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Kickboxer: Retaliation (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” stays consistent with being an exciting popcorn action film and making sure that it doesn’t let it up on the action.  So, no doubt fans of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” will enjoy “Retaliation”.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kickboxer Retaliation, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kickboxer Retaliation

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2018

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (16:9), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2018


Directed by Dimitri Logothetis

Written by Dmitri Logothetis, Jim McGrath

Produced by Robert Hickman, Dimitri Logothetis

Co-Producer: Kamel Krifa, Jim McGrath

Line Producer: Scott Putnam

Executive Producer: Jeff Bowler, Nicholas Celozzi, Luke Daniels, Phil Hunt, Bey Logan, Nat McCormick, Larry Nealy, Alan Pao, Compton Ross, Jay Strommen, Steven Swadling

Co-Executive Producer: Tommy Tang, Gary Wood

Music by Adam Dorn

Cinematographer: Gerard Madrazo

Edited by Christopher Robin Bell, Daniel McDonald

Casting by Dean E. Fronk, Thitiya Thongbai, Mike Leeder

Production Design by Toey Jaruvaatekul

Costume Design by Terri Middleton


Starring:

Alain Moussi as Kurt Sloane

Christopher Lambert as Thomas Moore

Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Durand

Mike Tyson as Biggs

Sara Malakul Lane as Liu

Hafbor Julius Bjornsson as Mongkut

Sam Medina as Crawford

Steven Swadling as Joseph King

Miles Strommen as Rupert

Jessica Jann as Gamon

Maxime Savaria as Somsak

Wanderlei Silva as Chud


One year after finding vengeance for his murdered brother, MMA champion Kurt Sloane finds himself back in Thailand kidnapped and imprisoned there by a powerful gangster (Christopher Lambert). His only shot at freedom is to win an underground death match against a 400lb killer enhanced with state-of the-art drugs (Game of Thrones’ Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) . To make it out alive, he seeks training unlike anything he s ever endured, with the help of the legendary Master Durand (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and fellow prisoner Briggs (Mike Tyson).


Back in 1989, Jean-Claude Van Damme was riding high as an emerging action star thanks to his appearance in the 1988 film “Bloodsport” and spoiling action fans with his martial arts and flexibility years earlier in the 1986 film, “No Retreat, No Surrender”.

In 1989, Van Damme would star as the character Kurt Sloane for “Kickboxer” and four more films starring other actors.

In 2016, the film series would receive a reboot titled “Kickboxer: Vengeance” as actor/stunman Alain Moussi would take on the role of Kurt Sloane, while Jean-Claude Van Damme would becoming his mentor, Master Durand.

In 2018, the sequel “Kickboxer: Retaliation” would reunite the action stars and would also star Mike Tyson, “Game of Thrones” actor Hafbor Julius Bjornsson and the main antagonist portrayed by Christopher Lambert.

And now “Kickboxer: Retaliation” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film takes place 18-months after Kurt Sloane would avenge his brother’s death by killing Tong Po in self defense.  After the fight, he is met by two men claiming to be U.S. Marshals informing him he must return to Thailand for the murder of Tong Po.  When Kurt asks to see their badge, he is tasered.

Sloane awakens in a prison in Thailand and is informed that the mastermind of the underground fighting tournament is Thomas Tang Moore (portrayed by Christopher Lambert) and told that he was to stay in Thailand and remain there as the new champion.

The current champion is a huge, biologically engineered fighter named Mongkut (portrayed by Hafbor Julius Bjornsson) and is offered $1 million to fight.  But Sloane refuses.

Stuck in prison, Sloane is repeatedly tortured and beaten and he eventually meets Briggs (portrayed by Mike Tyson), a boxer that tries to train Sloane on how to live through the pain but also tells him that his Muay Thai teacher, Durand, comes to train some of the prisoners but now he is blind.

When Durand finds out who Mongkut is, Durand and Briggs try to put Sloane through intense training.  But as Thomas Tang Moore tries to get Sloane to fight, he refuses.

So, Moore has Sloane’s wife, Liu (portrayed by Sara Malakul Lane) kidnapped forcing Sloane to accept a fight against the underground’s top fighter, Mongkut.

Can Sloane beat him?


VIDEO:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9). The film shows great detail on closeups and low-light situations are presented well. Colors are natural and for the most part, the film looks good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The film features a strong soundtrack utilizing front and center channels for dialogue but surround channels utilized for sound effects and crowd ambiance.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” comes with a “Meet the Fighters” featurette.

EXTRAS:

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD.


Alain Moussi has no doubt got his opportunity of a lifetime by becoming a featured action-star in the recent “Kickboxer” films.

Having done the stunts for major films such as “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, “X-Men: Apocalypse”, “Suicide Squad” to name a few, Moussi is able to showcase his fighting skills and he no doubt has done a very good job at it.

Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme had to prove his himself before getting consistent work as a major lead and Alain Moussi is no doubt experiencing the same, showcasing his fighting skills and of course, his stunt talent and not quitting his day job, by still working on the major superhero films.

These last two “Kickboxer” films are no doubt a good start.

“Kickboxer: Retaliation” is a popcorn action films, where it’s action upon action and while the acting is kept to a minimum.  Surprisingly, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s role as a blind master, has quite a bit of dialogue and also has a few action scenes as well.

While Christopher Lambert is the primary antagonist in the film for the majority of the film, once “Game of Thrones” star Hafbor Julius Bjornsson’s Mongkut comes into contact with Sloane, Mongkut immediately becomes the top antagonist and if anything, the casting of Bjornsson was perfect and his character role was no doubt a formidable fighting foe for Sloane this time around.  It becomes a “David and Goliath” story and you can’t help but wonder how Sloane would be able to take on someone so huge and dominating.

In the 2016 film, “Kickboxer: Vengeance”, former WWE star Dave Bautista as Tong Po was no doubt a huge, powerful antagonist.  But for “Kickboxer: Retaliation”, Bjornsson is literally a human mountain, tall and powerful and because of his sheer size, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Bjornsson playing more antagonist roles or being utilized in a big budget superhero film in the near future because of his size.

As for Mike Tyson, he did a much better job on this film compared to his role in the martial arts film “Ip Man 3”.   Tyson has a good fight scene, but the director did a good job at keeping Tyson to what he knows best, boxing.  And seeing him train Sloane and letting him stay within his element and his acting skills have improved.

Overall, “Kickboxer: Retaliation” stays consistent with being an exciting popcorn action film and making sure that it doesn’t let it up on the action.  So, no doubt fans of “Kickboxer: Vengeance” will enjoy “Retaliation”.

 

The Flowers of Evil Complete Manga Omnibus Volume 1 by Shuzo Oshimi (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

February 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

I absolutely enjoyed “The Flowers of Evil” but I know it’s not going to be for everyone.  It’s a bit dark, twisted, audacious but it’s also original and captivating.  And I highly recommend “The Flowers of Evil Complete”!

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Image courtesy of © 2017 Shuzo Oshimi. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: The Flowers of Evil Complete Manga Omnibus Volume 1

Story and Art by Shuzo Oshimi

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Kodansha Ltd.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Vertical Comics

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


The first combined edition of The Flowers of Evil features volumes 1-3 of this best-selling and acclaimed series. It follows the adventures of a lonely bookish teen struggling to find his identity through Beaudelaire’s poetry, until two girls – a beauty and a bully – help him find true love and friendship. Edgy, intense, and romantic, The Flowers of Evil has been a reader favorite. This new edition will give fans a chance to reconnect with Kasuga, Saeki, and Nakamura as it explores the issues of bulling, loneliness, individuality, and identity.


