Top

Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

isthisazombie-s2

Fun, crazy, perverted and entertaining, “Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” will entertain harem anime fans expecting fan service but also getting a storyline with a twist!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 0-11 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Japanese and English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: December 11, 2012

Originally created by Shinji Kimura

Directed by Takaomi Kanasaki

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Screenplay by Makoto Uezu, Shigeru Morita, Touko Machida

Music by Shinji Kakijima

Original Character Design by Kobuichi, Muririn

Character Design by Shinobu Tagashira

Art Director: Kei Ichikura

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Iori Nomizu/Jad Saxton as Haruna

Junji Majima/Austin Tindle as Ayumu Aikawa

Midori Tsukimiya/Cherami Leigh as Eucliwood Hellscythe

Ai Shimizu/Monica Rial as Dai-sensei (Head Teacher)

Aya Gōda/Caitlin Glass as Salas

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Anthony Bowling as Orito

Hisako Kanemoto/Brittney Karbowski as Yuki “Tomonori” Yoshida

Koji Yusa/Eric Vale as King of the Night

Mina/Emerick Jade as Kanami Mihara

Noriko Shitaya/Lindsay Seidel as Kyōko

Rie Yamaguchi/Erica Harte as Taeko Hiramatsu

Yōko Hikasa/Morgan Garrett as Sera (Seraphim)

Season Two gets off to a shocking start as Ayumu breaks Haruna’s magic chainsaw and accidentally exposes his fondness for pretty pink dresses to the entire school! Next there’s an incident with a dreadful dance that turns out to be a curse – and an embarrassing trip to a maid cafe where all the zombie’s roommates work! But the shenanigans take a backseat to bigger problems when Ayumu’s mysterious drinking buddy turns out to be the most powerful magical girl of them all!

To save his friends and defeat this adorable new menace, zombie boy must do the unthinkable: throw a mixer for his own murderer! With a little help from his loyal harem of vampires, magical girls, and the world’s cutest necromancer, Ayumu just might survive to rot another day!

In 2009, Shinichi Kimura wrote the Japanese light novel series “Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?” (Is this a Zombie?) featuring illustrations by Kobuichi and Muririn.

With the popularity of “Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?”, a total of five different manga adaptations were created and a 12-episode anime series adaptation was produced by Studio Deen and shown on TV Saitama from January through March 2011. Followed by a ten episode TV series +2 OVA’s which aired on Tokyo MX.

The harem anime series is directed by Takaomi Kanasaki (“Magician’s Academy”, “School Rumble: 2nd Semester”), series composition by Makoto Uezu (“Ah My Buddha”, “Sola”, “Utawarerumono”, “My Bride is a Mermaid”), music by Shinji Kakijima (“Uta~Kata”, “Transformers: Cybertron”), character design by Shinobu Tagashira (“Shonen Onmyouji”, “Yume o Kanaero Zo”, “Hunter x Hunter”) and art direction by Kei Ichikura (“Odolm@ster: Xenoglossia”, “Strike Witches 2″, “Freedom”).

And now the second season, “Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead” will be released on DVD courtesy of FUNimation in September 2013 featuring all ten episodes plus the 2 OVA episodes!

What is “Is This a Zombie?” about?

“Is This a Zombie?” revolves around a teenager named Ayumu Aikawa. A high school boy that was killed by a serial killer and resurrected to a zombie courtesy of a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe. As a teenager, Ayumu used to be quite active in school but now, he tries to keep things downlow, so no one will find out that he’s a zombie.

With his parents traveling the world, Ayumu let’s Eucliwood live with him temporarily. And as Ayumu tries to keep himself out of trouble, he encounters a Maso-Shojo (Magical Garment Girl) named Haruna who is fighting against a demon. But somehow her magical powers are absorbed by Ayumu due to Eucliwood’s power of resurrection being stronger than Haruna’s magic. And because Haruna needs to defeat the demons known as Megalos, with Ayumu having her power, she needs Ayumu to take on the role as a Maso-Shojo.

Unfortunately, by transforming to a magical garment girl, everyone in school catches Ayumu in a magical girl outfit and think he’s a weirdo or tranny. And because Ayumu has Haruna’s power, he has no choice but to let her move in with him.

Meanwhile, another girl comes to Ayumu’s home, her name is Seraphim, a servant of Eucliwood and one that happens to be a vampire ninja. But when she comes to the house, she is asked to serve Ayumu, which he rejects. But despite her heavy tsundere attitude, she also begins living with Ayumu.

In season two, unlike the first season which featured a storyline of Ayumu trying to find his killer, the second season is more offbeat, perverted and crazy.  Each episode is random and revolves around Ayumu living with his new roommates.  From going to an indoor pool or going to a cafe!  But also having to deal with the shame of letting people at school see him as a magical garment girl but also being naked.

“Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” features the following characters:

  • Ayumu Aikawa – The main protagonist of the series. Ayumi is a normal (and also a bit of a pervert) teenager who attends high school but his life is changed when he is killed by a serial killer. He is revived as a zombie by Eucliwood Hellscythe and with his new power, he is immortal, invincible and has great strength. But he can still feel pain and easily dries out in sunlight. Adding to his superhuman strength, due to having the ability to absorb magic, he accidentally absorbed Haruna’ s Maso-Shojo power and now Ayumu has the ability to turn into a magical garment girl.
  • Haruna – Haruna is a Maso-Shojo from Villiers and her primary weapon is a chainsaw which she named Mystletainn. Her job is to defeat Megalos and because Ayumu has absorbed some of her powers (and thus his transformation is a magical girl) and needs Ayumu’s help to fight the Megalos demons, she moves in with him. Moreso, because she has fallen for him.
  • Eucliwood Hellscythe – Eucliewood is a necromancer responsible for bringing Ayumu back to life. She is a powerful magic user and because she can easily kill people by muttering words, she chooses not to talk but use written notes. She also experiences a lot of pain when she uses magic. She cares for Ayumu, because he is grateful that she gave him a second chance at life.
  • Seraphim – A vampire ninja known for her well-endowed assets. She uses the power of the Secret Sword Technique: Swallow Cut and is the true tsundere character and thinks that everything that Ayumu does, even if it’s something good natured as a sign of deviance. She needs blood to stay alive. Despite her attitude towards Ayumu, she is starting to fall for him as well.
  • Mael Strom/Tomonori – A vampire ninja from a different faction than Seraphim, Mael goes by Yuki Yoshida and she finds herself falling for Ayumu because of his courage and looks at Ayumu as her husband.
  • Sarasvati – Seraphim’s superior and goes by the name of Kirara Hoshikawa. Her job was to make sure that Eu was killed because she is a Megalo magnet.
  • Orito – Ayumu’s only guy friend who is obsessed with girls.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in English 5.1 Surround and Japanese Stereo. For picture quality, the animation is pretty good, as characters are fun and well-shaded and art backgrounds are detailed well. There is a bit of softness but the series is quite colorful. I am a bit surprised the anime series was not released on Blu-ray considering it is a newer anime series and a storyline that would attract viewers but on DVD, the TV series does look good.

As for the soundtrack, the English dub track has a better dynamic range as it is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, so action scenes are much more active through the surround channels during the action scenes. And as the English dub is well-acted, it’s also a bit more raunchier thanks to the writing. The Japanese soundtrack is very good and well acted but because it’s a 2.0 soundtrack, the English dub has better dynamic range.  But both soundtracks offer something different.  If you are in a mood for something much more raunchier, definitely opt for the English soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 4 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with voice talents Anthony Bowling (Orito), Caitlin Glass (Salas), Morgan Garrett (Seraphim) and Britney Karbowski (Tomonori).
  • Episode 10 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Jade Saxton (Haruna) and Austin Tindle (Ayumu) and Jerry Jewell (Director).
  • Characters in Action: Episode 1 Video Commentary – (26:28) Featuring a video commentary with Cherami Leigh, Morgan Garrett, Jad Saxton and Austin Tindle.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Is this a Zombie? Of the Dead”
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

If you enjoyed the first season of the harem anime series “Is this a Zombie?”, you’ll no doubt enjoy the second season with a focus on more craziness and more interaction between Ayumu Aikawa and his new housemates.

There is no denying that the perverted nature of the series has been taken up a notch.  While a lot of these episodes are standalone, there is a storyline that relates to the character of Eucliwood which begins to take shape in episode 6 but for the most part, the storyline for season two focuses on Ayumu and his roomates and his relationship with them.

From the first OVA (episode 0), the group goes out swimming at a indoor swimming pool and while Ayumu finds himself distracted by his housemates in their bikinis, what happens at the pool and when they throw a birthday for Eucliwood?

But to make Ayumu’s state of unpopularness sink to new lows, his classmates eventually see him in his magical girl outfit with a chainsaw to take down the Squid Megalo, meanwhile what happens when Sarasvati becomes obsessed with Ayumu’s round bottom and yes, a running theme of Ayumu in his magical girl outfit and his classmates’s thoughts about it, becomes a running gag in the series.

Meanwhile, Orito is worried about Ayumu being a crossdresser, so he takes him to a “tsundere” cosplay cafe owned by Sarasvati’s clan and sure enough, Yuki and Haruna are employed there and takes part in a challenge to bring out there tsundere (an act by maids to treat customers with a cold attitude).

Sure, anime fans…we have seen harem anime series before. Well-endowed or characters that constantly show their panties and your protagonist guy who is either a really kind individual or a crazy pervert.

But where “Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead” tries to be different from other anime series is the fact that its main protagonist is teenage guy who is a zombie and also a magical garment girl! And I know, some of you are reading this and asking yourselves…”what?”.

And to add to the twist is that each member has a tsundere attitude towards the protagonist (but yet falls for him despite him ticking them off in some way or other) and joininh the harem is a necromancer, the other a maso-shojo, three vampire ninjas and suffice to say, the main protagonist Ayumu Aikawa, is just a guy trying to play it cool and cares for each of them as a good friend (but being a teenage guy who is interested in sex, he also has perverted things going through his head at times) despite getting beaten up quite often.

So, there is more to this anime than just perverted humor with fun and games.

Also, included with “Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” is the zero episode, an OVA about Ayumu and the young ladies going out to the indoor pool and with the girls wearing bikinis, you can expect the perverted shenanigans from Ayumi and also Orito. Plus the second 11th episode OVA featuring Ayumu drinking some concoction that makes him invisible and that can only mean trouble!

As for the DVD release, while “Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” is not being released on Blu-ray and only on DVD, the picture quality is good on DVD. While there is softness as one can expect from a TV anime series, the series looks good and the OVA 13th episode looks even better. Dialogue for both Japanese and English soundtracks are clear and understandable. And as for special features, you get two audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talents and also a video commentary as well!

As for the series overall, there are better harem anime series such as “Love Hina” or “Aoi Yori Aoishi”, or those who want comedy will enjoy “Magikano”, “Rosario + Vampire” or “Nyan Koi!” and for those who are primarily in it for the perverted fan service, will probably enjoy anime series such as “Sekirei”, “Samurai Harem” or “Heaven’s Lost Property”.

But “Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” tries to incorporate harem anime but instead of loving girls, most of them are “tsundere” and often beating Ayumu up!

Fun, crazy, perverted and entertaining, “Is This a Zombie? Of the Dead: The Complete Series” will entertain harem anime fans expecting fan service but also getting a storyline with a twist!

 

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

September 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-s5-v1

Nico Robin’s past revealed in the latest “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two” DVD set.  Also, backstories of how each member became a Straw Hat Pirate and the battle between CP9 begins!  An entertaining and action-packed volume that is highly recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two

DURATION: Episodes 276-287 (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: September 3, 2013

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

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

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

The tragic secrets of Robin’s past are revealed in series of heartbreaking flashbacks! Bullied because of her unique powers, young Robin’s only friends were the kindly scientists who nurtured her genius intellect while her mother searched for the answers to life’s greatest mysteries. Lonely and afraid, Robin took comfort in the company of books until the day the World Government arrived.

Commanded by men who feared the might of science, an army of warships launched a brutal attack on the peaceful island of Ohara – an attack that threatened to separate mother and daughter forever! Robin’s dark past left her with a lifetime of scars, but Luffy and the Straw Hats never give up on family! Even if it means a deadly showdown with the assassins of CP9!

The Straw Hat Pirates go after their former teammate Nico Robin but why did she leave?  The origin of Nico Robin is revealed and how the Straw Hat Pirates became to be in “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two”, available now on DVD courtesy of FUNimation!

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 at 629 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two”, available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

“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.

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.

While the FUNimation DVD release is listed as season five for America, in Japan, episode 264 is the first episode of season 9.

