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Initial D Legend 1: Awakening (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns. “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Initial D Legend 1: Awakening

DURATION: 60 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 L

Release Date: December 5, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Shigeno

Directed by Masamitsu Hidaka

Script by Mayori Sekijima

Music by Akio Dobashi

Character Design: Koji Haneda

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Chief Animation Director: Koji Haneda

Anime Production: LIDEN FILMS, SANZIGEN Animation Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mamoru Miyano/Joel McDonald as Takumi Fujiwara

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Ryōsuke Takahashi

Hiroaki Hirata/Bill Wise as Bunta Fujiwara

Hiroshi Tsuchida/Eric Vale as Kōichirō Iketani

Junichi Suwabe/Brian Mountbatten as Takeshi Nakazato

Maaya Uchida/Brina Palencia as Natsuki Mogi

Minoru Shiraishi/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Yūichi Nakamura/Gray G. Haddock as Keisuke Takahashi


In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING! Initial D Legend 2: Racer Preview.


For over 15 years, “Initial D” has been a favorite anime series for those interested in drag racing and drifting. Originally created by mangaka Shuichi Shigeno and serialized in Kodansha’s “Young Magazine” back in 1995 and still ongoing in Japan, the first season of “Initial D” was shown on television in 1998.

In 2014, it was announced that a new Initial D film would be released and it would be a three part story based on Shuichi Shigeno’s manga.

The movie is more or less a retelling of the earl stages of the manga and now “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The manga and anime is about Japanese street racing and focuses on a teenager named Takumi Fujiwara, son of Bunta Fujiwara, who owns a tofu shop. Takumi works at a gas station but when he’s at home, he delivers tofu at 4:00 a.m. and is known to speed through the mountain slopes of Mt. Akitna at high speed driving his father’s AE86 Trueno.

The purpose of this is that his father Bunta has wanted to develop his driving skills and sure enough, his skill is top notch.

But for Takumi, although he has been riding and delivery tofu for a long time and has sharp driving skills, driving fast and getting from point a to point b was merely doing it for his father and not for the sake of trying to race.

But when a well-known group of street racers known as the Akagi Red Suns come to visit Mt. Akina and Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns finds himself racing against a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 leaving Keisuke defeated.

Now fired up, Keisuke Takashi wants to know who drives the AE86 and wants to race him.

Meanwhile, the Akina Speed Stars are visited by Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi Redsuns for a joint race but in reality, its Keisuke’s challenge to whoever beat him with the AE86.

With news of an AE86 beating Keisuke Takahashi (as witnessed by Akina Speedstars leader, Koichiro Iketani), Bunta can’t help but talk about it.  But for Takumi, he has no idea with an AE86 is (unaware that the Trueno he drives is an AE86).

In dire need of a member who exceeds in downhill driving after their team leader Iketani gets involved in an accident. He learns from his boss at the gas station, Yuichi Tachibana, that the AE86 is a tofu delivery vehicle owned by Bunta Fujiwara. This leads to Iketani to plead with Bunta to race against Keisuke (unaware that Bunta is no longer delivering the food, nor does Iketani know that Takumi is Bunta’s son and is responsible for doing the deliveries).

Meanwhile, Takumi is getting closer to Natsuki and wants to take her out on a date and needs to borrow the Trueno AE86.  But his father said he can in one condition…he must use the car and race against Keisuke Takahashi.

Who will race for the pride of Akina against Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns?


VIDEO:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in 1080p High Definition and as one can expect from a newer film, the old artwork and CG that was utilized in the past has been modernized with better animation for the race scenes.  The character designs are much closer to the manga series and are well-shaded and the background artwork is also a major improvement.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The lossless audio features crystal clear audio and also utilizing the surround channels for the rev of engines and the squealing of tires but also outdoor ambiance.

It’s important to note that both Japanese and English voice actors from the past have all been replaced, with the exception of Joel McDonald who was the voice actor of Takumi Fujiwara, J. Michael Tatum who was the voice of Ryosuke Takahashi and Brina Palence (voice of Natsuki) in the original English dub soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with no significant special features but the teaser that was at the end of the Japanese credits for the film is featured.  Featuring the appearance of Myogi NightKids Takeshi Nakazato who no doubt wants to take on the person racing with an AE86.

EXTRAS:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Initial D” is an anime classic. I’ve watched this series when it first came out and I still don’t get bored by watching it. I’ve played the video games and there is something about the stoic underdog, Takumi Fujiwara, going from food delivery to become a top-notch racer.

But as the anime series was different and cut out a lot of backstory for the characters as featured in the manga.  And with the new “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” focused on the race between the Mt. Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns, the story doesn’t stray too much into backstories.

No focus on Natsuki’s major secret, no focus on Ryosuke’s brother Keisuke or their friend Kenji. Nor does the film get into nicknames such as Bunta’s “Ghost of Akina” or Ryosuke’s “White Comet of Akagi”.

This is a film that strictly gets to the race between both groups and who will be racing for the Mt. Akina Speed Stars against Ryosuke Takahashi and it’s an hour long film.

The Blu-ray features better artwork and background artwork, with the former respectful to the original manga series.  While the film in Japan featured a teaser for the second film at the end credits, that teaser has been made into a special feature.

Was there anything I didn’t like about the film?  Possibly the 60 minute duration, I felt that they could have added another 30 minutes at least because it was too short.  And because the film was released during the film’s 20th year anniversary, so I wish there were more special features included.

Overall, for those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns.

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

 

Shiver by Junji Ito (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

January 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love horror and you love manga, Junji Ito is the master of horror manga.  And “Shiver” which collects nine stories plus one bonus story is a fantastic manga collection worth owning and reading!

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Image courtesy of © Junji Ito 2015. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Shiver

STORY AND ART BY: Junjo Ito

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Viz Signature/VIZ Media

RATED: T for Older Teen

RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2017


A best-of story selection by the master of horror manga.