In 2009, Shuzo Oshimi wrote and illustrated the manga series “Aku no Hana” (The Flowers of Evil).

The manga was nominated at the fifth Manga Taisho and received an anime adaptation courtesy of Zexcs back in 2013.

With a total of 11 graphic novels published and having been released in America previously, Vertical Comics is re-releasing the manga series as an omnibus (three manga graphic novels in one thick book).

The story begins with an introduction to a middle school student named Takao Kasuga.  He is a guy who loves reading books, especially Charles Baudelaire’s “The Flowers of Evil” (Les Fleurs du Mal) and he is attracted to his classmate Nanako Saeki.  Meanwhile in class, there is a student who tends to get in trouble and her name is Sawa Nakamura.   She shocks her class by calling her teacher a “shit-bug” in front of everyone after the teacher outs her for getting a zero on her homework.

One day, Takao realizes that he left his book in class and when he goes to retrieve it, he sees Nanako’s gym shirt and bloomer shorts.  Because it belongs to Nanako, he takes it and brings it home.

Meanwhile, the following morning, Nanako is in tears because someone stole her gym shirt/shorts out of her gym bag.  As her classmates feel bad for her, Takao can’t help but feel bad that Nanako is distressed by what happened but keeps it to himself that he is responsible.

When Takao rides his bike back home after school, Sawa calls him and she tells him that she saw him steal Nanako Saeki’s gym clothes.

And from then on, she makes Takao take part in a contract.  She won’t tell anyone what he did, but she must do everything she says.

And the things she will make Takao as part of this contract, how far will Tako go through with it?  And how far will his feeling of guilt change him?


After reading “The Flowers of Evil Complete Manga Omnibus” vol. 1, I couldn’t help but feel that not only have I read something original, dark and shocking, but how refreshing to find a story that is unlike anything that has been released in Japan.

The story is a bit wicked, a boy who liked a girl and finds the opportunity to steal her gym shirt and bloomer shorts, at first I thought it would be the fall from grace of this book-loving intellect.

But in someways, it’s of how far this dark, intense girl named Sawa go to break him or to mold him to a person unlike others.  A person that is more or less broken from the inside.

Sawa has this control over Takao in a way that I find shocking.  When Takao gets the guts to ask Nanako Saeki out for a date, when he sees Sawa watch the two of them together, he begins to sense intense fear.  And he should because immediately, Sawa makes him wear Nanako’s clothes while he’s out on a date, goes as far to get him wet to reveal that he’s wearing her clothes and Sawa is like a twisted individual who thinks she can have his way towards Takao.  May it be hitting him, calling him degrading things and making him do the most messed up things, he does it.

At first you wonder why he does it.  At first, you can understand that it may be fear but somehow over the course of various chapters, you start to realize that Sawa has changed him for the worse.  And there is something twisted in the fact that perhaps Takao is getting a kick from the fact that she is bringing him out of his shell and having him discover his true self, or perhaps he is being broken to the point of being brainwashed.

It’s a bit shocking, unnerving and fascinating because we see how these three individuals transition after Takao’s misdeed.

But for those familiar with Baudelaire’s work, his poetry was a rebel.  He wrote criticisms of 19th century French modernism during a time when Emperor Napoleon III directed his prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugene Haussmann to plan for the demolition of medieval neighborhoods that were overcrowded and unhealthy and bring France into modernism.  Baudelaire was against this and felt estranged from the city he lived in and his poets were inspired by the beggars, the blind, the gamblers, the prostitute, the elderly and those who were victimized by imperialism.  He was anti-bourgeois.

In connection with this series, Takao is a huge fan of Baudelaire’s work, which is a major hint to those familiar with Baudelaire’s work that within Takao, there is a rebel.  An anti-conformist, who but to weak to speak for himself. But Sawa is the true anti-conformist.  She doesn’t want to be like everyone else, so she speaks her mind and is blunt about not wanting to be like everyone else.

So, it’s a very interesting dynamic and a fascinating story.  Shuzo Oshimi in someways, because of his inspirations and thought process as featured in throughout the omnibus, makes me realize he is of the creative type as well.

Overall, I absolutely enjoyed “The Flowers of Evil” but I know it’s not going to be for everyone.  It’s a bit dark, twisted, audacious but it’s also original and captivating.  And I highly recommend “The Flowers of Evil Complete”!

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Dragon Ball Super – Part 3 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a battle between brothers as Beerus and his fighters from Universe 7 take on Champa and his fighters from Universe 6 in “Dragon Ball Super” Part 3.  An action-packed arc and it’s a no-brainer that if you are a “Dragon Ball” fan, “Dragon Ball Super” is a must-watch series. And for all its worth, this series created for the past and present fanbase and a new generation of “Dragon Ball” fans, will no doubt love the humor and the action of “Dragon Ball Super”. I definitely recommend this anime series!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dragon Ball Super – Part 3

DURATION: (Episodes 27-39) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: February 20, 2018


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Kimitoshi Chioka

Script by Atsuhiro Tomioka

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Character Design by Tadayoshi Yamamuro

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Art Design by Shinzo Yuki

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Brad Jackson as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Ayano Hirano/Justin Cook as Dende

Eiji Hanawa as Jiren

Eiko Yamada/Carmen Smith as Mai

Kouichi Yamadera/Jason Douglas as Beerus

Kozo Shioya as Majin Buu

Masakazu Morita/Ian Sinclair as Whis

Miki Itou as Cyborg #18

Mitsuo Iwata as Champa

Takeshi Kusao/Alexis Tipton as Trunks


After a startling meeting with Beerus’ brother Champa goes sideways, the godly brothers decide to settle their differences in the best way possible: by putting their best fighters to the test.

It’s a battle of universes as Universe 7—the home of Goku and the Z Fighters—faces Universe 6 in a brand-new Martial Arts Tournament! And the ultimate prize is one worth fighting for—the Super Dragon Balls from Universe 6. Can Goku gather the best fighters for a chance at true glory? And who is the mysterious Monaka that Beerus boasts as his strongest warrior? Get ready for an out-of-this-world competition!


It’s the conclusion of the battle between Goku and Vegeta vs. Frieza and the beginning of  the Universe 6 and 7 Invitational Fighting Tournament as Beerus team takes on his twin, Champa’s team for the Super Dragon Balls.

But Goku must take on Frost, someone that looks exactly like Frieza and what happens when Vegeta takes on a fellow Saiyan?

All this and more in “Dragon Ball Super – Part 3”!

What is “Dragon Ball Super” about?

With the completion of the hugely popular anime series “Dragon Ball Z”, while a new story was created titled “Dragon Ball GT” (1996-1997) and not based on Akira Toriyama’s previous work, Toriyama would return to create an overall plot outline for a new series titled “Dragon Ball Super” produced by Toei Animation.

The series is considered as the true sequel to “Dragon Ball Z” and would take place four years after the DBZ storyline.

The series began airing in July 2015 and as of October 2017, a total of 113 episodes (five seasons) have aired. The first season is 14 episodes long (known as the “God of Destruction Beerus” Arc) and Funimation had released “Dragon Ball Super” Part 1 featuring episodes 1-13 on Bl-ray and DVD.

And now, part 2 (featuring episodes 14-26) which includes the season one finale and the majority of all episodes from season two (known as the Golden Frieza arc).

In season one of “Dragon Ball Super”, Son Goku had defeated Majin Buu and Beerus, the God of Destruction has awakened and wanting to battle a worthy opponent, he chooses Earth and if the hero loses, he will destroy the planet. Son Goku is chosen to defend Earth.

