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Your Name. (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Your Name.

DURATION: 107 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: November 7, 2017


Originally Created by Makoto Shinkai

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Script/Screenplay/Storyboard: Makoto Shinkai

Music by RADWIMPS

Character Design:Masashi Ando, Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director:Akiko Majima, Takumi Tanji, Tasuku Watanabe

Executive Producer: Yoshihiro Furusawa

Producer: Genki Kawamura, Katsuhiro Takei, Kouichirou Itou

Anime Production: CoMix Wave Films


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mone Kamishiraishi/Stephanie Sheh as Mitsuha Miyamizu

Ryunosuke Kamiki/Michael Sinterniklaas as Taki Tachibana

Aoi Yūki/Cassandra Morris as Sayaka Natori

Etsuko Ichihara/Glynn Ellis as Hitoha Miyamizu

Kaito Ishikawa/Ray Chase as Shinta Takagi

Kanon Tani/Catie Harvey as Yotsuba Miyamizu

Masaki Terasoma/Scott Williams as Toshiki Miyamizu

Masami Nagasawa/Laura Post as Miki Okudera

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Ben Pronsky as Tsukasa Fujii

Ryō Narita/Kyle Hebert as Katsuhiko Teshigawara


From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls.

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint.

When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more; a chance to finally meet. But try as they might, something more daunting than distance prevents them. Is the string of fate between Mitsuha and Taki strong enough to bring them together, or will forces outside their control leave them forever separated?

The Combo comes packaged in a beautiful silver holographic foil slipcover.


Makoto Shinkai, the superstar animation filmmaker who have produced animated film which have been hit after hit and just when you wonder if Shinkai could repeat his success, he hits a grand slam with his 2016 animated film “Your Name.”.

The former Falcom graphic designer, who took the anime industry by storm back in 2001 when he released his anime OVA titled “Voices of a Distant Star”, which he created on his Power Mac G4 and using several software and voice acted by he and his wife Miko and music provided by his friend Tenmon.  The OVA inspired many for the fact it was independent, created on a small budget but looked significantly better than some major anime series by well-known animation studios.

Suffice to say, the person who grew up inspired by Miyazaki films was now given a chance to create more animated films and he would eventually achieve success with “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” (2004), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”) and in May 2013, “Kotonoha no Miwa” (The Garden of Words) was released.

But his 2016 animated film “Your Name.” (in Japan, known as “Kimi no Na wa.”), which he wrote and directed and was produced by CoMix Wave Films has now made Shinkai an internationally known filmmaker and the film has also broke many records in Japan.

“Your Name.” became the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan, the 7th highest grossing traditionally animated film, is now the highest grossing anime film and the 4th highest grossing non-English film worldwide.

The film has made over $355 million worldwide and has been nominated and has won awards worldwide and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The film begins with what looks like a meteor splitting off and part of it descending.

We are then introduced to Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the Hida mountainous region of Gifu.  She wakes up and is shocked that she has breasts and her sister Yotsuba thinks she’s acting very strange.

While she goes to school with her good friend Sayaka Natori and Katsuhiko “Tessie” Teshigawara, her friends are a little surprised that she has no recollection of her behavior the previous day.

Performing a dance with her sister and embarrassed that her friends from school are watching her, while descending from the temple, she screams that she was a handsome boy living in Tokyo.

The following morning, we are introduced to a high school boy named Taki living in Tokyo.  But when he wakes up, it’s Mitsuha and she can’t understand why she’s in a boy’s body.  She goes out, trying to hang out with the guys, go to school and the work a job as a restaurant server, Mitsuha thinks she’s in a dream. Because no way she could switch to another body.  She realizes that Taki keeps a diary and starts typing on his phone.

When Taki wakes up, he is shocked to see the diary and shocked when his friends tell him how he behaved the day before.  He and Mitsuha eventually realize that they switch bodies and to prevent any problems, they make rules that neither are able to break and because they switch bodies a few times each week, the two communicate by leaving each other messages.

Mitsuha, her younger sister and her grandmother take their ritual alcohol (kuchikamizake) to an offering at a shrine on the mountaintop where a meteor hit thousands of years ago.  The shrine that the sisters leave their kuchikamizake is believed to represent the body of the village guardian god who rules human experiences and connections

She writes to Taki telling him that a comet is expected to pass Earth on the day of the village festival.  When she and her friends go to check out and see the beautiful comet, they can see a falling star.

As for Taki, the day she wrote the message was the last time he had heard from her.  The two are also unable to switch bodies.

Taki tries calling Mitsuha and all he can think about is her and he begins drawing scenes of the Mitsuha’s village and surroundings. But curious of why Mitsuha has stopped writing him, he decides to visit the Hida Region.

While arriving, he tries to show people of where a village (where a meteor hit long ago) is located.  And a restaurant owner and his wife tell Taki that they know of the village and that her husband is from there.

When Taki asks where it is, they tell him that the place no longer exists since three years ago.

Taki doesn’t understand and they explain that three years ago, a meteor hit her village and everyone very close to the impact area around the village were killed.

Taki decides to learn what happened on that fateful day and what happened to Mitsuha.  But can he find a way to send her a message or switch bodies again in order to save her and everyone in the village?


VIDEO:

“Your Name.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed.  Character designs are fantastic and this is an awesome animated film to marvel on how far Shinaki’s work has gone through to achieve such realism!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Your Name.” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music along with wonderful sound effects during the more action-driven scenes that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Your Name.” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Makoto Shinkai – (25:35) Featuring a Funimation interview with Makoto Shinkai.
  • Makoto Shinkai Filmography – (10:47) A look at all of Makoto Shinkai’s animated films via excerpts.
  • Special TV Program – (22:26) Hosted by Ryunosuke Kamiki (voice of Taki) and guest starring Makoto Shinkai and Mone Kamshiraishi (voice of Mitsuha), the special visits various locations where Shinkai films were shot, interviews and more!
  • Trailers

I am a huge fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work.  The amount of detail to capture reality through his animated work, the ability to capture human relationships and bonding, capturing human emotion from highs and lows.

One of my favorite films from Shinkai was “5 Centimeters Per Second” (Byoku 5 Centimeter) which was a film about love through different periods of time, breaking up and moving on, his film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” dealt with fallen relationships and sacrifice, while “The Garden of Words” explored an woman trying to find what is important about life and finding the light and learning why life is worth living, after a dark past.

Relationships are a big part of Makoto Shinkai’s work and that goes as far back as Shinkai’s shorts, “She and Her Cat” (Kanojo to Kanjo no Neko).

And as science fiction has played a big part in Shinkai’s earlier works, he manages to blend sci-fi with a touching story about a teenage boy named Taki and a teenage girl named Mitsuha who switch bodies intermittently throughout the week after they sleep.  They are not sure how it happened and why it’s happening, considering these two have never met prior and they live very far from each other.

And as the two start to communicate with each other, often playful messages of support or what happened while the other person was occupying the other person’s body, these two manage to grow close from their unique correspondence.

But one day, the communication and body switch stops which leaves Taki wanting to get answers of what happened to Mitsuha and why she stopped contacting him.  And to the surprise of Taki, the Mitsuha that Taki was communicating with died three years ago when a meteor destroyed her entire village and everyone was in the blast proximity were killed.

But what if Taki was able to relay a message to her?  What if he could switch bodies with her once more, knowing what he knows?

“Your Name.” was no doubt the best Shinkai film I have watched.  From the detail of Shinjuku, Shibuya and many other locations animated and beautifully drawn, to a script well-executed and captivating, during my viewing of the film, all I kept hoping for was a different outcome unlike “5 Centimeters Per Second”.  Rooting for the two characters and while knowing Shinkai likes to play things close to reality, I just wanted to see something magical.

While the film is no doubt unique in some ways, the storyline concept of trying to prevent one’s death in the past is not new.    In fact, the storyline of two protagonists from two different years in time and yet are able to communicate, can be seen in the 2000 South Korean film “Il Mare” (Siworae) from filmmaker Lee Hyun-seung.

But the way Shinkai writes the film and manages to explore different facets of their relationship and also interjecting some elements of “5 Centimeters Per Second” in to the film in order to make viewers guessing of what direction Shinkai would take the characters to.

As for the film on Blu-ray, picture quality is vibrant and detailed.  The Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music, while surround channels manages to utilize the various sound effects with clarity.  And the special features include an interview with Makoto Shinkai and a special TV program about “Your Name.” and Shinkai’s oevure.

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Endride: Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far. Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and the second conclusion made this anime series worthwhile.

