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

June 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans. With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Ao Jumonji, OVERLAP/Grimgar. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gangsta.: The Complete Series

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: May 16, 2017


Originally created by Kohske

Series Director: Koichi Hatsumi

Directed by Shukou Murase

Series Composition by Shinichi Inotsume

Music by Tsutchie

Character Design by Yoichi Ueda

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Yoichi Ueda

Animation Production by Manglobe


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junichi Suwabe/Ian Sinclair as Worick Arcangelo

Kenjiro Tsuda/Brandon Potter as Nicolas Brown

Mamiko Noto/Felecia Angelle as Alex Benedetto

Ami Koshimizu/Jad Saxton as Constance Raveau

Aoi Yūki/Bryn Apprill as Nina

Atsumi Tanezaki/Clifford Chapin as Mikhail

Hideyuki Umezu/Greg Dulcie as Uranos Corsica

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Greg Ayres as Doug

Junji Majima/Ricco Fajardo as Emilio Benedetto

Kaito Ishikawa/Aaron Roberts as Cody Balfour

Kana Ueda/Alexis Tipton as Loretta Cristiano Amodio

Katsuhisa Houki/Mark Stoddard as Daniel Monroe

Koji Yusa/R Bruce Elliott as Domenico Arcangelo

Mari Yokoo as Georgiana “Big Mama

Masako Isobe/Rachel Robinson as Joel Raveau

Mikako Komatsu/Jamie Marchi as Ginger

Satoshi Mikami/Robert McCollum as Dr. Theo

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Beretta



In the city of Ergastulum, the area is full of thieves, whores and murderers.  And as for the police, they are corrupted and chaos is king.

This is the setting for the manga series known as “Gangsta.”, written and illustrated by female mangaka Kohske.

Debuting in 2009 with the short story “Postman” for Shonen GanGan Magazine, “Gangsta” has been running in “Monthly Comic Bunch” in 2011 and a total of seven tankobon volumes have been published in Japan.  Along a spinoff series titled “Gangsta: Cursed – EP_MARCO ADRIANO” which three volumes have been released in Japan so far.

In 2015, a 12-episode anime series from Manglobe was released in Japan and now, the anime series was released in the United States in May 2017 courtesy of FUNimation.

The series director is Koichi Hatsume, director is Shukou Murase, series composition by Shinichi Inotsume, character design by Yoichi Ueda and art direction by Masatoshi Kai.

“Gangsta.” begins with a prostitute being assaulted outside a building.  Meanwhile, inside a building are two owners of the business known as “Handymen”, Nic and Worick, two men paid to take on assassination or difficult jobs that police or big business can’t handle.

As Nic and Worick are completing a job with the elder businesswoman inside the building, they see the beaten prostitute going inside the building.

The Handymen are then called for business with the police department and are sent to go after a gang leader named Barry Abbot (the man seen beating on the prostitute in the opening pages).  Both Nick and Worick are hired by the inspector to eliminate him and his gang (including his prostitutes) as they are doing business in the restricted zone.  They work out a deal that they can take whatever they can in return for killing them.

As Nic and Worick go after the gang and eliminated everyone including the gang leader known as Barry. They run into the prostitute and give her the opportunity to escape.  But instead, the prostitute named Alex comes back and instead of killing her, they decide to take her (as in agreement with the inspector) and make her as part of the Handymen as one of their employees.

Meanwhile, as Alex continues to work for the Handymen, she tries to figure both Nic and Worick out.   Is Nic an ex-mercenary, does he talk at all?  Why does Worick wear an eyepatch?

One day, Alex sees a newspaper article about a massacre of the Arcangelo family 20-years-ago, all were killed except a 13-year-old boy who was 13 at the time.  And the perpretator, said to be a boy hired as a mercenary by the family.  And Alex begins to wonder, can the two boys be Worick and Nic?  Is Worick the missing boy that was never found?

But as Alex starts to wonder about the two men that she is working for, the Handymen get involved in major trouble as they must take on a gang that is threatening Dr. Theo and his assistant, Nina.a gang war seems to be inevitable as Corsica and Cristiano are engaged in a battle of outwitting each other and destroy each other’s families with the use of Twilights.  But what happens when the Handymen come and Nic must take on another Twilight A/O.


VIDEO:

“Gangsta.” is presented in 1080p High Definition and Manglobe did a wonderful job with this series. Capture Kohske’s world that was featured in the manga, character designs were done very well.  Characters are well-shaded and backgrounds are pained and are well-done.  There is a slight softness for some scenes, as one can expect from a TV series but for the most part, the anime looks great on Blu-ray and the reds (especially with the high amount of blood) is vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gangsta.” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music including environment and ambiance are well-utilized throughout the surround channels for the lossless English dub soundtrack. Both soundtracks are well-acted but in terms of channel utilization, with the English lossless soundtrack receiving a 5.1 treatment, that soundtrack has an edge.  And as the voice acting is well-done on both soundtracks, for the English dub, Brandon Potter, Felecia Angelle and Ian Sinclair did a wonderful job but also great care was made in trying get Nicolas Brown’s speech right, because he is deaf and Brandon Potter did a solid job with the speech patterns.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gangsta.” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 01 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Chris Bevins, Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 2 Video Commentary  – Featuring a video commentary with Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 9.5 – A “Gangsta.” recap episode. (Japanese only)
  • Promo Videos
  • Commercial
  • Textless Opening and Closing Themes
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Gangsta.: The Complete Series” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


With the release of “Gangsta.”, we get to see somewhat of a western influence in this manga series by Kohske.

Reminiscent of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, where the world has gone corrupt and in the city of Ergastulum, a city overrun by thugs, gangs, mafia, whores and murderers, the police are just as bad and when the going gets tough, the only way for the police to maintain order is by hiring mercenaries, in this case, the Handymen, Nic and Worick.

Nic is the silent, deadly killer with a sword. Worick is the playboy with an eyepatch that is good with a gun and together, they are two men who aren’t afraid of taking on the most corrupt people in Ergastulum. And it’s not a duty done for the sake of morality but to them, it’s money and survival.

As these two men are mysterious individuals and through the eyes of former prostitute Alex, who joins the Handymen as their personal secretary or whatever she can be used for in order to get the job done, even Alex, has her thoughts on both men and their mysterious background.

But in this city, there is no normal.  There is no peace.  And right now, a major gang war is about to ignite between the Corsica and Cristiano gang.  And for the Handymen, they have their hands tied in trying to keep people alive while Twilight A/O’s have been hired to assassinate major gang members but now all of a sudden have become the hunted as anti-twilight groups are infiltrating Ergastulum to kill them off..

Meanwhile, Alex is wallowing in her depression, not knowing what has happened to her young brother that she was unable to protect.

With “Gangsta.”, we get to see how corrupt this world they live in but how they fit in to all the chaos. There is no one that is pure in Ergastulum, everything is corrupt, a lot of violence over runs the city but there is a sense of kindness for some people and with the Handymen, while killing is their job, the act of kindness of having Alex as an employee is rather fascinating.

