I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch! From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”. “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” is definitely is definitely deserving of five stars and receives our highest recommendation!
Image courtesy of © GAINAX, Kazuki Nakashima/Aniplex, KDE-J, TV Tokyo, DENTSU. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition (天元突破グレンラガン Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan)
DURATION: Episodes 1-27
DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 LB, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles
COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.
RATED: Suggested 13 and Up
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Created by GAINAX
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka
Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima
Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori
Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari
Design Works: Shigeto Koyama
Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)
Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi
Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada
Editing: Junichi Uematsu
Sound Director: Tohru Nakano
Music: Taku Iwasaki
Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex
Featuring the following voice talent:
Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)
Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)
Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)
Yukari Fukui/Bridget Hoffman, Hynden Walch (as Nia)
Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)
Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)
Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)
Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)
Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)
Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)
Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)
Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)
Shizuka Itou/Julie Ann Taylor (as Boota and Darry)
This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him…
In the distant future, mankind has lived quietly and restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are two young men: one named Simon who is shy and naive, and the other named Kamina who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon, and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!
It’s the single word that describes how I feel about the brand new “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition″ released by Aniplex, Inc.
In 2007, GAINAX, Aniplex and Konami would bring a new mecha anime series to television. Known as “Tengen Toppa Gurenn Lagann” in Japan, the 27-episode series would air on TV Tokyo with a huge following and received positive reviews.
Featuring anime production by GAINAX, “Gurren Lagann” was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (“Dead Leaves”, “Eureka 7: Astral Ocean”, “Anime Tencho”), featuring series composition by Kazuki Nakashima (“Kill la Kill”, “Nodam Cantabile: Finale”), music by Taku Iwasaki (“009-1″, “Black Butler”, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”, “Getbackers”), character design by Atsushi Nishigori (“The Idolm@ster Movie”, “Magi – The Labrynth of Magic”) and background art by Yuka Hirama (“Fractale”, “Gad Guard”, “Tales of Phantasia”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”).
While a limited edition of the series was released on DVD by Bandai Entertainment back in the 2009 in three parts, many people missed out on the opportunity to get the sets. With Bandai Entertainment’s presence for releasing anime in the U.S. on physical media having ended in 2012, in May 2013, Aniplex Inc. acquired the rights to release the series via a complete set known as “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” featuring all 27 episodes, two soundtrack CD’s and as usual from Aniplex, Inc., a large number of anime swag that fans have come to love about the company.
What is “Gurrenn Lagann” about?
The series centered around two characters Simon and Kamina. Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around. But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy. Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake. So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find. While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.
As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang. He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him. He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill. The plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail. Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground. A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot. Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.
As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground. It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots. It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans. The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann. Kamina eventually commandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren. As a duo, the group is called Gurren Lagann.
With episode after episode, the three would gain more people to ally alongside with them and take on the Beast men. These animal like beings who worked for Lord Genome and would try to kill the humans with these huge mecha robots known as Gunmen.
Kamina, Simon and others in the alliance known as Team Dai-Gurren have been successful in taking control of Gunmen and make their way towards the Beastman Empire in order to take on the Spiral King. But the King orders Thymilph, the first of the four divine Generals of the the Spiral King was the first to go onto battle and thus the battle ensued with Team Dai-Gurren winning but losing someone special to them.
As the first half deals with Kamina, Simon and Yoko growing as friends and as a team, the second half of “Gurren Lagann” fast forwards seven years later after the battle with the Beast Men and the Beastman Empire.
Years later, Simon has become the new leader of Kamina City while Rossiu Addai became second-in-command. The other members of Team Dai Gurren have become officers or employees of Kamina City while Yoko Littner became a school teacher.
But the seven year peace in the planet did not last as the anti-spirals wreaked havoc on the city. But will humanity be ready to fight again for their survival?
“Gurren Lagann” features a total of 27 episodes. A summary of each episode (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS):
- Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! - The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko. The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
- Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! - With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”. But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon). But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
- Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? - With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral. A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina. But Viral pilots a Gunmen with a second head that shoots out a devastating attack. Kamina feels that Gurren Lagann can combine and by unifying, they can become unstoppable.
- Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great! – After the battle with Viral, Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base. By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted. But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe? We are introduced to Kittan Bachika, the leader of the Black Siblings who is accompanied by his three younger sisters as they try to eliminate Beastmen.
- Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! - As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu. But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population at 50 people or less. Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark. Gurren Lagann receives a new member to the team.
- Episode 6 – There are Some Things I Just Have to See! - There are two versions of episode 6. The unedited version and the TV version which is part of the special features. For the unedited version, the group really smell bad and it seems they met some luck as they are invited to the hot springs with food galore! The group run into their friends, the three women of the Black Siblings and as the group relaxes in the hot springs, both Kamina and Simon can’t stand hearing the women talk about their breasts. Being the horny guys that they are, both men do what they can do get a peek of the ladies nude. But awaiting them is some trouble as well courtesy of the Beastmen.
- Episode 7 – You’re Gonna Do It! – With the defeat of the Beastmen, Viral makes his return but this time, one of the four leaders who pilots a giant Gunmen fortress. While Gurren Lagan tries to fight them, they are joined by some old friends who have followed Kamina’s lead and stolen some gunmen for themselves.
- Episode 8 – Later, Buddy – With Simon’s quick thinking in the last episode, the group manages to get the Gunmen fortress to be trapped. But Kamina wants to take control of the fortress in order to protect everyone and this time have a super combination to create Dai Gurren Lagann. So, one major battle in order to take the Beastmen leader’s mega fortress. But while Simon starts to think about Yoko and tell her his feelings for her, he sees both Kamina and Yoko kissing. So, as they go into battle, Kamina depends on Simon to have Lagann penetrate the fortress but because his emotions all out of whack due to seeing the kiss, it’s going to cost someone’s life.
- Episode 9 – What, Exactly, Is a Human? – With the events of the last episode, everyone is in mourning. Meanwhile, a new character named Nia is introduced. Who is she and why is she so curious about humans?
- Episode 10 – Who Is This Bro? - The group comes head to head against Adiane, the second of the Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals. But retreats when she sees Nia. It appears Nia is the daughter of the Spiral King. Nia appears to be very naive about humans, their emotions, etc. She doesn’t understand why Simon would be depressed over someone who’s dead.
- Episode 11 – Simon, Hands-off - The team meets Guame, the third of Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals. He uses Beastmen disguised as women to fool the crew and ends up taking over their ship and putting the crew underground in prison. Only Simon and his drilling can save the day and for Nia, she learns why she was discarded by her father.
- Episode 12 – Yoko, Will You Do Me a Favor? - Team Dai-Gurren’s fortress needs to be refitted to travel in the water. So, the crew goes through a little R&R and becomes too friendly with Nia and favoring her over Kyoko. Kyoko is not sure he can trust her and sure enough, the crew goes into battle against Adiane.
- Episode 13 – Eat Up, Everyone – Nia really wants to fit in, so she found a job for herself, to become a cook. Meanwhile, Cytomander, the fourth of Spiral King’s Divine Four Generals makes his attack on the crew and with Rossiu sick, Kyoko must fill in and be Simon’s co-pilot for Gurren Lagann.
- Episode 14 -Well, Met Everyone - The crew arrives near the Beastman Empire but must take on the last two of Spiral King’s Four Divine Generals – Cytomander and Guame to the death.
- Episode 15 – I Will Head Towards Tomorrow - Team Dai-Gurren now has one final battle left and that’s against the Spiral King. It’s all or nothing!
- Episode 16 – Compilation Episode – This episode serves as a bridge for between the first arc and the second arc of the series. It’s literally a special episode condensing major scenes from the first 15 episodes to one episode. Mainly focusing on Kamina, Simon, Kyoko and Nia.
- Episode 17 – You Don’t Know Anything – With Team Dai-Gurren successful against the Spiral King, the series flash forwards seven years later. The planet has flourished with cities and vehicles, Simon, Rossiu and everyone else has grown up. People own homes and have their own jobs. Simon is in his early 20′s and is the Supreme Commander and is bored doing paper work. Rossiu is the Chief who does all of the work but unlike Simon, holds an iron fist on how the city should be ran and for some members of Team Dai-Gurren are just head employees who answer phones. They wonder what Lord Genome meant by his final words before he died of a new emanating threat and sure enough, that threat has materialized on the planet. Meanwhile, something has happened to Nia.
- Episode 18 – Tell Me the Secrets of the World – A new evil has appeared on the planet and says that because Earth has reached 1,000,000 people and has used Spiral technology to further their growth, they will now be exterminated. Simon goes to battle against one of the enemies and succeeds in defeating it but since the enemy is composed of energy, that energy becomes like bombs and when Simon defeated the enemy and it exploded, in essence many people have died, buildings and structures destroyed and people want blood…Simon’s blood. Nia’s true purpose is revealed and Rossiu keeps a secret.
- Episode 19 – We Will Survive, By Any Means Necessary - The public is very upset against the government because of the destruction and deaths from the Gurren Lagann attack against the Anti-Spiral and Second-in-Command Rossiu knows the only way they will appease the public is with the arrest and the execution of Simon. But with another attack on the city by an Anti-Spiral, Rossiu has to release Simon temporarily from custody to fight the enemy.
- Episode 20 – How Far Will God Test Us? - Simon is put into the same prison with his cell next to Viral. Meanwhile Kittan who is incensed that his sister is siding with Rossiu in the execution and imprisonment of Simon.
- Episode 21 – You Are Someone Who Ought To Survive - The story shifts to Yoko as a school teacher who is stern but caring for the kids. When she finds out what is happening with Simon, she decides that she must return back to Kamina City immediately.
- Episode 22 – This is My Final Duty – Rossiu must make the most difficult choice by trying to rescue as many people he can in a secret spaceship and escape the planet but knowing that many will have to perish from the moon crashing down on the planet. But on planet, Simon and Viral team up with Gurren Lagann and Arc Gurren as both join forces to form Arc-Gurren-Lagann and stop the Human Extermination System that the Anti-Spirals have implemented.
- Episode 23 – Let’s Go, This is the Final Battle - Team Dai Gurren prepares for the war against the anti-spirals. Meanwhile, Rossiu who is amazed with how Simon is able to save everyone decides that his life is not worth living. Can Simon get to Rossiu in time?
- Episode 24 – I Will Never Forget This Minute, This Second - With the help of Lordgenome, while Rossiu takes command on the planet, Simon and Viral lead several members from Team Dai Gurren to transport right into the Anti-Spirals home world. Simon had made a promise that he would save Nia and is determined to do so. Meanwhile, the Team suffers a loss of a few team members.
- Episode 25 – I Accept Your Last Wish - Team Dai-Gurren is caught in the ocean of despair set by the Anti-Spirals. Meanwhile, another major team member of Team Dai Gurren sacrifices his life to save his friends.
- Episode 26 – Let’s Go Buddy - Simon,Viral and Team Dai Gurren combine into Super Galaxy Gurren-Lagann in order rescue Nia. Meanwhile, the Anti-Spiral uses their own memories against them. But a familiar face from the past is there to help Simon, Kyoko and Team Dai Gurren.
- Episode 27 – The Lights In the Sky Are Stars - One of the Team Dai Gurren members decides to take a stand against the Anti-Spiral and sacrifices themself in order for Simon to gain the enemies drill. Simon, Nia, Viral and Team Dai Gurren put everything they have on the line to become the galaxy sized Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann in the final battle against the enemy.
VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
Each episode is featured in 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different. I absolutely enjoy the character and mechanical designs and the whole anime is quite vibrant and looks stylish and pretty cool. And it yet makes me wonder why this series has not been released on Blu-ray?
As for the audio, the Digital 5.1 effects utilized in the English dub is actually very well done. I liked the effective use of splitting the audio of action scenes through the various speaker channels and overall, the audio track for the 5.1 English dub is well done.
The Japanese audio is featured only in 2.0 Stereo but the dialogue and action scenes also come clear through the front channels, the main difference is that the war seems to come alive on the English dub. As one can expect with the 5.1 soundtrack, very good use of surround channels and LFE, so the dub gets a nod for being immersive and having a better dynamic range.
Both soundtracks feature exceptional acting. The Japanese voice acting were wonderful when it came to the emotional performance by Tetsuya Kakihara, Katsuyuki Konishi and Marina Inoue. But “Gurren Lagann” also features a fantastic performance from the English dub cast. Yuri Lowenthal was perfect as Simon, Kyle Hebert and Michelle Ruff were also marvelous in their acting role as Kamina and Yoko. It’s important to note that this is the same English dub that was featured on the Bandai Entertainment DVD release in 2009.
Subtitles are in English.
“Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition” comes with the following special features:
- Preview of episode #6 (TV) – (:16) English episode #6 preview with a little fan service.
- Episode 6 (TV Version)
- Yoko Goes to Gainax -Study Animation at GAINAX- – (24:48) Marina Inoue, Japanese voice actress for Yoko goes to GAINAX and sees how people create “Gurren Lagann”. The featurette features Marina learning the difference between “Key Animation” and “In-Between Animation” and “Composition”. She actually takes part in doing in-between work for the first time and also, learning some of the jobs the staff did for “Gurren Lagann”. A very fun featurette!
- GAINAX Interview – (10:21) A very cool featurette with producer Takeda from GAINAX, GAINAX President Yamaga and assistant director Otsuka on the concept of “Gurren Lagann” and what their goal was in creating this anime series.
- Sangizen 3D Test Footage - (15:16) The Sangizen 3D Test Footage is a 15-minute featurette with various preliminary 3D features of the Anti-Spirals destroying city structures, to the combination of the mecha and various fight scenes. Many were created but only selected footage were used in the final cut.
- Shokotan Interview – (7:36) The interview with Shoko Nakagawa (aka “Shokotan”) who sings the main theme song was done in the US after her appearance at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in 2008. Shoko talks about being an otaku and also said that she wanted to become a mangaka while growing up. Also, her happiness to perform in the US and to meet the fans and much more.
- Textless Opening and Ending themes – For those who love the cool music of opening theme “Sorairo Days” by Shoko Nakagawa and ending theme “Underground” by High Voltage.
- Japanese Trailer
- U.S. Trailer
“Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition” comes with the following special features:
- Gurren Lagann Slipcase (Rigid Box illustrated by You Yoshinari/Mechanical Design)
- 2-Tray clear Amaray cases with reversible wraps of original Japanese DVD cover design
- 36-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet
- 2-Sided Poster (Yoko & Kamina)
- 2-Stickers of Kamina’s Famous Remarks
- 12 Postcards of Japanese DVD Cover Art & Original Illustration by You Yoshinari (Mechanical Design)
- Gurren Lagann Original Soundtrack CD’s 1 & 2
DISC 1 (Duration:1:09:45)
7. お前の×××で天を衝け!! ~初めて見た地上ver.~
13. ああああッ!骸骨がぁ!! 骸骨がぁ!!!
