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Sailor Moon R: The Movie (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

There is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well. If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1993 TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon R: The Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 1993

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara

Screenplay: Sukehiro Tomita

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Music by Akiko Kosaka, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komuro

Art Design by Junichi Taniguchi

Animation Director: Kazuko Tadano

Anime Production: Toei Animation/TV Asahi


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Stephanie Morgenstern as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Kae Araki/Sandy Fox as Chibi Usa

Keiko Han/Jill Frappier as Luna

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Yasuhiro Takato/Ron Rubin as Artemis

Hikaru Midorikawa/Ben Diskin as Fiore

Hiromi Nishikawa as Campanula

Mahito Ohba as Newscaster

Megumi Ogata as Mamoru Chiba (as a child)

Tomoko Maruo as Fiore (as a child)

Wakana Yamazaki as Flower Youma Gurishina

Yumi Touma as Kisenian


Long before Mamoru found his destiny with Usagi, he gave a single rose in thanks to a lonely boy who helped him recover from the crash that claimed his parents. This long-forgotten friend, Fiore, has been searching the galaxy for a flower worthy of that sweet gesture long ago. This Xenian flower is beautiful, but has a dark side- it has the power to take over planets! To make matters worse, the strange plant is tied to an asteroid hurling towards Earth! Faced with an enemy blooming out of control, It’s up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians to band together, stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru!


Back in 1991, mangaka Naoko Takeuchi would create her shojo manga series “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon”.

Serialized in “Nakayoshi” (from 1991-1997) with a total of 18 tankobon (graphic novel) versions published, the series would reach enormous popularity with over 35 million copies sold worldwide and the release of the anime series would further the popularity worldwide with 200 episodes created (1992-1997), three animated films, a live-action TV series, musicals, video games and more.

In 2016, Viz Media showcased “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” at Anime Expo featuring a new English dub, uncut for the first time in American theaters.

The original film was released in theaters back in 1993 and was directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and written by Sukehiro Tomita and takes place after the original “Sailor Moon R” series.

And now, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

The film begins with Usagi, Mamoru, Chiba-Usa and friends taking a trip to the Jindai Botanical Garden.

Meanwhile, we see a flashback of a young Mamoru giving a rose to a mysterious boy and the boy promising to return to bring Mamoru many flowers.

As Mamoru steps outside after the other Sailor Senshi are caught spying on the two as they are about to kiss, the mysterious boy, now a man comes to give Mamoru flowers and holds his hand.

Usagi sees the man’s affections towards Mamoru and Usagi tells him that Mamoru is her boyfriend and the mysterious man knocks her down and vows that no one will prevent him from keeping his promise and he disappears.

As the Sailor Senshi are talking among others, they talk about how Mamoru is not only popular with the women but also probably towards men.  Meanwhile, a ball of light is seen floating and buries itself to the ground and a flower grows.

The following morning, Rei meanwhile senses an evil aura and she and the other Sailor Senshi follow Rei and find many of the local city people all fallen to the ground.  When they go to check on them, the people awaken (like zombies) with plants controlling them and they try to attack them.

They find that the person responsible is a flower monster named Glycina and it drains energy from people. As the Sailor Senshi tries to fight her, Fiore appears and uses a flower called Xenian to hurt them.

As Mamoru shoes up to talk to Fiore and prevent him from fighting the Sailor Senshis, he learns that the Xenian is controlling his mind.  As Fiore tries to attack Usagi, Mamoru saves her just in time but is hurt.  Fiore manages to take the injured Mamoru away from Earth to an asteroid and plans to revive him in a crystal.

What is this connection between Fiore and Mamoru?  And can Usagi and friends save Mamoru and defeat Fiore?  And why is Fiore so angry?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and one must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.

With that being said, this HD version is no doubt the best version I have seen of this film to date.  Having had the original Pioneer DVD, this Blu-ray release from Viz Media is much better in terms of color vibrance and sharpness.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.  It’s important to note that this animated film on Blu-ray features the current cast featured on the Viz Media releases and not the English dub from the 2000 Pioneer DVD release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette – (16:32) A special feature about the Sailor Guardians, a recap that was shown originally before the animated film in Japan in theaters (presented in Japanese and English).
  • Theatrical Intro with English Cast – (10:46) Featuring the English dub voice talent: Stephanie Sheh, Robbie Daymond and Ben Diskin being interviewed about the film.
  • 2017 Los Angeles Premiere – (34:29) Featuring a post-panel with Voice Director – Suzanne Goldish, the English voice talent of “Sailor Moon R” (from the Los Angeles Premiere) and cosplayers.
  • Gallery – “Sailor Moon R” image gallery
  • Trailer – “Sailor Moon R” theatrical trailer

Back in 1993, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was released in Japanese theaters and for many fans of the animated series, this was anticipated holiday movie release during the Christmas time in Japan.

At the time, Toei Animation really did a lot of promotion for the film, going so far to have a special “Sailor Moon and X’mas” event in Ginza limited to several hundred people.

One of the earlier personal anime-driven websites in the early ’90s owned by Hitoshi Doi, said of the movie, “It was a great movie.  Maybe my favorite movie of all time”.

Meanwhile, on anime BBS, there was a lot of discussion about the content and possible homosexual storyline about love between two boys.  A topic that was debated at the time and while not super controversial, it was enough for Pioneer Entertainment to release it in 1999 on VHS edited and in Japanese only with English subtitles.

But for the bilingual DVD release back in 2000, Pioneer Entertainment released it uncut but also an edited version of the VHS dub as it was censored for content.

Needless to say, with the release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie”, the goal was to release this film, with the new English voice cast that have been used for Viz releases.  But most importantly, to feature a storyline that is not censored but to accept what the original Japanese story had been about and not changing the story to reflect that two young male characters that do care about each other.

So, with the changing of the times, we have a new Blu-ray release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” that gets things right by not deviating from the story’s original intention.

I actually wrote back when the original DVD was released, “The movie is actually pretty good.  Touching in some areas and it’ll maybe make you want to cry.  When people buy this, they may think they can just buy this for their kids but if you want to explain to your children about homosexuality references and so forth, then go ahead and buy it.”

Watching this film nearly 25-years later and 17-years after the DVD was released, I look back and see Hitoshi Doi’s 1993 post and in Japan, they don’t make any references about two boys liking each other, in fact, fans loved it because of its dramatic storyline of sacrifice and love.  In addition to the action sequences involved as well.

It’s a shame that back then, companies had to censor the film and it was unfortunate, that I felt the need to warn parents because of the references.  Things have changed so much in terms of what can be accepted in film or pop culture in terms of references to LGBT.  If anything, there is no warning that should be needed.  Children watching this may think friendship, while its the parents who may be doing most of the questioning, hopefully people can watch this film and not make such a big deal of the references made between Mamoru and Fiore.

The story revolves around a young Mamoru and a boy named Fiore.  Mamoru gives Fiore a rose and a young Fiore made a promise to bring a flower back to Mamoru.  So, Fiore made it his life duty to fulfill that promise by searching for a flower across the galaxy just for Mamoru.

And when Fiore comes back as an adult to Mamoru to give him the flower he had found and showing his true affections that he has long had for Mamoru, Usagi tells Fiore that Mamoru is her boyfriend.

Needless to say, that doesn’t suit well for Fiore and to make things worse, since Fiore is possessed by the Xenian flower, he uses the power of the flower-monster Glycina to feed on people’s energy and uses it against Sailor Moon and friends.

But it’s a battle for Mamoru’s affections…who will win?  Usagi or Fiore?

No doubt the ending is quite predictable but the film features a strong dramatic storyline that shows how deep Usagi’s love for Mamoru and her friends.  And how far she will go to sacrifice her life for those who are important to her.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” looks very good in HD.  One must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.  But colors and sharpness are wonderful and this is the best version I have seen of the film to date.

And for lossless audio, we get a lossless audio stereo track that sounds great in HD!

And this release also comes with the original Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette, which was shown prior to the film’s screening in Japan, to get fans and also non-fans up to speed about each character and where the story is heading at that point of time. Plus, you get interviews with the English cast and the post-screeening of the film panel shown at the film premiere in Los Angeles.

Overall, there is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well.  If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing!

Recommended!

Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi / PNP / KODANSHA / TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2

DURATION: Episodes 15-26 (276 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Chiaki Kon

Series Composition: Yuji Kobayashi

Character Design by Akira Takahashi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Art Design by Takashi Kurahashi

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Rina Satou/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Ami Koshimizu/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Hisako Kanemoto/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Shizuka Itou/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Sayaka Ohara/Veronica Taylor as Michiru Kaiō/Sailor Neptune

Kenji Nojima/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Misato Fukuen/Sandy Fox as Chibi-usa/Sailor Chibi Moon

Ryou Hirohashi/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Youhei Oobayashi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis

Shoko Nakagawa/Debi Derryberry as Diana


The next set in the brand new anime series, Sailor Moon Crystal!

Usagi Tsukino is a little clumsy and a crybaby, but she’s also one spirited eighth grader. One day she meets Luna, a black cat with a crescent moon mark on her forehead, and transforms into the pretty guardian of love and justice in a sailor suit, Sailor Moon! As a chosen guardian of justice, Usagi apparently has a mission to protect a princess, and to find her fellow Guardians and the phantom Silver Crystal. Meanwhile, Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom sends her subordinates to the town where Usagi lives. They cause strange events to occur there, all in an effort to acquire the tremendously powerful Silver Crystal… Can Sailor Moon and the other Guardians successfully find the phantom crystal, and protect the princess…!?


Back in 1991, mangaka Naoko Takeuchi would create her shojo manga series “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon”.

Serialized in “Nakayoshi” (from 1991-1997) with a total of 18 tankobon (graphic novel) versions published, the series would reach enormous popularity with over 35 million copies sold worldwide and the release of the anime series would further the popularity worldwide with 200 episodes created (1992-1997), three animated films, a live-action TV series, musicals, video games and more.

In 2014, Toei Animation did a reboot of the anime series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” to celebrate the 20th Anniversary but instead of releasing the anime on television, the series was released online on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

The anime series would feature voice actress Kotono Mitsuichi reprising her role as Sailor Moon in Japan while in America, the series would feature an all new English cast.

There first arc titled “Dark Kingdom” was featured in episodes 1-14, while the second arc “Black Moon” is featured in episodes 15-26.  A third season “Death Busters” aired in Japan on April 2016 and a sequel/fourth season was announced in January 2017.

And now the second arc (“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2”) will be released on Blu-ray/DVD as a normal and a limited edition courtesy of Viz Media.

In the second arc, while Usagi and Mamoru are alone, a pink-haired girl falls from the sky.  She immediately points a gun towards Usagi and demands that Usagi give her the Legendary Silver crystal.

As Mamoru goes to the pink-haired girl, he finds out it is a fake gun and because her name is also Usagi, she is called “Chibi-usa”.  When they take Chibi-usa back to Usagi’s home, she immediately hypnotizes Usagi’s parents and they allow her to stay with them.

As for the others, Rei and Minako are looking into incidents of people being abducted and spontaneously combusting.

Meanwhile, the Black Moon Clan is after the Legendary Silver Crystal and with the Spectre Sisters, Rubeus and Prince Demande after the Crystal, they start to go after each of the Sailor Senshi’s and try to kidnap them in order to lure Sailor Moon.

But who can Usagi and Mamoru turn to for help?  Perhaps King Endymion and Neo Queen Serenity?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Toei Animation is vibrant and colorful.

While the first series of “Sailor Moon Crystal” received a lot of flack with its earlier animation (which had to be redone for the Blu-ray and DVD release), this second series features much better character design and animation, as well as background art.  Better shadowing and for the most part, the series looks much better!

Picture quality is great and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with the band Momoiro Clover Z Part 2 – (9:58) Featuring footage from Momoiro Clover Z’s appearance at Anime Expo and an interview with the group about their feelings of “Sailor Moon Crystal” and the characters.
  • Art Gallery
  • Clean Opening
  • Clean Ending

As a person who watched the anime series as it was airing in Japan and also reviewing it when the DVD’s were first released in the United States, “Sailor Moon Crystal” is no doubt an entertaining, action-packed, dramatic reboot without the filler episodes.

Back in the ’90s and even with today’s popular anime adaptation of successful manga, filler episodes are important to not just to allow for a mangaka to continue their work on a manga series and further the story, so the manga doesn’t catch up too quickly.

The caveat, as some have seen for series such as “Dragon Ball Z”, “Bleach”, “Naruto” and even “One Piece”, filler episodes can drag on for a long time.  But for companies banking on the successful anime to produce merchandise for years, filler episodes have become part of anime culture.

The same was the case with the original “Sailor Moon” series, as much was focused on to give various members their own identity through many character building episodes, establishing friendships, quarrels and such, and adding so many episodes that in the process, not only was there a ton of merchandising but the character was popular enough to get fans or parents to purchase the merchandise for their daughters.

In America, fans were purchasing soundtracks and video games for the 3DO and the original PSX back in the ’90s and every year since Sailor Moon appeared in Japan, conventions have always had someone sporting an outfit from the series.  It was a popular series and eventually, “Sailor Moon” was released in America.  So popular that even American band Barenaked Ladies featured the mention of “Sailor Moon” in their 1998 hit song “One Week”.

So, “Sailor Moon Crystal” as an ONA (Original Net Animation) versus being shown on television would seem like a big surprise but there was no doubt that Toei Animation was already banking on the series popularity that people would turn into the series online and for the most part, their gamble paid off as people were watching, people responded (especially about the animation in the first arc) and while opinion was mixed, “Sailor Moon” merchandise not just for children but also for adults have become popular in Japan.

But with “Sailor Moon Crystal”, no filler, it’s a series straight-up trying to complete various arcs within 12-14 episodes.  No long seasons and as I grow less patient with anime filler episodes, so thrilled that “Sailor Moon Crystal” arcs manages to achieve completion quickly and not test my or others who are low on patience.

And here we are with the “Black Moon Arc”, the second series featuring episodes 15-26.  Now featuring better character designs and animation, the storyline now introduces Chibi-Usa, as well as an appearance of Sailor Pluto.

While there are not too much of an emphasis on the other Sailor Senshi, there are a few episodes where we get to see each character put up a fight against the servants of Black Moon.

This latest arc primarily focuses on Chibi-Usa and the connection she has with Usagi and Mamoru and how she entered the present-time and left the future and what had happen to everyone, but also the origins of the Black Moon.

There is no doubt an emphasis on emotional drama especially between Usagi and Mamoru but also the two and their relationship with Chibi-Usa but this latest features a focus on the emotional ties that bond these three forever.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation is no doubt better with better shading and detail, while colors are vibrant and the series looks great in HD, part of the benefit with watching this series on Blu-ray is to find out how wonderful the acting is for both the Japanese and English dub.

It was awesome to have Kotono Mitsuishi return to voice Usagi/Sailor Moon for the Japanese dialogue and the Japanese voice acting by everyone else is great.  But with the English dub, I just felt that Stephanie Sheh did an amazing job as Usagi.  Both voice actresses were able to nail the emotional scenes with efficacy and also big kudos to Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa.

Also on the Blu-ray release, the included interview with Momoiro Clover Z was also fantastic and it was great to see them discuss Sailor Moon and their opinion of the characters and hearing about their favorite character in the series.

Overall, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” features the entire “Black Moon Arc” and features a great balance of humor, drama and action.  The voice acting in Japanese and the English dub was superb and the animation is much better.

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

 

Hunter x Hunter vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Hunter x Hunter” is an improvement over the first series and is respectful to the original manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi but also features a more action-driven storyline with much more violence.  So, it’s not as child-friendly as the first series from 1999-2001 but this newer “Hunter x Hunter” is a series that I found entertaining and full of action!  Recommended!” a try!

