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Spider-Man: Homecoming (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Disc Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio,  French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese,  Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by Jon Watts

Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

Executive Producer: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Louis D’Esposito, Jeremy Latcham, Stan Lee, Matt Tolmach, Patricia Whitcher

Co-Producer:  Mitchell Bell, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Rachel O’Connor

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.


It is well-known that there is friction between Marvel Studios (which is currently owned by Disney) and their Marvel’s deal with FOX which gave them ownership to the X-Men films (and formerly the “Fantastic Four” films) which prevents the interaction of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to co-exist.  But one big question that many have wondered is if one of the most iconic characters, Spider-Man, which the films are with Sony Pictures, would ever appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

And when it was announced that Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and Disney would collaborate and allowed Spider-Man to be featured in a MCU film, not only was it unprecedented, fans applauded the studios of working together.

Spider-Man would be featured in “Captain America: Civil War” and now we have a new Spider-Man film which allows Tony Stark (Iron Man) and even Captain America to be featured in a Sony Pictures film, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film begins not long after the Battle of New York (as featured in the first “Avengers” film).  Adrian Toomes (portrayed by Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company and is contracted to clean up the city of the destroyed alien Chitauri technology that have littered the streets of New York.

As Adrian sees the financial possibilities of obtaining this technology, the Department of Damage Control (D.O.D.C.) and a partnership with Stark Industries and the U.S. government have come in to take over, upsetting Adrian because he hired a lot of helped and spent his own money for the operation.

Having lost the job, his men reveal that they still have some of the alien technology.

Fastforward eight years later (following the events that took place in “Captain America: Civil War”), Peter Parker went to help Tony Stark/Iron Man and when taken home, is told that if they need him, they will call. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (portrayed by Jon Favreau) would be watching over him.

And while Peter lives a double life as an intelligent studying at the Midtown School of Science and Technology, he takes on thugs or helps people with issues around the city, growing bored and wanting to do something huge.  He lives with his Aunty May (portrayed by Marisa Tomei) and hangs out with his best friend Ned (portrayed by Jacob Batalon) and has a crush on Liz (portrayed by Laura Harrier).

Meanwhile, we see that Adrian Toomes and his men have utilized the technology to pull of major theft of alien technology and selling it to the highest bidder and becoming wealthy because of it.

One device made is a shocking device and the person utilizing the technology would be known as The Shocker, while Toomes has a vulture like apparatus that allows him to fly and use the machinery as a weapon.

One day, as Spider-Man is out patrolling, he discovers a group of thieves dressed up with Avengers masks trying to rob a bank near his home.  Spider-Man goes to stop them but is shocked that they have alien technology that can literally destroy buildings quickly and another that makes him utilizing magnetic technology.

When he goes back home and sneaks in, Peter is unaware that his friend Ned is in his room and now Ned knows his secret that Peter is Spider-Man.

And as Peter tries to keep his double life in check, he is wanting to know more about the people using the alien technology despite the warning he receives from Tony Stark that he must stay on the ground.  Will Peter’s pursuit of who is using the Chitauri put him in true danger, especially of the people who are close to him?


VIDEO:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio).

The film looks absolutely magnificent in 4K Ultra HD and Spider-Man’s outfit is vibrant, colors and visual effects look magnificent and with each passing year, I can’t help but be in awe of how these MCU films look better and better.

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is equally impressive. Presented in English Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description.

The lossless audio is no doubt immersive considering the amount of action featured in this film.   Each shockblast, each web shot by Spider-Man, hearing the Vulture’s steel wings in action to the many numerous situations that involve explosions and weaponry, these sound effects for this film is truly marvelous.  Similar to the picture quality, for audio, lossless audio for this film is magnificent!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Spanish and Thai

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • The Spide Study Guide – Watch the film with informative pop-ups and hidden references.
  • Gag Reel – (2:17) Bloopers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – (16:17) Featuring ten deleted and extended scenes.
  • A Tangled Web – (6:12) Stan Lee and filmmakers discusses Spider-Man becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Searching for Spider-Man – (8:05) A featurette about Tom Holland and having him as Spider-Man.
  • Spidey Stunts – (5:48) A featurette about the stunts on “Spider-Man” and how when Tom Holland auditioned for the film, he was doing stunts and using his gymnastic/dance background in the film.
  • Aftermath – (4:48) A featurette about the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe and incorporating storyline elements (featured in the “Avengers” film) to Spider-Man.
  • The Vulture Takes Flight – (6:02) A featurette about creating the antagonist, the Vulture on film.
  • Jon Watts: Head of the Class – (5:30) A featurette about hiring Jon Watts as the director of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and how he takes the character somewhere that has never been done for character on film.
  • Pros and Cons of Spider-Man – (3:28) Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon discussing the pros and cons of Spider-Man.
  • Rappin with Cap – (2:26) Featuring all four Captain America school films.
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


Growing up as a fan of “Spider-Man”, it has been interesting cinematic experiences.  From the Sam Raimi trilogy featuring actor Tobe Maguire in the 2000’s and the Marc Webb films starring Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014.  I was entertained by those films.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe establishing a well-oiled machine showcasing Marvel’s well-known characters interacting in each other’s films, one of the troubling situations was knowing that various superhero teams or superheroes featured from one studio, may not appear in the Disney/Marvel Studios films.

And when it was announced that Sony agreed to a collaboration for Spider-Man to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, first with “Captain America: Civil War” and now with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and I see this as a win-win, for the studios but also the fans who have seen the MCU and how these characters and films tie together as a major plus.

But with numerous Spider-Man films, how would “Spider-Man: Homecoming” do compared to the other films?

For one, there is no rehash of how Spider-Man became a hero, no Uncle Ben, no jocks vs. geeks storyline.  No Mary Jane Watson.  No Gwen Stacy.  In fact, no one knew what to expect from filmmaker Jon Watts (known for indie films, “Cop Car” and “Creative Control”), especially as the film had numerous writers such as Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Watts along with Christopher Ford and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers.

And probably the unknown is what made this film so enjoyable for me.  We saw how Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark in “Captain America: Civil War”, but what happened after that film is what many wondered how “Spider-Man: Homecoming” would end up.

The film would kick off by creating a tie-in to the first “Avengers” film with showing how Adrian Toomes owning a salvage company, taking alien high-technology from the ravaged streets of New York and then being kicked to the curb by the government and Stark Industries.  But Toomes and company managed to keep some of that alien technology and eight years later, he and his crew would be able to create superpowered weaponry with the salvaged Chitauri technology and become an arms trafficker.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker who served with Iron Man and other Avengers would now be returned back home and would need to report to Happy Hogan, the former head of security of Stark Industries.  While wanting to be in major skirmishes like the Avengers, Peter Parker for now will be the neighborhood crime-fighting hero, even if it means walking elderly across the street or vandalism.

But meanwhile Peter is trying to balance school and uses his superhero front working with Stark Industries as a “student internship” and trying to enjoy his teenage life with his buddy Ned while enjoying the presence of his high school crush, Liz from afar.

But life changes for Peter when he discovers Toome and their crew trying to use Chitauri technology for crime and because of their deadly weapons, he was nearly killed until Tony Stark utilized one of his costumes to save Peter.  But Peter wanting to prove himself to Tony Stark pursues the criminals not realizing the full extent of the danger that awaits him but also how with great power comes great responsibility.

The major difference between this Peter Parker than other incarnations of Peter Parker is that this is a modern film.  The costume that Peter Parker wears utilizes technology from Stark Industries giving him a wide range of selections for combat and even has an assistant built in to the costume.  And part of the entertainment factor is seeing Parker learn what his costume is capable of.

