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Broken Sword Hero (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Sahamongkolfilm International Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Broken Sword Hero

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Bin Bunluerit

Produced by Somsak Techaratanaprasert, Tanit Jitnukul, Bin Bunluerit


Starring:

Buakaw Banchamek as Thongdee

Phutharit Prombandal as Taksin

Somsin Maneewan as Ramyong

Nantawut Boonrubsub as Cherd

Vannapoom Songsuparp as Boonkerd

Chutirada Junthit as Mauylek

Phutarit Prombandal as Rueang

Jaran Ngamdee as Khru How


Buakaw Banchamek is a Thai welterweight and Muay Thai kickboxer. First film role was in Muay Thai Warrior (2010) directed by Nopporn Watin.


In Thailand, Phraya Phichal Dap Hak is a national hero that served under King Taksin and helped repel the Burmese and reuniting Siam (Thailand).  Known for his boxing style who was unafraid to take anyone on, the heroic character’s life is the main story of “Broken Sword Hero”.

Starring Buakaw Banchamek, the Thai Welterweight Muay Thai kickboxer, the film marks Buakaw’s first major lead role in a film (his fourth film overall).  The film also stars Phutharit Prombandal, Somsin Maneewan, Nantawut Boonrubsub, Vannapoom Songsuparp, Chutirada Junthit, Phutharit Prombandai and Jaran Ngamdee.

And now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA in October 2017.

The film begins with a young man named Joi (portrayed by Buakaw Banchamek) being pursued and running for his life, meanwhile cracking a smile while being chased.

The film then goes back to when Joi was a boy and being chased by a group of kids.  A boy named Cherd is the son of an important leader and often Joi is bullied by the kids, but he is not afraid to fight back.

One day he goes to his uncle to teach him Muay Thai but the uncle tells him to go to his father, who is a championship fighter but Joi explains his father won’t teach him.  We then see Joi’s father comes to him and is upset at his child and he takes his child and his family to pray for Joi because he gets into a lot of trouble.

We then see Joi finding a training area and starts to train on his own and then he starts throwing rocks towards Cherd and his friends, which prompt him to be chased again.  And as they try to fight and beat up Joi, Joi manages to outfight them.  And when he goes to fight a young Cherd, he punches him and Cherd falls back and hits his head on a rock and starts bleeding.

We then learn of the troubles that Joi gets into and as a teenager, the same situation.  And once again, he causes trouble for Cherd (portrayed by Nantawut Boonrubsub) and we see them chase after Joi, who once again beats up Cherd.  But now Cherd goes to his uncle and his men to go capture and punish Joi.

Not wanting to cause problems for his family, Joi leaves home and finds hopefully a new home where people are trained to fight Muay Thai.  And as Joi learns, everyone in the village has black teeth (from eating Betal Nut) and because Joi has white teeth, he is given the name Thongdee.

Meanwhile, Cherd and his uncle and his men go to the village where Thongdee is training and they ask for Joi.  The village leader tells him there is no Joi and immediately Cherd’s uncle starts threatening the village.  But Thongdee comes out to let himself be captured but on one condition, they leave the people and the village alone.

But when the uncle doesn’t, he has his men burn the village down and this leads to Thongdee and the villagers fighting for their life.

While Thongdee and the villagers are able to turn Cherd and his uncle away, they vow revenge and want Thongdee dead.

Meanwhile, Thongdee plans to visit another village to be come a better fighter.  While walking, he sees a family and their guards being terrorized by Burmese.   Ramyong (portrayed by Sornsin Maneewan) fights for her life to protect her mother and her brother, while many of their guards are being slaughtered by the Burmese.  And as it looked as if Ramyong is about to be killed, she is rescued by Thongdee who takes out many of the Burmese, who then escape.

Greatful to Thongdee for saving her life, this chance meeting with Ramyong would set Thongdee on his mission to become a better fighter but also a path that will set his destiny.

And as Thongdee is trained and takes on even more powerful fighters, he is joined by a young man named Boonkerd (portrayed by Vannapoom Songsuparp) and Mauylek (portrayed by Chutirada Junthit) who follow Thongdee who learns a lesson of determination, courage, loyalty, life and what his true destiny may be.


VIDEO:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail.  A lot of the shots are outdoors, so the film has great vibrancy, detail during closeups and more.  The film looks great in HD and I didn’t notice any artifact or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Broken Sword Hero” is presented in Thai 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Broken Sword Hero” comes with no special features.


When I first saw a trailer for “Broken Sword Hero”, I automatically thought it would be another martial arts film.

Afterall, most Thai films brought to the US are martial arts driven and I was expecting something banal.  After watching “Broken Sword Hero”, I quickly discovered that this film was much more and much better than I expected.

The first half of the film no doubt packs a lot of action but also a lot of humor.  But then I started to learn than this film was so much more and that it revolved around the history of Thong Dee Fun Khao, who would become the loyal soldier of King Taksin the Great and that he would become a noble hero, who remained loyal to his king and would be known as Phraya Phichai Dap Hak.

The film details the story of how a troublesome boy named Joi would become Thongdee and later Phraya Phichai but it’s the journey that will captivate people.

With the main protagonist being portrayed by popular Muay Thai fighter Buakaw Banchamek, we see amazing fight choreography and magnificent fight scenes full of punches, high kicks and more!

But watching how this film evolves and how Thongdee evolves around the people around him.

As a person not so familiar with Thai culture, I thought it was interesting to see how many villagers had black teen and led me to spend the night researching Thai culture, Phraya Phichai and King Taksin.  But also discovering what the title “Broken Sword Hero” meant.  The title which revolves around Phraya Phichai who fought with a sword (dap) in each hand until one was broken.

While one can’t expect fighter Buakaw Banchamek to become a talented actor overnight, fortunately the film doesn’t have to rely on Buakaw’s spoken dialogue but mainly Buakaw the fighter.  Using his skills to take on various challengers.  And because Buakaw is a true fighter, no need for a stunt actor, ever kick and punch looks convincingly natural and it helps to have a talented fighter in this action film.

Picture quality and lossless audio are great but there are no special features, so this is a barebones Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Broken Sword Hero” is an entertaining historical/martial arts film based on Thailand’s noble hero, Phraya Phichai.  How a troublemaker teen would become a well-renown fighter but also how he would become the loyal general of King Taksin the Great.  Fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, “Broken Sword” is recommended!

