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Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ushio & Tora Complete TV Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-39 (975 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio for OVA’s and 16×9 for movies, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Originally Created by Kazuhiro Fujita

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Series Composition: Kazuhiro Fujita, Toshiki Inoue

Music by Eishi Segawa

Character Design: Tomoko Mori

Art Director: Tomoyuki Shimizu

Animation Director: Mika Takahashi, Tomoko Mori

Director of Photography: Uehama Makishi, Yuuya Kumazawa

Anime Production: MAPPA, Studio VOLN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Brett Weaver as Tora

Tasuku Hatanaka/David Matranga as Ushio Aotsuki

Ai Kayano/Brittney Karbowski as Omamori-sama

Ai Satou as Oyakume-sama

Aki Toyosaki /Brittney Karbowski as Yū Hiyama

Ayahi Takagaki/Emily Neves as Jun Moritsuna

Daisuke Namikawa/David Wald as Hyō

Fumiko Orikasa as Mikado Hizaki

Hidekatsu Shibata as Nigira

Kana Hanazawa/Carli Mosier as Jie Mei

Keiji Fujiwara as Shigure Aotsuki

Kiyono Yasuno as Mayuko Inoue

Maaya Sakamoto/Emily Neves as Sumako Aotsuki

Mamoru Miyano/John Gremellion as Giryō

Masaki Terasoma as Kyōji Atsuzawa

Megumi Han/Blake Shepard as Kirio

Megumi Hayashibara as Hakumen no Mono

Mikako Komatsu/Allison Sumrall as Asako Nakamura

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Wittels as Hinowa Sekimori

Nao Nagasawa as Izuna

Risa Shimizu/Patricia Duran as Kagari

Ryota Ohsaka/Clifford Chapin as Satoru Moritsuna

Shinichiro Miki/Jay Hickman as Raishin

Toshio Furukawa as Yamanmoto

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ian Sinclair as Nagare Akiba

Yui Makino/Kira Vincent-Davis as Reiko Hanyū

Yuuka Nanri/Tiffany Grant as Saya Takatori

Yuuki Kaji/John Gremillion as Jūrō


Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!


Back in 1990, Kazuhiro Fujita created the manga series “Ushio and Tora”.

So popular the series came to be, it received an anime adaptation via three OVA series from 1992-1993.  In 2015, a 30-episode animated TV series was produced by MAPPA and Studio VOLN and now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The series revolves around Ushio Aotsuki, the son of a temple priest and a lady shaman. He’s also a kid who stands up for his friends and can have a temper.

One day, while cleaning up books in the store room, he finds a door and when he opens it and goes inside, he discovers a tiger-like Yokai named Tora.  He also sees a spear that has held the yokai in place and Tora tries to get Ushio to remove it.  But when he tells Ushio that he would eat him and eat all humans, Ushio decides not to help him (even going so far as to kick the spear in place several times).

But when Tora’s aura starts to leak from the wounded area, yokai’s escape into the real world and the only way he can defeat these yokai is with Tora’s help, so Ushio removes the spear off of Tora.  But when Tora tells him that he will not help, Ushio starts to get angry while holding the spear and his hair grows very long, scaring Tora.  It also means that he was destined to wield the Beast Spear.

But the two make an agreement, after they rid of the yokai, Ushio will allow Tora to eat him.

So now, Ushio and Tora work together to stop the yokai that threaten humans.  But are all yokai bad?  And how will the relationship between Ushio and Tora evolve as they continue to work together?

Ushio also goes on an adventure while tracking down Yokai to know more about his mother and why the yokai are after him specifically.

Ushio & Tora features the following characters:

  • Ushio Aotsuki – A kind-hearted individuals who stands up for his friends and can have a bit of a temper.  He values all life and friendships and his kindness helps bridge together humans and yokai.
  • Tora – A tiger-like yokai who was pinned in the basement of Ushio’s temple.  He was once known as Nagatobimaru and was feared.  At first he hated humans but being around Ushio and friends, he is amazed to see how lifestyle has changed among humans and starts to enjoy parts of modern society, especially for hamburgers.
  • Asako Nakamura – Ushio and Mayuko’s friend.  She and Ushio grew up with each other and both care deeply about each other, despite her having more of a temper than Ushio.  Her family runs a ramen restaurant.
  • Mayuko Inoue – A friend of Ushio and Asako.  She cares for both Ushio and Asako.  She also cares for Tora and often buys him hamburgers and she may have Shaman abilities.
  • Shigure Aotsuki – Ushio’s father, who is often stern but also keeps a secret from his son of what he does behind-the-scenes.
  • Reiko Hanyuu – An orphan who’s father was very overprotective and became an oni, so any boys that try to get close to her are in danger.  As she tries to commit suicide, only Ushio can help her father realize what he is doing is hurting his daughter.  After being free, she becomes friends with Ushio and friends.
  • Hyou – A powerful Chinese exorcist who has come to Japan to seek out the yokai who killed his wife and daughter and took out his right eye and left scars on his face.  The yokai is believed by Hyou to be Tora.
  • Jie Mei – A sprit guardian who lives in the Beast Spear who sacrificed her life to create the blade of the spear.
  • Giryo – The brother of Jie Mei, a blacksmith who went insane when he couldn’t prevent his sister’s sacrifice.  His anger, remorse and regret is built and trapped in the shaft of the beast spear.
  • Yu Hiyama – A girl whose father was a pilot who died in an airplane crash due to a Fusama yokai.  She has always blamed her father’s friend Atsuzawa but when Ushio shows her the truth, she learns to forgive and help out Ushio and Tora.
  • Saya Takatori – A descendent of the white-haired women who maintain the success of the Takatori household by appeasing the childlike spirit Omamori.
  • Hinowa Sekimori – A tough and cold girl who was one of the four chosen to control the Beast Spear and she rejects Ushio for possessing it for being undisciplined and reckless.

VIDEO:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Even back when I watched the initial OVA, I was always impressed of how the animation was true to the manga illustrations of Kazuhiro Fujita.  The TV Series also captures that style with its unique character design, battle animation and for the most part, the anime series looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Ushio & Tora” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear but as I love the voice acting by Rikiya Koyama as Tora and Tasuku Hatanaka as Ushio, the English dub is very well-done and Brett Weaver does a great job in portraying Tora, as with David Matranga as the voice of Ushio.

Definitely one of the better English dubbed soundtracks for a Sentai Filmworks series on Blu-ray this year!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” comes with no special features.

 


Back in 1993, J!-ENT was founded and in our first year, one of the earlier anime series I reviewed was an OAV episode of “Ushio & Tora”.  I felt the series had tremendous potential and many people watching it at an anime club were supportive and excited each time a new OAV was release.

But that was the early-to-mid ’90s and haven’t heard anything until 20-years-later and an animated series was created courtesy of Mappa and Studio VOLN and what an awesome series “Ushio & Tora” came to be.

The television series featured more characters, more action and was able to capture the friendships that Ushio and Tora encountered through their adventures but most importantly, capturing a lot of the emotion, a lot of the action and featuring wonderful animation and voice acting.

The storyline about a human, a teenager named Ushio and a yokai named Tora (who wants to eat Ushio) in an alliance that first turns out to be like oil and water and both are not really getting a long.  But through working together, learning from each other and becoming friends, they are able to develop a relationship that works.  And while Ushio and Tora are able to take on many yokai, a bit easily in the first half of the series, by the second half, things become more dire as tons of yokai are now after Ushio and Tora and his friends do all they can to protect humanity.

With the release of “Ushio & Tora” on Blu-ray, watching it in Japanese and also with the English dub soundtrack, both soundtracks are wonderful.  And the voice acting in English is possibly one of the best I have listened to this year.  Mappa and Studio VOLN did a wonderful job with the animation and picture quality is vibrant and colorful.

Overall, “Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is for those who love action-driven anime series.  Series with a lot of heart, humor and violence.  It’s the heard of “Ushio & Tora”, a battle between humans and monsters and one human and one monsters doing all they can to protect humanity against all odds.  And with all 39-episodes collected for a great price, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth purchasing!