16. He is so ×××
18. Peeping Tom
23. 合体なんてクソくらえ!(合体挿入曲第一番 ハ短調アレグロ K2564)
Disc 2 (Duration: 1:10:37)
2. ラップは漢の魂だ!無理を通して道理を蹴っ飛ばす!俺たち大グレン団のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ~く聴きやがれ!!(Short Start Edit)
6. BafBaf! そんなに燃えるのが…好きかい?
21. The Blue monday e”r”ectrical parade
22. “Libera me”from hell
23. Love Conservative
For the “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition”, included is the two-CD album “Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan Original Soundtrack” that was released in 2008. This is different from the Bandai Entertainment vol. 3 DVD release which came with the “Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan BEST SOUND” album which came with the vocal tracks. The primary difference is that this original soundtrack album comes 51 tracks with the primarily instrumental music featured throughout the series. The music is composed by Taku Iwasaki and also features music by tarantura and quadtbep.
For anyone wondering if there are any vocal tracks, there are four. On Disc 1, there is “Kamina’s Theme” (ラップは漢の魂だ! 己を信じて天を指差す怒涛の男・カミナ様のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ～く聴きやがれ!!) which comes with the rap that people hear throughout the series ala “Bro! Bro! Fight the Power!”. Also, quadtbep’s guitar churning rock tracks “Nikopol” and “合体なんてクソくらえ! (合体挿入曲第一番 ハ短調アレグロ K2564)” are included.
Also, included on Disc 2 is “Libera me” from hell featuring Tarantura and Taku Iwasaki, so you get the hip hop “Bro, Bro Fight the Power!” song but with beats from Tarantura and piano by Taku Iwasaki along with an operatic element. But if you want the Shoko Nakagawa, HIGH VOLTAGE or Afuroman tracks, those tracks are included on the BEST SOUND album.
But the soundtrack, if you enjoy instrumentals is fantastic. Tracks incorporating jazz elements, ambient, gentle harp and wind instrument tracks, synth pop, synth choir to heavy hitting rock tracks. The soundtrack is a wonderful addition to the “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition”.
I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch! From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”. I absolute found the series to be exciting, a lot of fun, yes a bit perverted but ultimately…fantastic!
The character of Kamina is just so wild and crazy with how he is just so carefree and just doesn’t plan for battle, he just does what he believes in and what he thinks is right and decides at the spur of the moment. He has a way with his words, no matter how crazy it may sound but it makes his character so cool!
As for Simon, he is simply the underdog. He is a major component to the team because he pilots Lagann but at the same time, his fear and his emotions get the best of him. But like most underdogs in anime series, it’s the confidence and support that gets them going and Simon turns out to be a fascinating character to watch overtime.
Yoko, her character is sexy and cool. Sometimes you wonder if GAINAX or the character designer Atsushi Nishigori created such a sexy character for the purpose of being sexy or for the fact that many cosplayers will try to emulate the character and not wear much clothes. Nevertheless, her character is cool as her body features somehow provide the fan service and also gets Simon distracted.
But Team Gurren Lagann are simply fun to watch and to see them engage in battle with the Beast Men but also see other members join the team and see how Team Gurran Lagann grows over time during this war between humanity and the Beastman Empire.
But the series is rather fascinating as the first half deals with humanity wanting to be free and to fight to live on the land, while the second half deals with humanity now thriving seven years later but with humanity in trouble once again. The way things are for both halves are completely different and it’s like watching two seasons but both are just captivating, addictive and mecha fans and I think also anime fans in general, can get into this series!
While many early episodes feature a bit of fan service, things become less perverted from episode 10 and on. Granted, the series becomes a bit more dark, emotional and dramatic especially due to Simon’s worsening depression. So, while there are episodes such as episode 6 that tend to focus on adult humor and fan service, the series gets better overtime in terms of plot and character development.
I’m sure there are people who purchased the Bandai Entertainment DVD sets, that are wondering if there are any significant difference with the Aniplex, Inc. DVD releases. There are some slight differences. The episodes remain the same, the post cards that Bandai Entertainment released were fewer than what is included on Aniplex, Inc.’s set, also the Aniplex versions do not have any writing, logos or numbers as the Bandai Entertainment postcards had.
But another primary difference is that the Bandai Entertainment version included the first vol. 1 of the manga (since Bandai Entertainment released manga at the time in the U.S.) and that the CD soundtrack featured was the “Gurren Lagann BEST SOUND” soundtrack (which had the vocal tracks by Shoko Nakagawa, HIGH VOLTAGE and Afuromania). For the Aniplex Inc. version, you get the “Gurren Lagann Original Soundtracks” (Both CD’s which are primarily the instrumental music tracks). The Aniplex Inc. version also comes with the 36-page booklet and 2-sided poster and stickers that the Bandai Entertainment set did not have.
So, for those wondering if you should upgrade your Bandai Entertainment DVD to the new Aniplex, Inc. DVD, the answer is no. It’s the same content DVD-wise, just different swag offered by both companies. With that being said, the question is if the “Gurren Lagann” Blu-ray set will be released in America. There is an import Blu-ray release that will be available in June 2013 that does have English subtitles, also comes with the “Gurren Lagann” movies and the drama CD’s with a ton of features, but the price for this “Gurren Lagann”Blu-ray Complete Box Set” is $550.
Let’s just hope Aniplex, Inc. considers releasing a Blu-ray release for “Gurren Lagann” as this series just looks too good and sounds too awesome that it’s deserving of a Blu-ray release.
But as far as the DVD goes, picture quality is still very good, soundtrack especially the English dubtrack receives the 5.1 treatment and is a bit immersive as it does utilize the surround channels and LFE. Both voice acting soundtracks are magnificent, with the Japanese hitting the nail on the more emotional scenes, but when it comes to action, the English soundtrack has the better dynamic range and use of the surround channels. And the English dub is also well-done!
Overall, the experience of watching “Gurren Lagann” was wonderful! From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, perverseness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.
Just how the pacing of the anime series goes from people wanting to get out of the underground and seeking freedom, to the characters fighting to survive and eventually growing up but having to face their own insecurities and also consequence and then furthering their adventures as we see the characters start off young and right to end where they are older adults. And of course, this anime series is action-packed but most of all well-acted (both in Japanese and English), awesome animation, great character development and well-written storyline.
“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!” but to experience the complete series from beginning to the end, what an experience! “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” is definitely deserving of five stars and receives our highest recommendation!
“Star Wars Pinball” feature awesome gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio (in this case, also fantastic music) and special effects. “Star Wars Pinball” continues to raise bar for digital pinball games and for fans of “Star Wars” or pinball in general, you can’t help but be addicted to these games. These tables are not just challenging but among the most enjoyable digital pinball games I have played. Highly recommended!
Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay. “Star Wars Pinball” is under the copyright of Zen Studios. 2013 Lucas Film Entertainment Company Ltd. or LucasFilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO GAME TITLE: Star Wars Pinball
TYPE OF GAME: Pinball
PLATFORM: PC Steam, PC Windows 8, XBOX 360 and Sony PlayStation
PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: PlayStation 3 (PSN Download)
DEVELOPER: Zen Studios
PUBLISHED: Microsoft Game Studios
RELEASE DATE: May 13, 2013
Use the Force to guide the silver ball in Star Wars Pinball! The first pack of tables includes Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Having reviewed Zen Studios “Pinball FX2″ for Steam, this time around, I take on “Star Wars Pinball” for the Sony PlayStation 3 (downloaded via PSN). Star Wars Pinball features three tables – “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Boba Fett”.
Three pinball games based on the American epic space opera “Star Wars” franchise created by George Lucas, each of these three tables not only gives you more than one can expect from a digital pinball game but so many areas that pinball fans and fans of the films or animated series will be excited about.
To start off “Star Wars Pinball”, you have a choice to contribute your skills to the side of light or darkness. The more you play, the more you see your skills go up and benefit you as a Jedi or Sith.
You can play single player or multiplayer. Single player allows you to play each game and build up your level, while multiplayer for each table is about who can accumulate the most points and reach a certain goal and the game restarts once the person reaches that goal. Multiplayer can automatically search for players and quite often, you may get an invite from a player you have played with before.
But one can play the game to be on top of the leaderboards, to open up PS3 trophies or to challenge oneself and opening and beating many scenes as possible.
With “Pinball FX2″, Zen Studios takes the concept of pinball for the digital realm by introducing various acts, special effects, audio and gameplay elements that you won’t typically experience on a real machine.
For pinball purists who have played a digital pinball game, yes the game requires you to shoot the ball, use your flippers to hit the ball and you can briefly nudge the machine (nudge it too much and you are in danger of tilting). You lose a ball each time it falls down through the center (between the flippers) or far left and right boundaries of the game. The good news is that if you quickly lose a ball not long after a launch, you are given another chance with a free play ball.
So, a lot of the newer tables add a lot of extra gameplay features that make it worth your time to learn, not only for achievements but also because of certain bonus areas or scenes that you may not know about and also finding out strategies on how to get a high score or how to open up various areas.
For example, one may focus on their main bottom flippers, but some games have flippers on the top that if you time your hit, you can see your score multiplying and building up to millions of points. Some require quick thinking where one flipper must be pressed and immediately released, so a ball heading towards the top flipper will not come in contact. Or other strategies that may initiate a kickback (most pinball games have the frustrating area on both ends that will make you lose a ball) or something that may pick up your ball and shoot it so quickly that by the time you hit the flipper, the ball has gone through the center hole and you lose your ball.
COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY:
Are there difficulty modes? While playing a table, you can pause and select “OPERATOR” on the menu, it allows you to install a difficulty mode such as extra easy, normal, extra hard, etc. BUT this is good if you do not want to play with other players and compete in leaderboards. Easy allows for extra balls and better scoring. But once again, it’s important to note that you will receive a warning that if you change settings, your high score will not be included in the leaderboards.
First, let’s take a look at “Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back”. Of the three “Star Wars Pinball” tables offered, this is the most challenging table. The concept of pinball is the same of any pinball game in the fact that you use the plunger to send the ball for gamplay, use your PS3 triggers to move the flippers up and down (this will control and top flippers), the left analog stick activates a bump but do this too many times and you will tilt (flippers will no longer work). Your turn ends if the ball falls down the center or on the far left or right sides. Fortunately, you get three balls.
Fortunately, Zen Studios implements a “Shoot Again” if your ball goes down the center early in the game, so you do have a second chance. Also, if you hit the ball in the ramps multiple times, it will activate a “Lite Kickback” which kicks the ball back to play if it goes on the left or right side of the table. Meanwhile, there are ways to get free extra balls as well.
With your plunger, you can send the ball to go to various areas (top, middle or lower) section and obtain a “Skill Shot” by hitting a spinner. To score effectively, you want to spell out the letters, which require the ball to fall in certain areas or by sending a ball to various ramp.
Visually, it may seem simple but the challenge is that you have Tie Fighter targets on the lower left, orbits and ramps. Sending a ball to the left of the ramp, you can spell “R2D2″, sending a ball to the left ramp can activate a “Lite Kickback” (left side), “Jedi Jackpot” and spell out the word “EMPIRE”, send the ball towards the center and you can spell out “VADER” (Super Skill Shot), send the ball to the right ramp allows you to activate “Lite Kickback” (right side), “Jedi Jackpot”, “Yoda” or “Cloud City”, while the farther right section allows you to spell “FORCE” and can lead to a free extra ball.
So, it’s one thing to play pinball by hitting the ball and getting mass points and be on top of the leaderboards but for a game like “Star Wars Pinball”, you find yourself holding a ball with your flipper and trying to see if you can master that ball by letting it fall down to the tip and see if you can spell out “FORCE” or get the ball to a Tie Fighter Target.
But this requires a lot of practice and time with the game. But once you start mastering it, you’ll be able to not only increase your multiplier, assemble C-3PO, bring out Darth Vader and also take part in Jedi Training.
Jedi training is a little diversion from the pinball game as you will be taken to screen where you must deflect blasts from a droid using a lightsaber and get a free ball.
But a mode that comes on that most people will have fun with and increase their score is “Force Hurry Up Modes”, which will only happen if you light up all “FORCE” letters and from this mode, you will notice you can increase a massive amount of points quickly.
There are modes that allow for “Multiball” in which you can have several balls locked and sent out all at once. While great for points, managing 2-4 balls at one given time is not easy.
“Star Wars Pinball” also offers scenes. By hitting various areas on the table, you can activate up to six scenes. For example, selecting scene one gives you 40 seconds to hit the left sink hole a total of three times. Watching where the lights are flashing on the table gives you an idea of where to send the ball. The challenge is how to come up with your own strategy to make the ball go where it needs to go.
But definitely one of the most challenging tables from Zen Studio.
The next table is “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and is based on the animated series. This table is the easiest in terms of amassing a large amount of points. It’s also a table in which your top flippers are highly effective of earning a lot of points if you can keep the ball up in the top section.
While any of the ramps can lead to combo jackpots, it’s the maroon ramp on the right that allows you to activate the “Council” in order to take on various missions. Unlike “Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back”, the missions are non-timed. “War on Christophis” puts up a purple shield and you need to find a way by collecting bombs on a ramp and then detonating it on the purple shield.
“Cloak of Darkness” features a fight against Asajj Ventress but the goal is to hit the ball where you see flashing ramps. This one is timed and you have only 30 seconds to do it.
“The Monster” is non-timed and Savage Opress is on a floating platform, you just need to hit the platform with the ball but you have to be careful because each hit sends the ball back quickly and it may lead to the ball goiong down the center.
“Attack on Kamino” is about hitting the flashing lanes.
“Weapons Factory” is another that you have to hit flashing lanes or ramps to destroy a weapons factory.
The game also offers “Training Mode”, if you spell “Training” (left of the T6 ramp on top), you will be taken to a training playing field. The object is to hit the ball on various areas with lights. Sounds easy, until you need to hit the farthest left or right light, which requires patience and figuring out how much you should let the ball roll to the tip of the flipper.
But this is a table that I found to be a lot of fun and probably one where people may want to start playing first because of how much easier it is compared to the other tables.
For the “Boba Fett” table, this table is probably the second easiest of the three “Star Wars Pinball” tables currently available. It’s also one that you want to plan and figure out where you are hitting the ball as you can open up extra scenes if things are properly spelled out or amass a large number of points.
While you can open up various bounty missions by spelling words like “Boba Fett” by hitting the ball into those areas with letters, there are some bounty missions that require to hit the ball on each ramp or opening and you get a million points easily for each ball traveled into the area.
There are missions that require quick thinking and areas that require hitting the ball in the same area. For example, “Escape from the Sarlacc” has Boba Fett captured by tentacles. If you can hit the tentacle 4 times, you can free him.
