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

November 23, 2009 by  



Based on the popular Top Cow comic book series, which means…plenty of action, scantily clothed women and a well-endowed protagonist, need I say more?  For those looking for an action-driven anime series on Blu-ray, “Witchblade: The Complete Series” is definitely for you!

Images courtesy of  © 2006 Top Cow Productions, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Witchblade – The Complete Series

DURATION: 24 Episodes (600 Minutes)

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9, Dolby True HD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: November 3, 2009

 

Originally Created by Michael Turner, Marc Silvestri

Directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi

Series Composition/Script by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Masanori Takumi

Character Design by Makoto Uno

Art Director: Junichi Higashi

Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa

Executive Producer: Koji Kajita

Producer: Osamu Nagai, Shin Hieda, Tsuyoshi Okazaki

Anime Production by GONZO

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Akemi Kanda/Carrie Savage as Rihoko “Rico” Amaha

Mamiko Noto/Jamie Marchi as Masane Amaha

Masaya Matsukaze/Robert McCollum as Yusuke Tozawa

Mie Sonozaki/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Reina “Lady” Shoho

Nana Mizuki/Monica Rial as Maria

Rikiya Koyama/Mark Stoddard as Reiji Takayama

Shinji Ogawa/R. Bruce Elliott as Tatsuoki Furumizu

Shizuka Itou/Trina Nishimura as Shiori Tsuzuki

Kent Williams/Kazuhiro Nakata as Masayo Wado

Jerry Russell/Shouto Kashii  as Mr. Cho

Lauri Steele/Maiko Itou as Mariko Natsuki

Sought by the greed of Men since the dawn of Humankind, but only bestowed upon the woman whose fate it forever scars – the Witchblade.

Is it the Righteous Sword of God, or the Hand of the Devil Himself? Now a new bearer has been chosen and she must discover the answers for herself. As she stands on the brink of destiny, she is forced to seek the balance between ecstasy and ruin… Masane Amaha is a woman on the fringe of society, bouncing rootless from town to town with her daughter, Rihoko. She struggles to build a life for her family, with no memory of the past and no clue as to what the future holds. But upon their arrival back in Tokyo forces conspire to separate parent from child, unleashing the fury of the Witchblade. The young mother will find herself conscripted into the service of the Doji Group and hunted down by the emissaries of the NSWF, Masane will find herself an unwilling ground zero for the swelling chaos fast approaching.

 

Based on the popular Top Cow comic book series, which means…plenty of action, scantily clothed women and a well-endowed protagonist, need I say more?  For those looking for an action-driven anime series on Blu-ray, “Witchblade: The Complete Series” is definitely for you!

“Witchblade” was created in 1995 by Marc Silvestri and David Wohl and was published by Top Cow Productions.  The series was quite popular as a 23-episode television series adaptation was featured on TNT in 2001 followed up by an 24-episode anime television series created by Japanese animation studio GONZO in 2004.

The series is a separate story from the original comic book series as it focuses on a character named Masane Amaha.  The series takes place six years after Tokyo was leveled by a massive earthquake.

Two people survived the epicenter known as Ground Zero: Masane Amaha and a little girl named Rihoko which Masane has raised as her own daughter. Unfortunately, with their return to Tokyo, the National Scientific Welfare Foundation have been trying to take Rihoko away from Masane because Masane shows no signs of financially taking care of her, so the NSWF wants to give Rihoko a proper home.

Meanwhile, the NSWF and the Doji Group have been after the witchblade and have kept their eye on Masane as she shown signs of wielding and become a witchblade and because of the fact that after the great earthquake, she was among the two (along with Rihoko) that survived in “Ground Zero”.  These two groups are now after the Witchblade.

As the main storyline features a good number of action as the two groups do what they can to acquire the witchblade capture Masane, the main storyline of the anime series of Witchblade is about a mother who wants to be normal and raise her daughter but also knows that  the witchblade’s power is literally destroying her body body and she is succumbing to its power.  Masane does all she can to rid of the witchblade but will she be able to before it destroys her?

