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Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

November 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

naruto20-a

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is another must-see volume as the storyline shifts back to what transpires in the manga series but most importantly, we learn more about Naruto’s background and what happened to his parents on that fateful day. If you are a “Naruto” fan staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 245-257 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert)

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

As the Leaf Village prepares for war, each shinobi and clan must contemplate the role they will play in the battles to come. While Naruto’s peers seek training from surprising sources, Naruto himself must confront both his biggest weakness and greatest strength – the Nine-Tailed Fox.

To reach optimum power, Naruto must learn to control the beast within him, so he seeks help from the one person who has mastered just that, Killer Bee! But the Jinchuriki of Eight Tails wants nothing to do with training Naruto!

As the allied ninja forces prepare for the Great Ninja War, at Konoha, ninja’s prepare for their role in the battlefield and their mission, to protect Naruto Uzumaki from the Akatsuki.

All this and more in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut”.

What is “Naruto”?

Since 1999, “Naruto” created by Masashi Kishimoto (“Karakuri”) has been one of the most popular anime and manga series in Japan and has easily become a favorite best selling anime/manga series among fans all over the world.

For the anime series, since 2002, “Naruto” lasted until 2007 with a total of 220 episodes. The series would follow the adventures of a boy named Naruto Uzamaki, who may not be the brightest ninja from the Konoha Village but he makes it up with heart and also tremendous power as the killer beast known as the nine-tailed fox has been sealed within him.

Earlier in the series, the anime series focused on Naruto and his team members Sasuke Uchida and Sakura Haruno as they would go on adventures and learn to become a team and also honing their ninja abilities. The series would then begin to introduce other young ninjas from the village who Naruto would be paired up with and the young ninjas would take on rival clans to helping people in need. But somehow as the series continued, Sasuke Uchida would then go off on his own personal mission to stop his brother Itaki Uchida, who murdered the whole Uchida clan and his family, only leaving Sasuke alive.

Within those six years, we have seen Naruto and his friends grow as friends and also in their abilities. For Naruto, all he has wanted is to become the next Hokage (the leader of the village) when he grows older and to help his friends accomplish missions. He knows that to be a good leader, he will need to get stronger so he can protect the village once he grows older. Of course, there is so much involved in the “Naruto” anime series and what makes its special is its humor, its action but also how well the series integrates so many characters but yet features a good number of character driven episodes that makes the viewer appreciate many of the characters in the series.

“Naruto”, the first series ended with the young ninja leaving to train with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years.

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

Sasuke has aligned with the Akatsuki who wants to destroy the Leaf Village – Konoha.  Madara has declared war and thus an Allied Shinobi Force is formed. The elder leaders of all villages, allies to the Leaf Village have realized that the Akatsuki are after Naruto (Nine Tail) and Killer B (Eight Tail Beast).  They have since accomplished extracting the beasts (Jinchuriki)  from others.

In “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20”, the series now returns back to storyline that is featured on the manga series.

As Naruto tries to control the power of the nine tails, Naruto’s mother enter his consciousness to explain the secrets of his birth and learns about heir hopes and renews his vow to be come Hokage!

All is revealed about what transpired during the day of Naruto’s birth and who was responsible for attacking the Leaf Village with the nine tails.  And given the final moments to meet and speak with his mother one last time.

And as Naruto has become the prime target of the Akatsuki, Yamato, Guy and a few other Leaf Ninja, including Killer B have convinced Naruto that he is on an S-Ranked Environmental Mission at an island.

But hiding among them is the Akatsuki Kisame (who was thought to be dead) and has been spying on them all this time and now is trying to leak the intel back to the Akatsuki.  But in order to stop them, only one man will be to take him on…Guy.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20- Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.

It’s important to note that in 2014, Viz has went from releasing episodes on three DVD discs to two DVD discs per volume.

As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20” is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.

Especially Maile Flanagan’s Naruto Uzumaki. Personally, I didn’t think there would be a voice actor that could capture Junko Takeuchi’s Naruto vocals and sure enough, Flanagan does a great job. But I have watched the series in Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting for both soundtracks are well-done.

Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Art Gallery
  • Omake
  • Storyboards
  • Clean Openings/Endings
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

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With the release of “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut”, the series leaves the filler episodes from Season 11 from Japan and enters Season 12 which was featured in the manga.

With this latest batch of episodes, we get the emotional storyline from the manga series which revolves with Naruto reuniting with his mother for a brief time.  It is revealed of what had happened on the day of Naruto’s birth and how he was sealed with the nine-tail jinchuriki, the setting of the danger of impending war continues.

We also get to see Guy takes on Kisame, who had been thought to be dead.  But to realize, he had transformed and affixed himself onto Killer B’s sword and spying on the group all this time.  Now its a race against the clock as they try to stop him from leaking the intel to the Akatsuki.

We also get to see the return of Konan as she reminisces about what transpired between Naruto and Nagato leading to a final between her and Tobi.

So, there are many revelations that people will get to see with this latest DVD set of “Naruto Shippuden” and it is definitely one of the more emotional volumes as the meeting between Naruto and his mother was well-written!

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes and a the typical special features such as art gallery, storyboard, omake, clean opening and endings for each episode.

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is another must-see volume as the storyline shifts back to what transpires in the manga series but most importantly, we learn more about Naruto’s background and what happened to his parents on that fateful day.

If you are a “Naruto” fan staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 20 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

 

Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

silverspoon

“Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” was a big surprise! Not only is it a realistic and entertaining series from the creator of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, Hiromu Arakwa. But it’s a hilarious and educational anime series about agriculture and the people who are raised in that environment. “Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” is a fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!


Image courtesy of © Hiromu Arakawa, Shogakukan/EZONO Festa Executive Committee. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season

SERIES AIR DATE: 2013

DURATION: 11 Episodes (275 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Letterboxed, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2014

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Originally created by Hiromu Arakawa

Original Character Designs by Jun Nakai

Series Composition by Taku Kishimoto

Music by Shusei Murai

Character Designs by Jun Nakai

Art Director: Sawako Takagi

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Marie Miyake as Aki Mikage

Ryohei Kimura as Yūgo Hachiken

Ayahi Takagaki as Tamako Inada

Katsuyuki Konishi as Shingo Hachiken

Kengo Takanashi as Hajime Nishikawa

Masayuki Shouji as Keiji Tokiwa

Nobunaga Shimazaki as Shinnosuke Aikawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tarō Beppu

Shiori Izawa as Mayumi Yoshino

Tooru Sakurai as Ichirō Komaba

Asami Tano as Mika Toyonishi

Atsuko Yuya as Ichiko Fuji

 

The only reason why Yugo Hachiken decided to attend the Oezo Agricultural High School (a.k.a Ezono) was simply because the school had a dormitory. Entering Ezono was a way for Yugo to run away from the stifling academic pressures in the city, however, it didn’t take long for him to realize that life is not that simple.

Yugo is soon forced to face more hurdles in his new environment surrounded by all the farm animals and the magnificent Mother Nature. He also begins feeling a different kind of pressure as he deals with his classmates who, unlike him, all have a clear view of what they want for their futures.

Even so, as Yugo overcomes one challenge after another at Ezono and deepens his bonds with his classmates, he begins to grow stronger both physically and mentally. This is a coming-of-age story filled with sweat, tears, and literally a lot of dirt!

From mangaka Hiromu Arakawa (best known for “Fullmetal Alchemist”) comes “Gin no Saji” (Silver Spoon).  A story that Arakawa wanted to challenge herself and that is writing a more realistic story.

Serialized in Shogakukan’s “Weekly Shonen Sunday”, the award-winning manga was adapted into a manga series which lasted two seasons from 2013-2014 and also a live-action film released earlier this year in Japan.

And now “Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” will be released on DVD courtesy of Aniplex.

“Silver Spoon” is an anime series that revolves around a student named Yugo Hachiken, a teenager who attended came from a wealthy family but has left the big city of Sapporo to live in a farming area and attend Yezo Agricultural High School.

Because of the expectations put on him by his parents, Hachiken’s true reason of going to Yezo is primarily to escape his parents but after seeing his schoolmates being so passionate about their future careers in agriculture, Hachiken starts to wonder what will he do for a living?  And most importantly, how will he do at Yezo since he knows nothing about agriculture, let alone animals or where food comes from.

And the longer he stays at Yezo, he starts to understand the world of agriculture but also his perspective on life, on the food people eat but also how he starts to affect other students who are amazed by Hachiken’s perspective, because he didn’t come from an agricultural background.

The main characters of “Silver Spoon” are:

  • Yugo Hachiken – The main protagonist from Sapporo.  Because he failed his entrance exams, he decides to attend Yezo Agricultural High School to get away from his demanding parents.  But thinking it wold be an easy life, Hachiken finds out how challenging life is for those who work in agriculture but also the importance of their jobs and where food comes from.  He manages to create friendships but also influence others due to his generosity and intellect.
  • Aki Mikage – A member of the Equestrian Club who attends Yezo to prepare herself in inheriting the family business which specializes in cows and Ban’ei race horses.  Her family is struggling to make ends meet.
  • Ichiro Komaba – A skilled baseball player and a neighbor and childhood friend of Aki.  His family owns a small dairy farm.  His hope is to become a professional baseball player in order to help improve his family’s farm.
  • Shinnosuke Aikawa – A teenager who wants to be a veterinarian but the difficult decisions and his fear of the sight of blood often challenges his career decision.  He is a member of the Holstein Club.
  • Tamako Inada – A wealthy classmate Hachiken.  She is overweight but when she loses weight, she is often looked at guys for her beautiful figure.  But she tends to gain all her weight quickly.  She is obsessed with money and wants to inherit the family farm.
  • Keiji Tokiwa – A not-so-smart teenager that Hachiken tries to help with his math.  His family owns a chicken farm.
  • Ayame Minamikujo – An aristrocratic, wealthy girl who is a rival to Aki Mikage who wants to specialize in making cheese.
  • Shingo Hachiken – Yugo’s older brother who managed to get into the University of Tokyo, but decided to stop attending after he realized that is more of his parent’s dream and not his.  He suddenly moves by Yezo Agricultural High to Yugo’s chagrin.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Silver Spoon” is presented in 16:9 widescreen.  While an anime like this would look vibrant on Blu-ray, the anime series is only being released on DVD with a Japanese soundtrack.  Backgrounds are well-detailed and shaded, while character art is shaded but as one can expect from a TV series, there is a hint of softness.  But as for the series, the series does look good as episodes carry up to four episodes, so no major artifact problems are visible.