Image courtesy of © ENDRIDE Production Committee. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Endride: Part Two

DURATION: (Episodes 13-24) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Directed by Keiji Gotoh

Series Composition by Touko Machida

Music by IMAGINE PROJECT, Kohei Tanaka

Original Character Design by Kazushi Hagiwara, Nobuhiro Watsuki

Art Director: Akira Ito

Chief Animation Director: Junko Watanabe

Anime Production: Brain’s Base, Lapin Track


Featuring the following voice talent:

Karen Miyama/Sarah Wiedenheft as Alicia

Kensho Ono/Aaron Dismuke as Shun Asanaga

Toshiki Masuda/Ian Sinclair as Emilio Ranguhaimu

Akio Ohtsuka/Phil Parsons as King Delzaine

Aoi Yūki/Skyler McIntosh as Mischa

Ayaka Ohashi/Felecia Angelle as Falarion

Hiroki Takahashi/Robert McCollum as Demetrio

Juurouta Kosugi/Bill Jenkins as Alzerm Langheim

Kousuke Toriumi/Tyler Walker as Eljuia

Ryoko Nagata/Jessica Cavanagh as Makiko Asanaga

Satoshi Mikami/ as Kazunobu Asanaga

Shizuka Itou as Louise

Tetsu Inada/Jeremy Inman as Iberuta (Ibelda)

Tomoaki Maeno/Jarrod Greene as Gidoro

Yūma Uchida as Felix

Yuu Mizushima as Pascal

 


After the confrontation in Babel goes awry, Shun, Prince Emilio, and the ragtag team of rebels must face an even bigger problem than before. Without a king, the entire country is falling into chaos, and without a passage to the surface, Shun has no way home. It’s a treacherous journey back to the capital, where Pascal’s research uncovers the world’s dismal fate.


Having been stuck in Babel, what happens when Shun and Prince Emilio check underground and discover a prisoner who may provide them with answers that they are looking for.

Meanwhile, what happens when Shun and Prince Emilio are transported to the surface?  And what happens when Emilio’s memories come to life after meeting Shun’s father?

All this and more in “Endride: Part Two”, available now from Funimation!

What is “Endride” about?

“Endride” is set in a world that is underground, beneath the surface. In order to not be discovered, a myth was created that the underground is hell and demons live there. But in truth, the underground is a world unlike the surface with modern technology.

The series begins with the 16-year-old prince of Endora named Emilio Langheim who tries to assassinate his father, King Delzaine.

The reason is that King Delzaine is not his real father and raised the boy after killing his real father and Emilio wants revenge.

The King manages to defeat Emilio and put him in the dungeon. But when a group goes to the underground to cause something badly for Emilio, out of nowhere, a teenager appears from the surface, Shun Asanaga.

While Shun tries to figure out where he is, he is attacked and out of nowhere, a warp relic emerges within him. He is able to release Emilio and together they manage to escape. And Shun explains how he touched a mysterious crystal found in his father’s company and next thing you know, he was transported to Endora. And now, he desperately wants to find his way back home.

The two are joined by Emilio’s childhood friend Alicia and get some help from the eccentric scientist and former Royal Researcher, Pascal, who left the position after he questioned King Delzaine’s plans of reconstructing Babel.

As Shun and Emilio are like water and ice and are very much different from each other and often are at odds, Shun knows that he needs Emilio’s help in trying to get back home and Emilio needs Shun’s help in order to achieve revenge.

The group meet the Ignauts and they are interested in forming a revolution against King Delzaine and making things equal among those who live in Endora. But what troubles will Shun and Emilio encounter on their adventure to achieve their goals?


VIDEO:

“Endride: Part Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-done, characters are well-shaded and for the most part, the anime series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Endride: Part Two” is presented in English and Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0. Surprisingly, FUNimation did not give an English 5.1 dub soundtrack for this release. But dialogue and music are crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Endride: Part Two” comes with no special features but the textless opening and closing songs and trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Endride: Part Two” comes with a slipcover case and Blu-ray + DVD versions of the series.


“Endride” may seem like another banal storyline of a person lost in a new world and desperately trying to find his way back home, but there is more to this anime series considering the twists and turns involved and its fascinating storyline.

The story first and foremost focuses on two characters, Shun Asanaga, a 15-year-old hot tempered boy from the Surface who immediately gets transported to Endora after touching a mysterious crystal. The other character is Emilio Langheim, the 16-year-old prince who wants revenge on the man who raised him, King Delzaine, for killing his father.

The two are like fire and water, they are opposites but yet they need each other to accomplish their goals.

But to make a difference in the world, they are caught up in political situations when a group, the Ignauts are wanting to start a revolution and want equality. Seeing opportunities on both sides, Shun and Emilio join forces with the Ignauts, but will Shun ever get home? And will Emilio get his revenge?

With the release of “Endride: Part Two”, a lot of revelations take place as we learn the absolute truth of the Warp Particles and also how Shun and Emilio are connected and more!

“Endride: Part Two” looks great on Blu-ray. Colors are vibrant and for the most part, no major artifacts or banding issues. Lossless soundtrack are stereo on both soundtracks, which is surprising considering FUNimation usually creates an English dub track in 5.1. Also, another surprise is there are no special features (aside from the usual textless opening and ending and trailers), not even the usual FUNimation audio or video commentary which was surprising. So, pretty much, this is a no thrills barebones Blu-ray+DVD release.

But overall, acting is well-done and for the most part, I enjoyed the series and how the film is able to come together for its dramatic and action-packed ending.

Overall, “Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far. Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and the second conclusion made this anime series worthwhile.

Endride: Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far.  Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and a first half conclusion that leaves you wanting to see how it all ends.  I can’t wait for part two but for now, I definitely recommend “Endride”!

Image courtesy of © ENDRIDE Production Committee. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Endride: Part One

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 30, 2017


Directed by Keiji Gotoh

Series Composition by Touko Machida

Music by IMAGINE PROJECT, Kohei Tanaka

Original Character Design by Kazushi Hagiwara, Nobuhiro Watsuki

Art Director: Akira Ito

Chief Animation Director: Junko Watanabe

Anime Production: Brain’s Base, Lapin Track


Featuring the following voice talent:

Karen Miyama/Sarah Wiedenheft as Alicia

Kensho Ono/Aaron Dismuke as Shun Asanaga

Toshiki Masuda/Ian Sinclair as Emilio Ranguhaimu

Akio Ohtsuka/Phil Parsons as King Delzaine

Aoi Yūki/Skyler McIntosh as Mischa

Ayaka Ohashi/Felecia Angelle as Falarion

Hiroki Takahashi/Robert McCollum as Demetrio

Juurouta Kosugi/Bill Jenkins as Alzerm Langheim

Kousuke Toriumi/Tyler Walker as Eljuia

Ryoko Nagata/Jessica Cavanagh as Makiko Asanaga

Satoshi Mikami/ as Kazunobu Asanaga

Shizuka Itou as Louise

Tetsu Inada/Jeremy Inman as Iberuta (Ibelda)

Tomoaki Maeno/Jarrod Greene as Gidoro

Yūma Uchida as Felix

Yuu Mizushima as Pascal

 


When a crystal warps Shun Asanaga into a world deep beneath Earth’s surface, he confronts the moody Prince Emilio who is hellbent on killing the king. Just when the two seem perfectly at odds, Shun discovers an incredible power and winds up on a dangerous journey with a ragtag team of rebels. Seeking a portal between worlds, will the prince finally get his revenge, and will Shun find a way home?


In 2016, an anime and smartphone video game was created.  The smart phone game “Endride: X Fragments” would be released in November 2016, while an anime series would be released months before.

The anime “Endride” was created by Brain’s Base and is a 24-episode anime series directed by Keiji Gotoh and written by Toko Machida.

The series will be released in two parts on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

“Endride” is set in a world that is underground, beneath the surface.  In order to not be discovered, a myth was created that the underground is hell and demons live there.  But in truth, the underground is a world unlike the surface with modern technology.

The series begins with the 16-year-old prince of Endora named Emilio Langheim who tries to assassinate his father, King Delzaine.

The reason is that King Delzaine is not his real father and raised the boy after killing his real father and Emilio wants revenge.

The King manages to defeat Emilio and put him in the dungeon.  But when a group goes to the underground to cause something badly for Emilio, out of nowhere, a teenager appears from the surface, Shun Asanaga.

While Shun tries to figure out where he is, he is attacked and out of nowhere, a warp relic emerges within him.  He is able to release Emilio and together they manage to escape.  And Shun explains how he touched a mysterious crystal found in his father’s company and next thing you know, he was transported to Endora.  And now, he desperately wants to find his way back home.

The two are joined by Emilio’s childhood friend Alicia and get some help from the eccentric scientist and former Royal Researcher, Pascal, who left the position after he questioned King Delzaine’s plans of reconstructing Babel.

As Shun and Emilio are like water and ice and are very much different from each other and often are at odds, Shun knows that he needs Emilio’s help in trying to get back home and Emilio needs Shun’s help in order to achieve revenge.

The group meet the Ignauts and they are interested in forming a revolution against King Delzaine and making things equal among those who live in Endora.  But what troubles will Shun and Emilio encounter on their adventure to achieve their goals?


