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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!

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

April 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“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?


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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.


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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!

 

Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection

DURATION: 100 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

They’ve already had their bodies swapped like musical chairs, had their ages changed at random, and experienced their deepest desires taking control of them without warning, but if you thought Heartseed was finished with Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yoshifumi and Yui, you’ve got another think coming! Now there’s a new affliction going around, and the name of this peculiar bug is emotion sickness. As in, suddenly your emotions jump out of your body and sic someone else!

Needless to say, that’s more than simply awkward if you’ve got a deep-rooted phobia like a fear of men or repressed emotions that you’ve been trying to keep hidden, but in some situations it can literally be deadly! What is Heartseed up to this time, and why is he making our heroes involuntarily share their innermost dirty laundry?

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In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others. But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything. But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep. As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies. And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto. While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together. But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are? And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

The four OVA’s featured in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is the conclusion to the series and focuses on the relationships of the club members as founding member, Iori Nagase has grown distant from her club members, friends and people in class.

She has changed to become very cold and distant.  What has happened Nagase and why the drastic change?

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VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that although an OVA, there is not a huge difference in production quality compared to its television counterpart.

Character designs are colorful, art backgrounds are well-detailed and you do get a good number of location areas, thus more backgrounds featured in the OVA episodes.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series. Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

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During my review of “Kokoro Connection: Complete Collection”, part of my concern was that the 13-episode anime series left with no closure.

The anime series revolved around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena. From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, It was a series that obviously needed more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears. May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group. But together, they are there for each other.

But fortunately the conclusion to the series continues in its final episodes presented as OVA episodes that revolve around Iori Nagase.  As the club members have overcame many challenges as a group and have worked together to take on Heartseed’s challenges, for some reason, Nagase has grown cold and distant.

She no longer wants to be anyone’s friend.  She rejects Taichi’s love.  She doesn’t want to be around the club nor her friends at school.  And she is now the most talked about student, but not in the good way.

The four OVA’s focus Nagase’s change, the others trying to reach out to her but does Heartseed have anything to do with this?  And how can the group end the phenomenon?

So, fortunately what people will get is the ultimate conclusion to this storyline.

While the best part of these OVA episodes is pushing these friends to the limit and confessions being made, the final episodes featuring Heartseed was not as climactic as I was hoping for.  There was no major excitement that concluded with the primary antagonist but fortunately, the storyline surrounding Nagase was good enough to conclude the series.

Especially how things ended up for each of the five primary characters.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good as one can expect from an OVA release.  While not too far from its TV counterpart, nor does it look like a big production as one would expect from an OVA episode, “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” featured more detailed location scenes (especially backgrounds) for the characters, retained its colorful look and didn’t see any artifacts or banding this time around.

While I wished “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” was included with the complete collection, for those who did get the complete collection will no doubt want this Blu-ray release to complete the series and get the closure they want to the Heartseed storyline.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Kanae Hazuki-KODANSHA/Say “I Love You” Committee.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episode 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 LD

Release Date: December 24, 2013

Originally Created by Kanae Hazuki

Director by Takuya Sato

Series Director: Toshimasa Kuroyanagi

Series Composition by Takuya Sato

Music by Yuuji Nomi

Character Design: Junko Watanabe, Yoshiko Okuda

Art Director: Yuka Hirama

Anime Production by ZEXCS

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Ai Kayano/Caitlynn French as Mei Tachibana

Takahiro Sakurai/Leraldo Anzaldua as Yamato Kurosawa

Minako Kotobuki/Emily Neves as Megumi Kitagawa

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Greg Ayres as Kenji Nakanishi

Risa Taneda/Monica Rial as Asami Oikawa

Tomoaki Maeno/Andrew Loves as Kai Takemura

Yumi Uchiyama/Carli Mosier as Aiko Mutō

Friends suck, and trusting someone is just setting yourself up. That’s the lesson Mei Tachibana learned after her heart was ripped out and only a shell was left where a girl used to be. But unlike so many, she found an easy solution: she’ll never make another friend. Ever.

 

Okay, maybe that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worked for Mei – or at least, it did until handsome, charming and annoyingly popular Yamato Kurosawa came along. For some freakish reason, he seems to like Mei. He even gave her his phone number! As if she would ever call him. Except she did. But only because she needed help. Still, he came. He actually came. And now things are getting way too complicated.

 

Mei’s no princess in a tower. She’s not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue her. So why did he have to kiss her and confuse everything? And why are those three little words so hard to say?

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In 2008, manga artist Kanae Hazuki created “Suki-tte Ii na yo” (Say “I Love You.”) which received a 13-episode anime adaptation in October 2012 and will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

Produced by ZEXCS, the series is directed and features series composition by Takuya Sato (“Steins;Gate”, “Strawberry Marshmallow, “Fate/stay night”), music by Yuuji Nomi (“Bokurano”, “Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honneamise”, “Whisper of the Heart”), character designs by Junko Watanabe (“Blood+”, “Eden ofthe East: Paradise Lost”) and Yoshiko Okuda (“Gatchaman Crowds”, “Hellsing Ultimate”) and art backgrounds by Yuka Hirama (“Initial D: Third Stage”, “Street Fighter alpha”, “Boogiepop Phantom”).