But the film does have a colorful palette and the series looks good on DVD.

Hopefully, if the series does receive an English dub in the future, that the series with both soundtracks are released on Blu-ray.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” comes with the textless opening and ending, trailers and commercial.

A realistic and entertaining anime series that not only educates viewers on agriculture but also is quite enjoyable thanks to its comedy and characters.

“Silver Spoon” is a fascinating anime series because in some ways, I grew up like Hachiken.  Not familiar with agriculture and having friends who were farmers and having a grandfather who was a chef, I was exposed to sides of farming that literally changed my perspective towards agriculture but also how our food is made.

In the anime series, we see the smart but yet naive Hachiken getting exposed to cows, pigs, horses for the first time but also his reaction when he sees where eggs come from, how difficult it is for him to work in a farm but also seeing how his classmates are putting so much effort into their work because of their future career or the fact they will be inheriting the family farm.

Of course, the camaraderie of  the series is also a lot of fun, as the friends all take part in using prime ingredients to make their own pizza, Hachiken hanging out with his friends to see what a baseball game is all about but also getting to see how he changes others perspectives as well.

One of the more interesting storylines for several episodes is when pigs that are raised for slaughter for ham, bacon, etc. is being taken care of by Hachiken and how he grows too close to one of them and names it “Pork Bowl”.  But having raised a pig from when it was a baby and seeing it grow, how will Hachiken react when he must say goodbye to it?

These are part of the life lessons that Hachiken must go through and for the most part, the comedy but the learning experience not just by Hachiken but also for the viewers, makes “Silver Spoon” an enlightening, entertaining and fun anime series.

Truthfully, I don’t think I have watched an anime series that focused on the farm life and tries to maintain a realistic feel but the series remained consistent that I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait for season 2, let alone, wanting to read Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series.  It’s that good!

As for the DVD, while “Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” may not come with the swag that Aniplex anime series tend to have, you do get the complete first season on three DVD’s.  Anime series looks good as one can expect on DVD and dialogue and music are clear and understandable.  Subtitles are easy to read.

Overall, “Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” was a big surprise!  Not only is it a realistic and entertaining series from the creator of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, Hiromu Arakwa.  But it’s a hilarious and educational anime series about agriculture and the people who are raised in that environment.

“Silver Spoon: Complete 1st Season” is a fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!


 

Oreimo 2: Limited Edition Complete Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Oreimo 2” is a fantastic conclusion to this fun and entertaining anime series!  “Oreimo 2: Limited Edition Complete Box Set” is recommended!


Image courtesy of © Tsukasa Fushimi/ASCII Media Workshop/OIP 2. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Oreimo 2: Limited Edition Complete Box Set

SERIES AIR DATE: 2013

DURATION: 13 Episodes (400 Minutes) + 3 ONA episodes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Letterboxed, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2014

Directed by Hiroyuki Kanbe

Originally created by Tsukasa Fushimi

Original Character Designs by Hiro Kanzaki

Series Composition by Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Satoru Kousaki

Character Designs by Hiroyuki Oda, Fumitoshi Oizaki, Gou Suzuki, Jimmy Stone, Kumi Ishii, Nozomi Goto, Shougo Hanagami, Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koji Okamoto

Anime Production: AIC/AIC Build

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayana Taketatsu as Kirino Kōsaka

Yūichi Nakamura as Kyōsuke Kōsaka

Akeno Watanabe as Yoshino Kōsaka

Fumihiko Tachiki as Daisuke Kōsaka

Hitomi Nabatame as Saori Bajiina

Kana Hanazawa as Ruri Gokou (Kuroneko)

Saori Hayami as Ayase Aragaki

Satomi Satou as Manami Tamura

Yukari Tamura as Kanako Kurusu/ Meruru / Kurara Hoshino

Kyousuke brings Kirino home from America where she attended a special track and field camp. Surrounded by her friends, Kirino gradually gets her life back to normal. In stark contrast to her friends is Kyousuke, who is unhappy with Kirino’s attitude towards him. She has been ignoring him since she came home, as if their relationship had gone back to how it had been a year earlier. But then Kirino does something for Kyousuke…

Sis-Con. The shortened word for “Sister Complex” and is typically showcased in anime as a strong brother and sister bond and of course, in extremes, it can be showcased as incestual relationships.

But “Sister Complex” has been featured in anime and while the most extreme form is usually reserved towards hentai anime, writer Tsukasa Fushimi along with illustrator Hiro Kanzaki decided to give a comedic, upbeat spin to the whole topic in their 2008 light novel series “Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai” (shortened name: “Oreimo”).

A manga adaptation of the light novel was featured on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki G’s Magazine and in 2010, the 12-episode anime TV series received its anime adaptation, with four additional episodes streamed on the official website and on video streaming sites in the Spring of 2011.  Followed by a 13-episode sequel in 2013 and the three final ONA episodes.

Aniplex has released “Oreimo 2” on DVD in the U.S. featuring a limited edition complete box set featuring all 13-episodes, 3 ONA episodes, 16 postcards, 44-page booklet, poster and 2-sided DVD cover.

What is “Oreimo” all about?

“Oreimo” is a series that takes place in Chiba and focuses on a 17-year-old named Kyosuke Kosaka.

Kyosuke and his 14-year-old sister Kirino have not gotten along for years and often wonders why he never is treated with kindness like other younger sisters and their brothers. In fact, each time she looks at him, it’s as if she is repulsed by him.

And the more he hears about younger sisters, it starts to tick him off.

But one day, while Kirino was leaving to join some friends, she accidentally drops a DVD of an anime series and inside the DVD is an eroge (erotic/adult) video game. This can’t possibly be Kirino’s DVD. Afterall, she is the top of her class, she is popular in school, she’s a track star, she’s a model and she has no connection to anime/video games at all.

But it does interest him to see if there is a possibility that the anime or game can be hers. So, when he starts to tease about the situation in front of Kirino, Kirino tries to pretend its not hers. So, when he asks if Kirino can throw it in the trash, she is unable to. And for the first time, Kyosuke’s little sister reveals her double life. She’s an otaku.

She loves a magical girl anime series and she is also an otaku that owns a lot of eroge and moe (hardcore fan of younger girl style of characters in anime, manga and video game series).

Afraid that her brother would blab about her secret otaku life, she is surprised that Kyosuke accepts her the way she is and has no problems with it. And because he is open to her sister’s hobby, it opens things up for a true brother and sister relationship that Kyosuke had wanted (as well as what Kirino has wanted).

So, Kyosuke tries to help his sister with her hobby by finding otaku friends which includes the mecha fan and “Anime Girls Unite!” club leader, Saori Makishima and Kuroneko, a girl who is a tsundere-type (a cold attitude) that dresses up in gothic lolita outfits and the complete opposite of Kirino (thus the two having a not-so-friendly relationship). Meanwhile, trying to balance her life with her real friends, fellow models Ayase Aragaki and Kanako Kurusu.

And for older brother, Kyosuke will do whatever it takes to have this strong relationship with his sister, but this relationship tends to freak Kirino’s friends who joke around that the two have a “Sis-Con” type of relationship.

“Oreimo 2”

For the sequel, “Oreimo 2”, Kyosuke wants to be be truthful about his feelings towards his sister Kirino, and Kirino the same for her older brother.  But what happens when Kyosuke’s female friends start to confess their love for him?

The main characters of “Oreimo” are:

  • Kyousuke Kosaka – The main character. A 17-year-old who lives a normal life and wants to have a real brother and sister relationship with his younger sister Kirino, but for years, she has acted as if she is repulsed by him. But he still wants to protect her and he starts to develop.
  • Kirino Kosaka – Kyousuke’s younger sister. She is mature for her age but acts very cold and even repulsed towards her older brother. She is a model, top student in her class, track star and is popular but she has a secret double life and that is that she is an otaku who is passionate towards a children’s anime series “Stardust Witch Meruru” and loves moe and eroge games. She often uses her modeling money to fund her hobby and tries her best to keep her hobbies secret from her friends. She is easily frustrated when Kysouke is around other girls, especially towards Manami.
  • Manami Tamura – Kyousuke’s childhood friend. Manami is a girl with glasses and is described as being a plain, normal girl. She likes Kyousuke and her family tries to do all they can to get Kyousuke and Mani together alone. Kyousuke thinks that Manami’s mannerisms are like an older lady.
  • Saori Makishima – The leader of “Anime Girls Unite!”. A big Gundam fan, big otaku with big glasses and has a great body. Always trying to keep the balance between Kirino and Kuroneko.
  • Ruri Goko/Kuroneko – The complete opposite of Kirino. She loves dark things, can’t stand sugary magical girl anime and it leads her to be at odds with Kirino. She is also the older sister two two younger sisters and envy’s Kirino of having an older brother who takes care of her. So, she starts calling Kyousuke “nii-san” (brother).
  • Ayase Aragaki – Kirino’s best friend, classmate and a fellow model. She’s rather quiet but when someone lies at her, she gets very upset and violent. She dislikes Kyousuke, thinking that he is responsible for Kirino being an otaku.
  • Kanako Kurusu – Kirino’s friend, classmate and fellow model. She has a photographic memory when it comes to memorizing songs. She also has a bratty attitude.
  • Daisuke Kosaka/Yoshino Kosaka – Daisuke is Kyousuke and Kirino’s strict father and Yoshino is their loving mother.
  • Kohei Akagi – Kyousuke’s classmate who also tries to support his sister’s otaku hobby.
  • Sena Akagi – Kohei’s younger sister who is a brainiac when it comes to programming and fixing glitches in games. She’s also hardcore into yaoi (guy and guy action) and often has dreams of her guy friends doing yaoi things to each other.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Oreimo 2” is presented in 16:9 LB and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0.