A crazy mode is “Triump of Mandalorian” which requires you to play with five multiple balls at one time and you have 60 seconds to get as many point as possible.
Unlike the other two tables, you have only one top filter and one that I don’t find too effective but great to slow down a ball, just in case that you want to stop it in order to use your left flipper to hit the ball to a certain ramp.
It’s also a game where you can use homing missiles to destroy a flashing lane also a table where you can take part in a sharpshooter mini game. There are certainly many modes I discover the longer I play but there are various bounty jobs in which Boba Fett can earn quite a bit of money. But the game has a mix of easier elements for people to get into and also some challenging sections.
The controls for the PS3 is fast and fluid, no lag whatsover, even during multiplayer, I was able to play the game with no lag.
How are the physics of the game?
Some table physics are good, at times, it felt the physics were off. For example, I can tape on the edge of a flipper with great power and sometimes the ball only goes a short way up. Sometimes I hit a ball not hard enough but yet it goes farther than what I expected. But I never expect a digital pinball game to have a perfect replication of gameplay digitally but it comes close and once you get to learn each table, the better you will do each time you play.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO:
The graphics for each of the tables are absolutely gorgeous. A lot went into table design and character models but there was good planning when it came to the actual tables. On my HD big screen, colors were vibrant, tables were amazingly well-detailed. The game looks great on the PS3!
The audio for the game is also fantastic! “Star Wars” not only features the voices from the film but also the popular music from the film.
“Star Wars Pinball” is a game with a lot of replay value if you are into getting high scores. With the number of tables available, it gives one a chance to focus on a table and learn it and move on to the next table and continue getting high scores, topping a table leaderboard and obtaining PS3 trophies.
Growing up, pinball machines were a big part of my life as a child. Playing them at the local burger shop, even receiving a Superman pinball machine as a child, pinball machines were fun, addictive and I continued to play them even when everyone moved towards “Pac Man”, “Street Fighter II” and other popular arcade games for each decade.
My pinball experience would eventually lead me to playing the game on NES, Gameboy and dedicating hours to getting the highest score on “Pinbot”. Then came “Super Pinball” on the SNES, “Devil’s Crush”, “Metroid Pinball” on the DS, “William’s Pinball” and “Akira Psycho Ball” for the PS2 and recently playing various pinball games on my iPad.
But Zen Studios have really taken pinball to bigger heights with innovative table creation, obtaining licenses to utilize popular franchise’s or iconic characters and making pinball so much fun again! It’s not just about hitting the ball and getting the high score, there is strategy involved in playing a Zen Studio pinball game.
“Star Wars Pinball” is pinball crack. Once you play, you become addicted to the game and find yourself playing it for hours and trying to figure out various strategies. And while the single player game is fantastic, the multiplayer is OK. It’s more or less a contest of who can reach the most points and the game restarts and you keep on playing. What would be nice is to find out how some of these players during multiplayer can get up to 12 million points in a short amount of time, so if there was a watch mode, where you can see other players playing a game realtime, that would have been cool to see and also learn from.
These three “Star Wars Pinball” tables are also quite creative in gameplay and each are very different from each other, requiring different strategies, so one can expect to put a lot of time playing and replaying to see how things work, especially how to defeat various missions.
As for playing the game on the PS3 versus on a PC, I will say that I felt physics and fluidity and smoother gameplay was noticeable on the PS3 but for those who prefer having the monitor right near them, so they can see things clearly, I’m sure it’s subjective to each player. But the PS3 feels smooth and experienced no lag.
With each table, some require strategy and quick thinking. For example, one would not want to let the ball roll too quickly down your flipper as momentum is so quick that by the time you press the button the flipper, the ball falls quickly through the center and you lose a ball. And sometimes, the placement of a ball will end up in the far boundaries, making you lose the ball. So, you come up with strategies of how to get a kick back (so, if the ball goes out on the left or right boundaries, the ball is kicked back on the table) or to regain a “Shoot Again”, so a lost ball will result in free play ball.
The most challenging is when you have multiple balls in play. This will give you a chance to rack up enormous points but it’s not easy when you have four balls all coming down all at once, so sometimes you act erratically by hitting the flippers repeatedly. So, it requires patients and finding out new ways to deal with multiple balls.
But the big part of the strategy for this game, for me, is to figure out ways to utilize the top flippers and where I should have the ball aimed. Some tables reward nicely if you use those top obscured flippers correctly.
So, each table, I have had a lot of fun playing and trying to learn what the game has to offer and with the addition of playing with friends via the leaderboard or gaining achievements, it adds to the replay factor of the game.
Overall, “Star Wars Pinball” feature awesome gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio (in this case, also fantastic music) and special effects. “Star Wars Pinball” continues to raise bar for digital pinball games and for fans of “Star Wars” or pinball in general, you can’t help but be addicted to these games. These tables are not just challenging but among the most enjoyable digital pinball games I have played.
“Star Wars Pinball” from Zen Studios for the PS3 is highly recommended!
+ Awesome and creative gameplay and you discover something new each time you play the game.
+ Additional replay factor to challenge others and win trophies!
+ Wonderful graphics for each table!
+ Great use of sound effects, music and dialogue!
+ Physics are very good for these tables on the PS3, smooth gameplay, no lag!
- Gameplay for some people may be a little frustrating.
- Purists expecting perfected physics may be disappointed.
Young actor Jake T. Austin is a child actor that many teenagers have grown up watching (and also listening). Having played Max Russo on “Wizards of Waverly Place” for six years and was the voice of Diego for the children’s educational, animated series “Go, Diego! Go” for four years, Jake literally grew up as a child actor working on television since 2000.
Almost 20-years-old, Jake is back on another television series for ABC Family titled “The Fosters”, from executive producer Jennifer Lopez.
The series revolves around a bi-racial lesbian couple Lena (portrayed by Sherri Saum) and Stef (portrayed by Teri Polo) who raise a biological son and several adoptive children. Lena, an altruistic school principal wants to save children and tries to introduce new children into the family, while Stef is a police officer who is not always aware that Lena has brought new additions to their growing family. Especially with the addition of Callie (portrayed by Maia Mitchell), a troubled teenager who is known to turn family’s lives upside down.
In the series, Jake plays the role of Jesus Foster. A teenager who has been through the Foster system several times with his twin sister and were adopted by Lena and Stef five years ago. Because Jesus has grown older, he assumes a paternal role for his sister, Mariana. Both were initially reluctant to allow newer foster kids into the family but grown to embrace them.
Set to premiere on ABC Family on June 3rd at 9/8 central, ABC Family recently held a media Q&A with Jake T. Austin to promote the show.
Here is a transcript from the Q&A with Jake T. Austin:
Moderator How many episodes have you filmed so far of the season?
J. Austin We’re midway through the production, so we’re about halfway through the amount of episodes that we’re going to be starting out premiering. The show premieres on June 3rd, so that’s when fans will get an opportunity to see the first episode.
Moderator Please pass my thanks onto the rest of the people in charge of the show because I was a foster kid growing up, so I’m really looking forward to the show.
J. Austin I’m glad you are able to relate to the story we’re trying to portray. It’s important for us to portray that as accurately as possible and to act as a voice and to speak to that issue specifically.
Moderator The show is based upon a foster home setting for you character. Did you have to do anything special to prepare for this role?
J. Austin As actors, we did our homework, and we did some research into the foster care system; also getting to meet with some foster kids and people who had had firsthand experience and firsthand knowledge. The show picks up where I play a twin who had been through the foster system and [was adopted by the family five years ago]. He’s, along with his sister, living in a new traditional family home. So he’s moved on from the foster home when the series picks up.
Moderator What are you hoping the fans will be able to take from the show as far as the portrayal of the foster home aspect?
J. Austin I’m hoping fans will be able to relate to the message, which is the definition of family doesn’t necessarily have to do with who’s in your family, but more so how you look at the relationship. More importantly, the show will hopefully shed light on some bigger issues and some larger topics that may be controversial to some.
Moderator Twins are always supposed to have that special bond, what did you and your costar do to kind of get that twin vibe going?
J. Austin To fall into that, the cast and I have spent a lot of time together and we’ve built a great chemistry. So going into the series, we were just really looking forward to exploring new story lines and new avenues that our characters can take. But we’ve gotten along so well, and I think our relationship off-camera really plays into our performance.
Moderator This show is groundbreaking in that it’s featuring a same-sex household. What is it like to be a part of this show?
J. Austin It’s great to fit into this show, especially at a time when a lot of issues are being brought to light. And to also act as a voice for a lot of those issues and to portray a character that feels very real and grounded and someone that’s very close to me. It’s a blessing to be working at this time and just to be involved in the show like this. That can bring and open the doors to so many new families, hopefully. That’s just what I’m looking forward to.
Moderator What was it like working with the rest of the cast along with your twin on screen?
J. Austin Working with the rest of the cast has been, so far, a great experience. Everyone’s learning from each other and everyone’s excited to see where the story line and where the show is going to take off.
Moderator Can you give a little more information about your character?
J. Austin I play Jesus Foster, who is the brother to Mariana, they’re a set of twins who have been in and out of the foster system pretty much since birth. They’ve embraced the idea of welcoming new foster children into their home and they live under the same roof as a same-sex couple in San Diego. The show picks up in a time when Jesus is coming into his own as a man and also assuming a paternal role for his sister.
Moderator What drew you to your role as Jesus Foster?
J. Austin What drew me to the role of Jesus was the opportunity to tell a groundbreaking story, in my opinion, and to be a part of something that was so real and so relatable. It’s a blessing to be working at a time when jobs are slim and unemployment is rising, so I’m very grateful to be in the position that I am and also to shed light on some of the topics that we’re going to be introducing on the show.
For me, it’s just an opportunity to explore my depth as an actor and also to tell a great story.
Moderator What sets The Fosters apart from any other drama series that’s on television today?
J. Austin What sets “The Fosters” aside from most content that’s out there is – in a world that’s seemingly driven by consumership and selling things to you, so to speak, “The Fosters” just wants to tell an honest story, using very relatable and real people and real story lines. We’re able to convey this message and share in the hardships that the family experiences, the triumphs that they feel at the end of the day, which is really where we see the story going: a story of ups and downs and really telling a tale that hopefully a lot of Americans can relate to. And also international folk.
Moderator Where does it film, actually?
J. Austin We’ve been in production, filming on location throughout Los Angeles, including Warner Brothers, as well as San Diego.
Moderator What’s it been like working with such great, veteran actors, like Teri Polo? Have you learned a lot from them?
J. Austin Yes. Working with someone like Teri Polo definitely enhances your ability as an actor. It forces you to pick up on your craft and also engage in the story to your fullest extent. Being on set with people who are driven to tell the story and people who are excited to be a part of this adventure is really motivating. At the end of the day that’s what we’re trying to instill through the story.
Moderator You’ve mentioned Jesus’ relationship with his twin sister. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? How Jesus and Mariana interact with each other, or what that relationship is like?
J. Austin Jesus assumes a paternal role over Mariana’s character. Both Jesus and Mariana have been in and out of the foster system since birth, they’re reluctant to welcome any new faces or any new members of the family into their home, at first, but ultimately find serenity and they find happiness in their new family. Through their misadventures and through their mistrials, they are able to build a closer bond as they enter that next phase into their lives, which is adulthood, which is where the series picks up.
Moderator What’s The Fosters about, how would you describe it?
J. Austin I would say “The Fosters” is a relatable, grounded story about a same-sex couple raising foster children. It’s an hour drama that also features so many other elements.
Moderator @matilda on Twitter wants to know what it was like working with Selena Gomez?
J. Austin Working with Selena Gomez was a blessing. Getting to do Wizards was a huge, instrumental part of my career, which is the series that Selena also appeared on. For me, it was just a huge part of my life and a huge chapter in who I am. Getting to work with Selena Gomez was definitely impactful and so much fun, because she’s so talented and she’s awesome.
Moderator What are your thoughts about the success she is currently having with her career?
J. Austin I think it’s great. It seems like she’s exploring new sides to her career that people didn’t expect. It’s just interesting to see where everything is going.
Moderator Do you stay in contact with her a pretty good bit?
J. Austin We’ve tried to stay in touch, most of the cast. Some have been better about it than others. But with everyone’s schedules and with everything that’s happening, it’s hard to keep tabs. It’s hard, also, to find a time when we’re all in the same location. But we have kept in touch.
Moderator How hands-on is Jennifer Lopez with establishing the show and creating your particular character? Has she helped you get to know him?
J. Austin I do know Jennifer Lopez had firsthand say and handpicked a lot of the characteristics that are going to be featured on the show as well as incorporating her style and implementing her own flavor and charisma. The show will feature, I think, a new side – it’s arguably different, but it’s more controlled, in a way. But Jennifer Lopez has had a lot of control over style. It’s been great to have someone that you can emulate and be so involved in a series like this.
Moderator Do you think the name of your character is kind of a metaphor for who he portrays in this particular series?
J. Austin Jesus, in my opinion, is an instrumental character in the series. I think the aspect of religion does play a part, but it’s hard to see where they want to take that character.
Moderator My first question is about the dynamic that we’ve seen Mariana kind of wanting to see her birth mom, meet her, but Jesus is more standoffish. Is that something we’re going to see in more episodes to come?
J. Austin I think Jesus’ apprehension to meeting his biological mother deals with his distrust of the foster system as well as a lot of skeletons that he’s unable to release in his closet. Hopefully, as the show grows and as the character develops, audiences will be able to see that back story with Jesus. Hopefully we’re able to learn more about where they came from and how he deals with moving forward.
Right now it’s so early and it’s very fresh. For me, as an actor, to remember the pain and the hardships that foster children endure everyday is essential to me playing the character.
Moderator What do you think is the hardest part about playing your character?
J. Austin The hardest part about playing this character is, at times, to not get too comfortable. Although there are so many differences in our personal lives, Jesus and I feel very parallel and I feel very parallel to Jesus in similar ways. There are certain things about our personalities and our characteristics that are identical. So for me, it’s very easy to fall into the shoes of this character. But, as well, it’s hard to contrast and show differences.
Moderator How was filming The Fosters different from filming Wizards of Waverly Place?
J. Austin Filming “Wizards of Waverly Place”, at a time when I was younger, was very different from “The Fosters”. I think Wizards was instrumental in my knowledge of the industry and also it was my first, live action, major series. So having done that and then moving onto “The Fosters”, on a major network and also dealing with a different element to the industry, it definitely, in my opinion, improved my game and improved my performance. Drawing from the experiences I had on Wizards and learning from either mistakes or improvements that I was able to make throughout the course of the show, I’m able to take every experience I’ve had and put it towards “The Fosters”, which is more challenging, longer in length because it’s an hour drama, and it’s also different in the subject matter. So for me it’s, all across the board, a new way to express my talent.