“Say ‘I Love You.'” is a series that revolves around a 16-year-old teenager named Mei Tachibana.  She has been bullied since she was a child, never had any friends and often teased by the girls in high school for her look and not having had a boyfriend.    And because of a childhood incident in which a rabbit died at her school and the children all put the blame on her, she has since had a lack of trust towards people, thinking that people want to get close and then betray you.

Meanwhile, at the same high school is popular Yamato Kurosawa.  All the girls want to be with him and his friend Kenji Nakanishi wishes he can be like him, but Kenji is often says things without thinking and turns them off.  But Yamato Kurosawa is the guy that many girls dream of being with.

But one day, Kenji runs into her and when Yamato sees her for the first time, Kenji tells Yamato that Mei is the quite girl that never talks to anyone and is often looking out the window in class.

One day, while Kenji was behaving crazy, he sees a girl (which happens to be Mei Tachibana) walking up the stairs and tugs on her blouse.  When Yamato tells Kenji to stop, Mei mistakens Yamato Kurosawa as the pervert and gives him a roundhouse kick.

All the girls are dismayed of what Mei has done but instead of being upset, Yamato laughs it off.

Meanwhile, when Mei opens her locker later in the day, she sees a letter from someone upset of what she had done and tells her that she better apologize to Yamato.  Meanwhile, inside her locker are many thumbtacks as a warning.

Yamato then shows up and wants to apologize to her for Kenji’s action, but Mei does the apologizing and gives him many band aids for his cuts he received after falling after she kicked him.  But feeling uncomfortable about being around someone, she tries to walk off quickly away from him but yet Yamato keeps following her wherever she goes. Yamato tells her that he wants to be friends but Mei doesn’t want to be friends.  He wants to get her phone number but she is not interested in giving it out.  So, he ends up giving her his phone number and tells her to call him if she wants.

One day while working at her bakery job, Mei is freaked out when one of the male customers starts following her wherever she goes.  Mei runs into the convenience store scared and the guy just continues to stand there waiting for her to come out. Mei tries to call her mother for help but her mother is not home.  Not knowing what she should do, she has the paper with Yamato’s phone number and she calls him for help.

Surprised that Mei has called her, Yamato rushes to her rescue.  He tells her to hold on to his arm while they walk out.  The guy who was waiting asks if they are dating and while he looks, Yamato gives Mei a long kiss.  Making the guy leave!

Mei trembles after receiving her first kiss but is not sure how to behave or how to interpret it.  But Yamato tells her that he helped her out with her problem and now he has her phone number and wants to be friends with her.

The next day, Mei tries to understand what happened the previous night but wonders if that kiss meant anything but she can’t help but start thinking and dreaming about Yamato.

She eventually meets Asami Oikawa, a good friend of Yamato and Kenji’s and she learns from Asami that Yamato has kissed every girl in school except one girl, Miki Arai.  Hearing that, Mei is hurt that Yamato can just kiss any girl without meaning.  And thinking that why would Yamato go for a girl like her, when there are beautiful girls like Asami, who is popular in school for her big chest.

But when she and Asami head to the restroom, she hears girls talking bad about Asami and bullying her because of her breasts.  Later that day, Mei overhears two girls talking badly about Asami and tries to tell them to stop talking badly about her and in the process, Mei gets beaten up by the girls.

When Yamato sees her with a big bruise and scratches on her face, she tells him that she fell.  But he takes one of the band aids he has given her and puts it on her face. As she heads to the clinic, she sees Asami and the two start talking.  Meanwhile, the girls that were talking bad about Asami and beat up Mei, show up and Asami learns that Mei got in a fight to protect her.

Meanwhile, as Kenji who was hit in the face by a soccer ball, goes to the school clinic, he sees the ruckus and tries to defend Asami but once again, he starts talking without thinking about why he likes Asami’s big breasts and she runs out crying.

Kenji is devastated that he hurt Asami because he really likes her, but Mei gives him some advice and when Kenji decides to listen to Mei, he goes to Asami and comforts her but also confessing his true feelings for her.

Meanwhile, later that day, Mei follows Yamato to the karaoke and inside, Miki Arai starts flirting with him but he’s not interested.  When he leaves, he sees Mei hiding and Mei confronts him about about kissing girls for the fun of it and that kisses are meant for people you love and a kiss should be with only a meaning of love.

Hearing that, Yamato confronts Mei and kisses her, kisses her repeatedly showing her a kiss that he has given for fun, but a passionate kiss that he gives for love and that the kiss he is giving her is because he feels love for her.

And the girl who had been living a life without friends, becomes the big talk at school as word gets around that she and Yamato are dating.  But of course, with many other girls wanting Yamato, life for Mei Tachibana in high school is not going to be quite easy.

But having had a life of not saying anything or standing back, will she continue loving Yamato, even if that means that she has to put up with a lot of pain?

