Marvel Comics’ well-known vampire hunter, Blade, gets the anime-style makeover with Japanese sensibility, samurai-action in a modern setting with vampire antagonists that should surely appeal to Marvel Comics and Blade fans (as well as those who enjoy vampire-related storylines). Action-packed and a thrilling series overall, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2011 Superhero Anime Partners. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Blade: Marvel Animated Series
TV EPISODE RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 12 Episodes (282 minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: MADHOUSE/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASED: July 31, 2012
Directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara
Series Composition: Kenta Fukasaku
Story by Warren Ellis
Music by Shogo Ohnishi, Tetsuya Takahashi
Originally Created by Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman
Character Design by Cindy H. Yamauchi
Art Director: Katsushi Aoki
Anime Production: Madhouse Studios
Featuring the following voice talent:
Akio Ohtsuka/Harold Perrineau as Blade
Hiroki Touchi/Christopher Smith as Lucius Isaac
Maaya Sakamoto/Kim Mai Guest as Makoto
Masato Hagiwara/Steven Jay Blum as Kikyo Mikage
Osamu Saka/Troy Baker as Noah Van Helsing
Tsutomu Isobe/Bryce Papenbrook as Deacon Frost
Atsuko Tanaka/Nayo Wallace as Tara Brooks
Rikiya Koyama/Milo Ventimiglia as Logan/Wolverine
Eric Brooks – known as Blade – seeks revenge on Deacon Frost, the vampire who killed his mother while she was still pregnant with Eric. With all the powers of a vampire and none of their weaknesses, Blade’s quest leads him throughout Southeast Asia in search of Frost. In the Golden Triangle, he discovers a vampire plot that threatens to take down the whole world.
Back in 1973, a vampire slayer named Eric Brooks a.k.a. “Blade”, would make his debut in Marvel Comics’ “The Tomb of Dracula”.
A man that is a Daywalker, born half human and half vampire, Blade would become popular thanks to the”Ghost Rider” and “Nightstalkers” comic books of the 1990′s and would eventually lead to a popular live action trilogy and a television series.
In 2011, to help introduce the backstory of several popular Marvel characters to Japanese audiences, such as “Blade”, “Iron Man”, “Wolverine” and the superhero team, “X-Men”, Marvel collaborated with popular Japanese animation studio Madhouse to create a series.
Marvel gave Madhouse to have free reign with the series to appeal to Japanese audiences, as long as it remains connected to the original history of the characters/group.
The series would be directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara (“BECK”, “Shigirui”, “Chobits) and series composition by Kenta Fukasaku (“Battle Royale”, “Yo-Yo Girl Cop”). The English dub would feature the voice of Harold Perrineau (“Lost”, “Oz”, “The Matrix” films) and Kim Mai Guest (“G.I. Joe: Renegades”, “Ben 10″, “Avatar: The Last Airbender”).
For “Blade”, the story revolves around Blade going to Japan to hunt down Deacon Frost, the vampire responsible for killing his mother. Throughout the series, we learn of Blade’s thirst for revenge but also his past as a young boy and as a Daywalker. As well, as learning the challenges he faced in life as a vampire child.
Joined by a female vampire hunter named Makoto, the two find trouble in Japan,the Philippines, Madripoor and Cambodia, as both will go against the Existence, a secret organization of vampires, as Blade continues his thirst of revenge and will do all he can to find Deacon Frost. As for Deacon Frost, he is trying to create a new vampire breed which may change the hierarchy of the vampire species.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is presented in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles in English. And as expected from a major anime studio such as Madhouse, the character designs look very good, the art backgrounds are well painted. But very cool emphasis on the actual character designs, especially close-up of the characters faces. There are some moments throughout the series where I felt there were better art backgrounds utilized in this anime series compared to “Wolverine: Marvel Animated Series”.
DVD quality for the most part is good, but as expected on DVD, you are going to see banding and slight softness.
