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Ace Attorney Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 28, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ace Attorney” is no doubt an entertaining anime series.  For those who never played the video games or those who have and don’t remember the storyline (as it has been over a decade since the first video game was released), will find “Ace Attorney” to be an enjoyable anime series.

Image courtesy of © 2018 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ace Attorney Part 1

DURATION: (13 Episodes) 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: January 23, 2018


Directed by Ayumu Watanabe

Series Composition: Atsuhiro Tomioka

Music by Kaoru Wada

Character Design: Keiko Ota, Koji Watanabe

Art Director: Eiji Iwase

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masashi Tamaki/Christopher Wehkamp as Miles Edgeworth (Reiji Mitsurugi)

Yuuki Kaji/Eric Vale as Phoenix Wright (Ryuichi Naruhodo)

Aoi Yuki/Lindsay Seidel as Maya Fey (Mayoi Ayasato)

Yuu Sugimoto/Anastasia Munoz as Wendy Oldbag (Oba Kaoru)

Akio Ohtsuka/Bill Jenkins as Manfred von Karma (Karuma Go)

Masami Iwasaki/Bryan Massey as Dick Gumshoe (Itonokogiri Keisuke)

Chie Nakamura/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Mia Fey (Ayasato Chihiro)

Saori Yumiba/Jessica Peterson as Franzisa von Karma (Karuma Mei)

Tooru Nara/Josh Martin as Larry Butz (Yahari Masashi)

Ben Hiura/Kent Williams as Judge (Saibancho)

Reiko Takagi/Whitney Rodgers as Lotta Hart (Osawagi Natsumi)


As a brand-new defense lawyer, Phoenix Wright is learning what it means to be a true defender of justice. But when his mentor is murdered, things go downhill fast! With all evidence pointing to the victim’s sister Maya, it’s up to Phoenix to use all his wit and powerful shouting to prove her innocence. Which is easier said than done when up against Miles Edgeworth, the genius prosecutor.


In 2001, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney”, a visual novel adventure video game developed by CAPCOM was released for the Game Boy Advance.

But the video game wouldn’t become super popular until 2005, when the game was released for the Nintendo DS in Japan and North America (note: The title of the game in Japan was “Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten” and the characters names were different in the US (protagonist’s name is Phoenix Wright) and Japan (protagonist’s name is Ryuichi Naruhodo).

Since then, there are a total of eleven games with only a few that were released in the west.

But with the popularity of the “Ace Attorney” series, A-1 Pictures would create an anime adaptation of the first two games in 2016 and a total of 24 episodes were created.

The series is directed by Ayumu Watanabe (known for his work on “Doraemon”) and series composition by Atsuhiro Tomioka (“Danboru Senki” series, Inazuma Eleven” series). Music by Kaoru Wada, character design by Keiko Ota and Koji Watanabe and art direction by Eiji Iwase.

(Note: Because of the different names between Japanese and the English version, I will use the English version of the names)

The series revolves around rookie defense attorney Phoenix Wright who works for his mentor Mia Fey.  His first trial is to defend his childhood friend Larry Butz, who is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Cindy Stone.

While Phoenix was able to win his case, he would run into tragedy not long after.  As Mia calls her younger sister Maya to come and hold onto some evidence, when Phoenix arrives back to the office, he finds his Mia murdered and nearby, her sister Maya.

Maya is accused of murder and Phoenix must prove her innocence, but he must go against his childhood friend, renown attorney Miles Edgeworth.

And now Phoenix Wright must take on even more difficult cases and take on the best attorneys in the city.  Will he be successful?


VIDEO:

“Ace Attorney” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). The series may not be very detailed but it has a type of animation that should suit most fans of the video game series.  Background art is well-detailed but for an A-1 Pictures anime series, it has animation feel to like a children’s anime series, not heavily detailed in terms of character design or shading but for the most part, it works for the overall anime adaptation.