Kohske has developed a intriguing series full of sex and violence but also an illustration style that is unique to her style of work. The anime series is respectful to the original manga content and there is a western influence and it will be interesting to see how the story of “Gangsta.” will continue considering there is other stories left for the anime to explore in the future.

And Manglobe and anime production crew did a wonderful job with this series and staying true to the original manga.  The anime series looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and there are good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “Gangsta.” is an action-packed anime series about mysterious two assassins for hire in a crime-filled land and a former prostitute who starts working for them. An intriguing and rare manga series to come from Japan, if you are looking for a manga series with a little sex and plenty  of violence, “Gangsta.” by Kohske is a manga series worth recommending!

 

T2 Trainspotting (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle. This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger. Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2017 TriStar Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: T2 Trainspotting

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

COMPANY: TriStar/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Drug Use, Language throughout, Strong Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity and Some Violence)

RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2017


Based on the Novels by Irvine Walsh

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by John Hodge

Produced by Bernard Bellew, Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Andrew MacDonald

Executive Producer: Allon Reich, Irvine Welsh

Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle

Edited by Jon Harris

Casting by Gail Stevens

Production Design by Patrick Rolfe, Mark Tildesley

Art Direction by Patrick Rolfe, Adam Squires, Christopher Wyatt

Set Decoration by Orlin Grozdanov, Veronique Melery

Costume Design by Rachael Fleming, Steven Noble


Starring:

Ewan McGregor as Renton

Ewen Bremner as Spud

Johnny Lee Miller as Simon

Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronika

Kevin McKidd as Tommy

Robert Carlyle as Begbie

Kelly MacDonald as Diane

Steven Robertson as Stoddard

Shirley Henderson as Gail

Gordon Kennedy as Tulloch

James Cosmo as Renton’s Father


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.


First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal.

The long awaited “Trainspotting”  sequel from filmmaker Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge (“Trainspotting”, “The Beach”, “Trance”, “Shallow Grave”) has finally come.

Titled “T2 Trainspotting”, the story takes place twenty years later and the original stars from the first film reprise their role.

Starring Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars” films, “Big Fish”), Jonny Lee Miller (“Elementary”, “Hackers”, “Dark Shadows”), Ewen Bremmer (“Snatch”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Pearl Harbor”), Robert Carlyle (“28 Weeks Later”, “The Full Monty”, “Once Upon a Time”), Kelly MacDonald (“No Country for Old Men”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) and Anjela Nedyalkova (“Ave”, “The Paradise Suite”, “Eastern Plays”).

NOTE: If you haven’t seen “Trainspotting”, do not read any further as it may contain spoilers:

With Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (portrayed by Ewan McGregor) having stolen money from Begbie (portrayed by Robert Carlyle) and instead of splitting with everyone, after being hospitalized with a heart problem, Renton, who has been sober for 21-years, lives a life unfulfilled, decides to return back home to Edinburgh.  Back to the friends he had abandoned.

Francis “Franco” Begbie is serving a 25-year prison sentence and has been denied parole due to his temper.

Daniel “Spud” Murphy (portrayed by Ewen Bremmer) is not doing well, with a failed marriage, a drug addict and is suicidal.

Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller) is even more of a cocaine-addict who runs Port Sunshine, which he inherited and along with his Bulgarian girlfriend Veronika (portrayed by Anjela Nedyalkova), run an operation by blackmailing men and luring them into sex (and videotaping the experience).

As no one has heard from Renton for 20-years, including his family, Renton discovers that his mother passed away hoping to see him return one day.

Simon comes to visit Spud, who is attempting suicide by asphyxiating himself, but Renton comes just in time to save his life.  But Spud is angry of how Renton just took off and left.

Seeing how Spud has screwed up his life with drugs, Renton tries to help Spud by getting him to workout and channeling his addiction problems to other areas in his life positively.

As for Simon, when Renton comes to visit him, Renton unleashes all that pent up anger towards Renton and beating him   But when Renton leaves him his share of the money 20-years later, Simon is not too appreciative.  Wanting to open up a brothel with Veronika, Simon wants to get Renton to help him out and get the finances needed, but then to screw him over.

But unknown to any of them, Begbie has orchestrated his escape from prison and he has returned back home.  And he wants nothing but to get his revenge upon Renton.


VIDEO:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film looks fantastic, may it be the outdoor scenes, wonderful detail during closeups and even the darkest of scenes, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“T2 Trainspotting” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English and French – Audio Description Track, Spanish. Dialogue and music are crystal clear, while the surround channels are primarily for crowd-driven scenes, ambiance and an action sequence, for the most part, the overall soundtrack is crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Danny Boyle and John Hodge
  • 20 Years in the Making: A Conversation with Danny Boyle & The Cast – (24:48) Danny Boyle sits with Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Rob Carlyle about returning to a “Trainspotting” film 20 years later.
  • Calton Athletic Documentary: Choosing Endorphins Over Addiction – (4:23) A featurette about users discussing their addiction issues and how they changed.
  • Deleted Scenes – (30:09) Featuring 29 deleted scenes.

EXTRAS:

“T2 Trainspotting” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


Back in 1996, when the original “Trainspotting” film was screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, there was a lot of buzz.  And not long after, when it was released in theaters, the low budget independent film would go on to make $71 million internationally and was the fourth highest grossing British film in history at the time.

The film received critical praise for the film’s ability to tape into the youth subculture of the ’80s and shows us the craziness but also the horrors of drug addiction.  But also to see how a group of best friends took a chance to steal a lot of money and one of them, the main character in the film, stealing the money and disappearing.

The film utilized music to come together with its wonderful storyline and as the film became a cult hit, even ranked as high as #10 by the British Film Institute (BFI) in the list of top 100 British films of all time, many have hoped for a sequel.

And as Irvine Welsh had written the novel “Porno” in 2002 as the sequel to “Trainspotting”, filmmaker Danny Boyle said if he was to create a sequel, it would be in 2016.  It’s important to note that the filmmakers did not want to trash the legacy of “Trainspotting” and wanted to create a film that was very fresh and contemporary”.

With the sequel, the film focuses on the four individuals: Mark “Rent Boy” Renton, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson, Daniel “Spud” Murphy and Francis “Franco” Begbie.

This time around the film is less about the drugs but more on how the lives of these five individuals have changed 20 years later.  Much has changed, but much have remained the same.

For Renton, his return back to Edinburgh, means confronting his best friends he betrayed.  While Renton has remained sober for 20-years, unfortunately his friends have not done so well.

Spud has become a heroin addict, losing his job and his family.  Simon is still addicted to cocaine and trying to find ways for he and his girlfriend Veronika to make money and he has an idea of starting a brothel.

Begbie was sentenced to prison for 25-years and figured out a plan to escape but he wants nothing more but to kill Renton.  Begbie hasn’t seen his family in a very long time and he will discover a lot has changed especially with his son.

We get to see characters from the original film such as Diane, who has done quite well with her life and becoming a lawyer that Renton will need her legal assistance.  And we also get to see other characters such as Renton’s father, Gail and more.

But also questions that people had about the first film, we see certain topics being confronted or at least spoken.