This volume includes nine of Junji Ito’s best short stories, as selected by the author himself and presented with accompanying notes and commentary. An arm peppered with tiny holes dangles from a sick girl’s window… After an idol hangs herself, balloons bearing faces appear in the sky, some even featuring your own face… An amateur film crew hires an extremely individualistic fashion model and faces a real bloody ending… An offering of nine fresh nightmares for the delight of horror fans.


For those not familiar with Junji Ito’s work, his work such as “Tomie”, “Umuzaki” and “Gyo” are horror manga that no doubt gives you the goose bumps.

From creepy plots to hair-raising expressions of characters, Ito is appreciated by manga readers for his terrifying manga stories.

And now a collection of short stories are featured in “Shiver”, a collection of nine of Ito’s best short stories selected by Ito and also comes with notes and commentary.

Featured are the following stories:

  • Used Record – What happens when a girl becomes entranced to a song on vinyl capturing death?
  • Shiver – What is wrong with the girl next door and why are holes developing all over her body?
  • Fashion Model – A filmwriter is having nightmares and when the director hires a popular model that looks like a demon, what happens when they head to film scenes in the woods?
  • Hanging Blimp – Heads are floating around the city with nooses and are chasing their real life counterparts.
  • Marionette Mansion – Children of a father who was a puppeteer wonder if the puppeteer controls the puppet or is it vice versa?
  • Painter – What happens when a mysterious woman goes to a famous painter and has her paint her?
  • The Long Dream – A woman is in the hospital scared to die, while another man in the hospital is having dreams that are lasting months.  What happens when a doctor does his research on both individuals?
  • Honored Ancestors – A girl has amnesia and a boy is trying to help her gain her memories back.
  • Greased – What happens when a family has oil and grease all over their homes and how does it affect them?
  • BONUS UNPUBLISHED STORY: Fashion Model: Cursed Frame – What happens when the demon model returns?

You have to give a lot of credit to Junji Ito.

From reading “Uzumaki”, I gained an appreciation of creating creepy horror stories and for the most part, there typically is no hope for the protagonist.  Typically, his stories showcase a cloud of darkness over a city, town or individual and you see stories like this manifest in his earlier short stories as well.

If I had to pick my favorite stories, I have to first say that every short story featured in “Shiver” are very good and considering they were chosen by Ito himself, these stories are downright freaky.

The scariest would have to be stories relating to the scary fashion model.  I was reading this story (and the second bonus story) probably around 1:00 a.m., lights off, just my reading flashlight on and I was creeped out by the way he was able to draw her, a tall female figure with a long face and shark teeth.

And everyone reacts to her as most people probably would and say she’s creepy and sure enough, when they say it, she happens to be right there and her response is not so kind.  It’s quite violent and bloody.

Speaking of violent and bloody, one who is scared of seeing depicted bloody scenes or body parts strewn around, have been cautioned because this book does feature some gnarly artwork on certain panels.

Even with taking something so basic and turning it into a horror story is quite creative as Ito takes “oil” and showcases a family where grease and oil is everywhere around and it starts to get in their clothes, their skin (giving one acne) and so much more.  It’s quite disgusting and probably while not plausible, it made me think for a little while of my deceased grandfather’s apartment reeking of smoke from him smoking cigarettes and just walking into the home for a few minutes, you would come out smelling like cigarettes.

For “Greased”, it was similar but it dealt with grease and the family would eventually be consumed by it in a deadly kind of way.

And I won’t discuss anymore because these stories are meant to be read and enjoyed.  And for some, creep you to the point where you may want to pee in your pants.

But know that if you love horror and you love manga, Junji Ito is the master of horror manga.  And “Shiver” which collects nine stories plus one bonus story is a fantastic manga collection worth owning and reading!

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The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 If you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

Image courtesy of © 2017 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One

DURATION: (12 Episodes) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: December 26, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Aso

Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai

Series Composition: Michiko Yokote

Music by Psychic Lover

Character Design: Masayuki Onji

Anime Production: EGG FIRM, J.C. STAFF


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Jerry Jewell as Kusuo Saiki

Ai Kayano/Tia Ballard as Kokomi Teruhashi

Daisuke Ono/David Wald as Riki Nendō

Haruka Tomatsu/Jamie Marchi as Kusuko Saiki (Female Form)

Kenji Nojima/Chris Patton as Kūsuke Saiki

Maaya Uchida/Megan Shipman as Chisato Mera

Masaya Matsukaze as Saiko Metori

Mitsuo Iwata/Chuck Huber as Kuniharu Saiki

Natsuki Hanae/Joel McDonald as Reita Toritsuka

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Micah Solusod as Shun Kaidō

Rikako Aikawa/Morgan Garrett as Kurumi Saiki

Satoshi Hino/Kyle Phillips as Kineshi Hairo

Showtaro Morikubo/Austin Tindle as Uryoku Chōno

Tomoaki Maeno as Makoto Teruhashi/Tōru Mugami

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Jarrod Greene as Aren Kuboyasu

Yukari Tamura/Jill Harris as Chiyo Yumehara


Saiki Kusuo is your typical 16-year-old high school student, except for one thing—he’s got psychic powers. Incredible ones. In fact, he’s so powerful, he could probably rule the world if he wanted to. Don’t be mistaken though, it’s really not as great as it sounds. After all, you wouldn’t want to hear the weird things people think or all the spoilers they know! And surprise parties? Forget about ’em.

No, this psychic genius is all about keeping a low profile. But high school isn’t about to let that happen. His quirky classmates and embarrassing parents just can’t leave him alone! He’s got the world at his fingertips, but the one thing he’ll never get…is a break.


Back in 2012, mangaka Shuichi Aso wrote and illustrated his gag manga series “Saiki Kusuo no Sai-nan” (The Disaster of Psi Kusuo Saiki).  The series received a serialization in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump” and a total of 23 manga volumes have been published.

The popularity of the manga series would eventually ensure an anime TV series in 2016 and since then a total of 24-compilation episodes have been released and each episode featuring six short episodes.

And now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation titled “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.”.  And will be released in two parts, each release featuring 12-episodes each.

The series is produced by J.C. Staff and EGG FIRM and is directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and written by Michiko Yokote.