 

God of War (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Bona Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: God of War

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Directed by Gordon Chan

Written by Frankie Tam, Maria Wong, MengZhang Wu

Produced by Gordon Chan, Paul Cheng

Associate Producer: Hing-Ka Chan, Shirley Lau

Music: Shigeru Umebayashi

Cinematography: Takuro Ishizaka

Edited by Ki-Hop chan

Art Direction by Alfred Yau

Costume Deisgn by Emi Wada


Starring:

Wenzhuo Zhao as General Qi Jiguang

Sammo Kam-Bo Hung as General Yu Dayou

Yasuaki Kurata as Commander Kumasawa

Regina Wan as Lady Qi

Keisuke Koide as Lord Yamagawa

Timmy Hung as Chen Dacheng

Michael Tong as Lou Nan

Yue Wu as Yang Chao


During the 16th century, pirates rule the Chinese coastline, pillaging the small villages and terrorizing the citizens. When maverick leader Commander Yu (martial arts legend Sammo Hung) enlists the help of a sharp young general (Vincent Zhao), they devise a plan to defeat the pirates. A violent clash of wit and weapons will decide who will rule the land in this sweeping historical epic from veteran action director Gordon Chan.


In China, Gordon Chan has a long career of films which he has written, directed and produced.

Known for popular films such as “Fist of Legend” starring Jet Li, “Thunderbolt” starring Jackie Chan and “Painted Skin” starring Donnie Yen, Chan has also directed numerous films such as “Beast Cops”, “2000 AD”, “Painted Skin”, “The King of Fighters” and many more.

Chan’s latest film is the 2017 Chinese historic war action film titled “God of War”, a film inspired by the history, especially around Qi Jiguang, a military general during the Ming Dynasty wo hled the defense of coastal regions against wokou pirate activities in the 16th century.  Regarded as a hero in Chinese culture, Qi is also known for writing military manuals Jixiao Xinshi and the Record of Military Training based on his experience as an educator and defensive planner in the Ming military forces.

But during the Ming Dynasty, there was a lot of corruption and many Chinese officials actually had relations with the pirates and benefited from piracy.

The film begins with the Chinese trying to rid of the Japanese samurai warriors turned pirates who teamed up with Ronin to fight against approaching Chinese armies.  And because the Japanese had artillery, the Chinese forces were vulnerable.

While Chinese General Yu Daiyou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) was a prominent figure, he was unable to defeat the Japanese pirates, so their leader wants to infuse new blood.  So, he must team up with General Qi Jiguang (portrayed by Vincent Zhao), who will now be the new leader and together they would come up with strategies to face and defeat the pirates.

But General Qi Jiguang knows that he does have the weaponry nor the military to defeat the Japanese pirates, so he asks his leader to allow him to recruit and train a new army.

Meanwhile, Commander Kumasawa (portrayed by Yasuaki Kurata) has allied with ronin who just want women and gold.  Unruly and disrespectful these ronin are, samurai Lord Yamagawa has a problem with how these Ronin behave and treat women and behave like savages.

But Commander Kumasawa reminds them that as pirates, their mission is to help the Daimyo become more powerful and acquire weapons to make Japan even more powerful.  But Yamagawa is reminded that they need the Ronin to fight the battle and as part of the Matsura Clan they must defeat the Ming Court.

With the odds against them and not having the defenses to withstand the weapons of the Japanese, General Qi Jiguang requests to train and grow his army and to make his soldier’s prepared against the attack from the Japanese pirates.  But can he improve defenses and most of all, he can draft miners and farmers to fight against the pirates?


VIDEO:

“God of War” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Picture quality is fantastic, close ups show great detail, especially of the many soldiers in armor.  There are no major artifacts during my viewing of the film, nor banding issues.  If anything, colors are cool and the film looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“God of War” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Dialogue and music is crystal clear, as with action sequences which utilize the surround channels quite well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“God of War ” comes with a “making of” featurette and a theatrical trailer.


I have watched many films about China vs. Japan, especially during the period of World War I and World War II, but one part of history that I’m not quite aware of in history is of Japanese samurai and ronin that were involved in wokou piracy in order to destabilize the Ming Court and also to purchase more weaponry to make their Daimyo and Japan more powerful.

Because this was a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese actors including music composition by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi (“House of Flying Daggers”, “2046”, “In the Mood for Love”), it had a different vibe, as many anti-Japanese films tend to have an anti-Japanese sentiment, but this film goes to show a perspective of both sides.

On the Chinese side, General Qi Jiguang had challenges of trying to get the necessary forces to grow and also train to fight against the pirates as moral was low and they were literally outpowered.  He pleaded but Commander Hu wouldn’t allow it until someone reported his commanders misdeeds, allowing him to grow his force but losing a promotion.

The film does go into how both Yu Dayou (portrayed by Sammo Hung) and Qi Jiguang portrayed by Wenzhuo Zhao) were put in terrible situations due to the high level of corruption in the Ming government.  Despite the sacrifices both men made, Yu Dayou in reality was framed on false charges and imprisoned for not providing any bribes.  While Qi Jiguang was slandered that he colluded with the pirates.

In the film, Qi Jiguang was reinstated but unfortunately, Yu Dayou was not given the merit and in the reality, died of frustration.  But in the film, Yu Dayou was more pleased that Qi Jiguang would lead and continue the battle against the pirates.

The film also featured Qi Jiguang and his relationship with his wife Lady Qi (portrayed by Regina Wan), wanting to be there for her husband and be there in battle alongside with him.  Not strong enough to tell his wife “no” and even his own soldiers admonishing him about it.

I wasn’t sure if this was accurate, so I had to do some research on the subject and there are numerous stories but not sure what is fact or fiction.

The film also shows the perspective of the Japanese pirates, samurai and ronin working together to destabilize the Ming Court and terrorize villages and steal weapons.  These pirates looked at it as a mission to make Japanese strong and wealthy.  But thinking that firearms would be their saving grace, they were unaware that Qi Jiguang would grow his forces but most importantly, figure out forms of defense to protect them from rifle fire.

If anything, the film shows us the battle between forces led by Qi Jiguang against the forces of primary antagonist, Commander Kumasawa.   And very cool fighting scenes between both forces leading to its conclusion.

The only problem is that the film just ends with a scene that doesn’t make any sense.  I could have ended a minute earlier but I can’t sidestep this final scene and will need to spoil it, but to be perfectly honest, it’s really not a spoiler.  Most people who watch it will think it’s an unnecessary addition of a scene to lead into the final credits.

The final scene is something I interpret of how things don’t end well with Qi Jiguang and his wife.  If you do research on the history of Qi Jiguang (and I need to add that what I’m going to write about is not on the film but perhaps may help you understand that final scene), you find out that Qi Jiguang was not happy with his wife and had affairs with other concubines.  One source that I read is that his friend and colleague wrote that Qi Jiguang was a henpecked husband and his wife was strong-willed and overbearing.   Another problem for the couple is that despite giving birth to sons, none of them survived.  So, he turned to concubines in order to have one.

