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One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”! 

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two

DURATION: Episodes 529-540 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 15, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


The rough landing on Fishman Island has scattered the Straw Hats throughout Ryugu Kingdom, but a good deed earns them an invitation to the royal palace. Everything goes swimmingly until a psychic’s prophecy turns the whole island against Luffy and the crew. Backs to the wall, their honorable hosts become their hostages, but the timing couldn’t be worse.


Hordy seeks revenge against Luffy for destroying Arlong’s ambitions and threaten to destroy the Ryugu Palace.  Meanwhile, what happens when the citizens of Fishman Island thinks that Luffy had kidnapped Shirahoshi?

Meanwhile, Zoro vs. Hordy and Luffy vs. Decken.

All this and more in “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”!

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 19th season and a total of 809 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 532 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Doug Jackson (Minister of the Right) and Francis Fuselier (Minister of the Left).
  • EPISODE 534 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Larry Brantley (voice of Hordy) and Jim Foronda (voice of Decken).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Cast Goes to Matsuricon 2016: Q&A Panel – (32:41) The One Piece cast attend Matsuricon in Columbus, Ohio for the Q&A.
  • Textless Opening Song “We Go!”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”, the episodes continue the Fishman Island arc (featuring episodes 529-540). Note: In Japan, this arc of episodes is season 15.

In this latest arc, things go a little troublesome for the Straw Hat Pirates as Sharley has a prediction that the island will be destroyed by Luffy.  And with this prediction, there is a feeling that the Straw Hats must be stopped.  So, the Minister of the Left accuses the Straw Hat Pirates for the conspiracy to destroy the island and to kidnap mermaids.

But from that prediction on, things go crazy as Hordy destroy Gyro’s ship and Hordy is intent in killing Neptune and making the fishman a superior race over humans.

Meanwhile, Vander Decken IX intends to marry the princess and in order to accomplish his plans and wanting Hordy to accomplish his goals, both fishmen form an alliance in order to destroy Fishman Island.

What will happen when Hordy and Decken come across the Straw Hat Pirates?

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and the Q&A at Matsuricon 2016.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”!

One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates reunite two years later and demonstrate their new skills that they have learned.  But what happens when the crew travels to their destination…Fishman Island?  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One

DURATION: Episodes 517-528 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: June 20, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


The human-hating Hordy Jones and his army of 100,000 troops has Fishman Island’s royal family by the gills. Luckily, the Straw Hats make it in time to show off a boatload of powerful new moves! But just when Luffy kicks into gear, an ancient ship nearly twice the size of the island heads straight for Shirahoshi. Only the cowardly mermaid can guide the vessel away before it crushes them all.


It has been two years since Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates has been together and now, the promised day of reuniting has arrived and the group head back to the seas.  But when they find out a group has been impersonating them, the group has chance to show how much they have improved in the past two years.

Also, what happens when the Straw Hat Pirates head to their latest destination….Fishman Island?

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 19th season and a total of 799 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 519 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by ADR Director/Voice Actor Mike McFarland, Christopher Sabat (voice of Zoro), Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper) and Eric Vale (voice of Sanji).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Cast Goes to Matsuricon 2016: Live Dub – (18:59) The One Piece cast attend Matsuricon in Columbus, Ohio as the even is celebratine a pirate theme and the cast take part in a live dub in front of their fans.
  • EPISODE 526 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by ADR Director/Voice Actor Mike McFarland, Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp) and Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook).
  • Textless Opening Song “We Go!” Ver. 1 and 2

With the release of “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One”, the episodes feature the reunion of the Straw Hat Pirates (featuring episodes 517-528). Note: In Japan, this arc of episodes is season 15.

Two years have passed since the War at Marineford and as the Straw Hat Pirates promised, they will reunite after they train for two years.  But the group finds out that someone has been impersonating them.  What happens when the Straw Hat Pirates come across the Fake Straw Hat Pirates?

The next storyline features the group together and go on aboard the Thousand Sunny to their destination, Fishman Island.  But they are being pursued by a pirate named Caribou and his crew.  But waiting for them in the sea is a large Kraken known for crushing ships, but what happens when the Straw Hat Pirates and the Kraken confront each other?

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries but possibly the coolest inclusion is the Matsuricon 2016: Live Dub.  One can hope that Funimation continues this for upcoming releases of “One Piece” or other titles!

Overall, “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage One” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates reunite two years later and demonstrate their new skills that they have learned.  But what happens when the crew travels to their destination…Fishman Island?  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”! Recommended!

Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray. Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two

DURATION: (Episodes 122-144) 575 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: May 23, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


As Goku and Vegeta land blow after blow in their brutal duel, an enormous amount of energy is transferred to Majin Buu. And despite Gohan’s valiant efforts, the monster reaches full power faster than anyone could have predicted. With the ancient evil awakened and free to wreak havoc across the planet, the Z Fighters must give everything they’ve got to put Buu back to bed for good.


The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume eight) as a new major threat has arrived…Majin Buu.

Unbeknownst to the Z-Warriors is that an evil Warlock named Babidi and the evil Demon King Dabura are trying to unseal a monster named Majin Buu. Meanwhile, Kaoishin, the ruler of the Kaios of the Other World and his bodyguard Kibit have come to Earth in order to recruit the Z-Warriors to fight Majin Buu and Babidi.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the previous volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2017 with the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” + the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 167 episodes and with this latest volume, you have episodes 122-144.

The focus for these episodes is the Majin Buu Arc.  The series features:

Goku – Now an adult, married to Chichi and has a son named Gohan. Constantly training in order to become stronger. Still naive and hungry as he was when he was younger. Currently, he is deceased and using his time to train before returning back to the land of the living.

Gohan – Goku’s young son. Goku realizes that Gohan has strong potential but during an unfortunate incident, asks for Piccolo to train his son in fighting to protect people and the planet. Gohan has accompanied Bulma and Kuririn to find the Dragon Balls in the Planet Nemek.

Kuririn – Goku’s childhood friend who accompanies Gohan and Bulma to find the Dragon Balls in the Planet Nemek.

Bulma – A woman still developing products at her father’s company, Capsule Corp. and uses her intelligence to solve the Z Warriors under dire circumstances. With her Dragon Ball scanner, she joins Gohan and Kuririn to find the Dragon Balls in Planet Nemek.

Kaiosama – One of the Kings who trains Goku on how to fight with gravity ten times greater than Earth at Kaio’s world.

Vegeta – The Prince of Saiyan and the most powerful Saiyajin of them all. Comes to Earth in order to destroy it but after being defeated by Goku, rehabilitates himself and now finds himself fighting alongside Gohan and Kuririn.

Trunks – The young son of Bulma and Vegeta who hangs out with Goten

Goten – The second son of Goku and Chichi and hangs out with Trunks.

Kaioshin – The ruler of the Kaios of the Other World, Kaioshin has taken over the position after the previous Kaoshin was killed by the warlock Babidi.  He has come to the Earth realm to recruit the Z-Warriors to fight against Babidi and Majin Buu.

Kibit – The loyal bodyguard of Kaioshin.

The main antagonists are:

Babidi – The evil warlock trying to release the seal and revive Majin Buu that was created by Babidi’s father, Bibidi.

Dabura – The Demon King who is assisting Babidi in trying to unseal Majin Buu.

