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The Slayers Evolution-R (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The fifth season “The Slayers Evolution-R” takes the series up a notch over the last season with a more darker, more action-driven storyline. If you have dedicated yourself this long to the “The Slayers” series, there is no doubt you will find “The Slayers Evolution-R” to be a much more exciting than “Revolution” and the best looking season for “The Slayers” yet!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

BLU-RAY TITLE: The Slayers Evolution-R

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (Duration: 312 Minutes, 2 Blu-rays)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: September 21, 2010

Original Story: Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi

Directed by Takashi Watanabe

Series Composition by Jiro Takayama

Character Design: Naomi Miyata

Art Director: Shinji Kawaai

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

Director of Photography: Yutaka Kurosawa

Producer: Gou Shukuri, Shinichi Ikeda, Yuji Matsukura

Animation Production by J.C. Staff

Featuring the following voice talent:

Megumi Hayashibara/Lisa Ortiz as Lina Inverse

Yasunaro Matsumoto/Eric Stuart as Gourry Gabriev

Hikaru Midorikawa/Crispin Freeman as Zelgadis

Masami Suzuki/Veronica Taylor as Amelia

Colleen O’Shaughnessey/Yumiko Kobayashi as Pokota

Akira Ishida/Michael Sinterniklaas as Xelloss

Takehito Koyasu/Liam O’Brien as Rezo

The magical mayhem of The Slayers Revolution continues in The Slayers Evolution-R! With the original cast of The Slayers back together for the first time in over a decade, Lina Inverse and her crew are reunited and doing what they do best – saving the world by almost destroying it!

Lina’s gang and their new ally Pokota are hot on the trail of the Hellmaster’s Jar! It’s no ordinary piece of pottery: it holds the soul of Rezo the Red Priest. Opening the vessel and resurrecting Rezo is the only hope Pokota has of saving his kingdom’s people. With masked assassins, headless knights, and shifty Xellos in the mix, one thing is certain: destruction is guaranteed!

I can easily remember watching “The Slayers” when it first appeared on television in Japan, catching the premiere of the series at an anime convention and watching the main Japanese voice actress Megumi Hayashibara promoting the series in America and singing a song from the series. And then the release of the series on VHS and owning multiple copies just to get a subtitled and English dubbed version because I enjoyed the series that much.

It’s hard to believe but nearly 14 years later since “The Slayers” debut as a light novel by Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi (which the duo has since released 50 light novels), the series has received a manga treatment, two OAV series, five movies, countless video games and for anime series, there have been a total of five seasons.

With the series having had its release in the US from Software Sculptors and Central Park Media, “The Slayers” series received back in August 2009 with its first major collection from FUNimation Entertainment with “The Slayers: The First Three Seasons” which consists of Season One: The Slayers (April 1995-Sept. 1995, 26 episodes), Season Two: Slayers Next (April 1996-Sept. 1996, 26 episodes) and Season Three: Slayers Try (April 1997-Sept. 1997, 26 episodes) for a total of 78 episodes included in this collection.

With the series going on a decade-long hiatus, the fourth season was released 11 years after the third season and titled “The Slayers Revolution” (aired between July-September 2008) which was released by FUNimation Entertainment. The fourth season features the first 13-episodes and is now continued on Blu-ray and DVD with this latest release of “The Slayers Evolution-R” (the fifth season) which comprises of the final 13-episodes which were aired between January-April 2009 (note: The manga is still ongoing in Japan).

“Slayers Revolution” is directed by Takashi Watanabe (“Casshan: Robot Hunter”, “Y’s II”, “New Fist of the North Star”, “Ikki Tousen”), screen composition by Jiro Takayama (“The Slayers” series, “Angel Links”, “Wings of Rean”, “El Hazard: The Wanderers”), character designs by Naomi Miyata (“Kino’s Journey”, “Revolutionary Girl Utena”, “Sakura Wars”) and music by Osamu Tezuka (“Shadow Skill”, “Popotan”, “Lost Universe, “Akazukin Cha Cha”).

The series revolves around the character of Lina Inverse, a powerful sorceress who has a love for money and eating a lot of food. Everytime she tries to help a village (for money), somehow, she ends up destroying it and thus, has a reputation of being a destructive and evil sorceress. She is accompanied by Gourry Gabriev and sometimes by Zelgadis Greyswords and Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun during her adventures for more money, food and fun.

But this time, they encounter a small creature named Pokota that knows how to use the “Dragon Slave” whose village was put into a stasis. His village was struck by a sickness in which humans were sickened by an illness called Durum which changes their appearance. So, to prevent the village from Durum, a magical wizard put his village in a deep sleep until a cure is found. But with the durum sickness now gone, Pokota needs the wizard to wake everyone up.

So, In order to revive his village, he needs to find a man who helped save his village once before, to use his magic. Unfortunately, the man is Rezo, the Red Priest. The enemy of Lina and friends and the man responsible for turning Zelgadis to a chimera. Despite the bad things that Rezo has done, Pokota believes Rezo is a good man who saved his village.

But with Lina and friends wanting to see if Rezo is indeed alive (when he is supposed to be dead), they are willing to help Pokota. For now…

The main characters of “The Slayers Evolution-R” are:

Lina Inverse – A powerful sorceress who loves money and food. She is very sensitive when she’s around other women that are more bustier than her and tends to have a short fuse. Whenever she’s in battle, her spells tend to do more damage than she thinks. But because of the sheer amount of destruction that she’s caused, the rumors have spread throughout the country and people tend to fear her and make her out as an evil person when she’s not.

Gourry Gabriev – The marvelous swordsman who wields the sword of light. He also has a bad memory and is a powerful magic wielder but doesn’t remember being one. So, he joins Lina on her adventures as her personal bodyguard.

Zelgadis Greywords – A powerful sorcerer who is a chimera made of a rock golemn courtesy of his ancestor Rizo. Known for his green face and purple, wiry hair and is half demon and human. He looks desperately for a stone that will change him to a human, even if it means losing his chimera powers. A stoic, no-nonsense character.

Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun – A young miko and also a princess. Her dream is becoming a hero of justice and thus, had joined Lina and Gourry in many adventures. Very naive at times and believes almost everything that people tend to tell her. She also knows that Lina and Goury tend to use her for her money.

Xellos – A high level Mazoku and a priest of the “Greater Beast Zelas-Metallium”. Also known as Beastmaster Xellos and is literally a frienemy of Lina and friends. When he seems like he’s helping, he seems to have some sort of ulterior motive.

Pokota – An animal-like creature who has the ability to use great power like Lina. A former human who searches for Rezo to awaken the people of Taforashia.

Wizer – A special investigator who is on a hot trail pursuing Lina Inverse to arrest her for being Lina Inverse.