The “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two” DVD comes with episodes 276-287 on two DVD discs. Here are the spoilerless summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 276 - The giant named Saulo finds out who young Robin’s mother is.  Meanwhile, Robin learns some distressing news.
  • EPISODE 277 – When Professor Clover speaks to the Elder Stars, fearing his knowledge, they send Spandaine to kill him and destroy the island.
  • EPISODE 278 - Saulo tries to fight the Navy in order to allow Robin to escape, but Vice-Admiral Kuzan (aka Admiral Aokiji) comes to fight Saulo.
  • EPISODE 279 - The origin of Luffy and how he became a pirate.
  • EPISODE 280 - The origin of how Zoro and Usopp became Straw Hat Pirates.
  • EPISODE 281 - How Nami became a Straw Hat Pirate.
  • EPISODE 282 - How Sanji and Chopper became Straw Hat Pirates.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 283 - Robin’s back story is revealed.
  • EPISODE 284 - The Straw Hat Pirates try to save Robin.
  • EPISODE 285 - The Straw Hat Pirates must split up and prepare for their battle with CP9.
  • EPISODE 286 - Zoro vs. Kaku, Sogeking vs. Jyabura.
  • EPISODE 287 – Nami vs. Kumadori, Zoro vs. Kaku, Sogeking vs. Jyabura continued.

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, the series 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 Five, Voyage Two” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 277 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Kent Willams (Clover), Jad Saxton (young Robin) and Stephanie Young (adult Robin and Robin’s mother).

DISC 2:

  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with John Swasey – (16:29) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and John Swasey (Sir Crocodile).
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Stephanie Young – (16:44) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Stephanie Young (Nico Robin).
  • EPISODE 287 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) with Luci Christian (Nami) and Sonny Strait (Usopp).
  • Textless Songs – Textless opening song for “Brand New World”, “We Are!”, “Crazy Rainbow” and closing song – “Adventure World”.
  • Trailers - Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

Why would Robin leave the Straw Hat Pirates?  The series since Robin has joined have left us with nothing about her mystery and for the most part, her life has been unknown.

Until now.

For someone so non-talkative, so dangerous, it has made me wonder why Robin would join the Straw Hat Pirates, since she’s nothing like them.

But now everything is answered as the background of Robin and her sad past is revealed.

In what possibly is one of the most emotional episodes I have seen in “One Piece”, you can’t help but shed some tears when you realize the life that Robin has lived when she was a younger girl and to know the full truth of why she left the Straw Hat Pirates.

But of course, if you watched this series, The Straw Hat Pirates are more than shipmates, they are family (no matter how they tend to get on each other’s case) and as family, they fight for their own.

So, as the rescue attempt and the origin of Robin is revealed, we also get a flashback episode of how Luffy, Zoro, Usopp, Nami, Sanji and Chopper all became Straw Hat Pirates and how, each time these people were in harms way or felt the world was crumbling around them, Luffy was there for them.

And to end things, we get the beginning of the fight against CP9 which will be continued in “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Three”.

For long time “One Piece” fans, this is one volume you don’t want to miss.  The origin of Robin is one of the most heartbreaking but also one of my favorite backstories in the “One Piece” series.  It’s so emotional that you can’t help but shed some tears over the storyline, it’s that sad!

As for the DVD, picture quality for the series is very good, voice acting for the original Japanese and English is very well-done (Toei is quite strict on English dub voice acting of the series).  And you also get two audio commentaries, two video interviews and more!

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul. While, we are 287 episodes down, with a total of 620+ episodes having been shown in Japan, it will be a long while until we catch up with the Japanese episodes and so, I look at this series as one that many of us will get to grow up with.

But the fact that we are getting “One Piece” in the U.S. is fantastic.  It’s a series that you can literally jump in at the beginning of a season and get into that season’s arc quite easily.

It is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is and how people gravitate towards this series.

“One Piece” is definitely one of the most entertaining, exciting and action-packed anime series that continues to have a strong presence in Japan for over a decade and it never gets old.

“One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Two” is recommended!

 

Monsuno: Combat Chaos (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

monsuno-combatchaos

“Monsuno: Combat Chaos” continues the adventures of Team Core-Tech in the first five episodes of season two! “Monsuno” is a fun and entertaining animated series that has similarities to shows such as “Pokemon” or “Digimon” but a unique story that ties in with their toy merchandise line very well. An animated series that parents (who are young at heart) will enjoy watching with their children and safe action animated series for the children to watch on their own.   “Monsuno: Combat Chaos” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Pacific Animation Partners, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Monsuno: Combat Chaos

DURATION: Episodes 28-31 (110 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Color, NTSC, English Dolby Digital 2.0

COMPANY: Jakks Pacific, dentsu, Fremantle Media Enterprises, Topps, Shout Factory

RATED: TV Y7 FV

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Director: Yoshiaki Okumura

Produced By: Jared Wolfson, Yukio Kusumoto

Producer: Chapman Maddox

Associate Producer: Joh Hudson, Yuichi Kinishita

Story Editor: Michael Ryan

Character Design: Yuichiro Hayashi

Creature Design: Designmate

Animation Creature Design: Hiroto Kato

Creature Design Director: Takaaki Hirayama, Masahiko Okura, Hiroto Kato

Art Director: Tomoko Iwasa

Mecha / Prop Design: Yasuhiro Moriki

Background Director: Shigemi Ikeda

Background Art: Shigemi Ikeda

Music by Michael Taera

Cinematography by Naoki Serizawa

Edited by Masaki Sakamoto

Casting by Rene Veilleux

Featuring the following voice talent:

Cam Clark as Chase

Christopher Smith as Bren

Karen Strassman as Jinja

Keith Silverstein as Dax

Kirk Thornton as Beyal

“Chase Suno and his Core-Tech team have emerged victorious in their most recent battle with Eklipse and S.T.O.R.M. With Core-Tech’s victory, Chase has been given the opportunity to decide the fate of the Monsuno. Believing that mankind and Monsuno can one day coexist peacefully, Chase allows them to live. But new foes lurk in the shadows, waiting for their chance to strike. Is now their time? Find out with the first five episodes of Monsuno’s outrageously exciting second season!”

With the first half of season two of “Monsuno” having aired on television, Shout! Factory will be releasing “Monsuno: Combat Chaos” on DVD.

Featuring the first five episodes of season two (episodes 27-31), with Team Core-Tech having defeated the Eklipse Organization, this time around, the team come face-to-face with a members of the Forge Resistance., Drezz and the Punk Monks who work for Professor Tallis.  As the enemies try to obtain the Wild Core Bomb that can destroy the entire city, Team Core-Tech wants to make sure it doesn’t happen!

What is Monsuno?

In Japan is known for having popular series that revolved around its product merchandise! From “Pokemon”, “Digimon”, “B-Daman”, “Bakugan” and many others.

But in America, replicating that success would have to feature toys that are fun to play and characters that children can identify with and also lead them to buying the merchandise in stores.

One of popular toys that have made it onto store shelves with a lot of buzz is “Monsuno” and for its animated series, we are seeing the collaboration between American and Japanese companies with the involvement of Dentsu, Jakks Pacific, FremantleMedia Enterprises and Topps.

“Monsuno” (also known as “Jusen Batoru Monsuno” or “Beast Rotation Battle Monsuno” in Japan) is directed by Yoshiaki Okumura (“Eyeshield 21″, “Dragon Drive”, “Eien no Aseria”), featuring character designs by Yuichiro Hayashi (“Soten Koro”, “PES: Peace Eco Smile”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Bokurano”, “Basilisk”, “Gantz”, “Afro Samurai”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “InuYasha”).

Premiering on Nicktoons in the U.S. with a total of 26-episodes shown, “Monsuno” will receive its first DVD release (titled “Monsuno: Destiny”) courtesy of Shout Factory featuring the first five episodes.

“Monsuno” revolves around three teenagers: Chase Suno, Jinja and Bren. As all three are adventure-seeking individuals, both Jinja and Bren help Chase look for his father Jeredy Suno who has gone missing in the Himalayas.

When they arrive to S.T.O.R.M. lab, the place looks like it has received major damage but inside is Jon Ace, a man that Chase is familiar with. Jon tells Chase that his father left him something inside a sealed door but the only way to get access is through his handprint. When Jon puts his hand on the panel the door opens to reveal a a Monsuno Glowblade with a computer featuring a special message for his son. But once Chase grabs the GlowBlade, Charlemagne, the commander of S.T.O.R.M. has his soldiers hold Chase and friends by gunpoint and for them to give up the GlowBlade since it belongs to S.T.O.R.M.

But Chase refuses and when things go for the worse, Chase thinks about the message that his father left and so Chase throws the Monsuno GlowBlade to the ground and upon contact, a big Monsuno monster comes out. Nearly invincible Chase and friends run away. As the big white monster pretty much chases all soldiers of S.T.O.R.M. out of the building, including Chase and friends, thinking that Chase and friends have lost the big white monster, the monster finds them immediately.

But to their surprise, the big white monster, which Chase gives the name “Lock” is friendly to them. The computer message left by Chase’s father explains that he discovered Monsuno DNA that has been around since before mankind. And by using the DNA of other animals, he was able to create the Monsuno. In Lock’s case, he is a hybrid of a polar bear, gorilla and tiger But with this technology, he wants to keep it out of the hands of S.T.O.R.M. Also, learning that the GlowBlade is where the Monsuno lives and where it heals.

But just as Chase and friends think they have escaped from S.T.O.R.M., the evil company manages to find them and each time, a battle between S.T.O.R.M’s Monsuno vs. Chase’s Lock are engaged in battle.

Eventually in the next two episodes, we see how Bren and Jinja end up getting their own Monsuno, plus the trio learn how important it is to trust the right people because not only is S.T.O.R.M. after Locke, as well as the Monsuno, but other evil antagonists are after it as well.

With season two and Team Core-Tech having mastered their Monsuno, the group now faces a new threat… Professor Tallis who has sent members of the Forge Resistance in obtaining the destructive Wild Core Bomb.

The episodes featured in “Monsuno: Combat Chaos” are the following (spoilerless summaries):

  • EPISODE 27 – Flash – Team Core-Tech come face-to-face with members of the Forge Resistance, Drezz and the Punk Monks.
  • EPISODE 28 – Bang – Can Team Core-Tech prevent Professor Tallis and the Forge Resistance from using the Mega Wild Core Bomb.
  • EPISODE 29 – Mysterious – Medea and her team begin following Team Core-Tech, especially Chase.
  • EPISODE 30 – Antithesis – Team Core-Tech take on S.T.O.R.M’s Strike Squad.
  • EPISODE 31 – Kidnapped – Dax goes back to his hometown after receiving information about his parents, but it may be a trap!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Monsuno” is an interesting animated series because right off the bat, it looks like an anime series but the character designs seem a bit different from most anime television series and that is probably because the studio was focusing on making the series look and feel like an anime but with a western animated feel. Character and monster designs are well animated and the art backgrounds look well-detailed and look very good on DVD.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is front channel driven and English dialogue is clear and well-acted.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Monsuno: Combat Chaos” comes with short video profiles for Bren and Dax.

“Monsuno: Combat Chaos” is back with the first five episodes of season two.

Featuring Team Core-Tech taking on the Forge Resistance and Professor Tallis, they also run into some trouble with S.T.O.R.M.

As the first season focused on Chase Suno looking for his father and taking on S.T.O.R.M., the second season focuses on the team taking on a new antagonist who have weapons that can destroy the entire city.  And that is something that Chase and the team will not let happen.  But also episodes featuring Dax trying to get information about his missing parents.

With the last DVD’s focusing on the first ten episodes of season one, I was a bit surprise to see the jump to season two.  But I would imagine that hopefully that means “Monsuno” season one will receive a season box set.  But for now, for those who enjoyed season two, fortunately, the first five episodes are available now on DVD with “Combat Chaos”.

For the most part, “Monsuno” is an entertaining animated series featuring a joint-collaboration between American and Japanese companies and literally a series that helps promote the toyline courtesy of Jakks Pacific.

While the series has the feel of “Pokemon”, what makes the series so different is that the main protagonists are older teenagers and they tend to get themselves into trouble often. The series is action-packed but also tied to their toyline, so the teenagers are often seen throwing their “Monsuno” capsules to release them.

While I’m not sure how the toys are or how they are played, since the debut of the first DVD, I’ve been seeing a lot of “Monsuno” toys on the shelves, so I’m guessing the series has a dedicated audience.

“Monsuno” is also diverse as it features a Japanese (or Japanese American) protagonist with Chase Suno, Jinja is an independent, intelligent and kick-butt female protagonist and while Bren does a lot of whining, he makes up for it with his excellent computer skills. “Monsuno: Power” adds Beyal and Dax, two individuals who are also of a different race and adds to the diverse cast of the animated series so far.

My 10-year-old son is a big Pokemon fan but immediately after watching these five episodes, he was really getting into the series and wanted to check out the “Monsuno” toys immediately after watching. The whole concept of tossing your GlowBlade toy with a Monsuno coming out is quite interesting and I have no doubt that this series will appeal to children who will most likely ask their parents to purchase them the toys.

These five episodes of season two have been enjoyable but for parents who are wondering if the series is safe for their children, I would recommend it for older children.