The main characters of “Witchblade: The Complete Series” are as follows:

  • Masane Amaha – The main protagonist who raises a young girl named Rihoko which she has accepted as her own daughter.  Quite naive, people are surprised how even the daughter sometimes calls the shots in their relationship.  Known for being well-endowed (earning the nickname “Melony”), Masane is surprised to find out that she is the bearer of the Witchblade and it is starting to consume her by destroying her body.    She and Rihoko are the main survivors at “Ground Zero”.
  • Rihoko Amaha – Riko is not the blood daughter of Masane but she had looked at Riko as her mother (as she was a surviving baby along with Masane during the great earthquake).  She cares about her mother and wants to be close to her.
  • Yuusuke Tozawa – A freelance photographer who helps Rihoko escape from the NSWF and eventually starts to help Masane.  He uses his connections to find out more about the Witchblade.
  • Reiji Takayama – The Bureau Chief of Douji Enterprises.  Has worked with Masane and using her Witchblade powers to fight against malfunctioning “Ex-Cons”.  He has a unique bond to Rihoko which is revealed later in the series.
  • Tatsuoki Furimizu – The antagonist of the series.  The head of the NSWF and the father of the Neogene daughters.  Believes his father is perfect and his mother imperfect, he seeks to create a perfect mother and through the process, he has created Neogenes (humans that wield the cloneblade) and among those female Neogenes are known as “The Cloneblade Sisters”.
  • Reina Soho – A Neogene cloneblade that has a bond with Reiji Takayama and Rihoko.  Regarded as the most powerful of the Cloneblade sisters.
  • Maria – A second generation version of the Neogene cloneblade but has two cloneblades.  She is mentally unstable and wants approval from her mother Reina.

“Witchblade: The Complete Series” features the following 24-episodes on 3 Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 1: The Beginning
  • EPISODE 2: Bewilderment
  • EPISODE 3: Defiance
  • EPISODE 4: Movement
  • EPISODE 5: Search
  • EPISODE 6: Change
  • EPISODE 7: Past
  • EPISODE 8: Reciprocity
  • EPISODE 9: Sdness
  • EPISODE 10: Interaction

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 11: Danger
  • EPISODE 12: Prisoner
  • EPISODE 13: Separation
  • EPISODE 14: Family
  • EPISODE 15: Bonds
  • EPISODE 16: Relaxation
  • EPISODE 17: Confusion
  • EPISODE 18: Turn
  • EPISODE 19:  Feelings
  • EPISODE 20: Request

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 21: Vow
  • EPISODE 22: Inform
  • EPISODE 23: Chaos
  • EPISODE 24: Light

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Witchblade: The Complete Series” receives its first entry to HD.  As I tend to remind viewers, the series is a television series and in Japan, television series have less of a budget that OVA’s and animated films plus, they are typically done in a time crunch as animators tend to work on several series during the week and thus, some episodes tend to get to the television network right on the day of airing.

With that being said, “Witchblade” is featured in 1080p High Definition and before the series was released on Blu-ray, there was plenty of talk of how the series was upconverted.  So far, FUNimation Entertainment anime series on Blu-ray that have been “upconverted” have looked pretty solid and often don’t like like an upconvert.  “Witchblade” is a colorful anime series but it does look like it is upconverted and it’s no surprise as the series was created back in 2004.

Detail on artistic backgrounds are OK and the character designs by Makoto Uno utilizes simple lines and shadows but when the action begins, GONZO was able to showcase the fight scenes and battles quite well.  Also, each scene typically features the characters in a variety of locations.

I did seem to notice some combing, banding and also some artifacting, so “Witchblade” does not exactly showcase picture perfect video quality but for the most part, animation is quite solid but for those looking for great picture quality, “Witchblade” is good but not great.

As for audio quality, “Witchblade” is also a series in which the Japanese audio quality is featured in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.  Most releases on Blu-ray from FUNimation Entertainment have had a lossless Japanese audio track (excluding the “Dragon Ball Z” films), so for purists, they may be disappointed by this.  Although if you have a receiver capable of stereo on all channels, this should make things a bit better.