He had one, his wife found out and was going to kill him with a sword but when he cried and she felt bad for him, she allowed him to keep one son.  But the boy ended up dying and she had enough and she left him, took all her savings and he died soon after.

People may look at Lady Qi to be cruel but considering the circumstance, I saw her as an independent woman that was strong-willed and not so subservient compared to how women were portrayed during that era.

So, that final scene is possibly a reaction of a wife fed up.  It wasn’t necessary for the film and most people not familiar with Qi Jiguang and Lady Qi and are watching those final seconds may not understand why it was even added.  But it’s part of Chinese history, and a nod to Qi Jiguang and his wife that things didn’t exactly end with a happy ending.

Overall, “God of War” is a fascinating, action-packed film with wonderful costume design, well-planned war scenes and showcasing a part of history during the Ming Dynasty but also to showcase a few of China’s well-known heroes who fought valiantly against these pirates.  But it’s more for the fans of action films and not for those who are looking for a deep storyline.

 

Young Doctors in Love (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)

October 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a fan of Gary Marshall’s films or a wanting to watch Marshall’s first theatrical film will no doubt want to check out his 1982 film, “Young Doctors in Love”.

Images courtesy of © 1982 ABC Motion Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Young Doctors in Love

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1982

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 DTS HD-Master Audio, English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: R

RELEASE DATE: October 31, 2017


Directed by Garry Marshall

Written by Michael Elias, Rich Eustis

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by Harold Rosson


Starring:

Sean Young as Dr. Stephanie Brody

Michael McKean as Dr. Simon August

Gary Friedkin as Dr. Milton Chamberlain

Kyle T. Heffner as Dr. Charles Litto

Rick Overton as Dr. Thurman Flicker

Crystal Bernard as Julie

Ted McGinley as Dr. Bucky DeVol

Saul Rubinek as Floyd Kurtzman

Harry Dean Stanton as Dr. Oliver Ludwig

Pamela Reed as Nurse Norine Sprockett

Taylor Negron as Dr. Phil Burns

Patrick Collins as Dr. Water Rist

Dabney Coleman as Dr. Joseph Prang

Titos Vandis as Sal Bonafetti

Michael Richards as Malamud

Hector Elizondo as Angelo/Angela Bonafetti


There’s almost always something funny at City Hospital, where the amorous young interns think that love – or at least lust – is the cure for everything! Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap), Sean Young (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), Hector Elizondo (The Flamingo Kid), Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas), Dabney Coleman (9 to 5), Patrick Macnee (TV s The Avengers), Ted McGinley (TV s Married with Children), Crystal Bernard (TV s Wings) and Michael Richards (TV s Seinfeld) star in this refreshingly wacky hospital parody from the director of Overboard, Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride! The new interns at City Hospital are desperately hoping to survive their first year of residency, which could prove difficult, since their minds are on the wrong body parts! Garry Marshall made his feature film directorial debut with this hilarious comedy in a similar vein to Airplane!, Stripes and The Naked Gun.


Before Garry Marshall would be known for his director work on “Pretty Woman”, “The Princess Diaries”, “Runaway Bride” and “Beaches”, Marshall was known as a showrunner creating popular series such as “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy”.

Marshall would go on to direct his first film “Young Doctors in Love”.  While not seen as a major film in Marshall’s oeuvre, this comedy is similar to comedy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s that spoof many shows.

In this case, spoofing soap operas such as “General Hospital” which would give attention to the film, but also many soap opera stars making a cameo in”Young Doctors in Love” such as cameo by Susan Lucci, Demi Moore, Richard Dean Anderson, Kin Shriner, Janine Turner, Michael Damian, Jacklyn Zeman, Jamie Lyn Bauer, Steven Ford, John Beradino and many more.

The film would have a cast of popular and also up-and-coming talent who would become major stars years later.

Featured in the film is Sean Young (“Blade Runner”, “Stripes”, “No Way Out”), Michael McKean (“Laverne & Shirley”, “This is Spinal Tap”, “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”), Crystal Bernard (“Happy Days”, “Wings”), Ted McGinley (“Happy Days”, “Married with Children”, “Hope & Faith”), Saul Rubinek (“Unforgiven”, “True Romance”, “Warehouse 13”), Harry Dean Stanton (“Alien”, “The Avengers”, “The Green Mile”), Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”, “Bean”, “Proof of Life”), Taylor Negron (“The Last Boy Scout”, “Nothing But Trouble”, “Angels in the Outfield”), Dabney Coleman (“WarGames”, “Tootsie”, “You’ve Got Mail”), Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”, “UHF”) and actor Hector Elizondo (“The Princess Diaries”, “Pretty Woman”, “Chicago Hope”).

And now, “Young Doctors in Love” will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Young Doctors in Love” revolves around a group of young trainee doctors.  Dr. Simon August (portrayed by Michael McKean) is a young trainee who is brilliant, smart but has one major fear that prevents him from being great, he can’t stand the sight of blood.   Simon has fallen for Dr. Stephanie Brody (portrayed by Sean Young), who is suffering from some major ailment, while being in love with Simon and keeping her ailment as a secret.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil Burns is a trainee doctor that is working three jobs and he is trying to romance Nurse Norine Sprockett, but in truth, doing it so he can steal drugs and sell it to a drug dealer (portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson).

Dr. Bucky DeVol (portrayed by Ted McGinley) is often trying to flirt with prostitute Julie (portrayed by Crystal Bernard),

Meanwhile, Sal Bonafetti (portrayed by Titos Vandis) is a gangster who is brought to the hospital after being paralyzed by fear.  Malamud (portrayed by Michael Richards) is trying to kill him, but the doctors mistake him as a patient and start operating him and each time he awakens, he tries to find ways of killing Jacobs.  As Angelo Bonafetti, who works for Jacobs tries to prevent that…but to avoid being caught by authorities, he disguises himself as Angela and Dr. Walter Rist (portrayed by Patrick Collins) falls for Angela.

Will the fellow young trainees graduate, will Sal Bonafetti survive?, will Dr. Walter Rist realize that Angela Bonafetti is a man and will Dr. Phil Burns continue to trick Nurse Sprockett?


VIDEO:

“Young Doctors in Love” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  For the most part, the film is not digitally restored nor remastered and is more upscaled to 1080p, so the film does have its share of softness and does look like a film made in the ’80s.  There are scratches on some frames but for the most part, the film looks good in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Young Doctors in Love” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and dialogue is crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Young Doctors in Love” comes with an audio commentary by actor/filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy.


When Garry Marshall passed away in 2016, America lost a talented director/writer who has created television shows and films that have entertained generations.

While Marshall was quite established in the television world with “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, “Mork & Mindy”, “The Odd Couple” to name a few, the question was if he could transition into film and sure enough, he did just that.

As many people discover Marshall’s hit films, his earlier films are not as easy to find until now.