The monsters may seem scar to younger children and the fact that Chase and friends are constantly being chased down by soldiers with weapons and they do get injured at times, while not super violent, parents may want to watch the series with their child to see if its right for them. But no doubt, I know that with these episodes alone, more than likely like my child, your children will be wanting the toys.

As for the DVD, while I prefer watching the series as a full complete season versus a five episode DVD release, I can only hope that Shout Factory does plan to release the whole series as a full set.  But for parents who have children who enjoy the toys, the kids will no doubt enjoy “Monsuno: Combat Chaos”.

Overall, “Monsuno” is a fun and entertaining animated series that has similarities to shows such as “Pokemon” or “Digimon” but a unique story that ties in with their toy merchandise line very well. An animated series that parents (who are young at heart) will enjoy watching with their children, me and my son really enjoyed “Monsuno” and look forward to the next DVD release.

“Monsuno: Combat Chaos” is recommended!

 

Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

blueexorcist-complete

“Blast of Tempest” is a series that captivated me from beginning to end.  It’s unique, unpredictable, complex and so far, the first half of the storyline has been nothing less than great!  If you are one of those anime fans who have been wanting something original, smart and entertaining…then “Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season” is recommended! It’s definitely one of my top picks for “best anime series on DVD” to watch in 2013!

PLEASE PURCHASE THIS ANIME SERIES FROM RIGHTSTUF or BANDAI ENT. ONLINE STORE

Image courtesy of © Kyo Shirodaira, Arihide Sano, Ren Saizaki/Zetsuen Project, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, 16:9 LB, Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2013

Originally created by Kyo Shirodaira

Directed by Masahiro Ando

Series Composition by Mari Okada

Music by Michiru Oshima

Character Design by Tsunenori Saito

Art Direction by Ayumi Sato, Tomoaki Okada

Mechanical Design by Masahisa Suzuki

Art Design by Ayumi Sato

Anime Production: Bones

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kouki Uchiyama as Yoshino Takigawa

Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Mahiro Fuwa

Miyuki Sawashiro as Hakaze Kusaribe

Hirofumi Nojima as Junichirō Hoshimura

Hiroyuki Yoshino as Tetsuma Kusaribe

Junichi Suwabe as Natsumura Kusaribe

Kana Hanazawa as Aika Fuwa

Miyuki Sawashiro as Hakaze Kusaribe

Nana Mizuki as Evangeline Yamamoto

Rikiya Koyama as Samon Kusaribe

Shintarō Asanuma as Takumi Hayakawa

Yuuki Kaji as Megumu Hanemura

One day, a sorceress princess was stuffed into a barrel and banished.  One day, a single girl was suddenly murdered, and the culprit still runs free.  And one day, a battle spanning time and space over magic and revenge began! Sanity and madness; sense and intelligence; self-confidence and convictions.  The tragic tale of this irrational world begins here…

In 2009, “Zetsuen no Tempest” was released as a manga byy Kyo Shirodaira with illustrations by Arihide Sano and Ren Saizaki.  In 2012, the anime series received an anime adaptation courtesy of BONES and in August 2013, Aniplex of America will be releasing the series  with the title “Blast of Tempest” with the first season (first 12 episodes) on DVD.

The series is directed by Masahiro Ando (“Sword of the Stranger”, “Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home” and “CANAAN”), series composition by Mari Okada (“AKB0048″, “Aria – The Natural”, “Anel Tales”, “CANAAN”), music by Michiru Oshima (“Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Gokusen”, “Arc the Lad”, “Gokusen”), character designs by Tsunenori Saito (“Sword of the Stranger”, “Towanoquon”, “Halo Legends”) and art direction by Ayumi Sato (“The World God Only Knows”, “Heroman”, “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2″ and “Eureka 7: Astral Ocean”) and Tomoaki Okada (“Banner of the Stars”, “Darker than Black”, “Crest of the Stars”, “Star Driver”, “Wolf’s Rain”).

“Blast of Tempest” begins with an introduction to two teenage students, Yoshino Takigawa and Mahiro Fuwa.  Mahiro gives his step-sister Aika a ride back home and with her attitude towards Mahiro, Fuwa believes that his sister dislikes his friend.

Meanwhile, we see a woman breaking out of a barrel and is stranded in an uninhabited island.  Her name is Hakaze Kusaribe, the leader of the Kusaribe clan and the “Mage of Genesis”, a princess who’s goal is to protect the “Tree of Genesis”, which is the source of magic used by her clan.  But it appears that she was betrayed by her aide named Samon, who had put her in the well and put her in an island to block out any of use her mage powers.  His intention, to awaken the Tree of Exodus to prevent the advent of the Tree of Genesis, which he and the Kusaribe clan believe will recreate the world and destroy mankind.

Fast foward to the near future and it was revealed that Aika was murdered and Fuwa has not been seen for months after the incident.

As Yoshino wonders what has happened to Fuwa, a woman named Evangeline Yamamoto arrives and with her weapons, threatens to kill Yoshino unless he provides her with information in regards to his connection to Mahiro.  Yoshino explains that he has not seen Mahiro in months and that he has been mourning the death of his sister, Aika.

All of a sudden, butterflies show up everywhere and we see how humanity has been affected with some strange disease that turns people into metal.  But as Yoshino tries to fight back and escape, Evangeline shows how dangerous she can be and before she hurts him, out of nowhere, Mahiro teleports and beats Evangeline.

Mahiro explains to Yoshino that he was given this power by a mage named Hakaze, who he can communicate via a wooden doll that Hakaze had made (and Mahiro found it inside a bottle on the beach).  Hakaze makes a deal with Mashiro that she would find Aika’s murder in exchange for his help in stopping the resurrection of the Tree of Exodus.

Yoshino decides to help Mahiro find out who murdered Aika as well, but what is his real motivation of assisting Mahiro?  Meanwhile, Yoshino is given some of Hakaze’s power via a magical talisman that has been left behind in the city.  As Mahiro and Yoshino try to find the murderer and the magic talismans, they receive word from Hakaze that there is no magic to track the culprit, which can only mean that a member of her clan may be responsible.

And out of nowhere, Samon’s aide Natsumura tries to kill them.

Will Mahiro and Yoshino find out who killed Aika and can they also find a way to free Hakaze and rescue her out of the island?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Blast of Tempest” is an anime series that I expected wonderful animation, especially with director Masahiro Ando behind-the-scenes.  When it comes to BONES anime productions, Masahiro Ando is one of my favorite directors because he brings quality to a film or animated series and having watched “Blast of Tempest”, I am absolutely pleased with the animation.  From character designs, shading to lighting, Tsunenori Saito and staff did a wonderful job in bringing out the emotion of the characters but also to capture the action and the mechanical designs as planes and tanks go to war against the unknown.

And as one can expect from BONES, the art direction by Ayumi Sato and Tomoaki Okada is absolutely beautiful.  From oceans, forests, hills, cities and just the ambiance of a certain area, they captured the environment with wonderful detail.

While I wished this series was released on Blu-ray, as some Aniplex releases are released in Japanese with English subtitles on DVD, perhaps this series will receive a Blu-ray release in the future with an English dub included.

For now, the series is presented in 16:9 LB with audio in Japanese linear PCM stereo with English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season” features the following special features:

  • Textless OP – “Blast of Tempest” opening theme without text.
  • Textless ED - “Blast of Tempest” ending theme without text.

EXTRAS:

“Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season” comes with a slipcover, special booklet, reversible mini-poster and 2-sided reversible cover.

“Blast of Tempest” is one of the most intelligent, addicting and enjoyable anime series I have watched in the past few years.

It’s a series with a lot of twists, a series with a lot of secrets and I don’t even know how to discuss the series without revealing any major plot details.  So, the best way for me to even describe the series is a mix of murder mystery as one brother tries to find the killer of his step-sister but aided by a friend, or is he a good friend at all?

The interesting aspect of this series of its two main characters is that the character of Mashiro Fuwa, is a boy who has been born under privilege and has always been treated differently because his family comes from a powerful background.  While Yoshino was the person who rather keep to himself and not be involved in anything.  Due to circumstances, Yoshino ended up having to help Mashiro and in the process, their relationship was not of mere friendship, as one would think.  But a friendship of convenience.

How this friendship lasted from their younger years to their older years, it is because of one important connection which one will find out as the series progresses.

But it’s the protagonist Yoshino that you are amazed to see how his storyline unfolds as each layer is peeled and you get to see a side of him that he has kept secret all this time.  But how damaging will his secret be?    And for Mashiro, why is his drive to find Aika’s killer, made him change to this person only seeking nothing but revenge?

The other storyline that captivates you is the storyline that surrounds the character Hakaze.  She appears to be a beautiful, naive teenager but in truth, she is the powerful “Mage of Genesis”, born to be the leader representing the “Tree of Genesis” and like the concept of ying and yang, opposing the “Tree of Genesis” is the “Tree of Exodus”.    Both trees locked up into an epic battle that has spawned generations and for Hakaze, she has been left on an island, hidden by a sphere and no way to use her power to leave the area.

Kept on the island, as a viewer, you feel bad for the character because she doesn’t have a mean spirit.  If anything, she wants to help Mashiro and Yoshino find the murderer of Aika, but she needs their help to get her out of the island.  And thus, it becomes a cat and mouse game as the Kusaribe clan now led by Hakaze’s former aid Samon sends his clan after Mashiro and Yoshino, but unlike regular humans, they have been given part of Hakaze’s power to defend themselves and others.

Meanwhile, the government/military are trying to put a stop to whatever has unleashed the virus on humanity, which have been killing innocent people by turning them into metal.

The drive for each character is easily explained throughout the series, but within the series is this storyline about logic vs. illlogic.  In order for Hakaze and the Tree of Genesis to thrive, all actions must be based on logic.  But we see how one’s perception, may it be false, can be seen as logic in their own terms, but must be proved or discredited.

Each character is faced to evaluate situations in their life or other’s lives to find out why one is siding on Genesis vs. Exodus and the logic of why one would side by one side versus the other.  It’s a complexity that many anime do not try to touch because it requires one to think.  I just want to say that the series is not as cerebral as a Masamune Shirow animated film but it’s a TV series that stands out from other series because so much thought went into the complexities of logic and illogic and how choices affect a character and one has to prove their case.

While the first half of the series does not end on a cliffhanger, it’s one heck of a cliffhanger because you are left wanting more and more!

Because of its character development and its complex but yet fascinating and enjoyable storyline, “Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season” was a complete surprise.  It’s a unique storyline with no abundant use of old cliche’s or typical banality seen on other anime series.

With this DVD release, the animation looks great and the Japanese voice acting is top-notch, but it is without an English dub which may detract people from this DVD release.

As for Aniplex swag, you do get a slipcover, special booklet and reversible mini-power plus a 2-sided reversible cover.  The booklet features episode synopsis and character artwork.  While the poster features Yoshino and Mashiro on one side and Hakaze with Aika on the other.

Overall, “Blast of Tempest” is a series that captivated me from beginning to end.  It’s unique, unpredictable, complex and so far, the first half of the storyline has been nothing less than great!  If you are one of those anime fans who have been wanting something original, smart and entertaining…then “Blast of Tempest: Complete 1st Season” is recommended!

It’s definitely one of my top picks for “best anime series on DVD” to watch in 2013!

PLEASE PURCHASE THIS ANIME SERIES FROM RIGHTSTUF or BANDAI ENT. ONLINE STORE

 

Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

blueexorcist-complete

An interesting take on exorcist-based storyline, “Blue Exorcist” has a good balance of humor, action, cool characters with an interesting concept plus awesome animation and beautiful art backgrounds. Featuring all 12 episodes for season 1 and the addition of an English dub, “Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season” is  definitely recommended!

PLEASE PURCHASE THIS ANIME SERIES FROM RIGHTSTUF or BANDAI ENT. ONLINE STORE

Image courtesy of © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA, Blue Exorcist Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (325 minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, 16:9 LB, Dolby Digital

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2013

Based on the manga by Kazue Kato

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design by Keigo Sasaki

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Keigo Sasaki

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Jun Fukuyama/Johnny Yong Bosch as Yukio Okumura

Kana Hanazawa/Christine Marie Cabanos as Shiemi Moriyama

Kazuya Nakai/Kyle Hebert as Ryūji Suguro

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Bryce Paperbrook as Rin Okumura

Ayahi Takagaki/Stephanie Sheh as Kuro

Eri Kitamura/Kira Buckland as Izumo Kamiki

Hiroshi Kamiya/Sam Regal as Mephisto Pheles

Keiji Fujiwara/Kirk Thornton as Shirō Fujimoto

Koji Yusa/Brian Beacock as Renzō Shima

Rina Satou/Wendee Lee as Shura Kirigakure

Tetsuya Kakihara/Darrel Guilbeau as Amaimon

Yuuki Kaji/Mona Marshall as Konekomaru Miwa

“Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Normally, these two dimensions would never intersect, but having possessed all material substances, the demons are now intruding on the material world. But among the human race, there are those who can exorcise such demons.”
- the Exorcists.

