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Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Review)

December 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline. I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film! A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of  2018 © REKI KAWAHARA/PUBLISHED BY KADOKAWA CORPORATION ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO MOVIE Project. © RK/KC AMW/SM


TITLE: Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2017

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: December 19, 2017


Originally created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

Scenario by Reki Kawahara, Tomohiko Ito

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design: Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima

Chief Animation Director: Shingo Adachi

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

CGI Director: Ryuta Undo

Director of Photography: Kentaro Waki

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kazuto Kirigaya/Kirito

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Ann Williams as Rika Shinozaki/Lizbeth

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Suguha Kirigaya/Leafa

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Andrew Gilbert Mills/Agil

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Shino Asada/Sinon

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Keiko Ayano/Silica

Sayaka Kanda/Ryan Bartley as Yuna

Takeshi Kaga/Jamieson Price as Professor Shigemura

Yoshio Inoue/Chris Patton as Eiji

Kouichi Yamadera/Marc Diraison as Akihiko Kayaba


After its overwhelmingly successful worldwide theatrical release, Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- makes its debut on Blu-ray and DVD!

The NerveGear, the world’s first dedicated full-dive device developed by the genius programmer, Akihiko Kayaba in 2022…a revolutionary machine that opened up infinite possibilities for the world of VR (Virtual Reality). 4 years later…. A next-generation, wearable multi-device called the Augma has been released to compete with the NerveGear’s successor, the Amusphere. A cutting-edge machine boasting the ability to enhance AR (Augmented Reality) to the maximum, the Augma offers a safe, user-friendly experience, as it can be used while the player is awake, making it an instant hit. Its most popular title is an ARMMORPG developed exclusively for the Augma, “Ordinal Scale (a.k.a. OS).”

Kirito is about to join Asuna and the others as an Ordinal Scale player, but they’re about to find out that it isn’t all fun and games…


The year 2026.

Two years after the “Sword Art Online” fiasco perpetrated by SAO creator Akihiko Kayaba which left many gamers injured or dead, a new technology is to be released.  A technology that is thought to be safe and nothing like the Nerve Gear that was used in “Sword Art Online”.

Now people can use the Augma, the successor to the Amusphere full-dive system which allows a player to play a game that simulates reality while the player is conscious (via augmented reality).

And one of the popular games created for the Augma is “Ordinal Scale”.  A game which has quickly gain popularity that Asuna, Lisbeth and Silica are playing it, but surprisingly Kirito hasn’t jumped aboard to play the game just yet until now.

As people get into the game, part of the main appeal to “Ordinal Scale” is the game’s mascot, an AI idol singer named Yuna who appears during the game to increase the stats of players.

While everyone is playing, the #2 ranked player Eiji helps the Kirito, Asuna and team defeat the level boss but Eiji uses the words “switch”, a term that was used in SAO to Asuna.

Meanwhile, Asuna tells Kirito that Eiji is most likely a member of the Knights of the Blood Oath named Nautilus, Yui tells them that the appearance of Aincrad bosses in “Ordinal Scale” are similar to the line up with the SAO dungeon maps.

As Asuna goes to play the game with her friends again, immediately Yuna and Eiji appear and Eiji pushes Asuna towards the level boss.

When Asuna is hit, she passes out and suddenly, Asuna starts to realize that her memories from SAO are starting to disappear. Concerned, Kirito takes Asuna to the hospital to get checked out and it is learned that the Augma device has scanned her brain for SAO memories, and it may have happened to other SAO players that are playing “Ordinal Scale”.

With Asuna’s memory loss of SAO, that means her memories of her friends, but most importantly her memories of Kirito will disappear.

A desperate Kirito tries to search for answers and promises that he will do whatever he can to get Asuna’s memories back.  But what will his search unveil?

What is “Sword Art Online”?

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of “Accel World” would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and featuring the art work of abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012. The series has since spawned a total of ten manga adaptations. The anime series produced by A-1 Pictures was released in Japan between July and December 2012 and airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami in July 27, 2013.  And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television.  And since then a TV special has been released.

In addition, a total of ten video games have been released and it was announced that an American live-action TV adaptation of “Sword Art Online” is being created.

And the animated film “Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale” was produced by A-1 Pictures and was directed by Tomohiko Ito and was released in Japan, Southeast Asia and Germany back in February 2017.

In the first series, Kirito and Asuna have become an online couple and while Kirito was able to succeed and free everyone by defeating the final boss of “Sword Art Online”, he has been utilized by law enforcement to assist in troubles that have affected users (as seen in “Sword Art Online II”).

In reality, Kazuto Kirigaya (Kirito) and Asuna Yuuki (Asuna) have continued their relationship outside of the game.  Asuna dreams of marrying Kazuto and having a family with him in the future.

And with the 2017 animated film “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, with Asuna’s memories of SAO fading, the dreams of her and Kirito being together may now be in jeopardy.


VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you. Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Dialogue and musical soundtrack are crystal clear in English and Japanese, while action sequences utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline – Ordinal Scale – (14:27) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the film.
  • PV & CM Colletions
  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by the Japanese staff.  Yoshitsugu Tomatsu (Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna) and Tomohiko Ito (Director)

EXTRAS:

This limited Edition of “Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale” contains a Bonus Music CD, 60-page deluxe booklet, Bushiroad’s Weiß Schwarz Exclusive Collectible PR Card (while supplies last), and rigid box.


If there is one thing that “Sword Art Online” has proved over the years, that Reki Kawahara’s light novels and the anime adaptation inspired from it, are popular among many fans worldwide.

I had no doubt in my mind that “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” would do well as a theatrical release, not just in Japan but other countries worldwide, especially the United States.

Considering the film is not a Studio Ghibli film or an animated film with no Disney or Hollywood movie studio connect, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” grossed $1.35 million in the first four days of its North American run.

In fact, the film set an opening weekend record for an Aniplex of America theatrical release and has played in 560 theaters nationwide.

And that is for a film that debuted in American theaters with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles.  And for those who dislike reading during their films, Aniplex of America will be releasing the film with an English dub soundtrack in April 2017 for a limited theatrical engagement.

Watching “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”, it has everything that fans have loved in the series.  A lot of action, a lot of humor but also emotional drama as viewers have watched and seen the relationship between Kazuto (Kirito) and Asuna evolve and in this film, you really see how far their love for each other has blossomed.  And so, this film has become a fight for love and Kazuto doing all that is necessary to make sure that the young woman he loves is saved from losing her memories due to a new threat.

Fans will also love seeing characters from the past making their appearance in the video game but one will no doubt be anticipating the next SOA storyline as the ending teaser (after all the credits are done) shows us another menacing threat that will surely surprise fans of the series.

Animation is fantastic as A-1 Pictures did a wonderful job with capturing emotion in the faces of the characters but also within action sequences.  Voice acting is wonderful for both Japanese and English soundtracks.

If there was anything that I didn’t get into all that much in regards to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is the overuse of AI idol singer Yuna (but I know that is quite subjective to the viewer).

Music plays a big part in the film and where idol singers through battle is something we are accustomed to seeing in “Macross” anime series or film, it was not something I expected all that much in “Sword Art Online” and felt it was done a little bit too much for my tastes but at the same time, I’m sure it benefits Aniplex for music soundtrack sales and I’m sure fans who loved the music in the film will no doubt be wanting the soundtrack.

The film looks fantastic and vibrant on Blu-ray, while the soundtrack is is presented in both Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and dialogue and musical score are crystal clear.  Surround channels are well-utilized during the action sequences.

And for special features, you get the audio commentary and special short animation of “Sword Art OFFline”.  But for the hardcore fans who love the music for the film, the musical soundtrack for “Ordinal Scale” is included.  As well as an awesome 60-page deluxe booklet!

I absolutely enjoyed “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” but I do recommend people who know nothing about the series to at least watch the SAO series before jumping into the film.

Overall, I found the storyline of “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” to be extremely satisfying and as a person who has watched the series and loved nearly every episode, I really enjoyed seeing the progression of Kirito and Asuna’s relationship and how that relationship plays a big part in the film’s storyline.  I really do feel that fans will enjoy this SAO film!

A wonderful and engrossing storyline filled with action and drama, “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale” is highly recommended!

Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

November 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

wannabe

“Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s:” is a mature anime series for those who love wrestling, idol groups and fan service galore.  But while the series is no doubt targeted for men who love sexy fan service, the story of an idol-turned-wrestler was quite enjoyable and made the anime series worth watching.

Image courtesy of © ESE/Project SekaiTsuyo Project. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATING: TV MA

Release Date: June 2, 2015


Originally Created by ESE

Directed by Rion Kujo

Series Composition by Kazuho Hyodo

Music by Kayo Konishi, Yukio Kondoo

Character Design by Rin-Sin

Art Director: Minoru Maeda

Anime Production: ARMS


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayana Taketatsu/Elizabeth Lewis as Sakura Hagiwara

Kana Asumi/Monica Rial as Elena Miyazawa

Chiaki Takahashi/Lydia Mackay as Jackal Tōjō

Eri Kitamura/Vanessa DeSilvio as Makoto Kirishima

Haruka Tomatsu/Martha Harms as Rio Kazama

Hisako Kanemoto/Cristina Vee as Moe Fukuoka

Kana Hanazawa/Megan Shipman as Juri Sanada

Kyōko Narumi/Leah Clark as Misaki Toyoda

Miku Itō/Didi Duron as Yūho Mochizuki

Rina Satou/Bryn Apprill as Kanae Fujishita

Sora Amamiya/Kristin Sutton as Aika Hayase

Sora Tokui/Elizabeth Evans as Hornet

Sumire Uesaka/Morgan Garrett as Kurea Komiyama

Suzuko Mimori/Anastasia Munoz as Chinatsu Suzumoto

Yuka Ōtsubo/Michelle Lee as Nanami Kanno

Ayahi Takagaki/Heather Walker as Yunbo Yamamoto

Fumihiko Tachiki/David Thompson as Seiichi Inoba

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Greg Ayres as Chairman (Sakura Hagiwara Fan Club President)

Yoshiko/Alex Moore as Yoshiko


The eye-popping world of women’s professional wrestling is sweaty, sadistic, and savagely sexy. Famous Japanese pop idol Sakura Hagiwara is better suited for the dance floor than the wrestling ring, but this ravishing songstress is about to put her body to the ultimate test.

When she and fellow idol Elena are assigned to pose as wrestlers for a very special show, a vicious lady brawler by the name of Rio decides to teach the girls a lesson they won’t soon forget. Rio unleashes a flurry of ferocious of attacks on Elena, contorting her divine female form into an array of very naughty positions. Shocked by the blush-inducing beating taken by her friend, Sakura vows to get her heavenly curves ready to rumble and redeem the good name of idols everywhere by becoming a bona fide diva of the pro-wrestling world!


Back in 2013, the anime adaptation of “Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!” produced by ARMS Corporation and directed by Rion Kujo (“Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero”, “Love Doll”) and a screnplay by Kazuho Kyodo (“Mobile Suit Gundam AGE”, “Robot Girls”, “Bakegyamon”) aired on television.

Based on the manga series by ESE and Kiyohito Natsuki, the series was released on Blu-ray + DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

Sakura Hagiwara is the leader and center of the idol group, Sweet Diva.

Having won the center position four straight times, Sakura’s friend and teammate Elena Miyazawa has always been inspired to work harder to someday become center.

As the group becomes popular, the group has received a request to participate in a TV special in which the idols take part in a wrestling match.  Sakura enlists herself, which Elena follows.

But as Sakura and Elena head to Berserk Gym, they begin their training and are insulted by wrestler Rio Kazama who tells them that idols should not be in the ring as they are not atheletes.  As Elena takes on Rio, Rio easily beats on Elena, prompting Sakura to challenge Rio in a wrestling match for the TV special.  The loser will get their hair cut off.

As Sakura and Rio get into the televised wrestling match, she is instantly defeated, humiliated and her long hair is cut.

Disappointed and embarrassed by her loss, she and Sweet Diva are further shamed by Rio.  Upset, Sakura issues Rio another challenge for a rematch and will train to be as a wrestler in order to take on Rio in their rematch.  This leaves Elena being the temporary leader/center of Sweet Diva.

As idol singer Sakura prepares her training for pro wrestling, she must overcome all the pain and train with all her might in order to prepare for her rematch.


 

VIDEO:

“Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The animation focuses on closeups and most of the frames are primarily of fan service quality or in relation to wrestling.  Character designs are good, shading is well-done.  Background art is primarily not utilized as much as they are just solid walls and basic paint jobs, most of the focus by ARMS is Sakura or her rival’s facial expressions during a wrestling match or often showcasing their boobs or crotch area.

Overall, picture quality is vibrant, colorful and saw no major banding or artifact problems during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Voice acting for both Japanese and English are done very well.  The series pretty much lies on the shoulder of Ayana Taketatsu and Elizabeth Lewis’ shoulders as the character Sakura Hagiwara is put into grueling training sessions and the voice actresses have to showcase their character in intense pain and varying emotional high and lows.

The series is primarily dialogue and music driven but there is good use of ambiance for the audience in the wrestling hall.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Episode 01 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Elizabeth Lewis and Martha Harms and also featuring comments from other voice actresses participating on a “FUNimation Fight Night – Wanna Be the Strongest in the World! Round 1”.
  • Episode 07 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Leah Clark and Lydia Mackay and also featuring comments from other voice actresses participating on a”FUNimation Fight Night – Wanna Be the Strongest in the World! Round 2″.
  • OVA’s – (23:59)Featuring six mature-themed OVA’s.
  • Textless Opening Song “Beautiful Dreamer”
  • Textless Closing Song “Fan Fanfare!!!”
  • U.S. Trailer

EXTRAS:

Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s” come with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.


Back when I was just starting off in college, myself and a group of friends would watch GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).

The wrestling focused on sexy female wrestlers who looked different than the female wrestler shown on other wrestling shows.  And as they engaged in wrestling and suffice to say, for college kids, we were captivated each weekend.  Suffice to say GLOW, found a way to captivate an audience by combining sex and wrestling.

A lot has changed since then, as the WWE has been focusing on sexy wrestlers but also honing on those with wrestling talent and audiences are still captivated.

Meanwhile, in Japan, variety shows experiment with having popular idols take on pro female wrestlers and interject a mix of comedy, these specials tend to be a big hit among viewers.

Watching the anime series “Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!”, which is an adaptation of ESE’s manga series, he had no doubt has found a way to bring the sexy and wrestling and make a mature series.

The concept is popular in Japan as mentioned, bring popular idols who wrestle against a professional female wrestler or two.  But most of the time, they are staged and we actually see the idol on television performing several moves.  But “Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!” takes the story into another direction with the idols trying to prove they can take whatever pro female wrestlers can dish.

And sure enough, the idols get their butts kicked.  But for Sweet Diva team leader Sakura Hagiwara, having always been the darling of the media and leader/center of Sweet Diva, she had been accustomed to winning, not losing.  And now, having felt the embarrassment and shame brought by female wrestler Rio, Sakura announces that she will take a break from being an idol to train as a wrestler until she can beat Rio in their rematch.

And of course, the road to training for Sakura is not going to be easy, as the wrestlers will not give her any special favors.  If she’s wanting to be a wrestler, then she’s going to have to deal with all the pain and misery, until she can finally wrestle and take care of herself.

Meanwhile, #2 member of Sweet Diva, Elena, is distraught because she is thrust to the leadership position, when she has depended so much on Sakura for guidance but also inspiration as her rival.

The anime series, while very good (if you enjoy pro wrestling and Japanese idol groups), is mature.  There is a lot of nudity and of course, the usual fan service of Sweet Diva girls wanting to feel up on Sakura because she is well-endowed or the numerous closeups focused on a wrestler’s breast or crotch throughout a matchup.

But for those who love fan service, will no doubt get a lot of it in this series and even moreso in the included short OVA’s.

Picture quality is quite vibrant and I saw problems with artifacts or banding.  The lossless audio is dialogue and musically-driven but I have to say that the voice acting on both the English and Japanese soundtracks were fantastic.  Both Ayana Taketatsu and Elizabeth Lewis do a phenomenal job playing the main protagonist role of Sakura.

The two audio commentaries were far out as the English dub female voice actresses discuss a real fight that took place in their life involving them and some of the stories were quite wild and crazy.

And as mentioned, you get the six short OVA’s and even more nudity is featured.

Overall, “Wanna Be the Strongest in the World!: The Complete Series + OVA’s:” is a mature anime series for those who love wrestling, idol groups and fan service galore.  But while the series is no doubt targeted for men who love sexy fan service, the story of an idol-turned-wrestler was quite enjoyable and made the anime series worth watching.

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

January 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa-extra

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is worth purchasing if you are a fan of “Sword Art Online” but also are wanting to see a new storyline and new scenes. And of course, the new bikini fan service included as well! So, if you are wanting more SAO until the release of the “Sword Art Online II”, then “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © REKI KAWAHARA/ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO Project. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sword Art Online: Extra Edition

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: December 23, 2014


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Tomohiki Ito

Screenplay by Reki Kawahara

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna

Kanae Itō as Yui

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Anne Williams as Lisbeth

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee Morris as Leafa

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee as Suguha Kirigaya

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills

Rina Hidaka as Silica

Saori Hayami/Xanthe Huynh as Sachi

Takehito Koyasu as Nobuyuki Sugō/Oberon

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijiro Kikuoka


On a hot summer day, Kazuto (Kirito) takes Suguha (Leafa) to his school, to meet Asuna, Keiko (Silica) and Rika (Lisbeth). Their mission: teach Suguha how to swim. Kazuto, however, has a prior commitment to see Seijiro Kikuoka, an officer with the Virtual Reality Section of the Department of General Affairs. Kikuoka wants to go over Kazuto’s recollection of his time in SAO and ALO, to resolve some unanswered questions.

Later in ALO, Kirito and the girls (along with Klein and Agil), embark on an underwater quest to show Yui her very first whale. But the deeper down they go, the more mysterious the quest becomes…


On New Year’s Eve 2013, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” aired on television in Japan and then worldwide two ours later.

Extra Edition is set before the events of “Sword Art Online II” and takes place two years after the first season.

While the majority of Extra Edition recaps the first season, new scenes are also added and how Kazuto and friends are now playing an undersea quest on ALfheim Online.  But what happens when he and their friends get-together online?

Find out in “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

“What is Sword Art Online”?

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of “Accel World” would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and featuring the art work of abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012. The series has since spawned a total of five manga adaptations (“Sword Art Online: Aincrad”, “4-koma”, “Fairy Dance”, “Girls Ops” and “Progressive”). The anime series produced by A-1 Pictures was released in Japan between July and December 2012 and airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami in July 27, 2013.

A video game series was released in Japan for the Sony PSP and now, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” (featuring the first seven episodes) will be released in North America courtesy of Aniplex of America on August 2013.

The anime series was directed by Tomohiko Ito (“Occult Academ”, “Silver Spoon”), featuring music by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Eat-Man”, “My-HIME”, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, “Noir”, “Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”), character design by Shingo Adachi (“Megaman Star Force”, “Rockman.EXE Beat”) and Art Direction by Takayuki Nagashima (“Durarara!!”, “Real Drive”, “Steins;Gate”) and Yusuke Takeda (“Berserk” films, “Armitage III”, “009-1”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Golden Boy”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing”, etc.).

“Sword Art Online” is set in 2022 and many are playing the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), “Sword Art Online” (SAO for short). The game comes with a virtual reality helmet known as a Nerve Gear which uses the five senses of the brain and so players can control their characters with their mind.

The anime series focuses on protagonist, Kirito, one of the 1,000 beta testers of the Closed Beta version of SAO. On November 6th, the game is released to the public and Kirito is enjoying the game and meets Klein, who has experience playing RPG’s but learns from Kirito about the basics of the game.

While the two are talking, suddenly they are transported to the main courtyard and are unable to log out. They are told by the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, that all of the people playing are stuck in the game. If anyone takes of the virtual reality helmet of a player, they will die.

As for those playing the game, if they want to be free of the game, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. But if their avatars (their game character) dies in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world. And so far, people in the real world have died by having their Nerve Gear removed.

Having beaten “Sword Art Online”, 300 players including Asuna have not waken up from SAO for some reason. But when he receives a tip that Asuna was seen in the game “Alfheim Online” (ALO), locked inside a cage, Kazuto (Kirito online) is determined to free and rescue her.

He ends up joining with Leafa in “Alfheim Online”, not knowing that her true identity is Suguha Kirigaya, his cousin. And for Suguha, after she learned that Kazuto was not her real brother, she has developed feelings for him but knows that he is in love with someone else. Meanwhile, she has been playing “Alfheim Online” and has teamed up with a player named Kirito and joins him online, not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto in real life.

Alongside with Yui (an artificial intelligence program in “Sword Art Online” who looks at Kirito and Asuna as her father and mother), who is also a support character in “Alfheim Online”. The three work together, taking on new antagonists in “Alfheim Online” but most importantly, Kirito tries to find a way to save the person he truly loves!

With “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition”, the special takes place two years after the events as featured in season one of “Sword Art Online”.

As Kazuto needs to go to emergency counseling meeting, Suguha, Asuna, Rika and Keiko go swimming at school.

When Kazuto arrives and thinks he is meeting with a counselor, he realizes that Kikuoka Seijirou is waiting for him and to interview him more in-depth about the events that happened in Sword Art Online and why Kayaba Akihiko created the online world and trapped people inside.  And thus, Kazuto explains to him of what happened when he first arrived and then what happened on Alfheim Online.

Meanwhile, the girls discuss their experiences and how Kazuto changed their lives.

Afterward, Kazuto and friends head back into ALfheim Online take on a quest where they can see whales and head towards Thule Island.    While swimming underwater, they meet an NPC (non-playable character) named Nerakk, who explains to them that thieves have stolen a pearl from him.  As everyone wants to help the old man, Leafa is suspicious of him as the name sounds familiar.


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online” are:

  • Kirito/Kazuto Kirigaya – The main protagonist of the series. The solo player who saved thousands in the game “Sword Art Online” and was romantically involved with Asuna in SAO, after seeing a picture of Asuna locked in a cage in the VRMMORPG “Alfheim Online” (ALO), Kirito is determined of rescuing her.
  • Leafa/Suguha Kirigaya – Suguha is Kazuto’s cousin who has feelings for him. She is very good at kendo but also plays “Alfheim Online” as the character Leifa. Not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto, the two join forces in “Alfheim Online”.
  • Yui – The artificial intelligence program from “Sword Art Online” which is a young girl who was taken in by Kirito and Asuna as their daughter. Yui tries to help Kirito in finding Asuna.
  • Asuna Yuki – A person who fought alongside Kirito and has fallen in love with him in the game. She is being kept alive by technology used for ALO but is being held against her will inside the game by Nobuyuki Sugou.
  • Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills – The axe wielder in SAO, he runs a shop known as “Dicey Cafe” and a location for Kazuto and friends in the real world.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the Sword Art Online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding during my viewing of the episodes.

You can also tell the difference between the newer footage versus the television-footage as the newer footage is much more sharper and vibrant.  But overall, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is presented in English and Japanese linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. Both Yoshitsugi Matsuoka, Ayana Taketatsu, Haruka Tomatsu and other cast members have done a fantastic job.

With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! Both Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh did an awesome job as Kirito and Asuna, as with Cassandra Morris as Leafa/Suguha. But the casting for this anime series for the English dub was fantastic. Everyone did a magnificent job with their character role.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline – (13:46) A Short special offline edition featuring newscaster Asuna and Leafa
  • SAOII Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations and interview with Character Designer/Supervising Animation Director Shingo Adachi.
  • Double-Sided Poster

soa-extra-b

For anyone who has watched Japanese animation or dramas, the “Recap” episodes are customary, especially when a new series is not far off the horizon.

And to make sure that fans who watched the original series will want to watch the special or film, new footage is added.

So, back in 2013, there was a lot of hype about “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” as the recap episode would become a transition to the new season titled “Sword Art Online II”.  And fortunately, a new storyline was added alongside the recap episode.

In “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition”, the storyline features Seijirou Kikuoka (a member of the Second Separated Advanced Network Division, Technology Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) wanting to question Kazuto about what happened when he was trapped in Sword Art Online but also what happened on ALfheim Online.

As Kazuto does his recap of what took place during his stay in the virtual world, the girls discuss how they met Kazuto and how he helped them in the Virtual World.

When the friends get together, together they take part in an undersea quest on ALFheim Online but to their surprise, trouble has come upon them once again in the virtual world.

While “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” will appeal to the fans, especially for the new storyline.  There are some who will find the recap footage to be a bit tedious, but the good news is that the recap footage is not like one full movie.  Instead you get new story/scenes spread out through the recap portion and then getting into the storyline of the friends going online for ALO for quest.

As for the Blu-ray release, the animation is vibrant and sharp and looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  The lossless soundtrack is in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo and for subtitles you get them in English and Spanish.  For special features, you get a trailer for “Sword Art Online II” but also a “Sword Art Offline” episode.

As for Aniplex swag, you get a 16-page booklet plus a two-sided poster and slipcase with artwork designed by Shingo Adachi.

Overall, “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is worth purchasing if you are a fan of “Sword Art Online” but also are wanting to see a new storyline and new scenes. And of course, the new bikini fan service included as well! So, if you are wanting more SAO until the release of the “Sword Art Online II”, then “Sword Art Online: Extra Edition” is recommended!

Hidamari Sketch SP (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

January 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

hidamari-sp

The third volume of “Kill la Kill” reveals the killer of Ryuko’s father and thus setting up a major battle between Ryuko and the person responsible. Overall, an action-packed/humorous volume of “Kill la Kill”!

Image courtesy of © Ume Aoki – HOUBUNSHA/HidamariHeights. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Hidamari Sketch SP

DURATION: OVA Episodes 1-2 (50 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: December 23, 2014


Originally created by Ume Aoki

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Chief Animation Director: Yoshiaki Ito

Script by Miku Ooshima and Nahoko Hasegawa

Music by Tomoki Kikuya

Character Design by Yoshiaki Ito

Art Director: Hisaharu Iijima

Chief Animation Director: Yoshiaki Ito

Anime Production by SHAFT

 


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Erica Mendez as Ryuuko Matoi

Ryoka Yuzuki/Carrie Keranen as Satsuki Kiryuuin

Aya Suzaki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Mako Mankanshoku

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Steve Cannon as Hōka Inumuta

Katsuyuki Konishi as Tsumugu Kinagase

Mayumi Shintani/Sarah Williams as Nonon Jakuzure

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Grant George as Uzu Sanageyama

Romi Park as Ragyo Kiryuuin

Shinichiro Miki/Matthew Mercer as Aikurō Mikisugi

Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz as Ira Gamagōri

Toshihiko Seki as Senketsu

Yukari Tamura as Nui Harime


Even though studying at a prestigious art school like Yamabuki is hard work, the girls who live at the Hidamari Apartments always manage to squeeze in time for a little fun and exploration. And when they actually get a day off? Watch out world!

Yuno, Sae, Hiro, Miyako and new students Nori and Nazuna return to create another masterpiece of life as art, with all-new adventures that include swimming, pajama parties, trips to the art museum, and even an all-you-can-eat diner courtesy of the landlady! Of course, there’s always a little housework that has to be squeezed in, but with a pinch of resourcefulness and a dash of creativity, even the most onerous of chores can be turned into something magical.


The fun continues as Yuno, Sae, Hiro, Miyako, Nori and Nazuna take part in swimming, pajama parties, trips to an art museum and an all-you-can eat diner during their short vacation time.

Will all have fun?  Find out in “Hidamari Sketch SP”!

What is “Hidamari Sketch”?

What started out as a four panel comic strip by Ume Aoki began to grow to something much more significant as her story “Hidamari Sketch” (Sunshine Sketch) about a group of young artists living in the same apartment complex was serialized in “Manga Time Kirara Carat” in 2004 and was released in the US in 2008.

In 2007, “Hidamari Sketch” was made into a 12-episode anime series courtesy of SHAFT and also produced two special episodes and due to its popularity, a second season aired in 2008 followed by a new third season titled “Hidamari Sketch x Hoshimittsu” which began airing in January 2010.  Sentai Filmworks has released the first season on DVD.

The series is directed by Akikyuki Shinbo (“Maria Holic”, “MoonPhase”, “Pani Poni Dash!”), Character designs are by Yoshiaki Ito (“Maria Holic”, “Dai-Guard”, “Magic User’s Club”, “Silent Mobius”) and music by Tomoki Kikuya (“D.C. II: Da Capo II”, “Pani Poni Dash!”, “Magikano”).

The series revolves around four students who live in “Hidamari-So” (Hidamari Apartments).  The main character Yuno has been accepted to Yamabuki Art High School and becomes friends with her classmate Miyako and second year students Hiro and Sae and the series features life as students.


The main characters of “Hidamari Sketch SP″ are:

Yuno – The main character and a brunette with two X-shaped hairpins.   A talented artist, Yuno wants to become a great artist.

Miyako – Yuno’s classmate and nextdoor neighbor.  Vibrant, active and loves to eat.  Also, has a child-like personality.

Hiro – Hiro is a second year student and lives under Yuno’s apartment.  The red head of the group, she tries to help her younger friends but at the same time, worries about her weight a lot.

Sae – Known for her purple hair and wears eye glasses, Sae is a second year student and is a talented photographer and writer.  She is supportive towards Yuno but can also have a mischievous side.

Nazuna – A blonde character that is shy, klutzy and has an inferiority complex.


VIDEO:

“Hidamari Sketch SP” is presented in 1080p High Definition and thus making the special colorful and sharp. For the most part, the series has a charming and fun style to it and each episode, animation is constantly being changed up.  In one, you can watch the girls as normal but the next thing you know, you’ll see the characters super deformed, their faces stretched out or some unusual art style which is pretty cool to look at.  Painted backgrounds range from detailed to simple.  If anything, the direction is quite mixed up but it works for this kind of anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Hidamari Sketch SP” is presented in Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0.  For a more immersive soundtrack, those with a modern home theater receiver can easily set it to stereo on all channels.  But for the most part, audio is clear and understandable.

Subtitles are in English Screen Text, English Dialog & Screen Text and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“”Hidamari Sketch SP”″ comes with the clean opening and ending themes.


I have to admit that at first, I was expecting “Hidamari Sketch” to be something like “Azumanga Daioh” but the series turns out to be quite a random series which feature episodes that spotlight the student’s life at school and what happens outside of school.  There really isn’t any significant storyline-wise if one is expecting some sort of conclusion or serious story arc.

If anything, the series captures Ume Aoki’s four-panel manga as “Hidamari Sketch” is  a slice-of-life comedy series that people will either appreciate or just want to pass.

The two OVA special is an extension of the series and in some ways, an extension of the TV series.  Granted, the OVA’s looks so much better because it’s in HD and on Blu-ray and with most OVA’s, SHAFT focused on colors and adding more shading for the characters.

Overall, “Hidamari Sketch SP” is for those who enjoyed the original TV series.  While you don’t need to have previous knowledge of the TV series to enjoy these two OVA episodes, I do recommend watching the series to understand the background of these art club students.

A fun “Hidamari Sketch SP” Blu-ray release with two 25-minute OVA’s.  While the two OVA’s may be too short for some, for those who watched the TV series will find “Hidamari Sketch SP”  as an extension of the first season with humor, sweetness and a lot of cuteness.

 

Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series – Anime Classics (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Review)

March 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

isthisazombie

Fun, crazy, perverted and entertaining, “Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” will entertain harem anime fans wanting something a bit different.  And if that is the case, then “Is This a Zombie?” is for you!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series – Anime Classics

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: 17+

COMPANY: FUNimation

RELEASE DATE: March 25, 2014

Originally created by Shinji Kimura

Directed by Takaomi Kanasaki

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Screenplay by Makoto Uezu, Shigeru Morita, Touko Machida

Music by Shinji Kakijima

Original Character Design by Kobuichi, Muririn

Character Design by Shinobu Tagashira

Art Director: Kei Ichikura

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the voices of:

Iori Nomizu/Jad Saxton as Haruna

Junji Majima/Austin Tindle as Ayumu Aikawa

Midori Tsukimiya/Cherami Leigh as Eucliwood Hellscythe

Ai Shimizu/Monica Rial as Dai-sensei (Head Teacher)

Aya Gōda/Caitlin Glass as Salas

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Anthony Bowling as Orito

Hisako Kanemoto/Brittney Karbowski as Yuki “Tomonori” Yoshida

Koji Yusa/Eric Vale as King of the Night

Mina/Emerick Jade as Kanami Mihara

Noriko Shitaya/Lindsay Seidel as Kyōko

Rie Yamaguchi/Erica Harte as Taeko Hiramatsu

Yōko Hikasa/Morgan Garrett as Sera (Seraphim)

Some guys have no luck; he’s got no pulse. That’s life for unfortunate, undead Ayumu. First, he was murdered by a serial killer. Total bummer. Then he was resurrected as a zombie by a cute little necromancer. That seemed pretty cool until she moved into his house, refused to speak, and forced his rotting carcass to do all the cooking. After that, a magical girl in a pretty pink dress used her matching chainsaw to chop his corpse in half.

Luckily, the necromancer’s powers of resurrection trumped those of the chainsaw chick, so instead of dying (again), Ayumu became the world’s first magical girl zombie. There’s also a voluptuous vampire ninja who thinks zombie boy’s a pervert – and a hideous crayfish demon who wants to devour him. Confused? All you gotta know is this: zombies, frilly dresses, demons, and moe chainsaws. Pink. It’s the new dead.

In 2009, Shinichi Kimura wrote the Japanese light novel series “Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?” (Is this a Zombie?) featuring illustrations by Kobuichi and Muririn.

With the popularity of “Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?”, a total of five different manga adaptations were created and a 12-episode anime series adaptation was produced by Studio Deen and shown on TV Saitama from January through March 2011.  Followed by a ten episode TV series +2 OVA’s which aired on Tokyo MX.

The harem anime series is directed by Takaomi Kanasaki (“Magician’s Academy”, “School Rumble: 2nd Semester”), series composition by Makoto Uezu (“Ah My Buddha”, “Sola”, “Utawarerumono”, “My Bride is a Mermaid”), music by Shinji Kakijima (“Uta~Kata”, “Transformers: Cybertron”), character design by Shinobu Tagashira (“Shonen Onmyouji”, “Yume o Kanaero Zo”, “Hunter x Hunter”) and art direction by Kei Ichikura (“Odolm@ster: Xenoglossia”, “Strike Witches 2″, “Freedom”).

And now “Is This a Zombie?” has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation.

“Is this a Zombie?” revolves around a teenager named Ayumu Aikawa.  A high school boy that was killed by a serial killer and resurrected to a zombie courtesy of a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe.  As a teenager, Ayumu used to be quite active in school but now, he tries to keep things downlow, so no one will find out that he’s a zombie.

With his parents traveling the world, Ayumu let’s Eucliwood live with him temporarily.  And as Ayumu tries to keep himself out of trouble, he encounters a Maso-Shojo (Magical Garment Girl) named Haruna who is fighting against a demon.  But somehow her magical powers are absorbed by Ayumu due to Eucliwood’s power of resurrection being stronger than Haruna’s magic.  And because Haruna needs to defeat the demons known as Megalos, with Ayumu having her power, she needs Ayumu to take on the role as a Maso-Shojo.

Unfortunately, by transforming to a magical garment girl, everyone in school catches Ayumu in a magical girl outfit and think he’s a weirdo or tranny.  And because Ayumu has Haruna’s power, he has no choice but to let her move in with him.

Meanwhile, another girl comes to Ayumu’s home, her name is Seraphim, a servant of Eucliwood and one that happens to be a vampire ninja.  But when she comes to the house, she is asked to serve Ayumu, which he rejects.  But despite her heavy tsundere attitude, she also begins living with Ayumu.

And with these four living together and often getting at each other’s nerves, each must work together to take on various evils and hopefully help Ayumu find the serial killer responsible for killing him.

 

“Is This a Zombie?” features the following characters:

  • Ayumu Aikawa – The main protagonist of the series.  Ayumi is a normal teenager who attends high school but his life is changed when he is killed by a serial killer.  He is revived as a zombie by Eucliwood Hellscythe and with his new power, he is immortal, invincible and has great strength.  But he can still feel pain and easily dries out in sunlight.  Adding to his superhuman strength, due to having the ability to absorb magic, he accidentally absorbed Haruna’ s Maso-Shojo power and now Ayumu has the ability to turn into a magical garment girl.  His goal is to find the person responsible for killing him.
  • Haruna – Haruna is a Maso-Shojo from Villiers and her primary weapon is a chainsaw which she named Mystletainn.  Her job is to defeat Megalos and because Ayumu has absorbed some of her powers and needs Ayumu’s help to fight the Megalos demons, she moves in with him.  Moreso, because she has fallen for him.
  • Eucliwood Hellscythe – Eucliewood is a necromancer responsible for bringing Ayumu back to life.  She is a powerful magic user and because she can easily kill people by muttering words, she chooses not to talk but use written notes.  She also experiences a lot of pain when she uses magic.  She cares for Ayumu, because he is grateful that she gave him a second chance at life.
  • Seraphim – A vampire ninja known for her well-endowed assets.  She uses the power of the Secret Sword Technique: Swallow Cut and is the true tsundere character and thinks that everything that Ayumu does, even if it’s something good natured as a sign of deviance.  She needs blood to stay alive.  Despite her attitude towards Ayumu, she is starting to fall for him as well.
  • Mael Strom – A vampire ninja from a different faction than Seraphim, Mael goes by Yuki Yoshida and she finds herself falling for Ayumu because of his courage.
  • Sarasvati – Seraphim’s superior and goes by the name of Kirara Hoshikawa.  Her job was to make sure that Eu was killed because she is a Megalo magnet.

VIDEO:

“Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  For picture quality, the animation is pretty good, as characters are fun and well-shaded and art backgrounds are detailed well.  There is a bit of softness but the series is quite colorful.  I did not notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of this series.

AUDIO:

“Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD. As for the soundtrack, the English dub track has a better dynamic range as it is presented in 5.1, so action scenes are much more active through the surround channels during the action scenes.  And as the English dub is well-acted, as well as the Japanese soundtrack, especially for the more emotional scenes of the series.  But overall, dialogue is clear, fidelity is good.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

 

  • Episode 3 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Tyler Walker with voice talents Austin Tindle (Ayumu) and Anthony Bowling (Orito).
  • Episode 7 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Tyler Walker with voice talents Morgan Garrett (Seraphim) and Jade Saxton (Haruna).
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Is This a Zombie?”
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

“Is this a Zombie?” is a fun, perverted, harem anime with a twist!

Sure, anime fans…we have seen harem anime series before.  Well-endowed or characters that constantly show their panties and your protagonist guy who is either a really kind individual or a crazy pervert.

But where “Is This a Zombie?” tries to be different from other anime series is the fact that its main protagonist is teenage guy who is a zombie and also a magical garment girl!  And I know, some of you are reading this and asking yourselves…”what?”.

And to add to the twist is that each member has a tsundere attitude towards the protagonist (but yet falls for him despite him ticking them off in some way or other) and joininh the harem is a necromancer, the other a maso-shojo, three vampire ninjas and suffice to say, the main protagonist Ayumu Aikawa, is just a guy trying to play it cool and cares for each of them as a good friend (but being a teenage guy who is interested in sex, he also has perverted things going through his head at times).

While the majority of the episodes for “Is This a Zombie?” are introductory episodes of each character and are fun and upbeat.  It’s the way these individuals interact with each other that makes the anime series so fun.  Throw in Ayumu’s perverted classmate Orito and strange and crazy things start to happen.  For example, because Ayumu has part of Haruna’s Majo-Shojo power, he is now a magical garment girl and he will turn into one, with small clothes and exposing panties.  I don’t think I have ever seen an anime series where a guy turns into a magical girl and to make things even more funny, those fan service shots that are usually reserved for magical girls also have the same result on Ayumu.  So, yes… Ayumu has panty shots as well, which may make some fans shiver.

And while a lot of episodes are fun and games, with the group out for bowling, the girls competing in a singing contest or having fun at the pool, there are some episodes where you will see some antagonists.

In the first half of the season, we are introduced to Kyoko, who looks like your sweet and average girl but she’s actually a Maso-shojo and also a serial killer, which she uses human souls to be added to her life if anything bad happens to her.

And the second half of the series, introduces us to another zombie created earlier by Eucliwood and unlike Ayumu, his heart is full of malice.

So, there is more to this anime than just perverted humor with fun and games.

Also, included with “Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” is the 13th episode, an OVA about Ayumu and the young ladies going out to a festival for some fun and Seraphim cooking a vampire ninja recipe for the group and a Uta-garuta tournament at school.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good.  While there is slight softness, as one can expect from a TV anime series, the series looks good and the OVA 13th episode looks even better.  Dialogue for both Japanese and English soundtracks are crystal clear and understandable, with the English 5.1 soundtrack the better of the two in terms of dynamic range.  But both are well-acted.   And as for special features, you get two audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talents.

As for the series overall, there are better harem anime series such as “Love Hina” or “Aoi Yori Aoishi”, or those who want comedy will enjoy “Magikano”, “Rosario + Vampire” or “Nyan Koi!” and for those who are primarily in it for the perverted fan service, will probably enjoy anime series such as “Sekirei”, “Samurai Harem” or “Heaven’s Lost Property”.

But “Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” tries to incorporate the comedy and fan service but featuring characters that are not always nice to Ayumu and Ayumu has very good qualities when it comes to protecting his friends, but at the same time, being a teenage boy, he also has that perverted curiosity.   It’s not entirely original but it does try to be different thanks to its characters (a zombie, necromancer, magical girl and vampire ninjas…you’re just not going to find this type of unusual grouping in any other anime series).

Fun, crazy, perverted and entertaining, “Is This a Zombie?: The Complete Series” will entertain harem anime fans wanting something a bit different.  And if that is the case, then “Is This a Zombie?” is for you!

Nyan koi!: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Review)

December 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

nyankoi-a

“Nyan Koi!” is an entertaining anime series.  I enjoyed it so much that I watched it all in one setting.  There is a good amount of comedy, drama and fan-service and I have no doubt that this series will go over well with anime fans.  If you love “harem anime”, definitely give “Nyan Koi!” a try!

Image courtesy of © SATO Fujiwara – FlexComix/”NYANKOI” Production Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Nyan koi!: Complete Collection

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 LD

Release Date: December 31, 2013

Originally created by Sato Fujiwara

Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi

Series Composition: Shinichi Inotsume

Music: Manabu Miwa, Shigenobu Ookawa

Character Design: Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Naoko Kosakabe

Chief Animation Director: Yukie Sako

Animation Production: AIC

Featuring the following voice talent:

Shintaro Asanuma/Connor Leach as Junpei Kōsaka

Yuka Iguchi/Lesley Pedersen as Kaede Mizuno

Atsuko Tanaka/Marcy Bannor as Nyamsas

Eri Nakao/Meg McDonald as Suzu Kōsaka

Haruka Tomatsu/Emily Neves as Kotone Kirishima

Haruka Tomatsu/Cynthia Martinez as Akari Kirishima

Jun Fukuyama/Greg Ayres as Haruhiko Endou, Tama

Juurouta Kosugi/Andrew Love as Keizou Kirishima

Koji Yusa/Sam Roman as Josephine

When cat-allergic Junpei Kosaka damages a statue of a cat deity, the cats don’t just get his tongue, they put theirs in his mouth! Now cursed with the ability to understand felines, Junpei must perform one-hundred great favors for cat-kind or face the fate of being turned into a cat himself.

Life quickly becomes a purrfect hell as every cat in the neighborhood starts sending Junpei their list of “requests.” And if the kitties weren’t already whipping him into a cat-atonic stupor, the women in his life are making things even worse. His sister, mom, and the girl he has secret feelings for are all cat-crazy; the local Yakuza’s daughter is playing cat and mouse; the local cat-owning monk’s daughters are acting catty; and Junpei’s childhood best friend is ready to use him as a scratching post!

In 2007, the manga “Nyan Koi!” by Sato Fujiwara was serialized in the free web comic “FlexComix Blood” and two years later, the manga receives its anime adaptation from AIC and makes its Blu-ray debut in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The series is directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi (Kowarekake no Orgel”, “Sket Dance”, “Hayate the Combat Butler”), screenplay by Shinichi Inotsume (“Kowarekake no Orgel”, “Hayate the Combat Butler”, “Sket Dance”) and features music by Manabu Miwa and Shigenobu Ookawa.  Character designs are by Kazuaki Morita (“My Bride is a Mermaid”, “Tentai Senshi Sunred”) and art direction by Naoko Kosakabe (“NieA 7″, “Kissxsis”, “Jinki: Extend”).

“Nyan Koi!” is a series about a high school sophomore named Junpei Kosaka and he is allergic to cats.  So, much that he hates them and one day, he thinks he hears his cat Nyamsus talking to him but dismisses it.

As for Junpei, he is always dreaming about his friend Kaede Mizuno and wishes he can get closer to her.  One day, while he was walking home from school, Junpei kicks a can and it hits a neko-jizo-sama statue (a cat statue that serves as a guardian deity of cats).  Having broken the cat statue, now Junpei is forced to grant 100 wishes to cats and if he doesn’t do it, he will turn into a cat which will eventually kill him because of his allergy towards cats.

And to remind him and watch over him is his family cat Nyamsus who tries to make sure Junpei know of his curse.

So, Junpei will do all he can to help cats, even though he dislikes them.  But along the way, each time he helps the cats, he encounters other girls who start to take a liking towards him (and in the process, making other girls jealous) because of the attention he is starting to receive.

The main characters of “Nyan Koi!” are:

  • Junpei Kosaka – The main protagonist who is allergic to cats.  His mom and sister love cats despite him hating them.  One day, he kicks a can and destroys a cat deity statue and in order to make up for the damage, he must fulfill 100 requests from different cats (that he can communicate with) or else he will turn into a cat and die from his allergy.   He is in love with Kaede but starts to find himself learning that other girls he comes in contact with start to like him as well.
  • Kaede Mizuno – Junpei’s classmate and the girl he has always had a crush on.  But she is so naive that she doesn’t know he has feelings for her.  She loves cats but because she has four dogs, cats tend to stay away from her.
  • Kanako Sumiyoshi – Kanako is a classmate who dresses up ala Manba (very dark make up) and tries to be tough.  But her being a manba is to stop her from crying all the time because when she and Junpei were young (and would always hang out), Junpei avoided her feelings towards her and displayed it to another female classmate and since then, she has carried a grudge towards him and hates him.  But because one of the cats she is taking care of asks for Junpei’s help, Junpei must become friends with Kanako.
  • Chizuru Mochizuki – A college student who works as a mail carrier.  She is bad with directions and is always lost but when cats lead Junpei to her, he ends up helping several cats and also helping Chizuru in the process.
  • Nagase Ichinose – Kaede’s senior who is on the track team and daughter of a powerful Yakuza family.  She is quite masculine and thus is rejected because everyone thinks she is a guy.  She is quite protective of Kaede and despises Junpei because she thinks he is not good for Kaede.  Despite being strong and athletic, she has one weakness and it’s lightning.   She has problems with soft drinks which make her drunk.  One day, when Junpei helps her, she starts to have feelings towards him.
  • The Kirishima sisters (Kotone & Akari) – Kotone and Akari are twin sisters and the daughters of Keizou Kirishima, the Buddhest monk from the temple where Junpei  destroyed the statue of the cat deity.  Kotone likes Junpei because he always has bad luck and gets very jealous if Junpei is with another girl.  Akari senses the supernatural and is very protective of her older twin sister Kotone.

“Nyan Koi!” is 12-episodes long and is presented on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a basic synopsis of each episode:

  • EPISODE 1 – The Scruffy Cat and the Cursed High Schooler – Junpei is a high schooler who is allergic to cats.  So, allergic that he hates them.  But after he breaks a cat statue, now he is cursed and if he doesn’t want to turn into a cat and die from his allergies, he must perform 100 favors for cats.
  • EPISODE 2 – That Man is a Manservant? – Junpei must help a cat which leads him to his childhood friend and now a girl that despises him, Kanako Sumiyoshi.
  • EPISODE 3 – Your Name Is… – A college student/postal carrier named Chizuru Mochizuki is bad with directions and a cat leads Junpei to help her out.
  • EPISODE 4 – Beautiful People – A cat owned by tomboy Nagi Ichinose leads Junpei to her.  But Nagi despises Junpei because of his friendship with Kaede.
  • EPISODE 5 – Times Square – Junpei goes to the amusement park with Kaede, Kanako and Nagase but will Junpei be able to get close to Kaede with the other two girls around?  Meanwhile, Kaede may have found out the truth about Junpei’s curse.
  • EPISODE 6 – Milk and Bitters and Sugar and Spice – Kaede meets two twins Akari and Kotone Kirishima who know about his curse.  Meanwhile, Kotone is infatuated with Junpei, while her sister is overprotective of her.
  • EPISODE 7 – Wait Until Dark – Junpei is getting prepared to go on a school trips to Kyoto with his classmates.  Also, Ichinose’s family in Kyoto will be having a meeting to decide who will be Nagase’s husband.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Passionate Private Running Coach – Junpei goes to help the next cat in need, but when he forgets to help the cat…the cat wants revenge on Junpei.
  • EPISODE 9 – Girls in the Water – The group goes out to swim but Junpei is sick and Kanako wants to take care of him.
  • EPISODE 10 – As it happened One Night – The Kirishima twins are counting on Junpei to help them deal with a spirit.
  • EPISODE 11 – Friends – It’s almost Christmas time and Junpei and Kanako spend time together.
  • EPISODE 12 – Does Heaven Await Me? – Kaede is suspicious of Junpei and Junpei must find a way to convince her that nothing bad is going on or else the curse will consume him.

VIDEO:

“Nyan Koi! – Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The animation tends to change from very cutesy style of anime that will appeal to the fans who love cute characters, especially for the cats and then shifting to normal anime style.  Character designs are well-done, especially the closeups.  The background art tends to differ depending on the scene with some look quite simple to others looking a bit more detailed.  I did notice more background art being used in the second half of the series and for the most part, I really enjoyed the character designs for this anime series.  For the most part, the animation and art backgrounds for “Nyan Koi!” are very good.  The colors for “Nyan Koi!” are quite vibrant and for the most part, animation is up-to-par with other TV anime related series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Nyan Koi!” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  Voice acting is well done for this series.  I felt that Shintaro Asanuma did a great job with the voice of Junpei, very cool, deep voice.  Meanwhile, the voice actress such as Yuka Iguchi as Kaede, Ryoo Shiraishi as Kanako and Haruka Tomatsu as the twins, all did a fantastic job.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Nyan Koi!: Complete Collection” comes with clean opening and closing animation.

“Nyan Koi!” is quite an interesting harem anime series.  Despite the usual storyline of all females starting to like a certain guy, Junpei is an interesting character as his interest is primarily on Kaede and the only reason he was nice to the other girls was because of their cats and his obligation to grant 100 wishes for the cats or else he will turn into one and die from his allergy.  It’s a bit twisted in a way but “Nyan Koi!” is a pretty fun anime series.

Each episode is connected to each other, so there is no worry of filler episodes.  Each episodes tend to focus on Junpei fulfilling the 100 wishes but at the same time, these episodes also build upon him trying to get close to Kaede but yet the others also wanting to get closer to Junpei and we get to see him starting to care for the others but yet the writers finding ways to tease you in regards to Junpei and Kaede’s friendship and how close they will get.

But each of the characters are quite fun to watch and it does make me wonder how much crazier the actual manga gets and how many more girls are introduced to this whole harem mix.  But because this series alone focuses on not too many characters, each episode does feature plots that further the character development, relationships and jealousies that exist.  But it all comes together quite nicely.

As mentioned earlier, this is an anime series that tends to go from serious to a cutesy style but by no means is this an anime series for young children.    Yes, it does have many cute moments but it’s also important to note that while the series doesn’t feature any nudity, there is some perverted humor as characters such as Kanako Sumiyoshi (who has big breasts) tends to jiggle wherever she goes and Nagi Ichinose has this thing about grabbing on Kanako’s breast.  Also, a few pantie shots that show up form time to time. So, there is some perverted humor in this series but nothing that tends to overshadow the whole storyline.

As for the Blu-ray, you do get 12 episodes and the vibrant animation is quite pleasing.  The only downer is the lack of special features but unfortunately, with TV series, it’s becoming more of a common place to not see much special features on anime on DVD these days, “Nyan Koi!” is no different.

As for those who are video or audiophiles, it’s great to see that Sentai Filmworks bring out a Blu-ray release to the US and also give the series an all-new English dub track.

But overall, “Nyan Koi!” is an entertaining anime series.  I enjoyed it so much that I watched it all in one setting.  There is a good amount of comedy, drama and fan-service and I have no doubt that this series will go over well with anime fans.  If you love “harem anime”, definitely give “Nyan Koi!” a try!

Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

December 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” is a wonderful film that is action-packed but very emotional and sad.  It’s a film one can expect to see all members of the Fairy Tail Guild to take part in the action but also a film that manages to balance the action, comedy and emotional scenes rather well.  If you love “Fairy Tail”, you’ll love “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess”.  Recommended!

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

TITLE: Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess

ANIME THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 85 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013

Originally created by Hiro Mashima

Directed by Masaya Fujimori

Script by Masashi Sogo

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Animation Director: Satoru Kobayashi, Takafumi Hori

Theme Song by Aya Hirano

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Endo/Jessica Calvello as Eclair

Aya Hirano/Cherami Leigh as Lucy Heartfilia

Tetsuya Kakihara/Todd Haberkorn as Natsu Dragneel

Rie Kugimiya/Tia Ballard as Happy

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Erza Scarlet

Yūichi Nakamura/Newton Pittman as Gray Fullbuster

Shinichi Kotani/R. Bruce Elliot as Makarov

Akira Ishida as Zeref

Daisuke Kishio/Eric Vale as Loki/Loke

Daisuke Namikawa as Jeral/Mystogan

Eri Kitamura/Jamie Marchi as Kana Alberona

Hiroki Touchi/Rick Keeling as Pantherlily

Hiroki Yasumoto/Julien Chatelet as Elfman Strauss

Mai Nakahara/Brina Palencia as Juvia Loxar

Miyuki Sawashiro/Lydia Mackay as Ultear Milkovich

Ryoko Ono/Monica Rial as Mirajane

Satomi Satou/Brittney Karbowski as Wendy

Wataru Hatano/David Wald as Gajeel Redfox

Yui Horie as Charle

Follow Fairy Tail’s dream team – Natsu, Gray, Erza, Lucy, Wendy, Happy, and Carla – as they lend a helping hand to a girl with little memory and a grudge against wizards. As they uncover clues about her mysterious past, a lunatic prince hatches a half-baked plan to sacrifice her in exchange for immortality. When the fool unleashes an ancient force, a raging war becomes the fiercest inferno Fairy Tail has ever faced. Can the guild with a heart of gold save the planet from a fiery finish?

In the Summer of 2012, the first “Fairy Tail” animated film was released in Japan.

Titled “Fairy Tail: Hoo no Miko”, the film was produced by A-1 Pictures and is directed by Masaya Fujimori (“You Are Umasou”, “Doraemon” films) with a screenplay by Masashi Sogo (“Baki the Grappler”, “Rurouni Kenshin”, “Hunter x Hunter” and music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Naruto Shippuden”, “Ikki Tosen”, “Gantz”).

And now the film will be released in the U.S. titled “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” on Blu-ray+DVD courtesy of FUNimation in Dec. 2013.

What is “Fairy Tail”?

For those who are not familiar with “Fairy Tail”, let’s just say that it’s one of the currently running, long airing anime magic/adventure TV series in Japan (a total of six volumes have been released in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation).

“Fairy Tail” revolves around a 17-year-old celestial wizard named Lucy Heartfilia who dreams of joining a sorcerer guild known as Fairy Tail, a group known and feared for the destruction they cause. One day, she runs into Natsu Dragneel, a guy who is traveling to the land of Fiore along with his partner Happy (a talking blue cat with wings) who is searching for his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who has disappeared.

While traveling to Fiore, both Lucy and Natsu encounter a sorcerer claiming to be the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail. Natsu is the first to object that the man is a phony but the fans of Salamander are dismayed by Natsu’s comments and beat him up, meanwhile Lucy finds out that this fake Salamander is using his sorcerer abilities to make young women fall for him.

As Lucy tries to show her gratitude to Natsu for breaking the spell that would have otherwise have hypnotized Lucy, the two become friends.

But when the fake Salamander tells Lucy that he would get her into Fairy Tail, she knows he is a fake but any chance of getting to join the guild would make her dream come true, so she decides to visit him.

But it’s all a ruse and the fake Salamander is just trying to find female slaves and because he is so powerful, Lucy does not have the magic necessary to beat him. But coming to Lucy’s rescue is Natsu, who is revealed to be a true member of Fairy Tail and also revealed to be the true “Salamander”. And he easily beats the fake Salamander up.

When Natsu discovers that Lucy’s dream is to become a Fairy Tail member, he asks her to join him and he can help her get into the guild and from that moment on, Lucy becomes Natsu’s partner in various Fairy Tail guild missions and for each mission they beat, the more income they make.

And more money means more keys to gain more powers, which would help Lucy become a powerful celestial wizard!

What is “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” about?

The film begins with a jovial celebration at a village which is interrupted as the village is under attacked.  While many of the people of the village are slaughtered, we see a woman and her father escaping and teleporting to another location with the woman being given one half of the Phoenix necklace.

Fastforward hundreds of years later and the Fairy Tail guild members Lucy, Natsu, Happy. Gray, Erza, Wendy and Carla are on a mission to catch a bandit gang leader named Geese which ends in failure as Geese has the ability to turn as thin as paper.  Lucy blames herself for losing Geese but Natsu reminds her that they are a team.

Meanwhile, the guild masters have a meeting about a magical power source being detected near the mountains.

As Lucy is heading home, she sees the woman (that was shown at the beginning) named Eclair collapsing and her bird-like companion named Momon asking for help.  Lucy quickly brings Eclair and Momon to the Fairy Tail Guild to get something to eat.  Eclair apparently has amnesia and can’t remember anything but the fact that she is supposed to go to the Boundary Forest to meet with a wizard named Kalard.

Elsewhere, Duke Cream, from the neighboring country of Veronica has hired a dark guild known as Carbuncle to search for Eclair and take back the Phoenix Stone, as combining her half of the stone with his half would bring about something magical.

Wanting to help Eclair, Lucy wants to accompany her to the Boundary Forest to help her.  While Eclair tells her that she’s not fond of magic, Lucy is still willing to help and eventually, Natsu, Happy, Gray, Erza, Wendy and Carla offer to join them as well.

But while on their trip and stopping at a hotel for rest.  While Lucy tries to wonder why Eclair is quite cold to her, Eclair tells her that they are similar and have the same eyes, something she didn’t expect a wizard to have.  And as the two bond, one of the members of the Carbuncle Guild emerges to their room and tries to attack Lucy and is after Eclair.   As the group escape, they are eventually rescued by Natsu and Gray.

As the group arrive to the Boundary Forest, they receive a holographic message, Kalard reveals that she is the Fire Village’s maiden and he created a spell to dispel the Phoenix Stone’s cursed magic and also that he is Eclair’s father and that he has one with for her daughter to be happy and that she meets people that care for her.  And if she saw the holographic message, it was because he has passed away.

And as Lucy tries to help Eclair through her sadness of losing a father, she reveals that they are the same as she also has lost her father.

Eclair asks the Fairy Tail Guild for their help in breaking the curse of the Phoenix Stones and the group agrees to help her.  But not long after they discuss the stones, the Carbuncle Guild (led by Dist and his subordinates Chase, Cannon and Coordinator) attacks the Fairy Tail Guild and destroys their guild hall.  As the group try to protect Eclair, they are defeated by Carbuncle and Eclair is taken away.

Now the Fairy Tail guild are sent on a mission to rescue Eclair, while Duke Cream wants to bring the two halves of the Phoenix Stone together during the Anniversary of Veronica and resurrect the Phoenix in order to become immortal.

Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” features the following characters:

  • Eclair – A Maiden of the Fire Village that has been given an immortal life to protect one half of the Phoenix Stone.  Because of the Phoenix Blood within her, her memories of the past have been lost but all she knows is that she must go to the Boundary Forest to meet with a wizard named Kalard and give him the one half of the Phoenix Stone that she has in her possession.
  • Momon – A birdlike stuffed animal created by Eclair that has come to life and his sole responsibility is to keep Eclair company and to protect her.
  • Natsu Dragneel – Also known as “Salamander”, Natsu is a kindhearted, always hungry wizard who travels with his partner Happy in search of Igneel, a dragon who raised Natsu but is now missing. Natsu is a dragon slayer and a wizard who can perform “Lost Magic and can have physical properties of a dragon. He specializes in Fire Dragon Slayer Magic which allows him to breath fire and ingest fire as a form of nourishment. He is also gifted with other powers not yet revealed in the first volume of “Fairy Tail”.
  • Lucy Heartfilia – A celestial wizard who can summon contracted spirits (with special abilities) through a set of keys known as Gatekeys. She treats these spirits as friends. Her dream is to join Fairy Tail and through meeting Natsu, now her dream can come true.  Always in need of money, she looks to the Fairy Tail Guild as her family after her father is killed.
  • Happy – A blue cat with wings and a best friend to Natsu. He can fly and can carry a person while flying. He is also known to irritate Lucy.
  • Gray Fullbuster – A powerful wizard of Fairy Tail and the opposite of Natsu, in that he has control of ice. Gray has the power of Ice Make which can make him create weapons or anything out of ice. He was raised by the wizard Ur. He also has a bad habit of taking of all his clothes without realizing it.
  • Erza Scarlet – An S-Class wizard (high-ranked) and is the most powerful member of the Fairy Tail guild. She has magic known as “The Knight” which allows her to summon and equip weapons and armor and also has the ability to resist magic attacks. She is feared by others because of her lack of compassion.
  • Mirajane – A 19-year-old S-Class wizard who is the cover girl of Sorcerer’s Weekly magazine and helps Lucy understand what is happening with the members of the Fairy Tail guild. She has the ability to change her appearance to something she previously encountered.
  • Cana Alberona – A short-tempered heaving drinking woman. She uses card magic to cast her spells.
  • Elfman – Mirajane’s younger brother who is known for his physical strength. He can absorb the power of any monster he defeats.
  • Loke – A flirtatious wizard who is often seen in the company of many women.
  • Makarov Dreyer – The elder master of Fairy Tail. He is constantly busy because of his guild members becoming too violent.
  • Juvia Lockser – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild and now a member of Fairy Tail and is obsessed with Gray. She becomes great friends of Lucy but also her rival (thinking that Lucy is interested in Gray).
  • Gajeel Redfox – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild, Gajeel is similar to Natsu in the fact that he is a Dragon Slayer raised by the dragon Metalicana. He can transform his body into metal weapons.
  • Jellal Fernandes – A former child slave that grew up with Erza Scarlet. Thought to be dead, he is found by Oracion Seis and revived by Wendy Marvell and is being used to find the destructive spell known as Nirvana.
  • Wendy Marvell – A female Dragon Slayer who is accompanied by her Exceed partner Carla (a white cat with wings). A master of Sky Dragon Slayer magic, she can heal injuries. She becomes an ally and member of Fairy Tail.

VIDEO:

“Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” is presented in 1080p High Definition. As one can expect from an animated film, the film features a lot more action, more CG (especially for backgrounds) and better character animations.  While the film is not the most vibrant, has some scenes with banding and has a little softness, the animated film still looks very good and is quite colorful.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, while action scenes definitely use the surround channels.  Really good use of LFE towards the final action scenes towards the end of the film and for the most part, the soundtrack is very good.

As for the voice acting, I watched the film (as I have watched the series) in both English and Japanese.  And as I enjoyed the English dub, for the Japanese voice acting, I have to say that Aya Hirano does a magnificent job as Lucy Heartfilia for this film.  “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” is probably one of her most emotional scenes that I have seen her do and for those sad, emotional scenes, she nails it!  Fantastic job!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” features the following special features:

  • Fairy Tail the Movie, Prologue: “The First Morning” – (12:11) I wish this prologue was included with the actual animated film as it shows us the life of Eclair, the importance of the Phoenix Stone and how Momon was created.
  • Original Trailer – (1:45) The original Japanese theatrical trailer.
  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess”
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

EXTRAS:

“Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” Blu-ray also comes with the DVD version.

“Fairy Tail” is one of my favorite long action series that I am currently following from FUNimation and part of the enjoyment of this film are its many characters.

The members of the Fairy Tail guild are fascinating, as each member has a special ability and they are like a family that works together and is there for each other.  And that side of protecting your own is very evident in the first “Fairy Tail” film titled “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” as we see the Carbuncle Guild literally declaring war against the Fairy Tail Guild by destroying their Guild Hall and literally going against the family.

With “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess”, it was quite a surprise because you expect the humor and the action, but this film is also very emotional and tragic that for some people, you may want to have the tissue box nearby as it may make you shed a few tears.  Especially with the voice acting (for those who watch the Japanese soundtrack) by Aya Hirano who does the voice for Lucy.  This was possibly one of the most emotional performance I have ever heard from her and it’s one of those performances that really makes you want to cry!

The storyline about the character Eclair and her stuff-animal bird that came alive, Momon is rather touching and also sad but the bond that Eclair and Lucy are able to have as friends was captured quite well in the film.  And one positive about this Blu-ray release is that a prologue to Eclair’s life is added as a special feature.

Before one is to watch this animated film, for hardcore “Fairy Tail” fans, it is important to mention because the storyline deals with something close and personal to Lucy and if you are following the series according to the FUNimation Blu-ray releases, the things that happened to Lucy and her father have not yet happened in the series yet (note: Certain details that are mentioned in the film, take place in episodes 123-124 of “Fairy Tail” and with the upcoming seventh Blu-ray release of “Fairy Tail” from FUNimation in Dec. 2013, that volume covers episodes 73-84), so if you are a person who does not want to be spoiled, then you can hold off on watching this movie until volume 11 of “Fairy Tail” is released, otherwise if you don’t mind or are a person who has never watched the anime series before, then you’ll be able to follow this film with no problem.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good as the art backgrounds are beautiful, animation is colorful with a small bit of softness but for the most part, the animated film looks good in HD.  I did notice a little banding in certain scenes but for the most part, “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” looks good in HD and the lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese are well-done and utilize the surround channels, especially LFE!

Overall, “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess” is a wonderful film that is action-packed but very emotional and sad.  It’s a film one can expect to see all members of the Fairy Tail Guild to take part in the action but also a film that manages to balance the action, comedy and emotional scenes rather well.  If you love “Fairy Tail”, you’ll love “Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess”.  Recommended!

Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

November 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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There have been a few anime series that have received a five star rating from us for 2013, but when it comes to action and adventure, “Sword Art Online” is the best anime series on Blu-ray for 2013!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of © REKI KAWAHARA/ASCII MEDIA WORKS/SAO Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 20-25 (150 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: November 19, 2013

Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Tomohiki Ito

Script by Munemasa Nakamoto, Naoki Shojo, Shuji Iriyama, Yoshikazu Mukai, Yukie Sugawara, Yukito Kizawa

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna

Kanae Itō as Yui

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Anne Williams as Lisbeth

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee Morris as Leafa

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee as Suguha Kirigaya

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills

Rina Hidaka as Silica

Saori Hayami/Xanthe Huynh as Sachi

Takehito Koyasu as Nobuyuki Sugō/Oberon

Toru Ohkawa/Marc Diraison as Heathcliff

Kirito and Leafa have finally reached Central Arun, the largest city in Alfheim by the foot of the World Tree. Kirito is determined to face the dangers of the Grand Quest to rescue Asuna. With the support of the Sylphs and the Cat Sidhes, will Kirito save Asuna in time or will he be crushed by Oberon’s evil plans?!

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Kazuto Kirigaya, a hero who had rescued many people by defeating the creator of “Sword Art Online”, Akihiko Kayaba.

All should have been good right after that defeat but 300 people have no wakened up.  One of those people was Asuna Yuuki, a person which Kazuto had fallen in love with during his years stuck inside the “Sword Art Online” game as the character Kirito.

In reality, Kazuto finds out that her father is having her marry Nobuyuki Sugou, the man behind RECTO Progress Inc. who took the Sword Art Online technology from Argus (the developer of SAO) and went on to create Alfheim Online (ALO).

And what no one knows is that Nobuyuki has used the technology of keeping 300 people including Asuna captured within ALO and someone was able to take a picture of Asuna inside a cage on top of the World Tree in the ALO game.

Now, Kazuto returns to the online world but this time ALO to rescue Asuna and with the help of his online daughter Yui (an artificial intelligence from “Sword Art Online” which Kazuto was able to carryover to ALO) and Leafa (not knowing that Leafa is his sister Suguha).

But now what will it take for Kazuto to find a way to climb the World Tree and rescue Asuna?  And for Suguha, who had learned that Kazuto is not her real brother and does not know that Kirito is Kazuha, with emotions that she has had for Kazuto at an all time high, what will happen when she confesses her true feelings for him?

Find out in the final volume of “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV”!

“What is Sword Art Online”?

In 2002, writer Reki Kawahara wrote a novel series titled “Sword Art Online” under the name Fumio Kunori.

While Kawahara would receive critical acclaim for his novel “Accel World” in 2009, which earned Kawahara an ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize and winning the Grand Prize in 2008, the popularity of “Accel World” would lead to “Sword Art Online” being republished and featuring the art work of abec.

This time using his real name on ASCII Media Works’ Dengeku Bunko label from April 10, 2009 and a spin-off series in 2012. The series has since spawned a total of five manga adaptations (“Sword Art Online: Aincrad”, “4-koma”, “Fairy Dance”, “Girls Ops” and “Progressive”). The anime series produced by A-1 Pictures was released in Japan between July and December 2012 and airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami in July 27, 2013.

A video game series was released in Japan for the Sony PSP and now, “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set 1” (featuring the first seven episodes) will be released in North America courtesy of Aniplex of America on August 2013.

The anime series was directed by Tomohiko Ito (“Occult Academ”, “Silver Spoon”), featuring music by Yuki Kajiura (“.hack” series, “Eat-Man”, “My-HIME”, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, “Noir”, “Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”), character design by Shingo Adachi (“Megaman Star Force”, “Rockman.EXE Beat”) and Art Direction by Takayuki Nagashima (“Durarara!!”, “Real Drive”, “Steins;Gate”) and Yusuke Takeda (“Berserk” films, “Armitage III”, “009-1”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Golden Boy”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing”, etc.).

“Sword Art Online” is set in 2022 and many are playing the Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), “Sword Art Online” (SAO for short). The game comes with a virtual reality helmet known as a Nerve Gear which uses the five senses of the brain and so players can control their characters with their mind.

The anime series focuses on protagonist, Kirito, one of the 1,000 beta testers of the Closed Beta version of SAO. On November 6th, the game is released to the public and Kirito is enjoying the game and meets Klein, who has experience playing RPG’s but learns from Kirito about the basics of the game.

While the two are talking, suddenly they are transported to the main courtyard and are unable to log out. They are told by the creator of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, that all of the people playing are stuck in the game. If anyone takes of the virtual reality helmet of a player, they will die.

As for those playing the game, if they want to be free of the game, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss. But if their avatars (their game character) dies in the game, their bodies will also die in the real world. And so far, people in the real world have died by having their Nerve Gear removed.

Having beaten “Sword Art Online”, 300 players including Asuna have not waken up from SAO for some reason. But when he receives a tip that Asuna was seen in the game “Alfheim Online” (ALO), locked inside a cage, Kazuto (Kirito online) is determined to free and rescue her.

He ends up joining with Leafa in “Alfheim Online”, not knowing that her true identity is Suguha Kirigaya, his cousin. And for Suguha, after she learned that Kazuto was not her real brother, she has developed feelings for him but knows that he is in love with someone else. Meanwhile, she has been playing “Alfheim Online” and has teamed up with a player named Kirito and joins him online, not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto in real life.

Alongside with Yui (an artificial intelligence program in “Sword Art Online” who looks at Kirito and Asuna as her father and mother), who is also a support character in “Alfheim Online”. The three work together, taking on new antagonists in “Alfheim Online” but most importantly, Kirito tries to find a way to save the person he truly loves!

In “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV”, Kazuto is getting closer of rescuing Asuna, but the Salamanders are about to attack the Sylphs and Cait Siths.  To help stop the attack, Kirito pretends he is an ambassador of the Spriggans-Undines alliance and cautions the Salamanders to not attack them or they will be causing war on all four factions.  In order to stop the attack, Kirito must take on the Salamander General Eugene.

Meanwhile, Asuna tries to make an escape from Alfheim by swiping a key card that gives access to ALO.  Meanwhile, Kirito, Yui and Lefa reach the World Tree but in order to save Asuna, Kirito must go through the tree which hundreds of guardians are there to protect the area from anyone entering.

But is Kirito’s power enough to defeat them?

The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” are:

  • Kirito/Kazuto Kirigaya – The main protagonist of the series. The solo player who saved thousands in the game “Sword Art Online” and was romantically involved with Asuna in SAO, after seeing a picture of Asuna locked in a cage in the VRMMORPG “Alfheim Online” (ALO), Kirito is determined of rescuing her.
  • Leafa/Suguha Kirigaya – Suguha is Kazuto’s cousin who has feelings for him. She is very good at kendo but also plays “Alfheim Online” as the character Leifa. Not knowing that Kirito is Kazuto, the two join forces in “Alfheim Online”.
  • Yui – The artificial intelligence program from “Sword Art Online” which is a young girl who was taken in by Kirito and Asuna as their daughter.  Yui tries to help Kirito in finding Asuna.
  • Asuna Yuki – A person who fought alongside Kirito and has fallen in love with him in the game. She is being kept alive by technology used for ALO but is being held against her will inside the game by Nobuyuki Sugou.
  • Nobuyuki Sugou – The main antagonist during the “Alfheim Online” arc and the one holding 300 Nerve Gear victims including Asuna as prisoners in the game, despite SAO ending. He is determined to marry Asuna, while she is comatose and attempts to take over RCT Progress Inc., owned by her father.
  • Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills – The axe wielder in SAO, he runs a shop known as “Dicey Cafe” and a location for Kazuto and friends in the real world.

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” features episodes 20-25 of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 20 – Kirito vs. Salamander General Eugene.
  • EPISODE 21 – Asuna tries to escape from imprisonment in ALO.
  • EPISODE 22 – Suguha finds out the truth.
  • EPISODE 23 – Kirito’s final try to go up the World Tree, will he succeed?
  • EPISODE 24 – Kirito vs. Oberon.
  • EPISODE 25 – The conclusion of “Sword Art Online”.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the Sword Art Online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and I didn’t notice any problems with artifacts or banding during my viewing of the episodes.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English and Japanese linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. Both Yoshitsugi Matsuoka, Ayana Taketatsu, Haruka Tomatsu and other cast members have done a fantastic job.

With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! Both Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh did an awesome job as Kirito and Asuna, as with Cassandra Morris as Leafa/Suguha. But the casting for this anime series for the English dub was fantastic. Everyone did a magnificent job with their character role.

Subtitles are in English and you can choose from complete English subtitles which include dialogue and Japanese kana translations or a selection to choose just kana translations or no English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline 8 – (12:11) Featuring Leafa in super deformed format discussing Kirito’s grand quest.
  • Sword Art Offline 9 – (11:50) Featuring Leafa discussing the Kirito the Spriggan attempting to go up the World Tree.
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 21-25.
  • Audio Commentary 20 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Sayuri Yahagi (voice of Sakuya) and Chiwa Saito (voice of Alicia)
  • Audio Commentary 22 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Supervising Animation Director and Character Designer Adachi, Action Animation Supervisor Shikama.
  • Audio Commentary 24 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Takehito Koyasu (voice of King Oberon Sugou), Director Tomohiko Ito and Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna).
  • Textless Ending
  • English Cast Interviews – (34:06) Included is a bonus disc featuring interviews with the staff and English dub voice cast.

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • 16-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring six different illustrated postcards.
  • Exclusive Bushiroad’s Collectible Card #1 – I’m not sure if each set is random but the card that came with this limited edition release featured “Kirito’s Strong Bond”.
  • Rigid Box illustrated by abec (Original Character Design) – A slipcase which houses both Blu-ray cases.
  • Clear BD cases with 2-sided Japanese Cover Design

Read our Q&A with “Sword Art Online” creator Reki Kawahara and our interview with “Sword Art Online” music artists Luna Haruna and Aoi Eir

I have to personally admit that after the “Sword Art Online” and being so emotionally invested in that series, to watch the second season and now getting into the “Alfheim Online” (ALO) Arc, it was hard for me to transition to this new storyline, new online world.

But after watching “Sword Art Online: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” and watching episodes 20-25, it brought back what I loved about the series, character dynamics, action and drama but most of all, to see Asuna back again!

Watching the final episodes of the animated series, I was instantly captivated.  From Kirito’s attempts to save Asuna, Asuna trying to escape imprisonment but also growing to like the character of Suguha and seeing her find out the truth of Kirito’s identity but also the emotions that she has been keeping inside for Kazuto, the writers definitely saved the emotion, the action and the intensity of the second season for these final episodes.

While I enjoyed “Sword Art Online” for its overall storyline and characters, the second season was more about the love that Kazuto has for Asuna and how far he would go to rescue her.

One can call “Sword Art Online” an action adventure anime series but its the love story between Kirito and Asuna that keeps this series so strong because of that bond that was built in the first 12-episodes.

And the way the series has ended (for the anime), I’m quite content and very happy with how everything came together.  There were a few surprises left towards the end and suffice to say, as Reki Kawahara has created more novels that furthers the adventures of Kazuto and Asuna, I can only hope that the remainder of the novel series will be released as an anime in the near future.

While it was revealed that “Sword Art Online” will continue with a special to be shown on New Year’s Eve, I think about these four box sets that Aniplex has released so far and I just have to say that the amount of swag that has been included with each volume, especially the original soundtracks and more, “Sword Art Online” is one of the highlight releases of 2013 and one of the better anime on Blu-ray releases to be released in the past few years.

Sure, these sets are broken up into four volumes and Aniplex limited editions may be priced a little high for some anime fans, but this is as close to what anime fans have been getting in Japan and that’s limited edition releases with a lot of swag and for set IV, you get postcards, Bushiroad card, extra DVD with English dub interviews and more!

As a person who loves Japanese RPG games, back in early 2000’s, I was captivated by the “.Hack” series, fast forward over a decade later and I started hearing praises for this story about people trapped in a video game world. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it because I figured that it would be a copycat anime series but I was wrong. The series is addictive and highly enjoyable… Yes, I will go far to say that I love this series!

“Sword Art Online” features a storyline that draws you in and makes you, the viewer, wanting more and more.

As for the Blu-ray release, as one can expect, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray. While I wished for a more immersive lossless soundtrack, a lot of anime TV series are originally in stereo and for the case of “Sword Art Online”, the soundtrack is purchased in Dolby Digital 2.0 and Japanese Linear PCM stereo. But both soundtracks are well-acted and for the Japanese soundtrack, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Haruka Tomatsu, Ayana Taketatsu and Kanae Ito do a wonderful job!  And I was also very impressed by the English dub with Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito, Cherami Leigh as Asuna, Cassandra Morris as Leafa/Suguha and Stephanie Sheh as Yui.

As for special features, you get the “Sword Art Offline” animations, several audio commentary featuring the Japanese seiyuu (voice actor and actress of the series) plus the original web previews and more.

There have been a few anime series that have received a five star rating from us for 2013, but when it comes to action and adventure, “Sword Art Online” is the best anime series on Blu-ray for 2013!

All four limited edition Blu-ray box sets are highly recommended!

Please purchase this release from Rightstuf

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