Moderator You have acted in both movies and television series. Is there one that you prefer over the other?
J. Austin I don’t prefer movies over television. Any opportunity to tell a story, for me, is a great chance as an actor. Also to play different characters and to challenge myself as an actor is the most important thing.
Moderator After spending so much time on Wizards, how easy is it, or difficult is it, for you to say yes to committing to another TV series that could last, again, another five years?
J. Austin For me, it’s not so much the length of time that you’re forced to commit to something. I was more curious as to the direction of the show and if it was something I saw myself being a part of. Judging by where everyone’s head was at, it seemed like a great fit for me.
Right now, I can honestly say this is something I’m happy to be a part of. Although, whether this show goes for nine years or ten years, when you commit to something, it’s important you take everything into account, including the people, including the story, including things just outside of money. So for me, it was important to realize the magnitude of the opportunity and also to realize that the show could go longer than expected.
Moderator Are you finding you’re getting projects, now, sent your way that are allowing you to show that you’re grown up? That you’re not just a little kid anymore?
J. Austin My work as a child actor has definitely contrasted to some of the work I’ve done earlier. But I still consider myself so young and so eager to learn. Hopefully I start seeing more challenging roles that put my talent to the test. But I’m still early in my career and just eager to get more credits under my belt.
Moderator There is what is known as “The Disney Channel Curse,” where young stars, such as yourself, come up and have great success with their shows, and once that show ends, they have a hard time transitioning to other projects and having the same level of success. How has that affected you, or has it affected you?
J. Austin It’s been hard to remove yourself when everyone can put you in a box and say this is going to happen and, almost, depict your future based on what they’ve seen in past experiences with other people. Taking my life and everything that I’ve gone through into account, I don’t see myself as just a one-sided actor or just somebody of 15 minutes of fame.
To ensure more work, I feel it’s vital that you treat everyone with respect. If you go into everything with an eagerness to learn, which is where I see myself anytime I go on set. Anytime I step on set, for me it’s an opportunity of being at film school, in my opinion.
I’m just eager to learn and hopefully people will read into that. I’m not so concerned with the impact that being involved with the Disney Family is going to have on my career. More so I’m concerned with the impression that people have on me as well as my dedication to the craft, which is something I want to prove through my work.
Moderator Are you worried that fans will always associate you with Max Russo and have a hard time accepting you as Jesus?
J. Austin There are a lot of people on iconic shows like “Saved by the Bell” and “Full House” – certain sitcoms where characters have built that relationship and fans have built and grown alongside people for so long, they feel like they’re almost there. I want to embrace being Max to the fullest extent, because for me that was the inciting moment in my career. That has led me to so many greater opportunities.
So, whenever a fan comes up to me and mentions Max, whether it’s now or 20 years from now, I’ll speak about it like I just stepped off set. That’s something that is very close to me and that’s something that I’m not ashamed of at all. Wizards, in my opinion, will always be at the fans’ disposal; people can always see it, people can always know where to find it. It’s nothing to run from.
Moderator You are the first ever youth spokesperson for the Ronald McDonald House New York. How did that come about?
J. Austin Being the first youth spokesperson for Ronald McDonald House had actually come to my attention at an event. William Sullivan, who is the chairperson at Ronald McDonald House, had presented me with the opportunity. Growing up in New York, and my mom being an oncology nurse, I just had extensive insight into what a lot of these patients endure.
My eagerness and my wanting to know more, I think, is what provoked me to get more involved. Visiting the house on numerous occasions for numerous events, building a relationship with some of the kids there – it really forces you to look at things from their perspective. The more time you spend in an environment like that, with such bravery and such courage, it makes you want to spend even more time there.
That’s where my involvement came about. I was eager to help in any way possible and I was just grateful that they offered me the opportunity to be a spokesperson and a youth ambassador. The first youth ambassador, which I’m very proud to hold.
Moderator What do you think is a must-see when you come to NYC?
J. Austin Most people would say the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. I would definitely say the Beast or Circle Line – something where you can go from the Hudson River to the East River and see the city from an outward perspective. Definitely just training it, just taking the A-train all the way uptown and then going all the way downtown and walking around. Going to the East Village and just walking, I think, is the best thing. Seeing as much as possible. It’s 26 square miles and there’s really a lot to see, so it’s hard to say specifically what.
For more information on “The Fosters”, please visit the official website.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is another enjoyable Studio Ghibli film. Another box office hit in the oeuvre of Hayao Miyazaki. While, Studio Ghibli fans already know this is must-have film for their collection, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is worth the upgrade to Blu-ray due to its gorgeous picture quality and it’s crystal clear lossless soundtrack. Recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Howl’s Moving Castle (ハウルの動く城)
FILM RELEASE: 2004
DURATION: 119 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Audio: English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French
RATED:G (General Audience)
RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013
Created, Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki
Character Design: Akihiko Yamashita
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Art Director: Noboru Yoshida, Youji Takeshige
Animation Director: Akihiko Yamashita, Kitaro Kousaka, Takeshi Inamura
Executive Producer: Hayao Miyazaki
Producer: Toshio Suzuki
Anime Production by Studio Ghibli
Featuring the voices of:
Chieko Baisho/Emily Mortimer as Sophie Hatter
Takuya Kimura/Christian Bale as Howl
Akihiro Miwa/Lauren Bacall as Witch of the Waste
Akio Ohtsuka/Mark Silverman as King of Ingary
Haruko Kato/Blythe Danner as Madam Suliman
Ryunosuke Kamiki/Josh Hutcherson as Markl
Tatsuya Gashuin/Billy Crystal as Calcifer
Brimming with a blend of imagination, humor, action and romance, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is the story of Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer), a diligent teenage girl working in her family’s hat shop, who finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome-but-mysterious wizard named Howl (voiced by Christian Bale). The innocent encounter engages the vain and conniving “Witch of the Waste” (voiced by Lauren Bacall), who transforms Sophie into a 90-year old woman (voiced by Jean Simmons). Sophie’s efforts to break the curse bring her to Howl’s magical moving castle, where she befriends Markl (voiced by Josh Hutcherson), Howl’s apprentice, and the hot-headed fire demon Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal). Her love and support have a major impact on Howl, who can be maddeningly self-indulgent and singularly noble as he defies royal orders to participate in a meaningless war and risks his life to protect Sophie.
Hayao Miyazaki, the most prominent Japanese filmmaker who has created animated films that not only broke Japanese box office records but has created animated films that reflect upon nature, technology, family and more. Compared to the accomplishments of Walt Disney, Miyazaki is a filmmaker who has amassed a respect from his fans worldwide and his animations studio, Studio Ghibli, continues to be one of the most appreciated and respected animation and production studios in the world.
In 2004, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli released “Howl’s Moving Castle” in Japan and released in America in 2005. An animated film adaptation that is loosely based on Diana Wynne Jones’ 1986 fantasy novel. As Miyazaki is a pacifist, the major difference between the novel and the animated film is that the animated film is set during a time of war and Miyazaki was affected by America’s war in Iraq which profoundly impacted the film. There are also key differences of the main characters (ie. Sulliman in the novel is a man, in the animated film, Sulliman is a woman) and more characters in the novel that are not in the animated film version, but author Diana Wynne Jones gave her blessing for the film and that although she had no input on the film, she expected the film to be different from her novels.
The English dub was directed by Pixar’s Pete Docter (“Toy Story” films and “Monsters, Inc.”), a big Studio Ghibli fan and would feature an all-star cast which includes Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Blythe Danner, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and Josh Hutcherson.
With a budget of $24 million, “Howl’s Moving Castle” was a box office success earning over $235 million in the box office and for many film critics, were included in their best 10 films of 2005.
In May 2013, Disney will be releasing Howl’s Moving Castle” for the first time on Blu-ray along with another Studio Ghibli classic, “My Neighbor Totoro”.
What is “Howl’s Moving Castle”?
The film revolves around an 18-year-old hatter named Sophie. While working, she hears all the stylish women at work talking rumors about Howl’s moving castle which they see briefly in the distance and talks about how he eats women’s beautiful women’s hearts. Not one to hang out with the other woman, as she feels she is not beautiful or stylish as them, she focuses on her work.
One day, while walking, she comes across two soldiers who are trying to flirt with her and wanting her to stay with them. But a man comes from behind and pretends to be her boyfriend. Immediately after the soldiers leave, he tells her that he is being followed and he grabs her hand and are pursued by black figures. He picks her up and they start flying and walking on air.
Not knowing if what she experienced was true, her sister Lettie confirms that she had floated down the balcony. Lettie warns her that it may be the wizard Howl and to be careful or he will steal her heart and would eaten it. But Sophie responds that he wouldn’t because she is not beautiful. Lettie still warns her to be careful, especially with word that the Witch of the Waste is back on the prowl.
Meanwhile, the black figures that were pursuing Howl and Sophie return back to the Witch of the Waste.
Returning to the hat shop, The Witch of the Waste shows up, looking for Howl and being rude. Sophie tells her to leave the shop but instead of leaving discretely, the witch she curses Sophie and transforms her into a very old woman.
The following day, when her mother Fanny tries to visit her, Sophie doesn’t want anyone seeing her appearance and she knows that she can’t stay home anymore. So, Sophie decides to leave home and heads to the Waste area in hopes she can find the witch and remove the spell. Meanwhile, the townspeople begin talking about a missing prince.
While walking up the Waste, she comes across a branch that she can use as a cane. As she tries to pull it from a bush, she finds out the branch is a scarecrow. But while she walks up the hill, the scarecrow follows her and gives her his cane. And helps find her a place to stay.
As she tries to walk up the hill, she comes across Howl’s moving castle. Sophie comes inside the castle and feels that Howl won’t eat her heart because she thinks she is a shriveled up old lady.
Inside the castle, Sophie meets a fire demon named Calcifer who knows about the curse on Sophie. Calcifer tells Sophie that if he breaks his spell (which keeps him stuck inside Howl’s moving castle), he can break the spell on her.
Also, inside the castle is a child named Markl, a young apprentice of Howl who disguises him as a short, older wizard who helps run the castle which has the ability to transport itself to different parts of the city with the turn of a door knob. While Michael and Sophie discuss what she is doing in the castle, Howl receives two summons from the King (summons for his alias, Wizard Jenkins and Wizard Pendragon).
Eventually, Sophie shows her worth to Howl and Michael as their new cleaning lady. But what is more surprising to Howl is how obedient Calcifer is towards Sophie.
But it is learned that Calcifer’s power is what makes the castle move, while Michael makes income by pretending to be a wizard and people buy spells from the shop.
And as they all live together, Sophie starts to wonder about the things that Howl takes part in when he leaves the castle. Meanwhile, life in the city is not going so well as a war continues to loom and meanwhile, the Witch of the Waste’s black henchman continue to search for Howl.
But overtime Sophie learns that Howl has been transforming himself into a bird-like creature to interfere with the war and with each transformation, it becomes much more difficult for him to return to human. And the more she gets to know more about him, the more she cares for him and wants to help him.
But with the king’s magic adviser, Suliman, wanting to use Howl’s magic to contribute to the war, with Sophie trying to protect him and not use his powers any longer, they become the wanted. But can Sophie, under a curse of an older woman, help the man she has feelings for and will she ever break the curse?
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is presented in 1080p High Definition and what a gorgeous film that Studio Ghibli was able to create. It’s a staple of Miyazaki films, beautiful art backgrounds, wonderfully painted, lush green forests and sceneries and detailed buildings. Colors are vibrant, characters are well-designed using the Studio Ghibli style.
I saw no banding, compression or any negative issues during my viewing of “Howl’s Moving Castle”. This film is colorful, gorgeous and magnificent in HD!
As for the audio, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is presented in English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital. And immediately from the starting of the film, with the various aircraft and Howl’s moving castle, you can hear with each foot movement, LFE reacting to the huge metal on ground and the sounds enveloping the soundscape with magnificent dynamic range and surround sound use. An active soundtrack that sounds crystal clear, clean dialogue and an immersive soundscape during its more action-intensive scenes, fans should be happy with this lossless soundtrack!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“My Neighbor Totoro” comes with the following special features on a second DVD disc. Included are:
- Behind the Microphone - (9:02) – Co-Producers Rick Dempsey, Ned Lot, Director Pete Docter, English language adaptation crew – Cindy and Don Hewitt discuss the English language adaptation. Featuring the all-star talent involved in the English dub process and more!
- Interview with Pete Docter – (7:23) A Japanese featurette with an interview with Pete Docter about working on “Howl’s Moving Castle”. (English with Japanese with English subtitles).
- Hello Mr. Lasster: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar – (16:29) A Japanese featurette featuring Hayao Miyazaki’s surprise visit at Pixar animation studios.
- TV Spots and Trailers – (8:15) The television spots and trailers for “Howl’s Moving Castle”.
- Original Japanese Storyboards - (1:59:10) The entire film with Japanese dialogue (with English subtitles) featuring the original Japanese storyboards.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” comes with a slipcover.
When it comes to Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki’s work, one thing you can always expect is quality, a message delivered through the film from Miyazaki but also a feeling of fantasy, fun but most of all, an enjoyable cinematic experience.
Because Studio Ghibli is responsible for so many hit films, majority of them have become box office hits not only in Japan but many other countries including here in the United States, it’s not easy to compare each film on how it ranks in the typical “Which Miyazaki film is best?” poll. Everyone has their own experience with each of his films and an opinion of which work is better or weaker.
And to tell you the truth, I can’t even call a Studio Ghibli film weak because each film I have watched, I thoroughly enjoyed and felt it was a cinematic experience.
For “Howl’s Moving Castle”, I can say that I enjoyed other Studio Ghibli films much more, but I can also say that I enjoyed this film for its story and breathtaking visuals. But first let me explain why.
When it comes to Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli films, I have enjoyed the pacifist message that are seen in films such as “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Princess Mononoke” and “Castle of the Wind”. I loved the human emotion portrayed in “Grave of the Fireflies”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Ponyo” and “Arrietty”. So, I do enjoy the Studio Ghibli films that are melodramatic, full of human emotion or is smart, complex with a message from Miyazaki and also the films that mixes fantasy.
With “Howl’s Moving Castle”, the film is another with a message from the pacifist, Hayao Miyazaki who was not too thrilled with America’s war on Iraq. The film unlike the novel is set during the time of war but the film mixes in fantasy but also an emotional element.
Sophie is a young woman who never saw herself as beautiful or even needed, but now under the curse of a witch, she has been turned into an older woman and realizes that she has fallen for Howl, a man who risks his life trying to prevent war but yet countries wanting to use his power for war. The film introduces colorful characters such as the humorous flame demon Calcifer (who is unaware of his true inner strength), a young boy named Michael who is an apprentice of Howl but you wonder what has happened to this boy’s family but how important Sophie has become in his life almost as a motherly figure. And of course, we learn about Howl and even the Witch of the Waste and why she is so desperate of stealing Howl’s heart.
