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Ranma 1/2 – Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Featuring a hilarious and delightful storyline written with non-stop humor and action, “Ranma 1/2″ is at true anime classic that will forever entertain many generations of anime fans and will forever be remembered for its characters and wild and crazy stories.  And it’s a Rumiko Takahashi anime series that I highly recommend!  If you can, avoid the DVD release of “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” and go for the Blu-ray version!

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

DVD TITLE: Ranma 1/2 – Set 1 (らんま1/2)

DURATION: Episodes 1-23 (450 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9 Widescreen, 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 25, 2014

Original Creator: Rumiko Takahashi

Series Director: Tomomi Mochizuki

Director: Junji Nishimura, Koji Sawai, Tsutomu Shibayama

Series Composition: Hiroshi Toda, Shigeru Yanagawa, Toshiki Inoue, Yoshio Ursasawa

Music by Miko Endo

Character Design: Atsuko Nakajima

Art Director: Satoshi Miura

Director of Photography: Mitsunobu Yoshida

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sarah Strange as Ranma Saotome(Male)

Megumi Hayashibara/Venus Terzo as Ranma Saotome(Female)

Noriko Hidaka/Myriam Sirois as Akane Tendou

Hiromi Tsuru/Kelly Sheridan as Ukyou Kuonji

Hirotaka Suzuoki/Ted Cole as Tatewaki Kunoh

Ichirô Nagai/Paul Dobson as Happousai

Kenichi Ogata/Robert O. Smith as Genma

Kikuko Inoue/Willow Johnson as Kasumi Tendou

Kouichi Yamadera/Michael Donovan as Ryouga Hibiki

Minami Takayama/Angela Costain as Nabiki Tendou

Miyoko Asou/Elan Ross Gibson as Cologne

Rei Sakuma/Cathy Weseluck as Shampoo

Ryunosuke Ohbayashi/David Kaye as Souun Tendou

Saeko Shimazu/Teryl Rothery as Kodachi Kunoh

Tatsuyuki Jinnai/Scott McNeil as Principal Kunoh

Toshihiko Seki/Brad Swaile as Mousse

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

From the legendary oeuvre of master creator Rumiko Takahashi, the mixed-up, madcap, martial arts romantic comedy RANMA 1/2 returns! After taking a surprise dip in a cursed spring while on a training journey in China, martial artist Ranma Saotome and his father, Genma, aren’t quite themselves anymore. Now Ranma turns into a girl whenever he’s splashed with cold water, and Genma turns into a panda!

Their new forms cause nothing but confusion at the Tendo dojo, where Soun Tendo is waiting to introduce one of his three daughters to Ranma – as his fiancee! Turns out Genma and Soun arranged the match long ago, but the girl, Akane, and the boy, Ranma, aren’t exactly crazy about the idea, or each other! Or are they? Watch the gender switching, jealous rages, and martial arts battles unfold all over again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlike the first season box set which features the first 18 episodes of season 1, “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” will feature 23 episodes.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ranma Saotome – The series protagonist and martial artist who is often training with his father.  He and Akane tend to not get along and he often says things bad to her, which leads her to beat him up or get him into trouble.  Because he fell into a cursed lake where a teenage girl had died, he transforms into a teenage girl when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water.  Due to his father’s arrangement with Soun Tendo, he is the fiance of Akane Tendo.
  • Genma Saotome – The father of Ranma Saotome and is often training with his son.  He is the childhood best friend of Soun Tendo and together, they made a promise that their children will marry.  Because he fell into a cursed lake where a panda had died, he transforms into a panda when he comes into contact with cold water and reverts back to a male when he comes into contact with hot water.  He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Akane Tendo – The female protagonist who is a tomboy that loves martial arts.  She is popular at school and many guys want her to be their girlfriend.  Due to her father’s arrangement with Genma Saotome, she is engaged to Ranma Saotome.  She also has a hot temper and is often arguing and beating up on Ranma.
  • Soun Tendo – The owner of the Tendo Dojo, he is the father of Kusumi, Nabiki and Akane.  He and his childhood friend Genma had an arrangement that their children will marry.  He and Genma were trained by their master, Happosai.
  • Kusumi Tendo – She is the most ladylike of the Tendo family, the eldest sister who is always kind, she is often seen taking care of her sisters and cooking for the entire family and also cleaning the house.
  • Nabiki Tendo – The middle child, Nabiki likes to make money and spend it! Often trying to find ways to make money.
  • Tatewaki Kuno – From a wealthy family and has a cocky attitude and because of his inflated ego, calls himself “Blue Thunder”. He is in love with Akane and female Ranma.  He is an expert with a wooden sword.
  • Ryoga Hibiki – Ranma’s rival .  Ryoga is terrible with directions and whenever he is planning to fight with Ranma, it would take him days or weeks, because he walked hundreds of miles in another direction.  One day he followed Ranma and Genma all the way to China and was kicked by a girl and landed in a cursed lake where a small black pig had died.  Whenever he comes in contact with cold water, he will turn into a black pig and whenever he comes in contact with hot water, he reverts back to his normal self.  As a pig, named P-chan, he is taken in as a pet by Akane Tendo.
  • Kodachi Kuno – The captain of the St. Hebereke School for Girls Gymnastic team and while a great gymnast, she also uses poison and other methods in combat which has earned her the nickname “The Black Rose”.
  • Dr. Tofu Ono – A very good doctor, it’s that people worry when Kasumi is around because Tofu is in love with Kasumi and he begins behaving unusually towards everyone.
  • Shampoo – The hero of her village in China.  She despises female Ranma and loves male Ranma.  She also fell in a cursed lake in Jusenkyou and turns into a pink cat.  Whenever she comes into contact with cold water, she turns into a cat.  When in contact with hot water, she reverts back to normal.  She runs the Neko Hanten Chinese restaurant.
  • Mikado Sanzenin – One half of the Golden Pair figure skating duo.  Conceited and wanting to kiss pretty girls.
  • Azusa Shiratori – One half of the Golden Pair figure skating duo.  She believes anything cute must be owned by her and will do anything to keep it.  She badly wants Akane’s black Pig, P-Chan which she has named “Charlotte”.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ranma 1/2” is presented in standard definition and English and Japanese stereo.

It’s important to remind people that the version I am reviewing is the DVD version.  So, if you owned the previous DVD set, there is not going to be a huge difference unless you purchase the Blu-ray version.

The primary difference that you will see is that “Ranma 1/2 Set 1” has visible grain and that reds and blues are much more vibrant and colors are much more pleasing but I can only imagine how gorgeous this series would look in HD versus SD.

Having compared the original season box set and this 2014 DVD release, the differences are there but not enough for me to tell fans to throw away their older DVD box sets.  In fact, if you own the previous release, don’t even bother purchasing the DVD release, upgrade to the Blu-ray release instead.

Also, one should not come into watching “Ranma 1/2” and expect major restoration work such as “Akira”.  This is a TV series from the late ’80s utilizing cells and is old school animation.

But as for differences from the original first season DVD box set and the 2014 “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” release, please look at the following (top photo version is from the original season 1 DVD box set, bottom photo is from the 2014 DVD release):

Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” DVD Screen Capture:

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Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” DVD Screen Capture:

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Original Season 1 DVD Release Screen Capture:

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“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” DVD Screen Capture:

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

So, back in 1995, Viz Media was criticized for its English dub soundtrack.  The dub was no doubt subjective to the listener.  Some didn’t mind, some were very vocal about it but the good news is that on this DVD, you have a choice between Japanese or the English dub unlike the VHS release which you had to choose separately.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” comes with the following special features:

  • NYCC Highlights – Highlights of “Ranma 1/2” cosplayers at New York Comic Con.
  • Trailers – Viz Media trailers

While many Americans had their first exposure of Japanese animation during the 1970′s, with “Battle of the Planets” and in the ’80s through “Robotech” and “Voltron”, for the anime fans of the early ’90s, many discovered Japanese animation (anime) through a series known as “Ranma 1/2″.

I was among those who grew up with “Ranma 1/2″ and discovered the series back in 1992.  I credit this series for introducing me to Japanese animation and while the series has not been forgotten, a new generation of anime and manga fans would grow up with another Rumiko Takahashi series titled “InuYasha” in the late ’90s and early 2000′s, while those of us who were fortunate to have grown up with “Ranma 1/2″, “Urusei Yatsura”, “Maison Ikkoku” and other Takahashi titles, will always remember that moment of time when anime and manga was fresh and new in the United States.