Meanwhile, as for Peter, another key difference is that while he is often bullied by Flash, unlike the first trilogy and the comic books, Flash is not an athlete but a part of Peter’s decathlon team.  Modernized for today’s generation, I liked how the film portrayed Peter, Ned, Liz, Flash as smart, intelligent teens and showcasing geeks as “cool” unlike the past where the geeks were always tormented by the jocks.

The film mirrors today’s world society and one of the things that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done was to show diversity.  The film showcases a white teen who has a crush on an African American teen, her mother is married to a Caucasian man, the film features Peter Parker’s best friend Ned who happens to be a Filipino.

It may not mean a lot to some people but for those who have been wanting to see diversity, wanting to see situations that mirror real life and have wanted Hollywood to showcase diversity will definitely get that with “Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

The film looks absolutely fantastic on 4K Ultra HD and the lossless soundtrack is immersive and quite active thanks to the plethora of action sequences.  And you also get a numerous special features included as well.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” may not be featuring the Spider-Man that I grew up reading but I will say that “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was entertaining to the point that I watched it multiple times already because I really enjoyed watching the film.  The way I see it, if the “Spider-Man” trilogy or the next two films didn’t win you over, this movie may.  Wonderful story, loved the characters and this film was just a lot of fun and I highly recommend it!

 

Warrior (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Lions Gate Films LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Warrior

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 140 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition. 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening, English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (on Blu-ray), SUBTITLES: English, English SDH,  Spanish

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2017


Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Screenplay by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman

Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman

Producer: Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor

Executive Producer: Lisa Ellzey, John J. Kelly, David Mimran, Michael Paseornek, Jordan Schur

Co-Producer:  Josh Fagin, Jamie Marshall, Anthony Tambakis

Music by Mark Isham

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

Edited by Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, Aaron Marshall

Casting by Randi Hiller

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction: James Donahue

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Abigail Murray


Starring:

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernandez as Colt Boyd

Bryan Callen as Bryan Callen


An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovering alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path toward the title prize, his brother Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense winner-take-all battle of their lives.


From filmmaker Gavin O’Connor (“Tumbleweeds”, “Pride and Glory”, “The Accountant”) came his 2011 film “Warrior”.  And was written by O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman.

The film earned Nick Nolte (“Thin Red Line”, “48 Hrs.”, “Cape Fear”) an Academy Award nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” and would jettison the acting career of Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “The Revenant”) as a major presence in the movie industry.

“Warrior” stars Nolte and Hardy but also stars Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass”, “The Gift”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”), Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon a Time”, “House”, “Star Trek”), Frank Grillo (“The Grey”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “The Purge: Anarchy”), Kevin Dunn (“Transformers”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) and many more.

The film begins with U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan (portrayed by Tom Hardy) visiting his father, Paddy Conlon (portrayed by Nick Nolte).  When Tommy sees his father, he offers him a bottle of alcohol and talks rudely to his father.  We learn that Paddy is a recovering alcoholic and as an alcoholic, he was quite abusive.  But now, he has returned to his Catholic faith and has been sober for quite awhile now.

But for Tommy, he has only contempt towards his father because he had to runaway with his mother, who was dying and was there through the hard and difficult times of having to clean and watch his mother die.  And he has not forgiven his father for the way he treated them.

Paddy tries to tell him that he’s a changed man, but Tommy has a hard time accepting it.

The day after, Tommy goes to a local gym where a professional MMA fighter named Pete “Mad Dog” Grimes (portrayed by Erik Apple) is giving a spar to a few of the gym trainees.  But Tommy signs a release that he wants a real fight against “Mad Dog” and if he gets hurt, letting the gym and Mad Dog that they are not liable for any damage he receives.  And when the match starts, in less than a minute, Tommy knocks out Mad Dog and those filming the fight have posted on YouTube, making Tommy a superstar on social media as the video has gone viral.

When he finds out that there is a MMA tournament called Sparta in which the winner will receive $500,000, he feels that he wants to do it, to help support the family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As the video goes viral, a soldier sees it and recognizes that Tommy was a person who saved his life and not only does Tommy become a social media sensation but he is branded a hero, despite there is nothing about him that can be found online.

While Tommy does not want a relationship with his father, he asks Paddy to be his trainer (as his father trained him to become a champion wrestler when he was younger).  Paddy looks at this as an opportunity to get close to his son, but Tommy wants nothing from him.  Just to keep the relationship as trainer/pupil.

The film then shifts to another person, Brendan Conlon (portrayed by Joel Edgerton).  Brendan is a high school physics teacher and a former UFC fighter.  He is married to Tess (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison) and have two daughters.  But because one of his daughter had open heart surgery, the medical bills have hurt the family that Brendan is having difficulties paying the mortgage.  And now he is months away from foreclosure, so he needs the money badly.

When he goes to make money in a MMA parking lot match, he wins but because his face is bruised and rumors are running through the school about his fight, the supervisor of the school district punishes Brendan by suspending him.

With no money to pay the bills, Brendan makes the decision, to get back into MMA full time and he goes to his buddy Frank Campana, who owns a gym and trains up-and-coming MMA fighters.  While Frank feels that Brendan is a bit older and its time for the younger fighters to shine, when Frank’s top prospect is injured during a run, Brendan asks Frank if he can take his place and fight in the Sparta tournament.  This would also be a way to make the money needed to pay for their mortgage.

But his wife Tess is scared of him fighting, especially that one of the top MMA fighters in the world, Russia’s Koba (portrayed by Kurt Angle) will be fighting in Sparta.  She thought Brendan would be fighting parking lot fights, not a major fight that could hurt him tremendously.

As Brendan is heading back home, he is met by Paddy and it is revealed that Paddy is his father and similar to Tommy, Brendan wants nothing to do with his father, because he was an abusive alcoholic.  Also, the fact that Paddy favored Tommy even more (because of his success in wrestling) and as Paddy tries to apologize, tells them he is sober and wants to see the kids, Brendan doesn’t want his father around.

And now both brothers will be entering the Sparta tournament.  Will any of them be victorious despite being the unknown underdogs?


VIDEO:

“Warrior” receives its first 4K Ultra HD release and is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition. The film is presented in 2160p (2:40:1 aspect ratio)

Picture quality is fantastic.  From capturing skin detail on closeups, capturing the scars, cuts and bruises of a competitor and for the most part, skin tones look natural, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI (Category 2) Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality for “Warrior” is equally impressive. Featured in English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late Night English Listening and an English 7.1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.   Featuring crystal clear dialogue, great use of surround channels for audience and large crowds in the audience of the Sparta arena and crystal clear music.  For the most part, a wonderful lossless soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Brazilian, Portuguese, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Japanese and L.A. Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Warrior” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • Full Contact: Feature Length Enhanced Viewing Mode – While watching the film, you can get access to special features of the filmmakers and the making of the film..
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with filmmakers and actor Joel Edgerton
  • Redemption: Bringing Warrior to Life Documentary – (31:57) A documentary on the cast and crew in making “Warrior”.
  • The Diner: Deleted Scene (with optional commentary) – (3:02) A deleted scene with optional commentary with the filmmakers.
  • Cheap Shots: Gag Reel – (3:58) The gag reel for “Warrior”.
  • Brother vs. Brother: Anatomy of the Fight – (11:49) How Director Gavin O’Connor used traditional storyboards as well as live action pre-visualization shots in preparation in creating the fight segments for the film.
  • Philosophy in Combat: Mixed Martial Arts Strategy – (21:01) World-renowned MMA trainer Greg Jackson reunited with friend and actor Frank Grillo to discuss Mixed Martial Arts and their experiences on the film “Warrior”.
  • Simply Believe: A Tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis, Jr. – (13:58) A featurette dedicated to Tapout co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr. who was an asset to director Gavin O’Connor.  Mask passed away before the film was released in theaters.