AUDIO:

“Ace Attorney” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ace Attorney” comes with the textless opening and closing songs, Ace Attorney Outtakes: Part 01 and Episode 12 audio commentary by Kyle Phillips (Director), Eric Vale (voice of Phoenix Wright), Tyler Walker (script writer) and Lindsay Seidel (voice of Maya).

EXTRAS:

“Ace Attorney” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD of the series.


As a big fan of the “Ace Attorney” video games, one of the things that I often look forward to is the thrill of taking on a case and at times, feeling the onset pressure that you only had so much time to ask the right questions and win the case.

The games were thrilling and suffice to say, I was looking forward to the anime series adaptation.

And finally watching it, the series is good but for those who played the video games, it doesn’t really add anything new to the storyline.  If anything, the anime series will captivate audiences who never played the game or never played it completely.

Cases included in this Part 1 features Phoenix Wright as an attorney for his friend Larry, the second case features Phoenix Wright defending his mentor Fay’s sister Mayu (accused of murder), the third case features a popular samurai actor found dead, the fourth case revolves around Phoenix defending his Miles Edgeworth.

And what we do see sprinkled throughout each episode is the young friendship Phoenix had with Edgeworth and Larry when they were children, which is focused on in episode 13.

As for the anime series, the animation was good but not great.  Character designs of course are different from the original CAPCOM video game, which can be expected.  But I wish there was a bit more detail, as more of the design was focused on the computerized designs (backgrounds and Phoenix’s pin).  The lossless audio is both in stereo and both soundtracks are well-acted.

But once again, if you played the video game, the anime series may not be for you because it’s more or less an animated version of the story many known and played in the video games.  So, it’s not exactly new content unless you haven’t played the first “Ace Attorney” video game.

Overall, “Ace Attorney” is no doubt an entertaining anime series.  For those who never played the video games or those who have and don’t remember the storyline (as it has been over a decade since the first video game was released), will find “Ace Attorney” to be an enjoyable anime series.

 

My-HiME – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“My-HiME” was no doubt one of the coolest anime series to come out back in 2004.  And to watch it again over a decade later as a complete series in HD was no doubt nostalgic.  A well-written story, great voice acting and great animation, “My-HiME” is an anime classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

Image courtesy of © Sunrise. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My-Hime – The Complete Series

DURATION: (26 Episodes) 650 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (4:3), Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: January 9, 2018


Directed by Masakazu Obara

Series Composition: Hiroyuki Yoshino

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Hirokazu Hisayuki

Art Director: Shinji Takasuka

Anime Production: Sunrise


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Shimizu/Caitlynne Medrek as Mikoto Minagi

Mai Nakahara/Carol-Anne Day as Mai Tokiha

Saeko Chiba/Cheryl McMaster as Natsuki Kuga

Akiko Kimura/Melanie Rison as Youko Sagisawa

Akira Ishida/Graham Ko as Nagi Homura

Junko Iwao/Morgan Partridge as Akane Higurashi

Kikuko Inoue/Allyson June Smith as Yukariko Sanada

Kiyomi Asai/Maizun Jayoussi as Miyu Greer

Mamiko Noto/Morgan Partridge as Yukino Kikukawa

Mitsuki Saiga/Hazel Forman as Chie Harada

Naomi Shindoh/Melanie Risdon as Shizuru Fujino

Ryoka Yuzuki/Lori Barnes-Smith as Haruka Suzushiro

Ryoko Shintani/Jayna Mitchell as Aoi Senou

Sakura Nogawa/Leda Davies as Shiho Munakata

Sanae Kobayashi/Annika Odegard as Akira Okuzaki

Tomokazu Seki/Jordan Schartner as Yuuichi Tate

Toshihiko Seki/Ethan Cole as Reito Kanzaki

Yugo Takahashi/Cole Howard as Takumi Tokiha

Yukana as Fumi Himeno/Mashiro Kazahana

Yukari Tamura/Mariette Sluyter as Midori Sugiura

Yuko Miyamura as Alyssa Searrs

Yuuka Nanri/Marcy Lannan as Nao Yuuki


Mai Tokiha thought she had enough trouble in life between taking care of her ailing brother and transferring to a new school. But when she saves a mysterious girl wielding a sword, everything changes. A power awakens within her and she becomes a HiME, a battle princess! But she’s not alone with this power—eleven other girls share her fate, and the burden is a heavy one.