For me, being a long time “Ranma 1/2” fan, from watching “Ranma 1/2” in original Japanese when it first came out on LaserDisc and watching it at a local club viewing back in the early ’90s, purchasing nearly every “Ranma 1/2” CD soundtrack to meeting Megumi Hayashibara (voice of female Ranma) and also meeting Venus Terzo (English dub voice actress for female Ranma) and Myriam Sirois (voice of Akane) and literally purchasing nearly everything or anything “Ranma 1/2” related in LD and VHS… What a great time to see “Ranma 1/2” released for a new generation of anime fans but also for those who have wished for more old school anime to be released on Blu-ray!

While I was not able to obtain a review copy of the Blu-ray release, I did receive a review copy of the DVD release and I’m going to be blunt about this…  Don’t buy “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” on DVD unless you have to!

Part of the enjoyment of watching “Ranma 1/2” in 2014 is for its HD release on Blu-ray and this is where you are going to see an improvement in picture quality.

Having compared the original Viz Media “Ranma 1/2” DVD box set and the 2014 “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1”, what you will notice in the newer release is more grain, colors that pop but also colors that are not so dark and better color where skies are lighter blue instead of having this aqua tinge.  There is no doubt that the 2014 DVD release looks much better on DVD than its older counterpart but not a whole lot.  That’s why I can only recommend the “Ranma 1/2” released on Blu-ray.  Sure, it would have been great to have a Blu-ray +DVD combo pack but

Also, you get 23 episodes in the 2014 DVD release (so you get both “Ranma 1/2” and a little of season two of “Ranma 1/2 Nettouhen”) as opposed to the 18 episodes of season one.  While in Japan, our counterparts are getting 54-episodes on Blu-ray but they are also paying over $350 per box set.  So, considering that 23 episodes are being sold for under $50, the price is great, considering the VHS and LD for “Ranma 1/2” for a few episodes was quite expensive back then.

As for audio, it’s stereo and for special features, you get a short two minute NYCC highlight and trailers.  As much as I would have loved more special features, I wish the textless opening and ending themes were included.

The “Ranma 1/2” series was a big part of my older teenage years and I feel it’s a wonderful experience for today’s readers to discover or re-discover one of the more well-known Rumiko Takahashi series that has had a worldwide impact for longtime fans.

While I do wish I can give a huge recommendation for the “Ranma 1/2 – Set 1” DVD release, the truth is that it’s not a whole lot different from the original DVD release.   But if you want to watch “Ranma 1/2” in the best quality possible and own the definitive version, then the Blu-ray is the way to go. The Blu-ray not only has better picture quality but Viz Media has included more swag and a better case, while the DVD is left with zilch.  I only recommend this DVD set only if you don’t own a Blu-ray player.

And assuming, you don’t have a Blu-ray player, then you are getting a great deal for one DVD set with 23 episodes.

Featuring a hilarious and delightful storyline written with non-stop humor and action, “Ranma 1/2″ is at true anime classic that will forever entertain many generations of anime fans and will forever be remembered for its characters and wild and crazy stories.  And it’s a Rumiko Takahashi anime series that I highly recommend!

 

K – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Stylishly cool, action-packed and overall fantastic!  “K- The Complete Series” was an entertaining and awesome anime series from beginning to end!

Image courtesy of © GoRA – GoHands/K-Project. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: K – The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16×9 Widescreen, 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound, Bilingual (Japanese & English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Original Creator: GoRa

Series Director: Hiromitsu Kanazawa, Susumu Kudo

Director: Shingo Suzuki

Series Composition: GoRa, Tatsuki Miyazawa

Music by Miko Endo

Character Design: Shingo Suzuki

Art Director: Masanobu Nomura

Chief Animation Director: Makoto Furuta

Anime Production: GoHands

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Daisuke Namikawa/Sam Regal as Yashiro Isana

Daisuke Ono/Matthew Mercer as Kuroh Yatogami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Keith Silverstein as Mikoto Suoh

Mikako Komatsu/Stephanie Sheh as Neko

Tomokazu Sugita/Patrick Seitz as Reisi Munakata

Jun Fukuyama/Ben Diskin as Misaki Yata

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Saruhiko Fushimi

Miyuki Sawashiro/Tara Platt as Seri Awashima

Satomi Satou /Carrie Savageas Kukuri Yukizome

Sho Hayami/Grant George as Miwa Ichigen

Shozo Iizuka/Kirk Thornton as Daikaku Kokujouji

Takahiro Sakurai/Todd Haberkorn as Izumo Kusanagi

Tetsuya Kakihara/Lucien Dodge as Adolf K. Weisman

Yui Horie/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Anna Kushina

Yūichi Nakamura/Grant George as Rikio Kamamoto

Yuuki Kaji/Lucien Dodge as Tatara Totsuka

Shiro is an easygoing teenager content with just being a student – until his seemingly perfect life is halted when a bloodthirsty clan, glowing red with fire, attempts to kill him in the streets. Unbeknownst to Shiro, he is suspected of murdering a member of their clan and will need a miracle to escape their vengeance. Miraculously, a young man named Kuroh Yatogami swings in and aids Shiro in his getaway, only to reveal he’s also after Shiro’s life.

Now a hunted man, Shiro will have to evade the clans of seven powerful kings and desperately try to prove his innocence – before it’s too late!

In 2012, studio GoHands and director/character designer Shingo Suzuki’s (“Mardock Scramble” films, “Coppelion”, “Gravion”) anime series titled “K” began airing on television in Japan via MBS.

The anime series would go on to launch manga prequels, light novels, a visual novel and a sequel film slated for a summer 2014 release.

And now, “K – The Complete Series” was released on Blu-ray and DVD in February 2014.

“K” revolves around a teenager named Yashiro “Shiro” Isana, a happy-go-lucky teenager.

What would appear to be a happy day of finding a small cat which he calls “Neko” and just a normal teenage life, his life is changed when he is attacked by Misaki Yata of the faction known as HOMRA.  As Shiro tries to outrun him, he is pursued by more of the Red Clansmen of HOMRA.

But all of a sudden, he is rescued by Kuroh “The Black Dog” Yatogami, a swordsman who is hunting down the next “Colorless King” and serves the late King and master, Ichigen Miwa.

But as the Red Clansmen leave when they see Kuroh, what Shiro believes Kuroh to be a friend is actually a person who is wanting to hunt him and kill him.

Shiro is then shown a video of a future in which he murders Tatara Totsuka, a popular member from Homra.  And Shiro is seen, claiming to be the next “Colorless King”.  But Shiro claims he is not the person in the video.  The person looks like him, but it’s not him.  So, Kuroh gives him the benefit of the doubt to prove his innocence.

To make Shiro’s day even more stranger is when his cat Neko turns into a human cat girl who has pledge to serve Shiro and help prove his innocence.  Meanwhile, factions such as HOMRA and SCEPTER 4 are after Shiro.

The main characters of “K” are:

  • Yashiro “Shiro” Isana – The main protagonist who is a normal high student who is being pursued by factions who believe he murdered Tatara Totsuka of HOMRA.  A video was show of Shiro shooting Tatara Totsuka and claiming to be “The Colorless King”.  Yet, Yashiro claims his innocence.
  • Kuroh Yatogami – A swordsman serving the late king and master, Ichigen Miwa.  A man of honor, despite having a cold exterior, he is on the hunt for the next “Colorless King”.  Despite having video footage of Shiro killing Tatara Totsuka, he is giving Shiro a chance to prove his innocence.
  • Neko – A cat that Shiro found, she mysteriously changes to a girl and will do anything for Shiro.
  • Mikoto Shou – The Red King and leader of HOMRA.  Held in custody by SCEPTER 4.
  • Izumo Kusanagi – The second in command of HOMRA and owner of the Bar HOMRA.
  • Misaki Yata – A member of HOMRA who is a skateboarder.
  • Anna Kushina – The youngest and only female member of HOMRA who will do anything for Mikoto.
  • Reisi Munakata – The Blue Kiong and head of the Special Task Force Unit SCEPTER 4.  Enemy of Mikoto.
  • Seri Awashima – Second-in-Command the only female member of SCEPTER 4.
  • Saruhiko Fushimi – A former member of HOMRA and current member of SCEPTER 4.  A man with a bad attitude.
  • Kukuri Yukizome – Yashiro’s friend who often tries to help Kuroh find Shiro.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“K – The Complete Series” is an anime series that is known for its many characters, it’s beautiful art backgrounds and detailed artwork.  The look and feel of “K” is colorful and stylish and definitely one of the cooler looking 13-episode anime series thanks to the production value.  Cool character designs, awesome background art, it’s a beautiful anime series.

But I recommend for anyone who wants the best picture and audio quality, to check out the Blu-ray release of “K – The Complete Series”.  On DVD, picture quality does look good!