EXTRAS:

“Warrior” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


When I first watched “Warrior” back in 2011, one can’t help but be inspired by the storyline of underdogs making it into the MMA industry and beating the top challengers to make it into the finals.

The film manages to capture the thrill of MMA but also capture the heart of competition but most of all having a storyline so riveting that you are instantly captivated by the two stories of a fractured family, two estranged brothers who have lived different lives, both with MMA talent and knowing that both are on a collision course of what if these two were to make it into the Sparta final.

Of course, there is nothing to spoil as the poster of “Warrior” already gives that away but what is interesting is to see one brother, Tommy, who has grown up under abuse, trying to raise his terminally ill mother and seeing her die.  Then going into the military to see his fellow brothers all die and he being the only one to live.

He is a man full of pent-up frustration, rage, hate and so much anger that his only solace in life is to help a family of his friend who was killed in battle.  As an MMA fighter, he is a man of pure brutality.  A man who hurts people with his hits.  A former wrestling champion, he is a man that is pure offense.

Meanwhile, his older brother Brendan is the opposite.  While he grew up in a home of abuse, unlike Tommy who ran away with his mother to escape abuse and take care of her, Brendan fell in love with a woman named Tess and stayed with her.  He fell in love, fought in the UFC, while also going to college to become a physics teacher.

But as an MMA fighter he is pure defense.  Using timing, using strategy and doing what he can to expose a fighter by using various locking moves to put them in pain.  He can punch and kick but it’s being smart and looking for any holes in the opponent’s strategy and waiting for the opportunity to strike.

As both actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are magnificent, a lot has to be said about Nick Nolte’s performance as Paddy Conlon, the father of both men who was an abusive alcoholic.  Hated by his children but yet reunited, as Paddy has found God and also has become sober.

For Tommy, seeing his father now clean and sober frustrates him for all the pain he put him and his mother through.  For Brendan, the same situation but unlike Tommy, lived with his girlfriend and not aware of the pain that Tommy went through.  Not aware of how his mother died and because he chose his girlfriend, Tommy held an anger towards his older brother for abandoning him and his mother.

The family is no doubt dysfunctional but it’s these relationships that add dimension to Warrior’s wonderful story.  Add in the action and the thrill of MMA and watching these brothers overcome major odds is no doubt thrilling.

Gavin O’Connor has no doubt crafted one of his finest films yet and the cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi was also on point and he managed to capture the thrill of the fight!

The film makes its debut in 4K Ultra HD and the film looks wonderful with closeups showing much more detail.  You can see the split in Brendan’s cut’s underneath his eyes or bruises around his face with clarity, that’s how much detail you get in watching a film in 4K.  The lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music but the surround channels also do a great job of capturing the thrill of a fight with the audience screaming.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and alive during those moments.

The special features are located on the Blu-ray disc and features numerous featurettes that showcase the making of the film, those who contributed to the film and more!

Overall, Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior” is a riveting action film that captures the thrill of MMA fighting, the thrill of competition and the heart of a fighter.  Recommended!

 

Interview with Penelope Lagos, Author of “I Miss My Best Friend” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to interview actress Penelope Lagos about a film that she starred in and also discuss her career as an actress and a model.

In 2017, I am interviewing Penelope once again, but not as an actress or model, but this time as a writer.

Penelope has written and published her first children’s book titled “I Miss My Best Friend”, featuring illustrations by Sophie Moracchini about her dog Cassius “The Legend”.

A dog purchased for Penelope and her twin brother Louie, the entire family raised Cassius since he was a puppy.  Taking him to Greece and to see Cassius become a champion swimmer.

He was no doubt more than just a pet, he was a family member.

And when Cassius passed away, dealing with the grief of losing a part of your family was a challenge for the Lagos family and for Penelope, she decided to write a book about Cassius to help children deal with the passing of their beloved pet.

“I Miss My Best Friend” has received a lot of positive reviews and I recently had a chance to interview Penelope Lagos about her new book and also about Cassius “The Legend”.


Penelope, I interviewed you as an actress and for this latest interview, I am interviewing you as an author of your first book, “I Miss My Best Friend”. What was the inspiration for writing this book?

PENELOPE: My own dog and best friend, Cassius. He was everything to me and when he passed away, I was absolutely devastated. I looked online and in stores searching for something, anything that would make me feel better, but I quickly realized there weren’t a lot of resources out there. I wasn’t ready to sign up for a pet loss group or even talk to anyone about my feelings, so I started writing them down. Within these notes, a story began to form and hence the fruition of “I Miss My Best Friend”.

Illustrator Sophie Moracchini did a wonderful job with the illustrations. How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

PENELOPE:  Sophie is such a talented and professional young woman to work with. I had taken a canine conditioning course and the instructor, Dr. Erica Boling, created various dog groups on Facebook for people to connect/network. I saw a beautiful drawing of a dog that Sophie had posted and I knew immediately I had to reach out to her. She lives in the UK, but technology has afforded me the opportunity to easily work with her throughout this entire process.

Were there any major challenges in writing “I Miss My Best Friend”?

PENELOPE:  Yes (laughing). What I have come to realize is that writing a book is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. I think that condensing my story to fit the standard 32-page structure for a children’s book was difficult for me. I tend to be wordy, so it challenged me to keep my story simple, yet still include what I hope is a powerful message for children and adults alike.

Of course, the book was written to also help children understand the loss of a pet. Any tips that you have on what helped you overcome those difficulties of losing Cassius?

PENELOPE: I think each person copes differently with death, which is why I included the ten tips at the conclusion of the book. I personally found writing to be helpful while another may want to put a scrapbook together or talk to their friends and family about the loss. For me, the most important tip is to let yourself grieve. Don’t ever apologize for feeling sad. A pet provides unconditional love and is a member of the family, and the grief process often mimics that of losing a human.



“I Miss My Best Friend” revolves around the love and also the pain of losing your dog Cassius. Having to say goodbye to my dogs a little over a year ago, both brother and sister, who were very much part of our family was very difficult. And as the passing of time had made things better and we eventually ended up adopting a new dog a year later.   I’m curious, how often do you still think about Cassius and have you moved on by getting a new dog?

PENELOPE: I think about him every day. I grew up with cats and Cassius was the only dog I ever had. Unlike the book version, he lived to be almost 16 years old, so in essence he was with me almost half of my life. Shortly after his passing, so many people sent me photos of dogs that needed a home, others stopped by with one in hand. I wasn’t ready and I don’t know when or if I ever will be. I think it’s a personal decision and there are so many beautiful animals in need of good homes, so it’s nice to be able to open your heart again and adopt.

What is your favorite memory of Cassius?

PENELOPE: What I’ll always remember about Cassius is what an incredible swimmer he was. Being outside with him and playing in the pool were my happiest times. Even near the end, with his severe arthritis, we swam together. He even went to Greece not once but twice where he swam in the Aegean Sea. He was a very special boy who was known internationally!

PENELOPE: “I Miss My Best Friend” has received positive reviews online. I have to ask, can we expect to see more books written by you in the future?