The series revolves around Kusuo Saiki, a high school student who was born with psychic abilities and lives with his parents Kuniharu (a father who keeps sucking up to his employers) and his mother Kurumi (who can get very scary when her husband and son defy her).  Kusuo also has an older brother named Kusuke, who wears a “Telepath Canceler” on his head, so Kusuo can never read his thoughts.  But the two often argue of who is more intelligent, the psi user or the the intellectual inventor.

While his parents are normal humans but crazy, they accepted Saiki’s abilities for his special abilties.  Even though he was born reading and teleporting and being mature during the first year of his life as an infant.

As Kusuo became a teenager, he now wears two pink antennas on his head to limit his growing powers.  He has to wear glasses at all times to prevent people from turning into stone.   He never talks to anyone with his lips, he communicates telepathically.

And because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, his special abilities have given him misery and he tries to avoid any attention because he is a psychic.  He tries…

But somehow at P.K. Academy, he attracts the weirdest people.

  • Riki Nendo is a large and muscular student but very stupid.  So dumb that Kusuo can’t read his mind and it frustrates Kusuo because he can’t predict Nendo’s actions.
  • Shun Kaido is a know-it-all, conspiracy-loving person who calls himself “The Jet-Black Wings” and believes that the world is ruled by an evil organization known as Dark Reunion.
  • Kokomi Teruhashi is a girl who glows and considers herself “perfect” except by Saiki (who can read heer thoughts).  She is obsessed with tryin gto get Saiki to react to her, which he doesn’t.  And so it leads to her obsession towards him.
  • Kineshi Hairo is an energetic, sports-loving student who loves to motivate people.
  • Chiyo Yumehara – A romantic who always has painful experiences with guys.  She has a crush on Kusuo.
  • Reita Toritsuka – A psychic aware of Kusuo’s abilities.  He can see spirits and is haunted by the ghost of Nendo’s late father.

Will Kusuo be able to find a way to stay under the radar and not attract attention?


VIDEO:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed. Character designs are well-done and is respectful to Shuichi Aso’s manga series.  Background art is also well-painted for outdoor scenes but primarily the artwork is more focused on the characters and close-ups.  I didn’t notice any banding issues while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the series sounds good.  Surround channels is used sparsely, mainly for action sequences but it’s primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack.  Both Japanese and English voice acting are well done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (voice of Kusuo Saiki), Micah Solusod (voice of Shun Kaido) and David Wald (voice of Riki Nendo).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song

I first discovered “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” when I first played the video game “J-Stars Victory Vs.”.  I was curious about seeing this character with pink hair with antennas and he didn’t look like your typical Jump protagonist.

Fastforward a few years later and I finally got a chance to view the anime series and realized it’s probably one of the craziest mainstream Jump-related anime series I have seen.

The anime series revolves around a boy born with special abilities and because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, because he sees everyone past their true appearance and his powers can really endanger society, he tries to keep away from people and stay under the radar.

But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  Because he’s so aloof and quiet, he’s attracting the weirdest people at his high school and because he doesn’t give attention to the girls, a few of them have started to fall in love with Kusuo.

As for the series, these are episodes that contain six mini-stories each.  Some of them are continuations of each other but for the most part, these are episodes where Saiki has to use his powers for the greater good, well more often for his benefit in trying to drive people away from him.

But a typical episode would be like this.  For episode 11, the episode begins with a boy named Yuuta who believes Saiki is the superhero Ciderman No. 2 after seeing him use his special abilities, the next episode is about Kuniharu showing Saiki around his job at a manga editorial office, the next story features Yuuta and his family becoming Saiki’s new neighbor, the next episode features Saiki going to the summer festival and seeing one of the guys in school get pickpocketed, he becomes the next person to be robbed.  And in another episode, Kokomi and Chiyo meet each other and both wonder if the other likes Saiki.

These episodes are quite short at around four minutes each, but I enjoy the fact that each of these episodes explore the characters even more.  And yes, this is the first half of the series and character dynamics are important, but I did like how these stories build upon character introductions and mannerisms.  And to explore how crazy each of the characters are.

It’s a fun anime series so far and I look forward to watching and seeing how the anime series progresses.

The series looks vibrant and colorful on Blu-ray and the dialogue is crystal clear.  You get one audio commentary track and the opening and ending theme.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

 

Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Review)

December 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline. I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film! A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of  2018 © REKI KAWAHARA/PUBLISHED BY KADOKAWA CORPORATION ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO MOVIE Project. © RK/KC AMW/SM


TITLE: Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2017

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: December 19, 2017


Originally created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Scenario by Reki Kawahara, Tomohiko Ito

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima

Chief Animation Director: Shingo Adachi

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

CGI Director: Ryuta Undo

Director of Photography: Kentaro Waki

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Ann Williams as Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Andrew Gilbert Mills/Agil

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Shino Asada/Sinon

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Keiko Ayano/Silica

Sayaka Kanda/Ryan Bartley as Yuna

Takeshi Kaga/Jamieson Price as Professor Shigemura

Yoshio Inoue/Chris Patton as Eiji

Kouichi Yamadera/Marc Diraison as Akihiko Kayaba


After its overwhelmingly successful worldwide theatrical release, Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD!

The NerveGear, the world’s first dedicated full-dive device developed by the genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba in 2022…a revolutionary machine that opened up infinite possibilities for the world of VR (Virtual Reality). 4 years later…. A next-generation, wearable multi-device called the Augma has been released to compete with the NerveGear’s successor, the Amusphere. A cutting-edge machine boasting the ability to enhance AR (Augmented Reality) to the maximum, the Augma offers a safe, user-friendly experience, as it can be used while the player is awake, making it an instant hit. Its most popular title is an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma, “Ordinal Scale (a.k.a. OS).”

Kirito is about to join Asuna and the others as an Ordinal Scale player, but they’re about to find out that it isn’t all fun and games…


The year 2026.

Two years after the “Sword Art Online” fiasco perpetrated by SAO creator Akihiko Kayaba which left many gamers injured or dead, a new technology is to be released.  A technology that is thought to be safe and nothing like the Nerve Gear that was used in “Sword Art Online”.