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.  But the voice acting in Japanese and English Dolby Digital Stereo are both well-done!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • K Events – US Convention Highlights – Highlights of “K” cosplayers at Anime Expo 2013 and the English dub voice talent.
  • Clean Opening/Ending
  • K Trailers
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

Stylishly cool, action-packed and so much fun!  “K- The Complete Series” was an entertaining and awesome anime series from beginning to end!

What draws you into the series is no doubt the beautiful visuals but also its storyline of one teenager who happens to be hunted down by various factions for his killing of a popular member of the faction HOMRA.

Yashiro “Shiro” Isana seems like your average go-lucky type of guy until he becomes the hunted and with Kuroh Yatogami on his side (more like giving him a chance to prove his innocence or else he will slay him), it’s a rather interesting storyline with each episode building up to something more exciting with more twists along the way.

It’s one of the major positive draws of the series is its steady pacing, its attention to character building storylines and of course, the wonderful character design and art backgrounds.  And aside from beautiful visuals, the acting on both Japanese and English soundtracks are also well-done.

While my review is for the DVD version, I strongly recommend the Blu-ray version if you do prefer better picture quality.  Special features are limited but I did enjoy the short convention highlight from Anime Expo 2013.

Overall, “K – The Complete Series” turned out to be a fantastic, stylish anime series.  It’s easily accessible thanks to its 13-episode storyline but it’s one of the cooler anime series I have seen for 2014.

If you are looking for an action-driven storyline with gorgeous visuals, “K – The Complete Series” is highly recommended!

 

Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Blast of Tempest” is a series that captivated me from beginning to end.  “Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season” is rather unique, well-written, unpredictable and complex but the second season was much more enjoyable than the first!  An awesome anime series that I highly recommend!

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

DVD TITLE: Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season

DURATION: Episodes 13-26 (300 minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2014

Originally created by Kyo Shirodaira

Directed by Masahiro Ando

Series Composition by Mari Okada

Music by Michiru Oshima

Character Design by Tsunenori Saito

Art Direction by Ayumi Sato, Tomoaki Okada

Mechanical Design by Masahisa Suzuki

Art Design by Ayumi Sato

Anime Production: Bones

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kouki Uchiyama as Yoshino Takigawa

Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Mahiro Fuwa

Miyuki Sawashiro as Hakaze Kusaribe

Hirofumi Nojima as Junichirō Hoshimura

Hiroyuki Yoshino as Tetsuma Kusaribe

Junichi Suwabe as Natsumura Kusaribe

Kana Hanazawa as Aika Fuwa

Miyuki Sawashiro as Hakaze Kusaribe

Nana Mizuki as Evangeline Yamamoto

Rikiya Koyama as Samon Kusaribe

Shintarō Asanuma as Takumi Hayakawa

Yuuki Kaji as Megumu Hanemura

A month has passed since the showdown at Mt. Fuji, but the world is once again thrown into chaos with the appearance of the “Mage of Exodus.” In order to discover the truth behind Aika’s murder, Hakaze decides to return to the past. There, she meets Aika and is told something completely unexpected. If everything happens for a reason, is Aika’s unfortunate death actually a blessing in disguise? All the puzzle pieces finally come together to reveal the shocking truth!

As Yoshino Takagawa and Hakaze Kusaribe begin to work closely together, Hakaze starts to find herself falling in love with Yoshino, unaware that his girlfriend Aika was murdered a year ago.  Meanwhile, Mahiro Fuwa is destined to find out who killed Aika and who her mysterious boyfriend is.  Also unaware that his best friend is the mysterious guy that he has been looking for.

Meanwhile, along comes a guy who may be the Mage of Exodus but also what happens when Hakaze’s love for Yoshino makes her want to go back to the past to find out once and for all, who is responsible for Aikawa Fuwa’s death.

All this and more in the conclusion of “Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season”, now available on DVD from Aniplex of America!

What is “Blast of Tempest”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But with Hakaze now brought back to the world of the living and everyone willing to work together to prevent the elimination of the human race, things become more complicated as Yoshino is suspected of being the Mage of Exodus as he and Hakaze grow closer.  As Hakaze’s emotions for Yoshino eventually becomes a realization of love, others start to wonder if Yoshino is manipulating Hakaze.

But what happens when a young man shows up with abilities to show that he may be the Mage of Exodus.

Meanwhile, the investigation to the death of Aika Fuwa has yielded no results for the groups, especially as they depend on Mahiro’s efforts in saving the world.  But what happens when Hakaze, who’s love for Yoshino, makes her want to go into the past and find out who is responsible for the death of Aika?  Could it be Yoshino?  Could it be a future her?  Or something else more sinister?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season” features the following special features:

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

EXTRAS:

“Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season” comes with a slipcover with a 2-sided reversible cover, a 16-page special booklet and a reversible mini-poster.

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After watching the first season of “Blast of Tempest”, I was instantly captivated by the first season as it delved with a complex story about the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus, a yin and yang storyline which involved characters from both sides, wanting to protect each other’s interests.

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

The first season went into how this friendship lasted from their younger years to their older years, it is because of one important connection which one will find out as the series progresses.

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

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

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

By the second season, there was no doubt that the storyline would become much more complex as it interweaves a story that now goes from more-action, to something more emotional but also incorporates the Shakespeare stories of “Hamlet” (a tragedy) and it’s opposite storyline of “The Tempest” (which was not a tragedy).

The second season features both Yoshino and Hakaze growing as not just people trying to solve a problem in the world, but Hakaze’s emotions as a teenager, noticing that she is starting to fall deeply in love with Yoshino, but at the same time, trying to keep her emotions in check, knowing that he has a girlfriend (unaware that his girlfriend was mysteriously killed a year prior).

As Mahiro continues his path for revenge in the name of Aika, a step-sister that he, himself had loved.  But also wanting to know who her mysterious boyfriend was.  Not knowing that his best friend, Mahiro, was secretly dating her behind his back.

And when those who have worked with Hakaze start to worry that Yoshino may be the Mage of Exodus, because of the way that he is able to affect Hakaze’s emotions.  Another person shows up, claiming to be the Mage of Exodus.

And as we start to see a mystery storyline combined with a teenage romance drama, things start to escalate as the search for Aika Fuwa’s murderer comes into play but also the final fight and a revelation that surrounds both the Tree of Genesis and the Tree of Exodus.

Suffice to say, while the first season was driven by it’s action, the second season is much more complex, much deeper and more satisfying because it becomes more character-based, more emotional and we get to see each episode escalate until the final battle at the end of the series.And I love the fact that the series does end rather nicely (so keep watching the credits).

Because of its character development and its complex but yet fascinating and enjoyable storyline, “Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season” was much better than the first.  I understand those who expected an all out action series may be disappointed that the action of season two doesn’t match up with season one, but personally, I would rather have more a better storyline, better character integration rather than banal action.

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

As for Aniplex swag, you do get a slipcover, a 16-page special booklet and reversible mini-power plus a 2-sided reversible cover. The booklet features episode synopsis and character artwork. While the poster features Yoshino, Mashiro and Hakaze on one side, while Aika, not Hakaze along with Mashiro and Yoshino is featured on the other side.

Overall, “Blast of Tempest” is a series that captivated me from beginning to end. It’s unique, unpredictable and complex series that was well-written and is a smart series that you just don’t see coming along often.  The fact that the second season focused on better writing, less on banal action and better use of character integration was rather well-planned.  The emotional/romantic elements in my opinion, made the second season much more captivating and a better written second half compared to the first.

If you are looking for a deep anime series that combines action, mystery and romantic drama, “Blast of Tempest: Complete 2nd Season” is highly recommended!

 

Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

February 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut” has a lot of action but also emotion and soul and it has been awhile since we had episodes that showcased Naruto, For those who have long followed the adventures of Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura and seeing how difficult things have become for both Naruto and Sakura, as they watch their ally/friend Sasuke becoming evil.   Important choices will need to be made…but how will Naruto and Sakura approach the situation?  “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 206-218 (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: January 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

Madara has declared war on the shinobi world! The Kage unite to form the Allied Shinobi Forces with the Raikage as their leader. While the villages prepare for battle, Sakura forms a team to go after Sasuke, secretly planning to take him out herself! But Sasuke has his own plans, and his confrontation with Danzo confirms the truth about the destruction of the Uchiha Clan.

 

Where once he plotted revenge against his brother, Sasuke now turns his anger toward the Leaf Village, and only one person has any chance of changing his mind: Naruto!

With the Leaf Ninja rebuilding their village after the destruction left behind by Pain and after Naruto’s defeat of Pain, as everyone tries to welcome normalcy to their village, members begin to think of various flashbacks of old missions from the old Team 7 (led by Kakashi Hatake and consisted of Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno).

