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Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Tokyo Ravens” is an entertaining anime series that kicks off with a lot of fun and humor in the series’ first half, but becomes a bit more darker, magic heavy and action-driven by the second half.  I found the series to be entertaining, a bit banal but it’s a series I enjoyed watching.

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-24 (600 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: FUNimation

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 8, 2017


Originally Created by Sumihei

Director: Takaomi Kanasaki

Series Composition: Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Maiko luchi

Character Design: Atsuko Watanabe

Art Director: Takashi Ichikura

Art Design: Kazushi Fujii

Anime Production: 8 bit


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaito Ishikawa/Clifford Chapin as Harutora Tsuchimikado

Kana Hanazawa/Caitlin Glass as Natsume Tsuchimikado

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Kon

Ayane Sakura/Jad Saxton as Suzuka Dairenji

Eri Kitamura/Leah Clark as Kyoko Kurahashi

Fumi Hirano/Wendy Powell as Miyo Kurahashi

Hiro Shimono/Josh Grelle as Tenma Momoe

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Jarrod Greene as Reiji Kagami

Hisako Kanemoto/Felecia Angelle as Hokuto/Takiko Sōma

Koji Yusa/J. Michael Tatum as Jin Ōtomo

Ryohei Kimura/Ian Sinclair as Tōji Ato

Shinya Takahashi as Senjirō Kogure


Harutora may seem like an ordinary guy, but he’s actually a descendant of an ancient and powerful clan of onmyouji. Born without the family talent for magic, he’d always believed he was destined for a normal, boring existence. All that changed the day Natsume, a beautiful face from Harutora’s past, barged back into his life and forever altered the course of his future.


Quite often, there are anime adaptations that are derived from Japanese light novels.  And in 2010, Kohei Azano and illustrator Sumihei created the light novel series “Tokyo Ravens”.

An anime series was released in 2013 and ended in 2014 and in August 2017, “Tokyo Ravens” was released in North America on Blu-ray/DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The series sets up the storyline of how onmyodou magic was a powerful technique used by the Japanese during World War II.  Unfortunately, when onmyoji Yakou Tsuchimikado performed a ritual to bring out Japan as a major force goes wrong and it led to the “Great Spiritual Disaster” which has affected Japan since then.

An Onmyo Agency was developed to monitor supernatural activity and take on spirits or demons that make their way into the world.

Fastforward to this present time in the story where many students learn onmydou magic to utilize their skills in medicine and technology.  Unfortunately for Harutora, a member of the Tsuchimikado branch family, he was born with no spiritual power at all.

But despite coming from a well-known, powerful family, without no spiritual power, he sees his life as meaningless.

He remembers a childhood promise made and one day, he and his friend Touji Ato encounter Hokuto, a girl that Harutora likes and she encourages him to become an onmyo mage.    Meanwhile, he meets his childhood friend Natsume but he accidentally offends her.

As Harutora goes to a festival, Hokuto promises him a kiss if he wins at the festival but out of nowhere, Suzuka Dairenji arrives at the festival and she learns of his true identity, she goes to kiss him and when Hokuto arrives, she is upset to see him receiving a kiss before she can give him one and leaves crying because of it.

One day, while walking home with Natsume, Harutora once again comes across Suzuka and while the Magical Investigation Bureau agents try to stop her and she unleashes her juggernaut.  Harutora tries to save one of the agents but as the juggernaut is about to kill Harutora, Hokuto gets in the way and saves Harutora but is impaled by the mecha juggernaut.

Feeling upset and despondent, Harutora decides to follow the path of becoming an onmyo mage, going to school but also becoming a familiar for Natsume.

How will life go for Harutora now that he plans to focus on school (despite not being that smart) and working together with Natsume to take on various spirits?


VIDEO:

“Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. 8 bit has done a wonderful job with the animation and for the most part, the series looks very good on Blu-ray but like most anime television series, the series does exhibit some softness.  But backgrounds are well-painted, characters are well-shaded and the animation is well done!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear and voice acting is well-done for the most part.  As for the English dub, for the most part, voice acting is well-done and I have to give major props to voice acting newcomer, Clifford Chapin on doing a magnificent job as the voice of main protagonist, Harutora.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tokyo Ravens: The Complete Series” comes with no special features.

  • Audio Commentary for Episode 5 by Clifford Chapin, Monica Rial and Ian Sinclair.
  • Video Commentary for Episode 7 by director Colleen Clinkenbeard, Monica Rial, Ian Sinclair and Clifford Chapin discussing the duties of a voice actor.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 12 – Featuring audio commentary by Caitlin Glass, Leah Clark and Jad Saxton.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 14 – Featuring audio commentary by Clifford Chapin, J. Michael Tatum and Michael Johnson.
  • Video Commentary for Episode 18 by ADR director Zach Bolton, Jad Saxton, Caitlin Glass, Leah Clark.
  • Audio commentary for Episode 23 – Featuring audio commentary by Austin Tindle, Josh Grelle and Jarrod Greene.
  • Kon Explains it All #1-3 – Featuring five minute featurettes (in Japanese with English subtitles) with Kon discussing various characters in the series.
  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs
  • U.S. Trailer

“Tokyo Ravens” is an interesting anime that revolves around magic, friendships and love but as Japan has created a plethora of anime series that deal with magic, someone not good at it and eventually becoming stronger to defeat the main antagonist, was this going to be another case of anime banality?

Fortunately, “Tokyo Ravens” is a series that has more going for it thanks to its plot of magical hijinks, crazy characters but also young love which leads to many hilarious situations throughout the series.

The series follows Harutora Tsuchimikado, a son of a major branch family in Japan, the Tsuchimikado Clan but despite being born from a distinguished family known for their onmyouji skills, Harutora has no such skill or magical powers.  He is not smart, many wonder why he’s attending an onmyouji school with no such skills. But he wants to go back to school to find out who was the master of his deceased familiar, Hokuto but also enjoying the friendships he makes along the way.  He has a shikigami silver-fox spirit named Kon who helps him.

He becomes  the familiar for Natsume Tsuchimikado, a childhood friend of Harutora and also from the main family of the Tsuchimikado Clan and is a prodigal onmyouji.  She has come to Harutora’s town in order to make sure he holds up to his childhood promise of becoming her familiar.  Interesting enough, Natsume is assumed to be a reincarnation of Yakou Tsuchimikado, the infamous onmyouji who performed a ritual known as “Taizan Fukun Ritual” which was to bring out Japan as a major force but instead, the ritual went wrong and brought the “Great Spiritual Disaster” which has affected Japan ever since.

Because of this, as a family tradition, she must present herself as a male in front of other onmyouji families and that includes attending school as a boy.  And family tradition means everything to her, while not so much for Harutora.

Harutora’s best friend is a former delinquent named Touji Ato, who knows a lot about onmyodo and often helps Harutora at Onmyo Academy.  He was a victim of the Spiritual Disaster and was possessed by an oni which caused the Spiritual Disaster and Harutora’s father helped treat him, despite Touji having the power to become half-Oni.

Meanwhile, causing problems for Harutora and Natsume throughout their time at the Academy is Suzuka Dairenji, the youngest of the 12 Divine Generals and wants to revive her brother with the Taizan Fukun Ritual.  She and her brother were experimented on by her father before and after their birth in order to create an excellent onmyouji.

The first half of the series is humorous and lighthearted and the series does a wonderful job of focusing on character development but also featuring many character interactions and developing relationships.  It’s what makes the series captivating and not being just a banal magical/action-driven anime series.

While the second half becomes more serious and darker, as it involves the Twin Horn Syndicate, A spirit disaster taking place at the Onmyo Agency branch office and a major death!

What will happen to Harutora and friends during the time of a new spirit disaster but also an ominous threat looming?

I have to say that the first half of the series kept me captivated but by the second half, the mood’s all changed (which is common in anime series) but I felt the second half became a bit more convoluted.   I like the fact that the series focused so much on character development but by the time you start caring for these characters, you are thrust into a different type of storyline for the second half, especially towards the end of the series that grows darker, becomes a bit more complex and for the most part, it went from something that had great potential to an average anime series at the end.

But I did like numerous audio and video commentaries included on this Blu-ray/DVD set of “Tokyo Ravens” and while it is a bit banal, fortunately there is a lot of character development in this series that made watching the series worthwhile.

Overall, “Tokyo Ravens” is an entertaining anime series that kicks off with a lot of fun and humor in the series’ first half, but becomes a bit more darker, magic heavy and action-driven by the second half.  I found the series to be entertaining, a bit banal but it’s a series I enjoyed watching.

