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

June 22, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

transformers-animated

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

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

DVD TITLE: Transformers Animated: The Complete Series

DURATION: 42 Eposodes (15.5 hours)

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

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: TV Y7 FV

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main Autobot team are:

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

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

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

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

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

The main Decepticon team are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

June 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

bleach-20

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

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

DVD TITLE: Bleach DVD Set Twenty – Original and Uncut

DURATION: Episodes 280-291 (282 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: VIZ Media

RATED: 13+

Release Date: March 18, 2014

Originally created by Tite Kubo

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Masashi Kudo

Art Director: Natsuko Suzuki, Sawako Takagi

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Dentsu, Studio Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Fumiko Orikasa/Michelle Ruff as Rukia Kuchiki

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Ichigo Kurosaki

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jamieson Price as Sado “Chad” Yasutora

Kentarou Itou/Wally Wingert as Abarai Renji

Masakazu Morita/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hollow Ichigo

Noriaki Sugiyama/Derek Stephen Prince as Ishida Uryuu

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

Shinichiro Miki/Michael Lindsay as Urahara Kisuke

Yuki Matsuoka/Stephanie Sheh as Inoue Orihime

Kaya Matsutani/Megan Hollingshead as Rangiku Matsumoto

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Vic Mignogna as Ikkaku Madarame

Jun Fukuyama/Brian Beacock as Yumichika Ayasegawa

Romi Paku/Steve Staley as Toshiro Hitsugaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is “Bleach”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main characters of “Bleach” are:

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

VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are a fan of “Bleach” and stood with this anime series from the very beginning or have followed the anime/manga series for a very long time , “Bleach DVD Set Twenty: Original and Uncut” is exciting and definitely worth owning!

 

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

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

energon-a

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

Image courtesy of © Hasbro Studios. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: Transformers Energon: The Complete Series

TV RELEASE DATE: 2004

DURATION: 51 Episodes (18 3/4 Hours)

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

COMPANY: Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory

RATED: TY Y7

DVD RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2014

Directed by Jun Kawagoe, Yutaka Sato

Written by Akira Okeya

Produced by Actas Inc. and Studio A-CAT

Featuring the Voices of:

Garry Chalk as Optimus Prime

Trevor Devall as Alpha Q

Matt Hill as Ironhide

Scott McNeil as Jetfire

Brent Miller as Hot Shot

David Kaye as Megatron

Michael Daingerfield as Inferno

Michael Dobson as Starscream

Alvin Sanders as Demolishor

Don Brown as Cyclonus

Paul Dobson as Rodimus

Ron Halder as Dr. Jones

Kirby Morrow as Rad

Colin Murdock as Scorponok

Doug Parker as Mirage

Ward Perry as Landmine

Brad Swaile as Kicker

Alistair Abell as Prowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

May 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

naruto-18-a

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

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

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

DURATION: Episodes 219-231 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Shonen Jump/Viz Media

RATED: Rated T for Older Teen

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Originally created by Masashi Kishimoto

Series Directed by Hayato Date

Produced by Tomoko Gushima, Ken Hagino

Series Coordinator by Junki Takegami, Satoru Nishizono

Character Design by Tetsuya Nishio, Hirofumi Suzuki

Music by Yasuharu Takanishi, Yaiba

Music Production by Aniplex

Anime Production by TV Tokyo, Pierrot

Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Haruno

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

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

Hideo Ishikawa/Crispin Freeman as Itachi Uchiha

Houchu Ohtsuka/David Lodge as Jiraiya

Kazuhiko Inoue/Dave Wittenberg as Hatake Kakashi

Kentarou Itou/Robbie Rist as Chouji Akimichi

Kenyuu Horiuchi/Troy Baker as Pain

Kouichi Toochika/Steve Staley as Neji Hyuuga

Kousuke Toriumi/Kyle Hebert as Kiba Inuzuka

Kujira/Steven Blum as Orochimaru

Masako Katsuki/Debi Mae West as Tsunade/Fifth Hokage

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Hyuuga

Nobutoshi Canna/Henry Dittman as Kabuto Yakushi

Rikiya Koyama/Troy Baker as Yamato

Romi Paku/Tara Platt as Temari

Ryoka Yuzuki/Colleen O’Shaughnessey as Ino Yamanaka

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Shinji Kawada/Derek Stephen Prince as Shino Aburame

Yasuyuki Kase/Michael Lindsay as Kankurou

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

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

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

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

Will Naruto succeed in his most difficult mission yet?