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

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

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: My Hero Academia: Season One

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Kohei Horikoshi

Director: Kenji Nagakasaki

Series Composition: Yousuke Kuroda

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda, Yukiko Maruyama

Anime Production: BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Luci Christian as Ochaco Uraraka

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Izuku Midoriya

Kaito Ishikawa/J. Michael Tatum as Tenya Iida

Kenta Miyake/Christopher R. Sabat as All Might

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin as Katsuki Bakugō

Yuuki Kaji/David Matranga as Shōto Todoroki

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Tsuyu Asui

Eri Kitamura/Caitlin Glass as Mina Ashido

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Sonny Strait as Present Mic

Inuko Inuyama/Morgan Berry as Thirteen

Junichi Suwabe/Alex Organ as Shota Aizawa

Kaori Nazuka/Felecia Angelle as Tooru Hagakure

Kei Shindou/Trina Nishimura as Kyōka Jirō

Kiyotaka Furushima/Christopher Bevins as Hanta Sero

Kōsuke Kuwano/Joel McDonald as Yūga Aoyama

Kosuke Miyoshi/MikeMcFarland as Mashirao Ojiro

Kouki Uchiyama/Eric Vale as Tomura Shigaraki

Marina Inoue/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Momo Yaoyorozu

Masakazu Nishida as Mezō Shōji

Ryou Hirohashi/Brina Palencia as Minoru Mineta

Takahiro Fujiwara/Chuck Huber as Kurogiri

Tasuku Hatanaka/Kyle Phillips as Denki Kaminari

Tooru Nara/Cris George as Rikidō Satō

Toshiki Masuda/Justin Cook as Eijirō Kirishima

Tsuguo Mogami as Noumu

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Joshua Grelle as Fumikage Tokoyami


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My Hero Academia” focuses on the following characters:

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

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harlock: Space Pirate (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

April 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

captainharlock-a

“Harlock: Space Pirate” is a stylishly, cool looking CG animated film based on one of Japan’s popular anti-hero characters. The problem lies within the viewer who is familiar with the previous stories of Captain Harlock and can watch this film as a different story. While the film compliments the characters, the storyline has no connection to Leiji Matsumo’s original storyline. Still, the film is smartly written, the CG animation looks wonderful and “Harlock: Space Pirate” is a film worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Leiji Matsumoto/Captain Harlock Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE:  Harlock: Space Pirate

YEAR OF MOVIE RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 111 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen, English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1

COMPANY:  Ketchup Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: March 31, 2015


Based on the manga by Leiji Matsumoto

Directed by Shinji Aramaki

Screenplay by Harutoshi Fukui, Kiyoto Takeuchi

Produced by Joseph Chou, Yoshi Ikezawa, Rei Kudo

Music by Tetsuya Takahashi


Featuring the following voice talent:

Shun Oguri/David Matranga as Captain Harlock

Harama Miura/Adam Gibbs as Yama/Logan

Yu Aoi/Emily Neves as Miime

Miyuki Sawashiro/Jessica Boone as Kei Yuki

Ayano Fukuda as Tori-san

Arata Furuta as Yattaran

Kiyoshi Kobayashi as Roujin

Rob Mungle as Yulian

Toshiyuki Morikawa as Isora

Chikao Ohtsuka as Soukan

Maaya Sakamoto/Rebekah Stevens as Nami

Mike Yager as Ezra


Captain Harlock is the one man standing between the Gaia Coalition and their quest for complete intergalactic rule. Seeking revenge against those who wronged both mankind and himself, the mysterious space pirate roams the universe in his battle-cruiser, the Arcadia, defiantly attacking and pillaging enemy ships. Gaia Fleet leader Ezra sends his younger brother, Logan, to infiltrate the Arcadia and assassinate Harlock. But Logan will soon discover that things are not always what they seem and that legends are born for a reason.

Harlock pushes his loyal crew forward in his death-defying mission to undo the “Nodes of Time” and reverse the Earth to an age when still inhabited by humans. It is the year 2977 and 500 billion displaced humans long to return to the planet they still refer to as home. The rebellious Captain Harlock and his trusted crew are mankind’s only hope of one day righting the Coalition’s wrongs.


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Back in 1977, manga artist Leiji Matsumoto would create the manga series, “Captain Harlock”.

While the storyline of Captain Harlock has changed from the original “Space Pirate Captain Harlock” to the 1982 “The Arcadia of My Youth”.  While there have been numerous Harlock releases, Toei Animation announced a new Harlock movie in 2010 that would feature a CG-remake of Matsumoto’s manga and anime franchise.

The CG animated film would be directed by Shinji Aramaki, best known for his work on series such as “Megazone 23”, “Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01”, “Genesis Survivor Gaiarth”, “Appleseed”, “Appleseed Ex Machina” and many more.

Considered as one of Toei’s second most expensive film, the story would feature a story that reflected themes of modern society written by Harutoshi Fukui.

And in 2013, “Harlock: Space Pirate” premiered in Japan and in April 2015, the DVD release of the film will be available in stores on April 2015 courtesy of Ketchup Entertainment.

The film begins with the explanation that the human race spread across the galaxy establish colonies but the population exploded and resources were exhausted.  Birthrates plummeted and the human race was in decline.

As humans went back to return to Earth, a bloody conflict of who would return to Earth would lead to the “Homecoming War” as the Earth was too small to hold all humans.  Thus a governing body known as “The Gaia Communion” would bring the war to a close and the Earth was made to an “eternal sanctuary” which no one was granted passage.

There was one man who resisted, an immortal space pirate that plundered Federation starships, the most wanted man named Captain Harlock.

As the film would explain why Captain Harlock is the most wanted man, the current story would be about Harlock and his crew taking 100 detonators from the Gaia Community to start over.  But among the crew is Yama (Logan in the English dub), a young man who is working with the Gaia Community who has worked to infiltrate Harlock’s crew trying to helping his older brother Isola (name is Ezra in English dub) of the Gaia fleet in order to take down and assassinate Harlock.

But will Yama want to assassinate Harlock when he learns the truth about why Harlock wants to return to Earth?


captainharlock-d

VIDEO:

“Harlock Space Pirate” is presented in widescreen.  As this film would look magnificent in HD, the best we are going to get of this film is on DVD.  So, while the film was released on Blu-ray in Asia, the best we are going to get in terms of picture quality is the best one can expect to see on DVD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Harlock Space Pirate” comes with an English and Japanese 5.1 soundtrack.  Both soundtracks are well-done and features crystal clear dialogue and music and actions sequences from space battles to weaponry being shot, utilizes the surround channels and LFE.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Harlock Space Pirate” comes with no special features.


captainharlock-b

As a fan of the Captain Harlock anime and also a fan of Leiji Matsumoto’s work, “Arcadia of My Youth” continues to be my favorite Harlock film.

The story of aliens enslaving humanity while Captain Harlock and crew fight back has always been an exciting and fascinating film.  So, in many ways, I was highly anticipating the release of the CG version of “Harlock: Space Pirate”.

Having watched the film twice now, similar to how Captain Harlock’s story has continued to change from series to series, the CG film may share similar characters but the story is quite different.

The story takes a look at not the enslaving of humanity but the threat of humanity growing at an alarming rate, colonizing other planets that are dying and for many, the result is to return back to planet Earth, but realizing that the planet is not big enough to host so many humans and thus led to a war.

Captain Harlock’s character will always be seen as a rogue pirate but in the case of this movie, humanity’s hatred towards Harlock is because his decision to save the planet, he released dark matter in a gamble which did not protect the Earth, it decimated it and killed all life on the planet.

While I don’t want to spoil details of the film, the film would go into how the Arcadia would have some artificial intelligence, it would explain how Harlock would become “immortal” but the film would go into details of why Harlock is returning to the Earth and his true mission.

Standing in his way is a young man who sort of looks like Harlock but his goal is to infiltrate the crew on behalf of his brother and the Gaia Community and assassinate Captain Harlock.

While the film features cool CG and a complex, smartly written storyline, the film maybe of the dismay of long time fans who expected the classic story by Leiji Matsumoto.  And “Harlock Space Pirate”, is not that film.