As for audio, both are presented Dolby Digital 5.1 and both sound great, but it all comes down to preference. Both Japanese and English voice acting are well-done. While I watched the series in Japanese, I was also excited to see “LOST” star, Harold Perrineau doing the voice of Blade. And Harold does a fantastic job of doing the voice of the vampire slayer.
Good use of the surround channels for the more action-based sequences. Dialogue is clear and understandable.
Subtitles are easy to read, thick yellow subtitles that don’t necessarily stay in the bottom center but also are seen wherever the characters face is located. So if the character’s mouth is high, the subtitles will appear in the top. So, the subtitles remind me of closed caption subtitles in terms of subtitling placement.
“Blade: Marvel Animated Series” includes the following special features:
- Special Talk Session: Marvel Anime’s Blade and Wolverine – (32:56) Featuring interviews with director Mitsuyuki Masuhara and Kenta Fukasaku (series treatment), along with “Wolverine” director Hiroshi Aoyama and Kengo Kaji (series treatment), plus a few crew members who worked on the anime series.
Back in the ’90s, I was caught up in all the Marvel Comics hype surrounding Blade, Ghost Rider, Spirits of Vengeance and suffice to say, when the live action films came out, Blade was one of the most popular characters from the Marvel universe.
An African-American hero with the stoic, no-nonsense style of Wolverine and the Punisher, a man with a black trenchcoat with an assortment of weaponry and this guy took on the most powerful vampires. And literally, he kicked ass!
And while the hype around Blade has died down quite significantly since the completion of the live action films and TV series, with a lot of vampire films and television series making its way not just in the U.S. but all over the world, why not take advantage of the situations by showcasing Marvel’s most popular vampire hunter.
And theme of a vampire slayer works well in Japan as there have been plenty of vampire hunting anime series such as “Vampire Hunter D”, “Blood the Vampire Hunter”, “Hellsing” to name a few.
But what I enjoyed about “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is how the story is setup to introduce the past of Blade, his relationship with his mother and her friends and his thirst for revenge in getting back at Deacon Frost. Also, the attention to detail of his swordsmanship.
Instead of going for a bloody, dark vampire anime series, Madhouse Studios made the series accessible by using dark elements but not having to showcase so much violence. Yes, there are people who die, are bit by vampires and are slayed by Blade and Makoto, but the emphasis is not on gore, the anime series showcase on their abilities to fight.
In the Marvel series, there was a focus of Blade using a variety of weapons, but in the anime series, the focus was more on his swordsmanship. For example, in the anime, Blade is a master of Yagu Shinkage-ryu, a kenjutsu (Japanese schools of swordsmanship) in which Blade utilizes three secret Yagyu techniques. The techniques include “The First Blade: Residual Moon”, “The Second Blade: Phantom Moon” and the third technique, “The Third Blade: Chaotic Moon”.
In the special feature included on the DVD, many of the creators weren’t familiar with “Blade” as much as they knew the X-Men, Iron Man and Wolverine and their first exposure was through the Wesley Snipes live action films. But an importance for both “Blade” and “Wolverine” was tying the stories to Japan. Wolverine already had a tie in Japanese culture with his relation to Mariko Yashida, for “Blade” it was known that he was fluent in a variety of languages and also had learned many fighting styles.
For the Japanese version, there was an attention to showcasing Japanese swordsmanship. From the way the character holds the sword and thus showcase Japanese action. So, in a way, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” becomes more of a samurai-style of storyline which Kenta Fukasaku wanted to incorporate into the script.
As for the DVD, you get all 12-episodes of “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” and the anime looks great. You have one of Japan’s top anime studios working on these four Marvel anime series and Madhouse did a wonderful job not only in anime production but the series composition was also well-done. As with the voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks.
While Blade may not be as well-known in Japan compared to Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man to name a few. Because it does deal with vampire hunting, I’m sure the series definitely introduced anime fans overseas to the character. While not as violent or bloody compared to other Japanese anime series featuring vampire slaying, it’s still a good story and an interesting take on the Blade character. In fact, I enjoyed this storyline compared to many of the Blade comic books that I have read.