Majin Buu – Created by Bibidi, Buu was created to destroy worlds and was sealed away by the former Kaoshin, until he was released once again by Babidi.  But is this the same Majin Buu who is known as the destroyer of worlds?


VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is awesome!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 131 Video Commentary – (23:11) ADR writer J. Michael Tatum, Kara Edwards (voice of Goten and Bidel), Rolly Pickens (chief engineer), Kent Williams, Duncan Brannan, Monica Rial (voice of Bulma)
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” Part Two comes with a slipcover case.


Here we are with the next volume of “Dragon Box Z Kai: The Final Chapters” which continues the final chapter of the “Dragon Ball Z” series, which I like to call the “Majin Buu Arc”.

What can I say… if you thought the Frieza and Cell sagas were fantastic villains, the Majin Buu saga and where it will go from here is quite amazing. Personally, having grown up with the series and watching the Buu series when it aired in Japan, I was hooked and it’s so great to watch it again!

No villain in “Dragon Ball Z” has looked as cute and nonthreatening as Majin Buu but yet has managed to slaughter a millions of people and really put the Z-Warriors in a position that they have never been in before.

The high points of this season is the fact that you get a long awaited battle between Goku vs. Vegeta, you get the Super Saiyan level 3 transformation of Goku but then we get to see the fusion technique.

Each episode has a very good storyline that it’s quite easy to watch episode after episode and find yourself watching a marathon of multiple discs because the episodes were quite enjoyable and action-packed. I also, have to say that there are no filler episodes and each episode, you’re going to get hardcore battles and just non-stop action. It’s what you would expect from a series such as “Dragon Ball Z” and nothing less.

Vegeta fans will definitely enjoy his character transformation but most of all his redemption. The first half is very Vegeta intensive and in Japan, many people wanted more of him and they got it. So, to see a powerful Vegeta going against Goku was awesome.

The series manages to weave in every character close to the Z-warriors that we have known from the series in this eighth season, which is very cool. And also, for Hercule/Mr. Satan fans, you will actually get to see him in action as well.

But it’s the instability of Majin Buu’s character which is quite interesting. Because of the way this being is made, unlike Frieza and Cell, the ability to continually regenerate, makes him nearly an unstoppable character. His look and demeanor is nothing like we have seen in the first 200-episodes and to see him kill people for the sake of hunger or for enjoyment to hear things go “boom”, makes Majin Buu an interesting but moreso, a deadlier villain than any villain that has appeared on “Dragon Ball Z” thus far.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” and the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode. Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy these episodes in HD.

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Majin Buu Arc, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray. Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

One Piece Film Gold (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created. If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: One Piece Film Gold

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: 120 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUnimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto

Script by Tsutomu Kuroiwa

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Character Design by Masayuki Sato

Art Director: Kazuo Ogura 

Chief Animation Director: Masayuki Sato

Mechanical Design: Hiori Denforword Akishino 

Art Design by Nobuhito Sue

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard



“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 18th season and a total of over 776 episodes having been aired in Japan.  Several animated films, many video games and for the most part, a very successful anime/manga series worldwide.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

And here we are with the latest film (2016) titled “One Piece Film Gold”, the 13th “One Piece Film” which will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and HD Digital in May 2017.

The film begins with the Straw Hat Pirates arriving at Gran Tesoro, a large entertainment city-ship which is owned and ruled by Gild Tesoro.

When the team arrive to the music of Tesoro and Carina, they are suddenly attacked by enemy pirates.  The group show their battle and might as a team and beat the pirates and are visited by a concierge named Baccarat.  Baccarat offers the Straw Hat Pirates VIP access to Gran Tesoro due to the group’s infamy.

When Gild Tesoro challenges the group to a dice game where they can become millionaires, the hotel will give them $300 million to spend.

When the group takes on the challenge, they start to win. Gran Tesoro offers a deal, if they win a challenge they get 10x of what they have. But when they bet it all on the competition and Gran Tesoro uses her Devil Fruit powers to take away Luffy’s luck and the group loses, Gran Tesoro demands the Straw Hat Pirates to pay for losing the $320 million they lost.  But the group accuses Baccarat of cheating and she admits to them that she used her power to make Luffy unlucky.

The group fights Tesoro and his executives, Baccarat, Tanaka and Dice but the executives outsmart the Straw Hat Pirates and they are beaten.

When Roronoa Zoro goes to attack Tesoro, he shows them his power of manipulating gold and encases Zoro’s legs.  And now, Tesoro gives the Straw Hat Pirates ’till 12:00 the following day to pay their debt.  If they don’t, Zoro will be executed.

Knowing they need money, Nami spots an former friend named Carina from her past.  Carina tells the group that Tesoro posesses 20% of the world’s wealth and keeps his riches in a suite on top of the hotel.  She offers to help the Straw Hat pirates to break into the hotel and steal the money to help repay their debut.

But can the group pull out this major heist?


VIDEO:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant. Colors look fantastic in HD and his is probably the most detailed “One Piece” film that I have seen yet.  Great balance of CG for the detailed backgrounds, animation is well done and for the most part, character designs are great.

Overall, animation production from Toei Animation is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 . Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.  Music plays a big part in this film, as well as action.  So, this is no doubt one of the better lossless soundtracks I have heard in a “One Piece” film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the following special features:

  • Place Your Bets on the Straw Hats – (28:06) A featurette featuring the English dub voice actors: Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy), Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Roronoa Zoro), Eric Vale (voice of Sanji), Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook), Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper), Stephanie Young (voice of Nico Robin), Luci Christian (voice of Nami) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Trailers – Funimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.


“One Piece” meets “Oceans Eleven”.

Where the majority of “One Piece” films tend to have a story about the team finding ways to outsmart their antagonist and saving locals who can’t fight for themselves, “One Piece Film Gold” is consistent with the other films with a powerful antagonist and his group, but this time, what makes the film so different is that the storyline is about outsmarting the other opponent.

Set in a huge ship that functions as a giant casino, the whole area is ruled by Grand Tesoro.  A cruel ruler who uses his Devil Fruit powers of controlling gold and able to control it and manipulate it.  Which makes him dangerous.  To make things worse, he has a group of executives such as Baccarat who makes people lose with her Devil Fruit power to make those unlucky.  And so many people become slaves (including their families and children) to Grand Tesoro to pay off their debt.

And now, Tesoro and his group has created a ruse and used deception to win against the Straw Hat Pirates and now they are in debt.

In this case, the Straw Hat Pirates are in bad situation as Grand Tesoro is threatening to execute Rorona Zoro if the group can’t come up with $320 million to pay off their debt.

The group plans to do the impossible by stealing from Grand Tesoro as his riches are kept in a suite on the top of the hotel.  And they must do it with the help of a thief named Carina that Nami knows from her past.

And just when you think the Straw Hat Pirates have enough with Tesoro and his executive team to fight against, thinks are even more complicated when the Marines arrive.

“One Piece Film Gold” is no doubt the best looking “One Piece” film I have so far.  The amount of detail for the art backgrounds and the characters are wonderfully detailed and shaded.  Toei Animation definitely put a lot of time and effort in the making of this film.

Special features include a half hour featurette with the English dub voice cast.  And you get the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.