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!

Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part Two

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 13-14) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: February 1, 2017


Originally created by Takeshi Azuma

Directed by Masato Sato

Series Composition by Atsushi Maekawa

Music by Ryuuichi Takada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Director: Daiki Kuribayashi

Art Design by Iho Narita

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Anthony Bowling as Jun’ichirō Kagami

Rena Matsui/Mikaela Krantz as Suzune Kagami

Aki Toyosaki/Tia Ballard as Kōtarō Araki

Aya Hirano as Yamato Tōne

Ayahi Takagaki as Tim Berners Lynn

Ayane Sakura as Kisaki Tenjōin/Sachiko Tanaka

Azusa Tadokoro/Dawn M. Bennett as Kiriko Shikishima

Daisuke Namikawa/Eric Vale as Hell Gates

Kana Hanazawa/Lindsay Seidel as Reiko Mukyō

M.A.O/Alexis Tipton as Madoka Kuramachi

Rina Hidaka/Monica Rial as Kanon Chinami

Risa Taneda/Kristi Yang as Matome Nishikujō

Risae Matsuda/Felecia Angelle as Taki Komiya

Saori Ōnishi/Caitlin Glass as Makina Momozono

Satsumi Matsuda/Bryn Apprill as Nagaru Komiya

Shiina Natsukawa/Leah Clark as Moemi Kushinada

Sora Amamiya/Sarah Wiedenheft as Minako Kanō

Suzuko Mimori/Jad Saxton as Koyomi Hiiragi

Tomoko Tsuzuki/Terri Doty as Kazuya Momozono


The ultimate otaku teacher, Junichiro Kagami, is back with his unique group of students. But as the school year goes on, things start to get…spooky! When tasked to clean out the old dorms, Kagami and his students stumble upon the ghost of a former classmate. All she wants to do is pass on to the next life but is having a little trouble. Are they up for this spiritual lesson?

Things heat up when conflict arises between a gang leader and pop idol. Are street smarts more important than school smarts? Once things start to calm down, even Kagami’s most troubled students start settling into better lives. Realizing that he’s neglected things he used to care about like his blog, figurines, and anime, Kagami begins to question if teaching is where he truly belongs. When the opportunity to work on his Anywhere Door arises, he’ll have to make a tough choice.

What does Kagami really yearn to do: teach or research?


In 2011, mangaka Takeshi Azuma created the manga series “Denpa Kyoshi” (which translates to “electromagnetic-wave teacher”).

As the series is still ongoing in Japan, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures in 2015 and the anime has now be released in two parts on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The anime series is directed by Masato Sato (“Explorer Woman Ray”, “Silent Mobius”, “Montana Jones”), script by Atsushi Maekawa (“Digimon Adventure”, “Bakugan Battle Brawlers”, “Dragon Ball Z”), music by Ryuuichi Takada (“Idolm@ster”, “Dusk maiden of Amnesia”), character design by Isao Sugimoto (“Bakuon!!”, “Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Maze”) and background art by Daiki Kuribayashi (“Show By Rock!!”, “Code: Breaker”, “Chaos;Child”).

The anime series introduces us to Jun’ichiro Kagami, a 24-year-old mega-otaku who rather work on his anime blog. But while a big otaku, Jun’ichiro was once an intelligent physics major who published a paper that would make headwaves in the scientific world when he was 17. And Jun’ichiro was scouted to work at one of the most important research centers in the world. But when he wanted to create the “Anywhere Door” that allows teleportation, he became ridiculed by academics and so far, his efforts to dispute his critics have failed and he hasn’t developed the technology to create it.

So, Jun’ichiro decudes that he suffers from “YD” and only wants to work that he yearns to do and not do anything else. And that is be a hardcore otaku.

But his younger sister Suzune is tired of him staying at home and not making a living, and because she is responsible for the family finances, she forces her brother to get a job. Or else she will beat him up.

So, Jun’ichiro takes up a job to become a teacher at Hiiragi Academy and help students and teach students his own way. So, he can balance his teaching job (doing things his way) and also focus on his otaku lifestyle. But can he teach these students with his otaku style?

In the second part of “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”, new characters are introduced such as Tim Bernards Lynn, the head scientist at CERM Particle Physics Laboratory; Madoka Kuramachi, the student council treasurer; Joe Odawara, a student of Jun’ichiro who wants to confess his love to Makina; gang leader Taki Komiya and childlike intern, Reiko Mukyo.

Also, what happens when Jun’ichiro challenges Hell Gates, the CEO of Activision Frigate and a computer game world champion. If Jun’ichiro wins, Hell Gates must takeover KMC. If Hell Gates wins, Jun’ichiro can never play any computer game ever again.

And what is the results of Jun’ichiro teaching at the academy? Does he pass or fail?


VIDEO:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. A vibrant anime series from A-1 Pictures.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” features the following special features:

  • Episode 15 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips, Alexis Tipson (voice of Madoka Kuramachi) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Tim Berners Lynn) and script writer and voice actor, Clifford Chapin (voice of Joe Odawara).
  • Episode 21 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips and voice talents Felecia Angelle (voice of Taki Komiya), Mallorie Rodak (voice of Yamato Toune) and Bryn Apprill (voice of Nagare Komiya)
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”.

EXTRAS:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


What happens when you get a former intelligent academic student turned hardcore otaku and make him a teacher and allow him to teach his students with his otaku style?

This is the story of Jun’ichiro Kagami, a hardcore otaku who has kept away from working professionally because he wants a job which he can be himself.

Unfortunately, not many jobs are open to that until Koyomi Hiiragi, chairman of Icho Academy who wants Japan to be a more amusing place. Having spied and followed Jun’ichiro, she feels that his teaching methods, no matter how absurd they may be, can teach the students at the Academy.

Each episode features how Jun’ichiro helps out a student. In Part 2, for example, Jun’ichiro wants to save student council treasurer, Madoka Kuramachi. Madoka’s family owns the KMC company who makes a video game that Jun’ichiro plays. And the company is about to be take over by Activision Frigate, a rival company and she is being forced to marry the rival company’s CEO, Hells Gate.

Another episode has Jun’ichiro trying to help a ghost who is a big fan of “Kisaki Tenjoin” and wants to know how the manga ended before author Sachiko could complete it. And the ghost wants desperately to know how the manga would have ended.

And how will Jun’ichiro help Taki Komiya, a gang leader named Taki, whose twin sister happens to be to be idol singer, Komi-Ryu.

And the series culminates as we learn the results of Jun’ichiro being at teacher. Will he succeed?

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful, while lossless audio for both Japanese and English soundtracks are 2.0 DTS-HD MA. For special features, you get two audio commentary.

Overall, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” is an anime series that may be compared to “Assassination Classroom”, teachers who have their own way of teaching their own students, students who are truant or have major problems at school. Where “Assassination Classroom” is more action-packed and driven by the fact the students must grow in order to assassinate their alien teacher who plans to destroy the planet, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is about an otaku teacher who loves his anime, video games and figurines.

While he is obsessed with otaku duties, the fact that he is given an opportunity to teach at an Academy and be himself is a major plus to him. So, using his love for video games, anime, etc. allows him to reach out to these troubled students.

The series has elements of what people tend to enjoy in an anime series. From having an otaku protagonist, a tsundere sister and students who are helped by Jun’ichiro’s otaku ways, may it be through video games or something really weird or awkward, he manages to get the job done.

Overall, if you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: November 15, 2016


Originally created by Takeshi Azuma

Directed by Masato Sato

Series Composition by Atsushi Maekawa

Music by Ryuuichi Takada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Director: Daiki Kuribayashi

Art Design by Iho Narita

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Anthony Bowling as Jun’ichirō Kagami

Rena Matsui/Mikaela Krantz as Suzune Kagami

Aki Toyosaki/Tia Ballard as Kōtarō Araki

Aya Hirano as Yamato Tōne

Ayahi Takagaki as Tim Berners Lynn

Ayane Sakura as Kisaki Tenjōin/Sachiko Tanaka

Azusa Tadokoro/Dawn M. Bennett as Kiriko Shikishima

Daisuke Namikawa/Eric Vale as Hell Gates

Kana Hanazawa/Lindsay Seidel as Reiko Mukyō

M.A.O/Alexis Tipton as Madoka Kuramachi

Rina Hidaka/Monica Rial as Kanon Chinami

Risa Taneda/Kristi Yang as Matome Nishikujō

Risae Matsuda/Felecia Angelle as Taki Komiya

Saori Ōnishi/Caitlin Glass as Makina Momozono

Satsumi Matsuda/Bryn Apprill as Nagaru Komiya

Shiina Natsukawa/Leah Clark as Moemi Kushinada

Sora Amamiya/Sarah Wiedenheft as Minako Kanō

Suzuko Mimori/Jad Saxton as Koyomi Hiiragi

Tomoko Tsuzuki/Terri Doty as Kazuya Momozono


Junichiro Kagami is on his sister’s last nerve. Despite his genius and scientific accomplishments, he’s spent most of his adult life cooped up inside, surrounded by anime and manga, working on trivial things like a blog. But now, it’s time for him to get a real job! His reason for being such a bum? He suffers from YD: a debilitating illness that means he can only do things he yearns to do. Tired of this lame excuse, his sister gets him a job doing something he’d never expect teaching!

