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Love Live! Sunshine!! Season One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 25, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who love idol music, especially those who love the original “Love Live!”, will definitely want to check out “Love Live! Sunshine!! Season One”.  Entertaining and a whole lot of fun, I definitely recommend this Blu-ray release!

Image courtesy of © Sunrise. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Love Live! Sunshine!! Season One

DURATION: (13 Episodes) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 5, 2017


Originally Created by Hajime Yatate

Directed by Kazuo Sakai

Series Composition: Jukki Hanada

Music by Tatsuya Kato

Character Design: Yuhei Murota

Art Director: Junichi Higashi

Anime Production: Sunrise


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Furihata/Sarah Wiedenheft as Ruby Kurosawa

Aika Kobayashi/Morgan Berry as Yoshiko “Yohane” Tsushima

Aina Suzuki/Jamie Marchi as Mari Ohara

Anju Inami/Jad Saxton as Chika Takami

Arisa Komiya/Morgan Garrett as Dia Kurosawa

Kanako Takatsuki/Megan Shipman as Hanamaru Kunikida

Nanaka Suwa/Michelle Rojas as Kanan Matsūra

Rikako Aida/Jeannie Tirado as Riko Sakurauchi

Shuka Saitō/Apphia Yu as Yō Watanabe

Asami Tano/Trina Nishimura as Sarah Kazuno

Hinata Satō/Amber Lee Connors as Leah Kazuno

Kana Asumi/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Shima Takami

Kanae Itō/Monica Rial as Mito Takami


Chika Takami is swept up in idol fever and ready to start her own school idol group. But getting this club started is harder than this idol-to-be expected. She’ll have to work hard to form the idol group of her dreams with her new group of friends.


Back in 2010, ASCII Media Works’ “Dengeki G’s Magazine”, the. music label Lantis and the animation studio Sunrise would create a school idol project known as “Love Live!” about a group of schoolgirls who dreamed of becoming idols in order to save their school, which was slated to shut down.

The original series introduced the group μ’s (Muse) and how a teen named Honoka would find friends to join her in creating an idol group and set their goals high to participate in the ultimate school idol competition, Love Live.

The popularity of the anime series would lead to a manga adaptation, a light novel series and video games.

Fastforward to 2016 and a new idol project was created, meant to be a spin-off of “Love Live!” and would be titled “Love Live! Sunshine!!”.

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” is set in Uchiura, Numazu, Shizuoka (countryside/seaside area) and begins with a girl named Chika Takami who is a big fan of μ’s (Muse) because they are normal girls who saved their school from being demolished.

With Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy planning to be closed down, the school is going to be merged with the other high school, Numazu.   Inspired by the idol group, she and her friends hope they can do the same by forming an idol group and saving their school.

But will they be able to save Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy?

The main characters in the series are:

  • Chika Takami – The main protagonist and the leader of the group.  Inspired by μ’s (Muse), she is determined to form an idol club and become idols to save their school.  She is the group’s lyricist.
  • Riko Sakurauchi – A pianist who came from Akihabara’s Otonokizaka Girls’ Academy.  She stopped pursuing her passion and moved to Numazu, so she can “feel” the sea.  She has a fear of dogs, loves yuri manga and is a composer of the group.
  • You Watanabe – A childhood friend of Chika who dreams of becoming a ship captain like her father.  She is the costume coordinator for the group.
  • Dia Kurosawa – The student council president of Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy.  She is a huge fan of μ’s (Muse) but hides her idol enthusiasm, trying to prevent Chika from creating an idol club at school.
  • Kanan Matsuura – Chika’s childhood friend who follows Chika’s lead.  Kanan lives alone with her grandfather in a nearby island where they run a diving gear shop.  Because she often needs to take care of the shop alone, she has difficult attending school.  She, Dia and Mari were childhood friends who formed an idol group known as Aquours but it didn’t last.
  • Yoshiko Tsushima – A student who calls herself a “fallen angel” for having angered God and wants everyone to call her that.  She is looked at being strange but Chika invites her to become an idol.
  • Hanamaru Kunikida – Her family runs a local temple and has never seen modern technology so much, so she is enamored with them.  A childhood friend of Yoshiko.
  • Mari Ohara – She is half Japanese and a quarter Italian and American.  Her family is wealthy and runs a hotel chain.  She was friends with Dia and Kanan and formed an idol group in the past known as Aquours but she is not sure why her former once close friends are avoiding her.
  • Ruby Kurosawa- Dia’s younger sister who has dreamed to become an idol.  She has a fear of men and is extremely shy.

VIDEO:

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-done.  But this is an anime series that focuses a lot on character close-ups and idol performances.  The anime series looks great in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Voice acting are well-done on both soundtracks and dialogue is crystal clear with the English dub being more immersive due to the 5.1 soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Love Live! Sunshine!! Season One” comes with the promo videos, commercial, textless opening song and trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD plus a Funimation Digital HD code.


“Love Live!” was no doubt one of the pop culture phenomenon that won the attention of fans worldwide. From those who loved the music or people who loved to cosplay as one of the characters, the series generated enthusiasm towards the characters and the voice actresses and also interested in various merchandise.

But in today’s Japan were idol music and idol groups are still popular, “Love Live!” came at such a wonderful time and many people loved the anime series.

So, it’s no surprise that ASCII Media Works, Lantis and Sunrise to capitalize on the popularity of the series.

Showcasing a similar concept of a group of girls trying to save their school and making it into the “Love Live!” competition, “Love Live! Sunshine!!” is an interesting perspective when things don’t always go right but also showcasing a group that worked hard in making their dreams come true, no matter the challenges they had to face.

The series begins with Chika Takami, inspired by the idol group μ’s (Muse).  Normal teenagers who went on to save their school and setting their goals to win the ultimate high school idol competition “Love Live!” and then eventually disbanding.

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” connects to the original series in spirit but also goes to show that this group of idols, known as Aquours are different.  But also situations are different as Chika finds herself in opposition with the student council president, Dia Kurosawa, who is very much against not interested in having an idol group started on school campus (and Chika and friends not aware that Dia and her friends were the original members of Aqours).

But the first season spotlights on character dynamics, getting us to know the different sides of the characters and how the would come together as a group (similar to Muse).  But also showing the agony of defeat as things don’t go so well at times.

And eventually setting things up for the group preparing themselves to compete in the “Love Life!” competition for the second season.