Overall, definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade (my favorite is still the eight film “One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta”) and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created.  If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One

DURATION: (Episodes 99-121) 575 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: April 25, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


Seven years have passed since Cell’s defeat, and the Z Fighters have returned to normal life. Goku has continued his training in the Other World, Krillin has gotten married, and Gohan has his hands full attempting to navigate the pitfalls of high school. But with the new World Martial Arts Tournament about to begin, it’s time for Goku and the Z Fighters to reunite and face off against the greatest warriors on Earth!

Meanwhile, the evil wizard Babidi has traveled across the galaxy on a quest for revenge, hoping to fulfill his father’s thwarted dreams of universal domination. The Supreme Kai has come to enlist the aid of the Z Fighters in his effort to prevent Babidi from awakening a monster of unimaginable terror—Majin Buu!


The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume seven) as the safety of the world rests on the shoulders of young Gohan, as he takes on the evil Perfect Cell.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the previous volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has the full series of “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” available on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai”. But watching it completely is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

As mentioned, currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2017 with the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” + the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 167 episodes and with this latest volume, you have episodes 99-121.

The focus for these episodes is the arc known as “World Tournament Saga” and takes place seven years since the battle with Cell.

Gohan is now a teenager and will be attending public high school for the first time.  As expected, with his strict mother Chi Chi, Gohan becomes a straight A student.  But you also learn that he has a seven year old brother named Goten.

As Gohan enters high school in Satan City (named after Mr. Satan because of his lie that he is the one that defeated Cell), he sees that there is trouble in the city with bank robbers and so forth, so with the help of Bulma, creates a costume for him and thus Gohan goes under the secret identity of Great Saiyaman.

In high school, he meets Bedil (Mr. Satan’s daughter) who is a powerful fighter and helps the police force take on the criminals.  Eventually, she catches on to Gohan’s identity and demands Gohan to teach her how to fly or else, she will reveal his secret identity.

I have to admit that when I first watched these episodes (when it was first released in Japan), I absolutely loved the chemistry between Gohan and Bedil.  So, it was great to see how the two fighters get close to each other and it’s almost similar to how Goku and Chi Chi became boyfriend and girlfriend (and eventually husband and wife).

For the third arc, a new World Martial Arts Tournament is happening and the Z-Fighters intend to take part.  Also, Goku has been granted a 24-hour stay in Planet Earth to take part in the tournament.  The first part of this third arc features the junior division in which Son Goten and Trunks enter the tournament.  The second part features the main division which the Z-Fighters (Goku, Vegita, Piccolo, Krillin, No. 18, Gohan, Android 18 and Trunks/Goten in disguise) are taking part in.   But introduces two mysterious characters named Shin and Kibito which somehow scares Piccolo for some unknown reason.

And then there are other fighters who seem to have superhuman power levels and along with the two mysterious characters, the Z-Fighters must find out who they are and what is their scheme.


VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. Obviously, the more noticeable uses of the surround channels are the music and whenever the Z Warriors are in flight. But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is awesome!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 112 Video Commentary – (23:11) ADR writer J. Michael Tatum, Kara Edwards (voice of Goten and Bidel), Andrew T. Chandler (voice of Spopovich), voice of Kyle Ebert (voice of Gohan).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” Part One comes with a slipcover case.


With the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”, I really enjoyed the Great Saiyaman arc.  We watched little Gohan grow up and now he is a teenager and although he doesn’t know it yet, he has met someone he cares about and willing to help her no matter what.  The chemistry between Gohan and Bedil is just awesome and episodes just focusing on these two were just great.

Also, episodes featuring Goten and Trunks and seeing these two go against each other in the Junior Division of the World Tournament was fun to watch.

And of course, to see how everyone has changed.  Especially Krillin who is now married to Android 18 and both have a daughter.  Heck, Krillin now has hair!

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series later episodes finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters ” part one is primarily the tournament battle, this time, the little ones, Goten and Trunks get in the action.  Of course, these episodes are a nice diversion before going full force with the Majin Buu arc that comes afterward.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” replace my feelings towards the original series? Of course not. But I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait weeks as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and each VHS tape in bad quality would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” and the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode. Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy these episodes in HD.

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

February 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 505-516 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


The tragedy at Marineford sends shockwaves around the world, and the Straw Hats struggle desperately to meet again in Luffy’s most heart-wrenching time of grief.

Incapable of protecting his friends, Luffy questions his ability to become the King of the Pirates. His crew members, scattered to the farthest reaches of the globe, are more determined than ever to keep their promise and return to Sabaody Archipelago in three days. But when ”Dark King” Rayleigh offers Luffy a stern suggestion, Luffy must choose between reuniting with his friends or joining Rayleigh in training. Luffy’s decision drives him back to Marineford, where he pays his respects to the fallen and sends a secret message to his friends. The news stirs enemies from all walks of life. Monkey D. Luffy is ringing in the New Age!


As Luffy mourns the death of his brother, the latest episodes featured on “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” features on the aftermath as Luffy wants to train harder for the next two years, so he can protect those he cares about.

As news of Ace’s death starts to reach the Straw Hat Pirates, they also know that with two years left, until they all meet again, they must get stronger and train.

Meanwhile, Luffy’ makes a daring appearance at Marineford to deliver a message throughout the world.

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 18th season and a total of 776 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 506 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper) and Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Zoro).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Outtakes: Part 1 – (10:50) Featuring outtakes with the English dub talent for the Straw Hat Pirates.
  • Episode 515 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five”, the episodes are the final episodes of the Japanese 14th season (featuring episodes 505-516) as this volume features the aftermath of Ace’s death and Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates know they have two years until they reunite, but with the two years, they must do all that’s necessary to become stronger.

As Luffy needs to get a message to the Straw Hat Pirates, he must take a bold trip to Marineford. Meanwhile, Luffy must learn a new skill in order to become a stronger leader and fighter. And Rayleigh, will do whatever is possible to get Luffy ready.

Chopper must train in Birdie Kingdom and learn more medicine, on Weatheria, Nami must learn on how to become a better navigator and learn from the scientists, on Kurakiri Island, Franky must learn new skills from Dr. Vegapunk’s inventions, on Kamabakka Kingdom, Sanji must learn from Ivankov about newkama cooking, in the Tehna Gehna Kingdom, Brook must train himself to reach 40 degrees and in the Bowin Islands, despite gaining a lot of weight, Usopp is trained by Heracules to become stronger. And Robin joins up with the Revolutionaries at East Blue’s large bridge to improve herself before returning to the group.

As this DVD volume prepares viewers for Season 15 (Japan) and fastforwards two years later, the volume focuses on Luffy and the Strawhat Pirates and their commitment to get stronger and train harder for the next two years.

The episodes also bring back footage from the past as they remember why they joined the Straw Hat Pirates and how Luffy was there for them. But also seeing pirates and even admirals who will become significant characters in the series.

For “One Piece” fans, this latest volume finally showcases the Straw Hat Pirates and seeing what they have been up to since each of them went their separate ways and making a vow to reunite a few years years later.

Needless to say, “One Piece” fans will not be disappointed!