Back in 2004, Sunrise created the anime series “My-HiME”.  Directed by Masakazu Obara and written by Hiroyuki Yoshino, the anime series lasted for 26 episodes and would lead to a new series “My-Otome” (26 episodes, 2005-2006), two OVA series: “My-Otome Zwei” (4 episodes, 2006-2007) and “My-Otome 0: S.ifr” (3 episodes, 2008).

The series is Sunrise’s first Moe anime series and an animation series that captivated viewers.

A manga series adaptation  would be created, including a PlayStation 2 and two PSP fighting games plus a PC game and a manga series “My-HiME EXA”.

While the anime series was released on DVD courtesy of Sunrise years ago, the license for all three series was acquired by Funimation and will be released on Blu-ray/DVD in January 2018.

“My-HiME” is a series that revolves around Mai Tokiha, a high school girl who transfers to the prestigious Fuuka Academy with her sick brother, Takumi.

One day, while on a boat trip, she comes across a girl named Mikoto Minagi who was found in the water.  She is pulled aboard but not long after, another girl named Natsuki Kuga has been searching for her and a battle ensues.  Not long after, Mai starts to exhibit strange abilities.

While Mai and Takumi are to attend their first day of school, Mai decides to bond and create a friendship with Mikoto and she makes her a bowl of ramen.    But not long after, Takumi is attacked by a monster and Mai and Natsuki team up and put aside their differences and fight it.  Mai is surprised that she was able to summon Kagutsuchi and defeat the monster, Orphan.

They are visited by the chairwoman of Fuka Academy, Mashiro Kazahana and explains to Mai that she is a HiME.

And as Mai, Natsuki and Mikoto discover more HiME, they learn there are other girls who are marked and they were given the power of the HiME to protect humans from the monsters known as Orphans and they have abilities similar to HiME.

And as they encounter other HiME, they learn that others have different motivations than to protect humans but learn quickly, the Orphans are not their only enemy.  And quickly learn that if a HiME is defeated, they will lose a person most closest to them.

The main characters in the series are:

  • Mai Tokiha – The main protagonist and the always keeps her problems to herself.  She has never had a chance to live her life, because she put most of her time trying to take care of her ill brother Takumi.  When Mai and Takumi were younger, Mai was supposed to watch over Takumi but went to play with a friend.  Takumi fell into a river and is unable to swim.  His mother rescued him but she would end up being hospitalized and die.  So, she harbors that guilt and puts everything towards taking care of Takumi.  She starts to make friends with other HiME.
  • Mikoto Minagi – She was taken in and befriend by Mai and often wants to be around her.  Always carrying a two-handed sword and is trying to search for her brother. She is naive and trying to understand her emotions. She is a HiME.
  • Natsuki Kuga – Beautiful, wealthy and often rides a Ducati sportsbike.  A power HiME that befriends Mai.
  • Yuuichi Tate – A member of the Fuuka Academy Student Council.  Often hanging out with Shiho Munakata.  He is falling for Mai and was a member of the Fuuka kendo club until he suffered an injury.
  • Miyu Greer – The adopted daughter of Joseph Greer, the priest at Fuuka Academy.  While nice to Mai, she acts odd with people and is very protective towards Alyssa Searrs.
  • Shizuru Fujino – The president of Fuka Academy student council.  She has a Kyoto accent and has a secret obsession towards Natsuki.
  • Reito Kanzaki – The Vice President of Fuuka Academy’s Student council.  He is very popular and likes Mai but there is something mysterious about Reito.
  • Shiho Munakata – A childhood friend of Yuuichi Tate.  Despite not being related, she loves Yuuichi Tate and is jealous that he shows affection towards Mai.
  • Akira Okuzaki – The roommate of Mai’s brother Takumi and attends Fuka Middle School.  Akira is actually a girl and has kept secret that she is a HiME and is falling for Takumi.
  • Nao Yuuki – A HiME who robs perverted men.  Her family were robbed and because her mother was hospitalized, Nao was an orphan at a young age and despises men.
  • Takumi Tokiha – Mai’s younger brother who suffers from a heart condition.  When he and Mai were younger, Mai was supposed to watch over Takumi but went to play with a friend.  Takumi fell into a river and is unable to swim.  His mother rescued him but she would end up being hospitalized and die.
  • Alyssa Sears – She is an android created by Joseph Greer that was to monitor the HiME.  She was part of a genetic engineering program to produce fake HiME and was the only success.  Often hangs around Miyu Greer.
  • Nagi Homura – The instigator of the HiMe’s.  Is he antagonist or is he trying to assist the HiME’s?  Or is he just a casual observer?

VIDEO:

“My-HiME” is presented in 1080i High Definition (4:3). This is an older anime series, so it doesn’t have the vibrancy of today’s anime series as one can expect.  The series is a bit soft (as many TV series are) but background art is done very well, character shading and detail is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My-HiME” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Crystal clear dialogue and music through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My-HiME – The Complete Series” comes with the textless opening and closing songs plus a Director’s Cut Ending for episode 26.

EXTRAS:

“My-HiME” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD of the series.


When “My-HiME” was released over a decade ago, it was no doubt considered as an amazing anime series from Sunrise and unlike anything they have done before.

It was the studio’s first moe anime series and one showcasing a strong female cast of characters.

While the series starts off as female with special abilities trying to protect the city from monsters known as Orphans and you see the characters having fun but also Mai trying to discover her emotions and trying to hide the pain from her friends, by the second half of the series, the series kicks into full gear as the anime series goes from fun and lively to dark and emotional.

While I don’t want to spoil the anime series of what prompted the change in storyline direction, I will say that Mai, Mikoto and Natsuki start to learn overtime of who are the HiME are and that their motivations are not all kind.  That they must worry of other HiME, because if they go into battle and one loses, they will lose the person they most care about.

“My-HiME” was no doubt one of the coolest anime series to come out back in 2004.  And to watch it again over a decade later as a complete series in HD was no doubt nostalgic.  A well-written story, great voice acting and great animation, “My-HiME” is an anime classic worth owning on Blu-ray!

 

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!

 

Legend of the Naga Pearls (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who want an entertaining, CG visual effects driven Chinese fantasy adventure film, may want to give “Legend of the Naga Pearls” a try!  It’s not a great film but I was entertained by its characters and crazy plot.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Shanghai Films Media. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Legend of the Naga Pearls

FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 108 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English and Chinese

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: January 30, 2018


Directed by Yang Lei

Written by Tan Cheung, Xu Zhaoqing

Produced by Gordon Chan, Fan Feifei

Music by Ikuro Fujiwara

Cinematography by Arthur Wong

Production Design by Kenneth Mak

Costume Design by Tingting Liang


Starring:

Darren Wang as Ni Kongkong

Tian’Ai Zhang as Hie Yu

Simon Yam as Xuelie

Guansen Sheng as Geli

Xun Wang

Luxia Jiang

Sui He


After being defeated by humans centuries ago, the Winged Tribe has lost their ability to fly. Seeking vengeance, a royal descendant of the tribe has begun searching for the magical Naga Pearls, which he plans to use to destroy the humans. When the legendary pearls fall into – and out of – the hands of Heiyu, a wily human street punk, he must join a team of unlikely heroes as they race to prevent the destruction of their people in this magical fantasy adventure.


Long ago, humans and a wing tribe lived in co existence until the king of the Wing Tribe (that could fly) waged war against the humans and lost.   The humans apart the Wing Tribe’s home to build the city of Uranopolis, while the tribe lost their ability to fly.

We see an introduction to a young Ni Kongkong, being dragged as a child and seeing a blue glow from his right hand and kids beating him and are about to cut the blue area of his hand.  It then forwards to the present Ni Kongkong, who still has a blue glow to his hand which is now scarred.  But he hides it.

One day, Ni Kongkong (portrayed by Darren Wang) who calls himself “The Prince of Thieves” and his Pangolin friend named Oka are caught and instead of getting punished, he agrees to do whatever in hopes to be a free man.  He is given an order to rob a prince for a certain artifact.

As Ni Kongkong goes to steal it, he catches a group of monsters, especially a royal descendant of the Winged Tribe named Xue Lie, who wants to search for the magical Naga Pearls for their leader, Vlad, so they can destroy the humans and avenge his people.  As the Naga Pearls can unlock the Eye in the Sky.

As Vlad arrives, he slays the King and his court looking for the artifact.

But Ni Kongkong who looks for it, manages to find an underground area and tries to steal the artifact, he is confronted by Xue Lie who is intent in getting it back.  But before Xue Lie can kill him, Hei Yu (portrayed by Tian’Ai Zhang), also a wingless descendant and also a constable, in addition Xue Lie’s sister, stops him and protects Ni.

While the two are able to escape, Ni Kongkong, Raven and the King’s son, Geli (portrayed by Guansen Sheng) manage to take the artifact (which no one knows how to open it up in its sealed metal casing) and tries to escape from Xue Lie, who he and his fellow monsters are hunting them down.

Can these three individuals, with their own agenda of why they want the Naga Pearls, prevent Armageddon from happening?


VIDEO:

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that looks great in HD. Visual effects were great and black levels were nice and deep, lighting was good and closeups show good detail.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio.  Dialogue is crystal clear, action sequences utilize the surround channels quite well.  Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Legend of the Naga Pearls” comes with no special features but a trailer.

 


A magical fantasy adventure as we see three very different people, a thief, a winged constable and a king’s son trying to prove himself, teaming up together to prevent Armageddon against Vlad and his followers from exacting revenge on humans.

The film showcases the latest in Chinese fantasy adventure with CGI effects.

Actor Darren Wang who appeared in the Jackie Chan film “Railroad tigers” and the upcoming film “A Better Tomorrow 2018”, plays Ni Konkong, a happy-g0-lucky thief who calls himself “the prince of thieves”.  Spent his life without friends, surviving on what he steals and his only true friend is his pangolin friend named Oka, who can changed into an armored ball and be used as a projectile weapon and has a bad case of flatulence as well.

Ni Kongkong is not at all great at socializing and while he puts on a facade of overconfidence, he tries to impress Hei Yu, a constable but also part of the winged tribe and happens to be the sister of Xuelie, the man that is trying to kill them and serves the evil Vlad.

Actress Tian’Ai Zhang is rather interesting, playing the stoic Hei Yu, with her tsundere attitude and similar to Ni, not very good at socializing, the two may be different but yet they become partners and obviously these two characters have a lot of chemistry.

Hei Yu’s brother is Xuelie, played by veteran actor Simon Lam.  A royal descendant of the Winged Tribe, he is driven by anger and want’s nothing but to destroy the humans for what they did to his tribe.  And he dislikes his sister for befriending humans and not wanting to join him in destroying them.  But surprisingly, I had no idea that was Simon Yam playing the character.

The third person in the team is Geli, the king’s son who is trying to prove that he can avenge his father but while he talks tough, in reality, he’s quite weak.

So, you have three odd individuals and a CG pet taking on monsters and trying to evade the enemies.  In some way, it reminded me a little of “Guardians of the Galaxy” in terms of mismatch of characters, a cute CG character and antagonists chasing them down for an artifact.

The film looks very good in HD and the Mandarin lossless soundtrack is very good as there is good use of the surround channels during the more action-intensive sequences.  Unfortunately, it’s a barebones Blu-ray release with no special features but a trailer.

Sure, “Legend of the Naga Pearls” may not be the greatest Chinese fantasy adventure film and the over-the-top moments may seem cheesy at times but it’s actually an entertaining popcorn action film with a lot of CG visual effects.

For those who want an entertaining, CG visual effects driven Chinese fantasy adventure film, may want to give “Legend of the Naga Pearls” a try!  It’s not a great film but I was entertained by its characters and crazy plot.

 

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!

 

Ninja Hunter (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Seiji Chiba’s “Ninja Hunter” has plenty of action scenes and will no doubt entertain popcorn action fans.  But as an overall film, it was an average film at best.

Images courtesy of © 2017 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ninja Hunter

FILM RELEASE: 2015

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 14, 2017


Directed by Seiji Chiba

Executive Producer: Tadashi Osumi, Toshihiro Takahashi

Produced by Kazunori Moriguchi, Tetsuya Shimokado, Kiwamu Sato, Seiji Chiba

Line Producer: Koichi Maehashi, Koji Inagaki

Director of Photography: Kenji Tanabe and Atsushi Yoshida

Music: Kuniyuki Morohashi

Costume Designer: Sachi Harada/


Starring:

Masanori Mimoto as Tao

Mei Kurokawa as kei

Mickey Koga as Mitsuki Koga

Kentaro Shimazu

Kazuki Tsujimoto


Tao, a ninja from the Iga clan, wakes up in a cave surrounded by dead bodies, including a beautiful female ninja. Suffering from amnesia, he can’t remember how or why he’s there, or if he’s the one responsible for this massacre. His task at hand is to retrieve a document that will reveal the killer’s identity. Who is the killer? Was one of his clan a traitor? Who is the female ninja?

As Tao fights various other ninja, he begins to piece together his memories with their stories. But instead of solving the enigma, a web of betrayal unfolds.


 

From Seiji Chiba, the director of “Alien vs. Ninja” and “The Kunoichi: Ninja Girl” comes his 2015 film “Ninja-gari” (Ninja Hunter) which was released in November 2017 in the U.S. courtesy of Funimation.

The film stars Masanori Mimoto (“Alien vs. Ninja”, “Yakuza Apocalypse”) as Tao, a ninja from the Iga Clan.  When Tao wakes up he finds another ninja who tells him that he killed all the ninjas laying around and including a female ninja.

Suffering from amnesia, Tao doesn’t know what happened and those responsible for the massacre try to manipulate him into thinking that he was responsible.

But as Tao can’t believes that he could have killed Kei (portrayed by Mei Kurokawa), a female ninja that he cares about.  He slowly starts to regain his memories.


VIDEO:

“Ninja Hunter” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that looks great in HD.   Makeup designers play a big part in the film in creating the scars of Tao and his enemies.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ninja Hunter” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, so this is a front-speaker driven soundtrack with crystal clear dialogue, a lot of sword clanging and music.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Ninja Hunter” comes with no special features but a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Ninja Hunter” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


Seiji Chiba knows how to make budget-based ninja films with a lot of action.

While h is films are far from being memorable ninja films, one can admit that he is able to direct numerous over-the-top ninja films such as “Alien vs. Ninja” and “The Kunoichi: Ninja Girl”.

“Ninja Hunter” was no doubt low budget.  Blood splatters are added digitally, despite no matter how many ninjas are slashed to death, there is no blood on the ground and even the female ninja, Kei has highlights in her hair.

Primarily shot inside a cave, the film relies heavily on fight choreography.

In fact, the film is mostly about the action and takes place inside the cave with the occasional shot of the ninjas in a forest area but you can see how Chiba was able to keep costs down by directing a film that lies primarily in one location, reusing a lot of actors to make it seem like there is an onslaught of ninjas.

The film no doubt feels like a B-movie that aims to satisfy popcorn action fans that want to see ninjas fight but I have to say “Ninja Hunter” was probably Chiba’s most action-driven film with awesome sword-fighting scenes but at the same time, story-wise, was among his weakest films in his oeuvre.

The Blu-ray is a barebones Blu-ray release with no special features but it does come with a Blu-ray and DVD.

Overall, Seiji Chiba’s “Ninja Hunter” has plenty of action scenes and will no doubt entertain popcorn action fans.  But as an overall film, it was an average film at best.

 

 

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