AIC has done a solid job with the animation for “Oreimo” in the fact that it’s one of those series that doesn’t reuse scenes constantly over and over again. Each scene, it’s like there is something new for the characters and the colors are vibrant and for the most part, the characters are often mobile, going outdoors, going to events, so it’s a pretty cool series when it comes to the overall look.

I also like the creative endings shown after each series and showcasing various artistic styles. And the styles are featured in the included postcards that come with the “Oreimo 2” limited edition box set.

As for the audio, the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. For me, I chose to have stereo on all channels in order to have a more immersive soundtrack but for the most part, audio is crystal clear and the optional English subtitles are easy to read.

So, for the most part, I was pleased with the anime series and I hope that maybe Aniplex considers this title for a future Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Oreimo 2” comes with the following special features:

  • SD Character Preview – (6:32) SD versions of the characters Kyousuke and Kirino.
  • Galge Style Short Movies: New Year’s First Shrine Visit/Valentine’s Day – (44:08) In Eroge fashion, the story plays out like an erotic video game with two different storylines (note: A lot of reading with some vocals).
  • Web Previews
  • Textless opening and ending themes

EXTRAS:

And this is where Aniplex really went all out! Included in the “Oreimo 2: Limited Edition Complete Box Set” are the following items: 16 postcards, 44-page booklet of character designs and original DVD/BD cover gallery,  Original Poster, 2-Sided DVD Cover.

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Fun, hilarious and highly entertaining… “Oreimo 2” was rather interesting because the writers really tried to escalate the taboo nature of the sister complex that Kyousuke had for his sister.

If anything, the writers knew rather well how people would feel about the series as we see brother and sister become closer until the final episode when all is revealed and you can’t help but feel content of how the writers managed to conclude the series.

But I have to admit, there were times when I was saying to myself, “oh…don’t go there!” but I’m glad I stuck with this series from beginning to end.

If you stuck with both the first series and this second, “Oreimo” ended up being is a fun and hilarious take on an otaku lifestyle and one brother wanting to reconnect with his younger sister and have that brother and sister bond that he had desperately wanted for years. And when big brother Kyousuke discovers younger sister, Kirino’s secret otaku lifestyle, it ends up bringing the two together and possibly helping build that bond between brother and sister that had been lost for years.

In anime series, you often see the younger sister taking care of the older sibling when it comes to waking them up for school, serving them food and it’s a part of Japanese pop culture that I have seen in dramas, anime and manga series. Where there is a bit more family support as opposed to the individual perspective that we see in America.

When I think about it…sure, we used to see brother and sister bonding on ’70s and ’80s shows such as “The Brady Bunch”, “Diff’rent Strokes”, “Mr. Belvedere” and “Growing Pains” but the more I think about it today, those type of series have disappeared from American television. But in Japan, television still tries to show the connection between family especially between brothers and sisters and “Oreimo” tries to incorporate that.

And because these two are constantly arguing with each other, they do want to very much have a brother and sister relationship and because it seems anything but normal, their friends wonder what is up with these two and thus the “sister complex” jokes come up, especially since Kirino is into those type of video games that are moe and eroge.

And despite those games not being so “cool” or even disturbing for Kyousuke, he is open to playing them with his sister because it’s a big step in creating that brother and sister bond.

And of course, there is that otaku-lifestyle that the anime series tends to touch upon. We have seen it on series such as “Genshiken” and the otaku-lifestyle, especially one having a cool and popular lifestyle but then having otaku inspired tastes. Sure, there are stereotypes that all otaku are nerds but even I know a few people who try not to have those interests hidden and keep it a secret.

And in the case of both Kyosuke and Kirino, both have an obsession for eroge (erotic video games).  So, it was rather fascinating to see how this series would play out in the end.

But it’s the way the stories are handles that makes it quite fun. But it’s the final three episodes that were not televised, that was rather interesting.  And by episode 16, one can understand why these last three episodes were not televised but at the same time, all was necessary to provide closure for the series.  And once again, I was quite content with how this series ended.

For those curious about “Oreimo 2”, one should not worry about any brother and sister action, this is not that type of series. Granted, there are moments where the two seem like they are going to engage into something unusual but the writers make sure that they tease the viewer than actually having the characters go through with any action. There is no sister complex scenes but possibly one when Kyousuke is holding a package that Kirino wants and the two fight over it that they fall. And of course, we get the fan service panty shot and Kyousuke landing on top of his sister while his hand happens to be on her breast while her friends look in shock.

That is probably the only scene where brother and sister get into any certain situations but outside of that, it’s a pretty tame anime series but it does have some mature language and a few fan service moments. But for the most part, for those wondering if it’s a sister complex anime series, “Oreimo” and “Oreimo 2” is not that type of series. The writers joke around the topic it but never gets serious.

As mentioned, you get all 13-episodes of the TV series, plus the three  episodes that were only shown on the Website. But with this limited edition complete box set, you also get postcards, a booklet, poster and an irreversible cover.

While I did enjoy this series, if I had to think up of some negatives, it’s the fact that the series does not come with an English dub soundtrack. For me, I’m more biased towards watching anime in Japanese but I know a lot who are biased towards English dubs. The other thing that I can think of is for those who are wanting an HD release of this series. It’s out in Japan and I wouldn’t be surprised if Aniplex does consider this series for Blu-ray in the near future. I hope they do because there are not too many upbeat series like this out on Blu-ray in the U.S.

Overall, there’s nothing I can complain about this box set or the anime series. It was very entertaining and fun to watch and it’s probably one of the more fun anime comedies I have seen in recent years, especially one that is presented with so much fan swag. How awesome is that?

“Oreimo 2” is a fantastic conclusion to this fun and entertaining anime series! “Oreimo 2: Limited Edition Complete Box Set” is recommended!

 

PURCHASE THIS DVD FROM RIGHTSTUF or BANDAI STORE

 

Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

narutoshippuden-19

The origin of Eight Tails and preparation for the Great Ninja War!  If you are a fan of the anime series and are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 232-244 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert)

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

As the Leaf Village prepares for war, each shinobi and clan must contemplate the role they will play in the battles to come. While Naruto’s peers seek training from surprising sources, Naruto himself must confront both his biggest weakness and greatest strength: the Nine-Tailed Fox.

To reach optimum power, Naruto must learn to control the beast within him, so he seeks help from the one person who has mastered just that, Killer Bee! But the Jinchuriki of Eight Tails wants nothing to do with training Naruto!

As the allied ninja forces prepare for the Great Ninja War, at Konoha, ninja’s prepare for their role in the battlefield.

For the Hyuga clan, Neji is assigned to lead the clan to war.  Naruto is on his way for his special mission but finds out an imposter is ruining his reputation.

Back at the village Konohamaru, Udon and Moegi want to get into action but for Konohamaru, he wants to pick a fight…but with the Sand Village’s Temari?

Shino looks back at the past, Tenten remembers how she wanted to be like Tsunade, Sai remembers his time spent with Naruto and Sakura, Kiba wants to prove himself and Guy remembers how he became Kakashi’s rival.

All this and more in “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut”.

What is “Naruto”?

Since 1999, “Naruto” created by Masashi Kishimoto (“Karakuri”) has been one of the most popular anime and manga series in Japan and has easily become a favorite best selling anime/manga series among fans all over the world.

For the anime series, since 2002, “Naruto” lasted until 2007 with a total of 220 episodes. The series would follow the adventures of a boy named Naruto Uzamaki, who may not be the brightest ninja from the Konoha Village but he makes it up with heart and also tremendous power as the killer beast known as the nine-tailed fox has been sealed within him.

Earlier in the series, the anime series focused on Naruto and his team members Sasuke Uchida and Sakura Haruno as they would go on adventures and learn to become a team and also honing their ninja abilities. The series would then begin to introduce other young ninjas from the village who Naruto would be paired up with and the young ninjas would take on rival clans to helping people in need. But somehow as the series continued, Sasuke Uchida would then go off on his own personal mission to stop his brother Itaki Uchida, who murdered the whole Uchida clan and his family, only leaving Sasuke alive.

Within those six years, we have seen Naruto and his friends grow as friends and also in their abilities. For Naruto, all he has wanted is to become the next Hokage (the leader of the village) when he grows older and to help his friends accomplish missions. He knows that to be a good leader, he will need to get stronger so he can protect the village once he grows older. Of course, there is so much involved in the “Naruto” anime series and what makes its special is its humor, its action but also how well the series integrates so many characters but yet features a good number of character driven episodes that makes the viewer appreciate many of the characters in the series.

“Naruto”, the first series ended with the young ninja leaving to train with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years.

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

In “Naruto Shippuden”, the storyline now features everyone a little grown up but the stakes are much higher. We learn that the Akatsuki including Orochimaru are looking for those who possess a jinchuriki. With this power, this will give too much power to evil and this can lead to the death of many people and the destruction of many villages.

In the past few volumes, the Leaf Village along with other villages have managed to defeat the Akatsuki, unfortunately the price paid was the death of Asuma and a few other members of the Leaf and Sand Ninja.

Now, Orochimaru using Kabuto, have their sites set on capturing the other jinchuriki, as do the Akatsuki who have been after Naruto.

In vol. 18 of “Naruto Shippuden – Original & Uncut”, after the epic battle with Pain, Lady Tsunade’s injuries causes concern in the leaf village and a discussion to select a new Hokage comes into play. Who will be the next choice of leading the village?

Meanwhile, the five Kage’s must plan and discuss the fourth Great Ninja War against the Akatsuki. Meanwhile, Naruto takes part in an S-ranked mission with Aoba, Guy and Yamato.

Which leads to vol. 19, a filler season (Season 11)  which features various storylines on various leaf ninja preparing for the war and reminiscing of their earlier years but also how Naruto has inspired them.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19- Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.

It’s important to note that in 2014, Viz has went from releasing episodes on three DVD discs to two DVD discs per volume.

As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19” is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.

Especially Maile Flanagan’s Naruto Uzumaki. Personally, I didn’t think there would be a voice actor that could capture Junko Takeuchi’s Naruto vocals and sure enough, Flanagan does a great job. But I have watched the series in Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting for both soundtracks are well-done.

Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Storyboards – View through the storyboards of episodes featured in volume 15 of “Naruto Shippuden”.
  • Clean Openings
  • Clean Endings
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

narutoshippuden-19b

As the Fourth Great Ninja War was taking place in Japan for the manga series, the anime series was catching up to quickly and thus, in order to stretch out the storyline and give mangaka Masashi Kishimoto time to write many more chapters, for the anime series, in order to give him that space, it was going to be another season of filler episodes.

And with season 11 (episodes 222-242) which aired from July through December 2011, writers made sure to focus on the planning of the Fourth Great Ninja War while having Naruto and others from the Leaf Village on special missions.

So, for  “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19” which covers episodes 232-244, the writers of the anime series knew they needed to extend the season before returning to any storyline that is from the original manga.

The series brings things home by focusing on a character that we have grown up watching from the original series.  Neji, Shino, Shikamaru, Tenten, Guy, Kiba, etc.  Pretty much you get an episode of a lot of reflection of why these ninja want to protect Naruto and what Naruto did for them as individuals.

And in someway, these filler episodes are very enjoyable for the fact that in the manga series, as one expects, the focus is primarily on Naruto and his close circle of teammates, while the anime series gave fans more exploration of these characters and have developed them over time.

So, in some ways, it’s great to see these episodes focused on these characters.

This volume also features the first two episodes of season 12 (episodes 243-244) which features Naruto meeting Killer Bee and wants KB to train him and we get to see the origin of Eight Tails.

And this will focus on the Naruto/Killer Bee storyline that was featured in the original manga series from Masashi Kishimoto.

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes and a the typical special features such as storyboard, clean opening and endings for each episode.

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is rather fun, but for those who have read the manga series, will notice that the majority of all episodes in this latest volume are mostly filler episodes. Fortunately, the filler episodes are fun, fascinating and enjoyable and feature storylines that include characters that we have grown to appreciate in the Naruto world.

If you are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 19 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

 

Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set (A J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

servantservice

“Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before. An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive. “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © KArino Takatsu/SQUARE ENIX, SERVANT x SERVICE PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Widescreen, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Karino Takatsu

Directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto

Series Composition by Kento Shimoyama

Music by Monaca

Character Design by Terumi Nishii

Art Director: Shinji Honda, Yukihiro Shibutani

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Lucy Yamagami

Mai Nakahara as Saya Miyoshi

Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Yutaka Hasebe

Aki Toyosaki as Megumi Chihaya

Mikako Takahashi as Tanaka-san

Rikiya Koyama as Kenzō Momoi

Rina Hidaka as Kanon Momoi

Rumi Ookubo as Tōko Ichimiya

Takahiro Sakurai as Taishi Ichimiya

Tetsuya Kakihara as Jōji Tanaka

Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami is a newly-hired civil servant who has been assigned to work in a certain government ward office in a certain city in Hokkaido Prefecture. Not only does Lucy have so many things to learn at her new job, she needs to do all of that in the company of her colleagues, who are all more than a little eccentric. If you thought a job as a government employee was dull, you better think again! Lucy and her colleagues, actively and covertly (?!) serve their community every day!

Welcome to the life of civil service at the Health and Welfare Dept. where employees such as the naive Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami, the shy Saya Miyoshi, the carefree Yutaka Hasebe and the tsundere cosplayer Megumi Chihaya work.

Where the four work for their boss Toko Ichimiya (Megumi’s boyfriend, although he doesn’t know it) and Kenzo Momoi, the Section Chief  that is for some reason, a stuffed rabbit.

The life of these civil servants are the basis of mangaka, Karino Takatsu’s manga series “Servant x Service” which was created in 2009 and is still published in the Square Enix magazine “Big Gangan”.

With three tankobon volumes of the manga series printed, in 2013, the series would receive a 13-episode adaptation courtesy of A-1 Pictures.

“Servant x Service” revolves around the lives of those who work at the Health and Welfare Dept.

We are introduced to new employees such as Lucy Yamagami, a naive worker who always wears a black turtleneck sweater.  While kindhearted, she wants nothing but revenge on the public servant who approved her full name “Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami”, which she feels has led to her being joked on and giving her a low self esteem.

Yutaka Hasebe is your ultimate slacker.  While he is a very smart individual who can and has excel on things, because he wants to live life the way he wants, people accept his unusual style.  He is also a guy who finds himself teasing Lucy but eventually starting to learn that he is falling in love with her.

Meanwhile, the quiet new employee, Saya Miyoshi is terrified at her new job and finds herself talking to the elderly Mrs. Tanaka a lot for her work and often having thoughts on the people around her but tends to keep things inside.

The three new employees work with temp social worker Megumi Chihaya, a cosplay fanatic who loves the series “Magical Flowers” but can exhibit Tsundere tendencies, especially to her boyfriend, that she wishes is more worrisome towards her than his sister all the time.

But throw in a boss with the appearance of a stuffed animal and a stalkerish banker and you have an interesting combination of shenanigans for each episode of “Servant x Service”.

The main characters of “Servant x Service” are:

  • Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami – A new public servant who wants nothing but to take revenge on the man, a public servant who approved the long name given to her parents.  She blames a lot of things in her life due to her long name.  She is well-endowed and has a cowlick that tends to stick up or react in different situations.  She is very naive and often wears a black turtleneck sweater (because she can’t find clothes that fit her).
  • Yutaka Hasebe – A slacker at work who tends to tease Lucy but finds himself falling for her.  Despite his slacker style, he’s actually very intelligent and has talent, but his care free lifestyle is what he tends to lean to.  He desperately wants to go on a date with Lucy.
  • Saya Miyoshi – A 24-year-old college graduate and is soft-spoken.  She often keeps opinions to herself and is always listening to people talk, especially the elderly Mrs. Tanaka who wants Saya to marry her grandson.
  • Megumi Chihaya – A social service employee who is a temporary employee.  She has a tsundere attitude and is a huge fan of the anime series “Magical Flowers” and often thinks of her female co-workers as cosplayers and often wanting to dress them up as a character.  She is dating Taishi Ichimiya, who is very scared of her.
  • Taishi Ichimiya – The supervisor of the health and welfare office and is in charge of Lucy, Yutaka, Saya and Megumi.  He is very kind and is known for putting his sister Toko on top of his priority and raising her.  Although he is dating Megumi, he is often scared of her ever-changing emotions and how she may feel because he puts his sister as priority over her.
  • Toko Ichimiya – Taishi’s tsundere younger sister who has a short temper and often criticizes his employees.  She often visits his workplaces and wants to become a public servant.
  • Kenzo Momoi – The Section Chief of the Health and Welfare Department.  For unexplained reasons, he’s in the body of a stuffed animal.
  • Joji Tanaka – A banker who is the ultimate rival of Hasebe and stalks him because he’s determined to beat him on anything.
  • Kanon Momoi – Daughter of Kenzo and tries to keep it a secret from her friend Toko that the bunny rabbit section chief is her father.
  • Kaoru Hasebe – Yutaka’s older sister.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and in Japanese linear PCM Stereo.

A-1 Pictures has done a great job with the animation and the backgrounds are nicely done.  I enjoy the fact that backgrounds feature the characters in a variety of locations and are detailed instead of the plain office backgrounds.

As for the acting, the voice acting is well-done, especially for slacker Yutaka Hasebe (voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki) and Section Chief Kenzo Momoi (voiced by Rikiya Koyama).  But the series is dialogue and musically driven and for the most part, the soundtrack works well for this type of anime series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with textless opening and endings.

EXTRAS:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with a 24-page Special Public Documents booklet with episode synopsis + short manga and photos.  Also, included is a 2-sided reversible cover and slipcover.

Every now and then, with each passing year, there is always one anime that takes me by surprise.  And for 2014, “Servant x Service” was an anime series that did just that.

To be truthful, I didn’t know what to expect because a series about public servants is not something you will see in an anime series.  Yes, I have seen it many times for Japanese dramas but never for an anime series.

So, having completed the entire 13-episode series, I have to say that “Servant x Service” was pretty awesome!

No, it’s not a overly dramatic anime series, there is no one with special abilities nor does this take place in the far future, this is a straightup anime series that is built around the comedy of its fascinating characters.

From Lucy, the naive young woman who is unaware that people watch her because she always wears a black sweater (and happens to be well-endowed) but also how she responds to her true first name (which is a long combination of many other first names) and thus, she has held nothing but dislike towards the public servant who allowed her parents to name her with that long name and let her be the butt of jokes growing up.

Then you have the slacker Yutaka Hasebe.  It’s his demeanor that makes you laugh because although he is a slacker, he is also a talented individual and smarter than he behaves.  He has a photographic memory, he excels at sports but all he wants is to go on a date with the girl he has fallen for… Lucy.  Throw in a stalker-ish old childhood friend named Joji, who always tries to best Hasebe in everything and needless to say, shenanigans develop.

The anime series also has interesting characters as the quiet college student Saya, the tsundere cosplayer named Megumi, the overcaring boss who is scared of how his girlfriend Megumi treats him and a stuffed rabbit who happens to be the Section Chief.

The series is no doubt crazy but its witty characters and its constant casualness and playfulness makes this series a whole lot of fun that anyone who loves anime can watch and enjoy.

What happens when Megumi Chihaya wants to dress up Lucy in a skirt?  What happens when Lucy loses the Section Chief at an event?  What happens when Yutaka finds out how Lucy got her real name?

So, many crazy situations but how everything plays out, nothing gets boring and I found myself watching episode after episode, because I enjoyed the series so much.

While “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is only available on DVD and there is no English dub, I do hope that Aniplex of America considers this for a Blu-ray release with an English dub because it’s so much fun and a series that casual anime fans will get into!

You also get the anime swag that Aniplex is known for.  Maybe not a whole lot but you get a short booklet and a 2-sided reversible cover.

Overall, “Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before.  An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive.

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

 

Transformers Animated: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

transformers-animated

The release of “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is a fantastic collection on DVD of all episodes from all three seasons. It’s a safe animated series that parents can easily show their children and for those who are young at heart, watch a “Transformers” series that is not banal and took a different creative direction for each character. Exciting, action-packed and a different type of “Transformers” series, “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series”: is recommended!