While those who haven’t watched a Harlock anime series or film or have never read the manga series may enjoy the film much more.  The character design and the way Harlock was created no doubt looks awesome in the film, as with characters such as the alien Nibelung known as Miime and Kei, the overall look and feel of the film is its strongpoint.

The film’s story did not win me over despite enjoying it for its smart writing, I still feel that “Arcadia of My Youth” remains to be the best Captain Harlock film ever made.

While I wish the film was also released on Blu-ray and special features were included, the film looks and sounds good as one can expect on DVD.

Overall, “Harlock: Space Pirate” is a stylishly, cool looking CG animated film based on one of Japan’s popular anti-hero characters.  The problem lies within the viewer who is familiar with the previous stories of Captain Harlock and can watch this film as a different story.  While the film compliments the characters, the storyline has no connection to Leiji Matsumo’s original storyline.

Still, the film is smartly written, the CG animation looks wonderful and “Harlock: Space Pirate” is a film worth watching!

 

Wolf Children (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray!  Mamoru Hosoda’s films have always been about quality, from its overall look but most importantly,  storytelling that is absolutely captivating.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Wolf Children

ANIME THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 117 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: November 26, 2013

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda

Screenplay by Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera

Music by Masakatsu Takagi

Animation Director: Takaaki Yamashita

Art Director: Hiroshi Ohno

Anime Production: Studio Chizu

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aoi Miyazaki/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hana

Takao Osawa/David Matranga as Ookami/Wolf Man

Amon Kabe/Alison Viktorin as Ame (Child)

Haru Kuroki/Jad Saxton as Yuki

Momoka Ono/Lara Woodhull as Yuki (Child)

Takuma Hiraoka/Jason Liebrecht as Souhei

Yukito Nishii/Micah Solusod as Ame

Experience the latest masterpiece from the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning director of Summer Wars.

Hana was a student before she was a mother. She was bright and pretty, and her future held endless possibilities. Then she met a man, who turned out to be a wolf, and together they built a family.Hana loved her mate fiercely, but fate took him from her, leaving her alone with two unusual kids she didn’t know how to raise. Frightened of being discovered, Hana and her wolf children fled to the countryside to build a new life. Raising her little wild things was an adventure. It left Hana bruised, scratched, exhausted, and joyously overwhelmed as her pups grew stronger and wandered further every day. This is a mother’s journey. Teach your children to chase their dreams – and smile through the tears as they disappear into the world in search of who they will become. Hana wasn’t always a mother, but it was always what she was meant to be.

From filmmaker and animator Mamoru Hosoda, founder of Studio Chizu (“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “Summer Wars”) comes his latest film “Wolf Children”.

A box office success in Japan, the film would feature technical and star talent.

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda and co-written by Hosoda and Satoko Okudera (“Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”), character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (“Evangelion”, “Gunbuster”, “.Hack” series, “FLCL”), background art by Hiroshi Ohno (“Akira”, “Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and animation direction by Takaaki Yamashita (“Digimon” films).

Talents of the Japanese version of the film would feature big screent alents Aoi Miyazaki (“Nana”, “Solanin, “Colorful”, “Honey and Clover”) and Takao Osawa (“Hoshi no Kinka”, “Utsukushi Hito”, “Dessin”).  The film would also feature first time voice talents Amon Kabe, Haru Kuroki, Momoka Ono, Takuma Hiraoka and Yukito Nishii.

The film was released on Blu-ray on November 2013 courtesy of FUNimation.

“Wolf Children” begins with a narration by a young woman named Yuki who tells a story about her mother Hana and how she fell in love with a man named Ookami who was actually a wolf and can transform to human or wolf form. And despite his appearance, Hana accepted him for the way he is and loved him unconditionally.

Yuki and Ookami would eventually have two children and like father, they can also transform into a wolf.

Ookami and Hana were proud parents of Yuki and a son named Ame.  Yuki was always mischievous as a child.  Each time she would get frustrated or upset, her wolf characteristics would always come out.  While young Ame, was a baby at the time.

Ookami would usually hunt for food to feed his family, but one day, Ookami never came home.  As Hana with her two children along with her, she goes to look for Ookami and in the middle of a street is a dead wolf, who happened to be Ookami in wolf form.

And as Hana struggled to keep her children’s wolf existence a secret, the Japanese child protection service wanted to see the children because Hana never had them receive their immunization shots or had them seen by a doctor.

And because Ame was a baby, his crying would lead to complaints from the neighbors and their howling would eventually lead the landlord to believe that Hana was illegally having dogs in her home.

Wanting to protect her children and to get away from any trouble for her children, Hana Yuki and Ame move away from the city to live in the rural countryside and takes an old, dilapidated home that would be rent-free but would require renovation.  And to make things even better for Hana, no one lives close to her home.

And as Hana tries to raise her two children by herself, she tries to learn about how to repair her home, how to grow vegetables in her yard.  But to her surprise, her vegetables die from disease.  But her neighbors eventually come to help her grow crops.  But as Yuki has come to love her new environment, Ame doesn’t really like it.

Seen as weak by her sister, Ame wants to toughen up and during a cold snowy winter, he decides to go after a fish but instead, loses his footing in the moving river and nearly drowns but is rescued by Yuki in wolf form.  Feared to be dead, Ame is fine from his accident but from that day forth, because of that incident, he has grown.

Meanwhile, as Hana is older, her mother wants both children to grow up normally and enlists them in school, as long as they can keep their wolf transformation a secret.  Something that Hana is really looking forward to, unlike Ame who is not too interested in school.

And as Hana tries to fit in with the other humans, Ame starts to develop a closeness towards the countryside.  But as Hana has given her children some freedom, what happens when Ame is tested to hide her wolf-side from her classmates and what happens when Ame is not interested in going to school and is inspired by something out in the wilderness?

This is a story about a mother and her children and a coming-of-age story for both children through their years living with their mother.

VIDEO:

“Wolf Children” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  There are a few things that I must point out about this fantastic film when it comes to its look and character designs.  Despite having a Studio Ghibli flair, this is not a Studio Ghibli film.  This is a film that utilizes Mamoru Hosoda’s direction and writing, the character designs by Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and a dedication to art especially backgrounds thanks to the crew of Studio Chizu.

The film is absolutely beautiful too look at.  Striving to have the same quality of Studio Ghibli films, the art background and detail of environments and objects is magnificent.

“Wolf Children” is colorful, vibrant and one can easily appreciate the film’s character designs but also its lush backgrounds with greenery of the countryside, blue skies or even the weather changes of the area outside of Hana’s home.

Contrast is strong, I detected no banding or artifacts.  “Wolf Children” looks amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wolf Children” is presented in English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and the lossless audio is quite impressive.  From the first half hour featuring the family in the city area and hearing cars passing by, there is good use of the surround channels for cars speeding by and the direction the audio pans for those scenes.  While the countryside captures the sounds of the streams, the wind, the rain and storm and more.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear and for both Japanese and English soundtracks, both are well-acted and I was quite pleased with the lossless audio soundtrack for both tracks.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolf Children” features the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary  – FUNimation ADR director Mike McFarland interviewing voice talent Colleen Clinkenbeard, David Matranga, Alison Viktorin, Jad Saxton, Lara Woodhull and more.
  • June 18, 2012 – Japan Premiere– (16:02) Featuring a premiere in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • June 25, 2012 – World Premiere in Paris – (7:04) Featuring the world premiere in France with director Mamoru Hosoda and actress Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 16, 2012 Theme Song Premiere & Stage Greetings – (9:55) Ann Sally and composer, Masakatsu Takagi, Mamoru Hosoda and Aoi Miyazaki.
  • July 21, 2012 Opening Day Stage Greetings – (17:19) Featuring Opening Day in Japan with director Mamoru Hosoda, Aoi Miyazaki(voice of Hana), Takao Osawa (voice of Wolf Man), Amon Kabe (Child Ame), Yukito Nishii (Ame), Haru Kuroki (Yuki) and Momoka Ona (Child Yuki).
  • August 7, 2012 “Hana’s Day” Appreciation Stage Greetings – (6:40) Featuring “Hana’s Day” appreciation with Aoi Miyazaki, Takao Osawa and director Mamoru Hosoda.