The main characters of “Say “I Love You.” are:

  • Mei Tachibana – The main protagonist who is a girl who has been bullied by classmates all her life.  She has lived a life with no friends and staying away from people, feeling that people just want to get close and betray her.  So, she never wants to have friends but when she meets Yamato Kurosawa and he kisses her, that one kiss would change her life forever.  While she has never had many friends, she is quite blunt and tells people how she feels and in someway, it’s constructive criticism that ends up helping people.
  • Yamato Kurosawa – The most popular guy in school that many girls want to be with and also has kissed many girls, he falls for Mei Tachibana.  When Yamato was young, he used to be bullied until he got older and became popular with the girls.
  • Asami Oikawa – Asami is a good friend of Yamato and Kenji.  She has a complex about her breasts, which she has been teased throughout grade school and high school.  But she idolizes Yamato after he stood up for her.  She becomes good friends with Mei after Mei defends her from bullies. She is also dating Kenji Nakanishi.
  • Kenji Nakanishi – A good friend of Yamato who gets into trouble because he is always talking before thinking, especially about girls.  But he is in love with Asami and the two become a couple thanks to advice given to him by Mei.
  • Aiko Muto – She is dating Masashi Tachikawa but for the longest time, she has been in love with Yamato.  She can be cold and has a bad-mouth.  She has used a lot of cosmetics and lossed a lot of weight in order to become attractive for Yamato and because of her extreme use of cosmetics, she has damaged her skin.  She has had sex with Yamato before and thus, she can’t understand why Yamato would go for Me.  But although she sees Mei as a rival, when she is bullied by how she used to be and looked like, of all people to defend her from a bully…it was Mei.
  • Masashi Tachikawa – Aiko’s boyfriend and a person who has loved her, no matter how she looked like back then and now.
  • Kakeru Hayakawa – A guy who has slept and been with many girls like Yamato. But when he finds out that Yamato is dating Mei Tachibana, he can’t understand why he would go for a girl like her and wants to try to get close to Mei.
  • Megumi Kitagawa – A popular model who transferred to Yamato’s school.  When she was in grade school, she was teased and bullied and called ugly.  But now that she is a model and adored, she tries to win friends by giving them things and she despises Mei and can’t understand why Yamato would go for someone as plain as Mei.
  • Kai Takemura – A childhood friend of Yamato who was bullied and because he hid and neglected his studies due to the bullies, he moved away.  But he returns back, bigger and stronger and wanting his revenge on the bullies that tormented him. He is addicted to collectables from a theme park, “Land”.  But the first person he meets and falls for is a girl that works at the bakery shop….Mei.
  • Nagi Kurosawa – Yamato’s younger sister who is great at cooking and making stuff animals.  But after being betrayed by her friends who used her just to go to her house and have her cook for them, she feels that she has been betrayed and has stopped going to school, not wanting to be around people ever again.

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VIDEO:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I absolutely loved the character designs to this anime series and it’s overall look.  The series features a good emphasis on style, hairstyles and locations.  And manages to capture teenage life with well-detailed and shaded character designs and art backgrounds that are beautiful.

A vibrant anime series which I didn’t see any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  While the series is front-channel driven series, dialogue and music is crystal clear and is appropriate for this teenage romance anime series.  While the Japanese voice acting is well-done and usually the version I prefer, in the case of “Say ‘I Love You.'”, Caitlynn French hits the ball out of the ballpark with this wonderful performance as Mei Tachibana.  The awkwardness, the sadness, the playfulness of Mei Tachibana’s character and capturing the eventual growth of her character before she meets Yamato and after, this was one of the best casting decisions I have heard in an anime series and I was very impressed with French’s performance.  Also, Leraldo Anzaldua did a fantastic job as the voice of Yamato.

But I absolutely loved the English dub for this anime series!  Great job by everyone involved.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” comes with clean opening and closing animation, Japanese promos and “Mei & Marshmallow” animations (typically shown at the end of an episode).

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I have watched and read plenty of Shojo series and I have to admit that I was captivated by Kanae Hazuki’s “Say ‘I Love You’.” anime series.

I have never watched or read the manga series before but it was unlike other anime series, which typically has become a cliche in Japanese animation, of a teenager falling for the handsome, popular guy in school.  Usually a storyline that features a love triangle or some situation that threatens the relationship, while “Say ‘I Love You’.” does follow a similar banality that we often see in shojo romance anime series, it’s different.

For one, “Say ‘I Love You’.” revolves around a teenage girl who was bullied and never had any friends.  She doesn’t know, nor does she care about the social atmosphere at school because she has shunned it, but her life of just trying to be the person that no one pays attention to, changes when she meets Yamato Kurosawa.

And because of how she is, that becomes the main drive of the series of wondering about her emotions, especially about jealousy, how to deal with rumors that she hears on campus about Yamato and how to deal with it.

Also, another major difference that “Say ‘I Love You’.” tries to showcase that even these beautiful girls at school, some have had history of unpleasant things happening to them.

