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Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The exciting, action-packed finale of “Blue Exorcist” is here! Twin brothers, Rin and Yukio must join forces in confronting their demonic father, Satan! “Blue Exorcist” turned out to be an exciting, action-packed series that I highly recommend! And for fans, “Blue Exorcist: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set II” is definitely worth owning!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

Image courtesy of Image courtesy of © 2009 by Kazue Kato/SHUEISHA, Blue Exorcist Committee, MBS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 1

YEAR: 2017

DURATION: (Episodes 1-6) 147 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: 13 and Up

Release Date: November 14, 2017


Based on the manga by Kazue Kato

Directed by Koichi Hatsumi

Series Composition by Toshiya Ono

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano, Kohta Yamamoto

Character Design by Keigo Sasaki

Art Director: Maho Takahashi

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Bryce Papenbrook as Rin Okumura

Jun Fukuyama/Johnny Yong Bosch as Yukio Okumura

Kana Hanazawa/Christine Marie Cabanos as Shiemi Moriyama

Kazuya Nakai/Kyle Hebert as Ryūji Suguro

Ayahi Takagaki/Stephanie Sheh as Kuro

Eri Kitamura/Kira Buckland as Izumo Kamiki

Hiroshi Kamiya/Sam Regal as Mephisto Pheles

Keiji Fujiwara/Kirk Thornton as Shirō Fujimoto

Koji Yusa as Renzō Shima

Rina Satou/Wendee Lee as Shura Kirigakure

Tetsuya Kakihara/Darrel Guilbeau as Amaimon

Yuuki Kaji as Konekomaru Miw


Blue Exorcist, the manga by Kazue Kato which has surpassed 15 million copies in sales. Following a TV anime series and a theatrical film, the long-awaited new series has come back! Set in Kyoto, a new chapter of Blue Exorcist is about to begin…

Born the spawn of Satan, Rin Okumura decides to hide his origins, and become an exorcist. He enrolls at the Exorcism Cram School, a training institute for exorcists located on the True Cross Academy grounds. But, his cover is blown during an attack by Amaimon, the King of Earth, and he is revealed to be the son of Satan. Terrified of Satan’s blue flames, his friends start to distance themselves from Rin…

It is then that someone steals the Left Eye of the Impure King, sealed away in the deepest part of the academy, and Rin and the others find themselves embroiled in an unexpected crisis…


Nearly six years since “Blue Exorcist” first aired on Japanese television, now the 12-episode anime series “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” has aired in Japan and will now be released on Blu-ray in the U.S. courtesy of Aniplex of America, Inc.

In the “Kyoto Saga”, Rin’s secret that he is the son of Satan has been exposed and for some his friends, they realize that Rin is the son of the demon that killed their family and friends.  And because of Rin showed signs of trying to use his power against evil, to be used as a weapon if his father was to reappear, he has been given a second chance.  Mess up and he will be executed.

Meanwhile, the “Left Eye of the Impure King”, a demon relic was stolen from True Cross Academy.  And now someone is trying to steal the right eye…who among the Myoda sect are responsible?

What is the secret to Rin’s sword and how did his father come to acquire it?  And can Rin stay out of trouble to prevent being executed?

Find out in “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” vol. 1!

So, What is “Blue Exorcist”?

“Ao no Exorcist” (Blue Exorcist) is an anime adaptation of a manga series written and illustrated by Kazue Kato, a mangaka who won a Tenkaichi Manga Award back in 1999 at the age of 19 and won a Tezuka Award in 2000 for his manga “The Witch and the Rabbit”. Kato is also known for his 2006 manga series “Robot Usakichi” (Space Traveler Robo & Usakichi).

“Blue Exorcist” was serialized on Jump Square Magazine by Shueisha since April 2009 and is still an ongoing manga series (as of January 2012, there have been a total of 30 chapters released).

With the popularity of the manga series, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures with Hitoshi Okamura as the producer. The series began back in April 2011 and 25-episodes have aired in Japan. And now the second setof “Blue Exorcist” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Aniplex.

The series revolves around a hotheaded teenager named Rin Okumura. Both he and his brother Yukio have been raised by Father Fujimoto at the Cross Academy Town – Southern Cross Boys Monastery. While Yuki shows great intelligence and is attending school at True Cross Academy to become a doctor, Rin is quite the opposite. He tends to get himself in trouble, fights a lot and is continually told by Father Fujimoto to find a job.

Unfortunately for Rin, finding and holding onto a job is difficult. But one day, while working at a supermarket, he sees a monster in a girl’s scarf. He tells Father Fujimoto of what he has seen and Father Fujimoto starts to fear that something is happening. One day, Rin encounters a group of thugs and its leader that he had beaten up earlier and suddenly sees him turn into a demon. The demon tells Rin that satan is waiting for him and immediately, Father Fujimoto is there to save him and exorcise the demon. Fortunately, Father Fujimoto is there to help but it is all revealed to Rin about why he can see monsters.

It’s the fact that he is not truly human. He is the son of a human woman and satan. And the monsters he have seen, it is explained to Rin that in the world, there is Assiah, the realm of humans, and Gehenna, the realm of demons. Both are not supposed to come in contact with each other but they have and as an exorcist, it is his duty to send the demons back to where they belong. And satan wants to reunite with his son.

To protect Rin, Father Fujimoto gives him the Kamkakushi key, so he can hide anything. And he is also given the Koma Sword, a magic sword passed down from generation to generation and a sword where Rin’s powers have been sealed since birth. Rin’s flame resides inside the sword and is sealed by the scabbard. If he draws it, he will assume his demonic nature and will never be able to live as a human again.

One day, he and Father Fujimoto try to prepare for an imminent attack and tells Rin that he must seek shelter where satan can’t get to him but Rin takes it as his father trying to get rid of him forever. In return, Rin said some hurtful things to Father Fujimoto and the pain that Father Fujimoto felt was enough for satan, the demon to possess him.

Satan shows up to claim his son and attacks Father Fujimoto. Satan reveals that he created Rin from a human woman in order to create a container that would be powerful enough to hold him.

But it’s something that Father Fujimoto will not let happen to the boy, he looked at as a son. In order to save Rin, Father Fujimoto risks his own life to keep satan away and is killed in the process.