EXTRAS:

“Wolf Children” Blu-ray also comes with the DVD version and a slipcover.

A beautiful film from Mamoru Hosoda and the crew of Studio Chizu, once again Hosoda manages to deliver another beautiful and brilliant film.

For longtime viewers of animated films, there are too many banal films that come out in Japan but what you want to see are films that can have the same quality in visual presentation but also when it comes to storytelling and as always,  Studio Ghibli is a company that many other films from different studios are often compared to.

Almost similar to the U.S. when there is a CG animated film and often a response is how it compares to a Disney Pixar film, the same can be said to any Japanese animated film with high production quality. Is it as good as a Ghibli film?  And I happen to like this type of push because it inspires creativity but also better storytelling.

We have seen fimmakers such as Hosoda and Makoto Shinkai, two men who are dedicated in having a balance of beautiful imagery but also storytelling.  In fact, for Hosoda, what he has been able to accomplish in films such as “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time” and “Summer Wars” is the ability to add sci-fi elements combined with dramatic themes.

Similar to Studio Ghibli films (albeit not getting into the more deeper subjects that affect humanity or the planet which Miyazaki was always going for in order to send a message), for “Wolf Children” it’s first and foremost a film about nurture and nature.

A mother wanting to protect her wolf children from harm, but learning to give them the freedom to choose what side of life they are most comfortable living.

Children who were born with wolf characteristics but must hide it from the public and for Yuki, she is one to accept humanity and to live the life of a normal girl while trying to maintain her secret.  While Ame is not like his sister, not too thrilled about life in the country, not to thrilled to be among the other kids and just not fitting in.

But for Yuki, life as a student is made much more difficult when a boy who has moved to the area, wants to get close to her.  Meanwhile, for Ame, since exposing himself to hunting for fish and feeling comfortable as a wolf than a human, he loves being part of the wild.

And this begins a conundrum as Mother wants her children with her but knows deep inside that her children see life differently from each other.  And for Yuki, it’s one thing to hide her secret but she wants her younger brother to be human, while Ame wants Yuki to accept her wolf-side and not try to be so human.

It’s a fascinating conundrum and to see how things begin to spiral out of control for the family especially as wolf years versus human years are much different.  And a mother who has protected them from the beginning, knowing that her children are growing older and the idea of losing her children is very difficult for her to bare.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality for this film is fantastic.  A vibrant, colorful film with amazing detail on painted art backgrounds and an interesting style of character design from Evangelion’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the film has a taste of classic Ghibli but also seeing how Studio Chizu’s focus of maintaining quality, this is a beautiful animated film with amazing detail and clarity.  The lossless audio is also wonderful with crystal clear dialogue and soundtrack, both English and Japanese soundtracks are great and they are both well-acted.

You also get an insightful audio commentary for the English dub soundtrack and several screening events for “Wolf Children” in Japan.

Overall, “Wolf Children” has turned out to be a magnificent, touching and gorgeous film on Blu-ray.  Mamoru Hosoda’s work has always been about quality, from its look but most importantly, the storytelling.  If you are looking for an animated film on Blu-ray, “Wolf Children” is highly recommended!

Appleseed XIII: Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

appleseedxiii

“Appleseed XIII” was a fascinating and entertaining anime series, especially for those who enjoyed the previous OVA or animated “Appleseed”  films.  The TV series was an interesting look into the background of the protagonists Deunan and Briareos and their earlier relationship as a couple and members of E.S.W.A.T.  An action-packed anime series with an emotional touch, “Appleseed XIII” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Appleseed XIII: Complete Series

FILM RELEASE: 2011

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (390 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Audio: English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH and French

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: FUNimation

RELEASE DATE: June 4, 2013

Originally Created by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Takayuki Hamana

Sereis Composition by Jun’Ichi Fujisaku

Music by Conisch

Original Character Design by Masasamune Shirow

Character Design by Masanobu Nomura

Mechanical Design by Atsushi Takeuchi

Anime Production: Jimi’s Animation Studios

Background Art: Studio Biho

Featuring the voices of:

Kouichi Yamadera/David Matranga as Brialeos

Maaya Sakamoto/Luci Christian as Deunan Knotts

Ami Koshimizu/Caitlin Glass as Gina

Hiro Shimono/Micah Solusod as Yoshitsune

Jouji Nakata/Mike McFarland as Mags

Kanji Suzumori/Brandon Potter as Reese

Kenjiro Tsuda/Chuck Huber as Greg

Masashi Sugawara/Cris George as Baxter

Mayumi Yanagisawa/Shelley Calene-Black as Nike

Mikako Takahashi/Emily Neves as Hitomi

Naomi Shindoh/Monica Rial as Dia

Naoya Uchida/Charles Campbell as Lance

Ryotaro Okiayu/Ian Sinclair as Archedes

Sakiko Tamagawa/Allison Sumrall as Athena

In the wake of destruction from a worldwide non-nuclear war, the city of Olympus has become the control center of the world. As humanity adopts biological enhancements in attempts to achieve perfection, a terrorist organization uprises to prevent what could be the eventual extinction of the human race. Two former LAPD SWAT members join a special mech-piloting, military force to take down the leader of the terrorist organization.

Masamune Shirow, one of my favorite manga artists that I had the opportunity to enjoy his works back when I was a teenager.

Creator of manga hits such as “Black Magic”, “Dominion”, “Ghost in the Shell”, “Orion” and also had the opportunity to read the manga and watch the original 1988 OVA series “Appleseed”.

Although the first Shirow anime I watched was the OVA “Black Magic M-66″, I also had the opportunity to watch the first anime release of “Appleseed” and I can easily remember how cerebral the OAV was compared to “Black Magic M-66″ and the two “Dominion Tank Police” OVA’s.  But if there is one thing that you can expect from Shirow’s work is an intelligent story, being created with meticulous detail and a tremendous back story.  Shirow is able to create a world with characters that just amazes me.

Granted, his work that a lot of people outside of Japan are familiar with is “Ghost in the Shell”, in 2004, all things changed with the release of “Appleseed” the movie, a film that brought the world of “Appleseed” using new technology and a creative, innovative way to use 3D in a film.  Directed by Shinji Aramaki, a sequel titled “Appleseed Ex Machina” was created in 2007.

The main premise of “Appleseed” is a problematic world in chaos after a non-nuclear Third World War has decimated Earth in the 22nd Century.  The United States, Great Britain and China are having problems maintaining order, while former LAPD SWAT members Deunan Kute and Briareos Hecantonchires work for the prestigious ES.W.A.T. (Extra Special Weapons and Tactics) in the city of Olympus.  A city in which half of the population are bioroids and shows how Deunan and Briareos are dedicated to protecting their home from their enemies.

But for those wanting storyline exploring how Deunan and Briareos became close as partners, the storyline was never fully explored in an animated version (only in the manga series) until 2011 when the CGI anime adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s “Appleseed XIII” was aired on television in 2011-2012.  The first 6 episodes were then made into a film titled “Appleseed XIII: Tartaros” in June 2011 and a second film based on the final seven episodes  titled “Appleseed XIII: Ouranos” was released in October 2011.

The series was directed by Takayuki Hamana (“The Prince of Tennis”, “Sisters of Wellber”, “Library War”) and features a screenplay by Jun’ichi Fujisaku (“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, “Real Drive”, “XxxHOLic the Movie: A Midsummer Night’s Dream”).  The music for the animated series was created by Conisch (“Mardock Scramble” films, “ToHeart2”, “Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal”), character designs by Takayuki Goto  (“Blue Seed”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”) and art direction by Masanobu Nomura (“The Big O”, “Blue Exorcist”, “Gurren Lagann”, “Ah! My Goddess: The Movie”).

The animated series focuses on a younger Deunan and her relationship with Briareos.  Deunan is a special agent who is in a relationship with Briareos, a veteran cyborg soldier.

She’s has a temper and doesn’t like how Briareos acts like her father (which she didn’t get along with), but Briareos has promised her father and to her, that he would protect her no matter what.  And as the two want to protect Olympus as members of ES.W.A.T., they must deal with a lot of corruption, may it be corporate or political.