For the most part, I found “Love Live! Sunshine!!” entertaining.  The characters are each different in their own way, from those who have phobias, those who act strangely, those with life goals and those feeling the pressure of trying to succeed for the sake of their school.

“Love Live! Sunshine!!” looks great in HD with its colorful palette and for its lossless soundtrack, both soundtracks are fantastic but the English dub soundtrack has the edge thanks to its 5.1 soundtrack, the Japanese is 2.0 lossless.  As for special features, I would have thought that there would be the usual audio or video commentary from Funimation but there wasn’t anything but the usual promotional videos, textless opening, etc.

Overall, for those who love idol music, especially those who love the original “Love Live!”, will definitely want to check out “Love Live! Sunshine!! Season One”.  Entertaining and a whole lot of fun, I definitely recommend this Blu-ray release!

 

Genocidal Organ (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 I wish I could say that I enjoyed “Genocidal Organ” but I felt that it was an animated film that benefits more from its action and violence than its characters and storyline.

Image courtesy of © Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Genocidal Organ

DURATION: 115 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: November 7, 2017


Originally Created by Project Itoh

Director: Shukou Murase

Screenplay by Shukuou Murase

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design: rejudice

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Anime Production: Geno Studio, Manglobe


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yūichi Nakamura/Josh Grelle as Clavis Shepherd

Akio Ohtsuka/Christopher R. Sabat as Rockwell

Kaito Ishikawa/Clifford Chapin as Leland

Sanae Kobayashi/Jeannie Tirado as Lucia

Satoshi Mikami/Ian Sinclair as Williams

Takahiro Sakurai/Ricco Fajardo as John Paul

Yuuki Kaji/Clifford Chapin as Alex

Kazuhiro Yamaji/Charlie Campbell as President

Takehiro Hasu/Dave Trosko as Staff Officer

Takuya Kirimoto/David Wald as Lucius


In Genocidal Organ, while developed countries rely on advanced surveillance to free them from the threat of terrorism, other nations are plagued by genocide within their own borders. Strangely, these massacres all link back to one American by the name of John Paul. Special agent Clavis Shepherd is sent to capture the target, but nothing can prepare this soldier—or the world—for the truth behind humanity’s darkness.


Before the release of popular novels “Harmony” and “The Empire of Corpses”, back in 2007, science fiction writer Project Itoh wrote his debut novel, “Gyakusatsu Kikan” (Genocidal Organ).

The novel was successful that the sci-fi magazine “SF ga yomitai” ranked Genocidal Organ as the #1 domestic SF novel of the decade.

The novel would lead to an animated film being created and set for release by Manglobe in 2015, but with the company filing bankruptcy, the film was postponed.  This would lead to the staff going by a new studio name, Geno Studio, announced it would complete the film by the end of 2016 and eventually, the film would be released in Feb. 2017.

Funimation would release the film in select US theaters in July 2017 and now “Genocidal Organ” would be released in the US in November 2017.

The animated film is set in 2022 when Sarajevo was destroyed by a homemade nuclear weapon, the developed countries of the world transformed into surveillance states, while struggling countries would endure many genocides.

Intelligence agent Clavis Shepherd of the US govt. is part of a program in which soldiers have their emotional responses deleted and he is assigned to go undercover to find the person who is responsible, an American named John Paul and what type of weapon he is using to cause so much mayhem.


VIDEO:

“Genocidal Organ” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As one can expect from an animated film, production is quite high for “Genocidal Organ”.  While originally created by Manglobe, the same staff who went on to form Geno Studio did a fantastic job in completing the film.  Closeup details are fantastic, character shading is well-done, mechanical/costume design is highly detailed and for the most part, the film looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Genocidal Organ” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Genocidal Organ” comes with the following special features:

  • Cast Discussion: Philosophy of the Genocidal Organ – (10:17) ADR Director Clifford Chapin and English dub voice actors discuss “Genocidal Organ”.
  • Original Trailer
  • Promo Video
  • TV Spots
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Genocidal Organ” comes with a slipcase and the film on Blu-ray, DVD and also comes with an UltraViolet digital code.


For anime fans who clamor for war and violence, will find “Genocidal Organ” to be their kind of film.  It’s a film that takes on the question of the price of freedom and how far one soldier is willing to go to uncover the truth of why genocides are taking place in more or less third world countries.

The concept is not new and in fact, if “Genocidal Organ” was a video game, I think the execution would be much more entertaining because as an anime adaptation of a well-known novel, I’m not sure if the adaptation was on point.

Watching an anime series based on the late Project Itoh’s popular novel, I can’t say that the anime adaptations have been completely faithful (as I have not read any of his novels), but I have watched all three animated films and I’ve felt that for novels so popular, I felt the anime adaptations had something missing because may it be “Genocidal Organ”, “Harmony” or “The Empire of Corpses”, none of these three films made me feel excited, nor have they made me feel that I want to watch the film over and over again.

“Genocidal Organ”, I did give it a try twice, because I feel that for an award-winning novel, I must be missing something exciting.

When it comes to the animation, the violence was well-captured, animation was smooth and certain details when it came to mechanical or costume design was great.  Backgrounds were well-done and for the most part, Geno Studio made sure to complete the job, considering that it was done by employees who worked for Manglobe before they company filed bankruptcy.  It took a while to make and release but for the most part, for what they were able to accomplish, the movie was good but at the same time, feeling that it had the potential to be something more.  Granted, you see the differences and while Manglobe did the better part of it, Geno Studio finished it.

In some ways, it reminded me of the unfortunate situation with “Bubblegum Crisis” and “Bubblegum Crash” which led to a different style with the latter and no doubt disappointed fans.  People will see differences and some will not like the changes but I’m giving the company the benefit of the doubt that they rescued the film that they worked so hard on and the staff wanted to complete it with what staff and what budget they had.

While the animated film looks great in HD and the voice acting in Japanese and English are well-done, and you do get Funimation English dub interviews with the ADR director and cast, personally no matter how good the acting was, I just felt that the characters were not interesting.  None of the characters captivated my attention and if anything, the film’s concept and the revelation at the end and the sheer brutality of this chaotic world was much more interesting.  I wanted the characters and it storyline to have some kind of balance but somehow, at times, the film felt incoherent and I kept looking at my watch wondering when the film was going to be over.

Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I enjoyed “Genocidal Organ” but I felt that it was an animated film that benefits more from its action and violence than its characters and storyline.

 

March Comes in Like a Lion vol. 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are looking for a slice-of-life anime series that deals with human emotion and complex relationships, definitely give “March Comes in Like a Lion” volume 1 a chance!  Recommended!

Purchase from RightStuf

Image courtesy of © Aniplex. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: March Comes in Like a Lion vol. 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-11 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: December 19, 2017


Originally Created by Chica Umino

Series Director: Kenjiro Okada

Director: Akiyuki Simbo

Series Composition: Akiyuki Simbo, Fuyashi Tou

Script by Yukito Kizawa

Music by Yukari Hashimoto

Character Design: Nobuhiro Sugiyama

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Anime Production: SHAFT


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kengo Kawanishi/Khoi Dao as Rei Kiriyama

Ai Kayano/Laura Post as Akari Kawamoto

Akio Ohtsuka/Taylor Henry as Raidō Fujimoto

Akira Ishida/Todd Haberkorn as Tōji Sōya

Daisuke Sakaguchi/Lucien Dodge as Okuyasu Yokomizo

Hiroki Touchi/Ray Chase as Masamune Gotō

Kana Hanazawa/Kayli Mills as Hinata Kawamoto

Kenjiro Tsuda/Kellen Goff as Morio Shigeta

Marina Inoue/Lauren Landa as Kyōko Kōda

Misaki Kuno/Xanthe Huynh as Momo Kawamoto

Mitsuo Iwata/Joe J. Thomas as Manabu Yasui

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Zach Aguilar as Harunobu Nikaidō

Shigeru Chiba as Sōmeiji Kawamoto

Shinichiro Miki/Kirk Thornton as Kai Shimada

Subaru Kimura as Issa Matsumoto

Takahiro Sakurai as Takashi Hayashida

Tesshō Genda as Takanori Jingūji (Japan Shogi League President)

Tomokazu Sugita/Keith Silverstein as Tatsuyuki Misumi

Toru Ohkawa/Cam Clarke as Masachika Kōda

Yōji Ueda/Doug Stone as Hanaoka

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Chris Hackney as Yūsuke Takahashi

Yūichi Nakamura/Xander Mobus as Takeshi Tsujii

Yūji Ueda/Arnie Pantoja as Eisaku Noguchi


From Chica Umino, the author of Honey & Clover, comes the award-winning coming-of-age manga about a shogi player and the meaning of family—now brought to life in full animation for the first time by director Akiyuki Shimbou (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Monogatari series)!

Rei Kiriyama is a seventeen year old professional shogi player. Among the youngest in history to go pro, he has many expectations for the future, yet his recent separation from his foster family has left him conflicted and his career has stagnated. However, after meeting a family of three sisters, color slowly returns to his life.


Mangaka Chica Umino is best known for her award-winning manga series “Honey and Clover”, which was adapted into an anime and live-action film.

Umino would followup with “Sangatsu no Raion” (March Comes in like a Lion), an ongoing manga series which began in 2007 and serialized in “Young Animal” and a total of 12 manga volumes have since been published.

In 2016, an anime series adaptation was produced by Shaft and a second season completed at the end of 2017.  A two-part live-action film adaptation was released in March and April 2017 and now the first season of Umino’s anime series will be released in America on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex of America, Inc.

The series revolves around a 17-year-old professional shogi player named Rei Kirayama.

Shogi is a Japanese version of chess and is a two-player strategy board game which originated in India back in the 6th century and tournaments are held in Japan and the best players compete professionally.

Rei is a loner and often retreated to his room and the only thing he knew in his life was shogi. Often bullied throughout his life and at a young age, his parents and younger sister were killed in a car accident.  Because he was good at shogi, he was taken adopted by his father’s friend and shogi rival, Koda  and would become his apprentice in shogi.

Because Koda put a lot of interested in Rei, he often was hard on his own two kids who were trying to be great shogi players to gain favor with their father but because they were not as good as Rei, he was often bullied and beaten by his older step sister Kyoko.

Because of the abuse at home, Rei left home early to become a professional shogi player, quitting school and trying to live life alone.  But unfortunately things didn’t go well for Rei and one day, he was found abandoned and sick by a young woman named Akari Kawamoto.

Akari is the eldest of three sisters and lives in Sangatsu-cho (March Town) and raises her two younger sisters after their mother died.  She often helps her elder grandfather run a traditional wagashi (Japanese confectionery) shop and in the evening, works as a hostess at a bar in Ginza.

Akari and her two sisters, middle school student Hinata and preschool student Momo care about Rei like a family member and often are concerned about him.

But for Rei, while he was considered a shogi prodigy, he has lost two matches and on the brink of being demoted.  And now he must take on a variety of people including Harunobu Nikaido, a wealthy shogi player who considers Rei his best-friend and lifelong rival.

But as Rei lives in darkness, not knowing what is out there in life if he loses in shogi, will that mean there is nothing left in life for him?

The people he comes in contact with will play a big part in trying to show Rei that he is not alone but will he open his eyes to the people around him and show that there is so much more to his life and how he has made an impact on the people around him?


VIDEO:

“March Comes in Like a Lion” is presented in 1080p High Definition. SHAFT did a wonderful job with this anime series and immediately, you can see, by watching the anime series is how the brought Chica Umino’s characters to life with this anime series.  The character designs and art backgrounds are colorful, vibrant and look great in HD!

I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues while watching this series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “March Comes in Like a Lion” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM. The lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and both soundtracks are well-acted.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“March Comes in Like a Lion” vol. 1 comes with a Textless Opening & Ending, Trailer and Commercial, Meow Shogi Song, “Moving Meow Shogi” Special.

EXTRAS:

“March Comes in Like a Lion” vol. 1 comes with a Digest plus a deluxe booklet, rigid box with package illustrated by Nobuhiro Sugiyama.


I was a huge fan of Chica Umino’s “Honey and Clover”, which was more or less a slice-of-life manga series that focused on art school students and complex relationships.

The same thing could be said about Umino’s “March Comes in Like a Lion” which focuses on a 17-year-old professional shogi player named Rei, who has gone through a lot of tragedy and abuse in his life that his only solace in life is playing shogi and coming home alone, so he would no longer be hurt.

And he left home with his adoptive family to escape abuse (from his older step-sister) to focus on becoming a professional shogi player and quitting school in order to live on his own.