I think anyone who has graduated from high school and looked back at those who were popular or unpopular and have reconnected with these individuals later on in life can understand how high school can really be a living hell for certain students.

Typically in an anime series, the well-endowed female character is often used as a sexual, fan service character which is long overused in anime but also manga.  But for the character of Asami Oikawa, life is not easy for her as other people may think.  Yes, they may get attention from the guys in school and people talk about that person behind their backs, but we see how its affected Asami Okawa and how she tries to hide it.

Aiko Muto is another example of a female who was uncomfortable with her life, lost a lot of weight and tried to experiment with so much makeup and somewhat destroying herself in order to pursue some type of perfection or trying to look beautiful.

Once again, a relevant topic as we have seen many young women (especially in Asian countries), who have had plastic surgery to change themselves to the point of no return.

Megumi Kitagawa is another example of one who has changed herself.  In this case, Megumi was called ugly and plain by people in school during grade school but now, she lives a life of trying to prove that she is beautiful and wants people to know it.  Especially wanting Yamato to be with her, now that she is beautiful.  But can’t understand why he would choose a girl who is unpopular and plain, something she has worked hard to change herself and not be.

And last, Yamato Kurosawa, the popular guy with many girls around him, also had a life that was not like that before.  He was bullied, he always hid from bullies and in the process, regrets how he treated his old friend Kakeru Hayakawa, by not sticking up for him when he was bullied, because of fear.

These are a lot of the cruel things that people endure through grade school and high school and rarely do you find a series who tries to show that bullying is not cool.  And the person in the series, of all people to defend or even speak her mind about how she feels, is no other than Mei Tachibana, the girl who has been bullied and never had any friends growing up.

It’s a very delightful, positive and enjoyable series that I literally watched from beginning to end.  I absolutely loved it!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality looks great in HD and as for the lossless soundtrack, while both Japanese and English soundtracks are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, while the Japanese was good, for the English dub, the voice acting by both Caitlynn French and Leraldo Anzaldua was fantastic.

Caitlynn French literally played the character of Mei Tachibana with amazing efficacy.  You feel, you hear the awkwardness through Mei’s voice, thanks to French’s performance.  It definitely made this series much more captivating that all talent for the English dub did so well and this is coming from a guy who typically prefers to watch anime with its original Japanese soundtrack.

As for the special features, its a little on the slim side with the usual clean and opening endings and you do get the Japanese promos but it would have been wonderful if an audio commentary was included.

Overall, “Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!

“Say ‘I Love You’.” is highly recommended!

Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD  in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others.  But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want  to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything.  But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep.  As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies.  And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto.  While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together.  But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are?  And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  While a colorful series, there are scenes that have banding and even a with some artifacts, but for the majority the series, it’s a colorful series that looks good on Blu-ray.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series.  Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

As I finish watching “Kokoro Connection”, I can’t help but think about how this series had potential, how it reminded me a little of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” but somehow this series felt incomplete.

The anime series revolves around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena.  From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, this is a series that obviously needs more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears.  May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group.  But together, they are there for each other.

So, while the anime series focuses on friendships, the series ends and left me feeling, “is that it?”.  Fortunately, an OVA release is coming soon and I believe the OVA’s will conclude the series and it’s storyline to tie up some loose ends.  But at the same time, I wish the OVA’s were included with the complete TV series collection, so viewers can receive some sort of closure.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good with some mild banding but it’s a colorful series with beautiful art backgrounds.  There are hardly any special features aside from the Japanese promo’s which is nearly two-minutes long and the clean opening and ending themes.

While I did enjoy “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”, I just felt it was an incomplete storyline because the problems were never solved and series just ended with not really much closure.  It could have benefited with the four episode OVA inclusion with this set.  But with the “Kokoro Connect” OVA being released separately on Blu-ray, I can only hope it gives viewers to the anime TV series some closure.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

The Future Diary: Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Future Diary: Part Two” has turned out to be a complex but fascinating anime series with twists and turns that I never saw coming as each episode progressed.  For anime fans wanting something more violent, slightly creepy but also complex, you may want to give “The Future Diary” a chance!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Future Diary: Part Two

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011-2012

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATING: M

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Directed by Naoto Hosoda

Series Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Tatsuya Katou

Original Character Design by Sakae Esuno

Character Design by Hidetsugu Hirayama

Art Director: Toshiyuki Tokuda

Anime Production: asread

Featuring the following voice talent:

Misuzu Togashi/Josh Grelle as Yukiteru Amano

Norio Wakamoto/Kent Williams as Deus ex Machina

Tomosa Murata/Brina Palencia as Yuno Gasai

Mai Aizawa/Emily Neves as Minene Uryū

Manami Honda/Leah Clark as Murmur

Akira Ishida/Todd Haberkorn as Aru Akise

Asami Sanada/Lindsay Seidel as Reisuke Hojo

Eri Sendai/Kate Bristol as Tsubaki Kasugano

Hirokazu Hiramatsu/Mark Stoddard as Karyuudo Tsukishima

Hiromi Konno/Monica rial as Kamado Ueshita

Jin Domon/Jason Douglas as Takao Hiyama

Makoto Ishii/J. Michael Tatum as Masumi Nishijima

Masahiko Tanaka/Robert McCollum as Keigo Kurusu

Minoru Shiraishi/Joel McDonald as Oji Kosaka

Natsuko Kuwatani/Jamie Marchi as Ai Mikami

Takaya Hashi/Christopher Smith as John Balks

Tomokazu Seki/Brad Hawkins as Marco Ikusaba

Yoshihisa Kawahara/Ian Sinclair as Yomotsu Hirasaka

Yukana as Mao Nonosaka

Yuki Matsuoka/Caitlin Glass as Hinata Hino

Yuno’s psychotic episodes are getting out of control – but Yukiteru’s already in too deep with every diary keeper raving to take him out. He’ll have to trust her undying devotion to him if he wants to avoid the consequences. As the rules take a twist and new players enter the game, the bloodshed knows no boundaries. Manipulation leads to manslaughter, and what is real could actually be a product of chaos. With the world on the verge of collapse, there’s no predicting who’ll get the happy ending they’re fighting for.

Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano has stood close to Yuno, one because she protects him but two, because he tries to prevent her psychotic side from hurting anyone close to him.

But this time, Yuno has cross over the line, wanting to protect him and him not trying to fight her when she tries to kill others involved in the game, she poisons him.

But what happens when his life is at stake?  Knowing how crazy Yuno is…will he stick by her side or will he push her away?

Find out in the second half and the conclusion to “The Future Diary”, available now on DVD courtesy of FUNimation!

What is “The Future Diary” about?

In 2006, mangaka Sakae Esuno’s “Mirai Nikki” (Future Diary) would be serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s “Shonen Ace” through 2010.

With an a live-action drama series in 2012 and a three-side story manga (“Future Diary: Mosaic”, “Future Diary: Paradox” and “Future Diary: Redial”) released back in 2009-2010, the anime adaptation was shown on television in 2011-2012.

The anime series is produced by Asread and is directed by Yukichi Namiyanagi (“Shuffle! Memories”, “Nagasarete Airantou”, “Jinki: Extend”), series composition by Katsuhiko Takayama (“Baka and Test – Summon the Beasts”, “Cat Planet Cuties”, “Ga-Rei-Zero”), music by Tatsuya Katou (“Needless”, “Medaka Box”, “Samurai Bride”), character design by Hidetsugu Hirayama (“Shuffle!”, “Space Battleship Yamato 2199”) and art direction by Toshiyuki tokuda (“Major”, “Idolm@ster: Xenoglossia”, “Alien Nine”, “Oreimo”).

And now the series will be released in two part DVD sets courtesy of FUNimation in Sept. 2013.

“The Future Diary” begins with people getting slaughtered by some unknown entity.

The series revolves around a teenage loner named Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano. He has no friends and feels that no one cares about him but he doesn’t mind because he spends most of his time writing his diary on his cell phone and pretending he has a friends named Deus Ex Machina, The God of Time and Space and Murmur, the servant of Deus.

But something unusual happens when his imaginary friend Desus gives him a special diary and some discussion about a game. Yuki doesn’t think much about it until he sees 90 entries that he supposedly wrote in his diaries covering the next 90 days. And those entries for the future end up coming true.

He finds out that Deus Ex Machina is in fact real and that he must now take part in a game of life and death, a battle royale with eleven other people who also has a diary that can predict the future, but differently.

The rules are simple, kill the other eleven people before the world ends, which is supposed to take place on the 90th day. If that person succeeds, they can prevent the Apocalypse and become the new Got of Time and Space.

But Yuki who is a longer and not a fighter nor a killer has no desire to win the game. But Deus announces that Yuki is the first diary owner and that he has him as the favorite to win the game and immediately making him the primary threat.

And to make things even more interesting, he is partnered up with a mentally unstable stalker named Yuno Gasai. A mysterious, weird and obsessive girl who wants nothing but Yuki to herself and wants the 90th day prediction of she and Yuki “becoming one”.

But as Yuki comes in contact with other contestants, can he trust them or will he find out that all want to kill him?

In the second part of “The Future Diary”, all bets of working together are off when Yuki who has been the weak link and having Yuno fight his battles, has now changed and has adapted himself to Yuno’s psychotic, killing ways.

Meanwhile, Yuno’s past is revealed and how she became fixated on Yuki is revealed and when Yuki’s life is changed as well, his original plan of not wanting to take part in the game and not hurt anyone has now shifted to wanting to become the new God of Time and Space, so he knows he may need to kill everyone but bring them back from the dead.

And now, Yuki and Yuno are determined in winning the game, no matter what.  Even if it means killing another.