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and an outtakes featurette.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

Fairy Tail vol. 22 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 is an action-packed storyline concluding the Tartaros Arc which features several deaths and a lot of destruction. And the Fairy Tail guild will never be the same.  A fantastic conclusion for season seven!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fairy Tail Vol. 21

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 253-265) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: December 6, 2016


Originally created by Hiro Mashima

Directed by Shinji Ishihara

Script by Atsuhiro Tomikoa, Fumihiko Shimo, Masashi Sogo, Shoji Yonemura

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Character Design by Aoi Yamamoto

Art Director: Junko Shimizu

Chief Animation Director: Takao Sano

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures, Satelight


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hirano/Cherami Leigh as Lucy Heartfilia

Tetsuya Kakihara/Todd Haberkorn as Natsu Dragneel

Rie Kugimiya/Tia Ballard as Happy

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Erza Scarlet

Yūichi Nakamura/Newton Pittman as Gray Fullbuster

Shinichi Kotani/R. Bruce Elliot as Makarov

Akira Ishida as Zeref

Daisuke Kishio/Eric Vale as Loki/Loke

Daisuke Namikawa as Jeral/Mystogan

Eri Kitamura/Jamie Marchi as Kana Alberona

Hiroki Touchi as Pantherlily

Hiroki Yasumoto as Elfman

Kazuhiko Inoue as Gildarts Clive

Mai Nakahara as Juvia Loxar

Mariya Ise as Levi Macgarden

Miyuki Sawashiro/Lydia Mackay as Ultear Milkovich

Ryoko Ono/Monica Rial as Mirajane

Satomi Satou as Wendy

Sayaka Narita as Aries

Wataru Hatano as Gajeel Redfox

Yui Horie as Charle


With the battle of Tartaros still raging on, the wizards of Fairy Tail may have finally met their match. The threat of three thousand Faces hangs over them, and the power of the Demon Gates takes their breath away when they reveal their true Etherious Forms.

Right when things begin to look up, an even bigger threat appears Acnologia! Beaten and exhausted, can the wizards find the strength to take on Tartaros and this monstrous dragon? When the fire inside Natsu erupts, he will have a startling and unexpected reunion. But the time for catching up and seeking answers will have to wait E.N.D. and the ready-to-detonate Faces are moments from destroying the magical world as they know it!

The final battle for the magical world happens now!


The seventh season of “Fairy Tail” concludes with a devastating finale.

Gray confronts his father Silver, who reveals that he is a corpse that was brought back to life by Keyes’ necromancy curse and he desperately wants his son to kill him, but can Gray do it?

Meanwhile, the search is over for Natsu as his father, the dragon Igneel has returned, as does Mard Geer and Acnologia who intends to wreak destruction on the world.

Erza takes on Kyoka in a battle to the death.

Who will die?  Who will survive?

Find out in the final episodes of the “Tarturos Arc”.  All this and more in vol. 22 of “Fairy Tail” (episodes 253-265) available now on Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from FUNimation.

What is “Fairy Tail”?

For those who are not familiar with “Fairy Tail”, let’s just say that it’s one of the most exciting, long running anime magic/adventure series to be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

In Japan, “Fairy Tail” is a manga series which began in 2006 and was created by mangaka Hiro Mashima (known for his manga series “Rave Master”). Featured in Weekly Shonen Magazine, the manga series is still ongoing, meanwhile an anime adaptation of the manga series was created in 2009 produced by A-Pictures and Satelight. And similar to the manga series, is also ongoing!

With the 22nd Blu-ray release of “Fairy Tail”, this latest volume features episodes 253-265.

The anime series is directed by Shinji Ishihara (“Aoi Kokuhaku”, “Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie”, “Tokyo Majin” and is written by Masashi Sogo (“Bleach”, “Yukikaze”, “Hunter x Hunter”). The anime series features character design by Aoi Yamamoto, art direction by Junko Shimizu (“Midori Days, “Blue Dragon”, “Trinity Blood”) and music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Naruto Shippuden”, “Hell Girl”, “Gantz”, Ikki Tosen”).

A Quick Summary of what “Fairy Tail” is about?:

“Fairy Tail” revolves around a 17-year-old celestial wizard named Lucy Heartfilia who dreams of joining a sorcerer guild known as Fairy Tail, a group known and feared for the destruction they cause. One day, she runs into Natsu Dragneel, a guy who is traveling to the land of Fiore along with his partner Happy (a talking blue cat with wings) who is searching for his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who has disappeared.

While traveling to Fiore, both Lucy and Natsu encounter a sorcerer claiming to be the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail. Natsu is the first to object that the man is a phony but the fans of Salamander are dismayed by Natsu’s comments and beat him up, meanwhile Lucy finds out that this fake Salamander is using his sorcerer abilities to make young women fall for him.

As Lucy tries to show her gratitude to Natsu for breaking the spell that would have otherwise have hypnotized Lucy, the two become friends.

But when the fake Salamander tells Lucy that he would get her into Fairy Tail, she knows he is a fake but any chance of getting to join the guild would make her dream come true, so she decides to visit him.

But it’s all a ruse and the fake Salamander is just trying to find female slaves and because he is so powerful, Lucy does not have the magic necessary to beat him. But coming to Lucy’s rescue is Natsu, who is revealed to be a true member of Fairy Tail and also revealed to be the true “Salamander”. And he easily beats the fake Salamander up.

When Natsu discovers that Lucy’s dream is to become a Fairy Tail member, he asks her to join him and he can help her get into the guild and from that moment on, Lucy becomes Natsu’s partner in various Fairy Tail guild missions and for each mission they beat, the more income they make.

And more money means more keys to gain more powers, which would help Lucy become a powerful celestial wizard!

And together, Natsu and Lucy develop a wonderful friendship as they grow as partners but also a guild members with their other teammates.


“Fairy Tail” Vol. 22 features the following characters:

  • Natsu Dragneel – Also known as “Salamander”, Natsu is a kindhearted, always hungry wizard who travels with his partner Happy in search of Igneel, a dragon who raised Natsu but is now missing. Natsu is a dragon slayer and a wizard who can perform “Lost Magic and can have physical properties of a dragon. He specializes in Fire Dragon Slayer Magic which allows him to breath fire and ingest fire as a form of nourishment.
  • Lucy Heartfilia – A celestial wizard who can summon contracted spirits (with special abilities) through a set of keys known as Gatekeys. She treats these spirits as friends. Her dream is to join Fairy Tail and through meeting Natsu, now her dream can come true.
  • Happy – A blue cat with wings and a best friend to Natsu. He can fly and can carry a person while flying. He is also known to irritate Lucy.
  • Gray Fullbuster – A powerful wizard of Fairy Tail and the opposite of Natsu, in that he has control of ice. Gray has the power of Ice Make which can make him create weapons or anything out of ice. He was raised by the wizard Ur. He also has a bad habit of taking of all his clothes without realizing it.
  • Erza Scarlet – An S-Class wizard (high-ranked) and is the most powerful member of the Fairy Tail guild. She has magic known as “The Knight” which allows her to summon and equip weapons and armor and also has the ability to resist magic attacks. She is feared by others because of her lack of compassion.
  • Mirajane – A 19-year-old S-Class wizard who is the cover girl of Sorcerer’s Weekly magazine and helps Lucy understand what is happening with the members of the Fairy Tail guild. She has the ability to change her appearance to something she previously encountered.
  • Cana Alberona – A short-tempered heaving drinking woman. She uses card magic to cast her spells.
  • Elfman – Mirajane’s younger brother who is known for his physical strength. He can absorb the power of any monster he defeats.
  • Loke – A flirtatious wizard who is often seen in the company of many women.
  • Makarov Dreyer – The elder master of Fairy Tail. He is constantly busy because of his guild members becoming too violent.
  • Juvia Lockser – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild and now a member of Fairy Tail and is obsessed with Gray.
  • Gajeel Redfox – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild, Gajeel is similar to Natsu in the fact that he is a Dragon Slayer raised by the dragon Metalicana. He can transform his body into metal weapons.
  • Jellal Fernandes – A former child slave that grew up with Erza Scarlet. Thought to be dead, he is found by Oracion Seis and revived by Wendy Marvell and is being used to find the destructive spell known as Nirvana.
  • Wendy Marvell – A female Dragon Slayer who is accompanied by her Exceed partner Carla. A master of Sky Dragon Slayer magic, she can heal injuries. She becomes an ally of Fairy Tail.