But trouble ensues when the city is implementing the Ark Project, a project to preserve the future of human kind but under bioroid supervision.  And as there are humans who have accepted bioroids as part of society, there is another group known as the Human Liberation Front that opposes the project, as they despise anything bioroid.

And because the HLF is tied to a terrorist group known as the Argonauts, trouble begins to take place in the city of Olympus and Deunan and Briareos must do what they can to protect Olympus.

VIDEO:

“Appleseed XIII: Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  While both “Appleseed” films raised the bar of what can be accomplished in CG animation during that time, “Appleseed XIII” also utilizes CG but in a different style.  Not to say that it’s bad because it’s a given that a TV series will not have the same animation budget as a film, but there is obviously less detail and the animation can look a bit jerky at times.  From character movements, hair movements, it just reminded me of how animation was back in the mid-to-late ’90s at times, while background art was very good.  It takes a while to get used to, but the art backgrounds, mechanical design and are well-done!

Presentation on Blu-ray is clean with no artifacts, slight banding and colors look very good in HD.

AUDIO:

“Appleseed XIII: Complete Series” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Action scenes showcase very good use of panning for the surround channels and also good use of LFE.   As for voice acting on the Japanese side, you have two veterans involved with the series.  Kouichi Yamadera who had previously done the voice of Briareos (as well as the voice of Spike on “Cowboy Bebop”, Tenshin han on “Dragon Ball Z”, Cheese on “Soreike! Anpanman”.  And you have Maaya Sakamoto doing the voice of Deunan (she also did the voice of Lunamaria Hawke in “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny”, Ciel Phantomhive in “Black Butler”and Aura in the “.Hack” series).

As for the English dub, it’s important to note that the English voice talent for the TV series is different from the films (as original voice talent were not available) but the voice talent featuring David Matranga as Briareos and Luci Christian as Deunan, both did a wonderful job.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Appleseed XIII: Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 7 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland, Ian Sinclair and Monica Rial.
  • Episode 12 Audio Commentary – (7:23) Featuring audio commentary by Colleen Clinkenbeard and David Matranga.
  • The Inside – (2:23:56) A wonderful featurette featuring 13 special features on the making of “Appleseed XIII” and learning about how the series involved various Japanese creators and companies who took part in making the animated series.
  • U.S. Trailer – (2:02) FUNimation’s trailer for “Appleseed XIII”.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Theme

EXTRAS:

“Appleseed XIII: Complete Series” comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the films.

When it comes to Masamune Shirow works, one of the experiences that I like to come out of reading or watching his works is the feeling of intellectual storytelling.  Storytelling that captivates you for how cerebral and not worrying if the masses will understand his work or not.

“Appleseed” is an interesting anime because the storyline of the characters of Deunan and Briareos as members of ES.W.A.T. has been established in the OAV and the two animated films.  We know these two characters are kick ass, no nonsense and literally get the job done, no matter what challenges come their way.

We have seen the corruption of the powerful and we have seen the troubles within society between humans and bioroids.   So, that is an established storyline for those who have followed “Appleseed” in the past.

With the success of the two films and so much content from Shirow’s manga that have yet to be covered, “Appleseed XIII” takes the storyline before those major events and focuses on a young, explosive Deunan and her overprotective boyfriend/cyborg Briareos.

And I have to admit that I was surprised to see the sentimental side between these two characters.  For so long, they have been involved in storylines where your attention is focused on their partnership and taking on criminals but this time around, while the focuses on protecting the city and going after criminals, still continues, we also get to see an emotional side of the characters.

Deunan’s lack of a relationship with her father, her stubbornness of being upset at Briareos who wants to protect her.  And to see the two bickering about their relationship, it was not what I was expecting to see. But the fact that this series covers their early relationship, I suppose I never really expected to see this emotional side of either characters.

But I suppose it is necessary to show how these two have evolved as partners but I suppose I never really thought about them in a romantic kind of way considering she is human and he is cyborg.

The storyline between human and bioroids actually made me think of an older anime series titled “Bubblegum Crisis” and the hatred between humans and robots trying to co-exist but “Appleseed XIII” also explores the positive bond between human and bioroids as well.   I know there have been several stories that explored that tale, but it’s interesting to see how this storyline plays out and how it starts to affect Deunan.

As for the anime series, I felt the animation took getting used to.  After watching the beautiful animation of the films, it took a while to get used to the anime production.  Character designs were good but at times were clunky.  From hair movement to body movement, the jerkiness was almost like a trip back to the late ’90s of CG animation.  But there are impressive visual moments throughout the film.  Backgrounds were beautiful to look at, fight scenes were impressive and mechanical designs were awesome.

While certain aspects of the film looked amazing on Blu-ray and good use of surround channels and LFE for lossless audio, I was also happy to see the 2 hour and 23 minute featurettes about the making of the series plus the addition of two audio commentaries.

Overall, “Appleseed XIII” was a fascinating series and for those who enjoyed the previous OVA or films, it was an interesting look into the background of the protagonists Deunan and Briareos and their earlier relationship as a couple and members of E.S.W.A.T taking on a variety of challenges.  An action-packed anime series with an emotional touch, “Appleseed XIII” is recommended!

Starship Troopers: Invasion (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” is an exciting CG animated film collaboration between Japan and the United States featuring non-stop action, amazing visuals and a fast-paced storyline.  It may not be deep and it may not satisfy those who are familiar with the original novel but it’s still an entertaining CG animated film that action fans will definitely want to check out!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: K-ON!: Starship Troopers: Invasion

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish, Thai, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin Simplified), Chinese (Mandarin Traditional), Indonesian/Bahasa/ Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

RATED: R  (For Violence, Language, Nudity)

COMPANY: SOLA Digital Arts/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2012

Directed by Shinji Aramaki

Screenplay by Flint Dille

Based on the Novel by Robert A. Heinlen

Produced by Joseph Chou

Executive Producer: Edward Neumeier, Casper Van Dien

Music by Tetsuya Takahashi

Featuring the voices of:

Luci Christian as Captain Carmen Ibanez

Melissa Davis as Ice Blonde

Justin Doran as Dr. Carl Jenkins

David Matranga as General Johnny Rico

Emily Neves as Trig

David Waid as Major Henry “Hero” Varro

Leraldo Anzaldua as Ratzass

Andrew Love as Lt. Otis “Bugspray” Hacks

Sam Roman as Lt. Tony Daugherty

Jovan Jackson as Mech

Kalob Martinez as Holyman

The troopers of two starships have joined forces to terminate a massive bug attack at a federation outpost. Before the mission can be completed and the survivors evacuated, one ship abruptly departs and goes inexplicably dark. The remaining battle-hardened troopers race to the rescue, only to discover that the threat from the bugs is about to hit home. With the latest in CGI technology, this film from executive Producer Casper Van Dien and Director Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) features the return of fan favorite characters Johnny Rico, Captain Ibanez and Carl Jenkins.

In 1959, writer Robert A. Heinlen created the military science fiction novel known as “Starship Troopers”.  Serialized in “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction”, “Starship Troopers” was a major inspiration to writers, filmmakers and video game creators.

In America, the influence of Heinlen’s novel was incorporated to James Cameron’s “Aliens” and would inspire the creation of three live action films, most notably the Paul Verhoeven film which diverged from the original novel.

While in Japan, “Starship Troopers” was a major influence to anime creators.  Yoshiyuki Tomino, known for creating the legendary mecha series “Mobile Suit Gundam” has cited the novel as an inspiration and in 1988, Sunrise and Bandai Visual created a 6-episode anime OVA series titled “Uchu no Senshi” (which translates to “Starship Troopers”), a series that was faithful to Heinlen’s original novel.

The original novel was focused on a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan “Johnnie” Rico and his adventures as part of the Mobile Infantry and his rise in his military career during a time when mankind is in war against an arachnoid specials known as “The Bugs”.

With its acknowledged major influence to Japanese science fiction, nearly 25-years-later since the “Uchuu no Senshi” animated OVA series, “Starship Troopers” once again goes back to Japan for a CG-animated film titled “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.  But this collaboration was also with the United States.