Now people can use the Augma, the successor to the Amusphere full-dive system which allows a player to play a game that simulates reality while the player is conscious (via augmented reality).

And one of the popular games created for the Augma is “Ordinal Scale”.  A game which has quickly gain popularity that Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica are playing it, but surprisingly Kirito hasn’t jumped aboard to play the game just yet until now.

As people get into the game, part of the main appeal to “Ordinal Scale” is the game’s mascot, an AI idol singer named Yuna who appears during the game to increase the stats of players.

While everyone is playing, the #2 ranked player Eiji helps the Kirito, Asuna and team defeat the level boss but Eiji uses the words “switch”, a term that was used in SAO to Asuna.

Meanwhile, Asuna tells Kirito that Eiji is most likely a member of the Knights of the Blood Oath named Nautilus, Yui tells them that the appearance of Aincrad bosses in “Ordinal Scale” are similar to the line up with the SAO dungeon maps.

As Asuna goes to play the game with her friends again, immediately Yuna and Eiji appear and Eiji pushes Asuna towards the level boss.

When Asuna is hit, she passes out and suddenly, Asuna starts to realize that her memories from SAO are starting to disappear. Concerned, Kirito takes Asuna to the hospital to get checked out and it is learned that the Augma device has scanned her brain for SAO memories, and it may have happened to other SAO players that are playing “Ordinal Scale”.

With Asuna’s memory loss of SAO, that means her memories of her friends, but most importantly her memories of Kirito will disappear.

A desperate Kirito tries to search for answers and promises that he will do whatever he can to get Asuna’s memories back.  But what will his search unveil?

What is “Sword Art Online”?

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of “Accel World” would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and featuring the art work of abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012. The series has since spawned a total of ten manga adaptations. The anime series produced by A-1 Pictures was released in Japan between July and December 2012 and airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami in July 27, 2013.  And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television.  And since then a TV special has been released.

In addition, a total of ten video games have been released and it was announced that an American live-action TV adaptation of “Sword Art Online” is being created.

And the animated film “Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale” was produced by A-1 Pictures and was directed by Tomohiko Ito and was released in Japan, Southeast Asia and Germany back in February 2017.

In the first series, Kirito and Asuna have become an online couple and while Kirito was able to succeed and free everyone by defeating the final boss of “Sword Art Online”, he has been utilized by law enforcement to assist in troubles that have affected users (as seen in “Sword Art Online II”).

In reality, Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) and Asuna Yuuki (Asuna) have continued their relationship outside of the game.  Asuna dreams of marrying Kazuto and having a family with him in the future.

And with the 2017 animated film “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, with Asuna’s memories of SAO fading, the dreams of her and Kirito being together may now be in jeopardy.


VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you. Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue and musical soundtrack are crystal clear in English and Japanese, while action sequences utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline – Ordinal Scale – (14:27) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the film.
  • PV & CM Colletions
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by the Japanese staff.  Yoshitsugu Tomatsu (Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna) and Tomohiko Ito (Director)

EXTRAS:

This limited Edition of “Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale” contains a Bonus Music CD, 60-page deluxe booklet, Bushiroad’s Weiß Schwarz Exclusive Collectible PR Card (while supplies last), and rigid box.


If there is one thing that “Sword Art Online” has proved over the years, that Reki Kawahara’s light novels and the anime adaptation inspired from it, are popular among many fans worldwide.

I had no doubt in my mind that “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” would do well as a theatrical release, not just in Japan but other countries worldwide, especially the United States.

Considering the film is not a Studio Ghibli film or an animated film with no Disney or Hollywood movie studio connect, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” grossed $1.35 million in the first four days of its North American run.

In fact, the film set an opening weekend record for an Aniplex of America theatrical release and has played in 560 theaters nationwide.

And that is for a film that debuted in American theaters with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles.  And for those who dislike reading during their films, Aniplex of America will be releasing the film with an English dub soundtrack in April 2017 for a limited theatrical engagement.

Watching “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, it has everything that fans have loved in the series.  A lot of action, a lot of humor but also emotional drama as viewers have watched and seen the relationship between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna evolve and in this film, you really see how far their love for each other has blossomed.  And so, this film has become a fight for love and Kazuto doing all that is necessary to make sure that the young woman he loves is saved from losing her memories due to a new threat.

Fans will also love seeing characters from the past making their appearance in the video game but one will no doubt be anticipating the next SOA storyline as the ending teaser (after all the credits are done) shows us another menacing threat that will surely surprise fans of the series.

Animation is fantastic as A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with capturing emotion in the faces of the characters but also within action sequences.  Voice acting is wonderful for both Japanese and English soundtracks.

If there was anything that I didn’t get into all that much in regards to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is the overuse of AI idol singer Yuna (but I know that is quite subjective to the viewer).

Music plays a big part in the film and where idol singers through battle is something we are accustomed to seeing in “Macross” anime series or film, it was not something I expected all that much in “Sword Art Online” and felt it was done a little bit too much for my tastes but at the same time, I’m sure it benefits Aniplex for music soundtrack sales and I’m sure fans who loved the music in the film will no doubt be wanting the soundtrack.

The film looks fantastic and vibrant on Blu-ray, while the soundtrack is is presented in both Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and dialogue and musical score are crystal clear.  Surround channels are well-utilized during the action sequences.

And for special features, you get the audio commentary and special short animation of “Sword Art OFFline”.  But for the hardcore fans who love the music for the film, the musical soundtrack for “Ordinal Scale” is included.  As well as an awesome 60-page deluxe booklet!

I absolutely enjoyed “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” but I do recommend people who know nothing about the series to at least watch the SAO series before jumping into the film.

Overall, I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline.  I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film!