Teaching is the last thing Kagami yearns to do, at least until he comes across the various problems his students face outside of the classroom. Between their quirky dreams, serious attitude problems, and surprising secrets, Junichiro is definitely in for some far-out lessons.

What he teaches these kids will be beyond the books!


In 2011, mangaka Takeshi Azuma created the manga series “Denpa Kyoshi” (which translates to “electromagnetic-wave teacher”).

As the series is still ongoing in Japan, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures in 2015 and now the anime will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The anime series is directed by Masato Sato (“Explorer Woman Ray”, “Silent Mobius”, “Montana Jones”), script by Atsushi Maekawa (“Digimon Adventure”, “Bakugan Battle Brawlers”, “Dragon Ball Z”), music by Ryuuichi Takada (“Idolm@ster”, “Dusk maiden of Amnesia”), character design by Isao Sugimoto (“Bakuon!!”, “Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Maze”) and background art by Daiki Kuribayashi (“Show By Rock!!”, “Code: Breaker”, “Chaos;Child”).

The anime series introduces us to Jun’ichiro Kagami, a 24-year-old mega-otaku who rather work on his anime blog.  But while a big otaku, Jun’ichiro was once an intelligent physics major who published a paper that would make headwaves in the scientific world when he was 17.  And Jun’ichiro was scouted to work at one of the most important research centers in the world.  But when he wanted to create the “Anywhere Door” that allows teleportation, he became ridiculed by academics and so far, his efforts to dispute his critics have failed and he hasn’t developed the technology to create it.

So, Jun’ichiro decudes that he suffers from “YD” and only wants to work that he yearns to do and not do anything else.  And that is be a hardcore otaku.

But his younger sister Suzune is tired of him staying at home and not making a living, and because she is responsible for the family finances, she forces her brother to get a job.  Or else she will beat him up.

So, Jun’ichiro takes up a job to become a teacher at Hiiragi Academy and help students and teach students his own way.  So, he can balance his teaching job (doing things his way) and also focus on his otaku lifestyle.

But can he teach these students with his otaku style?


VIDEO:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing.  A vibrant anime series from A-1 Pictures.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1” features the following special features:

  • Chapter 3 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips, Mikaela Krantz (voice of Suzune Kagami), Jad Saxton (voice of Koyomi Hiiragi) and Anthony Bowling (voice of Junichiro Kagami).
  • Chapter 9 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips and voice talents Apphia Yu (voice of Kisaki Tenjoin/Sachiko Tanaka), Jarrod Greene  (voice of Seijuro Nanami) and Tia Ballard (voice of Kotaro Araki).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”.

EXTRAS:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


What happens when you get a former intelligent academic student turned hardcore otaku and make him a teacher and allow him to teach his students with his otaku style?

This is the story of Jun’ichiro Kagami, a hardcore otaku who has kept away from working professionally because he wants a job which he can be himself.

Unfortunately, not many jobs are open to that until Koyomi Hiiragi, chairman of Icho Academy who wants Japan to be a more amusing place.  Having spied and followed Jun’ichiro, she feels that his teaching methods, no matter how absurd they may be, can teach the students at the Academy.

Each episode features how Jun’ichiro helps out a student.  For example, Jun’ichiro has to help a delinquent named Seijuro Nanami (who left school because his father, a disgraced baseball player is in heavy debt) and to help him, he challenges him to a game of soccer.

Another episode features Jun’ichiro trying to help his sister’s friend Kanan Chinami, a woman who has a voice of an anime character.  Embarrassed by this, she stops talking and only communicates via text.  So, Jun’ichiro must find a way to get Kanan to finally talk.

In another episode, Jun’ichiro finds out his partner Luce, who he plays online via the MMORPG Uroboros is a boy named Kotaro Araki who is an anti-social cross-dresser and prefers to look like a girl.  But Kotaro is afraid of how people in school may think of him because he prefers to be a cross-dresser, so Jun’ichiro must find a way to get Kotaro to not be afraid to reveal himself to his classmates.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful, while lossless audio for both Japanese and English soundtracks are 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  For special features, you get two audio commentary.

Overall, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1” is an anime series that may be compared to “Assassination Classroom”, teachers who have their own way of teaching their own students, students who are truant or have major problems at school.  Where “Assassination Classroom” is more action-packed and driven by the fact the students must grow in order to assassinate their alien teacher who plans to destroy the planet, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is about an otaku teacher who loves his anime, video games and figurines.

While he is obsessed with otaku duties, the fact that he is given an opportunity to teach at an Academy and be himself is a major plus to him.  So, using his love for video games, anime, etc. allows him to reach out to these troubled students.

It will be interesting to see how the series develops overtime.  If the focus is about a teacher helping out his students with each episode, that is something that can get quite old.    So, I hope that the storyline shows some dramatic elements and doesn’t become too banal episode after episode.

If anything the series has elements of what people tend to enjoy in an anime series.  From having an otaku protagonist, a tsundere sister and students who are helped by Jun’ichiro’s otaku ways, may it be through video games or something really weird or awkward, he manages to get the job done.

Overall, if you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 1” a try!

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!

Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mottotoloveru

If you enjoyed the first season, “Motto to Love RU” is much more wilder, crazier, perverted than ever.  Now featuring three crazy mini-stories per episode, “Motto to Love RU” ups the ante in perverted anime comedy TV series.  While not for everyone, if you are wanting something a bit more risque and perverted, this anime series is for you!

Image courtesy of © Kentaro Yabuki-Saki Hasemi/SHUEISHA, Toloveru Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection

DURATION: 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV14D

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Kentaro Yabuki, Saki Hasemi

Directed by Atsushi Ootsuki

Series Composition by Yasutomo Yamada

Music by Takeshi Watanabe

Character Design: Yuichi Ouka

Art Director: Yoshimi Umino

Anime Production by Xebec

Featuring the following voice talent:

Akeno Watanabe as Rito Yuki

Haruka tomatsu as Lala Satalin Deviluke

Ayako Kawasumi as Saki Tenjoin

Fuyuka Oura as Ren Elsie Jewelria

Kana Hanazawa as Mikan Yuki

Ryoka Yuzuki as Lisa Momioka

Misato Fukuen as Golden Darkness

Aki Toyosaki as Peke and Momo Belia Deviluke

Sayuri Yahagi as Haruna Sairenji

Takehito Koyasu as Zastin

The insanity that began when a very naked (and very female) alien teleported into Rito Yuki’s bathtub (while he was in it) continues. And even though Princess Lala has finally started to admit her true feelings for the young man she’s inexplicably engaged to marry (as a result of what happened in said bathtub and Develuke customs), her sometimes erratic technology and the snags and snarls of intergalatic politicse and intrigue are still causing major problems.

That transporter? Yeah, it still has the nasty habit of leaving the clothes behind. Alien bounty hunters? Yep, even more of them and they’re even more devious. Add body switches, alien skunks, a bathroom that changes size and shape, the inevitable sleepover that you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong (spoiler: it does). Worst of all, there’s Valentine’s Day, and even in space you’ll be able to hear Rito scream!

In 2006, the series “To Love Ru” (which in Japanese “Toraburu” can be read as in English “Trouble”) is a manga series by Saki Hasemi (“Moetan”, “Pinky:st”) and Kentaro Yabuki (“Black Cat”, “Yamato Gensouki”) was created and is currently featured in Weekly Shonen Jump. In the spring of 2008, Studio I.G. subsidiary Xebec, Inc. (known for working on “Love Hina” and “Martian Successor Nadesico”) released a 26-episode anime series which was followed by video game releases for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.  The first season of the anime series was released in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks in 2009-2010 in two DVD volumes.