For the most part, I’m somewhat glad that director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge didn’t go with a true adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s “Porno” and created something fresh and new.  While purists may be upset that the film sequel is quite different than its book counterpart.  But the film allowed viewers to come back to what was missing in Renton’s life and that is his relationship with his childhood friends.  Living with a sense of gilt for what he had done and very much hoping to see these characters turn a new leaf in their lives 20-years later.

And despite how much time has passed, Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewan Bremner and Robert Carlyle were as fantastic now as they were back then.

While the film is much different than “Trainspotting” and has less disgusting situations or even deplorable situations, because the film takes place 20-years later, there is maturation on the side of Renton and he is much a different man than he was when he was younger.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic and the lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music.  There are also numerous special features included as well.

Overall, while no one should expect “T2 Trainspotting” to be better than the first film, the sequel was worth the wait as the story and its characters come full circle.  This is a film that is less about drug-use but a story of friendship that has suffered from betrayal and anger.  Filmmaker Danny Boyle, writer John  Hodge and the actors reprising their roles have given us a sequel that I highly recommend!

 

Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have been better.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Skydance Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Life

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:39:1 aspect ratio, English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Language thrughout, Some Sci-Fi Violence and Terror)

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Produced by Bonnie Curtis, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Julie Lynn

Executive Producer: Vicki Dee Rock, Don Granger

Co-Producer: Lisa Dennis

Associate Producer: Josh Robertson

Music by Jon Ekstrand

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey

Edited by Mary Jo Markey, Frances Parker

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by Nigel Phelps

Art Direction by Steven Lawrence

Set Decoration by Celia Bobak

Costume Design by Jenny Beavan


Starring:

Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami

Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams

Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North

Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan

Olga Dihovichnaya as Ekaterina Golovkina

Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry


Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.


From filmmaker Daniel Espinosa (“Safe House”, “Child 44”, “Easy Money”) and writing duo, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (“Deadpool”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, “Zombieland”) comes their sci-fi action-horror film, “Life”.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool”, “The Proposal”, “Green Lantern”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko”, “Nightcrawler”, “Zodiac”), Rebecca Ferguson (“Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation”, “The Girl on the Train”, “Florence Foster Jenkins”), Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Wolverine”, “47 Ronin”, “Sunshine”), Olga Dihovichnaya (“House of Others”, “Twilight Portrait”, “Two Days”) and Ariyon Bakare (“Dancing on the Edge”, “A Respectable Trade”).

The film revolves around a crew of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew awaiting a probe returning from Mars which contains a soil sample that may contain evidence of extraterrestrial life.

As experiments are done on the soil sample, exobiologist Hugh Derry (portrayed by Ariyon Bakare) manages to revive a dormant cell sample which grows into a multi-celled organism.  The news excites people on Earth and for a contest among school children, the winning school names the organism, “Calvin”.

But when Hugh revives Calvin via mild electric shocks, the organism becomes hostile and grabs onto Hugh’s hand.  While his crewmates watch outside the lab and watch as Hugh tries to escape from the organism’s pull, Hugh manages to remove his hand but it was crushed by the organism.

As the group debate on what to do, keep the interior contained or save Hugh, Rory Adams (portrayed by Ryan Reynolds) makes the decision to save Hugh.  And while he is able to get Hugh out of the room, Rory is captured by the organism which grabs onto his leg.  As Rory grabs a flame device to kill the organism, the organism shows intelligence and flows into Rory’s mouth and kills him inside.

With communications cut off from Earth, the now five member crew must find a way to get help but also prevent themselves from being the next one killed by the alien organism.  Will anyone survive from this ordeal?


VIDEO:

“Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with awesome detail and with fantastic visual effects, the film looks amazing on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any artifacts, banding issues or problematic problems with picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Life” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.   The lossless soundtrack with the various spacecraft collisions to the way music is utilized to create frightening, intense moments, the surround channels are utilized very well.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and I was very pleased by the overall soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Life” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes– (5:46) Featuring six deleted scenes.
  • Life: In Zero G – (6:52) The making of “Life” and shooting in the dark and shooting in zero gravity.
  • Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin – (7:07)  A featurette on the creation of a creature and how it adapts and how it manipulates to its environment.
  • Clausterphobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space – (7:28) A featurette about the thought of discovering extraterrestrial life.
  • Astronaut Diaries – (2:58) Web-based astronaut diaries featuring the characters of the film.

EXTRAS:

“Life” comes with a slipcover and an Ultraviolet HD Digital code.


As we progress in technology and our discoveries of what lies in the soil of other planets are becoming known, with the pursuit of trying to find out if there is life outside of the planet Earth, the question is still unanswered, “is their life outside of our planet”?

The last decade alone, NASA has manage to discover so much about Planet Mars but also other planets in our solar system.  But in Mars alone, with the discovery of evidence of water in Mars, what would happen if we were able to get a soil sample to find out if there is alien life in Mars?

And sure enough, “Life” is a film that takes a frightening yet thought-provoking look of what if we are opening Pandora’s box by pursuing this search for life?

In the case of the six-member International Space Station (ISS) crew, they quickly discover that the organism discovered from the Mars soil sample is quite violent and can quickly grow through eating the life of a living creature.

The film is no doubt a sci-fi horror film but it’s also a film about survival and trying to prevent this organism from reaching Earth.

We learn from a theory that the reason life was dormant in Mars is because there is no breathable air, but now that there is air, this organism is now alive and threatening the crew.

While one may think of “Aliens” which humans fought back or “Sunshine” (which also starred actor, Hiroyuki Sanada), the goal of the writers was to create a thought-provoking film because of what we are accomplishing with modern technology and discovering new things from other planets.

While there are people who are thinking that the film may be a prequel to the Marvel Comics film “Venom” (which is also written by “Life” writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese), I doubt that would be the case, without a Marvel logo at the beginning and no mention of Marvel anywhere in the credits.   But if there was a connection, it would be very cool!

But the film, while full of suspense, will entertain the popcorn suspense or sci-fi action film fans, the film doesn’t strive too far from the “trying to stay alive to the end of the film” concept which is quite banal in similar style of films.  Character dynamics are not the film’s strongest area and because of that, so much of the film is focused on the survival aspect and character, exobiologist Hugh Derry running tests on the organism.

It’s not a deep film at all but I will say that I do enjoy suspense films, I do love Sci-fi films and while not the best, I was entertained.  Especially since there is potential for a sequel.

The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray and you also get a few special features as well.

Overall, “Life” is a sci-fi horror film that is full of suspense from beginning to end.  While simplistic in story and gorgeous visually through its wonderful set design and visual effects, Daniel Espinosa’s “Life” is a film worth watching but you can’t help but feel that the film could have

 

Attack on Titan: Junior High (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a hardcore “Attack on Titan” fan or one looking for a lighthearted, fun and crazy animated series, will want to give “Attack on Titan: Junior High” a try!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: Junior High

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2015-2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (204 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 21, 2017


Originally created by Hajime Isayama, Saki Nakagawa

Directed by Yoshihide Ibata

Series Composition by Midori Gotou

Script by Midori Gotou, Shun Fukudome, Yoshihide Ibata

Music by Asama Tachibana

Character Design: KYuuko Yahiro

Art Director: Kazuhiro Arai

Anime Production by Production I.G.