From episodes of Team 7 running into various obstacles, trying to catch Mr. Ostrich or people remembering how Naruto made a difference in their lives, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 15 – Original & Uncut” is a volume that features the past adventures of Naruto and friends.

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.

And as things continue to become dire, the leaders of various countries consider uniting for this important cause to prepare themselves of what may be the next Shinobi war.

With “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut”, the story takes place after Pain has tried to destroy the Konoha village and Hokage Lady Tsunade uses up all her energy to summon Katsuyu to protect the village but in exchange for the powerful summon, she has now gone into a coma and Danzo of the Black Ops (a rival that Tsunade has never trusted) has now been appointed as sixth hokage in Tsunade’s place.

Raikage has summoned all Ninja leaders to come to Gokage summit but immediately, Sasuke Uchiha has now shown up. Along with his friends, they start attacking those who have attended the summit. Meanwhile, the Konoha ninjas (Naruto’s friends) try to convince Sakura to tell Naruto that she cares about him, so he can stop looking for Sasuke.

 

Naruto can’t understand why Sakura would tell him that she loved him when she really loves Sasuke but he learns the truth.  She does not want Naruto to fight her battles, she has depended on him for so long that this time, she wants to do the right thing for the Konoha village and that is to take care of Sasuke on her own.

 

When Naruto and friends find out what happened at the Gokage summit and what Sasuke has done, Naruto starts to realize that the friendship and bond of protecting Sasuke has now changed as many of his friends are planning to sacrifice their life in taking out Sasuke, including the one person that he knows loves Sasuke… Sakura.

 

Meanwhile, Sasuke takes on Danzo in a fight to the death.  Who will win, who will die?  But most of all, what happens when Sakura tries to eliminate Sasuke?  Will she get herself killed or will Naruto and friends stop her in time?

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 15 – 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 15” 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 17 – Original & Uncut” comes with the following special features on disc 3:

  • Storyboards – View through the storyboards of episodes featured in DVD volume 17 of “Naruto Shippuden”.
  • Omake – Short omake (after-episode) scenes.
  • Art Gallery – Featuring sketches which can be viewed via forwarding using your remote or arrow keys on your computer.
  • Clean Opening/Ending
  • English Credits
  • More from Viz Media – Viz Media trailers

What can I say about “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut” but….”WOW!”

 

I can’t emphasize more about how awesome the storyline for “Naruto Shippuden” is getting!   as not only do we get to see how powerful Sasuke has become, but to see how much he has fell to the darkside.

If anything, a perfect juxtaposition of Sasuke would be of “Star Wars” Anakin Skywalker, a person who wants so much power that he would side with pure evil to do so and his actions in this latest volume are surprising but also a reminder to loyal fans of “Naruto” that the Sasuke Uchiha we knew back then, he’s gone.  He is now becoming one of the most feared antagonist of the series…possibly?

 

Also, for the first time, I think Naruto realizes how evil Sasuke has become and learns that if Sakura is able to kill the person she loves because he has become evil, her sacrifice is for love.  For Naruto, it’s a difficult situation because Sasuke is his true friend but can he do what Sakura has done and kill his best friend for the purpose of doing so because he is a good friend and doesn’t want to see him fall lower towards the dark side?

 

And of course, the battle between Danzo and Sasuke is surprising, action-packed and was exciting!  As well as a battle between Killer Bee vs. Kisame!

So, all I can say is that if you enjoy “Naruto Shipppuden” and have been following this series since the beginning, you’re in for a treat as things are starting to heat up!

As for the DVD set, you get a total of 13 episodes (which is part of season 10 in Japan) and a the typical special features such as storyboard, production art and the ending omake for each episode.

“Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut” has a lot of action but also emotion and soul and it has been awhile since we had episodes that showcased Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura and how difficult things have become for both Naruto and Sakura, seeing their good friend become so evil.  Rescuing him now, may have to be by ending his life.  Can Naruto and Sakura do just that?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

So, with that being said, “Naruto Shippuden DVD Set 17 – Original & Uncut” is recommended!

 

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

February 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Soul Reapers vs. the Arrancars and it’s a battle to the death! Who will survive and who will die?  Find out in the original and uncut episodes of “Bleach DVD Set Nineteen – Original and Uncut”!  Recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Bleach DVD Set Nineteen – Original and Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 268-279 (287 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: December 10, 2013

Originally created by Tite Kubo

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Masashi Kudo

Art Director: Natsuko Suzuki, Sawako Takagi

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Studio Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Fumiko Orikasa/Michelle Ruff as Rukia Kuchiki

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo Kurosaki

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jamieson Price as Sado “Chad” Yasutora

Kentarou Itou/Wally Wingert as Abarai Renji

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hollow Ichigo

Noriaki Sugiyama/Derek Stephen Prince as Ishida Uryuu

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

Shinichiro Miki/Michael Lindsay as Urahara Kisuke

Yuki Matsuoka/Stephanie Sheh as Inoue Orihime

Kaya Matsutani/Megan Hollingshead as Rangiku Matsumoto

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Vic Mignogna as Ikkaku Madarame

Jun Fukuyama/Brian Beacock as Yumichika Ayasegawa

Romi Paku/Steve Staley as Toshiro Hitsugaya

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

It’s the battle to the death…one lives, one dies.  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.

But with Ulquiorra being so powerful, what happens when Uryu comes to lend a hand.

Also, 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.

The Soul Reapers vs. Espads as Captain Hitsugaya takes on Halibel, Soi Fon and Marechiyo Omaeda take on Barragan and Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake take on Stark.

With the Espadas in control, do the Soul Reapers have what it takes to survive?

Find out in “Bleach DVD Set Nineteen: Original & Uncut”!

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.

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

  • Production Art – Using your remote, you can view “Bleach” production art.
  • Clean Opening and Ending – The clean opening and ending themes.
  • Omake – The ending omake for episodes 268-279.

For the last few volumes, we 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 as Captain Hitsugaya takes on Halibel, Soi Fon and Marechiyo Omaeda take on Barragan and Shunsui Kyoraku and Jushiro Ukitake take on Stark.

The action kicks off with Ichigo vs. Ulquiorra but the action is literally non-stop as Captain Hitsugaya is in a  battle with Tier Halibel, who has the power of turning her zanpakuto into a shark and using water manipulation.

Shunsui takes on Stark and for “Bleach” fans, we are not entirely sure what Shunsui’s true power is but during battle, Jushiro doesn’t want Shunsui to reveal his bankai true power, so he offers to take on Stark himself.

And just when you think that the tide has turned towards the Soul Reapers in power, the Espadas get some help from three powerful individuals.  And just when you think that the Soul Reapers are done for, let’s just say that the Soul Reapers get some welcome help from a group you least suspect.

With that being said, I don’t want to spoil the storyline of this issue and who shows up.  But you can’t help but be excited of what Tite Kubo has planned for the upcoming volumes.

Needless to say, there are major twists and turns as we get to learn more about the Vizoreds.

“Bleach DVD Set Nineteen: Original and Uncut” brings back the heavy hitting action between the Soul Reapers vs. the Arrancars and things will continue to heat up as the storyline builds up for more epic battles leading to “Bleach DVD Set Twenty”.

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

 

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

February 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-s5-v5

“One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Five” is an upbeat, fun DVD volume and for fans who have been watching this arc very closely, will be thrilled to see the two new members joining the Straw Hat Pirates!  Recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 313-324 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: January 14, 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

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

Bin Shimada/Jonathan Brooks as Foxy the Pirate

Tomokazu Seki/Jason Liebricht as Rob Lucci

Masaya Onosaka/Christopher Corey Smith as Spandam

Kumiko Watanabe/Alexis Tipton as Fukuro

Naomi Shindo/Shelley Calene-Black as Kalifa

Hiroaki Yoshida/Andrew Love as Kumadori

Ryotaro Okiayu/Alex Organ as Kaku

Masaya Takatsuka/Phil Parsons as Jabura

Luffy and his mates emerged victorious from the battle at Enies Lobby, but after bidding a fiery farewell to the Going Merry, these pirates won’t be going anywhere! There’s a hefty new bounty of each of their heads, and their only hope for escape rests on the cyborg shoulders of Franky. The blue-haired, speedo-sporting shipwright offers to build the Straw Hats a new vessel, but time is of the essence. Some very familiar marines are breathing down their necks, and the crew can’t set sail without a boat – or their stubborn sniper.