Now Rin mourns for the one person he knew as his father and when Mephisto Pheles, a friend of Father Fujimoto comes to visit, he tells him that they represent the Knights of the True Cross and they exorcise demons. And Rin has two choices, they will kill him, or he kills the demons. Instead, Rin tells him that he could care less about being human or a demon, he wants to become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto and avenge him and that means defeating his own father.

So, from that point on, Rin must be trained to become an exorcist and will have to follow special rules (which includes not revealing his true nature). But the first thing that he will need to do is enroll at the same school that his brother Yukio attends. When Rin sees his brother, Yukio is in the top of the class and that he is a special leader that people follow at the school and he is no longer the scrawny younger brother he once knew.

As Rin is now a student at the Knights of the True Cross, many of the elders are not too thrilled because Rin is the son of Satan and because Rin tends to be more of a hothead, they are not too sure if he can fit into the Academy.  But Rin is determined to make good on his promise to his deceased father and to protect people, but most of all, to kill satan.

The story continues as Rin continues to study along with his classmates and each are trying to be Esquires, in order to take on various missions.  But others at the Academy and the higher ups want to test Rin and find out if he is a person that can be taught and eventually fight with the other exorcists in defeating demons and satan himself.

While people question a demon being an exorcist, for Rin, he makes a goal that one day, he will become a Paladin (highest level of exorcism) like his adoptive father, Father Shiro and prove that because he is satan’s son, that having a caring father like Shiro can make a big change in the life of a person, even if they are a demon.


“Blue Exorcist” features the following characters:

  • Rin Okamura – The main protagonist.  The son of Satan but born from a human mother.  He and his brother Yukio are twins but he inherited his father’s powers.  Rin’s power was sealed inside a sword by Mephisto Pheles, so he can live a human life.  Rin was raised by the priest Shiro Fujimoto as normal humans with compassion and love.  Despite getting into a lot of trouble and his abilities tend to be more of fighting or cooking, since discovering his power and identity, he vows to use his power to avenge his adoptive father Shiro Fujimoto’s death and defeat Satan.  He vows to attend True Cross Academy and do all it takes to become a Paladin and a “Meister” (Knight).  Rin also has taken in a dog demon (Cat Sith) which he names Kuro.
  • Yukio Okamura – The son of Satan but born from a human mother.  Unlike Rin he did not inherit Satan’s powers.  Known as the intellectual person of the family, unbeknown to Rin was that he has been secretly trained to become an exorcist since the age of seven in order to protect his brother.  So, now he is an instructor at True Cross Academy and responsible for looking after his brother.  But he harbors a secret…dark spots are starting to appear on his body which Yukio has told no one about, despite being tested daily if Satan’s power is in him.
  • Mephisto Pheles – The Chairman of True Cross Academy.  He and Shiro Fujimoto worked together in order to seal Rin’s power and make him human.  Mephisto is a powerful exorcist but because he is a demon, many do not believe him while others believe he has proven he is on the side to fight against Satan.
  • Ryuji Suguro – Also known as “Bon” to his classmates.  He has a high temper and is often fighting and arguing with Rin.  But despite his attitude, he is the best student in the class and dedicated to his studies.  Part of his drive is because Satan destroyed his family temple.
  • Shiemi Moriyama – The daughter of a woman who runs an exorcist-only shop.  She lacks confidence and she is quite sheltered (having lived with her grandmother and her only friends were plants) but when given the chance to meet and make friends at True Cross Academy, being in school gives her a new lease on life.   It appears that both Rin and Yukio may have feelings towards her.  Shiemi is a tamer and can summon a greenman spirit to produce herbs and barriers.
  • Izumo Kamiki – She always has a cold attitude and known for her eyebrows.  The only friend she is close to is her best friend Paku but slowly (very slowly), she is starting to befriend her classmates.  She can summon two Baykko (foxes) to fight.
  • Konkomaru Miwa – Very smart but very shy.  He is the strategist and is loyal to his best friend Ryuji and Renzo, since they grew up at the same temple that was destroyed.  His parents were killed by Satan.
  • Renzo Shima – Carefee, loves to flirt with girls (especially Paku and Izumi) but has a major phobia of insects.  He also grew up with Ryuji and Konekomaru.  Renzo carries a K’rik staff to fight.
  • Shura Kirigakure – The carefree, hardly wears anything, loves alcohol, upper first class exorcist who was asked by priest Shiro Fujimoto to train Rin and help him become a “Meister”.  She can draw a demon sword from her chest and  stomach and is an excellent fighter.
  • Shiro Fujimoto – The priest of Southern Cross Monastery who raised both Yukio and Rin as a loving father.  He is a Paladin in the True Cross Order and was the strongest exorcist.  Was thought to be the only man who could not be possessed by Satan but after an argument with Rin (and Rin saying some hurtful things) which shocked Shiro, it was enough time for Satan to possess Shiro.  In order to protect himself from hurting Rin and Yukio, Shiro sacrificed himself.

VIDEO:

“Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen). The anime production is well-done. The surrounding environments are well-detailed, painted nicely, while the character designs are vibrant, clear and just gorgeous on Blu-ray!

If anything, character designer Keigo Sasaki (“Night Raid 1931″, “Sengoku Basara”) does a great job of bringing the characters from Kazue Kato’s manga series to life, while art director Mahot Takahashi (“Pumpkin Scissors”, “Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee”, “Tokko”) did a wonderful job in bringing the series to life with the scenery and painted backgrounds.

Animation is vibrant, colorful and the series looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Blue Exorcist” is presented in English Linear PCM Stereo and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo with English subtitles. Audio is clear coming from the front channels. Japanese voice acting for the series is excellent! I personally had my receiver set to stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack. But dialogue is understandable and English subtitles are easy to read.

As for the English dub track, the overall acting is good but it’s once again an action series with Johnny Yong Bosch as the lead character. For the most part, the voice acting by the English dub staff is very good.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 1” comes with the Japanese PV’s, trailers and textless opening and closing themes.

EXTRAS:

“Blue Exorcist:Kyoto Saga” comes with a 38-page booklet and comes with three collectable postcards.


I’ve always enjoyed “Blue Exorcist” from the manga and the original series and Rin and his brother Yukio trying to keep a secret that they are the children of Satan.  While Rin is the primary one who has the blue flames and literally needs to control his power or he will become a demon.  While Yukio looks like the level-headed, intelligent brother but in reality, he is trying to hid something dark within him.

