Sol Bianca 2 Anime Review
Sol Bianca 2
Sol Bianca 2
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The crew of the pirate ship Sol Bianca are back and just as ready to wreak havoc as before. This time out, the five felonious females (I'm starting to sound like AD Vision's ad writers now) are out to steal some of the most valuable substance in the universe--Pasha. Small problem: they're not the only space pirates after the stuff. But, no big deal--they'll just burgle the burglars.
The heist goes fine, but one thing leads to another and pretty soon the Sol Bianca is infected with machine-eating worms, June is as sick as the ship, the police are on the scene, a mysterious fellow shows up who is trying to corner the market on Pasha and seems to know too much about the Sol Bianca and her crew, and then there's one very angry pirate with a serious grudge against the Sol Bianca and her crew.
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There's an unfortunate amount of bad news about this sequel to Sol Bianca: It doesn't have as much action as its predecessor, the budget is a bit lower, and although there's a lot more plot, it seems to be a failed attempt at kicking off a longer series, so it ends having asked a lot of questions that don't have answers.
The funny thing is, as frustrating as it was, I really liked it anyway--it's still got cool technology, and lots of surprisingly believable character interaction, which is what really made the first Sol Bianca stick in my mind. It's probably not worth watching if you haven't seen the first, and even existing fans might be disappointed, but if you're like me and enjoyed the characters the first time around, the sequel serves up lots more.
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Sol Bianca 2 is a rather different movie than the first--lower-key and with more focus on the characters. This no doubt didn't sit well with some fans; it likely explains why it isn't as popular, and why the continuing story it sets up never materialized. Personally, I actually enjoyed it more than the original; it has the same great style, a (slightly smaller) helping of wild technology, and considerably more time spent on interplay between the five colorful women of the crew in a story that's more involved and character-driven.
It also has more of the weird plot you'd expect from AIC, which works quite well, and less of the extreme action, which is a definite disappointment. Even so, since I liked the characters in the first one so much, and am a fan of downtime and character interaction, I didn't mind the tradeoff.
Understand that I'm focusing on the character interaction in this review because that's what I enjoyed about the movie; don't take that to mean that it's a vast departure from its action-flick roots. That said, if your favorite part of the original was the mass havoc that the Sol Bianca and her crew wreaked, you may well be disappointed by this sequel. (If you're wondering whether seeing the first movie is a prerequisite, the premise isn't reintroduced, but you won't spend too much time figuring it out.)
The biggest strike against Sol Bianca 2 is the end, in that there isn't one. It's obviously part of an ongoing story, and practically leaves you begging for answers to all the questions asked. Executed correctly, AIC has done great things with this tactic--the Tenchi Muyo OVAs ran on confusing hints and intriguing allusions. The problem is that there is no ongoing story--the sequel never materialized. Frustrating, to put it mildly.
Ignoring that glaring flaw, the story is paced well enough. It does a very good job of giving you glimpses and hints of the origins of the team and their mysterious ship without quite letting you put the pieces together, and the vagueness doesn't seem contrived or forced.
For me, though, the best of it is undoubtedly the time we get to spend with the Sol Bianca's crew. The first movie established such entertaining chemistry between the characters that I kept wanting to see more of them interacting; this sequel delivers on that big time. We also get to see more of the Sol Bianca's interior (including where people sleep), a treat for fans of one of anime's most gorgeous ships (of which I am one).
What probably made the original so memorable (okay, other than the great action and cool technology) was the characters. Although they fit into standard genre archetypes--the gun-toting hothead, the brainy one, the cool captain--there were little quirks and hints of deeper personality. This movie digs a lot deeper and confirms that those glimpses of personality weren't an accident.
As cheesy as the whole concept is, they still feel like real people. Feb and April, for example, are more low-key than you'd expect, and they have a quiet rapport that just feels right. And despite the plot and action, none of the characters are over the top--Janny may be a hothead, but she seems like a real hothead, and you could almost (not really, but let's be reasonable here) believe that May could somehow have ended up piloting a ten foot tall robot on a space pirate ship.