Unfortunately, life is not going easy for Rei, once called a shogi prodigy, he has lost a few matches and any more losses will lead to a demotion and it would take years to build his rank back up.

And because he has known nothing in life but shogi, the depression is setting upon him.  He has lived through so many terrible things in life, with the death of his parents and younger sister, relatives not watching to keep him and the only person willing to take him in is his father’s shogi rival and friend Koda.

Leaving home and moving to Sangatsu-cho (March Town) has given him his own freedom but Rei has not had many social relationships and the depression and pain he harbors is still within him but that has all changed when he met the Kawamoto family, which consists of Akari, Hinata and Momo, who took him in like a family member and often invite him to their home, despite eldest Akari often having to take care of the family with the money she makes working at her grandfather’s confectionery shop and a hostess job in Ginza.

But the Kawamoto sisters care for Rei and when they saw him sleeping with his glasses with tears in his eyes, the sisters are not aware of what kind of pain he has gone through but want to be there for him.

The series also introduces us to Shogi players that are part of Rei’s life, even though he doesn’t want to be that close to them.

One includes the wealthy Harunobu Nikaido, a four-dan shogi player who self-proclaims himself as Rei’s best friend and lifelong rival.  While Nikaido gets on Rei’s nerves, he has a lot of great qualities and also hides the fact that he is chronically ill.

And there are other shogi players that Rei often comes in contact.

But while Rei worries about his losing streak and how he needs to win more matches in order to not lose his ranking, out of nowhere, his abusive older step-sister Kyoko Koda has mysteriously shown up to him recently.

The first season of “March Comes in Like a Lion” is a fantastic series that manages to capture human emotion, where “Honey and Clover” tend to focus on love triangles, problematic relationships and graduation and employment angst, this series focuses on shogi, which is usually rare in manga or anime series.  But also focuses on complex relationships, good and bad.

Umino has done a great job with character development and series director Kenjiro Okada, director Akiyuki Simbo and writers Simbou and Fuyashi Tou have done a great job in adaptating Umino’s manga to an anime series.  Everything is on-point with is pacing and the character designs and background art are absolutely beautiful to look at.

The Blu-ray is vibrant in HD and the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and music.  Both Japanese and English dub soundtracks are well-acted.  As for special features, there aren’t many aside from the textless opening and ending, commercial, trailers plus a “Meow Shogi Song” and “Moving Meow Shogi” Special.  And as one can expect from Aniplex, you get a deluxe booklet including end card illustrations and packaging illustration by Nobuhiro Sugiyama.

Overall, as an Umino fan, I may be biased towards her work but she’s such a good artist and storyteller that SHAFT has done a great job of giving her series an anime adaptation that focuses on wonderful storytelling, artwork and voice acting.

If you are looking for a slice-of-life anime series that deals with human emotion and complex relationships, definitely give “March Comes in Like a Lion” volume 1 a chance!  Recommended!

Purchase from RightStuf

 

Occultic;Nine vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 14, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © Aniplex. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Occultic;Nine vol. 2

DURATION: Episodes 7-12 (144 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: December 26, 2017


Originally Created by Chiyomaru Shikura

Original Character Design by pako

Director: Kyohei Ishiguro

Series Composition: Junpei Morita

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design: Tomoaki Takase

Art Director: Hisayo Usui

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Faye Mata as Ryoka Narusawa

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Scott Kimerer as Yūta Gamon

Hitomi Yoshida/Kayli Mills as Miyū Aikawa

Houchu Ohtsuka as Takasu

Kaito Ishikawa/Robbie Draymond as Sarai Hashigami

Kenjiro Tsuda/Ben Diskin as Kōhei Izumi

Kishō Taniyama as Kiryū Kusakabe

Mamiko Noto/Michelle Ruff as Ririka Nishizono

Maria Naganawa/Xanthe Huynh as Chizu Kawabata

Miyuki Sawashiro as Aria Kurenaino

Satomi Akesaka as Asuna Kizaki

Shizuka Itou as Tōko Sumikaze

Tetsuya Kakihara as Shun Moritsuka


From the creator of “Steins;Gate”, the truth is revealed as the adventure of the Occultic Nine reaches its climax!

With the help of the young FBI detective, Asuna Kisaki, the truth behind the Inokashira Incident is revealed. Unable to accept the truth, Yuta escapes into denial and starts to lose sight of himself. At his father’s radio station, Ryoka appears and there, she reveals one final shocking truth.

What awaits the fate of the Occultic Nine? Can the evil plan behind the Inokashira Park Incident be stopped?

Everything ends here…


Who is this albino boy claiming to be the “chosen one” and what happens when an evil cult tries to execute their immortality experiment?  Can Yuta and friends stop them in time?  And the truth about Ryoka is revealed!

All this and more in the final volume of “Occultic;Nine” volume 2!

What is “Occultic;Nine” all about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, who is this evil cult about to execute this immortality project?


VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

EXTRAS:

“Occultic;Nine” vol. 2 comes with a slipcase illustrated by character designer Tomoaki Takase, a 20-page deluxe booklet with a clear BD case with 2-sided wrap and six illustration pin-up cards.


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

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

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

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

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

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

The second half of the series gets darker, especially with revelations that Yuta’s dad is the leader of the cult, the Society of the Eight Gods and how this cult is connected to the numerous suicides and what their true objective is. And Ryoka reveals herself to Yuta of what she is.  We also have episodes featuring a killer albino kid and an introduction of a new character named Asuna.

If anything, the second half is a pretty cool, darker set of episodes.  Problems are more of too many characters being introduced for a quick amount of time, while the series tries to conclude with the group taking on an evil cult.

Most series tend to get the two-season treatment but so much story is getting packed into these 12-episodes and while I enjoyed the series, having this short duration of episode, character building storylines often takes a hit and this is the case with “Occultic;Nine”.

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

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

 

Kiznaiver (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 10, 2018 by · 1 Comment 

If you are looking for an anime series that is short but yet has a solid storyline with cool animation, definitely give “Kiznaiver” a chance!

