~Stellvia~
4 Starships out of 5
Replay Value: High
Bonus Points: Good English Dub

The first thought I had when we broke open the plastic and took disc 1 of Stellvia for a whirl was “Battle Athletes.” By the end of the first episode, I’d updated that to "Battle Athletes with a heavy dash of Vandread.” This, of course, meant the series was an automatic win. Right through to the end, Stellvia never did anything to change those first very positive impressions.
The overall plot for the series is pretty cookie cutter. A group of teenagers going to school on a space station are tasked with saving Earth from destruction. The way it all plays out, though, is a bit different. Though she does play a major role in all the big moments, our central character, Shima, isn’t 'The One,' 'It,' or 'She who will save us all.' That dubious honor will go to her eventual love interest, Kouta. Shima, like most gifted students, has great aptitude in some things while barely keeping her academic head afloat in others. She works hard for what she accomplishes rather than relying on fate or some mystical talent that only she possesses.

Unfortunately, she’s also a crier.

Much in the vein of Usagi Tsukino and many other teenage heroines before her, Shima spends several
episodes doing nothing but crying because of her perceived inadequacies. This seems to be something of a requirement for all teenage girls when they’re the lead character, and thankfully it only lasts for a small chunk of episodes, culminating in one of the best scenes in the series.

For yuri fans, there’s one unambiguous couple and one small unrequited crush. The crush comes from
Shima’s roommate, Arissa, who upon meeting Shima on their way to the space station declares they are to be best friends. Arissa is a sweetheart with a loud mouth and an outgoing personality. Her crush is, for the most part, very subtle. She doesn’t pine away for Shima and seems happy enough being her friend. The best way to describe her is Tomoyo at one quarter strength, but without the video camera and weird costume fetish.

Our yuri couple is Ayaka and Yayoi. Their backstory is told in flashbacks and bits and pieces as the series progresses. Lots of angst here, and lots to love. The epilogue left me with a huge grin just because of these two.

Even without the yuri, the characters are all likable, each with their own quirks and storylines. Akira was my favorite, no doubt because of her strong resemblance to a young Setsuna. I even liked Kouta, who like most heterosexual males suffers undue hatred at the hands of rabid yuri fans. You know those kinds of fans, the ones who can’t stand the fact that the lead female is in love with a guy even though they’re given an actual yuri couple to pull for. So they turn that guy into a horrible, heartless brute as an excuse to break them up in fanfiction and put the heroine with the girl of their choosing. Poor Kouta. He really is a very nice, average teenage boy who, in spite of being “mankind’s greatest hope” is completely confused by his girlfriend’s mood swings.

And the English voice actors managed to capture all of this very nicely.

I can practically hear everything suddenly grinding to a halt with horrified cries of “You watched the
dub!?” echoing in the background. The answer to that would be “Kind of.” Doc and I watched a few
episodes in English just to see what they’d be like. Bang Zoom handled the English production, and for the most part it turned out well. Rinna was spot-on perfect, though the best VA in the dub was the one voicing one of the teachers, Leila. Her voice sounded natural when she spoke, the flow of her words making me forget there was an actor behind the drawing on the screen. That’s a very rare thing in a dub for me.

I only had a few quibbles with the dub. First, Ayaka’s VA was uneven, missing the mark about 25% of the time. In most of those instances, what should have been subtle or subdued was coming across more as flat and strained. Second was Shima. Carrie Savage wound up higher pitched than the Japanese VA, and while her acting was good, the pitch was wrong for the character. Had she been voicing the much younger Rinna, she would have been fine. Even with that, though, Shima is tolerable once you get used to listening to her. I could watch this in English if I had to, and I expect the next time we pull it off the shelf, we’ll be listening to the English VA’s.

So overall, this was a fun series with high replay value and as a bonus, a good English dub. I give it four
starships out of five, topped with whipped cream and a strawberry for the yuri payoff. Even though the
plot is standard anime fare, the characters carry it above the norm. This one comes highly recommended.

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