While his first film “Young Doctors in Love” will not be a Marshall highlight in his vast oeuvre, the film is noteworthy for showcasing many talent who would become television and movie stars years later, would feature cameos of soap opera stars (especially for “General Hospital”) which in the ’80s were watched by millions of viewers.  And for Gary Marshall film fans, you would see the first major film collaboration with actor Hector Elizondo, who would appear in every Gary Marshall film since “Young Doctors in Love”, as Marshall considered the actor as “good luck”.

The film has the humor of ’80s films at the time and the craziness of films such as “Airplane”.  A parody of “General Hospital” where you have a future great doctor who has the fear of blood, a trainee doctor who keeps passing out due to an ailment (yet no one takes care of her), a trainee doctor trying to steal drugs by romancing a nurse and selling the drugs to drug dealers, a doctor who tries to teach his fellow doctors by drinking urine, a doctor who falls in a mobster dressed like a woman and a mob boss who is trying to be assassinated in his hospital room.

Throw in crazy cameos with soap opera stars, crazy antics and hilarious moments and it makes for an entertaining film.

Sure, it may not have the romantic comedy magic of “Pretty Woman” or the “Princess Diaries” but it does have humor.

“Laverne & Shirley” fans would get to see actor Michael McKean in a role unlike his TV character role of Lenny, Crystal Bernard who was quickly getting known on “Happy Days” playing a bit role with fellow “Happy Days” co-star Ted McGinley, both would be known for their appearance on TV again years later, Bernard with “Wings” and McGinley on “Married with Children” and Michael Richards before playing Kramer on “Seinfeld”.

Surprisingly, two soap opera cameos that were uncredited are talents Richard Dean Anderson (before “MacGyver” and “Stargate SG-1”), Cynthia Geary (before “Northern Exposure”), “All My Children” actress Susan Lucci and actress “Demi Moore” before she would be identified a few years as part of the “Brat Pack”.

As far as the film’s presentation on Blu-ray, the film is no doubt upscaled to 1080p.  Softness is evident, scratches are present but Kino Lorber is a company that has presented its films in 1080p and if anything, picture quality is much better than VHS or DVD.  And its lossless audio soundtrack is presented in stereo DTS-HD Master Audio.  And while the Blu-ray release was released a year later, I felt it was great to have an audio commentary by actor/filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy, who give honor Gary Marshall during the commentary.

Overall, if you are a fan of Gary Marshall’s films or a wanting to watch Marshall’s first theatrical film will no doubt want to check out his 1982 film, “Young Doctors in Love”.

 

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

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Images courtesy of © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Spider-Man: Homecoming

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 133 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


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

Directed by Jon Watts

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

Producer: Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal

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

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

Music by Michael Giacchino

Cinematography by Salvatore Totino

Edited by Debbie Berman, Dan Lebental

Casting by Sarah Finn

Production Design by Oliver Scholl

Set Decoration by Lauri Gaffin

Costume Design by Louise Frogley


Starring:

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

Marisa Tomei as May Parker

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

Zendaya as Michelle

Donald Glover as Aaron Davis

Jacob Batalon as Ned

Laura Harrier as Liz

Tony Revolori as Flash

Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz/Shocker

Tyne Daly as Anne Marie Hoag

Garcelle Beauvais as Doris Toomes


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

Videophiles will no doubt be happy with this release.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Warrior

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: 140 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Lions Gate

RATED: PG-13

RELEASE DATE: October 24, 2017


Directed by Gavin O’Connor

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

Story by Gavin O’Connor, Cliff Dorfman

Producer: Gavin O’Connor, Greg O’Connor

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

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

Music by Mark Isham

Cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi

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

Casting by Randi Hiller

Production Design by Dan Leigh

Art Direction: James Donahue

Set Decoration by Ron von Blomberg

Costume Design by Abigail Murray


Starring:

Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon

Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon

Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon

Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon

Frank Grillo as Frank Campana

Kevin Dunn as Principal Zito

Maximiliano Hernandez as Colt Boyd

Bryan Callen as Bryan Callen


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © Aniplex. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Occultic;Nine vol. 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-6 (144 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: September 26, 2017


Originally Created by Chiyomaru Shikura

Original Character Design by pako

Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

Series Composition: Junpei Morita

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design: Tomoaki Takase

Art Director: Hisayo Usui

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Faye Mata as Ryoka Narusawa

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Scott Kimerer as Yūta Gamon

Hitomi Yoshida/Kayli Mills as Miyū Aikawa

Houchu Ohtsuka as Takasu

Kaito Ishikawa/Robbie Draymond as Sarai Hashigami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Ben Diskin as Kōhei Izumi

Kishō Taniyama as Kiryū Kusakabe

Mamiko Noto/Michelle Ruff as Ririka Nishizono

Maria Naganawa/Xanthe Huynh as Chizu Kawabata

Miyuki Sawashiro as Aria Kurenaino

Satomi Akesaka as Asuna Kizaki

Shizuka Itou as Tōko Sumikaze

Tetsuya Kakihara as Shun Moritsuka


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-24 (600 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 8, 2017


Originally Created by Sumihei

Director: Takaomi Kanasaki

Series Composition: Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Maiko luchi

Character Design: Atsuko Watanabe

Art Director: Takashi Ichikura

Art Design: Kazushi Fujii

Anime Production: 8 bit


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaito Ishikawa/Clifford Chapin as Harutora Tsuchimikado

Kana Hanazawa/Caitlin Glass as Natsume Tsuchimikado

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Kon

Ayane Sakura/Jad Saxton as Suzuka Dairenji

Eri Kitamura/Leah Clark as Kyoko Kurahashi

Fumi Hirano/Wendy Powell as Miyo Kurahashi

Hiro Shimono/Josh Grelle as Tenma Momoe

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Jarrod Greene as Reiji Kagami

Hisako Kanemoto/Felecia Angelle as Hokuto/Takiko Sōma

Koji Yusa/J. Michael Tatum as Jin Ōtomo

Ryohei Kimura/Ian Sinclair as Tōji Ato

Shinya Takahashi as Senjirō Kogure


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two

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

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 15, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

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

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


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


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

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

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

What is “One Piece”?