VIDEO:

“Endride: Part One” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-done, characters are well-shaded and for the most part, the anime series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Endride: Part One” is presented in English and Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0.  Surprisingly, FUNimation did not give an English 5.1 dub soundtrack for this release.  But dialogue and music are crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Endride: Part One” comes with no special features but the textless opening and closing songs and trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Endride: Part One” comes with a slipcover case and Blu-ray + DVD versions of the series.


“Endride” may seem like another banal storyline of a person lost in a new world and desperately trying to find his way back home, but there is more to this anime series considering the twists and turns involved and its fascinating storyline.

The story first and foremost focuses on two characters, Shun Asanaga, a 15-year-old hot tempered boy from the Surface who immediately gets transported to Endora after touching a mysterious crystal.  The other character is Emilio Langheim, the 16-year-old prince who wants revenge on the man who raised him, King Delzaine, for killing his father.

The two are like fire and water, they are opposites but yet they need each other to accomplish their goals.

But to make a difference in the world, they are caught up in political situations when a group, the Ignauts are wanting to start a revolution and want equality.  Seeing opportunities on both sides, Shun and Emilio join forces with the Ignauts, but will Shun ever get home?  And will Emilio get his revenge?

“Endride: Part One” looks great on Blu-ray.  Colors are vibrant and for the most part, no major artifacts or banding issues.  Lossless soundtrack are stereo on both soundtracks, which is surprising considering FUNimation usually creates an English dub track in 5.1.  Also, another surprise is there are no special features (aside from the usual textless opening and ending and trailers), not even the usual FUNimation audio or video commentary which was surprising.  So, pretty much, this is a no thrills barebones Blu-ray+DVD release.

Overall, “Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far.  Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and a first half conclusion that leaves you wanting to see how it all ends.  I can’t wait for part two but for now, I definitely recommend “Endride”!

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

June 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions” is a captivating fantasy tale that will no doubt attract RPG video gamers and action/adventure anime fans. With several volumes of the light novel having been published, one can only hope that more episodes and seasons are created because this is one anime series that I would love to watch more of. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Ao Jumonji, OVERLAP/Grimgar. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gangsta.: The Complete Series

ORIGINAL TV AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: 12 Episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: May 16, 2017


Originally created by Kohske

Series Director: Koichi Hatsumi

Directed by Shukou Murase

Series Composition by Shinichi Inotsume

Music by Tsutchie

Character Design by Yoichi Ueda

Art Director: Masatoshi Kai

Chief Animation Director: Yoichi Ueda

Animation Production by Manglobe


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junichi Suwabe/Ian Sinclair as Worick Arcangelo

Kenjiro Tsuda/Brandon Potter as Nicolas Brown

Mamiko Noto/Felecia Angelle as Alex Benedetto

Ami Koshimizu/Jad Saxton as Constance Raveau

Aoi Yūki/Bryn Apprill as Nina

Atsumi Tanezaki/Clifford Chapin as Mikhail

Hideyuki Umezu/Greg Dulcie as Uranos Corsica

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Greg Ayres as Doug

Junji Majima/Ricco Fajardo as Emilio Benedetto

Kaito Ishikawa/Aaron Roberts as Cody Balfour

Kana Ueda/Alexis Tipton as Loretta Cristiano Amodio

Katsuhisa Houki/Mark Stoddard as Daniel Monroe

Koji Yusa/R Bruce Elliott as Domenico Arcangelo

Mari Yokoo as Georgiana “Big Mama

Masako Isobe/Rachel Robinson as Joel Raveau

Mikako Komatsu/Jamie Marchi as Ginger

Satoshi Mikami/Robert McCollum as Dr. Theo

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Beretta



In the city of Ergastulum, the area is full of thieves, whores and murderers.  And as for the police, they are corrupted and chaos is king.

This is the setting for the manga series known as “Gangsta.”, written and illustrated by female mangaka Kohske.

Debuting in 2009 with the short story “Postman” for Shonen GanGan Magazine, “Gangsta” has been running in “Monthly Comic Bunch” in 2011 and a total of seven tankobon volumes have been published in Japan.  Along a spinoff series titled “Gangsta: Cursed – EP_MARCO ADRIANO” which three volumes have been released in Japan so far.

In 2015, a 12-episode anime series from Manglobe was released in Japan and now, the anime series was released in the United States in May 2017 courtesy of FUNimation.

The series director is Koichi Hatsume, director is Shukou Murase, series composition by Shinichi Inotsume, character design by Yoichi Ueda and art direction by Masatoshi Kai.

“Gangsta.” begins with a prostitute being assaulted outside a building.  Meanwhile, inside a building are two owners of the business known as “Handymen”, Nic and Worick, two men paid to take on assassination or difficult jobs that police or big business can’t handle.

As Nic and Worick are completing a job with the elder businesswoman inside the building, they see the beaten prostitute going inside the building.

The Handymen are then called for business with the police department and are sent to go after a gang leader named Barry Abbot (the man seen beating on the prostitute in the opening pages).  Both Nick and Worick are hired by the inspector to eliminate him and his gang (including his prostitutes) as they are doing business in the restricted zone.  They work out a deal that they can take whatever they can in return for killing them.

As Nic and Worick go after the gang and eliminated everyone including the gang leader known as Barry. They run into the prostitute and give her the opportunity to escape.  But instead, the prostitute named Alex comes back and instead of killing her, they decide to take her (as in agreement with the inspector) and make her as part of the Handymen as one of their employees.

Meanwhile, as Alex continues to work for the Handymen, she tries to figure both Nic and Worick out.   Is Nic an ex-mercenary, does he talk at all?  Why does Worick wear an eyepatch?

One day, Alex sees a newspaper article about a massacre of the Arcangelo family 20-years-ago, all were killed except a 13-year-old boy who was 13 at the time.  And the perpretator, said to be a boy hired as a mercenary by the family.  And Alex begins to wonder, can the two boys be Worick and Nic?  Is Worick the missing boy that was never found?

But as Alex starts to wonder about the two men that she is working for, the Handymen get involved in major trouble as they must take on a gang that is threatening Dr. Theo and his assistant, Nina.a gang war seems to be inevitable as Corsica and Cristiano are engaged in a battle of outwitting each other and destroy each other’s families with the use of Twilights.  But what happens when the Handymen come and Nic must take on another Twilight A/O.


VIDEO:

“Gangsta.” is presented in 1080p High Definition and Manglobe did a wonderful job with this series. Capture Kohske’s world that was featured in the manga, character designs were done very well.  Characters are well-shaded and backgrounds are pained and are well-done.  There is a slight softness for some scenes, as one can expect from a TV series but for the most part, the anime looks great on Blu-ray and the reds (especially with the high amount of blood) is vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gangsta.” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music including environment and ambiance are well-utilized throughout the surround channels for the lossless English dub soundtrack. Both soundtracks are well-acted but in terms of channel utilization, with the English lossless soundtrack receiving a 5.1 treatment, that soundtrack has an edge.  And as the voice acting is well-done on both soundtracks, for the English dub, Brandon Potter, Felecia Angelle and Ian Sinclair did a wonderful job but also great care was made in trying get Nicolas Brown’s speech right, because he is deaf and Brandon Potter did a solid job with the speech patterns.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gangsta.” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 01 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Chris Bevins, Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 2 Video Commentary  – Featuring a video commentary with Ian Sinclair (voice of Worick Arcangelo), Brandon Potter (voice of Nicolas Brown) and Felecia Angelle (voice of Alex Benedetto).
  • Episode 9.5 – A “Gangsta.” recap episode. (Japanese only)
  • Promo Videos
  • Commercial
  • Textless Opening and Closing Themes
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Gangsta.: The Complete Series” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


With the release of “Gangsta.”, we get to see somewhat of a western influence in this manga series by Kohske.

Reminiscent of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, where the world has gone corrupt and in the city of Ergastulum, a city overrun by thugs, gangs, mafia, whores and murderers, the police are just as bad and when the going gets tough, the only way for the police to maintain order is by hiring mercenaries, in this case, the Handymen, Nic and Worick.

Nic is the silent, deadly killer with a sword. Worick is the playboy with an eyepatch that is good with a gun and together, they are two men who aren’t afraid of taking on the most corrupt people in Ergastulum. And it’s not a duty done for the sake of morality but to them, it’s money and survival.

As these two men are mysterious individuals and through the eyes of former prostitute Alex, who joins the Handymen as their personal secretary or whatever she can be used for in order to get the job done, even Alex, has her thoughts on both men and their mysterious background.

But in this city, there is no normal.  There is no peace.  And right now, a major gang war is about to ignite between the Corsica and Cristiano gang.  And for the Handymen, they have their hands tied in trying to keep people alive while Twilight A/O’s have been hired to assassinate major gang members but now all of a sudden have become the hunted as anti-twilight groups are infiltrating Ergastulum to kill them off..