With a magical storyline, Studio Ghibli delivers with gorgeous visuals from well-detailed, painted buildings and scenery. The mechanical design of Howl’s moving castle is also a sight to behold.
The voice acting is also wonderful! The Japanese version utilizing popular actor (and SMAP music star) Takuya Kimura as Howl and longtime actress Chieko Baisho as Sophie. While the English dub version utilizes an all-star cast with Christian Bale as Howl, Emily Mortimer as Sophie, Billy Crystal as Calcifer, Blythe Danner as Madame Suliman. But knowing how Miyazaki loves the utilization of screen legends, Disney also features the voice acting of Jean Simmons as the older Sophie and Lauren Bacall as the voice of the Witch of the Waste. Which is better, I feel it is very subjective to the viewer but I do enjoy the acting on both soundtracks.
And while I enjoyed the storyline and the visuals, typically, you are used to watching the protagonist in a more demanding and active role. For the role of Sophie, it’s difficult when most of the storyline features her as an older woman, shown cooking, cleaning and taking care of the castle. For Howl, we understand that he is a free spirit, not wanting war to take place and sacrificing his life, but there are moments where you wonder more about his character that is not fully explained. Not to say that it becomes too confusing but you just feel that you want a bit more explanation about Howl’s motivations a bit more.
With that being said, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is still an enjoyable and gorgeous film, even moreso now in HD on Blu-ray.
But for a studio that has created many wonderful films, in terms of storyline, there are other Studio Ghibli films that I enjoyed much more.
Overall, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is another enjoyable Studio Ghibli film. Another box office hit in the oeuvre of Hayao Miyazaki. While, Studio Ghibli fans already know this is must-have film for their collection, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is worth the upgrade to Blu-ray due to its gorgeous picture quality and it’s crystal clear lossless soundtrack. Recommended!
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a Studio Ghibli classic and a heartwarming animated film that will entertain families and even adults for more generations to come. A beloved Japanese animated film and Studio Ghibili classic, “My Neighbor Totoro” is one of those must-own Blu-ray releases for Miyazaki and anime fans! Highly recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ/Tonario no Totoro)
FILM RELEASE: 1988
DURATION: 88 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Audio: English, French and Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French
RATED:G (General Audience)
RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013
Created, Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Storyboards by Hayao Miyazaki
Music by Joe Hisaishi
Art Director: Kazuo Iga
Animation Director: Yoshiharu Sato
Director of Photography: Hisao Shirai
Executive Producer: Yasuyoshi Tokuma
Producer: Toru Hara
Anime Production by Studio Ghibli
Featuring the voices of:
Chika Sakamoto/Dakota Fanning as Mei Kusakabe
Hitoshi Takagi/Frank Welker as Dai-Totoro
Noriko Hidaka/Elle Fanning as Satsuki Kusakabe
Shigesato Itoi/Timothy Daly as Tatsuo Kusakabe (Mei & Satsuki’s father)
Tanie Kitabayashi/Pat Carroll as Granny
Toshiyuki Amagasa as Kanta
Lauded as “one of the most beloved of all family films” by critic Roger Ebert, “My Neighbor Totoro” is the heartwarming story of sisters Satsuki (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and Mei (voiced by Elle Fanning). Much to their delight, when Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei move into a new home in the countryside, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro—who can be seen only through the eyes of children. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters—including a catbus—and takes them on an incredible journey.
Hayao Miyazaki, the most prominent Japanese filmmaker who has created animated films that not only broke Japanese box office records but has created animated films that reflect upon nature, technology, family and more. Compared to the accomplishments of Walt Disney, Miyazaki is a filmmaker who has amassed a respect from his fans worldwide and his animations studio, Studio Ghibli, continues to be one of the most appreciated and respected animation and production studios in the world.
In 1988, wrote and directed the animated classic “My Neighbor Totoro” (Tonari no Totoro) which won the Animage Grand Prix Award in 1988 and was brought over to the United States from Fox Video/Streamline on VHS in the ’90s and on DVD in 2002. When their rights expired, Disney picked up the rights to the many of the Studio Ghibli films and redubbed the film featuring major Hollywood talent and re-released the film on DVD in 2006 but this time with both an English and Japanese audio track. In 2010, “My Neighbor Totoro” was released on DVD as part of Disney’s releases of Studhio Ghibli classics which include “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Castle in the Sky”.
In May 2013, Disney will be releasing “My Neighbor Totoro” for the first time on Blu-ray along with another Studio Ghibli classic, “Howl’s Moving Castle”.
What is “My Neighbor Totoro”?
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a film that takes place in 1958 and is about the Kusakabe family which include university professor Tatsuo Kusakabe (voiced by Shigesato Itoi/Timothy Daly) and his daughters, 10-year-old Satsuki (voiced by Noriko Hidaka/Dakota Fanning) and 4-year-old daughter Mei (voiced by Chika Sakamoto/Elle Fanning). The family has moved to a rural area in Japan to be closer to a hospital where their mother Yasuko (voiced by Sumi Shimamoto/Lea Salonga) is trying to recover from her illness.
When the daughters check out the house, they discover the home is filled with susuwatari (dust bunnies/creatures) and try to move to dark places of the house. They are greeted by Granny (voiced by Tanie Kitabayashi/Pat Carroll), the landlord of the house and grandmother of a young boy named Kanta (voiced by Toshiyuki Amagasa/Paul Butcher), a boy who is a neighbor and soon-to-be classmate of Satsuki.
The family carries on life in the country but for young Mei, one day while playing outside, she sees two rabbit like creatures in the grass. When she goes to follow them, she ends up finding this very large creature which she names “Totoro” (voiced by Hitoshi Takagi/Frank Welker) and falls asleep on him. When Satsuki finds her, she is alone but Mei tells her about this big creature she saw. Of course, Satsuki doesn’t quite believe her at first but their father tells them that Totoro is a keeper of the forest.
One rainy night as the daughters wait for their father to return by bus and doesn’t arrive, while Mei is fast asleep on Satsuki’s back, Totoro shows up and Satsuki sees the creature for the first time as he is protecting himself with a leaf from the rain. She offers him her father’s umbrella and happy about the umbrella, he gives her some nuts and seeds. Meanwhile, we see what Totoro is waiting for as a big bus-shaped giant cat (voiced by Naoki Tatsuta/Frank Welker) comes to pick up Totoro.
While Satsuki and Mei are overjoyed by seeing Totoro and other creatures, they are struck by bad news when they find out their mother will not be coming home from the hospital and both girls now worry that she may die and take the possibility of that happening very hard.
But on one day, young Mei is missing and it prompts Satsuki and the entire village to search for Mei. What has happened to her?
“My Neighbor Totoro” is just an amazing animated film which I first watched back in 1993 (in Japanese, no subtitles) and at the time, although I didn’t know what was going on, I was simply in awe with the animation. Of how beautiful the artistic backgrounds were. The village and its lush green, to the painted detail on the trunk of the trees to even the ground during rainy weather, I was impressed. Now, the film is 22-years-old and watching it again, the film still holds up remarkably well today.
For the first time in the U.S., “My Neighbor Totoro” is presented in 1080P High Definition. While one should remember that this film is old school anime from 1988, the film is not going to have the amazing detail and vibrancy of Studio Ghibli films made digitally today, but with that being said, the film is lush and beautiful too look at for a film that is 25-years-old. This is amazing cell art production of Japanese animation of the late ’80s and looks amazing on Blu-ray. Background details are much more clearer, no blurriness and the picture quality looks clean, no dust or white specks.
When it comes to picture quality, in America, this HD version of the film is the definitive version to own.
As for the audio, “My Neighbor Totoro” is presented in English, French and Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is presented in English Dolby Digital Sound and also includes the Japanese and French language tracks. It’s important to note that fans of the film have heard two different English dubs of “My Neighbor Totoro” in the past (with the old FOX Streamline English dub) and the version included on the Blu-ray release is the Disney verison.
Audio is crystal clear but as I hoped a lossless upgrade to 5.1, for a film of this age, it’s understandable to get the English and French lossless soundtrack in 2.0. But the biggest news is the inclusion of the Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“My Neighbor Totoro” comes with the following special features on a second DVD disc. Included are:
- Original Japanese Storyboards - (1:26:16) – Watch the entire film but this time with the video showcasing the original storyboards.
- Original Japanese Trailer – (1:50) The original Japanese theatrical trailer.
- Behind the Microphone – (5:41) Featuring the English dub voice talents talking about their role, their appreciation for Miyazaki and his films. Also, behind-the-scenes of the talent recording their voices.
- Creating My Neighbor Totoro – (2:59) Hayao Miyazaki talks about how he came up with the concept of “My Neighbor Totoro”.
- Creating the Characters - (4:22) Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about the characters of “My Neighbor Totoro” and how “E.T. was an influence.
- The Totoro Experience – (2:00) Producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how the film didn’t do well in the box office but when it aired on television, it did remarkably well.
- Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli – (1:22) Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki talks about how the named “Ghibli” came about.
- The Locations of Totoro – (28:34) An excerpt from a Japanese documentary on “My Neighbor Totoro” and visiting the areas that inspired Miyazaki to create the village of Totoro.
- Scoring Miyazaki – (7:17) A featurette about Joe Hisaishi’s scoring Miyazaki films and more.
“My Neighbor Totoro” comes with a slipcover.
I absolutely love “My Neighbor Totoro”. From when I first saw it in Japanese (which I didn’t understand at the time) at a Japanese animation club screening back in 1993 and now watching it over 15-years-later and watching it alongside with my son. There is this captivating quality with Miyazaki’s characters, his enjoyable to sometimes serious screenplays and Studio Ghibli always delivering when it comes to quality.
And when you consider how a lot of animated films today are 100% CG animated, when you see a Miyazaki film, you know that he doesn’t follow the mainstream. He makes the kind of films that he wants and for the most part, every film that I have seen from Studio Ghibli, I’ve been more than satisfied.
I remember watching “My Neighbor Totoro” and enjoying the lively moments from the beginning but having seen his animated films “Nausicaa”, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky” and even “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, as his films are happy and humorous, by the final half of the film, the story definitely shifts to a serious tone and in this film, it does get a bit serious when both Satsuki and Mei facing the probability of their mother dying in the hospital. These are genuine emotions that these two young girls feel but at the same time, what transpires afterward was captivating and how the film ends, Miyazaki definitely knows how to wrap up a film and make you feel content and satisfied with overall story.
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a wonderful family film and by no means is it scary. For the parents, this film is among the more lighter-toned Miyazaki films out there. Miyazaki has mentioned in interviews that he created “My Neighbor Totoro” for the children while his latest film “Ponyo” was more of him wanting to create a film for even younger children. But for the most part, if you want to introduce a Miyazaki film to your children, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a great place to start.
But the big question for many people is if “My Neighbor Totoro” is worth the investment to upgrade to Blu-ray. My opinion is yes!
While the 2010 DVD release was fantastic, the detail and picture quality on Blu-ray is much better! If you own the older 2006 Disney DVD, there are a large number of special features on this 2013 Blu-ray release that are not included in the 2006 DVD but personally it comes down to picture quality and better audio. But for those who have never owned the 2010 DVD and now the 2013 Blu-ray release, upgrading to Blu-ray is a no-brainer. The film just looks and sounds better!
I know there are some fans who prefer the original dub from the old Fox/Streamline years but that release was pretty much a barebones DVD. Yes, I still have my old copy of “My Neighbor Totoro” and I did enjoy the original dub a lot but personally, with this newer release, you get the Japanese audio track and plenty of special features that were not included in the 2006 DVD release. Also, for voice acting, I felt that Dakota and Elle Fanning did a wonderful job and Tim Daly and Lea Salonga also did a solid job with their voice acting. But of course the voice acting of the original Japanese featuring Chika Sakamoto, Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, Naoki Tatsuta, Toshiyuki Amagasa is fantastic!
In Japan, the Totoro character has become so iconic that Studio Ghibli stores, may it be near the Tokyo Sky Tree or Yokohama to Kinokuniya stores in America, the Totoro character or even the Cat Bus are still characters that are featured in stores and many, including John Lasseter of Pixar has them in his office and even included it in his film “Toy Story 3″.
“My Neighbor Totoro” is a Studio Ghibli classic and a heartwarming animated film that will entertain families and even adults for more generations to come. I watched this film when I was younger and now I’m sharing it with my son, who may share it with his family in the future.
A beloved Japanese animated film and Studio Ghibili classic, “My Neighbor Totoro” is one of those must-own Blu-ray releases for Miyazaki and anime fans! Highly recommended!
For their debut single, HKT48′s “Suki! Suki! Skip!” is a fun and enjoyable CD+DVD single for those who enjoy upbeat, cute and sweet idol pop music. HKT48′s style and music emphasizes style, cuteness and for their fans, it’s a style that is working remarkably well for them. And for fans of HKT48, their debut single features three upbeat tracks about love (one in love, one who wants courage to confess their love and one who likes someone but the other person doesn’t know) and you also get two music videos plus a longer video featuring HKT48 on a tour through Tokyo. If you are a fan of HKT48, you will surely want to give each of the three types a chance! But if you need to pick one, HKT48′s “Suki! Suki! Skip!” (Type-A) is a CD+DVD worth checking out!
CD SINGLE: スキ! スキ! スキップ! (Type-A)/Suki! Suki! Skip! (Type-A)
LABEL: Universal Sigma
CATALOG #: UMCK-5417
RELEASE DATE: March 20, 2013
BUY THIS CD SINGLE from cdjapan.com:
- スキ! スキ! スキップ! – HKT48
- お願いヴァレンティヌ – HKT48
- 片思いの唐揚げ – あまくち姫
- スキ! スキ! スキップ! off vocal ver.
- お願いヴァレンティヌ off vocal ver.
- 片思いの唐揚げ off vocal ver.
DVD INFO: 16:9 LB, Region 2, Duration: 44:51
- スキ! スキ! スキップ! Music Video
- 片思いの唐揚げ Music Video
- 東京修学旅行 (特典映像)
In 2008, AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto announced that he had plans to create other 48 groups, one that would be HKT48 based in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka.
In 2011, HKT48 was revealed and unlike AKB48, SKE48 and NMB48 groups, HKT48 would feature many young teenagers ranging from 11 to 17-year-olds.
The group would gain recognition thanks to the MC expertise of AKB48 member Rino Sashihara who transferred to the group in June 2012 and also added AKB48 member Aika Ota to help bring a veteran AKB48 element to the group.
With several television shows and members who have risen in popularity among fans, HKT48 has generated a lot of buzz and in March 2013, the group released their first CD single “Suki! Suki! Skip!” (“Love! Love! Skip!”) under the Universal Sigma label.