As “Kyoto Saga” takes place after Rin’s secret is revealed, his friends are starting to treat him differently.  Primarily because his father is the one who slaughtered their friends or family and for some, having a friend who can turn to evil is not easy for them.

So, for Rin, what matters most is trying to control his power and try not to get in trouble or else face the consequence and that is execution.

For “Kyoto Arc”, there is a new nemesis and one who is trying to revive the Impure King by stealing its left and right eye and to return it back to the demon.  Who is responsible?  And what is the secret of Rin’s sword and how did his father come to acquire it?  All this is revealed in first volume of this saga!

The series has developed quite well in terms of storyline pacing, animation, voice acting and just overall enjoyment and the second season is consistent.  There is a lot of action, humor and drama, especially as Rin is dragged into things and his anger tends to get the best of him.

As for the overall series, the character designs are actually pretty cool, especially the costume designs for the characters. Also, the art backgrounds for this series is nicely detailed and range from pastels to really vibrant colors. Something you typically don’t see in a TV Series.

“Blue Exorcist” has a good balance of humor, action and an interesting concept in balance with awesome animation and beautiful art backgrounds. While the action may be it a bit too visual for younger anime viewers (as this is suggested for 13 and up), for fans of action-based anime or manga series such as “Naruto” and “Bleach” will find “Blue Exorcist” to their liking.

And once again, with the release of “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga I”, Aniplex of America continues to deliver in terms of swag with a special booklet and collectable postcards.

Overall, “Blue Exorcist” turned out to be an exciting, action-packed series that I highly recommend! And for fans who loved the first season, “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga 1” is definitely worth watching!

Purchase this Blu-ray from Rightstuf

Attack on Titan: Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released back in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning! “Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Complete First season

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: January 24, 2017


Originally created by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart


When the man-eating giants called Titans first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother.

He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction. From the director of Death Note and High School of the Dead comes the series Anime News Network calls “an intense, visceral, and graphic thrill ride.” The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe.


Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume.  With several light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and two live-action films, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to its 25-episode anime series which began airing in April 2013.

With the announcement that “Attack on Titan” season two will be created, Funimation has released “Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray.

“Attack on Titan” is set in a world that was besieged by giant humanoid creatures over a hundred years ago.   These humanoid creatures nearly wiped out all humans and want nothing but to devour humans.

Humanity has no answer to defeat the Titans but to protect what is left of humanity, the country of surviving humans now live within three enormous walls which include the outer wall Wall Maria, the middle wall known as Wall Rose and the inner wall known as Wall Sina.

And for 100 years, despite having a team that ventures out to confront the Titans, humanity has had no such luck.

We are introduced to three children which includes the impulsive and hotheaded Eren Yeager, his friend that always protects and cares for him, Mikasa Ackerman and the often scared but very smart Armin Arlert.

One day, while these three children were together in what was supposed to be a peaceful land where Titans are unable to enter, lightning has struck and born was a 200 ft. Titan who is taller than the walls that were constructed.  The titan breaches the outer wall, allowing the smaller Titans to enter the village and devour humans.  While Eren tries to find his mother, he finds her pinned under the house.

While a family friend named Hannes is able to rescue the two kids, Eren’s final memory was seeing his mother devoured by a Titan and from that point, he has dedicated his life to defeat and destroy the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin survives the attack by the Titans and have no choice but to retreat behind Wall Rose.  But he has these nightmares of his father injecting him with something and reminding him about his key and for him to go into the cellar.

As the food shortage hits the country and refugees are forced to work in farms or fight to reclaim Wall Maria, Eren vows to destroy the Titans and to do that, he must join the army in which Mikasa and Armin follow their friend.

Fast forward five years later, Eren, Mikasa and Armin are training in the army and each meets new friends and rivals but just when they thought there was some semblance of peace, the Colossus Titan returns once again.  Mikasa is set to a different squad to backup the front lines, while Eren and Armin must prepare to attack and fight the Titans, learning that the weakness of a Titan is cutting a piece of their flesh from the nape of the Titan’s back neck.

Will the army have what it takes to protect humanity from this new attack from the Titans?


“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for what they have done to his family and people. Often upset that Mikasa is constantly defending him. For some reason, he has nightmares of his father injecting him with something and telling him to bring the key to the cellar.

Mikasa Ackerman – The adoptive child of the Yeager family who was rescued by Eren and her father when she was younger. She is quiet, often wants to protect Eren from trouble and cares deeply for her foster brother.

Armin Arlert – Often bullied by other kids and rescued by Eren and Mikasa, Armin has a sharp mind when it comes to strategy. But he sees himself as a person always in fear and often scared.

Levi Ackerman – A member of the Survey Corps and is seen as humanity’s most powerful soldier. He leads the Special operations Squad.

Annie Leonhart – A former member of the Military Police Brigade. A lone wolf and excels in unarmed combat.

Reiner Braun – A former member of the Survey Corps. A man with a strong sense of duty.

Hange Zoe – A former Squad Leader of the fourth squad. Conducts research on Titans and is obsessed with them.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant. Character designs are well-shaded and I like how the series uses the strong darker lines around the character designs which shows plenty of detail. But I felt the transition of Hajime Isayama’s work from the manga series received a fantastic adaptation and bringing these Titans to life. I personally didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done, as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive. Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE.

One thing I also want to add is that FUNimation made the right decision by bringing Mike McFarland to become the ADR Director for this series. He has done an epic job for “One Piece” and for a series this important with a multitude of characters, he’s the man for the job and the casting for the English dub was well-done. Yes, it is different for those who are familiar with the Japanese vocal talent but I felt that the comparable differences and love the fact that the voice casting was not repetitive of talent used in many other FUNimation series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Trina Nishimura, Josh Grelle and Bryce Papenbrook.
  • Episode 13 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer), Scott Freeman and Clifford Chapin.
  • The Making of Attack on Titan – (52:34) The first  major in-depth FUNimation featurette about how hard they worked in bringing “Attack on Titan” to the United States.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:10) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer
  • Episode 14 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer/voice of Erwin Smith) and Matthew Mercer (voice of Captain Levy).
  • Episode 25 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Lauren Landa (Annie Leonhardt) and Bryce Papenbrook (Eren Yeager).
  • Attack on Titan at Anime Expo – (16:21) “Attack on Titan” group cosplayers from Anime Expo and also featuring interviews with producer Joji Wada.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:15) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Great Escape”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” features the series on Blu-ray and DVD and comes with a slipcover.