Rin Okumura and his twin brother Yukio have been raised by Shiro Fujimoto, an eminent priest, so it comes as a shock when Rin discovers their biological father is actually Satan! As the border between “Assiah” (the human world) and “Gehenna” (the demon world) is crossed by evil, Rin vows to become the ultimate exorcist and defeat his own father. To hone his raw skills, Rin enters True Cross Academy to train with other exorcist candidates.

“Blue Exorcist” returns to the U.S. courtesy of Aniplex Inc. with a brand new English dub and all 12 episodes in a DVD and Blu-ray release!

What is “Blue Exorcist” about?

“Ao no Exorcist” (Blue Exorcist) is an anime adaptation of a manga series written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, a mangaka who won a Tenkaichi Manga Award back in 1999 at the age of 19 and won a Tezuka Award in 2000 for his manga “The Witch and the Rabbit”.  Kato is also known for his 2006 manga series “Robot Usakichi” (Space Traveler Robo & Usakichi).

“Blue Exorcist” was serialized on Jump Square Magazine by Shueisha since April 2009 and is still an ongoing manga series.

With the popularity of the manga series, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures with Hitoshi Okamura as the producer.  The series began back in April 2011 and 25-episodes have aired in Japan.  And now the second volume of “Blue Exorcist” will be released on DVD courtesy of Aniplex.

The anime series revolves around a hotheaded teenager named Rin Okumura. Both he and his brother Yukio have been raised by Father Fujimoto at the Cross Academy Town – Southern Cross Boys Monastery. While Yuki shows great intelligence and is attending school at True Cross Academy to become a doctor, Rin is quite the opposite. He tends to get himself in trouble, fights a lot and is continually told by Father Fujimoto to find a job.

Unfortunately for Rin, finding and holding onto a job is difficult. But one day, while working at a supermarket, he sees a monster in a girl’s scarf. He tells Father Fujimoto of what he has seen and Father Fujimoto starts to fear that something is happening. One day, Rin encounters a group of thugs and its leader that he had beaten up earlier and suddenly sees him turn into a demon. The demon tells Rin that satan is waiting for him and immediately, Father Fujimoto is there to save him and exorcise the demon. Fortunately, Father Fujimoto is there to help but it is all revealed to Rin about why he can see monsters.

It’s the fact that he is not truly human. He is the son of a human woman and satan. And the monsters he have seen, it is explained to Rin that in the world, there is Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Both are not supposed to come in contact with each other but they have and as an exorcist, it is his duty to send the demons back to where they belong. And satan wants to reunite with his son.

To protect Rin, Father Fujimoto gives him the Kamkakushi key, so he can hide anything. And he is also given the Koma Sword, a magic sword passed down from generation to generation and a sword where Rin’s powers have been sealed since birth. Rin’s flame resides inside the sword and is sealed by the scabbard. If he draws it, he will assume his demonic nature and will never be able to live as a human again.

One day, he and Father Fujimoto try to prepare for an imminent attack and tells Rin that he must seek shelter where satan can’t get to him but Rin takes it as his father trying to get rid of him forever. In return, Rin said some hurtful things to Father Fujimoto and the pain that Father Fujimoto felt was enough for satan, the demon to possess him.

Satan shows up to claim his son and attacks Father Fujimoto. Satan reveals that he created Rin from a human woman in order to create a container that would be powerful enough to hold him.

But it’s something that Father Fujimoto will not let happen to the boy, he looked at as a son. In order to save Rin, Father Fujimoto risks his own life to keep satan away and is killed in the process.

Now Rin mourns for the one person he knew as his father and when Mephisto Pheles, a friend of Father Fujimoto comes to visit, he tells him that they represent the Knights of the True Cross and they exorcise demons. And Rin has two choices, they will kill him, or he kills the demons. Instead, Rin tells him that he could care less about being human or a demon, he wants to become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto and avenge him and that means defeating his own father.

So, from that point on, Rin must be trained to become an exorcist and will have to follow special rules (which includes not revealing his true nature). But the first thing that he will need to do is enroll at the same school that his brother Yukio attends. When Rin sees his brother, Yukio is in the top of the class and that he is a special leader that people follow at the school and he is no longer the scrawny younger brother he once knew.

As Rin is now a student at the Knights of the True Cross, many of the elders are not too thrilled because Rin is the son of Satan and because Rin tends to be more of a hothead, they are not too sure if he can fit into the Academy.  But Rin is determined to make good on his promise to his deceased father and to protect people, but most of all, to kill satan.

The story continues as Rin continues to study along with his classmates and each are trying to be Esquires, in order to take on various missions.  But others at the Academy and the higher ups want to test Rin and find out if he is a person that can be taught and eventually fight with the other exorcists in defeating demons and satan himself.

While people question a demon being an exorcist, for Rin, he makes a goal that one day, he will become a Paladin (highest level of exorcism) like his adoptive father, Father Shiro and prove that because he is satan’s son, that having a caring father like Shiro can make a big change in the life of a person, even if they are a demon.

“Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season” features episodes 1-12 on three DVD’s. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

  • EPISODE 1 – The Devil Resides in Human Souls - An introduction to Rin, Yukio and Father Fujimoto. Also, Rin finding out about his true nature.
  • EPISODE 2Gehenna Gate – Father Fujimoto and his companions try to protect Rin from the demons especially from satan.
  • EPISODE 3 – Brothers – Rin is enrolled at True Cross Academy and Rin confronts his brother in regards to his true nature.
  • EPISODE 4 – The Garden of Amahara – Yuko and Rin go to visit the owner of an exorcist-only shop, but the owner’s daughter Shiemi Moriyama has a demon within her.
  • EPISODE 5 – A Boy from the Cursed Temple – As Rin is a flake when it comes to school, it angers his classmate Bon, who has a lot in common with Rin.
  • EPISODE 6 – The Phantom Chef – Rin and Yuko find out who is really cooking the food at the academy.
  • EPISODE 7 – A Flock of Plovers – Shiemi tries to make new friends at school and befriends Izumo Kamiko, a girl who may be using her instead.
  • EPISODE 8 – Now a Certain Man Was Sick - When the class is punished because of Kamiki and Bon’s argument, the students are attacked by a ghoul.
  • EPISODE 9 – Memories – The students learn that the ghoul attack was part of their Esquire exam.  Meanwhile, Neuhaus is planning to test Rin.
  • EPISODE 10 – Black Cat – Father Shiro’s familiar, a demon cat named Kuro has gone crazy when he finds out that Shiro has died.  Not believing any of it, the Academy considers killing it.  But Rin can read the cat’s true feelings.
  • EPISODE 11 – Demon of the Deep Seas  – Rin, Izumo and Shima are sent on their first mission as Esquires to find out about attacks made by the Kraken.  The three meet a boy who awaits his father who went to face the Kraken six months earlier.
  • EPISODE 12 – A Game of Tag – The Esquires must look for the ghost of a child haunting Mephisto Pheles’ amusement park.  But Rin is attacked by the higher demon named Amaimon.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Blue Exorcist” is presented in 16:9 lb and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles. The anime production is well-done. The surrounding environments are well-detailed, painted nicely, while the character designs are vibrant, clear and I wouldn’t be surprised if this series is given the Blu-ray treatment in the near future because it looks very good on DVD.

If anything, character designer Keigo Sasaki (“Night Raid 1931″, “Sengoku Basara”) does a great job of bringing the characters from Kazue Kato’s manga series to life, while art director Masatoshi Kai (“Akira”, “Dead Girls”, “Earthian”, “Red Garden”) did a wonderful job in bringing the series to life with the scenery and painted backgrounds.

I’m pretty impressed of how this anime looks visually.

As for audio, audio is clear coming from the front channels. I personally had my receiver set to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack. With “Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season”, the biggest addition to this DVD release compared to the previous Aniplex DVD release of “Blue Exorcist” is the addition of an English dub soundtrack.  With this release, Bryce Papenbrook, Christine Marie Cabanos, Johnny Yong Bosch and Kyle Hebert do a wonderful job. dialogue is understandable and English subtitles are easy to read.

With that being said, for those who want to watch “Blue Exorcist” in 1080p High Definition and a lossless soundtrack may want to opt for Blu-ray set which comes with better picture quality and audio plus more extra content than the DVD release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season” features the following special features:

  • Unaired Special Episode – Kuro Runs Away From Home – Kuro is upset that Rin teases him about food and Yukio tries to discipline him about his cat poop.  So, Kuro decides to runaway from home and realizes that perhaps living with Rin and Yukio is better than living without them.
  • URA-EX (Bonus Short Movies) – Featuring six short omake anime stories (about 1:20 per omake) that are shown after an episode is completed.
  • Web Previews – Featuring the “next episode” previews voiced by various demon characters (about 17 seconds each).
  • Textless OP – Blue Exorcist opening theme without text.
  • Textless ED - Blue Exorcist ending theme without text.
  • Credits – Text based credits
  • Aniplex Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Blue Exorcist: Complete 1st Season” comes with a slipcover.

Highly entertaining, enjoyable and action-packed, “Blue Exorcist” has proved itself to be an exciting series, but the episodes featured in the second volume is much better in storyline compared to the first seven episodes.  I love where this series is headed and the additional characters featured, really make “Blue Exorcist” an anime series worth watching.

So far, “Blue Exorcist” has turned out to be an enjoyable anime series thus far.  If anything, this first volume is more to establish how Rin became an exorcist but also to show his relationship with Father Fujimoto and his brother Yukio.  If anything, the series does have a little in common with “Naruto”, in the fact that Naruto has the 9-tailed fox sealed inside him and the character is not exactly the smartest, the same can be said with Rin, as he is a character that is a demon but tries to do all he can to use his powers for good.

While one can make a few comparisons to the series “Naruto” as he was the person no one wanted to be around, mainly because he had a demon inside him but yet, he vowed to fight for those he cares about and one day to become the village leader.  For “Blue Exorcist”, Rin is similar in the fact that he is misunderstood, is a demon, but he wants to fight for those he cares about and to become a Paladin like the man who raised him.

And both share the similarity in that village leaders are concerned with Naruto (having the demon inside him) and for Rin of “Blue Exorcist”, you have exorcists who were wiped out by satan, also concerned that what if Rin turns out to be evil and is uncontrollable.

But despite the similarities and the fact that these students must work together on missions, there are some twists as people responsible for watching over Rin, may have their own personal agenda.  Also, unlike “Naruto” which was geared towards children, there is a lot of violence in this series, to the point where Rin is often stabbed by a sword.  Granted, he is healed but there is a bit of blood and violence at times.

As for the overall series, the character designs are actually pretty cool, especially the costume designs for the characters. Also, the art backgrounds for this series is nicely detailed and range from pastels to really vibrant colors.  Something you typically don’t see in a TV Series.

Having reviewed the original DVD release from Aniplex, the primary difference is the fact that you get all 12 episodes for the first season and most importantly, you get an English dub.  Picture quality is very good on DVD as the colors are vibrant and animation is well-done.  And as for special features, the fact that this  DVD includes the OVA of “Kuro Runs Away From Home”, is actually a wonderful treat for fans who don’t have to wait until the final volume to watch this OVA.

But for those wonder if the DVD release has the usual Aniplex swag, the answer is that if you want the best version of “Blue Exorcist” and the swag, you will want to purchase the Blu-ray release.  While the price of the Blu-ray release is around $139.98 and the DVD version is $69.98 on RightStuf!, the biggest difference between the DVD and Blu-ray release is that the Blu-ray release comes with an original soundtrack, bonus DVD with English cast interviews and a 36-page deluxe illustration booklet and a slipcase.  So, if you want the swag, you’re going to want to purchase the Blu-ray release of “Blue Exorcist”.

Overall, “Blue Exorcist” has a good balance of humor, action and an interesting concept in balance with awesome animation and beautiful art backgrounds.  While the action may be it a bit too visual for younger anime viewers (as this is suggested for 13 and up) and while the first few episodes being more introductory, but as the series progresses, the storyline gets better and better as we get to see Rin and his classmates start to work as a team and also see Rin mature and try to keep his powers in check but also adding a few plot twists along the way.

If you are looking for an action-drive anime series with a cool storyline and exciting characters, “Blue Exorcist” is definitely recommended!

PLEASE PURCHASE THIS ANIME SERIES FROM RIGHTSTUF or BANDAI ENT. ONLINE STORE

 

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack! (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tokyofishattack

What if fish, sharks and sea creatures had the ability to walk on land and destroy humanity?  “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack” is crazy, bizarre and with a short storyline that will leave you craving for more!

Purchase this DVD from Rightstuf!

Image courtesy of © Junji Ito, Shogakukan/Anime Bunko. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!