In 2010, a second season titled “Motto To Love-RU”, a twelve episode series aired in Japan.  And now in May 2014, the second season will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Motto To Love RU” is produced by Xebec but features a new creative team.   The second season is directed by Atsushi Ootsuki  (“Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Fox”, “Wagnaria!! Season Two”) and features a screenplay by Yasutomo Yamada (“Bakegyamon”, “Boys Be…”, “Potemayo”, “Venus Versus Virus”).  Character design is by Yuichi Ouka (“Softenni”, “Over Drive”), art direction by Yoshimi Umino (“DNA2″, “Ben-To”, “.hack” series) and music by Takeshi Watanabe (“Moetan”, “Saki”, “Ichigo Mashimaro”).

The second season also is different from the first.  In the original, each episode had a full storyline but now “Motto to Love RU” features episodes with three short stories about seven minutes long.

What is “To Love RU” all about?

“To Love RU” is about a teenager named Rito Yuki. A teenage boy who has always loved his classmate Haruna Sairenji. But somehow due to unusual circumstances, by trying to save a girl named Lala (who happens to be an alien princess) and now Lala believes that Rito is in love with her and because Rito has proposed to her in Deviluke tradition (grabbing the woman’s breast and telling her that he loves her), they are now officially engaged.

Lala has made her residence at Rito’s home and expects Rito to be her husband. But Rito is in love with Sairenji, not Lala…what is a powerless, teenage boy going to do? Rito has been trying to find ways to have the marriage dissolved but finds himself getting deeper and deeper in trouble that even Lala’s father, King Deviluke expects him to marry or else Earth will be destroyed.

Now Rito finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala but what is this young teenager going to do?

What about “Motto To Love RU”?

The second season is much different than the original series.  More adult humor, more perverted and really doesn’t get into anything serious.  If anything, the harem storyline and love triangle still exists as Sairenji and Lala both want to be closer to Rito but Rito is not so much of a major factor in this season in terms of having to save Lala.  If anything, he is more of the comic character who is typically getting involved in the wrong situation against his will and has his butt kicked by the extra terrestrials.    While the emphasis are more on the female characters as they discuss their emotions and each other’s breasts, grabbing each other’s breasts and having fun, it is more evident that this series is targeted for more the lonely otaku who love tons of fan service.  And you definitely get it with “Motto To Love Ru”.

Because there are 12 half-hour episodes (3 mini-episodes each episode, thus 26 different episodes in all), here are a few storylines that are featured in “Motto to Love RU”.

  • Yui and the discipline committee implement a demerit policy to ensure morality in school.
  • What happens when Mikan’s teacher goes to visit her home to meet her and Rito’s father (a manga creator).  Since their family has been gone for a long time, Rito must pretend to be her father.  But because he is not good at lying, Lala gives him a drink to calm him down, but instead it makes him drunk.
  • Yami wonders how it would be to wear Earth fashion, so the girls take her out on a shopping spree.
  • It’s Valentine’s Day and Yui wants to make chocolate for Rio.
  • What happens when Saki invites Rito and friends to her private beach.
  • Yami is ill and Rito tries to get her some medical help.
  • When Rito does poorly on his exam, Yami tries to help him.
  • Haruna, Sairenji and Oshizu take part in an alien process to make their breasts larger.
  • What happens when Momo accidentally transports Rito into Peke’s body.
  • What happens when Celine drinks Cola.
  • Nana and Momo get angry when she tries to sneak into Rito’s bed.
  • Which girl will Rito pick at the end?

“Motto To Love RU” features the following main characters:

Rito Yuuki – A teenager who is deeply in love with Haruna Sairenji. Not a popular guy at his high school and quite shy until he meets Lala. After saving Lala and squeezing her breasts, now he is officially engaged to her. Now Rito wants nothing but to get out of this engagement but finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala.

Lala Satalin Deviluke – The Princess of Deviluke who ran away from home (left her planet) because she did not want to marry any of the men that her father has chosen for her to marry but when she sees Rito fighting and defending her, she falls in love with him and after he grabs her breast, by Deviluke customs, she becomes engaged to him and moves in with him. She is complete oblivious to the fact that Rito cares about Haruna. Lala tends to not know about Earth’s customs and gets herself in trouble when she takes off her clothes off. She also is an inventor but her inventions tend to not work the way she wants at times.

Haruna Sairenji – Rito’s classmate who cares about Rito but keeps her emotions to herself due to Rito’s engagement with Lala. She cares for him and knows that he cares for her.  She often wonders if Rito cares for girls like Lala and girls with bigger breasts.  Often entangled in Lala’s inventions and she and Rito and gets caught up in unusual, nude circumstances.

Yami/Golden Darkness – An assassin hired by one of Lala’s suitors to kill Rito but is now more of a person who loves to read books and study Earth culture.  She is not sure why Rito is nice to her, despite her being his enemy and wanting to hurt him.  Often punishing Rito as he thinks he is always trying to look at her panties and see her nude.

Peke – Lala’s robot who can change to a weapon or the clothes that she wears. He tends to be the voice of reason when Lala is confused.

Ryoko Mikado – The school doctor of Sainan High School who also worked for a black market extraterrestrial organization. She uses her medical skills to help the students at the school but also aliens. Likes to wear slinky clothing and sometimes no clothing at all.

Kenichi Saruyama – Rito’s best friend who is a pervert. Never can get a girlfriend but with his friendship to Rito, he’s having a ball with meeting his new female friends.  He likes a girl but doesn’t know it was Rito who was changed into a girl due to Lala’s invention.

Yui Kotegawa – An uptight student who doesn’t like things that are unacceptable behavior and thinks Rito and Lala’s behavior towards each other is unacceptable. Dislikes delinquent behavior at her school and is now in charge of writing demerits for those who are mischievous.  Unfortunately, she gets caught up in getting groped by other girls.  She also wonders if she is falling for Rito.

Risa and Mio – Risa Momioka and Mio Sawada are Haruna’s and Lala’s friends. Risa has a tendency of groping other girls.

Nana Asta Deviuke -Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Momo (has longer hair and a visible tooth).  She somewhat likes Rito but also has a breast complex because hers is so small.  Always trying to find ways to make her breasts big.

Momo Velia Deviluke – Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Nana.  Has shorter hair, sweeter and has bigger breasts than her sister and likes to flaunt it around Nana.  Collector of plants.

Mikan Yuuki – The younger sister of Rito. She knows he got himself in deep trouble and that he cares for both Haruna and Lala and thus, tries to help him at times.

Saki Tenjouin – The popular girl at school who dislikes Lala because she is suddenly getting all the attention at school. Her friends Rin and Aya are loyal to her and do her dirty work.  Lately, Rito has been falling on her lately and landing on her breasts.

Ren/Run Elsie Jewelria – A childhood friend of Lala who changes from male to female when he/she sneezes. As Ren, he wants to marry Lala. As Run, she is secretly in love with Rito.  Run is also a extra terrestrial pop star.

Kyouko Kirisaki – A pop star who is also a half-Earthling/Half-Alien and can generate fire.  She is the star of “Magical Kyoko”.

Oshizu Murasame – A ghost at the school building who now has a prosthetic body created by Mikado-san that she can possess and attend school with the other girls.  She also has feelings for Rito.

Celine – A carnivorous plant given to Rito by Lala for his 16th birthday.  She has the appearance of a little girl (with a big flower on her head) and Rito takes her in as part of the family.

 

VIDEO:

“Motto To Love RU” is presented in 1080p High Definition. For a television series, the series features a lot of colors and artistic backgrounds feature a good amount of backgrounds from school settings, shopping/city settings, Rito’s home, etc. Typically for a TV series from a smaller studio, I don’t expect to see so many backgrounds or an over utilization of artwork but XEBEC did a wonderful job in the animation and Yuichi Oka with the character designs. I don’t know how close his designs are actually to Kentaro Yabuki and Saki Hasemi’s original manga but overall, character design and art backgrounds are well done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio is featured in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with English subtitles. Voice acting by the seiyuu are well done as Akeno Watanabe (Taruru of “Sgt. Frog”, Jo of “Burst Angel”, Chachamaru Kamakuri of “Negima”) does the voice of Rito. Haruka Tomatsu (Mileina of “Gundam 00″, Misao of “Asura Cryin’ 2″) does the voice of Lala and Sayuri Yahagi (Chisato of “Sola”, Hanaka of “Buso Renkin”) as Haruna. Anime is front channel driven but if you have a receiver that allows for stereo on all channels, that was my listening preference.