VIDEO:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). It’s important to note that this is a anime TV series, not a film or an OVA and is a weekly anime series. What that means is A-1 Pictures and Satelight, have their hands full, especially if they have other TV series to work on that week. Typically a lot of anime series are quickly done in order to make it by their weekly deadline and sometimes, they are done the day of deadline. So, production values for TV series are typically not that high if they are working on multiple series.

Fortunately A-1 Pictures has become one of the newer studios that have been doing production for quite a number of popular hit series such as “Blue Exorcist” and “Big Windup!” and Satelight does a lot of the in-between animation. So, while they are a smaller, growing company, they are not overburdened as other studios and that means, more time dedicated to the anime series.

“Fairy Tail” features cool production value. A lot of detailed artwork, because of the many adventures, you get so many locations and not the typical regurgitated scenery.

There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant, black levels are deep. I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release. If anything, the Blu-ray really brings out the details and colors of the series and looks fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music is clear through the front channels for the lossless stereo soundtrack but because the English is 5.1, there is better use of the surround channels.

In fact, I found myself listening to the English dub track for “Fairy Tail” much more than the Japanese soundtrack because of the 5.1 but also, FUNimation did a magnificent job with the casting of this series. I was very pleased especially with the casting of Lucy, Natsu, Happy, Grey and Erza and for the most part, I think whichever you prefer, you will be pleased with Japanese and English audio tracks.

But for the most part, for a TV series, lossless audio is crystal clear and while not the most immersive soundtrack (which I typically don’t expect TV series to boast incredible immersive lossless soundtracks, unlike a film or OVA series), “Fairy Tail” does sound very good on Blu-ray!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 features the following special features:

  • Episode 253 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with voice actor Newton Pittman (voice of Gray).
  • Episode 258 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Vic Mignogna (voice of Mard Geer) and Janelle Lutz (voice of Kyoka).
  • Fairy Tail in the Booth: Sting, Rogue and Mard Geer – (3:05) Featuring the behind-the-scenes in the studio showcasing the voice actors for Sting, Rogue and Mard Geer.
  • Textless Opening Song: “Believe in Myself”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Azayakana Tabiji”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Fairy Tail”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 Blu-ray also comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version.


With the seventh season “Fairy Tail” and the final “Tartaros” arc coming to a close, we have watched as the dark guild of Zeref’s demons are trying to resurrect their master and Zeref’s ultimate creation, E.N.D.!

In the early part of the “Tartaros Arc”, as the Magic Council discusses Tartaros recent activity and the decrease in dark guilds, Jackal of the Nine Demon Gates infiltrates the meeting and destroys the building the council are meeting at and everyone is killed including Lahar.

News of the Magic Council’s assassination spreads throughout the villages and Doranbolt, who is one of the few survivors from the attack, goes to the dungeon to extract information on Tartaros. And more members of the Nine Demon Gates continue their attacks leading to more deaths.

While this latest volume is probably one of the darkest story plots of “Fairy Tail” prior to the “Tartaros Arc” is a storyline that features the demons of Tartaros planning to destroy Fairy Tail. And with a few of the primary characters escaping, it places each character in danger and fighting their most difficult battle yet.

In this latest 22nd volume, the battles continue as Natsu and Gajeel take on Torafuzar and Tempester, Erza takes on the final Demon Gate Kyoka, but just when all battles reach its peak, Acnolgia shows up out of nowhere and wreaks destruction in the area.

But coming to the defense of the guilds is the one dragon that Natsu has looked for, his fire dragon father Igneel.  And to make things worse, Mard Geer steals the book of the E.N.D.

Needless to say, this is a tragic arc with many deaths and something that will change the course of the Fairy Tail guild.

And what’s shocking is that we have seen the Fairy Tail guild take on powerful foes, nearly lose but are able to overcome their challenges.  But can this latest challenge be too much for them?

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good for a TV series and features a good solid lossless soundtrack. It’s important to emphasize that this is a TV series and not a film or OVA, thus the production quality of animated TV shows tend to be lower (and created in a short time) than a film/OVA, so there is a bit of softness and shadowing and detail are not utilized a lot for this series.

As for special features, you do get the English voice actors providing commentary for two episodes and also get to see a short video clip of a few voice talents recording their scene.

Overall, “Fairy Tail” vol. 22 is an action-packed storyline concluding the Tartaros Arc which features several deaths and a lot of destruction. And the Fairy Tail guild will never be the same.  A fantastic conclusion for season seven!  Recommended!

Fairy Tail vol. 21 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fairy Tail” vol. 21 is an action-packed storyline continuing the battle between Fairy Tail and the demons of Tartaros.  If you have been following the series for this long, you’ll no doubt enjoy the action involving many of the members of the Fairy Tail guild.

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fairy Tail Vol. 21

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 240-252) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: September 6, 2016


Originally created by Hiro Mashima

Directed by Shinji Ishihara

Script by Atsuhiro Tomikoa, Fumihiko Shimo, Masashi Sogo, Shoji Yonemura

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Character Design by Aoi Yamamoto

Art Director: Junko Shimizu

Chief Animation Director: Takao Sano

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures, Satelight


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hirano/Cherami Leigh as Lucy Heartfilia

Tetsuya Kakihara/Todd Haberkorn as Natsu Dragneel

Rie Kugimiya/Tia Ballard as Happy

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Erza Scarlet

Yūichi Nakamura/Newton Pittman as Gray Fullbuster

Shinichi Kotani/R. Bruce Elliot as Makarov

Akira Ishida as Zeref

Daisuke Kishio/Eric Vale as Loki/Loke

Daisuke Namikawa as Jeral/Mystogan

Eri Kitamura/Jamie Marchi as Kana Alberona

Hiroki Touchi as Pantherlily

Hiroki Yasumoto as Elfman

Kazuhiko Inoue as Gildarts Clive

Mai Nakahara as Juvia Loxar

Mariya Ise as Levi Macgarden

Miyuki Sawashiro/Lydia Mackay as Ultear Milkovich

Ryoko Ono/Monica Rial as Mirajane

Satomi Satou as Wendy

Sayaka Narita as Aries

Wataru Hatano as Gajeel Redfox

Yui Horie as Charle


On the demon’s playground, anything can happen. With the devastating Face weapon active, the battle against Tartaros seems desperate. The wizards of Fairy Tail must face down the Nine Demon Gates of Tartaros to stop the mass magic purge, or they will all become powerless. As the clock ticks down, what sacrifices will be made to protect the magic across the land? Will it even be enough? Natsu and his friends will have to use everything they’ve got if they want to prevent E.N.D.’s revival. But when each member is up against a different foe, things aren’t looking good for our heroes. In this battle against demons, anything goes; including their ability to resurrect?! And as if demons weren’t enough, familiar foes join the battle with demonic powers that make them stronger than before. When the battle turns in Tartaros’ favor, can Lucy summon the strength to call on the most powerful celestial spirit the Celestial Spirit King?!