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Kenta Miyake/Jason Douglas as Mike Zacharias

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Braus

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart


The hit show Attack on Titan is reimagined in this feel-good junior high microseries! See all your favorite characters getting into middle school shenanigans complete with secret love interests, class presidents, and chaotic cultural festivals.

Eren and his friends are the hapless first-year students at Attack Junior High, a unique school for both humans and Titans alike. That’s right… Titans go to class, too – in their own gigantic classrooms with their larger-than-life school supplies and benches as big as buildings!


Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume. With several light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and two live-action films, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to the anime series.

But around 2012, Saki Nakagawa created “Shingeki! Kyojin Chugakko” (Attack on Titan: Junior High), a parody of Isayama’s popular manga series which would receive an anime adaptation in 2015-2016.

The story features younger, chibi versions of the characters as they attend “Class 1-04” at Attack Junior High School.


“Attack on Titan: Junior High” features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for stealing his lunch. He loves cheeseburgers and his determination to exterminate Titans surprises his classmates.

Mikasa Ackerman – A stoic student who scares her peers.  She is very close to Erin and is often depressed.  She wants to protect Eren and Armin from trouble.

Armin Arlert – Eren and Mikasas friend who often wears a futon over his head to avoid catching a cold.  He is very intelligent despite his low self-esteem.

Reiner Braun – A muscular student who has a crush on Krista.

Bertolt Hoover – A boy who is tall and quiet and has a crush on Annie Leonhart.

Levi Ackerman – A third year student and the leader of the secret underground club – Scout Regiment.  He can knock out a Titan with a single slap from his paper fan.

Annie Leonhart – She loves eating cheeseburgers and is introverted.  She is the rival of Mikasa.

Jean Kirstein – An egotistic guy who wants to become popular with girls.  He has a crush on Mikasa and is Eren’s rival.

Hange Zoe – Levi’s classmate and deputy leader of the Scout Regiment Club.  She is a fanatic when it comes to studying Titans.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan: Junior High” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Animation shows slight softness considering it’s an animated TV series.  A colorful series, characters are well-shaded and backgrounds reflect the series cartoony nature.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan: Junior High” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done (utilizing the same voice talent from the “Attack on Titan” animated series), as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive. Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE for ambiance and during action sequences.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: Junior High” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Josh Grelle (voice of Armin Artlet) and Trina Nishimura (voice of Mikasa Ackerman).
  • Episode 8 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Rob Mcallum (voice of Reiner Braun), J. Michael Tatum (script writer and voice of Erwin Smith) and Caitlin Glass (voice of Petra Ral)
  • Episode 12 Video Commentary – Featuring video commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Josh Grelle (voice of Armin Artlet) and Trina Nishimura (voice of Mikasa Ackerman)
  • Promo videos – Featuring original Japanese PV.
  • Web Previews – Featuring the original web prviews for the series.
  • Commercials – Original Japanese CM.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: Junior High” features the series on Blu-ray and DVD and comes with a slipcover.


“Attack on Titan” has won over anime fans all over the world.  Featuring violence, drama and action, the second season of the series is currently airing in Japan, with a third being announced for 2018.

Meanwhile, during the break between the first and second season, Production I.G. made an adaptation of Saki Nakagawa’s parody of the series, “Attack on Titan: Junior High”.

A lighthearted anime series that even children can watch, the series revolves around a group of junior high students who must brave the Titans who climb over the wall in order to eat the students’ lunches.  And for Eren, he is addicted to cheeseburgers and when they steal his food, he became even more determined to stop the Titans, despite his fellow students not having the same drive as he does.

With his friends Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert consantly saving Eren from trouble, you have a little childhood romance as Bertolt Hoover is a shy guy who likes Annie Leonhart but is much too shy to do anything about it.  And you have the buff and angry Reiner Braun who has fallen for Krista.

But when Eren and Annie find out they share a love towards cheeseburgers, this causes Mikasa to become jealous and become Annie’s rival.

The series also tackles student problems such Sasha and Connie failing tests, Jean discovering a love letter in his locker, Sports Day game competitions and ghosts pranking the school.

For the most part, the series is lighthearted, fun and for those who can enjoy a parody of the series, may find “Attack on Titan: Junior High” to be entertaining.  But one should not expect to see bloody violence or anything like that in this series.  Characters are made in chibi super-deformed format and Titans are reduced to lunch-stealing behemoths.

Animation for the most part looks good on Blu-ray and the voice acting benefits from the use of both the original series voice talent for the Japanese and English dub.  You also get two audio commentaries and a video commentary plus PV, commercials and much more!

Overall, if you are a hardcore “Attack on Titan” fan or one looking for a lighthearted, fun and crazy animated series, will want to give “Attack on Titan: Junior High” a try!

 

Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans. With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Ao Jumonji,  OVERLAP/Grimgar. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: 12 Episodes (335 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Ao Jumonji

Directed by Ryosuke Nakamura

Script by Ryosuke Nakamura

Music by R.O.N.

Original Character Design by Eiri Shirai

Character Design by Mieko Hosoi

Art Director: Hidetoshi Kaneko

Chief Animation Director: Mieko Hosoi

Animation Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ricco Fajardo as Haruhiro

Chika Anzai/Jad Saxton as Mary

Daisuke Namikawa/Todd Haberkorn as Kikkawa

Fukushi Ochiai/Jarrod Greene as Moguzo

Haruka Terui/Sarah Wiedenheft as Shihoru

Hiroki Yasumoto/Mike McFarland as Brittany

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Orion Pitts as Ranta

Mamiko Noto/Jamie Marchi as Barbara

Mikako Komatsu/Jeannie Tirado as Yume

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Justin Briner as Manato

Tomokazu Seki/Jason Liebrecht as Renji



Back in 2013, writer Ao Jumonji and illustrator Eiri Shirai collaborated on a Japanese light novel series titled “Hai to Genso ni Gurimugaru” (“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions”).  With a total of nine novels created, a manga adaptation by Mutsumi Okubashi was serialized in “Gangan Joker” in 2015.

Due to the popularity of the series, a 12-episode anime series produced by A-1 Pictures aired in Japan from January through March 2016 and an OVA followed afterward.

The series is directed and written by Ryosuke Nakamura (“Aiura”, “Nana”, “Psychic School Wars”, “Moryo no Hako”), music by R.O.N. (“Aquarion Logos”, “Solty Rei”, “Unlimited Fafnir”), character design by Mieko Hosoi (“Aiura”, “Aoi Bungaku”) and art direction by Hidetoshi Kaneko (“”Devil Hunter Yohko”, “Chance Pop Session”, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals”, “Jubei-Chan the Ninja Girl”, “Mermaid’s Scar”, “X”).

And now the “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is available on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The story follows a young man named Haruhiro and several people who awaken in a fantasy world and remember nothing but their own names.  They all find out that they must become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers and must support themselves to survive and that is by killing goblins to earn money.  As many of the strong join groups, Haruhiro and others were not chosen and so they form their own group.