I am beyond happy that people are responding positively to the book, and I’m hoping in some way I will be able to help people overcome their loss. I am also donating 10% of each book sale back to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center who does extraordinary work in the mission to rescue animals. I already have an idea for the next book, so you won’t be hearing the last from me


“I Miss My Best Friend” is available on Amazon

 

Occultic;Nine vol. 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Occultic;Nine” is a fascinating, dark series written by Chiyomaru Shikura that takes your typical investigative anime series but adding a bit of mysticism, humor and suspense all in one!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Aniplex. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Occultic;Nine vol. 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-6 (144 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: September 26, 2017


Originally Created by Chiyomaru Shikura

Original Character Design by pako

Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

Series Composition: Junpei Morita

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design: Tomoaki Takase

Art Director: Hisayo Usui

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Faye Mata as Ryoka Narusawa

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Scott Kimerer as Yūta Gamon

Hitomi Yoshida/Kayli Mills as Miyū Aikawa

Houchu Ohtsuka as Takasu

Kaito Ishikawa/Robbie Draymond as Sarai Hashigami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Ben Diskin as Kōhei Izumi

Kishō Taniyama as Kiryū Kusakabe

Mamiko Noto/Michelle Ruff as Ririka Nishizono

Maria Naganawa/Xanthe Huynh as Chizu Kawabata

Miyuki Sawashiro as Aria Kurenaino

Satomi Akesaka as Asuna Kizaki

Shizuka Itou as Tōko Sumikaze

Tetsuya Kakihara as Shun Moritsuka


From the creator of “Steins;Gate”, a new adventure surrounding the occult is about to begin!

Yuta Gamon is a 2nd year in high school. He runs “Kiri Kiri Basara,” an affiliate blog that rounds up occult forum posts, for a shot at quick money, and challenges himself to the occult night and day to “hack and slash away!” the many supernatural phenomena existing in the world from a scientific standpoint.

However, with that blog of his as a catalyst, a group of downright maniacal and insane comrades have gathered about.


Back in 2014, Chiyomaru Shikura (best known for creating “Steins;Gate”) created a new Japanese light novel series titled “Occultic;Nine”.

A 12-episode anime adaptation produced by A-1 Pictures aired in October-December 2016 and now, the anime series will be released in North America courtesy of Aniplex of America Inc.

The anime series is directed by Kyohei Ishiguro (“Kujira no Kora wa Sajo ni Utau”, “Lance N’ Masques”, “Psycho-Pass”), series composition by Junpei Morita, music by Masaru Yokoyama (“Arakawa Under the Bridge”, “Love and Lies”, “Fate/Apocrypha”), character design by Tomoaki Takase and background art by Hisayo Usui (“AKB0048”, “Angel Beats!”, “Fairy Tail”).

The series begins with Yuta sitting in a cafe while trying to find out how to increase visits to his website, which posts news and stories about the occult in Japan.

Yuta and his friend Ryoka Narusawa watch fortune-teller and classmate Miyu Aikawa on a TV commercial and decide that if they interview her for the website, it may boost traffic for the website.   Miyu decides to join the two and interestingly, things start to go awry in the area as an occult magazine received a manuscript from Professor Hashigami and an older woman, which can’t be his mother, because she is dead.  Meanwhile, a woman named Aria Kurenaino helps a customer curse someone to death and next thing you know, she discovers a bloody scalp in her mailbox.

Meanwhile, as Yuta goes to visit Professor Hashigami for an interview, he discovers Hashigami’s corpse.  And he leaves the word “CODE” with his own blood before dying?  What can that mean?

In another situation, Miyu receives calls from a person trying to prove that she is a fake fortune-teller.  When she receives a call from a person named Sarai, she sees visions of him standing over his dead father’s body and she begs him to visit her father.

Also, a tragic mass suicide has taken place at Inokashira Park on the news.  What could have led to all these people to kill themselves? Hypnotism?  Or something more sinister?


VIDEO:

“Occultic;Nine” is presented in 1080p High Definition. A-1 Productions is one of the most well-known anime production studios that are known for creating quality anime series.  And for “Occultic;Nine”, the backgrounds are highly detailed and look realistic.  Character designs are magnificent and for the most part, the detailed, painted backgrounds compliment the colorful animation.

It’s important to note that this is a TV series, so there is a slight hint of softness.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Occultic;Nine” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM.  The lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and both soundtracks are well-acted.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Occultic;Nine” comes with clean opening and ending themes.

EXTRAS:

“Occultic;Nine” comes with a slipcase illustrated by character designer Tomoaki Takase, a 20-page deluxe booklet and six illustration pin-up cards.


When it comes Chiyomaru Shikura, one can look at his work with 5pb. Inc. and Mages. Inc.  He is known for the concepts and overseeing the creations of “Steins;Gate”, “Chaos;Head”, “Robotics;Notes” and “Anonymous;Code” but “Occultic;Nine” was specifically written by Chiyomura Shikura.

The series has an interesting concept.  You have a teenage NEET named Yuta Gamon who runs the blog “Kiri Kiri Basara” which features news and discussion about the occult and he is wanting to drive up traffic to his website.

His good friend, the cheerful (and enormously well-endowed Ryoka Narusawa) is known for carrying a stun-gun (that looks like a toy ray gun) is always wanting to support Yuta and together, they decide to bring in popular fortune teller Miyu Aikawa to join the blog.

And as Yuta wants to keep the traffic up on his site, he (moreso, his female friends) wants to bring in other people for interviews that may drive up even more traffic to the website and his first choice is to interview Professor Hashigami.

Unfortunately, when he goes to visit the professor, Yuta finds his dead body and there are signs of foul play and a mysterious word, “CODE” written in blood by the professor.

Meanwhile, deal with Ria Minase (a delusional girl who lived with her brother and was not aware that he has been dead and she was living with his corpse), a person named Aria Kurenaino who helped put a curse on someone for that person’s death and who is this mystery caller named Sarai, that keeps calling Miyu and trying to disprove her as a fortune-teller?

So far, the first six episodes are entertaining, dark and humorous.  While some may find the enormously large breasts of Ryoka Narusawa to be overkill, this is no doubt to keep the otaku and fan service lovers who can’t get enough of Ryoka.

But as these first six episodes are more character introducing episodes, the second half will no doubt become even more interesting as Yuta and friends continue their investigation.  What will they discover?

As for the Blu-ray release, A-1 Pictures did a phenomenal job with the animation and background art.  There are no major special features but the set does come with a 20-page booklet and six illustration cards.  As well as a slipcase.

Overall, “Occultic;Nine” is a fascinating, dark series written by Chiyomaru Shikura that takes your typical investigative anime series but adding a bit of mysticism, humor and suspense all in one!  Recommended!

 

Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Tokyo Ravens” is an entertaining anime series that kicks off with a lot of fun and humor in the series’ first half, but becomes a bit more darker, magic heavy and action-driven by the second half.  I found the series to be entertaining, a bit banal but it’s a series I enjoyed watching.

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-24 (600 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio for OVA’s and 16×9 for movies, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 8, 2017


Originally Created by Sumihei

Director: Takaomi Kanasaki

Series Composition: Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Maiko luchi

Character Design: Atsuko Watanabe

Art Director: Takashi Ichikura

Art Design: Kazushi Fujii

Anime Production: 8 bit


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaito Ishikawa/Clifford Chapin as Harutora Tsuchimikado

Kana Hanazawa/Caitlin Glass as Natsume Tsuchimikado

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Kon

Ayane Sakura/Jad Saxton as Suzuka Dairenji

Eri Kitamura/Leah Clark as Kyoko Kurahashi

Fumi Hirano/Wendy Powell as Miyo Kurahashi

Hiro Shimono/Josh Grelle as Tenma Momoe

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Jarrod Greene as Reiji Kagami

Hisako Kanemoto/Felecia Angelle as Hokuto/Takiko Sōma

Koji Yusa/J. Michael Tatum as Jin Ōtomo

Ryohei Kimura/Ian Sinclair as Tōji Ato

Shinya Takahashi as Senjirō Kogure


Harutora may seem like an ordinary guy, but he’s actually a descendant of an ancient and powerful clan of onmyouji. Born without the family talent for magic, he’d always believed he was destined for a normal, boring existence. All that changed the day Natsume, a beautiful face from Harutora’s past, barged back into his life and forever altered the course of his future.