A major part of what makes the characters so memorable is the Japanese acting (ADV never dubbed this one)--it may not be dramatic, but it's just plain great. The five stars sound distinctive, they're well cast, and they even sound like real people--no barely-within-the-range-of-human-hearing voices, and thanks to Miki Itoh, even May is believable. Better yet is the interplay; they sound more like a group of real people talking than a cheesy babes-in-space flick or an overdramatic space opera. I'd single out a particular favorite, but I like them all. The other characters are more run-of-the-mill; acted well enough, but not particularly memorable.
Visually, Sol Bianca 2 is nearly identical to the original. Most obvious are the unusually realistic character designs; with the exception of May, their eyes are almost realistically sized, and they have believable physiques. Likewise, most of the minor characters have distinctive looks, although the nameless goons apparently all got their faces off the same rack. And of course there's more inventive and fun technology; this time out, we have suits that can pass through walls, ship-eating worms, and lots more of the ever-cool Sol Bianca, although overall there is less of it this time out, which was a bit disappointing.
Sadly, there isn't as much action, either, and the budget seems a bit lower, too. Also unfortunately, some of the animation in the action is a little... soft, for lack of a better word. Not to say that it's bad, or that it isn't exciting, just don't come expecting quite the thrill ride of the first movie. On the plus side, some of what it lacks in violence it makes up for in great character animation--there is some wonderful attention to detail in the facial expressions and little gestures that give the characters part of their appeal and believability.
The background music isn't terribly memorable; the action theme from the first movie is nowhere to be found, and the movie as a whole is relatively quiet. Musically speaking, that is--there are several tracks of eerie noises that are used effectively to set moods.
Summing up, if you loved the action of the original Sol Bianca, be prepared for disappointment, but if you loved the characters, you'll definitely love this one, and in either case the distinctive art and character designs that made the original memorable are perfectly intact, even if the animation budget is a little lower. But be warned in any case that the total lack of either a conclusive story or a sequel will leave you frustrated at the end.
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If you liked the first one, you won't necessarily enjoy this one (see above for why), but if you liked this you're almost sure to enjoy the first one. At its best, the prequel/reboot Sol Bianca: The Legacy also has a fair amount in common, in that it spends a reasonable amount of effort on character development. As for similar series, it's relatively unusual; the latter parts of MAPS bear a passing resemblance (in theme, not visuals).
Notes and Trivia
This is the sequel to the award-winning animated one-shot video Sol Bianca. The story was original, and while this sequel was written with the expectation of at least one further episode, none was ever produced, apparently due to poor sales. There was, however, a longer OVA series produced several years later, Sol Bianca: The Legacy, which could be interpreted as either a prequel or a reboot.
This is one of the few releases that ADV never produced an English dub for. The lack of a dub has been cited as one of the reasons it was never released on DVD.
US DVD Review
No North American DVD has been produced as of this writing.
There is a topless gun battle and a bit of graphic violence, but nothing all that detailed. I would probably call it 13-up, but the nudity makes it push a 16-up.
Violence: 3 - Not really bad, but violent enough, mostly at the beginning.
Nudity: 3 - Again, that scene early on, though it is done very casually.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Nada.
Language: 3 - Not bad, but Janny stays in character in the subtitles.
Staff & Cast
Original Japanese Cast
Feb: Youko Matsuoka
April: Rei Sakuma
Janny: Minami Takayami
June: Yuriko Fuchizaki
May: Miki Ito
Gomes: Daisuke Kyouri
Yuri: Shuuichi Ikeda
Hunter: Hideyuki Umezu
With: Kiyonobu Suzuki, Hidetoshi Nakamura, Toshihiro Sakurai, Tomoyuki Morikawa, Wataru Takagi, Hiroko Yonekura
Producers: Yasumasa Shirakura, Atsushi Nishiyama
Planning: Tohru Miura
Director: Hiroki Hayashi
Screenplay: Hidemi Kamata
Character Design: Naoyuki Onda
Mechanical and Production Design: Atsushi Takeuchi
Art Director: Mitsuharu Miyamae
Photography Director: Kazuhiro Konishi Music: Kohsei Kenjoh
End Theme: "Shounen No Hitomi" (Eyes of the Boy)
Performed by: ASAO
Lyrics by: ASAO
Composed and arranged by: Kohsei Kenjoh
Production: AIC; NCS--Nippon Computer System Corporation, NEC Avenue Corporation