Once in awhile, you run across an anime series or film that becomes not just a hit among anime fans but even non-anime fans.

“Attack on Titan” has captivated fans all over the world thanks to its characters, its story of humanity’s survival but also its fight against humanoid behemoths. And along with the series comes a stylish costume design for its army which have driven people all over the world to cosplay as a military member from the anime series.

Yes, “Naruto” and even “Bleach” have captivated many fans throughout the years but any anime series tied to a Shonen Jump has no doubt become bonafide hits in Japan and outside of the country, “Attack on Titan” is rather unique as it has partnered with various companies from having a car commercial, a burger release and also a live action film that people are heavily anticipating.

The fact is “Attack on Titan” is a captivating, violent but entertaining anime series and there is no slowdown in the pacing of the anime series, it’s just one exciting episode after the other and frankly, having watched anime series and having reviewed them for decades, I found myself becoming a “Shingeki no Kyojin” fan.

I love the us vs. them storyline and this time it’s not a zombie infestation, nor is it an attack by alien species.  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the Titans are but they have humanoid features with mouths of monsters wanting to chomp down on any human it comes in contact with.

By the second season of the series becomes very interesting as it was revealed that Eren Yeager has the special ability to transform into a Titan. While he is not sure how to control the power or his rage towards the Titans, despite being thought of as humanity’s threat, because of his determination to stop all Titans, he is also a final resort into protecting of what is left of humanity from the Titans.

As he now becomes part of the team led by Levi Ackerman, one of the best soldiers out there, Eren must learn to keep his temper in check and to become part of a team rather than fight alone.

Meanwhile, a tall female titan has appeared out of nowhere and is causing destruction to those who kill it. But with captive Titans being murdered by an unknown assailant, humanity must push forward into finding how to defeat the Titans but finding a weakness of mobilizing the female titan.

It’s important to note that while the series is popular, by no means should children watch this anime series. It is violent as body part dismemberment are shown, people being eaten or crushed by the Titans are shown and if anything, it’s visual violence adds to the viewer being interested in what happens because simply, you want to see humanity kick some major ass! That is if they can…

As for the Blu-ray, you get great picture quality as colors for the series are vibrant. Black lines are nice and solid and character design is well-done, well-shaded. Backgrounds are nicely painted and for the most part, “Attack on Titan” looks incredible in HD! As for the lossless audio, while I love the Japanese vocal track, the fact is that the Japanese soundtrack is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English dub, which was well-cast, received a much better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Great use of special effects and use of the surround channels and LFE. If anything, I loved the fact that there was amazing focus in bringing this series out to the United States with the quality that fans and anime HD fans have come to expect and fortunately received in “Attack on Titan: Complete Season One”.

And I can’t wait until second season of “Attack on Titan” is released hopefully in the near future.

Also, for special features, FUNimation really went out of their way to give fans several audio commentary, an Anime Expo featurette with Studio I.G. producer Joji Wada to show how much time was put into bringing this series to the United States. You also get a Chibi animated shorts special feature and more!

Overall, “Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and to this day, there is still a lot of anticipation for the series completion.  The first season is full of action, full of drama and overall, a captivation storyline with fascinating characters and overall presentation.

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Blu-ray Box Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

fate-unlimited-2

Much better than the original anime series in terms of story, character development and animation, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” just rocks!  And it’s an anime series that I highly recommend!

Image courtesy of © TYPE-MOON, ufotable, FSNPC All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Blu-ray Box Set 2

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 13-25 + OVA (325 minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: February 16, 2016


Directed by Takahiro Miura

Screenplay by Akira Hiyama, Kazuharu Sato, Tatsuki Ichinose

Music by Hideyuki Fukasawa

Original Concept by Kinoku Nasu

Original Character Design by Takashi Takeuchi

Character Design by Atsushi Ikariya, Hisayuki Tabata, Tomonori Sudou

Art Director: Koji Eto

Anime Production by ufotable


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayako Kawasumi/Kari Wahlgren as Saber

Junichi Suwabe/Kaiji Tang as Archer

Kana Ueda/Mela Lee as Rin Tohsaka

Noriaki Sugiyama/Bryce Papenbrook as Shirō Emiya

Atsuko Tanaka/Megan Hollingshead as Caster

Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley as Shinji Matō

Jouji Nakata/Crispin Freeman as Kirei Kotomine

Mai Kadowaki/Stephanie Sheh as Illyasviel von Einzbern

Masaki Terasoma/Lex Lang as Sōichirō Kuzuki

Miki Itou/Julie Ann Taylor as Taiga Fujimura

Nobutoshi Canna/Tony Oliver as Lancer

Noriko Shitaya/Cristina Vee as Sakura Matō

Rikiya Koyama/Matthew Mercer as Kiritsugu Emiya

Shinichiro Miki/Todd Haberkorn as Assassin

Tomokazu Seki/David Earnest as Gilgamesh

Yuu Asakawa/Melissa Fahn as Rider


Fuyuki City will be changed forever following the events that will come to be known as the Fifth Holy Grail War. With the Masters and Servants slowly revealing themselves and their intentions, the stage is set for the grand finale, and at the center of it all is Shirou Emiya and Rin Tohsaka.

The Holy Grail War continues, with each Master and Servant duo making their move for the omnipotent wish granter. Caster’s plans have been set in motion, beginning with taking Saber captive while Rin and Archer go their separate ways to continue their fights on their own. Without Saber’s aid, Shirou’s principles are put to the ultimate test. With many battles to come with expected and unexpected enemies, Shirou’s resolve begins to take form. Is his desire to protect people and become a hero, genuine? Or are they simply borrowed feelings? And will it be enough to carry him to the end?


When it comes to video games and its characters, I don’t think I’ve seen a title derived from a video game, within the last decade, achieve so much attention than the “Fate” series from TYPE-MOON. This series has captivated people from all over the world, merchandise continues to sell very well (considering its price for importing) and it’s quite impressive to see how the fanbase continues to grow and are dedicated to “Fate”!

My first introduction to the “Fate/stay night” was just hearing about the original anime TV series. But it was the first PSP video game release (“Fate/unlimited codes” on the PlayStation Network that actually got me hyped for this series and made me learn more about the characters.

The more I researched, the more I started to noticed that a lot of people online were excited about this video game and discussing the anime series and while I never really understood the commotion of the series, I figured there were so many fighting games in Japan with characters that people go crazy for.