The anime series goes into detail of Blade’s past but also features good pacing and a very good buildup of its characters leading to the final battle between Blade and Deacon Frost.
Overall, Marvel Comics’ well-known vampire hunter, Blade, gets the anime-style makeover with Japanese sensibility, samurai-action in a modern setting with vampire antagonists that should surely appeal to Marvel Comics and Blade fans (as well as those who enjoy vampire-related storylines). Action-packed and a thrilling series overall, “Blade: Marvel Animated Series” is recommended!
Visually stunning! Two stories from Yoshinobu Hoshino’s 1984-1985 sci-fi manga classic “2001 Nights” receives an animated CG adaptation courtesy of Fumihiko Sori (“Vexille”, “Appleseed”). Both films look and sound great on Blu-ray and by the end, I was wanting even more! I’m hoping we will see more of the stories from “2001″ receiving adaptations but for now, if you are a sci-fi fan and an anime fan, I highly recommend “TO Film Collection”!
Image courtesy of © 2009 Yoshinobu Hoshino – Futobasha/”To” Committee. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: TO Film Colletion (Elliptical Orbit/Symbiotic Planet)
DURATION: Elliptical Orbit (43 minutes), Symbiotic Planet (46:03)
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1, Dolby TrueHD Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Showgate/FUNimation Entertainment
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Directed by Fumihiko Sori
Music by Tetsuya Takahashi
Original Work by Yukinobu Hoshino
Anime Production by Oxybot
Featuring the following voice talent:
Akio Ohtsuka/Mark Stoddard as Dan
Romi Park/Stephanie Young as Maria
Bryan Massey as Willie
Chris Cason as Mark
Christopher R. Sabat as Space Terrorist Leader
Scott Freeman as Rick
Jun Fukuyama/Eric Vale as Ion
Aya Hirano/Brina Palencia as Alina
Chuck Huber as Major Beltin
J. Michael Tatum as Snaut
John Swasey as Meyer
Jonathan Brooks as Michael
Pam Doughterty as Tatiana
R. Bruce Elliott as Guerin
Steve Powell as Lange
Fifteen years after its last contact with our world, a space freighter known as the Flying Dutchman requests permission to dock at a remote moon base. This mysterious ship carries liquid protons: a power source essential to the survival of Earth’s population. But before the precious cargo can be delivered, the base is ambushed by galactic terrorists who seek to destroy the new form of energy and issue a death sentence to all of humanity.
Against a backdrop of peculiar alien life forms, Aon and Elena – star-crossed lovers from rival countries – struggle to build a life together despite the objections of their superiors. Their budding romance is thwarted by an outbreak of potent alien fungus and the interference of a cutthroat militaristic madman. To survive, the young couple must maintain their faith in each other… and learn to trust the unique creatures which inhabit this strange and wondrous planet.
In 1984, a science fiction manga titled “2001 Nights” (2001 Nisen’ichi Ya Monogatari) by mangaka Yukinobu Hoshino (“Blue City”, “Saber Tiger”, “Kotetsu no Queen”) was serialized in Futabasha’s “Monthly Super Action”. By 1986, three bound volumes were created and were published in the USA in 1996.
Inspired by hard science fiction and paying homage to sci-fi novel and films that Hoshino enjoyed, the first OVA was released on VHS in 1987. In 2009, two stories from “2001 Nights”, “Night 13″ (aka “Symbiotic Planet”) and “Night 15″ (aka “Ellitical Orbit”) known as “TO” (pronounced as “Tou”) received a CGI OVA adaptation including a 10-minute trailer released by Avex Entertainment in 2009. Both were directed by Fumihiko Sori, known for his CG animated films “Appleseed” and “Vexille”.
Now, “TO” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD box set courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.