As Haruhiro and his friends become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers, they must join forces to survive and train and use their skills to defeat goblins.

The primary characters in “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” are:

  • Haruhiro – A softspoken person who is level-headed and becomes the group’s thief.
  • Yume – She is brave and is the hunter of the group.   She often tries to protect Shihoru and is att odds with Ranta.
  • Shihoru – The shy member of the group. She is a mage.
  • Ranta – The Dark Knight of the group.  He is perverted and outspoken and tends to cause trouble with the group because of his rash decisions.
  • Manato – The teams priest (healer) and the group leader.  A strategist that sees the positive in each member of the group.
  • Moguzo – The tallest and heaviest member of the group and the team’s warrior.  Loves cooking.
  • Mary – A priest (healer) who became colder due to the death of her friends.
  • Renji – Arried the same time Haruhiro and others but has graduated from being a trainee quickly.

VIDEO:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is presented in 1080p High Definition and A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with this series.  The backgrounds are nicely painted and look like it was painted with watercolors.  Meanwhile, characters are well shaded and colors are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Dialogue and music including environment and ambiance are well-utilized throughout the surround channels for the lossless English dub soundtrack.  Both soundtracks are well-acted but in terms of channel utilization, with the English lossless soundtrack receiving a 5.1 treatment, that soundtrack has an edge.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” comes with the following special features:

  • OVA 2.5 – Staking Our Youths on the Bath Wall – One More Centimeter
  • Episode 04 Video Commentary – Featuring Funimation staff Godswill (social media coordinator), Casey (promo video) and Ian (senior graphic designer)
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


For those who play video games, I’m sure the gamer had once thought, “what if we were in our own video game?”.

It’s something I know my RPG-loving friends have joked about and while we have seen anime where characters’s avatars or consciousness were trapped in a video game (ala “.Hack” or “Sword Art Online”) but what if people were transported into a fantasy world where they fought in classes like an RPG video game?

This is somewhat of the idea in “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions”.  Numerous people transported to a fantasy world and they have no choice but to fight or die.

Fighting is the only option for one to make money, buy food or purchase things and to do that, you must become a soldier.  And for these new people who have arrived, they immediately must become Trainee Volunteer Soldiers and join up in guilds.  Train and learn new skills and fight goblins who will do all they can to kill you.

The anime series focuses on a group of people who were not selected to join a major guild, so they join forces and become their own group.  And as they become friends and try to learn how to use their skills to fight goblins, they don’t know how bad the dangers are until one of their own is killed.

And now they must find a way to continue on, grow as a team and protect each other.

Featuring beautiful animation and beautifully painted backgrounds courtesy of A-1 Pictures, the anime series looks vibrant and gorgeous on Blu-ray.  The lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks are fantastic but the English soundtrack gets an edge as it was made into a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, while the Japanese version is a stereo lossless soundtrack.

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” come with an OVA and an episode 4 video commentary by the English dub talent.

Overall, “Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans.  With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of.

Recommended!

 

K: Missing Kings (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

June 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

K: Missing Kings” is an action-packed sequel which “K” fans have waited a few years to be released in America.  And the animated film sets things up for the upcoming TV series, “K: Return of Kings” (to be released by Viz Media in July 2017).  If you loved the original series, then definitely give “K: Missing Kings” a try!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Viz Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: K: Missing Kings

DURATION: 75 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Widescreen, English & Japanese 5.1 & Stereo Audio, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 14, 2017


Originally created by GoRA

Series Director: Hiromitsu Kanazawa

Directed by Shingo Suzuki

Series Composition by GoRA

Music by Mikio Endo

Character Design by Shingo Suzuki

Art Director: Ken Naito

Chief Animation Director: Makoto Furuta

Mechanical Design: Hiroshi Okubo

Animation Production by GoHands


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daisuke Namikawa/Sam Regal as Yashiro Isana

Daisuke Ono/Matthew Mercer as Kuroh Yatogami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Keith Silverstein as Mikoto Suoh

Mikako Komatsu/Stephanie Sheh as Neko

Tomokazu Sugita/Patrick Seitz as Reisi Munakata

Hiro Shimono/Quinton Flynn as Kotosaka

Jun Fukuyama/Ben Diskin as Misaki Yata

Kaori Nazuka/Cherami Leigh as Dōhan Hirasaka

Kazuyuki Okitsu/Robbie Daymond as Nagare Hisui

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Saruhiko Fushimi

Masakazu Morita/Chris Hackney as Yukari Mishakuji

Miyuki Sawashiro/Carrie Keranen as Seri Awashima

Satomi Satou/Janice Kawaye as Kukuri Yukizome

Takahiro Sakurai/Todd Haberkorn as Izumo Kusanagi

Yui Horie/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Anna Kushina

Yūichi Nakamura/Grant George as Rikio Kamamoto

Yuuki Kaji/Lucien Dodge as Tatara Totsuka


Silver Clan members Kuro and Neko are on a mission to find their king, Shiro, who went missing after the battle on the School Island involving four of the seven colored kings. During their search, the two discover that Red Clan member Anna Kushina has become the target of the mysterious Green Clan, which intends to use the girl’s special power to track down Shiro. Now the Silver and Red Clans find themselves joining forces to protect Shiro and Anna from this new threat. But will this unexpected alliance be enough to counter the Green Clan’s top fighters, as well as its king?


In 2012, the anime series “K” produced by the studio GoHands aired on television.

The series focused on Yashiro Isana, a normal guy who lives in the technologically advanced Shizume City and attends Ashinaka High School.  But when Tatara Totsuka, a prominent member of the well-known HOMRA is killed, many are curious of who killed him.  With the mysterious killer (known as the “Colorless King”) being identified, he looks almost exactly like Yashiro Isana.

And now the Red Clansmen of HOMRA led by the Red King, Mikoto Suoh, wants Yashiro dead and everyone is suspecting him as the killer of Tatara Totsuka.  Can Yashiro and others find out who is responsible for killing Tatara?

The series continues in the animated film “K: Missing Kings” which was released in Japan back in 2014.  The film takes place a year after the events of the TV series and a year after the disappearance of Shiro, the Silver King.  Kurou Yatogami and Neko are searching for Shiro and they run into members of the recently disbanded red clan HOMRA.

Rikio Kamamoto and Anna Kushina are being pursued by the Green Clan who will stop at nothing to get Anna and use her power.  With Anna being kidnapped, Kuro and Neko join forces with members of Scepter 4 in hopes to rescue Anna from the Green Clan.  But what is their true purpose of wanting Anna?


VIDEO & AUDIO:

It’s important to emphasize that if you want the best video quality of this animated film, it is available on Blu-ray.  I am reviewing the DVD version of the film and for the most part picture quality is as good as it can get on DVD.

“K: Missing Kings” is presented in 16:9 Widescreen and is presented in English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital and stereo.  Picture quality is vibrant and with this being an animated film, much better production when it comes to backgrounds and overall character designs.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

K: Missing Kings” comes with trailers.


For those who have watched the “K” anime series, the first animated film “K: Missing Kings” is a worthy sequel as we see Silver Clan members Kuro Yatogami and Neko continuing their search for the Silver King and we see the disbanded HOMRA (Red Clan) dealing with the kidnapping of Anna Kushina.