Directed by Shinji Aramaki (“Appleseed”, “”Megazone 23 Part III”, “Genesis Survivor Gaiarth”, “Bubblegum Crisis”) and a man known for his work on many of the Japan’s popular mecha anime hits, Aramaki’s direction is based on the written work of Edward Neumeier (who wrote the previous films in the series) and executive producer and actor Casper Van Dien (best known for playing Johnny Rico in the live action films).  The animation and motion capturing was done in Japan courtesy of SOLA Digital Arts.

The CG animated film would feature the return of characters Johnny Rico, Carl Jenkins and Carmen Ibanez but following the adventures of the A-1 Team.

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” takes place in a distant Federation outpost known as Fort Casey where the A-1 Team led by Lt. Tony Daugherty go to the outpost to help the survivors of the starship John A. Warden (which is stationed at the outpost) and evacuate everyone, including bringing military intelligence that General/Dr. Carl Jenkins has back to Earth.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to other characters especially to Major Henry “Hero” Varro, the commander of the K-12 team who has been locked up by Dr. Carl Jenkins for insubordination.

But while everyone including the A-1 team learn that the outpost has been overrun by the Bugs, as they try to escape, the starship John A. Warden takes off without them and goes missing in the nebula.  While members of the K-12 Team and the A-1 Team manage to escape on the Alesia, they want answers why the starship John A. Warden had took off.

Especially Captain Carmen Ibanez who is upset that her superior, General Johnny Rico would let someone like Dr. Jenkins (who’s personal ambition seems to be priority than the lives of the soldiers) leave with her ship.

But when the starship John A. Warden is found floating in the nebula, something bad has happened and now both members of the K-12 Team and A-1 Team go inside the John A. Warden to find out what had happen to those inside the ship.

And unfortunately, they find out that not only has everyone been killed, only Dr. Jenkins is alive (who has locked himself inside a room) and worst of all, a Queen of “The Bugs” has found a way to take control of the John A. Warden.  As the K-12 and A-1 Team try to escape back on the Alesia, the Queen who has complete control of the starship John A. Warden destroys the Alesia, leaving the soldiers stranded inside the starship with Bugs all over the place.

Will they survive the onslaught?

VIDEO:

Having watched a good number of CG animation from Japan, it’s always great to see how technology has continued to get better and better with the models and textures since the release of Shinji Aramaki’s previous effort on “Appleseed”.  There was no doubt that “Appleseed” broke new ground for CG animation in Japan and for Aramaki, he continues to be a major legend in the industry because of his work on the greatest mecha anime series and to have him work on “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is fantastic, if you are an anime fan!

With SOLA Digital Arts, Inc. working on the animation and that the company literally flew all American actors to Japan for motion capturing, I’m just amazed how far CG animation has come since “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”, “Final Fantasy: Advent Children” to the “Appleseed” related films to this current animated film, “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.

Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), the film looks absolutely amazing in HD.  The detail of the characters show skin pores, the movements are not as jerky as they were years ago.  Movements are smooth, emotions of characters are much more evident and natural and there is this less blank look on the faces of the characters.

From the characters to the aliens, they are heavily detailed, especially with mechanical design.  Aramaki’s experience is in mechanical design, so it helps to have him as the driving force and getting people to give their 100% in making the vehicles look amazing.

I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts or edge enhancement.  If anything, the picture quality for “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO:

The lossless soundtrack is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish, Thai and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The soundtrack was very good, with good use of the surround channels as this is an action-packed film featuring explosions, gunshots, laser blasts that come up often throughout the film.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the center and front channels.  But I wish the soundtrack was much more immersive.  I was hoping more more LFE and directional effects but I really felt the lossless soundtrack could have been a lot better for this series, as I had high expectations for “Starship Troopers: Invasion” to be immersive for its sheer number of action scenes.

The soundtrack also comes with quite a few language dubs but for the English lossless soundtrack, you have well-known anime voice talents such as Luci Christian, David Matranga and Emily Neves involved.  But for those hoping Casper Van Dien or other talents from the previous films voicing their roles, this is not the case for “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Chinese (Mandarin/Simplified and Traditional), Indonesia/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmaker Commentary – Featuring the Japanese audio commentary with director Shinji Aramaki and Ishizuka of Sony Pictures. 
  • Conceptual Art Gallery – Featuring a slideshow of concept art
  • Deleted Scenes – (1:36) Featuring two deleted scenes: “I Don’t Like Funerals” and “Marzijon Wormhole”.
  • Gag Reel – (3:24) English voice dubbing outtakes
  • The Making of “Starship Troopers: Invasion” – (1:19:59) Featuring the making of the CG animated film broken down to the following parts that can be viewed separately or together: “Genesis”, “Archive”, “Character Design”, “Motion Capture”, “Power Suits”, “Bugs”, “Ships”, “Backgrounds”, “Compositing” and “Music”.

EXTRAS:

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows you to stream the film to computers, tablets or smartphones and download to your computer.

“Starship Troopers: Invasion” is a film that visually, looks great and non-stop action that fans of the genres will enjoy.

But the film felt like I was watching cut scenes for a first-person shooter.  A storyline that focused so much on the action that very little was left of the plot.  What it turns out to be is another banal storyline of humanity trying to survive against an alien infestation, another film like “Aliens”, like “Predator” and wondering which characters would ultimately survive.

But “Starship Troopers”, especially for the films, have been stories that deviated from the original novels, anyone expecting a return to Robert A. Heinlein’s work may be disappointed, while those who grew up watching the Edward Neumeier written films will probably enjoy “Starship Troopers: Invasion” a lot.  Especially anime fans who are used to seeing these type of action films.

I want to make it clear that I enjoyed “Starship Troopers: Invasion”.  For one, I was not expecting a deep storyline but I did enjoy the visual aspect of the film but also its characters.  Granted, a well-written plot and giving more depth and attention to character development would have made this film much deeper, but “Starship Troopers” to many people who have never read the novel is about warfare, about action and a storyline that is filled with sex and violence and team bravado as humanity takes on the aliens that continue to threaten them.

Like the live-action films, there is a lot of violence in “Starship Troopers: Invasion” as no matter how efficient the armor of the soldiers are, the aliens are even deadlier as soldiers are constantly getting impaled and no matter how many bullets hits these aliens, they are relentless.

As for the sex, director Shinji Aramaki discusses in the audio commentary of how there were questions by female staff of how much nudity was featured in first half-hour of the film.  Literally, the three female characters which consist of Captain Carmen Ibanez, Ice Blonde and Trig are seen nude in the film.  And while some viewers will roll their eyes of the amount of female nudity this film has to offer, sex and violence will no doubt be its strength to a core demographic who love first person shooter video games and films with intense action.  It’s how it is and Shinji Aramaki and Japanese crew followed Edward Neumeier’s script to incorporate as much sex and violence as possible.

But another reason why I enjoyed this film was its CG animation.  I have watched many CG animated films come from Japan and the technology continues to get better and better and I’m just in awe of how beautiful these CG renderings are and how much work went to making this film looks visually stunning.

And on Blu-ray, the film looks absolutely fantastic but I wish the lossless soundtrack would have complimented the amount of action as seen in the film.  This film has so much action, I wanted immersiveness.  I wanted to feel these explosions and hear the directional fire coming from my surround and rear surround channels and bullets zipping from left to right and vice versa.  And I admit that I was a bit disappointed that with amazing visuals, the lossless soundtrack was not stellar as it could have been.  But you do get a number of special features that made the film worth its while and once again, I did enjoy it.

I know already that by the look of this film alone, “Starship Troopers: Invasion” was not cheap.  Having this collaboration between the East and West working together is great but at the same time, there is no doubt that this film needs to make its money back, especially if there are talks of how successful this film does, more will be made.

It would be great if more can be made as I surely enjoyed this film much better than the second and third installment of the “Starship Troopers” films.  It’s pretty much a popcorn action film that will appeal to “Starship Troopers” fans and also those who want to see an all-action, violent CG animated film and throw in the titillating nudity as well!