English lossless soundtrack utilizes the soundscape in bringing out those explosive and destructive moments of the film.  Surrounds and subwoofer LFE usage is well-utilized as booms can be felt but also Masanori Takumi’s music as you hear the piano and strings coming nice and strong through the front channels and dialogue also coming clear and understandable through center channel.

As for the English dub track, I’m starting to enjoy Carrie Savage and Jamie Marchi’s voice acting and both do a great job with Rihoko and Masane’s vocals and as much as I’m a Japanese vocal track supporter, I was definitely content with English voice acting for the series.

Subtitles are in English only.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Witchblade – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features featured in 480i Stanrd Definition, Dolby Digital English 2.0 and Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles.  Included are:

  • Japanese Cast Interviews – The following cast interviews with Japanese voice talent are included:  Mamiko Noto (voice of Masane Amaha) – (9:08), Akemi Kanda (voice of Rihoko Amaha) – (7:32), Masaya Matsukaza (voice of Yusuke Tozawa) – (7:52), Reiji Takayama (voice of Rikiya Koyama) – (7:58), Mie Sonozaki (voice of Reina Sohou) – (7:53), Kenichi Suzumura (voice of  Hiroki Segawa) – (8:29), Shinji Ogawa (voice of Tatsuoki Furumizu) – (7:43), Nana Mizuki (voice of Maria) – (9:31).
  • The Witchblade Forged – The creation of “Witchblade”.  Part 1 – (16:54) Interviews of David Wohl and Marc Silvestri, co-creators of “Witchblade” and the breaking away from major comic companies and going independent with Image Comics, Part 2 (17:19) – Top Cow and creating the characters for “Witchblade” and why the comic series worked well and its popularity and adaptating it from comics to screen., Part 3 (19:51) – “Witchblade” receiving its anime adaptation.
  • Inside Top Cow – Featuring the following special features: A Tour of Top Cow with Marc Silvestri (14:00), How to create a comic book the Top Cow way (17:11), Top Cow studio tour outtakes (7:52), coloring a comic book page with Blond (4:33), the early days of Image Comics (3:33), The Top Cow talks about comics (6:42), Experiences in Japan/Other Top Cow franchises with Matt Hawkins, president of Top Cow (7:20) and Crossing into other media.
  • Textless Theme Songs – Textless opening theme songs for “XTC” and “Dear Bob” and textless closing themes for “Ashitano-Te” and “Kutshuhimo”.
  • Japanese TV Spots – (1:21) A set of Japanese TV commercials for the Japanese DVD release of “Witchblade”.
  • Promotional Video – (1:55)
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“Witchblade: The Complete Series” was actually different from what I was expecting from the original comic book series but for the most part, having its own storyline that has some connection to the comics but yet featuring new characters is pretty cool.

GONZO handled the animation and art backgrounds quite well with the series, put in a lot of characters, a lot of action and destruction to the overall scenery of the “Witchblade” anime series.  I did find it interesting how the characters revolved around relationships, especially between mother and daughter.   And for the most part, despite all the action of the antagonist trying to obtain the witchblade, the central core of the anime series is the bond between mother and daughter.  The close bond and a bond that is nearly non-existent with another and how it has affected certain characters.

Overall, “Witchblade: The Complete Series” was an entertaining anime series that managed to retain an upbeat, action-packed anime series, especially with its sound effects and rock n’ roll soundtrack.   I was surprised the anime series was chosen for a Blu-ray release because it was an older anime series that was not made in HD.  But with the popular of the comic book and television series in the US, with more anime fans wanting more complete season anime series on Blu-ray, it does make sense.

As for the Blu-ray release, the upconvert is good but it’s not as vibrant or detailed as most anime HD titles that have been released on Blu-ray thus far.  Also, for those who are looking for lossless Japanese audio, unfortunately you’re not going to find it in this release as the English dub is the only choice for lossless while the Japanese track is 2.0 stereo.

Overall, I have no doubt that anime fans will flock to “Witchblade” on Blu-ray.  The name recognition of “Witchblade” is quite strong and the fact that you have a scantily clad anti-heroine that is well-endowed, it’s definitely going to catch the attention of anime on Blu-ray fans.

If you are looking for an action-packed series on Blu-ray, you can’t go wrong with “Witchblade: The Complete Series”.

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