The seventh season of “Fairy Tail” continues!

The demons of Tartaros who think they have destroyed Fairy Tail are now going after Happy, Carla and Lily.

Meanwhile, Natsu and Lisanna have escaped their cell and Erza confronts Kyoka.

Also, Wendy finds a newfound power, while Franmalth plans to absorb Natsu, Lucy and Happy’s souls.

Lucy must also make a tough decision in regards to one of her golden Zodiac keys.  And Gray takes on Silver.

All this and more in vol. 21 of “Fairy Tail” (episodes 240-252) available now on Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from FUNimation.

What is “Fairy Tail”?

For those who are not familiar with “Fairy Tail”, let’s just say that it’s one of the most exciting, long running anime magic/adventure series to be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

In Japan, “Fairy Tail” is a manga series which began in 2006 and was created by mangaka Hiro Mashima (known for his manga series “Rave Master”). Featured in Weekly Shonen Magazine, the manga series is still ongoing, meanwhile an anime adaptation of the manga series was created in 2009 produced by A-Pictures and Satelight. And similar to the manga series, is also ongoing!

With the 21st volume Blu-ray release of “Fairy Tail”, this latest volume features episodes 240-252.

The anime series is directed by Shinji Ishihara (“Aoi Kokuhaku”, “Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie”, “Tokyo Majin” and is written by Masashi Sogo (“Bleach”, “Yukikaze”, “Hunter x Hunter”). The anime series features character design by Aoi Yamamoto, art direction by Junko Shimizu (“Midori Days, “Blue Dragon”, “Trinity Blood”) and music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Naruto Shippuden”, “Hell Girl”, “Gantz”, Ikki Tosen”).

A Quick Summary of what has taken place in “Fairy Tail” thus far:

“Fairy Tail” revolves around a 17-year-old celestial wizard named Lucy Heartfilia who dreams of joining a sorcerer guild known as Fairy Tail, a group known and feared for the destruction they cause. One day, she runs into Natsu Dragneel, a guy who is traveling to the land of Fiore along with his partner Happy (a talking blue cat with wings) who is searching for his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who has disappeared.

While traveling to Fiore, both Lucy and Natsu encounter a sorcerer claiming to be the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail. Natsu is the first to object that the man is a phony but the fans of Salamander are dismayed by Natsu’s comments and beat him up, meanwhile Lucy finds out that this fake Salamander is using his sorcerer abilities to make young women fall for him.

As Lucy tries to show her gratitude to Natsu for breaking the spell that would have otherwise have hypnotized Lucy, the two become friends.

But when the fake Salamander tells Lucy that he would get her into Fairy Tail, she knows he is a fake but any chance of getting to join the guild would make her dream come true, so she decides to visit him.

But it’s all a ruse and the fake Salamander is just trying to find female slaves and because he is so powerful, Lucy does not have the magic necessary to beat him. But coming to Lucy’s rescue is Natsu, who is revealed to be a true member of Fairy Tail and also revealed to be the true “Salamander”. And he easily beats the fake Salamander up.

When Natsu discovers that Lucy’s dream is to become a Fairy Tail member, he asks her to join him and he can help her get into the guild and from that moment on, Lucy becomes Natsu’s partner in various Fairy Tail guild missions and for each mission they beat, the more income they make.

And more money means more keys to gain more powers, which would help Lucy become a powerful celestial wizard!

And together, Natsu and Lucy develop a wonderful friendship as they grow as partners but also a guild members with their other teammates.


“Fairy Tail” Vol. 21 features the following characters:

  • Natsu Dragneel – Also known as “Salamander”, Natsu is a kindhearted, always hungry wizard who travels with his partner Happy in search of Igneel, a dragon who raised Natsu but is now missing. Natsu is a dragon slayer and a wizard who can perform “Lost Magic and can have physical properties of a dragon. He specializes in Fire Dragon Slayer Magic which allows him to breath fire and ingest fire as a form of nourishment.
  • Lucy Heartfilia – A celestial wizard who can summon contracted spirits (with special abilities) through a set of keys known as Gatekeys. She treats these spirits as friends. Her dream is to join Fairy Tail and through meeting Natsu, now her dream can come true.
  • Happy – A blue cat with wings and a best friend to Natsu. He can fly and can carry a person while flying. He is also known to irritate Lucy.
  • Gray Fullbuster – A powerful wizard of Fairy Tail and the opposite of Natsu, in that he has control of ice. Gray has the power of Ice Make which can make him create weapons or anything out of ice. He was raised by the wizard Ur. He also has a bad habit of taking of all his clothes without realizing it.
  • Erza Scarlet – An S-Class wizard (high-ranked) and is the most powerful member of the Fairy Tail guild. She has magic known as “The Knight” which allows her to summon and equip weapons and armor and also has the ability to resist magic attacks. She is feared by others because of her lack of compassion.
  • Mirajane – A 19-year-old S-Class wizard who is the cover girl of Sorcerer’s Weekly magazine and helps Lucy understand what is happening with the members of the Fairy Tail guild. She has the ability to change her appearance to something she previously encountered.
  • Cana Alberona – A short-tempered heaving drinking woman. She uses card magic to cast her spells.
  • Elfman – Mirajane’s younger brother who is known for his physical strength. He can absorb the power of any monster he defeats.
  • Loke – A flirtatious wizard who is often seen in the company of many women.
  • Makarov Dreyer – The elder master of Fairy Tail. He is constantly busy because of his guild members becoming too violent.
  • Juvia Lockser – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild and now a member of Fairy Tail and is obsessed with Gray.
  • Gajeel Redfox – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild, Gajeel is similar to Natsu in the fact that he is a Dragon Slayer raised by the dragon Metalicana. He can transform his body into metal weapons.
  • Jellal Fernandes – A former child slave that grew up with Erza Scarlet. Thought to be dead, he is found by Oracion Seis and revived by Wendy Marvell and is being used to find the destructive spell known as Nirvana.
  • Wendy Marvell – A female Dragon Slayer who is accompanied by her Exceed partner Carla. A master of Sky Dragon Slayer magic, she can heal injuries. She becomes an ally of Fairy Tail.

VIDEO:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). It’s important to note that this is a anime TV series, not a film or an OVA and is a weekly anime series. What that means is A-1 Pictures and Satelight, have their hands full, especially if they have other TV series to work on that week. Typically a lot of anime series are quickly done in order to make it by their weekly deadline and sometimes, they are done the day of deadline. So, production values for TV series are typically not that high if they are working on multiple series.