Quite often, there are anime adaptations that are derived from Japanese light novels.  And in 2010, Kohei Azano and illustrator Sumihei created the light novel series “Tokyo Ravens”.

An anime series was released in 2013 and ended in 2014 and in August 2017, “Tokyo Ravens” was released in North America on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The series sets up the storyline of how onmyodou magic was a powerful technique used by the Japanese during World War II.  Unfortunately, when onmyoji Yakou Tsuchimikado performed a ritual to bring out Japan as a major force goes wrong and it led to the “Great Spiritual Disaster” which has affected Japan since then.

An Onmyo Agency was developed to monitor supernatural activity and take on spirits or demons that make their way into the world.

Fastforward to this present time in the story where many students learn onmydou magic to utilize their skills in medicine and technology.  Unfortunately for Harutora, a member of the Tsuchimikado branch family, he was born with no spiritual power at all.

But despite coming from a well-known, powerful family, without no spiritual power, he sees his life as meaningless.

He remembers a childhood promise made and one day, he and his friend Touji Ato encounter Hokuto, a girl that Harutora likes and she encourages him to become an onmyo mage.    Meanwhile, he meets his childhood friend Natsume but he accidentally offends her.

As Harutora goes to a festival, Hokuto promises him a kiss if he wins at the festival but out of nowhere, Suzuka Dairenji arrives at the festival and she learns of his true identity, she goes to kiss him and when Hokuto arrives, she is upset to see him receiving a kiss before she can give him one and leaves crying because of it.

One day, while walking home with Natsume, Harutora once again comes across Suzuka and while the Magical Investigation Bureau agents try to stop her and she unleashes her juggernaut.  Harutora tries to save one of the agents but as the juggernaut is about to kill Harutora, Hokuto gets in the way and saves Harutora but is impaled by the mecha juggernaut.

Feeling upset and despondent, Harutora decides to follow the path of becoming an onmyo mage, going to school but also becoming a familiar for Natsume.

How will life go for Harutora now that he plans to focus on school (despite not being that smart) and working together with Natsume to take on various spirits?


VIDEO:

“Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. 8 bit has done a wonderful job with the animation and for the most part, the series looks very good on Blu-ray but like most anime television series, the series does exhibit some softness.  But backgrounds are well-painted, characters are well-shaded and the animation is well done!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and voice acting is well-done for the most part.  As for the English dub, for the most part, voice acting is well-done and I have to give major props to voice acting newcomer, Clifford Chapin on doing a magnificent job as the voice of main protagonist, Harutora.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” comes with no special features.

  • Audio Commentary for Episode 5 by Clifford Chapin, Monica Rial and Ian Sinclair.
  • Video Commentary for Episode 7 by director Colleen Clinkenbeard, Monica Rial, Ian Sinclair and Clifford Chapin discussing the duties of a voice actor.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 12 – Featuring audio commentary by Caitlin Glass, Leah Clark and Jad Saxton.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 14 – Featuring audio commentary by Clifford Chapin, J. Michael Tatum and Michael Johnson.
  • Video Commentary for Episode 18 by ADR director Zach Bolton, Jad Saxton, Caitlin Glass, Leah Clark.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 23 – Featuring audio commentary by Austin Tindle, Josh Grelle and Jarrod Greene.
  • Kon Explains it All #1-3 – Featuring five minute featurettes (in Japanese with English subtitles) with Kon discussing various characters in the series.
  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs
  • U.S. Trailer

“Tokyo Ravens” is an interesting anime that revolves around magic, friendships and love but as Japan has created a plethora of anime series that deal with magic, someone not good at it and eventually becoming stronger to defeat the main antagonist, was this going to be another case of anime banality?

Fortunately, “Tokyo Ravens” is a series that has more going for it thanks to its plot of magical hijinks, crazy characters but also young love which leads to many hilarious situations throughout the series.

The series follows Harutora Tsuchimikado, a son of a major branch family in Japan, the Tsuchimikado Clan but despite being born from a distinguished family known for their onmyouji skills, Harutora has no such skill or magical powers.  He is not smart, many wonder why he’s attending an onmyouji school with no such skills. But he wants to go back to school to find out who was the master of his deceased familiar, Hokuto but also enjoying the friendships he makes along the way.  He has a shikigami silver-fox spirit named Kon who helps him.

He becomes  the familiar for Natsume Tsuchimikado, a childhood friend of Harutora and also from the main family of the Tsuchimikado Clan and is a prodigal onmyouji.  She has come to Harutora’s town in order to make sure he holds up to his childhood promise of becoming her familiar.  Interesting enough, Natsume is assumed to be a reincarnation of Yakou Tsuchimikado, the infamous onmyouji who performed a ritual known as “Taizan Fukun Ritual” which was to bring out Japan as a major force but instead, the ritual went wrong and brought the “Great Spiritual Disaster” which has affected Japan ever since.

Because of this, as a family tradition, she must present herself as a male in front of other onmyouji families and that includes attending school as a boy.  And family tradition means everything to her, while not so much for Harutora.

Harutora’s best friend is a former delinquent named Touji Ato, who knows a lot about onmyodo and often helps Harutora at Onmyo Academy.  He was a victim of the Spiritual Disaster and was possessed by an oni which caused the Spiritual Disaster and Harutora’s father helped treat him, despite Touji having the power to become half-Oni.

Meanwhile, causing problems for Harutora and Natsume throughout their time at the Academy is Suzuka Dairenji, the youngest of the 12 Divine Generals and wants to revive her brother with the Taizan Fukun Ritual.  She and her brother were experimented on by her father before and after their birth in order to create an excellent onmyouji.

The first half of the series is humorous and lighthearted and the series does a wonderful job of focusing on character development but also featuring many character interactions and developing relationships.  It’s what makes the series captivating and not being just a banal magical/action-driven anime series.

While the second half becomes more serious and darker, as it involves the Twin Horn Syndicate, A spirit disaster taking place at the Onmyo Agency branch office and a major death!

What will happen to Harutora and friends during the time of a new spirit disaster but also an ominous threat looming?

I have to say that the first half of the series kept me captivated but by the second half, the mood’s all changed (which is common in anime series) but I felt the second half became a bit more convoluted.   I like the fact that the series focused so much on character development but by the time you start caring for these characters, you are thrust into a different type of storyline for the second half, especially towards the end of the series that grows darker, becomes a bit more complex and for the most part, it went from something that had great potential to an average anime series at the end.

But I did like numerous audio and video commentaries included on this Blu-ray/DVD set of “Tokyo Ravens” and while it is a bit banal, fortunately there is a lot of character development in this series that made watching the series worthwhile.

Overall, “Tokyo Ravens” is an entertaining anime series that kicks off with a lot of fun and humor in the series’ first half, but becomes a bit more darker, magic heavy and action-driven by the second half.  I found the series to be entertaining, a bit banal but it’s a series I enjoyed watching.