YEAR: 2012

DURATION: 70 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 LB, Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1 Surround, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

Release Date: July 9, 2013

Based on the Original Manga by Junji Ito

Directed by Takayuki Hirao

Script by Akihiro Yoshida, Takayuki Hirao

Storyboard by Takayuki Hirao

Music by Go Shiina

Character Design by Takuro Takahashi

Art Direction by Kazuo Ebisawa, Satoru Kuwabara, Takamasa Nakakuki

Animation Director: Makoto Nakamura, Takuro Takahashi

3D Director: Kojiro Shishido

Anime Production: ufotable

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mirai Kataoka as Kaori

Ami Taniguchi as Erika

Hideki Abe as Shirakawa

Hiroshi Okazaki as Professor Koyanagi

Masami Saeki as Aki

Takuma Negishi as Tadashi

A devastating, disgusting “Death Stench” is spreading across Japan, creating deadly mutant fish as it covers the land!

The country is being invaded by ferocious fish with sharp metal legs, hell-bent on death and destruction! Amidst the carnage, Kaori embarks on a desperate quest to find her missing boyfriend before he is lost to the mayhem that is sweeping the land. Facing four-legged killer sharks, machine-driven squid, and the myriad dangers of Tokyo, now an urban war zone, Kaori must find the truth behind these mechanical monsters and face an evil greater than she ever could have imagined.

When it comes to horror manga, Junji Ito is well known for his works.  From notable titles such as “Tomie” and “Uzumaki”, in Japan people have been spooked out by the “Tomi” horror film series (a total of nine films have been released in Japan) plus an Uzumaki film that scared viewers back in 2000.

But in 2001 and 2002, Ito wrote one of his most unusual stories yet titled “Gyo”.  Released as two volumes and published by Shogakukan for the magazine “Big Comic Spirits”, an anime OVA adaptation of “Gyo” by Ufotable (“Fate/Zero”, “Coyote Ragtime Show”, “Mobile Suit Gundam SEED”, “Weis Kreuz Gluhen”) was released in Feb. 2012.  It’s important to know that the anime version is loosely based on the manga version and a lot of details of certain characters have been changed considerably.

The OVA is directed by Takayuki Hirao (“Death note”, “Majocco Shimai no Yoyo to Nene”, “Futakoi Alternative”), a script co-written by Hirao and Akihiro Yoshida (“Fate/Zero”), character design by Takuro Takahashi (“Fate/Zero”, “The Garden of Sinners”) and music by Go Shiina (“Kyouogiga Dainidan”).

And now, “Gyo” under the title of “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!”, was released in the USA on DVD Courtesy of Aniplex in July 2013.

“GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” begins with a fishing freighter that discovers something unusual in the fish they have caught.

The film then switches to Kaori and her fiance Tadashi talking on the phone.  Kaori has gone to Okinawa with her friends Erika (who is often flirting with men and wearing skimpy clothes) and Aki (shy and not as skinny as the other two) to stay at Tadashi’s uncle’s summer home near the beach and both are looking forward to getting married within six months.

As they walk to the summer home, the three start smelling a horrible stench but as the three young women head to the home, we see a fish eye looking at them from a distance.

As the three open the door to the house, a bad stench emanates from the house and they start hearing noises around the house.  As an unknown thing starts running around the house, Kaori smashes it with a drawer but what shocks them is that they see a fish but with legs like a spider with spikes attached to it.  Kaori takes the fish out to the garbage because of its horrible stench, but as she makes a call to Tadashi, the dead fish starts to balloon and escape from the garbage.  But Kaori said the stench that she has been smelling is not of a fish but a dead corpse.

The following morning, Erika invites two local guys into the home, so she can have a threesome.  While Erika is having fun with the two men and Kaori and Aki wondering why their friend can’t help herself, while the two guys and Erika are about to have some fun, a shark comes in and breaks into the house and starts attacking.  The shark with the spider legs and spikes begins to attack everyone in the house.

As the shark nearly kills Erika, Aki is too scared to run begs Erika for help, but Erika ends up kicking Aki in the face.  The shark ends up puncturing Erika with one of its spiked feet and while the shark tries to lunge at Kaori.  Kaori manages to dodge the shark who goes out the second floor window and falls to the ground.  When Kaori goes to check, she sees thousands of fish and sea animals with legs walking.  In Okinawa, an infestation of fish creatures with legs have come from the beach and entered Okinawa.

The news broadcasts the infestation of walking fish creatures and show that regular gunfire will not kill them.

When Kaori calls her fiance, Tadashi tells her to not come to Tokyo.  But when their call is disconnected, she becomes frightened that something bad may have happened, so Kaori makes a decision to go back to Tokyo, leaving Erika and Aki in Okinawa.

As Kaori leaves to Tokyo, she meets a freelance photojournalist named Tsuyoshi Shirakawa who is investigating the creatures and Professor Koyanagi, the only person who may know where these fish creatures are from.  Shirakawa realizes that he had seen Kaori before and that she is the girlfriend of Tadashi, Professor Koyanagi’s assistant.

But when Kaori and Shirakawa arrive in Tokyo, they quickly realize that the city has been taken over by the walking fish creatures.  Will Kaori be able to find Tadashi and will she and Shirakawa managed to get from the airport to Tokyo?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” is presented in 16:9 LB and Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1.  It’s important to know that the OVA is default on stereo, so you need to go into setup to change to 5.1.  Ufotable did a great job in recreating Okinawa and Tokyo for this OVA.  Very good CG use from depicting thousands of fish swimming in the ocean or going through city streets.  Character designs were good but not as detailed and no shading.  If anything, it’s the environment that helps build upon the series.  While I’m sure the OVA would look a lot better on Blu-ray, on DVD, picture quality is good.

As for the audio, via the Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the sounds of fish or creatures scurrying around were very good, especially the more action intense sequences that result throughout the film.  There is no English dub included on this DVD release.

Subtitles are presented in English..

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” comes with no special features.

In America, we have had our fair share of horror/science-fiction films that depict some alien or supernatural sentient alien terrorizing humans.

From blobs to zombies, we have seen it all.  And the same goes for Japan, from manga, anime and video games, there have been many storylines that revolve around various types of infestation with the insect infestation featured in the video game series “Earth Defense Force” and how humanity is under the threat of large versions of insects.

For the concept of “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!”, what if fish, sharks and other creatures had the ability to walk on land and attack any living thing with a virus?  If anything, the sound of attacking fish and sharks in Tokyo streets is so bizarre that I had to see it for myself.

And while bizarre and crazy, “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” is entertaining because you wonder how the film’s protagonist, a young woman named Kaori will survive the onslaught of creatures and why is it, that after being punctured by one, she has not been taken over by the virus?

While intriguing, campy and fun, unfortunately, this is a film that has no closure.  I’m not even sure there is a continuation of the OVA as the storyline for “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” was changed considerably when compared to the original manga.  For example, in the manga series, Tadashi is fighting against the creatures, trying to come up with a vaccine as he is the only person immune to the virus for some reason.

In the anime, Tadashi is nothing like that.  The OVA focuses on Kaori, a woman who is immune to the virus (in the manga, she is infected).  The situations between Tadashi and Kaori are reversed in the OVA.

Also, the OVA adds the character of freelance photographer Shirakawa, who aids Kaori during her return to Tokyo.    The manga series features Dr. Koyanagi’s assistant Ms. Yoshiyama who is not in the OVA and the character Tadashi replaces Ms. Yoshiyama as the assistant.

But because the OVA ends with no true conclusion, I wonder if there are sequels planned to show humanity worldwide revolting and finding a way to destroy these monsters?  I just felt that there should be more to the story and if anything, why the deviation from the original manga series?

As for the DVD, picture quality and its soundtrack are good.  But there are no special features, so for the most part, this is a barebones anime DVD.

The DVD is suggested for 16 and up and while it is not horror that is too disgusting, you will see dead humans, humans who have been assimilated by the virus and seeing tubs up their butt and their mouths (as the gas radiating from their bodies allow them to walk).  It’s creepy and crazy but I think most viewers will find “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” to be fascinating rather than scary.

Overall, “GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack!” is a horror/sci-fi OVA anime series that may not be too scary, but for its bizarre antagonists and its fascinating storyline, I found the film quite entertaining.  But I can only hope the story is continued by Ufotable and that viewers we’ll see a sequel to help tie-up some loose ends left by this first OVA.

“GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack” is crazy, bizarre and with a short storyline that will leave you craving for more!

Purchase this DVD from Rightstuf!

 

Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

robotech-a

Don’t have the time to watch every episode of “Robotech”, someone who grew up watching “Robotech” as a child during the mid-80′s or someone wanting to discover what “Robotech” is about… “Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release” is a sci-fi, action-packed DVD with two films worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 1985 Tatsunoko Production. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release

YEAR OF FILM: The Shadow Chronicles (2006)/Love Live Alive (2013)

DURATION: The Shadow Chronicles (2006)/Love Live Alive (1:29:16)

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

COMPANY: Harmony Gold/Lionsgate

RATED: PG

Release Date: July 23, 2013

Original Character Design by Yoshitaka Amano

Original Mechanical Design by Hideki Kakinuma, Shinji Aramaki

Planning by Hiroshi Iwata

Production Executive: Ippei Kuri, Kouki Narushima

Story Consultant: Kenji Terada

English Direction by Tommy Yune

Screenplay by Ford Riley, Frank Agrama

Story by Steve Yun, Tom Bateman and Tommy Yune

Music by Scott Glasgow, Robotech Theme by Ulpio Minucchi

Executive Producer: Alan Letz, Frank Agrama

Producer by Jason Netter

Creative Consultant: Carl Macek

Anime Production: Tatsunoku Production

Featuring the following voice talent:

Gregory Snegoff as Scott Bernard

Kahri Wahlgren as Ariel

Richard Epcar as vince Grant

Yuri Lowenthal as Marcus Rush

Arthur Santiago as Alex Romero

Chase Masterson as Janice

Dan Woren as Gen. Reinhardt

Eddie Frierson as Louis Nichols

Edie Mirman as Maia Sterling

Iona Morris as Dr. Jean Grant

Alexandra Kenworthy as The Regess

Gregory Snegoff as Haydonite

Mark Hamill as Cmdr. Taylor/Haydonite

Melanie McQueen as Marlene Rush

Michael Sorich as Sparks

Tony Oliver as Rick Hunter

The smash-hit franchise is back in a new DVD set featuring two feature-length movies, including A BRAND NEW and NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN film!

The Robotech saga continues in this exciting new adventure. Lieutenant “Lancer” Belmont, a veteran of the Robotech’s New Generation, recounts his journey from before his first encounter with Scott Bernard to the aftermath following Admiral Rick Hunter’s expedition to liberate the Earth from the mysterious Invid race. Join your favorite characters once again in this follow-up to the smash-hit ROBOTECH series.

robotech-b

In 1985, Harmony Gold USA in association with Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd. would work on an animated series titled “Robotech”.  An 85-episode series which featured animation from three different anime series “The Super Dimension Fortress Macross”, “Super Dimension Calvalry Southern Cross” and “Genesis Climber MOSPEADA”.

The reason why three animated series were brought together as one, was because American weekday syndicated television required a minimum of 65-episodes, so a storyline was created and would focus on three Robotech wars spanning three generations.  The First Robotech War (The Macross Saga), The Second Robotech War (The Masters) and The Third Robotech War (The New Generation).

To help understand the series, The First Robotech War focuses on a giant alien race known as the Zentraedi  trying to retrieve a ship that crashed on Earth.  Humanity is introduced to an energy source known as protoculture and the Robotech Masters.  The Second Robotech War focuses on the Robotech Masters arriving on Earth seeking for what produces protoculture and a war between humanity and the Robotech Masters take place, but in the result, unleashes the Flower of Life, a spore which leads the Invid to come to Earth.  The Third Robotech War features the war against the Invid, who are lured to Earth by the Flower of Life.

While the “Robotech” TV Series have been released on DVD in the past and the film “The Shadow Chronicles” (wich was created to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of “Robotech” in 2005) having been released on Blu-ray and DVD back in 2007, the film “Love Live Alive” which was mentioned in the final minutes of the documentary “Carl Macek’s Robotech Universe” has not been released in the U.S. until now.  Featuring an adaptation of the 1985 TV series “Genesis Climber Mospeada” and incorporating new animation, “Love Live Alive” will now be released on DVD with “The Shadow Chronicles” in July 2013.

The first film “Love Live Alive” is a flashback film showing what happened in the previous war.  A news reporter is interviewing Lt. Lance Belmon a.k.a. Lancer about the war and how he had to masquerade as a female performer known as “Yellow Dancer” and how he met with pilot Scott Bernard, the independent and strong-willed Rook Bartley, biomaintenance engineer Lunk, the teen freedom fighter Rand and the young orphan Annie LaBelle and how the members formed a group to fight the Invid.

We learn how the group found a mysterious woman who has amnesia.  How overtime, Scott and this woman, named Marlene (who happens to be an Invid in humanoid form) became close, but the group including Scott not knowing she is an Invid.  But how Lancer met Sera, also an Invid in humanoid form, which the two became a romantic interest but how he also protected her by not mentioning her to anyone.