Meanwhile, Alex is wallowing in her depression, not knowing what has happened to her young brother that she was unable to protect.

With “Gangsta.”, we get to see how corrupt this world they live in but how they fit in to all the chaos. There is no one that is pure in Ergastulum, everything is corrupt, a lot of violence over runs the city but there is a sense of kindness for some people and with the Handymen, while killing is their job, the act of kindness of having Alex as an employee is rather fascinating.

Kohske has developed a intriguing series full of sex and violence but also an illustration style that is unique to her style of work. The anime series is respectful to the original manga content and there is a western influence and it will be interesting to see how the story of “Gangsta.” will continue considering there is other stories left for the anime to explore in the future.

And Manglobe and anime production crew did a wonderful job with this series and staying true to the original manga.  The anime series looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray and there are good number of special features included as well.

Overall, “Gangsta.” is an action-packed anime series about mysterious two assassins for hire in a crime-filled land and a former prostitute who starts working for them. An intriguing and rare manga series to come from Japan, if you are looking for a manga series with a little sex and plenty  of violence, “Gangsta.” by Kohske is a manga series worth recommending!

My Hero Academia: Season One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“My Hero Academia” is fast-paced and enjoyable! The characters and their powers can be a bit way over-the-top but its unpredictability and enjoyable storyline, makes “My Hero Academia”, an anime series on Blu-ray worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2014 by Kohei Horikoshi. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: My Hero Academia: Season One

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Kohei Horikoshi

Director: Kenji Nagakasaki

Series Composition: Yousuke Kuroda

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda, Yukiko Maruyama

Anime Production: BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Luci Christian as Ochaco Uraraka

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Izuku Midoriya

Kaito Ishikawa/J. Michael Tatum as Tenya Iida

Kenta Miyake/Christopher R. Sabat as All Might

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin as Katsuki Bakugō

Yuuki Kaji/David Matranga as Shōto Todoroki

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Tsuyu Asui

Eri Kitamura/Caitlin Glass as Mina Ashido

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Sonny Strait as Present Mic

Inuko Inuyama/Morgan Berry as Thirteen

Junichi Suwabe/Alex Organ as Shota Aizawa

Kaori Nazuka/Felecia Angelle as Tooru Hagakure

Kei Shindou/Trina Nishimura as Kyōka Jirō

Kiyotaka Furushima/Christopher Bevins as Hanta Sero

Kōsuke Kuwano/Joel McDonald as Yūga Aoyama

Kosuke Miyoshi/MikeMcFarland as Mashirao Ojiro

Kouki Uchiyama/Eric Vale as Tomura Shigaraki

Marina Inoue/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Momo Yaoyorozu

Masakazu Nishida as Mezō Shōji

Ryou Hirohashi/Brina Palencia as Minoru Mineta

Takahiro Fujiwara/Chuck Huber as Kurogiri

Tasuku Hatanaka/Kyle Phillips as Denki Kaminari

Tooru Nara/Cris George as Rikidō Satō

Toshiki Masuda/Justin Cook as Eijirō Kirishima

Tsuguo Mogami as Noumu

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Joshua Grelle as Fumikage Tokoyami


It’s an exciting age of heroes, where most people develop supernatural abilities known as Quirks. Bright-eyed kids like Izuku Midoriya—Deku for short—dream of the day they become champions of the people. There’s just one little problem standing in Deku’s way. In a world full of heroes, he’s Quirkless. Crushed, but not down for the count, this superhero-fanboy dedicates his time to studying the pros in hopes that he, too, can join a prestigious high school for heroes. In the face of despair, Deku’s courage catches the eye of his ultimate idol, the symbol of justice known as All Might! With special training from the big guy himself, Deku and the talented first-years of the academy may finally have a shot at achieving their dreams. But these amateurs are put to the test of a lifetime when routine training becomes a battle against real villains!


From Kohei Horikoshi, the creator of “Omagadoki Dobutsuen” and “Barrage”, came his manga series “My Hero Academia” (Boku no Hero Academia).

Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2014, an anime adaptation began in April 2016 through June 2016 (for the first season) and a second season begain in April 2017.

The anime series is produced by BONES and is directed by Kenji Nagasaki (“Classroom Crisis”, “Gundum Build Fighters”, “No. 6”), series composition by Yousuke Kuroda (“Battle Girl High School”, “Fire Emblem”, “Gundam Build Fighters”), music was composed by Yuuki Hayashi (“Death Parade”, “Haikyu!!”, “Robotics;Notes”), character designs are by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (“Air master”, “Boys Over Flowers”, “Heartcatch Precure!”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Battle Athletes Victory”, “Afro Samurai”, “Bastard!!”) and Yukiko Maruyama (“El-Hazard: The Wanderers”, “Macross Delta”, “Active Raid”).

And now the first season (featuring the first 13 episodes) is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation.

“My Hero Academia” is a story that revolves around Quirks (people who begin to manifest special abilities) and all of a sudden people in the world began to have many people who became superpowered individuals.  Some who use their powers for good, some who use their powers for evil intentions.

Because the government is not equipped to deal with these superpowered thugs, a special group of heroic superpowered individuals came together to protect the people and keep the peace.

The series revolves around a boy named Izuku Midoriya, a boy born Quirkless and looked up to the world’s top hero, All Might.  And hoped that one day he could be a hero, despite not having a quirk.

One day, All Might received a near-fatal wound and now, he is losing his powers.  When Izuku proves his bravery, All Might decides to transfer some of his power on to Izuku and now, Izuku must train to learn how to use All Might’s quirk and must prove that he has the skills to attend the prestigious U.A. High School.

“My Hero Academia” focuses on the following characters:

  • Izuku Midoriya – A shy and timid boy who dreamed of becoming a superhero like All Might.  Often studying superheroes, when he steps up to save his childhood bully/acquaintance Katsuki from a villain, All Might chooses to transfer some of his quirk to Izuku.  And now Izuku has the opportunity to attend the prestigious U.A. High School.  He has a crush on Ochako.
  • Katsuki Bakugo – Izuku’s classmate and bully.  He possesses the Quirk Explosion which allows his palm to sweat to become nytrolglycerin and explode.  He is egotistical to people he deems are lower than him.
  • Ochako Uraraka – A girl who has the Quirk Zero Gravity, which makes any object she touches float.
  • Tenya Iida – The president of class 1-A who has the Quirk Engine, which gives him super-speed via jet engines in his legs.  Often seen as serious and scary.
  • Shoto Todoroki – A student in class 1-A and has the Quirk Fire and ice, which allows his left side to control fire and his right side to control ice.  He is the youngest child of Endeavor, the second top hero after All Might.
  • Toshinori Yagi/All Might – The top superhero in the world.  But only Itsuku knows his secrt that five years ago, he was severely injured in battle and now he is losing his power and can use it only for three hour a day.  He is a teacher at U.A. High School and his Quirk One For all allows him to transfer his power on to another.

VIDEO:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the anime series is respectful to the original character designs by Kohei Horikoshi.  Animation is vibrant and characters are well-drawn and shaded, art backgrounds are also well-done.

As most TV series has a bit of softness, “My Hero Academia” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” is presented in Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Both soundtracks are fantastic and are well-acted. dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“My Hero Academia: Season One” comes with the following special features:

  • Anime Expo 2016 Interview with Kenji Nagasaki and Wakana Okamura – (12:46) Featuring director Kenji Nagasaki and producer Wakana Okamura at AX 2016 and with the duo being interviewed and having fun at AX.
  • My Hero Academia: Meet the Characters – (6:24) An English introduction to the characters of “My Hero Academia” (Funimation promos).
  • AnimeFest 2016 Interview with Ayana Nishino – (8:42) Featuring an interview with animation director Ayana Nishino.
  • AnimeFest 2016: Artist Sketches – (6:29) Featuring a sped up art feature of the artists of “My Hero Academia” drawing a sketch of various characters.
  • Anime Expo 2016: My Hero Academia Panel – (36:34) Masahiko Minami of BONES, producer Wakana Okamura, director Kenji Nagasaki and English dub actors Clifford Chapin, Justin Briner, Christopher R. Sabat.
  • Anime Expo 2016 Interview with Christopher R. Sabat & Justin Briner – (19:16) FUNimation interviews Christopher R. Sabat and Justin Briner.
  • Anime Expo 2016: Interview with Masahiko Minami – (8:08) FUNimation interviews BONES Masahiko Minami.
  • Inside the Episodes – Short Omake sketches that were featured at the end of each episode
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • Trailer – Funimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

Both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the “My Hero Academia: Season One” are included on this Blu-ray release.


At first, I was wondering if “My Hero Academy” will be like another “X-Men” style storyline of humans vs. mutants and the world fearing mutantkind.  In this case, humankind fearing Quirks.