What is “Naruto”?

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

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

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

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

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

What is “Naruto Shippuden”?

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

naruto-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

April 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-c9

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

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

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Collection 9

DURATION: Episodes 206-229 (Duration: 600 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 15, 2014

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

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

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

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

 

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

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

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

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide. The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is at 563 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One”.

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

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO :

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Collection 9″ comes with the following special features:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul.  While, we are 229 episodes down and are over 400 more episodes behind Japan, it is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is.

“One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended!

 

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly 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. 2

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 13-25 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 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

Aladdin has yet to regain consciousness from the battle with the fallen magi Judar. Meanwhile, as the third prince of Balbadd, Alibaba tries to stop his older brother King Ahbmad from turning Balbadd into a slave-exporting nation. But his plans are thwarted by none other than Cassim, his childhood friend from the slums, now transformed into a Dark Djinn by the Dark Metal Vessel. Cassim tries to strike down the royal family for causing their citizens to suffer for many years.

Cassim’s attacks crush Alibaba both physically and mentally, but he gets back up again and again. Just then, a friend reaches out a helping hand! With Aladdin’s support once again, can Alibaba rescue his country, people, and Cassim from the darkness?

Soon after, Alibaba and Aladdin will learn about Al-Tharmen, the organization that has been causing the “Abnormalities of the World”…

Aladdin takes on the evil magi known as Judar.  Meanwhile, a new adventure awaits for Alibaba, Aladdin and Morgiana as Sinbad sends them to Sindria, while the Kou Empire approaches Balbadd, preparing to invade the city. And a new member joins Aladdin and friends!

While Sinbad and his forces prepare for an attack from Al-Thamen and his forces.

Find out which side is successful in the battle in “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2”

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

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 a 25-episode anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a 25-episode second season which was completed in Japan.

And now episodes 13-25 of the first season of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States in March 2014.

“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, a magi named Judar has decided to cause trouble for Aladdin and friends?  But what happens when Aladdin goes all out in his battle against Judar?

Meanwhile, an even greater threat arrives as Aladdin and friends must take on Dark Djinn’s, while Sinbad must protect the country against Al-Thamen and his forces.

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.
    • Amon – A djinn with fire elemental powers contained in Alibaba’s training sword.
    • Sinbad – The King of Sindria and leader of the Alliance of the Seven Seas.  He has sailed the seven seas and captured seven dungeons and is a master of seven djinn.
    • Masrur – A Fanalis who works for Sinbad and trains Morgiana in hand to hand combat.
    • Ja’far – A former assassin who becomes loyal to Sinbad.
    • Hakuryuu Ren – The fourth prince in the Kou Empire who becomes an ally of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgianna.
    • Judar – An evil Magi working for Al-Thamen.  Raised by Al-Thamen after the organization killed his parents.

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” 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 Vol. 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Ending

EXTRAS:

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

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As the first half of Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was lighthearted, full of humor and entertaining.  The second half of the series has become much more deeper, serious and action-packed and Alibaba must make difficult decisions, Aladdin faces his greatest foe yet and Morgiana does all she can to become more powerful but to what expense?

In the first half, we watched as Aladdin was dependent on a headless giant named Ugo, but with Ugo gone after a major battle with the evil Judar, what will happen to Aladdin?

Also, a major difference between the first half of the series and the second half, is the inclusion of more characters.  Sinbad plays much more of a role as Al-Thamen declares war on Sindria and Sinbad and forces must do all they can to fight against Al-Thamen and the Dark Djinn.

With the conclusion to season one featuring a battle with someone they know quite well.

But for the most part, this second half for season one is a whole different vibe than the first.  While you do get the perverted humor for a brief moment, the series is primarily action non-stop with so many dire situations involving Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana.

While the trio meet new friends and allies, there is also a lot of heartbreak as both Aladdin and Alibaba lose something special in their lives.  So, one can expect a deep, action-packed storyline for episodes 13-25.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. There is quite a bit of violence, maybe not as bloody as some of the episodes of the first half, but there is quite a bit of fighting violence.

While I wish “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD still looks very good.  And the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done!

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. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly recommended!

 

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!

 

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