The single reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and in its first week, sold over 250,000 copies.
There are four versions of “Suki! Suki! Skip!”. Type A, Type-B and Type-C each come with a DVD and features an exclusive third track. While the fourth version is a theater edition with no DVD but also an exclusive third track.
The version that I will be reviewing is “Suki! Suki! Skip!” (Type-A) which features HKT48 center Meru Tashima, Rino Sashihara, Aika Oota, Sakura Miyawaki, Madoka Moriyasu, Mio Tomonaga and Chihiro Anai. Inside is a tri-fold with the lyrics to each of the three songs and photos of 16 members. Reverse features a listing of Team H members and the production credits. Inside is a little flyer promoting an HKT48 smart code in promotion of the new single.
The single kicks off with “Suki! Suki! Skip!”, an upbeat, happy idol pop track and contains the cuteness that HKT48 is known for.
The song is about how two young people meet on a crowded train and how people who fall in love, their hearts generate a light as if it’s like magic and act as they are walking on clouds. And how love makes her want to skip. Just being in love makes her feel like she can do anything and life is just wonderful that she’s going to “Love! Love! Skip!”.
The second track is “Onegai Valentine” (which translates to “Please Valentine”) and is another upbeat, cute idol song. But where “Suki! Suki! Skip!” is about a girl who is head over heels in love, “Onegai Valentine” is about a girl who wants to meet someone she likes and be in love. She’s too shy to tell the person how she feels and with Valentine’s Day, she just wants the courage to tell the person how she feels.
The third track is “Kataomoi no Karaage” (which translates to “Fried Chicken of One-Sided Love) and is performed by Amakuchi-Hime (which consists of Team H and kenkyuusei members). The song is another upbeat, idol pop track that is sweet. The song is about a girl who just enjoyed hanging out with her friends, never worried about wanting a boyfriend. But suddenly a guy has been on her mind and this first experience of love has hit her. So , now she wants to make “fried chicken of one-sided love” because she thinks of him too much but she will make it a delicious love.
The remaining three tracks are the instrumental versions of the first three songs.
As for the DVD, the DVD kicks off with a music video for “Suki! Suki! Skip!” and is a bubbly music video as the crew are singing and dancing, performing the song and seeing balloons and bubbles around them. And both Rino Sashihara and Aika Ota are trying to each them lessons.
The second music video is for “Kataomoi no Karaage” performed by Amakuchi-hime and features a few of the HKT48 members in fairy like outfits in white in the forest. Sakura Miyawaki is a lost girl who wanders in a forest and finds a magical spoon which takes her to other HKT48 members who invite her to join them.
The third and final video is HKT48 in the middle of winter, getting ready to take a bus tour in Tokyo. The group go through areas where they partake in visiting a shrine, eating a delicious lunch, watching a transsexual music act, going to a museum and capping their long day with a scary story.
It’s important to note that this is a region 2 DVD and will not play on a region 1 player (unless you have a non-region DVD player) but can be played on a MAC or PC using free video playing software such as VLC or Daum PotPlayer.
Overall, for their debut single, HKT48′s “Suki! Suki! Skip!” is a fun and enjoyable CD+DVD single for those who enjoy upbeat, cute and sweet idol pop music. HKT48′s style and music emphasizes style, cuteness and for their fans, it’s a style that is working remarkably well for them. And for fans of HKT48, their debut single features three upbeat tracks about love (one in love, one who wants courage to confess their love and one who likes someone but the other person doesn’t know) and you also get two music videos plus a longer video featuring HKT48 on a tour through Tokyo.
If you are a fan of HKT48, you will surely want to give each of the three types a chance! But if you need to pick one, HKT48′s “Suki! Suki! Skip!” (Type-A) is a CD+DVD worth checking out!
BUY THIS CD SINGLE from cdjapan.com:
The strength of “Perception” is in the writing. From the way Dr. Pierce is able to solve various crimes and the complexity of how he approaches these situations but I also enjoy watching both Eric McCormack and Rachael Leigh Cook together, it makes up for a fascinating and enjoyable series that makes me interested in watching season two! For fans of television crime drama with a little twist, “Perception: The Complete Series” is recommended!
© 2013 ABC Studios. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Perception: The Complete First Season
YEAR AIRED: 2012
DURATION: 11 Episodes (425 Minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen (1:78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles,
COMPANY: abc studios
RATED: TV 14 DLV
RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013
Directed by Greg Beeman, Kenneth Biller, Christopher Misiano, Deran Sarafian
Written by Kenneth Biller, Michael Sussman, Amanda Green, Jason Ning, Stephen Tolkin
Production by Eric McCormack, Mark H. Ovitz
Co-Executive Producer: Michael Sussman, Amanda Green, Stephen Tolkin
Co-Producer: Jason Ning
Associate Producer: Nicole Carrasco
Music by Tree Adams
Cinematography by Jeff Jur
Edited by Anthony Miller, Andi Armaganian, Gib Jaffe
Casting by Mary Jo Slater
Production Design by Stephen Storer
Art Direction by Dennis Davenport
Set Decoration by Wanda “Beau” Peterson
Costume Design by Julia Schklair
Eric McCormack as Daniel Pierce
Rachael Leigh Cook as Kate Moretti
Arjay Smith as Max Lewicki
Kelly Rowan as Natalie Vincent
Jonathan Scarfe as Roger Probert
LeVar Burton as Paul Haley
Jamie Bamber as Michael Hathaway
Freddy Rodriguez as Wesley Sumter
Jayne Atkinson as Helen Paulson
Lisa banes as Irene Reardon
Jimmy Bennett as Alex Willingham
Bridget Regan as Victoria Ryland
Matthew Glave as Senator Scott Ryland
Enter the brilliant mind of Dr. Daniel Pierce and relive every thrilling case of Perception: The Complete First Season. Experience an original twist on the classic crime drama as Emmy Award® winner Eric McCormack (Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, 2001, Will & Grace), stars as an eccentric neuroscience professor whose revealing visions help him uncover what lies beneath conscious emotion.
Though recruited by the FBI for his masterful understanding of the human mind, Daniel’s odd and offbeat view makes it difficult for him to get close to anyone. His former student, Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), is one of the few people willing to accept Daniel’s peculiarities in exchange for his imaginative solutions. Two very different personalities join forces as they try to tackle the Bureau’s most complex cases.
Perception is “Crime Scene Differently.” Own every thrilling moment of Season One in this sensational DVD Collection!
From Kenneth Biller (“Smallville”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Legend of the Seeker”) and Mike Sussman (“Star Trek: Voyager”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Threshold”) comes a new crime drama TV series titled “Perception”.
The series would star Eric McCormack (“Will & Grace”, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”), Rachael Leigh Cook (“She’s All That”, “Josie and the Pussycats”, “Antitrust”, “Get Carter”), Arjay Smith (“Be Kind Rewind”, “The Day After Tomorrow”, “To Save a Life”), Kelly Rowan (“The O.C.”, “Assassns”, “One Eight Seven”), Jonathan Scarfe (“Above and Beyond”, “White Lies”) and LeVar Burton (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Roots”, “Reading Rainbow”).
With the first season consisting of eleven episodes airing in July 2012 on TNT, a second season is set to premiere in June 2013. And what better than to release the complete first season on DVD in May 2013!
“Perception” revolves around a neuropsychiatrist named Dr. Daniel Pierce who teaches at Chicago Lake Michigan University. While a well-known professor who is lauded for his work on forensic psychology and neuroscience, he’s also a man who is dealing with increased hallucinations due to his schizophrenia.
While he has a live-in teaching assistant named Mex Lewicki who knows of his hallucinations and tries to help Dr. Pierce know what is real or not real, the fact is that he is losing grasp of telling the difference between factual people and hallucinations. Even his best friend, adviser Natalie Vincent, who he tells all his problems to, is actually an imaginary person that is derived from a person he used to like a long time ago.
But life changes for Dr. Daniel Pierce as his former student, Special Agent Kate Moretti from the FBI comes to him for help on a murder case. And for Dr. Pierce, assisting Kate may be what he needs to deal with hallucinations as they are also trying to help him solve the case.
Join Dr. Daniel Pierce and Special Agent Kate Moretti as the try to solve the most complex homicide cases in “Perception: The Complete First Season”!
“Perception: The Complete First Season” focuses on the following main characters:
Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) - A neuropsychiatrist and professor at Chicago Lake Michigan University (CLMU). As a respected writer on forensic psychology and neuroscience, Dr. Pierce has a history of paranoid schizophrenia and often has hallucinations of people trying to help him solve crimes. He is enlisted by the FBI by an expert consultant to solve complex cases.
Special Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) - A former student of Dr. Pierce and an FBI agent, she recruits Dr. Pierce to help solve complex crimes. She was recently demoted for her tendency of going beyond the scope of the assignments.
Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith) – A live-in teaching assistant who helps Dr. Pierce differentiate between real people and hallucinations. Max was an orderly who helped Dr. Pierce when he was confined at a psychiatric hospital for his mental illness. Dr. Pierce is helping Max finish graduate school.
Natalie Vincent (Kelly Rowan) - An imaginary adviser and Dr. Pierce’s best friend. She helps him piece together his hallucinations.
Paul Haley (LeVar Burton) - A professor of philosophical theology and Dr. Pierce’s dean at CLMU. Both are good friends and were roommates back in college.
FBI Agent Robert Probert (Jonathan Scarfe) – Kate Moretti’s partner, but doesn’t believe in Dr. Pierce’s judgements.
Dr. Michael Hathaway (Jamie Bamber) – A professor recruited at a university that Dr. Pierce has little respect for. He likes Kate Moretti.
“Perception: The Complete First Season” features 11 episodes on three DVD discs. Here are spoilerless summaries for each episode:
- EPISODE 1 - FBI Agent Kate Moretti recruits Dr. Pierce to help her solve a case involving the death of a pharmaceutical executive.
- EPISODE 2 - The FBI is investigating a case of a death of a mail order bride who has a medical condition. Meanwhile, the new professor, Dr. Michael Hathaway has eyes for Kte.
- EPISODE 3 – Kate and Dr. Pierce try to help a woman named Lacey who escaped from a serial killer back in 1986. Max doesn’t like how Kate constantly goes to Dr. Pierce for help.
- EPISODE 4 – Daniel comes across a cipher left in a letter to the editor which alludes to future crimes.
- EPISODE 5 - Kate and Dr. Pierce investigate the death of a junkie.
- EPISODE 6 - Dr. Pierce helps Kate investigate the death of a therapist who tries to cure his patients of homosexuality.
- EPISODE 7 – Kate and Dr. Pierce investigate the death of a judge who may have been murdered by a schizophrenic.
- EPISODE 8 - Kate and Daniel investigate the death of a young girl who was killed in her dorm room.
- EPISODE 9 - Daniel witnesses the murder of a young man, but was it real or a hallucination?
- EPISODE 10 - Dr. Pierce commits himself to a psychiatric ward but what happens when he comes across a familiar face?
“Perception: The Complete First Season” is presented in Widescreen (1:78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions. A lot of the shots are shot indoor and thosescenes are well-lit and during the low-light scenes, you do see a bit of noise but compared to other drama series on television, the series is above average in terms of picture quality on DVD.
As for audio, “Perception: The Complete First Season” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, while surround channels are not too active and is a dialogue/music driven soundtrack coming from the center and front channels. The show is presented with English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
“Perception: The Complete First Season” comes with no following special features.
“Perception: The Complete First Season” comes with a slip cover.
On television, there have been quite a few crime dramas in which police or federal organization teams up with a civilians.
You have “Castle” in which a police investigator teams up with a famous crime novelist, a young crime consultant and his reluctant police officer partner in “Psych” and in 2012, TBS introduced their series “Perception” pairing a schizophrenic neuropsychiatrist assisting an FBI agent.
So, the crime dramas of civilian and law enforcement is still popular on television but it all comes down to how these series separate itself from being banal but also coming up with some new and fresh for the audience.
With “Perception”, the show is entertaining, a good twist on the crime drama about individuals solving homicides but at the same time, reminiscent of shows such as “Castle” (civilian and officer) and even the law drama “Eli Stone” (how lawyer is able to represent his client but has hallucinations due to the protagonist with a brain aneurism.
In the case of lead protagonist Dr. Daniel Pierce, he is a man who has a brilliant mind but has been dealing with schizophrenia which has gotten so bad that he is not sure who is real or not real and with the help of his roommate and friend Max and an imaginary adviser, along with hallucinations that show up whenever there is a case that needs to be solved, it does make up for interesting drama.
Actor Eric McCormack has moved on since his “Will & Grace” days to play a more serious character with a lot of depth and paired with Rachael Leigh Cook, who has grown up a lot since her teen films of the ’90s such as “She’s all That” and “Josie and the Pussycats”. As Special Agent Kate Moretti, both she and Dr. Pierce are an interesting duo…teacher and former student (who tends to get into a bit of trouble, but maybe there is a little attraction from her towards her former teacher).
While both work together to solve problems, she’s not aware of how extent his schizophrenia is but she often goes to Dr. Pierce to help the FBI solve various murders.
So, while the series does make itself stand out compared to other series with a similar style, there are a few things that often drive me nuts and that is the interference of a civilian during a police interrogation or in this case, a federal interrogation. I just don’t see how Dr. Pierce can go inside and interrupt the special agent during her interrogation whenever he wants, but I would assume that Moretti is used to Dr. Pierce’s eccentric and complex personality.
But still, I enjoyed this crime drama as it does have potential to be something bigger and also tap into episodes with a more serious tone.
While the first season does a great job in establishing the primary characters and the main goal is for both Moretti and Dr. Pierece to solve the most complex cases, it will be interesting to see if both of these individuals fall for each other. But not sure if I would like that as it would be too banal for my taste!
But the strength of “Perception” is in the writing. From the way Dr. Pierce is able to solve various crimes and the complexity of how he approaches these situations but I also enjoy watching both Eric McCormack and Rachael Leigh Cook together, it makes up for a fascinating and enjoyable series that makes me interested in watching season two!
For fans of television crime drama with a little twist, “Perception: The Complete Series” is recommended!
The awesome conclusion of the exciting battle between Naruto vs. Pain! And the story then goes back to the past when Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura were younger and training with Team 7 in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut”. Definitely recommended for “Naruto” fans!
Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut
DURATION: Episodes 167-179 (300 Minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles
COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media
RATED: Rated T for Older Teen
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto
Series Directed by Hayato Date
Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino
Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono
Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki
Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba
Music Production by Aniplex
Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot
Featuring the following voice talent:
Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki
Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno
Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha
Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert)
Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha
Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya
Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi
Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi
Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain
Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga
Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka
Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru
Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage
Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga
Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi
Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato
Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari
Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka
Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai
Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame
Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou
Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee
The attack on the Leaf Village intensifies, and Naruto’s transformation into the Nine-Tailed Fox reaches a critical level. With eight tails already emerged, Naruto makes a surprising discovery that changes everything. His confidence buoyed, Naruto seeks a face-to-face meeting with Nagato, the Pain responsible for the massive destruction in the village. Can one boy’s will alter destiny?