Son Goku has since learned to transfom with the help of the Saiyans and Videl to become Super Saiyan God Goku but is this power enough to fight the strongest opponent in the universe?

In season two, Vegeta undergoes training from Whis, Gohan and wife Videl welcome a new baby named Pan, Sorbet and Tagoma are searching for the Dragon Balls in order to resurrect their leader, Frieza.

And with Frieza resurrected, he plans for his revenge against Goku and Future Trunks and this time, to show him his transformation to Golden Frieza.

The conclusion as Son Goku and Vegeta vs. Frieza is continued in “Dragon Ball Super – Part 3”.

And all was going well as Goku and Vegeta undergo intense training but all is interrupted when Champa and Vados shows up to visit Beerus and Whis.

The two have a disagreement of which universe has better food and when Beerus introduces Champa to Cup Ramen, Champa proposes a challenge. A fighting tournament featuring Universe 6’s best fighters vs. Beerus’ choice of five of Universe 7’s best fighters. Whoever wins gets access to the Super Dragon Balls and Champa’s goal is to switch Earth’s and have Beerus’ Earth switch places with the barren/devastated by war Earth of Universe 6.

All agree to have this tournament take place and now Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Boo and a fighter of Beerus’ choosing will need to take on Champa’s top five fighters.


VIDEO:

“Dragon Ball Super” is created in 1080p High Definition (16×9 HD Native). The episodes are colorful and absolutely vibrant. Great detail with character designs and wonderful animation for fight scenes. I saw no major softness, banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dragon Ball Super” features a wonderful soundtrack on Blu-ray. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese). Featuring the return of the original Dragon Ball Japanese and also English voice dub talent, the quality of the series voice acting continues with this newer series.

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Super – Part 3” comes with the following special features:

  • Anime Expo 2017 Interview with Sean Schemmel & Jason Douglas – (18:48) Interview with Sean Schemmel (voice of Son Goku) and Jason Douglas (voice of Beerus).
  • Textless Opening Songs
  • Textless Closing Songs
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Super” Part 3 comes with the Blu-ray and DVD of episodes 27-39.


I grew up watching “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” (as well as “Dragon Ball GT”) and at the time, I was a college student watching these episodes in straight Japanese until over a decade later, they were released on DVD and eventually on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation.

I played the Japanese video games and always purchased the Japanese animation magazines every month back when Tower Records existed in the US.

So growing up with the anime series and now as an adult with a teenage child who watches “Dragon Ball”, it’s a bit of a surreal feeling that the storyline of Goku and friends are continuing for a new generation of anime fans but also entertaining both young and old.

A series taking place not long after Goku defeated Majin Buu, I liked how the new anime series are now more condensed in storyline arcs. Where battles would last for months (many, many episodes long), I liked how there were only 14 seasons in season one and completed the fight between Goku vs. Beerus and I think any fan couldn’t help but be happy to see Goku’s powers evolve.

And with this part 3, we get the conclusion to the battle between Goku and Vegeta vs. Frieza.  But quickly the series changes gears as Son Goku and friends will need to take on the top warriors of Universe 6. In some ways, it’s kind of an Akira Toriyama nod to DC Comics with Superman and the heroes of Earth-1 and Earth-2 and the differences of similar universes but different outcomes for various planets in the universe.

And with volume 2, the tournament between Beerus team (which includes Goku, Vegeta and Piccolo) vs. Champa’s team (which includes Frost, who looks like Frieza; a saiyan; an assassin and a killer robot) kicks off in high gear and what an entertaining and exciting battle. More importantly, where battles last for so long in “Dragon Ball Z”, I’m glad these battles and the tournament is not stretched out for too long.

I love the fact that Toei Animation was consistent in bringing the original voice talent back and Funimation following the same practice with their English dub voice actors. Both soundtracks are well-acted and on Blu-ray, the anime series is vibrant and colorful in HD while the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and sound effects (much better on the English soundtrack thanks to the 5.1 lossless soundtrack).

I also love how Funimation is coming up with newer kind of special features showcasing their English dub actors. In this case, it’s interesting to see a video featurette with Sean Schemmel and Jason Douglas.

Overall, it’s a no-brainer that if you are a “Dragon Ball” fan that “Dragon Ball Super” is a must-watch series. And for all its worth, this series created for the past and present fanbase and a new generation of “Dragon Ball” fans, will no doubt love the humor and the action of “Dragon Ball Super”. I definitely recommend this anime series!

 

Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 15, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” is another action-packed, thrilling series and the conclusion of the “Kyoto Saga” has proven to be wonderful!  Fans of the series will no doubt want to check out “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 2”!   Recommended!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of Image courtesy of © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA, Blue Exorcist Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 2

YEAR: 2017

DURATION: (Episodes 7-12) 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: February 13, 2018


Based on the manga by Kazue Kato

Directed by Koichi Hatsumi

Series Composition by Toshiya Ono

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano, Kohta Yamamoto

Character Design by Keigo Sasaki

Art Director: Maho Takahashi

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Bryce Papenbrook as Rin Okumura

Jun Fukuyama/Johnny Yong Bosch as Yukio Okumura

Kana Hanazawa/Christine Marie Cabanos as Shiemi Moriyama

Kazuya Nakai/Kyle Hebert as Ryūji Suguro

Ayahi Takagaki/Stephanie Sheh as Kuro

Eri Kitamura/Kira Buckland as Izumo Kamiki

Hiroshi Kamiya/Sam Regal as Mephisto Pheles

Keiji Fujiwara/Kirk Thornton as Shirō Fujimoto

Koji Yusa as Renzō Shima

Rina Satou/Wendee Lee as Shura Kirigakure

Tetsuya Kakihara/Darrel Guilbeau as Amaimon

Yuuki Kaji as Konekomaru Miw


Blue Exorcist, the manga by Kazue Kato which has surpassed 15 million copies in sales. Following a TV anime series and a theatrical film, the long-awaited new series has come back! Set in Kyoto, a new chapter of Blue Exorcist is about to begin…

Rin’s anger towards Ryuji Suguro releases as blue flame in front of everyone, resulting in Rin being thrown into prison. While locked up, Shura delivers a letter to Rin from Tatsuma, Ryuji’s father and the head priest of Myohda Sect. From the letter they learn of the relationship between Tatsuma and Shiro Fujimoto, as well as the secret of the demon sword, Kurikara.

Meanwhile, Todo attempts to resurrect the Impure King and Tatsuma tries to disrupt his plans, but despite Tatsuma’s best efforts, Todo resurrects the Impure King!

Now Rin and his classmates must band together and defeat the Impure King!


Nearly six years since “Blue Exorcist” first aired on Japanese television, now the 12-episode anime series “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” has aired in Japan and with a first part released in the US, now part 2 on Blu-ray will be available in the U.S. courtesy of Aniplex of America, Inc.

In the “Kyoto Saga”, Rin’s secret that he is the son of Satan has been exposed and for some his friends, they realize that Rin is the son of the demon that killed their family and friends. And because of Rin showed signs of trying to use his power against evil, to be used as a weapon if his father was to reappear, he has been given a second chance. Mess up and he will be executed.

Meanwhile, the “Left Eye of the Impure King”, a demon relic was stolen from True Cross Academy. And now someone has unleashed it in the land.

Find out in “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” vol. 2!

So, What is “Blue Exorcist”?