With the Green Clan causing more problems and causing mass destruction, deaths and kidnapping Anna, the Silver clan, members of the HOMRA and members of Scepter 4 do all they can to get Anna back and stop the Green Clan.

For the most part, this animated film is action-packed and quite entertaining.  It’s a worthy sequel for the anime series but for those who have never watched the TV series, will definitely want to watch it in order to understand the characters.

Anime production by GoHands is magnificent and the voice acting in both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well done.  While I reviewed the DVD version and not the Blu-ray release, for the most part, the DVD looks very good.  But I wish there were special features included aside from the basic trailers.

Overall, “K: Missing Kings” is an action-packed sequel which “K” fans have waited a few years to be released in America.  And the animated film sets things up for the upcoming TV series, “K: Return of Kings” (to be released by Viz Media in July 2017).  If you loved the original series, then definitely give “K: Missing Kings” a try!  Recommended!

 

Railroad Tigers (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films. And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best. For those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Beijing Sparkle Roll Media Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Railroad Tigers

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 125 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 aspect ratio, Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: Well Go USA

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


Directed by Ding Sheng

Screenplay by Alex Jia, He Keke, Ding Sheng

Produced by Jackie Chan, Zhao Lei, Maofei Zhou

Executive Producer: Jackie Chan, Qin Hong, Jianhong Qi, Zhong-Lun Ren, Joe Tam

Co-Executive Producer: Lv Peng, Wang Peng

Co-Producer: Yu Liang, Wang Sen

Associate Producer: Zhang Miao, Tianyun Wang

Music by Zai Lao

Cinematography by Yu Ding

Edited by Ding Sheng

Production Design by Ligang Feng

Costume Design by Cao Yangui, Wang Yi


Starring:

Jackie Chan as Ma Yuan

Zitao Huang as Da Hai

Jaycee Chan as Rui Ge

Kai Wang as Fan Chuan

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

Ping Sang as Da Qui

Alan Ng as Xiao Qi

Fan Xu

Darren Wang as Da Guo


In this action-comedy caper harkening back to Jackie Chan s classic Hong Kong films, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.


Filmmaker Ding Sheng has had several collaborations with action legend, Jackie Chan.

From the films “Little Big Soldier” and “Police Story: Lockdown”, Sheng and Chan reunite once again for the action film “Railroad Tigers”.

And now “Railroad Tigers” will be released in the U.S. courtesy of Well Go USA.

The film revolves around a group of Chinese resistance fighters during a time when Japan is occupying China.

Ma Yuan (portrayed by Jackie Chan) is responsible for a group of individuals (a.k.a. Railroad Tigers) who cause problems for the Japanese army.  They hijack trains, steal supplies and they don’t have any major purpose but just to steal supplies.

But keeping an eye on Ma Yuan and friends is the the tough and cold-hearted Japanese captain, Yamaguchi (portrayed by Hiroki Okeuchi) who is in charge of finding out who has been stealing supplies.

But life for Ma Yuan and friends change when they discover a Chinese soldier named Daguo (portrayed by Darren Wang) who is badly injured.

Ma Yuan hides the soldier from the Japanese and when nursing him, they discover that he has a major mission and that is to blow up a bridge that the Japanese army uses to deliver reinforcements and carry supplies to other locations for the Japanese military.

Ma Yuan and friends decide to assist Daguo in getting the mission accomplished, but they have only four days to do it and it’s not going to be easy while Yamaguchi and a sadistic Japanese assassin after them.


VIDEO:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35 1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as a lot of the scenes were shot outdoors. I didn’t notice any major artifacts, banding or issues with picture quality during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Railroad Tigers” is presented in Mandarin DTS: X, Mandarin 2.0 Stereo, Mandarin DTS Headphone: X, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and surround channels utilize environment ambiance, trains going on the tracks and action sequences that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with the following special features:

  • Director’s Featurette– 2:52 a sample of the films directed by Ding Sheng and interviews with the filmmaker, Jackie Chan and crew about the film.
  • The Dangers of Shooting – (2:35) With a short amount of time and 300 people on crew to device the sets in -20 celcius weather, the dangers of shooting this kind of film. especially with a train is is high.
  • The Making of – (21:11) Filmmaker Ding Sheng, Jackie Chan and crew discuss the making of the film.  Scenes shot during production and featuring behind-the-film shots.
  • VFX Featurette – (3:50) A featurette about the making of the visual effects to make the film’s action scenes look authentic.
  • The Characters – (3:09)  A featurette about the various characters in the film and how unique they are.  Interviews with the cast.
  • Trailer – Featuring the theatrical trailer and International Trailer versions.

EXTRAS:

“Railroad Tigers” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and DVD.


On paper, “Railroad Tigers” sounds like a fascinating film.  A film starring father and son (Jackie Chan and son Jaycee), a film starring former EXO music artist Zitao Huang, a big budget war-era action film and for the most part, an action film starring action legend Jackie Chan, who reunites with filmmaker Ding Sheng.

For the most part, the film should be exciting and entertaining and with a lot of expectations being high for a Jackie Chan action film, unfortunately “Railroad Tigers” is not one of his best, nor one of his most memorable.

If anything, for me, it seems like a big budget film used to showcase father and son together and also showcase pop star Zitao Huang into films.

But should anyone be surprised?  You are not going to get the same Jackie Chan that one saw in the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and even the 2000s.  He is a versatile actor that still manages to show us that he can still do action films but similar to other older action stars, may it be Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, etc., there is only so much you can expect Chan to do at age 63.

But even at 63, Chan still shows us that he can still do action and “Railroad Tigers” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to action.

But the pacing and the storyline itself is problematic.  Aside from watching a group of individuals fight against the Japanese army and literally go on a suicide mission to blow up a train to prevent the Japanese from using the trains to transport their army or supplies, the film doesn’t do a good job of utilizing characters outside of Jackie Chan all that well.

The film probably works in bringing together Jackie and his son Jaycee together on the big screen.  Considering that Jaycee Chan’s music and acting career could have been over after being busted for drug possession in 2014 and spent 148 days in detention.  Newspapers in China have been focused on the estranged relationship between the two but the film no doubt is a good sign of reconciliation and the industry giving Jaycee a second chance (which is typically rare).

And the surprise was seeing pop star Zitao Huang in an action film.  Also, being in the public eye for shocking fans by leaving the popular South Korean/Chinese Pop group, EXO, but having bounced back and showing that he can succeed as a music star in China and also as an actor.

So, in some ways, “Railroad Tigers” is like a film of second chances.  But despite the talent-filled roster in this film, it doesn’t make the storyline any better.  Sure, it’s a Jackie Chan action film but it pales in comparison to past Jackie Chan action films.  And despite the visual effects and budget that went into this film, it’s also not one of Ding Sheng’s best.

Overall, for those wanting a popcorn action film and are Jackie Chan film loyalists, then “Railroad Tigers” may be to your liking.

 

Golden Kamuy vol. 1 – Story & Art by Satoru Noda (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While I have only read one volume, Satoru Noda’s “Golden Kamuy” is turning out to be a fantastic, action-packed manga series worth reading!