A bombastic barrage of cannonballs inches closer and closer as the Straw Hats wait to see whether Franky will join the family, Usopp can swallow his pride, and if an angry face from Luffy’s past will sink their new ship!

Two members join the Straw Hat Pirates, who is Vice-Admiral Garp and will the Straw Hat Pirates find a new ship?

Find out in “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Five”, available now from FUNimation!

What is “One Piece”?

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

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 16th season and a total of 629 episodes have been aired in Japan.

Despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation 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 Five” (Episodes 313-324), available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

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

So far, in “One Piece”, the aftermath with the battle against CP9.

As the group are back in the water, the Straw Hat Pirates are approached by a group of Marines led by Vice-Admiral Garp, but instead of being arrested, Luffy sees two familiar faces and learns more about his father, Monkey D. Dragon.

As the group arrives on land, fans will be treated with episodes of Luffy and Chopper helping a girl named Abi find her Yagara bull, Zoro gaining a family, Sanji encountering a drunken old man who may be a talented chef and as Franky, Iceburg and the Galley-La foreman work to build a new ship for the Straw Hat Pirates, Franky makes a major decision.

Meanwhile, the Straw Hat Pirates adds two members to their group.

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO :

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 317 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (ADR Director) and voice actress Apphia Yu (Adi).
  • EPISODE 319 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (ADR Director) and voice actor Charlie Campbell (drunk cook).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece in the Booth: With Colleen Clinkenbeard – (22:10) Featuring an interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Monkey D. Luffy) and a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of Colleen doing Luffy’s voice at the studio.
  • Textless Opening – Textless opening song for “Crazy Rainbow”
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

With the end of a riveting emotional Enies Lobby arc, as with most action-packed arc’s in “One Piece”, things tend to become more uplifting and giving the audience some breather room before  breaking out into another action-packed storyline.

In “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Five” (which episodes 313-324 are part of season nine in Japan), we see a few familiar faces from “One Piece” past make a return but we also see someone from Luffy’s family also make an appearance in the series.

And as we get to see the group split up for a few fun adventures, the main storyline revolves around two members joining the Straw Hat Pirates but also the unveiling of their new ship.

And that’s all I can mention without spoiling the episodes but for the most part, “One Piece” fans will definitely enjoy each and every episode in this latest DVD volume!

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

As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and also the latest “One Piece in the Booth” featuring Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy) and love how they show the behind-the-scenes recording of Colleen doing the voice of Luffy behind-the-scenes.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Five” is an upbeat, fun DVD volume and for fans who have been watching this arc very closely, will be thrilled to see the two new members joining the Straw Hat Pirates!

Recommended!

 

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

January 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-s5-v4

In “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Four” , it’s the final battle between the Straw Hat Pirates and CP9 but also an emotional volume as the Straw Hat Pirates say goodbye to something very close to them.  Action-packed, emotional yet magnificent, this is one DVD volume that fans will not want to miss!  Recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Four

DURATION: Episodes 300-312 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 3, 2013

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

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

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

Bin Shimada/Jonathan Brooks as Foxy the Pirate

Tomokazu Seki/Jason Liebricht as Rob Lucci

Masaya Onosaka/Christopher Corey Smith as Spandam

Kumiko Watanabe/Alexis Tipton as Fukuro

Naomi Shindo/Shelley Calene-Black as Kalifa

Hiroaki Yoshida/Andrew Love as Kumadori

Ryotaro Okiayu/Alex Organ as Kaku

Masaya Takatsuka/Phil Parsons as Jabura

Luffy pours his heart and soul into the battle to keep his nakama together!

The assault on Enies Lobby reaches a boiling point as Spandam drags Robin towards the towering Gates of Justice! Zoro’s demonic nine-sword fighting style sets the stage for a blistering barrage of heroic attacks as the Straw Hats inch ever closer to a joyous reunion with their captured crewmate. The showdown between Luffy and Lucci rages out of control against a backdrop of devastating destruction thanks to Spandam’s Buster Call.

While the rubber-man trades blows with the most powerful assassin of CP9, his mates need help from below to avoid a watery grave. Explosions rock the horizon, Luffy’s giant attack sends him down for the count, and the unexpected return of an old friend represents the last glimmer of hope for our heroes!

As The Straw Hat Pirates go to save Robin, the Straw Hat Pirates must take on the Navy elite ala CP9 in “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Four”!

As Spandam takes a bounded Robin as Franky tries to rescue her, Zoro vs. Kaku and Luffy vs. Lucci in which Luffy utilizes his latest fighting technique! Will it work against Lucci?

Meanwhile, the Straw Hat Pirates must say goodbye to something very close to them.

What is “One Piece”?

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

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 16th season and a total of 629 episodes have been aired in Japan.

Despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation 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 Four”, available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

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

So far, in “One Piece”, Robin had quit The Straw Hat Pirates in order to sacrifice herself to save the others.  But for The Straw Hat Pirates, after learning why she wanted so sacrifice herself, they will do anything they can to help her.

But as they go to save her, CP9 (Cipher Pol Number 9), a secret organization affiliated with the Navy, begin their attack on the Straw Hat Pirates.

So far, it has been a tough battle but now Spandam has taken Robin, while Luffy is busy fighting Rob Lucci and Zoro takes on Kaku.

Who will become victorious in this battle?

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

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

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

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

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great.

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

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

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

While the FUNimation DVD release is listed as season five for America, in Japan, these episodes are part of season 9.

The “One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Four” DVD comes with episodes 300-312 on two DVD discs. Here are the spoilerless summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 300 – The conclusion of Zoro vs. Kaku’s fight.
  • EPISODE 301 –  Spandam has Robin bounded and reveals to her of the person responsible for causing her so much trouble.
  • EPISODE 302 – The Buster Call shipps arrive and begin attacking the Tower of Justice.
  • EPISODE 303 – A flashback episode about Luffy and the missing 1000-year-old sakura tree.
  • EPISODE 304 – Luffy vs. Lucci and Luffi activates his second gear attack.  But will it defeat Lucci?
  • EPISODE 305 – The backstory of Rob Lucci.
  • EPISODE 306 – Franky vs. Funkfreed, Luffy activates his third gear attack.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 307 – The Straw Hat Pirates reunite, while Luffy continues to fight Rob Lucci.
  • EPISODE 308 – Rob Lucci activates his most powerful technique on Luffy, the Six Kings Gun.
  • EPISODE 309 – The end to the Luffy vs. Lucci battle?
  • EPISODE 310 – The Buster Call ships try to attack the Straw Hat Pirates, Franky Family and Galley-La foremen.
  • EPISODE 311 – What is the mysterious voice calling out for the Straw Hat Pirates?
  • EPISODE 312 – The Straw Hat Pirates must say goodbye to something important to them…

VIDEO :

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece: Season Five, Voyage Four” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 300 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Christopher Sabat (Zoro) and Alex Organ (Kaku).
  • EPISODE 301 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Stephanie Young (Robin) and Christopher Smith (Spandam).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece in the Booth with Brina Palencia – (12:45) Featuring an interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Brina Palencia (Tony Chopper).
  • Textless Opening – Textless opening song for “Crazy Rainbow”
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

There is no denying that this Enies Lobby arc has been one of the most emotional seasons of “One Piece”.

From Robin’s emotional storyline, the exciting battle against CP9 and a final farewell to something so close to the Straw Hat Pirates.

And with “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Four”, you’re getting one wonderful DVD release which One Piece fans will surely enjoy but also some may shed a tear.

This arc has no doubt been one of the awesome arc’s in “One Piece” considering there have been 16 seasons aired in Japan, but memorable because of the backstories and the final goodbye but how everything has culminated to these episodes have been nothing short of wonderful.

The final battle between Luffy and Rob Lucci was spectacular, also to see Zoro meet a rival so powerful, but it has been a long journey for the Straw Hat Pirates and I really don’t want to spoil the storyline for fans, so I’ll just keep things vague and just say this is a recommended release full of action and emotion.

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

As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and also the latest “One Piece in the Booth” featuring Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper).

Overall, “One Piece: Season Five – Voyage Four” is a magnificent DVD release and if you are a curious or longtime fan, this is one volume you do not want to miss!

Highly recommended!

 

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

magi-a

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” is  awesome!  Highly entertaining, full of action and humor! No doubt, one of the most highly anticipated anime TV series to be released on DVD in 2014.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13+

RELEASE DATE: January 14, 2014

Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto, Taichi Maezuka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun

Alibaba is a young carrier who dreams of gaining enough money to buy a whole country. To achieve this goal he must venture into a mysterious ruin called a “dungeon,” which is said to hold secret treasures deep within its labyrinth. Unfortunately, Alibaba lacks the courage to carry out his plan and remains a worker. Until…

One day, Alibaba meets a mysterious boy named Aladdin who can summon a mighty blue spirit from a flute and travels across the continent in search of Djinn Metal Vessels. Hoping to harness Aladdin’s magical power, Alibaba invites Aladdin to join him on his dungeon-capturing expedition.