“Ao no Exorcist” (Blue Exorcist) is an anime adaptation of a manga series written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, a mangaka who won a Tenkaichi Manga Award back in 1999 at the age of 19 and won a Tezuka Award in 2000 for his manga “The Witch and the Rabbit”. Kato is also known for his 2006 manga series “Robot Usakichi” (Space Traveler Robo & Usakichi).

“Blue Exorcist” was serialized on Jump Square Magazine by Shueisha since April 2009 and is still an ongoing manga series (as of January 2012, there have been a total of 30 chapters released).

With the popularity of the manga series, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures with Hitoshi Okamura as the producer. The series began back in April 2011 and 25-episodes have aired in Japan. And now the second setof “Blue Exorcist” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

The series revolves around a hotheaded teenager named Rin Okumura. Both he and his brother Yukio have been raised by Father Fujimoto at the Cross Academy Town – Southern Cross Boys Monastery. While Yuki shows great intelligence and is attending school at True Cross Academy to become a doctor, Rin is quite the opposite. He tends to get himself in trouble, fights a lot and is continually told by Father Fujimoto to find a job.

Unfortunately for Rin, finding and holding onto a job is difficult. But one day, while working at a supermarket, he sees a monster in a girl’s scarf. He tells Father Fujimoto of what he has seen and Father Fujimoto starts to fear that something is happening. One day, Rin encounters a group of thugs and its leader that he had beaten up earlier and suddenly sees him turn into a demon. The demon tells Rin that satan is waiting for him and immediately, Father Fujimoto is there to save him and exorcise the demon. Fortunately, Father Fujimoto is there to help but it is all revealed to Rin about why he can see monsters.

It’s the fact that he is not truly human. He is the son of a human woman and satan. And the monsters he have seen, it is explained to Rin that in the world, there is Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Both are not supposed to come in contact with each other but they have and as an exorcist, it is his duty to send the demons back to where they belong. And satan wants to reunite with his son.

To protect Rin, Father Fujimoto gives him the Kamkakushi key, so he can hide anything. And he is also given the Koma Sword, a magic sword passed down from generation to generation and a sword where Rin’s powers have been sealed since birth. Rin’s flame resides inside the sword and is sealed by the scabbard. If he draws it, he will assume his demonic nature and will never be able to live as a human again.

One day, he and Father Fujimoto try to prepare for an imminent attack and tells Rin that he must seek shelter where satan can’t get to him but Rin takes it as his father trying to get rid of him forever. In return, Rin said some hurtful things to Father Fujimoto and the pain that Father Fujimoto felt was enough for satan, the demon to possess him.

Satan shows up to claim his son and attacks Father Fujimoto. Satan reveals that he created Rin from a human woman in order to create a container that would be powerful enough to hold him.

But it’s something that Father Fujimoto will not let happen to the boy, he looked at as a son. In order to save Rin, Father Fujimoto risks his own life to keep satan away and is killed in the process.

Now Rin mourns for the one person he knew as his father and when Mephisto Pheles, a friend of Father Fujimoto comes to visit, he tells him that they represent the Knights of the True Cross and they exorcise demons. And Rin has two choices, they will kill him, or he kills the demons. Instead, Rin tells him that he could care less about being human or a demon, he wants to become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto and avenge him and that means defeating his own father.

So, from that point on, Rin must be trained to become an exorcist and will have to follow special rules (which includes not revealing his true nature). But the first thing that he will need to do is enroll at the same school that his brother Yukio attends. When Rin sees his brother, Yukio is in the top of the class and that he is a special leader that people follow at the school and he is no longer the scrawny younger brother he once knew.

As Rin is now a student at the Knights of the True Cross, many of the elders are not too thrilled because Rin is the son of Satan and because Rin tends to be more of a hothead, they are not too sure if he can fit into the Academy. But Rin is determined to make good on his promise to his deceased father and to protect people, but most of all, to kill satan.

The story continues as Rin continues to study along with his classmates and each are trying to be Esquires, in order to take on various missions. But others at the Academy and the higher ups want to test Rin and find out if he is a person that can be taught and eventually fight with the other exorcists in defeating demons and satan himself.

While people question a demon being an exorcist, for Rin, he makes a goal that one day, he will become a Paladin (highest level of exorcism) like his adoptive father, Father Shiro and prove that because he is satan’s son, that having a caring father like Shiro can make a big change in the life of a person, even if they are a demon.


“Blue Exorcist” features the following characters:

  • Rin Okamura – The main protagonist. The son of Satan but born from a human mother. He and his brother Yukio are twins but he inherited his father’s powers. Rin’s power was sealed inside a sword by Mephisto Pheles, so he can live a human life. Rin was raised by the priest Shiro Fujimoto as normal humans with compassion and love. Despite getting into a lot of trouble and his abilities tend to be more of fighting or cooking, since discovering his power and identity, he vows to use his power to avenge his adoptive father Shiro Fujimoto’s death and defeat Satan. He vows to attend True Cross Academy and do all it takes to become a Paladin and a “Meister” (Knight). Rin also has taken in a dog demon (Cat Sith) which he names Kuro.
  • Yukio Okamura – The son of Satan but born from a human mother. Unlike Rin he did not inherit Satan’s powers. Known as the intellectual person of the family, unbeknown to Rin was that he has been secretly trained to become an exorcist since the age of seven in order to protect his brother. So, now he is an instructor at True Cross Academy and responsible for looking after his brother. But he harbors a secret…dark spots are starting to appear on his body which Yukio has told no one about, despite being tested daily if Satan’s power is in him.
  • Mephisto Pheles – The Chairman of True Cross Academy. He and Shiro Fujimoto worked together in order to seal Rin’s power and make him human. Mephisto is a powerful exorcist but because he is a demon, many do not believe him while others believe he has proven he is on the side to fight against Satan.
  • Ryuji Suguro – Also known as “Bon” to his classmates. He has a high temper and is often fighting and arguing with Rin. But despite his attitude, he is the best student in the class and dedicated to his studies. Part of his drive is because Satan destroyed his family temple.
  • Shiemi Moriyama – The daughter of a woman who runs an exorcist-only shop. She lacks confidence and she is quite sheltered (having lived with her grandmother and her only friends were plants) but when given the chance to meet and make friends at True Cross Academy, being in school gives her a new lease on life. It appears that both Rin and Yukio may have feelings towards her. Shiemi is a tamer and can summon a greenman spirit to produce herbs and barriers.
  • Izumo Kamiki – She always has a cold attitude and known for her eyebrows. The only friend she is close to is her best friend Paku but slowly (very slowly), she is starting to befriend her classmates. She can summon two Baykko (foxes) to fight.
  • Konkomaru Miwa – Very smart but very shy. He is the strategist and is loyal to his best friend Ryuji and Renzo, since they grew up at the same temple that was destroyed. His parents were killed by Satan.
  • Renzo Shima – Carefee, loves to flirt with girls (especially Paku and Izumi) but has a major phobia of insects. He also grew up with Ryuji and Konekomaru. Renzo carries a K’rik staff to fight.
  • Shura Kirigakure – The carefree, hardly wears anything, loves alcohol, upper first class exorcist who was asked by priest Shiro Fujimoto to train Rin and help him become a “Meister”. She can draw a demon sword from her chest and stomach and is an excellent fighter.
  • Shiro Fujimoto – The priest of Southern Cross Monastery who raised both Yukio and Rin as a loving father. He is a Paladin in the True Cross Order and was the strongest exorcist. Was thought to be the only man who could not be possessed by Satan but after an argument with Rin (and Rin saying some hurtful things) which shocked Shiro, it was enough time for Satan to possess Shiro. In order to protect himself from hurting Rin and Yukio, Shiro sacrificed himself.