The characters of “The Future Diary” are:

  • Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano – The main protagonist. A loner who is weak and lets the mentally unstable Yuno Gasai protect him. Not a sociable person and tends to trust anyone. He writes down his life on a cell phone diary and thought he had two imaginary friends named Deus Ex Machina and Murmur, who end up being actual beings. The first diary user, his special diary from Deus features 90 days of his future written by him (in his own perspective) in and lists everything in great detail. Not very interested in the game and rather make friends with the other competitors.
  • Yuno Gasai – A mentally unstable girl who can change from lovingly sweet to a killer. She is obsessed with Yuki and her cell diary is a Yukiteru Diary which gives her information of what Yuki will be doing in the present 10 minutes. It is not good when solely used alone, but when paired with Yuki, her diary actually solves Yuki’s weaknesses.
  • Minene Uryu – An atheist terrorist and very deadly. Her diary is the “Escape Diary” which helps her find ways of escaping a dangerous situation.
  • Aru Akise – A genius at investigating and wanting to be a great detective. His cell diary is the “Detective Diary” which can make predictions based on the predictions of other diaries.
  • Keigo Kurusu – A police captain who has no interested in the game and wants to find a way to stop the game. His cell diary is the “Criminal Investigation Diary” which tells him about crimes that will happen in the next 90 days.
  • Yomotsu Hirasaka – A blind and insane vigilante who dresses up as a super sentai character. He uses a Justice Diary which tells him about evil deeds that will happen in the future. His diary also has the power of hypnosis.
  • Reisuke Houjo -A four year old who looks harmless but is very intelligent and a killer. He has a cell diary which is the “Hyper Vision Diary” that is a coloring book but gives a summary of what will he be doing that day for morning, noon and at night.
  • Deus Ex Machina – The God of Time and Space and the creator of the diaries.
  • Murmur – Deus’ servant.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Future diary” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in English 5.1 Surround and Japanese Stereo. For picture quality, the animation is good, characters are well-shaded and art backgrounds are detailed well. There is a bit of softness as one can expect from a TV series but environments are well-rendered and painted, while the characters can often look quite creepy at times, especially the way the characters and their eyes are designed at times. Especially when you see a character go from sweet to psycho.

As for the soundtrack, the English dub track has a better dynamic range as it is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, so action scenes are much more active through the surround channels during the action scenes. Both soundtracks are well-acted, but with the English dub soundtrack receiving the 5.1 treatment, the dynamic range for the English dub is much better.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Future Diary: Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Omake #10 Minene Uryuu, Masumi Nishijima (Dear Dialogue Version) -(23:52) Featuring a story that revolves around Minene and Masumi.  And another story featuring Yukiteru being invited to a movie by Aru and what happens when Yuno finds out?
  • Episode 20 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with J. Michael Tatum (writer/and voice of Nishijima) and D. Patrick Seitz (writer).
  • Episode 23 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with Josh Grelle (Yuki) and Brina Palencia (Yuno).
  • Promotional Videos – (4:58) Featuring the Japanese promotional videos for “Future Diary”.
  • U.S. Trailer – (:35) FUNimation trailer for “The Future Diary”.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – Featuring opening songs “Kuusou Mesorogii/Fantasy Mythology/Dead End” and closing song “Blood Teller/filament”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

Watching the second part of “The Future Diary”, I was shocked to see how things have changed with the characters.  From seeing Yuno’s psychotic side leader her to do something bad to Yuno but then seeing how Yuki being affected by the game due to his weakness, has now decide that playing the pacifist role of not getting involved and not harming anyone has changed.

He is now determined in killing everyone in the game in order to become the new God of Time and Space, so he will achieve the power to bring them back from the dead.

The Yuki that was scared and kind has now changed to a person who lies and kills.  But as we see what caused Yuki’s transformation, we also get to see how and why Yuno changed as well.

There is a much more complex storyline revolving alternate worlds and time travel in the second half, so the storyline does start to become much more crazy and wild as it gets near the end of the series but it was rather fascinating to see how the writers changed the protagonist to someone nearly unlikable by the second half. But also to see the complexity of the series, especially with the characters and the alternate worlds…once again, this second half was full of surprises and had no idea where the story would go.  But “The Future Diary” turned out to be a fascinating but dark series.

For those who are sensitive to violence, it’s important to note that people get murdered and maimed in this series, as the name of the game is one trying not to get knocked off, the storyline is quite intriguing and definitely not for the faint of heart.

As for the DVD, picture quality is good on DVD but surprised there was no Blu-ray release for “The Future Diary”.  But on DVD, the series looks good as environments are well-detailed, character designs are also colorful and look great and the voice acting is well done both in English and Japanese.  As for special features, the DVD contains two audio commentary tracks and an omake episode.

Overall, “The Future Diary: Part Two” has turned out to be a complex but fascinating anime series with twists and turns that I never saw coming as each episode progressed.  For anime fans wanting something more violent, slightly creepy but also complex, you may want to give “The Future Diary” a chance!