A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

 

Mob Psycho 100 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Mob Psycho 100” was one of the coolest, wildest and craziest anime series I have watched in 2017.  From ONE, the creator of “One-Punch Man”, this is a different but equally enjoyable anime series worth watching and one that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mob Psycho 100

DURATION: (12 Episodes) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: December 5, 2017


Originally Created by ONE

Directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa

Series Composition: Hiroshi Seko

Music by Kenji Kawai

Character Design: Yoshimichi Kameda

Art Director: Ryo Kono

Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi

Director of Photography: Mayuko Furumoto

Anime Production: Bones


Featuring the following voice talent:

Setsuo Ito/Kyle McCarley as Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama

Akio Ohtsuka/Michael Sorich as Ekubo

Atsumi Tanezaki/Cherami Leigh as Tome Kurata

Ayumi Fujimura/Abby Trott as Ichi Mezato

Hiroyuki Kagura as Daichi Shiratori/Kaito Shiratori

Kōhei Amasaki/Chris Hackney as Takeshi Hoshino

Miyu Irino/Max Mittelman as Ritsu Kageyama

Rumi Ookubo/Cristina Vee as Ishiguro

Sanae Fuku/Mela Lee as Rei Kurosaki

Takahiro Sakurai/Chris Niosi as Arataka Reigen

Toshihiko Seki/Patrick Seitz as Musashi Goda

Uki Satake/Ryan Bartley as Tsubomi Takane

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Xander Mobus as Sakurai/Tenga Onigawara

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Erik Scott Kimerer as Teruki Hanazawa

Yūsuke Kuwahata/Bobby Thong as Gou Asahi


Mob is an 8th grader with powerful psychic abilities who wants to be normal. When not exorcising evil spirits he attempts to suppress his powers, causing stunted emotions. But when he hits 100 percent, his pent-up feelings unleash a dark power.


Manga artist ONE became viral when his webcomic series “One-Punch Man” debuted.  While it had no official publisher and his art for the most part was quite rough, when the manga was remade into a digital manga illustrated by Yusuke Murata (best known for “Eyeshield 21”) and was serialized in “Weekly Young Jump”.

As ONE would become popular worldwide, he would go on to create another series from 2012-2017 titled “Mob Psycho 100”, which was serialized on the online version “Weekly Shonen Sunday” site, “Ura Sunday”.

With a total of 15 manga volumes published, a one season anime series which aired in July-September 2016 and a live action TV drama starting in January 2018, “Mob Psycho 100” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The anime series revolves around Shigeo Kagayama, who looks like an average boy and is given the nickname “Mob” (which means “background character” in Japanese).

While Mob may look nerdy and weak, the truth is that he is a powerful Esper.

Mob works for Arataka Reigen, a self-proclaimed psychic but in truth, he is a con artist who happens to excel in persuasion and perception but also quite clever and agile, with a lot of skills that makes one wonder if he’s a very skilled person.  Who happens to also be Mob’s mentor.

And through Reigen, Mob has learned one important lesson from his master and that is to never use his Esper abilities against anyone.

Partly becomes if Mob’s feelings reach 100%, he is overcome with a strong emotion that makes him unable to control his powers and he literally becomes a black-souled being that can destroy and hurt people.

And his younger brother Ritsu had witness this.  Ritsu is different from Mob that he exceeds in athletics and academically.  He is taller, more handsome and popular.  But he wishes he has his brothers psychic power and is often envious of his older brother.

Meanwhile, Mob runs to various obstacles, from ghosts to other ESPers that want to fight him and with Mob trying to control his emotions and keeping to the promise to never use his powers on anyone living, how will things turn out for Mob when the going gets rough?

What happens when Mob meets an upper class evil spirit named Dimple who can possess the bodies of others?  And what happens when Mob confronts a “hidden boss” named Teruki Hanazawa whose intent is to beat Mob to a pulp.

And just when things are starting to get peaceful, what happens when Ritsu’s ESPer power starts to develop and an evil ESPer organization known as Claw starts to reveal themselves?


VIDEO:

“Mob Psycho” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed. Character designs are fantastic and are respectful to ONE’s original digital manga (with better detail of course).  But the series looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Mob Psycho” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English 5.1. Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music along with wonderful sound effects during the more action-driven scenes that utilize the surround channels.  And both the Japanese and English soundtrack, the voice actors were well-cast for both.  And as for the English dub, I have to say that I noticed names for the English dub that I have heard before and the casting was wonderful because I found Kyle McCarley’s Mob and Chris Niosi for Arataka Reigen.

I suppose I have been critical of Funimation in the past for using the same voice actors over and over for various anime series and as talented as they are, I don’t want to hear that same voice for every character because an ADR director felt comfortable with that person and wanted to use them for every series.  Lately, Funimation has been doing a great job of stepping outside of that circle, casting new talent and this is a series indicative of that.  Great casting and the English dub voice actors on this series did a wonderful job!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mob Psych0 100.” comes with the following special features:

  • Mob Psycho Shorts – (39:54) 8-bit video-game like animation featuring the “Mob Psycho 100” characters.
  • Promo Video
  • Flipbook Video
  • Commercials
  • Textless Closing Song

I’m not sure how often I come across an anime series that captivates your attention through fascinating characters, wild concepts and surreal plotlines, but “Mob Psycho 100” does just that.

A story of a teen trying to keep his powers in check and to not bring his emotions up to 100%, he has shut his emotions, not have had any social interactions and has pretty much kept to himself.

But despite not having any friends and not having any true skills (beyond his ESPer powers), he does want to improve his life and be better.

But lately Mob is learning that he is not the only ESPer in town and there are many out there like him, those who have yet to make a decision of how they would use their powers for good, others for evil.

What makes this series work is that it’s wild, crazy and a whole lot of fun.  The many characters at first was a cause of worry because there are many of them, but the way the series is able to develop these characters and build them into the story was done well.  So, big credit to Hiroshi Seko for the overall series composition.

But I absolutely was proud of the direction from Yuzuru Tachikawa of making this series faithful to ONE’s original works.  It has that crazy, wild style of “ONE-PUNCH MAN” but it’s so much different and refreshing that I had a lot of fun watching this anime series.  No doubt one of the best anime series I have watched in 2017.

As for the Blu-ray, the anime series is vibrant in HD and the lossless soundtrack is wonderfully done, with the voice acting for both Japanese and English dub soundtrack to be exceptional.

And you also get numerous extras such as Mob Psycho Shorts, promo videos, flipbook videos and more.