Fortunately A-1 Pictures has become one of the newer studios that have been doing production for quite a number of popular hit series such as “Blue Exorcist” and “Big Windup!” and Satelight does a lot of the in-between animation. So, while they are a smaller, growing company, they are not overburdened as other studios and that means, more time dedicated to the anime series.

“Fairy Tail” features cool production value. A lot of detailed artwork, because of the many adventures, you get so many locations and not the typical regurgitated scenery.

There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant, black levels are deep. I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release. If anything, the Blu-ray really brings out the details and colors of the series and looks fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music is clear through the front channels for the lossless stereo soundtrack but because the English is 5.1, there is better use of the surround channels.

In fact, I found myself listening to the English dub track for “Fairy Tail” much more than the Japanese soundtrack because of the 5.1 but also, FUNimation did a magnificent job with the casting of this series. I was very pleased especially with the casting of Lucy, Natsu, Happy, Grey and Erza and for the most part, I think whichever you prefer, you will be pleased with Japanese and English audio tracks.

But for the most part, for a TV series, lossless audio is crystal clear and while not the most immersive soundtrack (which I typically don’t expect TV series to boast incredible immersive lossless soundtracks, unlike a film or OVA series), “Fairy Tail” does sound very good on Blu-ray!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 21 features the following special features:

  • Episode 243 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Aaron Dismuke (writer) and Jeremy Schwartz (voice of Franmalth).
  • Episode 248 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Cherami Leigh (voice of Lucy) and Jessica Cavanaugh (voice of Aquarius).
  • Katsucon with Cherami Leigh – (7:38) Cherami Leigh talks to “Fairy Tail” cosplayers at Katsucon.
  • Textless Opening Song: “Never-End Tale”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Forever Here”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Fairy Tail”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 21 Blu-ray also comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version.


With the seventh season “Fairy Tail” and the third arc known as “Tartaros” has begun (based on the 40th – 49th volume storyline) in which the dark guild of Zeref’s demons are trying to resurrect their master and Zeref’s ultimate creation, E.N.D.!

As the Magic Council discusses Tartaros recent activity and the decrease in dark guilds, Jackal of the Nine Demon Gates infiltrates the meeting and destroys the building the council are meeting at and everyone is killed including Lahar.

News of the Magic Council’s assassination spreads throughout the villages and Doranbolt, who is one of the few survivors from the attack, goes to the dungeon to extract information on Tartaros. And more members of the Nine Demon Gates continue their attacks leading to more deaths.

While this latest volume is probably one of the darkest story plots of “Fairy Tail” prior to the “Tartaros Arc” is a storyline that features the demons of Tartaros planning to destroy Fairy Tail.  And with a few of the primary characters escaping, it places each character in danger and fighting their most difficult battle yet.

In fact, major characters are having to make difficult decisions or else face death.  And also trying to prevent the powerful Franmalth from absorbing their souls.

If anything, there are major battles between Fairy Tail and the demons, including resurrected souls.

While this volume is action-packed, the concurrent storyline with “Naruto” and the resurrected souls/reanimated corpses didn’t seem all too original and the fact that there are so many characters involved, it’s another situation similar to “Naruto” that one really needs to watch “Fairy Tail” earlier on to know who the characters are, the bond they have with each other and so forth.  There are too relationships at stake with this season alone that fans of the series will appreciate, but it’s not an arc that will be easy for one to jump in, if they never watched earlier seasons.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good for a TV series and features a good solid lossless soundtrack. It’s important to emphasize that this is a TV series and not a film or OVA, thus the production quality of animated TV shows tend to be lower (and created in a short time) than a film/OVA, so there is a bit of softness and shadowing and detail are not utilized a lot for this series.

As for special features, you do get the English voice actors providing commentary for two episodes, voice actress Cherami Leigh at Katsucon and the opening and ending theme songs.

Overall, “Fairy Tail” vol. 21 is an action-packed storyline continuing the battle between Fairy Tail and the demons of Tartaros.  If you have been following the series for this long, you’ll no doubt enjoy the action involving many of the members of the Fairy Tail guild.

Recommended!

One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

December 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four” is an another fun, action-packed volume as it goes into how Luffy and Ace met and how they would become brothers. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four

DURATION: Episodes 493-504 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: November 8, 2016


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


A glimpse of the past, how Luffy and Ace met!

The battle at Marineford has come to a close, but the story of Luffy and Ace’s past has yet to be told! As a boy of only seven, Luffy is reluctantly taken in by the Dadan family of mountain bandits at his grandfather’s request. After many failed attempts, he finally befriends Dadan’s other charge, the moody and reckless Ace. Together with their friend Sabo, the boys loot the junkyard known as the Gray Terminal and battle mighty beasts of the forest.

 Dreaming of becoming pirates, the three form inseparable bonds of brotherhood. But the impending arrival of a Celestial Dragon throws the kingdom into a frenzy as they try to hide the garbage that has shamed their noble city. Playtime is over when Sabo’s family takes their son away and a sinister plan to destroy the Gray Terminal unfolds.


In the last volume of “One Piece”, we witnessed the tragic death of Ace.  As Luffy mourns the death of his brother, the latest episodes featured on “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four” features on how Luffy and Ace met and how he, Ace and Ace’s friend Sabo would grow up together as children with dreams of becoming pirates.  But how tragedy would eventually lead them to train harder.

As Luffy remembers the past, he knows that he must train harder, become stronger and making a tough decision.

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide.

The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is in its 18th season and a total of 767 episodes have been aired in Japan.

Despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are in 2016, now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four” (Episodes 493-504), available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

NOTE: Episode 492 featuring Luffy teaming up with Toriko is not included for the North American DVD release.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.


The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “One Piece” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 495 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Jessica Cavanagh (voice of Curly Dadan) and Newton Pittman (voice of Magra).

DISC 2:

  • Episode 503 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Chris Burnett and Morgan Garrett.
  • Inside Look: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World – (14:41) Funimation staff discuss Ace’s death and why it was a tragic story that affected viewers worldwide.
  • Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four”, the episodes are from the Japanese 14th season (featuring episodes 493-504) as this volume features another heartbreaking story but one that gives people a breather from the shocking and tragic death of Ace but now going back in the past to show how Luffy and Ace have a special bond, but also how there was another character which Luffy and Ace considered as brothers.

With episodes 493-504, as Luffy mourns the death of Ace, we get to watch flashback episodes when he and Ace were young and how Ace was really bad towards Luffy but eventually they became brothers, along with another person named Sabo.

The three made a decision to become pirates and trained hard to become stronger.  But most importantly, to show how Ace was an important figure in Luffy’s life and how Luffy really had no one but Ace and Sabo.  But the three get in trouble and are captured by the pirate, Bluejam.

While the last DVD volume was truly epic, heartbreaking and no doubt an emotional rollercoaster, we learn that both Ace and Luffy had also faced a major heartbreaking tragedy that would set them on a new path to become stronger and achieve their goals to become pirates.

For “One Piece” fans, this latest volume does showcase Luffy and Ace as children but it’s still action-packed, full of humor but also tragedy, so prepare yourself for another sad tragic demise of a character.

Needless to say, “One Piece” fans will not be disappointed!

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and FUNimation staff discussing the death of a major character.