But then the Sony PSP game came out on the PlayStation Network and the huge number of posts on Danny Choo’s official website in regards to dolls or figures, may they be the release of Nendoroids from Good Smile! or FIGMA figures from Max Factory, suffice to say, I’ve seen the popularity for this “Fate/stay night” achieve critical mass not just in Japan but all over the world.

While “Fate/stay night” and “Fate/zero” were released first and the 2010 film “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works” was released in the U.S. several years ago, in 2014-2015, the action/fantasy anime series, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” aired on Japanese television and is an adaptation of the “Unlimited Blade Works” storyline from the “Fate/stay night” visual novel.

The first half of the anime series was released in the U.S. courtesy of Aniplex in August 2015 and here we are with the second and final half on Blu-ray in February 2016.

It’s important to note, in order to prevent any confusion, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” takes a page out of visual novels in which you choose your adventure, this is the same for this anime series. This is not a sequel, it’s not remake, it’s another route in which the story unfolds.

Where “Fate/stay night” focused on the character of Shiro, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” focuses on the character of Rin.

Before I go on about “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”, let’s first discuss “Fate/stay night”.

What is “Fate/stay night”?

“Fate/stay night” is a Japanese visual novel developed by Type-Moon and was originally an adult game for the PC and then later released for the PlayStation 2. The popularity of the video games led to a manga series which was serialized in Shonen Ace magazine and in 2007, a 24-episode anime series was released and a total of four video games. In April 2012, “Fate/Zero” aired on television. While the previous serious featured anime production by Studio Deen, the 2014 series, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”, features anime production by Ufotable.

While there are some differences between the various “Fate” storylines, the story of the Holy Grail War remains the same.

“Fate/stay night” takes place during a time in which a war is developing between the magi. For two centuries, seven sorcerers have gathered and engaged in a war known as “The Holy Grail War” in which the winner will be able to make their wish come true.

The Holy Grail War has occurred every 60 years and one war happened prematurely a decade ago.

For each of these magis, they will each be given a servant from one of seven classes: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Berserker, Rider, Assassin and Caster. And these servants must abide by their master’s request. And as the magi will be able to make a wish, so will the servant.

“Shiro Emiya, like his father, he wants to be a man of justice. While staying late at school, he witnesses a fight between two servants: Archer vs. Lancer. And because Shiro witnessed it, he is killed by Lancer.

Archer’s master, Rin, comes to the aid of Shiro by bringing him back to life. Shiro has now been made to a magi and has been given the servant named Saber, and with this new power, Shiro vows to end this war for “The Holy Grail”.

But while each of the seven magi are to be enemies, Shiro is not that kind of person. He respects Rin for saving his life and considers her his friend. She tells him that they must be enemies but he refuses.

What is “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” about?

“Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” begins with episode 0 and focuses on the character of Rin Tosaka and wonders why her clocks have been set an hour earlier. While she often has dreams about her final moments with her father Tokiomi, Rin must now prepare for the Holy Grail War.

As she performs a summoning ritual and hoping to summon a Saber class, instead she summons a Servant of the Archer class, which she reacts with displeasure.

But as the two get to know each other, she eventually prepares to go to battle with Archer against other Servants, including an early fight between Archer vs. Lancer, which was viewed by Shiro.

But while each of the seven magi are to be enemies, Shiro is not that kind of person. He respects Rin for helping him and Sabre considers her his friend. She tells him that they must be enemies but he refuses. As Shiro, Saber and Rin are talking, they are attacked by Illyasviel von Einzbern and her giant servant known as Berserker.

While Saber does all she can to fight Berserker and protect her master Shiro, Rin also tries to protect Shiro….but her servant Archer is not thrilled that she has teamed up with Shiro/Saber. Rin tells him that for now, it would be good to work as a team and fight the other magi/servants.

And during the process of fighting against Berserker, Archer aims a devastating arrow towards both Berserker and Saber, hoping to kill both. But Shiro manages to protect Saber and take the brunt of the damage.

The following morning, Shiro has completely healed (thanks to his self-healing magical capabilities) and this leads to Shiro wanting to learn more about Saber, while Rin must make a decision to make Shiro her enemy or trust him and work together with him, despite the fact that the Holy Grail War is supposed to make them enemies.

In this version of the story, both Shiro and Rin are becoming closer, as he has fallen in love with her, while Rin has trouble of communicating her feelings, considering that she is finding herself falling for Shiro.

Also, by the second half, Shiro is no longer the master of Sabre and as for Rin and Archer?  You will need to find out what happens in the second half.

There are a good number of twist and turns in the storyline and the series concludes with literally a major bang.  And to tie things up, an OVA showing what happens several years later with the two main protagonists.

While both “Fate/stay night” and “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” have similar stories, look at both to be different and similar to the visual novel, two different routes. Also, the original Studio Deen series, “Fate/stay night” tends to add their own storyline not featured in the visual novel, handles characters a bit differently but also trying to incorporate other routes in the original anime series. There is also more character development and a noticeable difference in how action is depicted in ufotable’s “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”.


VIDEO:

“Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” is much better than the original 2006 anime series. May it be budget differences, but one thing noticeable in ufotable’s “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” is how much detail there is when it comes to background art, character designs and also action sequences. Ufotable really went all out in creating an anime series in which the action is more developed and looks more effective. Colors are vibrant, CG use is well-done but the detail for background artwork is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” is presented in English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0. In terms of voice acting, both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done. I actually prefer the voice acting in “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” versus the original 2006 series and the acting is much more emotional and captivating considering there is much better character development in this 2014 series. As for the lossless soundtrack, dialogue and music, including sound effects are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Blu-ray Box Set 2″ comes with the trailer, TV spot, CM, PV collections and textless opening and endings.

EXTRAS:

“Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Blu-ray Box Set 2” comes with a slipcase with package illustrated by Takashi Takeuchi, a 24-page booklet featuring an introduction, art production gallery, production notes, conversation between scenario writer/novelist Kinoku Nasu and Takahiro Miura (animator/episode director). Also, an exclusive Weiss Schwarz Collectible PR card.

Also, included is the “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] Original Soundtrack II”. The soundtrack is 1 hr. and 12 minutes long and features 24 tracks (23 tracks by Hideyuki Fukasawa, and “LAST STARDUST” by Aimer).


fate-unlimited-2

Having watched the final second half of “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”, I can honestly say that I loved this storyline and it’s the best “Fate/stay night” storyline thus far!