What I enjoy about this series is the fact that our heroes are not exactly what you expect in terms of heroic characters.  Whereas superpowered individuals in American comic books often showcase a character that is ripped, muscular, charismatic or gorgeous, “My Hero Academia” features regular characters and its main protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, is wide-eyed and looks far too innocent and unlikely to be a hero.

It’s heroes vs. heroes as the focused on a yearly sports festival in which the heroes must succeed and move up in the ranks and prepare themselves for whichever challenge comes their way. We also get to see a second competition featuring one-on-one battles as Izuku Midoriya of the Hero Course takes on Hitoshi Shinso from General Studies.  And also, Hanta Sero of the Hero Course vs. Shoto Todoroki of the Hero Course.

Also, Midoriya and friends in one of the most challenging battles they have ever faced as they must take on the League of Villains Hero Killer Stain.

Meanwhile, the Academy is having its Practical Exam and must be paired to take on a Hero, but with Midoriya and Bakugo, they find out they must take on All Might.

And all this and more in the first season of “My Hero Academia”.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and BONES did a wonderful job with this TV series as not only did the animation compliment the manga series in terms of overall design but the series looked great on Blu-ray and softness was not overly evident.  The English soundtrack gets the better lossless 5.1 soundtrack and subtitles are in English.

I also have to add that this is probably one of the better FUNimation special features included with actual full panels and interviews included with both Japanese crew and English dub talent from Anime Expo 2016 and AnimeFest 2016.  I was pleasantly surprised to see FUNimation putting much effort to have these special features and definitely adds to the enjoyability of this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “My Hero Academia” is fast-paced and enjoyable! The characters and their powers can be a bit way over-the-top but its unpredictability and enjoyable storyline, makes “My Hero Academia”, an anime series on Blu-ray worth checking out!

Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

January 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

swordartonline-rosario

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is a series that longtime fans will no doubt love.  A captivating, heartbreaking and emotional storyline that maintains its action-packed setting and a Blu-ray limited edition set that will make the fans even more happy.  I absolutely enjoyed the conclusion of “Sword Art Online II” and I highly recommend checking this set out!

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 18-24 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: January 19, 2016


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

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

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Hearing rumors about an undefeated player known as Zekken, Asuna decides to mount a challenge. Zekken has been seeking opponents to duel for an ultra-fast 11-hit combo original sword skill. Not a single challenger has been successful so far. Asuna comes very close and is barely defeated. To her surprise, Zekken asks Asuna to join the guild called Sleeping Knights. What is Zekken’s real intention?


The “Mother’s Rosario” arc begins as the final episodes of “Sword Art Online II” revolve around Asuna.

As ALO attracts Asuna’s curiosity with rumors of a popular swordsman known as “Zekken” accepting any battles against anyone and even Kirito losing against this person, Asuna decides to challenge the swordsman.

The swordsman turns out to not to be a male character but a female character named Yuuki.  And as Asuna is able to show that she is an excellent fighter, she holds her own against Yuuki.

This excites Yuuki who takes Asuna to visit her friends, a group known as the Sleeping Knights.

Each of them have one final goal before they go on their separate ways and that is to defeat the next floor boss with one party in order to have their name etched on the Monument of Swordsmen

Their request, for Asuna to join them in this final battle, as they need another person for their group, someone who is very strong.  And Yuuki believes Asuna is the one.

But as Asuna really wants to help the group out, her personal life is not going well as the events of “Sword Art Online” made her a year and half behind in her school studies.  Now her mother wants Asuna to stop playing any video games and is wanting to transfer her to another school and perhaps arrange her to be married with a wealthy man.

Will this be a last goodbye for Asuna to be with Kirito and her close friends?

Find out in the final volume of “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario”!

What is “Sword Art Online”?

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

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

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

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario”


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

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle. But she is an excellent marksman in online games.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Yuuki Konno – A wonderful swordsperson on ALO who has the nickname of “Zekken” a.k.a. “Absolute Sword”.  Yuuki is a member of the Sleeping Knights group and before her and her friends go on their separate ways, they ask Asuna to join them and help them beat the final boss with one party.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you. Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is presented in Japanese and English linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! With this volume, it’s great to have the original characters return for this arc. Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon all work together in this volume, so it’s great to have all voice talents together once again.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline II #7-9 –  Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP & ED (Mother’s Rosario)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 19-24
  • Audio Commentary 19 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna) and Aoi Yuuki (voice of Yuuki).
  • Audio Commentary 21 – Featuring director Tomohiko Ito, character designer Adachi, Tetsuya Takeuchi (action cnimation director) and Yanagi (action anime director).
  • Audio Commentary 23 – Featuring Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Aoi Yuuki (voice of Yuuki), Megumi Hayashibara  (Asuna’s mother) and director Tomohiko Ito.
  • Audio Commentary 24 – Featuring Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), director Tomohiko Ito, character designer Adachi Reki Nakahara (creator).

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” Blu-ray also comes with a second disc titled “Sword Art Online Radio – USA- Part 3” featuring hosts Bryce Papenbrookt, Cherami Leigh and guests Erica Mendez, Erika Harlacher and Alex von David.  Over an hour’s worth of audio.

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” also comes with a slip case, a 24-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a two-postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz Usual Yuuki/Asuna collectible PR Card.


swordartonline-rosario-b

With the riveting “GunGale Online” storyline that kicked off “Sword Art Online II” and revolved around Kirito, the final arc to end this series revolves around Asuna.

And as the beginning focuses on all-out action, “Mother’s Rosario” is perhaps one of the most emotional arcs seen in “Sword Art Online” and also features a lot of action.

Without spoiling this arc, which is based on the seventh “Sword Art Online” light novel, Asuna must deal with two different obligations.  The first is her obligation to her family and that is to do well in school.

Unfortunately, her mother feels that the school she attends is not good enough and also, with Asuna behind a year and half in school and worried for her future, her mother wants her to marry a wealthy man and attend a more prestigious school.

But also quitting all gaming and staying away from Kirito and her friends.

And this leaves Asuna in a bad emotional state, which she keeps to herself, not letting Kirito or her friends know how bad things are at home.

Meanwhile, her second obligation is to her newest online friend Yuki and their group, the Sleeping Knights on ALO.  As the group plans to take on a final boss before they go on their separate ways and stop playing the game, they want Asuna to join them in this final battle and get their names etched on the Monument of Swordsmen.

Having been won over by their kindness, Asuna decides to join Yuki and friends in defeating a major boss in ALO.  But why is this the final battle for the Sleeping Knights?

As much as I would love to go into the series, I will stop right there with the summary because the series becomes one heck of an emotional rollercoaster.  But with each episode, I was captivated right to the very end.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear. And you also get four audio commentary with the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the second “Sword Art Online II” Limited Edition box set, “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” comes with a CD featuring a radio interview with several of the English dub cast.  Also, included in the set is a 24-page deluxe booklet, three postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card with Yuki and Asuna, and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has continued to do another awesome in providing awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is emotional, action-packed and a wonderful arc that leaves me hoping for a “Sword Art Online III” featuring the “Alicization” storyline,

But fans of the series will love the fact that you get a storyline focusing on Asuna but also manages to feature every character that is important in the lives of Kirito and Asuna.

“Sword Art Online II – Mother’s Rosario: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set IV” is a series that longtime fans will no doubt love.  A captivating, heartbreaking and emotional storyline that maintains its action-packed setting and a Blu-ray limited edition set that will make the fans even more happy.

I absolutely enjoyed the conclusion of “Sword Art Online II” and I highly recommend checking this set out!

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

November 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

AOA-6403B-WR Cover

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing. I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume! If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 15-17 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: November 17, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

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

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Kirito is now certain that Death Gun is also a survivor of SAO. And to make things worse, he is most likely an ex-member of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin. As the final tournament of Bullet of Bullets begins, Kirito and Sinon agree to join forces until they identify which player is Death Gun.

News is spreading among the players of ALO that the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur has been discovered. This was actually the very sword that Kirito and Leafa found in the underground realm of Jotunheim several months ago when they saved “Tonky.” Hearing the news, they decide to acquire Excalibur before the other players. Summoning Asuna, Klein, Sinon, and the others, they set off for the dungeon in Jotunheim for an exciting new mission!


The “Calibur” arc begins as the next three episodes of “Sword Art Online II” (episodes 15-17) features Kiroto and friends going on ALfheim Online (ALO) to find the legendary item, the Holy Sword Excalibur.

As Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon try to retrieve the Holy Sword Excalibur, Yui tells the group that the quest they were given was created by the Cardinal System’s Automatic Quest Generation Function and if they don’t succeed, a final war event known as “Rangarok” will be triggered and will destroy AKO.

Will the group reach their objective?  Find out in the latest third Blu-ray volume of “Sword Art Online II”!

What is “Sword Art Online”?

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

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

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

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and not long after the “Gun Gale Online” arc.