Naruto vs. Pain.
Konoha Leaf Village has been destroyed, Hinata is seriously injured after trying to free Naruto and save him from Pain. And now, the rage of Hinata being injured has led Naruto’s rage to bring out the nine tails.
The conclusion to the battle between Naruto vs. Pain in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut”!
What is “Naruto”?
Since 1999, “Naruto” created by Masashi Kishimoto (“Karakuri”) has been one of the most popular anime and manga series in Japan and has easily become a favorite best selling anime/manga series among fans all over the world.
For the anime series, since 2002, “Naruto” lasted until 2007 with a total of 220 episodes. The series would follow the adventures of a boy named Naruto Uzamaki, who may not be the brightest ninja from the Konoha Village but he makes it up with heart and also tremendous power as the killer beast known as the nine-tailed fox has been sealed within him.
Earlier in the series, the anime series focused on Naruto and his team members Sasuke Uchida and Sakura Haruno as they would go on adventures and learn to become a team and also honing their ninja abilities. The series would then begin to introduce other young ninjas from the village who Naruto would be paired up with and the young ninjas would take on rival clans to helping people in need. But somehow as the series continued, Sasuke Uchida would then go off on his own personal mission to stop his brother Itaki Uchida, who murdered the whole Uchida clan and his family, only leaving Sasuke alive.
Within those six years, we have seen Naruto and his friends grow as friends and also in their abilities. For Naruto, all he has wanted is to become the next Hokage (the leader of the village) when he grows older and to help his friends accomplish missions. He knows that to be a good leader, he will need to get stronger so he can protect the village once he grows older. Of course, there is so much involved in the “Naruto” anime series and what makes its special is its humor, its action but also how well the series integrates so many characters but yet features a good number of character driven episodes that makes the viewer appreciate many of the characters in the series.
“Naruto”, the first series ended with the young ninja leaving to train with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years.
What is “Naruto Shippuden”?
In “Naruto Shippuden”, the storyline now features everyone a little grown up but the stakes are much higher. We learn that the Akatsuki including Orochimaru are looking for those who possess a jinchuriki. With this power, this will give too much power to evil and this can lead to the death of many people and the destruction of many villages.
In the past few volumes, the Leaf Village along with other villages have managed to defeat the Akatsuki, unfortunately the price paid was the death of Asuma and a few other members of the Leaf and Sand Ninja.
Now, Orochimaru using Kabuto, have their sites set on capturing the other jinchuriki, as do the Akatsuki who have been after Naruto.
In “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 12 – Original & Uncut”, it is important to note that the episodes featured in DVD Set 12 covers the final episodes of “Naruto Shippuden” Season six as Naruto and his team take on the Eight Tails and learning from Madara of why his older brother Itachi massacred their family and the Uchiha clan and now this information will forever change Sasuke.
For episode 144-151, this was a shortened season seven and aired from January through March 2012 in Japan. This season features Lady Tsunade sending Team 7 and Yamato to assist Utakata and Hotaru after they learn that a clan known as Tsuchigumo and an elder named En no Gyoja developing a forbidden Jutsu.
It is revealed that Utakata is a Jinchuriki and he carries the Six-Tailed Demon Slug and a man named Shiranami is trying to kidnap Hotaru to be used as a vessel to collect natural chakra energy to release the forbidden jutsu.
Naruto and Team 7 must find a way to protect Hotaru from any harm. But another group appears to be interested in Utakata.
For episodes 152-153, this begins season 8 of “Naruto: Shippuden” and brings back the Pain storyline as Naruto is summoned to Lady Tsunade and is informed by Jiraiya’s master Fukasaku of the fate of Jiraiya in his battle with Pain and the Akatsuki.
In “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 13 – Original & Uncut”, Season 8 of “Naruto: Shippuden” continues as the Six Paths and Konan attack the Leaf Village in their hopes of capturing Naruto in order to obtain the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox.
With so much death and destruction, Kakashi along with Chouji Akimichi and his father Chouza take on the most powerful of the Six Paths. Meanwhile, in Mount Myoboku, Fukasaku trains Naruto to become one with nature and learn Sage Mode. But will Naruto learn and master Sage Mode in a short amount of time to take on the Six Paths?
The volume ended with Naruto being pinned down by Pain and about to be killed until Shino comes out of nowhere to fight and try to break Pain’s spikes that are keeping Naruto pinned to the ground. But as she is able to remove many spikes, Pain tries to kill her off by throwing her up in the air and slamming her down as hard as he can.
With Shino being used as a playtoy to show how much pain he can inflict on Naruto, Naruto’s rage due to the Nine Tailed Fox becomes out of control.
This leads us to “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut” which features the remainder of the episodes from season 8 and the beginning episodes of season 9.
As an angry Naruto is unable to control the Nine-Tailed Fox, Pain is shocked of how much power the Nine-Tailed Fox has and even breaking his Chibaku Tensei technique. But as Naruto seems to be losing control, in his consciousness, someone comes to give Naruto some help and also wise advice.
As Naruto prepares his final battle against Pain (ala Deva Path) in order to find the real Nagato through Sage Mode.
Also, included is a past episode in which Naruto and friends are training in preparation for the final rounds of the Chunin Exam. It is the first time Naruto hears about “The Fourth Hokage’s legacy” from Jiraiya and Naruto wanting to break the Fourth Hokage’s record. These episodes also introduce how Naruto came up with his motto.
The eighth season concludes with Naruto confronting Nagato. What will happen when Naruto confronts the former student of Master Jiraiya?
The ninth season of “Naruto” kicks off with a flashback episode and revolves around Iruka Umino becoming Naruto’s teacher and shows how Naruto and Iruka developed a close bond as teacher and student. While episode 179 is a Kakashi flashback in which he is assigned to Team 7 and tries to get to know Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura better by spying on them.
VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 13 – Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.
As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 13″ is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.
Especially Maile Flanagan’s Naruto Uzumaki. Personally, I didn’t think there would be a voice actor that could capture Junko Takeuchi’s Naruto vocals and sure enough, Flanagan does a great job. But I have watched the series in Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting for both soundtracks are well-done.
Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.
Subtitles are in English.
“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 3:
- Production Art – Using your remote, you can view through ten pages of artwork.
- Omake – All the omake ending portions (after the credits) from the episodes featured in DVD Set 14 of “Naruto Shippuden”.
- Clean Opening
- Clean Ending
- English Credits
- More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers
With “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 13 – Original & Uncut” taking the story to new heights and having become one of my favorite Naruto arcs in the anime series up to season 8, the arc concludes with the Naruto vs. Pain episodes featured in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut”.
Without spoiling these final episodes, we do get to see part of the past of Naruto and Jiraiya, Naruto learning about the Fourth Hokage and his connection to him.
With a combination of both current episodes featuring Naruto vs. Pain and flashback episodes of when he was younger, meeting Iruka-sensei and also Kakashi learning about his new students, I’m sure there will be some people who wish there was not an abrupt stop to the storyline involving Naruto vs. Pain, but obviously the writers wanted to establish the Fourth Hokage in season 8 and for season 9, it’s almost like the storyline shifts back to the past as we see more adventures of Team 7 (young Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura).
As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes and a the typical special features such as storyboard, production art and the ending omake for each episode.
“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut” is a pretty important volume but while most of the heavy hitting episodes of season 8 were featured in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 13 – Original & Uncut”, this continuance and final episodes of season 8 establishes a storyline element involving Naruto that will become important later on.
As a longtime “Naruto Shippuden”, there is no doubt that season 8 was one of the most powerful seasons of “Naruto” and one of the most awesome battles for Naruto and the ninjas of the Konoha Leaf Village. But as always, in order to give “Naruto” creator sometime to develop his storyline for the manga and making sure the anime doesn’t catch up too quickly, season 9 goes back to the past of Team 7 when Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura were younger people in training. Yes, it’s a bit weird for a whole season to be dedicated to the adventures of Naruto in the past, but it’s understandable.
For Naruto fans who enjoyed the exciting battle between Naruto vs. Pain, it all comes to an end in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 14 – Original & Uncut”. Definitely recommended for “Naruto” fans!
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ is recommended for fans who love sci-fi anime with a harem twist!
Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2 (異世界の聖機師物語)
YEAR OF RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: Episodes 8-13 (271 Minutes)
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English
RATED: TV 14 LD
COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013
Original Creator: Masaki Kajishima
Original Character Designs by Hajime Watanabe
Directed by Koji Yoshikawa
Series Composition by Hideki Shirane
Music by Akifumi Takada
Character Design by Hajime Watanabe
Art Director: Kyou Inoue
Chief Animation Director: Hajime Watanabe
Mechanical Design by Naohiro Washio
Anime Production by AIC Spirits/BeSTACK
Featuring the voices of:
Ayumi Tsunematsu/Jami Marchi as Mexiah Furan
Hiro Shimono/Jason Liebrecht as Kenshi Masaki
Madoka Yonezawa/Jad Saxton as Lashara Aasu XXVIII
Natsuko Kuwatani/Morgan Garrett as Chiaia Furan
Chiaki Kanou/Trina Nishimura as Jozzy
Eri Taruta as Mahya, Yeliss
Erika Sudou/Karen Bright as Hannah
Hiroki Yasumoto/R. Bruce Elliot as Babalun
Hiromi Konno/Alexis Tipton as Lapis Razz
Hyo-sei/Shelley Calene-Black as Emera
Junko Noda/Lydia Mackay as Aura Shurifon
Kana Oomura/Caitlin Glass as Lithia Po Chiina
Young Kenshi Masaki has his hands full catering to the whims of an entire academy of oversexed schoolgirls, but a darkness looms on the horizon that will soon cast his life into chaos. The mysterious and enchanting Doll, controlled from afar by a power hungry madman, leads an unthinkable invasion that attacks the nubile students of the academy from inside its once protective walls.
To save his bevy of galactic playmates, Kenshi must summon the power of a Sacred Mechanoid and fight to preserve peace in a world that hovers on the brink of destruction. Should he survive, Kenshi will be mobbed by a hoard of comely coeds who want to make the hero their husband!
Babalun, Dagmeyer and the male Sacred Mechamasters have begun their attack on the Holy Land and have captured it! But with all hope is lost, the women of the Holy Land have one person they can put their trust in…one who may be able to save their lives…Kenshi!
Can Kenshi pull it off and will Kenshi ever return back home? Or will his friends or the temptation of so many girls wanting to marry him, will make him want to stay? Find out in the final part 2 of “Tenchi Muyou!: War on Geminar”.
What is “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar”?
In 2009, a spinoff OVA series that is a spin-off of “Tenchi Muyo!” was created by original creator Masaki Kajishima.
Presented in 13 OVA episodes which was released from March 2009-March 2010 and produced by AIC Spirits and BeSTACK, the OVA series would lead to a light novel adaptation by Atsushi Wada in 2009, a manga adaptation serialized in Comic REX in 2010 and now released in America on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.
According to Kajishima, the anime is part of the “Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki” continuity and takes place 15 years after the events of “Tenchi Muyo! GXP”. Because “Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar” features the debut of Tenchi’s half brother Kenshi, this would lead many fans to discuss theories of Kenshi and its connection to the original series.
The series revolves around 15-year-old Kenshi Masaki who ended up in an alternate world of Geminar. This world has been waging war against each other using Sacred Mechanoids (humanoid weapons discovered in ancient ruins).
We are first introduced to Lashara Earth XXVIII, the 12-year-old ruler of the Shrtrayu Empire and her bodyguard Chiaia Flan who fights against intruders in the Holy Land. One of these intruders proves to be an excellent fighter and is revealed to be Kenshi.
Kenshi has been ordered to assassinate Lashara Earth XXVIII but can’t do it as he is not a killer. Seeing good within Kenshi, as the group hold him captive and to find out his whereabouts, it is quickly learned that Kenshi is not of this world. In fact, he was being used by the enemies of Shtrayu Empire who had promised him a safe return back to his homeworld, which became false.
Finding out he had been betrayed, he is rescued by Dark Elf Aura Shurifon, who returns him back to Lashara. But they realize that he has caught a disease and will die unless he receives treatment. So, everyone works quickly to try and save him.
For now, Kenshi can be useful to the empire who is suffering from enormous debt. So, as they try to find a way for Kenshi to return back home, Lashara Earth XXVIII has Kenshi become her assistant, so he can learn and assimilate with society (which the female population outnumber males by a very large margin). So, naturally many of the women he comes into contact with are impressed by his demeanor, his work ethic and are amazed by his uncanny fighting skills and bravery.
But as Lashara and those working for her try to keep Kenshi’s identity secret, there are those in the Holy Land who are working for the enemy and are keeping their eyes on Kenshi.
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar” features the following characters:
Kenshi Masaki – The younger half-brother of Tenchi Msaki and the son of Tenchi’s father Nobuyuki Masaki and his second wife, Rea. Kenshi traveled from Earth to the alternate world of Geminar and is trying to find a way to go back home. He was used by one faction to assassinate Lashara Earth XXVIII in exchange for information to bring him back home, but not a killer, Kenshi made the decision to not hurt her. So, Lashara decides to help Kenshi but he may disguise her as her servant and keep the fact that he is from another world as a secret. So, for now, he must try to fit in with the people in the Holy Land.
Lashara Earth XXVII- The 12-year-old ruler of the Shtrayu Empire. She is thrusted to inherit the throne and rule the land after her father’s sudden death. She takes Kenshi in as a servant and tries to get him to take part in duties int he Holy Land. She may have feelings towards Kenshi but because of her royal status, she is unable to show those feelings towards him.
Chiaia Flan – Lashara’s personal escort and bodyguard. Attends Holy Land Academy to complete her Sacred Mechamaster training. She has a crush on her childhood friend Dagmyer, but although she is seen getting upset at Kenshi a lot, she may be having some feelings towards him.
Maria Nanadan – A young princess from the country of Havoniwa and is currently attending Holy Land Academy with Lashara. Both are cousins but they are not fond with each other and are constantly trying to one up each other. Although she supports Yukine’s emotions towards Kenshi, she seems to also be falling for Kenshi.
Yukine Mare – A shy servant of Maria but very skilled at information gathering. She is attracted to Kenshi.
Wahanly Shume – A brillliant inventor and good friend of Lashara. She looks like a teenager but she is actually 97-years-old. She also starts to have feelings towards Kenshi.