Unfortunately, episode 492 is not included on this DVD as it’s a collaboration episode between Luffy and Toriko (of the “Toriko” anime series). And possibly due to licensing issues, this episode was not included in this volume.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Four” is an another fun, action-packed volume as it goes into how Luffy and Ace met and how they would become brothers. Recommended!

Maria the Virgin Witch (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is an entertaining anime series that manages to balance action, comedy and drama with efficacy. It’s a short anime series but nevertheless, a damn good one. “Maria the Virgin Witch” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Masayuki Ishikawa – KODANSHA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Maria the Virgin Witch

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese 2.0 and 5.1 TrueHD, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: September 27, 2016


Originally created by Masayuki Ishikawa

Director: Goro Taniguchi

Series Composition by Hideyuki Kurata

Script by Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Masato Koda

Character Design by Yuriko Chiba

Art Director:  Shigemi Ikeda

Anime Production: Production I.G.


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hisako Kanemoto/Alexis Tipton as Maria

Ai Kakuma/Lara Woodhull as Anne

Bin Shimada/Barry Yandell as Guillaume

Kana Hanazawa/Leah Clark as Ezekiel

Kensho Ono/Austin Tindle as Joseph

Kenta Miyake/Jeremy Inman as Yvain

Kikuko Inoue/Caitlin Glass as Michael

Mamiko Noto/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Viv

Mikako Komatsu/Jerry Jewell as Priapos

Miyuki Ichijou/Linda Leonard as Martha

Natsuki Hanae/Joel McDonald as Gilbert

Sachiko Kojima/Alex Moore as Lolotte

Takahiro Sakurai/Sonny Strait as Bernard

Yōko Hikasa/Whitney Rodgers as Artemis


Don’t miss this intriguing tale of magic, war, and sexual politics from Production I.G., the studio that brought you Eden of the East, FLCL, and Ghost in the Shell! In the time of the Hundred Years’ War, a young and powerful witch known as Maria leads a reclusive existence. Shunned by the church – but beloved by a few locals – Maria endeavors to use her magic to bring an end to the warfare she so despises. Using her magical ability, she aids humanity alongside her two familiars: a seductive succubus and an incubus who’s a little incomplete. Though she seeks only peace, the archangel Michael despises the way she uses magic to interfere with human affairs and decrees that should she ever manage to lose her virginity, her powers will vanish! To ensure that Maria no longer mixes magic with warfare, Michael sends the angel Ezekiel to keep a watchful eye on the virgin witch. In theory, his plan is sound. But keeping a fiery young woman bound by the rules of a higher power might prove too daunting even for an ever-vigilant angel.


In 2008, Masayuki Ishikawa (creator of the manga series “Moyashimon”) created the manga series “Junketsu no Maria” (which translates to “Maria the Virgin”).

With three volumes created, an anime adaptation was created by Production I.G. from January through March 2015.

The series is directed by Goro Taniguchi (“Active Raid”, “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “Infinite Ryvius”), screenplay by Hideyuki Kurata (“Android Ana Maico 2010”, “Bamboo Blade”, “Dragon Crisis!”, “Kamichu!”), music by Masato Koda (“Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen”, “Arpeggio of Blue Steel”), character designs by Yuriko Chiba (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “Brave Story”, “Berserk”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Black Cat”, “Basilisk”, “Bastard!!”, “Afro Samurai”).

And now the anime series has been released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The anime series is set in France during the Hundred Years’ War between the House of Plantagenet (rulers of the Kingdom of England) against the House of Valois (rulers of the Kingdom of France).

Tired of the warring nations and deaths, Maria, a virgin witch uses her succubus and incubus familiars to manipulate the opposing factions and using large-scale illusions in order to help the people and maintain peace.

While witches are seen as heretics, because of Maria’s ideal of helping people, she becomes to be appreciated (and depended on) by villagers but the Church brands her as heretic because she denounces God.

While Maria questions when she will lose her virginity, thanks to the people around her that keeps wondering if she will ever lose it, Maria starts to wonder if she will ever lose her virginity.

Meanwhile, the Archangel Michael has heard of what Maria has done and is upset that she interfered with human affairs and makes the declaration that if she loses her virginity, she will lose her magical powers.  He also forbids her from using any magic and sends an angel named Ezekiel to watch over her.

But when more fighting begins to happen again, Maria wants to interfere to stop the fighting.  But will she?  Or will she try to keep to herself?

The main characters of “Maria the Virgin Witch” are”

  • Maria – A very powerful witch who doesn’t like to see people fighting and killing each other.  So, she interferes to the chagrin of the Church and Archangel Michael.
  • Artemis – Maria’s succubus familiar who often teases Maria for her virginity.
  • Priapus – Maria’s incubus familiar who lacks a penis because Maria doesn’t know what it looks like.
  • Ezekiel – An angel sent by Archangel Michael to watch over Maria and that she doesn’t uses her power.  She begins to sympathize with Maria.
  • Joseph – Serves under Guillaume and is in love with Maria.  He is a virgin and is always there for her.
  • Garfa – A mercenary of the French army who is upset with Maria and wants revenge for her interference (and for losing an arm).

VIDEO:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is presented in 1080p High Definition. While I haven’t read the manga to know if the character designs are inspired from the manga, I will say that compared to other Production I.G. series, the character designs are much simpler in terms of line art but the background art is well-detailed.  Colors are vibrant but like most TV series, there is a slight softness.  But for the most part, animation is well-done and Production I.G. did a great job animating this series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is presented in Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels and I heard no distortion while watching this anime series. The voice acting is fantastic for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Of course, with the English 5.1 soundtrack having better use of more audio channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Maria the Virgin” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Audio Commentary featuring director Sonny Strait (voice of Bernard), voice actress Alexis Tipton (voice of Maria) and Austin Tindle (voice of Joseph).
  • Episode 12 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring director Sonny Strait (voice of Bernard), voice actor Chris Rager (voice of Galfa) and Leah Clark (voice of Ezekiel).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • US Trailer
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs for the series.


I have to admit that I was surprised that Masayuki Ishikawa’s “Junketsu no Maria” would receive an anime adaptation, because only three volumes of the manga series have been created.

But considering that popularity of the manga series, the chapters created are enough for a full season and the response for the anime series has been quite positive.

For one, it’s a unique storyline that takes place during the Hundred Years’ War and involves a powerful witch who is good and wants peace, a powerful archangel and the Church and its belief that all witches are heretics and for the most part, how religious beliefs can cause issues between those who support Maria, but at the same time, do not want to risk their status or their family status by supporting a witch.

Throw in other characters and of course, comedy that teases Maria of her virginity and what you get is a action-packed comedy at first, but then the series suddenly becomes more serious and dramatic when Maria loses her powers and the Church captures her and wants to imprison her as a heretic.

For the most part, while I don’t know the differences between the manga and the anime, I will say that “Maria the Virgin Witch” manages to have an ending that is quite fitting.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is colorful and dialogue and music are crystal clear.  Voice acting is magnificent and for special features, you get two audio commentaries, textless opening and endings and trailers.  Just make sure you listen to the first audio commentary because it’s one of the more wilder (and enjoyable) audio commentaries I have heard in my life… poor Alexis Tipton.

Overall, “Maria the Virgin Witch” is an entertaining anime series that manages to balance action, comedy and drama with efficacy.  It’s a short anime series but nevertheless, a damn good one.

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is recommended!

 

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