Image courtesy of © TRIGGER, Mari Okada. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Kiznaiver

DURATION: (12 Episodes) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Japanese and English Linear PCM, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: December 26, 2017


Originally Created by Mari Okada

Original Character Design by Shirow Miwa

Directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi

Series Composition: Mari Okada

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Character Design: Mai Yoneyama

Art Production by Masanobu Nomura

Anime Production: Trigger


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hibiku Yamamura/Natasha Strickey as Noriko Sonozaki

Yuuki Kaji/Ryland Strachan as Katsuhira Agata

Junichi Suwabe/Michael Adamthwaite as Kazunao Yamada

Kōtarō Nishiyama/Hans Wackershauser as Yoshiharu Hisomu

Mie Sonozaki/Jennifer Cameron as Mutsumi Urushibara

Misaki Kuno/Katrina Salisbury as Nico Niyama

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Scott Roberts as Tsuguhito Yuta

Rina Satou/Lori Bachynski as Honoka Maki

Tomoaki Maeno/Lucas Gilbertson as Hajime Tenga

Yuka Terasaki/Caitlynne Medrek as Chidori Takashiro


An original TV anime series by acclaimed animation studio TRIGGER (Kill la Kill) and the renowned writer Mari Okada (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, The Anthem of the Heart).

The story is set in Sugomori-city, built in a reclaimed land, which was once prosperous as a futuristic city. Katsuhira Agata, a high school boy who is living in the city, has a strange body which can feel no pain at all and he doesn’t know why. Before summer vacation, by the guidance of a mysterious girl named Noriko Sonozaki, he is chosen as a member of “Kiznaiver,” a group of people who share pain. Then he finds his classmates who are also connected as “Kiznaiver,” however, they originally belong to different groups that never got along.

Sonozaki says, “This is an experiment to guide the world filled with wars to peace.” Following her words, they have to face various trials.

One summer story of boys and girls who have to share each other’s wounds begins.


From Trigger (“Kill la Kill”), Aniplex and Crunchyroll comes a collaboration that would lead to the anime series “Kiznaiver” written by Mari Okada and features the directorial debut of Hiroshi Kobayashi.

The 12-episode anime series aired on April – June 2016 and now the series will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex of America Inc.

“Kiznaiver” begins with an introduction to Katsuhira Agata, an apathetic and emotionless person who suffered something in his past, which changed him for the worst.  He is often bullied and beaten up because he doesn’t care, and because he shows no emotion when being hit, it angers his bullies even more.

He often gets an earful from his childhood friend Chidori Takashiro, who had loved Katsuhira when he used to smile and show emotion but she has been concerned for him since he had changed.

Meanwhile, while getting beaten up, he is rescued by Hajime Tenga.  An impulsive person, who bullies the bullies and protects people he cared about.  But even when rescuing Katsuhira, Hajime is shocked by the lack of emotion from Katsuhira, especially when he was getting beaten and bullied.

One day, a mysterious girl named Noriko Sonozaki, who lacks human kindness and also is emotionless appears to Katsuhira and tells him that his high tolerance to pain and his submissive nature is what leads to him being bullied.  Noriko pushes Katsuhira down a flight of stairs.

When Katsuhira awakes, he is inside an underground hospital facility along with Chidori, Tenga and several others.

Noriko appears and tells them the true nature of the city they live in, Sugumori City and how it was actually created to test a large-scale experiment known as the Kizna system, which connects people through shared pain and suffering, both physical and emotional.

Those who are connected to the Kizna system are known as Kiznaivers.  And Katsuhira and his classmates that they have been selected to become Kiznaivers.  And sharing each other’s pain which allows them to build relationships and bonds with other different people.

But will these individuals, who are very different from each other, actually bond with one another?  And what is the mysterious connection that Noriko has with the other Kiznaivers?


VIDEO:

“Kiznaiver” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed. Character designs are well-done and I like the overall look and style created by Trigger. I didn’t notice any banding issues while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kiznaiver” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM.  Voice acting are well-done on both soundtracks and dialogue is crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kiznaiver” comes with the opening and ending credits.

EXTRAS:

“Kiznaiver” comes with a slipcase and six collectible pin-up cards.


For those who are looking for an entertaining, sci-fi and short anime series, will no doubt want to check out “Kiznaiver”.

A series about a group of people who find out they are Kiznaiver and were experimented on for world peace via the Kizna System, which connects people through shared pain and suffering, both physically and emotionally.

And we start to see how each of these individuals are suffering through some sort of pain.

The series main protagonist, Katsuhira Agata, is apathetic and barely has any emotions.  While others have certain issues which each episode slowly tries to deconstruct each person and show how they tried to hide their pain, but learn that they need to confront the inner struggle that they deal with, head on.

As one would expect, these individuals are all different in background and style, if I have to make any comparisons, I would like to think of it as a sci-fi “Breakfast Club”, where people are annoyed by each other but slowly become friends.  In the case of “Kiznaiver”, they have a shared pain that they feel from other individuals and are forced to endure it.

As the first eight episodes focuses on the main kiznaiver group, it’s episode 9-12 that explores the mysterious connection that Noriko has with Katsuhira and the others.

For the most part, the anime series is fascinating, as anime series don’t solely focus on character emotions and inner pain as a collective, especially when their pain somehow affects the city they live in. But I did enjoy the series for having a refreshing storyline, cool voice acting (for both Japanese and the English dub) and overall art design.

While the series looks and sounds great in HD, unfortunately the Blu-ray set is lacking when it comes to the special features (just the opening and ending theme only).  But you do get a slipcase and collectible pin-up cards.

Overall, if you are looking for an anime series that is short but yet has a solid storyline with cool animation, definitely give “Kiznaiver” a chance!

 

anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day TV Series Complete Blu-ray Box Set (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie” is an animated film that will captivate you and a Blu-ray release that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © ANOHANA PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day

YEAR OF FILM: 2011

DURATION: 11 Episodes (256 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: July 15, 2014


Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai

Script: Mari Okada

Music by REMEDIOS

Character Design: Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director: Takayoshi Fukushima

Art by Takayoshi Fukushima

Chief Animation Director: Masayoshi Tanaka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano/Xanthe Huynh as Meiko “Menma” Honma

Haruka Tomatsu/Erica Lindbeck as Naruko “Anaru” Anjō

Miyu Irino/Griffin Burns as Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi

Saori Hayami/Erica Mendez as Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi

Takahiro Sakurai/Ray Chase as Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki

Takayuki Kondou/Kaiji Tang as Tetsudō “Poppo” Hisakawa

Aki Toyosaki/Abby Trott as Tetsudō (child)

Asami Seto/Michelle Ruff as Yukiatsu (child)

Kaoru Mizuhara/Cherami Leigh as Haruna (child)

Mitsuru Ogata/Kirk Thornton as Atsushi Yadomi (child)

Asami Seto/Michelle Ruff as Atsumu (child)

Mutsumi Tamura/Tara Sands as Jinta (child)

Yui Makino/Brianna Knickerbocker as Aki (child)


“Jintan? I have a wish I want you to grant for me!”