Image courtesy of: © 2014 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Transformers Animated: The Complete Series

DURATION: 42 Eposodes (15.5 hours)

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic, 1:78:1, Dolby Digital – English 2.0

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TV Y7 FV

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2014

Trapped on Earth, far from home and living in disguise, the brave Autobots must protect the ancient, all-powerful AllSpark from getting into the hands of the malevolent Decepticons. As if their task weren’t difficult enough, the team (led by the honor-bound Optimus Prime and including Bulkhead, Prowl, Ratchet and Bumblebee) must also protect Earth from its own nefarious super villains! Can this mere maintenance team live up to the highest standard of what it truly means to be Autobots?

Finally, you can own the complete Transformers Animated series, including the never-before-released third season, right here in one exciting collection!

Back in 2007, a new Transformers animated series was unveiled on Cartoon Network.

Thanks to a unique overhaul of the characters courtesy of popular Japanese animation studios MOOK DLE, The Answer Studio and Studio 4°C (who were known for their animated work in the U.S. for series such as “Teen Titans” and “Ben 10”), the series proved to be a hit with children but also the young at heart.

Featuring a storyline that although is quite different compared to past series, the overall theme of the Autobots versus the Decepticons continues but there are some twists and turns that would eventually happen through the two seasons as the series would focus on a small crew of Autobots who find the AllSpark artifact and while on a mission, the crew led by Optimus Prime was being pursued by the Decepticons led by Megatron.

The group would eventually land in future Detroit, once known for creation of automobiles, has now become a leader of creating robots.

And while the Autobots are of higher alien technology, they are assisted by the spunky Sari Sumdac and her scientist father Isaac Sumdac.

And while season 1 was more of a character introducing season, by season two, the series  would feature more twists and turns but also more action, more battles and several surprises with appearances of more Autobot and Decepticon characters but also episodes paying some homage to the past “Transformers” animated film and series.

This second season continued where the last left off. The first season focused on the Autobots working with a young girl named Sari Sumdac and trying to find the Allspark, meanwhile Sari’s father (Professor Isaac Sumdac) thinking that Megatron is a good guy, works hard to revive him (and following his orders to keep his existence private). The season reached it’s climactic point as Megatron is revived and the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons go full force. And Sari’s father is kidnapped by Megatron and forced to be a slave to Megatron.

While the third season began with the Autobot group, Team Athenia, led by Rodimus Prime defending a space bridge against the Decepticons, Team Char led by Strika.  But trouble arises and Rodimus Prime is forced to seek help, meanwhile Megatron manages to infiltrate Omega Supreme, the Autobot that was created to be a weapon of mass destruction against the Decepticons.  But his inactive body was taken by Megatron who tries to find a way to use the Autobot weapon against the Autobots.

Also, the origin of Sari is revealed.  But most importantly, the final season features the conclusion to the animated series and the battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron.

To give a quick refresher on who the main robots are in the series.

The main Autobot team are:

Optimus Prime (played by David Kaye) has always been the main leader of the Autobots in the past but with this Optimus Prime, he is a rookie leader for the Autobots on planet Earth. Unlike previous Optimus Prime, this leader didn’t do that well in Autobot Academy. Optimus Prime transforms into a futuristic firetruck in vehicle mode and in robot mode, his weapon of choice is an Energon axe.

Ratchet (played by Corey Burton) is an Autobot medic and a veteran. He shares his classic stories about the past Great War with his fellow younger Autobots and can be quite grumpy towards others. Ratchet is equipped with an EMP generator as his main weapon and transforms into an ambulance in vehicle mode.

Bulkhead (played by Bill Fagerbakke) is the bulky Autobot that is a demolition specialist but enjoys art and quite laid back. His main weapon are his cannonballs and he transforms into a green swat truck.

Bumblebee (played by Bumper Robinson) is the young, overconfident member who is friends with young Sari and his best friend is Bulkhead. Bumblebee transforms into futuristic bug but has speed blasters on its rear and his main weapons are his stingers on his hands.

Prowl (played by Jeff Bennet) loves nature and he sometimes acts alone. He transforms into a motorcycle and his weapons are ninja-like stars.

The main Decepticon team are:

Megatron (played by Corey Burton) is the cold and manipulative leader of the Decepticons. Transforms to a Cybertronian Fusion jet fighter and a gunship with two propellers. His main weapons are a fusion cannon and twin swords.

Blitzwing (played by Bumper Robinson) is unstable and has a split personality. Each personality can chance to a cold warrior, another that is aggressive and then a flame face which is psychotic. He transformers into a tank and also a jet.

Lugnut (played by David Kaye) is a giant Decepticon with brute strength and is devoted to Megatron. He can turn into a bomber jet.

Starscream (played by Tom Kenny) is sarcastic and as always, two-faced. Wants to take over of the Decepticons and has many clones of himself. He can turn into a fighter jet.

Blackarachnia (played by Cree Summer) was formerly an Autobot named Elita-1 and friend to Optimus Prime. Was caught in an accident that has transformed her into a techno-organic spider and now has a hatred towards the Autobots.

Lockdown (played by Lance Henriksen) is a mercenary and is a bounty-for-hire. Not a Decepticon or Autobot but has been known to assist Megatron for parts.

The following episodes included on “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” are as follows:

  1. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part One) – Optimus Prime and the Autobots are pursued by the Decepticons for the AllSpark.
  2. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part Two) – The Autobots get used to their temporary home on Earth.
  3. TRANSFORM AND ROLL OUT (Part Three) – The Autobots team up with humans.
  4. HOME IS WHERE THE SPARK IS – The Autobots have a new HQ.
  5. TOTAL MELTDOWN – Bumblebee transforms into Meltdown.
  6. BLAST FROM THE PAST – Professor Sumdace upgrades a trio of animatronic dinosaurs.
  7. THRILL OF THE HINT – A robotis creating problems in Detroit.
  8. NANOSEC – Bumblebee has a new rival on the road…. Nanosec.
  9. ALONG CAME A APSIDER – Bumblebee and Bulkhead confront Blackarachnia.
  10. SOUND AND FURY – Sari’s toy robot becomes evil.
  11. LOST AND FOUND – The Autobots confront Decepticons Lugnut and Blitzwing.
  12. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST – Sari has been kidnapped.
  13. HEADMASTER – A Sumdace employee wants revenge and takes control of an Autobot.
  14. NATURE CALLS – Prowl, Bumblebee and Sari go on a mission.
  15. MEGATRON RISING (PART 1) – The Decepticons plan to invade earth.
  16. MEGATRON RISING (PART 2) –  The Autobots must defend the AllSpark by all cost and keep it away from the Decepticons.
  17. THE ELITE GUARD – The Elite Guard featuring Ultra Magnus, Sentinel Prime and Jazz arrive to Earth and find out if stories by Optimus Prime in regards to the Allspark fragments and Decepticons are true. Meanwhile, with Sari’s father missing and no one heading the company, without proof that Sari is a legitimate child of the Professor, she is kicked out of the Sumdac Building and lives with the Autobots.
  18. THE RETURN OF THE HEADMASTER – The Headmaster returns and this time, he takes the body of Sentinel Prime.
  19. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – Ultra Magnus receives a distress message from Ironhide that there is a major uprising by the Decepticons and requests backup. With no proof of Decepticons on Earth, the Elite Guard asks Optimus Prime and the main Autobots to leave Earth and assist the other Autobots in different parts of the galaxy. That is, until Starscream shows up to take on the Elite Guard and the Autobots.
  20. GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT – The Allspark fragment brings trashbots to life which includes a naive robot named Wreck-Gar who doesn’t know who to follow…the Autobots or Decepticons. Note: This is a homage to the Transformers animated film (1986) with references to to the film and Weird Al Yankovic song “Dare to be Stupid”. And to make things even sweeter, Wreck-Gar features the voice of Weird Al.
  21. VELOCITY – Bumblebee bends the rules and takes part in street racing but there is another speedster in the race. How is it that an Earth car be faster than Bumblebee? Unless it’s another robot. Note: This episode is the first appearance of the Autobot, Blur.
  22. RISE OF THE CONSTRUCTICONS – Autobot fragments have turned vehicles at the construction site to robots. Bulkhead befriends Scrapper and Mixmaster but what happens when Megatron sways them to join the Decepticons?
  23. A FISTFUL OF ENERGON – Prowl and Bulkhead try to help Grimlock of the Dinobots from an injury. Afterwards, Prowl goes after Starscream alone but it seems another robot is after Starscream… Lockdown returns!
  24. S.U.V. – SOCIETY OF ULTIMATE VILLAINY – The villains are back and it seems they have teamed up with an evil robot intergalactic arms dealer named Swindle. (Note: First appearance of Swindle)
  25. AUTOBOOT CAMP – Wasp escapes from prison and Sentinel Prime starts pursuing him. In this episode, you learn more about Bumblebee and Wasp’s relationship and why Wasp hates Bumblebee so much.
  26. BLACK FRIDAY – The Dinobots become servants of Blackarachnia and she has them kidnap Meltdown of the Autobots.
  27. SARI, NO ONE’S HOME – The return of the Constructicons and Bulkhead and Bumblebee are attacked by Blitzwing.
  28. A BRIDGE TOO CLOSE, PART ONE – The Constructicons join the Decepticons, Starscream and his clones concoct a plan. Meanwhile Megatron kidnaps Bulkhead after Shockwave reveals that Bulkhead is a top space bridge engineer.
  29. A BRIDGE TOO CLOSE, PART TWO – Starscream and his clones attack the Decepticons, the Autobots do what they can to prevent the Decepticons from using the space bridge and the Autobots spaceship transforms to Omega Supreme. Also, something happens to Sari.
  30. TRANSWARPED (PART 1) – A traitor among the Autobots.
  31. TRANSWARPED (PART 2) – Megatron’s plans of invading Earth continues.
  32. TRANSWARPED (PART 3) – Can the Autobots protect the Earth from the Decepticons?
  33. THREE’S A CROWD – Bulkhead wants help from the Constructicons.
  34. WHERE IS THEY STING? – Wasp wants revenge on Bumblebee.
  35. FIVE SERVOS OF DOOM – How is Sentinel Prime achieving all this success?
  36. PREDACONS RISING – Wasp ends up on Dinobot Island.
  37. HUMAN ERROR, PART 1 – It’s Christmas time for the Autobots.
  38. HUMAN ERROR, PART II – The Autobots are held captive but can Sari save them?
  39. DECEPTICON AIR – The Decepticons aboard the Elite Guard try to take down the Autobots.
  40. THIS IS WHY I HATE MACHINES – Ratchet and Captain Fanzone are sent to Cybertron.
  41. ENDGAME, PART 1 – Megatron takes control of Omega Supreme.
  42. ENDGAME, PART 2 – The Autobots defend Detroit from the Omega Supreme clones and Megatron.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is presented in anamorphic (1:78:1) and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.  Animation for “Transfomrers Animated” is colorful and vibrant and looked very good on DVD.  Dialogue is dialogue-driven and crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The special features on this “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” are:

  • Audio Commentary by Matt Youngberg (Supervising Director), Eric Siebenaler (Lead Product Designer) and Derrick Wyatt (Art Director) for “Mission Accomplished” and “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. The audio commentary was very nice as the guys talk about the various anime studios that produced certain scenes from the animation. Talk about how certain characters were supposed to be featured but didn’t, homages to “Transformers” past and much more. What I found awesome was that you get the perspectives of those who work on the show but also the perspective of someone involved in the toy line. And each are big fans of “Transformers” that listening to the audio commentaries were definitely worthwhile.
  • Audio commentary by Marty Isenberg (Story Editor), Sue Blue (Dialogue Director), David Kaye (voice actor for Optimus Prime, Lugnut and more), Matt Youngberg (Supervising Director) and Derrick Wyatt (Art Director) for “Transwarped, Part 1, 2 and 3”

“TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” is a big part of my family.

As a fan of the older series, I enjoy watching it with my five-year-old, who is just a big fan of the series. We own nearly every toy in the “TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” line and for him, he really loves the character designs of the robots. I enjoy the storyline. It’s quite interesting because I know many parents who watch the series with their kids and also, own a lot of the toys because they love transforming them and their kids love playing with them.

This passion for “TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED” is worldwide and sure, I’m always going to be a diehard fan of G1 but even for me, I really enjoy what Hasbro has done in creating a cool, refreshing, action-packed animated series. The thing is, this series was created for today’s generation but created by people who were passionate about the older “TRANSFORMER” series and know that there are fans who will continue to stick with the series no matter what age they are, thus the creators put a bit of that nostalgia into this series and in my opinion, they succeeded in making sure the series attracts the young and older fans.

And for anyone who grew up watching this animated series and enjoyed it, many fans will be pleased with a full collection of all 42 episodes on DVD for a great price!

There were so many characters introduced throughout the three seasons and quite a few surprises as well. There is also quite a bit of humor in the series and even some drama (even though it’s more towards the hilarious side) as we see Sentinel Prime and Optimus Prime’s dislike for each other escalate but also the same can be said with the relationship between Megatron and Starscream. Also, the battles between the Autobots and Decepticons were pretty exciting and the incorporated characters, the inclusion of Omega Supreme and also an alternative look at Autobots, especially an Optimus Prime that was not a high-ranking Autobot was rather fascinating to see.

Overall, the release of “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series” is a fantastic collection on DVD of all episodes from all three seasons.  It’s a safe animated series that parents can easily show their children and for those who are young at heart, watch a “Transformers” series that is not banal and took a different creative direction for each character.

Exciting, action-packed and a different type of “Transformers” series, “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series”: is recommended!

 

Bleach DVD Set Twenty: Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Soul Reapers vs. the Arrancars and it’s a battle to the death! Aizen, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen make their move in “Bleach DVD Set Twenty – Original and Uncut”! Recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Bleach DVD Set Twenty – Original and Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 280-291 (282 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: March 18, 2014

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

The Soul Reapers form an uneasy alliance with the Visoreds, and the battle against the Espadas resumes. Barragan, the former ruler of Hueco Mundo who was displaced by Aizen, appears to be defeated by the combined efforts of Hachigen and Soi Fon until they discover him forcing open Hachigen’s Shiju Saimon barrier.

Later, Ichigo is troubled that he can’t seem to use his Hollowfication to full effect. And with the ultimate battle with Aizen looming, he’ll need every ounce of power!

The epic battle between the Soul Reapers and Aizen’s Espadas continues in “Bleach DVD Set Twenty: Original and Uncut”!

For many episodes, we have seen the Soul Reapers take on the Espadas/Arrancars.  Both have suffered tragedy and extreme casualties.    But when Aizen arrives with Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen, will they aid the Espadas?

And for the Soul Reapers, what happens when Shinji Hirako arrives with the Visoreds.  Will the Visoreds who don’t care for the Soul Reapers want to help them out in the battle?

Meanwhile, #0 Espada, Yammy Llargo…the most powerful, huge Espada who has already hurt Renji, Rukia is left to fight against him.  But out of nowhere, she gets some help from a familiar face!

Meanwhile, Shinji Hirako having seen his friend Hiyori Sarugaki cut down, prepares for his battle against Aizen.  Meanwhile, Kaname Tosen takes on Seventh Division Captain Sajin Komamura and Ninth Division’s Shuhei Hisagi.

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 19 of “Bleach”, it’s Ichigo Kurosaki vs. Ulquiorra Cifer. A powerful Arrancar with a second stage, not many know of the extent of his true power but Ulquiorra will do whatever he can to destroy Ichigo. But no matter what happens, Ichigo is determined to never give up.

And now, the fight between the Soul Reapers and Espadas continue, but this time around, things are not looking so good for the Soul Reapers as they take on the most powerful Espadas, who may be more powerful than they had expected.

And here we are with the 20th volume of “Bleach DVD: Original & Uncut”.

Aizen, Ichimaru and Tosen make their appearance during the battle between the Soul Reapers vs. Espadas.  As Captain Hitsugaya takes on Halibel, Soi Fon and Marechiyo Omaeda take on Barragan and Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake take on Stark.

But just when you think the Espadas are going to win, the Visoreds have come to join forces with the Soul Reapers.  An uneasy alliance.  But who will become the victor of this battle?

With Ichigo having defeated Ulquiorra, he rushes to help out his friends.  With Rukia in a difficult battle with the #0 Espada, will Ichigo be able to save Rukia from getting killed by Yammy?  Meanwhile, Captain Komamura and Shuhei Hisagi take on their former friend Kaname Tosen.  But Tosen has a surprise for his former friends!

And with Aizen sizing his competition for battle, Shinji knows believes that the only person that can defeat Aizen is Ichigo, but with Ichigo out helping Rukia, does Shinji Hirako have any chance of fighting against Aizen by himself?

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  Twenty –  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 Twenty – Original and Uncut” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Ending – The clean opening and ending themes.
  • Omake – The ending omake for episodes 280-291.

With another action-packed DVD volume of “Bleach”, episodes 280-291 are quite fascinating as we finally get to see Kenpachi Zaraki fight in battle, but also for a long time coming, we finally get to see Kaname Tosen in action.  A former Soul Reaper who has chosen the path to follow Aizen,what’s interesting is seeing Shuhei Hisagi going against his former leader, Tosen but also seeing Sajin Komamura taking on his former friend.

We also have seen the tide go back and forth between the Soul Reapers and Espadas. Both sides suffering from major casualties and now the battle continues in its last legs as now the battle shifts back to the Soul Reapers vs. Espadas and to tell you the truth, seeing Aizen and friends and the Visored’s appearance definitely made things even more interesting.  How would these two forces impact the battles as Captain Hitsugaya takes on Halibel, Soi Fon and Marechiyo Omaeda take on Barragan and Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake take on Stark.  And what about the killer Lilinette?

And as for the battle between Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake vs. Stark, they get some help from Love Aikawa and Rojuro Otoribashi.  And Mashiro Kuna goes to take on the sadistic Espada child Lilinette.

As for Captain Hisugaya’s battle with Haibel, let’s just say that you have to read to see what happens.   Shocking twist!

And let’s just say the body count continues to grow with this latest volume as it concludes the battle between the Soul Reapers vs. Espadas but transitions to a much more futile battle.

It’s a battle to the death as the body count continues to grow in this latest volume of “Bleach” as two characters die.  But who lives and who dies?

Meanwhile, we start to see how much Ichigo’s powers have grown and his friends see a new, more powerful Ichigo.  But at what cost is it to him, having all this power?

So, for me, the highlight of this volume, now that the Espadas are out of the way, we are going to see more of Aizen, Gin Ichimaru and Kaname Tosen.  And with this volume, it begins with Captain Komamura and Hisagi engaged in battle with Tosen to the death.

This buildup leading to the battle with Aizen, Ichimaru and Tosen has been a very long time for “Bleach” fans.  And it took a long time just to get to this point since the three defected from the Soul Society, so for those who have been patient to wait this long for this battle.

And suffice to say, Tite Kubo has a number of twists coming along the way.  For manga readers, for the most part, there are some additional storyline not featured in the manga and we get to see more backgrounds in regards to characters and also the violence is toned down a little.  But for those who have enjoyed the anime series, you’ll still find these episodes exciting and captivating.

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 Twenty: Original and Uncut” is exciting and definitely worth owning!

 

Transformers: Energon – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you grew up with “Transformers: Energon” as a child or an adult who has followed every or many”Transformers” animated series as possible, and watching the series with an open mind to a fresh new story and alternate timeline, “Transformers: Energon” is definitely recommended and a great value for fans of the “Transformers” animated series!

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Energon: The Complete Series

TV RELEASE DATE: 2004

DURATION: 51 Episodes (18 3/4 Hours)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 4:3, Color, stereo

COMPANY: Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2014

Directed by Jun Kawagoe, Yutaka Sato

Written by Akira Okeya

Produced by Actas Inc. and Studio A-CAT

Featuring the Voices of:

Garry Chalk as Optimus Prime

Trevor Devall as Alpha Q

Matt Hill as Ironhide

Scott McNeil as Jetfire

Brent Miller as Hot Shot

David Kaye as Megatron

Michael Daingerfield as Inferno

Michael Dobson as Starscream

Alvin Sanders as Demolishor

Don Brown as Cyclonus

Paul Dobson as Rodimus

Ron Halder as Dr. Jones

Kirby Morrow as Rad

Colin Murdock as Scorponok

Doug Parker as Mirage

Ward Perry as Landmine

Brad Swaile as Kicker

Alistair Abell as Prowl

Ten years of peace have passed since Unicron’s destruction, but all of that’s about to change. A mysterious enemy has unleashed the Terrorcons on the Autobots’ cities, gathering energy for plans of total domination. Enter a newly revived Megatron and the universe is in for a war unlike any it s ever seen between the Autobots and Decepticons. And once again, Earth is caught in the middle!