VIDEO:

“Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen). The anime production is well-done. The surrounding environments are well-detailed, painted nicely, while the character designs are vibrant, clear and just gorgeous on Blu-ray!

If anything, character designer Keigo Sasaki (“Night Raid 1931″, “Sengoku Basara”) does a great job of bringing the characters from Kazue Kato’s manga series to life, while art director Mahot Takahashi (“Pumpkin Scissors”, “Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee”, “Tokko”) did a wonderful job in bringing the series to life with the scenery and painted backgrounds.

Animation is vibrant, colorful and the series looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Blue Exorcist” is presented in English Linear PCM Stereo and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo with English subtitles. Audio is clear coming from the front channels. Japanese voice acting for the series is excellent! I personally had my receiver set to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack. But dialogue is understandable and English subtitles are easy to read.

As for the English dub track, the overall acting is good but it’s once again an action series with Johnny Yong Bosch as the lead character. For the most part, the voice acting by the English dub staff is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 2” comes with the Japanese PV’s, trailers and textless opening and closing themes.

EXTRAS:

“Blue Exorcist:Kyoto Saga 2” comes with a 38-page booklet and comes with three collectable postcards.


I’ve always enjoyed “Blue Exorcist” from the manga and the original series and Rin and his brother Yukio trying to keep a secret that they are the children of Satan. While Rin is the primary one who has the blue flames and literally needs to control his power or he will become a demon. While Yukio looks like the level-headed, intelligent brother but in reality, he is trying to hid something dark within him.

As “Kyoto Saga” takes place after Rin’s secret is revealed, his friends are starting to treat him differently. Primarily because his father is the one who slaughtered their friends or family and for some, having a friend who can turn to evil is not easy for them.

So, for Rin, what matters most is trying to control his power and try not to get in trouble or else face the consequence and that is execution.

For “Kyoto Arc”, the Impure King has been revived and as Yukio has locked Rin up and Rin trying to understand why he should live when he feels he causes everyone so much pain, that leaves everyone trying to fight the Impure King which they are powerless again.

At a time like this, Rin’s friends must get him out of his funk and show him how much he means to them but also how important he is in the battle against the Impure King.

This will also be a test for each of them as Bon must rise to take on his father’s work and protect the village, Konekomaru proving that he is brave enough to protect or help his friends, Shiemi must prove that while she may not be the strongest, she can be useful to everyone, especially for her wanting to protect Rin.

Meanwhile Yukio must confront his true feelings of his true self and why Rin gets to him so much.

And Shura Kirigakure wonders if Mephisto is up to no good.

All this and more in the final episodes of “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga”!

The series has developed quite well in terms of storyline pacing, animation, voice acting and just overall enjoyment and the second season is consistent. There is a lot of action, humor and drama, especially as Rin is dragged into things and his anger tends to get the best of him.  The big question is whether or not he can control his anger, not become a demon and protect the people he cares about?

As for the overall series, the character designs are actually pretty cool, especially the costume designs for the characters. Also, the art backgrounds for this series is nicely detailed and range from pastels to really vibrant colors. Something you typically don’t see in a TV Series.

“Blue Exorcist” has a good balance of humor, action and an interesting concept in balance with awesome animation and beautiful art backgrounds. While the action may be a bit too visual for younger anime viewers (as this is suggested for 13 and up), for fans of action-based anime or manga series such as “Naruto” and “Bleach” will find “Blue Exorcist” to their liking.

And once again, Aniplex of America continues to deliver in terms of swag with a 38-page special booklet and collectable postcards.

Overall, “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” is another action-packed, thrilling series and the conclusion of the “Kyoto Saga” has proven to be wonderful!  Fans of the series will no doubt want to check out “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 2”!   Recommended!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

 

Terraformars (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 11, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“Terraformars” is an anime series that will no doubt entertaining anime fans who are looking for a lot of action (but also a lot of violence).  This is a series that spares no expense of offing key characters and a series that showcases the survival of the Annex 1 team on Mars as they take on thousands of evolved cockroaches intent on killing them.  While it does not incorporate everything that the manga series featured, it’s still a solid, action anime series worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Ken-Ichi Tachibana, Yu Sasuga/SHUEISHA Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Terra Formars

DURATION: (Episodes 1-13) 312 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: January 23, 2018


Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki

Series Composition: Shogo Yasukawa

Music by Shusei Murai

Originally Created by Kenichi Tachibana and Yu Sasuga

Character Design:  Masanori Shino, Satoshi Kimura

Art Director: Minami Kasuga

Anime Production: LIDEN FILMS


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hidenobu Kiuchi/Christopher Smith as Shōkichi Komachi

Kaito Ishikawa/Robbie Daymond as Marcos Eringrad Garcia

Kenn/Steve Cannon as Alex Kandori Stewart

Shizuka Itou/Eric Lindbeck as Michelle K. Davis

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Chris Niosi as Akari Hizamaru

Ai Kayano/Erica Lindbeck as Sheila Levitt

Aki Toyosaki/Erin Fitzgerald as Yaeko Yanasegawa

Akira Ishida/Todd Haberkorn as Joseph G. Newton

Ayane Sakura/Cristina Vale as Eva Frost

Chiaki Takahashi/Cherami Leigh as Kanako Sanjō

Daisuke Ono/Max Mittelman as Keiji Onizuka

Kenji Akabane/Christopher Smith as Ivan Perepelkina

Koji Yusa/Doug Erholtz as Adolf Reinhard

Kouji Ishii/Peter Lurie as Narration

Tetsuo Komura/Kyle Hebert as Liu Yiwu

Tomokazu Sugita as Ichirō Hiruma

Tooru Nara/Max Mittelman as Aleksandr Asimov

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Keith Silverstein as Shichisei Hiruma

Unshō Ishizuka/Patrick Seitz as Sylvester Asimov


In the deep silence of space, the planet Mars hisses with death. On Earth, a mysterious virus is devastating the human race. To find a cure and give humanity a fighting chance of survival, a multinational team of genetically modified citizens must race to the Red Planet and uncover its secrets. What awaits is the bloody aftermath of a colonization attempt gone horribly wrong–hordes of hyper-evolved cockroaches known as “Terraformars” roam keen to kill. Earth’s chosen stand ready for combat and ready to change the course of human history. The question is which species can unite for victory.


In 2011, writer Yu Sasuga and artist Kenichi Tachibana would create “Terra Formars”, a manga series that would become a major hit in Japan.

First serialized in Shueisha’s “Weekly Young Jump”, “Terra Formars” was ranked #1 in the 2013 “Kono Manga ga Sugoi!” top 20 Manga for Male Readers survey and an anime series produced by LIDEN FILMS would be air on Japanese TV in 2015.

And now the series will be released on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

With Earth looking to colonize Mars which is undergoing its final stages of Terraforming and now becoming a green planet, a group of 15 men and women have been sent to Mars to check on the Terraformation of the planet.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the planet is falling into ruin due to environmental destruction and energy shortages, so Mars has been the focus by scientists.

Scientists have used moss and a black organism to darken the surface of the planet and causing it to absorb more sunlight, increase temperatures and melting the carbon dioxide.

The black organism used by scientists were cockroaches.

As the 15 men and women of BUGS 2 arrive on the planet on their mission to evaluate the planet but also to find out what happened to the first crew (BUGS 1) that landed on the planet.

The team discover that the Terraforming has succeeded but to their shock, the cockroaches have mutated with human bodies.

And now the humans have become the hunted.