The first OVA “Elliptical Orbit” features a woman named Maria arrives with her crew of the space freighter “The Flying Dutchman” dock a space station to refuel. The person in charge of the space station in the remote moon base is a man named Dan, a person that Maria has some mysterious connection to.
As “The Flying Dutchman” which is carrying liquid protons is planning to be delivered and will be used as a power source essential to Earth’s population, out of nowhere, galactic terrorists have shown up to destroy the cargo and insure death to humanity.
With the terrorists taking over the space station, Maria and Dan must do all they can to ensure the terrorist do not get to the cargo.
The second OVA “Symbiotic Planet” is a sci-fi love story as both Aon and Elena are lovers who come from rival countries. As both are in love, people on both sides of resent the two falling in love and both have their own ideas of their own colonization of the planet.
But when an outbreak of an alien fungus takes place in the planet, both sides are now preparing for war against each other and the two lovers know that life and their love may be torn apart by their country’s rivalry.
“TO Film Collection (Elliptical Orbit/Symbiotic Planet)” is presented in 1080p High Definition. For those familiar with Fumihiko Sori’s work on films such as “Vexille” and also “Appleseed”, they can expect the same visual style with both OVA’s in “TO.
Visually, both films look fantastic! From the design of the space station and vehicles, to see details of smoke coming from the release of cargo to the amount of detail that can be seen on Blu-ray was well-done. The character designs are like “Vexille” but the actual 3D for the physical objects have much more detail and shading than previous Sori films. Colors are vibrant, black levels are nice and deep and the shading for the film is well-done.
Between both films, “Symbiotic Planet” is much more visually stunning as it focuses on the backdrops of the planet and we get to see more detail from the planet surroundings, while “Elliptical Orbit” focuses more on the overall look of the space station. While not the same level of visual awesomeness of “Vexille”, granted that was a film, these two are OVA’s, still the picture quality for both “Elliptical Orbit” and “Symbiotic Planet” are well-done!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“TO Film Collection (Elliptical Orbit/Symbiotic Planet)” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese and English. Both lossless soundtracks are very well done as the surround channels utilize the ambiance of space (for “Elliptical Orbit”) and its music, while “Symbiotic Planet” has an ethereal feel with the living creatures of the planet, the Pacard, its use of music.
But both lossless soundtracks are crystal clear in dialogue and utilization of ambient noise and music through the surround channels are nicely done. It’s not the most immersive soundtrack but the audio is well-utilized. Also, I was quite pleased with both the Japanese and English voicework.
“To Film Collection (Elliptical Orbit/Symbiotic Planet)” comes with the following special features:
- Special Interview with Director Fumihiko Sori, Akio Ohtsuka and Romi Park – (30:16) Director Fumihiko Sori talks about working on “TO”, voice actress Romi Park (Maria) and voice actor Akio Ohtsuka (Dan) about their characters.
- Special Interview with Director Fumihiko Sori, Jun Fukuyama and Aya Hirano - (30:22) Director Fumihiko Sori talks about the theme of “TO”, voice actress Aya Hirano (Alina) and voice actor Jun Fukuyama (Ion) talk about their characters.
- Elliptical Orbit Trailer - (1:11) Trailers for “TO: Elliptical Orbit”.
- Symbiotic Planet Trailer – (1:18) Trailer for “TO: Symbiotic Planet”
- Teaser – (1:33) Teaser for “TO: Elliptical Orbit”
- Promo Video (Rental) – (2:08) Promotional video for the rental release of “TO”.
- Promo Video (Sale) – (2:29) Promotional video for the video release of”TO”.
- TV Spots – (:49) TV Spots for “TO: Elliptical Orbit”.
- Trailers - Funimation Entertainment Trailers
“To Film Collection (Elliptical Orbit/Symbiotic Planet)” comes with both a Blu-ray disc consisting of both films and special features as well as two DVD’s featuring each film and their own special features. Also, “TO Film Collection” comes with a cardboard slipcase.