Lithia Po Cheena – Granddaughter of the Pope of Geminar and President of Holy Land Academy’s Student council. She is bitter, sarcastic and blunt. She sees Kenji as a “wild animal” (in a literal way) but she may have feelings towards him.
Aura Shurifon – The Dark Elf Princess of the Shurifon Kingdom and member of the Pilgrimage Route Guard. She is often protective of Kenshi and develops feelings towards him.
Mexiah Flan – Mexiah is a person who is very sexual around Kenshi and often seen taking off her clothes when she is around him, often making Chiaia concerned when Mexiah is near Kenshi.
Dagmyer Mesut – Chiaia’s childhood friend and the one responsible for manipulating Kenshi into assassinating Lashara. He is constantly recruiting students for the invasion of Holy Land.
Ulyte Mesut – Dagmyer’s uncle and the younger brother of Babalun. He is a instructor at the Academy and also wants to invade the Holy Land for another reason.
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ features the first six episodes. Here is a brief spoilerless summary of each episode:
- EPISODE 8 – Dagmeyer and the male Sacred Mechamasters attack the Holyland. Meanwhile, Chiaia’s big sister Mexiah…is she friend or foe?
- EPISODE 9 – With Babalun taking over the Holy Land and having the Shield of Gaia in his possession , meanwhile Chiaia is ordered to kill Kenshi. Can she do it?
- EPISODE 10 – Kenshi and the King partake in a competition, meanwhile the Church is attacked by Doll.
- EPISODE 11 – Ceres is attacked by bandits, Kenshi must go to the aid of Ceres.
- EPISODE 12 - Babalun tries to take control over Kenshi, leading to a battle.
- EPISODE 13 - The final battle between Dagmeyer and Kenshi. Gaia has been revived with a Doll inside of it and Kenshi must take on the Doll.
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because the series is an OVA series and not a television series, I was expecting the picture quality to be vibrant and fully-detailed. If anything, “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar” seems more like a television series when it comes to picture quality.
There is a hint of softness, but the series does feature good shading, character and mechanical designs designs but similar to the original series, tends to use a lot of lush backgrounds, blue skies, mountains, a lot of trees, etc. But there are some emphasis on building structures, cement walls and most importantly its use of mechanical designs with Mecha featured throughout the series. There is also a good use of CG for floating structures and backgrounds. There are some indoor scenes which are nicely detailed but overall, picture quality is good but it is a bit soft.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I have to admit that I was so excited for the lossless soundtrack because the opening theme really comes out crystal clear and utilizes the surround channels immediately. But the overall presentation, while clear, is not as immersive as I would have hoped. Audio is primarily dialogue driven and center and front-channel, while music gets the surround sound treatment. But for a television series, audio is could and didn’t notice any difference in terms of surround sound use on both Japanese or English lossless tracks.
Subtitles are in English.
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary for Episode 13 – Joe McDonald, ADR Director interviews the English dub voice talent and technical crew.
- Information and Sneak Peek of the Pay-Per-View Program 7-13 – (3:33) The Japanese previews for the pay-per-view commercials for “Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar”.
- Presale Promotional Videos – (:43) Promotional videos for the “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar” DVD.
- Teaser Trailers 3-5 – (4:27) Teaser trailers for “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar”.
- A Taste of a Day Recording Tenchi Muyou! War on Geminar’s Radio Broadcast – (8:04) Featuring personality Hiro Shimono (voice of Kenshi) and guest Mie Sonozaki (voice of Yukine) and a footage from the episode radio broadcast.
- Web Trailers – (3:42) The web trailers for “Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar”.
- Textless Opening Song “Follow Me”
- Textless Opening Song “Destino”
- U.S. Trailer – U.S. Trailer for “Tenchi Muyou!: War on Geminar”
- Trailers – FUNimation trailers
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of episodes 8-13.
I have been watching every “Tenchi Muyo!” series since it was first released in Japan. A big fan of the original OVA’s and animated films, it’s always fascinating to see how the storyline is without the characters that fans have followed for many years.
First with “Tenchi Muyo! GXP” and now with “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar”, what will interest fans the most is the introduction of a 15-year-old named Kenshi, the half brother of Tenchi Masaki. How did this happen? Fans will find theories from other fans about who Kenshi may be. But in terms of the series, we have Kenshi stuck in another world and for the first half, the series is more introductory to the characters and a secret plot taking place behind-the-scenes.
The second half of “Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar” focuses on Babalun and his son Dagmyer along with the male Sacred Mechmasters of the Academy capturing the Holy Land. But also Babalun possessing the Shield of Gaia and trying to defeat Kenshi and restore the Sacred Mechalord Gaia. But to save the land, Kenshi must do all that is necessary to stop Gaia’s revival.
The series does tend to play out as a harem anime series with flocks of women, not just a few, wanting to marry Kenshi. But fortunately, a much more deeper storyline is presented in the final half of the OVA series.
There are references to the “Tenchi Muyo!” characters in the anime series such as Washu and others when Kenshi is questioned about his home and these crystals that belong to him. But also his unusual abilities that surpass normal people in the planet.
As mentioned in my review of “part 1″, there is a little sexual humor in the series, so you may not want to watch this series with children in the room.
As for the Blu-ray release, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that the OVA series looked more like a television series. Back in the day, “Tenchi Muyo!” was a series that captivated our attention at anime club screenings as the series was known as a quality series on LaserDisc at the time. Fast forward to 2010, when this series was first released, while shown on the Animax pay per view channel, I was hoping for sharper, crisper animation and less softness. But the series was soft and while many scenes did have good detail for its art backgrounds and some scenes and characters were well-shaded, it seemed more like the picture quality of a TV series than OVA series.
As for the lossless soundtrack, I loved how the music was utilized for the surround channels but I was hoping the action sequences would feature a bit more LFE and surround use. Dialogue and music are crystal clear but was hoping for something more immersive.
For special features, you get many of the Japanese special features included such as the commercial previews or trailers, a behind-the-scenes radio featurette and an audio commentary featuring the English dub voice talent and the FUNimation crew that worked on the series.
Overall, “Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar” is a harem sci-fi anime series that is enjoyable and fun. While the first half of the series is more about the fun and harem side of Tenchi, his gullible nature and the women who love him, there is more story, more action and things become a bit more deeper for the second and final of the OVA series.
If you are a fan of “Tenchi Muyo!”, while none of the original characters appear in this OVA series, we are introduced to Kenshi Masaki, a 15-year-old half brother of Tenchi that is stuck in an alternate world and with his kind nature and his special ability, he proves himself as important in the lives of many people. But will he stay or will he go home back to Earth?
“Tenchi Muyo!: War on Geminar – Part 2″ is recommended for fans who love sci-fi anime with a harem twist!
“Nightfall” is a riveting, revenge, action film for rookie director Chow Hin Yeung Roy. Featuring a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, the storyline from “Nightfall” is filled with gritty action but also many twist and turns that will keep interested from beginning to end. Recommended!
TITLE: Nightfall (Daai deoi bou)
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 108 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Cantonese/English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Directed by Chow Hin Yeung Roy
Screenplay by Chow Hin Yeung Roy, Chi-long To
Produced by Ivy Ho, William Kong
Executive Producer: Ryuhei Chiba, William Kong, Dai Song
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Cinematography by Andy Lam
Edited by Ka-Fai Cheung
Production Design by Pater Wong
Simon Yam as George Lam
Nick Cheung as Wong Yuen-yeung
Kay Tse as Au-yeung Ying
Janice Man as Zoe Tsui/Eva Tsui Yiwan
Michael Wong as Han Tsui
On-on (Candice) Yu as Mrs. Tsui
Gordon Liu as Lung
Felix Lok as Yu
He is a Hong Kong celebrity – a master pianist, adored, sought after by many, an upcoming concert leaving audiences enthralled. He is dead. Found floating in the ocean, embittered and jaded detective Lam (Simon Yam) is called in to find the murderer. Lam quickly identifies a killer from the past – a brutal man just released from prison (Nick Cheung) with possible ties to the family. But what Lam surmises as a clear-cut case of revenge gets murkier, the more he investigates. Suspicion, facts, and the truth become harder, the closer he looks.What unfolds is a crime from the past. 20 years of lies, and a secret so shocking it threatens to pull the entire case down. Who is the victim and who is the killer? From the director of MURDERER and starring two of Hong Kong’s most exciting action stars comes a gritty, brutal story of love, hate and vengeance.
Director/writer Chow Hin Yeung Roy may not have a long list of films in his oeuvre just yet. With only two films under his belt and having worked as a researcher in “Lust, Caution” and an assistant producer for “Fearless”.
But all it takes is one film to capture the attention of an audience and film critics and in 2012, Roy’s gritty revenge film “Nightfall” (daai deoi bou) did just that.
Starring Simon Yam (“Ip Man”, “PTU”, “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”, “Election”), Nick Cheung (“Election”, “Breaking News”, “Exiled”), Michael Wong (“Thunderbolt”, “City Hunter”, “Beast Cops”), Kay Tse and Janice Man.
The film would earn director Chow Hin Yeung Roy a “Best New Director” award at the Hong Kong Film Awards and also win a “Best Sound Effects” award at the “Golden Horse Film Festival”, including “Best Actor” nominations for Nick Cheung.
And now “Nightfall” will be released in the United States in May 2013.
“Nightfall” begins with a violent attack featuring Wong Yuen-yeung (portrayed by Nick Cheung) taking on several men in a fight inside prison. We are then shown how Wong Yuen-yeung went to prison for the murder of an 18-year-old young woman named Eva (portrayed by Janice Mann).
Having served nearly 21 years in prison, Wong is released from prison.
Meanwhile, police inspector George Lam is a man who immerses himself with work. After the death of his wife who committed suicide and all the years he spent dedicated to his work and neglecting his daughter, there has been once case that has been kept inside that he has always wanted to re-open, the case of the death of Eva Tsui.
As for former convict Wong Yuen-Yeung, he is shown stalking a young woman named Zoe (also played by Janice Mann), who has a strong resemblance to Eva and he begins trying to keep surveillance on her, sneaking into her room to install a bug and listen in on her conversations and watch her from afar with a telescope.
But as Wong Yuen-Yeung spies on the female pianist, he notices her getting verbally and physically abused by her father, master pianist Han Tsui (portrayed by Michael Wong).
We see Wong Yuen-Yeung making preparations for something on a cliff near the sea and not long after, Han Tsui has been found murdered on the beach and his face has been pummeled.
Inspector George Lam is sent to investigate the incident and interview both the victim’s wife (portrayed by Candice Yu) and their daughter Zoe. As he and his investigative crew continue their investigation, George learns that Han Tsui was the father of a woman that was murdered nearly two decades ago, a case that he remembers. And how a young man that was accused of murder was being beaten during his interrogation.
Realizing that the young man is Wong Yuen-yeung who was recently released from prison. Is there a connection between Han Tsui’s death and Wong Yuen-ying being released back onto the streets?
Meanwhile, Zoe starts to receive disturbing messages and phone calls.
As Wong is brought in for questioning, George realizes that the man no longer can speak (severely injured during a brawl in prison)
“Nightfall” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). One of the high points of the film is the use of a Red One camera which brings out amazing detail in the film. From the orange tinged fight scenes at the beginning of the film, showcasing the violent actions and closeups of a character. Outside of the opening gritty and violent fight scene, the film uses natural colors. Natural skin tones and great closeup detail, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great on Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
Unlike the Edko Asian Blu-ray release, Well Go USA Entertainment opted to use a Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz soundtrack instead of the 7.1 lossless track. I was a bit surprised because the highlight of the Edko Films Blu-ray release was its lossless 96 kHz 7.1 soundtrack. But for the most part, action sequences and music are utilized through the surround channels and sound crystal clear, especially during the more action-intense sequences. Also, included is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese soundtrack.
Subtitles are in English and Chinese.
“Nightfall” comes with the following special features:
- Making Of – (47:42) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the making of “Nightfall” and interviews with the director and cast.
- Theatrical Trailer – (:56) The theatrical trailer for “Nightfall”.
For rookie filmmaker Chow Hin Yeung Roy, “Nightfall” is a pretty satisfying revenge film with twist and turns and a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung that is able to make the film stand out in the plethora of other Hong Kong films with a “revenge” theme.
While Simon Yam has been featured as a supporting actor in films of late, it’s great to see him in the main lead as a detective George Lam who is dedicated to his job, yet knows that dedication has cost him his family. It’s his discovery and how he evolves throughout the film is rather fascinating.
But even more fascinating is how Nick Cheung was able to embody the character of Wong Yuen-yeung. Watching this actor evolve from Benny Chan’s 1992 film “Hua! ying xiong” to romantic comedies such as “The Teacher Without Chalk”, since “Runaway” of 2001, he is able to tap into gritty action films such as “Breaking News”, “Election” and the same can be said with his recent film “Nightfall”.
This is probably one of the best films he has acted in that he doesn’t even have to mutter one single word. It’s all about facial expressions, body movement and physicality. And with decades in cinema, Cheung doesn’t look like has aged all that much as he is able to play these physical roles with efficacy.
Let’s first talk about what I liked about the film. I liked how the film sets you up believing this film was a creepy stalker/murder film but then switches gears and then as each layer is stripped off from the main storyline, things change in a different direction and you can’t help but be fascinated by the new developments of the film. As mentioned, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way and you can’t help but remain captivated and watch how the film ends.
The acting performances by Simon Yam and Nick Cheung is a major highlight of the film and there are some beautiful scenes of cinematography.
What I didn’t like about the film? Not sure if it’s more unlike but more of it being too farfetched. You have a mute convict who has not seen society in more than 20-years, coming out to reality but yet manages to garner high end spy equipment. With what money was he able to purchase a powerful telescope, bugging device.
In one accident scene, both George and Wong take a major fall. In reality, one would find themselves in the hospital but of course in Hong Kong action cinema, falling from several feet and landing on a tree is enough as a cushion to keep one alive and well.
And no different from previous work from Michael Wong, it’s always hilarious for me to see him speak in English then to Cantonese, then to English. This is not a distraction and for some it may be a negative but for me, you have seen Michael Wong do this in so many films, you come to expect it and want to see it.
But despite some of the farfetched ideas implemented in the film, “Nightfall” is still a gritty, revenge action film that is able to stand on its own two feet and separate itself from other Hong Kong films with a similar theme.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good but for lossless audio, Well Go USA Entertainment opted for a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 kHz soundtrack instead of the very well-received Edko Films 7.1 Dolby TrueHD 96 kHz soundtrack. But still, the film does sound amazing, especially during the more action-intense sequences.
Overall, “Nightfall” is a riveting, revenge, action film for rookie director Chow Hin Yeung Roy. Featuring a solid performance from both Simon Yam and Nick Cheung, the storyline from “Nightfall” is filled with gritty action but also many twist and turns that will keep interested from beginning to end.