Along the way and through numerous encounters and farewells, both of them will come to learn the truth about their destiny!

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

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

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

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

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 18 volumes) and an anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a new second season which is ongoing in Japan.

And now the first 12-episodes of “Magi” will be released on DVD in the United States in January 14th.

“Magi” begins with a young Aladdin being given one wish.

We then see Alibaba, a thief who is working for a slave master who has been trying to find a dungeon for treasure.  Everyone thinks that Alibaba is searching for something that doesn’t exist.  But when he starts loading up a caravan with fruit, he catches a boy (Aladdin) eating all the watermelon.

Alibaba gets in trouble but as Aladdin follows Alibaba, Alibaba talks about dungeons that appeared 14 years ago and and Alibaba explains if one can capture one, there is a genuine magi wandering around and will grant magical power to someone.  And Alibaba is in search of the magical vessel.

The following day, Aladdin bumps into a slave (Morgiana).  When Aladdin wonders why her legs are chained, Alibaba tries to explain to Aladdin of what a slave is. So, not wanting to see Morgiana chained, Aladdin frees her by blowing into his flute and shattering the steel chain.

But not long after, one of the slave masters start pushing and stepping all over Morgiana, Aladdin tells the man to stop and the man threatens to execute Aladdin.

Aladdin then blows into the flute, massive arms come out of the flute.  Ugo is a Djinn, spirits that appear in myth and not many people thought it was a real thing,  but we learn through a flashback that Aladdin was given three wishes in which he could have fortune, fame and eternal life.  But instead, he just wanted one wish and that is for Ugo to be his friend.  And since then, the two have been together.

Ugo has a massive body without a head.  As Aladdin goes on trips with various people, we learn that Aladdin must be well fed and have had a lot to drink in order to use Ugo, but also Ugo is shy if a girl touches him.

And as Alibaba finds out that Aladdin has a Djinn vessel, he decides to use Aladdin to use and partner with him in order to find a dungeon.  Alibaba’s wish is to be rich and find treasure inside buildings that have shown up all over the  world.  And treasures with wonderful powers are the most valuable, the one that Alibaba seeks is the Djinn’s metal vessel.

But as Alibaba sees using Aladdin as important in his plans as Aladdin’s use of Ugo can help protect them while they visit the dungeons to find treasure, but he also realizes that for Aladdin, his main thing that makes him happy is having a friendship.  For Alibaba, for now, he’ll play the role of being a friend in order to find treasure and obtain a Djinn metal vessel.

As Alibaba along with Aladdin look for the treasure inside a dungeon, not far behind them is the tyrant slave owner named Lord Jamil along with two slaves, including Morgiana.

Meanwhile, nearby is another person similar to Aladdin, clad in black and evil… Who is this individual and is there any relation to him and Aladdin?

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

  • Aladdin – A young magi who doesn’t know too much about himself or the outside world.  But he’s kind and goodhearted and wants to protect the people he cares about.  When he blows into a flute, a headless blue giant named Ugo comes out.
  • Alibaba – A thief who appears to have a mysterious background that befriends Aladdin.
  • Morgania – A slave who comes from a country of people known for their superior leg strength and speed.  She is the slave of the tyrant, Lord Jamil.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese Linear PCM and English Dolby Digital 2.0.

While I was hoping for a Blu-ray release of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations.  Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

Audio on the DVD is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks.   Dialogue, sound effects and music are clear.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening 1 and 2
  • Textless Ending
  • English Version Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set” comes with five foil stamped, postcards, 16-page deluxe booklet, 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (the character designer/chief animation director) plus a slipcover.

Hilarious, fun and a little naughty, Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” has turned out to be a pretty enjoyable series.

The main protagonist Aladdin is rather interesting because he has an appearance of a little boy who possesses a flute that houses a headless giant named Ugo.  But there are quirks with Alibaba, for one, he’s often hungry and thirsty, which helps with activating Ugo.  He’s also somewhat of a pervert as he is often wanting to rub his head on a woman’s breast.

But most importantly, it’s his strong desire to find and have friends which makes him a bit naive when people pretend to be his friend but they have ulterior motives.

One of these friends that he does make is Alibaba, a boy who is in severe debt and people who owe debts, end up being slaves for a wealthy owner (most often a tyrant).  He desires wealth but most of all a Djinn, similar to Aladdin and hopes that with partnering with him, he can obtain treasure and a Djinn.

Also, adding interest to the overall storyline is the fact that everything takes place in the desert where bandits have ruled the land and many people have been killed or have become slaves.  The only way to survive is by being a merchant and as a merchant, you are constantly under the threat of your merchandise being stolen by bandits and being killed.  So, the storyline is set during a dangerous time where buildings have shown up all over the land and inside are treasures.  But for those who have tried, all have not come back from their search.

But with the power of Ugo, Alibaba is betting that having Aladdin on his side, their chances of finding treasure and a Djinn is great.

The first quarter of the series features on developing the three characters of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana and to showcase their backgrounds but also how the three became friends.

The middle part of the first season goes into Aladdin and Alibaba being separated but both going through trying experiences but learning about the outside world within the six months they were separated.

And the final part of the series, introduces us to a more deeper storyline involving all three but also introducing us to Sinbad and establishing the true antagonists of the series, especially the taller, dark version similar to Aladdin, an evil magi named Judar.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens.  As episode 1 alone has a bit of nudity and showcases Aladdin’s attraction to big breasts.  Another episode has nudity as well, but there is also violence, for example, you will see one scene in which the tyrant Lord Jamil is seen stabbing one of his slaves repetitively with a sword.

As for differences between the manga and anime series, the anime series almost focuses on the manga completely with the exception of Aladdin’s introduction at the Oasis of Utan, in which Aladdin tags along with merchants Laylah and Sahsa, the daughter of a caravan leader (featured in the opening chapters of the first volume of the manga series).  The two are introduced later in the series but are not featured in episode 1.

But for the most part, the anime series does not stray too far from Shinobu Ohtaka’s manga series.

The first season is exciting and no doubt makes viewers crave for more, until the second season, vol. 2 arrives on DVD.

While I wish “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD may not have any significant special features but for those who have purchased Aniplex products know by now, the company is known for providing a lot of swag.  In this case, five collectable foil stamped postcards, 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (the character designer/chief animation director) and a 16-page deluxe booklet.

Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” is  awesome!  Highly entertaining, full of action and humor! No doubt, one of the most highly anticipated anime TV series to be released on DVD in 2014.

Recommended!

 

Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians – Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

January 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians – Complete Series” is the third season of the popular action-packed fighting girl anime series in which one can expect to see a lot of boobs, plenty of nudity, boobs, fan service, boobs, roundhouse kicks and did I mention boobs, to make otaku fan boys and fangirls go crazy for Hakufu and friends all over again. 

Images courtesy of © FUNimation. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians – Complete Series

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2008

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: 17+

RELEASE DATE: December 31, 2013

Originally Created by Yuji Shiozaki

Directed by Koichi Ohata

Series Composition by Masanao Akahoshi

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Character Design by Rin-Sin

Art Director by Shigemi Ikeda

Anime Production: ARMS

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masumi Asano/Carrie Savage as Hakufu Sonsaku

Satoshi Hino/Ted Sroka as Koukin Shuuyu

Yuko Kaida/Willow Lane as Shimei Ryomou

Hitomi Nabatame/Rachel Robinson as Unchou Kan’u

Kei Shindou/B Simpson as Gentoku Ryuubi

Kikuko Inoue/Wendee Lee as Goei

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Genpou Saji

Mai Kadowaki/Megan Harvey as Koumei Shokatsuryou

Minori Chihara/Jessica Calvello as Ekitoku Chouhi

Yuu Asakawa/Michelle Knotz as Shiryuu Chouun

Akeno Watanabe/Robin Rhodpa as Ryofu Housen

Yui Horie/Laura Landa as Sonken Chuubou

The combat continues between teens guided by spirits of ancient warriors in round three of the original martial arts marathon! As the dust settles over the Battle of Red Cliffs, the fighters of Nanyo and Seito Academies form a peaceful alliance.

Hakufu’s ready to make some dough for tournaments, but her stacked reputation keeps the fearless leader up to her chest in trouble. Just when her joy peaks over meeting a mysterious sister from another mister, a foe Nanyo Academy once creamed returns! As the conflict comes to a climax, the battle vixens bare blood, betrayal, and…

This new series in the Ikki Tousen franchise reunites the original dub cast.