Image courtesy of © POT (Yoshihiro Togashi, 1998-2011). All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Hunter x Hunter vol. 2

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally created by Yoshihiro Togashi

Director: Hiroshi Koujina

Series Composition: Atsushi Maekawa, Tsutomu Kamishiro

Character Design by Takahiro Yoshimatsu

Art Director: Mio Isshiki

Executive Producer: Seiji Okuda

Producer: Akira Shinohara, Manabu Tamura, Naoki Iwasa, Tetsuto Motoyasu, Tomoko Yoshino, Toshio Nakatani

Anime Production: Madhouse


Featuring the following voice talent:

Megumi Han/Erica Mendez as Gon Freecss

Keiji Fujiwara/Matthew Mercer as LeoRio

Kanako Mitsuhashi/Cristina Vee as Killua Zaoldyeck

Miyuki Sawashiro/Erika Harlacher as Kurapica

Akio Ohtsuka/Patrick Seitz as Mizaistom Nana/Uvogin

Aya Endo as Komugi

Ayumi Fujimura as Neferpito

Chisa Yokoyama as Biscuit Krueger

Cho as Bonolenov

Daisuke Kishio/Ray Chase as Hanzo

Daisuke Namikawa/Keith Silverstein as Hisoka


In the Fourth Phase of the Hunter Exam the participants must steal ID badges from each other—and anyone without enough badges at the end of one week fails! It will take trickery, unexpected alliances, and careful negotiations for Gon and his friends to succeed. In the Final Phase, the remaining Hunter candidates are matched up for one-on-one battles—but the only way to win this fight is to lose! After the exam, Gon discovers that Killua has gone back home, so he and his friends head to the Republic of Padokea to find him.


The “Hunter x Hunter” series is one of the most popular and long-running manga series in Japan.  Written and designed by Yoshihiro Togashi (creator of “Yu Yu Hakusho’), the manga series began in 1998 and is still ongoing to this day with 33 volumes published.

As for the animated series, the first series premiered in 1999 through 2001 and lasted 62 episodes.  A 30 OVA episodes then was released from 2002-2004.  And then nearly a decade later, a 148-episode TV series which was shown on NTV which ran from 2011-2014.

And now, the recent “Hunter x Hunter” TV series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Viz Media.

This new series is a reboot of the anime series and is based on Yoshihiro Togashi’s “Hunter x Hunter” manga and this time is produced by Madhouse and is directed by Hiroshi Kojina.  The new series also features an all new voice talent (both for the Japanese and English dub).

The new series revolves around Gon Freecss, who finds out that his father who was thought to be dead, is very much alive.  Having been brought up by his aunt Mito,  Gon finds out that his father is Ging, the legendary “Hunter” and now Gon, wants to follow his father’s footsteps by passing the “Hunter Examination” and one day, to be reunited with his father.

On his path to become a hunter, he meets Kurapika (who wants to become a hunter to hunt down the Phantom Troupe, who massacred his clan) and Leorio (who wants to be a hunter for the money).

In the first volume, the three arrived at Zaban City and take part in the first three phases of the Hunter exam venue.

In the second volume (episodes 14-26), the applicants arrive at Zevil Island for the fourth phase of the exam.  Each person draws a number to find out who their target is and the goal is to steal their opponents ID tag.  Each applicant must collect six points in order to pass the fourth phase.

Gon finds out that his opponent is the murderous Hisoka and thrives on near death experiences.  Leorio finds out his target is Ponzu (who specializes in traps and poison) and Kurapika’s target is Tonpa.

As the two form an alliance, they are now stalked by Hisoka.

The second volume also features the final phase of the Hunter Exam, where winners lose and the losers advance. Will Gon, Kurapika or Leorio pass the Hunter exam?

And also is included are the beginning episodes of the Zoldyck Family Arc (starting with episode 22) and Gon and friends go to Kukuroo Mountain to visit Killua.  Meanwhile, we learn about Killua’s family and childhood.


VIDEO:

“Hunter x Hunter” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Madhouse is no doubt respectful to Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga series.

As expected with a TV series, there is a slight hint of softness but for the most part, colors are vibrant and overall animation and fighting animation is done well.  I didn’t notice any major issues with artifacts or banding.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Hunter x Hunter” is presented in LPCM Japanese and English 2.0.  Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 features the clean opening and ending songs, trailers and ending credits.

EXTRAS:

“Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 comes with three post cards.


“Hunter x Hunter” is an adventure, action-packed anime series that will attract anime fans who are willing to invest their time in another popular anime series that has lasted for over a hundred episodes.

Similar to “Naruto”, “Bleach” and “Dragon Ball Z”, “Hunter x Hunter” has been a popular manga and anime series in Japan and with the original series feeling that it was aiming for a younger demographic, this recent series has a more darker feel as the violence is more evident and people do die.

Having watched the original series, this latest version is quick to bring Gon and his friends to take the Hunter exam, while the original put a lot of character development into Gon and how Gon is different from other hunters since he was raised by a loving relative and lived in a village where there has not been much strife or conflict, so he is a bit naive about the world around him.  In fact, his motivation in becoming a hunter is so opposite of what other hunters are wanting it for.  But Gon’s pure and positive attitude seems to have an effect on the people that he meets.  In some ways, the original series reminded me of the character Naruto in that aspect.

But Gon is still an entertaining character to watch.   Gon has the ability to communicate with animals like his father and carries a fishing pole that acts like a weapon and helps him swing to different areas.  He is also learning more and more about his abilities as he continues on in his hunter training with his friends.

Kurapika is intelligent, a balanced fighter and also is a conjurer and specialist with the ability to materialize objects with his imagination.  He is a character that is on a mission to become a hunter to hunt down the Phantom Troupe, who massacred his clan.

Leorio is a man with a hot temper but has a good heart.  He seems to want to be a hunter because of money and he is a great fighter.

The second volume shows how this friendship grows among the three but also introduces Killua Zoldyck.

But the big focus with this second volume is more focus on Hisoka, the 44th applicant who has a lust for blood and kills his opponents and it led to his failure in last year’s Hunter exam.

As for the anime series, the Blu-ray release features a solid lossless stereo soundtrack and both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-acted.  Animation is also very well-done by Madhouse and while there is a hint of softness, the anime series is quite colorful and looks great in HD.

While special features are the usual clean opening and ending theme, trailers and credits, “Hunter x Hunter” vol. 2 comes with three collectible postcards.

Overall, “Hunter x Hunter” is an improvement over the first series and is respectful to the original manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi but also features a more action-driven storyline with much more violence.  So, it’s not as child-friendly as the first series from 1999-2001 but this newer “Hunter x Hunter” is a series that I found entertaining and full of action!  Recommended!

J!-ENT ANNUAL 2015 is now AVAILABLE (FREE FOR DOWNLOAD)

December 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

j-entannual2015

Our yearly J!-ENT Annual for 2015 is now available for download.

And this time, J!-ENT GOES TO JAPAN!  But also many other awesome events in such as Anime Japan and Tokyo Outdoor Expo.  And in the U.S. like San Diego Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, Anime Expo, J-Pop Summit, Comikaze, ZAPPCON and many more.

Featuring over a thousand pages which includes interviews with Eir Aoi (our second interview), Little Glee Monster, Ken Ishii, GARNiDELiA, FES ☆ TIVE , Gacharic Spin, Jeanist, Amiaya,Kanako Ito, Musubizm, Jaru Jaru, photo gallery featuring Momoiro Clover Z, LinkStar’s, Cheeky Parade, Faint☆Star, Gouhou Shojou Shoukougun, FEMM, Rio Hiiragi, Ayumi Seto, YuRi, Hiko Achiha, RinRin and more!

For this year’s cosplay interviews, we interview Riki “Riddle” Lecotey, Valerie Perez, Giada Robin and Holly Brooke.

For voice talent, we interview legendary voice actress (Ghibli animated films) Sumi Shimamoto, Haruka Terui and English dub voice talents Cristina Vee, Christine Cabanos, Kyle Hebert and Erika Harlacher.

We interview “BlazBlue” creator Toshimichi Mori and voice actresses Kanako Kondo and Kana Ueda.

We also interview artists and animators Hiromi Kato, Osamu Kobayashi and also figma toy founders Max Watanabe and Masaki Apsy.