The critically acclaimed drama series anohana returns with a brand new English dub written and directed by Patrick Seitz, now on Blu-ray for the first time!

Jinta Yadomi and his group of childhood friends had become estranged after a tragic incident split them apart. Now in their high school years, an unexpected surprise forces each of them to confront their guilt over what happened that day. They must overcome the burdens of their past, and come to terms with years of shame, hard feelings, and heartaches.


It was one of the saddest anime series to debut back in 2011, the series “Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai” or “Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” debuted on television.

An 11-episode series produced by A-1 pictures and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai (“My-HiME”, “A Certain Scientific Railgun”) and written by Mari Okada (“AKB0048”, “Vampire Knight”, “Black Rock Shooter”, “Black Butler”), the series revolves around six childhood friends that drifted apart after one of them dies in an accident.

A novelization by Mari Okada was released in 2011, a manga series adaptation was released in 2012, then an animated film was released in theaters in 2013, followed by a live action television drama series was released in September 2015.

While the animated film was released in the US back in 2014, the anime series will be released as a complete series on Blu-ray in 2017.

The animated series begins with an introduction to Jinta “Jintan” Yadomi, a teenager who looks as if he was hanging around with a girl named Menma.   When his childhood friend Naruko arrives, Menma tells him that no one can see her.

We then realize that Jinta is a teenager who has not gotten over Menma’s death.  He has not gone to school and he has not had any contact with his childhood friends since.

Jintan sees Menma’s ghost (or it’s his imagination) as he tries to piece together things in his mind about her death and then suddenly, he begins to remember the things he wanted to say to Menma on the day of her death.

As he runs into a forest area, it happens to be the old clubhouse (their secret base) where he and his friends used to hang out.  He then sees his old friend Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa and tells him that she is able to see her ghost.

We then start to see each of these individuals start to see each other but circumstances have changed, friendships lost and not all of them get along.

And with each individual, they have a tie to the past that they regret and we start to see glimpses of the past and how Menma’s death changed everyone.

We learn that together with their friends (which they are known as the “Super Peace Busters”) included Naruko “Anaru” Anjo (who had a crush on Jinta), Atsumu “Yukiatsu” Matsuyuki (who likes Menma and looked at Jinta as his rival for Menma’s feelings), Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi (has feelings towards Asumu) and Tetsudo “Poppo” Hisakawa (always looked at Jinta as “cool”).

On the day before “Menma” died, everyone wanted to know if Jinta loved Menma but being a child and embarrassed, he said he would never fall for someone like her.  Embarrassed, he ran away.  But when she tried to find him, by the time he went to look for her an apologize, it was too late.  She slipped and fell into a river and drowned.

Fast forward into the future and Jinta has become depressed and anti-social after the death of his mother and Menma.  But when Menma reappears as a ghost, at first he thinks it’s his stress manifesting, but when he starts to realize that she has returned, Jinta slowly reunites with his old friends to tell him about his visions of Menma.

Of course, not everyone believes him, as he is the only person that can see her.  But some fans give him the benefit of the doubt and Poppo believes that she may be stuck on Earth because she has a goal that she must reach or a wish that she must fulfill.  But as Menma hears this, she is not sure about her thoughts nor does she remember much.

But as these friends slowly reunite, we learn that not only does Jinta feel guilty about Menma’s death, each of them do for some sort of reason.

And as the eleven episodes delve into each character’s life in the present, they also share with each other their thoughts and the pain they have felt all these years and in many ways, allowing each to receive some type of closure in regards to Menma’s death but giving them the chance to say their final goodbye and vice-versa.


VIDEO:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is a TV series that looks great in HD.  Animation is vibrant, while character designs are shaded, the background art is well-detailed and for the most part, you are drawn with the many cut-scenes and flashbacks but the lush green and vibrant colors instantly grab you.  There is a slight softness as one can expect from a TV series but I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues, while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo 2.0.  This is primarily a dialogue and music-driven soundtrack, so one should not expect to hear a lot coming from the lossless soundtrack.  If anything, the surround channels are more about environment and ambiance.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by the English Dub Cast and Director
  • English Dub Teaser
  • English Dub Trailer
  • English Dub Bloopers
  • Web Previews
  • Commercials and Trailers 
  • Textless Opening and Endings

EXTRAS:

“anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” comes with the awesome a slipcover case, a 60-page deluxe booklet.


Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day is an animated series that will captivate you but it’s also an emotional series that will no doubt make you cry.

“anohana” was an animated series that was one of the saddest anime series to come out in 2011 but one that made you watch because like all childhood friends, everyone drifts apart.  But in the case of these friends, it was because one friend’s tragic death, everyone had went on their separate ways.

Some harboring guilt or feelings about their friend, Menma’s death that they have kept in their heart for so long.

And now as these young children have grown up to be young adults, they are brought together once again, because of their deceased friend.  Menma has started to show up for some reason and only Jinta can see her.

The film is about child innocence but also holding on to emotions that were kept inside but never said.  The film has a message of letting people know how much you care about them before it’s too late.  And while most people don’t get the opportunity to tell that person how they truly feel, what if you were given that final chance.

I often think about films such as “Ghost” (the classic romantic drama with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), where the film’s protagonist is murdered and comes back as a ghost and needing to fix things in order to go back to heaven.  With “anohana”, Menma is somewhat a ghost but one that can be seen by Jinta and also one that is unaware of why she was brought back and not knowing if she would disappear if she was able to make a wish come true.  She doesn’t know.

Of course, Jinta seeing the deceased Menma is hard to believe for some individuals until Jinta shares details that only they and Menma knows about.  And to see everyone coming together, but also having these unresolved feelings… it makes for a dramatic and emotional animated series.

 

As for the Blu-ray release of “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day”, the picture quality is vibrant, the character design is well done and the background art is fantastic for a TV series!  While the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue and music-driven with ambiance played through the surround channels.