Back in 2000, Yuji Shiozaki created his popular fighting series “Ikki Tousen” (which translates to “Strength of a Thousand”.

One of the first major anime series that was known for its visual sexual content (ala tons of fan service) and action, the manga series is still ongoing in Japan and the anime series has reached up to four seasons including an OVA, plus a radio show and a number of video games.

While the first two anime series have been released in the United States, the third season, “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardian”, which aired back in 2008 will finally be released in the U.S. courtesy of FUNimation on Dec. 2013.

“Ikki Tousen: Great Guardian” is directed by Koichi Ohata (“Black Lion”, “Burst Angel: Infinity”, “Cybernetics Guardian”), Masanao Akahoshi (“Freezing”, “Tegami Bachi” series, “Viper’s Creed”), music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Fairy Tail”, “Naruto Shippuden”, “Hell Girl” series), character design by Rin-Sin (“I”s”, “Midnight Panther”, “Samurai Girls”, “Venus 5”) and art direction by Shigem Ikeda (“Afro Samurai”, “Bastard!!”, “Basilisk”, “El-Hazard: The Wanderers”, “Gantz”).

In “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians”, a mysterious girl named Shokyo has come out of nowhere to announce herself as Shokyo, a younger sister of Hakufu but yet doesn’t look like her at all.

As Shokyo and her cousin Koukin are not aware of a younger sister, they both accept her into the family.

Meanwhile, Housen Ryofu is back, long thought as dead, she has returned but without her memories.  Meanwhile, someone has been controlling people and causing problems amongst the students, who is responsible?

The main characters of “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians” are:

  • Hakufu Sonsaku – A bubbly, not-so smart and well-endowed student of “Nanyo” and of the Great Dragons.  Always caring for people always hungry and always ready for a big fight.
  • Koukin Shuuyu – The cousin of Hakufu and he is somewhat attracted to her.
  • Shoukyou – A girl who comes to visit Hakufu, claiming to be her younger sister and taken in.  She may have a crush towards Koukin.
  • Roshuku Shikei – A student from Nayo who wears bandages and an eyepatch for some apparent reason.  Often being set up for work with Hakufu and has an attraction towards Housen.
  • Unchou Kan-u – The protector of Ryubi and a fighter who doesn’t like Hakufu.  Often day dreaming about her and Ryubi making out.
  • Gentoku Ryuubi – Leader of Seito Private School.  Also, well-endowed and is oblivious that Kan-u likes her.
  • Housen Ryofu– A woman who has had her major problems.  Has dated Saji and has lost all her memories.
  • Myosai Kakouen – A female assassin in charge of Kyosho Academy due to the absence of Sousou and Kakouton.
  • Shishi Ouin/Saji Genpou – A womanizer and the antagonist of the series.  he has the power to hypnotize and control people and use them.
  • Ekitoku Chouhi – Ryuubi’s best friend and addicted to snacks.  Very powerful but often disturbing Kan-u’s daydreams.
  • Koumei Shokatsuryou – Quiet, young and also one that harbors the dragon. Loyal to Ryuubi and may have a crush on her.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in Linear PCM Stereo. To keep the compression artifacts to a minimum on DVD, Aniplex Inc. features all 12 episodes on three DVD’s. For the most part, characters are well shaded and background art is well-painted. There is a good amount of detail in the mechanical designs from the Alone to the detail on the characters Pallet Outfits.

But this is a vibrant anime series on DVD.

The soundtrack is in Japanese and I would not be surprised if Aniplex does release “Vividred Operation” on Blu-ray with an English dub soundtrack. It’s quite an enjoyable series that I do hope it does receive an HD release. But voice acting is well done and dialogue and music is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians – Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 2 Commentary – Jonathan Klein (voice director and original producer from season 1), Ted Sroka (voice of Koukin Shuuyuu) and Carrie Savage (voice of Hakufu Sonsaku).
  • Episode 5 Commentary – Jonathan Klein (voice director and original producer from season 1), Michele Knotz (voice of Chou’un Shiryuu) and Georgette Reilly (voice of Myosai Kakouen) and Jessica Calvello (voice of Ekitoku Chouhi)
  • Battle Tour Club -Sexy Cosplays, Dangerous Jobs – (14:56) Featuring six short episodes of “Battle Tour Club” in sexy cosplay (in Japanese with English subtitles) and scenes that are even more perverted than the TV episodes.
  • Great Guardians Radio Event at Tokyo Anime Fair 2008(30:32) Featuring a live radio show with a live audience at TAF 2008, hosted by Masumi Asano (voice of Hakufu) and Hitomi Nabatame (voice of Kan’u Uncho), joining them are Yuuko Kaida (voice of Ryomou) and Akeno Watanabe (voice of Ryofu).
  • Commercial Collection – (1:35) Japanese commercials promoting “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians”.
  • Promotional Video – (1:40)
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:11) FUNimation trailer.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Theme

Japan has had its fair share of anime series featuring busty fighters with every fan service shot showcasing the women in their panties and each devastating hit, somehow removing a fighter’s garment.

But if there is one series that is best known for its action and perversion and possibly jumpstarting this style of girl fighting series, is Yuji Shiozaki’s “Ikki Tousen” (which was known as “Battle Vixens” in the United States).

From “Tenjo Tenge”, “Sekirei”, “Master of Martial Hearts” and others, the series has titillated viewers who have come to expect hardcore fighting action, boobies, humor, boobies, fan service and boobies.

The series is literally an anime that worships a female fighters boobs as female characters or male characters can be seen grasping on a young woman’s boobs, each fight features the ultimate jiggle and by the end of watching a series, you are exhausted after it’s all done.

A spin on the classic Chinese novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, the first two series was focused on an all-out turf battle, while this third season “Great Guardians” focuses on body possession.

Someone has been taking control of various key people and using them to possess others and cause friction amongst friends and rivals.

Meanwhile, main protagonist Hakufu has someone named Shoukyou arriving and claiming to be her sister.  Of course, being the not-so-smart person that she is, she accepts as fact and treats her like a sister.

As for the bandage wearing Roshuku, she develops an attraction towards Housen Ryofu (yes, somehow having died in the original series, she is alive in “Great Guardians”) and helping Housen get her lost her memory back.

But it appears the reason for her lost memories and bad things happening in the city, may lead to her ex-boyfriend Saji.

Meanwhile, at Seitou Academy, Unchou Kan-u is having a hard time keeping her emotions and fantasies of Ryuubi in check and getting jealous each time another person tries to interfere and get closer to her.  But as Kan-u’s passion for Ryuubi grows, will she ever realize that her protector is very much in love with her?

While I found the original “Ikki Tousen” to be a much better series, the third season maintains the fun, the fan service and the all-out craziness that the series tends to have with girl and girl crushes, fantasies, while the usual male jerks somehow think they can go up to one of these fighters and grab their boobs.

But as other series plays out like a harem, part of the popularity of “Ikki Tousen” is its storyline featuring bisexual or lesbian characters.  These women are tough and can literally kick butt!

As for the series and it’s rating, along with the sexual perverse scenes of fondling, panty shots, there is also quite a bit of nudity, so it’s 17 and older anime series.

Also, it’s important to note that the series is being released by FUNimation on DVD and not on Blu-ray.  The soundtrack features the original Japanese voice acting and also an English dub.

While the Japanese voice acting is well-done, the English dub features the original English dub voice actors from the first season while other characters introduced in the second season were given a chance to come back and voice their characters for “Great Guardians”.  So, fans of the original series should be thrilled that Carrie Savage, Ted Sroka, Willow Lane and others are back!

Also, there are two audio commentary tracks and a good number of special features included in this DVD release, especially the live radio show from Tokyo Anime Fair 2008.

Overall, “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians – Complete Series” is the third season of the popular action-packed fighting girl anime series in which one can expect to see a lot of boobs, plenty of nudity, boobs, fan service, boobs, roundhouse kicks and did I mention boobs, to make otaku fan boys and fangirls go crazy for Hakufu and friends all over again.

Otherwise, if many well-endowed female fighters and an abundant number of panty shots is not your thing, then this anime series is not for you!  But if it is, then you’ll more than likely enjoy “Ikki Tousen: Great Guardians”.

 

Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

December 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

vividredoperation

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” features a series that was no doubt a fun, upbeat sci-fi action anime series.  Unfortunately, its use of underage nudity and its numerous fan service scenes of young junior high girls was unnecessary and hindered the series.