“The Slayers Evolution-R” comes with the complete season, episodes 14-26 on two Blu-ray discs (note: The Blu-rays utilize the number scheme of Evolution-R beginning at episode 14). Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – Newcomer! A New Journey – Lina and friends on an adventure to find Rezo and meet a woman named Nama who’s soul is embedded in a suit of armor (and has lot her memory).
  • EPISODE 15 – Oh My Head! Where’s My Head? – Nama joins the team and together they look for a magical jar that Rezod has used to turn Pokota to a creature and they meet Hans, another knight who’s soul is embedded in it (but is missing his head) who said he has a hellmaster jar like the one they are looking for and will give it to them if they can find his head.
  • EPISODE 16- Partner! Sharing Mind and Body? – Lina takes on a man who has magical power over animals.
  • EPISODE 17 – Quality Time! A Homelife with Love? – The fish lady returns and claims that Gourry is the father of her fish children. Being the gullible guy he is, Gourry to want to raise his children.
  • EPISODE 18 – Raider! The Voice from the Darkness – Zelgadis and Lina take on a dragon. Meanwhile, something happens to Nama and an episode with Xellos and Mr. Zula.
  • EPISODE 19 – Seek! Who’s Being Targeted? – Mr. Zuma instructs Lina and friends that they must go to a village and protect a merchant named Radok who is being targeted or else someone will die.
  • EPISODE 20 – Townscape! Because it’s Manmade! – Lina and friends await in the village to protect Radok from whoever is trying to kill them.
  • EPISODE 21 – Uncover! The Exposed Darkness! – The merchant is tired of waiting for being targeted and thus will go on an adventure to prompt the assassin to make its move. Zuma’s identity revealed.
  • EPISODE 22 – Voice! What’s Inside the Jar – Lina becomes the owner of the hellmaster’s jar, but now the group must figure how to destroy the seal of the jar.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 23 – Wisdom! Seek the Time that Will Never Return! – Zelgadis steals the jar from Lina in hopes to get his body back.
  • EPISODE 24 – Xeno! The Price of Revival! – Pokota takes the jar and wants to resurrect Rezo.
  • EPISODE 25 – Yesterday’s Memory! Days Regained! – Rezo is resurrected.
  • EPISODE 26 – Zero Hour! The Destroyed One! – Shabranigdo, the powerful being of evil and the source of power of Lina’s “Dragon Slave” is revived.

VIDEO :

Considering “The Slayers Evolution-R” was released 12 years after “The Slayers Try” (1997), one would expect a major update to the animation. And the animation and background art looks for this series is fantastic!

The anime series features a much more bolder stroke around the characters, a more vibrant color pallet and better shading and detail. Artistic backgrounds are fine but for a series such as “The Slayers”, typically there are a lot of closeup shots of the characters and when comparing this series to the first three seasons, it’s like comparing a new Mercedes to an older, normal car. There is a huge improvement in animation and artistic background.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to review the DVD version and if there was one thing I noticed, “The Slayers Evolution-R” looked a bit better than “The Slayers Revolution”.  The animation and even the artistic backgrounds seem much better in “The Slayers Evolution-R”.

The series is presented in 1:78:1 108p High Definition and is an upscaled anime on BD release.  The edge enhancement is still visible, as is the banding but the artifacts are not as evident.

But the series on Blu-ray does feature a vibrant color pallet and for a anime TV series, the picture quality does stand out quite a bit compared to the DVD release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “The Slayers Evolution-R” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  The series is primarily front and center channel driven but I did notice how certain scenes, ie. large halls in which the sound is nicely echoed through the halls, especially footsteps through the halls, doors creaking through the halls, wood creeking, wind flowing through open spaces  and I pretty much noticed more surround usage in this series compared to “The Slayers Revolution”.

Also, other ambiance such as crowds and music can be heard through the surround channels.  Especially, the use of magic can be heard through the surround channels.

For the most part, the series is dialogue driven and dialogue and music is crisp and clear via lossless and even the Japanese soundtrack sounds much more richer and well-balanced.  So, there is a definite difference audio wise compared to the original DVD release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The Slayers Evolution-R” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening Song – Textless Songs for “Front Breaking”.
  • Textless Closing  Song – Textless Songs for “Sand Clock”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

“Slayers” will always be an anime series that I will always enjoy. I was heavily into the series back in the 90’s and I know there had been this lull of when I didn’t catch anything related to the series but just a few related films. But watching this series again, definitely brought back memories of catching the series at an anime con meeting, an anime convention, buying multiple versions to get the subtitled and English dubbed versions. I really enjoyed this series.

But it takes some dedication. Where a long anime series such as “Dragon Ball Z” can have a conclusion, the fact that this series has literally been on television or released in some format for the last 15 years, you really have to be a dedicated fan to following a series this long.

In fact, each season is a story arc in itself but for the most part, they are stand-alone episodes and typically the final three or four episodes is where everything tends to lead to a major battle. And despite these episodes being over a decade old, the anime still holds up today. And the fact that you can own all three seasons in a single box set for a great price is also another incentive.

“The Slayers Evolution-R” looks absolutely fantastic. The character design and backgrounds are full of detail and is vibrant of colors. Storywise, “The Slayers Evolution-R” is much better than the last season “The Slayers Revolution” in my opinion. I felt that “Revolution” was very Pokota-driven and in someways, was a more happy-style of storyline that seemed like a series targeted towards a more younger demographic. With “The Slayers Evolution-R”, the series gets much darker and even a bit bloody (especially during the Zuma storyline) and although Pokota is in this series, he’s not as prominent, which is a good thing. Of course, the humor and weird storylines is still intact with this fifth seasn, especially the episode with Goury and the fish lady which was really odd but it was a hilarious episode.

Overall, “The Slayers Evolution-R” should definitely please “Slayers” fans who want the humor, the action and battles that the original series was known for. It’s definitely a step-up from “The Slayers Revolution” and the animation and artistic backgrounds are fantastic. I also feel that the series also has a wonderful English dub and also Japanese dialogue as well.

It’s important to note that it does help to watch the original three seasons to get some background on the characters but because the animation back then may not appeal to modern anime viewers, you can start with “The Slayers Revolution” and watch “The Slayers Evolution-R” and still enjoy it.

The Blu-ray release of “The Slayers Evolution-R” is definitely a major improvement over the DVD version video and audio-wise.  But once again, for those hardcore anime on Blu-ray fans who are expecting a lot, it’s important to remind everyone that this is a TV series and it’s not going to look spectacular when compared to an anime film or OVA.  But still, if you have watched the previous three seasons of “The Slayers” and are now just jumping in, then the Blu-ray is recommended.

In fact, if you are not too picky and still want a humorous anime series, I still recommend checking out “The Slayers Evolution-R” because it is a humorous series and it’s just fun to watch.

If you are a fan of “The Slayers” and have committed yourself to watching and owning every season, I definitely recommend “The Slayers Evolution-R”.

The Slayers Revolution (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

More hijinks, more action and even more destruction!  The long awaited fourth season of “The Slayers” saga continues with “The Slayers Revolution” now available on Blu-ray!  Definitely an improvement over its DVD counterpart.

 

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Slayers Revolution

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (Duration: 300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: September 21, 2010

Original Story: Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi

Directed by Takashi Watanabe

Series Composition by Jiro Takayama

Character Design: Naomi Miyata

Art Director: Shinji Kawaai

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

Director of Photography: Yutaka Kurosawa

Producer: Gou Shukuri, Shinichi Ikeda, Yuji Matsukura

Animation Production by J.C. Staff

Featuring the following voice talent:

Megumi Hayashibara/Lisa Ortiz as Lina Inverse

Yasunaro Matsumoto/Eric Stuart as Gourry Gabriev

Hikaru Midorikawa/Crispin Freeman as Zelgadis

Masami Suzuki/Veronica Taylor as Amelia

Colleen O’Shaughnessey/Yumiko Kobayashi as Pokota

Akira Ishida/Michael Sinterniklaas as Xelloss

Takehito Koyasu/Liam O’Brien as Rezo

 

Lina’s on the run from a government inspector who’s ready to put her away for good. Her crime? Just being herself! The guy’s hot on her tail, but a tiny creature that actually has a tail might be Lina’s biggest problem. Pokota’s a powerful little furball, and his path of destruction is getting pinned on Lina.

With so much explosive magic between them, you know things will go boom when they face off. But there’s more to Pokota than anyone knows, and if Lina’s gang can get to the bottom of his habit of blowing stuff up, they could end up with an awesome new ally.