You can download our J!-ENT 2015 annual here (Note: You will need Adobe Reader to read our Annual):


LOW-RES (Single Page Version)

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View on PDF Archive

PREFERRED TWO-PAGE VIEW VERSION!!! [MUST BE READ via ADOBE READER, NOT WITH A BROWSER]

(For the Two-Page View Version – Please note that in order for us to do this, we had to insert a page right after the cover, so table of contents will be off by one page)

PDF (662 MB) | Download from Google Drive (661MB)

Compressed ZIP Format (647MB) | Download from Google Drive (647MB)


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Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One (A J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

November 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

sailormoon-r

For those who are new to the “Sailor Moon R” animated series and never owned the DVD releases before, then I can easily recommend “Sailor Moon R” (moreso for the Blu-ray version than the DVD release for the better picture and audio quality). A classic anime series that continues the sailor soldiers battle against evil and a new person that comes into Usagi’s life, definitely give “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One” a chance!

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi/PNP, Toei Animation Film. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 1992

DURATION: (Episodes 47-68) 530 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: July 14, 2015


Originally created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Junichi Sato, Kunihiko Ikuhara

Script by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Megumi Sugihara, Shigeru Yanagawa, Sukehiro Tomita

Storyboard by Junichi Sato

Music by Kazuo Satou, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komoro

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Art Director: Junichi Tanijuchi

Art Design by Tadao Kubota, Takamura Mukuo

Produced by Iriya Azuma, Kenji Oota, Munehisa Higuchi


Voiced by:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Princess Serenity/Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Keiko Han/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Mika Doi as Queen Serenity

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen/Prince Endymion

Yasuhiro Takato/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis


After their epic battle, the Sailor Guardians are called back to action when some new and a powerful enemies appear! Ail and An are alien siblings bound to the mysterious energy-devouring Makai Tree. And the Black Moon Clan, led by Prince Demande, has the power to destroy all of future Crystal Tokyo! Things get complicated when a mysterious pink-haired girl falls from the sky, demands the Legendary Silver Crystal, and claims Mamoru for her own! Could there also be a new Sailor Guardian?


The second season of “Sailor Moon” has arrived on Blu-ray (and DVD) and is titled “Sailor Moon R”.

After the battle with the Dark Kingdom, Usagi and the Sailor Soldiers are back to their normal selves with no recollection of each other and memories forgotten.  But when a new evil appears in the form of Ail and Ann, Usagi and her friends must come together once again to face off against the new evil that has come to fight them.

Meanwhile, what happens when Usagi confront the Moonlight Knight?  And also, who is this small girl with bright pink that has fallen from the sky and has moved into the home of Usagi?

Find out in “Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One” now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

What is “Sailor Moon”?

Considered as one of the most successful anime franchise in Japan, “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon” was a manga and anime series that captivated fans worldwide.

Created by mangaka Naoko Takeuchi, the manga was serialized in Nakayoshi from 1991-1997, received 18 tankobon volumes and ran for 200 episodes on TV Asahi from 1992-1997.  Even receiving an English dubbed adaptation during the mid-90s.

The series would spawn three animated films, musicals, video games, toys, clothing and more!  And to this day, the popularity of “Sailor Moon” continues with a new generation of fans.

With a new series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” released in Japan and licensed for streaming in the USA by Viz Media on Hulu and Neon Alley in 2014, to make sure voice acting is consistent in the new series, the original series was redubbed in English by the current cast.

And to help promote the new series, Viz Media has released the original first 23 episodes of season one on Blu-ray!

The series revolves around  a Juban Middle School teenager named Usagi Tsukino.  A girl who is not too smart, often seen crying and loves eating.  One day, she encounters a black cat with a crescent-shaped symbol on its forehead.  Meanwhile, there is talk around town of a masked vigilante named Sailor V stopping criminals and becoming popular thanks to the media exposure.

But one day, as she comes into contact with the black cat, the cat begins to talk and introduce herself as Luna.  Luna gives Usagi a brooch which allows her to transform into Sailor Moon, whenever she is in danger.

And as Usagi starts to meet other Sailor Soldiers such as the studious and intelligent Ami Mizuno (Sailor Mercury), the Shinto priestess Rei Hino (Sailor Mars), the strong and tall Makoto Kino (Sailor Jupiter) and the singer Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) along with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, together they fight any evil that comes their way.

In the second season titled “Sailor Moon R”, a new evil has come to shake things up with the Sailor Soldiers.  Meanwhile, who is the mysterious young girl with pink hair that has fallen from the sky?


The main characters of “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One″ are:

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino – The main protagonist. A teenager attending Juban Middle School who is clumsy, not-too-smart, often crying and often hungry.  But she is a person that has a lot of love, compassion and understanding towards people and animals.  She can transform into Sailor Moon, a soldier of love and justice.
  • Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru Chiba – A student at Usagi’s school, he often teases her and drives her mad.  He is a mysterious persona known as Tuxedo Mask and often aids Sailor Moon and the other Sailor senshi.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami Mizuno –Very intelligent and always studying.  Ami can transform into Sailor Mercury, Soldier of Water and Wisdom.  Appears in episode 8.
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Rei is a miko (shrine maiden) and works as a Shinto priestess.  She has the power of precognition and uses Shinto scrolls to nullify evil.  Sailor Moon is the Soldier of Fire and Passion.  She is often arguing with Usagi.  Appears in episode 10.
  • Sailor Venus/Minako Aino – A Sailor Soldier known as Sailor V.  She dreams of becoming a famous singer and idol.  Similar to Usagi who has Luna, Minako has a white cat named Artemis.
  • Luna – A black cat in Earth form and companion to Usagi. A former advisor and servant to Queen Serenity, she was sent to Earth to look after the Sailor Soldiers.  She is often giving Usagi advice.
  • Artemis – A white cat in Earth form and companion to Minako.  He cares deeply for Luna.
  • Chibiusa – The future daughter of Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion in the 30th century.

 


VIDEO & AUDIO

It’s important to note that if you want better picture quality, you will definitely want to watch this series on Blu-ray for better picture quality.

As for the DVD release, “Sailor Moon” is presented in its original size ratio of 4:3 standard definition.  It’s important to note that “Sailor Moon” did not receive the same expensive remastering and restoration as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”. So, the series does show its age, moreso on DVD.

With that being said, I watched this series when it first came out in Japan and was distributed via Japanese rental video stores via the VHS years and watched the series when it was presented in bad quality video back then and now want to watching the series again, while the series does exhibit its age and wear, it’s probably the best that this series will look.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features that came with “Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One”.

EXTRAS:

“Sailor Moon R: Season 2 – Set One” comes with a slipcover.


During my college years, I was a fan of the “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon” series.  I watched the original series in Japanese at the time and along with “Dragon Ball Z” and “Dragon Ball GT”, it was one of the few anime series I was watching from Japan during a time when Japanese video rental stores were everywhere in California.

Watching these episodes in not the greatest quality, may it be in Japanese or English fan subtitled, it didn’t matter as I was able to watch the popular hit anime series in America (as a release of the series on video seemed as it was never going to happen in the early ’90s).

I purchased the anime soundtrack to “Sailor Moon R” at the time.  Attended the very early anime conventions in America, in which you would see your few Sailor Moon cosplayers during the early ’90s and I can easily remember playing the “Sailor Moon S” fighting game on the 3DO with a few people who have gone on to be big names in the anime industry and then purchasing “Sailor Moon Super S” for nearly a hundred bucks on PlayStation.

And of course, remembering the U.S. English dub release of “Sailor Moon”.  Reading the Sailor Moon manga series from the old Mixx Zine years and purchasing the Japanese soundtracks of “Sailor Moon”.

So, in some ways, I can easily say that watching “Sailor Moon” was part of young life and possibly my first foray into watching an anime series that featured a cast primarily of strong female characters.

While “Sailor Moon S” will always be my favorite series of all “Sailor Moon” series for its more darker tone, I did enjoy the first season for its lighthearted humor and like all character-building seasons and with the release of “Sailor Moon R” from Viz Media on Blu-ray and DVD, I can say that I enjoyed the series primarily as it focuses on the mysterious girl from the future, Chibiusa.

While I don’t want to get too technical with the series until the second set for “Sailor  Moon R” is released, because I don’t wan to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched the series just yet.  But it’s an interesting take on time trial and how Chibiusa handles herself around Usagi and Mamoru.

With that being said, the series retains its consistency with the first season as the Sailor Soldiers take on various forms of evil in each episode.  The humor and style of the series is carried over from the first season, but the series takes an interesting direction as Mamoru now knows who Usagi is and the two become closer, while a small girl from the future definitely changes Usagi’s life for good.