There is no English dub track in this Blu-ray release of “To Love RU”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection” features the Clean Opening and Closing Animation themes and Sentai Filmworks trailers.

Wilder, more perverted and more fan service than the previous season, “Motto to Love RU” will definitely appeal to those wanting more risque anime with tons of fan service and adult humor!

While watching “Motto to Love RU”, I have to admit that I was in one sense happy that the series was back, since I enjoyed the first season but also a tad bit disappointed that the full stories that were featured in each episode have now been replaced by three mini-episodes.   And the episodes were definitely made to be more wilder and perverted.

In the last season, it was basically dealing with the love triangle between Rito, Lala and Sairenji and of course, Rito having to defend his honor and the people he cares about.  There was a bit more action in the first season but this time around, Rito is more of the comic-centric character that is always in the wrong place at the wrong time (mainly caught for peeking up a girls skirt or in some situation that happened beyond his control) and getting punished for it.  If anything, this season focuses more on perverted comedy and a lot of fan service.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of mangaka Rumiko Takahashi’s “Urusei Yatsura” as a character ends up engaged to an alien. But in this case, Rito is nothing like Ataru (nor is he perverted). But “To Love RU” has its fair share of crazy antics, fan service and yes… nudity. Unlike Lum, Lala doesn’t know how Rito feels inside, even though family and friends know that he’s gotten himself into a mess. Also, similar to another Rumiko Takahashi anime series (Ranma 1/2), the character of Ren/Run able to change genders is quite interesting and makes me wonder if series creator Kentaro Yabuki was paying homage to Takahashi’s works.

But this second season definitely amps up the hijinks, the craziness, fan service and the perverted humor of the series.  And for those who enjoy this type of anime, “Motto to Love RU” is for you!  Do you need to watch the original anime series to understand this second.  Yes and no.  The first does explain why the aliens are living with Rito and of course, you get their introductions.  But the second series is created as mini-episodes with hijinks and fan-service that one can understand what is going on.

It’s only the final episode where you actually get something somewhat deep as the question of which girl Rito will pick comes to play.  But needless to say, I’m sure that the hijinks of these characters will continue, in the manga series or with more seasons of anime episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release, I wished there were more special features than the clean opening and closing themes and I’m sure there are fans who wish there was an English dub included. The Japanese voice acting is still enjoyable and well-performed.

While the Blu-ray is rated TV 14 D, it’s important to note that there is nudity and a lot of sexual humor and images, so this is not an anime series you want younger people to be watching.

Overall, “Motto To Love RU” is a hilarious anime series that was fun for me as I enjoyed the first season, but also a step back as it was not full-story episodes but an episode of three short, wild and crazy stories..

If you are looking for a series with adult, perverted humor and a lot of fan service, “Motto To Love RU” is the anime series you definitely want to watch! Recommended!

Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

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

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection

DURATION: 100 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

They’ve already had their bodies swapped like musical chairs, had their ages changed at random, and experienced their deepest desires taking control of them without warning, but if you thought Heartseed was finished with Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yoshifumi and Yui, you’ve got another think coming! Now there’s a new affliction going around, and the name of this peculiar bug is emotion sickness. As in, suddenly your emotions jump out of your body and sic someone else!

Needless to say, that’s more than simply awkward if you’ve got a deep-rooted phobia like a fear of men or repressed emotions that you’ve been trying to keep hidden, but in some situations it can literally be deadly! What is Heartseed up to this time, and why is he making our heroes involuntarily share their innermost dirty laundry?

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In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others. But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything. But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep. As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies. And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto. While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together. But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are? And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

The four OVA’s featured in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is the conclusion to the series and focuses on the relationships of the club members as founding member, Iori Nagase has grown distant from her club members, friends and people in class.

She has changed to become very cold and distant.  What has happened Nagase and why the drastic change?

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VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that although an OVA, there is not a huge difference in production quality compared to its television counterpart.

Character designs are colorful, art backgrounds are well-detailed and you do get a good number of location areas, thus more backgrounds featured in the OVA episodes.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series. Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

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During my review of “Kokoro Connection: Complete Collection”, part of my concern was that the 13-episode anime series left with no closure.

The anime series revolved around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena. From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, It was a series that obviously needed more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears. May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group. But together, they are there for each other.

But fortunately the conclusion to the series continues in its final episodes presented as OVA episodes that revolve around Iori Nagase.  As the club members have overcame many challenges as a group and have worked together to take on Heartseed’s challenges, for some reason, Nagase has grown cold and distant.

She no longer wants to be anyone’s friend.  She rejects Taichi’s love.  She doesn’t want to be around the club nor her friends at school.  And she is now the most talked about student, but not in the good way.

The four OVA’s focus Nagase’s change, the others trying to reach out to her but does Heartseed have anything to do with this?  And how can the group end the phenomenon?

So, fortunately what people will get is the ultimate conclusion to this storyline.

While the best part of these OVA episodes is pushing these friends to the limit and confessions being made, the final episodes featuring Heartseed was not as climactic as I was hoping for.  There was no major excitement that concluded with the primary antagonist but fortunately, the storyline surrounding Nagase was good enough to conclude the series.

Especially how things ended up for each of the five primary characters.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good as one can expect from an OVA release.  While not too far from its TV counterpart, nor does it look like a big production as one would expect from an OVA episode, “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” featured more detailed location scenes (especially backgrounds) for the characters, retained its colorful look and didn’t see any artifacts or banding this time around.

While I wished “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” was included with the complete collection, for those who did get the complete collection will no doubt want this Blu-ray release to complete the series and get the closure they want to the Heartseed storyline.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

Accel World: Set 01 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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While “Accel World” is entertaining and much different from Reki Kawahara’s other famous work “Sword Art Online”, it’s an interesting concept with cool characters and a series that I found to be action-packed and quite delightful so far!  “Accel World: Set 01” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Reki Kawahara/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Accel World: Set 01

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Masakazu Obara

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Music by Hiroyuki Oshima

Character Design: HIMA

Art Director: Nobutaka Ike, Takafumi Nishima

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Haruyuki Arita/Silver Crow

Sachika Misawa/Kira Buckland as Kuroyukihime/Black Lotus

Shintaro Asanuma/Lucien Dodge as Takumu Mayuzumi/Cyan Pile

Aki Toyosaki/Michelle T. Hseih as Chiyuri Kurashima/Lime Bell

The year is 2046. Portable devices known as Neurolinkers have enabled mankind to oversee their daily life within virtual reality networks. But the advancements in technology have yet to provide a solution for the growing number of victims of bullying.

Haruyuki Arita is one such student who finds himself on the lowest social rungs of his school. Ashamed of his miserable life, Haruyuki can only cope by indulging in virtual games. That all changes when Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school, approaches Haruyuki with a cryptic proposal: to “accelerate” further, and beyond.

 

Haruyuki is introduced to a mysterious program called Brain Burst and a virtual reality called the Accel World. Learning its secrets, Haruyuki musters the courage to accept Kuroyukihime’s proposal and to fight alongside her as her knight.

From Reki Kawahara, the creator of the hit novel series “Sword Art Online” comes the series “Accel World”, also a hit Japanese light novel series that earned Kawahara a “Grand Prize” as ASCII Media Works’ 15th Dengeki Novel Prize.

The popularity of “Accel World” would lead to several manga adaptations and eventually lead to an anime adaptation which aired in April-September 2012, and also would lead to an anime adaptation for “Sword Art Online”.

And now the first set of “Accel World” featuring the first 12 episodes is now currently available on Blu-ray courtesy of Viz Media.

“Accel World” is set in the year 2046 when Neuro-Synchronization allows humans to virtually manipulate their five senses and people can access the Internet and virtual world with a Neuro-Linker (typically worn around their neck).

The main protagonist of the series is Haruyuki “Haru” Arita, a short, overweight individual who is often bullied in school.  His only true friend is Chiyuri Kurashima, his childhood friend and also Takumu Mayuzumi, Chiyuri’s boyfriend.

No matter how much he is picked on, Chiyuri feels bad about how much Haru endures and she tries to make it up by preparing meals for him which he takes it as Chiyuri feeling pity towards him and ends up knocking the food she prepared for him.