In this alternate storyline to keep consistent with the virtual novel of choosing your own path, in this storyline, we see Shiro and Rin almost like boyfriend and girlfriend.  He is in love with her, she’s quite tsundere and without spoiling the second half, the antagonist is….  Let’s just say there are a few twist and turns in the series and you’ll be shocked.

But the build-up of the storyline and its unpredictable nature is what I loved about this series.

In previous stories, we saw Shiro and Saber as the two fighting against all odds but this time around, Sabre has been captured by Castor and to say the least, Saber is not featured as much in the second half until the final episodes.

Also, it was interesting to see the twisted nature of some of the servants, I think by the end of the series and also with the included OVA, that fans of the series will be happy with this alternate storyline.

As for the artwork, the character designs are well-drawn, well-shaded, while the art backgrounds are detailed and gorgeous. A lot of work went into this series and there is a noticeable difference between Studio Deen’s 2006 anime series with this 2014 series in terms of artwork, in terms of action sequences.

With the original, while there are many action sequences, the battles were simplistic, while for “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”, the artwork is fantastic as there are many sequences involved in each battle.

But possibly what makes “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” even better is how this latest series handles the characters of Rin and Archer, Shiro and Saber and the amount of character development featured. There is more emotion and a much better Shiro this time around!

And with the better development of animation, action sequences and character development, it makes a huge difference that I don’t even know if I want to recommend anyone to watch the original 2006 “Fate/stay night”. Granted, this series and the original are to be treated as “different routes”, but considering not everyone is going to play the visual novel version, if you had to choose one, I would go for “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”.

I do recommend watching the darker and more violent “Fate/zero”, while I don’t really recommend the film version of “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” because they improved the storyline with the anime series.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned, the animation and character designs look magnificent. I didn’t notice any banding issues or artifacts and for the most part, I’m quite pleased of how this series looks in HD. The lossless soundtrack are English and Japanese Linear PCM Stereo 2.0 and dialogue and musical score are crystal clear.

You get the standard trailer, TV spot, CM, PV Collections and textless opening and endings for special features and as for extras, you do get a slipcase, 24-page booklet, a Weiss Schwarz Collectible PR card and the second original soundtrack for “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]”.

Overall, if you are new to “Fate” or a fan who has watched the previous anime series such as “Fate/stay night” and “Fate/zero” will find “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” to be well-produced, much better in terms of honoring the original visual novel. But also an improvement when it comes to animation, character development and action sequences.

Much better than the original anime series in terms of story, character development and animation, “Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]” just rocks!  And it’s an anime series that I highly recommend!

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!

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

January 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

soa-extra

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

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


TITLE: Sword Art Online: Extra Edition

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 100 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

Release Date: December 23, 2014


Originally Created by Reki Kawahara

Directed by Tomohiki Ito

Screenplay by Reki Kawahara

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Shingo Adachi

Art Director: Takayuki Nagashima, Yusuke Takeda

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Bryce Papenbrook as Kirito

Haruka Tomatsu/Cherami Leigh as Asuna

Kanae Itō as Yui

Kouichi Yamadera as Akihiko Kayaba

Ayahi Takagaki/Sarah Anne Williams as Lisbeth

Ayahi Takagaki as Rika Shinozaki

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee Morris as Leafa

Ayana Taketatsu/Cassandra Lee as Suguha Kirigaya

Hiroaki Hirata/Kirk Thornton as Klein

Hiroki Yasumoto/Patrick Seitz as Agil/Andrew Gilbert Mills

Rina Hidaka as Silica

Saori Hayami/Xanthe Huynh as Sachi

Takehito Koyasu as Nobuyuki Sugō/Oberon

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Seijiro Kikuoka


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

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


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

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

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

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

“What is Sword Art Online”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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

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

soa-extra-b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

attackontitan-2

“Attack on Titan” is one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning! “Attack on Titan” is highly recommended! FIVE STARS!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Attack on Titan: Part Two

DURATION: Episodes 14-25 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: September  23, 2014

Originally created by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart

Eren Jaeger vowed to rid mankind of the bloodthirsty giants who devoured his mother and destroyed his city. Now, after discovering that he has the ability to turn into a Titan, the world Eren promised to protect looks at him like he is the monster.

Narrowly avoiding execution, Eren’s fate is entrusted to the Scout Regiment where he must prove capable of following orders. But on an expedition outside the wall, a unique female Titan appears and cuts through the Scouts, leaving a trail of carnage and splintered bones behind her and making it difficult for Eren to control his rage. As it becomes obvious that a traitor is sabotaging the Regiment from within, Eren must ask himself who humanity’s true enemy really is.

attackontitan-2c

Eren Yeager has dedicated himself to eradicate the Titans after watching his mother and people being slaughtered.  But it was revealed that Eren has a special ability to become a Titan and now, the humans debate on whether they should kill Eren or believe in him that he will use his special abilities to fight against the Titans on the side of humanity.

What is “Attack on Titan”?

Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume. With three light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and a live-action film set for release in theaters in 2015, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to its 25-episode anime series which began airing in April 2013.

And now the first half of the anime series will be released on Blu-ray + DVD in the United States courtesy of FUNimation.

“Attack on Titan” is set in a world that was besieged by giant humanoid creatures over a hundred years ago. These humanoid creatures nearly wiped out all humans and want nothing but to devour humans.

Humanity has no answer to defeat the Titans but to protect what is left of humanity, the country of surviving humans now live within three enormous walls which include the outer wall Wall Maria, the middle wall known as Wall Rose and the inner wall known as Wall Sina.

And for 100 years, despite having a team that ventures out to confront the Titans, humanity has had no such luck.

We are introduced to three children which includes the impulsive and hotheaded Eren Yeager, his friend that always protects and cares for him, Mikasa Ackerman and the often scared but very smart Armin Arlert.

One day, while these three children were together in what was supposed to be a peaceful land where Titans are unable to enter, lightning has struck and born was a 200 ft. Titan who is taller than the walls that were constructed. The titan breaches the outer wall, allowing the smaller Titans to enter the village and devour humans. While Eren tries to find his mother, he finds her pinned under the house.

While a family friend named Hannes is able to rescue the two kids, Eren’s final memory was seeing his mother devoured by a Titan and from that point, he has dedicated his life to defeat and destroy the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin survives the attack by the Titans and have no choice but to retreat behind Wall Rose. But he has these nightmares of his father injecting him with something and reminding him about his key and for him to go into the cellar.