As “Love Live Alive” helps introduced people to what took place in the third Robotech War, the film “The Shadow Chronicles” focuses on the Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) and their battle with the Invid.  As the REF fleet tries to drive the alien Invid away from Earth, thanks to the “shadow” weapons given to them by the Haydonites, these weapons not only are able to destroy the Invid, it can wipe out all life on Earth.

We are introduced to an older Marcus Rush (brother of Marlene Rush and girlfriend of Scott Bernard), his friend and fellow pilot Alex Romero and REF pilot and Lt. Commander Maia Sterling.  These three pilots work under Captain Daryl Taylor.

As General Reinhardt sends Icarus Captain Vince Grant on a mission to look for the SDF-3 and Admiral Rick Hunter (who is now chief military commander of all REF forces), they receive a transmission from Admiral Hunter who appears to have been in the middle of an attack.

As the final battle between the REF Fleet and Invid Regis takes places, a survivor from one of the REF assaults, resistance leader Scott Bernard is found.   Scott reunites with Ariel (who is the mysterious Marlene in “Love Live Alive”), an Invid princess who hopes to convince her mother that humans and Invid can live in peace.  But Ariel has learned that she had a vision, a vision that the Children of the Shadow are planning to attack the REF and these Children were responsible for destroying the first Invid homeworld because of their fears of Protoculture.

But as Scott and Ariel want to relay this mission to the REF, will they even listen because the Invid is their enemy?

robotech-c

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release” is an interesting DVD release.  But there are a few things I must explain.

First, “Love Live Alive” is presented in 4:3 and in English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film features newer English dubbing and the footage is from the 1985 “Genesis Climber Mospeada” anime series, so it’s old school anime.  But with that being said, the presentation of this older footage is not bad, in fact I didn’t notice any extreme problems with dust or white specks.  Picture quality for this older DVD looked good.

As for “The Shadow Chronicles”, back in 2008, a Blu-ray release of the film was released.  While FUNimation no longer retains the license to this title, for fans who want the best picture quality, may want to look for this older Blu-ray release as it does offer much more clarity and vibrant colors and most importantly a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack.  Not to say that this DVD is bad, because it’s not. It’s just if you want HD, a Blu-ray version of this film can be found online.    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on DVD still features very good picture quality and an immersive soundtrack during the action sequences plus good use of LFE, but the original Blu-ray’s lossless soundtrack has better lossless sound.  But one should not expect the DVD version to be better than the original Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release” comes with the following special features:

Love Live Alive DVD:

  • Pre-Production Gallery - Using a remote (or keyboard), you can cycle through pre-production gallery images.
  • Trailer - A short trailer for “Love Live Alive”

The Shadow Chronicles DVD:

  • Birth of a Sequel – (44:56) Featuring interviews with fans of “Robotech” (at Anime Expo 2005), the voice cast and crew on their character, the return of “Robotech” and a few voice talent coming back to work on a series they did back in 1985.
  • Score Music Video – (8:10) A music video featuring the score by Scott Glasgow.
  • Anime Selects – (1:57) Featuring Anime Select at Anime Expo 2005 for “Robotech” coverage with the staff from Harmony Gold.
  • あ!PoN Animé Podcast - (:30) Featuring an interview with Tommy Yune of Harmony Gold.
  • Robotech 3000 – The original CG video of canceled “Robotech 3000″ originally shown to fans at Fanime 2000.
  • Robotech 3000 Motion Capture – (:21) The motion capture for “Robotech 3000″.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:41) Featuring a total of 12 deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Tommy Yune.
  • Outtakes – (3:02) Voice acting outtakes from “The Shadow Chronicles”.
  • Animatics – (11:22) Featuring a total of 10 animatics with optional audio commentary by Tommy Yune.
  • Trailers - Featuring the 30 second television spot, prelude to the Shadow Chronicles Promo, NATPE Teaser Trailer, DVD Trailer and Collector’s Edition Trailer
  • Galleries – Featuring a Personal Dossier, Ship Registry, Mecha Database, Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles and Secret Files

EXTRAS:

“Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release” comes with a slipcover.

robotech-d

For any child growing up in the mid-80′s, aside from popular series such as “G.I. Joe”, “Masters of the Universe”, “Transformers” shown during the afternoons, two animated series from Japan would be shown on syndicated television and it was nothing like we saw in America before.

“Voltron” and “Robotech” were two series that would captivate young audiences for its deep storyline, use of mecha and where most animation were targeting for children, both of these animated series would show characters dying, characters falling in love.

For “Robotech”, fans would eventually grown up to find out that the storyline of “Robotech” was crafted with three different animated series from Japan, their only correlation with each other was the storyline that Harmony Gold would create in order to meet the minimum episodes required for a Syndicated TV series.

While some fans have grown up to find the original Japanese series to see and know the differences, many fans were would come to accept “Robotech” as a memorable animated series of the mid-80′s.

Personally for me, it was one of the most difficult animated series to watch.  Because each storyline were connected and missing an episode or episodes made understanding the series much more complicated.  With baseball games interfering with the airing of the series or the fact that I would miss the series when coming home from school, unless you knew how to program a VCR, chances were that you would miss the series and not see it ever again.  Fortunately, an affordable DVD collection of the TV series was released in 2011 and is now available.

But for those who feel they don’t have the time to watch all those episodes of “Robotech” and would rather just get a summarized version of the story, then fans will be happy to know that they can watch “Love Live Alive” and “The Shadow Chronicles” together on DVD.  While the former has never been released in the U.S. before and the latter was last released on Blu-ray in 2008, part of the main reason of purchasing this DVD release for the hardcore fans who own “The Shadow Chronicles” on Blu-ray or DVD is probably for the inclusion of “Love Live Alive”.

While a film consisting of flashback episodes from the Third Robotech War and focusing on the character Lancer as he talks about his experience of the past, the series does provide an interesting primer on both Scott Bernard and Lancer Belmont and their fight against the Invid.  But also, helping viewers understand who Marlene/Ariel is.  In fact, I wish this film was released when the 2008 film came out because people would get an idea of who the characters were through “Love Live Alive” if they haven’t seen the TV series in over 25-years.

And while “Love Live Alive” does make for a good primer of the fight against the Invid, there is new animation for the final minute of the film that fans may find quite interesting.  The modern animation may not matchup 100% with the 1985 animation but I think that Lancer and Sera fans may find it quite interesting.

As for “The Shadow Chronicles”, there are those who have been critical of the film.  From the treatment of Rick Hunter, the treatment of Scott Bernard and Ariel and newer characters introduced that people may not feel any closeness too.  But personally, while I did enjoy the film to some extent, if only the film could have had an actual animated series that would establish characters like General Reinhardt, Vince Grant, Marcus Rush, Mai Sterling.  In Japan, before a film, especially one based on a sci-fi series, there is a build-up leading to a film but the characters have been established.

But that’s Japan.  Unless one has millions to fund a new “Robotech” series, then the movie “The Shadow Chronicles” is all one is going to get and fortunately lucky to get after all these years of waiting.

So, with two “Robotech” films now available on DVD, fans may be happy for this release but knowing that “The Shadow Chronicles” was released on Blu-ray, I wouldn’t mind if “Love Live Alive” was upconverted to HD, so much that I would have loved to watch and hear these two films in HD.  But I suppose that is me being a little nitpicky and wanting to see everything in HD.

So, what it comes down to is for those who own “The Shadow Chronicles” on DVD or Blu-ray, should one invest in another release for “Love Live Alive”?  If you own the complete “Robotech” collection on DVD, then probably not, but if you don’t, then the answer is yes.  Also, you get an interesting final scene involving Lancer and Sera that was never shown on the original TV series.  Personally, I’m glad that “Love Live Alive” was included, so people who haven’t seen the series in many years or those who are new to “Robotech” will know what happened during the third Robotech war before watching “The Shadow Chronicles”.

Overall, if you grew up watching “Robotech” as a child during the mid-80′s or are a fan of the series, “Robotech 2-Movie Collection: The Shadow Chronicles – Collector’s Edition and Love Live Alive Premiere Release” is a DVD worth checking out!

 

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

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-s4v4

As for “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, the storyline is fantastic, action-packed and also drama to keep you captivated to the overall storyline.  Find out why Nico Robin left the Straw Hat Pirates and learn more about the history of Franky as his past is revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”!  “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” is recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four

DURATION: Episodes 242-252 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 19, 2013

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

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

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

Things have never looked bleaker in the world of One Piece. The Going Merry is no longer seaworthy, Robin and Usopp have left the crew, and the rest of the gang stands accused of a cold-hearted assassination attempt! Luffy and his remaining mates have a plan to prove their innocence, but a mysterious gang of cutthroat killers are one step ahead of their every move. Dark secrets and tragic pasts are revealed while a monstrous storm threatens to sink the city!

Contains episodes 242-252.

For the Straw Hat Pirates, having lost Usopp who decided to leave the group and stay with the broken down ship, Going Merry, one member gone from the Straw Hat Pirates is a big loss.

But two?

Nico Robin has decided to leave the Straw Hat Pirates and join a mysterious organization known as CP9 (a secret Cipher Police that are the assassins of the World Government).  But is Robin a traitor?  Would she do anything to hurt her own teammates?  That’s what the crew want to find out and no way, will the group allow Robin to leave them without telling them why.

As the Straw Hat Pirates go in pursuit of Robin, CP9 featuring their leader Rob Lucci goes after Paulie in search of blueprints that are made to create a super weapon known as Pluto.  The only one that can read those blueprints are Robin.  But realizing that the blueprints that Paulie has in possession are fake, they believe his old friend Cutty Flam has them….a man who now goes by the name as Franky!

Will the Straw Hat Pirates get the answers they are searching for?  Meanwhile, the history of Franky and Rob Lucci is revealed!

Find out why Robin left the group and Franky’s past in “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, available now on DVD courtesy of FUNimation!

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 at 580 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Two”, available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

“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.  Currently has left the Straw Hat Pirates after a fight with Luffy because he would not abandon the “Going Merry” which is in terrible shape.

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 a 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.  She recently left the Straw Hat Pirates to aid CP9 for some unknown reason.

Franky – A shipwright and dismantler, Franky is formerly known as Cutty Flam.  A powerful individual from Water 7, he also has done modifications on himself, that makes him even stronger.  But despite his brute strength, his abilities to create and plan major mechanical devices is one of his major skills.

Iceburg – The President of the Galley-La Company and Mayor of Water 7.  He has a past with Franky that will be revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”.

Paulie – One of the Dock One foremen of Water 7 who specializes in rigging, knots and masts. Iceburg’s go to man.  He doesn’t like to see women dress in skimpy outfits and he enjoys gambling. Has excellent shipwright skills.

While the DVD release is listed as season four for America, in Japan, “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” takes place during season eight in Japan. As the Straw Hat Pirates reach the land of Water Seven where powerful craftsmen, the Galley La Company reside, the crew needs the craftsmen to fix the Going Merry, which has been involved in major wear and tear through the many adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates.

But when CP9 burns down the Galley-La Company to point blame towards the Straw Hat Pirates, the people of Water 7 are not happy with the Straw Hat Pirates and want them dead.  Meanwhile, the crew wants to know why Nico Robin had left them and want to get a straight answer from her of why she left them.

Meanwhile, CP9 is after the Pluto blueprints that Paulie is supposed to have but realize someone else close to him, has them… Franky!

The “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” comes with episodes 242-252 on two DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are part of season 8). Here are the spoilerless summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 242 - The Straw Hat Pirates goes after Nico Robin, meanwhile Luffy is stuck.
  • EPISODE 243 – It is revealed that those closest to Iceburg are actually CP9 and they reveal what they are after.
  • EPISODE 244 - Lucci tries to find out from Iceburg of who has the Pluto blueprints.
  • EPISODE 245 - Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates confront Robin.  Meanwhile, Lucci shows off his transformation.
  • EPISODE 246 - Lucci who ate the Devil’s Fruit has the ability to turn into a Zoan type leopard and fights against the Straw Hat Pirates.  Meanwhile, Usopp tells Franky the story of the Going Merry.
  • EPISODE 247 - Frank tries to open Usopp’s eyes that the Going Merry is in terrible shape and must be dismantled.  Meanwhile, Usopp reveals a story to Franky about the Going Merry.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 248 - The history of Franky and Iceburg is revealed.
  • EPISODE 249 - Frank’s past is revealed and the involvement of Spandam of CP5.
  • EPISODE 250 - Continuing Franky’s and Iceburg’s history.
  • EPISODE 251 – Nami finds out the truth from Iceburg about why Robin joined CP9.
  • EPISODE 252 - Knowing the truth about why Robin left, Nami and Chopper try to find Luffy in order to rescue Robin.  Meanwhile, Sanji trails CP9 alone.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“One Piece” is presented in 16:9.  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.

As for the audio, the series 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 Four, Voyage Four” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 244 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Brina Palencia (Tony Tony Chopper) and Patrick Seitz (Franky).
  • EPISODE 245 Audio Commentary - Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Luci Christian (Nami) and David Wald (Paulie).