The Future Diary: Part One (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

futurediary-p1-a

“The Future Diary: Part One” is a creepy, bloody and violent anime series about a game of life and death in which people must eliminate others in the game within 90 days or else apocalypse will come!  If you love horror and creepy anime, “The Future Diary: Part One” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Future Diary: Part One

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2011-2012

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 5.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATING: M

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Directed by Naoto Hosoda

Series Composition by Katsuhiko Takayama

Music by Tatsuya Katou

Original Character Design by Sakae Esuno

Character Design by Hidetsugu Hirayama

Art Director: Toshiyuki Tokuda

Anime Production: asread

Featuring the following voice talent:

Misuzu Togashi/Josh Grelle as Yukiteru Amano

Norio Wakamoto/Kent Williams as Deus ex Machina

Tomosa Murata/Brina Palencia as Yuno Gasai

Mai Aizawa/Emily Neves as Minene Uryū

Manami Honda/Leah Clark as Murmur

Akira Ishida/Todd Haberkorn as Aru Akise

Asami Sanada/Lindsay Seidel as Reisuke Hojo

Eri Sendai/Kate Bristol as Tsubaki Kasugano

Hirokazu Hiramatsu/Mark Stoddard as Karyuudo Tsukishima

Hiromi Konno/Monica rial as Kamado Ueshita

Jin Domon/Jason Douglas as Takao Hiyama

Makoto Ishii/J. Michael Tatum as Masumi Nishijima

Masahiko Tanaka/Robert McCollum as Keigo Kurusu

Minoru Shiraishi/Joel McDonald as Oji Kosaka

Natsuko Kuwatani/Jamie Marchi as Ai Mikami

Takaya Hashi/Christopher Smith as John Balks

Tomokazu Seki/Brad Hawkins as Marco Ikusaba

Yoshihisa Kawahara/Ian Sinclair as Yomotsu Hirasaka

Yukana as Mao Nonosaka

Yuki Matsuoka/Caitlin Glass as Hinata Hino

Reality quickly unravels for antisocial Yukiteru when Deus Ex Machina calls him into a death match to determine the new god of space and time. Each mentally scarred player possesses a prophetic device tuned to his or her personality disorder, giving them control over their future… and the fate of their opponents. It’s their strongest weapon – and their greatest weakness.

Within hours of abusing his digital diary’s predictions, Yukiteru is cornered by a crazed classmate. Yuno – who is obsessively stalking him with her own psychic cell phone – is cute, sharp, and great with an ax. Still, her psychosis hides a vile secret. As a serial killer, a cult priestess, and a volatile escape artist take a stab at eliminating the teens, Yuki can cheat death under Yuno’s maniacal protection or – DEAD END.

In 2006, mangaka Sakae Esuno’s “Mirai Nikki” (Future Diary) would be serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s “Shonen Ace” through 2010.

With an a live-action drama series in 2012 and a three-side story manga (“Future Diary: Mosaic”, “Future Diary: Paradox” and “Future Diary: Redial”) released back in 2009-2010, the anime adaptation was shown on television in 2011-2012.

The anime series is produced by Asread and is directed by Yukichi Namiyanagi (“Shuffle! Memories”, “Nagasarete Airantou”, “Jinki: Extend”), series composition by Katsuhiko Takayama (“Baka and Test – Summon the Beasts”, “Cat Planet Cuties”, “Ga-Rei-Zero”), music by Tatsuya Katou (“Needless”, “Medaka Box”, “Samurai Bride”), character design by Hidetsugu Hirayama (“Shuffle!”, “Space Battleship Yamato 2199”) and art direction by Toshiyuki tokuda (“Major”, “Idolm@ster: Xenoglossia”, “Alien Nine”, “Oreimo”).

And now the series will be released in two part DVD sets courtesy of FUNimation in Sept. 2013.

“The Future Diary” begins with people getting slaughtered by some unknown entity.

The series revolves around a teenage loner named Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano.  He has no friends and feels that no one cares about him but he doesn’t mind because he spends most of his time writing his diary on his cell phone and pretending he has a friends named Deus Ex Machina, The God of Time and Space and Murmur, the servant of Deus.

But something unusual happens when his imaginary friend Desus gives him a special diary and some discussion about a game.  Yuki doesn’t think much about it until he sees 90 entries that he supposedly wrote in his diaries covering the next 90 days.  And those entries for the future end up coming true.

He finds out that Deus Ex Machina is in fact real and that he must now take part in a game of life and death, a battle royale with eleven other people who also has a diary that can predict the future, but differently.

The rules are simple, kill the other eleven people before the world ends, which is supposed to take place on the 90th day.  If that person succeeds, they can prevent the Apocalypse and become the new Got of Time and Space.

But Yuki who is a longer and not a fighter nor a killer has no desire to win the game.  But Deus announces that Yuki is the first diary owner and that he has him as the favorite to win the game and immediately making him the primary threat.

And to make things even more interesting, he is partnered up with a mentally unstable stalker named Yuno Gasai.  A mysterious, weird and obsessive girl who wants nothing but Yuki to herself and wants the 90th day prediction of she and Yuki “becoming one”.

But as Yuki comes in contact with other contestants, can he trust them or will he find out that all want to kill him?