As the food shortage hits the country and refugees are forced to work in farms or fight to reclaim Wall Maria, Eren vows to destroy the Titans and to do that, he must join the army in which Mikasa and Armin follow their friend.

Fast forward five years later, Eren, Mikasa and Armin are training in the army and each meets new friends and rivals but just when they thought there was some semblance of peace, the Colossus Titan returns once again. Mikasa is set to a different squad to backup the front lines, while Eren and Armin must prepare to attack and fight the Titans, learning that the weakness of a Titan is cutting a piece of their flesh from the nape of the Titan’s back neck.

Will the army have what it takes to protect humanity from this new attack from the Titans?

“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for what they have done to his family and people. Often upset that Mikasa is constantly defending him. For some reason, he has nightmares of his father injecting him with something and telling him to bring the key to the cellar.

Mikasa Ackerman – The adoptive child of the Yeager family who was rescued by Eren and her father when she was younger. She is quiet, often wants to protect Eren from trouble and cares deeply for her foster brother.

Armin Arlert – Often bullied by other kids and rescued by Eren and Mikasa, Armin has a sharp mind when it comes to strategy. But he sees himself as a person always in fear and often scared.

Levi Ackerman – A member of the Survey Corps and is seen as humanity’s most powerful soldier.  He leads the Special operations Squad.

Annie Leonhart – A former member of the Military Police Brigade.  A lone wolf and excels in unarmed combat.

Reiner Braun – A former member of the Survey Corps.  A man with a strong sense of duty.

Hange Zoe – A former Squad Leader of the fourth squad.  Conducts research on Titans and is obsessed with them.

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VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant. Character designs are well-shaded and I like how the series uses the strong darker lines around the character designs which shows plenty of detail. But I felt the transition of Hajime Isayama’s work from the manga series received a fantastic adaptation and bringing these Titans to life. I personally didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done, as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive. Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE.

One thing I also want to add is that FUNimation made the right decision by bringing Mike McFarland to become the ADR Director for this series. He has done an epic job for “One Piece” and for a series this important with a multitude of characters, he’s the man for the job and the casting for the English dub was well-done. Yes, it is different for those who are familiar with the Japanese vocal talent but I felt that the comparable differences and love the fact that the voice casting was not repetitive of talent used in many other FUNimation series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 14 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer/voice of Erwin Smith) and Matthew Mercer (voice of Captain Levy).
  • Episode 25 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Lauren Landa (Annie Leonhardt) and Bryce Papenbrook (Eren Yeager).
  • Attack on Titan at Anime Expo – (16:21) “Attack on Titan” group cosplayers from Anime Expo and also featuring interviews with producer Joji Wada.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:15) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Great Escape”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: Part Two” features both the Blu-ray and DVD version.

attackontitan-2d

Once in awhile, you run across an anime series or film that becomes not just a hit among anime fans but even non-anime fans.

“Attack on Titan” has captivated fans all over the world thanks to its characters, its story of humanity’s survival but also its fight against humanoid behemoths. And along with the series comes a stylish costume design for its army which have driven people all over the world to cosplay as a military member from the anime series.

Yes, “Naruto” and even “Bleach” have captivated many fans throughout the years but any anime series tied to a Shonen Jump has no doubt become bonafide hits in Japan and outside of the country, “Attack on Titan” is rather unique as it has partnered with various companies from having a car commercial, a burger release and also a live action film that people are heavily anticipating.

The fact is “Attack on Titan” is a captivating, violent but entertaining anime series and there is no slowdown in the pacing of the anime series, it’s just one exciting episode after the other and frankly, having watched anime series and having reviewed them for decades, I found myself becoming a “Shingeki no Kyojin” fan.

With part two of the series, the series becomes very interesting as it was revealed that Eren Yeager has the special ability to transform into a Titan.  While he is not sure how to control the power or his rage towards the Titans, despite being thought of as humanity’s threat, because of his determination to stop all Titans, he is also a final resort into protecting of what is left of humanity from the Titans.

As he now becomes part of the team led by Levi Ackerman, one of the best soldiers out there, Eren must learn to keep his temper in check and to become part of a team rather than fight alone.

Meanwhile, a tall female titan has appeared out of nowhere and is causing destruction to those who kill it.  But with captive Titans being murdered by an unknown assailant, humanity must push forward into finding how to defeat the Titans but finding a weakness of mobilizing the female titan.

An action-packed second half, I have to say that I love the us vs. them storyline and this time it’s not a zombie infestation, nor is it an attack by alien species. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the Titans are but they have humanoid features with mouths of monsters wanting to chomp down on any human it comes in contact with.

It’s important to note that while the series is popular, by no means should children watch this anime series. It is violent as body part dismemberment are shown, people being eaten or crushed by the Titans are shown and if anything, it’s visual violence adds to the viewer being interested in what happens because simply, you want to see humanity kick some major ass!  That is if they can…

As for the Blu-ray, you get great picture quality as colors for the series are vibrant. Black lines are nice and solid and character design is well-done, well-shaded. Backgrounds are nicely painted and for the most part, “Attack on Titan” looks incredible in HD! As for the lossless audio, while I love the Japanese vocal track, the fact is that the Japanese soundtrack is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English dub, which was well-cast, received a much better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Great use of special effects and use of the surround channels and LFE. If anything, I loved the fact that there was amazing focus in bringing this series out to the United States with the quality that fans and anime HD fans have come to expect and fortunately received in “Attack on Titan: Part Two”.

And I can’t wait until they release the next season of “Attack on Titan” but as the manga is still ongoing in Japan, I’m sure writers for the anime series are trying all their best to space out the storyline, so it doesn’t catch up too quickly with the manga series.

Also, for special features, FUNimation really went out of their way to give fans not just two audio commentary but an Anime Expo featurette with Studio I.G. producer Joji Wada to show how much time was put into bringing this series to the United States. You also get a Chibi animated shorts special feature and more!

Overall, “Attack on Titan” is one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning!

FIVE STARS!

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

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

June 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

attackontitan1-a

“Attack on Titan” is one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning! “Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!  FIVE STARS!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Attack on Titan: Part One

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: June 3, 2014

Originally created by  Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhardt

When the man-eating giants called Titans first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother. He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction. The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe.

attackontitan1-b

Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume.  With three light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and a live-action film set for release in theaters in 2015, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to its 25-episode anime series which began airing in April 2013.