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

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

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


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO :

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

DISC 1:

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

DISC 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Ushio & Tora Complete TV Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-39 (975 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Originally Created by Kazuhiro Fujita

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Series Composition: Kazuhiro Fujita, Toshiki Inoue

Music by Eishi Segawa

Character Design: Tomoko Mori

Art Director: Tomoyuki Shimizu

Animation Director: Mika Takahashi, Tomoko Mori

Director of Photography: Uehama Makishi, Yuuya Kumazawa

Anime Production: MAPPA, Studio VOLN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Brett Weaver as Tora

Tasuku Hatanaka/David Matranga as Ushio Aotsuki

Ai Kayano/Brittney Karbowski as Omamori-sama

Ai Satou as Oyakume-sama

Aki Toyosaki /Brittney Karbowski as Yū Hiyama

Ayahi Takagaki/Emily Neves as Jun Moritsuna

Daisuke Namikawa/David Wald as Hyō

Fumiko Orikasa as Mikado Hizaki

Hidekatsu Shibata as Nigira

Kana Hanazawa/Carli Mosier as Jie Mei

Keiji Fujiwara as Shigure Aotsuki

Kiyono Yasuno as Mayuko Inoue

Maaya Sakamoto/Emily Neves as Sumako Aotsuki

Mamoru Miyano/John Gremellion as Giryō

Masaki Terasoma as Kyōji Atsuzawa

Megumi Han/Blake Shepard as Kirio

Megumi Hayashibara as Hakumen no Mono

Mikako Komatsu/Allison Sumrall as Asako Nakamura

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Wittels as Hinowa Sekimori

Nao Nagasawa as Izuna

Risa Shimizu/Patricia Duran as Kagari

Ryota Ohsaka/Clifford Chapin as Satoru Moritsuna

Shinichiro Miki/Jay Hickman as Raishin

Toshio Furukawa as Yamanmoto

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ian Sinclair as Nagare Akiba

Yui Makino/Kira Vincent-Davis as Reiko Hanyū

Yuuka Nanri/Tiffany Grant as Saya Takatori

Yuuki Kaji/John Gremillion as Jūrō


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ushio & Tora features the following characters:

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

VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

This set is magnificent. You get nearly all the “Ranma 1/2” OVA’s and the three films collected in one set, in high definition and for a great price. If you are a “Ranma 1/2” fan, the “Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection Edition

DURATION: 11 OVA’s and 3 Movies

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: September 19, 2017


Original Creator: Rumiko Takahashi

Movie #1

Director: Iku Suzuki

Screenplay by Ryota Yamaguchi

Music by Akihisa Matsuura

Character Design: Atsuko Nakajima

Art Director: Chitose Asakura, Torao Arai

Animation Director: Atsuko Nakajima

Director of Photography: Mitsunobu Yoshida

Anime Production: Studio DEEN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sarah Strange as Ranma Saotome(Male)

Megumi Hayashibara/Venus Terzo as Ranma Saotome(Female)

Noriko Hidaka/Myriam Sirois as Akane Tendou

Hiromi Tsuru/Kelly Sheridan as Ukyou Kuonji

Hirotaka Suzuoki/Ted Cole as Tatewaki Kunoh

Ichirô Nagai/Paul Dobson as Happousai

Kenichi Ogata/Robert O. Smith as Genma

Kikuko Inoue/Willow Johnson as Kasumi Tendou

Kouichi Yamadera/Michael Donovan as Ryouga Hibiki

Minami Takayama/Angela Costain as Nabiki Tendou

Miyoko Asou/Elan Ross Gibson as Cologne

Rei Sakuma/Cathy Weseluck as Shampoo

Ryunosuke Ohbayashi/David Kaye as Souun Tendou

Saeko Shimazu/Teryl Rothery as Kodachi Kunoh

Tatsuyuki Jinnai/Scott McNeil as Principal Kunoh

Toshihiko Seki/Brad Swaile as Mousse

Yuji Mitsuya/Ian James Corlett as Ono Toufuu-sensei (Dr. Tofu)

Mitsuaki Madono/Alessandro Juliani as Prince Toma

Issei Futamata/Gerard Plunkett as Toristan

Nobuo Tobita/Paul Dobson as Sarutoru


Ranma 1/2 OVA and Movie Collection Limited Edition contains 11 OVA episodes and 3 theatrical movies plus a 32-page booklet and a premium foil stamped chipboard box.

Ranma, the iconic creation of master artist Rumiko Takahashi, is back for new adventures and more than a few misunderstandings along the way! From mishaps at a holiday party to casual use of mystical trinkets to possession by cursed dolls, what’s in store for Ranma is anyone’s guess in these original anime adventures. Along with the formerly video-only antics are Ranma 1/2’s two feature-length movies and one special OVA-length movie that brought Ranma to theaters to make some big choices with his heart and not his head… which is usually what starts his trouble in the first place!


For the first time, all eleven “Ranma 1/2” OVA’s and three movies will be released on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and available in Sept. 2017 courtesy of Viz Media.

What is “Ranma 1/2”?

Mangaka Rumiko Takahashi is no doubt a legendary mangaka who has had amazing success in Japan.

Many know her from her popular series “InuYasha” but decades before, she won over manga and anime fans through her series “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku”, The Mermaid series and of course, her well-known series, “Ranma 1/2″.

“Ranma 1/2″ was created back in 1987 and lasted through 1996 and serialized in Shogakukan’s “Weekly Shonen Sunday” with a total of 38 tankobon volumes (graphic novels) published.

The series like most of Rumiko’s work received an anime adaptation and in 1989, a total of 18 episodes were created and aired in Fuji TV before being canceled.

But unlike most cancellations, “Ranma 1/2″ would get a second life on television a month later with a new name titled “Ranma 1/2 Nettouhen” which was based on the manga but featured also a lot of filler episodes and characters not featured in the manga series.

While “Ranma 1/2″ was popular and would help jumpstart the careers for voice talents such as Megumi Hayashibara (“Video Girl Ai”, “Meitantei Conan”, “Slayers”, “Pokemon”), Kappei Yamaguchi (“Meitantei Conan”, “InuYasha”, “One Piece”), Noriko Hidaka (“InuYasha”, “Gunbuster”, “Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water”), Hiromi Tsuru (“Dragon Ball Z”, “Anpanman”), Kikuko Inoue (“Ah! My Goddess”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”), Minami Takayama (“Meitantei Conan”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and Rei Sakuma (“Mobile Suit Gundam 0083″, “Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ”).

The series would become popular overseas as it was one of the first anime series to receive a fan sub and because it would help jumpstart the anime and manga craze during the early 1990′s including “Ranma 1/2″ released in comic book format. Viz Media would then bring an English dub of the anime series to the United States.