I can easily remember watching “The Slayers” when it first appeared on television in Japan, catching the premiere of the series at an anime convention and watching the main Japanese voice actress Megumi Hayashibara promoting the series in America and singing a song from the series. And then the release of the series on VHS and owning multiple copies just to get a subtitled and English dubbed version because I enjoyed the series that much.

It’s hard to believe but nearly 14 years later since “The Slayers” debut as a light novel by Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi (which the duo has since released 50 light novels), the series has received a manga treatment, two OAV series, five movies, countless video games and for anime series, there have been a total of five.

With the series having had its release in the US from Software Sculptors and Central Park Media, “The Slayers” series received back in August 2009 with its first major collection from FUNimation Entertainment with “The Slayers: The First Three Seasons” which consists of Season One: The Slayers (April 1995-Sept. 1995, 26 episodes), Season Two: Slayers Next (April 1996-Sept. 1996, 26 episodes) and Season Three: Slayers Try (April 1997-Sept. 1997, 26 episodes) for a total of 78 episodes included in this collection.

Now the fourth season which began 11 years after the third season titled “Slayers Revolution” (which aired between July-September 2008) will be released by FUNimation Entertainment on Blu-ray. This fourth season features the first 13-episodes and is continued on “Slayers Evolution-R” (the fifth season) which comprises of the final 13-episodes and aired between January-April 2009 (note: The manga is still ongoing in Japan).  Both titles will be simultaneously released on Blu-ray, a DVD version for both titles were released earlier this year.

“Slayers Revolution” is directed by Takashi Watanabe (“Casshan: Robot Hunter”, “Y’s II”, “New Fist of the North Star”, “Ikki Tousen”), screen composition by Jiro Takayama (“The Slayers” series, “Angel Links”, “Wings of Rean”, “El Hazard: The Wanderers”), character designs by Naomi Miyata (“Kino’s Journey”, “Revolutionary Girl Utena”, “Sakura Wars”) and music by Osamu Tezuka (“Shadow Skill”, “Popotan”, “Lost Universe, “Akazukin Cha Cha”).

The series revolves around the character of Lina Inverse, a powerful sorceress who has a love for money and eating a lot of food. Everytime she tries to help a village (for money), somehow, she ends up destroying it and thus, has a reputation of being a destructive and evil sorceress. She is accompanied by Gourry Gabriev and sometimes by Zelgadis Greyswords and Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun during her adventures for more money, food and fun.

But this time, they encounter a small creature that knows how to use the “Dragon Slave” and a government employee named Wizer is trying to arrest Lina. Why?

The main characters of “Slayers Revolution” are:

Lina Inverse – A powerful sorceress who loves money and food. She is very sensitive when she’s around other women that are more bustier than her and tends to have a short fuse. Whenever she’s in battle, her spells tend to do more damage than she thinks. But because of the sheer amount of destruction that she’s caused, the rumors have spread throughout the country and people tend to fear her and make her out as an evil person when she’s not.

Gourry Gabriev – The marvelous swordsman who wields the sword of light. He also has a bad memory and is a powerful magic wielder but doesn’t remember being one. So, he joins Lina on her adventures as her personal bodyguard.

Zelgadis Greywords – A powerful sorcerer who is a chimera made of a rock golemn courtesy of his ancestor Rizo. Known for his green face and purple, wiry hair and is half demon and human. He looks desperately for a stone that will change him to a human, even if it means losing his chimera powers. A stoic, no-nonsense character.

Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun – A young miko and also a princess. Her dream is becoming a hero of justice and thus, had joined Lina and Gourry in many adventures. Very naive at times and believes almost everything that people tend to tell her. She also knows that Lina and Goury tend to use her for her money.

Xellos – A high level Mazoku and a priest of the “Greater Beast Zelas-Metallium”. Also known as Beastmaster Xellos and is literally a frienemy of Lina and friends. When he seems like he’s helping, he seems to have some sort of ulterior motive.

Pokota – An animal-like creature who has the ability to use great power like Lina but has no control over it. But there is more to this creature…

Wizer – A special investigator who is on a hot trail pursuing Lina Inverse to arrest her for being Lina Inverse.

“The Slayers Revolution” comes with the complete season, episodes 1-13 on two Blu-ray discs. Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Amazing! The Astonishing Dragon Slave?! – Lina confronts a special investigator who wants to arrest her and both Lina and Goury reunite with Zelgadis and Amelia.
  • EPISODE 2 – Because! You’re Lina Inverse, That’s Why? – Lina vs. Pokota.
  • EPISODE 3- Chase! The Endless Pursuit! – Lina takes on a man who has magical power over animals.
  • EPISODE 4 – Drifter! Who’s Chasing Whom?! – Amelia wants to help Pokota.
  • EPISODE 5 – Eternal! The Forever-Sleeping Forest! – Lina and friends learn the story behind Pokota and his village.
  • EPISODE 6 – Fall On! Strange Festival! Bizarre Festival? Push That Ball Up! – Lina and friends including Pokota become involved with a villages ball pushing contest.
  • EPISODE 7 – Gorgeous! The Target Luxury Liner – Lina and friends including Pokota ride on a luxury liner but they don’t know that there is a killer(s) in the midst.
  • EPISODE 8 – Hurry Up! Run Through! No, Don’t? – Wizer and Xellos team up!
  • EPISODE 9 – Insider! The One Who Knows the Truth! – Pokota finds out Duclis’s motivation of working with the enemy.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – Judgment! The Silver One Rises Again! – Lina and friends prepare for their big battle.
  • EPISODE 11 – Keep Out! The Demon Beast Looms! – The demon beast has awaken!
  • EPISODE 12 – Legacy! Decisive Battle in Seyruun! – Lena and Pokota take on the demon beast!
  • EPISODE 13 – Misty! The Blades Are Brought Down – Lena and friends take on the demon beast. The battle continues!

VIDEO:

Considering “The Slayers Revolution” was released 11 years after “The Slayers Try” (1997), one would  and should expect a major update to the animation.  The anime series features  a much more bolder stroke around the characters, a more vibrant color pallet and better shading and detail.  Artistic backgrounds are fine but for a series such as “The Slayers”, typically there are a lot of closeup shots of the characters.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to review the DVD version and what was evident were the artifacts, banding and edge enhancement.  For the Blu-ray version of “The Slayers Revolution”, the series is presented in 1:78:1 108p High Definition and is an upscaled anime on BD release.  The edge enhancement is still visible, as is the banding but the artifacts are not as evident.

But the series on Blu-ray does feature a vibrant color pallet and for a anime TV series, the picture quality does stand out quite a bit compared to the DVD release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the series is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  The series is primarily front and center channel driven but I did notice how certain scenes, ie. large halls in which the sound is nicely echoed through the halls.  Also, other ambiance such as crowds and music can be heard through the surround channels.  Especially, the use of magic can be heard through the surround channels.

For the most part, the series is dialogue driven and dialogue and music is crisp and clear via lossless and even the Japanese soundtrack sounds much more richer and well-balanced.  So, there is a definite difference audio wise compared to the original DVD release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Slayers Revolution” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening Song – Textless Songs for “Plenty of Grit”
  • Textless Closing Song – Textless Songs for “Revolution”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

“Slayers” will always be an anime series that I will always enjoy. I was heavily into the series back in the 90’s and I know there had been this lull of when I didn’t catch anything related to the series but just a few related films. But watching this series again, definitely brought back memories of catching the series at an anime con meeting, an anime convention, buying multiple versions to get the subtitled and English dubbed versions. I really enjoyed this series.

But it takes some dedication. Where a long anime series such as “Dragon Ball Z” can have a conclusion, the fact that this series has literally been on television or released in some format for the last 15 years, you really have to be a dedicated fan to following a series this long.