Because the cockroaches exhibit all abilities of a cockroach, it was learned that scientists embedded human DNA in them and their mutation has made them beings that would not just survive in Mars but also exhibiting human characteristics and a hatred towards humanity (as humanity has had a hatred towards cockroaches).

But humanity also has found a way for humans to counteract the cockroaches by using injections of insects on humans that will briefly give them insect powers. But is it enough for the humans to survive in Mars as they are now considered the pests for the planet in which the humanoid cockroaches are the primary species?

The anime series is set 20-years later and Shokichi Komachi is now the new head of U-NASA. As one of the few survivors to escape from Mars and survive the cockroach onslaught, the Earth he has returned to is not just facing an overpopulation problem but also a widespread virus that came from Mars.

The bad news that the only way to stop it is to confirm the existence of the virus and determine its type and bring it back to Earth in hopes to create a vaccine.

But will Shokichi find a new group of people willing to sacrifice their lives for humanity by going to Mars and prepare for the onslaught of cockroach/humans that have infested the planet and want nothing more than to kill the humans?

As the Terraformars have invaded the spacecraft of Annex 1, it becomes a battle of survival as the recruits must prepare for a crash landing on Mars, but to find out that not only have Earth’s recruits have evolved, so have the Terraformars!

On Mars, the officers come across different types of Terraformars that somehow have other insect abilities. Did they evolve that way or is someone responsible for the insects becoming bipedal humanoid.


VIDEO:

“Terraformars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9). Featuring character designs that respect Tachibana’s original manga artwork, overall picture quality is well-done and colors are vibrant.  I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues with this series on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Terraformars” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.  Both soundtracks are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Terraformars” comes with interviews with the English dub talent (Erica Lindbeck, Chris Niosi, Patrick Seitz and Viz Media’s Terraformars Team), clean opening and ending and an art gallery.

EXTRAS:

“Terraformars” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD of the series.


In America, there have been a number of sci-fi films that have featured humanity taking on various alien species on Mars.

But what makes Yu Sasuga and Ken-Ichi Tachibana’s “Terraformars” so fascinating and also exciting is the science of Terra Formation and how scientists were able to create something that may lead to their own demise.

It’s interesting because of all species to bring on Mars, any human would know that cockroaches are the most resilient insect. Not only are they quick but they are very hard to kill.

Stepping on them doesn’t always fully kill them, throwing them away in a toilet in water also doesn’t kill them as they try to escape. So, for anyone familiar with the resilient cockroach can possibly think if a cockroach evolved to something much larger than a human being, not only would it be powerful but also hard to kill.

And despite humans ability to strategize, without having the same power to fight back, humans on Mars are literally defenseless. And to fight back, the use of insect injections from powerful insects in the planet may be what is needed to fight against these human cockroaches.

This first half features Shokichi recruit a ragtag bunch of people willing to sacrifice themselves in hopes for a payday but also in hopes for a vaccine to help eliminate the virus from Mars that have been killing people all over the globe.  But will these new recruits encounter the same tragic experience that Shokichi had once endured?

And once the humans return to Mars, unfortunately things don’t happen all that well as it all seems doom and gloom from the start as the Terraformars have invaded the spacecraft of Annex 1 and when the crew does reach Mars, they realize that the enemies they have fought, also have gain intelligence and a new brand of fighting back. Which does not sound good for humanity, at all!

It’s a very exciting and action-packed anime series for sure.  But having read Yu Sasuga and Kenichi Tachibana’s manga series prior to watching the anime, there are differences.

For one, the manga began with the first 15 men and women of BUGS 2 to arrive on the planet on their mission to evaluate the planet but also to find out what happened to the first crew (BUGS 1) that landed on the planet.  The team discover that the Terraforming has succeeded but to their shock, the cockroaches have mutated with human bodies.

In the anime series, it immediately begins with the introduction to Akari Hizamaru trying to save his childhood friend Yuriko and then by episode 2, featuring the Annex 1 heading to Mars.

The manga series put a lot of thought into its introduction, a glimmer of what will transpire on Earth and then the introduction to the characters and Annex 1 heading to Mars.  The manga also went into a lot of details trying to describe the insect or mammal/animal they were tested with.

The anime series focuses on Akari and Michelle K. Davis, with other episodes giving certain characters their own introduction.  While still action-packed and exciting, the anime series does miss out on a lot of the character building storylines and that’s unfortunate.

The animation is respectful to the manga series and one thing I like about the anime series is seeing the color differentiation with the characters.  The manga series could get a bit confusing as certain characters look the same (and it doesn’t help that so many characters are introduced), so the animation does have that as an advantage.  Picture quality is good with slight softness but LIDEN FILMS did a good job.   The lossless soundtrack in Japanese and English stereo and the voice acting for both soundtracks are well-acted.

 

As for special features, the Blu-ray comes with interviews, clean opening and ending and an art gallery.

Overall, “Terraformars” is an anime series that will no doubt entertaining anime fans who are looking for a lot of action (but also a lot of violence).  This is a series that spares no expense of offing key characters and a series that showcases the survival of the Annex 1 team on Mars as they take on thousands of evolved cockroaches intent on killing them.  While it does not incorporate everything that the manga series featured, it’s still a solid, action anime series worth watching!

 

Fire Punch vol. 1 – Story and Art by Tatsuki Fujimoto (Viz Signature)

February 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

While Fujimoto’s artwork is great, his storytelling for vol. 1 is just as exceptional.  An original story, a captivating plot and I can’t wait for vol. 2 of “Fire Punch”.  Recommended!

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© 2016 FIREPUNCH/Tatsuki Fujimoto. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Fire Punch vol. 1

STORY & ART BY: Tatsuki Fujimoto

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Kodansha, Ltd.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Viz Signature

RATED: M for Mature

RELEASE DATE: January 16, 2018


In a frozen dystopia where inhabitants eat flesh to survive, can the destructive powers of fire bring salvation?

In the not-too-distant past, the Ice Witch blankets the world in snow, starvation, and madness, leading the inhabitants to seek their salvation in fire. With that, an unusual destiny unfolds for two young orphans, Agni and Luna, blessed with the ability to regenerate. But will this ability prove to be more of a curse than a blessing?

Orphaned siblings Agni and Luna, like the Ice Witch who cursed their world, are two of the “blessed,” humans who hold special abilities. However, not all who are blessed are friendly, and after another of their kind attacks him and decimates his village, Agni fights to survive, vowing revenge.


From mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto comes his shonen manga “Fire Punch”.

Serialized in Shonen Jump from April 2016 through January 2018, the manga has been collected into 8 manga volumes and now the manga series will be released in North America courtesy of Viz Signature.

The series is set during a time when humanity is going through a major crisis as chaos and famine rules the land.  But in this world are people with special abilities known as the “Blessed”.

Agni and his younger sister Luna are Blessed who have regenerative powers.  While Agni knows how to regenerate, Luna is unable to regenerate that quickly yet.

And the two are staying with villagers who allowed them to stay and the two are helping villagers by giving them food to eat.  Primarily, Agni is chopping his arm off and giving them a chance to eat his arm (as he can easily regenerate and grow another).

While not all villagers resort to cannibalism, many are dying because they don’t want to eat human flesh, while those who do eat, are among the living.

One day, a military group lands in the area by plane and their leader Doma tells them that there is a war going on and they exhausted their supplies.  The soldiers have come to the village to take what they want and in exchange, they will get to live in Behemdorg as a gesture of goodwill.

The war is to defeat the Ice Witch in hopes to bring green back to the world.