DISC 2:

  • Textless Songs – Textless opening song for “Kokoro no Chizu” and closing songs for “Eternal Pose” and “Dear Friends”.
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Brina Palencia – (12:45) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Brina Palencia (Chopper).
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Eric Vale – (16:09) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Eric Vale (Sanji).
  • Trailers - Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” comes with a slipcase.

Usopp has left the Straw Hat Pirates and now Robin?

This is the part of the focus in the latest “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” as the Straw Hat Pirates want to hear from Robin why she is bailing from the group and aligning herself with CP9, which belong the World Government, the enemy of pirates.  Has she turned traitor?  What is the reason for her leaving everyone?

In this volume, we learn about how Robin had a difficult past (which has yet to be revealed) and when her life was literally down in the dumps, after Luffy and friends gave her another chance at life, she has come to regard them as one of her family and now she will do what she can to protect them, even if it means, leaving them.  As CP9 is after the Pluto Blueprints which were said to be kept by Paulie or Iceburg, the group realizes that their other friend may have the blueprints that can be used to create a major weapon of destruction and that person would be Cutty Flam, a name once used by a shipwright that now goes by the name of Franky!

So, while the Straw Hat Pirates are going after Robin for a reason why she is leaving them, CP9 are going after Franky.

And with this volume, the history of Franky and Iceburg is revealed!  This volume also features the first battle between the Straw Hat Pirates vs. CP9!

So, you are getting another action-packed (and also emotional) volume of “One Piece”, especially when it comes to Usopp who reveals why he is so attached to the Going Merry.

As for the DVD, you get 11-episodes and the DVD, picture quality is colorful, vibrant and looks good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, it’s awesome to see FUNimation featuring more special features and in this case, two one-on-one video interviews between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and two main cast members Brina Palencia (Chopper) and Eric Vale (Sanji). There are also two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

For longtime fans of “One Piece”, the latest season four, voyage four is exciting and emotional.  For fans of the series, you know how difficult it is for the Straw Hat Pirates to lose another member and for Usopp, you know how hard it is for him to say goodbye to the Going Merry.  But then you have this group of assassins known as CP9 who reveal themselves and the big question is why Nico Robin is helping them and why are they after Franky.

It’s important to note that “One Piece” is one of the longest running Japanese animated series.  While this volume covers episodes 242-252, we are 330+ episodes behind Japan.  So, one can hope that this long running series continues to be released on DVD in the U.S., because there hasn’t really been an anime series with over 600+ episodes released in the U.S.. It is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is and how people gravitate towards this series.

With that being said, you can join in at the beginning of any season and still be interested in “One Piece”. I do recommend at least watching the first season, so you get an idea of what’s going on. To find out the goal of the Straw Hat Pirates is and how they all joined to form the Straw Hat Pirates.

As for “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, the storyline is fantastic, action-packed and also drama to keep you captivated to the overall storyline.  Find out why Nico Robin left the Straw Hat Pirates and learn more about the history of Franky as his past is revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”!

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” is recommended!

 

Gaiking: The Movie Collection (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” takes the best of “Gaiking” the animated TV series to make three feature length films!  For those who grew up in the ’70s, enjoyed the “Shogun Warriors” toys or even watched the original “Force Five” series or is a mecha/super robot fan at heart, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is for you!

Image courtesy of © 1976 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gaiking: The Movie Collection

YEAR OF ANIME: 1976

DURATION: Three Films (326 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: May 21, 2013

Originally created by Go Nagai

Directed by Tomoharu Katsumata

Scenario by Masao Maruyama

Script by Kunio Sakatani

Screenplay by Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara, Soji Yoshikawa

Music by Shunsuke Kikuchi

Character Design by Akio Sugino, Kazuo Komatsubara, Takeshi Shirato

Art by Fumihiro Uchikawa

Mechanical Design by Dan Kobayashi

Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Robert Axelrod

Larry Butler

David Gerrold

Don Glut

Marieve Herington

Bradford Hill

Paul Oberle

Shy Pilgreen

Kyle Rea

Robert Tousignant

William Winckler

Kimberly Woods

An iconic classic from the golden age of Japanese animation, Gaiking the transforming super robot (originally featured as part of the Shogun Warriors toy line and the Force Five TV series) is back in a trio of feature-length adventures loaded with high-impact action and mind-expanding science fiction!

Far off in outer space, the planet Zela is doomed by an approaching black hole, which forces the diabolical Great Emperor to set his sights on a suitable world to colonize for his people…Earth! But before the invasion can begin, the Emperor and his four generals scheme to eliminate the troublesome human race by raiding our planet with giant robot monsters!

As one of only a handful of Earthlings with psychic powers, Sanshiro Tsuwabuki is destined to pilot Gaiking, a giant robot that might be Earth s only hope against the monstrous steel hordes of the Great Emperor. Recruited to join an elite team of pilots who control an incredible arsenal of high-tech weapons and mecha, including a massive carrier known as the Space Dragon, Tsuwabuki and Gaiking must square off against a giant robot tarantula, Zelan mind control, deadly hallucinations, nuclear war and more evil, mechanical monstrosities! The battle for the fate of two worlds begins!

When it comes to super robots, back in the mid-to-late ’70s, Japan had a mecha boom with Danguard Ace, Raydeen, Combattler and Gaiking.

And it was one of the few moments where that mecha boom extended to the United States thanks to the release of the Shogun Warriors die-cast toys and the Marvel comic book series (in return, Japan was able to create a tokusatsu version of Spider-Man, who happened to have a big robot).

And for “Gaiking”, having a popular toy was aided by Jim Terry’s “Force Five” animated line-up which included “Gaiking” which was produced by Toei Animation from 1976-1977 with a total of 44 episodes being created.  And the series was also seen on television in various countries.

While “Gaiking” was remade in 2005, in 2009, William Winckler Productions produced three all new English dubbed movie versions edited from the original series.  Winckler, who is known for his work on “Tekkaman the Space Night”, wrote, produced and directed the English films.

It’s important to note that it was Toei Animation that came to William Winckler Productions to make the film series as Toei Animation felt it would be great to establish a “presence in broadband with the films” and that the three films would be easier to sell to “mainstream America”.

Now, all three films will be released in a 2-DVD collection from Shout! Factory titled “Gaiking: The Movie Collection”.

“Gaiking” is an animated series that revolves around Earth in war with an invading race of aliens known as the Zelans and under the order of the Great Emperor, the Zelans attack Earth.  The Earth’s main defense is the Super Robot named Gaiking created by Dr. Daimonji.

But who can pilot such a Super Robot?

This is where professional baseball player Sanshiro Twsuwabuki comes in.  An athlete with a photographic memory (and possibly psychic abilities), one day while playing a baseball game, he is attacked by the Zelans and his pitching hand is fractured that he can no longer pitch professionally again.  The truth is that it was an assassination attempt by the Zelans who are trying to eliminate anyone who may have psychic abilities.

He is recruited by an elite force serving the United Nations and consists of an elite team of pilots serving on the massive carrier known as the Space Dragon.

The first “Gaiking” film consisting of the first 23 episodes focuses on how Sanshiro became selected as a pilot but also getting to know his teammates and also the woman he would fall in love with.  The film features how not all Zelans are bad people but the Great Emperor is forcing his own people to undergo transformation and attacking civilizations.  And thus the first attack by the Zelans is featured in the first movie.

The second “Gaiking” film  focuses on episode 24 and up to 33 and focuses on the second attack by the Zelans.  But this time around, they kidnap Erica and try to transform her to one of their own.  Can Sanshiro rescue the love of his life?  Meanwhile, the Zelans are trying to provoke a war between the United States and Russia.  But what happens when the Zelans capture Sanshiro and the pilots?  Also, is there a traitor in the team?

The third “Gaiking” film features the final battle between Earth and the Zelans.  Everything is on the line for both humans and Zelans and using Gaiking, can Sanshiro end this battle and prevent the Zelans from colonizing Earth and destroying humanit?

VIDEO:

All three “Gaiking” films are presented in 1:33:1 with a black screen around the image (the packaging mentions Anamorphic Widescreen).  It’s important to note that this anime series was made back in 1976.  On DVD, you will see white specks, artifacts can be seen, moreso on blue backgrounds, but this is not a series I was expecting to receive any remastering.  I believe if you do see artifacts, it’s much more evident on big screen televisions than on smaller screens.

According to William Winckler in an interview with ScifiJapan.com, “What’s interesting is that Mr. Morishita wanted both original aspect ratio versions, as well as wide-screen versions… and so that’s what we made… for broadband distribution. We produced HD versions, made off the best master sources available, in both original aspect ratio, as well as wide screen.”

Picture quality is OK, but the question is, because HD versions were produced, is there a possibility of a Blu-ray release?  Personally, I would prefer an HD release of “Gaiking” than on DVD.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is probably the best we are going to see in the U.S. of “Gaiking”, as I doubt the single episodes will be released in the U.S. anytime soon.

AUDIO:

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is presented with an English dub in Stereo 2.0.  I’m not exactly sure if the intention of this dub was to make it sound like it was made in the ’70s, but for a new English dub made in 2009, it doesn’t compare to other anime series of today in terms of acting.  During scenes of where pilots in pain, it’s “Oh! Ah! Oh!” and it has that style similar to older anime that worked back then but a bit odd to hear a new dub made to sound this way in the present.  But if the goal was to emulate the ’70s style of acting, then I suppose the acting of the English dub actors fits the series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” does not come with any special features.

When it comes to “Gaiking”, I absolutely loved the character growing up and how excited I was to watching the films based on the character that I grew up with!

Like most children of the late ’70s, getting your first “Shogun Warriors” was huge!  In America, Shogun Warriors were die-cast metal toys, I was lucky to get Gaiking, Danguard Ace, Poseidon and Mazinger Z.

“Gaiking” was like no other Shogun Warrior.  The Super Robot with horns, fists that shoot out and legs that were so heavy, that you can drop them on anything.  This was the sign of the times, the late ’70s and today, these toys are highly sought after because they don’t make toys completely out of die-cast metal anymore.  (Note: There was a plastic 24″ Gaiking made and released in the U.S. as well)

But I can easily remember me and my friends really loving Gaiking, despite not knowing the story about him.

While the series was aired on syndicated television in 1980 as “Force Five” (which featured “Gaiking”, “Danguard Ace”, “Starvengers”, “Grandizer” and “Spaceketeers”), unfortunately, the series was primarily shown in New England, Virginia and a handful of other markets for a brief time.

But for those who grew up during those Shogun Warrior years or for the anime fan who is interested in classic mecha anime, “Gaiking” has finally been released in the U.S. as a single release featuring three films on 2-DVD’s.  It’s important to note that this is not the same series that people watched on television if you were watching “Force Five”.  The Japanese names are used, so Sanshiro Tsuwabuki, the main protagonist of the series is used, not Aries Astronopolis.

While I can’t comment of how much deviation there was from the original Japanese series and what was featured in producer William Winckler’s version on the films, there is a banality to the super robot theme and that is Earth (or another planet) being under attacked and invaded by alien antagonists.

Where Sanshiro has a photographic memory and develops some sort of psychic ability, can also be juxtaposed to the late ’70′s series Mobile Suit Gundam and Amuro’s ability to learn how to pilot the Gundam quickly and the development of his Newtype ability.

But where Gundam focused on a war and how it affected others throughout the war but also showcased the enemy (and would captivate viewers as “Star Wars” did in the late ’70s), the antagonists are not so likable for  “Gaiking”.  The Zelans are starting to mutate and the Grand Emperor’s mouth is now showing up on its forehead, while warriors have to be forced to become something they are not.  It’s a wacky way to feature the antagonists but I suppose back in the ’70s, what made the series quite interesting is its adventure aspects that remind me of the ’80s second Voltron series (based on the anime series “Armored Fleet Dairugger XV”).

The team goes through adventures, for example, in the first movie, the team ends up stuck inside a cave where an ancient Zelan facility is located and they are trapped in a  hallucinated state or when both Sanshiro and Erica must go out on an assignment.  The series almost has an international feel (not through the English dub) but through the characters names and once again, reminiscent of the “Armored Fleet Dairugger XV” series.

But for many of the super robot anime series of the ’70s, it was about the defense of Earth or humanity by alien invaders.

And while trimming a 44 episode series down to three movies aren’t anything new to anime (as the “Mobile Suit Gundam” movie trilogy was also derived from the anime TV series), like anything trimmed down for a film, you do miss out on other storylines as not all episodes are featured.  But having not seen the original Japanese animated series, I’m not too sure how much viewers are losing out on.

But from what I watched, the film focuses primarily on the Zelan battle and tries to incorporate important elements from the series into each film.  The film also includes the inclusion of Sanshiro saying “Shogun Warrior” which is a nod to those who grew up to the toys because the term is a trademark brand-named created by Mattel, Inc. at that time.