The characters of “The Future Diary” are:

  • Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano – The main protagonist.  A loner who is weak and lets the mentally unstable Yuno Gasai protect him.  Not a sociable person and tends to trust anyone.  He writes down his life on a cell phone diary and thought he had two imaginary friends named Deus Ex Machina and Murmur, who end up being actual beings.  The first diary user, his special diary from Deus features 90 days of his future written by him (in his own perspective) in and lists everything in great detail.  Not very interested in the game and rather make friends with the other competitors.
  • Yuno Gasai – A mentally unstable girl who can change from lovingly sweet to a killer. She is obsessed with Yuki and her cell diary is a Yukiteru Diary which gives her information of what Yuki will be doing in the present 10 minutes.  It is not good when solely used alone, but when paired with Yuki, her diary actually solves Yuki’s weaknesses.
  • Minene Uryu – An atheist terrorist and very deadly.  Her diary is the “Escape Diary” which helps her find ways of escaping a dangerous situation.
  • Aru Akise – A genius at investigating and wanting to be a great detective.  His cell diary is the “Detective Diary” which can make predictions based on the predictions of other diaries.
  • Keigo Kurusu  – A police captain who has no interested in the game and wants to find a way to stop the game.  His cell diary is the “Criminal Investigation Diary” which tells him about crimes that will happen in the next 90 days.
  • Yomotsu Hirasaka – A blind and insane vigilante who dresses up as a super sentai character.  He uses a Justice Diary which tells him about evil deeds that will happen in the future.  His diary also has the power of hypnosis.
  • Reisuke Houjo -A four year old who looks harmless but is very intelligent and a killer.  He has a cell diary which is the “Hyper Vision Diary” that is a coloring book but gives a summary of what will he be doing that day for morning, noon and at night.
  • Deus Ex Machina – The God of Time and Space and the creator of the diaries.
  • Murmur – Deus’ servant.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Future diary” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in English 5.1 Surround and Japanese Stereo. For picture quality, the animation is good, characters are well-shaded and art backgrounds are detailed well. There is a bit of softness as one can expect from a TV series but environments are well-rendered and painted, while the characters can often look quite creepy at times, especially the way the characters and their eyes are designed at times.  Especially when you see a character go from sweet to psycho.

As for the soundtrack, the English dub track has a better dynamic range as it is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, so action scenes are much more active through the surround channels during the action scenes. Both soundtracks are well-acted, but with the English dub soundtrack receiving the 5.1 treatment, the dynamic range for the English dub is much better.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Future Diary: Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 5 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with voice talents Emily Neves (Minene), Ian Sinclair (Yomotsu) and Robert McCollu (Keigo).
  • Episode 13 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with josh Grelle (Yuki),  Caitlin Glass (Hinata), Ashleigh Domangue (Mao).
  • Omake #5 Yomotsu Hirasaka (Yoshihisa Kawahara Version) – (23:52) Featuring a video commentary with Cherami Leigh, Morgan Garrett, Jad Saxton and Austin Tindle.
  • TV Spots – (1:14) Featuring the Japanese TV spots for “The Future Diary”.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – Featuring opening songs “Kuusou Mesorogii/Fantasy Mythology” and closing song “Blood Teller”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

“The Future Diary” is an intriguing, last person standing anime series.

A series that has elements of “Battle Royale” and “Eden of the East”, “The Future Diary” is an anime series that features your awkward protagonist, Yukiteru,  a loner paired together with a sweet, obsessive and mentally unstable girl named Yuno, who can go from being sweet to a dangerous killer.  And what is interesting about the animation is the emotions within the eyes.

It’s interesting to see different pairs of eyes on the character of Yuno.  From the sweet girl, to psycho crazy girl to the eyes of a person that is out to kill you.  You have Yukiteru who tries to use his influence and try to prevent Yuno from killing but with Yuno obsessed of becoming one with Yuki by day 90, she wants to defeat and kill the other eleven competitors as quickly as possible, but the same can be said about the others as they have Yuki in their primary target for elimination.

But the name of the game is trying to kill eleven other people before one reaches day 90, each participant in the deadly game have a cell phone with each diary giving one a certain ability.

People get murdered and maimed in this series, as the name of the game is one trying not to get knocked off,  the storyline is quite intriguing and definitely not for the faint of heart as it’s probably the first anime series in which you see a 4-year-old killer, but also watching a child being stabbed to death.

So far, part one is more or less establishing the characters and the game itself.  And various characters who are either allies or enemies, things tend to change as each episode progresses.  But how Yukiteru discovers something different about Yuno each time they spent more time with one another.  At first, he uses her to protect him because he’s constantly whining and so weak.  But eventually it’s their partnership that makes them unique and you wonder if these two can fall in love, despite their lives in constant danger.  But there are twists and turns as you don’t know if you can trust the character of Yuno.  She’s very mentally unstable and hard to predict!

The final 13th episode does begin a new direction for the series as events have been manipulated and Deus Ex Machina looking for who is responsible!  And it sets up the second half of the season.

Overall, “The Future Diary: Part One” is a creepy, bloody and violent anime series about a game of life and death in which people must eliminate others in the game within 90 days or else apocalypse will come!  If you love horror and creepy anime, “The Future Diary: Part One” 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!

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