 

Golden Kamuy vol. 2 – Story & Art by Satoru Noda (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

October 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Satoru Noda’s “Golden Kamuy” is turning out to be a fantastic, action-packed manga series worth reading and no doubt, one of the more captivating series that came out in the U.S. in 2017!

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© 2014 Satoru Noda. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Golden Kamuy vol. 2

STORY AND ART BY: Story and Art by Satoru Noda

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Jump Manga

RATED: M for Mature

RELEASE DATE: September 19, 2017


In the early 20th century, Russo-Japanese War veteran Saichi Sugimoto searches the wilderness of the Japanese frontier of Hokkaido for a hoard of hidden gold. With only a cryptic map and a native Ainu girl to help him, Saichi must also deal with every murderous cutthroat, bandit and rogue who knows about the treasure!


While Sugimoto and Asirpa are living on the land, they are unaware that soldiers of the deadly 7th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army are after them.  And how will Sugimoto be treated when Asirpa brings him to her Ainu village?

All this and more in volume 2 of Satoru Noda’s award-winning manga series, “Golden Kamuy”!

What is “Golden Kamuy”?

From Satoru Noda comes his award winning manga series “Golden Kamuy”.

Written and art by Satoru Noda, the mangaka also worked with Yu Nakagawa in ensure authenticity of the Ainu language.

The manga series won the 9th Manga Taisho award and with ten volumes currently printed in Japan, the first volume of “Golden Kamuy” will be available in the United States courtesy of Viz Signature on June 2017.

The series revolves around a soldier named Saichi Sugimoto who fought in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 and survived with savagery and toughness.  And because of his braveness, he is known as “Immortal Sugimoto”.

Because his best friend asked him before his death on the battlefield for Sugimoto to take care of his wife and children, Sugimoto hears of a story about hidden Ainu gold (the Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan).  One man killed the Ainu hiding the gold and stole around Y80,000 and buried the gold somewhere in Hokkaido.

While the man was caught and thrown into Abashiri prison, he was sentenced to death and the map of where the gold was hidden was tattooed on the backs of 24 prisoners.

This was told to Sugimoto by a drunken man.  When Sugimoto finds the man killed by a bear, he notices that he had a tattoo all over his back and that the story must be true.

But when the bear goes for an attack on Sugimoto, he is saved by an Ainu girl named Asirpa, a daughter of one of the Ainu men who was killed by those hunting for Ainu gold.

But as Sugimoto and Asirpa team up to find the gold, many dangerous hunters including the deadly 7th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army led by Lt. Tsurumi.


A soldier and an Ainu girl in search of gold stolen from the Ainu people.  The story is about a man named Saichi Sugimoto, a kind hearted man who was turned into a soldier known as “Immortal Sugimoto” during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.

With a friend’s final dying wish for Sugimoto to take care of his wife and children, that would require money which Sugimoto doesn’t have.  But when he hears about gold that was hidden in Hokkaido, gold stolen from the Ainu people, he teams up with a Ainu girl, who knows how to hunt and also use the wild to heal people, but also her father was killed because of the gold.

Sugimoto is not interested in 50/50, just a small share and wants to give most of it to Asirpa but also to help her get revenge on the people who killed her father.

But immediately, other hunters looking for the gold, are now also hunting for Sugimoto and Asirpa .  Can these two survive?  And what will the two learn as they must take on other hunters and soldiers who are also looking for the gold?

In the second issue, the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army are on the hunt for Sugimoto and Asirpa.  Also, in this volume, what happens when Asirpa takes Sugimoto to her Ainu village and what will he learn more about Ainu culture?

And what happens when the the twisted Tsurumi has captured Sugimoto and tortures him?  Will someone rescue him?

The writing for the second volume manages to captivate me.  One for its details of Ainu culture, when it comes to hunting and their perspectives towards animal life and traditions and then you have this storyline of the bonding between Sugimoto and Asirpa, almost like a father and daughter relationship and wanting to see them survive through all this.

But most importantly, it’s great that Satoru Noda is consulting with Yu Nakagawa in regards to Ainu language and culture.  For those not familiar with Ainu in Japan, they have a similar unfair treatment in society (as Native Americans in the United States) and prejudice runs rampant in various parts of Japan towards the indigenous Ainu people.  So, it takes great care of making sure to capture the culture on the pages of “Golden Kamuy”.

Satoru Noda’s “Golden Kamuy” is turning out to be a fantastic, action-packed manga series worth reading and no doubt, one of the more captivating series that came out in the U.S. in 2017!

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Bleach Vol. 71 – Story & Art by Tite Kubo (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

October 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Bleach” vol. 71 is an action-packed volume and is more geared to the dedicated readers of “Bleach” who have followed the series for the longest time.  Storylines that will no doubt entertain loyal followers who stuck around with the manga series to find out how the Soul Reapers vs. Sternritter war will eventually end.  While featuring two battles, it’s no doubt an exciting action-packed volume worth reading!

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© 2001 Tite Kubo. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Bleach Vol. 69

STORY AND ART BY: Tite Kubo (久保 宣章)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Jump Manga

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2017


As the war between the Soul Reapers and Quincies heads for a climactic conclusion, Mayuri finds himself up against the weirdest enemy yet. Can his daughter Nemu step in and finish a foe that refuses to die?


In this latest volume, the battle between Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi and Pernida Parnkgjas continues.

Meanwhile, Captain Shunsui Kyoraku takes on Lille Barro.

Find out what happens in Tite Kubo’s action-packed volume 71 of “Bleach”!

What is “Bleach?”

For those who are not so familiar with “Bleach”, “Bleach” has a strong fan following and since its run began back in 2001, series creator, writer and illustrator Noriaki “Tite” Kubo has been hard at work, continuing to crank chapter after chapter for Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan and with the success of the series extending out to films, OVA’s, feature films and video games and other merchandise.

Because of its airing on the Cartoon Network and it being featured on Shonen Jump magazine, “Bleach” has gone on to become a fan favorite in America but also fans all over the world.

A Brief History of what “Bleach” is about

“Bleach” is a story about a guy named Ichigo Kurasaki who has a gift in which he can see spirits. One day, he saw a Soul Reaper (one who can govern the flow of souls between the human world and the afterlife) named Rukia Kukichiki who has come to find a Hollow (a lost soul). She ends up being wounded in battle when she tried to defend Ichigo and so she illegally transfers her reiatsu (spiritual pressure) to him, so that he can defeat the Hollow. But during the process, he nearly takes all of her energy and becomes a Soul Reaper himself and defeats the Hollow quite easily. So, the first storyline arc features Rukia now powerless stranded in the human world until she has the time to recover her true powers, while Ichigo fills in and battles Hollows in her place. And with each fight, Rukia starts to notice something special about Ichigo’s abilities.

The second storyline arc of “Bleach” features the Soul Society wanting to sentence Rukia to death for transferring her powers to Ichigo. His friends also begin to develop special abilities. His childhood friend, Orihime Inoue, is given special abilities courtesy of her loving brother who has turned into a Hollow. Yasutora “Chad” Sato is Ichigo’s tall friend (who is half Japanese/half Mexican) who suddenly becomes aware of spirits and develops an ability to have a special armored right arm that has special abilities. And Ichigo’s rival/friend, Uryu Ishida, who is a descendant of a hollow hunting group known as the Quincy and are enemies of the Soul Reapers.

As their adventures have continued, we have seen Ichigo and his friends getting stronger, developing new abilities and taking on their most difficult foes yet but also earning the respect of his friends and the Soul Society, having saved their lives time and time again. But this time around, there comes a new enemy that may be so powerful that Ichigo may not be able to take them on…

Enter the Vandenreich!