One day, Suguha shows Kazuto a news article about the legendary Holy Sword Excalibur being discovered in ALO.  Wanting the legendary sword, Kazuto calls his friends Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon to join him on ALO and challenge the dungeon in the sky of Jotunheimr, where the Excalibur is located.

But will Kirito and friends find the Holy Sword of Excalibur?


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

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle.  But she is an excellent marksman in online games.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the episodes 15-17:

  • EPISODE 15 – Kirito and friends go on ALO to find the Holy Sword of Excalibur.
  • EPISODE 16 – Who is this Freyja and can the group trust her?
  • EPISODE 17 – The group must take on the King of the Frost Giants, known as Thrym.

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in Japanese and English linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on!   With this volume, it’s great to have the original characters return for this arc.  Kirito, Asuna, Klein, Lisbeth, Silica and Sinon all work together in this volume, so it’s great to have all voice talents together once again.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

  • Sword Art Offline II #6 – (11:41) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP & ED (Calibur)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 16-18
  • Audio Commentary 17 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna), Ayana Taketatsu (voice of Leafa), Kanae Ito (voice of Yui).

EXTRAS:

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

  • Sword Art Online Original Soundtrack II Vol. 2 – (45 Minutes)
  1. desolate landscape 2:42
  2. Tonky 2:35
  3. in this place 1:58
  4. Freyja 1:52
  5. Urd 2:28
  6. in another land 2:16
  7. the appearance of Thrymr 1:46
  8. defeat him and get it! 3:31
  9. in the battle field, once again 2:45
  10. a sad quarrel 1:40
  11. you are not alone #2 2:06
  12. light your sword 2:04
  13. heartbreaking reality 2:38
  14. you are not alone 2:48
  15. tears for you 1:51
  16. school days, with you 2:05
  17. you are not alone #3 2:05
  18. trying to understand 2:25

“Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” also comes with a slip case, a 12-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a two-postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz Usual Silicacollectible PR Card.


With the riveting “GunGale Online” storyline that was awesome to watch on the last two volumes, the series takes a breather from any deep storylines and instead features a short-story arc of three episodes as Kirito and friends go on ALO to find the Holy Sword of Excalibur.

While the storyline is good for this short arc, I found it to be a bit average, as it feels like three filler episodes.  But the good news is that you get Kirito and friends together on ALO and you also get to see interesting character interaction between Kirito and Sinon, rather than Kirito and Asuna, which I found quite interesting.

And you also get to see Klein having more of a role in this arc since the first season.  But for the most part, the story arc goes quickly and wished that Aniplex would have included two or three more additional episodes, but I can understand if they want to save the fourth volume for the final arc of “Sword Art Online II”.  But the viewing for this set goes much quicker as can be expected with only three episodes included.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear. And you also get an audio commentary with the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” comes with a CD featuring “Sword Art Online II – Vol. 2 Original Soundtrack”, a 12-page deluxe booklet, two postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job in continuing to provide the awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Calibur-: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be enjoyable. With only three episodes included on a single Blu-ray disc and the episodes feeling like filler episodes, it was great to see Kirito and friends working together again.  And if you want the second original soundtrack, then the third limited edition volume for “Sword Art Online II” is recommended.

If you love SAO and like many others who are fans of the popular anime series, “Sword Art Online II – Calibur: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set III” is the third limited edition volume worth the purchase.   Recommended!

Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

October 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa2-b-1

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing. I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume! If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 8-14.5 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: June 30, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

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

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Souichiro Hoshi/Ben Diskin as Death Gun

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


Kirito is now certain that Death Gun is also a survivor of SAO. And to make things worse, he is most likely an ex-member of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin. As the final tournament of Bullet of Bullets begins, Kirito and Sinon agree to join forces until they identify which player is Death Gun.

Through the battles, Sinon learns that Kirito also suffers from traumatic memories from the past. But as Sinon sees Kirito trying to overcome them, she too tries to be strong. As BoB reaches its last stage, Kirito suspects that Death Gun may have one or more accomplices in the real world, and they may be targeting Shino Asada as their next target!


With”Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2″, Kirito and Sinon must become a team in order to survive and fight against Death Gun, a former “Sword Art Online” red player of the murder guild, Laughing Coffin who killed other gamers and now he is interested in doing the same in “Gun Gale Online”.

But both Kirito and Sinon must also learn to overcome skeletons from their own closet before taking on Death Gun.

All this and more in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -“.

What is “Sword Art Online”?

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

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

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

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television. And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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

Which leads us to “Sword Art Online II”:

“Sword Art Online II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and a new VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” has become the popular game in Japan.

But one day, a top-ranked player named Zexceed appears on a streamed broadcast as his avatar and out of nowhere, a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” fires a bullet at Zexceed’s avatar causing the avatar to convulse and disconnect.

A month later, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Virtual Division contacts Kirito for a meeting and tells him that he needs Kirito’s help. Revealing that deaths are happening in the “Gun Gale Online” game caused by the mysterious avatar known as Death Gun. He needs Kirito to go in the game and find out who Death Gun is.

While Kirito has his doubts, because he will get paid for his investigation, he joins “Gun Gale Online” and befriends a top-ranked player named Sinon in hopes it will lead him to Death Gun and what is causing his victims to die.

In Part 2, Kirito learned that Death Gun, through a tattoo on his arm, that he is part of Death Coffin, the murder guild of “Sword Art Online”.

His memories from that time is his unfortunate memories of having killed people, even if they were bad.  And now, he knows he must come face-to-face with a Death Coffin member once again and put a stop to his murderous campaign on “Gun Gale Online”.  But to do that, he needs the help of Sinon…who also has skeletons in her own closet, after she killed a robber in self defense.

Both Kirito and Sinon must confront these emotional challenges together, but will they manage to defeat Death Gun?

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2” features episodes 8-14.5 (a digest episode featuring episodes 1-14).


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set ” are:

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”. In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber. She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”. She looks at Kirito is a rival but she also wants to be closer to him because of the strength he shows in battle.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”). She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating a Death Coffin member.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence. She often helps both when they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Death Gun – The main antagonist of “Gun Gale Online”. Whoever he kills in the online game, ends up dead in the real world.  It is revealed in earlier episodes that he is a member of the “Sword Art Online” murder guild.  But who is the man behind the mask?

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the episodes 8-14.5:

  • EPISODE 8 – Kirito turns to Sinon to help him with details of the BoB royale.
  • EPISODE 9 – Death Gun goes after Sinon
  • EPISODE 10 – Death Gun pursues Kirito and Sinon
  • EPISODE 11 – Kirito and Sinon try to find out how Death Gun is able to kill people in the real world while in the game.
  • EPISODE 12 – Kirito and Sinon decide to take on Death Gun, but are they ready?
  • EPISODE 13 – Kirito vs. Death Gun
  • EPISODE 14 – What happens to Sinon after she logs out of “Gun Gale Online”?
  • EPISODE 14.5 – A digest episode featuring what happened to Sinon in Episodes 1-14.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you.  Wonderful anime production from A-1 Pictures.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2-: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English and Japanese linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. Both Yoshitsugi Matsuoka and Miyuki Sawashiro and other cast members have done a fantastic job. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! Both Bryce Papenbrook and Michelle Ruff did an awesome job as Kirito and Sinon. But the casting for this anime series for the English dub was fantastic. Everyone did a magnificent job with their character role.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline II #3 – (11:41) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline II #4 -(12:48) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline II #5 -(13:47) Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless ED (Phantom Bullet)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 9-15
  • Audio Commentary 8 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon), author Reki Kawahara and gun consultant Keiichi Sigsawa.
  • Audio Commentary 12 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Yoshikazu Iwanami (Sound Director) .
  • Audio Commentary 13 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Souchiro Hoshi (voice of Death Gun) .

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Sword Art Online Radio -USA – Parts 1 & 2 – (39:52) Part 1 featured voice actor Bryce Papenbrook (voice of Kirito) and Cherami Leigh (voice of Asuna) with special guest Ben Diskin (voice of Death Gun).  (27:44) Part 2 features Bryce Papenbrook (voice of Kirito) and Ben Diskin (voice of Death Gun) with special guest Michelle Ruff (voice of Sinon).

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” also comes with a slip case, a 24-page deluxe booklet with character info, episode synopsis and more, a three postcard set, and an exclusive Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card.


It’s really interesting because I came with the mindset of watching “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” that there is no way this second season will measure up to the awesome first season.

Yes, I enjoyed season one a lot and enjoyed the first episodes of “Sword Art Online II”.  But watching episodes 8-14, I was captivated and impressed by each of these episodes that I’m quite torn because I loved “Sword Art Online” a lot but I have to say that this first story arc turned out to be magnificent.

The emotion, the action, the writing and the voice acting (Japanese and English dub) were amazing.