Haru doesn’t know how to deal with the pressure of being bullied and what he did to Chiyuri, so he usually takes his frustration out in the virtual world in which his avatar is a small pink pig, which was forced on him by the school bullies.

But Haru is great at playing games, especially squash in which he has the highest score until he finds out that a person named Kuroyukihime had beaten it.

Kuroyukihime happens to be a powerful person on the online game with the name as Black Lotus.  A beautiful and popular Student Council Vice-President at Umesato Junior High School, Kuroyukihime has been a Burst Linker since she was eight-years old and she knows that Haru often gets bullied.

One day, she invites Haru to lunch and offers to cable with him (think going multi-player with a friend), which shocks many of the other students that someone so popular would hang out with Haru.

But while the two are communicating, she transfers a program called “Brain Burst” to him and after he installs it, his bully Araya shows up and is about to punch Haru for not showing up and buying him lunch like they usually force him to do.  But as Aray is about to punch him, she teaches Haru how to activate Brain Burst, and go into “Accelerated Mode”which accelerates the cognitive process of the brain and forces time around them to literally stop.

As Haru’s pig avatar comes out and Black Lotus comes out and both are looking at their own bodies and Haru about to be hit, she wants to stop Haru’s bullying so she tells him to fake being hit, to bump into her and this should end the bullying.  When they end the Accelerated Mode, Haru is hit and lands on Kuroyukihime who is hurt and bloodied by what happened and this leads to security detaining Araya.

Seeing this new mode has Haru quite interested in learning more from Kuroyukihime and he eventually learns that “Brain Burst” is a VRMMO fighting game and learns that other Burst Linkers must duel each other to obtain Burst Points, which can be spent on better acceleration powers.  Because of his low-self esteem, his avatar for the game is “Silver Crow”.  While Kuroyukihime allows him to go back to his normal life, Haru feels that he owes her for stopping the bullying but if he chooses to continue, they need to be closer together.

So close that Kuroyukihime wnats to further Haru’s popularity by telling her that she confessed his love to him and he rejected her, which of course makes Haru worry even more.  The news that the two are together starts to make Chiyuri worry that Kuroyukihime is using him, but Kuroyukihime tells her that they are dating each other and drags him to a cafe, leaving Chiyuri upset.

As the two are in the cafe, Kuroyukihime explains that “Brain burst” was created anonymously seven years ago and allows acceleration to those who were born with a neuro-linker.  So, all Burst Linkers are people 15 and under and its existence is not public.  Her goal is to meet the creator and understand why he created the game.  But she needs to reach level 10 which requires five wins over level 9 Burst Linkers.  If she loses, it would be a permanent uninstall of the Brain Burst.

She explains to Haru that two years ago, she was one of the Kings of Pure color and the level 9 Burst Linkers made a treaty not to fight each other but she did not agree to the treaty and beheaded the Red King in the game and now she is considered a traitor.  She has sealed away Black Lotus and has stayed offline and been using the schools local net with a dummy avatar.  But lately, a Burst Linker named Cyan Pile has challenged her to a duel and she does not want Black Lotus’ name to be exposed.  She wants to find out his identity and she feels that it may be Haru’s friend, Chiyuri.

As Haru goes to investigate, he goes to her home and links up with Chiyuri and he apologizes to her for what has happened and also wonders if her boyfriend Takumu knew about the bullying and she said she never told him.  He finds out that Haru is not Cyan Pule but he does find a back door connection on her computer that someone has been using and he is intent in finding out who.

Meanwhile, as Kuroyukihime finds out from Haru that he went to her bedroom, Kuroyukihime acts as if she’s jealous and Haru who is not so good at reading girls emotions dismisses it.  Students start to gossip at school about Haru and Kuroyukihime and the gossip club wants a scoop.  He explains that nothing is going on and why Kuroyukihime seems upset when Chiyuri is around and they tell him that she is probably jealous.  This shocks Haru because he doesn’t see why someone like Kuroyukihime would be with a person like him and once again, his low self-esteem starts to get the best of him and he tells Kuroyukihime that he accepts her being around him and although a person like her would never be around a guy like him, he would still be her pawn that she can use because he wants to help her out.

Shocked that Haru would say such a thing, she slaps him.  While the two are walking, a car driven by one of Haru’s bullies aims the car at them.  Before the car is about to hit them, Kuroyukihime initiates Accelerated World and she confesses to Haru that she is in love with him, but because of the current state of what will happen if a car hits them, both will be dead.  So, she will use a powerful move known as Physical Full Burst which will allow her to manipulate her real body while in Accelerated Mode and push him out of the way.  Unfortunately, the car will hit her.

Haru begs for Kuroyukihime not to do it but because she cares deeply for Haru, she does it and protects him by pushing his body out of the way.  When they come out of Accelerated World, Haru was saved but Kuroyukihime is hit by the car.

She is rushed to the hospital and Haru realizes that Kuroyukihime really did care for him.  As she is in critical condition, because her neural linker is still on her neck, anyone can use Burst Linker while she is vulnerable.  He vows to protect her from harm, especially if that person Cyan Pile ever shows up.

And as Haru stays at the hospital all night, to his surprise, Cyan Pile does show up to the hospital and unfortunately for Haru, it’s someone he knows quite well.

With Kuroyukihime in intensive care, Haru must do all he can to protect her in the Accelerated World from harm.  But without major experience and his very low self-esteem tends to get the best of him, can he protect Kuroyukihime and those who attempt to Burst Link and fight against him?

VIDEO:

“Accel World” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Picture quality is vibrant, the series is colorful and the character designs for the outfits in the Accelerated World is creative and cool.  I’m very impressed by the character design, animation during the action scenes but also the background art which is nicely detailed.

As the series looks amazing on Blu-ray, I didn’t notice any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series. Sunrise did a fantastic job with this anime series!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Accel World” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD MA 2.0.  While I would have loved a 5.1 lossless track, most anime series are typically released in stereo.  But dialogue and music is crystal clear and both soundtracks are identical in sound.  As for the voice acting, both are very well done.  The casting for this series for the English dub track for Haru, Kuroyukihime, Chiyuri, Takumu and Yuniko Kozuki is right on the money.  If there is one primary difference is that Yuniko, for the English dub track, tends to release the F bomb quite a bit versus the character’s Japanese counterpart who is not that vulgar.

But overall, soundtrack is good for both vocal tracks.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Accel World” comes with a character art gallery and the clean opening and ending animation.

Having watched Reki Kawahara’s “Sword Art Online”, I was very excited to see how “Accel World” would be, especially as both tackle online gaming and the dangers that can come with the actual game.

While “Sword Art Online” is a bit darker due to the fact that the gamers are held hostage in the game and they can die, with “Accel World”, the gamers can feel pain and because the game is not quite public and a select few know about the Accelerated World, it’s quite fascinating to watch because of the characters.

The main protagonist, Haru is nothing like Reki Kawahara’s “Sword Art Online” protagonist, Keito.  In reality, Haru is short, stodgy guy with major low self-esteem issues but he does have a good heart and is great at games.  He doesn’t make too many friends in the game and if anything, he is a character that is most often whining.  But overtime, he starts to feel more confidence in himself because of the game and most importantly, the good-nature side of himself wants to protect everyone he cares about.

Kuroyukihime is also a fascinating character because she is popular and here she is going for the least popular person in school.  What is it about her that she felt captivated to be around Haru?  Suffice to say, when she makes a decision to save Haru’s life in episode 4 was very sad but after episode 4, that is when the real story comes out as Haru is thrust into the Accel World, having to fight on his own without Kuroyukihime around him.  He needs to make the right decisions especially when he takes on several Brain Bursters.

The first volume of “Accel World” features the first 12 episodes but these episodes are more character development driven episodes as it introduces us to the concept of the game, introduces us to the characters and their mentality but exploring Haru, Kuroyukihime, Chiyuri, Takumu and Fuuko.  So, with 12 more episodes left, I would imagine that things are going to get chaotic within the game but at the same time, Haru will realize that he’s not alone and that there are people out there who care about him, not just in the game but also outside of it.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is vibrant while the lossless soundtrack is good at 2.0 and both voice acting on the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.  The series does not have that many special features but at least , Viz Media has added 12-episodes, as opposed to less episodes as some other anime companies tend to do.

While “Accel World” is entertaining and much different from Reki Kawahara’s other famous work “Sword Art Online”, it’s an interesting concept with cool characters and a series that I found to be action-packed and quite delightful so far!

“Accel World: Set 01” is recommended!

Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

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

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD  in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others.  But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want  to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything.  But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep.  As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies.  And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto.  While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together.  But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are?  And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  While a colorful series, there are scenes that have banding and even a with some artifacts, but for the majority the series, it’s a colorful series that looks good on Blu-ray.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series.  Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

As I finish watching “Kokoro Connection”, I can’t help but think about how this series had potential, how it reminded me a little of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” but somehow this series felt incomplete.

The anime series revolves around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena.  From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, this is a series that obviously needs more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears.  May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group.  But together, they are there for each other.

So, while the anime series focuses on friendships, the series ends and left me feeling, “is that it?”.  Fortunately, an OVA release is coming soon and I believe the OVA’s will conclude the series and it’s storyline to tie up some loose ends.  But at the same time, I wish the OVA’s were included with the complete TV series collection, so viewers can receive some sort of closure.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good with some mild banding but it’s a colorful series with beautiful art backgrounds.  There are hardly any special features aside from the Japanese promo’s which is nearly two-minutes long and the clean opening and ending themes.

While I did enjoy “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”, I just felt it was an incomplete storyline because the problems were never solved and series just ended with not really much closure.  It could have benefited with the four episode OVA inclusion with this set.  But with the “Kokoro Connect” OVA being released separately on Blu-ray, I can only hope it gives viewers to the anime TV series some closure.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

K-ON!: The Movie (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a big fan of “K-ON!”, this animated film is a must watch, must own Blu-ray release!  A fantastic animated film that fans will absolutely love and a Blu-ray release that is jam-packed with lengthy, awesome special features!  5 stars and a Blu-ray release that is not only highly recommended but definitely on our list for one of the best anime Blu-ray releases of the year!

Images courtesy of ©Kakifly/Houbunshua/Sakura High Band. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: K-ON!: The Movie

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Audio: Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: TBS Animation/Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013

Originally Created by kakifly

Directed by Naoko Yamada

Screenplay by Reiko Yoshida

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Character Design by Yukiko Horiguchi

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Chief Animation Director: Yukiko Horiguchi

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Production: TBS

Featuring the voices of:

Aki Toyosaki/Stephanie Sheh as Yui Hirasawa

Asami Sanada/Karen Strassman as Sawako Yamanaka

Ayana Taketatsu/Christine Marie Cabanos as Azusa Nakano

Chika Fujitō/Laura Bailey as Nodoka Manabe

Madoka Yonezawa/Xanthe Huynh as Ui Hirasawa

Minako Kotobuki/Shelby Lindley as Tsumugi Kotobuki

Satomi Satou/Cassandra Lee as Ritsu Tainaka

Yōko Hikasa/Cristina Vee as Mio Akiyama

Graduation time is finally here, but the girls of the Sakuragaoka Girl’s High Light Music Club aren’t going to let the end of high school be the end of all they’ve built together. First though, they have to keep a promise to take a trip together, and like everything else they do, they’re not doing it halfway. So it’s time to hop on the bus – the double-decker bus that is – and go around the world as the band heads for the birthplace of the British Invasion: the United Kingdom!

On the way they’re going to have to solve that one last big puzzle that’s been vexing them: what to get for their underclassman rhythm guitarist Azusa, who will be taking over the club once they don their caps and gowns and leave Sakuragaoka for the last time. Get ready for a Magical Musical Tour as the whole gang takes in the sights and sounds of London and prepares for one last amazing encore!

Fans of “K!-ON!” have watched as the band members of Hokago Tea Time: Yui Hirasawa (guitar), Mio Akiyama (bass), Tsumugi Kotobuki (keyboard), Ritsu Tanaka (drums) and Azusa Nakano (guitar) have won fans hearts with their music.  But also watching the band but most of all, the friendships grow from the beginning to the graduation of four of the members from high school.

But as the final episodes of the second season gave viewers a glimpse of the concern the four members had for their youngest member and leaving her behind, the animated series kept things simple, yet sweet as we watch the band and friends prepare for graduation but we saw Azusa’s side of wanting to do something for her graduating friends and fellow band mates.

But with the popularity of the series and how it became a phenomenal hit throughout Japan inspiring video game and merchandise tie-ins, an animated film was released in December 2011 to showcase the final vacation shared by the five band members but what the band members did for Azusa before graduating.

The film was a big hit in Japan and now, the animated film will be released on Blu-ray in May 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

What is “K-ON!”?

“K-ON!”, it happens to be one of the hottest manga and anime series in Japan that has not only done remarkably well in the anime TV ratings (from 2009-2010)  but also have its music top Japan’s Oricon music charts!

The series has been a phenomenon as it has attracted fans all over the world, those who want to cosplay as the characters, those who want to sing like the characters and those who want to play the music of the characters. Just one look on YouTube and you can see how passionate people are for this series!

“K-ON!” began as a four-panel comic strip written and illustrated by kakifly and the manga would then be serialized in Houbunsha’s seinen manga magazine “Manga Time Kirara” between May 2007-October 2010. In April 2011, the manga was relaunched on both “Manga Time Kirara” and Houbunsha’s magazine “Manga Time Kirara Carat” with two separate storylines.

The popularity of the manga series led to a 13-episode anime TV series which aired in Japan on April-June 2009, an OVA episode in Jan. 2010 and a 26-episode second season titled “K-ON!!” which aired in Japan from April through Sept. 2010 and a new OVA released in March 2011.

The series would also lead to a Sony PSP music rhythm video game and the film released in Dec. 3, 2011.

As for fans in the United States, there was been high anticipation for the anime TV release and the release of the first and second seasons on Blu-ray arrived with plenty of fanfare.

As for what “K-ON!” means…  “K-ON!” is a play on the Japanese word “keiongaku” (light music) and the series follows four high school students of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School who are members of the “keiongaku” club.

The four characters featured thus far in the series are Yui Hirasawa, a naive and clumsy student entering high school who is not entirely sure what she wants to do in terms of extracurricular activities. While she tries to figure out what she wants to do, two other students, Ritsu Tainaka and Mio Akiyama join the keiongaku club to find out that most of the members have graduated and the only way they can keep the club open is if they have four members.

Because Ritsu plays the drums and Mio plays the bass guitar, they hope they can find other musicians and form a band.

Fortunately, a new member joins the group, Tsumugi Kobobuki, a student from a wealthy family who plays a Korg Triton Extreme 76-key keyboard. Now all they need is one member.

While Yui is trying to think of activities to do, she sees a flyer for the keiongaku club and in her mind, she remembers light music as something she did when she was young student in elementary school and so she joins. Meanwhile, the other three members are happy because with a fourth member, the club will stay alive but also the fact that maybe Yui is a guitarist and now, they can start their own band.

But Yui is not a musician and if anything, what she loves about the club is the ability to eat desserts and drink tea with the other members but when the three members perform in front of her, she becomes inspired and wants to be a member of the club and be part of the band.

The group eventually form the band “Hokago Tea Time” and with the help of their band adviser/teacher Sawako Yamanaka (who once was a student at the same high school, attended the same music club and member of the speed metal band, Death Devil), the group gathered the strength to perform in front of a large audience.

When they performed, their music eventually captivated a young guitarist named Azusa Nakano, a friend of Yui’s sister Ui.

Azusa became the fifth member of Hokago Tea Time and the five friends would eventually take part in several live performances but practice together as a band while enjoying sweets and tea inside their band room.

And as these band members became great friends and bandmates overtime, by the final weeks of their final year in high school, the band realizes that they are leaving Azusa behind, as she is younger than them and graduating  later on, the band just wants to make things comfortable for her.

And the final year of high school played out in the anime television series.

“K-ON!: The Movie”….

And with the release of the animated film “K-ON!: The Movie”, the film takes place months before the four members are to graduate.  Both want to experience a vacation together as friends and as a band, but they also want to spend their final time with their youngest band member Azusa, who they worry about and don’t want to leave her all alone.

So, the group come up with an idea, plan a trip to London along with Asuza, but to come up with ideas of what farewell gift they should give Azusa before the graduate.

A fun and music-filled film as the group manages to get lost in London, what kind of adventures will the five experience in the city and will they be able to play Hokago Tea Time music in this country they are visiting?

And what final gift will the four members decide to give as a parting gift for Azusa?

Find out in “K-ON!: The Movie”!