Overall, “Mob Psycho 100” was one of the coolest, wildest and craziest anime series I have watched in 2017.  From ONE, the creator of “One-Punch Man”, this is a different but equally enjoyable anime series worth watching and one that I highly recommend!

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

December 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a magnificent, classic James Cameron sci-fi action film.  And as the film had various releases on DVD and Blu-ray, unfortunately this is not the perfect 4K Ultra HD release that fans may have wanted.  The film would stand on its own but this 4K Ultra HD release defeats the point of being a great release with the overuse of DNR.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lionsgate. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1991

DURATION: 137 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition, 2:40:1 aspect ratio, English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, German 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  SUBTITLES: English, Spanish, French and German Subtitles

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Strong Sci-Fi Action and Violence and For Language)

RELEASE DATE: December 26, 2017


Directed by James Cameron

Written by James Cameron, William Wisher

Producer: James Cameron

Executive Producer: Gale Ann Hurd, Mario Kassar

Co-Producer: Stephanie Austin, B.J. Rack

Music by Brad Fiedel

Cinematography by Adam Greenberg

Edited by Conrad Buff IV, Dody Dorn, Mark Goldblatt, Richard A. Harris

Casting by Mali Finn

Production Design by Joseph C. Nemec III

Art Direction by Joseph P. Lucky

Set Decoration by John M. Dwyer

Costume Design by Marlene Stewart


Starring:

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor

Edward Furlong as John Connor

Robert Patrick as T-1000

Earl Boen as Dr. Silberman

Joe Morton as Miles Dyson

S. Epatha Merkerson as Tarissa Dyson

Castuolo Guerra as Enrique Salceda

Danny Cooksey as Tim

Jenette Goldstein as Janelle Voight

Xander Berkeley as Todd Voight


Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator in this explosive action-adventure spectacle. Now he’s one of the good guys, sent back in time to protect John Connor, the boy destined to lead the freedom fighters of the future. Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor, John’s mother, a quintessential survivor who has been institutionalized for her warning of the nuclear holocaust she knows is inevitable. Together, the threesome must find a way to stop the ultimate enemy: the T-1000, the most lethal Terminator ever created. Co-written, produced, and directed by James Cameron (THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, TITANIC), this visual tour de force is also a touching human story of survival.


For those who grew up during the early years of cable television, James Cameron’s 1984 film “Terminator” shocked and electrified audiences with its special effects and the film’s final scenes.

When it was announced that a sequel was being planned and would be released in 1991, bringing back Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as the Terminator and Linda Hamilton, reprising her role as Sarah Connor.

Suffice to say, the second installment of the “Terminator” franchise didn’t disappoint.  Earning $523.7 million in the box office, which was a huge box office success and earning critical acclaim.

The film would also star a young Edward Furlong (“Detroit Rock City”, “American History X”), Robert Patrick (“The Faculty”, “The Marine”, “Charlie’s Angels”) and Joe Morton (“Justice League”, “Paycheck”, “Speed”) and the film has been released on video via theatrical version, special edition and extended special edition on VHS, LD, DVD, Blu-ray and now on 4K Ultra HD.

And I will be reviewing the 4K Ultra HD version.  It’s important to note that the 4K Ultra HD version features the original theatrical version, but it’s included Blu-ray includes all three versions of the film.

The film is set in 1995, John Connor (portrayed by Edward Furlong) is living with his foster parents and tends to get into trouble.  Meanwhile, his mother, Sarah (portrayed by Linda Hamilton) was arrested and imprisoned at a mental hospital after attempting to bomb a computer factory.

Prior to that, John’s mother had been preparing him for his role as the Human Resistance Leader against Skynet, the artificial intelligence that will be given control of the United States nuclear missile technology and would initiate a nuclear holocaust known as “Judgment Day” on August 29, 1997.

With 3 billion humans killed, Skynet would create robots known as Terminators to kill humankind.  But fighting them is the Human Resistance and in the future, John sends a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger) to find and protect his younger self back in 1995.

But Skynet sends a new Terminator known as T-1000 back in time to kill John Connor and this time, the Terminator is made out of mimetic poly-alloy (liquid metal), so this new Terminator can take any shape and appearance and make any part of its body a weapon.  In this case, transforming his arms into blades.

The Terminator T-800 is able to trackdown John, who is running away from the T-1000 Terminator disguised as a police officer.  Because the Terminator follows John’s instructions, fearing that the T-1000 will kill his mother, John orders the Terminator to help him rescue his mother Sarah.

As the two are able to free Sarah, she is intent in finding Miles Bennett Dyson (portrayed by Joe Morton), the Cyberdyne Systems engineer responsible for creating Skynet.

But hot on their trail is the T-1000 intent in killing all of them.

Can Sarah, John and the T-800 survive against the T-1000?


VIDEO:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is presented in 4K Ultra High Definition ala 2160p 4K Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).

Picture quality was a bit of a surprise.  Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) was utilized for the clean up for the video and so, the film is devoid of the grain that it previously incorporated.  While casual viewers probably may not be able to tell, videophiles will notice the change in details as picture quality is a bit waxy.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio quality is very good with an English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack and a German 6.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack.  With the high level of action featured in this film, may it be the T-800 vs. the T-1000 or the Terminator taking on the police with machine guns ablazing, this is no doubt an immersive action-driven soundtrack.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” comes with the following special features (on the Blu-ray Disc):

  • T2: Reprogramming the Terminator – The Making of T2 Documentary from 1993 – (30:54) The original “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” documentary from 1993.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Audio commentary – (3:13) Two deleted scenes with optional audio commentary from James Cameron.

EXTRAS:

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray disc and an UltraViolet Digital HD code (Theatrical Version).


“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is one of those films that I watch often, mainly because it’s a film that brings me a lot of memories.

Going out on a movie date with my girlfriend, who would eventually become my wife.  Purchasing the film on VHS, LD, DVD, multiple times on Blu-ray and now once again watching it on 4K Ultra HD.