Can Optimus Prime and his valiant Autobots (alongside their human allies) protect the Earth against this new threat? Find out with the complete series of Transformers: Energon!

In 2004, the latest Transformers animated series titled “Transformers: Energon” aired in Japan.

With a total of 51 episodes, the series is a direct sequel to “Transformers: Armada” and would feature the return of Armada human characters Rad White, Carlos Lopez and Alexis and takes place during a time where peace has taken place on Cybertron and Earth after the defeat and destruction of Unicron.

But as the Autobots and Decepticons have lived in peace, a mysterious being known as Alpha Q has been observing afar.  Sending out Terrorcons, led by Scorponok to attack Cybertron cities in order to obtain Energon.

On Earth, Alexis has grown up to become a diplomat for the human delegation of the Earth Federation as a liaison between Earth and the Autobots/Decepticon alliance.  Meanwhile, Carlos is working at a space station observing any problems in outer space.  While Rad is working on Cybertron with Dr. Brian Jones.

“Energon” would focus on Dr. Brian and Miranda Jones son Kicker, an excellent Cyclist and often headstrong.  He has a had problems with all Transformers and is considered a brash teen who tends to upset the Autobots because of his behavior and actions.  But because of his many phobias, he has a problem with trusting anyone.

As Alpha Q continues to gain Energon in order to re-create Decepticons to follow him, Megatron is engineering his own resurrection and to bring back Unicron but to gain revenge against Optimus Prime.

The primary Autobots for “Energon” are Hot Shot, Inferno, Ironhide, Jetfire, Wing Saber and Omega Supreme as the first season focused on the Autobots taking on Alpha Q who intends to resurrect Unicron.

For the second season, Megatron continues his plot for revenge against Optimus Prime, while Rodimus returns but not to help the Autobots stop Alpha Q but wanting the Autobots to allow him to recreate Unicron.  This causes some division with the Autobots, who don’t understand why Rodimus would support the return of Unicron.

And as the fight continues, Megatron will evolve into the mighty Galvatron. Can Optimus Prime and the Autobots defeat him?

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Transformers: Energon – The Complete Series” is presented in 4:3 (standard definition), color and in stereo. While I am still biased towards the original animation of the “Transformers” and for modern animation, more towards “Transformers: Cybertron” and “Transformers: Prime”, while the character design of “Transformers: Energon” was fascinating as the animation would feature interesting mecha design but also better character design animation for the human characters, while mechanical design may be subjective to the viewer.

Backgrounds are the usual standard rocks and trees, but the backgrounds are detailed and well-painted.

But for those who enjoyed “Transformers: Energon”, the positive about this series is that the series looks very good on DVD. There is no sign of any blemishes, dust or aging. The animated series looks very good on DVD and if anything, fans should be happy with the overall picture quality.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Transformers: Energon – The Complete Series” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Transformers: Energon – The Complete Series” comes with a cardboard slipcover.

When I first caught “Transformers: Energon” on television, I have to admit that my first feeling was that the series was more about promoting the toyline, featuring so many different types of accessories and trying to think outside of the box in terms of doing something different than any other “Transformers” series before it.

The Optimus Prime that we knew before, looked very different.  Actually, all Autobots and Decepticons looked different as the goal was to use CG animation for the mecha, while we got to see much better human character designs with a stronger anime connection (much better than “Transformers: Armada”).

But I have to admit that the series had its positive moments, from featuring many Autobots/Decepticons and bringing on a new antagonist and utilizing a Unicron-driven storyline.  The problem was that the execution felt rushed.

Unicron was made much weaker in the series and while it was great to see a new antagonist for a short while, the fact is that it strayed too far from the Autobots vs. Decepticon theme  until the second half of the series.

And while he was only a baby when this series came out, my son grew up watching “Transformers” and the continuing series and eventually having his own large collection of Transformers. But for him watching this series in 2014, it was seeing him react to the series that I realized that Hasbro/Takara did a good job in creating this alternate universe and new storyline for “Transformers: Energon”.  Sure, it’s nothing like the G1 I love but it’s also for a new generation of Transformers fans can watch and enjoy and I collected a few of the Transformers in the toy line, so it’s actually a fascinating concept for the animated series and toy line.

But in terms of story…I do feel that while the animation is much better than “Armada”,  Kicker was quite irritating as a human character and to see the Autobots become emotional because of Kicker’s behavior, was no doubt too much for me.  But as for my young son, he absolutely enjoyed “Transformers: Energon”, for its characters, its humor and even its mild battles.

With the release of “Transformers: Energon”, fans are getting all 51-episodes and for any fans of the “Transformers” animated series, these complete collections are wonderful as there is no having to purchase multiple volumes and it’s straight-up a complete collection of all episodes for a great price at under $30.

While I am not familiar with the older DVD release of “Transformers: Energon”, the DVD quality from the Shout! Factory release is very good.  I detected no major signs of major damage or aging. No major artifacts and the best that one can expect from a DVD release. There are no special features included but with seven DVD’s featuring 51-episodes, I’m quite thrilled with the overall package. A complete series with all seasons for under $30. That’s a major deal!

Overall, if you grew up with “Transformers: Energon” as a child or an adult who has followed every or many”Transformers” animated series as possible, and watching the series with an open mind to a fresh new story and alternate timeline, “Transformers: Energon” is definitely recommended and a great value for fans of the “Transformers” animated series!

 

Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a fan of the anime series and are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 219-231 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Sabaku no Gaara (Gaara of the Desert)

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

Naruto declares to his friends his intention to take on Sasuke by himself, while the Elders of the Leaf make a serious decision about who will fill the vacant seat of Hokage: Kakashi! In Mount Myoboku, Gerotora, Fukasaku and the Great Lord Elder debate whether or not to give Naruto the key to the Tetragram Seal that Gerotora holds, an act that could potentially unleash Nine Tails.

Meanwhile, Tsunade recovers from her coma and, having grasped the situation, issues orders to prepare for war!

As the five Kage’s gather to discuss the Fourth Great Ninja War, Naruto, Yamato, Might Guy and Aoba take part in a top secret S-Mission.

Will Naruto succeed in his most difficult mission yet?

What is “Naruto”?

Since 1999, “Naruto” created by Masashi Kishimoto (“Karakuri”) has been one of the most popular anime and manga series in Japan and has easily become a favorite best selling anime/manga series among fans all over the world.

For the anime series, since 2002, “Naruto” lasted until 2007 with a total of 220 episodes. The series would follow the adventures of a boy named Naruto Uzamaki, who may not be the brightest ninja from the Konoha Village but he makes it up with heart and also tremendous power as the killer beast known as the nine-tailed fox has been sealed within him.

Earlier in the series, the anime series focused on Naruto and his team members Sasuke Uchida and Sakura Haruno as they would go on adventures and learn to become a team and also honing their ninja abilities. The series would then begin to introduce other young ninjas from the village who Naruto would be paired up with and the young ninjas would take on rival clans to helping people in need. But somehow as the series continued, Sasuke Uchida would then go off on his own personal mission to stop his brother Itaki Uchida, who murdered the whole Uchida clan and his family, only leaving Sasuke alive.

Within those six years, we have seen Naruto and his friends grow as friends and also in their abilities. For Naruto, all he has wanted is to become the next Hokage (the leader of the village) when he grows older and to help his friends accomplish missions. He knows that to be a good leader, he will need to get stronger so he can protect the village once he grows older. Of course, there is so much involved in the “Naruto” anime series and what makes its special is its humor, its action but also how well the series integrates so many characters but yet features a good number of character driven episodes that makes the viewer appreciate many of the characters in the series.

“Naruto”, the first series ended with the young ninja leaving to train with Jiraiya for two-and-a-half years.

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

In “Naruto Shippuden”, the storyline now features everyone a little grown up but the stakes are much higher. We learn that the Akatsuki including Orochimaru are looking for those who possess a jinchuriki. With this power, this will give too much power to evil and this can lead to the death of many people and the destruction of many villages.

In the past few volumes, the Leaf Village along with other villages have managed to defeat the Akatsuki, unfortunately the price paid was the death of Asuma and a few other members of the Leaf and Sand Ninja.

Now, Orochimaru using Kabuto, have their sites set on capturing the other jinchuriki, as do the Akatsuki who have been after Naruto.

In vol. 18 of “Naruto Shippuden – Original & Uncut”, after the epic battle with Pain, Lady Tsunade’s injuries causes concern in the leaf village and a discussion to select a new Hokage comes into play.  Who will be the next choice of leading the village?

Meanwhile, the five Kage’s must plan and discuss the fourth Great Ninja War against the Akatsuki. Meanwhile, Naruto takes part in an S-ranked mission with Aoba, Guy and Yamato.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Naruto Shippuden” is an anime series that was never known for having spectacular background art, but it’s know for its action and its characters and how it captures emotion and its intense battles. While in this episode, a lot of episodes are contained in areas near lush green trees, water or dirt, it’s not so much of the background but how the characters are design and how well the battles are portrayed. And I can easily say that with “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original Uncut”, the fast-paced action in this volume is great for a TV series and good for what one can expect on DVD.

As for the audio, the audio for “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18” is pretty much Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Bilingual (Japanese and English). Similar to a series like “Dragon Ball Z”, with “Naruto”, I have always enjoyed the voice acting of the English dub series. It’s well done and the voices fit the characters very well.

Especially Maile Flanagan’s Naruto Uzumaki. Personally, I didn’t think there would be a voice actor that could capture Junko Takeuchi’s Naruto vocals and sure enough, Flanagan does a great job. But I have watched the series in Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting for both soundtracks are well-done.