Images courtesy of ©Vividred Project/MBS. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2013

Directed by Kazuhiro Takamura

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Kazuhiro Takamura

Script by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Shigeru Morita, Tensai Okamura

Character Designs by Kazuhiro Takamura

Animation Director: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Design by Kazuyuki Asaga

Music by Hideyuki Fukasawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Uchida as Himawari Shinomiya

Ayane Sakura as Akane Isshiki

Maaya Uchida as Rei Kuroki

Rie Murakawa as Aoi Futaba

Yuka Ōtsubo as Wakaba Saegusa

Asuka Ōgame as Momo Isshiki

Haruka Yamazaki as Mizuha Amagi

Masaki Terasoma as Kenjirō Isshiki

Mie Sonozaki as Crow

Mika Doi as Yuuri Shijo

Sakura Nakamura as Mashiro Isshiki

On an artificial island, Akane Isshiki, an innocent 14-year-old girl, lives a simple but happy life with her level-headed little sister Momo and their genius inventor grandfather. On clear days just over the water, everyone on the island can see the revolutionary invention that solved all the world’s energy problems, the Manifestation Engine. Thanks to the Manifestation Engine, the peaceful days that everyone had dreamed of had arrived.

But suddenly, a mysterious enemy called the “Alone” appear out of nowhere aiming to attack the Manifestation Engine, jeopardizing their quiet way of life. Equipped with incredibly powerful Palette Suits designed by her grandfather, Akane and her friends must rise up together in this desperate situation. Their friendship is the only hope to save the world.

In early 2013, A-1 Pictures produced the 12-episode TV series “Vividred Operation” aired in Japan.

Having received two manga adaptations plus a PlayStation 3 video game, the anime series “Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” has made its way to American shores courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series is directed and features character designs by Kazuhiro Takamura (“Strike Witches” series and film, “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World”, “Queen’s Blade”), series composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino (“Guilty Crown”, “My-HIME”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”) and Kazuhiro Takamura (“He is My Master”, “Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi”, “Mahoromatic” series) and music by Hideyuki Fukasawa (“Yatterman”, “Flowers of Evil”).

A series that features a combination of sci-fi action, magical girl-style transformations and for the otaku, plenty of fan service.

“Vividred Operation” is set in the future of Japan and the future is quite peaceful thanks to the Manifestation Engine which creates energy from the sky and has averted significant energy crisis that the planet was facing years prior.

Living on the island of Izu Joshima, teenager Akane Isshiki and her fifth grade sister Momoko live with their grandfather Kenjiro Isshiki, a renown scientist who was one of the great minds that have developed the Manifestation Engine.

Kenjiro typically locks himself in the house working on his research, while Akane works a part-time job to keep the family afloat and tends to the garden to feed the family.

As Akane is awaiting her friend Aoi Futaba, who is traveling to Izu Joshima for medical treatment, Akane and Momo hear an explosion takes place in their home and when they go to check, their grandfather has switched bodies with a stuffed otter doll and showing his research has progressed, so it seems.

But all of a sudden, the planet is attacked as an alien race known as the “Alone” has showed up on the seas near the island.  As the military try to fight against it, they are destroyed.

Worried about her friend Aoi, Kenjiro gives Akane his latest invention, an Operation Key that can access the Vivid System.  Meanwhile, Akane hurries as she sees Aoi’s plane crashing.  Close to the ledge, she and her grandfather (in otter form) rush to the area, but Akane is scared of heights and she sees the plane about to fall from the edge.  As Akane and Aoi scream for each other, the plane falls and the scared Akane, decides to run after her.

As she dives off the cliff in order to save Aoi, the Operation Key glows and activates the Vivid System which transforms Akane into a super-being, sporting a Pallet Suit and saving Aoi from death.

Sensing power within Aoi, Kenjiro gives Aoi an Operation Key giving her the opportunity to transform using the Vivid System and together they must use their new abilities to fight against the Alone.  And both work together to destroy it.

Because their new school was destroyed in the attack, Akane, Momo and Aoi begin attending New Oshima Academy and through their new friendships, they end up adding kendo student Wakaba Saegusa and computer hacker Himawari Shinomiya to the group and all four become part of the Vividred Operation to protect humanity from the Alone.

But unaware that working with the Alone is another student in their class named Rei Kuroki, who is intent in working with the Alone to destroy the Manifestation Engine.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Vividred Operation:  Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in Linear PCM Stereo. To keep the compression artifacts to a minimum on DVD, Aniplex Inc. features all 12 episodes on three DVD’s. For the most part, characters are well shaded and background art is well-painted.  There is a good amount of detail in the mechanical designs from the Alone to the detail on the characters Pallet Outfits.

But this is a vibrant anime series on DVD.

The soundtrack is in Japanese and I would not be surprised if Aniplex does release “Vividred Operation” on Blu-ray with an English dub soundtrack. It’s quite an enjoyable series that I do hope it does receive an HD release. But voice acting is well done and dialogue and music is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” comes with the textless opening and endings and the web version previews.

EXTRAS:

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” comes with a slipcover case and a five postcard set. Also, the DVD cover is 2-sided and reversible.

vividred-b

“Vividred Operation” is a sci-fi action series about a group of friends, each with their own personal quirks and also weaknesses that become part of the Vividred Operation to defend the Manifestation Engine that has helped the planet from an alien race known as The Alone.

As each episode focuses on Akane meeting friends or new people from her school who eventually obtain an Operation Key and to transform via the Vivid System to fight against the Alone, each must face their weaknesses and put their friendship to a test in order to become teammates.

And as Akane is able to get Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari to join them, they each try to get Rei Kuroki on their team, not knowing that she is working with the Alone and trying to destroy the Manifestation Engine.

The series is quite intriguing as it tries to combine sci-fi action with magical girl transformations.

And while the series is more on the fun, humorous spectrum versus more serious and deep, the series also incorporates quite a bit of fan service and also nudity (which gives it a Suggested 16 and Up rating).

But as much as I enjoyed the series for its storyline and characters, the fan service and nudity, in my opinion, was a significant hindrance.

And this is probably the difference between American and Japanese culture in which certain things just don’t happen.

The camera tends to end up shooting under the legs of a character and or focusing on a character’s rear end, may they be standing or riding a bike, it’s one thing to have fan service, especially for older characters but  it definitely makes one feel uneasy considering the characters are 14-years-old and in junior high.

In fact, the character of Rei Kuroki is shown nude during her shower sequence and and a bathing sequence and what may work in Japan, is definitely not going to work in the U.S.

I know there are anime fans that will say, “Well, this is a Japanese anime and it’s not real, so it’s OK.” or ” It goes by Japanese culture, Americans must see things in the Japanese perspective not American, so it’s OK”.

Having covered Japanese entertainment for over two decades, while I agree that there are certain entertainment where one should expect to see a different side of Japanese culture, it becomes dangerous if underage nudity of an anime character featured in an anime series becomes a cultural norm.

I don’t agree with people who have the mindset of it being OK but that is my opinion and as a parent it’s not something I can or will support.  And as a reviewer, it was unnecessary to have those scenes as the series could have done without it.

Nudity of children in anime and manga has been a debatable topic for a long time, from “Crayon Shin Chan” (and his elephant) to even the “Dragon Ball” manga being released in grade school libraries.  It’s a long debate that will always continue as debates from the old anime BBS forums to present anime forums on the Internet.  Even Usagi’s transformation scene in “Sailor Moon” was also a big discussion at the time.

So, as a parent and a longtime anime reviewer, it’s important for me to let parents and anime fans know that this anime series features under-aged nudity and unnecessary fan service for characters that are of a young age.

In the case of “Vividred Operation”, for the young characters, was it necessary to have so many shots of Akane’s butt while she rides on the bike?  Was it necessary to shoot a horizon between a character’s legs?  Was it necessary for the animators to show a naked Rei in the shower?

I’m sure there are otaku that would scream, “Yes!” but I felt the series could have done without it.  I did enjoy “Vividred Operation”, four friends who have their own personal weaknesses, joining together for the greater good to defend humanity from an unknown alien force.  The characters are enjoyable, the anime series entertaining but it’s unfortunate that certain decision to make these young junior high characters more sexual appealing, had to be incorporated to the series.

As for the DVD, the picture quality is colorful and vibrant and one would expect it to look even better in HD, if Aniplex decides to release it on Blu-ray in the future.  Voice acting in Japanese is well-done and as always with an Aniplex release, you get anime swag with a five postcard set.

Overall, “Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” features a series that was no doubt a fun, upbeat sci-fi action anime series.  Unfortunately, its use of underage nudity and its numerous fan service scenes of young junior high girls was unnecessary and hindered the series.

 

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