Of all the “Terminator” film installments, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” resonates strongly for its storyline and character portrayals and it was an amazing follow-up to the first film.  It was James Cameron’s story, his vision and executed his way.  As for the other films that came after, unfortunately, other films were quite forgetful.

It’s a shame that director James Cameron never came back to “Terminator” soon after the 1991 release, but he, Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will be back with the sequel to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” in 2019 and for me, I just want to see the “Terminator” series done right and with James Cameron back, perhaps this is what the franchise had needed long ago.

But as I watch this film again, I still enjoyed it like I did when I was in my teens.  It’s an awesome sci-fi action film that builds upon the original and while there are plenty of action sequences, in today’s cinema world, which dominates many action films over its plot, Cameron wrote a film that balances its action with a storyline that matters.  A storyline that captivates you and a storyline that no doubt took advantage of the special effects of its time in its full efficacy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was fantastic as the reprogrammed T-800 trying to protect a young John Connor while helping his toned mother, Sarah, portrayed by the toned, muscular Linda Hamilton showing us that she has become a strong female character that can kick a lot of arse. I remember watching her scenes and being amazed of how much she worked out for this film and at the time, showing us a strong female character that took matter into her own hands in order to get the job done.  That was really rare to see in the early ’90s.

You then had the debut of Edward Furlong who had a promising outlook to another young actor at the time, Leonardo DiCaprio but both with two different outcomes in their personal life and acting career.  And sure enough, it was James Cameron’s 1997 “Titanic” film starring DiCaprio that would shoot the young actor’s career into superstardom.  And you had Robert Patrick in one of the coolest antagonist roles at the time.

The film just worked as the action and storyline went smoothly but what James Cameron has planned for the next film, will be exciting to see.  And I look forward to seeing it.

As awesome this film was and how many times I have owned it, I have been looking forward to this 4K Ultra HD version.  As much as I enjoy this film, there are a few problematic things with this release that prevents it from being a five-star release.  All three films are presented in this release, but only on the Blu-ray disc.  The 4K Ultra HD version only showcases the original theatrical version.

The next unfortunate part of this release is the choice to utilize DNR to strip the film’s grain and for videophiles who care about picture quality, this is a no-no.  When you remove the DNR, things look waxy and this may be fine for the casual viewer but for those who invested in 4K Ultra HD, the experience in watching these films in the best way and as close to the original presentation is important.  So, why the choice to use DNR, I am not sure but it affected the picture quality of this release.

But again, all is not lost, as you do get the three versions: theatrical, special edition and extended special edition on the Blu-ray disc and you do get an UltraViolet Digital HD code for the theatrical version.

As for lossless audio, the film sounds great especially how immersive things become during the more action-driven scenes in the film.  So, that’s a plus!

As for special features, the original 1991 documentary and two deleted scenes with optional commentary can be found on the Blu-ray disc.

Overall, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a magnificent, classic James Cameron sci-fi action film.  And as the film had various releases on DVD and Blu-ray, unfortunately this is not the perfect 4K Ultra HD release that fans may have wanted.  The film would stand on its own but this 4K Ultra HD release defeats the point of being a great release with the overuse of DNR.

 

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Vol. 26 by Shinobu Ohtaka (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The storyline has built up for many, many volumes for this battle that many readers have anticipated. How it was going to go down, no one knew but after reading this volume, this build up for an intense battle against Hyakuryu and Judar was no doubt entertaining and action-packed. Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” vol. 26 is highly recommended!

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Image courtesy of © 2009 Shinobu Ohtaka. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Vol. 26

STORY AND ART BY: Shinobu Ohtaka

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shonen Sunday

RATED: T for Teen

RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017


Gyokuen, the current Empress of Kou, continues to drive much of the turmoil that has upset the balance of power among nations. Alibaba and Aladdin head for the Kou Empire to try to speak to Hakuryu, but their friend has become one of the Fallen, consumed by his thirst for revenge. What will become of the Kou Empire and of the world now?


The kingdom is headed to an all out war.    Hakuryu has been consumed by darkness and with his magi Judar, his first goal is to kill his evil mother Gyokoen and next, he has his eyes set on Lord Koen.

Meanwhile, Alibaba and Aladdin travel to Rakusho, the Capital of Kou in hopes to stop Hakuryu from all this madness, but instead it becomes a heated battle between between Alibaba vs. Hakuryu and Aladdin vs. Judar.

Who will emerge triumphant from this battle?

All this and more in the 26th volume of Shinobu Ohtaka’s hit manga, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”!

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become 22 volume manga series and also a 22-episode anime series.

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 17 volumes) and an anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a new second season which has aired in Japan.

In volume 24 of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the story introduces readers to the distant past. David has abandoned his base to attack the others and people are worried if they would survive.

Solomon wants to ensure his wife, the pregnant Falan will survive and so Solomon and one of the great (yet no confident) magoi users, Ugo try to stave off the attack. But when they leave the barrier, they find some of their own outside the barrier burned to death.

In order to save others, Solomon makes the decision to sacrifice himself but to also split his power and divide them among the intelligent beings.

But we see what this sacrifice has done in the long run but most importantly, how this decision would affect the young Aladdin.


The main characters of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” are:

    • Aladdin – A young magi who doesn’t know too much about himself or the outside world. But he’s kind and goodhearted and wants to protect the people he cares about. When he blows into a flute, a headless blue giant named Ugo comes out.
    • Alibaba – A thief who appears to have a mysterious background that befriends Aladdin.
    • Morgania – A slave who comes from a country of people known for their superior leg strength and speed. She is the slave of the tyrant, Lord Jamil.
    • Amon – A djinn with fire elemental powers contained in Alibaba’s training sword.
    • Sinbad – The King of Sindria and leader of the Alliance of the Seven Seas. He has sailed the seven seas and captured seven dungeons and is a master of seven djinn.
    • Masrur – A Fanalis who works for Sinbad and trains Morgiana in hand to hand combat.
    • Ja’far – A former assassin who becomes loyal to Sinbad.
    • Hakuryuu Ren – The fourth prince in the Kou Empire who becomes an ally of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgianna but has gone a major transformation.
    • Judar – An evil Magi working for Al-Thamen. Raised by Al-Thamen after the organization killed his parents

We have read for volumes of how Judar is evil, while Aladdin is the naive but respectful young magi and watched as Aladdin and Alibaba have grown together.  Taking on various adversaries but also having to watch as their once companion and friend, Hyakuryu has worked hard to become a leader.