As for the DVD release, as mentioned, if you want the better quality of the series, the Blu-ray release is the way to go.  But as for the DVD, the series looks good on DVD but the age of the series does show.  The series did not receive the same expensive restoration and remastering as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”, so if you owned the older DVD’s, there is no reason to upgrade to this DVD (unless you prefer the newer English voice dub), while I do recommend upgrading to Blu-ray, especially as the Viz Media releases contain more episodes (and are much cheaper than the older DVD releases).

Unfortunately, there are no special features included on this set as well.

Overall, for those who are new to the “Sailor Moon R” animated series and never owned the DVD releases before, then I can easily recommend “Sailor Moon R” (moreso for the Blu-ray version than the DVD release for the better picture and audio quality).  A classic anime series that continues the sailor soldiers battle against evil and a new person that comes into Usagi’s life, definitely give “Sailor Moon R: Season Two – Set One” a chance!

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

July 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

magi-km2a

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed conclusion to the second season and I can’t wait for a third season! Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.


DVD TITLE: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 14-25 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Japanese Stereo and English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2015


Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun


In their second year at the Academy, Aladdin, Titus, and Sphintus are granted Second Class Citizenship in Magnoshutatt and are allowed to venture outside of the campus. There, the group witnesses the harsh realities of racial inequalities and discrimination among the magicians and the humans. Even though Aladdin is shocked to learn the bitter history between the two races that acted as a catalyst for these prejudices, he is unable to agree with the Academy’s Director Mogamett’s vision of building a “country solely for magicians.” Aladdin also concludes that the magicians at Magnoshutatt are somehow connected to Dark Magic after coming into contact with the black rukh in his class. After learning that Titus defected to Magnoshutatt, the Leam Empire finally declares war. With the powerful Fanalis Corp. leading the attack, the Leam military begins its invasion! As Aladdin stands between the two nations to stop them with his powers as a Magi, some familiar faces come to his aid! Now with even the Kou Empire entering the war, countless black rukh cover the skies. The clash of nations may be just the beginning of the end of this world! Contains episodes 14-25 plus a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.


A year has passed and Aladdin continues his training at the Academy with other magicians.

Having made friends with Titus and Sphintus, Aladdin and friends learn that the Academy’s Director Mogamett has a goal to build a country only for magicians, but because Mogamett’s feelings towards non-magicians, the Director may be preparing to start a war.

Can Aladdin protect his friends and the innocent people who are drawn into the war?

Find out in “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2”.

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become 22 volume manga series and also a 22-episode anime series.

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 18 volumes) and a 25-episode anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a 25-episode second season which was completed in Japan.

And now episodes 1-13 of the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States courtesy of Aniplex in March 2015.

In the second season of the series, the story takes place after Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu have defeated the dungeon.

But with Aladdin wanting to leave and go on his own adventure in order to grow stronger and study magic, the others realize they need to get stronger too and each go on their own direction.

For Aladdin, he knows he must learn how to master his magic and find out what kind of magic he can take control of. But needs to learn the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World”. He comes across a mysterious prodigy from Lea named Titus Alexius. But who is this man?

Alibaba must get stronger, so he decides to challenge the gladiators of the coliseum but he learns that he has two magoi in his body that may tear his insides apart.

Meanwhile, Morgiana goes back to her home of Katarg but is told that if she goes to other side of the mountain, she will be unable to come back to the other side.

As Hyakuren goes back to the Kou Empire in hopes that he will be the new leader but someone else has been assigned as leader.

In the second half of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, Aladdin continues his training at the Academy but the Academy’s Director has his own plans of what he is expecting from the magician’s and that is all out war against non-magicians.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0.

While I was hoping for a Blu-ray release of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

Audio on the DVD is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are clear.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with a slipcase, a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.


 

magi-km2b

With the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, we get a whole season dedicated to the training and growth of each of four individuals: Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu for the first half.

But the storyline for the second half focuses on Aladdin and his year-long training at a magician’s academy, growing in power, learning about magic but also preparing for a major war in the Kou Empire as true evil has descended in the land.

As episodes 13-16 focuses on Aladdin’s training, by episode 17, war begins as what begins as a major battle between nations, grows to a major battle against a monster that drains all White Rukh.

But what I enjoyed about this second half of season two is the focus on Aladdin and seeing him grow.  He’s come such a long way since we first saw him and now he’s taller, he’s braver and he’s starting to get a better grasp of what is important to him but also what he wants to fight against.

I know my summary is quite vague but in truth, I really don’t want to spoil or even mentioned in the second half, who appears because the battles are intense and the storyline is quite appealing that it no doubt sets up for even more stories in the future.   Expect to see a few surprises, especially for the viewer who have followed the series for so long.  And especially in the final minutes of episode 5, which I never saw coming!

While I wish “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD still looks very good. And the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done!

The DVD may not have any significant special features but for those who have purchased Aniplex products know by now, the company is known for providing swag. In this case, you get a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.

Overall, “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed conclusion to the second season and I can’t wait for a third season!

Recommended!

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

magi-km1a

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series! For now, it kicks off the solo adventures of Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu but no doubt is building to something even bigger. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.


DVD TITLE: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Japanese Stereo and English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2015


Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures


 Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun


In order to realize their objectives, the adventurers each embark on a new journey. Aladdin sets his sights on the land of Magnoshutatt to study magic while Alibaba travels to the Leam Empire to challenge the gladiators of the coliseum. Morgiana sets sail towards her homeland of Katarg, and Hakuryu returns to the Kou Empire…

Equipped with a charm to mask his powers as a Magi, Aladdin arrives in Magnoshutatt with another goal – to investigate this nation’s relation with the Al-Tharmen – the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World.”

Meanwhile, the royal family of the Kou Empire is in mourning for their Emperor’s passing, and is shocked when the throne is passed on to someone they had not expected. An ominous cloud looms over the Empire as the flames of revenge burned within Hakuryu. The Magi of the Leam Empire, Scheherazade, also senses this threat from across the sea and grows concerned for her people.

Back in Magnoshutatt, Aladdin is hard at training at the academy when he meets Titus Alexius, a prodigy from Leam. But then Aladdin realizes that Titus is also equipped with the same charm that he has! What is Titus’s true identity!?

With the success of conquering a dungeon, Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu Ren know that they must each embark on a new journey alone.

Aladdin must train to become a stronger magi, Alibaba travels to the Leam Empire to challenge the gladiators, Morgiana heads to her homeland of Katarg and Hakuryu makes his return to the Kou Empire as a different man.

Will each of them learning anything from their training?

Find out in “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1”.

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become 22 volume manga series and also a 22-episode anime series.

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 18 volumes) and a 25-episode anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a 25-episode second season which was completed in Japan.

And now episodes 1-13 of the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States courtesy of Aniplex in March 2015.

In the second season of the series, the story takes place after Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu have defeated the dungeon.

But with Aladdin wanting to leave and go on his own adventure in order to grow stronger and study magic, the others realize they need to get stronger too and each go on their own direction.

For Aladdin, he knows he must learn how to master his magic and find out what kind of magic he can take control of. But needs to learn the power behind the “Abnormalities of the World”.  He comes across a mysterious prodigy from Lea named Titus Alexius.  But who is this man?

Alibaba must get stronger, so he decides to challenge the gladiators of the coliseum but he learns that he has two magoi in his body that may tear his insides apart.

Meanwhile, Morgiana goes back to her home of Katarg but is told that if she goes to other side of the mountain, she will be unable to come back to the other side.

As Hyakuren goes back to the Kou Empire in hopes that he will be the new leader but someone else has been assigned as leader.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0.

While I was hoping for a Blu-ray release of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

Audio on the DVD is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are clear.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” comes with no special features.

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” comes with a slipcase, a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.


 

magi-km1b

With the second season of “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic”, we get a whole season dedicated to the training and growth of each of four individuals: Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu.

As Aladdin’s storyline, we get to see Aladdin grow in his study of magic.  And while we expect the character to grow and become powerful, Aladdin is the one that is most interesting.

Mainly because he arrives to his destination, looking as if he was homeless and malnourished.  With that being said, his story is the most bloody and violent as he must take on gladiators at the Colosseum and must deal with his powers, that may tear his body apart.