In fact, each season is a story arc in itself but for the most part, they are stand-alone episodes and typically the final three or four episodes is where everything tends to lead to a major battle. And despite these episodes being over a decade old, the anime still holds up today. And the fact that you can own all three seasons in a single box set for a great price is also another incentive.

“The Slayers Revolution” definitely improves in animation and image clarity. But considering this anime series was released in 2008 and the third season “The Slayers Try” was last aired on television back in 1997, anime quality has changed a lot since then.

It would have been nice if there was a short synopsis for newer viewers not familiar with the past three seasons to know the relationship of all characters but if you haven’t seen any of the last three seasons of “The Slayers”, I think you can easily get by, as the main focus of this fourth season is Lina and the gang going after a creature named Pokota and then finding out his true identity and his background.

The Blu-ray is definitely a major improvement over the DVD version video and audio-wise.  But once again, for those hardcore anime on Blu-ray fans who are expecting a lot, it’s important to remind everyone that this is a TV series and it’s not going to look spectacular when compared to an anime film or OVA.  But still, if you have watched the previous three seasons of “The Slayers” and are now just jumping in, then the Blu-ray is recommended.

In fact, if you are not too picky and still want a humorous anime series, I still recommend checking out “The Slayers Revolution” because it is a humorous series and it’s just fun to watch.

Overall, “The Slayers Revolution” is a series that fans of the original series have wanted for a long time. Because the manga series of “The Slayers Evolution-R” is still being published in Japan, fans hoping for some sort of finality or conclusion will probably have to wait even longer. But for those who are in it for the adventure and crazy hi-jinks and of course, more destruction via Lina Inverse will definitely enjoy this latest series.

Fans of “The Slayers” anime series who have waited a long time for a new fourth season, “The Slayers Revolution” is recommended!

Dragon Ball Z – Dragon Box Z Vol. 4 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

October 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

This is the DVD box set that hardcore DBZ fans have wanted.  The series uncensored, its original Japanese 4:3 presentation and remastered!   And this fourth volume continues the DBZ action with the Android Saga and Cell Saga.  More than likely, if you have purchased the previous three volumes, from here on in, you’re going to buy the rest because these episodes just get better and better.  Overall, this DVD box set is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © BIRD/SHUEISHA, TOEI ANIMATION Film. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z – Dragon Box Z Vol. 4

DURATION: Episodes 127-168 (1050 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Japanese Voice track with original music mono, English voice track with original Japanese Music 5.1 surround, 4:3, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Released on September 21, 2010

Based on the manga and created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Daisuke Nishio

Series Composition: Takao Koyama

Character Design by Yuji Ikeda

Music by Shunsuke Kikuchi

Screenplay: Aya Matsui, Hiroshi Toda, Jun Maekawa, Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Keiji Terui, Masashi Kubota, Reiko Yoshida, Satoru Akahori, Sumio Uetaka, Takao Koyama, Toshiki Inoue, Yoshiyuki Suga

Episode director: Atsutoshi Umezawa, Daisuke Nishio, Hidehiko Kadoda, Hiroki Shibata, Johei Matsuura, Junichi Fujise, Kazuhisa Takenouchi, Kazuhito Kikuchi, Masahiro Hosoda, Minoru Okazaki, Mitsuo Hashimoto, Osamu Kasai, Shigeyasu Yamauchi, Takahiro Imamura, Tatsuya Orime, Yoshihiro Ueda

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Masako Nozawa/Stephanie Nadolny as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Robert McCollum as Son Goten

Takeshi Kusao/Eric Vale as Trunks

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Hiromi Tsuru/Tiffany Volmer as Bulma

Kozo Shioya/Josh Martin as Majin Buu

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chichi

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Kuririn

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Yuko Minaguchi/Lucy Small as Videl

Hirotaka Suzuoki – Tinshinhan

Tohru Furuya – Yamucha

Miki Itou/Meredith McCoy as Andrid No. 18

Daisuke Gouri/Don Brown as Mr. Satan (Hercule)

Michael Dobson as Supreme Kai

Norio Wakamoto/Dameon Clarke as Cell

The battle to harness the power of the seven Dragon Balls explodes in vivid detail like never before. The Dragon Box features over 40 uncut episodes, remastered and restored frame by frame, rendering the legendary action in pristine clarity. Each episode is presented in Japanese and English with the complete opening and closing credits and includes the original episode previews.

I first discovered “Dragon Ball Z” during the very early 90’s. During the infant stages of Japanese anime conventions in America, there would be “Dragon Ball Z” parties where many people would gather around a hotel room and watch a marathon of episodes. Needless to say, the series which hadn’t been released in America was very popular but of course the only way people could see the show were fan subs with terrible quality on VHS.

I then had the opportunity to discover “Dragon Ball Z” through a Japanese video rental store and although I was taking Japanese at my university at the time, I would rent all that I can but probably miss a lot of the story since my comprehension of Japanese was quite bad at the time.

But then the series came to the US, the videos were released with several episodes per volume and I have to admit, looking back how anime TV episodes were distributed, especially like a long series such as DBZ, if one was able to collect every episode, it would literally cost an arm and a leg.

In 2007, FUNimation Entertainment did something quite wonderful and that was releasing a digitally remastered, digitally restored version of “Dragon Ball Z” in 16×9 widescreen and you would get around 32-36 or so episodes per volume at such a low price. This was such a fantastic deal and for nine seasons (the final volume released was released in 2009), I’ve watched “Dragon Ball Z” completely and have given nothing but positive reviews for them.

But…

I would receive e-mails from the hardcore fans of the Japanese television series who were very upset that the show was not presented in its original aspect ratio (4:3) which is the ratio for standard TV and felt the previous releases featured colors that were saturated, the wrong opening and ending credits, no previews for the next episode. Suffice to say, those hardcore DBZ fans who loved the original Japanese episodes were upset. For me, I just looked it at it price wise and figured, at least we are getting something for a great price and I wasn’t going to complain.

But this goes to show you how FUNimation Entertainment does care for its fans and not sure if they received a lot of mail from hardcore fans but they decided to bring out “Dragon Box Z Volume 1” in the fall of 2009 and here we are now with the latest, action-packed fourth volume of “Dragon Box Z” which focuses on episodes 127-168 and continuing the android saga and the beginning of the Cell saga.  .

In Japan, these episodes were cleaned frame by frame and removing jitter and some grain. Keeping the original colors but most importantly for the fans, keeping everything intact including the 4:3 aspect ratio.

As for the series, aside from the technical differences as mentioned earlier, because the series focuses on the Japanese version of the show, the names of characters are different as the Japanese versions uses “Kamisama-hen” versus “Master Roshi”, Kaio the Genki Dama versus “King Kai”, “Tenshinhan” versus “Tien”, “Vegeta” instead of “Vegita”, etc. The DVD’s come with both Japanese and English dubbing.

In the fourth volume of the “Dragon Ball Z – Dragon Box Z”, the set continues with the conclusion of the Android Saga (episodes 127-147) and begins the Cell Saga (from episode 148 through 168) and sets the next volume for the Cell Games Saga.

There is a lot of action in this series and no filler episodes.  It’s straight mayhem as Cell continues to absorb people and the heroes can do nothing but just hope they can hang on for a day or more while the Saiyans complete their training and hope to defeat Cell.

The Cell series was quite popular back then when I was watching the series in straight Japanese and the whole android storyline was just exciting to watch (especially the special episode in Future Trunks world which pits him and an older Gohan against the evil androids).  It is important to note that the special is not included in the Dragon Box Z but it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  But for those who have never seen the special and don’t intend to buy it, there is an episode that shows footage from that special.