The Current Storyline

We have only heard of how the Quincies had perished after a long feud with the Soul Reapers. The Soul Reapers which believed in having the soul of a hollow crossover to the Soul Society, while the Quincies believed in the total destruction of the hollow’s soul. And while the two had tried to work out their dispute, in the end, it let do a war in which the Soul Reapers vanquished the Quincies.

With only Uryu Ishida thought to be the last Quincy alive, in volume 55 of “Bleach”, it was revealed that one of the deadly Quincy’s from the past, Yhwach, was not killed and has assembled a group known as the Vandenreich to eliminate all Soul Reapers and destroy the Soul Society.

Many have gone missing in Karakura Town and while the Vandenreich have made their presence known to Captain Yamamoto by killing 1st Division Lt. Sasakibe. Also, Hueco Mundo Arrancars have been attacked by the Hueco Mundo Army led by Quilge Opie who are trying to force the Arrancars to join them or else be killed.

As Nel goes to the human world to beg for Ichigo to save Hueco Mundo, Ichigo, Kisuke Urahara, Chad and Orihime hurry to Hueco Mundo to see what is happening. And with the distraction caused in that area, Yhwach orders the Vandenreich to attack the Soul Reapers in their home area inside the Seiretei and the top Quincy combatants of the Vandenreich, the Stern Ritter continues their destruction by trying to kill all Soul Reaper captains.

And the battle continues as Mayuri Kurotsuchi (with assistant Nemu Kurotsuchi) take on Pernida Parnkgjas, while Shunsui Kyoraku takes on Lille Barro and we finally learn the truth of Soul Reaper Nanao Ise!


With the latest 71st volume of “Bleach”, these battles between the Soul Reapers and Sternritter have continues.

With a total of 74 issues, we are now nearing the end of the series and whether or not you love or hate how Tite Kubo has extended these battles for many volumes and years, everything is now coming to the final volumes.

And in this volume, Mayuri Kurotsuchi takes on Pernida Parnkgjas and the battle concludes with Nemu Kurotsuchi being sacrificed as a final resort against Pernida Parnkgjas and we see how that plays out.  Very fascinating and as always, a fascinating observation to see how Mayuri plans in advance.

We also see Shunsui Kyoraku in the battle of his life, as one of the most powerful captains, he must take on Lille Barro, but how can you beat someone who is literally unkillable?

But the manga volume finally reveals why Shunsui wears that kimono but most importantly, we learn the truth about soul reaper Nanao Ise and her connection with Shunsui.

It’s quite exciting especially to see how these two battles go all out and seeing Mayuri and Shunsui put their lives on the line against their opponents.

And the artwork and action is always well-done by Tite Kubo.  The problem is that for people who were invested in reading the stories of Ichigo Kurosaki, are surprised to find out that long ago that it became less about Ichigo and the volumes focused on the Soul Reapers.  So, you go through many volumes without full-on stories with Ichigo and friends and this one of those volume.   Are they in this volume… yes.  But probably just a 4-5 pages and that’s it.

“Bleach” vol. 71 is an action-packed volume and is more geared to the dedicated readers of “Bleach” who have followed the series for the longest time.  Storylines that will no doubt entertain loyal followers who stuck around with the manga series to find out how the Soul Reapers vs. Sternritter war will eventually end.  While featuring two battles, it’s no doubt an exciting action-packed volume worth reading!

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CBS RENEWS DRAMA SERIES “RANSOM” FOR SEASON TWO

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Luke Roberts, Sarah Greene, Brandon Jay McLaren and Nazneen Contractor Star

(Left to Right): Brandon Jay McLaren as Oliver Yates; Nazneen Contractor as Zara Hallam;

Luke Roberts as Eric Beaumont; Sarah Greene as Maxine Carlson

STUDIO CITY, Calif. – Oct. 10, 2017 CBS today announced that the drama series RANSOM has been renewed for a second season. The 13-episode order will be filmed in Hungary for broadcast next year. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

RANSOM stars Luke Roberts as expert hostage negotiator Eric Beaumont whose team is brought in to save lives when no one else can. Sarah Greene, Brandon Jay McLaren and Nazneen Contractor also star.

The series is inspired by the professional experiences of distinguished crisis negotiator Laurent Combalbert, who, along with his partner, Marwan Mery, are among the top negotiators in the world.

RANSOMwas created by David Vainola (“Diamonds,” “Combat Hospital”) and Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files,” “The Man in the High Castle”). RANSOM is a Canada-Hungary treaty co-production, produced by Entertainment One (eOne) with executive producers Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny (Sienna Films) and Spotnitz (Big Light Productions). Valerie Pechels and Odile McDonald (Wildcats Productions) will executive produce with Daniel Kresmery and György Rajnai (Korda Studios) co-producing. RANSOM is developed in association with Corus Entertainment Inc., with the participation from the Canada Media Fund, and produced with the financial assistance of the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. eOne controls worldwide rights to the series.

 

One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”! 

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two

DURATION: Episodes 529-540 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 15, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


The rough landing on Fishman Island has scattered the Straw Hats throughout Ryugu Kingdom, but a good deed earns them an invitation to the royal palace. Everything goes swimmingly until a psychic’s prophecy turns the whole island against Luffy and the crew. Backs to the wall, their honorable hosts become their hostages, but the timing couldn’t be worse.


Hordy seeks revenge against Luffy for destroying Arlong’s ambitions and threaten to destroy the Ryugu Palace.  Meanwhile, what happens when the citizens of Fishman Island thinks that Luffy had kidnapped Shirahoshi?

Meanwhile, Zoro vs. Hordy and Luffy vs. Decken.

All this and more in “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”!

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 19th season and a total of 809 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 532 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Doug Jackson (Minister of the Right) and Francis Fuselier (Minister of the Left).
  • EPISODE 534 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Larry Brantley (voice of Hordy) and Jim Foronda (voice of Decken).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Cast Goes to Matsuricon 2016: Q&A Panel – (32:41) The One Piece cast attend Matsuricon in Columbus, Ohio for the Q&A.
  • Textless Opening Song “We Go!”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”, the episodes continue the Fishman Island arc (featuring episodes 529-540). Note: In Japan, this arc of episodes is season 15.

In this latest arc, things go a little troublesome for the Straw Hat Pirates as Sharley has a prediction that the island will be destroyed by Luffy.  And with this prediction, there is a feeling that the Straw Hats must be stopped.  So, the Minister of the Left accuses the Straw Hat Pirates for the conspiracy to destroy the island and to kidnap mermaids.

But from that prediction on, things go crazy as Hordy destroy Gyro’s ship and Hordy is intent in killing Neptune and making the fishman a superior race over humans.

Meanwhile, Vander Decken IX intends to marry the princess and in order to accomplish his plans and wanting Hordy to accomplish his goals, both fishmen form an alliance in order to destroy Fishman Island.

What will happen when Hordy and Decken come across the Straw Hat Pirates?

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and the Q&A at Matsuricon 2016.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”!

