Top

Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II (a J!-eNT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

blueexorcist-2

The exciting, action-packed finale of “Blue Exorcist” is here!   Twin brothers, Rin and Yukio must join forces in confronting their demonic father, Satan!  “Blue Exorcist” turned out to be an exciting, action-packed series that I highly recommend!  And for fans, “Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II” is definitely worth owning!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of Image courtesy of © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA, Blue Exorcist Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: (Episodes 13-25) 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: September 10, 2013

Based on the manga by Kazue Kato

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design by Keigo Sasaki

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Keigo Sasaki

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Jun Fukuyama/Johnny Yong Bosch as Yukio Okumura

Kana Hanazawa/Christine Marie Cabanos as Shiemi Moriyama

Kazuya Nakai/Kyle Hebert as Ryūji Suguro

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Bryce Papenbrook as Rin Okumura

Ayahi Takagaki/Stephanie Sheh as Kuro

Eri Kitamura/Kira Buckland as Izumo Kamiki

Hiroshi Kamiya/Sam Regal as Mephisto Pheles

Keiji Fujiwara/Kirk Thornton as Shirō Fujimoto

Koji Yusa as Renzō Shima

Rina Satou/Wendee Lee as Shura Kirigakure

Tetsuya Kakihara/Darrel Guilbeau as Amaimon

Yuuki Kaji as Konekomaru Miw

“Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Normally, these two dimensions would never intersect, but having possessed all material substances, the demons are now intruding on the material world. But among the human race, there are those who can exorcise such demons.”
- the Exorcists.

During a 3-day drill to prepare Rin and fellow Ex-Wires for actual combat, Amaimon suddenly appears and takes Shiemi as a hostage to lure Rin. Angry, Rin fights Amaimon and he ends up going berserk! He regains control of himself only to be captured by the current Paladin, Angel, and sent to the Vatican for trial. As the hearing drags on, the Order finds itself unable to decide on Rin’s fate, as Mephisto has proclaimed him to be “a weapon for counter-attacking Satan.” Rin is now forced to obey the Vatican’s order or face execution!

It’s the battle that “Blue Exorcist” fans have been waiting for… Rin and Yukio and True Cross Academy vs. their father Satan.  And also the backstory is revealed of Rin and Yuko’s human mother and how she died.

Featuring the final second half (episode 13-25) on three Blu-ray discs plus the original soundtrack, a 36-page illustration book and bonus DVD with interviews with the English dub cast (part two) and more in “Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II”!

So, What is “Blue Exorcist”?

“Ao no Exorcist” (Blue Exorcist) is an anime adaptation of a manga series written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, a mangaka who won a Tenkaichi Manga Award back in 1999 at the age of 19 and won a Tezuka Award in 2000 for his manga “The Witch and the Rabbit”. Kato is also known for his 2006 manga series “Robot Usakichi” (Space Traveler Robo & Usakichi).

“Blue Exorcist” was serialized on Jump Square Magazine by Shueisha since April 2009 and is still an ongoing manga series (as of January 2012, there have been a total of 30 chapters released).

With the popularity of the manga series, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures with Hitoshi Okamura as the producer. The series began back in April 2011 and 25-episodes have aired in Japan. And now the second setof “Blue Exorcist” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

The anime series revolves around a hotheaded teenager named Rin Okumura. Both he and his brother Yukio have been raised by Father Fujimoto at the Cross Academy Town – Southern Cross Boys Monastery. While Yuki shows great intelligence and is attending school at True Cross Academy to become a doctor, Rin is quite the opposite. He tends to get himself in trouble, fights a lot and is continually told by Father Fujimoto to find a job.

Unfortunately for Rin, finding and holding onto a job is difficult. But one day, while working at a supermarket, he sees a monster in a girl’s scarf. He tells Father Fujimoto of what he has seen and Father Fujimoto starts to fear that something is happening. One day, Rin encounters a group of thugs and its leader that he had beaten up earlier and suddenly sees him turn into a demon. The demon tells Rin that satan is waiting for him and immediately, Father Fujimoto is there to save him and exorcise the demon. Fortunately, Father Fujimoto is there to help but it is all revealed to Rin about why he can see monsters.

It’s the fact that he is not truly human. He is the son of a human woman and satan. And the monsters he have seen, it is explained to Rin that in the world, there is Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Both are not supposed to come in contact with each other but they have and as an exorcist, it is his duty to send the demons back to where they belong. And Satan wants to reunite with his son.

To protect Rin, Father Fujimoto gives him the Kamkakushi key, so he can hide anything. And he is also given the Koma Sword, a magic sword passed down from generation to generation and a sword where Rin’s powers have been sealed since birth. Rin’s flame resides inside the sword and is sealed by the scabbard. If he draws it, he will assume his demonic nature and will never be able to live as a human again.

One day, he and Father Fujimoto try to prepare for an imminent attack and tells Rin that he must seek shelter where satan can’t get to him but Rin takes it as his father trying to get rid of him forever. In return, Rin said some hurtful things to Father Fujimoto and the pain that Father Fujimoto felt was enough for Satan, the demon to possess him.

Satan shows up to claim his son and attacks Father Fujimoto. Satan reveals that he created Rin from a human woman in order to create a container that would be powerful enough to hold him.

But it’s something that Father Fujimoto will not let happen to the boy, he looked at as a son. In order to save Rin, Father Fujimoto risks his own life to keep Satan away and is killed in the process.

Now Rin mourns for the one person he knew as his father and when Mephisto Pheles, a friend of Father Fujimoto comes to visit, he tells him that they represent the Knights of the True Cross and they exorcise demons. And Rin has two choices, they will kill him, or he kills the demons. Instead, Rin tells him that he could care less about being human or a demon, he wants to become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto and avenge him and that means defeating his own father.

So, from that point on, Rin must be trained to become an exorcist and will have to follow special rules (which includes not revealing his true nature). But the first thing that he will need to do is enroll at the same school that his brother Yukio attends. When Rin sees his brother, Yukio is in the top of the class and that he is a special leader that people follow at the school and he is no longer the scrawny younger brother he once knew.

As Rin is now a student at the Knights of the True Cross, many of the elders are not too thrilled because Rin is the son of Satan and because Rin tends to be more of a hothead, they are not too sure if he can fit into the Academy. But Rin is determined to make good on his promise to his deceased father and to protect people, but most of all, to kill Satan.

With volume 2 of “Blue Exorcist”, the story continues as Rin continues to study along with his classmates and each are trying to be Esquires, in order to take on various missions. But others at the Academy and the higher ups want to test Rin and find out if he is a person that can be taught and eventually fight with the other exorcists in defeating demons and Satan himself.

While people question a demon being an exorcist, for Rin, he makes a goal that one day, he will become a Paladin (highest level of exorcism) like his adoptive father, Father Shiro and prove that because he is Satan son, that having a caring father like Shiro can make a big change in the life of a person, even if they are a demon.

With the Demon King of Earth, Amaimon making his attack against Rin and friends during training, there is no way Rin can hide his secret. He will need to draw the Kurikara sword and turn into demon form in order to fight and defend his friends. But by using this sword, Rin can lose control in a very bad way!  It was also revealed in volume three that Rin’s twin brother Yukio, who was assumed to not have any of Satan traits, has now developed it.

And now, all is revealed in the latest, final fourth volume of “Blue Exorcist” as Yukio would do anything to protect his twin brother Rin, but not knowing that a conspiracy within True Cross Academy is leading him to not protect his brother, but actually sacrificing him.

Meanwhile, as Yukio is developing Satan traits, satan looks to use Yukio as his vessel.  This leads to Yukio learning the truth about how his mother was killed and more!

Who shall win the final battle between the Okumura brothers who must take on their father, Satan…but will they have enough power to do so!?

 

“Blue Exorcist” features the following characters:

  • Rin Okamura – The main protagonist. The son of Satan but born from a human mother. He and his brother Yukio are twins but he inherited his father’s powers. Rin’s power was sealed inside a sword by Mephisto Pheles, so he can live a human life. Rin was raised by the priest Shiro Fujimoto as normal humans with compassion and love. Despite getting into a lot of trouble and his abilities tend to be more of fighting or cooking, since discovering his power and identity, he vows to use his power to avenge his adoptive father Shiro Fujimoto’s death and defeat Satan. He vows to attend True Cross Academy and do all it takes to become a Paladin and a “Meister” (Knight). Rin also has taken in a dog demon (Cat Sith) which he names Kuro.
  • Yukio Okamura – The son of Satan but born from a human mother. Unlike Rin he did not inherit Satan’s powers. Known as the intellectual person of the family, unbeknown to Rin was that he has been secretly trained to become an exorcist since the age of seven in order to protect his brother. So, now he is an instructor at True Cross Academy and responsible for looking after his brother. But he harbors a secret…dark spots are starting to appear on his body which Yukio has told no one about, despite being tested daily if Satan’s power is in him.
  • Mephisto Pheles – The Chairman of True Cross Academy. He and Shiro Fujimoto worked together in order to seal Rin’s power and make him human. Mephisto is a powerful exorcist but because he is a demon, many do not believe him while others believe he has proven he is on the side to fight against Satan.
  • Ryuji Suguro – Also known as “Bon” to his classmates. He has a high temper and is often fighting and arguing with Rin. But despite his attitude, he is the best student in the class and dedicated to his studies. Part of his drive is because Satan destroyed his family temple.
  • Shiemi Moriyama – The daughter of a woman who runs an exorcist-only shop. She lacks confidence and she is quite sheltered (having lived with her grandmother and her only friends were plants) but when given the chance to meet and make friends at True Cross Academy, being in school gives her a new lease on life. It appears that both Rin and Yukio may have feelings towards her. Shiemi is a tamer and can summon a greenman spirit to produce herbs and barriers.
  • Izumo Kamiki – She always has a cold attitude and known for her eyebrows. The only friend she is close to is her best friend Paku but slowly (very slowly), she is starting to befriend her classmates. She can summon two Baykko (foxes) to fight.
  • Konkomaru Miwa – Very smart but very shy. He is the strategist and is loyal to his best friend Ryuji and Renzo, since they grew up at the same temple that was destroyed. His parents were killed by Satan.
  • Renzo Shima – Carefee, loves to flirt with girls (especially Paku and Izumi) but has a major phobia of insects. He also grew up with Ryuji and Konekomaru. Renzo carries a K’rik staff to fight.
  • Shura Kirigakure – The carefree, hardly wears anything, loves alcohol, upper first class exorcist who was asked by priest Shiro Fujimoto to train Rin and help him become a “Meister”. She can draw a demon sword from her chest and stomach and is an excellent fighter.
  • Shiro Fujimoto – The priest of Southern Cross Monastery who raised both Yukio and Rin as a loving father. He is a Paladin in the True Cross Order and was the strongest exorcist. Was thought to be the only man who could not be possessed by Satan but after an argument with Rin (and Rin saying some hurtful things) which shocked Shiro, it was enough time for Satan to possess Shiro. In order to protect himself from hurting Rin and Yukio, Shiro sacrificed himself.

“Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II″ features episodes 13-25 on three Blu-ray discs. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

  • EPISODE 13 – Proof – Rin encounters Shura Kiragakure, a high level exorcist and former apprentice of Father Shiro.
  • EPISODE 14 – A Fun Camping Trip - The Esquires are taken to the forest where they are to undergo through training by Yukio and Shura.
  • EPISODE 15 – Act of Kindness – The students are attacked by Amaimon.  In order to protect the other students, Shura gives Rin the sword which transforms him into a demon to fight Amaimon.
  • EPISODE 16 – The Wager – Rin is captured by Arthur Auguste Angel, a Paladin who wants Rin dead and Mephisto to be charged for keeping this secret from the Academy of Rin and Yukio’s true identity.  The Academy must decide whether to have Rin executed or to be used as a weapon to fight Satan.
  • EPISODE 17 – Temptation – While the True Cross Academy is making their decision, Amaimon enters the True Cross Order HQ to continue his fight.  Meanwhile, Mephisto wants to show that Rin will fight for the True Cross.
  • EPISODE 18 – Gufu – With Konekomaru shocked about Rin’s identity and that Rin’s father Satan was responsible for his parent’s death, he doesn’t know if he could be friends with him.  Meanwhile, a bird demon is trying to enter the school.  Meanwhile, Rin must go through special training to become an exorcist immediately.
  • EPISODE 19 – An Ordinary Day – Shiemi and friends decide to have a surprise birthday party for Izumo.  Meanwhile, Izumo becomes suspicious of her classmates.
  • EPISODE 20 – Mask - Someone with a mask has attacked the monastery.  Who is the masked individual?
  • EPISODE 21 – The Secret Garden – Yukio is involved in a secret meeting with Ernst Frederik Egin, a man who claims to be his grandfather and shows him top secret plans to fight against satan.
  • EPISODE 22 – Demon Hunting – Ernst Frederik Egin becomes the new leader of True Cross Academy and Yukio is promoted as Paladin.  But Ernst shows his true intentions of why he needed Yukio.
  • EPISODE 23 – Truth – Satan reveals the truth to Yukio of how his mother was killed and who was responsible.
  • EPISODE 24 – Satan’s Spawn – Rin and friends vs. Satan.
  • EPISODE 25 – Stop, Time – Rin and Yukio take on their father, satan.

VIDEO:

“Blue Exorcist” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen). The anime production is well-done. The surrounding environments are well-detailed, painted nicely, while the character designs are vibrant, clear and just gorgeous on Blu-ray!

If anything, character designer Keigo Sasaki (“Night Raid 1931″, “Sengoku Basara”) does a great job of bringing the characters from Kazue Kato’s manga series to life, while art director Masatoshi Kai (“Akira”, “Dead Girls”, “Earthian”, “Red Garden”) did a wonderful job in bringing the series to life with the scenery and painted backgrounds.

I’m pretty impressed of how this anime looks visually, especially when comparing to the previous DVD release, the Blu-ray release is much more colorful, sharper and gorgeous in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Blue Exorcist” is presented in English Linear PCM Stereo and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo with English subtitles.  Audio is clear coming from the front channels.   Japanese voice acting for the series is excellent!  I personally had my receiver set to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack. But dialogue is understandable and English subtitles are easy to read.

As for the English dub track, the overall acting is good but it’s once again an action series with Johnny Yong Bosch as the lead character.  For the most part, the voice acting by the English dub staff is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II” comes with the following special features:

  • URA-EKU (Bonus Short Movies) – Featuring three short omake anime stories (about 1:20 per omake) that are shown after an episode is completed.
  • Preview Web Version – Featuring the “next episode” previews voiced by various demon characters (about 17 seconds each).
  • Textless OP and ED – Blue Exorcist opening and ending theme without text.
  • Blue Exorcist English Cast Interview Part 2: Exorcist & Demons – (42:49)  Interviews with the English voice cast part two!  Featuring Sam Regal, Darrel Guilbeau, Wendee Lee, Kirk Thornton, Patrick Seitz, David Vincent and Stephanie Sheh.  This is featured on the bonus DVD included with this limited edition.

EXTRAS:

“Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II” comes with the following extras:

  • Original Soundtrack CD 2 (青の祓魔師 オリジナル・サウンドトラック II)

(Duration: 1 hr., 10 minutes)

Track Listing:

1.  BGM的-suite 1st-Mov.:E戦場-Aria    2:58
2.  BGM的-suite 2nd-Mov.:Technology ORCH.    3:09
3.  BGM的-suite 3rd-Mov.:Hyou×(依+変)    4:40
4.  BGM的-suite 4th-Mov.:BOBOBOぼ~ん    3:40
5.  IiMuRoYa-$.feat 1st-Mov.:M    6:02    澤野弘之
6.  IiMuRoYa-$.feat 2nd-Mov.:CHaos+CHorus    5:41
7.  IiMuRoYa-$.feat 3rd-Mov.:HEiW@→KiZUN@    4:13
8.  IiMuRoYa-$.feat 4th-Mov.:N-tone    3:22
9.  日常用 de SUIT 1st-Mov.:銃剣兄弟GEKIBANger    4:17
10. 日常用 de SUIT 2nd-Mov.:剣兄弟GEKIBANger-Returns    3:09
11. 日常用 de SUIT 3rd-Mov.:銃剣兄弟GEKIBANger-Forever    5:24
12. 日常用 de SUIT 4th-Mov.:銃剣兄弟GEKIBANger-The Final    6:40
13. 交響$weet 1st-Mov.:st-RING    4:23
14. 交響$weet 2nd-Mov.:STN-blood    4:36
15. 交響$weet 3rd-Mov.:call ME    3:20
16. 交響$weet 4th-Mov.:f    3:35

  • 36-Page Illustration Booklet
  • Rigid Box Illustrated by Kazue Kato (manga author)
  • Clear cases with reversible wraps of original Japanese cover design.

As I finished watching the final episode of the “Blue Exorcist” anime series, I have to say that the “Blue Exorcist” storyline was delightful, action-packed and captivating.

And with several volumes of the manga series having been completed, hopefully with Kazue Kato continues the series, fans will be given a new season of “Blue Exorcist”!

The series has  developed quite well in terms of storyline pacing, animation, voice acting and just overall enjoyment.  The third volume was exciting because we got to see more of Rin’s friends involved in the fight against the demons but most importantly, seeing that the straight-laced Yukio has been hiding a major secret, that his demon powers were awakening.

While there was an emphasis on showcasing Rin and friends in previous episodes, the storyline comes full circle in the fact that it comes back to the main two characters, Rin and his younger twin brother Yukio and the fact that they will be going up against their father, Satan.

But as one would expect a banal storyline of Satan being the ultimate evil, once we get to know more about Rin and Yukio’s human mother, we realize that Satan and the woman were indeed in love and also one of the main reasons why satan is trying to attempt in gaining a vessel.  Also, how Shiro was given the duty of raising both Rin and Yukio.  This was an intriguing backstory and you feel for the Rin and Yukio’s mother because she was a compassionate woman, trying to understand how one side could hate something.  Wondering if they even gave the demon a chance?  In her mind, perhaps humans and demons can co-exist, because she was able to see a good side of things.

But as she sided with Satan, she also saw the ugly side of humanity, which even fed the rage to satan and its understandable as religions have shown the fight against evil and to do all that is possible to stop it.  And in this case, despite Rin and Yuki being raised with love and dedicate their lives to fight demons, there are those who believed that no matter how different the twins were raised, as long as they are the children of Satan, they are evil.

So, the final half of the series and the final few episodes was exciting and action-packed.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if you craved for more episodes.

As for the overall series, the character designs are actually pretty cool, especially the costume designs for the characters. Also, the art backgrounds for this series is nicely detailed and range from pastels to really vibrant colors. Something you typically don’t see in a TV Series.

“Blue Exorcist” has a good balance of humor, action and an interesting concept in balance with awesome animation and beautiful art backgrounds. While the action may be it a bit too visual for younger anime viewers (as this is suggested for 13 and up), for fans of action-based anime or manga series such as “Naruto” and “Bleach” will find “Blue Exorcist” to their liking.

And once again, with the release of “Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II”, Aniplex of America continues to deliver in terms of swag with bonus interviews on DVD, the original soundtrack #2, illustration booklet and more!

Overall, “Blue Exorcist” turned out to be an exciting, action-packed series that I highly recommend!  And for fans, “Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II” is definitely worth owning!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

High School DxD: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

August 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

e7-ao-1

“High School DxD: The Series” is a mature and perverted anime series that screams “boobylicious” and may not be for everyone.  But if you have been fans of FUNimation’s more mature anime titles such as “Heaven’s Lost Property”, “Sekirei” and “Freezing”, fans of anime series with a lecherous protagonist, many well-endowed female characters and plenty of fan service will surely enjoy the wacky, hilarious but action-packed “High School DxD”!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: High School DxD: The Complete Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 1-12 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATING: TV-MA

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Originally Created by Ichiel Ishibumi

Directed by Tetsuya Yanagisawa

Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka

Music by Ryosuke Nakanishi

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda

Anime Production: TNK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yōko Hikasa/Jamie Marchi as Rias Gremory

Yuuki Kaji/Scott Freeman as Issei Hyōdō

Ayana Taketatsu/Jad Saxton as Koneko Tōjō

Azumi Asakura/Chloe Daniels as Asia Argento

Fumihiko Tachiki/Christopher R. Sabat as Sacred Gear/Ddraig

Hitomi Nabatame/Felecia Angelle as Yuuma Amano

Kenji Nojima/Sean O’Connor as Yūto Kiba

Saori Seto/Krishna Smitha as Grayfia Lucifuge

Shizuka Itou/Teri Rogers as Akeno Himejima

Takehito Koyasu/Christopher Smith as Raizer Phoenix

A war between heaven and hell is raging on Earth – and a hot mess of hormonal fury is raging in Issei’s pants. The guy is dying to get some action. Which is funny, since his first date ever turns into a winged monster and tries to kill him. Fortunately, ridiculously curvy redhead Rias comes to his rescue. She’s president of The Occult Research Club, a club that doesn’t actually research the occult. They ARE the occult – and Rias is a Devil.

Rias takes Issei as a more-than-willing slave and begins training him to use magic in battle against the Fallen Angels, the long-time enemies of Devils everywhere. If Issei can improve his mystical skills, he’ll be able to help his hotter-than-hell master and her scorching supernatural schoolgirl friends defeat their foes. Even better, he might end up with a few sexy slaves of his own.

In 2008, Ichiei Ishibumi and illustrator Miyama-Zero worked on the Japanese light novel series “High School DxD” serialized in Fujimi Shobo’s “Dragon Magazine” which is still ongoing in Japan.

A manga adaptation of “High School DxD” would be printed in “Monthly Dragon Age” and an anime adaptation followed in 2012 courtesy of TNK and aired on AT-X.  And now, “High School DxD: The Series” will be released on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of FUNimation in August 2013.

The mature harem anime series is directed by Tetsuya Yanagisawa (“Aoi Sekai no Chushin de”, “Heaven’s Lost Property”, “UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie”), series composition by Takao Yoshioka (“DearS”, “Rave Master”, “Happy Lesson”, “Freezing”), music by “Ryosuke Nakanishi (“D.C. III ~Da Capo III”, “Kuroko’s Basketball”), Junji Goto (“School Days”, “Ikki Tosen: Xtreme Xecutor”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Bastard!!”, “Basilisk”, “El-Hazard: The Wanderer”, “Gantz”).

The mature anime series begins with Issei Hyodo and his perverted friends at Kuoh Academy trying to catch a peek of the female students and talking perverted about them.

One day, a beautiful girl named Yuma Amano asks Issei out for date and as Issei tries to show off to everyone that he has a hot girlfriend that is well-endowed, as the two go to the park, she asks him if he’ll do anything for her.

When she elaborates what she means by that, she means “would he die for her”?  Taken back by the question, Issei is not so sure why she would ask that but she reveals herself to be a fallen angel named Raynare and kills him.

Alone and dead at the park, he sees a summoning card and Rias Gremory comes to save him.

The following morning, Issei wakes up with a naked woman in his bed and it is Rias.  Shocked to see a live, naked woman in his bed, she explains to him that he has died but brought back as a demon and according to the deal that they made in giving his life back, he must be her pawn and do whatever she says.

But Issei’s life changes that very minute as his mother catches him on top of a naked Rias, people in school sees him around Rias and once seen as a perverted geek, Issei suddenly becomes well-known in school.

As Rias introduces Issei to the Occult Research Club and meeting other demons such as Kanako Toujo and Akeno Himejima, he is given a Sacred Gear during a battle with another Fallen Angel and learns that fallen angels are quite evil.

He ends up helping a nun named Asia Argento and both become friends despite him being a demon, but this friendship is not going to be taken lightly by the Fallen Angels who seem to want Asia Argento for some reason.

With this newfound power and life, can the perverted Issei Hyodo defend and fight for the people he loves.  And will he be able to satisfy his perverted urges when he is around Rias?

The characters of “High School DxD” are:

  • Issei Hyodo – The main protagonist and an uber-pervert.  A second-year student at Kuoh Academy who is killed after going on a date with a demon posing as a student.    Because he is saved by Rias and turned into a demon, he becomes a member of the Occult Research Club and becomes a low-ranked Pawn working for Rias.   His goal is to be a high-ranking demon, so he can have his own harem of women being his pawns that will do what he wants.
  • Risa Gremory – A third year student who is a powerful demon that comes from the Gremory Family.  Known as the Crimons-haired Ruin Princess and the Princess of Destruction.
  • Asia Argento – A nun that Issei meets and befriends.  A Holy Maiden that enjoys her time and friendship with Issei and is pure at heart.
  • Akeno Himejima – The second-in-Command of the Gremory Group and is known as the “Priestess of Thunder” and is the Vice-President of the Occult Research Club.  She is a high-ranked Queen.
  • Koneko Toujou – A first year student at Koh Academy who dresses up as a loli.  She is a “Rook” and is extremely strong and quick.  Rarely shows any emotion.
  • Yuto Kiba – A swordsman who is a Knight of the Occult Research Club.  He is popular at Kuoh Academy and known for his good looks, intelligence and personality.

VIDEO:

“High School DxD” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is an animated series that is well-animated.  The characters are well-shaded, backgrounds feature a good blend of painted backgrounds and CG.  While a colorful animated series, there is a slight softness but for the most part, the animated series does looks sharp and colorful in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“High School DxD” is presented in English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0.  Voice acting for both series are well-done, while the English dub writing features a much more raunchier and mature dialogue.  So, I think that those watching for the English dub will enjoy the pervertedness of the English dub dialogue.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“High School DxD: The Series” features the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Jamie Marchi (voice of Rias/lead writer), Felecia Angelle (voice of Raynare) and Teri Rogers (voice of Akeno).
  • Episode 7 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Jad Saxton (voice of Koneko), Scott Freeman (voice of Issei) and Tyson Rinehart (voice of Matsuda)
  • Fantasy Jiggles Unleashed – (22:22) Featuring six volumes of animated shorts featuring the characters of “High School DxD”: Vol. 1 – Going to the Beach, Vol. 2 – Aken’s Private Training, Vol. 3 – Koneko, a Bit More bold…Mreow, Vol. 4 – The Story of the First Dress Break, Vol. 5 – Making Udon noddles, Vol. 6 – Asia Transforms
  • New Material from Ichiei Ishibumi – (8:55) Featuring Fantasy Full-blast Gentleman’s Disc Club Promos – Introducing the Occult club, the Ladies, The Loli-Lolis, Promotional Video and Commercial Collection. In Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Textless Opening Song – “Trip -innocent of D-”
  • Textless Closing Song – “Study x Study”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “High School DxD”.

EXTRAS:

It’s important to note that we are reviewing screener discs, so I can’t comment on the limited edition.  But the Blu-ray does come with a DVD version of the animated series.

For fans of perverted and mature anime series, “High School DxD” joins anime such as “Heaven’s Lost Property”as animation that showcases a lot of boobage, fan service and perverted humor.

While I suppose one can say “High School DxD” fits the banality of harem anime series and perverted protagonist, where “Heaven’s Lost Property” deals with women from another dimension who are sent to kill the protagonist but end up being part of the character’s harem and a series like “Sekirei” deals with women who have supernatural abilities involved in a death game but also ended up being part of the protagonist’s harem and wanting to protect him.  The same can be said for “High School DxD”.  Nearly each episode features a female character wanting to get closer to Issei.

But the primary difference is that the character of Issei, while highly perverted, has died and was given a second chance at life by demons.  While characters working with demons can be dark, the fact is that these demons are well-endowed, powerful and some are quite naughty.

As for those serving the church or angels, the angels are sadistic and cruel.

As for the animation, quite often, the scenes feature characters and their gleaming breast, a behind look at a characters panties and in perverted fashion, a lot of detail that goes into a character’s breasts.

As for the Blu-ray release, “High School DxD” looks sharp and colorful in HD and as far as the dialogue is concerned, the writing for the series is much more perverted and suited to the mature taste of Americans, while the Japanese soundtrack, which is also well-acted, is perverted but not as much as its English counterpart.  And the Blu-ray release also features audio commentary (especially a second audio commentary that I found to be quite awkward between the FUNimation dub actors) but also more content from the original Japanese Blu-ray release.

Overall, “High School DxD: The Series” is a mature and perverted anime series that screams “boobylicious” and may not be for everyone. The series doesn’t break any new ground and as a harem anime series, certain plots are quite predictable.

But if you have been fans of FUNimation’s more mature anime titles such as “Heaven’s Lost Property”, “Sekirei” and “Freezing”, fans of anime series with a lecherous protagonist, many well-endowed female characters and plenty of fan service will surely enjoy the wacky, hilarious but action-packed “High School DxD”!

 

Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

January 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2″ is a fun and enjoyable series that can be easily described as wild, crazy and even perverted at times. More crazy adventures for Class F and a crazy love triangle and character histories are revealed in season two!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts Season 2 – The Complete Set

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: 14 and Up

Release Date: January 29, 2013

Originally created by Kenji Inoue

Directed by Shin Oonuma

Seriest Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Nijine

Original Character Design by Yui Haga

Character Design by Miwa Oshima

Art Director: Kohji Azuma

Anime Production by Silver Link

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiro Shimono/Josh Grelle as Akihisa Yoshii

Hitomi Harada/Alexis Tipton as Mizuki Himeji

Akio Ohtsuka/Kent Williams as Sōichi Nishimura

Ayana Taketatsu as Miharu Shimizu

Emiri Katou/Brina Palencia as Hideyoshi Kinoshita/Yūko Kinoshita

Kaori Mizuhashi/Leah Clark as Minami Shimada

Kenjiro Tsuda/Anthony Bowling as Shin Fukuhara

Kouki Miyata/Greg Ayres as Kōta “Muttsuriini” Tsuchiya

Mana Hirata/Lindsay Seidel as Hazuki Shimada

Takuma Terashima/Joel McDonald as Toshimitsu Kubo

Tatsuhisa Suzuki /Scott Freeman as Yūji Sakamoto

Tomomi Isomura/Jamie Marchi as Shōko Kirishima

Yoshino Nanjou/Trina Nishimura as Aiko Kudō

Akio Ohtsuka as Narration

Daisuke Kageura as Hasegawa

Hiromi Igarashi/Terri Doty as Yūka Koyama

Hiromu Miyazaki/Todd Haberkorn as Kyōji Nemoto

Yoshii’s a good-hearted goofball enrolled at a school where students settle their differences by summoning Avatars, pint-sized stand-ins with battle powers based on academic ability. That “academic ability” part is bad news for idiotic Yoshii – he’s stuck in lowly Class F with the slackers. If these misfits want to escape their dump of a classroom and earn some respect, they’ll have to fight their way up the ranks and take on Class A, the brightest students on campus. It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure, but once the underachievers of Class F get motivated, they don’t give up – and Yoshii can’t even spell surrender!

In 2007, “Baka to Test to Shokanju” (Baka and Test) was created by Kenji Inoue. Featured as a light novel series and featuring the illustrations by Yui Haga, a total of 12 volumes have been printed thus far and a manga adaptation by Mosuke Mattaku began in 2009 in the magazine “Shonen Ace” and also on “Famitsu Comic Clear”.

An anime adaptation began in 2010 and a second season which aired in Japan in July 2011. And with the first season released in America on Blu-ray/DVD back in 2011, the second season will now be released by FUNimation in January 2013.

The anime series features animation production from Silver Link and the previous staff from the first season which includes director Shin Oonuma (“Mahou Sensei Negima!”, “Pani Poni Dash!”), screenplay by Katsuhiko Takayama (“Cat Planet Cuties”, “ef: a tale of melodies”, “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Ga-Rei-Zero”), music by Nijine (“Akikan”, “Hatsukoi Limited”, “Idolm@ster: Xenoglossia”), character designs by Miwa Oshima (“Hit o Nerae!”, Rakugo Tennyo Oyui!”) and art direction from Kohji Azuma (“Natsu no Arashi!”, “Tokyo Requiem”, “Arakawa Under the Bridge”).

With the second season, Akihisa may not be the brightest guy in class but this time, both Mizuki Himeji and Minami Shimada want to make their move towards Akihisa.  But which girl will he pick?

What is “Baka and Test”?

“Baka and Test” revolve around a not-so-smart teenager named Akihisa Yoshii. Because he is not so smart, he is constantly called “Baka” (in Japanese which means stupid). Akihisa is also living on a very tight budget and because he doesn’t have much money, he often has to cut his ramen noodles in pieces and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Akihisa goes to Fumizuki Academy where staff separate their students based on their test scores. The better the grade, the better their life will be in school. For example: “A” students have great furniture and desks and luxurious studying areas, while those with F’s have regular classrooms but have crates or cardboard boxes as desks.

But there is a way that lower grades students can get things from higher grade students and that is to challenge them in a battle for facilities.

How this works out is that a student can call forth their “Shokanju” or Avatar and during the battle, a teacher supervises the battle. While students compete in various subjects, avatars can lose HP when struck by an opponent and when their point count reaches zero, they are disqualified. But a student can leave the battle before reaching a zero, take a supplemental exam and return back into battle.

For Akihisa, his first day at Fumizuki Academy is to take a placement test. Its pretty much a given that Akihisa will be in the lowest class but when the intelligent student Mizuki Himeji is sick as is unable to complete her test, unfortunately she is given a zero and must join Akihisa and other delinquents in class F. The other delinquents include their class rep Yuji Sakamoto, the oftenly mistaken for a girl Hideyoshi Kinoshita, the perverted Tsuchiya Kouta and the tomboy Minami Shimada. Interesting enough, both Mizuki and Minami have a crush on Akihisa.

But because Class F has the intelligent Mizuki (who should be an A student), it gives them an edge in battle. Also, despite students being in F class, they may not be good in certain subjects but some may be great in one.

For the second season of “Baka and Test”, the season focuses on Class F’s interpersoal relationships as friends, but meanwhile, Akihisa is totally oblivious that he has two girls that like him a lot, Mizuki Himeji and Minami Shimada.

We also learn the history between Class F leader Yuji Sakamoto and Shoko Kirashima and why she is so attached to him.

Meanwhile, enemies of the past return for revenge against Class F, but does Class F have any chance of winning this time around?

Find out in “Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2″!

The main characters of “Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts” are:

Akihisa Yoshii– The protagonist of the story and is known as “baka”. Despite his stupidity, he is good at heart and has a problem of spending his money on video games (thus making him poor and so he tends to eat cut up ramen in pieces). Unknown to Akihisa is the fact that a few of the female students in his class like him but he is too stupid too notice. He is also a great cook. His avatar has also a special ability to break inanimate objects (which others can’t do).

Mizuki Himeji – One of the smartest students at Fumikuzi Academy, because she was sick on placement day, she is forced to be in F class. She is Class F’s secret weapon because of her intelligence. She is shy but always adapts to get close to Akihisa. Known for her bouncy chest and terrible cooking.

Minami Shimada– The tomboy who likes Akihisa and often hurts him when he behaves badly to her. She lived in Germany, so she is weak in kanji and hurts her in class. She is good in math, unless there are mathematical word problems. Often teased for not having big boobs like Mizuki.

Yuji Sakamoto – The head of Class F. He is cool, intelligent and very good at strategy and it is unknown why he is in Class F, especially since he was a child prodigy when he was younger. He is also held in a ball and chain with his childhood friend Shoko Kirishima of Class A. Because Class F had lost a battle with Class A, he is forced to date Shoko and if he even looks at other girls, she will poke him in the eyes.

Hideyoshi Kinoshita – A male student who is always confused to be a girl. He is the fraternal twin of Yuko Kinoshita of Class A. He is bad in school but great in acting.

Kota Tsuchiya – Very perverted and will do all he can to snap photos whenever his fellow female students are in uncompromising positions. He is terrible in all subjects except Health Education and is great in battle.

Shoko Kirishima – The top student and Class A rep who is very intelligent but is infatuated with Yuji Sakamoto. She is shy and soft-spoken but will definitely poke Yuji’s eyes out if he looks at other girls.

Toshimitsu Kubo – The calm second ranked student of Class A. He thinks that Akihisa is trying to hit on him and so now he has developed a crush on him and is jealous when he sees Akihisa with other girls.

Yuko Kinoshita – The eldest twin sister of Hideyoshi Kinoshita. Unlike Hideyoshi, she is very arrogant and often arguing with her brother. She hates her brother because he once masqueraded as her and did something to really upset her.

Miharu Shimizu – A girl from Class D who has an attraction to Minami of Class F. She can’t stand Minami being close to Akihisa.

Hazuki Shimada – Minami’s younger sister who wants to be Akihisa’s bride in the future.

Akira Yoshii – Akihisa’s older sister who graduated from Harvard. She is often trying to tease Akihisa by acting as if she is going to kiss him and also upsets her when she is scantily clad. She observes Akihisa and decides how much allowance he can get.

VIDEO:

“Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I actually like the look of the series and the concentration of really elaborate artistic backgrounds. A very colorful series with good pastels, also use of poka dots on backgrounds and foregrounds. And also there is quite a bit of detail for a TV anime series and I think the efficacy of the animation and backgrounds is because SILVER LINK is a company that is used to doing in-between animation and “Baka and Test” is their first major anime production.

So, unlike other major anime production studios who are often busy with other anime series, to have a company who is able to focus on a series definitely makes for a better production. Picture quality for this TV series is very good!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. First, the good news is the voice acting for soundtracks are very well done. I watched the series in both soundtracks and typically I am biased to the Japanese soundtrack but for this series, both are well done!

Second, because the English soundtrack is presented in lossless 5.1, there is better use of the surround channels and musical score. The series is not truly immersive because battles don’t happen every episode but there is a good amount of sound effects that are presented through the surround channels.

Subtitles are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from Jamie Marchi (lead writer/voice actress for Shoko) and Brina Palencia (voice actress for Hideyoshi/Yuko)
  • Episode 13 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary from ADR engineers Kevin Leasure and Stephen Hoff about the series and how they got into FUNimation as engineers.
  • Mission: Impossible: Baka Preview – (1:19) A “Mission Impossible” preview.
  • Baka-Only Cross-Dressing Contest – (3:56) It’s a cross-dressing contest and who will win?
  • Mission: Impossible: Baka Mission 01 -(3:39) Hideyoshi Kinoshita stars in his first “Baka Mission”.
  • Mizuki Himeji Girls’ Meal – (3:19) Mizuki (who is the worst cook) teaches people how to cook.
  • The King Game in Fumizuki Academy – (4:54) The F class plays the “King” game.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts Spinout! - Featuring nine animated shorts and cm: “Beauty and the Beast”, “Magical Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi, CM 1″, “Karaoke Mix”, “Magical Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi, CM 2″, “Magical Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi”, “Mission Impossibler: Baka”, “Runaway Haduki”, “Akihisa’s Inquisition”, “Cherry Blossoms Viewing Party”.
  • Promo Videos – (4:11) Japanese Promotional video for “Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2″.
  • Original Commercials – (1:03) Original Japanese TV commercials for “Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2″.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts – Season 2″.
  • Textless Opening Song: “Kimi + Nazo + Watashi de Jump!”
  • Textless Closing Songs: “Eureka Baby”, “Baka to Koshitsu to Kodoku Meshi”, “Hi-Ho!!”
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

EXTRAS:

“Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts Season 2 – The Complete Set” comes with a slip over cover case, Blu-ray and the DVD versions of the series.

Last season, I discussed how the actual concept of “Baka and Test” was pretty intriguing. As a big fan of RPG games, I felt that the concept of classes getting into battle, especially the underdogs – The F Class challenging the other grades was pretty cool and also the introduction of the Avatar system.

But as the first season focused on the battles between Class F and other higher classes, with season two, the season focuses on interpersonal relationships within Class F and also the history of some of the characters.

Also, much noticeable in the second season is much more fan service, as Akihisa, Yuji and the guys can’t help but look at other girls, while the other girls in Class F are not too thrilled and will show their anger towards them.

With the first half of episodes being fun and upbeat with the group hanging out at the beach. attending a festival (in which they group ends up in a crossdressing contest), we are also introduced to some past stories as how Akihisa met Mizuki (the Punishment Inspector) and why Minami and Mizuki fell for him.  And also the guys trying to find a way into the girls bathroom.

The second half of the series continues to focus on the love triangle between Akihisa, Minami and Mizuki and what happens when Akihisa accidentally sends Minami in what appears to be a love confession.  And what happens when she kisses him in front of Mizuki.  We also learn the history of Yuji and Shoko and why she fell for him.

And what is “Baka and Test” without a class battle, and this time around the enemies of the past return for payback against Class F.

Needless to say, “Baka and Test” season two turned out to be a crazy, hilarious entertaining season. While the first season was good in focusing on the class battles, this time around, it’s all about love triangles and the guys just wanting to have fun with other girls yet, oblivious to how upset the other girls of Class F are when they behave that way.

But with this second season, there is more character-drive plots and also character building storylines that we didn’t get to see much of, in the first season.

And as for the animation and character designs, as mentioned earlier, I felt that SILVER LINK, a newer company did a great job. Especially since they are not a major studio and their talent are focusing on several series at one time, SILVER LINK had more time to dedicate to the overall look of the series. From the detailed and artistic backgrounds to the character designs, for a TV series, “Baka and Test” looks pretty good on Blu-ray and you get a good number of special features as well.

Overall, “Baka and Test” is a fun and enjoyable series that can be easily described as wild, crazy and even perverted at times. But it’s great to see FUNimation bringing out a series that focuses on comedy and for those who want a break from the usual dark or action-oriented anime series on Blu, will definitely enjoy “Baka and Test: Summon the Beast Season 2″.

Recommended!

King of Thorn (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“King of Thorn” is a film that will entertain those who enjoy action, horror and fantasy.   But also can appreciate a complex film that is not too banal or simplified. With that being said, it’s one of those films that probably requires multiple viewings.  Featuring beautiful artwork and animation from Sunrise, “King of Thorn” may be different from the manga series it was loosely-based on, but still manages to be an enjoyable film worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Yuji Iwahara, Published by Enterbrain, Inc./Team IBARA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: King of Thorn

DURATION: 110 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sunrise/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: September 18, 2012

Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama

Screenplay by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Kazuyoshi Katayama

Storyboard by Kazuyoshi Katayama, Tsukasa Sunaga

Music by Toshihiko Sahashi

Originally Created by Yuji Iwahara

Character Design by Hidenori Matsubara

Art Director: Goki Nakamura

Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Onda

Mechanical Design: Kimitoshi Yamane

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kana Hanazawa/Brina Palencia as Kasumi Ishiki

Akiko Yajima/Luci Christian as Timothy Laisenbach

Ayako Kawasumi/Anastasia Munoz as Laura Owen

Eri Sendai/Alexis Tipton as Shizuku Ishiki

Kenji Nomura/Bob Carter as Ron Portman

Kousei Hirota/R. Bruce Elliott as Alexandro Pecchino

Misaki Kuno/Monica Rial as Alice

Sayaka Ohara as Katherine Turner

Shinichiro Miki/Christopher Bevins as Peter Stevens

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Patrick Seitz as Marco Owen

Tsutomu Isobe/John Swasey as Ivan Coral Vega

Yoshinori Fujita/Todd Haberkorn as Walter

Panic spreads worldwide as the Medusa Virus – a fatal pandemic that solidifies the body to stone – threatens to wipe out the human race. One-hundred and sixty infected individuals are selected to be cryogenically frozen while a cure is developed. Kasumi is one of those chosen for the experimental program.

Forced to enter without her twin sister, Shizuku, her distress multiplies when she awakens to find the facility overrun with thick, thorny vines and ravenous monsters. As Kasumi and six others fight a losing battle to escape this labyrinthine nightmare, questions cloud her distorted mind. Where is her sister? Why did their only salvation mutate into a deathtrap? If they survive, how much longer do they have to live?

In 2002, Yuji Iwahara created “Ibara no O” (King of Thorn), a manga series that featured elements of science fiction, horror and fantasy, the manga series was published in “Monthly Comic Beam” from 2002-2005, and was released in America via “Tokyopop” in 2008.

In 2010, an animated film produced by Sunrise and directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama (director of “Appleseed”, “Dragon Warrior”, “Doomed Megalopolis”, “Those Who Hunt Eves”.  The series adaptation (a loose adaptation) was co-written by Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi (“Bastard!!”, “Blue Submarine No. 6″, “Gate Keeppers”), music by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Akazukin Cha Cha”, “Cutey Honey Flash”, “Angel Links”), character design by Hidenori Matsubara (Ah! My Goddess”, “Elementalors”, “Sakura Wars”) and art direction by Goki Nakamura (“Cat Soup”, “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”, “Ashita No Nadja”).

And now “King of Thorn” will be released on Blu-ray & DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

“King of Thorns” takes place during a time when the world is suffering from a deadly Medusa virus.  Hoping to find a cure to defeat the virus, 160 people in the entire world was selected to become candidates to experiment a cure against the virus.

We are introduced to one of the candidates, Kasumi Ishiki (the main protagonist).  A teenage girl who struggled with leaving behind her twin sister Shizuku.  Despite having the Medusa Virus, Shizuku encouraged Kasumi to be brave and take the opportunity to be part of the potential experiment, if it would give her the chance to be cured.

While she and the other 159 people were put into their hibernation, they were told by Venus Gate Labs, the company responsible for the system that an artificial intelligence known as Alice would be taking care of them.

One day, all 160 people have awaken.  But what they have awakened to, was giant vines with thorns and these monster bats that try to eat at them.

While many were being attacked and killed, seven of them managed to escape.  Kasumi is joined by Marco Owen, a tattooed individual who seems to be someone with soldier experience; Katherine Turner, a blonde woman who had the worst Medusa case among the survivors, she is the motherly guardian of a little boy named Tim; Timothy Laisenbach is a six-year-old infected by the virus but very mature and intelligent, that for some reason, the whole entire situation with the monsters feels like a video game he mastered and seems to know the monsters and how to defeat them.  Others joining them include Peter Stevens, the creator of the hibernation capsules; Alexandro Pecchino, a politician; Ron Portman, a Black man from the United States and a man known for his strength.

Thinking that they have been in hibernation for years, they realize through data in the lab that they have only been asleep for 48 hours.

Now each of the seven try to escape from the monsters that are trying to hunt them down inside the laboratory.

But as the survivors continue trying to escape from the laboratory and surviving, the more they learn about the true intent of the Venus Gate Labs, Alice and themselves.

VIDEO:

“King of Thorn” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is HD Native.  And as one can expect from an animated film, especially from Sunrise, the amount of detail on the art backgrounds are fantastic.  Colors are vibrant, character animation is features detail and shadowing but the most amazing aspect is how CG was incorporated in this animated film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“King of Thorn” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Because the animated film features a lot of action sequences, there are a lot of gunfire, a lot of rampaging eels and vines attacking their prey.  The film is quite immersive and good utilization of the surround channels and LFE.    Aside from language differences, the Japanese and English lossless soundtracks are well-acted and pretty much utilizing the same mix for special effects.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“King of Thorn” comes with the following special features:

  • Talk Event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro – (29:23) Featuring the May 2010 event featuring Jun Chiba (Kadokawa Pictures Advertising Producer), director Kazuhoshi Katayama and Yasumasa Tsuchiya (Producer) who discuss the film and answer questions from the audience.
  • Director Interview - (11:32) Anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa interviews director Kazuhoshi Katayama.
  • Pilot Film - (1:54) A short pilot (usually created to get animated sponsors to create a feature film).
  • Original Trailer – (1:55) Original Japanese theatrical trailer for “King of Thorn”.
  • Overseas Trailer -(1:48)
  • TV Spot – (:17) Japanese TV spot for “King of Thorn”
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:02) Funimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“King of Thorn” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the animated film.  Also, included is a slipcover case.

“King of Thorn” is one of the most complex manga series out there.  Fascinating, bleak and in some ways, the story reminds you a bit of films such as “Aliens”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”,  “Matrix” films, “Sunshine” and “Flatliners” (and other sci-fi related films), there is so much story featured in the original manga series that for its film adaptation, Yuji Iwahara had to simplify it for those who would watch the film but never read the manga.

And surprisingly, director Kazuhoshi Katayama and Hiroshi Yamaguchi were both able to accomplish it through their film adaptation by not following the manga 100%, but using the characters featured in the manga series. Having read a few volumes of the manga series, while not faithful to the original storyline, on its own, it does make for a fascinating yet complex anime film.

For one thing, when it comes to differences, for those who read the manga series may be disappointed to find out that Zeus, the antagonist is not even in the film.  And also situations have changed for certain characters, as well as having a completely different ending for the animated film.

While some may cry foul by the change of the film vs. the manga series, in Japan, for those who have watched animated films based on an anime or manga series have grown accustomed in seeing animated films that are different from its original source.  Fortunately, if one is entertained by the film,  possibly then after, they can pursue reading the much better, original manga series.

With that being said, “King of Thorn” is a film that combines horror and fantasy.  At first glance, the animated film plays out like survival horror/disaster film, with survivors who have awaken from their hibernation capsule find out that the entire lab have been filled with monsters and large plants with thorns.  And you try to figure out which one of them will survive by the end of the film.

For the most part, the film is exciting with a lot of tension and plenty of action scenes that look and sound great on Blu-ray!    But because of the corruption that has taken place in the lab, there is this whole entirely different element  that is introduced to the whole “survive the entire ordeal” storyline, situations that make you start to doubt the characters in the film. Are these people genuine?  Are these people crazy?  Needless to say, I found myself having to watch the film twice and had to rewind many times, because I felt I was missing something.

The film can get complex and confusing and unfortunately, even discussing the complexities of what I was confused about, would be spoiling the film.  But let’s just say that once you get to the big reveal at the end of the film, you kind of feel cheated.  In a way, “King of Thorn” is a perfect example of a complex manga series that would have benefited from an 13 or 26-episode anime series rather than a 110 minute film.

As for the Blu-ray release, Sunrise did a magnificent job in providing us a film that looks incredible and features beautiful artwork, the lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks were well-done and was pleased to hear the soundtrack of “King of Thorn” being immersive.  And it was great to have a few special features including the talk event at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro and giving us the opportunity to understand what Kazuhoshi Katayama was trying to accomplish for this film.

Overall, “King of Thorn” is a film that will entertain those who enjoy action, horror and fantasy.   But also can appreciate a complex film that is not too banal or simplified. With that being said, it’s one of those films that probably requires multiple viewings.

Featuring beautiful artwork and animation from Sunrise, “King of Thorn” may be different from the manga series it was loosely-based on, but still manages to be an enjoyable film worth watching!

Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Eight (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Dragon Ball Z Kai”  is an anime series that action-packed from beginning to end.  And now this final eight volume has been released on Blu-ray! Featuring the final battle against Perfect Cel, if you are a “Dragon Ball Z” fan or one that has been wanting to watch the series but can’t dedicate the time to watch the complete series, will definitely want to give “Dragon Ball Z Kai” a chance!  Otherwise, DBZ fans who have already purchased previous volumes of DBZ Kai will definitely want to own this final volume for their collection!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Eight

DURATION: (Episodes 89-98) 250 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: June 5, 2012

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

The legendary Z reborn!

For the first time in history, experience the legendary Z as the master intended with this manga-centric, fresh take on Akira Toriyama’s original vision!

The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku – the strongest fighter on the planet – is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he’ll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord – Prince Vegeta.

The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume seven) as the safety of the world rests on the shoulders of young Gohan, as he takes on the evil Perfect Cell.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the past six volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2012 with the final eighth volume release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 98 episodes and with this latest volume, you have 10 episodes (Episodes 89-98).

It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series. The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes. Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Eight” (episodes 89-98) on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 89 – Battle at the Highest Level! Goku Goes All Out! – The battle between Goku vs. Cell continues.
  • EPISODE 90 – The Opening Round is Concluded! Goku’s Moment of Decision! – Goku’s energy is getting lower as the fight with Cell continues…who else can step up for Goku if he is unable to fight?
  • EPISODE 91 – Get Angry, Gohan!  Release Your Hidden Power! – Gohan not wanting to fight, tries to convince Cell to end the Cell Games!
  • EPISODE 92 – Tears for an Android! Gohans’ Inner Rage Bursts Forth! – Cell vs. Android 16 and the aftermath.
  • EPISODE 93 – Unleash the Warrior Within! Gohan Takes the Offensive! – Gohan attains the level of Super Saiyan 2.
  • EPISODE 94 – Perfection’s End! A Fury Beyond Super Saiyan! – Powerful Gohan takes on Perfect Cell.
  • EPISODE 95 – A Hero’s Sacrifice! Last Chance to Save the World! – Perfect Cell tries to destroy Earth.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 96 – Combine Your Strenth! The Final Kamehameha! – It all comes down to Gohan as he goes up against Perfect Cell.
  • EPISODE 97 – A Bittersweet Victory! Until We Meet Again! – The Z Warriors must decide what to do with the Dragon Balls and what wish they will make.
  • EPISODE 98 – Peace for the Future! The Spirit of Goku is Forever! – With the fight now over, Trunks returns to the future.

VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome! I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Eight” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Mr. Sabat and Mr. Schemmel – (4:34) ADR Director Christopher Sabat and voice actor Sean Schemmel talk about the difference of working on “Dragon Ball Z” a decade ago and working on “Dragon Ball Z Kai” now.
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” Part Eight comes with a slipcover case.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” comes down to these final episodes as the Z Warriors take on Perfect Cell and the hopes of the world will rest on not on Son Goku’s shoulders but the shoulders of his teenage son, Gohan.

Having seen an untapped, enormous power that lies within Gohan, Goku hopes that Gohan can tap into this power and defeat the powerful, Perfect Cell.

For many Dragon Ball Z enthusiasts, many have ranked the Cell saga as the best in the “Dragon Ball Z” series. There was no doubt that Cell was the most destructive adversary the Z-Warriors have taken on and I can easily remember how many episodes it took until we finally saw the matchup between Goku and Cell.

For anyone who has watched the original “Dragon Ball Z” series, it’s not a surprise of how much this battle was dragged out for a long period of time in Japan and even for “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, it’s taken quite a bit of episodes, even when shortened without the filler to get to this ultimate matchup and the buildup to this match has been exciting and quite riveting thus far!

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

“Dragon Ball Z – Part Eight” is pretty much all action as Goku and the Z Warriors take on Perfect Cell and hopes that Gohan will find the confidence to tap into his inner power.

Sure, the original “Dragon Ball Z” series goes into more storyline details.  With “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, viewers are losing a lot of the android saga especially the training episodes in the hyberbolic chamber in preparation for the fight against Cell in “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. So, I do emphasize that if you do want to watch the Android and Cell Saga, try to find the DVD release of the anime series (the awesome orange box series or even the Japanese uncut “Dragon Box Z” series), in order to learn about the complete storyline that leads to the battle against Cell.

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean. Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai” replace my feelings towards the original series? Of course not. But I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait weeks as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and each VHS tape in bad quality would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Because the series only lasts 98 episodes, part eight continues and ends with the Cell saga, but there are rumors that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” will continue and perhaps lead to the “Majin Buu saga”.  But for now, the animated series ends with the “Perfect Cell saga”.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode.   Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai” in HD.

Exciting, action-packed from beginning to end, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai” on Blu-ray and for those who have already purchased the volumes, this eighth final volume is the end and definitely worth owning.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

June 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A fresh, enjoyable yet dark storyline that is absolutely captivating and addictive! “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set” concludes the series with a bang!  And like the previous two limited edition releases, volume three is another must-own anime on Blu-ray release for anime collectors and is definitely one of the best anime TV series on Blu-ray released in America for 2012. Once again, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is highly recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of © 2012 ANIPLEX, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: Episodes 9-11 (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9LB Wide Screen), Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Linear PCM Stereo, English subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex, Inc.

Release Date: June 12, 2012

Series Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Series Composition: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Kunihiko Inaba

Chief Animation Director: Junichiro Taniguchi, Mika Takahashi

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Director of Photography: Shinichiro Eto

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft

Featuring the following voice talents:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname

“Has a loving family and best friends, laughs and cries from time to time…” Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader at Mitakihara middle school, lives such a life. One day, she has a very magical encounter. She doesn’t know if it’s by chance or by fate yet, but this meeting will change her destiny. This is the beginning of a new story of magical girls…

This limited edition combo box set includes the third soundtrack CD, an exclusive collector’s box, two double-sided posters, collectible postcards, and a deluxe 24-page booklet with character designs, a special short manga by Aoki Ume and more!

All is revealed in the final volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” vol. 3.  Madoka Kaname must make the final decision… Will she become a Magical Girl despite knowing all the risks involved?

For anime fans who grew up with magical girl (majo shojo) anime series, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” combines the sweet characters that many fans expect from a magical girl series, but this time around, also a darker and more tragic storyline.

Created in 2011, the anime TV series known as “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is produced by Shaft and Aniplex.

The 12-episode anime TV series would feature a talented working staff which included director Akiyuki Shinbo (“Hidamari Sketch”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and series composition by Gen Urobuchi (“Fate/Zero”, “Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom”~, “Blassreiter”). Music composition is by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Noir”, “My-HiME”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Fate/Zero”), character design by Takahiro Kishida (“Noein – to your other self”, “Macross Zero”, “Durarara!!”) and background art by Kunhiko Inaba (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “C-Control – The Money and Soul of Possibility”).

The series was well-received and it won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, it won 12 NewType Anime Awards and also won the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Awards.

When the series streamed on the Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga in June 2011, it surpassed the previous record held by Lucky Star (at 570,000 viewers) with around 1 million viewers. Also, the first Blu-ray for “Puella Magica Madoka Magica” broke the record of “Bakemonogatari” by selling 53,000 copies in its first week, 22,000 copies on its first day.

The popularity of the series eventually led to a manga series, a Sony PSP video game released in March 2012 and also, a three-film project that is in the works.

In the United States, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Vol. 1-2 was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex. And in June 2012, the final third volume featuring episodes 9-12 will be released.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Summary

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a series about a young teenager named Madoka Kaname. She’s 14-years-old and comes from a loving family.  She loves hanging out with her best friend Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.

But lately, Madoka has been having nightmares. A dark world filled with destruction and she watches these girls in battle. As she watches and wishes they would be stopped, she is told by an extra terrestrial known as Kyubey that Madoka can stop it if she makes a contract with him and become a “Magical Girl”.

Meanwhile, a new girl named Akemi Homura has transferred to Madoka’s school and during her introduction in class, she gives Madoka a hateful glance. Homura quickly becomes popular in school and excels in academics and athletics.

When she meets Madoka, Madoka tells her about her love for her family and friends and Homura responds by telling her her not to change.

One day, while Madoka and Sayaka were at a music store, Madoka hears a plea for help and she is led to a dark warehouse and finds a Kyubey that is hurt. She then sees Homura and is frightened that she is about to hurt it. Immediately, Sayaka comes to Madoka’s aid.

As the two are running away, both are whisked into a magical world where they meet a other magical girls such as  Mami Tomoe and Kyoko Sakura.  But when one of them is tragically killed, the death affects both Madoka and Sayaka and with the prodding of Kyubey, one of them becomes a magical girl.

Magical Girls receive a soul gem which gives them their power. The contract of becoming a magical girl states that a girl will get one wish in exchange for her using magic to fight against witches (which are evil entities born from magical girls who have fallen into despair and failed to purify their soul gem). Each battle features a large amount of risk and during these fights, typically one dies.

Homura for some reason is trying her best to prevent Madoka from accepting the contract in becoming a magical girl but one of them has chosen the path to become a magical girl but also finds out quickly, that if one harbors too much negative energy, they can easily be consumed by it and be turned into a witch.

Volume 3 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”

With the final volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, tragedy happens once again and Madoka is not sure if she can take any more of it.  Kyubey finally reveals the true reason why he wants Madoka to become a magical girl and also the secret is revealed in regards to the wishes that magical girls are promised.  It is also revealed why Homura has been trying to prevent Madoka from being a magical girl.

It leads to Madoka’s final decision… Will she become a magical girl knowing the risks? Or will Homura succeed in protecting Madoka and preventing her from becoming one?

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” features the following characters:

  • Madoka Kaname – A caring teenager who loves her family, loves hanging out with her friends and enjoying life. But lately, she has been having nightmares about witches and one of girls from her dream, a girl named Akemi Homura, shows up to her school.  From this point on, Madoka Kaname learns about the role of a magical girl but also the challenge that awaits them.  With the prodding by an extra terrestrial named Kyubey to become a magical girl, will she do so?
  • Akemi Homura – A new transfer to Madoka’s school and a teenager trying to prevent Madoka from becoming a magical girl.  For what reason is Homura going to great lengths of protecting Madoka?
  • Sayaka Miki – Madoka Kaname’s best friend and a girl who is in love with a boy who is ill.  She knows that being a magical girl, she can be granted one wish.  Will she do it?
  • Mami Tomoe – The first magical girl to befriend Madoka and Sayaka and the first magical girl tragedy that both Madoka and Sayaka had to experience.  A kindhearted person.
  • Kyoko Sakura – A magical girl who is constantly hungry and befriends Sayaka.  Kyoko learned how making a wish can always backfire, as she wished for her father, a preacher, to gain more followers.  Instead it led to her father’s insanity with tragic consequences for her entire family.
  • Kyubey – An extra terrestrial who tries to get young girls to become magical girls.  Those who form a contract with him will get one wish but in return, they must defeat witches that feed upon the hopes and dreams of people.  But there is more to Kyubey and overtime, Madoka learns the true intention of the Kyubey came to Earth.  Kyubey’s do not have emotions, so they do not understand the feelings of the girls they come in contact with.  There only main intention is to have girls become magical girls.

VIDEO:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is presented in 16:9 LB. I have to admit that Shaft and Aniplex have done a fantastic job in this series. For one, the amount of detail for the art backgrounds is incredible.

A lot of time obviously went into creating the atmosphere of this TV Series and I have to give Takahiro Kishida (the character designer) and Kunihiko Inaba a lot of credit for the visual presentatio of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica. As for character designs, the character designs manage to keep with the “majo shojo” theme of characters looking young, even the older characters looking young. But they are nicely drawn, good amount shading and also at times showing a sketched look.

Typically, most TV series tend to focus on trees, skies, clouds and buildings but with “”Puella Magica Madoka Magica”, a lot of thought went into the series from objects, wallpaper (even Mami’s wall-paper was designed and not just a straight painted background). You see the changes during the day and night, you can see sunset with the orange sky illuminating the area,the magical world with its creative and artistic design.

And overall, these colors really pop via HD. Reds and pinks, greens…they come are absolutely vibrant. Comparisons between the Blu-ray and DVD are mostly in the vibrancy of the colors in HD, while things look a bit softer for the DVD version.

Black levels are nice and deep, the series features vibrant colors galore. If anything, the picture quality for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is very good considering this is anime TV series. Anime fans should be happy with the overall visual presentation on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magica Madoka Magica” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo and subtitles are in English. While I would have hoped for a 5.1 soundtrack (as I would have loved to have more immersion with the surround channels and LFE), most anime TV series aren’t and are presented in stereo. Still, fans should be happy that two linear PCM tracks are included. They are front-channel driven and for the most part, dialogue and sound effects are quite clear and understandable.

The voice acting on both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done. I was expecting the Japanese soundtrack to feature high-pitch voices considering this is a magical girl series, but they kept the voices to the ages of Madoka and friends as 14-year-olds and older. Voice actress Aoi Yuki (“The World God Only Knows”, “Persona 4: The Animation”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”) takes on the more emotional role as Madoka and her voice acting is wonderful as we see her going through various degrees of emotions from happiness to sadness. But for vol. 2, these are Sayaka-driven episodes and voice actress Ai Nonaka (“Air”, “Negima!?”, “R.O.D. – The TV”) has to play a wide-range of emotions like Aoi Yuki but also a more twisted version of the character as well.

English voice acting was well-done. Similar to the Japanese voices, Christine Marie Cabanos and Lauren Landa had to be much more emotional in these episodes and both voice actresses do a wonderful job for their characters.

And as mentioned in my last review, what stands out the most for me in the TV series is the wonderful musical soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Ending – Textless ending.

EXTRAS:

Aniplex is a Japanese company that is well-known for their anime releases but also for giving fans wonderful additions with the limited edition releases.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set” comes with the following:

  • 3 Discs – Blu-ray, DVD and the original soundtrack

This third soundtrack (which was originally released with vol. 6 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” in Japan) comes with the following tracks:

  1. Numquam vincar    2:07
  2. Quamobrem?    1:31
  3. Cor destructum    1:28
  4. Surgam identidem    3:36
  5. Confessio    1:49
  6. Sagitta luminis    5:43
  7. Nux Walpurgis    2:34
  8. Cubilulum album    2:19
  9. Taenia memoriae    2:11
  10. La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin    2:34
  11. Symposium magarum    1:47
  12. Pergo pugnare    2:19
  13. コネクト -ゲームインスト-    1:34
  • Deluxe Collector’s Slipcase
  • Reversible 2-sided cover for BD/DVD case
  • 2-sided cover for Soundtrack CD case
  • 24-page booklet: Staff and voice actor interviews, character designs, special 4-panel manga by aokiume and art gallery by INUCURRY! (and more!)
  • Exclusive 2-sided posters
  • Exclusive postcards of “preview Illustrations” from episodes 9-11

Having watched the first eight episodes of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, it has been quite interesting to see how emotional and dark this series had turned out to be.

Typically, there is a banality that is seen with magical girl anime shows.  And while most are sweet, cute and lighthearted, in addition to each episode having some type of resolution at the end, this is not the case with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”.

With this anime series, there is a continuing storyline that revolves around the character of Madoka, as she experiences the pain of watching people she cares about, meeting a tragic end or in a lot of pain.

The writers have made sure that with every four episodes, there is something learned about the life of a magical girl.  And with each lesson learned, it usually takes place after tragedy.

In the first volume, Madoka learns that these battles against the witches are not easy.  And she doesn’t quite understand why Akemi Homura is often trying to protect her, nor does she know why she has a cold demeanor.  But she did learn how tragic things can be for a magical girl.

In the second volume, with the death of Mami, Sayaka who wants one of her wishes granted, decides to become a magical girl herself.  But unfortunately, unlike Madoka who has a pure heart, Sayaka is a person that has despair in her soul and these negative emotions start to build up within her, to the point that her soul gem begins to darken.

The lesson learned is that even magical girl can easily become a witch because of the despair within them and further causing harm to their soul gem.  In the case of Sayaka, she becomes the witch known as Oktavia von Seckendorff and unfortunately, there is no sparing her life.  A witch will do all it takes to kill a magical girl and the magical girl must beat the witch in order to survive.

So, unfortunately, there is no positive way out.  And as Madoka grows tired of the killing, the emotional pain, she must make a decision.  Will she accept Kyubey’s request to be a magical girl, knowing the risks?  Or will Akemi Homura find a way to protect her?

With the third volume, writer Gen Urobuchi was able to craft a continuing storyline that slowly builds up to a magnificent finale.  Definitely an ending unlike any other magical girl anime series that I have seen before and for the most part, the efficacy of the storyline is greatly due to a finale that I never expected to happen.  So, I was greatly pleased of how the overall anime series turned out and how things concluded with this sereis.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” turned out to be a wonderful series with great attention to character development but also a storyline that is fresh, unique and captivating.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, production quality is fantastic, colorful and picture quality is very good for an anime TV series. The lossless soundtrack is Linear PCM Stereo and most series in Japan are released in stereo and while I would love to hear a lossless immersive soundtrack for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, dialogue is still crystal clear, as are the effects but most notably, for its wonderful music soundtrack.

And of course, with the limited edition, Aniplex returns with as many wonderful extras that the first limited edition came with. From a beautiful second soundtrack to cool postcards, poster and an informative booklet (and much more), fans of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” will find this third volume limited edition to be another must-own release.  Actually, I felt that all three limited editions are must-own releases!

Overall, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set”, is another home run for Aniplex. The storyline is just as captivating and addictive as the last volume but also a bit more emotional and dark. And like the previous two volumes, it’s another perfect release for Aniplex.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 3 – Limited Edition Box Set” is highly recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

April 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A fresh, enjoyable yet dark storyline that is absolutely captivating and addictive! “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” is another must-own anime on Blu-ray release for anime collectors and the series itself is definitely one of the best anime TV series on Blu-ray released in America for 2012.  Highly recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of © 2012 ANIPLEX, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 5-8 Episodes: (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9LB Wide Screen), Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Linear PCM Stereo, English subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex, Inc.

Release Date: April 10, 2012

Series Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Series Composition: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Kunihiko Inaba

Chief Animation Director: Junichiro Taniguchi, Mika Takahashi

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Director of Photography: Shinichiro Eto

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft

Featuring the following voice talents:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname

“Has a loving family and best friends, laughs and cries from time to time…” Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader at Mitakihara middle school, lives such a life. One day, she has a very magical encounter. She doesn’t know if it’s by chance or by fate yet, but this meeting will change her destiny. This is the beginning of a new story of magical girls…

At what price will one pay to become a Magical Girl?  In Vol. 2 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, Sayaka decides to become one, but at what price?

For anime fans who grew up with magical girl (majo shojo) anime series, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” combines the sweet characters that many fans expect from a magical girl series, but this time around, also a darker and more tragic storyline.

Created in 2011, the anime TV series known as “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is produced by Shaft and Aniplex.

The 12-episode anime TV series would feature a talented working staff which included director Akiyuki Shinbo (“Hidamari Sketch”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and series composition by Gen Urobuchi (“Fate/Zero”, “Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom”~, “Blassreiter”).  Music composition is by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Noir”, “My-HiME”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Fate/Zero”), character design by Takahiro Kishida (“Noein – to your other self”, “Macross Zero”, “Durarara!!”) and background art by Kunhiko Inaba (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “C-Control – The Money and Soul of Possibility”).

The series was well-received and  it won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, it won 12 NewType Anime Awards and also won the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Awards.

When the series streamed on the Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga in June 2011, it surpassed the previous record held by Lucky Star (at 570,000 viewers) with around 1 million viewers. Also, the first Blu-ray for “Puella Magica Madoka Magica” broke the record of “Bakemonogatari” by selling 53,000 copies in its first week, 22,000 copies on its first day.

The popularity of the series eventually led to a manga series, a Sony PSP video game released in March 2012 and also, a three-film project that is in the works.

In the United States, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Vol. 1 was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex.  And in April 2012, the second volume featuring episodes 5-8 will be released.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” Summary

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a series about a young teenager named Madoka Kaname. She’s 14-years-old and comes from a loving family and hangs out with her best friend Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.

But lately, Madoka has been having nightmares. A dark world filled with destruction and she watches these girls in battle. As she watches and wishes they would be stopped, she is told by a cat looking extra terrestrial known as Kyubey that Madoka can stop it if she makes a contract with him and become a “Magical Girl”.

Meanwhile, a new girl named Akemi Homura has transferred to Madoka’s school and during her introduction in class, she gives Madoka a hateful glance. Homura quickly becomes popular in school and excels in academics and athletics.

When she meets Madoka, Madoka tells her about her love for her family and friends and Homura responds by telling her her not to change.

One day, while Madoka and Sayaka were at a music store, Madoka hears a plea for help and she is led to a dark warehouse and finds a Kyubey that is hurt. She then sees Homura and is frightened that she is about to hurt it. Immediately, Sayaka comes to Madoka’s aid.

As the two are running away, both are whisked into a magical world where they meet a kind magical girl named Mami Tomoe who begins fighting against a witch in the magical world and defeats it with ease.

The Kyubey asks for both Madoka and Sayaka to sign a contract with him and become magical girls.

Magical Girls receive a soul gem which gives them their power. The contract of becoming a magical girl states that a girl will get one wish in exchange for her using magic to fight against witches (which are evil entities born from magical girls who have fallen into despair and failed to purify their soul gem). Each battle features a large amount of risk and during these fights, typically one dies.

Homura for some reason is trying her best to prevent Madoka from accepting the contract in becoming a magical girl. But will Madoka and Sayaka want to become one?

Volume 2 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”

In volume 2, Sayaka wants to make one wish come true and so she decides to become a magical girl.  But becoming a magical girl comes at a price and Madoka will learn how someone as sweet as Sayaka can change after becoming one.

VIDEO:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is presented in 16:9 LB. I have to admit that Shaft and Aniplex have done a fantastic job in this series. For one, the amount of detail for the art backgrounds is incredible.

A lot of time obviously went into creating the atmosphere of this TV Series and I have to give Takahiro Kishida (the character designer) and Kunihiko Inaba a lot of credit for the visual presentatio of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  As for character designs, the character designs manage to keep with the “majo shojo” theme of characters looking young, even the older characters looking young. But they are nicely drawn, good amount shading and also at times showing a sketched look.

Typically, most TV series tend to focus on trees, skies, clouds and buildings but with “”Puella Magica Madoka Magica”, a lot of thought went into the series from objects, wallpaper (even Mami’s wall-paper was designed and not just a straight painted background). You see the changes during the day and night, you can see sunset with the orange sky illuminating the area,the magical world with its creative and artistic design.

And overall, these colors really pop via HD. Reds and pinks, greens…they come are absolutely vibrant.  Comparisons between the Blu-ray and DVD are mostly in the vibrancy of the colors in HD, while things look a bit softer for the DVD version.

Black levels are nice and deep, the series features vibrant colors galore. If anything, the picture quality for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is very good considering this is anime TV series.  Anime fans should be happy with the overall visual presentation on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magica Madoka Magica” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo and subtitles are in English.  While I would have hoped for a 5.1 soundtrack (as I would have loved to have more immersion with the surround channels and LFE), most anime TV series aren’t and are presented in stereo. Still, fans should be happy that two linear PCM tracks are included. They are front-channel driven and for the most part, dialogue and sound effects are quite clear and understandable.

The voice acting on both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done. I was expecting the Japanese soundtrack to feature high-pitch voices considering this is a magical girl series, but they kept the voices to the ages of Madoka and friends as 14-year-olds and older. Voice actress Aoi Yuki (“The World God Only Knows”, “Persona 4: The Animation”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”) takes on the more emotional role as Madoka and her voice acting is wonderful as we see her going through various degrees of emotions from happiness to sadness.  But for vol. 2, these are Sayaka-driven episodes and voice actress Ai Nonaka (“Air”, “Negima!?”, “R.O.D. – The TV”)  has to play a wide-range of emotions like Aoi Yuki but also a more twisted version of the character as well.

English voice acting was well-done.  Similar to the Japanese voices, Christine Marie Cabanos and Lauren Landa had to be much more emotional in these episodes and both voice actresses do a wonderful job for their characters.

And as mentioned in my last review, what stands out the most for me in the TV series is the wonderful musical soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening – Textless opening by “ClariS”.

EXTRAS:

Aniplex is a Japanese company that is well-known for their anime releases but also for giving fans wonderful additions with the limited edition releases.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” comes with the following: 

  • 3 Discs  – Blu-ray, DVD and the original soundtrack

This second soundtrack (which came with vol. 4 of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” in Japan) comes with the following tracks:

  1. Decretum    1:49
  2. Agmen clientum    1:44
  3. Venari strigas    2:47
  4. Signum malum    1:47
  5. Amicae carae meae    2:02
  6. Incertus    1:40
  7. Inevitabilis    1:55
  8. Serena ira    2:01
  9. Anima mala    1:44
  10. Pugna infinita    1:55
  11. Vocalise Op. 34 no. 14    3:37
  12. Ave Maria    4:49
  • Deluxe Collector’s Slipcase
  • Reversible 2-sided cover for BD/DVD case
  • 2-sided cover for Soundtrack CD case
  • 24-page booklet: Staff and voice actor interviews, character designs, special 4-panel manga by aokiume and art gallery by INUCURRY! (and more!)
  • Exclusive 2-sided poster (side 2: Magical Girls Group shot)
  • Exclusive postcards of “preview Illustrations” from episodes 5-8

In my last review, I talked about how I enjoyed this series because of how different the overall storyline was compared to other mahou shojo (magical girl) anime series.

With the second volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, I was surprised how things got even darker, especially how things change with the character of Sayaka after she decides to become a magical girl.  Also, with many anime series with a cute alien or animal-type of character, these characters are most often pure and used for comedy purposes.  For the character of Kyubey, it may look cute but let’s just say that we get to learn more about this being and viewers may be a bit surprised by some of the revelations made in this second volume.

Revealing anything else would be spoiling it, so all I will say is that fans of the first four episodes will be intrigued by the introduction of a new character but also revelations of the magical girl process, which is unlike any other magical girl anime series that I have seen within the last 30-years.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is turning out to be a wonderful series with attention to character development but also a storyline that is fresh, unique and captivating.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, production quality is fantastic, colorful and picture quality is very good for an anime TV series. The lossless soundtrack is Linear PCM Stereo and most series in Japan are released in stereo and while I would love to hear a lossless immersive soundtrack for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, dialogue is still crystal clear, as are the effects but most notably, for its wonderful music soundtrack.

And of course, with the limited edition, Aniplex returns with as many wonderful extras that the first limited edition came with.  From a beautiful second soundtrack to cool postcards, poster and an informative booklet (and much more), fans of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” will find this second volume limited edition to be another must-own release.

Overall, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set”, is another home run for Aniplex.  The storyline is just as captivating and addictive as the last volume but also a bit more emotional and dark.  And so far, I’m enjoying every episode.  It’s definitely one of the best anime series to be released on Blu-ray in 2012.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 2 – Limited Edition Box Set” is highly recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

All-out action! “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is DBZ in HD and this series looks absolutely wonderful on Blu-ray!  In this seventh volume of DBZ Kai, the Z Warriors take on their most powerful adversary yet, Perfect Cell.  If you are wanting an action anime series, I definitely recommend “Dragon Ball Z Kai”!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven

DURATION: (Episodes 78-88) 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: March 20, 2012

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

The legendary Z reborn!

For the first time in history, experience the legendary Z as the master intended with this manga-centric, fresh take on Akira Toriyama’s original vision!

The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku – the strongest fighter on the planet – is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he’ll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord – Prince Vegeta.

The action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with another HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume seven) as the Z-Warriors take on their most powerful adversary yet, Cell!

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the past six volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.  But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”.  All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai.  This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2012 with the seventh volume release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 98 episodes and with this latest volume, you have 11 episodes (Episodes 78-88).

It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series. The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes. Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven” (episodes 78-88) on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 78 – Cell on the Verge of Defeat! Krillin, Destroy Android 18! – Goku trains Gohan while Cell tries to absorb Android 18.
  • EPISODE 79 – The Battle Turns For the Worst! Cell Attacks Android 18! – Trunk vs. Cell, Cell continues to try and absorb 18 to become a perfect Cell.
  • EPISODE 80 – The Tables are Turned! Witness the Power of Perfection! – Krillin and Vegeta vs. Cell.
  • EPISODE 81 – Vegeta’s Final Push! Defeat the Invincible Cell! – Vegeta vs. Cell.
  • EPISODE 82 – The Strongest Super Saiyan! Trunks Power Unleashed! – Trunks vs. Cell
  • EPISODE 83 – Cell Invades the Airwaves! Announcing “The Cell Games” – Cell arranges a tournament in anticipation to fight Goku.
  • EPISODE 84 – Training Complete! Goku Sizes up the Competition! – Goku and Gohan complete their training and plan to participate in the Cell Games.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 85 – The Truce is Broken! The Defense Force Strikes Back at Cell! – Piccolo and Vegeta train in the Hyperbolic chamber.
  • EPISODE 86 – A New Guardian! The Return of the Dragon Balls! – A new Kami and Mr. Satan challenges Cell.
  • EPISODE 87 – Mr. Satan Takes the Stage! The Curtain Rises on the Cell Games! – Mr. Satan tries to intimidate Cell.
  • EPISODE 88 – Showdown! Cell vs. Goku – Goku vs. Cell

VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome! I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Seven” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” Part Seven comes with a slipcover case.

For many Dragon Ball Z enthusiasts, many have ranked the Cell saga as the best in the “Dragon Ball Z” series.  There was no doubt that Cell was the most destructive adversary the Z-Warriors have taken on and I can easily remember how many episodes it took until we finally saw the matchup between Goku and Cell.

For anyone who has watched the original “Dragon Ball Z” series, it’s not a surprise of how much this battle was dragged out for a long period of time in Japan and even for “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, it’s taken quite a bit of episodes, even when shortened without the filler to get to this ultimate matchup and the buildup to this match has been exciting and quite riveting thus far!

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

“Dragon Ball Z – Part Seven” features Krillin trying to save a woman that he has fallen for, Vegeta’s ego getting in the way and thus playing into the plans of Cell and of course, the heavily anticipated matchup between Goku and Cell.

Granted, you are losing a lot of the android saga especially the training episodes in the hyberbolic chamber in preparation for the fight against Cell in “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.  So, I do emphasize that if you do want to watch the Android and Cell Saga, try to find the DVD release of the anime series (the awesome orange box series or even the Japanese uncut “Dragon Box Z” series).

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean. Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai” replace my feelings towards the original series? Of course not. But I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait weeks as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and each VHS tape in bad quality would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time. Because the series only lasts 98 episodes, part seven continues with the Cell saga and will conclude in the eight volume (note: “Dragon Ball Z Kai does not showcase the Majin Buu storyline).

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series. Granted, I’m sure that many of us are quite biased towards the “Dragon Ball” series but for those who have always been curious about “Dragon Ball Z” and have no intention watching every episode made, then “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is definitely recommended, especially now that it’s in HD!

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

February 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Maho Shojo” (Magical Girl) anime series in Japan tend to be cute and sugary sweet but with the release of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” on Blu-ray/DVD, audiences will quickly discover that this magical girl anime series incorporates that cute/sweet storyline with dark, tragic undertones as well.    And because of that, this award-winning anime series is not only unique, it’s also creative and exciting!  And for American anime fans, Aniplex Inc. absolutely delivers in swag with the Limited Edition Blu-ray release.  Definitely one of the best limited edition anime box sets to come out in the U.S.  Highly recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of © 2012 ANIPLEX, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011

DURATION: 4 Episodes: (100 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9LB Wide Screen), Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, English Linear PCM Stereo, English subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex, Inc.

Release Date: February 14, 2012

Series Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Series Composition: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Kunihiko Inaba

Chief Animation Director: Junichiro Taniguchi, Mika Takahashi

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Director of Photography: Shinichiro Eto

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft

Featuring the following voice talents:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname

“Has a loving family and best friends, laughs and cries from time to time…” Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader at Mitakihara middle school, lives such a life. One day, she has a very magical encounter. She doesn’t know if it’s by chance or by fate yet, but this meeting will change her destiny. This is the beginning of a new story of magical girls…

This limited edition combo box set includes the first soundtrack CD, an exclusive collector’s box, a double-sided poster, a Kyubey sticker, collectible postcards, and a deluxe 24-page booklet with character designs, a special short manga by Aoki Ume and more!

“Maho Shojo” (Magical Girl) anime series in Japan tend to be cute and sugary sweet but with the release of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” on Blu-ray/DVD, audiences will quickly discover that this magical girl anime series incorporates that cute/sweet storyline with dark, tragic undertones as well. And because of that, this award-winning anime series is not only unique, it’s also creative, fresh and exciting! And for American anime fans, Aniplex Inc. absolutely delivers in swag with the Limited Edition Blu-ray release. Highly recommended!

For anime fans who grew up with magical girl anime series, from the “Magical Sammy” series spun-off from “Tenchi Muyou”, “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Akazukin Cha Cha”, “Fancy Lala”, “Creamy Mami” to name a few, most of these anime series tend to be so sweet and sugary and cater to a niche group of anime fans.

While the series featuring older girls such as “Sailor Moon”, “Cutie Honey”, “Project A-Ko”, “Magic Knight Rayearth” had a bit of edge to the series and were known more for their action and characters which were designed as being a bit older than the “Maho Shojo” characters (which are typically young girls).  And one thing about Maho Shojo anime series is that it tends to stay within the confines of storylines and characters that are typically safe, cute, bubbly and sweet.

Once in awhile, you do get the melding of cute and sweet with an atmosphere of edgy and darkness.

A 2011 anime series known as “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” took things in a much different direction that the past magical girl anime series because of its edginess and tragic elements.

Produced by Shaft and Aniplex, the 12-episode anime TV series would feature a talented working staff which included director Akiyuki Shinbo (“Hidamari Sketch”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko”) and series composition by Gen Urobuchi (“Fate/Zero”, “Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom”~, “Blassreiter”).

Music composition is by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Noir”, “My-HiME”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Fate/Zero”), character design by Takahiro Kishida (“Noein – to your other self”, “Macross Zero”, “Durarara!!”) and background art by Kunhiko Inaba (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “C-Control – The Money and Soul of Possibility”).

The series was so popular that it won the Television Award at the 16th Animation Kobe Awards, won 12 NewType Anime Awards and won the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Awards.

When the series streamed on the Japanese video streaming site Nico Nico Douga in June 2011, it surpassed the previous record held by Lucky Star (at 570,000 viewers) with around 1 million viewers.   Also, the first Blu-ray for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” broke the record of “Bakemonogatari” by selling 53,000 copies in its first week, 22,000 copies on its first day.

The popularity of the series eventually led to a manga series, a Sony PSP video game planned for release on March 2012 and also, a three-film project which was announced late last year.

And on Valentine’s Day of 2012, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” will be released on Blu-ray in the United States courtesy of Aniplex.  The first volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” features the first four episodes on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a series about a young teenager named Madoka Kaname.  She’s 14-years-old and comes from a loving family and hangs out with her best friend Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.

But lately, Madoka has been having nightmares.  A dark world filled with destruction and she watches these girls in battle.  As she watches and wishes they would be stopped, she is told by a cat looking extra terrestrial known as Kyubey that Madoka can stop it if she makes a contract with him and become a “Magical Girl”.

Meanwhile, a new girl named Akemi Homura has transferred to Madoka’s school and during her introduction in class, she gives Madoka a hateful glance.   Homura quickly becomes popular in school and excels in academics and athletics.

When she meets Madoka, Madoka tells her about her love for her family and friends and Homura responds by telling her her not to change.

One day, while Madoka and Sayaka were at a music store, Madoka hears a plea for help and she is led to a dark warehouse and finds a Kyubey that is hurt.  She then sees Homura and is frightened that she is about to hurt it.  Immediately, Sayaka comes to Madoka’s aid.

As the two are running away, both are whisked into a magical world where they meet a kind magical girl named Mami Tomoe who begins fighting against a witch in the magical world and defeats it with ease.

The Kyubey asks for both Madoka and Sayaka to sign a contract with him and become magical girls.

Magical Girls receive a soul gem which gives them their power.  The contract of becoming a magical girl states that a girl will get one wish in exchange for her using magic to fight against witches (which are evil entities born from magical girls who have fallen into despair and failed to purify their soul gem).  Each battle features a large amount of risk and during these fights, typically one dies.

Homura for some reason is trying her best to prevent Madoka from accepting the contract in becoming a magical girl.  But will Madoka and Sayaka want to become one?

VIDEO:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is presented in 16:9 LB.  I have to admit that Shaft and Aniplex have done a fantastic job in this series.  For one, the amount of detail for the art backgrounds is incredible.  A lot of time obviously went into creating the atmosphere of this TV Series.  Typically, most TV series tend to focus on trees, skies, clouds and buildings but with “”Puella Magica Madoka Magica”, a lot of thought went into the series from objects, wallpaper (even Mami’s wall-paper was designed and not just a straight painted background).  You see the changes during the day and night, you can see sunset with the orange sky illuminating the area,the magical world with its creative and artistic design.

And overall, these colors really pop via HD. Reds and pinks, greens…they come are absolutely vibrant.

As for character designs, the character designs manage to keep with the “majo shojo” theme of characters looking young, even the older characters looking young.  But they are nicely drawn, good amount shading and also at times showing a sketched look.

Blacks are nice and deep, the series features colors galore.  If anything, the picture quality for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is very good considering this is anime TV series.  Artistic backgrounds, creative magical worlds, cool character designs… “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” looks great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo.

While I would have hoped for a 5.1 soundtrack (as I would have loved to have more immersion with the surround channels and LFE), most anime TV series aren’t and are presented in stereo.  Still, fans should be happy that two linear  PCM tracks are included.  They are front-channel driven and for the most part, dialogue and sound effects are quite clear and understandable.

The voice acting on both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.  I was expecting the Japanese soundtrack to feature high-pitch voices considering this is a magical girl series, but they kept the voices to the ages of Madoka and friends as 14-year-olds and older.   English voice acting was well-done and if anything, it’s great that Aniplex is including both Japanese and English soundtracks to this anime release.

But what stands out the most in this soundtrack is Yuki Kajiura’s music.  Each time I see her name associated with an anime series, if you are familiar with her work, you immediately know that the soundtrack is going to be wonderful and beautiful.  With “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, once again Kajiura’s music is captivating and it really enhanced my enjoyment of the series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” comes with the following special features:

    • Ending Theme: “Magia” Music Video – (5:18)”Magia” music video featuring Kalafina.
    • Textless Opening – Textless opening by “ClariS”.
    • Trailers – The original Japanese TV commercials and trailers for “Puella Magica Madoka Magica”

EXTRAS:

Aniplex is a Japanese company that is well-known for their anime but also known for their releases which come with a lot of swag.  And it’s one thing that I love about Aniplex because not many companies do that anymore and it’s something that fans in America tend to wish for, getting these limited edition art booklets, soundtracks, etc.

Well, with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, I can gladly say that this is possible one of the most impressive anime sets to come out in the United States.

This exciting limited edition set includes the Blu-ray and DVD of the first volume of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” but also featuring the original soundtrack which comes with a 2-sided cover, a deluxe collector’s slipcase, reversible 2-sided DVD cover,  a 24-page booklet featuring staff and voice actor interviews plus character designs and a 4-panel manga by aokume, a 2-sided poster, postcarts of “preview illustrations” from episodes 1-4 and exclusive KYUBEY stickers.

This is a very impressive release and it’s important for fans to know that the booklet is English translated and the CD soundtrack features a total of 13 songs (soundtrack duration is 28:06 minutes) and features the beautiful music by Yuki Kajiura.

The soundtrack comes with the following tracks:

  1. Sis puella magica!
  2. Salve, terrae magicae
  3. Gradus prohibitus
  4. Credens justitiam
  5. Clementia
  6. Desiderium
  7. Conturbatio
  8. Postmeridie
  9. Puella in somnio
  10. Umbra nigra
  11. Terror adhaerens
  12. Scaena felix
  13. Pugna com maga

I have watched a lot of magical girl anime series and there are some that are just too sugary and sweet and some that are just flat out, bad.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is one of the better anime series out there and for one, not only do you have a few very well-known anime industry talents from Japan working on this series, the production and look of the series goes far beyond what one would expect from an anime TV series.  From the moment you watch this anime series, the first episode shows us the amount of detail that goes into the art backgrounds, the artistic creativity that goes into the making of the magical world during battles, the character designs and experimental ways of presenting it onscreen and of course, the fantastic music by Yuki Kajiura in combination with a storyline that is not only cute, but also dark and tragic.

You don’t usually see this in an anime TV series, let alone a magical girl anime series.  “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” features wonderful production values and I can see why this series has won so many awards in Japan.  It’s quite unique and creative in presentation and as for the storyline, what I enjoy is how things go from cute to dark really quickly.

And for American fans, once again, Aniplex has done a wonderful job by providing possibly one of the best anime box set releases that I have seen released in America.  When you think about it, the days of the box sets have come and gone in the U.S., and although we see these limited edition sets for video games, I’m quite thrilled that Aniplex has chosen to release this Blu-release with a limited edition box set with so many cool swag.  Soundtrack, booklet, postcards, stickers, etc.   Possibly the icing on the cake for the near future for anime fans would be the inclusion of nenodroids and action figures, which hardcore anime fans are known to spend money on.

But there is no denying that this is a wonderful Blu-ray release and a limited edition box set worth owning.  And it’s important for people to know that Aniplex releases are highly desired, not many are made and when they say limited, these are truly limited editions, so you may want to try your best in getting this release if you can before they run out!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, production quality is fantastic, colorful and picture quality is very good for an anime TV series.  The lossless soundtrack is Linear PCM Stereo and most series in Japan are released in stereo and while I would love to hear a lossless immersive soundtrack for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, dialogue is still crystal clear, as are the effects but most notably, for its wonderful music soundtrack.

Overall, you don’t usually come across an anime series especially a magical girl anime series that has wonderful anime production, doesn’t look rushed or simple. “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” is a creative, unique and captivating series that is not too banal or too sweet and shows that the character’s choices can lead to tragic circumstance.

As for the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 – Limited Edition Box Set”, it’s one of the better anime swag-filled limited edition box sets to come out in the United States and for the anime fans who are collector’s, you definitely want to get this limited edition release.

Definitely recommended!

Purchase this title from Rightstuf

Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Another action-packed, thrilling volume of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”! Part Five of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” features the introduction of Future Trunks as he comes from the future to give the Z-Warriors a dire message that the androids are coming!  If you are looking for an action anime series, look no further.  “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is awesome!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five

DURATION: (Episodes 53-65) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: June 28, 2011

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

Mayumi Tanaka/Mike McFarland as Yajirobe

 The epic showdown between Goku and Frieza reaches its climax as planet Namek crumbles beneath their feet! In the aftermath of battle, neither fighter is anywhere to be found, but Earth’s few remaining heroes have much bigger problems. A mysterious and powerful stranger known only as Trunks arrives from the future with a warning: the Androids are coming, they take no prisoners, and even Goku – wherever he may be – is no match for their kind!

The action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back and not long after Goku’s battle with Frieza, we are introduced to a mysterious teenager from the future named Trunks who warns the Z-Warriors of the pending arrival of the Androids.  With three years to train, will Goku and friends be ready to take on the power androids which devastated Trunks world?

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the first five volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Six”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has two releases of the series on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai” but it is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

Currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

In 2009 and currently in the present, FUNimation Entertainment has released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (as of this review, there have been a total of four volumes released featuring over 30-episodes each). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which were also released in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2011 with the fifth volume release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 100 episodes and with this latest volume, you have 11 episodes.

It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series. The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes. Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five” (episodes 53-65) on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 53 – Goku’s Final Attack! Countdown to Planet Namek’s Destruction! - A new Grand Elder is selected, meanwhile will Goku escape from Planet Namek before it explodes.
  • EPISODE 54 – Goku Vanishes Into Space! Welcome Home, Super Warriors!- Z-Warriors resurrected.
  • EPISODE 55 – There Is Planet Earth, Father! Frieza and King Cold Strike Back! – A year later and the Z Fighters gather to fight Frieza and King Cold.
  • EPISODE 56 – I Will Defeat Frieza! Another Super Saiyan! – Who is the mysterious teenager that is taking on Frieza?
  • EPISODE 57 - Welcome Back, Goku! Confessions of the Mysterious Youth, Trunks! – Goku returns and a message from Trunks.
  • EPISODE 58- Goku’s New Move, Instant Transmission! The Three-Year Training Session Begins – Goku and team train for three years to prepare for the battle against the Androids.
  • EPISODE 59 - Undetectable Monsters! The Androids Appear! – Yamcha vs. the Androids.
  • EPISODE 60 – The Unbeatable Enemy Within! Goku vs. Android 19!- Goku vs. Android 19.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 61 - No Victory for Android 19! Enter Super Vegeta! – Vegeta vs. Android 19.
  • EPISODE 62 – Piccolo’s Assault! Android 20 and the Twisted Future! – The Z-Warriors look for Android 20.
  • EPISODE 63 – The Hunt for Doctor Gero! Discover the Hidden Laboratory! – Krillin and Tien search Dr. Gero’s lab.
  • EPISODE 64 - Number 17 and Number 18! The Androids Awaken!! – Android 17 and 18 awaken.
  • EPISODE 65 - A Sweet Face and Super Power?! Android 18 vs Vegeta! - Vegeta vs. Android 18.

VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is fantastic.

As for the English dub work, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome! I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five” comes with a slipcover case.

Possibly one of the greatest characters to make an appearance in an anime series, Future Trunks, definitely made a tremendous impact when he first appeared on “Dragon Ball Z”.

The future son of Vegeta and Bulma, Future Trunks was a big surprise when he went on to take on Frieza and his father all by himself and in the past Frieza saga, everyone knows how long and how far Goku and Vegeta and friends had to go in order to defeat him.

Yet, this mysterious teenager from the future came with incredible power but also with a warning of two androids who would literally destroy humanity.  If Future Trunks can’t beat them who can?

This latest saga in the “Dragon Ball Z” storyline is the primary focus of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Five” and this latest volume incorporates Future Trunks and the Z-Warriors as they prepare and take on their deadliest foes yet.

For anyone who has watched the original “Dragon Ball Z” series, it’s not a surprise of how much this battle was dragged out for a long period of time in Japan and even for “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, it’s taken quite a bit of episodes, even when shortened without the filler to get to this ultimate matchup and the buildup to this match has been exciting and quite riveting thus far!

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

Granted, you are losing a lot of the android saga in “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, especially the Future Trunks special which to me was an important part of the original series. So, I do emphasize that if you do want to watch the Android and Cell Saga, try to find the Blu-ray release of the Future Trunk specials and check out the series. It’s important to note that FUNimation Entertainment is planning to re-release the complete series of “Dragon Ball Z” on Blu-ray and also, the “Dragon Box Z” uncut DVD box sets are still being released.

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean. Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai” replace my feelings towards the original series? Of course not. But I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait weeks as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and each VHS tape in bad quality would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then.  But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time. Because the series only lasts 100 episodes, part five focuses on the android saga.

Overall, if you are a “Dragon Ball” fan, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series. Granted, I’m quite biased towards the entire “Dragon Ball” series but for those who have always been curious about “Dragon Ball Z” and have no intention watching every episode made, then “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is definitely recommended, especially now that it’s in on Blu-ray.

Definitely recommended!

Next Page »

Bottom