Since the series is front channel driven, for those with a modern home theater receiver probably will enjoy a more immersive soundscape by selecting stereo on all channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Art Gallery
  • Storyboards – View through the storyboards of episodes featured in volume 15 of “Naruto Shippuden”.
  • Clean Openings
  • Clean Endings
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

naruto-18

As the Fourth Great Ninja War was taking place in Japan for the manga series, the anime series was catching up to quickly and thus, in order to stretch out the storyline and give mangaka Masashi Kishimoto time to write many more chapters, for the anime series, in order to give him that space, it was going to be another season of filler episodes.

And with season 11 (episodes 222-242) which aired from July through December 2011, writers made sure to focus on the planning of the Fourth Great Ninja War while having Naruto and others from the Leaf Village on special missions.  So, vol. 18 of “Naruto Shippuden – Original & Uncut” (episodes 219-231) focused on the five Kage’s coming together to plan the war but primarily Naruto, Yamato, Might Guy and Aoba on a special S-ranked mission.

And while the crew go on adventures to various lands, we get episodes featuring Might Guy discussing Lee, Shikamaru meeting up with Naruto to give him confidence, the Hyuga clan discussing their involvement in the war and more.

While the episodes are entertaining, if you have gotten used to filler episodes, one positive aspect is that writers managed to incorporate the planning of the war and the fear of others about being involved in a major war.  So, these filler episodes try to incorporate a consistent storyline unlike other filler episodes from the past.

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes and a the typical special features such as art gallery, storyboard, clean opening and endings for each episode.

Overall, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut” is rather fun, but for those who have read the manga series, will notice that the majority of all episodes in this latest volume are all filler episodes.  Fortunately, the filler episodes are fun, fascinating and enjoyable but for those impatiently waiting for the start of the Fourth Great Ninja War, that’s going to take some time.

So, with that being said, if you are a fan of the anime series and are staying in for the long haul, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 18 – Original & Uncut” is a fun and enjoyable filler volume worth watching!

 

One Piece: Collection 9 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-c9

The conclusion of Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also the first confrontation between the Straw Hat Pirates and one of the three, Marine Admirals.  Exciting, crazy but so much fun, “One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended! 

Image courtesy of © 2001 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Collection 9

DURATION: Episodes 206-229 (Duration: 600 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: April 15, 2014

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

When Luffy and his mates drop anchor at the bizarre island of Long Ring Long Land, they’re challenged to a Davy Back Fight by the fast-talking Foxy Pirates! The Straw Hats are no strangers to squabbles, but the sacred code of pirates decrees that this contest could cost Luffy his crew!

 

Next on the horizon for the Hats, it’s a case of missing memories as everyone but Robin forgets they ever knew each other. Usopp is quick to claim the title of captain, and Zoro does the unthinkable by attacking Luffy! Can Robin recover the crew’s lost recollections before disaster strikes?! She’d better work fast, because far greater foes lie ahead, and the Straw Hats will need all hands on deck if they hope to survive the return of Captain Foxy – and the icy arrival of Admiral Aokiji!

The “Davy Back Fight” competition between Luffy (with an afro wig) vs. Foxy concludes, but who will be the victor?  Meanwhile, while sailing at sea, Nico Robin finds out that everyone on the ship (who has fallen asleep), has lost their memory.  Get a glimpse of each Straw Hat Pirate’s past life before they joined the group.

And as Luffy and Foxy continue to challenge each other, the Straw Hat Pirates come across  the first of the powerful three Marine admirals, Admiral Aokiji.  And the fact that this man has Nico Robin cowering in fear, goes to show how powerful and deadly this man really is.  But why has he been searching for the Straw Hat Pirates?

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 563 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 One”.

“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.

“One Piece”, Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates continue their search for “One Piece” and last when seen them, the Straw Hat Pirates were taking on the Marines who have captured them and have taken all their treasure.

But the crew have managed to work as a team and take back their treasure. Now they escaped from the Marines but immediately come into contact with a mysterious pirate ship and are captured by the Foxy Pirate crew. And now Captain Foxy and his subordinates have challenged Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates to a “Davy Back Fight” contest and to make things worse, the Foxy Pirate Crew have taken Chopper and if the Straw Hat Pirates don’t win, Chopper will need to join their crew.

The “One Piece: Collection 9” comes with episodes 206-229 on four DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are actually considered as season 7). Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

  • EPISODE 206 – Farewell, Marine Fortress! The Last Battle for Escape! – How will the Straw Pirates crew escape from the Marine Fortress?
  • EPISODE 207 – Great Adventure at Long Ring Long Land – The Going Merry is captured by the Foxy Pirate Crew.
  • EPISODE 208 – A Davy Back with the Foxy Pirates – Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are challenged by the Foxy Pirate crew in a Davy Back Fight.
  • EPISODE 209 – Round 1! One Lap of the Donut Race! – The first challenge….a tiny boat race around the island.
  • EPISODE 210 – Silver Fox Foxy! The Merciless Interference! – Fox shows off his Devil Fruit powers and Porche takes Chopper.
  • EPISODE 211 – Round 2! Shoot It Into the Groggy Ring! – The Straw Hat Pirates vs. the Foxy Pirates in a ball game.
  • EPISODE 212 – A Barrage of Red Cards in Groggy Ring! – Sanji and Zoro must work together in order to win…but can they?
  • EPISODE 213 – Round 3! The Round-and-Round Roller Race! – The next round…roller skate competition.
  • EPISODE 214 – A Seriously Heated Race! Into the Final Round! – The Straw Hats come back and now it’s time for the final round!
  • EPISODE 215 – Screaming-Hot Bombardment! Pirate Dodgeball! – Chopper returns back to the Straw Hats but instead of leaving, Luffy accepts another challenge by Foxy.
  • EPISODE 216 – Showdown on the Cliff! Red Light, Green Light! – Foxy takes Robin from Luffy.
  • EPISODE 217 – The Captains Square Off! The Final Combat Round! – It’s the final game….a battle between Luffy and Foxy in a battle of brawn aboard Foxy’s ship.
  • EPISODE 218 – The fight between Luffy and Foxy continues!
  • EPISODE 219  – The conclusion between the battle of Luffy and Foxy.
  • EPISODE 220 – Nico Robin finds out that all the Straw Hat Pirates have lost their memories.
  • EPISODE 221 – Robin and the group try to piece how they lost their memory and what they remember the night before.
  • EPISODE 222 – The group try to find out who is responsible for stealing their memories.
  • EPISODE 223 – Before they can restore their memories, the group must find the entranced Zoro.
  • EPISODE 224 – The thing responsible for stealing memories, tries to steal the memories of the local townspeople.  Can Luffy stop it?
  • EPISODE 225 – The Straw Hat Pirates find a troubled Foxy, Hamburg and Porche stranded in sea.
  • EPISODE 226  – Foxy wants one more battle vs. Luffy.
  • EPISODE 227 – The group encounter the first Marine High Admiral, Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 228 – The Straw Hat Pirates vs. Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 229 – The Straw Hat Pirates meet an old woman named Kokoro and her daughter Chimney, who gives them a map to Water Seven.

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.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the 207th episode was the first “One Piece” episode to be broadcasted in HD and in widescreen. So, it will be interesting to see if FUNimation does release this season on Blu-ray.

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 awesome 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: Collection 9″ comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 211 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actors Ian Sinclair, Eric Vale and Christopher Sabat.
  • EPISODE 215 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actresses Tia Ballard (Porche) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy).
  • EPISODE 218 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actress Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) and Jonathan Brooks (Foxy the Silver).
  • EPISODE 229 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talent Stephanie Young (Nico Robin) and Sonny Strait (Usopp).
  • Textless Songs – Textless songs for “BON VOYAGE”, “Kokoro no Chizu”, “Dreamship” and “Eternal Pose”.
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer.
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

With this new DVD volume, the Straw Hat pirates have escaped the Marine Fortress but after escaping one troublesome group, they run into another. This time they run into the very odd Foxy Pirate crew.

These episodes are actually quite fun and what makes it so different from past antagonists is that the Captain Foxy and his crew are somewhat, like rejects. Obviously, Captain Foxy and his crew have not received any recognition, so that is why they are taking on the Straw Hat Pirates who have gained notoriety and are wanted by the marines.

And as odd as Foxy and his crew look, you think it’s all fun and games until you realize that the Straw Hat Pirates are put at a disadvantage (Foxy Pirates are constantly cheating) but suffice to say, Luffy and gang have met another challenge. We see Zoro and Sanji being put together as a team and this is a major challenge as both teammates are always at each other’s throat. And because they are distracted towards each other, they are in dangerous of losing their matchup.

Possibly the cutest situation of this entire volume is seeing Chopper being taken by Porche and with Tony Tony Chopper in tears, the crew makes him remember he is a man and must be brave and watching his character trying to put on brave face for his teammates.

But this is probably one of the craziest seasons of “One Piece” that I have seen yet. These episodes are essentially a game competition filled with colorful, odd looking characters but yet so fun to watch. It may not be the darkest or most threatening of adversaries but despite how nonthreatening or goofy the Foxy Pirates look, they have become an interesting opponent so far. And it’ll be interesting to see how things continue for the remainder of this series and to see if Foxy does pose a threat in the next few episodes.

This set also features the conclusion of the season as we get battles between Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also insight to the past history of a few of the members of the Straw Hat Pirates, especially learning why Nami desires money so much, and it’s not about greed but something tragic that happened in her past.

But also, ending with the confrontation with Marine High Admiral Aokiji and the fact that Nico Robin is shaking in fear in Aokiji’s presence, goes to show that this man is powerful and dangerous!

With “One Piece: collection 9”, with episode 207 being the first episode to be broadcast in HD and widescreen in Japan, it would be awesome if the series would get a Blu-ray release in the United States. But as for the DVD, the DVD is colorful, vibrant and looks good on DVD, but it would be interesting to see how this series would look in HD and I’m looking forward to whenever that day comes. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, we do get two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

It’s important to note that this is a re-release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One” and “One Piece: Seaason Four, Voyage Two” which were released back in 2012.  But the benefit of buying the collections is that you get nearly two dozen episodes and is great if you have never watched “One Piece” and are looking for an economical way to watch the series, considering there are many episodes included.

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul.  While, we are 229 episodes down and are over 400 more episodes behind Japan, 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.

“One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended!

 

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