“K-ON!: The Movie” features the following characters:

  • Yui Hirasawa– Yui is a naive and clumsy student who likes to sleep, eat and go shopping. But when she joins the Keiongaku club, she becomes the band’s guitarist and vocalist. She plays a Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul standard electric guitar.
  • Ritsu Tainaka – The most vocal person of the Keiongaku club. She is a drummer that plays a yellow Rick Marotta Signature Yamaha hipgig drum kit and always upbeat, energetic, sarcastic and often always playing jokes on her good friend Mio. Sometimes she can get in the nerves of the other members but she is the most determined in wanting to make sure the club exists and that they form a band.
  • Mio Akiyama – The levelheaded person of the group and the smartest student among the four. She plays a Fender Jazz Bass. She originally was planning to join the literary club but her friend Ritsu tore up her applications and made her join the Keiongaku club. Although a person who knows quite a bit about music, she is also quite shy and is easy to scare. She can’t take anything that deals with anything scary, ghosts, blood, injuries or anything macabre.
  • Tsumugi Kotobuki – The daughter of a very wealthy family. Known as “Mugi”, she plays a Korg Triton Extreme keyboard and is a piano prodigy. She is known for her blonde hair and thick eyebrows. Because her father owns a variety of businesses including a maid cafe, she often brings desserts to the club meetings. She also has an intriguing interest in the club advisor, Sawako Yamanaga.
  • Azusa Nakano – The same class as Yui’s sister Ui, Azusa joins the Keiongaku music club but often feels that the other  members do not appear to be taking their band practices seriously and are often wanting to have fun.  She is a guitarist.

OTHER CHARACTERS:

  • Ui Hirasawa – Yui’s younger sister who tends to get Yui out of a jam. Unlike Yui, Ui is more responsible and mature and takes care of her older sister and is good friends with Azusa.
  • Nodoka Manabe – Yui’s childhood friend and confidant. Smart and intelligent, despite how Yui is at times, Nodoka always supports her.
  • Sawako Yamanaka – A beloved teacher known for her kind heart, she also carries a secret, she is a former member of the Keiongaku music club during her high school years and was a member of a death metal band known as “Death Devil” as the lead guitarist and vocalist. She has tried to hide her past but when the members find a photo and music of her past, as part of a deal for them to keep it a secret, she becomes their advisor. Despite seeming to be responsible, she is quite wild and an airhead like Yui. And also making the members dress up in costumes that she creates.

VIDEO:

“K-ON!” has always been an anime series that is stylishly created but also features beautifully painted art backgrounds. Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen), one thing that I love to see when it comes to anime series is the attention to detail when covering a modern setting.

A lot of TV series tend to not make the backgrounds of a city landscape so detailed and tend to put a lot of recycled trees, dirt and sky but “K-ON!”, is not one of those anime series. There are scenes and also still images of natural settings that are beautifully painted and added to the series. There is detail for the instruments, for the desserts and I felt that with each episode, aside from the practice room and the wideshot image of their school, there was always something new being featured in terms of location. So, the color palette of the series is full of color and nothing is stale or seemed regurgitated.

With that being said, “K-ON!: The Movie” expands on the look by much better shading and a really beautiful look of London scenery with beautifully painted backgrounds.  As one can expect for a recent animated film, the Blu-ray release features a colorful palette, vibrant colors, inky black levels and during my viewing, I saw no problems of banding or artifacts.

AUDIO:

If there was anything that I was critical of “K-ON!” in the past was its 2.0 soundtrack for the TV series, but this time around, because this is an animated film, the lossless audio is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  It’s important to note that I spent most of my time watching this animated film in Japanese but checking both lossless tracks during certain scenes to see how they utilize the surround channels.  For the most part, the music is crystal clear and sounds fantastic in HD.  There are use of surround channels for crowd scenes but for the most part, the film is dialogue and musically driven and sounds fantastic.

While I am biased towards the original Japanese voice talent (which I found each to be fantastic with their performance and music vocals), fans who have watched the original “K-ON!” TV series releases in the last three years via English dub and enjoyed it, should be satisfied with the animated film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K-ON!: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Minami Tanaka’s Dubbing Investigative Recording – (22:38) TBS announcer Minami Tanaka visits voice actresses Aki Toyosaki, Ayana Taketatsu, Minako Kotobuki, Satomi Satou and Yoko Hikasa and each take part in tongue twisters.
  • London Bus and Press Conference at TBS – (19:00) A featurette with the five Japanese voice actresses riding a London red bus to the TBS headquarters to discuss the the film.
  • Navi Show 1-2-3 is K-ON! – (23:59) Featuring TBS announcers Haruka Kobayashi and Sylvia Kato hosting the program and cast interviews with TBS announcer Minami Tanaka.
  • Movie Premiere Event – (21:40) TBS announcer Sylvia Kato and the cast members of “K-ON!” at the movie premiere event for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Director Naomi Yamada in London – (28:59) A featurette on “K-ON!” director Naomi Yamada visiting London and her thoughts of the area, while doing research for the film.
  • Good Luck Music Hall – K-ON! Music Hall – (4:43) TBS Anime Meister and announcer Masao Mukai discusses the music of “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Trailer – (1:38) Japanese theatrical trailer for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Teaser – (:41) Japanese teaser for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Spots – (2:44) Japanese commercial spots for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Clean Opening and Closing Animation
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmworks trailers

I have been vocal about “K-ON!” being one of my favorite anime series, from its combination of humor, music but also fun character interaction and magnificent voice acting of the Japanese cast.

In my last “K-ON!” review, I wrote about how sad it was to say goodbye to the members of Hokago Tea Time as they graduate and go their separate ways.  While the manga series continued and possibly in the near future, we may see another animated series with the four members as college students and Azusa continuing the tradition of the club in high school, the fact is that there has not been a series that I found so colorful, fun and amazing when it captures all-female band members (which is common to see in Japan) trying to form a band, performing live and just grow with each other as friends.

In Japan, you can watch variety TV shows such as “Gakkou e Ikou” (Let’s go to School) or films such as “Linda Linda Linda” and there are many young people who want to play music. And its evident from the various young bands that have come from Japan straight out of high school that have become signed to a major label.

While here in the West, there are shows and events that spotlight this, in Japan, its a bit more magnified because these storylines are brought to television, film and manga. There are constant music auditions throughout Japan featuring many young teenagers who want to make it and these auditions are featured on television. Especially female students who create a rock band.

“K-ON!” captures that essence of those female students wanting to create a rock band and the series gives life to those characters and while keeping the stories fun and light-hearted, I was very impressed with how music is integrated into the series. From the instruments featured, the focus on chord progression and hand/finger movements. While there is an anime series such as “La corda d’oro ~primo passo~” that does focus on intricacies of instruments and focuses more on classical music, the show is more magical in a sense that a fairy gives the protagonist the power to play the violin.

Most often there are dramatic series about girls and guys  ala “NANA” or one that is geared towards idol pop such as “Hummingbird” and “Idolm@ster”, but “K-ON!” didn’t even go that direction, it focused on the music and the friendships with each individual.

What “K-ON!: The Movie” does with amazing efficacy is to give us a clear look at how the four founding members of “Hokago Tea Time” felt about leaving Azusa behind and wanting to do something special for her before they leave.  So, as the TV series focused on the school life of the students, the film features a vacation as the five visit London but also the four wondering what goodbye present to give to Azusa.

Not only was the adventure in London entertaining and a lot of fun, the way the film is handled as the group are about to graduate felt much better than the TV animated series, because you can feel the emotion of the four members towards Azusa and what the four decide to give her as a final present.

The music for the film is catchy and upbeat and just to hear things in lossless audio is fantastic and the picture quality was vibrant with beautifully detailed backgrounds.

But one of the reasons why this animated film is also worth owning on Blu-ray is the amount of bonus features included.  From the TBS Japanese special features to promote the film, featuring fun games and interviews with the Japanese voice talent, there is also the premiere event, the pre-promotional event in Japan and even a featurette with director Naoko Yamada and staff going to London and sharing their thoughts and experiences of the locations they researched and featured in the film.

And no, this is not your typical 3 minute special feature, each of these are 20-30 minutes long.  So, you are getting a good amount of special features included on this Blu-ray release, more than what you usually see in anime Blu-ray releases these days, so this release is really jam-packed with “K-ON!” awesomeness!

Overall, if you are a big fan of “K-ON!”, this animated film is a must watch, must own Blu-ray release!  A fantastic animated film that fans will absolutely love and a Blu-ray release that is jam-packed with lengthy, awesome special features!

5 stars and a Blu-ray release that is not only highly recommended but definitely on our list for one of the best anime Blu-ray releases of the year!

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