Overall, “Starship Troopers: Invasion” is an exciting CG animated film collaboration between Japan and the United States featuring non-stop action, amazing visuals and a fast-paced storyline.  It may not be deep and it may not satisfy those who are familiar with the original novel but it’s still an entertaining CG animated film that action fans will definitely want to check out!

Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Incredibly emotional, hilarious and entertaining. “Clannad ~After Story~” is a perfect example of anime series that is an emotional rollercoaster that will definitely make you laugh but undoubtedly make you cry.  Tragic and uplifting, the best dramatic anime television series that I have ever seen in a very, very long time!  “Clannad: After Story Complete Collection” is a must-own anime series on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sentai Filmworks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE:  Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection

SERIES AIR DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

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

RATED: TV PG

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: July 24, 2012

Original Character Designs by Itaru Hinoue

Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara

Series Composition/Screenplay by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Jun Maeda, Magome Togoshi, Shinji Orito

Character Design by Kazum Ikeda

Art Director: Mutsuo Shinohara

Chief Animation Director: Kazumi Ikeda

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Direction of Photography: Ryuuta Nakagami

Anime Production by Kyoto Animation

Featuring the voices of:

Mai Nakahara/David Matranga as Nagisa Furukawa

Yuuichi Nakamura/Luci Christian as Tomoya Okazaki

Ai Nonaka/Hilary Haag as Fuuko Ibuki

Akemi Kanda/Brittney Karbowski as Ryou Fujibayashi

Daisuke Sakaguchi/Greg Ayres as Youhei Sunohara

Houko Kuwashima/Kaytha Coker as Tomoyo Sakagami

Kikuko Inoue/Kara Greenberg as Sanae Furukawa

Mamiko Noto/Emily Neves as Kotomi Ichinose

Ryotaro Okiayu/Andrew Love as Akio Furukawa

Ryou Hirohashi/Shelley Calene-Black as Kyou Fujibayashi

Ai Bandou as Sugisaka

A few months have passed since Tomoya declared his love to Nagisa. Now their relationship is entering a new phase, and neither is quite sure where it will take them. As their friends move on to lives of their own, Tomoya and Nagisa get ready to start a family of their own. But Nagisa’s health has always been precarious, and an event that should bring nothing but joy delivers tragedy instead.

Now Tomoya must learn to accept the bitter with the sweet and to understand that the most important thing is to hold onto love, no matter what.

When it comes to the Japanese software company Key, many fans appreciate their work as the video games tend to be dating simulators for the PC and many other video game consoles.  Known for two visual novels “Kanon” and “Air” (both were adapted to anime series), the objects of the video games tend to be the gamer controlling the main male protagonist and with a lot of female friends, answering questions correctly in order to score.  The first two video games were adult-based but in 2004, the company released “Clannad”, a series that would not show nudity or fan service and a game for all ages.

“Clannad” received an anime adaptation in 2007 with a total of 23-episodes  and was released on DVD earlier this year in the US from Sentai Filmworks.  The second season known “Clannad ~After Story~” (which takes place after the first season of Clannad and then ten years later) is now being released in the US.   The anime series is directed by Tatsuya Ishihara (“Air”, “Kanon”, “Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”) and a screenplay by Fumihiko Shimo (“Full Metal Panic!”, “Air”, “Burst Angel”, “Gravion”, “Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”).  The character design for the anime series is by Kazumi Ikeda (“Kanon”) and is faithful to the original designs by Itaru Hinoue (“Air”, “Kanon”).

The series was released on DVD back in 2009 by Sentai Filmworks and in July 2012, the complete series will be released on Blu-ray featuring both the Japanese and English lossless soundtracks.

A summary of “Clannad” revolves around the character of Tomoya Okazaki, a high school student who tends to be late for class and has his share of personal problems at home (he and his father have not had a good relationship since his mother’s death) and pretty much spends most of his time with his troublemaking friend Youhei Sunohara.  Tomoya was once a promising basketball player in school until he was in a fight with his father which led to his arm being injured to the point where he can’t lift his arm up past his shoulder.

But life changes for Tomoya for the positive when he meets new high school student Nagisa Furukawa who he quickly becomes good friends with and helps her out.  Throughout the school year, he meets other female students that he tries to help out and becomes their friend.  And in the process, his friendships with these people help other people who are in need of friends.

The main characters of “Clannad ~After Story~” are:

  • Tomoya Okazaki – The main protagonist.  A delinquent in school who tends to cut class or fall asleep from class, his life is changed for the positive when he meets Nagisa Furukawa.  He hangs out with his good friend Youhei Sunohara.  In “Clannad ~After Story~”, Tomoya continues to live with Nagisa’s family and are now a couple.
  • Nagisa Furukawa – A shy teenager who is passionate towards an old commercial for the Dango Family.  Her parents Akio and Sanae run a pastry shop where Nagisa helps out.  Because of her poor health, she has been forced to repeat her senior year in high school three times but has grown stronger and more appreciative of life after she has met Tomoya.  Now dating Tomoya.
  • Youhei Sunohara – Tomoya’s good friend who always gets in trouble and is often seen getting beat up.  He is known for his blonde hair and has a younger sister named Mei who constantly worries about him.  Has no real aspirations in  life.
  • Kyou Fujibayashi – The twin sister of Ryou Fujibayashi. Very tough girl who gets in Tomoya and Youhei’s face and always thinks he is mistreating her sister or other girls.  Dreams of becoming a teacher.
  • Ryou Fujibayashi – Twin sister of Kyou, she is the most reserved and quite of the two.  She’s always defended by her twin sister Kyou.  Dreams of becoming a nurse.
  • Kotomi Ichinose – The smartest girl in  school.  Plays the violin badly.  Is given the chance to study abroad and is considering it.
  • Tomoyo Sakagami– The transfer student who is rumored to be a violent girl and she demonstrates her fighting skills by taking out two gangsters.  She wants to become a student body president and idolizes Youhei’s landlord Misae (a former student body president who was tough).
  • Fuko Ibuki – A girl that Tomoya meets in school and learns about her obsession with starfish.  It is revealed in the first season that the girl Tomoya met was the spirit of Fuko, as the real person (the younger sister of teacher, Kouko Ibuki) has been unconscious in a hospital for a long period of time.
  • Yukine Miyazawa – A student who works/hangs out at the Library Reference room.  Most people go to her to listen to her problems.  A kind person who tends to help delinquents and gang members.

For the first half of “Clannad ~After Story~”, the series picks up with storylines that feature the supporting characters and also revolves around Tomoya and Nagisa who ended with the first season becoming boyfriend and girlfriend.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