When the soldiers inspect the village and report that the villagers are eating human remains, Doma and his soldiers leave, not before using his special ability, to ignite and burn the whole village and its people down.

Everyone and the entire village is burned to death and while Agni’s regeneration kicks in, but her sister, her regenerative powers are too weak and she gives him one message before he dies…”Live”.

For a year, Agni would live but in pain as the flames around his body never subsided.  By year three, he was able to walk, still coughing up blood and by year five, he was able to acclimate to the pain but unable to breathe well due to the flames.

By year eight, Agni taught himself how to control his regenerative powers and ways to confine the flames to his lower body away from his head and so he is able to breathe.

And now, Agni has a reason to live and that is to get revenge on Doma, the man who killed his his sister and burn him alive.


“Fire Punch” is a manga series that is quite original.   Sure, we see regeneration in anime series like “Attack on Titan” but “Fire Punch” is interesting in the fact that the story takes place where humanity is in chaos due to famine and the world being turned to ice.  And among the humans still alive, there are those with special abilities.

The story begins with a brother and sister trying to stay alive amidst all the chaos but are quick to learn that with the war, life is not safe at all.  Agni and his sister managed to survive by using their regenerative powers to save a village by Agni chopping his arm off to feed families.  He could do it because he could easily regenerate his arm right back.

But when soldiers find out that the villagers have resorted to cannibalism, their superior Doma has the village and its people scorched to death with his power.

While Agni was able to regenerate, his sister has not and over the years, Agni has learned to control his power and his thirst for revenge gets stronger.

The story also introduces us to a boy (who looks like a girl) named Sun.  Sun decides to follow Agni around as he saved her.  While Sun has a weak power of electricity, because Agni killed soldiers trying to save Sun and others, he is now a target.

But the soldiers want to capture him and use him as a weapon to fight the Ice Witch, the one they blame for turning their land into ice.

But Agni is headed to the land of Behemdorg to get his revenge.  But will he live long enough to get there?

Overall, this is a very fascinating story about revenge.  Tatsuki Fujimoto does an excellent job with overall character designs and his artwork manages to capture the desolation of the area but showing the grief on the people’s faces.

And while Fujimoto’s artwork is great, his storytelling for vol. 1 is just as exceptional.  An original story, a captivating plot and I can’t wait for vol. 2 of “Fire Punch”.

Recommended!

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Imperfect Girl vol. 2 – Story by NISIOISIN and Art by Mitsuru Hattori (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

February 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

I’m not sure where this story is going. If a young girl with a knife will literally have this adult as her hostage that she can toy with and torture, it’s unusual and quite dark. And with vol. 2, it looks like “I” wants to stay, so he can understand “U” and her motivation for kidnapping him.  It’s an interesting volume to say the least and refreshingly dark but yet entertaining at the same time.

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© 2016 NISIOISIN/Misuru Hattori. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Imperfect Girl vol. 2

STORY BY: NISIOISIN

ART BY Mitsuru Hattori

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Kodansha, Ltd.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Vertical Inc.

RATED: 16+

RELEASE DATE: January 9, 2018


“Leaving this house without finding out what’s going on here is no longer an option for me…!”

The improbable imprisonment that transformed “I” into a novelist continues into a third, fourth and fifth day. “U” obsesses over formalities, as “I” quietly coaxes her into taking care of herself. As this bizarre farce of a kidnapping stretches towards the inevitable breaking point, “I” starts to discover the truth about “U”, a truth he should never have learned.


“I” has been locked in the closet by his kidnapper “U”.  But while she goes out to school, he manages to find a way to escape the closet.  But as he could easily escape from the apartment, what does “I” discover, when he looks around U’s home.

All this and more in “Imperfect Girl” vol. 2!

What is “Imperfect Girl”?

Nisioisin is a well-known manga writer and novelist. Best known for his “Monogatari” novels, he already has created many series such as “Zaregoto”, “Ningen”, “Sekai”, “Densetsu”, “Boukyaku Tantei” to name a few.

In 2016, Nisioisin collaborated with Mitsuru Hattori (best known for “Concerto”) for “Imperfect Girl” which was featured in “Weekly Young Magazine”.

The series revolves around an author known as “I” hoping for a big break, but for each manuscript he has sent, he has not received one reply.

One day, while riding on his bike to get home, he sees two girls walking and one is hit by a truck and is killed. The other he sees saving her video game and rushing to her friend and then rode on.

The following day, while riding on his bike, the author gets into an accident as a recorder is stuck inside his back wheel and was able to survive thanks to his judo classes.

While the author gets home to check things on his computer, he feels a stabbing pain on his calf. When he goes to check, he sees the girl (that survived the crash) under his desk and sees her stabbing his calf with a blade.

She explains to him that her name is “U” and because she saw her, she is taking him. With the blade to his back and repeated punctures, she forces him to her home and has him go into the closet and locks him in there. As he ponders to get help, he realizes he would be a laughing stock if he told people that a young-girl has kidnapped him.

As the author tries to think of what “U” is trying to accomplish, he overthinks things, about her intention, about his life and by the time he wakes up, he realizes that he hasn’t eaten.

He is thinking it’s probably a game and her parents would come back home and he would be released…but why isn’t her parents home yet? Why is he being locked in a closet? What will happen if she leaves him locked up?


As a reader and viewer of NISIOISIN’s “Mongatari” series, there is always something fascinating about his style of work and the characters.

So, I was looking forward to reading his three volume series “Imperfect Girl” and I found the storyline to be surprisingly wicked.

A story about an author who has limited thinking and hasn’t had a successful novel, sees a girl get killed and her friend checking on her.

But instead of stopping, the author just keeps riding his bike and more or less is an observer that tries to use what he observes to incorporate to a future novel.

But the following day, he gets home and the girl he saw earlier is stabbing his calf with a blade. And now she has him by knifepoint and forces him to her home and she locks him up in his closet.

I found the whole story interesting and what if it was all in his head, what if he’s too stupid to do anything…break the closet down or whatever. Why does he just stay in the closet and not fight it? What is wrong with this guy? But as you read on, you start to realize, this little girl that has more or less kidnapped him, is wicked and unafraid and quite deadly.

With volume 2, the girl known as U leaves for school and the author, I is left in the closet and has to urinate.

Naturally, he finds a way out of the closet and while he has all the chances to escape, he sees how she is living and starts to feel bad for her.  Wondering if her parents left her all alone in the house?  Wondering if the food that she feeds him is all the food she lives on per day.

Needless to say, his curiosity leads him to stay and stay in the closet, so he can stay even longer.   But will his decision to stay, rather than leave a smart decision or a decision he’ll end up regretting?

As for the story and artwork, the collaboration between NISIOISIN and Mitsuru Hattori is solid. Some of those experimental art that you often see in NISIOISIN’s work, you tend to see experimentation with artwork and in the pages, while dark in a horror-like way, you also get a few experimental art that really looks cool.

Overall, I’m not sure where this story is going. If a young girl with a knife will literally have this adult as her hostage that she can toy with and torture, it’s unusual and quite dark. And with vol. 2, it looks like “I” wants to stay, so he can understand “U” and her motivation for kidnapping him.  It’s an interesting volume to say the least and refreshingly dark but yet entertaining at the same time.

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My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0: S.ifr – The OVA Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0:S.ifr – The OVA Collection” is recommended for those who have watched “My-Otome” and no the background of the characters.  While the OVA series can be watched on its own, I still recommend one to immerse themselves with “My-Otome” then “My-Otome Zwei” and last, “My-Otome 0:S.ifr”.

