mind that the second episode and onwards may feature spoilers for the episodes prior.
Episode 01. Maia's Longest Day (Part 1): Maia, a young girl living on her own a year after the death of her grandfather, has been studying hard to join the Ocean Agency. Her mock exams grades were through the roof and when the day of her real tests arrives they too go swimmingly. So much so that even though the annual lease on her late grandfather's house is nearly over, she happily hands it into the local civic branch in preparation of relocating into the Ocean Agency complex. However, when her results arrive Maia is devastated to discover she has failed. Left penniless with no job and facing eviction from her home in one day, Maia has got to pick herself up and strive to find a new home and job on the other side of the city. This is easier said than done in a Capital as densely populated as Tokyo.
Episode 02. Maia's Longest Day (Part 2): After blacking out during the stand-off in the alley, Maia wakes up in some sort of corporate office. There she meets the two women who shot her the night before. They explain to Maia that the man who took her hostage is called Chang, he was on the run after he and his older brother stole 10million yen from their clients. Unfortunately Chang wasn't the one with the money, but they have a plan to fool his older brother into handing back the loot, only they need Maia's help to pull this off…
Episode 03. There's No Business Like Nereids Business?: Maia's finding her new job at Nereids extremely hard going, there are so many small routine tasks taken on by the company for wealthy clients that she's barely able to keep up with it all. But when a humble old man walks into the office and explains that a street robber ran off with all his savings after drawing it from a bank to pay for his daughter's wedding, the chance has come for Shizuka and Maia to get stuck into a mission that's really doing some good for once.
Episode 04. Chaka Chaka Bang Bang: Just as Maia was starting to settle into her new life at Nereids a golden-haired Amazonian spanner is thrown into the works. Her name is Gloria, a member of the Kamchatka branch who went missing in action after taking on a dangerous mission with Rena and Shizuka. She's back in town to take her share in the reward for that mission, but when Rena informs her that expenses ate up most of their profit on that job, Gloria vows to stick around until she gets paid what's owed her.
PresentationPresented in the original 4:3 ration Daphne in the Brilliant Blue is a very colourful show that has been transferred to DVD very nicely by Geneon. Colours are rich and vivid with no bleed and compression is generally excellent, so colours are clean as well – save some mosquito noise that crops up at times. Brightness and contrast levels are good, blacks are deep and shadow detail is fine. Image detail is also pleasing and although Edge Enhancement is present, it's very minor and shouldn't distract. As for any annoying artifacts from the tape source, aliasing is about the only thing here, as there's no cross-colouration or dot crawl.
Geneon's favourite combination of Japanese/English DD2.0 Surround has been slapped onto volume one, and there are no problems to report here. The Japanese track offers up good sound dynamics with loud, clear dialogue that's delivered smoothly throughout. Bass is warm and punchy when the action kicks in and the score sounds rich and clean. In terms of sound quality the English track is pretty much identical to its Japanese counterpart.
As for the English dub, well Shizuka and Maia's voices sound very similar so that may be a little confusing, but the performances are reasonably natural and most of the actors fit into their roles quite well, so English dub fans should be reasonably pleased with it.
Optional English subtitles are present with no spelling or grammatical errors I can recall.