Included in the “Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” are:

  • Ranma 1/2 the Movie: Big Trouble in Nekonron: The Figght to Break the Rules! – A strange girl named Lychee and her giant elephant Jasmine arrive to settle a score with lecherous material arts master Happosai. Apparently, a very long time ago, Happosai gave Lychee’s great-grandmother half of a legendary scroll guaranteed to bring happiness to whoever was holding it. The women of Lychee’s family have been waiting for three generations now, and the prince still hasn’t come – but of course, the moment Lychee lets the scroll out of her hands, the prince finally appears. Only now it’s Ranma’s reluctant fiancée Akane that’s holding the scroll, and the long-awaited prince is only too ready to sweep his lucky bride off her feet. Now Ranma and company have no choice but to follow Prince Kirin’s majestic flying barge all the way to Nekonron, China, where they find themselves in a showdown with the Seven Lucky Gods of martial arts!
  • Ranma 1/2 the Movie: The Battle of Togenkyo: Rescue the Brides! – When poetry-spouting swordsman Tatewaki Kuno invites Ranma & Co. for a jaunt on his new luxury yacht, the last thing the group expects is a sudden storm to shipwreck them all on a deserted island.  However, fixing the boat to get home soon becomes the least of their worries, as all the young girls in the group begin to disappear.  As it turns out, they’ve been bride-napped by Prince Toma, the youthful ruler of the floating island, Togenkyo.  Because of a magical spring which turns anything it touches instantly male, would-be bridegrooms have to kidnap girls…and in this case, Ranma’s reluctant fiancee Akane is one of them!  Now, in order to rescue the girls (and get his hands on that magical water, which could cure his own shape-changing “problem”).  Ranma must enter an anything-goes martial arts bride-off which includes events such as “survival flower-arranging” and “obstacle-course cooking.”  Can Ranma (now “in disguise” as a girl) beat scores of other kidnapped concubines, win the contest, rescue Akane, and get the magical Togenkyo water…all while wearing a push-up bra and three-inch heels?
  • Ranma 1/2 the Movie: The Super Non-Discriminatory Showdown: Team Ranma vs. the Legendary Phoenix – When Kuno battles Ranma, Ranma places an egg on Kuno’s head and the egg hatches and born is the legendary Phoenix Egg that can master the arcane sword attack.  Can Ranma take on this new enemy?
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 1: Shampoo’s Sudden Switch: The Curse of the Contrary Jewel – When Shampoo discovers a beautiful broach in Cologne’s old jewelry box, she puts it on but because it’s on the wrong way, it reverses the intended effect of increasing the wearer’s romantic feelings and makes her cold towards Ranma.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 2: The Tendo Family’s Christmas Scramble – The Christmas holiday season has arrived and when Kasumi has a strange dream featuring Santa, she throws a Christmas party.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 3: Akane vs. Ranma: The One Who Inherits Mom’s Recipes Wil Be Me! – Akane discovers her late mother’s recipes and wants to start cooking, but when Ranma’s mother who is still looking for her son (unaware of his curse), she shows up to the Tendo residence, she gets some help from Nodoka Saotome but she also is challenged by female Ranma.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 4: A Storm over School: Growing Up with Miss Hinako – The new teacher, Ms. Hinako Ninomiya shows up to Furinkan High School but she happens to be a tough fighter with a secret.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 5: The One Who Carries On Part 1 – Eat and Runs are happening around town and Akane discovers the culrpits, Natsume and Kurumi, two martial arts sisters who are looking for their long-lost martial arts father and believe their father is Soun Tendo.  And now, they plan to battle Akane for the inheritance of the dojo.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 6: The One Who Carries On Part 2 – Akane continues to train for her upcoming battle with Natsume and Kurumi, Ranma (in female forn) will become her partner.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 7: Reawakening Memories Part 1 – Akane has memories of being rescued as a child and a place Ryugenzawa is being terrorized by a mysterious beast.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 8: Reawakening Memories Part 2 – As Akane headed to Ryugenzawa to find out more of her childhood memories of being rescued, Ranma goes after her.  But there is a guy standing in his way and Akane’s loyalty may be towards this man.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 9: Oh, Cursed Tunnel of Lost Love! Let My Love Be Forever – Ranma, Akane, Shampoo, Mousse, Ukyo, Ryoga, Kuo, Nabiki, Cologne, Genma, Kodachi and Sasuke go in pairs on the Cave of Lost Love, a cursed spot visited by couples.
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 10: The Evil Ogre – An evil ogre was sealed in a box by a Monkey Priest.  But when the seal is fading away, the current priest goes to Ranma, Genma and Soun for a new seal, but when the box opens, the ogre is released and can Ranma stop it?
  • Ranma 1/2 OAV Episode 11: The Two Akanes: Ranma, Look My Way! – Ranma and friends pay a visit to the hot spring inn, Ninyo-Kan, teh House of Dolls.  There is a legend of a mysterious doll called the Vengeful Doll and Ranma accidentally breaks it.  The doll wants revenge!

The main characters of “Ranma 1/2″ are:

  • Ranma Saotome – The series protagonist and martial artist who is often training with his father. He and Akane tend to not get along and he often says things bad to her, which leads her to beat him up or get him into trouble. Because he fell into a cursed lake where a teenage girl had died, he transforms into a teenage girl when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water. Due to his father’s arrangement with Soun Tendo, he is the fiance of Akane Tendo.
  • Genma Saotome – The father of Ranma Saotome and is often training with his son. He is the childhood best friend of Soun Tendo and together, they made a promise that their children will marry. Because he fell into a cursed lake where a panda had died, he transforms into a panda when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water. He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Akane Tendo – The female protagonist who is a tomboy that loves martial arts. She is popular at school and many guys want her to be their girlfriend. Due to her father’s arrangement with Genma Saotome, she is engaged to Ranma Saotome. She also has a hot temper and is often arguing and beating up on Ranma.
  • Soun Tendo – The owner of the Tendo Dojo, he is the father of Kusumi, Nabiki and Akane. He and his childhood friend Genma had an arrangement that their children will marry. He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Kusumi Tendo – She is the most ladylike of the Tendo family, the eldest sister who is always kind, she is often seen taking care of her sisters and cooking for the entire family and also cleaning the house.
  • Nabiki Tendo – The middle child, Nabiki likes to make money and spend it! Often trying to find ways to make money.
  • Tatewaki Kuno – From a wealthy family and has a cocky attitude and because of his inflated ego, calls himself “Blue Thunder”. He is in love with Akane and female Ranma. He is an expert with a wooden sword.
  • Ryoga Hibiki – Ranma’s rival . Ryoga is terrible with directions and whenever he is planning to fight with Ranma, it would take him days or weeks, because he walked hundreds of miles in another direction. One day he followed Ranma and Genma all the way to China and was kicked by a girl and landed in a cursed lake where a small black pig had died. Whenever he comes in contact with cold water, he will turn into a black pig and whenever he comes in contact with hot water, he reverts back to his normal self. As a pig, named P-chan, he is taken in as a pet by Akane Tendo.
  • Kodachi Kuno – The captain of the St. Hebereke School for Girls Gymnastic team and while a great gymnast, she also uses poison and other methods in combat which has earned her the nickname “The Black Rose”.
  • Dr. Tofu Ono – A very good doctor, it’s that people worry when Kasumi is around because Tofu is in love with Kasumi and he begins behaving unusually towards everyone.
  • Shampoo – The hero of her village in China. She despises female Ranma and loves male Ranma. She also fell in a cursed lake in Jusenkyou and turns into a pink cat. Whenever she comes into contact with cold water, she turns into a cat. When in contact with hot water, she reverts back to normal. She runs the Neko Hanten Chinese restaurant.
  • Cologne – The leader of the Chinese Amazons and grandmother of Shampoo. Around 300-years-old, she has a history with Happosai.
  • Mousse – A male Chinese Amazon and master of hidden weapons. He also happens to have terrible eye sight and is deeply in love with Shampoo. He also fell into the cursed Jusenkyo and turns into a duck.
  • Happosai – The founder and grandmaster of “Anything Goes Martial Arts” (Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu) and the master of Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo.
  • Ukyo Kuonji – An Okonomiyaki chef. Ukyo’s father and Ranma’s father made a deal that their children would marry.
  • Tsubasa Kurenai – A male who is in love with Ukyo and happens to be a cross-dresser.
  • Principal Kuno – Tatewaki and Kodachi’s father who is the principal at Furinkan High School that causes problems for Ranma.
  • Ling-Ling/Lung-Lung – Shampoo’s younger sisters who come to Japan searching for the person who beat Shampoo.
  • Hikaru Gosunkugi – An unpopular student who practices vodoo and is desperately in love with Akane and tries to do all he can to get rid of Ranma.