And now the first half of the anime series will be released on Blu-ray + DVD in the United States courtesy of FUNimation.

“Attack on Titan” is set in a world that was besieged by giant humanoid creatures over a hundred years ago.   These humanoid creatures nearly wiped out all humans and want nothing but to devour humans.

Humanity has no answer to defeat the Titans but to protect what is left of humanity, the country of surviving humans now live within three enormous walls which include the outer wall Wall Maria, the middle wall known as Wall Rose and the inner wall known as Wall Sina.

And for 100 years, despite having a team that ventures out to confront the Titans, humanity has had no such luck.

We are introduced to three children which includes the impulsive and hotheaded Eren Yeager, his friend that always protects and cares for him, Mikasa Ackerman and the often scared but very smart Armin Arlert.

One day, while these three children were together in what was supposed to be a peaceful land where Titans are unable to enter, lightning has struck and born was a 200 ft. Titan who is taller than the walls that were constructed.  The titan breaches the outer wall, allowing the smaller Titans to enter the village and devour humans.  While Eren tries to find his mother, he finds her pinned under the house.

While a family friend named Hannes is able to rescue the two kids, Eren’s final memory was seeing his mother devoured by a Titan and from that point, he has dedicated his life to defeat and destroy the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin survives the attack by the Titans and have no choice but to retreat behind Wall Rose.  But he has these nightmares of his father injecting him with something and reminding him about his key and for him to go into the cellar.

As the food shortage hits the country and refugees are forced to work in farms or fight to reclaim Wall Maria, Eren vows to destroy the Titans and to do that, he must join the army in which Mikasa and Armin follow their friend.

Fast forward five years later, Eren, Mikasa and Armin are training in the army and each meets new friends and rivals but just when they thought there was some semblance of peace, the Colossus Titan returns once again.  Mikasa is set to a different squad to backup the front lines, while Eren and Armin must prepare to attack and fight the Titans, learning that the weakness of a Titan is cutting a piece of their flesh from the nape of the Titan’s back neck.

Will the army have what it takes to protect humanity from this new attack from the Titans?

“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for what they have done to his family and people. Often upset that Mikasa is constantly defending him.  For some reason, he has nightmares of his father injecting him with something and telling him to bring the key to the cellar.

Mikasa Ackerman – The adoptive child of the Yeager family who was rescued by Eren and her father when she was younger.  She is quiet, often wants to protect Eren from trouble and cares deeply for her foster brother.

Armin Arlert – Often bullied by other kids and rescued by Eren and Mikasa, Armin has a sharp mind when it comes to strategy.  But he sees himself as a person always in fear and often scared.

 attackontitan1-c

VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  The anime series is absolutely vibrant.  Character designs are well-shaded and I like how the series uses the strong darker lines around the character designs which shows plenty of detail.  But I felt the transition of Hajime Isayama’s work from the manga series received a fantastic adaptation and bringing these Titans to life.  I personally didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done, as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive.  Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE.

One thing I also want to add is that FUNimation made the right decision by bringing Mike McFarland to become the ADR Director for this series.  He has done an epic job for “One Piece” and for a series this important with a multitude of characters, he’s the man for the job and the casting for the English dub was well-done.  Yes, it is different for those who are familiar with the Japanese vocal talent but I felt that the comparable differences and love the fact that the voice casting was not repetitive of talent used in many other FUNimation series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Trina Nishimura, Josh Grelle and Bryce Papenbrook.
  • Episode 13 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer), Scott Freeman and Clifford Chapin.
  • The Making of Attack on Titan – (52:34) The first  major in-depth FUNimation featurette about how hard they worked in bringing “Attack on Titan” to the United States.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:10) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: Part One” features both the Blu-ray and DVD version.

attackontitan1-d

Once in awhile, you run across an anime series or film that becomes not just a hit among anime fans but even non-anime fans.

“Attack on Titan” has captivated fans all over the world thanks to its characters, its story of humanity’s survival but also its fight against humanoid behemoths.  And along with the series comes a stylish costume design for its army which have driven people all over the world to cosplay as a military member from the anime series.

Yes, “Naruto” and even “Bleach” have captivated many fans throughout the years but any anime series tied to a Shonen Jump has no doubt become bonafide hits in Japan and outside of the country, “Attack on Titan” is rather unique as it has partnered with various companies from having a car commercial, a burger release and also a live action film that people are heavily anticipating.

The fact is “Attack on Titan” is a captivating, violent but entertaining anime series and there is no slowdown in the pacing of the anime series, it’s just one exciting episode after the other and frankly, having watched anime series and having reviewed them for decades, I found myself becoming a “Shingeki no Kyojin” fan and wanted more after episode 13 ended in this first part of “Attack on Titan” on Blu-ray + DVD.

I love the us vs. them storyline and this time it’s not a zombie infestation, nor is it an attack by alien species.  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the Titans are but they have humanoid features with mouths of monsters wanting to chomp down on any human it comes in contact with.

It’s important to note that while the series is popular, by no means should children watch this anime series.  It is violent as body part dismemberment are shown, people being eaten or crushed by the Titans are shown and if anything, it’s visual violence adds to the viewer being interested in what happens because simply, you want to see humanity kick some major ass! And find ways to combat these Titans and sure enough, we get to see humanity find a new weapon.

So, there is no doubt that this series will continue to get better and better for the second half and I’m looking forward to it!

As for the Blu-ray, you get great picture quality as colors for the series are vibrant.  Black lines are nice and solid and character design is well-done, well-shaded.  Backgrounds are nicely painted and for the most part, “Attack on Titan” looks incredible in HD!  As for the lossless audio, while I love the Japanese vocal track, the fact is that the Japanese soundtrack is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English dub, which was well-cast, received a much better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack.   Great use of special effects and use of the surround channels and LFE.  If anything, I loved the fact that there was amazing focus in bringing this series out to the United States with the quality that fans and anime HD fans have come to expect and fortunately received in “Attack on Titan: Part One”.

Also, for special features, FUNimation really went out of their way to give fans not just two audio commentary but a lengthy featurette with FUNimation staff to show how much time was put into bringing this series to the United States.    You also get a Chibi animated shorts special feature and more!

Overall, “Attack on Titan” is one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted.  The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning!  FIVE STARS!

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

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