With the Blu-ray release, you get the an English dub commentary, trailer, teaser, textless opening and endings and of course, the Aniplex swag of a cool case and 60-page deluxe booklet.

Overall, “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is an animated series that will make viewers easily laugh and cry thanks to its well-written storyline from Mari Okada.  It no doubt stands out among the many emotional anime series that revolved around tragedy.

Emotional, uplifting, tragic but also a film of hope,  “anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day” is an animated series that will captivate you, that will make you shed tears and a Blu-ray Box Set release that I highly recommend!

 

Initial D Legend 1: Awakening (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns. “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Initial D Legend 1: Awakening

DURATION: 60 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 L

Release Date: December 5, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Shigeno

Directed by Masamitsu Hidaka

Script by Mayori Sekijima

Music by Akio Dobashi

Character Design: Koji Haneda

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Chief Animation Director: Koji Haneda

Anime Production: LIDEN FILMS, SANZIGEN Animation Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mamoru Miyano/Joel McDonald as Takumi Fujiwara

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Ryōsuke Takahashi

Hiroaki Hirata/Bill Wise as Bunta Fujiwara

Hiroshi Tsuchida/Eric Vale as Kōichirō Iketani

Junichi Suwabe/Brian Mountbatten as Takeshi Nakazato

Maaya Uchida/Brina Palencia as Natsuki Mogi

Minoru Shiraishi/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Yūichi Nakamura/Gray G. Haddock as Keisuke Takahashi


In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING! Initial D Legend 2: Racer Preview.


For over 15 years, “Initial D” has been a favorite anime series for those interested in drag racing and drifting. Originally created by mangaka Shuichi Shigeno and serialized in Kodansha’s “Young Magazine” back in 1995 and still ongoing in Japan, the first season of “Initial D” was shown on television in 1998.

In 2014, it was announced that a new Initial D film would be released and it would be a three part story based on Shuichi Shigeno’s manga.

The movie is more or less a retelling of the earl stages of the manga and now “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The manga and anime is about Japanese street racing and focuses on a teenager named Takumi Fujiwara, son of Bunta Fujiwara, who owns a tofu shop. Takumi works at a gas station but when he’s at home, he delivers tofu at 4:00 a.m. and is known to speed through the mountain slopes of Mt. Akitna at high speed driving his father’s AE86 Trueno.

The purpose of this is that his father Bunta has wanted to develop his driving skills and sure enough, his skill is top notch.

But for Takumi, although he has been riding and delivery tofu for a long time and has sharp driving skills, driving fast and getting from point a to point b was merely doing it for his father and not for the sake of trying to race.

But when a well-known group of street racers known as the Akagi Red Suns come to visit Mt. Akina and Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns finds himself racing against a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 leaving Keisuke defeated.

Now fired up, Keisuke Takashi wants to know who drives the AE86 and wants to race him.

Meanwhile, the Akina Speed Stars are visited by Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi Redsuns for a joint race but in reality, its Keisuke’s challenge to whoever beat him with the AE86.

With news of an AE86 beating Keisuke Takahashi (as witnessed by Akina Speedstars leader, Koichiro Iketani), Bunta can’t help but talk about it.  But for Takumi, he has no idea with an AE86 is (unaware that the Trueno he drives is an AE86).

In dire need of a member who exceeds in downhill driving after their team leader Iketani gets involved in an accident. He learns from his boss at the gas station, Yuichi Tachibana, that the AE86 is a tofu delivery vehicle owned by Bunta Fujiwara. This leads to Iketani to plead with Bunta to race against Keisuke (unaware that Bunta is no longer delivering the food, nor does Iketani know that Takumi is Bunta’s son and is responsible for doing the deliveries).

Meanwhile, Takumi is getting closer to Natsuki and wants to take her out on a date and needs to borrow the Trueno AE86.  But his father said he can in one condition…he must use the car and race against Keisuke Takahashi.

Who will race for the pride of Akina against Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns?


VIDEO:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in 1080p High Definition and as one can expect from a newer film, the old artwork and CG that was utilized in the past has been modernized with better animation for the race scenes.  The character designs are much closer to the manga series and are well-shaded and the background artwork is also a major improvement.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The lossless audio features crystal clear audio and also utilizing the surround channels for the rev of engines and the squealing of tires but also outdoor ambiance.

It’s important to note that both Japanese and English voice actors from the past have all been replaced, with the exception of Joel McDonald who was the voice actor of Takumi Fujiwara, J. Michael Tatum who was the voice of Ryosuke Takahashi and Brina Palence (voice of Natsuki) in the original English dub soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with no significant special features but the teaser that was at the end of the Japanese credits for the film is featured.  Featuring the appearance of Myogi NightKids Takeshi Nakazato who no doubt wants to take on the person racing with an AE86.

EXTRAS:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Initial D” is an anime classic. I’ve watched this series when it first came out and I still don’t get bored by watching it. I’ve played the video games and there is something about the stoic underdog, Takumi Fujiwara, going from food delivery to become a top-notch racer.

But as the anime series was different and cut out a lot of backstory for the characters as featured in the manga.  And with the new “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” focused on the race between the Mt. Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns, the story doesn’t stray too much into backstories.

No focus on Natsuki’s major secret, no focus on Ryosuke’s brother Keisuke or their friend Kenji. Nor does the film get into nicknames such as Bunta’s “Ghost of Akina” or Ryosuke’s “White Comet of Akagi”.

This is a film that strictly gets to the race between both groups and who will be racing for the Mt. Akina Speed Stars against Ryosuke Takahashi and it’s an hour long film.

The Blu-ray features better artwork and background artwork, with the former respectful to the original manga series.  While the film in Japan featured a teaser for the second film at the end credits, that teaser has been made into a special feature.

Was there anything I didn’t like about the film?  Possibly the 60 minute duration, I felt that they could have added another 30 minutes at least because it was too short.  And because the film was released during the film’s 20th year anniversary, so I wish there were more special features included.

Overall, for those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns.