 

Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ushio & Tora Complete TV Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-39 (975 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio for OVA’s and 16×9 for movies, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Originally Created by Kazuhiro Fujita

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Series Composition: Kazuhiro Fujita, Toshiki Inoue

Music by Eishi Segawa

Character Design: Tomoko Mori

Art Director: Tomoyuki Shimizu

Animation Director: Mika Takahashi, Tomoko Mori

Director of Photography: Uehama Makishi, Yuuya Kumazawa

Anime Production: MAPPA, Studio VOLN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Brett Weaver as Tora

Tasuku Hatanaka/David Matranga as Ushio Aotsuki

Ai Kayano/Brittney Karbowski as Omamori-sama

Ai Satou as Oyakume-sama

Aki Toyosaki /Brittney Karbowski as Yū Hiyama

Ayahi Takagaki/Emily Neves as Jun Moritsuna

Daisuke Namikawa/David Wald as Hyō

Fumiko Orikasa as Mikado Hizaki

Hidekatsu Shibata as Nigira

Kana Hanazawa/Carli Mosier as Jie Mei

Keiji Fujiwara as Shigure Aotsuki

Kiyono Yasuno as Mayuko Inoue

Maaya Sakamoto/Emily Neves as Sumako Aotsuki

Mamoru Miyano/John Gremellion as Giryō

Masaki Terasoma as Kyōji Atsuzawa

Megumi Han/Blake Shepard as Kirio

Megumi Hayashibara as Hakumen no Mono

Mikako Komatsu/Allison Sumrall as Asako Nakamura

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Wittels as Hinowa Sekimori

Nao Nagasawa as Izuna

Risa Shimizu/Patricia Duran as Kagari

Ryota Ohsaka/Clifford Chapin as Satoru Moritsuna

Shinichiro Miki/Jay Hickman as Raishin

Toshio Furukawa as Yamanmoto

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ian Sinclair as Nagare Akiba

Yui Makino/Kira Vincent-Davis as Reiko Hanyū

Yuuka Nanri/Tiffany Grant as Saya Takatori

Yuuki Kaji/John Gremillion as Jūrō


Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!


Back in 1990, Kazuhiro Fujita created the manga series “Ushio and Tora”.

So popular the series came to be, it received an anime adaptation via three OVA series from 1992-1993.  In 2015, a 30-episode animated TV series was produced by MAPPA and Studio VOLN and now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The series revolves around Ushio Aotsuki, the son of a temple priest and a lady shaman. He’s also a kid who stands up for his friends and can have a temper.

One day, while cleaning up books in the store room, he finds a door and when he opens it and goes inside, he discovers a tiger-like Yokai named Tora.  He also sees a spear that has held the yokai in place and Tora tries to get Ushio to remove it.  But when he tells Ushio that he would eat him and eat all humans, Ushio decides not to help him (even going so far as to kick the spear in place several times).

But when Tora’s aura starts to leak from the wounded area, yokai’s escape into the real world and the only way he can defeat these yokai is with Tora’s help, so Ushio removes the spear off of Tora.  But when Tora tells him that he will not help, Ushio starts to get angry while holding the spear and his hair grows very long, scaring Tora.  It also means that he was destined to wield the Beast Spear.

But the two make an agreement, after they rid of the yokai, Ushio will allow Tora to eat him.

So now, Ushio and Tora work together to stop the yokai that threaten humans.  But are all yokai bad?  And how will the relationship between Ushio and Tora evolve as they continue to work together?

Ushio also goes on an adventure while tracking down Yokai to know more about his mother and why the yokai are after him specifically.

Ushio & Tora features the following characters:

  • Ushio Aotsuki – A kind-hearted individuals who stands up for his friends and can have a bit of a temper.  He values all life and friendships and his kindness helps bridge together humans and yokai.
  • Tora – A tiger-like yokai who was pinned in the basement of Ushio’s temple.  He was once known as Nagatobimaru and was feared.  At first he hated humans but being around Ushio and friends, he is amazed to see how lifestyle has changed among humans and starts to enjoy parts of modern society, especially for hamburgers.
  • Asako Nakamura – Ushio and Mayuko’s friend.  She and Ushio grew up with each other and both care deeply about each other, despite her having more of a temper than Ushio.  Her family runs a ramen restaurant.
  • Mayuko Inoue – A friend of Ushio and Asako.  She cares for both Ushio and Asako.  She also cares for Tora and often buys him hamburgers and she may have Shaman abilities.
  • Shigure Aotsuki – Ushio’s father, who is often stern but also keeps a secret from his son of what he does behind-the-scenes.
  • Reiko Hanyuu – An orphan who’s father was very overprotective and became an oni, so any boys that try to get close to her are in danger.  As she tries to commit suicide, only Ushio can help her father realize what he is doing is hurting his daughter.  After being free, she becomes friends with Ushio and friends.
  • Hyou – A powerful Chinese exorcist who has come to Japan to seek out the yokai who killed his wife and daughter and took out his right eye and left scars on his face.  The yokai is believed by Hyou to be Tora.
  • Jie Mei – A sprit guardian who lives in the Beast Spear who sacrificed her life to create the blade of the spear.
  • Giryo – The brother of Jie Mei, a blacksmith who went insane when he couldn’t prevent his sister’s sacrifice.  His anger, remorse and regret is built and trapped in the shaft of the beast spear.
  • Yu Hiyama – A girl whose father was a pilot who died in an airplane crash due to a Fusama yokai.  She has always blamed her father’s friend Atsuzawa but when Ushio shows her the truth, she learns to forgive and help out Ushio and Tora.
  • Saya Takatori – A descendent of the white-haired women who maintain the success of the Takatori household by appeasing the childlike spirit Omamori.
  • Hinowa Sekimori – A tough and cold girl who was one of the four chosen to control the Beast Spear and she rejects Ushio for possessing it for being undisciplined and reckless.

VIDEO:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Even back when I watched the initial OVA, I was always impressed of how the animation was true to the manga illustrations of Kazuhiro Fujita.  The TV Series also captures that style with its unique character design, battle animation and for the most part, the anime series looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Ushio & Tora” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear but as I love the voice acting by Rikiya Koyama as Tora and Tasuku Hatanaka as Ushio, the English dub is very well-done and Brett Weaver does a great job in portraying Tora, as with David Matranga as the voice of Ushio.

Definitely one of the better English dubbed soundtracks for a Sentai Filmworks series on Blu-ray this year!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” comes with no special features.

 


Back in 1993, J!-ENT was founded and in our first year, one of the earlier anime series I reviewed was an OAV episode of “Ushio & Tora”.  I felt the series had tremendous potential and many people watching it at an anime club were supportive and excited each time a new OAV was release.

But that was the early-to-mid ’90s and haven’t heard anything until 20-years-later and an animated series was created courtesy of Mappa and Studio VOLN and what an awesome series “Ushio & Tora” came to be.

The television series featured more characters, more action and was able to capture the friendships that Ushio and Tora encountered through their adventures but most importantly, capturing a lot of the emotion, a lot of the action and featuring wonderful animation and voice acting.

The storyline about a human, a teenager named Ushio and a yokai named Tora (who wants to eat Ushio) in an alliance that first turns out to be like oil and water and both are not really getting a long.  But through working together, learning from each other and becoming friends, they are able to develop a relationship that works.  And while Ushio and Tora are able to take on many yokai, a bit easily in the first half of the series, by the second half, things become more dire as tons of yokai are now after Ushio and Tora and his friends do all they can to protect humanity.

With the release of “Ushio & Tora” on Blu-ray, watching it in Japanese and also with the English dub soundtrack, both soundtracks are wonderful.  And the voice acting in English is possibly one of the best I have listened to this year.  Mappa and Studio VOLN did a wonderful job with the animation and picture quality is vibrant and colorful.

Overall, “Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is for those who love action-driven anime series.  Series with a lot of heart, humor and violence.  It’s the heard of “Ushio & Tora”, a battle between humans and monsters and one human and one monsters doing all they can to protect humanity against all odds.  And with all 39-episodes collected for a great price, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth purchasing!

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

 

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