Image courtesy of © Sunrise. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0: S.ifr – THE OVA Collection

DURATION: (7 Episodes) 192 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9), Japanese 5.2 and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: January 9, 2018


My Otome-Zwei

Directed by Masakazu Obara

Series Composition: Hiroyuki Yoshino

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Creator: Hajime Yatate

Character Design: Hirokazu Hisayuki

Art Director: Shinji Takasuka

Anime Production: Sunrise

My-Otome 0: S.ifr

Directed by Hirokazu Hisayuki

Scenario: Tatsuto Higuchi

Music by Kuniaki Haishima

Original Creator: Hajime Yatate

Character Design: Hirokazu Hisayuki

Mechanical Design: Hiroyuki Taiga

Anime Production: Sunrise


Featuring the following voice talent – My Otome-Zwei

Ami Koshimizu/Kris Rundle as Nina Wáng

Mika Kikuchi/Angie Beers as Arika Yumemiya

Yukana/Katie Rowan as Mashiro Blan de Windbloom

Ai Shimizu/Caitlynne Medrek as Mikoto Minagi

Akira Ishida/Graham Ko as Nagi Dài Artai

Junko Iwao/Morgan Partridge as Akane Soir

Katsuyuki Konishi/Phil Fulton as Sergay Wáng

Kiyomi Asai/Maizun Jayoussi as Miyu

Kumiko Higa/Leah Dubbin-Steckel as Irina Woods

Mai Nakahara/Carol-Anne Day as Mai Tokiha

Mamiko Noto/Morgan Partridge as Yukino Chrysant

Minami Kuribayashi/Lori Barnes-Smith as Erstin Ho

Mitsuki Saiga/Hazel Forman as Chie Hallard

Naomi Shindoh/Melanie Risdon as Shizuru Viola

Rie Tanaka/Tracy Sutton as Tomoe Marguerite

Ryoka Yuzuki/Lori-Barns Smith as Haruka Armitage

Ryoko Shintani/Jayna Mitchell as Aoi Senoh

Saeko Chiba/Cheryl McMaster as Natsuki Kruger

Sakura Nogawa/Leda Davies as Shiho Huit

Toshihiko Seki/Ethan Cole as Rad

Youko Matsuoka/Barb Mitchell as Maria Graceburt

Yukari Tamura/Mariette Sluyter as Midori

Yuuka Nanri/Marcy Lannan as Juliet Nao Zhang

My-Otome 0: S.ifr

Ami Koshimizu as Sifr Fran

Aya Endo as Lena Sayers

Yuko Sanpei as Elliot Chandler

Akeno Watanabe as Iruma Vandebelt

Akiko Kimura as Rei Juggernaut/Reito


Discover more about the power of Otome in two exciting OVAs. After the battle of Windbloom, Arika and her friends face another threat when a strange new creature appears. In the sub-only prequel, catch a new story where the powers of HiME and Otome combine, and Arika and Nina’s mothers have their own adventure.


Back in 2004, Sunrise created the anime series “My-HiME”. Directed by Masakazu Obara and written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, the anime series lasted for 26 episodes and would lead to a new series “My-Otome” (26 episodes, 2005-2006) and two OVA series: “My-Otome Zwei” (4 episodes, 2006-2007) and “My-Otome 0: S.ifr” (3 episodes, 2008).

“My-HiME” was Sunrise’s first Moe anime series and an animation series that captivated viewers.  While the anime series was released on DVD courtesy of Sunrise years ago, the license for all three series was acquired by Funimation and will be released on Blu-ray/DVD in January 2018.

“My-Otome Zwei” takes places one year after “My-Otome” and Arika is now an Otome (who still has yet to graduate from school).  As various nations are coming together to hold a Strategic Otome Limitation Talks and discussion about limiting the number of Otome.

But the peace in Earl changes when a mysterious shadow figure begins to attack Garderobe, meanwhile Queen Mashiro has disappeared and Arika goes to search for her, while the Otome in Garderobe try to look into who this mysterious shadow figure is.

“My-Otome o: S.ifr” is a prequel that explains who is Arika Yumemiya’s mother is (Lena Sayers) and the origins of Nina Wang’s mother (Sifr Fran), the origins of Schwartz, Aswad and the Garderobe Academy and the Five Columns are revealed.


VIDEO:

“My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0: S.ifr” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9). The former was released in 2006-2007, while the prequel was released in 2008.  OVA’s tend to have better production value and it’s quite evident with the 1080p presentation.  Colors are much more vibrant, while anime production between the two series in terms of character design are different.  But for the most part, the anime series looks great in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My-Otome Zwei” is presented in English 2.0 and Japanese 5.1, while “My-Otome 0: S.ifr” is presented only in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.  Japanese soundtrack sounds great with the 5.1 soundtrack but for the most part, the Japanese soundtrack is well-acted, while the English dub is very good, but kind of has an old-school anime English dub vibe.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0: S.ifr” comes with textless songs and trailers.

EXTRAS:

“My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0: S.ifr – The OVA Collection” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD of the series.


When “My-HiME” was released over a decade ago, it was no doubt considered as an amazing anime series from Sunrise and unlike anything they have done before.

It was the studio’s first moe anime series and one showcasing a strong female cast of characters.

With “My-Otome”, the vibe of the anime series is a bit different. A series that focuses on a girl looking for her mother, decides that she wants to be an Otome and then trying to prove her worthiness by taking part in difficult training and showing that she has what it takes to be an Otome.

With the sequel “My-Otome Zwei”, the OVA series explores Arika trying to search for Queen Mashiro who has gone feeling and a mysterious shadow who has come to Earl and is causing great trouble to the people. The series reunites Arika and Nina Wang joining forces to take on a greater evil and for the most part, it’s another sequel that is action-packed and fun to watch.

“My-Otome 0: S.ifr” is a prequel that explores Arika’s mother Lena Sayers and Nina’s mother Sifr Fan, also Headmistress of Garderobe Una Shamrock.  This is an important story as Arika’s mother was often alluded to in “My Otome” and also how Arika was able to get the Blue Sky Sapphire.

But in this OVA series, Sifr is kidnapped and is rescued by Lena Sayers.  But another kidnapping attempt on Sifr is made and can Lena protect her? But why all the trouble to kidnap Sifr?

For the most part, the OVA series showcases Arika and Nina (“My Otome Zwei), while the “My-Otome 0:S.ifr” explores their parents, Lena and Sifr and how those two became close friends.

It’s not an incredibly deep storyline and unlike the TV series which is thorough in introducing characters and having a consistent plot, the OVA series are more side stories and should only be watched if you watched “My-Otome”.

But I have to say my favorite is still “My-HiME” which has a much deeper, well-written storyline.  But for the most part, I feel that “My-Otome” fans will no doubt love the OVA collection.

Both OVA series look very good in HD and are much better than their TV series counterparts (which were soft as can be expected from a TV series, especially an older series).  But te OVA Collection features better background artwork, better character designs and detailed backgrounds.

It’s important to note that “My-Otome Zwei” is presented in Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and English 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, while “My-Otome 0:S.ifr” is only in Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.

Also, I have to note that when you put the Blu-ray in, you’ll notice the prequel is presented first and the sequel second.  I prefer watching the sequel first and then the prequel second.

Overall, “My-Otome Zwei and My-Otome 0:S.ifr – The OVA Collection” is recommended for those who have watched “My-Otome” and no the background of the characters.  While the OVA series can be watched on its own, I still recommend one to immerse themselves with “My-Otome” then “My-Otome Zwei” and last, “My-Otome 0:S.ifr”.

 

 

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