What is “Ranma 1/2”?

Mangaka Rumiko Takahashi is no doubt a legendary mangaka who has had amazing success in Japan.

Many know her from her popular series “InuYasha” but decades before, she won over manga and anime fans through her series “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku”, The Mermaid series and of course, her well-known series, “Ranma 1/2″.

“Ranma 1/2″ was created back in 1987 and lasted through 1996 and serialized in Shogakukan’s “Weekly Shonen Sunday” with a total of 38 tankobon volumes (graphic novels) published.

The series like most of Rumiko’s work received an anime adaptation and in 1989, a total of 18 episodes were created and aired in Fuji TV before being canceled.

But unlike most cancellations, “Ranma 1/2″ would get a second life on television a month later with a new name titled “Ranma 1/2 Nettouhen” which was based on the manga but featured also a lot of filler episodes and characters not featured in the manga series.

While “Ranma 1/2″ was popular and would help jumpstart the careers for voice talents such as Megumi Hayashibara (“Video Girl Ai”, “Meitantei Conan”, “Slayers”, “Pokemon”), Kappei Yamaguchi (“Meitantei Conan”, “InuYasha”, “One Piece”), Noriko Hidaka (“InuYasha”, “Gunbuster”, “Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water”), Hiromi Tsuru (“Dragon Ball Z”, “Anpanman”), Kikuko Inoue (“Ah! My Goddess”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”), Minami Takayama (“Meitantei Conan”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and Rei Sakuma (“Mobile Suit Gundam 0083″, “Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ”).

The series would become popular overseas as it was one of the first anime series to receive a fan sub and because it would help jumpstart the anime and manga craze during the early 1990′s including “Ranma 1/2″ released in comic book format. Viz Media would then bring an English dub of the anime series to the United States.

And while the anime series was released little by little with two episodes on VHS and then later with season box sets on DVD, in America, “Ranma 1/2″ has always been a fan favorite.

But when it was announced that Rumiko Takahashi’s earlier hit series “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku” and “Ranma 1/2″ would be remastered and released in Japan on Blu-ray as part of Shogakukan’s 90th anniversary, suffice to say, fans became very excited and wondered if the series in HD would be released in America.

And sure enough, Viz Media surprised fans with the announcement that “Ranma 1/2″ was released on Blu-ray and DVD plus an omnibus release of the manga series in March 2014.

Unlike the original season box sets which features 18 episodes, “Ranma 1/2 Blu-ray Set 2″ will feature 23 episodes. And instead of going by Japanese seasons, the release will be available as collections, so you get episodes from season 5 and 6 included in “Ranma 1/2 Blu-ray Set 5”.

“Ranma 1/2″ is a story about a teenage boy named Ranma Saotome. His father Genma Saotome and his good friend Soun Tendo have made a deal that Ranma can marry one of Soun’s daughters and so both are headed to Japan after training in China.

But because both Ranma and Genma have fallen into cursed lakes, whenever they come into contact with cold water, Ranma turns into a girl, while Genma turns into a panda.

And because Akane hates boys and Ranma is half boy/half girl, her older sisters Kusumi and Nabiki volunteer Akane to be Ranma’s betrothed.

But both Ranma and Akane are like oil and water and don’t get along. Both often tease each other and Akane tends to beat Ranma up. And as the two are to try and be a happy couple, also in school, both must put up with a cast of fascinating characters including Tatewaki Kuno and his sister Kodachi, Ranma’s eternal rival Ryouga Hibiki, the Chinese fighter named Shampoo, an okonomiyaki restaurant owner named Ukyo and many others who are happy to destroy their relationship.


The main characters of “Ranma 1/2″ are:

  • Ranma Saotome – The series protagonist and martial artist who is often training with his father. He and Akane tend to not get along and he often says things bad to her, which leads her to beat him up or get him into trouble. Because he fell into a cursed lake where a teenage girl had died, he transforms into a teenage girl when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water. Due to his father’s arrangement with Soun Tendo, he is the fiance of Akane Tendo.
  • Genma Saotome – The father of Ranma Saotome and is often training with his son. He is the childhood best friend of Soun Tendo and together, they made a promise that their children will marry. Because he fell into a cursed lake where a panda had died, he transforms into a panda when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water. He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Akane Tendo – The female protagonist who is a tomboy that loves martial arts. She is popular at school and many guys want her to be their girlfriend. Due to her father’s arrangement with Genma Saotome, she is engaged to Ranma Saotome. She also has a hot temper and is often arguing and beating up on Ranma.
  • Soun Tendo – The owner of the Tendo Dojo, he is the father of Kusumi, Nabiki and Akane. He and his childhood friend Genma had an arrangement that their children will marry. He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Kusumi Tendo – She is the most ladylike of the Tendo family, the eldest sister who is always kind, she is often seen taking care of her sisters and cooking for the entire family and also cleaning the house.
  • Nabiki Tendo – The middle child, Nabiki likes to make money and spend it! Often trying to find ways to make money.
  • Tatewaki Kuno – From a wealthy family and has a cocky attitude and because of his inflated ego, calls himself “Blue Thunder”. He is in love with Akane and female Ranma. He is an expert with a wooden sword.
  • Ryoga Hibiki – Ranma’s rival . Ryoga is terrible with directions and whenever he is planning to fight with Ranma, it would take him days or weeks, because he walked hundreds of miles in another direction. One day he followed Ranma and Genma all the way to China and was kicked by a girl and landed in a cursed lake where a small black pig had died. Whenever he comes in contact with cold water, he will turn into a black pig and whenever he comes in contact with hot water, he reverts back to his normal self. As a pig, named P-chan, he is taken in as a pet by Akane Tendo.
  • Kodachi Kuno – The captain of the St. Hebereke School for Girls Gymnastic team and while a great gymnast, she also uses poison and other methods in combat which has earned her the nickname “The Black Rose”.
  • Dr. Tofu Ono – A very good doctor, it’s that people worry when Kasumi is around because Tofu is in love with Kasumi and he begins behaving unusually towards everyone.
  • Shampoo – The hero of her village in China. She despises female Ranma and loves male Ranma. She also fell in a cursed lake in Jusenkyou and turns into a pink cat. Whenever she comes into contact with cold water, she turns into a cat. When in contact with hot water, she reverts back to normal. She runs the Neko Hanten Chinese restaurant.
  • Cologne – The leader of the Chinese Amazons and grandmother of Shampoo. Around 300-years-old, she has a history with Happosai.
  • Mousse – A male Chinese Amazon and master of hidden weapons. He also happens to have terrible eye sight and is deeply in love with Shampoo. He also fell into the cursed Jusenkyo and turns into a duck.
  • Happosai – The founder and grandmaster of “Anything Goes Martial Arts” (Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu) and the master of Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo.
  • Ukyo Kuonji – An Okonomiyaki chef. Ukyo’s father and Ranma’s father made a deal that their children would marry.
  • Tsubasa Kurenai – A male who is in love with Ukyo and happens to be a cross-dresser.
  • Principal Kuno – Tatewaki and Kodachi’s father who is the principal at Furinkan High School that causes problems for Ranma.
  • Ling-Ling/Lung-Lung – Shampoo’s younger sisters who come to Japan searching for the person who beat Shampoo.
  • Hikaru Gosunkugi – An unpopular student who practices vodoo and is desperately in love with Akane and tries to do all he can to get rid of Ranma.

VIDEO:

“Ranma 1/2” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The series is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and the series utilizes the cleaned up digital remastering that was released in Japan.  It’s important to note that the OVA’s and the films were released years after the television series and because production quality is much better, the picture quality for the OVA’s and films are much better in terms of color, animation and overall background art.

While grain is visible in the remastered HD release, the main difference is much better colors. Reds absolutely pop but instead of a smeary look of its original DVD release, line art to overall colors are simply much better in HD and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding.

Personally, this Blu-ray release version is the definitive version of “Ranma 1/2” to own!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio for “Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” is featured in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with English subtitles. You get both the wonderful Japanese soundtrack with fine performances by Kappei Yamaguchi, Megumi Hayashibara and Noriko Hidaka, Minami Takayama, Hiromi Tsuru, Kikuo Inoue, Kouchi Yamadera to name a few. And the original English dub.

It’s important to note that the English dub back in the ’90s were a much different style than the English dubs that people are accustomed to today. At the time, Viz Media and other companies were entering a new field for English dubs after many people have seen the Japanese version (due to fan subs).

So, back in the ’90s, Viz Media was criticized for its English dub soundtrack. The dub was no doubt subjective to the listener. Some didn’t mind, some were very vocal about it but the good news is that on this Blu-ray release, you have a choice between Japanese with English subtitles or the English dub.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Next OVA Episode Previews
  • Clean Opening and Endings

EXTRAS:

“Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” comes with a 32-page booklet with episode summaries. Also, included is a slipcase.


Back in 1993, J!-ENT was founded and in our first year, we reviewed the first two “Ranma 1/2” film sand were also reviewing the “Ranma 1/2” OVA’s.

Back then, it was quite a special time as anime was growing and the series that many people started watching from Japan and was English subtitled, was “Ranma 1/2”.  Viz Media was establishing itself as a major force in America, bringing anime and manga to the masses and “Ranma 1/2” was no doubt a series that was instrumental in introducing Japanese animation to people all over the world.

Back in 2002, the DVD version of the OVA collection was released, without the first two films and the price was discouraging at over $100 for the set.  And for those who purchased the original Japanese LD’s, you only got one episode for $59.  And the VHS tapes, had two OVA’s for $34.99.

Here we are in 2017, and you get 11 OVA’s plus the three animated films for half the price at under $50.  The OVA’s and film were remastered and are provided in 1080p High Definition.  English names of the films have changed a little.  For example, the second film is no longer called “Nihao My Concubine” and is now “The Battle of Togenkyo”.

And for “Ranma 1/2” fans, getting this set along with the TV series on Blu-ray is a no-brainer.

The first two films are fantastic and the OVA’s, back then, as they came out almost like twice a year, they were looked at specially.   Back then, we had massive anime clubs (which still exist but in a different capacity as the early ’90s) and watching the “Ranma 1/2” OVA’s or movies, believe it or not, dozens to a hundred people would come to watch “Ranma 1/2” in straight Japanese.  The films and the OVA’s had better animation, colors looked vibrant when compared to the TV series (as the latter seasons were not the greatest in animation quality).

The ’90s and the hook that “Ranma 1/2” and it’s music had on me.

Megumi Hayashibara (voice of female Ranma) was the best!

For me, what will always stick in my mind is the second “Ranma 1/2” film and OAV episodes 1-2 for its animation, storyline and soundtrack.  For the majority of the OVA’s, you get excellent series but I’ve always felt the weakest stories were the third film (which was more like an OVA because it was shorter in duration) and the final two OVA’s.

While there will always be debates about the voice acting of “Ranma 1/2″, I’m not going to keep saying, I wish this or that.  The fact is you get both soundtracks and if you want it in Japanese with English subtitles, that is an option.

While I have reviewed the older 2002 DVD, there are a few things that I do have to comment on and that is the fact that the specials and the final OVA have not been released in America yet.

In 2008, the 12th OVA was released but I would assume that with so much time passing since”Ranma 1/2” was produced with the original voice talent, Viz may not be interested.

Many were hoping that specials such as the “Hot Song Contest” would be included.  This special had a hilarious storyline and is considered as one of my favorites but still has never been released in the U.S..  The other specials were more like rehash of anime from past episodes along with music, which were more for the fan club back in Japan and are more for the collectors.  Also, many wonder if the live action drama special from 2011 will ever be released in the U.S.

But overall, this set is magnificent.  You get nearly all the “Ranma 1/2” OVA’s and the three films collected in one set, in high definition and for a great price.

If you are a “Ranma 1/2” fan, the “Ranma 1/2 OVA & Movies Collection” is recommended!

 

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