Morgiana’s storyline is no doubt fraught with danger but it’s her naivety that may put her in deeper trouble.

And as we expect the primary three characters to learn and grow, the most troubling would be Hakuryu.  With the first season, he was the whiner and the cry baby but by the second season, after finding his true power, we learn that he has had a twisted upbringing.  But somehow he has changed to another person that is more darker and not happy as before.  He is the question mark of the entire crew because of his unpredictability and the way he is behaving, not sure if he’ll be friend or enemy.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. There is quite a bit of violence, maybe not as bloody as some of the episodes of the first half, but there is quite a bit of fighting violence.  Also, you can expect to see Aladdin’s attraction to women with large boobs.

While I wish “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD still looks very good. And the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done!

The DVD may not have any significant special features but for those who have purchased Aniplex products know by now, the company is known for providing swag. In this case, you get a two-sided deluxe illustration board and a mini-poster.

Overall, “Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 1” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series! For now, it kicks off the solo adventures of Aladdin, Alibaba, Morgiana and Hakuryu but no doubt is building to something even bigger.

Recommended!

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

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


 

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

YEAR: 2012-2013

DURATION: 116 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: April 7, 2015


 

Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto

Chief Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Screenplay: Gen Urobuchi

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Original Story: Magica Quartet

Original Character Design by Ume Aoki

Character Design by Junichiro Taniguchi, Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Ken Naito

Chief Animation Director: Hiroyuki Yamamura, Junichiro Taniguchi

Anime Production: Aniplex, Shaft


 Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Yūki/Christine Marie Cabanos as Madoka Kaname

Chiwa Saito/Cristina Vee as Homura Akemi

Emiri Katou/Cassandra Lee as Kyubey

Ai Nonaka/Laura Landa as Kyōko Sakura

Eri Kitamura/Sarah Williams as Sayaka Miki

Junko Iwao as Kazuko Saotome

Kaori Mizuhashi as Mami Tomoe/Tatsuya Kaname

Ryoko Shintani as Hitomi Shizuki

Seiko Yoshida as Kyōsuke Kamijō

Tetsuya Iwanaga as Tomohisa Kaname

Yuko Goto as Junko Kaname


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

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


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

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

What is “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

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

Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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

The soundtrack comes with the following tracklistings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One” is a blessing for fans who have wanted and waited for a complete “Sailor Moon” release in the United States.  The fact that 23-episodes are on Blu-ray is a great value compared to the four-episode releases in the past.  But for those who are hardcore about picture quality, just know that these episodes on Blu-ray are upscaled and received extensive DNR.

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi/PNP, Toei Animation Film. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 1992-1993

DURATION: Episode 1-23 (530 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 11, 2014


Originally created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Junichi Sato, Kunihiko Ikuhara

Script by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Megumi Sugihara, Shigeru Yanagawa, Sukehiro Tomita

Storyboard by Junichi Sato

Music by Kazuo Satou, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komoro

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Art Director: Junichi Tanijuchi

Art Design by Tadao Kubota, Takamura Mukuo

Produced by Iriya Azuma, Kenji Oota, Munehisa Higuchi


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Princess Serenity/Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Katsuji Mori/Liam O’Brien as Nephrite

Kazuyuki Sogabe/Patrick Seitz as Kunzite

Keiichi Nanba/Lucien Dodge as Zoisite

Keiko Han/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Keiko Han/Cindy Robinson as Queen Beryl

Masaya Onosaka/Tony Daniels as Jadeite

Mika Doi as Queen Serenity

Noriko Uemura/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Queen Metallia

Shino Kakinuma/Danielle Judovitz as Naru Osaka

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen/Prince Endymion

Yasuhiro Takato as Artemis


Usagi Tsukino is a cheerful 14-year-old schoolgirl who often finds herself in unwanted trouble. One day, she saves a talking cat named Luna from some mean kids, and her life is changed forever. Luna gives Usagi a magic brooch that transforms her into Sailor Moon, defender of love and justice! Now Usagi must work with Luna to find the other Sailor Guardians and the Moon Princess, whose Legendary Silver Crystal is Earth’s only hope against the dark forces of the evil Queen Beryl!


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Considered as one of the most successful anime franchise in Japan, Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon was a manga and anime series that captivated fans worldwide.

Created by mangaka Naoko Takeuchi, the manga was serialized in Nakayoshi from 1991-1997, received 18 tankobon volumes and ran for 200 episodes on TV Asahi from 1992-1997.  Even receiving an English dubbed adaptation during the mid-90s.

The series would spawn three animated films, musicals, video games, toys, clothing and more!  And to this day, the popularity of “Sailor Moon” continues with a new generation of fans.

With a new series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” released in Japan and licensed for streaming in the USA by Viz Media on Hulu and Neon Alley in 2014, to make sure voice acting is consistent in the new series, the original series was redubbed in English by the current cast.

And to help promote the new series, Viz Media has released the original first 23 episodes of season one on Blu-ray!

The series revolves around  a Juban Middle School teenager named Usagi Tsukino.  A girl who is not too smart, often seen crying and loves eating.  One day, she encounters a black cat with a crescent-shaped symbol on its forehead.  Meanwhile, there is talk around town of a masked vigilante named Sailor V stopping criminals and becoming popular thanks to the media exposure.

But one day, as she comes into contact with the black cat, the cat begins to talk and introduce herself as Luna.  Luna gives Usagi a brooch which allows her to transform into Sailor Moon, whenever she is in danger.

That same day, she sees her best friend Naru panicking that her mother has turned into a monster named Morga and immediately, Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon and ends up defeating the evil Morga.  And she receives encouragement with a masked man known as Tuxedo Mask and learns that she has a power known as “Moon Tiara Boomerang” which can defeat and exterminate the monsters.

And while the evil Queen Beryl continues to create monster and do whatever she can to defeat Sailor Moon, Usagi begins to meet make new friends who also have a similar ability.

Can they together, defeat the evil monsters sent by Queen Beryl?


The main characters of “Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One″ are:

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino – The main protagonist. A teenager attending Juban Middle School who is clumsy, not-too-smart, often crying and often hungry.  But she is a person that has a lot of love, compassion and understanding towards people and animals.  She can transform into Sailor Moon, a soldier of love and justice.
  • Tuxedo Mask/Mamoru Chiba – A student at Usagi’s school, he often teases her and drives her mad.  He is a mysterious persona known as Tuxedo Mask and often aids Sailor Moon and the other Sailor senshi.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami Mizuno –Very intelligent and always studying.  Ami can transform into Sailor Mercury, Soldier of Water and Wisdom.  Appears in episode 8.
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Rei is a miko (shrine maiden) and works as a Shinto priestess.  She has the power of precognition and uses Shinto scrolls to nullify evil.  Sailor Moon is the Soldier of Fire and Passion.  She is often arguing with Usagi.  Appears in episode 10.
  • Luna – A former advisor and servant to Queen Serenity, she was sent to Earth to look after the Sailor Soldiers.  She is often giving Usagi advice.

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VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (4:3).  It’s important to note that “Sailor Moon” did not receive the same expensive remastering and restoration as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”, the series was upscaled.  But that’s not a bad thing.  We have seen how FUNimation had upscaled a lot of their classic anime such as “Yu Yu Hakusho” and there was an improvement.

But with “Sailor Moon”, there appears to be an extensive amount of DNR used in order to clean up scratches and grain but it appears that it was overdone.  I noticed that there was ghosting and color bleeding and issues that people will see if comparing with the original ADV Films 2003 DVD release.  I know that these fans who care about anime on Blu-ray will complain about the picture quality, so those who are very picky about PQ, just know that a lot of DNR was used.

With that being said, you have another audience.  A group who came from the old school fan sub from VHS years that were used to watching bad quality video back then and now want to watch the series in HD and you have the anime fans who want to watch “Sailor Moon” and will watch it on their smaller TV or people who are not picky at all.

So, depending on which type of fan you are in the spectrum, if you are expecting the same type of remastering and restoration as “Ranma 1/2” or “Dragon Ball Z”, this series did not receive it, it’s just an upscale, but an upscale with a lot of DNR utilized.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Japanese and English.  It’s important to note that you can watch the series by selecting English without English subtitles, English with English subtitles, English subtitles on songs and signs or Japanese with English subtitles.