For many sci-fi fans in Japan, Yukinobu Hoshino’s “2001 Nights” is a very special series, a sci-fi classic as it contains various stories and aspects of sci-fi filled with adventures, drama and action.
The stories in “2001 Nights” are loosely related episodes from man’s exploration of the galaxy and Hoshino’s tales are vast are quite intriguing considering the stories were made back in 1984 and seeing how those stories created over 25-years-ago are just as enjoyable and intriguing today.
While not all stories from “2001 Nights” have been animated, we get two stories “Elliptical Orbit” and “Symbiotic Planet”. The first is quite interesting as it focuses on relationships, especially how it affects traveling through space via hibernation or light speed and for me, the storyline was quite intriguing because the last anime series that really touched upon the space travel and aging was the 1988 OVA series “Gunbuster” and interesting enough, Hoshino touched upon this in his 1984-1985 manga series.
Without spoiling “Elliptical Orbit”, I just found it quite intriguing to see the predicament between Maria and Dan. These two obviously have some type of history and slowly, we start to learn what that relationship is. Also, intriguing is the concept of terrorism. In today’s modern climate, it’s such a big topic that is relevant today but in 1984, while there was terrorism, you can’t help but think how vast Hoshino’s tales were, it was like forward thinking of what he expected to see in the future. Granted, he was inspired by sci-films and novels but even for 1984, it was quite interesting to see how relevant these stories can be for people watching it today.
As for the second story, “Symbiotic Planet”, I liken this to Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Two people who are in love but their own race are rivals towards each other. Both wish they can live in peace, to hold each other without wearing space suits to survive. But both feeling the wrath of their own people when they are forbidden to see the person they love because of the rivalry between the races, as both are in a hurry to stake their claim on the planet and the tyranny that takes place on both sides.
But Sori best describes the second OVA as if humans were to colonize another planet, will they continue to repeat the same patterns on Earth?
For the most part, these two OVA’s are essentially sci-films that further Hoshino’s tales of exploration but it also adds elements of romance, drama and action.
I’m glad to see Fumihiko Sori’s animated style once again. While I do enjoy his work with “Vexille” which was fantastic visually, both “Elliptical Orbit” and “Symbiotic Planet” look good as well. “Elliptical Orbit” for its mechanical design for the space station and the vehicles and thought that went into the overall look and feel especially its functions was well-done, while “Symbiotic Planet” utilized more imagination when it came to the overall look of the planet, its alien animal residents to this ethereal feeling, especially how the formation of the rocks were and its overall look. Obviously the second OVA had more color use for its backgrounds, while the first OVA took place pretty much inside the space station or in space. Nevertheless, both are well done.
And I just have to add that the ending theme “Aoi Tsuki to Ambivalence na Ai” from moumoon is fantastic! One of my favorite bands from Japan and I was suprised to hear this song used as the ending theme.
As for the Blu-ray release, aside from the wonderful PQ and AQ as I discussed earlier, FUNimation Entertainment has continued its theme of releasing dual Blu-ray and DVD box sets which is pretty cool especially those who want to share with friends or wanting to watch it during long commutes. Personally, it would be nice if FUNimation Entertainment also considered digital download for iTunes and Windows Media Player (especially as more anime fans are watching anime on their iPad, iPhone and mobile devices), although only if consumers are not charged too much for the additional disc.
Overall, “TO Film Collection” featured two storylines from Hoshino’s “2001 Nights” which I enjoyed a lot. But the fact that there are more stories from “2001 Nights”, I am hoping that this would be a series or a potential of more of the stories from Hoshino’s manga series that would be released via OVA in the near future. Because I enjoyed both “Elliptical Orbit” and “Symbiotic Planet” and it left me wanting more!
But seeing that it’s not the case and the fact that “TO Film Collection” was released back in 2009, I’m guessing this is all that we are going to get for now.
But still, I’m quite content with this Blu-ray release and the fact that we get two really cool sci-fi films and also a good number of special features, if you are a sci-fi fan, I definitely recommend checking out “TO Film Collection”.