And according to an interview between ScifiJapan.com and William Winckler, Winckler explained, “Although these films were to be designed for mainstream Americans, the plots, stories, character names, background music, etc., remained faithful and true to the original Japanese elements.”

Now, as  I mentioned, this is an older series and if there was an HD version produced, I prefer to watch it in HD.  But the DVD was OK and as for the English dub, as mentioned, for a 2009 production, the English dubbing sounds as if it was recorded in the ’70s.  From the way the acting was, to the overreacting to pain of brief “Oh! Ah! Oh!”.  It’s corny! But having watched some of the older English dubs, that’s how things were things back then.  And I would imagine the goal was to capture that style of English dubbing than what most anime fans are used to seeing in terms of English dubs today.

But I do feel this is the best we are going to get of this series in the U.S. and that is these three animated films of “Gaiking”.

The fact is that classic robot series such as “Gaiking” was a product of our time in the mid-t0-late ’70s.  We grew up with these mecha storylines and as children, we were amazed by it but also had a toyline that kept us fascinated and intrigued!

Today, mecha anime series have become deeper, CG animated, have a long line of models and robot toys that the companies can capitalize on.

Not to say that “Gaiking” wasn’t deep because characters and humans do die in the films.  But for those who are able to watch these older series in original form, you realize the Japanese versions were much more deeper than its English counterpart.  Japanese television were able to show death, while anime mecha TV series didn’t go there.  But because this is the film version and not related to the “Force Five” release, deaths do happen in each of the three films of “Gaiking: The Movie Collection”.

For example, there is a peaceful Zelan who is a scientist who is raising his young daughter alone.  The Grand Emperor has his soldiers take the scientist for conditioning to become a warrior.  The scientist worries about his daughter and as she tries to go after her father, the soldiers kill the young daughter.  Definitely something you will not see on American television at that time.

So, I’m glad that those elements from the series are retained in the films.  And as much as I grew up enjoying “Gaiking”, the only thing that drives me crazy about the films is the English dub.  Yes, I remember how things were in the ’70s through the ’90s but English dubbing has evolved since then. But William Winckler Productions was a product of that generation, heck, I am from that generation, but just because things were dubbed and acted a certain way back then, I know this is subjective but the voice acting (despite its use of veterans) featured voice acting style that I wish, stayed in the past.

And it’s important to note that I prefer to watch a whole entire series rather than a film that comprises of several episodes.  But I do realize not everyone wants to watch many dozens of episodes of a title and the films would suffice.

With that being said, I am a fan of “Gaiking”, grew up with “Gaiking” and I’m quite grateful for Shout! Factory for bringing out this title.  Because William Winckler Productions also did the production for “THE TOEI CLASSIC ANIME MOVIE COLLECTION!”, I hope that also means that Shout Factory intends to release the “Danguard Ace” films, “The Adventures of Nadja” films, “Space Pirates Captain Harlock”, “Fist of the North Star” films and “Starzinger” films for release in the U.S.

Overall, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” takes the best of “Gaiking” the animated TV series to make three feature length films!  For those who grew up in the ’70s, enjoyed the “Shogun Warriors” toys or even watched the original “Force Five” series or is a mecha/super robot fan at heart, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is for you!

 

Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Zanpakuto has rebelled against their Soul Reaper masters by taking a human form and declaring war. But what about their leader, the mysterious zanpakuto known as Muramasa.  And what exactly is he really up to? Find out in the original and uncut episodes of “Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut”!

Image courtesy of © Tite Kubo/Shueisha, TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Pierrot. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 243-255 (320 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Bilingual Japanese & English, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: June 11, 2013

Originally created by Tite Kubo

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Masashi Kudo

Art Director: Natsuko Suzuki, Sawako Takagi

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Studio Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Fumiko Orikasa/Michelle Ruff as Rukia Kuchiki

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo Kurosaki

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jamieson Price as Sado “Chad” Yasutora

Kentarou Itou/Wally Wingert as Abarai Renji

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hollow Ichigo

Noriaki Sugiyama/Derek Stephen Prince as Ishida Uryuu

Satsuki Yukino/Wendee Lee as Shihouin Yoruichi (human form)

Shinichiro Miki/Michael Lindsay as Urahara Kisuke

Yuki Matsuoka/Stephanie Sheh as Inoue Orihime

Kaya Matsutani/Megan Hollingshead as Rangiku Matsumoto

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Vic Mignogna as Ikkaku Madarame

Jun Fukuyama/Brian Beacock as Yumichika Ayasegawa

Romi Paku/Steve Staley as Toshiro Hitsugaya

Ichigo and the Soul Reapers find themselves in a brutal battle against their own Zanpakuto, who are being controlled by Muramasa. But the chaos in the Seireitei is just one part of Muramasa’s plan. His true objective lies in the World of the Living, and Ichigo is the key to his achieving it!

The zanpakuto of Soul Reapers have been released by Muramasa, a mysterious zanpakuto spirit and now they are rebelling against their masters?

The Soul Reaper zanpakuto have renounced them and are now declaring war!  Things are not looking good for the Soul Reapers as Soifon takes on Tengen and Gonryomaru, but to get attacked by her own zanpakuto Suzumebachi.  Izutru takes on Kazeshini, Yumichika takes on Ruriiro Kujaku, Ichigo takes on Senbonzakura and for some reason, Byakuya has aligned with Muramasa and attacks Renji and Zabimaru.  This leads a battle between Kenpachi vs. Byakuya.

But why is Muramasa so intent of destroying the Seireitei?

Find out in “Bleach DVD Set Seventeen” featuring episodes 243-255.

So, what is “Bleach”?

“Bleach” is one of those titles, alongside “Naruto” and “Dragon Ball Z” that has managed to capture the attention of anime fans and continues to reinvent itself with new sagas and characters. Created in 2001 by mangaka Tite Kubo, the manga has been published on Weekly Shonen Jump and the animated series has been airing on Japanese television since 2004.

The series has manged to grow its fandom worldwide, especially in the US as the series has aired on television on the Cartoon Network and the various video games for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP have also been popular among the fans as well.

The manga series revolves around teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who has the ability to see Soul Reapers (a military group that escorts the souls of the dead) and in this case, Ichigo has seen a female Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki. One day, a hollow (a monster that was once a human soul) has come to attack and when Rukia was injured, she transferred her spirit pressure to Ichigo in order for him to fight the hollow.

The series focused on Ichigo and Rukia’s friendship as somehow nearly all her spirit pressure had been transferred to Ichigo and stripping away her soul reaper power and thus Ichigo now has the power to take on the hollows while Rukia helps guide him through the battles with her knowledge. As Rukia temporarily lives with Ichigo, the two together battle hollows.

It’s important to note that because of how quickly the animated series has caught up with the manga series, the ongoing arc between the war between Soul Reapers and the Arrancars have temporarily put on hiatus to allow Tite Kubo to finish the chapters of the manga series. So, Studio Pierrot created an alternative story arc titled “Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale arc” (Zanpakuto Ibun Hen).

With volume 17 of “Bleach”, this DVD continues the battles between the zanpakuto and the Soul Reapers but also Muramasa’s history with the Kuchiki family.

As the soul reapers try to fight their own zanpakuto, they are unaware that Muramasa has intentions beyond freeing them from their masters and learned that they have been duped by Muramasa.  Meanwhile,  Muramasa travels to Karakura Town and intends to use the knowledge from General Yamamoto’s world to break the seal of his former master, Koga Kuchiki, a former soul reaper who went insane.  But having been separated from Koga for centuries, Muramasa wants to remove the seal and free the insane and powerful, Koga Kuchiki.

The main characters of “Bleach” are:

  • Ichigo Kurosaki – The main protagonist. A teenager who becomes a substitute soul reaper after absorbing Rukia’s powers. Accepting his new powers and wanting to protect everyone around him. Ichiro manages to grow in power with every battle he gets involved in.
  • Rukia Kuchiki – A Soul Reaper who transferred her spiritual power to Ichigo.
  • Orihime Inoue – A longtime classmate of Ichigo who is very caring and manages to develop her spiritual awareness and after her brother is killed by a hollow, she has managed to grow in power which is tied to a hairpin that her brother had given her.
  • Yasutora “Chad” Sado – A friend of Ichigo and very quiet. Developed a sense of seeing hollows and eventually gaining a power of strength and a right arm that is literally a weapon to fight against hollows.
  • Uryu Ishida - A classmate of Ichigo and a descendant of a priest group that hunted hollows known as Quincy. Earlier on, Uryu was a rival of Ichigo due to his hatred towards the Soul Reapers and eventually becomes friends with him.
  • Kon – A modsoul who’s life soul is put into a stuffed lion. When Ichigo is a Soul Reaper, Kon takes over Ichigo’s body, so no one including Ichigo’s family knows that Ichiro is actually not there. Mostly a comedy-driven character known for his perverseness and always complaining about something.
  • Kisuke Urahara – Owner of the Urahara shop and a former captain of the 12th Division in the Soul Society. He caught Aizen converting Soul Reapers to Visoreds but before he can save them, Aizen framed him for the crimes and Urahara fled to the real world.
  • Yoruichi Shihoin – An old friend of Kisuke Urahara who can turn into a black cat. She is the former captain of the 2nd Division and former Commander in Chief of the Secret Mobile Corps.
  • Renji Abarai – Lt. of the 6th Division in the Gotei 13 under Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. Known to be cocky about his skills, Renji cares deeply for Rukia and thus the reason why he is seen with Ichigo and friends.
  • Byakuya Kuchiki – 28th head of the Kuchiki Clan and Captain of 6th Division in the Gotei 13. Stepbrother of Rukia.
  • Toshiro Hitsugaya – Captain of the 10th Division in the Gotei 13.
  • Rangiku Matsumoto – Lieutenant of the 10th Division of the Gotei 13.

VIDEO:

If there is one thing that I’ve always enjoyed about “Bleach” is that for a TV series that is cranked out in Japan, the TV series features a good amount of detail in the background art. The series tends to really showcase quite a bit of locations and thus, not always reusing scenes.

Also, the character designs, despite not always being detailed, is shown great care by character designer Masashi Kudo who definitely respects the original illustrations of Tite Kubo. Some closeups are really well done and there is a good amount of focus on the actual animation during the battle sequences.

For a TV series, especially knowing how in Japan, many of these studios tend to crank them out because they have other deadlines taking on other series, “Bleach” continues to look very good.

As for picture quality, of course on DVD, you are going to see some softness, banding and edge enhancement but for the most part, picture quality is very good on DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut” is presented in stereo English and Japanese. Both dialogue tracks are clear and understandable. For those with a modern receiver may want to set their setting to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut” comes with the following special features:

  • Production Art – Using your remote, you can view “Bleach” production art.
  • Clean Ending – The clean ending theme.
  • Omake – The ending omake for episodes 243-255.

As explained from the last volume, as Tite Kubo needs time to complete chapters for his manga and because the anime series has caught up with the manga, the only way to put some distance between the manga and the anime is to either put the show on hiatus or to come up with new stories.

And eventually, they chose the latter by taking a break from the Arrancar War and dedicate a season (in Japan, these episodes are part of the 13th season and aired in Japan on July 2009 through April 2010) to a brand new storyline dubbed the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale Arc.

And for this volume, the storyline continues Muramasa’s attempt to free the zanpakuto’s from their masters and lead a rebellion against the Soul Society.  But in truth, Muramasa is after his old master, the insane Koga Kuchiki, who had been sealed for centuries.  And with Muramasa’s power growing weaker, his time to save Koga is growing shorter.

So, while the story focuses on Muramasa trying to seal his mater, we also learn his backstory between Koga/Muramasa and how Koga ended up insane after being framed by jealous soul reapers of killing his own allies and was imprisoned.  This led to Koga becoming evil and trying to murder anyone who stands against him.

And as Muramasa’s goal is to release the insane Koga inside the Seireitei to exact his revenge against soul reapers, Ichigo and others must do all they can to stop both Muramasa and Koga.

Having watched many “Bleach” filler episodes or alternate story arcs, so far the writers have been pretty good in creating original storylines and with the release of “Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut”.   Sure, it may not be canon with the manga series but if you are a “Bleach” fan, you either have a choice of not having a series or having filler episodes and for those who don’t feel too bad about having the latter, this latest arc is action-packed and includes certain Soul Reaper characters that are not utilized all that much.  In this case, you get to see Kenpachi, Byakuya, Soifon and Yoruichi take part in major battles.

“Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut” is another action-packed volume of “Bleach”.  While this season focuses on Muramasa and why he intends to free Koga Kuchiki, the next 18th volume should conclude the 13th season “Zanpukto: The Alternate Tale” episodes and by 19th volume, what many fans are waiting for, the return to the episodes featuring the final battle against the Arrancars.

If you are a fan of “Bleach” and stood with this anime series from the very beginning or have followed the anime/manga series for a very long time , “Bleach DVD Set Seventeen – Original and Uncut” may is worth checking out!

 

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom