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Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ushio & Tora Complete TV Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-39 (975 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio for OVA’s and 16×9 for movies, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Originally Created by Kazuhiro Fujita

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Series Composition: Kazuhiro Fujita, Toshiki Inoue

Music by Eishi Segawa

Character Design: Tomoko Mori

Art Director: Tomoyuki Shimizu

Animation Director: Mika Takahashi, Tomoko Mori

Director of Photography: Uehama Makishi, Yuuya Kumazawa

Anime Production: MAPPA, Studio VOLN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Brett Weaver as Tora

Tasuku Hatanaka/David Matranga as Ushio Aotsuki

Ai Kayano/Brittney Karbowski as Omamori-sama

Ai Satou as Oyakume-sama

Aki Toyosaki /Brittney Karbowski as Yū Hiyama

Ayahi Takagaki/Emily Neves as Jun Moritsuna

Daisuke Namikawa/David Wald as Hyō

Fumiko Orikasa as Mikado Hizaki

Hidekatsu Shibata as Nigira

Kana Hanazawa/Carli Mosier as Jie Mei

Keiji Fujiwara as Shigure Aotsuki

Kiyono Yasuno as Mayuko Inoue

Maaya Sakamoto/Emily Neves as Sumako Aotsuki

Mamoru Miyano/John Gremellion as Giryō

Masaki Terasoma as Kyōji Atsuzawa

Megumi Han/Blake Shepard as Kirio

Megumi Hayashibara as Hakumen no Mono

Mikako Komatsu/Allison Sumrall as Asako Nakamura

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Wittels as Hinowa Sekimori

Nao Nagasawa as Izuna

Risa Shimizu/Patricia Duran as Kagari

Ryota Ohsaka/Clifford Chapin as Satoru Moritsuna

Shinichiro Miki/Jay Hickman as Raishin

Toshio Furukawa as Yamanmoto

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ian Sinclair as Nagare Akiba

Yui Makino/Kira Vincent-Davis as Reiko Hanyū

Yuuka Nanri/Tiffany Grant as Saya Takatori

Yuuki Kaji/John Gremillion as Jūrō


Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!


Back in 1990, Kazuhiro Fujita created the manga series “Ushio and Tora”.

So popular the series came to be, it received an anime adaptation via three OVA series from 1992-1993.  In 2015, a 30-episode animated TV series was produced by MAPPA and Studio VOLN and now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The series revolves around Ushio Aotsuki, the son of a temple priest and a lady shaman. He’s also a kid who stands up for his friends and can have a temper.

One day, while cleaning up books in the store room, he finds a door and when he opens it and goes inside, he discovers a tiger-like Yokai named Tora.  He also sees a spear that has held the yokai in place and Tora tries to get Ushio to remove it.  But when he tells Ushio that he would eat him and eat all humans, Ushio decides not to help him (even going so far as to kick the spear in place several times).

But when Tora’s aura starts to leak from the wounded area, yokai’s escape into the real world and the only way he can defeat these yokai is with Tora’s help, so Ushio removes the spear off of Tora.  But when Tora tells him that he will not help, Ushio starts to get angry while holding the spear and his hair grows very long, scaring Tora.  It also means that he was destined to wield the Beast Spear.

But the two make an agreement, after they rid of the yokai, Ushio will allow Tora to eat him.

So now, Ushio and Tora work together to stop the yokai that threaten humans.  But are all yokai bad?  And how will the relationship between Ushio and Tora evolve as they continue to work together?

Ushio also goes on an adventure while tracking down Yokai to know more about his mother and why the yokai are after him specifically.

Ushio & Tora features the following characters:

  • Ushio Aotsuki – A kind-hearted individuals who stands up for his friends and can have a bit of a temper.  He values all life and friendships and his kindness helps bridge together humans and yokai.
  • Tora – A tiger-like yokai who was pinned in the basement of Ushio’s temple.  He was once known as Nagatobimaru and was feared.  At first he hated humans but being around Ushio and friends, he is amazed to see how lifestyle has changed among humans and starts to enjoy parts of modern society, especially for hamburgers.
  • Asako Nakamura – Ushio and Mayuko’s friend.  She and Ushio grew up with each other and both care deeply about each other, despite her having more of a temper than Ushio.  Her family runs a ramen restaurant.
  • Mayuko Inoue – A friend of Ushio and Asako.  She cares for both Ushio and Asako.  She also cares for Tora and often buys him hamburgers and she may have Shaman abilities.
  • Shigure Aotsuki – Ushio’s father, who is often stern but also keeps a secret from his son of what he does behind-the-scenes.
  • Reiko Hanyuu – An orphan who’s father was very overprotective and became an oni, so any boys that try to get close to her are in danger.  As she tries to commit suicide, only Ushio can help her father realize what he is doing is hurting his daughter.  After being free, she becomes friends with Ushio and friends.
  • Hyou – A powerful Chinese exorcist who has come to Japan to seek out the yokai who killed his wife and daughter and took out his right eye and left scars on his face.  The yokai is believed by Hyou to be Tora.
  • Jie Mei – A sprit guardian who lives in the Beast Spear who sacrificed her life to create the blade of the spear.
  • Giryo – The brother of Jie Mei, a blacksmith who went insane when he couldn’t prevent his sister’s sacrifice.  His anger, remorse and regret is built and trapped in the shaft of the beast spear.
  • Yu Hiyama – A girl whose father was a pilot who died in an airplane crash due to a Fusama yokai.  She has always blamed her father’s friend Atsuzawa but when Ushio shows her the truth, she learns to forgive and help out Ushio and Tora.
  • Saya Takatori – A descendent of the white-haired women who maintain the success of the Takatori household by appeasing the childlike spirit Omamori.
  • Hinowa Sekimori – A tough and cold girl who was one of the four chosen to control the Beast Spear and she rejects Ushio for possessing it for being undisciplined and reckless.

VIDEO:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Even back when I watched the initial OVA, I was always impressed of how the animation was true to the manga illustrations of Kazuhiro Fujita.  The TV Series also captures that style with its unique character design, battle animation and for the most part, the anime series looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Ushio & Tora” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear but as I love the voice acting by Rikiya Koyama as Tora and Tasuku Hatanaka as Ushio, the English dub is very well-done and Brett Weaver does a great job in portraying Tora, as with David Matranga as the voice of Ushio.

Definitely one of the better English dubbed soundtracks for a Sentai Filmworks series on Blu-ray this year!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” comes with no special features.

 


Back in 1993, J!-ENT was founded and in our first year, one of the earlier anime series I reviewed was an OAV episode of “Ushio & Tora”.  I felt the series had tremendous potential and many people watching it at an anime club were supportive and excited each time a new OAV was release.

But that was the early-to-mid ’90s and haven’t heard anything until 20-years-later and an animated series was created courtesy of Mappa and Studio VOLN and what an awesome series “Ushio & Tora” came to be.

The television series featured more characters, more action and was able to capture the friendships that Ushio and Tora encountered through their adventures but most importantly, capturing a lot of the emotion, a lot of the action and featuring wonderful animation and voice acting.

The storyline about a human, a teenager named Ushio and a yokai named Tora (who wants to eat Ushio) in an alliance that first turns out to be like oil and water and both are not really getting a long.  But through working together, learning from each other and becoming friends, they are able to develop a relationship that works.  And while Ushio and Tora are able to take on many yokai, a bit easily in the first half of the series, by the second half, things become more dire as tons of yokai are now after Ushio and Tora and his friends do all they can to protect humanity.

With the release of “Ushio & Tora” on Blu-ray, watching it in Japanese and also with the English dub soundtrack, both soundtracks are wonderful.  And the voice acting in English is possibly one of the best I have listened to this year.  Mappa and Studio VOLN did a wonderful job with the animation and picture quality is vibrant and colorful.

Overall, “Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is for those who love action-driven anime series.  Series with a lot of heart, humor and violence.  It’s the heard of “Ushio & Tora”, a battle between humans and monsters and one human and one monsters doing all they can to protect humanity against all odds.  And with all 39-episodes collected for a great price, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth purchasing!

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Saekano Blu-ray Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

saekano-2

Hilarious, fun but also more dramatic for the second half series, “Saekano” is an entertaining anime series for those who want to get a glimpse of the challenges involved in creating a gal-ge video game.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Fumiaki Maruto, Kurehita Misaki, KADOKAWA FUJIMISHIBI/Project Saenai. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Saekano Blu-ray Set 2

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 6-12 (175 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16×9, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: May 31, 2016


Originally Created by Fumiaki Maruto

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Screenplay by Fumiaki Maruto

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Original Character Design by Kurehito Misaki

Art Director: Natsuki Kusakabe

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Utaha Kasumigaoka

Kiyono Yasuno as Megumi Katō

Saori Ōnishi as Eriri Spencer Sawamura

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Tomoya Aki


After many agreements and disagreements, the members of Tomoya’s gal-ge production team “blessing software” are finally working hard! Eriri is really into the game’s character design as Utaha is devoting herself more to the scenario than her own novels, and even Megumi exerts her “stealth ability” on the internet. However, there is one problem – who is doing the music? Tomoya tries to convince his cousin, Michiru, who plays in her own band. But Michiru doesn’t only show a lack of interest in games but tells the members to stop being otakus and get a life. Is blessing software breaking up without completing the game!?


As Tomoya tries to organize his team to create his gal-ge video game, he still needs someone to make the music and probably need some help in programming.  Who can Tomoya turn to as their deadline to have a game made before Winter Comike is coming up?

Also, find out more of the history between Tomoya and Utaha and Eriri.

Find out what happens in the second and final volume of “Saekano” on Blu-ray!

What is “Saekano”?

In 2012, Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki created the Japanese light novel series, “Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata” a.k.a. “Saekano”.

The light novel received a manga adaptation and in 2015, A-1 Pictures would create a television series adaptation for FujiTV’s noitamina block.

The anime series is directed by Kantai Kamei (“Dimension W”, “Bunny Drop”, “Nanana’s Buried Treasure”), a screenplay by creator Fumiaki Maruto, music by Hajime Hyakkoku (“K-ON!”, “Jewelpet: Magical Change”), character designs by Tomoaki Takase (“Wagnaria!!”) and background art by Natsuki Kusakabe (“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Ro-Kyu-Bu! SS”, “Date A Live”).

The anime series features voice acting by Ai Kayano (“Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma”, “Aquarion Evol”, “Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne”), Kiyono Yasuno (“Macross Delta”, “Ushio & Tora”, “Wake Up, Girls!”), Saori Onishi (“The Irregular at Magic High School”, “Active Raid”, “Strike the Blood”) and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (“Sword Art Online”, “Love Lab”, “Yowamushi Pedal”).

And now the second volume featuring episodes 6-12 has been released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series revolves around Toyogasaki Academy student Tomoya Aki, an otaku who works part-time to fund his lifestyle of watching anime, playing dating sims and more.

One day, he encounters a beautiful girl during spring vacation and a month later, finds out that girl is his classmate named Megumi.

Tomoya wants to create a visual novel computer game, so he recruits the beautiful high school students, his childhood friend and student novelist, Eriri Spencer Sawamura to design the art and Utaha Kasumigaoka to write the games scenario.

Needing a heroine, he recruits the naive Megumi Kato as the “heroine”, who will be the main character’s love interest.

But with deadlines looming and the personalities of the girls all clashing, can Tomoya get them all on the same page in order to meet the deadline (and release it at Winter Comike) and will he find the additional people to join his gal-ge team?


The main story focuses on:

Tomoya Aki – Tomoya is a student at Toyogasaki Academy and is a otaku who loves reading manga, watching anime and playing galge (pretty girl games). He wants to create a visual novel, so he tries to recruit the people needed for the game by Blessing Software.

Eriri Spencer Sawamura – Tomoya’s childhood friend and is half British and half Japanese. While she is popular and refined, she also has a secret otaku lifestyle of playing video games. She creates adult-themed manga and goes by the name Eri Kashiwagi and is part of the group, “Egoistic-Lily”. She is tsundere, cruel and sadistic.

Utaha Kasumigaoka – An up-and-coming young novelist going by the name of Utako Kasumi, her first light novel “Koisuru Metronome” published under Fushikawa Fantastic Bunko sold over 500,000 copies. She is beautiful and intelligent and popular.

Megumi Kato – Tomoya’s classmate who is ordinary, knows nothing about otaku culture and is the person that Tomoya wants to recruit as his “heroine” for his visual novel.

Izumi Hashima – Two years younger than Tomoya but she looks up to Tomoya for introducing her to otaku culture.  Eriri looks at her as a rival because Tomoya always wants to help her out.  Izumi is the youngest sister of Iori, who represents the dojin circle, Rouge en Rogue.

Michiru Hyodo – Tomoya’s cousin.  She likes to hardly wear anything when she’s home and has a band known as Icy Tail (a pun on the Japanese word, “Aishiteru” which  means love).


VIDEO:

“Saekano Blu-ray” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done and well-shaded, while backgrounds and structures are well-detailed. Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo. Dialogue is crystal clear and subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saekano” vol. 2 comes with the web previews for episodes 6-12.

EXTRAS:

“Saekano” vol. 2 comes with a slipcase, eight illustration post cards and reversible cover.


The life and struggles of those who try to create a gal-ge game (a visual novel/dating sim which focuses on a guy meeting different female characters and by selecting the right choices, you will end up with one of the female characters at the end of the game).

As the first volume focused on Tomoya bringing together a talented writer and artist, but also choosing a (quiet and shy) girl to be his protagonist’s voice actress, he still needs additional help in finalizing the game before it’s deadline and presentation at Winter Comike.

But still tensions still persist as the girl’s do not all get along but also issues that each of the girl’s have with Tomoya.

With the final six episodes, the series focuses on the past that Tomoya had with Tomoya and Eri, his friend Izumi, his cousin Michiru (who he wants to convince to make music for the video game) and more.

By far, these last six episodes are much deeper as the episodes explore the feelings these girls have towards Tomoya.  And being the naive guy he is and his focus on creating a video game, he is of course, blind to the fact that each of them have feelings towards him.

And despite the more emotional tone set by a few episodes, for those who love the fan service, will still get plenty of it in volume 2!

My favorite episodes in this latest episode are episode 9 as we learn how Eriri and Tomoya were friends, and how they were very close when they were younger but why there was a rift between the two.  Also, episode 11 when Tomoya introduces everyone to his cousin Michiru.  Of course, it doesn’t hel much that Michiru hardly wears anything and she’s Tomoya’s age and now living with him.

The second volume is in my opinion much better than the first half, because the storyline shows a more dramatic element, retains the humor and fan service style, but the episodes were better written this time around.

The Blu-ray release features vibrant animation and voice acting for the series is quite solid and you have Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, voice of Kirito for “Sword Art Online” playing the main character role of otaku, Tomoya. It’s important to note that the anime series is in Japanese only, there are no English dubs included.

Special features includes the web previews for episodes 6-12 and also comes with a slipcase, eight postcards and a Blu-ray case with a reversible cover.

Overall, “Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel.

Hilarious, fun but also more dramatic for the second half series, “Saekano” is an entertaining anime series for those who want to get a glimpse of the challenges involved in creating a gal-ge video game.  Recommended!

Your Lie in April Vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

yourlieinapril-2

“Your Lie in April” is captivating, heartbreaking but also inspiring. It is rare to watch an anime series that captivates you on all levels, may it be animation, music, storytelling, this series is fantastic! “Your Lie in April” is highly recommended and definitely one of the top anime releases on Blu-ray for 2016!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Aniplex Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Your Lie in April Vol. 2

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014-2015

DURATION: Episodes 12-22 (250 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16:9 HD Widescreen, English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: May 31, 2016


Originally Created by Naoshi Arakawa

Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro

Series Composition/Screenplay by Takao Yoshioka

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Yukiko Aikei

Art Director: Hisao Usui

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman as Kōsei Arima

Risa Taneda/Erica Lindbeck as Kaori Miyazono

Ai Kayano/Stephanie Sheh as Nagi Aizato

Ayane Sakura/Erica Mendez as Tsubaki Sawabe

Mamiko Noto/Wendee Lee as Saki Arima

Ryota Ohsaka/Kyle McCarley as Ryōta Watari

Saori Hayami/Erika Harlacher as Emi Igawa

Shizuka Ishigami/Julie Ann Taylor as Nao Kashiwagi

Yuuki Kaji/Erika Scott Kimerer as Takeshi Aiza


Summer passes and Kaori spends more time in the hospital than school. After much struggling, Kousei comes to realize that he’s onstage now because of the people who support him. Playing the notes that they all gave him, Kousei pours his entire soul into his performance so that it will reach Kaori.


It has been a long road for piano child prodigy Kosei Arima.  Since the loss of his mother and the abuse he had to take as a child, he has been out of piano competitions and have been unable to play well enough to compete.

Until he met the free-spirited violinist Kaori Miyazono.

She has been able to get Kosei Arima to play again, to help him with his problems and the two have built a strong relationship.

But when Kaori starts becoming ill and unable to play, will Kosei Arima lose his will to play the piano again?

Find out in the second and final volume of “Your Lie in April”!

What is “Your Lie in April”?

Back in 2011, Naoshi Arakawa created the manga series “Shigatsu wa Kimi n o Uso” (Your Lie in April).

The manga was serialized in Kodansha’s “Monthly Shonen Magazine” from 2011-2015 and would be adapted into an anime series from October 2014-March 2015 on Fuji TV’s noitamina block.

The anime series was produced by A-1 Pictures and was directed by Kyohei Ishiguro (“Lance N’ Masques”), series composition and screenplay by Takao Yoshioka (“Elfen Lied”, “High School DxD”, “Ikki Tousen”, “Sekirei” and “Sky Girls”), music by Masaru Yokoyama (“Freezing”, “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans”, “Queen’s Blade: Rebellion”), character design by Yukiko Aikei (“Accel World”, “Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere”, “Aikatsu Stars!”) and art direction by Hisayo Usui (“Saint Young Men”, “Fairy Tail”, “Angel Beats!”).

With a live film adaptation of “Your Lie in April” to hit theaters in Japan in Sept. 2016, the first volume of the anime series (featuring episodes 1-11) was released in the U.S. on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

“Your Lie in April” is a series that revolves around a former child prodigy in playing piano named Kosei Arima. Known as the “human metronome”, he was also emotionally and physically abused by his mother who was very strict on him when it came to playing the piano and being perfect.

While he dominated piano competitions all throughout Japan, when his mother died of an illness, he suffered psychological trauma in which caused him to no longer hear the notes of the piano after playing for several minutes.

One day, he comes across violinist Kaori Miyazono, a free-spirited violinist who doesn’t follow the rules of adhering strictly to the score but is beloved by audiences for her music.

While walking home, she hears Kosei playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, only for a few minutes before he starts to lose the ability to hear the notes, once he starts to concentrate.

Immediately Kaori appoints him as her accompanist for the second round of preliminaries, which he refuses and tells her that he can’t play.

But eventually, she convinces Kosei to play for the preliminaries and their musical journey together begins.

The main characters of “Your Lie in April” are:

  • Kosei Arima – A former child prodigy pianist known as “the human metronome”. Because of his domination at competitions, showing up to school and competitions with bruises and scratches and people seeing his mother abusing him, a lot of rumors have followed him everywhere he goes. But when his mother died, it left him in psychological trauma for some reason and he is no longer able to hear the notes when he concentrates. So, he has given up piano and is focusing on a normal life.
  • Kaori Miyazono – A free-spirited violinist who walks to the beat of her own drum, playing music the way she wants to. Despite drawing the ire of judging panels, the audiences love to see her play. She develops a strong friendship with Kosei when she asks him to become her accompanist.
  • Tsubaki Sawabe – Kosei’s childhood friend who has been with him since they were younger. She is athletic but she also has feelings towards Kosei and is jealous of the time he is spending with Kaori.
  • Ryota Watari – Kosei and Tsubaki’s childhood friend and the captain of the soccer team. He tells Kosei that Kaori is his love interest, so Kosei respects that, despite feeling a little jealous towards Ryota.
  • Takeshi Aiza – A rival pianist of Kosei. He has always respected Kosei’s domination at competition and looked to him as a hero. But as Takeshi has dominated competitions in Kosei’s absence, he has been waiting to compete against him.
  • Emi Igawa – A pianist who began after listening to Kosei play when she was five-years-old. Unlike Kosei, she wants to reach the audience through playing with emotion. She hopes to reach Kosei the same way, as she may have feelings towards him.
  • Saki Arima – The mother of Kosei who was very strict and abusive emotionally and physically towards him. She accepts nothing less than perfection. She was very ill and when she passed away, it sent Kosei into psychological trauma.
  • Hiroko Seto – Saki’s close friend from college and a renowned pianist. She is the person responsible for discovering Kosei’s piano talents. She blames herself for the abuse of Kosei, that she becomes his guardian.
  • Nagi Aiza – The younger sister of Takeshi Aiza.  She has always wanted her brother to notice her but he has been fixated with his rivalry to Kosei.  So, what happens when Nagi becomes Kosei’s student?

VIDEO:

“Your Lie in April” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done, because the anime series often takes place outdoors, the animators chose to show a wonderful amount of detail, vibrant colors and backgrounds and structures are well-detailed. Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Your Lie in April” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo. Dialogue and music are crystal clear and subtitles are in English and Spanish.

Both English dub and the Japanese soundtrack features awesome performances by the voice talent. I was impressed by bot soundtracks as they are done very well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Your Lie in April” vol. 2 comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening
  • Textless Ending
  • Gag Reel – Featuring an English dub gag reel
  • Audio Commentary (Ep. 22) – Featuring audio commentary by ADR director Matt Seitz and voice talents Max Mittelman and Erica Lindbeck.

EXTRAS:

“Your Lie in April” vol. 2 comes with three collectible postcards and a 10-track CD soundtrack (Duration: 19 Minutes) featuring music by Masaru Yokoyama.


Once in awhile, there are anime series that captivates you with its vibrant animation, its beautiful music, humor but also a deep storyline.

“Your Lie in April” is one of those series that I watched and found myself instantly hooked on its characters and its moving storyline that got better with episode after episode.

The story revolves around a former child prodigy pianist named Kousei Arima who literally has lost his will to play the piano after suffering psychological trauma after the death of his mother.

And while a loss of a family member of loved one can be banal in many storylines for film or TV series, “Your Lire in April” is different in the fact that Kousei was raised by his mother, but his mother was strict and abusive.

She never let him have any fun, disciplined and beat him when he didn’t get his notes correctly. She didn’t care about anything else about him, only that he plays the piano perfectly and she was his harshest critic.

He is looked at by many people negatively because of that lack of love or emotional demeanor. His piano playing was methodic and not emotional, he played the way his mother had taught him and beating his piano rivals at competitions were the goal. Being the perfect pianist was the only way to live his life.

But when she passed away, each time he would play, he would be swallowed by his memories of his strict mother angered at him. So much to the point that he would be unable to play the piano when trying to concentrate and literally not be able to hear the notes.

So, he has quit playing the piano for two years and living a normal school life with his childhood friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryota Watari.

But life changes for Kosei when he befriends and watches the violin performance of Kaori Miyazono.

While talented, she is free-spirited and doesn’t play for the judges, she plays for the audience.

Surprised by the way she approaches her music and the way she is as an individual, he is intrigued by her. But is shocked when she chooses him to be her piano accompanist for her preliminary competition.

Fearful and doubting himself of playing the piano again, he eventually decides to do it for this one time. But Kosei is unaware that this new friendship with the vibrant Kaori Miyazono, will change his life forever.

As we get into the second volume, after seeing Kosei grow and being able to play again, he starts to feel emotions that he has never felt for anyone and inside, he has fallen for Kaori.

Meanwhile, his childhood friend Tsubaki has started to realize that she has emotions towards Kosei and is unable to tell him, because she knows how he feels about Kaori.

And as we start to see progress with Kosei and even taking in a young student, Nagi Aiza, the younger sister of Takeshi Aiza, the pianist who has looked at Kosei as his major rival.

And just when Kosei is taking major steps to compete as a pianist again, his world is rocked once again when Kaori becomes very ill and is hospitalized.  Afraid that the same thing that happen to his mother may happen to Kaori, Kosei once again loses his will to play.

Will Kosei find the courage and the way to play the piano?

“Your Lie in April” vol. 2 comes with the final eleven episodes. On Blu-ray, the animation is vibrant, detailed and looks fantastic in HD. I absolutely love the colors, the character design, the animation and background art for this anime series. And the lossless audio, may it be with the English dub or the original Japanese soundtrack, are both well-performed.

The second volume of “Your Lie in April” comes with three postcards but for those who were captivated by the music of this anime series, will be happy to know that another CD soundtrack featuring ten songs from the latter half of the anime series is included. (note: the solo piano and violin segments featured in the competitions are not included in this soundtrack.)

Overall, “Your Lie in April” is a rarity to find released in America.  As action-driven anime is what is primarily released, I have to say how happy I am that “Your Lie in April” was released and it features both Japanese an English dub. It’s a deep anime series and storywise, it’s been a long time since I have fallen in love with an anime series like this.

While the Japanese voice acting was wonderful, I just have to say that when it comes to English dubs, the acting by both Max Mittelman and Erica Lindbeck and also the other voice dub cast, have done an amazing job!  The writing was well done for the English version and I was amazed by the overall quality.

“Your Lie in April” is captivating, heartbreaking but also inspiring. It is rare to watch an anime series that captivates you on all levels, may it be animation, music, storytelling, this series is fantastic!

“Your Lie in April” is highly recommended and definitely one of the top anime releases on Blu-ray for 2016!

Your Lie in April Vol. 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

yourlifeinapril

“Your Lie in April” left me wanting to see the second half because the storyline was captivating, heartbreaking but also inspiring. It is rare to watch an anime series that captivates you on all levels, may it be animation, music, storytelling, this series is fantastic! “Your Lie in April” vol. 1 is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Aniplex Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Your Lie in April Vol. 1

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014-2015

DURATION: Episodes 1-11 (250 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16:9 HD Widescreen, English and Japanese 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English and Spanish

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: March 29, 2016


Originally Created by Naoshi Arakawa

Directed by Kyohei Ishiguro

Series Composition/Screenplay by Takao Yoshioka

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Yukiko Aikei

Art Director: Hisao Usui

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman as Kōsei Arima

Risa Taneda/Erica Lindbeck as Kaori Miyazono

Ai Kayano/Stephanie Sheh as Nagi Aizato

Ayane Sakura/Erica Mendez as Tsubaki Sawabe

Mamiko Noto/Wendee Lee as Saki Arima

Ryota Ohsaka/Kyle McCarley as Ryōta Watari

Saori Hayami/Erika Harlacher as Emi Igawa

Shizuka Ishigami/Julie Ann Taylor as Nao Kashiwagi

Yuuki Kaji/Erika Scott Kimerer as Takeshi Aiza


Kousei Arima was a genius pianist until his mother’s sudden death took away his ability to play. Ever since then, each day was dull for Kousei. One day, he meets one violinist by the name of Kaori Miyazono. This care-free, independent, and sometimes short-tempered girl had an eccentric playing style that immediately fascinated Kousei. His once monotonous life was about to change forever.


Back in 2011, Naoshi Arakawa created the manga series “Shigatsu wa Kimi n o Uso” (Your Lie in April).

The manga was serialized in Kodansha’s “Monthly Shonen Magazine” from 2011-2015 and would be adapted into an anime series from October 2014-March 2015 on Fuji TV’s noitamina block.

The anime series was produced by A-1 Pictures and was directed by Kyohei Ishiguro (“Lance N’ Masques”), series composition and screenplay by Takao Yoshioka (“Elfen Lied”, “High School DxD”, “Ikki Tousen”, “Sekirei” and “Sky Girls”), music by Masaru Yokoyama (“Freezing”, “Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans”, “Queen’s Blade: Rebellion”), character design by Yukiko Aikei (“Accel World”, “Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere”, “Aikatsu Stars!”) and art direction by Hisayo Usui (“Saint Young Men”, “Fairy Tail”, “Angel Beats!”).

With a live film adaptation of “Your Lie in April” to hit theaters in Japan in Sept. 2016, the first volume of the anime series (featuring episodes 1-11) was released in the U.S. on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

“Your Lie in April” is a series that revolves around a former child prodigy in playing piano named Kosei Arima.  Known as the “human metronome”, he was also emotionally and physically abused by his mother who was very strict on him when it came to playing the piano and being perfect.

While he dominated piano competitions all throughout Japan, when his mother died of an illness, he suffered psychological trauma in which caused him to no longer hear the notes of the piano after playing for several minutes.

One day, he comes across violinist Kaori Miyazono, a free-spirited violinist who doesn’t follow the rules of adhering strictly to the score but is beloved by audiences for her music.

While walking home, she hears Kosei playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, only for a few minutes before he starts to lose the ability to hear the notes, once he starts to concentrate.

Immediately Kaori appoints him as her accompanist for the second round of preliminaries, which he refuses and tells her that he can’t play.

But eventually, she convinces Kosei to play for the preliminaries and their musical journey together begins.

The main characters of “Your Lie in April” are:

  • Kosei Arima – A former child prodigy pianist known as “the human metronome”.   Because of his domination at competitions, showing up to school and competitions with bruises and scratches and people seeing his mother abusing him, a lot of rumors have followed him everywhere he goes.  But when his mother died, it left him in psychological trauma for some reason and he is no longer able to hear the notes when he concentrates.  So, he has given up piano and is focusing on a normal life.
  • Kaori Miyazono – A free-spirited violinist who walks to the beat of her own drum, playing music the way she wants to.  Despite drawing the ire of judging panels, the audiences love to see her play.  She develops a strong friendship with Kosei when she asks him to become her accompanist.
  • Tsubaki Sawabe – Kosei’s childhood friend who has been with him since they were younger.  She is athletic but she also has feelings towards Kosei and is jealous of the time he is spending with Kaori.
  • Ryota Watari – Kosei and Tsubaki’s childhood friend and the captain of the soccer team.  He tells Kosei that Kaori is his love interest, so Kosei respects that, despite feeling a little jealous towards Ryota.
  • Takeshi Aiza – A rival pianist of Kosei.  He has always respected Kosei’s domination at competition and looked to him as a hero.  But as Takeshi has dominated competitions in Kosei’s absence, he has been waiting to compete against him.
  • Emi Igawa – A pianist who began after listening to Kosei play when she was five-years-old.  Unlike Kosei, she wants to reach the audience through playing with emotion.  She hopes to reach Kosei the same way, as she may have feelings towards him.
  • Saki Arima – The mother of Kosei who was very strict and abusive emotionally and physically towards him.  She accepts nothing less than perfection.  She was very ill and when she passed away, it sent Kosei into psychological trauma.
  • Hiroko Seto – Saki’s close friend from college and a renowned pianist. She is the person responsible for discovering Kosei’s piano talents.  She blames herself for the abuse of Kosei, that she becomes his guardian.

VIDEO:

“Your Lie in April” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done, because the anime series often takes place outdoors, the animators chose to show a wonderful amount of detail, vibrant colors and backgrounds and structures are well-detailed. Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Your Lie in April” is presented in Japanese and English Linear PCM Stereo. Dialogue and music are crystal clear and subtitles are in English and Spanish.

Both English dub and the Japanese soundtrack features awesome performances by the voice talent.  I was impressed by bot soundtracks as they are done very well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Your Lie in April” vol. 1 comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening
  • Textless Ending
  • Audio Commentary (Ep. 1) – Featuring audio commentary by ADR director Matt Seitz and voice talents Max Mittelman, Erica Lindbeck, Erica Mendez and Kyle McCarley.

EXTRAS:

“Your Lie in April” vol. 1 comes with three collectible postcards and a 10-track CD soundtrack (Duration: 19 Minutes) featuring music by Masaru Yokoyama.


Once in awhile, there are anime series that captivates you with its vibrant animation, its beautiful music, humor but also a deep storyline.

“Your Lie in April” is one of those series that I watched and found myself instantly hooked on its characters and its moving storyline that got better with episode after episode.

The story revolves around a former child prodigy pianist named Kousei Arima who literally has lost his will to play the piano after suffering psychological trauma after the death of his mother.

And while a loss of a family member of loved one can be banal in many storylines for film or TV series, “Your Lire in April” is different in the fact that Kousei was raised by his mother, but his mother was strict and abusive.

She never let him have any fun, disciplined and beat him when he didn’t get his notes correctly.  She didn’t care about anything else about him, only that he plays the piano perfectly and she was his harshest critic.

He is looked at by many people negatively because of that lack of love or emotional demeanor.  His piano playing was methodic and not emotional, he played the way his mother had taught him and beating his piano rivals at competitions were the goal.  Being the perfect pianist was the only way to live his life.

But when she passed away, each time he would play, he would be swallowed by his memories of his strict mother angered at him.  So much to the point that he would be unable to play the piano when trying to concentrate and literally not be able to hear the notes.

So, he has quit playing the piano for two years and living a normal school life with his childhood friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryota Watari.

But life changes for Kosei when he befriends and watches the violin performance of Kaori Miyazono.

While talented, she is free-spirited and doesn’t play for the judges, she plays for the audience.

Surprised by the way she approaches her music and the way she is as an individual, he is intrigued by her.  But is shocked when she chooses him to be her piano accompanist for her preliminary competition.

Fearful and doubting himself of playing the piano again, he eventually decides to do it for this one time.  But Kosei is unaware that this new friendship with the vibrant Kaori Miyazono, will change his life forever.

“Your Lie in April” vol. 1 comes with the first eleven episodes.  On Blu-ray, the animation is vibrant, detailed and looks fantastic in HD.  I absolutely love the colors, the character design, the animation and background art for this anime series.  And the lossless audio, may it be with the English dub or the original Japanese soundtrack, are both well-performed.

The first volume of “Your Lie in April” comes with three postcards but for those who were captivated by the music of this anime series, will be happy to know that the first volume comes with a CD soundtrack featuring ten songs from the anime series (note: the solo piano and violin segments featured in the competitions are not included in this soundtrack).

Overall, “Your Lie in April” left me wanting to see the second half because the storyline was captivating, heartbreaking but also inspiring.  It is rare to watch an anime series that captivates you on all levels, may it be animation, music, storytelling, this series is fantastic!

“Your Lie in April” vol. 1 is highly recommended!

Saekano Blu-ray Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

saekano

“Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel. It’s too early to tell how this series will shape up to be, but for these first six episodes, “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is worth giving a try!

Image courtesy of © 2015 Fumiaki Maruto, Kurehita Misaki, KADOKAWA FUJIMISHIBI/Project Saenai. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Saekano Blu-ray Set 1

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episodes 0-5 (150 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition/16×9, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: March 29, 2016


Originally Created by Fumiaki Maruto

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Screenplay by Fumiaki Maruto

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Original Character Design by Kurehito Misaki

Art Director: Natsuki Kusakabe

Anime Character Design by Tomoaki Takase

Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Utaha Kasumigaoka

Kiyono Yasuno as Megumi Katō

Saori Ōnishi as Eriri Spencer Sawamura

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Tomoya Aki


“I’m gonna make you into a heroine that no one can resist!”

One day, an otaku high school student Tomoya Aki has a fateful encounter with a girl amidst the beautiful cherry blossom trees. This meeting inspires Tomoya to design his very own “gal-ge” (dating-simulation PC game) featuring a heroine modeled after the girl he saw. In order to make his desire a reality, Tomoya must persuade a few eccentric “creators” such as the ace member of the art club and his childhood friend, Eriri Spencer Sawamura and the school’s top student, Utaha Kasumigaoka to join his development team. Meanwhile, Tomoya is shocked to learn that the girl he idolized as his muse for this whole project was none other than Megumi Kato, who is a super low-profile girl who he doesn’t even notice that she is in the same class! But, this doesn’t dissuade Tomoya. He is determined to make Megumi an ultimate gal-ge heroine!


In 2012, Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki created the Japanese light novel series, “Saenai Hiroin no Sodatekata” a.k.a. “Saekano”.

The light novel received a manga adaptation and in 2015, A-1 Pictures would create a television series adaptation for FujiTV’s noitamina block.

The anime series is directed by Kantai Kamei (“Dimension W”, “Bunny Drop”, “Nanana’s Buried Treasure”), a screenplay by creator Fumiaki Maruto, music by Hajime Hyakkoku (“K-ON!”, “Jewelpet: Magical Change”),  character designs by Tomoaki Takase (“Wagnaria!!”) and background art by Natsuki Kusakabe (“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Ro-Kyu-Bu! SS”, “Date A Live”).

The anime series features voice acting by Ai Kayano (“Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma”, “Aquarion Evol”, “Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne”), Kiyono Yasuno (“Macross Delta”, “Ushio & Tora”, “Wake Up, Girls!”), Saori Onishi (“The Irregular at Magic High School”, “Active Raid”, “Strike the Blood”) and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (“Sword Art Online”, “Love Lab”, “Yowamushi Pedal”).

And now the first six episodes (0-5) will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series revolves around Toyogasaki Academy student Tomoya Aki, an otaku who works part-time to fund his lifestyle of watching anime, playing dating sims and more.

One day, he encounters a beautiful girl during spring vacation and a month later, finds out that girl is his classmate named Megumi.

Tomoya wants to create a visual novel computer game, so he recruits the beautiful high school students, his childhood friend and student novelist, Eriri Spencer Sawamura to design the art and Utaha Kasumigaoka to write the games scenario.

Needing a heroine, he recruits the naive Megumi Kato as the “heroine”, who will be the main character’s love interest.  But can he get these three very different personalities to work together?

The main story focuses on:

Tomoya Aki – Tomoya is a student at Toyogasaki Academy and is a otaku who loves reading manga, watching anime and playing galge (pretty girl games).  He wants to create a visual novel, so he tries to recruit the people needed for the game by Blessing Software.

Eriri Spencer Sawamura – Tomoya’s childhood friend and is half British and half Japanese.  While she is popular and refined, she also has a secret otaku lifestyle of playing video games.  She creates adult-themed manga and goes by the name Eri Kashiwagi and is part of the group, “Egoistic-Lily”.  She is tsundere, cruel and sadistic.

Utaha Kasumigaoka – An up-and-coming young novelist going by the name of Utako Kasumi, her first light novel “Koisuru Metronome” published under Fushikawa Fantastic Bunko sold over 500,000 copies. She is beautiful and intelligent and popular.

Megumi Kato – Tomoya’s classmate who is ordinary, knows nothing about otaku culture and is the person that Tomoya wants to recruit as his “heroine” for his visual novel.


VIDEO:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” features gorgeous animation by A-1 Pictures. Character designs are well-done and well-shaded, while backgrounds and structures are well-detailed.  Overall, picture quality is vibrant and the series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is presented in Japanese Linear PCM Stereo.  Dialogue is crystal clear and subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” comes with the textless opening and ending, promotional videos and web previews.

EXTRAS:

“Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” comes with a slipcase, six illustration post cards and reversible cover.


How does an otaku accomplish his goal of creating his own visual novel?

How about hiring the top writer and illustrator, who happens to be two popular high school students.  And for the main love focus, an ordinary school girl?  Will it work?

This is the case for “Saekano”, the anime adaptation of the popular light novel series by Fumiaki Maruto and illustrator Kurehito Misaki.

The first six episodes of “Saekano” are pretty much introductory episodes of the mannerisms of each character.

Episode 0 begins with five individuals going on location scouting for their project but seeing how each of these girls are determined in creating an enjoyable game.

The first episode is about how Tomoya is inspired to create a visual novel game, thanks to him meeting Megumi and also recruiting an artist and a writer for his project.

The second episode shows the struggles Tomoya faces in trying to recruit Megumi in order to help her understand what a visual novel is.

The third episode features the challenges Tomoya must go through in order to create a draft before deadline, while episode four features Tomoya wanting date advice and deciding on a release date for the game.  Episode five shows the struggle of Eriri to create a sketch of Megumi because she doesn’t show any emotions.

So for now, the first initial episodes on “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is about the development process, how Eriri and Utaha are constantly at each other’s necks, but also Tomoya as the creator, trying to work with his game’s “heroine”, Megumi who is quite monotone and rarely shows any other expression and for the most part, she is an average person who knows nothing about the otaku life.

For now, the anime series is on a good start but like most anime series, the initial first episodes are focused on character development and showing viewers the types of mannerisms of each character.  The series is quite lighthearted, while episode 0 tends to display quite a bit of fan service.

The Blu-ray release features vibrant animation and voice acting for the series is quite solid and you have Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, voice of Kirito for “Sword Art Online” playing the main character role of otaku, Tomoya.  It’s important to note that the anime series is in Japanese only, there are no English dubs included.

Special features include the textless opening and ending, promotional videos and web previews.

Overall, “Saekano” is a fun and enjoyable series about a group of high school students who have very different personalities, trying to work together to create a visual novel.

It’s too early to tell how this series will shape up to be, but for these first six episodes, “Saekano Blu-ray Set 1” is worth giving a try!

Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash! (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

senran

 “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” will appeal to fans of the video game series and those who enjoy action-driven anime series with a lot of fan service. It’s not one of the more deeper anime series in this genre but it is entertaining thanks to its diverse characters and their special abilities.  If you are interested in a ninja story with well-endowed female fighters that can kick butt, then “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is for you!

Image courtesy of © 2014 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English DolbyTrue HD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: Suggested 17+

Release Date: July 29, 2014

Originally Created by Kenichiro Takaki

Original Story by Yukinori Kitajima

Director: Takashi Watanabe

Series Composition: Takao Yoshioka

Music by Ruka Kawada

Character Design: Takashi Torii

Art Director: Shinji Kawaai

Art Director: Shigeto Koyama, Yuji Kaneko

Anime Production: Artland

Featuring the following voice talent:

Asami Imai/Alexis Tipton as Ikaruga

Hitomi Harada/Felecia Angelle as Asuka

Kaori Mizuhashi/Bryn Apprill as Yagyuu

Yu Kobayashi/Brittney Karbowski as Katsuragi

Yuka Iguchi/Megan Shipman as Hibari

Ai Kayano/Trina Nishimura as Yomi

Eri Kitamura/Monica Rial as Homura

Juurouta Kosugi/Phil Parsons as Dougen

Kanehira Yamamoto/Bill Brooks as Hanzo

Keiji Fujiwara/Phillip Weber as Kiriya

Megumi Toguchi/Teri Rogers as Haruka

Ryoko Shiraishi/Kara Edwards as Hikage

Saori Goto/Lara Woodhull as Mirai

Suzuko Mimori/Lydia Mackay as Suzune

Asuka and her friends may look like any other girls at Hanzo Academy, but they’re secretly studying the ancient art of Ninjutsu! While other students do their homework, Asuka and the gang push their beautiful bodies to the breaking point in pursuit of their perfect form. Life is one sexy sparring session after another until a deviously demented rival clan of evil ninjas ambushes the Hanzo hotties – and steals their sacred ninja scroll.

Faced with their toughest – and most well-rounded – enemies ever, Asuka and her fellow deadly divas will have to go further than they’ve ever gone before to prove they’ve mastered the art of full frontal combat!

Back in 2011, the action 3DS video game “Senran Kagura: Shojo-tachi no Shinei” was created.

The video game would lead to “Senran Kagura Burst” for the Nintendo 3DS and for the PS Vita, a 3D fighting game titled “Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus: Shojo-tachi no Shomei” was created and followed by an iOS and Android game titled “Senran Kagura NewWave”.

The video game series has received a lot of attention due to its well-endowed female characters and the popularity of the series would lead to several manga adaptations and an anime adaptation titled “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” courtesy of Artland in Jan. through March 2013.

And now, the TV series will be released on Blu-ray +DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” introduces us to a group of female shinobi who are secretly trained in the art of ninjitsu.  But these shinobi must keep their skills a secret to the world and attend Hanzo Academy and were created by the Japanese government to counter other ninjas hired by corporations and politicians.

These ninjas from Hanzo Academy include the following characters:

  • Asuka – The protagonist who has problems passing her examination exam.  She wants to be like her grandfather and become a great ninja.
  • Ikaruga – A mature, third year student who is serious about becoming a ninja.
  • Katsuragi – The blonde member of the group who is very perverted and can’t help herself grabbing onto Asuka’s breasts.  Katsuragi wants to be the strongest ninja and is trying to re-establish her family’s lost honor.
  • Yagyu – The ninja prodigy who cares for Hibari.  Known for wearing an eyepatch, she cares for Hibari because of a tragedy from her past.
  • Hibari – A first year student of the group who is childish and clumsy.
  • Kiriya-Sensei – The teacher of the shinobi students.
  • Hanzo – Asuka’s grandfather and the founder of the academy and honored as a great ninja.  But he chose to create his own sushi restaurant.

VIDEO:

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is a series that compliments the video games with its CG character designs.  While characters are well-shaded and backgrounds that are primarily Japanese homes and CG.  The series may not be the greatest but it does give fans what they expect and that is many scenes of fan service.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  While the series is well-acted for both Japanese and English soundtracks, the lossless soundtrack is primarily front-channel driven.  Dialogue is crystal clear with the English soundtrack adding a more edgy feel to it with adult humor compared to its Japanese counterpart.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!″ comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 4 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Brittney Karbowski (voice of Katsuragi).
  • Episode 10 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Engineer Chris George and Megan Shipman (voice of Hibari).
  • Promotional Videos – (5:25) Japanese PV for “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!”.
  • Japanese Commercials
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation theatrical trailer for “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!”.

“Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is a series that pays tribute to those familiar with the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Vita video games.

And part of the appeal to the video game series is because the characters are well-endowed fighters and the constant scenes of fan service.

From panty shots, partial clothing and adult situations, the series is no less an extension of the video game series and focuses on the primary members of Hanzo Academy being trained in the ninja arts but encountering other rival ninjas and using their own personal skills and becoming a team.

While the first half of the series features the group encountering dark shinobi or the girls taking part in training, the second half establishes the rival group of Hanzou Academy and that is the members of Homura Gurentai (a.k.a. the Serpent Squad).

By episode 10, we start to learn about the rival school from the Serpent Squad which consists of Homura, Yomi, Hikage, Mirai, Haruka and Suzune and why these girls chose to become dark shinobi and how their is a connection between the Serpent Squad leader and Kiriya-sensei.

For the most part, the animation for “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is nicely done.  The battles are pretty extreme, while backgrounds are nicely detailed and well-painted for a TV series and Artland did a good job in bringing these characters from the video game to the anime series.

But while the storyline of the series is quite simplistic and for the most part enjoyable if you are into fan service/action-driven anime series, compared to similar series with a lot of fan service and action such as “Ikkitousen” or even “Sekirei”, “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is a bit tame.  Sure, you have your fair share of well-endowed characters with glistening boobs and your usual scenes of booby grabbing and panty shots, but it’s the video game tie-in that made me interested in this anime series.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and well-shaded.  Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-painted.  But it’s important to note that this is a television series, so there is a hint of softness.    As for audio, the series features a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Japanese and English soundtrack, with the English adaptation having a slight edge because of its more Western dialogue and the writers giving the characters a slight edge especially with characters such as Katsuragi.

And as for special features, you get two audio commentaries, promotional video, Japanese commercial and textless opening and ending themes.

Overall, “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” will appeal to fans of the video game series and those who enjoy action-driven anime series with a lot of fan service.

It’s not one of the more deeper anime series in this genre but it is entertaining thanks to its diverse characters and their special abilities.

If you are interested in a ninja story with well-endowed female fighters that can kick butt, then “Senran Kagura: Ninja Flash!” is for you!

Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set (A J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

servantservice

“Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before. An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive. “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © KArino Takatsu/SQUARE ENIX, SERVANT x SERVICE PROJECT. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set

YEAR OF TV SERIES: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Widescreen, Japanese Linear PCM Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Karino Takatsu

Directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto

Series Composition by Kento Shimoyama

Music by Monaca

Character Design by Terumi Nishii

Art Director: Shinji Honda, Yukihiro Shibutani

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano as Lucy Yamagami

Mai Nakahara as Saya Miyoshi

Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Yutaka Hasebe

Aki Toyosaki as Megumi Chihaya

Mikako Takahashi as Tanaka-san

Rikiya Koyama as Kenzō Momoi

Rina Hidaka as Kanon Momoi

Rumi Ookubo as Tōko Ichimiya

Takahiro Sakurai as Taishi Ichimiya

Tetsuya Kakihara as Jōji Tanaka

Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami is a newly-hired civil servant who has been assigned to work in a certain government ward office in a certain city in Hokkaido Prefecture. Not only does Lucy have so many things to learn at her new job, she needs to do all of that in the company of her colleagues, who are all more than a little eccentric. If you thought a job as a government employee was dull, you better think again! Lucy and her colleagues, actively and covertly (?!) serve their community every day!

Welcome to the life of civil service at the Health and Welfare Dept. where employees such as the naive Lucy (abbrev.) Yamagami, the shy Saya Miyoshi, the carefree Yutaka Hasebe and the tsundere cosplayer Megumi Chihaya work.

Where the four work for their boss Toko Ichimiya (Megumi’s boyfriend, although he doesn’t know it) and Kenzo Momoi, the Section Chief  that is for some reason, a stuffed rabbit.

The life of these civil servants are the basis of mangaka, Karino Takatsu’s manga series “Servant x Service” which was created in 2009 and is still published in the Square Enix magazine “Big Gangan”.

With three tankobon volumes of the manga series printed, in 2013, the series would receive a 13-episode adaptation courtesy of A-1 Pictures.

“Servant x Service” revolves around the lives of those who work at the Health and Welfare Dept.

We are introduced to new employees such as Lucy Yamagami, a naive worker who always wears a black turtleneck sweater.  While kindhearted, she wants nothing but revenge on the public servant who approved her full name “Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami”, which she feels has led to her being joked on and giving her a low self esteem.

Yutaka Hasebe is your ultimate slacker.  While he is a very smart individual who can and has excel on things, because he wants to live life the way he wants, people accept his unusual style.  He is also a guy who finds himself teasing Lucy but eventually starting to learn that he is falling in love with her.

Meanwhile, the quiet new employee, Saya Miyoshi is terrified at her new job and finds herself talking to the elderly Mrs. Tanaka a lot for her work and often having thoughts on the people around her but tends to keep things inside.

The three new employees work with temp social worker Megumi Chihaya, a cosplay fanatic who loves the series “Magical Flowers” but can exhibit Tsundere tendencies, especially to her boyfriend, that she wishes is more worrisome towards her than his sister all the time.

But throw in a boss with the appearance of a stuffed animal and a stalkerish banker and you have an interesting combination of shenanigans for each episode of “Servant x Service”.

The main characters of “Servant x Service” are:

  • Lucy Kimiko Akie Airi Shiori Rinne Yoshiho Ayano Tomika Chitose Sanae Mikiko Ichika… Yamagami – A new public servant who wants nothing but to take revenge on the man, a public servant who approved the long name given to her parents.  She blames a lot of things in her life due to her long name.  She is well-endowed and has a cowlick that tends to stick up or react in different situations.  She is very naive and often wears a black turtleneck sweater (because she can’t find clothes that fit her).
  • Yutaka Hasebe – A slacker at work who tends to tease Lucy but finds himself falling for her.  Despite his slacker style, he’s actually very intelligent and has talent, but his care free lifestyle is what he tends to lean to.  He desperately wants to go on a date with Lucy.
  • Saya Miyoshi – A 24-year-old college graduate and is soft-spoken.  She often keeps opinions to herself and is always listening to people talk, especially the elderly Mrs. Tanaka who wants Saya to marry her grandson.
  • Megumi Chihaya – A social service employee who is a temporary employee.  She has a tsundere attitude and is a huge fan of the anime series “Magical Flowers” and often thinks of her female co-workers as cosplayers and often wanting to dress them up as a character.  She is dating Taishi Ichimiya, who is very scared of her.
  • Taishi Ichimiya – The supervisor of the health and welfare office and is in charge of Lucy, Yutaka, Saya and Megumi.  He is very kind and is known for putting his sister Toko on top of his priority and raising her.  Although he is dating Megumi, he is often scared of her ever-changing emotions and how she may feel because he puts his sister as priority over her.
  • Toko Ichimiya – Taishi’s tsundere younger sister who has a short temper and often criticizes his employees.  She often visits his workplaces and wants to become a public servant.
  • Kenzo Momoi – The Section Chief of the Health and Welfare Department.  For unexplained reasons, he’s in the body of a stuffed animal.
  • Joji Tanaka – A banker who is the ultimate rival of Hasebe and stalks him because he’s determined to beat him on anything.
  • Kanon Momoi – Daughter of Kenzo and tries to keep it a secret from her friend Toko that the bunny rabbit section chief is her father.
  • Kaoru Hasebe – Yutaka’s older sister.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and in Japanese linear PCM Stereo.

A-1 Pictures has done a great job with the animation and the backgrounds are nicely done.  I enjoy the fact that backgrounds feature the characters in a variety of locations and are detailed instead of the plain office backgrounds.

As for the acting, the voice acting is well-done, especially for slacker Yutaka Hasebe (voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki) and Section Chief Kenzo Momoi (voiced by Rikiya Koyama).  But the series is dialogue and musically driven and for the most part, the soundtrack works well for this type of anime series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with textless opening and endings.

EXTRAS:

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” comes with a 24-page Special Public Documents booklet with episode synopsis + short manga and photos.  Also, included is a 2-sided reversible cover and slipcover.

Every now and then, with each passing year, there is always one anime that takes me by surprise.  And for 2014, “Servant x Service” was an anime series that did just that.

To be truthful, I didn’t know what to expect because a series about public servants is not something you will see in an anime series.  Yes, I have seen it many times for Japanese dramas but never for an anime series.

So, having completed the entire 13-episode series, I have to say that “Servant x Service” was pretty awesome!

No, it’s not a overly dramatic anime series, there is no one with special abilities nor does this take place in the far future, this is a straightup anime series that is built around the comedy of its fascinating characters.

From Lucy, the naive young woman who is unaware that people watch her because she always wears a black sweater (and happens to be well-endowed) but also how she responds to her true first name (which is a long combination of many other first names) and thus, she has held nothing but dislike towards the public servant who allowed her parents to name her with that long name and let her be the butt of jokes growing up.

Then you have the slacker Yutaka Hasebe.  It’s his demeanor that makes you laugh because although he is a slacker, he is also a talented individual and smarter than he behaves.  He has a photographic memory, he excels at sports but all he wants is to go on a date with the girl he has fallen for… Lucy.  Throw in a stalker-ish old childhood friend named Joji, who always tries to best Hasebe in everything and needless to say, shenanigans develop.

The anime series also has interesting characters as the quiet college student Saya, the tsundere cosplayer named Megumi, the overcaring boss who is scared of how his girlfriend Megumi treats him and a stuffed rabbit who happens to be the Section Chief.

The series is no doubt crazy but its witty characters and its constant casualness and playfulness makes this series a whole lot of fun that anyone who loves anime can watch and enjoy.

What happens when Megumi Chihaya wants to dress up Lucy in a skirt?  What happens when Lucy loses the Section Chief at an event?  What happens when Yutaka finds out how Lucy got her real name?

So, many crazy situations but how everything plays out, nothing gets boring and I found myself watching episode after episode, because I enjoyed the series so much.

While “Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is only available on DVD and there is no English dub, I do hope that Aniplex of America considers this for a Blu-ray release with an English dub because it’s so much fun and a series that casual anime fans will get into!

You also get the anime swag that Aniplex is known for.  Maybe not a whole lot but you get a short booklet and a 2-sided reversible cover.

Overall, “Servant x Service” is a delightful anime series for anime fans that want something that is unlike anything they have seen before.  An anime series that is easily accessible, a whole lot of fun and most of all, addictive.

“Servant x Service: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you enjoyed “Girl & Panzer: Complete TV Series”, then definitely check out “Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series”.  It is short at only 74 minutes long and while not essential to enjoying the TV series, this is for fans who want to see more of the girls of Oarai Academy! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012-2013

DURATION: 6 Episodes (75 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATING: TV 14 V

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

Series Composition by Reiko Yoshida

Music by Shiroh Hamaguchi

Original Character Design by Humikane Shimada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Direction by Yutaka Onishi

3D Director: Keiichiro Yagino

Anime Production: Actas

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano/Jessica Calvello as Saori Takebe

Ikumi Nakagami/Rebekah Stevens as Yukari Akiyama

Mai Fuchigami/Meg McDonald as Miho Nishizumi

Mami Ozaki/Caitlynn French as Hana Isuzu

Yuka Iguchi/Molly Searcy as Mako Reizei

The girls from Oarai are back, and whether they’re shopping for swimsuits, camping out or doing the Ankou Dance, they bring their own special brand of Tankery to the task at hand. There’s also a tour of the Oarai school ship, a look at what REALLY happened while Yukari and Erwin were out doing reconnaissance, and a team talent contest that’s not to be missed!

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The Tankery girls from Oarai Girls Academy are back in six fun and short OVA episodes as the group goes out to find swimsuits for the beach, discover what else is on the ships where their schools are located and also a post-win celebration in “Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series” available from Sentai Filmworks.

What is “Girl & Panzer” about?

In winter 2012 and spring 2013, the Japanese anime TV series “Girls und Panzer” captivated audiences in Japan for its cute girls who take part in tank battles and utilize tank strategies to take on their more powerful rivals.

Produced by Actas, the series is directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (“Big Windup!”, Genshiken”, “Ichigo 100%”, “xxxHOLic”), series composition by Reiko Yoshida (“Blue Exorcist the Movie”, “Gad Guard”, “Major”, “Kaleido Star”), music by Shiroh Hamaguchi (“Galilei Donna”, “Ah! My Goddess”, “One Piece”), character designs by Isao Sugimoto (“Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Sketchbook ~full color’S~”), art direction by Yutaka Ohishi (“Heaven’s Memo Pad”) and 3D direction by Keiichiro Yagino (“Blassreiter”).

And now, the popular series titled “Girls and Panzer: Complete TV Series” was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks and now “Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series” in Feb. 2014.

“Girls & Panzer” takes place where various high school academies compete in sensha-do (Tankery) competitions and one of the families that have dominated the Tankery scene are the Nishizumi family.

But for Miho Nishizumi, she has transferred to Oarai Girls Academy because it doesn’t offer Tankery and for her, to get away from it is the best thing she can only hope for. Despite practicing and was involved in Tankery at a previous academy.

And immediately, she makes friends with Saori Takebe, a girl who loves to read women’s magazines on how to attract guys. Also, Hana Isuzu, a refined teenager who practices ikebana (flower arrangement).

But as the group try to find out what club to join for the year, Miho is called by the President, Vice President and PR spokesperson of Oarai High School in regards to their selection for club activities and because of her experience, the president tells Miho that if she doesn’t choose Tankery, she and her friends will be kicked out of Oarai High.

Upset about what the President has said, Miho notices Saori and Hana arguing on her behalf and if anything, she is very happy to have friends behind her. Not wanting to see them kicked out of school because of her, Miho decides to join Tankery if it keeps her and her new friends out of trouble.

But the real reason why the President of the school has put their hopes on Miho to join the Tankery club is because if Oarai Academy does not win the Tankery competition, their school will be closed down.

Meanwhile, Miho, Saori and Hana make new friends: Yukari who is excited about Tankery and a moody, always half-asleep Mako Reizei and the five together are able to make a great team and along with other Oarai Tankery members, they notice that Miho is actually a fantastic commander that can lead them during competitions.

But will Oarai Academy have what it takes to take on the favored academy to win the Tankery competition, Kuromorimine Girls High School, led by Miho’s older sister Maho?

And will Oarai be able to defeat St. Gloriana Girls Academy, Saunders University High School, Pravda High School and Anzio High School?

That was the TV series and now with the complete OVA series, these episodes are a mix of fun stand alone episodes and episodes that take place during or after the TV series.

Here is a spoiler-less summary of OVA episode 1-6:

  • EPISODE 1: The girls at Oarai Academy are heading to beach but what kind of swimsuits should they purchase?
  • EPISODE 2: The girls at Oarai Academy go on a camping trip.
  • EPISODE 3: The girls at Oarai look at what is inside their academy ship.
  • EPISODE 4: The girls perform in their Anglerfish outfits.
  • EPISODE 5: Yukari and Erwin go on a reconnaissance mission to spy on Pravda (which takes place in TV episode 10).
  • EPISODE 6: Oarai Academy celebrates with a victory celebration.

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VIDEO:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition and I have to say that Actas did a wonderful job with production of this series. From the mechanical designs of the tanks, the focus on the treads and movements of various tanks is very well-done. Character designs for each of the characters, environments of the towns and also each academy which sits on top of a huge ship, everything about this series is colorful, vibrant with beautiful art backgrounds. But I was very pleased of the detail and the research that went into the creation of the tanks and how each tank operates.

I didn’t notice any banding issues or compression during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 2.0. For the most part, both soundtracks are front-channel driven and was hoping that for a series with a lot of action, it would have received a 5.1 lossless soundtrack. But on its own, the series features crystal clear dialogue and music via the front channels. Both soundtracks are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series” features the following special features:

  • Impressions 2 – (1:35) An alternative to the impressions that were shown in OVA episode 6.
  • Clean Opening and Ending Animations

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“Girls & Panzer” was an enjoyable and delightful series about a group of underdogs who enter a Tankery competition and must take on the best high schools.

And if you enjoyed the TV series, then you will definitely want to check out “Girl & Panzer: Complete OVA Series”.

While not half hour OVA episodes (episodes last anywhere between 4-18 minutes), the episodes are quite fun but it is important to watch the TV series first as some episodes may contain spoilers.  But for the most part, these episodes are quite fun as we watch the girls go swimsuit shopping, go camping and even a short and quick dance with their fish outfits.

But perhaps the two episodes that are connected to the TV series is the final two episodes as Yukari and Erwin go on a reconnaissance mission prior to their battle with Pravda and the final OVA episode features the celebration after the final episode.

But for the most part, these episodes are standalone episodes and are non-essential to the TV series but for fans who enjoyed the TV series and enjoy the characters, will no doubt want to watch these six short OVA episodes.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good and because they are OVA episodes, there is a bit more detail in the episodes versus the standard TV episode.  Lossless audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, in English and Japanese.   And both soundtracks are well-acted.  As for special features, they are limited to the usual clean and ending animations but you do get the alternate take of the impressions segment (of OVA episode 6).

Overall, if you enjoyed “Girl & Panzer: Complete TV Series”, then definitely check out “Girls & Panzer: Complete OVA Series”.  It is short at only 74 minutes long and while not essential to enjoying the TV series, this is for fans who want to see more of the girls of Oarai Academy!

 

Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” was much more than I expected and not only did I love this series, it left me craving for more!  An uplifting underdog story featuring female academy competitions with tank battles and carefully planned battle strategies, this is one series worth owning on Blu-ray!  “Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012-2013

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATING: TV 14 V

Release Date: December 3, 2013

Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

Series Composition by Reiko Yoshida

Music by Shiroh Hamaguchi

Original Character Design by Humikane Shimada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Direction by Yutaka Onishi

3D Director: Keiichiro Yagino

Anime Production: Actas

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ai Kayano/Jessica Calvello as Saori Takebe

Ikumi Nakagami/Rebekah Stevens as Yukari Akiyama

Mai Fuchigami/Meg McDonald as Miho Nishizumi

Mami Ozaki/Caitlynn French as Hana Isuzu

Yuka Iguchi/Molly Searcy as Mako Reizei

You may have heard of kung fu, but the girls at Oarai Academy practice gun-fu – really, really BIG gun-fu, in fact. It’s called Tankery, and it’s the martial art of operating armored tanks! And even though the Tankery program at Oarai has been defunct for years, the student council has taken a sudden interest in the art and no one they set their sights on is safe.

That’s how Miho Nishizumi, who transferred to Oarai specifically to stay out of tanks, gets drafted to join the newly revived Tankery divison. But it’s not all bad, because joining her in Team Anglerfish are her new-found friends Saori, the highly receptive radio operator; Hana, a flower arranger turned gunner; Mako, their brilliant but chronically sleepy driver; and combustible tank fangirl and loader Yukari. They may not be on the half-track to fame and fortune, and maybe some of them would rather shop for tank tops than become tops in tanks, but once their focus is locked and loaded, they’re absolutely driven.

girlspanzer-b

In winter 2012 and spring 2013, the Japanese anime TV series “Girls und Panzer” captivated audiences in Japan for its cute girls who take part in tank battles and utilize tank strategies to take on their more powerful rivals.

Produced by Actas, the series is directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (“Big Windup!”, Genshiken”, “Ichigo 100%”, “xxxHOLic”), series composition by Reiko Yoshida (“Blue Exorcist the Movie”, “Gad Guard”, “Major”, “Kaleido Star”), music by Shiroh Hamaguchi (“Galilei Donna”, “Ah! My Goddess”, “One Piece”), character designs by Isao Sugimoto (“Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Sketchbook ~full color’S~”), art direction by Yutaka Ohishi (“Heaven’s Memo Pad”) and 3D direction by Keiichiro Yagino (“Blassreiter”).

And now, the popular series titled “Girls and Panzer: Complete TV Series” was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks, with the two OVA’s slated for a Feb. 2014 Blu-ray and DVD release, while in Japan, a film is planned for release.

“Girls & Panzer” takes place where various high school academies compete in sensha-do (Tankery) competitions and one of the families that have dominated the Tankery scene are the Nishizumi family.

But for Miho Nishizumi, she has transferred to Oarai Girls Academy because it doesn’t offer Tankery and for her, to get away from it is the best thing she can only hope for.  Despite practicing and was involved in Tankery at a previous academy.

And immediately, she makes friends with Saori Takebe, a girl who loves to read women’s magazines on how to attract guys.  Also, Hana Isuzu, a refined teenager who practices ikebana (flower arrangement).

But as the group try to find out what club to join for the year, Miho is called by the President, Vice President and PR spokesperson of Oarai High School in regards to their selection for club activities and because of her experience, the president tells Miho that if she doesn’t choose Tankery, she and her friends will be kicked out of Oarai High.

Upset about what the President has said, Miho notices Saori and Hana arguing on her behalf and if anything, she is very happy to have friends behind her.  Not wanting to see them kicked out of school because of her, Miho decides to join Tankery if it keeps her and her new friends out of trouble.

But the real reason why the President of the school has put their hopes on Miho to join the Tankery club is because if Oarai Academy does not win the Tankery competition, their school will be closed down.

Meanwhile, Miho, Saori and Hana make new friends: Yukari who is excited about Tankery and a moody, always half-asleep Mako Reizei and the five together are able to make a great team and along with other Oarai Tankery members, they notice that Miho is actually a fantastic commander that can lead them during competitions.

But will Oarai Academy have what it takes to take on the favored academy to win the Tankery competition, Kuromorimine Girls High School, led by Miho’s older sister Maho?

And will Oarai be able to defeat St. Gloriana Girls Academy, Saunders University High School, Pravda High School and Anzio High School?

Find out in “Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series”!

VIDEO:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition and I have to say that Actas did a wonderful job with production of this series.  From the mechanical designs of the tanks, the focus on the treads and movements of various tanks is very well-done.  Character designs for each of the characters, environments of the towns and also each academy which sits on top of a huge ship, everything about this series is colorful, vibrant with beautiful art backgrounds.  But I was very pleased of the detail and the research that went into the creation of the tanks and how each tank operates.

I didn’t notice any banding issues or compression during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 2.0.  For the most part, both soundtracks are front-channel driven and was hoping that for a series with a lot of action, it would have received a 5.1 lossless soundtrack.  But on its own, the series features crystal clear dialogue and music via the front channels.  Both soundtracks are well-acted, but it was interesting to see the directional change for the voice of Mako Reizei.  Where the Japanese version has her sounding like a regular teenager, the English dub emphasizes her moody and sleepy side with a lower voice, so that was very interesting but it worked!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” features the following special features:

  • Introductions! – A full-length introduction episode that showcases the first half of the series but also the introduction of the various characters of Oarai Academy and other schools.
  • Introductions! 2 – A full-length introduction episode that showcases the second half of the series but also spotlights on the rules of Tankery and the various characters that are featured in the second half of the series.
  • Japanese Promos
  • Japanese TV Spots
  • Clean Opening and Ending Animations

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“Girls & Panzer” was an enjoyable and delightful series about a group of underdogs who enter a Tankery competition and must take on the best high schools.

Often in anime series, we are greeted with all-female competitions, may it be martial arts, softball, tennis, volleyball or even mecha series, but “Girls & Panzer” is different because it focuses on tank competitions and while we have the cute high school students operating tanks, the fact is that a lot of research went into the tanks featured in the series.

From the movements, strategies employed and just the overall mechanical design, you just don’t come across anime series like this.  And the efficacy of this series is because of it’s upbeat storyline of an underdog academy that puts its trust on the leadership of Miho Nishizumi.

Miho is from the proud Tankery family, the Nishizumi family.  But Miho starts out as one who doesn’t want anything to do with Tankery and just wants to enjoy life with friends.

And with each episode, we learn how awesome Miho is as a commander, but we also learn why she has kept away from a competition that her family has thrived in.  We also get a good amount of character building storylines that helps introduce us to various characters of this series.

At first, seeing so many characters compete per Academy/High School, I wasn’t sure how the writers would include them all and make a story that wouldn’t be so confusing to viewers, but they manage to keep the focus on the core 5 of Oarai High School, but giving us enough to know each group supporting Miho during competition.  May it be the Turtle Team, the Duck Team, the Hippo Team, the Mallard Team, the Anteater Team, the Leopon or the Rabbit Team, their inclusion was enough to understand the team dynamics and their strengths and weaknesses.

And the character designs, the beautiful art backgrounds and mechanical designs looked amazing on Blu-ray.  Vibrant colors, plenty of detail and no sign of artifacts or banding.  “Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” looked amazing in HD!

As for lossless audio, I wished that this action-driven series would have received a 5.1 lossless soundtrack but you get two lossless 2.0 soundtracks that are well-acted for both the Japanese and English soundtracks.

You also get two additional introduction episodes as well, included as special features!

Overall, “Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” was much more than I expected and not only did I love this series, it left me craving for more!  An uplifting underdog story featuring female academy competitions with tank battles and carefully planned battle strategies, this is one series worth owning on Blu-ray!

“Girls & Panzer: Complete TV Series” is highly recommended!

Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Kanae Hazuki-KODANSHA/Say “I Love You” Committee.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episode 1-13 (325 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 24, 2013

Originally Created by Kanae Hazuki

Director by Takuya Sato

Series Director: Toshimasa Kuroyanagi

Series Composition by Takuya Sato

Music by Yuuji Nomi

Character Design: Junko Watanabe, Yoshiko Okuda

Art Director: Yuka Hirama

Anime Production by ZEXCS

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Ai Kayano/Caitlynn French as Mei Tachibana

Takahiro Sakurai/Leraldo Anzaldua as Yamato Kurosawa

Minako Kotobuki/Emily Neves as Megumi Kitagawa

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Greg Ayres as Kenji Nakanishi

Risa Taneda/Monica Rial as Asami Oikawa

Tomoaki Maeno/Andrew Loves as Kai Takemura

Yumi Uchiyama/Carli Mosier as Aiko Mutō

Friends suck, and trusting someone is just setting yourself up. That’s the lesson Mei Tachibana learned after her heart was ripped out and only a shell was left where a girl used to be. But unlike so many, she found an easy solution: she’ll never make another friend. Ever.

 

Okay, maybe that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worked for Mei – or at least, it did until handsome, charming and annoyingly popular Yamato Kurosawa came along. For some freakish reason, he seems to like Mei. He even gave her his phone number! As if she would ever call him. Except she did. But only because she needed help. Still, he came. He actually came. And now things are getting way too complicated.

 

Mei’s no princess in a tower. She’s not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue her. So why did he have to kiss her and confuse everything? And why are those three little words so hard to say?

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In 2008, manga artist Kanae Hazuki created “Suki-tte Ii na yo” (Say “I Love You.”) which received a 13-episode anime adaptation in October 2012 and will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

Produced by ZEXCS, the series is directed and features series composition by Takuya Sato (“Steins;Gate”, “Strawberry Marshmallow, “Fate/stay night”), music by Yuuji Nomi (“Bokurano”, “Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honneamise”, “Whisper of the Heart”), character designs by Junko Watanabe (“Blood+”, “Eden ofthe East: Paradise Lost”) and Yoshiko Okuda (“Gatchaman Crowds”, “Hellsing Ultimate”) and art backgrounds by Yuka Hirama (“Initial D: Third Stage”, “Street Fighter alpha”, “Boogiepop Phantom”).

“Say ‘I Love You.'” is a series that revolves around a 16-year-old teenager named Mei Tachibana.  She has been bullied since she was a child, never had any friends and often teased by the girls in high school for her look and not having had a boyfriend.    And because of a childhood incident in which a rabbit died at her school and the children all put the blame on her, she has since had a lack of trust towards people, thinking that people want to get close and then betray you.

Meanwhile, at the same high school is popular Yamato Kurosawa.  All the girls want to be with him and his friend Kenji Nakanishi wishes he can be like him, but Kenji is often says things without thinking and turns them off.  But Yamato Kurosawa is the guy that many girls dream of being with.

But one day, Kenji runs into her and when Yamato sees her for the first time, Kenji tells Yamato that Mei is the quite girl that never talks to anyone and is often looking out the window in class.

One day, while Kenji was behaving crazy, he sees a girl (which happens to be Mei Tachibana) walking up the stairs and tugs on her blouse.  When Yamato tells Kenji to stop, Mei mistakens Yamato Kurosawa as the pervert and gives him a roundhouse kick.

All the girls are dismayed of what Mei has done but instead of being upset, Yamato laughs it off.

Meanwhile, when Mei opens her locker later in the day, she sees a letter from someone upset of what she had done and tells her that she better apologize to Yamato.  Meanwhile, inside her locker are many thumbtacks as a warning.

Yamato then shows up and wants to apologize to her for Kenji’s action, but Mei does the apologizing and gives him many band aids for his cuts he received after falling after she kicked him.  But feeling uncomfortable about being around someone, she tries to walk off quickly away from him but yet Yamato keeps following her wherever she goes. Yamato tells her that he wants to be friends but Mei doesn’t want to be friends.  He wants to get her phone number but she is not interested in giving it out.  So, he ends up giving her his phone number and tells her to call him if she wants.

One day while working at her bakery job, Mei is freaked out when one of the male customers starts following her wherever she goes.  Mei runs into the convenience store scared and the guy just continues to stand there waiting for her to come out. Mei tries to call her mother for help but her mother is not home.  Not knowing what she should do, she has the paper with Yamato’s phone number and she calls him for help.

Surprised that Mei has called her, Yamato rushes to her rescue.  He tells her to hold on to his arm while they walk out.  The guy who was waiting asks if they are dating and while he looks, Yamato gives Mei a long kiss.  Making the guy leave!

Mei trembles after receiving her first kiss but is not sure how to behave or how to interpret it.  But Yamato tells her that he helped her out with her problem and now he has her phone number and wants to be friends with her.

The next day, Mei tries to understand what happened the previous night but wonders if that kiss meant anything but she can’t help but start thinking and dreaming about Yamato.

She eventually meets Asami Oikawa, a good friend of Yamato and Kenji’s and she learns from Asami that Yamato has kissed every girl in school except one girl, Miki Arai.  Hearing that, Mei is hurt that Yamato can just kiss any girl without meaning.  And thinking that why would Yamato go for a girl like her, when there are beautiful girls like Asami, who is popular in school for her big chest.

But when she and Asami head to the restroom, she hears girls talking bad about Asami and bullying her because of her breasts.  Later that day, Mei overhears two girls talking badly about Asami and tries to tell them to stop talking badly about her and in the process, Mei gets beaten up by the girls.

When Yamato sees her with a big bruise and scratches on her face, she tells him that she fell.  But he takes one of the band aids he has given her and puts it on her face. As she heads to the clinic, she sees Asami and the two start talking.  Meanwhile, the girls that were talking bad about Asami and beat up Mei, show up and Asami learns that Mei got in a fight to protect her.

Meanwhile, as Kenji who was hit in the face by a soccer ball, goes to the school clinic, he sees the ruckus and tries to defend Asami but once again, he starts talking without thinking about why he likes Asami’s big breasts and she runs out crying.

Kenji is devastated that he hurt Asami because he really likes her, but Mei gives him some advice and when Kenji decides to listen to Mei, he goes to Asami and comforts her but also confessing his true feelings for her.

Meanwhile, later that day, Mei follows Yamato to the karaoke and inside, Miki Arai starts flirting with him but he’s not interested.  When he leaves, he sees Mei hiding and Mei confronts him about about kissing girls for the fun of it and that kisses are meant for people you love and a kiss should be with only a meaning of love.

Hearing that, Yamato confronts Mei and kisses her, kisses her repeatedly showing her a kiss that he has given for fun, but a passionate kiss that he gives for love and that the kiss he is giving her is because he feels love for her.

And the girl who had been living a life without friends, becomes the big talk at school as word gets around that she and Yamato are dating.  But of course, with many other girls wanting Yamato, life for Mei Tachibana in high school is not going to be quite easy.

But having had a life of not saying anything or standing back, will she continue loving Yamato, even if that means that she has to put up with a lot of pain?

The main characters of “Say “I Love You.” are:

  • Mei Tachibana – The main protagonist who is a girl who has been bullied by classmates all her life.  She has lived a life with no friends and staying away from people, feeling that people just want to get close and betray her.  So, she never wants to have friends but when she meets Yamato Kurosawa and he kisses her, that one kiss would change her life forever.  While she has never had many friends, she is quite blunt and tells people how she feels and in someway, it’s constructive criticism that ends up helping people.
  • Yamato Kurosawa – The most popular guy in school that many girls want to be with and also has kissed many girls, he falls for Mei Tachibana.  When Yamato was young, he used to be bullied until he got older and became popular with the girls.
  • Asami Oikawa – Asami is a good friend of Yamato and Kenji.  She has a complex about her breasts, which she has been teased throughout grade school and high school.  But she idolizes Yamato after he stood up for her.  She becomes good friends with Mei after Mei defends her from bullies. She is also dating Kenji Nakanishi.
  • Kenji Nakanishi – A good friend of Yamato who gets into trouble because he is always talking before thinking, especially about girls.  But he is in love with Asami and the two become a couple thanks to advice given to him by Mei.
  • Aiko Muto – She is dating Masashi Tachikawa but for the longest time, she has been in love with Yamato.  She can be cold and has a bad-mouth.  She has used a lot of cosmetics and lossed a lot of weight in order to become attractive for Yamato and because of her extreme use of cosmetics, she has damaged her skin.  She has had sex with Yamato before and thus, she can’t understand why Yamato would go for Me.  But although she sees Mei as a rival, when she is bullied by how she used to be and looked like, of all people to defend her from a bully…it was Mei.
  • Masashi Tachikawa – Aiko’s boyfriend and a person who has loved her, no matter how she looked like back then and now.
  • Kakeru Hayakawa – A guy who has slept and been with many girls like Yamato. But when he finds out that Yamato is dating Mei Tachibana, he can’t understand why he would go for a girl like her and wants to try to get close to Mei.
  • Megumi Kitagawa – A popular model who transferred to Yamato’s school.  When she was in grade school, she was teased and bullied and called ugly.  But now that she is a model and adored, she tries to win friends by giving them things and she despises Mei and can’t understand why Yamato would go for someone as plain as Mei.
  • Kai Takemura – A childhood friend of Yamato who was bullied and because he hid and neglected his studies due to the bullies, he moved away.  But he returns back, bigger and stronger and wanting his revenge on the bullies that tormented him. He is addicted to collectables from a theme park, “Land”.  But the first person he meets and falls for is a girl that works at the bakery shop….Mei.
  • Nagi Kurosawa – Yamato’s younger sister who is great at cooking and making stuff animals.  But after being betrayed by her friends who used her just to go to her house and have her cook for them, she feels that she has been betrayed and has stopped going to school, not wanting to be around people ever again.

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VIDEO:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I absolutely loved the character designs to this anime series and it’s overall look.  The series features a good emphasis on style, hairstyles and locations.  And manages to capture teenage life with well-detailed and shaded character designs and art backgrounds that are beautiful.

A vibrant anime series which I didn’t see any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  While the series is front-channel driven series, dialogue and music is crystal clear and is appropriate for this teenage romance anime series.  While the Japanese voice acting is well-done and usually the version I prefer, in the case of “Say ‘I Love You.'”, Caitlynn French hits the ball out of the ballpark with this wonderful performance as Mei Tachibana.  The awkwardness, the sadness, the playfulness of Mei Tachibana’s character and capturing the eventual growth of her character before she meets Yamato and after, this was one of the best casting decisions I have heard in an anime series and I was very impressed with French’s performance.  Also, Leraldo Anzaldua did a fantastic job as the voice of Yamato.

But I absolutely loved the English dub for this anime series!  Great job by everyone involved.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” comes with clean opening and closing animation, Japanese promos and “Mei & Marshmallow” animations (typically shown at the end of an episode).

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I have watched and read plenty of Shojo series and I have to admit that I was captivated by Kanae Hazuki’s “Say ‘I Love You’.” anime series.

I have never watched or read the manga series before but it was unlike other anime series, which typically has become a cliche in Japanese animation, of a teenager falling for the handsome, popular guy in school.  Usually a storyline that features a love triangle or some situation that threatens the relationship, while “Say ‘I Love You’.” does follow a similar banality that we often see in shojo romance anime series, it’s different.

For one, “Say ‘I Love You’.” revolves around a teenage girl who was bullied and never had any friends.  She doesn’t know, nor does she care about the social atmosphere at school because she has shunned it, but her life of just trying to be the person that no one pays attention to, changes when she meets Yamato Kurosawa.

And because of how she is, that becomes the main drive of the series of wondering about her emotions, especially about jealousy, how to deal with rumors that she hears on campus about Yamato and how to deal with it.

Also, another major difference that “Say ‘I Love You’.” tries to showcase that even these beautiful girls at school, some have had history of unpleasant things happening to them.

I think anyone who has graduated from high school and looked back at those who were popular or unpopular and have reconnected with these individuals later on in life can understand how high school can really be a living hell for certain students.

Typically in an anime series, the well-endowed female character is often used as a sexual, fan service character which is long overused in anime but also manga.  But for the character of Asami Oikawa, life is not easy for her as other people may think.  Yes, they may get attention from the guys in school and people talk about that person behind their backs, but we see how its affected Asami Okawa and how she tries to hide it.

Aiko Muto is another example of a female who was uncomfortable with her life, lost a lot of weight and tried to experiment with so much makeup and somewhat destroying herself in order to pursue some type of perfection or trying to look beautiful.

Once again, a relevant topic as we have seen many young women (especially in Asian countries), who have had plastic surgery to change themselves to the point of no return.

Megumi Kitagawa is another example of one who has changed herself.  In this case, Megumi was called ugly and plain by people in school during grade school but now, she lives a life of trying to prove that she is beautiful and wants people to know it.  Especially wanting Yamato to be with her, now that she is beautiful.  But can’t understand why he would choose a girl who is unpopular and plain, something she has worked hard to change herself and not be.

And last, Yamato Kurosawa, the popular guy with many girls around him, also had a life that was not like that before.  He was bullied, he always hid from bullies and in the process, regrets how he treated his old friend Kakeru Hayakawa, by not sticking up for him when he was bullied, because of fear.

These are a lot of the cruel things that people endure through grade school and high school and rarely do you find a series who tries to show that bullying is not cool.  And the person in the series, of all people to defend or even speak her mind about how she feels, is no other than Mei Tachibana, the girl who has been bullied and never had any friends growing up.

It’s a very delightful, positive and enjoyable series that I literally watched from beginning to end.  I absolutely loved it!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality looks great in HD and as for the lossless soundtrack, while both Japanese and English soundtracks are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, while the Japanese was good, for the English dub, the voice acting by both Caitlynn French and Leraldo Anzaldua was fantastic.

Caitlynn French literally played the character of Mei Tachibana with amazing efficacy.  You feel, you hear the awkwardness through Mei’s voice, thanks to French’s performance.  It definitely made this series much more captivating that all talent for the English dub did so well and this is coming from a guy who typically prefers to watch anime with its original Japanese soundtrack.

As for the special features, its a little on the slim side with the usual clean and opening endings and you do get the Japanese promos but it would have been wonderful if an audio commentary was included.

Overall, “Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!

“Say ‘I Love You’.” is highly recommended!

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