The main characters during this part of the series are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Future Trunks – Takes a time machine from the future to the past in order to change the future in which his timeline, all Z-warriors have been killed by the androids (artificial humans). In his timeline, Goku died of a virus but if he can get medication to him to prevent Goku from dying, possibly the Z-warriors and humanity in the future have a chance in surviving the android onslaught.

The main enemies in this set are:

Android 16/Artificial Human No. 16 – A powerful android who is passionate about the life on planet Earth but his main programming is to destroy Goku.

Android 17/Artificial Human No. 17 – A powerful male android who is deadly and has no care for human life.

Android 18/Artificial Human No. 18 – A powerful female android who enjoys fashion but also ending human life.

Android 19/Artificial Human No. 19 – Created by Doctor Gero to absorb all forms of energy.

Android 20/Artificial Human No. 20 – The mad scientist Dr. Gero of the Red Ribbon Army has taken his brain and created Android 20 and now has become powerful.

Cell – Unlike the other androids, he continually evolves ingesting humans in order to become a “Perfect Form” Cell.

VIDEO:

“Dragon Ball Z” via this “Dragon Box Z Vol. 4” set contains episodes featured in standard definition (4:3 aspect ratio). The colors are much different than the previous box set where colors were deeper and more pronounced, the colors of the series features its original presentation as it was in Japan and of course, restored frame by frame in which the previous season was not. Personally, I don’t have a preference to which is better but if anything, this set is for the hardcore fans who preferred the original Japanese presentation.

But for these episodes which aired in 1990-1991, you have to acknowledge how good the transfer was for this restoration. Granted, there is a “Dragon Ball Kai” currently airing in Japan in High Definition (and will be released in the US this month on Blu-ray and DVD) which will look much better but for this DVD box set release, considering it’s 20-years-later, for the diehard fans who have wanted these episodes in its original presentation for so long, Pony Canyon definitely did a very good job on restoration and again, great to see FUNimation Entertainment bring this box set to the US.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, this is where things are a bit different from the original Japanese audio presentation. Because FUNimation Entertainment had to include the English dubbed audio, instead of using the 448 kb/s audio, they went with 96 kb/s. This may upset fans who wanted a higher bitrate but because its important to attract those who are prefer English dubs and make the set even more marketable, the English dub had to be included. With that being said, I’ve grown up watching the Japanese audio and typically, I prefer to watch anime in Japanese BUT with “Dragon Ball Z”, I have always felt that the English dub was among the best out there and the voices just sound right for the characters.

But the intention for this box set was for those who wanted the Japanese audio. Personally, it’s a preference that I would rather have 5.1 surround versus mono or stereo soundtracks. And when I do, I typically set my receiver to stereo on all channels since I have a 7.2 setup. But fans will be happy that they get the original Japanese audio for the complete episode, previews for the next episode, opening and ending theme and you get Hironobu Kageyama’s “Cha-La, Head-Cha-La” instead of the Falcouner score.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Box Z Vol. 4” doesn’t come with any special features but it comes with cool packaging and an awesome hardbound booklet.

What we have is a yellow slip case box with Cell on the front, unlike the season box sets which were gateway folded, the DVD’s are presented in two foil covered DVD cases and are presented in Japanese style with the first disc on the right hand side and the two discs on the left.

Also included is a hardcover 50-page booklet titled “Dragonbook” in Japanese reading style.  The book features a profile of the Goku family, ultimate character and relationship chart, perfect guide, Dragon Ball Z Design Works Collection, Impressive Words and Dragon Ball Z Overlooked Moments. The overall box set package is definitely a solid presentation for the hardcore fans and I have to admit, looks way cooler than the previous orange box sets.

For the most part, this DVD box set is definitely worth it. But before fans who have bought the original single volumes and then the season box sets go on a tirade of having another version of “Dragon Ball Z” released, the main thing to remember is that those who have been vocal from the start were the diehard fans. They wanted the original 4:3 aspect ratio, they wanted the original Japanese presentation and the could care less about the English dubs and the Falcouner score.

Personally, the season box sets are still solid for those who are not so demanding. This box set is primarily for those hardcore fans and FUNimation Entertainment are giving those fans what they wanted for so long and I see that as quite admirable because they invested in bringing this release stateside and preparing it for the American consumer. And for those not familiar with those season box sets, well the good news is that the English dub is featured as well.

Do I have a preference on which I like better? Well having watch both…and enjoying the season box sets, I am actually content with both but I will have to say that “Dragon Box Z” has a much cooler packaging presentation and about 6-8 more episodes but you will be paying about $15 more. So, it’s really up to you if it’s worth it. Personally, if you just want to see the episodes and prefer to watch it with the English dubs, the original season box sets can be found for a great price these days and were solid releases to begin with.  But for the hardcore fans who have demanded and have wanted the original series and how they were presented, you can’t beat these “Dragon Box” DVD boxsets.  They’re awesome!

This box set was created for those who wanted “Dragon Ball Z” to be presented how it was in Japan and they have waited a long, long time for it. So, I look at these box sets as fans are now getting the best of both worlds and now those fans should be happy. Now the only thing is left will be the Blu-ray fans who will be clamoring for “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (“Dragon Ball Z” minus the filler episodes, remastered with new intro and vocals all re-recorded) which will be released this month but if you want the entire series, the Dragon Box Z series is what you want, otherwise if you want on Blu-ray – “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is the way to go. So, whether or not you pick the original orange box release, this Dragon Box Z release or “Dragon Ball Z Kai” release, all three are solid releases.

With this latest volume, you get the Android and Cell Saga and this is definitely one of the more intense action-packed battle sagas in the whole “Dragon Ball Z” series and was popular in Japan due to the popularity of Future Trunks.   And for the most part, if you are a hardcore fan who have purchased the previous three volumes, more than likely from here on in, you’re going to pickup up the upcoming volumes as the action and the storyline continues to get better and better.

Overall, hardcore fans get there money’s worth with this DVD boxset.  You get 40+ episodes in their original Japanese TV presentation and each episode which were remastered and you also get cool package-based content.   For those hardcore DBZ fans who have waited this long for the original Japanese DBZ anime series in its original presentation, this box set is for you!

“Dragon Ball Z – Dragon Box Vol. 4” is highly recommended.

Corpse Princess: Kuro – Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Action-packed, entertaining and from beginning to end!  Expect more characters, more battles, more fan service with the second season of “Corpse Princess”!

Image courtesy of © Yoshiichi Akihito/Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Corpse Princess: Kuro – Part Two

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 17+

Release Date: September 14, 2010

Originally created by Yoshiichi Akahito

Directed by Masahiko Murata

Screenplay by Shou Aikawa

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Character Design by Chikashi Kubota, Kikuko Sadakata

Art Director: Hiroki Matsumoto

Art Design by Yohei Kodama

Sound Director: Masafumi Mima

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Anime Production: GAINAX

Featuring the following voice talent:

Tatsuya Hasome/Aaron Dismuke as Ouri Kagami

Keiji Fujiwara/J. Michael Tatum as Keisei Tagami

Nana Akiyama/Luci Christian as Makina Hoshimura

Chika Fujimura/Brina Palencia as Hokuto (Shichisei)

Fuyuka Oura/Claire Harp as Mizuki Inuhiko

Hidenori Nakamura/Kent Williams as Sougen Takamine

Kiyotaka Furushima/Chris Cason as Rinsen Shirae

Masayuki Shouji/Sean Teague as Sumitori

Michi Niino/Todd Haberkorn as Ena (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Miki Maruyama/Tia Ballard as Nozomi Kasuga

Mitsuru Miyamoto/Josh Grelle as Akasha Shishidou

Nobutoshi Canna/Anthony Bowling as Honda

Takaya Hashi/T.A. Taylor as Isaka (Shichisei)

Tooru Nara/Micah Solusod as Hiroshige Ushijima

Toru Ohkawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Hazama (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Yui Horie/Stephanie Young as Riko

Yuuki Hayashi/Bob Carter as Kowaku (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Makina Hoshino is already dead, but she can’t let go of this twisted world. She burned to death along with her entire family in a fire started by freaks that wouldn’t stay buried. Makina knows she doesn’t belong among the living, but that won’t stop her from unleashing the full fury of her twin MAC-11 machine guns on the rotting remains of those who refuse to die.