The second storyline continued the story of Kirito and Sinon working together, but this time, as a team to take on the deadly Death Gun, a member of the SAO murder guild, Laughing Coffin.  And now people are dying in the real world and Death Gun wants nothing more but to destroy Kirito.

Add in the fact that Kirito still dwells about killing people in SAO and Sinon having to deal with her skeletons in her own closet, both must depend on each other to make it through this royale in “Gun Gale Online” or die in the real world.

The storyline is so riveting but now, I wonder what is in store for the second arc of the second season?  Suffice to say, I can’t wait!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series. While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear.  And you also get a good number of special features, such as three audio commentary from the Japanese cast and more.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” comes with a second CD featuring “SAO RADIO – USA” with the English dub voicecast, a 24-page deluxe booklet, three postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase. So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job providing these awesome swag for SAO fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 2 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set” to be amazing.  I absolutely loved how this first arc of the second season ended and I can’t wait for the second arc in the next Blu-ray volume!

If you love SAO, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” (both parts) are must buy, must have and highly recommended!

Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray review)

July 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa2-a

I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” to be exciting and it left me wanting more and more! I can’t wait for the second set and for anyone who loved the first season, should definitely give “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1” a try!  Highly recommended!

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

TITLE: Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 1-7 (175 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: June 30, 2015


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Original Character Design by abec

Directed by Tomohiko Ito

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

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Art Design by Yoshinori Shiozawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kanae Itō/Stephanie Sheh as Yui

Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff as Sinon

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Aoi Yūki as Yuuki

Asami Tano as Nori

Atsushi Tamaru as Talken

Ayahi Takagaki as Lisbeth / Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Morris as Leafa / Suguha Kirigaya

Daiki Yamashita as Jun

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna Yūki

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk thornton as Klein

Houko Kuwashima as Urðr

Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kyôji Shinkawa

Nobuyuki Kobushi as Tecchi

Rina Hidaka/Christine Marie Cabanos as Silica

Souichiro Hoshi/Ben Diskin as Death Gun

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijirō Kikuoka

Yu Shimamura as Siune

Yuko Minaguchi as Freyja


A year has passed since SAO was cleared. Summoned by Seijirou Kikuoka of the Virtual Division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Kazuto (Kirito) learns of a series of bizarre murders linked to the popular VR game, Gun Gale Online (GGO). After being shot in-game by a player calling himself Death Gun, two prominent GGO players have mysteriously turned up dead in the real world.

As Kazuto logs into GGO and starts investigating the mystery, he meets a girl sniper named Sinon who wields a Hecate II rifle. Is she friend or foe? Kirito enters the virtual world once more for an all new adventure!


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

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

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

And in 2014-2015, a 24-episode series titled “Sword Art Online II” aired on television.  And now, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

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

“Sword Art Online II” is set a year after the “Sword Art Online” incident and a new VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” has become the popular game in Japan.

But one day, a top-ranked player named Zexceed appears on a streamed broadcast as his avatar and out of nowhere, a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” fires a bullet at Zexceed’s avatar causing the avatar to convulse and disconnect.

A month later, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Virtual Division contacts Kirito for a meeting and tells him that he needs Kirito’s help.  Revealing that deaths are happening in the “Gun Gale Online” game caused by the mysterious avatar known as Death Gun.  He needs Kirito to go in the game and find out who Death Gun is.

While Kirito has his doubts, because he will get paid for his investigation, he joins “Gun Gale Online” and befriends a top-ranked player named Sinon in hopes it will lead him to Death Gun and what is causing his victims to die.


The main characters featured in “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” are:

  • Kirito – The main protagonist of the series. Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is a former beta-tester who fights solo and responsible for saving many lives in Sword Art Online and Alfheim Online. Kirito is recruited by Seijiro Kikuoka of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to become “Kirito” once again to enter the virtual world to investigate the cause of deaths in “Gun Gale Online” (GGO).
  • Shino Asada/Sinon – One of the best players, a sniper on “Gun Gale Online”.  In real life, she has a major phobia of guns after killing a robber.  She is the owner of the rare gun “PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II”.  She looks at Kirito is a rival.
  • Asuna – Kirito’s girlfriend (a main character in the previous “Sword Art Online”).  She thinks that Kirito is earning money as a tester, but not knowing he is investigating.
  • Yui – Kirito and Asuna’s “child” via artificial intelligence.  She often helps both when  they are in need.
  • Suguha Kirigaya – Kirito’s adoptive sister (younger cousin), she knows that Kirito has joined another online game.
  • Death Gun – The main antagonist of “Gun Gale Online”.  Whoever he kills in the online game, ends up dead in the real world.

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” features the first seven episodes of “Sword Art Online”:

  • EPISODE 1 – A year after SOA, Kikuoka Seijiro of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Virtual Division recruits Kirito to find a cloaked man known as “Death Gun” who is killing people on the VRMMORPG known as “Gun Gale Online” and the deaths online are leaving real gamers dead.
  • EPISODE 2 – An introduction to one of the awesome players of “Gun Gale Online”, Sinon.
  • EPISODE 3 – The life of Shino “Sinon” Asada revealed and why she has a phobia of guns.
  • EPISODE 4 – Kirito logs into “Gun Gale Online” and meets Sinon who tries to help him understand the online game.
  • EPISODE 5 – Kirito and Sinon register for the game and enter their first battle.
  • EPISODE 6 – Death Gun confronts Kirito, wanting to know if he’s the real Kirito.  Meanwhile, Kirito and Sinon end up in the finals.
  • EPISODE 7 – Kirito is rocked by seeing the tattoo of Death Gun and feeling that it may be players from SOA that want revenge for him killing those players.  Meanwhile, Sinon is disturbed by Kirito.

VIDEO:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Because of the ever changing landscape within the online game, there is a good balance between well-painted buildings and interiors and also beautiful painted backgrounds for outdoor scenes. Black levels are nice and deep but its the colorful palette and the beautiful backgrounds that captivate you.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English and Japanese linear PCM stereo. The voice acting for the Japanese soundtrack is solid. Both Yoshitsugi Matsuoka and Miyuki Sawashiro and other cast members have done a fantastic job. With that being said, having watched the series first in Japanese, watching it with the English dub, I felt the casting was spot-on! Both Bryce Papenbrook and Michelle Ruff did an awesome job as Kirito and Sinon. But the casting for this anime series for the English dub was fantastic. Everyone did a magnificent job with their character role.

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” features the following special features:

  • Sword Art Offline 1 – Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Sword Art Offline 2 -Featuring Asuna and Kirito in super deformed format discussing the first episode, SOA trivia and more.
  • Textless OP (Phantom Bullet)
  • Web Version Previews – Featuring web previews for episodes 2-8
  • Audio Commentary 1 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Haruka Tomatsu (voice of Asuna) .
  • Audio Commentary 4 – Featuring Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (voice of Kirito), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Sinon) and Yoshikazu Iwanami (Sound Director) .

EXTRAS:

“Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” Blu-ray also comes with the following:

  • Original Soundtrack CD 1 (ソードアート・オンライン II Original Soundtrack vol. 1)

The following is a 37-track soundtrack (1 hour and 11 minutes long) featuring all-instrumental tracks by Yuki Kajiura.

  • 24-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet – Each page features illustrations with characters from the series.
  • Set of Pin-Up Illustration Postcards – Featuring two different illustrated postcards.
  • Exclusive Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card  – I’m not sure if each set is random but the card that came with this limited edition release featured Sinon & Kirito (Avatar/Weapon).
  • Rigid Box illustrated by abec (Original Character Design) – A slipcase which houses both Blu-ray cases.
  • Clear BD cases with 2-sided Japanese Cover Design

Having enjoyed the first series, I wasn’t sure if the “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1-” could retain the synergy as the first season.

Of course, being captivated by all that has happened in “Sword Art Online” and what took place in the second half of the first season in “Alfheim Online”, I wasn’t too sure how I would feel about this new storyline revolving a gun-based MMORPG.

While I was excited by seeing a few of the original characters back, I wasn’t sure how I would like this new series, especially as episodes 2 and 3 would focus on this new character Sinon/Shino Asada.  But one episode four started and seeing Kirito in “Gun Gale Online” and showing his awesome skills of adapting to different situations, it was more of a thrill to see the confrontation between Death Gun and Kirito and seeing the link to the original series (which I don’t want to spoil).

Needless to say, having watched the first seven episodes, I really like where the series is going.  I found it to be exciting, dramatic (and emotional) but because this new storyline pits Kirito in a new situation and seeing this interesting rivalry between him and Sinon, I can’t wait to watch volume 2!

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, the animation looks magnificent, while backgrounds are nicely painted, CG elements are well-done and for the most part, the series continues its outstanding quality from the first series.  While the lossless soundtrack remains as Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and no 5.1 soundtrack yet, the soundtrack still sounds crisp and clear as dialogue for both Japanese and English tracks and Yuki Kajiura’s music sounds crystal clear.