It’s very important to emphasize that those wanting the same English dub from the mid-90’s that they watched on television in the U.S., will not get that English dub on this Blu-ray release.  The English dub is new.

With that being said, there is an improvement of sound with the English soundtrack.  While Sailor Moon in Japanese is in its original presentation, the soundtrack has not been enhanced and sounds a bit weaker compared to the English dub.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon: Season One″ comes with the following special features:

DISC 3:

 

  • Sailor Moon Announcement Panel – (13:43) Viz Media Senior Manager of Animation Marketing Charlene Ingram reveals the surprise announcement of the “Sailor Moon” Blu-ray announcement at Anime Central.
  • English Dub Behind the Scenes – (12:54) Featuring behind-the-scenes recording of “Sailor Moon” at the studio and interviews with the voice cast.
  • Official Announcement Trailer – (3:19) The original announcement of Sailor Moon being released on Blu-ray, complete and uncensored.  And also the announcement of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal”.
  • Fan Reactions – (3:59) Charlene Ingram interviews with fans of “Sailor Moon” about their reactions to the series being released on Blu-ray.
  • AX Sailor Moon Reel – (1:49) A short featurette on Sailor Moon Day at Anime Expo.
  • Clean Opening and Closing – Opening and closing theme with optional English subtitles.
  • Gallery – Use your remote (or keyboard) to view the small galleries.
  • Trailers – Viz Media trailers

 

DISC 6:

Note: A few of the same special features from disc three are repeated in disc 6

  • Official Announcement Trailer – (3:19) The original announcement of Sailor Moon being released on Blu-ray, complete and uncensored.  And also the announcement of “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal”.
  • AX Sailor Moon Reel – (1:49) A short featurette on Sailor Moon Day at Anime Expo.
  • Clean Opening and Closing – Opening and closing theme with optional English subtitles.
  • Gallery – Use your remote (or keyboard) to view the small galleries.
  • Trailers – Viz Media trailers

EXTRAS:

“Sailor Moon: Season One” comes with an 80-page booklet with episode summary, music lyrics and artwork.


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During my college years, I was a fan of the “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon” series.  I watched the original series in Japanese at the time and along with “Dragon Ball Z” and “Dragon Ball GT”, it was one of the few anime series I was watching from Japan during a time when Japanese video rental stores were everywhere in California.

Watching these episodes in not the greatest quality, may it be in Japanese or English fan subtitled, it didn’t matter as I was able to watch the popular hit anime series in America (as a release of the series on video seemed as it was never going to happen in the early ’90s).

I purchased the anime soundtrack to “Sailor Moon R” at the time.  Attended the very early anime conventions in America, in which you would see your few Sailor Moon cosplayers during the early ’90s and I can easily remember playing the “Sailor Moon S” fighting game on the 3DO with a few people who have gone on to be big names in the anime industry and then purchasing “Sailor Moon Super S” for nearly a hundred bucks on PlayStation.

And of course, remembering the U.S. English dub release of “Sailor Moon”.  Reading the Sailor Moon manga series from the old Mixx Zine years and purchasing the Japanese soundtracks of “Sailor Moon”.

So, in some ways, I can easily say that watching “Sailor Moon” was part of young life and possibly my first foray into watching an anime series that featured a cast primarily of strong female characters.

While “Sailor Moon S” will always be my favorite series of all “Sailor Moon” series for its more darker tone, I did enjoy the first season for its lighthearted humor and like all character-building seasons, with the release of Viz Media’s “Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One”, this is the introduction to Usagi Tsukino, Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino, Mamoru Chiba and Luna.

While Sailor Venus was shown as this mysterious vigilante in first episode and other episodes of season one, both she and Sailor Jupiter will make their appearance in part two of season one.

The first 23 episodes feature Usagi and Luna trying to find the other Sailor Soldiers, meanwhile the evil Queen Beryl wanting her minions such as Jadeite, Nephrite and Zoisite to gather energy by sending monsters to Earth.

As for the Blu-ray release, as a fan of the series, it is great to see Viz Media releasing the series in its complete format, in Japanese and in English, but also giving a more modern English dub.  While I watched the original series in Japanese, I watched this Blu-ray release in the new English dub.  And I have to say the casting was fantastic for this newer English dub because the original dub that was shown on U.S. television back in the mid-90s, in my personal opinion, was not that great.

Unfortunately, because the series was upscaled, there will be an ongoing debate between videophiles who will be vocal against the use of excessive DNR especially when comparing with their original DVD releases. While those who are not so caring of the video PQ will find the series to suffice and to be much cleaner than what they probably watched on VHS back in the ’90s.  But I’m advocate of less to no DNR, but at the same time, knowing that not all companies can afford to do a major restoration to clean up a series.  In Japan, we have seen it done with “Dragon Ball Z”, “Ranma 1/2”, “Urusei Yatsura” and “Maison Ikkoku”, while in the U.S., we have seen a lot of upscales, some that look impressive.

So, I do know that the picture quality will be a sore spot for anime fans, especially those who care about picture quality and were expecting the best in HD.

As for the lossless soundtrack, the Japanese soundtrack using the original soundtrack is not as great as I would have hoped.  The English dub soundtrack is much more clearer and more pleasing to my ears.  Subtitles are in English and they are not optional in terms of clicking the subtitles button your remote.  You need to select Japanese with English subtitles, there is no option to remove it if you want to watch it in Japanese only.

The series comes with a good number of special features that showcase the announcement at Anime Central, “Sailor Moon Day” at Anime Expo, interviews with the English dub cast and more.

“Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One” was a big shock for me to see released on Blu-ray.  Because it was not done on the Japanese side with a full restoration, I was surprised to see Viz Media do an upscaled Blu-ray release.  But as a fan, how can you not be happy with a release of the first 23-episodes on Blu-ray, in Japanese and English complete.  No worries about transformation edits or violent tones being removed, this is what fans wanted to see.

Overall, “Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One” is a blessing for fans who have wanted and waited for a complete “Sailor Moon” release in the United States.  The fact that 23-episodes are on Blu-ray is a great value compared to the five or six-episode DVD releases in the past (which were quite expensive back then per volume).

While videophiles will not be pleased with the DNR thus affecting picture quality, I’m sure there is another side of fandom who are watching the series and are not as hardcore into the technical details of the more hardcore anime on Blu-ray fans.

But knowing that the picture quality of the series is hampered by excessive DNR, I can only hope that Viz Media takes it down a notch and find a way to please fans on both sides of the spectrum.

Still, it’s still hard to pass up all 23-episodes on Blu-ray for “Sailor Moon” and if you are a hardcore fan of the series and the DNR issue is not going to bother you, then definitely give “Sailor Moon: Season One – Part One” a try!

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Shinobu Ohtaka/SHOGAKUKAN, Magi Committee, MBS. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 13-25 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Japanese Linear PCM, English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex

RATED: 13 and up

RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2014

Originally Created by Shinobu Ohtaka

Directed by Koji Masunari

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino

Screenplay by Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Art Director by Ayu Kawamoto, Taichi Maezuka

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Ishihara/Erica Mendez as Aladdin

Yuuki Kaji/Erik Kimerer as Alibaba Saluja

Haruka Tomatsu/Cristina Vee as Morgiana

Darrel Guilbeau/Kensho Ono as Ren Hakuryu

Julie Ann Taylor/Asami Seto as Seishun Li

Keith Silverstein/Yoshimasa Hosoya as Masrur

Kira Buckland/Kana Hanazawa as Ren Kogyuku

Lucien Dodge.Takahiro Sakurai as Ja’far

Marc Diraison/Shinichiro Miki as Ithnan

Matthew Mercer/Daisuke Ono as Sinbad

Patrick Seitz/Toshiyuki Morikawa as Ugo

Sean Chiplock/Jun Fukuyama as Cassim

Todd Haberkorn/Ryohei Kimura as Judal

Trinity Lee/Nana Mizuki as Ren Hakuei

Vic Mignogna/Kenichi Suzumura as Ka Kobun

Aladdin has yet to regain consciousness from the battle with the fallen magi Judar. Meanwhile, as the third prince of Balbadd, Alibaba tries to stop his older brother King Ahbmad from turning Balbadd into a slave-exporting nation. But his plans are thwarted by none other than Cassim, his childhood friend from the slums, now transformed into a Dark Djinn by the Dark Metal Vessel. Cassim tries to strike down the royal family for causing their citizens to suffer for many years.