  • EPISODE 1 – Furukawa Bakery is challenged in a baseball match and Tomoya and friends team up to take on the opposition.
  • EPISODE 2 – Mei comes to check on her older brother Youhei.  Youhei and Tomoya feel that if he had a girlfriend to watch over him, Mei wouldn’t have to worry.  So, Youhei finds a willing person to pretend to be his girlfriend.
  • EPISODE 3 – Mei and Tomoya are disturbed that Youhei doesn’t seem to care for his younger sister.  So, to test to see how much Youhei cares, Tomoya pretends to be Mei’s boyfriend.
  • EPISODE 4 – Things start to become tends between Tomoya and Ryohei as Tomoya can’t understand why Youhei doesn’t care for his sister.
  • EPISODE 5 – Misae (Youhei’s landlord) tells her story to to Tomoya and Nagisa about a boy she knew when she was younger named Katsuki Shima.
  • EPISODE 6 – Continuing the storyline of Misae and Katsuki Shima and how the story affects Tomoya.
  • EPISODE 7 – Tomoya, Nagisa and Youhei finds out why the gang members tend to flock towards Yukine.  A rival gang mistakes Youhei as
  • EPISODE 8 – With a gang brawl about to happen, Tomoya and Youhei are brought into it and we learn the truth about Yukine’s brother.
  • EPISODE 9 – Tomoya and friends discuss what they want to do when they graduate from high school.  Meanwhile, Nagisa becomes ill again and is bedridden.
  • EPISODE 10 – Tomoya takes a job at Furukawa Bakery while Nagisa repeats her senior year in high school once again.
  • EPISODE 11 – Tomoya gets a new job and moves out of the Furukawa home in order to become independent.
  • EPISODE 12 – Yusuke tells Tomoya his story and how he went from a popular musician to working at the same electric job as him.  Also, something happens to Tomoya’s father and Tomoya and Nagisa take the next step up in their relationship.
  • EPISODE 13 – Tomoya and Nagisa plan to get married but Tomoya must win her father’s approval.
  • EPISODE 14 – Nagisa and Tomoya are now married and take another step forward into their relationship with even more happy news.
  • EPISODE 15 – Nagisa is pregnant but her illness has come back.  Tomoya is told the risks of Nagisa’s pregnancy.
  • EPISODE 16 – Nagisa is about to give birth but with her ill and the snow so heavy in their hometown, what will happen after she gives birth?
  • EPISODE 17 – Five years later, Nagisa’s parents find a way to bring Tomoya and his daughter Ushio together.
  • EPISODE 18 – While Tomoya and his daughter are on their first trip together, Tomoya learns from his grandmother of how his life is similar to how his father was when his mother died.
  • EPISODE 19 – After hearing the story of his father, Tomoya decides that he must take the important steps in making things right with his father.
  • EPISODE 20 – Tomoya now does his best in trying to raise his young daughter Ushio, meanwhile Fuko and Ushio become friends.
  • EPISODE 21 – Ushio suffers from the same illness as her mother and now Tomoya makes sure that he is there for his daughter.
  • EPISODE 22 – Final episode: We then learn the purpose of the opening sequences of each episode of “Clannad” of who is the girl and the robot and an alternate universe.
  • EPISODE 23 – EXTRA – We learn how life was for Nagisa a year before she and Tomoya met.
  • EPISODE 24 – OVA: Another World: Kyou Chapter – Similar to the Tomoyo chapter OVA, this alternate universe is about what if Tomoya and Kyou were a couple.
  • EPISODE 25 – SUMMARY – A summary of events of how Tomoy and Nagisa met, to the day they got married, when she became pregnant and gave birth and Tomoya entering into a new world with a different outcome than what he had experienced before.

VIDEO:

“Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection” is definitely an improvement over the 2009 DVD release, and that is pretty good considering the original DVD was vibrant and beautiful to begin with.

So far, each anime series that were based off a Key video game such as “Kanon” and “Air” have both been fantastic anime series featuring vibrant animation, colorful backgrounds and just many settings that really make the series stand out.

The same can be said about “Clannad ~After Story~”, the animation and production is absolutely fantastic.  Kyoto Animation has done a wonderful job with the artistic backgrounds.  Also, the animation is solid and character designs are also done very well.

During my viewing, I did not see any banding or artifacting issues, black levels were deep and as mentioned, the series is absolutely vibrant and colorful.

AUDIO:

“Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Back in 2009, the DVD featured only the Japanese audio soundtrack in stereo but now on Blu-ray, both English and Japanese lossless soundtracks are presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music coming from the front and center channels.  Surround channels are utilized for musical instruments and ambiance.

Japanese voice acting is solid and a lot of well-known Seiyuu are involved in the series.  Both Mai Nakahara and Yuuichi Nakamura were fantastic in the series and I wasn’t sure how the English dialogue would be, but sure enough, Sentai Filmworks did a fantastic job in the casting as David Matranga and Luci Christian were absolute marvelous in the English dub.  So, anime fans should feel comfort in knowing that both lossless soundtrack and the voice acting are well-done.

Subtitles are featured in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening Animation
  • Clean Ending Animation
  • Episode 16 Audio CommentaryFeaturing audio commentary by English voice talents David Matranga (voice of Tomoya Okazaki) and Luci Christian (voice of Nagisa Furukawa).  Both voice talent discuss the anime series and their thoughts on their characters and the series as a whole.
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmwork trailers.

After gushing about how much I enjoyed the first season of “Clannad”, I was definitely looking forward to “Clannad ~After Story~”.

I’ve heard many times from fans of the series that “Clannad ~After Story~” is an absolutely wonderful conclusion of the series, so I definitely was looking forward to it.

For the most part, the first half of the series is similar to the first season of the series in that it focuses on storylines of several key characters.  In this case, a mix of the main characters but also supporting cast with a story focusing on Youhei and his sister Mei, Youhei’s landlord Misae, the library worker Yukine, the musician turned electrician Yusuke and then back to the primary characters Tomoya and Nagisa.

Like the first season of “Clannad”, the storyline for each of these characters are quite emotional.  From learning more about Youhei and his sister’s relationship and his respect for Tomoya, Misae’s storyline is quite interesting because she’s a character that is rarely featured and if anything, her storyline is tied to the character of Tomoyo.  But for the most part, her storyline is equally emotional and somewhat tragic as it deals with her past and why she has not moved on.  Yukine’s was OK and was more explaining her ties to the gang community and her trying her best to stop the fighting.  Yusuke, a character who really never factored into the first season plays an important part in Tomoya’s storyline, especially post-graduation.  But his story is short and is more to show Tomoya about protecting the person you love and doing what you can for that person.

But the underlying story in each of these episodes is the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa.  How these two are truly in love with each other and no matter how frail or how sick she gets, Tomoya’s love for her is strong and unconditional and it was great to see their relationship blossom even after Tomoya graduates from high school.

As each of the character storylines were enjoyable (and emotional at the same time), what I found interesting are the short opening animation on each episode featuring a robot and a girl which points to dismal storyline which is quite vague at this point but you suspect that something bad may happen in the series.   Is it a dream or is there some underlying meaning for those scenes?

The second half of the series is more realistic and heartbreakin.  as Tomoya and Nagisa now live their adult lives as a married a couple and eventually wanting to start a family.  We have received hints from the opening of the anime series with a girl and a robot but the storylines were vague until you reach this final half of the season.

The final half of “Clannad ~After Story~” is fantastic and emotional.    I don’t think I have cried this hard for an anime series since I have watched “Grave of the Fireflies”, that is how depressing and emotional that “Clannad ~After Story~” has gotten and episode after episode, I couldn’t stop, it was that captivating and suffice to say, you are pulled in as you have watched many episodes of Tomoya and Nagisa grow from their high school years and now to their married years and you have two bombshells dropped on you that is so emotionally hard to take in.

Also, knowing that those emotions and what you see, mirrors reality in knowing that there are fathers who have had to deal with a similar situation that Tomoya had to go through.  The series does have a happy ending and of course, the realism of the storyline can be lost but in the context of what we experienced throughout this series, especially with the Fuko and Yukine storyline, there are magical things that happen in the world of “Clannad”.  The balls of light that we have seen in several episodes and the discussion of alternate universes (especially with the two OVA’s), the screenplay plays off possibly like its video game counterpart that this is not a an anime series based on reality, it’s a series based on possibilities and anything is possible.

For the realists, one can feel that with episode 21, the tragedy that unfolds is their true conclusion.  For those who want that magical, happy ending… episode 22 and the final episode summary gives you that other option.  It’s interesting because typically, you don’t get a choice in the matter at the end of an anime series.  Pretty much at the end of a series, what is done is done (unless there is a movie or OVA version featuring a re-imagining of the series).  Not for “Clannad ~After Story~”, the series has always had its enjoyable happy moments and its emotional moments.  As a viewer, part of me felt that episode 21 is how things should be, to capture that realism of the storyline.  But knowing how things happened during the Fuko, Misae and Yukine storyline in “Clannad” and “Clannad ~After Story~”, magical things happen in the town where Tomoya and Nagisa live which can’t be explained and thus episode 22 and the summary episode is an ending that makes sense.

In the end and now watching this series from beginning to end and almost like a marathon, so captivated that I couldn’t stop, I realize why this acclaimed series is loved by many.  Definitely one of the best dramatic anime series I have seen in a very long time since “Kimagure Orange Road”, “Maison Ikkoku” and the “Video Girl Ai” OVA series.  It’s that magic that I have missed when it comes to romance and realistic drama series and it’s great to finally watch a series that really shows you the value of life and absolutely captivates you from beginning to end.

Overall, “Clannad ~After Story~: Complete Collection” and the whole entire “Clannad” series on Blu-ray receives my highest recommendation!  5 stars!

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