She’s hell-bent on filling every empty grave she can find with the monsters that should be six feet under. Makina is a Shikabane Hime – a Corpse Princess – and it’s her job to finish off the undead leftovers haunting the dark corners of a city that used to be safe.

In 2005, mangaka Yoshiichi Akahito began his manga series “Shikabane Hime ” (Corpse Princess). In 2008, an anime adaptation by GAINAX was created with the first 13 episodes are known as “Corpse Princess: Aka” and the second half of the series (episodes 14-26) are known as “Corpse Princess: Kuro”.

The series is directed by Masahiko Murata (“Naruto Shippuden”, “MazinKaiser”, “Jinki: Extend”) and a screenplay by Shou Aikawa (“Wrath of the Ninja”, “Ghost Slayers Ayashi”, “Gad Guard”, “Casshan: Robot Hunter”). Joining both Murata and Aikawa are character designers Chikashi Kubota (“Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, “One Piece – Movie 6”) and Kikuko Sadakata (“Gurren Lagann”, Princess Resurrection”, “Mayo Elle Otokonoko”) and music created by Norihito Sumitomo.

“Corpse Princess – Aka” (season one) revolves around a young teen named Ouri Kagami. One night, he found a dead girl at his home, not know what caused her death, he hears people approaching the room and he hides. He then sees his brother Keisei going up to the girl who is named Makina Hoshimura and instantly bringing her back to life (while incurring injuries to his own self).

Ouri is not sure what happened but maybe the girl was not dead afterall.

Each time Ouri is out and about, he ends up being in the same locations where this girl is fighting. She doesn’t know why he is there and he doesn’t understand how she is always dead or near-dead and yet manages to come alive.

We learn that the Makina is a living corpse (a shikabane hime) and Keisei is a contracted priest bound to her. Both are working for an anti-corpse group known as the Kougun sect. Makina must kill 108 corpses for her to go into heaven, otherwise, if she is not bound to a priest, she would become a monster. A Shikabane. Keisei’s role is that each time Makina is hurt, when near hear, she can feed off his life force and easily heal her wounds. Her goal is to kill

But most of all, Makina wants revenge on a violent corpse group known as the Seven Stars. The people responsible for killing her family and killing her.

As both Keisei and Makina fight and destroy the many corpse they encounter, Ouri ends up being at these locations where they are fighting because a mysterious cat is feeding him information of their whereabouts. For Ouri, he is more of a hindrance because he does not want Keisei getting himself killed over a girl and he doesn’t like how Makina putting herself in danger.

And right now is not the right time for Ouri to get involved because the Seven Stars are back and are wanting to kill even more humans.

In “Corpse Princess: Kuro” (season two), Ouri now trains to become Makina’s contracted monk, problem is, Makina has no interest in accepting Ouri.  As for the Seven Stars, they have their eyes set on Makina as they feel, she has a special ability that they want to exploit.

Meanwhile, Ouri learns more about the bond between a contracted monk and his shikabane hime but most importantly, why a human monk should never ever fall for his shikabane hime.

But most importantly, the life of Ouri and his true mysterious background is revealed.

“Corpse Princess” features the following characters:

  • Ouri Kagami – A high school boy who was raised at his Keisei Tagami’s Temple. He has no relations to Kesei Tagami but because he was raised with orphans thanks to Keisei, he seems him not only as a brother but like a father. Meanwhile, Keisei has been able to see a dead cat who speaks to him and gives him information to where corpses are located.  Ouri has now replaced Keisei as Makina’s contracted monk.
  • Keisei Tagami – A Buddhist priest working for the anti-corpse organization known as the Kougon Sect. Keisei was an orphan when he grew up and he was raised by Makina Hoshimura’s father. When the family was murdered, he has committed himself to becoming Makina’s contracted priest and making sure she can meet her goal of going to heaven but also helping her avenge her family.
  • Makina Hoshimura – A shikabane hime who is a contracted “living corpse”. Her goal is to kill 108 corpses so she can gain entrance to heaven. She is bound to Keisei (her contracted priest) and because of Keisei’s relation to her family, she is committed in getting revenge on the Seven Stars, seven corpses who killed her and her family. She cares deeply about Keisei but since his death, she is not willing to accept Ouri as her new contracted monk.
  • Rika Aragami – A female contracted monk and one of the ten great holy families.  She is the contracted monk of Saki Amase.
  • Saki Amase – A shikabane hime who is a 10-year-old who wields a huge hammer.  She is also quite stubborn.
  • Takamasa Sogi – A contracted monk of Itsuki Yamagami.  He cares deeply for Itsuki to the point of loving her despite knowing that she is no longer human.
  • Itsuki Yagami – Takamasa’s shikabane hime.  Unlike others, she and Takamasa have a deep connection and knows that she is not human and can’t bare for Takamasa to see her true self.
  • Shuji Isaki – The contracted monk of Minai Ruo.  Very arrogant and doesn’t care about anyone.
  • Minai Ruo – Isaki’s shikabane hime.  When her bond with her contracted monk broke, Ouri got to see what happens when to a shikabane hime without her contracted monk.
  • Sougen Takamine – The contracted monk of Kamika Tomoroki and former mentor of Keisei Tagami.
  • Kamika Tomoroki – Takamine’s shikabane hime.  Always serious about her job and the strongest shikabane hime with incredible will-power.
  • Kanechika Umehara – The contracted monk of Flesh Backbone and also a pervert.
  • Flesh Backbone – A foreigner/otaku who was on her way to Akihabara before she was killed and is now Kanechika Umehara’s shikabane hime.  A true otaku.

“Corpse Princess: Kuro – Part Two” features episodes 14-26 on two DVDs. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – Path of Light – Ouri undergoes priest training, meanwhile a priest wants Makina dead.
  • EPISODE 15 – My Enemy – The Seven Stars make their attack at the HQ of the monks in order to get closer to Makina, while the other contracted monks and their shikabane hime fight against them to prevent them from killing her.
  • EPISODE 16 – Beloved Aberration – Makina does not want Ouri to be her contacted monk.  Meanwhile, Takamasa wants to teach Ouri a lesson of why one should not get too close to their shikibane hime.
  • EPISODE 17 – Itsuki’s Form – The history of Itsuki and Takamasa’s earlier days as part of the team and what happened to a good friend of Takamasa.
  • EPISODE 18 – Nature and Regrets – Keisei may have turned to a shikabane and now Sadahiro is sent to destory it.
  • EPISODE 19 – Monster Named Happiness – Ouri and Makina fight against Ena of the Seven Priests.  Meanwhile, something happens to Kagusa.
  • EPISODE 20Mundane Wish – Ouri finds out what had happened to Kagusa, meanwhile Makina fights against another member of the Seven Stars.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 21 – My Mother Was Defiled – The fate of Kasuga Nozomi.  The kougonshuu reveal to Ouri of his background and what he truly is.
  • EPISODE 22 – The Value of Living – Ouri learns the truth of his mother.  Meanwhile, the Kougon Sect unleashes their deadly plan on the city.
  • EPISODE 23 – To the Other Side of Hell – The plan of the Seven Stars and Traitor Monks is revealed.
  • EPISODE 24 – One Hundred and Eight Lies – The truth of the shikabane hime’s power is revealed and also we learn the true fate of a shikabane hime who accomplishes her 108 kills.
  • EPISODE 25 – Beyond the Dead – The battle between Makina and Hokuto and the future of the contracted monks and their shikabane hime.
  • EPISODE 26Even So, As a Person NOTE: The following special episode was not aired on TV but only featured on the Japanese and US DVD release.  This special episode focuses on how Minai Ruo became a shikabane hime and how Shuji Isaki became her contracted monk.