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© 2014 Satoru Noda. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Golden Kamuy vol. 1

STORY AND ART BY: Story and Art by Satoru Noda

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

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

RATED: M for Mature

RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017


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

“Immortal Sugimoto,” a survivor of the assault on 203 Meter Hill during the Russo-Japanese War, now scratches out a meager existence in the post-war gold rush in the wild frontier of Hokkaido. A chance encounter in the woods puts a map to a hidden fortune of Ainu gold in his hands, but Sugimoto is not the only interested party, and everyone who knows about the gold will kill to possess it!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The writing for the first volume manages to establish the primary two characters but also the dangerous environment that Sugimoto and Asirpa are thursted into.  With the two trying to find prisoners who have the map tattoo on their backs, it’s not going to be easy as gold hunters and also the 7th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army are after them.  Illustration is fantastic and manages to capture emotion but also the action.

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

While I have only read one volume, Satoru Noda’s “Golden Kamuy” is turning out to be a fantastic, action-packed manga series worth reading!

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Food Wars! – Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 18 (Story by Yuto Tsukuda and Art by Shun Saeki) (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In vol. 18, can Soma save the Polaris Dorm?  “Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma” is a magnificent manga for those who love cooking, cooking competitions and underdogs faced with the challenges of taking on the top chefs at a prestigious cooking academy.  Highly recommended!

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© 2012 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Food Wars – Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 18

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Yuto Tsukuda and Art by Shun Saeki

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

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

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


The shokugeki to decide the fate of the Polaris dormitory nears its conclusion! Even with the judges firmly in his opponent’s pocket, Soma puts everything he’s gained from his time at the dorm on a plate, cementing Polaris’s future—or lack thereof—at the institute. Meanwhile, Central makes its move, beginning a full-scale purge of anyone daring to resist them! Will Soma survive to take on this next challenge?


The Ninth Seat Etsuya Eizan, of Totsuki’s Council of Ten has an open challenge against Ryoma and to make things interesting, Azami Nakiri who has taken over the Totsuki Institue as the new dean, has now put a wager that if Ryoma loses, the Polaris Dorm must shut down.

With judges that are loyal to Azami, can Ryoma pull out a win against Eizan.

And the Nakiri’s learn the truth of who Ryoma’s father is!

All this and more in volume 18 of “Food Wars! -Shokugeki no Soma”!

What is “Food Wars! – Shokugeki no Soma” about?

In 2012, writer Yuto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki created their manga series “Shokugeki no Soma” which continues to be serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump”.

The manga was voted #3 in the Nationwide Bookstore Employees “Recommend Comics of 2014” in Japan and voted #12 in the 2014 “Kono Manga ga Sugoi!” Top 20 Manga for Male Readers survey and continues to be a popular series in Japan.

With a total of eight tankobon volumes released in the U.S., Viz Media will be releasing the first manga volume titled “Food Wars! – Shokugeki no Soma” in North America in August 2014.

The series revolves around a young teen named Soma Yukihara who works for his father, chef Joichiro Yukihira, at their local restaurant.

Trained to cook at an early age and known for trying to combine various foods together as experiments, Soma has been known to cook dishes that make people feel they have tasted the best food ever to touch their tastebuds. But his goal is to someday beat his father in cooking.

But with landsharks trying to get control of the land to build condo units where the restaurant is located, one day while returning to the restaurant, everything inside is removed.

While Soma wants to rebuild, his father tells him that he will be closing the restaurant for two or three years to travel and as for Soma, he is enlisted in Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute where the elite of the elite attend and less than 10% of its students ever graduated.

But his father gives Soma a stern message, if he can’t make it at Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute, he will never beat him.

Determined to prove to his father that he can graduate as an elite cook, Soma is still looked down by his fellow students and faculty because unlike them, he is not wealthy and his family did not own a four or five star restaurant.

But Soma is determined to prove them wrong.

In volume 18, Soma finds himself in a challenge that his fellow dormmates of the Polaris Dorm are heavily depending on him.  As Soma is challenged by Totsuki’s Council of Ten’s Ninth Seat, Etsuya Eizan, Azami put the wager that if the Soma loses, the Polaris Dorm must shut down for good.

Meanwhile, this matchup opens the flood gates as Azami uses chefs from the Totsuki Council of Ten to help eliminate other cooking clubs at the academy in similar competitions.


As a big fan of manga series about food and the culinary industry, “Food Wars! -Shokugeki no Soma” is a series that I absolutely enjoy.

For one, you have an antagonist that was cooking since he was young, often experimenting on different foods, even know that all his combinations are not always successful. But he also was brought up in a family restaurant and has to attend a school of elitist who think their food is the greatest and that they are more refined because they are wealthy.

So, it’s pretty awesome to see how far these people will put him down and until they eat his food, their reaction, and probably this may be the best word to describe their reaction to his food as “orgasmic”.

With the 18th volume of “Food Wars! -Shokugeki no Soma”, Soma must take on Totsuki’s Council of Ten’s Ninth Seat, Etsuya Eiza. If he loses, the Polaris Dorm must shut down.

Knowing that the competition is rigged, as the judges are going to favor Eiza due to their relationship with Dean Nakiri, Soma must cook a dish to spectacular that it must beat Etsuya Eiza.  But can he do it?

As this matchup opens to foodgates, in order for Azami to gain complete control over the entire institute, he turns his eyes to the other research societies, seminars and other independently operating bodies with the intent of crushing them.  The Azami administration gets members from the top 10 seats to take on shokugeki matchups against these other societies to eliminate them.

Also, what happens when Dean Nakiri and also Erina learn the truth of who Soma’s father is.

For volume 18, the storyline by Yuto Tsukuda has been nothing short of enjoyable. This is a fun manga that left me craving for more and Shun Saeki’s artwork is energetic, fun and the more suggestive artwork that was seen in earlier volumes are not too extreme (in terms of fan service and sexuality).

Overall, “Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma” is a magnificent manga for those who love cooking, cooking competitions and underdogs faced with the challenges of taking on the top chefs at a prestigious cooking academy.  Highly recommended!

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Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign Vol. 12 (Story by Takaya Kagami, Art by Yamato Yamamoto, Storyboards by Daisuke Furuya) (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

June 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you have invested this much time in reading the first eleven volumes of “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign”, you will no doubt want to check out this latest twelfth volume.  More action and more revelations!  Check it out!

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© 2012 Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, Daisuke Furuya. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign Vol. 12

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Takaya Kagami, Art by Yamato Yamamoto, Storyboards by Daisuke Furuya

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

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

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Three months have passed since the invasion in Nagoya and Yuichiro, Mika and Shinoa Squad are all on the run from both the vampires and the humans! Just as they resolve to ask Krul Tepes for help, Ferid Bathory and Crowley Eusford intercept them with a suspicious proposal to become the group’s new best friends, bringing with them a special hostage for good measure and the secret of the true purpose of the Seraph of the End project.


It was revealed that humans were experimenting on people to create the weapon known as “Seraph of the End” and Guren Ichinose is revealed to be one.