But unfortunately, that drive for power has consumed Hyakuryu and by making Judar his magi, he has descended into pure darkness and has been wanting to take over the kingdom and mold it to his own way.  Controlling everyone to do what he wants and he has literally become evil.

Aladdin and Alibaba are not aware of how much he has descended and so they want to make one peaceful reunion with him and to stop an all-out war.  But by doing that, Haykuryu has declared Alibaba and Aladdin his enemies and immediately tries to slay them on the spot, leading to one of the most heated battles that one will read in “Magi: The Labyrinth”.

It’s one thing to see a shocking, violent death of a character in the first few pages but this battle between Alibaba vs. Hyakuryu and Aladdin and Judar is just intense and it will no doubt carry on to volume 27.

This was no doubt one of the most shocking volumes I have read thus far of the series.

The artwork and storytelling by Shinobu Ohtaka is magnificent and the storyline has built up for many, many volumes for this battle that many readers have anticipated.  How it was going to go down, no one knew but after reading this volume, this build up for an intense battle against Hyakuryu and Judar was no doubt entertaining and action-packed.

Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” vol. 26 is highly recommended!

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Black Clover vol. 9 by Yuki Tabata (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love action, humor and a manga series that features a lot of characters (similar to “Shonen Jump” titles such as “Bleach”, “Naruto”, “Dragon Ball Z” and “One Piece”), Yuki Tabata’s “Black Clover” is highly recommended! It’s a manga full of heart, hope and action!

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Image courtesy of © 2015 by Yuki Tabata. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: Black Clover vol. 9

STORY AND ART BY: Yuki Tabata

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shueisha

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Shonen Jump

RATED: T for Teen

Available on November 7, 2017


With the battle for the water temple finally over, the Black Bulls return home to the Clover Kingdom as heroes. But more trouble is on the horizon when the Diamond Kingdom launches an invasion! Can Yuno and the Golden Dawn repel the invading mages?


It’s the conclusion of the battle between Asta and Vetto of the Eye of the Midnight Sons.  While Vetto plans to destroy everyone with despair, Asta’s suffers major injuries, but will he be able to defeat Vetto in his state?

Meanwhile, the Diamon Unit has attacked the town of Kiten.  Why is the Diamond Kingdom on the attack?  And will Yuno and the Golden Dawn be enough to take down the generals of the Diamond Kingdom?

Find out what happens in vol. 9 of Yuki Tabata’s hit manga series, “Black Clover”!

What is “Black Clover” about?

In 2015, Yuki Tabata made his debut with the manga series “Black Clover”.

Serialized in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump”, with a total of seven volumes published in Japan (as of August 2016), the first volume is available in the US courtesy of Viz Media.

“Black Clover” revolves around two orphans, Asta and Yuno.

Yuno is the wielder of the four-leaf grimoire and has the power of wind-based magic and has great potential.

Meanwhile, no one sees Asta as one with potential as he has no magic powers at all and he talks about one day becoming the Wizard King, which makes many people laugh.

But Asta uses his fighting prowess and physical strength in order to make him stronger and he is determined. One day, a grimoire shows up for Asta during a battle and he immediately becomes the wielder of the five-leaf clover grimoire.

But because he is not a magic wielder, he is seen as the lowest of the magic knights.

As Yuno becomes a member of the Golden Dawn Squad, Asta is assigned to Yami Sukehiro’s Black Bull Squad, known as the worst squad of the Magic Knights.

How will Asta do on missions with his team of misfits?

In vol. 9, Asta must do all that he can to defeat Vetto of the Eye of the Midnight Suns.  Vetto is intent of destroying people with despair.  With his arms scorched and bones broken, can Asta manage to defeat Vetto in his state?

Also, generals of the Diamond Kingdom leads an attack on the town of Kiten.  The Golden Dawn answers the call to take them on but can Yuno and the others defeat them?


With the ninth volume of “Black Clover”, in some ways, the manga returns back to its roots, back when Asta and Yuno were featured.

In the case of the first storyline, it concludes the Asta vs. Vetto storyline as Asta is probably in the most busted up state we have ever seen him, but his determination is always strong.  Can he defeat Vetto with his arms pretty much in the terrible shape?

And in the second storyline, we see Yuno and his Golden Dawn team trying to protect the town of Kiten from the onslaught of the Diamon Kingdom’s army.  And we get to see Asta and Yuno reunite briefly, which will no doubt entertain fans.

But the next storyline will no doubt focus on Asta’s injuries, as he suffers terrible injuries that he may never heal from.  But where most people may give up, for those who have read “Black Clover” through volume 9 will already know, Asta never gives up.  He always finds a way!

So, this ninth volume is action-packed throughout!  We also get to see who’s behind the mask for Vangeance and we get to see how Finral and his brother Langris are.

If I had to say anything negative, which I really don’t but if I had to think of one thing that may be problematic for a few readers, I think the sheer amount of characters featured may confuse some people, because “Black Clover”, similar to a story like “Naruto” or even “Fairy Tail” includes many different factions, guilds or units, per se.  And with that, it means many characters will be featured.  And this ninth volume features many characters.

As far as Tabata’s character designs and artwork for “Black Clover”, Yuki has a pretty cool style of character designs and I found his art style unique, fresh and great to see.

He definitely manages to fit a lot into a panel. And the fact that the art is by him and he writes the stories, it’s going to be interesting to see how far he’ll take this series. Definitely a mangaka with plenty of potential and a series that can really become a long-lasting manga series.

Overall, if you love action, humor and a manga series that features a lot of characters (similar to “Shonen Jump” titles such as “Bleach”, “Naruto”, “Dragon Ball Z” and “One Piece”), Yuki Tabata’s “Black Clover” is highly recommended!  It’s a manga full of heart, hope and action!

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