VIDEO:

Corpse Princess: Kuro” is presented in widescreen format. Animation is well done and a good amount of detail put into the action sequences, especially with Makina and Keisei’s scenes. Artistic backgrounds are well done and for the most part, GAINAX has done a great job with the overall look of the anime series. Blacks are nice and deep, there are good lighting effects and for the most part, I wouldn’t be surprised if this series receives the Blu-ray treatment. I have not seen Yoshiichi Akahito’s original work but I’ve read that Chikashi Kubota and Kikuko Sadakata were faithful in recreating these character designs for the anime series.

I found “Corpse Princess: Kuro” to have more animation and the fact that there are so many characters now involved in this second season, a lot of focus was put into the actual fighting scenes and the animation of the characters and monsters.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Corpse Princess” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Japanese 2.0. The anime series does feature a lot of action and the audio is more front and surround channel driven in the English dubbed soundtrack. There was a good use of LFE during the more explosive scenes. But overall, dialogue and music comes clear through the front channels. My preference for this anime series was the Japanese soundtrack, as the voice acting was well done. The English dub is fine but I felt that Aaron Dismuke voice acting makes Ouri seem a bit too whiny while the more emotional parts that require crying, are not as well done. Veterans J. Michael Tatum (Keisei), especially Luci Christian did a good job as Makina. But overall, both audio tracks are very good.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Corpse Princess: Kuro – Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 24 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director J. Michael Tatum (Keisei), Brina Palencia (Hokuto) and Josh Grelle (Akasha).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song #1
  • Textless Closing Song #2
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or previous released titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

The concept of “Corpse Princess” is quite intriguing and I felt that the first half of the series did a great job in establishing the main three characters, establishing the importance of the bond between the contracted priest and the shikabane hime. But also, establishing the story of why Keisei and Makina were so close and who the Seven Stars are and why they must be eliminated.  This time around for “Corpse Princess: Kuro”, we get more characters, character building storylines and if there was something that you see more of in the second half is possibly the attention of more endowed characters.

I felt with “Corpse Princess: Aka”, there was more focus on Keisei, Ouri and Makina and watching her take down monsters.  But with the other contracted monks and shikabane hime having a more active role, personally it made the series much more exciting.  Although, I’m sure it may have been nerve-wracking if you watched this series in Japan, because missing one episode literally can throw the continuity way off for the series and it’s one of those series that you need to watch every episode to know the context of the story and more about these supporting characters.

And also, I liked how there was less Ouri.  The first season focused too much on him and he came off as a character that whines too much.  Fortunately, by “Corpse Princess: Kuro”, he is more tolerable.  he is taking action and responsibility and started to see his character in a better light.  It also helps that he is often paired with other supporting characters as well.

I felt that GAINAX has done a wonderful job in animating this series, artistic backgrounds are well-done and for the most part, the series was enjoyable, action-packed and even a bit dark and violent at times (Note: This is definitely not a series to have the younger children watch).

The overall DVD was very good and I really enjoyed the first half of the series and look forward to watching the second. I can only hope that FUNimation Entertainment considers “Corpse Princess” for a Blu-ray release in the near future. It’s important to note that both parts: “Corpse Princess: Aka” and “Corpse Princess: Kuro” are being released simultaneously, so no long waiting time in order for one to get into the complete series.

I actually enjoyed “Corpse Princess” from beginning to end.  The anime series ended in a good note and hopefully someday soon, GAINAX will continue to explore the series and what takes place after the events of “Corpse Princess: Kuro”.  I felt the DVD’s inclusion of the 26th stand-alone episode was nice but it’s important for people to know that the final episode on this volume is more of a bonus and is not expected to be the final episode.  Think of it as a side-project OVA featuring the characters of contracted monk Shuji Isaki and shikabane hime Minai Ruo.

But overall, another entertaining anime series and  if you are looking for an action-packed, well-animated, well-written series, definitely give both seasons of “Corpse Princess” a chance! An anime series that is definitely recommended!

NOTE: We are reviewing the discs only and can not comment on the actual packaging of the release and if there are any extra additional content that comes packaged with the release.

Corpse Princess: Aka – Part One (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Action-packed, entertaining and a shocking ending for this first part of GAINAX’s “Corpse Princess”.  If you are looking for a darker, action-based anime series, definitely give “Corpse Princess: Aka – Part One” a chance!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Yoshiichi Akihito/Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Corpse Princess: Aka – Part One

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 17+

Release Date: September 14, 2010

Originally created by Yoshiichi Akahito

Directed by Masahiko Murata

Screenplay by Shou Aikawa

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Character Design by Chikashi Kubota, Kikuko Sadakata

Art Director: Hiroki Matsumoto

Art Design by Yohei Kodama

Sound Director: Masafumi Mima

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Anime Production: GAINAX

Featuring the following voice talent:

Tatsuya Hasome/Aaron Dismuke as Ouri Kagami

Keiji Fujiwara/J. Michael Tatum as Keisei Tagami

Nana Akiyama/Luci Christian as Makina Hoshimura

Chika Fujimura/Brina Palencia as Hokuto (Shichisei)

Fuyuka Oura/Claire Harp as Mizuki Inuhiko

Hidenori Nakamura/Kent Williams as Sougen Takamine

Kiyotaka Furushima/Chris Cason as Rinsen Shirae

Masayuki Shouji/Sean Teague as Sumitori

Michi Niino/Todd Haberkorn as Ena (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Miki Maruyama/Tia Ballard as Nozomi Kasuga

Mitsuru Miyamoto/Josh Grelle as Akasha Shishidou

Nobutoshi Canna/Anthony Bowling as Honda

Takaya Hashi/T.A. Taylor as Isaka (Shichisei)

Tooru Nara/Micah Solusod as Hiroshige Ushijima

Toru Ohkawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Hazama (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Yui Horie/Stephanie Young as Riko

Yuuki Hayashi/Bob Carter as Kowaku (Shichisei/Seven Stars)

Makina Hoshino is already dead, but she can’t let go of this twisted world. She burned to death along with her entire family in a fire started by freaks that wouldn’t stay buried. Makina knows she doesn’t belong among the living, but that won’t stop her from unleashing the full fury of her twin MAC-11 machine guns on the rotting remains of those who refuse to die.

She’s hell-bent on filling every empty grave she can find with the monsters that should be six feet under. Makina is a Shikabane Hime – a Corpse Princess – and it’s her job to finish off the undead leftovers haunting the dark corners of a city that used to be safe.

In 2005, mangaka Yoshiichi Akahito began his manga series “Shikabane Hime ” (Corpse Princess).    In 2008, an anime adaptation by GAINAX was created with the first 13 episodes are known as “Corpse Princess: Aka” (the first season) and the second season of the series (episodes 14-26) are known as “Corpse Princess: Kuro”.

The series is directed by Masahiko Murata (“Naruto Shippuden”, “MazinKaiser”, “Jinki: Extend”) and a screenplay by Shou Aikawa (“Wrath of the Ninja”, “Ghost Slayers Ayashi”, “Gad Guard”, “Casshan: Robot Hunter”).  Joining both Murata and Aikawa are character designers Chikashi Kubota (“Girl Who Leapt Through Time”,  “One Piece – Movie 6”) and Kikuko Sadakata (“Gurren Lagann”, Princess Resurrection”, “Mayo Elle Otokonoko”) and music created by Norihito Sumitomo.