As Yuichiro and his friends are able to escape and literally become fugitives of the Army, they find themselves being wanted by both sides.

But meanwhile, two top vampires, Ferid Bathory and Crowley Eusford are trying to meet up with them.  But why?

All this and more in the twelfth volume of Takaya Kagami and Yamato Yamamoto’s “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign”!

What is “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” all about?

In 2012, mangaka Takaya Kagami (“The Legend of the Legendary Heroes”), artist Yamato Yamamoto (“Kure-nai”, “Denpa Tei na Kanojo”) and storyboard artist Daisuke Furuya teamed up to work on the dark fantasy manga series “Owari no Serafu”.

The series which has a total of six tankobon volumes released in Japan, has been released in the U.S. courtesy of Viz Media with the title “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign”.

“Seraph of the End” began with an introduction of how an unknown virus brought the world to a sudden end. Only children under 13-years-old survived and those children were enslaved by vampires.

The story introduces us to an impulsive boy named Yuichiro Hyakuya who wants nothing more but to kill vampires. But his friend Mikaela Hyakuya is a boy who is more levelheaded and tries to get his friend to think straight and know they are not powerful enough to defeat them.

For Yuichiro, he wants nothing more but his fellow friends to escape captivity from the underground city of Sanguinem and reach the outside.

And one day, all of them decide to make their escape…but will they be successful?

In volume 2, Yuichiro Hyakuya wants nothing more but to get his revenge on the vampires who killed his friends, especially his best friend, Mikaela Hyakuya, who sacrificed his life in order for Yuichiro to escape.

Fast forward years later and as Yuichiro is wanting to become a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, the army responsible for fighting against the vampires, he needs to learn discipline and train for combat. But first he must go through the various tests in school which include being friends with others and being a team player, all are hard for Yuichiro to try and do.

But now is his chance to pass the test to advance, but it means having to partner with another hot-headed teen like himself, who doesn’t mind getting into brawls…Kimizuki.

Will Yuichiro, Kimizuki and Yoichi be ready for their next test?

Meanwhile, what happened to Mikaela Hyakuya after Yuichiro escaped from the Vampire lair has been revealed!

In volume 3, as the team has trained and learned to work together, Yuichiro, Yoichi, Kimizuki and Shinoa Hiragi are assigned a new leader named Mitsuba Sangu. An impulsive girl who is also the rival of Shinoa.

As the team goes on their first major mission to fight vampires in Harajuku, will they be ready or will their impulsiveness get in the way?

In volume 4, the Japanese Imperial Army are fighting in a losing battle against the Vampire nobles, a group that includes Yuichiro’s childhood friend Mika, who was changed into a vampire on that fateful day.

As Yuichiro and friends come to join the Japanese Imperial Army on the front lines, Yuichiro comes into contact with Mika for the first time.

But with Mika now a vampire and Yuichiro a vampire hunter, what will happen when these two friends see each other for the very first time since they were separated?

In volume 5, learning that Mika is alive and has been transformed into a vampire, Yuichiro wants nothing more but to help save his friend. But still, he must go through a interview to find out what happened that day he confronted Mika and if he has the resolution to slaughter vampires. Also, factions within the Japanese Imperial Demon Army want Yuichiro to join their faction.

Meanwhile, Yuichiro and crew learn more about their abilities and whether they are possession or manifestation type.

In volume 6, Yuichiro still trying to learn more about his special abilities, must find a way to get his cursed gear Asumaru to work with him.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, interesting partnerships or rivalries created within the ranks of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army and the vampires.

In volume 7, the Japanese Imperial Demon Army plans to launch a sneak attack on the vampire nobles and Yuichiro’s team must be ready to go into battle.

The problem is that they continue to work as individuals rather than a team and are not taking the attack as seriously as they should.

So, will they be ready to partake in this sneak attack?

In volume 8, the Japanese Imperial Demon Army goes on the offensive. And while Yuichiro’s team fared well, the other teams lost many of their soldiers in the war against the nobles.

But in order to make a strong statement of human vs. vampires, they must now launch a battle against the Thirteenth Progenitor vampire Crowley Eusford and nobles, Chess and Horn with whatever soldiers are remaining.

But will they be enough to defeat these powerful vampires?

In volume 9, Lt. Col. Guren Ichinose and Major General Shinya Hiragi were hoping to take down the powerful Thirteenth Progenitor vampire, Crowley Eusford and vampire nobles, Horn and Chess. But they never realized how powerful a vampire he truly is.

And now Guren and Shinya are on the losing end, can Yuichiro save Guren and what bond does Yuichiro have with Guren?

In volume 10, Lt. Col. Guren Ichinose and Major General Shinya Hiragi were hoping to take down the powerful Thirteenth Progenitor vampire, Crowley Eusford and vampire nobles, Horn and Chess. But didn’t realize how powerful he truly is and now Guren has been held captive.

Yuichiro and his team tried to pull off a rescue but Crowley, Horn and Chess showed their true power. In the process, the demon inside Yuichiro came out when he saw his team nearly being decimated.

Now, his family member turned vampire, Mikaela is determined to rescue him from the humans and vampires. But with the Japanese Imperial Army surrounding him, can he save Yuichiro?

And Mikaela reveals the truth of the “Seraph of the End”!

In volume 11, despite the revelation, Yuichiro wants to save Guren, as he feels that his humanity is still in tact. Meanwhile, Ferid Bathory and Crowley Eusford are up to something.

Yuichiro and his friends plus Mikaela must team up as the battle ahead will be deadly.

In volume 12, as Yuichiro, Mikaela and friends try to find a safe spot to evade both the army and the vampires, they are unaware that two of the top vampires are homing in on them.

And as Yuichiro and Mikaela try to put up a fight, Ferid (the vampire who is responsible for killing Yuichiro and Mikaela’s family and also transforming Mikaela into a vampire) pulls out the decapitated head of his family member, Akane.

This sends Yuichiro to demon mode once again and everyone is knowing that Yuichiro is losing his humanity the more he gives into the demon power.  What will happen during and after this confrontation?


As Mikaela continues to distrust humans, with Yuichiro convincing him to fight alongside his friends, who will also be his friends and that vampire and humans can co-exist, Yuichiro’s inner-demon is starting to consume him.

We have seen how bad it could get but this time, Ferid and Crowley are toying with Yuichiro for some apparent reason of trying to bring the demon out but also trying to give them a chance to survive.

But most importantly, Ferid reveals of who was responsible for the virus nearly killing all of humanity.

An action-packed volume, the latest twelfth volume of “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” shows us the battle between Ferid/Crowley vs. Yuichiro and friends. The storyline by Takaya Kagami is enjoyable, humorous and it has its dark, violent moments that easily drives up the ratings to “Older Teen” but for the most part, it’s not a horror manga series, nor is it too dark that it’s twisted or scary partly because of the comedy due to its hardheaded protagonist. The artwork by Yamato Yamamoto is well-done and characters are very expressive.

If you have invested this much time in reading the first eleven volumes of “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign”, you will no doubt want to check out this latest twelfth volume.  More action and more revelations!  Check it out!

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