Kurumi: Why do we have to fight?
Mikhail: I told you, didn't I? Because you are something that must not exist.
Originally broadcast from late 1999 to early 2000 on the Japanese pay-TV channel Wowow, Koutetsu Tenshi Kurumi (the Japanese title of Steel Angel Kurumi), is an anime series based on a manga by Kaishaku. The episodes are shorter than usual anime series, each running only about 15 minutes. The first season had 24 episodes, but as there were 4 more special episodes, released as OVA on DVD singles only, the actual count for the first season is 28, even though the main plot is wrapped up by episode 24.
The series is set in Japan's Taisho Era (1912-1926 AD), the same time Sakura Wars takes place. The Steel Angels are special powerful androids produced by the Japanese government, each one strong enough to obliterate an entire army, and loyal to the person to first activate them. Seeing that these androids could be used for good as well as evil, and fearing the latter, Dr. Ayanokouji created project Angel Heart Revised: the ultimate Steel Angel to be used against those who would use the power of the Steel Angels for their own evil plans. But as was to be expected, fate had a wrench to throw into his plan, and this wrench took the form of...
...young temple boy Nakahito Kagura, the viewer-indentification figure. When exploring an old basement of a suspicious "evil doctor" with his friends (actually he had to explore while the others waited outside), happens across a young woman with long, pink hair, dressed in a Maid's dress. So he approaches the figure, not sure wheather it is a dead girl or a doll when the building is shook by the military outside. The "Maid" falls over, on top of Nakahito, and they land lip-to-lip in the ensuing chaos, like in a kiss (poor innocent boy).
With this kiss, the girl is activated and proceeds to rescue him from the giant robot the military is using to destroy the house. And so, the most powerful weapon in the world ends up under the control of an 11-year old boy, obeying his every command, calling him "Master" (goshuujin-sama), very clingy and protecting his life against all obstacles. And there will be many, such as the other Steel Angels, the mysterious Academy, and others. All the while, he has no clue at all about what to do with Kurumi...
This is a cute, enjoyable little series with sympathic (and mega-kawaii) characters were extremely likeable, and a nice plot that offers action, comedy and character growth at the same time, well paced and with enough of twists and turns to hold up the level of entertainment all the way. Most of the comedy develops out of the inter-character-relationship, and is light and good-hearted.
The series is loaded with fan service, and jumps on every trend current at the time of it's making, but presents it in a novel and entertaining fashion, so it is actually very entertaining. The fan service is rather innocent and sweet as well (not the in-your-face type of, say, Agent Aika). The character designs are incredibly kawaii and finely detailed. The animation is very well done as well, as are the Japanese voices (I don't listen to english dubs), who really make the charaters feel alive in your head. So you have a very nice historical fiction, maid, harem, fan service, battle angel series that is very, very watchable...
As success spawns sequels (True in Japan as well), the series returned with a second season, Steel Angel Kurumi the Second, produced by a different production company. Taking most elements that made the first series such a great pleasure to watch, but setting them in today's Japan, with a new story (albeit much less of a plot than the first season), this series manages to recapture the spirit of the original. Timid temple girl Naoko finds an android, Kurumi 2 while off exploring another basement. As before, Kurumi topples over, falls on top of Naoko, their lips touch and Kurumi calls Naoko master! No difference here, but for the fact that Kurumi is now owned by a young girl. As a new feature, Kiwa is introduced, Kurumi's pet android dog, who can turn into a jet pack and also provides new clothes for Kurumi... So when Naoko brings Kurumi to school with her, chaos ensues. Overall, the second series is a bit weaker than the more original first season, as it sometimes tries too much to be over-the-top (Point in case: Kiwa), favors slapstick over plot, and has less detailed animation as well, but it still is enjoyable, slightly better than average fare. This series has 13 episodes.
Steel Angel Kurumi Zero:
From now I am operating on fumes as I didn't have a chance to see this series yet, But there is a third series, only 3 episodes long, which take place in the future. There seems to be an overall sadder and more earnest tone to this series, which is basically a love story with loads of character development, but little or no action or comedy involved. The action seems to be set inside one apartment only, and mostly dialogue driven, so this series is a total departure from the previous formula. It seems to tie the previous series together, as the characters seem more adult as well (emotionally). It was released on three single DVD's, one episode each, and I will give a more thorough account once I get to see it...
The three episodes are Angel Force, Angel Smile and Angel Heart.
Steel Angel Kurumi Pure:
Live action series based on the same manga. Just saw the DVD's in store last week, and I have even less information than on Zero, but the same goes here. When I know more... A Japanese Kurumi fan-site however writes the following: STEEL ANGEL KURUMI PURE" is shame of Japan...Please don't view and listen
Similar series: Hanaukyo Maids, Saber Marionette J, Hand Maid May, Project A-Ko