Cassim’s attacks crush Alibaba both physically and mentally, but he gets back up again and again. Just then, a friend reaches out a helping hand! With Aladdin’s support once again, can Alibaba rescue his country, people, and Cassim from the darkness?

Soon after, Alibaba and Aladdin will learn about Al-Tharmen, the organization that has been causing the “Abnormalities of the World”…

Aladdin takes on the evil magi known as Judar.  Meanwhile, a new adventure awaits for Alibaba, Aladdin and Morgiana as Sinbad sends them to Sindria, while the Kou Empire approaches Balbadd, preparing to invade the city. And a new member joins Aladdin and friends!

While Sinbad and his forces prepare for an attack from Al-Thamen and his forces.

Find out which side is successful in the battle in “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2”

What is “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” about?

When it comes to opportunities of becoming a manga writer/artist (mangaka), Shinobu Ohtaka’s story.

She has written about her story of how she became a manga artist, as a person who was the person who would sit quietly in the corner of class and was not really great at anything and often playing a supporting role. But if there was one thing that she was confident in, it was drawing pictures.

And now this shy artist would not only have a hit manga but also anime series!

Her first year in high school, she was submitting manga manuscripts because it was her dream to become a manga author. And like many writers, her submissions were denied and this continued through high school and college. And when she was about to call it quits, she was given the opportunity to do a one-shot and it led to the creation of the series “Sumomo Momomo” in 2004 which would eventually become 22 volume manga series and also a 22-episode anime series.

After completing “Sumomo Momomo”, Shinobu then created “Magi” which would be serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 2009 and to this day, the series is till ongoing (currently, at 18 volumes) and a 25-episode anime adaptation which was aired in Japan in Oct. 2012 – March 2013 and a 25-episode second season which was completed in Japan.

And now episodes 13-25 of the first season of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was released on DVD in the United States in March 2014.

“Magi” begins with a young Aladdin being given one wish.

We then see Alibaba, a thief who is working for a slave master who has been trying to find a dungeon for treasure. Everyone thinks that Alibaba is searching for something that doesn’t exist. But when he starts loading up a caravan with fruit, he catches a boy (Aladdin) eating all the watermelon.

Alibaba gets in trouble but as Aladdin follows Alibaba, Alibaba talks about dungeons that appeared 14 years ago and and Alibaba explains if one can capture one, there is a genuine magi wandering around and will grant magical power to someone. And Alibaba is in search of the magical vessel.

The following day, Aladdin bumps into a slave (Morgiana). When Aladdin wonders why her legs are chained, Alibaba tries to explain to Aladdin of what a slave is. So, not wanting to see Morgiana chained, Aladdin frees her by blowing into his flute and shattering the steel chain.

But not long after, one of the slave masters start pushing and stepping all over Morgiana, Aladdin tells the man to stop and the man threatens to execute Aladdin.

Aladdin then blows into the flute, massive arms come out of the flute. Ugo is a Djinn, spirits that appear in myth and not many people thought it was a real thing, but we learn through a flashback that Aladdin was given three wishes in which he could have fortune, fame and eternal life. But instead, he just wanted one wish and that is for Ugo to be his friend. And since then, the two have been together.

Ugo has a massive body without a head. As Aladdin goes on trips with various people, we learn that Aladdin must be well fed and have had a lot to drink in order to use Ugo, but also Ugo is shy if a girl touches him.

And as Alibaba finds out that Aladdin has a Djinn vessel, he decides to use Aladdin to use and partner with him in order to find a dungeon. Alibaba’s wish is to be rich and find treasure inside buildings that have shown up all over the world. And treasures with wonderful powers are the most valuable, the one that Alibaba seeks is the Djinn’s metal vessel.

But as Alibaba sees using Aladdin as important in his plans as Aladdin’s use of Ugo can help protect them while they visit the dungeons to find treasure, but he also realizes that for Aladdin, his main thing that makes him happy is having a friendship. For Alibaba, for now, he’ll play the role of being a friend in order to find treasure and obtain a Djinn metal vessel.

As Alibaba along with Aladdin look for the treasure inside a dungeon, not far behind them is the tyrant slave owner named Lord Jamil along with two slaves, including Morgiana.

Meanwhile, nearby is another person similar to Aladdin, clad in black and evil, a magi named Judar has decided to cause trouble for Aladdin and friends?  But what happens when Aladdin goes all out in his battle against Judar?

Meanwhile, an even greater threat arrives as Aladdin and friends must take on Dark Djinn’s, while Sinbad must protect the country against Al-Thamen and his forces.

The main characters of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” are:

    • Aladdin – A young magi who doesn’t know too much about himself or the outside world. But he’s kind and goodhearted and wants to protect the people he cares about. When he blows into a flute, a headless blue giant named Ugo comes out.
    • Alibaba – A thief who appears to have a mysterious background that befriends Aladdin.
    • Morgania – A slave who comes from a country of people known for their superior leg strength and speed. She is the slave of the tyrant, Lord Jamil.
    • Amon – A djinn with fire elemental powers contained in Alibaba’s training sword.
    • Sinbad – The King of Sindria and leader of the Alliance of the Seven Seas.  He has sailed the seven seas and captured seven dungeons and is a master of seven djinn.
    • Masrur – A Fanalis who works for Sinbad and trains Morgiana in hand to hand combat.
    • Ja’far – A former assassin who becomes loyal to Sinbad.
    • Hakuryuu Ren – The fourth prince in the Kou Empire who becomes an ally of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgianna.
    • Judar – An evil Magi working for Al-Thamen.  Raised by Al-Thamen after the organization killed his parents.

 

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and Japanese Linear PCM and English Dolby Digital 2.0.

While I was hoping for a Blu-ray release of “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic”, the series is well-animated, well-shaded and tends to feature hilarious character designs during the more comedy scenes, while showcasing emotion and drama during the most serious situations. Action scenes are well-animated, background art is well-detailed and painted beautifully.

Audio on the DVD is front-channel driven but voice acting is well-done for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Dialogue, sound effects and music are clear.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Ending

EXTRAS:

“Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” comes with a 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (character designer/chief animation director), a deluxe booklet and a five collectable foil stamped postcards.  Also, a slipcover is included.

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As the first half of Shinobu Ohtaka’s “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” was lighthearted, full of humor and entertaining.  The second half of the series has become much more deeper, serious and action-packed and Alibaba must make difficult decisions, Aladdin faces his greatest foe yet and Morgiana does all she can to become more powerful but to what expense?

In the first half, we watched as Aladdin was dependent on a headless giant named Ugo, but with Ugo gone after a major battle with the evil Judar, what will happen to Aladdin?

Also, a major difference between the first half of the series and the second half, is the inclusion of more characters.  Sinbad plays much more of a role as Al-Thamen declares war on Sindria and Sinbad and forces must do all they can to fight against Al-Thamen and the Dark Djinn.

With the conclusion to season one featuring a battle with someone they know quite well.

But for the most part, this second half for season one is a whole different vibe than the first.  While you do get the perverted humor for a brief moment, the series is primarily action non-stop with so many dire situations involving Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana.

While the trio meet new friends and allies, there is also a lot of heartbreak as both Aladdin and Alibaba lose something special in their lives.  So, one can expect a deep, action-packed storyline for episodes 13-25.

For those wondering if the series is safe to watch around children, this is a show for teens. There is quite a bit of violence, maybe not as bloody as some of the episodes of the first half, but there is quite a bit of fighting violence.

While I wish “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic” received a Blu-ray release, the DVD still looks very good.  And the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done!

The DVD may not have any significant special features but for those who have purchased Aniplex products know by now, the company is known for providing a lot of swag. In this case, five collectable foil stamped postcards, 2-sided reversible cover illustrated by Toshifumi Akai (the character designer/chief animation director) and a 16-page deluxe booklet.

Overall, “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic – Complete DVD Set Vol. 2” is a fantastic, action-packed anime series!  If you loved the first half, you will certainly love the second half as the storyline and animation is quite captivating.  Highly recommended!

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