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

 

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 If you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

Image courtesy of © 2017 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One

DURATION: (12 Episodes) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: December 26, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Aso

Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai

Series Composition: Michiko Yokote

Music by Psychic Lover

Character Design: Masayuki Onji

Anime Production: EGG FIRM, J.C. STAFF


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Jerry Jewell as Kusuo Saiki

Ai Kayano/Tia Ballard as Kokomi Teruhashi

Daisuke Ono/David Wald as Riki Nendō

Haruka Tomatsu/Jamie Marchi as Kusuko Saiki (Female Form)

Kenji Nojima/Chris Patton as Kūsuke Saiki

Maaya Uchida/Megan Shipman as Chisato Mera

Masaya Matsukaze as Saiko Metori

Mitsuo Iwata/Chuck Huber as Kuniharu Saiki

Natsuki Hanae/Joel McDonald as Reita Toritsuka

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Micah Solusod as Shun Kaidō

Rikako Aikawa/Morgan Garrett as Kurumi Saiki

Satoshi Hino/Kyle Phillips as Kineshi Hairo

Showtaro Morikubo/Austin Tindle as Uryoku Chōno

Tomoaki Maeno as Makoto Teruhashi/Tōru Mugami

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Jarrod Greene as Aren Kuboyasu

Yukari Tamura/Jill Harris as Chiyo Yumehara


Saiki Kusuo is your typical 16-year-old high school student, except for one thing—he’s got psychic powers. Incredible ones. In fact, he’s so powerful, he could probably rule the world if he wanted to. Don’t be mistaken though, it’s really not as great as it sounds. After all, you wouldn’t want to hear the weird things people think or all the spoilers they know! And surprise parties? Forget about ’em.

No, this psychic genius is all about keeping a low profile. But high school isn’t about to let that happen. His quirky classmates and embarrassing parents just can’t leave him alone! He’s got the world at his fingertips, but the one thing he’ll never get…is a break.


Back in 2012, mangaka Shuichi Aso wrote and illustrated his gag manga series “Saiki Kusuo no Sai-nan” (The Disaster of Psi Kusuo Saiki).  The series received a serialization in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump” and a total of 23 manga volumes have been published.

The popularity of the manga series would eventually ensure an anime TV series in 2016 and since then a total of 24-compilation episodes have been released and each episode featuring six short episodes.

And now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation titled “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.”.  And will be released in two parts, each release featuring 12-episodes each.

The series is produced by J.C. Staff and EGG FIRM and is directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and written by Michiko Yokote.

The series revolves around Kusuo Saiki, a high school student who was born with psychic abilities and lives with his parents Kuniharu (a father who keeps sucking up to his employers) and his mother Kurumi (who can get very scary when her husband and son defy her).  Kusuo also has an older brother named Kusuke, who wears a “Telepath Canceler” on his head, so Kusuo can never read his thoughts.  But the two often argue of who is more intelligent, the psi user or the the intellectual inventor.

While his parents are normal humans but crazy, they accepted Saiki’s abilities for his special abilties.  Even though he was born reading and teleporting and being mature during the first year of his life as an infant.

As Kusuo became a teenager, he now wears two pink antennas on his head to limit his growing powers.  He has to wear glasses at all times to prevent people from turning into stone.   He never talks to anyone with his lips, he communicates telepathically.

And because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, his special abilities have given him misery and he tries to avoid any attention because he is a psychic.  He tries…

But somehow at P.K. Academy, he attracts the weirdest people.

  • Riki Nendo is a large and muscular student but very stupid.  So dumb that Kusuo can’t read his mind and it frustrates Kusuo because he can’t predict Nendo’s actions.
  • Shun Kaido is a know-it-all, conspiracy-loving person who calls himself “The Jet-Black Wings” and believes that the world is ruled by an evil organization known as Dark Reunion.
  • Kokomi Teruhashi is a girl who glows and considers herself “perfect” except by Saiki (who can read heer thoughts).  She is obsessed with tryin gto get Saiki to react to her, which he doesn’t.  And so it leads to her obsession towards him.
  • Kineshi Hairo is an energetic, sports-loving student who loves to motivate people.
  • Chiyo Yumehara – A romantic who always has painful experiences with guys.  She has a crush on Kusuo.
  • Reita Toritsuka – A psychic aware of Kusuo’s abilities.  He can see spirits and is haunted by the ghost of Nendo’s late father.

Will Kusuo be able to find a way to stay under the radar and not attract attention?


VIDEO:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed. Character designs are well-done and is respectful to Shuichi Aso’s manga series.  Background art is also well-painted for outdoor scenes but primarily the artwork is more focused on the characters and close-ups.  I didn’t notice any banding issues while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the series sounds good.  Surround channels is used sparsely, mainly for action sequences but it’s primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack.  Both Japanese and English voice acting are well done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (voice of Kusuo Saiki), Micah Solusod (voice of Shun Kaido) and David Wald (voice of Riki Nendo).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song

I first discovered “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” when I first played the video game “J-Stars Victory Vs.”.  I was curious about seeing this character with pink hair with antennas and he didn’t look like your typical Jump protagonist.

Fastforward a few years later and I finally got a chance to view the anime series and realized it’s probably one of the craziest mainstream Jump-related anime series I have seen.

The anime series revolves around a boy born with special abilities and because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, because he sees everyone past their true appearance and his powers can really endanger society, he tries to keep away from people and stay under the radar.

But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  Because he’s so aloof and quiet, he’s attracting the weirdest people at his high school and because he doesn’t give attention to the girls, a few of them have started to fall in love with Kusuo.

As for the series, these are episodes that contain six mini-stories each.  Some of them are continuations of each other but for the most part, these are episodes where Saiki has to use his powers for the greater good, well more often for his benefit in trying to drive people away from him.

But a typical episode would be like this.  For episode 11, the episode begins with a boy named Yuuta who believes Saiki is the superhero Ciderman No. 2 after seeing him use his special abilities, the next episode is about Kuniharu showing Saiki around his job at a manga editorial office, the next story features Yuuta and his family becoming Saiki’s new neighbor, the next episode features Saiki going to the summer festival and seeing one of the guys in school get pickpocketed, he becomes the next person to be robbed.  And in another episode, Kokomi and Chiyo meet each other and both wonder if the other likes Saiki.

These episodes are quite short at around four minutes each, but I enjoy the fact that each of these episodes explore the characters even more.  And yes, this is the first half of the series and character dynamics are important, but I did like how these stories build upon character introductions and mannerisms.  And to explore how crazy each of the characters are.

It’s a fun anime series so far and I look forward to watching and seeing how the anime series progresses.

The series looks vibrant and colorful on Blu-ray and the dialogue is crystal clear.  You get one audio commentary track and the opening and ending theme.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

 

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