And similar to the previous “Sword Art Online” Limited Edition box sets, “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” comes with an original soundtrack, a 24-page book, postcards, a Weiss Schwarz collectible PR Card and a slipcase.  So, Aniplex has done another wonderful job providing these awesome extras for fans!

Overall, I found “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1 -: Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I” to be exciting and it left me wanting more and more! I can’t wait for the second set and for anyone who loved the first season, should definitely give “Sword Art Online II – Phantom Bullet Part 1” a try!  Highly recommended!

Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion- (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

puella-madoka-reb1

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” turned out to be a wonderful film that answers many questions for fans of the series but also takes the series to a new direction if needed, but also fits as a fitting conclusion if this is the end of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”. Featuring wonderful production values, fantastic music and great voice acting on both Japanese and English soundtracks, with each “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” film, they get better and better. But for “Rebellion”, this was a film that I found myself watching multiple times and I enjoyed it immensely. “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Magica Quartet/Aniplex, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


 

TITLE: Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion-

YEAR: 2012-2013

DURATION: 116 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: April 7, 2015


 

Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Chief Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Screenplay: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Story: Magica Quartet

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Junichiro Taniguchi, Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Ken Naito

Chief Animation Director: Hiroyuki Yamamura, Junichiro Taniguchi

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft


 Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname


Were all the magical girls truly saved from despair? Now… the great “Law of Cycles” leads the magical girls to their new fate.

Madoka Kaname – a girl who once led an ordinary life sacrificed her very existence to set every magical girl free from their cruel destiny. Homura Akemi – another magical girl who was unable to keep her promise with Madoka continues to fight in the world Madoka left her behind in. Madoka has changed the world. In this new world, is what the magical girls see a world of hope… or despair?


With Madoka using up energy from several timelines to become a powerful magical girl in order to eliminate the witches before they were born, her actions rewrote the law of the universe with Madoka now not existing but a concept.  Yet, Homura is the only one to remember her.

As “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Eternal” left fans wondering what will happen to Madoka after she has changed the world, all answers are revealed in the third film “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion”, which will be released on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

What is “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”?

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

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

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

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

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

The popularity of the series eventually led to a manga series, a Sony PSP video game and three animated films (which combines all 12 episodes into three films). The first two titled as “Beginnings” (Hajimari no Monogatari) and “Eternal” (Eien no Monogatari) with scenes featuring new animation but also voices being redone to compliment a film version. A third film titled “Rebellion” was also shown in Japan.

And all three animated films are available on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leads to major repercussions for everyone in “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Eternal” as the laws of the universe were changed by Madoka’s actions which leads us to the third film “Rebellion”.

The film begins with Madoka and her magical girls friends taking on the nightmares (creatures derived from the negative feelings of humans).  All have no recollection of the past but Homura feels that something is wrong and she conducts her own investigation.

Her investigation leads her to believe that she and the other girls are trapped in an alternate world inside a witch’s barrier.  But why is this happening?

Homura must find out the painful truth of what happened to Madoka and the universe.


VIDEO:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion-” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is presented in 16:9 LB. Like the previous films, Shaft and Aniplex have done a fantastic job in this series. For one, the amount of detail for the art backgrounds is incredible.   And overall, these colors really pop via HD. Reds and pinks, greens…they come are absolutely vibrant.

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

In fact, I have to go far to say that the picture quality of this film and the character designs and overall animation is much better than the previous films because the animators had to create a new world for the characters to interact in.

Featuring newer artistic backgrounds, creative magical worlds, cool character designs… “Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion-” looks fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion-” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby Digital 5.1 and also the original Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is included.

One of the biggest difference from the original Blu-ray release for the TV series and the film is that the action-sequences are giving a jolt of surround sound usage. While dialogue is crisp and clear for both Japanese and English soundtracks, the film series to have a 5.1 soundtrack was a blessing and it was good to hear how the action scenes and the music come alive.

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

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

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion” comes with the following special features:

  • Ougi Oshino Collaboration Manner Video
  • Mayoi Hachikuji Collaboration Manner Video
  • Karen & Tsukihi Araragi Collaboration Manner Video
  • Hitagi Senjyogahara Collaboration Manner Video
  • Trailer 1-4
  • TV CM 1-5 – Featuring the 15 and 30 second versions.
  • Textless Opening and Ending

EXTRAS:

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: -Rebellion” comes with an exclusive original soundtrack CD featuring 43 tracks by Kajiura Yuki, a 24-page deluxe booklet, and a postcard set.

The soundtrack comes with the following tracklistings:

  1. Once We Were 1:10
  2. Nightmare Ballet 1:56
  3. Mada Dameyo (Not Yet) 0:59
  4. Nice To Meet You 1:17
  5. Nothing Special, But So Special 1:10
  6. Nightmare!! 0:32
  7. Holy Quintet 2:52
  8. One For All 1:31
  9. He Is… 1:07
  10. The Battle Is Over 0:55
  11. Doubt 1:40
  12. Something, Everything Is Wrong 2:43
  13. Raise The Curtain 1:14
  14. Never Get There 2:32
  15. I Remember 0:41
  16. Face The Truth 1:37
  17. Doubt #2 2:29
  18. Gonna Fight With Me 1:12
  19. Absolute Configuration 2:47
  20. Her Decision 0:55
  21. Where Is The Truth 1:01
  22. Pulling My Own Weight 1:59
  23. Another Episode 1:29
  24. Wanna Destroy? 1:05
  25. Dream World 1:55
  26. Never Leave You Alone 4:57
  27. This Is The Truth 1:25
  28. Now He Is 0:58
  29. You Are Here 1:51
  30. Noi! 1:01
  31. The Worst Ending 1:36
  32. I Cursed Myself 2:11
  33. This Is My Despair 1:40
  34. Theater Of A Witch 0:48
  35. We’re Here For You 2:26
  36. Take Your Hands 1:48
  37. Wings Of Relief 2:03
  38. I Was Waiting For This Moment 1:50
  39. Her New Wings 2:49
  40. Solve The Riddle 1:40
  41. I Think This World Is Precious 1:54
  42. Happy Ending 0:47
  43. Not Yet 1:08

puella-madoka-reb2

I have gushed and talked about how I love the “Pulla Magi Madoka Magica” animated series and the film series due to its creative handling for its backgrounds and magical worlds, but moreso for its characters.

Magical Girls vs. Witches was always the primary storyline but with what took place with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Eternal”, you had a sense that with Madoka wanting to protect the people she loves and making decisions that would rewrite the law of the universe, things would no longer be the same.

And thus with “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion”, the state of the world is unclear as everyone, even those who were gone, have suddenly reappeared in the world.  Homura starts to realize that something is wrong and that the people that are with her today, were much different than before.  What if they were trapped inside some alternate world?

And thus, the investigation begins as Homura tries to find out what has happened but most of all, wanting to protect Madoka at all costs.

For those who have watched the anime series and the films will find out the truth about the alternate world, what Kyubey (the incubator) was up to and this time, the major decisions that Homura must make.

It’s a vague summary, but “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” is a fitting film for those who have watched and wondered what would happen to Madoka and Homura but also wondering from the movie trailer of how certain people who were gone, have now come back.

While not a complex storyline, it’s a film that focuses on visual beauty but a storyline that tries to answer many questions that were lingering, but also a chance to somewhat conclude the series if need be, but also leaving an opening if they creators want to pursue another storyline.

If anything, everything comes full circle in “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” but I felt the writers gave fans a fitting conclusion or another wonderful film in the “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” series.

As for the film, you can’t help but be in awe of the detail that goes into the art backgrounds, the artistic creativity that goes into the making of the magical world during battles, the character designs and experimental ways of presenting it onscreen and of course, the fantastic music by Yuki Kajiura in combination with a storyline that is not only cute, but also dark and tragic.

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” features wonderful production values and for this third film, the art direction of the film is elevated to a higher level and looks so much more impressive, considering the previous two films looked impressive to begin with.

As for the Blu-ray release, once again, production quality is fantastic, colorful and picture quality is very good for an anime TV series. The lossless soundtrack improves from the TV series in many ways. Crystal clear music and dialogue but a better use of surround sound for both Japanese and English soundtracks. And you do get a few special features including trailers and TV CM collections plus collaboration manner videos.

While you do get an exclusive box plus a 16-page material booklet, two postcards and the original soundtrack for “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” featuring wonderful music by Kajiura Yuki.

Overall, “Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” turned out to be a wonderful film that answers many questions for fans of the series but also takes the series to a new direction if needed, but also fits as a fitting conclusion if this is the end of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”.

Featuring wonderful production values, fantastic music and great voice acting on both Japanese and English soundtracks, with each “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” film, they get better and better.  But for “Rebellion”, this was a film that I found myself watching multiple times and I enjoyed it immensely.

“”Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: -Rebellion” is highly recommended!

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