“Corpse Princess: Aka” revolves around a young teen named Ouri Kagami.  One night, he found a dead girl at his home, not know what caused her death, he hears people approaching the room and he hides.  He then sees his brother Keisei going up to the girl who is named Makina Hoshimura and instantly bringing her back to life (while incurring injuries to his own self).

Ouri is not sure what happened but maybe the girl was not dead afterall.

Each time Ouri is out and about, he ends up being in the same locations where this girl is fighting.  She doesn’t know why he is there and he doesn’t understand how she is always dead or near-dead and yet manages to come alive.

We learn that the Makina is a living corpse (a shikabane hime) and Keisei is a contracted priest bound to her.  Both are working for an anti-corpse group known as the Kougun sect.  Makina must kill 108 corpses for her to go into heaven, otherwise, if she is not bound to a priest, she would become a monster.  A Shikabane.  Keisei’s role is that each time Makina is hurt, when near hear, she can feed off his life force and easily heal her wounds.  Her goal is to kill

But most of all, Makina wants revenge on a violent corpse group known as the Seven Stars. The people responsible for killing her family and killing her.

As both Keisei and Makina fight and destroy the many corpse they encounter, Ouri ends up being at these locations where they are fighting because a mysterious cat is feeding him information of their whereabouts.  For Ouri, he is more of a hindrance because he does not want Keisei getting himself killed over a girl and he doesn’t like how Makina putting herself in danger.

And right now is not the right time for Ouri to get involved because the Seven Stars are back and are wanting to kill even more humans.

“Corpse Princess” features the following characters:

  • Ouri Kagami – A high school boy who was raised at his Keisei Tagami’s Temple.  He has no relations to Kesei Tagami but because he was raised with orphans thanks to Keisei, he seems him not only as a brother but like a father.  Meanwhile, Keisei has been able to see a dead cat who speaks to him and gives him information to where corpses are located.
  • Keisei Tagami – A Buddhist priest working for the anti-corpse organization known as the Kougon Sect.  Keisei was an orphan when he grew up and he was raised by Makina Hoshimura’s father.  When the family was murdered, he has committed himself to becoming Makina’s contracted priest and making sure she can meet her goal of going to heaven but also helping her avenge her family.  Keisei is also a pervert.
  • Makina Hoshimura – A shikabane hime who is a contracted “living corpse”.  Her goal is to kill 108 corpses so she can gain entrance to heaven.  She is bound to Keisei (her contracted priest) and because of Keisei’s relation to her family, she is committed in getting revenge on the Seven Stars, seven corpses who killed her and her family.
  • Rika Aragami – A female contracted monk and one of the ten great holy families.  She is the contracted monk of Saki Amase.
  • Saki Amase – A shikabane hime who is a 10-year-old who wields a huge hammer.  She is also quite stubborn.
  • Takamasa Sogi – A contracted monk of Itsuki Yamagami.  He cares deeply for Itsuki to the point of loving her despite knowing that she is no longer human.
  • Itsuki Yagami – Takamasa’s shikabane hime.  Unlike others, she and Takamasa have a deep connection and knows that she is not human and can’t bare for Takamasa to see her true self.
  • Shuji Isaki – The contracted monk of Minai Ruo.  Very arrogant and doesn’t care about anyone.
  • Minai Ruo – Isaki’s shikabane hime.  When her bond with her contracted monk broke, Ouri got to see what happens when to a shikabane hime without her contracted monk.
  • Sougen Takamine – The contracted monk of Kamika Tomoroki and former mentor of Keisei Tagami.
  • Kamika Tomoroki – Takamine’s shikabane hime.  Always serious about her job and the strongest shikabane hime with incredible will-power.
  • Kanechika Umehara – The contracted monk of Flesh Backbone and also a pervert.
  • Flesh Backbone – A foreigner/otaku who was on her way to Akihabara before she was killed and is now Kanechika Umehara’s shikabane hime.  A true otaku.

“Corpse Princess: Aka – Part One” features episodes 1-13 on two DVDs. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – The Dead Dance – Ouri meets Makina Hoshimura for the first time and doesn’t know why she keeps pushing herself to fight against these monsters.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Game Continues – Several children killed in a highway accident have become shikabane and Makina must kill them.  Somehow Ouri ends up in the same area and allows one to escape.
  • EPISODE 3 – The Voice of Night – Makina must hunt down a shikabane.  Meanwhile, Keisei learns that someone is doing illegal experiments and is trying to create shikabane.
  • EPISODE 4 – Hymn of Tragedy – Makina must kill a popular J-pop singer named Kun Osaki who has become a shikabane.
  • EPISODE 5 – Traitor Monk – Keisei tells Ouri the truth of what his job is and because he told his brother, the Kougon Sect must ban him from being Makina’s contracted priest.  Meanwhile, we learn of a traitor priest named Akasha Shishidou.
  • EPISODE 6  – At the End of the Dangerous Run- Makina and Keisei take on Akasha Shishidou and in the process, makes a decision that will affect his life forever.
  • EPISODE 7 – The False Power of Words – Ouri encounters a classmate named Mitsuyoshi who has become a shikabane.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 8 – Serenity – Ouri tries to help a shikabane hime named Minai and learns what happens when a contracted priest and a shikabane hime’s bond is broken.
  • EPISODE 9 – Set Your Heart Aflutter – Makina saves a group of students who were inside a haunted building and one of the students she saved, Nozomi Kazuka, becomes infatuated with her.
  • EPISODE 10 Stars On the Ground – Someone one has killed Minai.  Meanwhile, the killing Seven Stars are back.  We learn in this episode of how Makina was killed.
  • EPISODE 11 – One Night – The Kougan discover that Hokuto, the leader of the Seven Stars is in the area.  Keisei explains to Ouri of why he is going so far to help Makina.
  • EPISODE 12 – Dawn – In order to save Makina, Keisei makes a final decision.
  • EPISODE 13Funeral Program for a Contracted Monk The funeral for a loved one and Ouri learns the rules in becoming a contracted monk.

VIDEO:

Corpse Princess: Aka” is presented in widescreen format.  Animation is well done and a good amount of detail put into the action sequences, especially with Makina and Keisei’s scenes.  Artistic backgrounds are well done and for the most part, GAINAX has done a great job with the overall look of the anime series.  Blacks are nice and deep, there are good lighting effects and for the most part, I wouldn’t be surprised if this series receives the Blu-ray treatment.  I have not seen Yoshiichi Akahito’s original work but I’ve read that Chikashi Kubota and Kikuko Sadakata were faithful in recreating these character designs for the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Corpse Princess” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Japanese  2.0.  The anime series does feature a lot of action and the audio is more front and surround channel driven in the English dubbed soundtrack. There was a good use of LFE during the more explosive scenes.  But overall, dialogue and music comes clear through the front channels.  My preference for this anime series was the Japanese soundtrack, as the voice acting was well done.   The English dub is fine but I felt that Aaron Dismuke voice acting makes Ouri seem a bit too whiny while the more emotional parts that require crying, are not as well done.  Veterans J. Michael Tatum (Keisei), especially Luci Christian did a good job as Makina.  But overall, both audio tracks are very good.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Corpse Princess: Aka – Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 12 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Terri Doty (Kamika), Luci Christian (Makina) and Aaron Dismuke (Ouri).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song #1
  • Textless Closing Song #2
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or previous released titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

The concept of “Corpse Princess” is quite intriguing and I felt that the first half of the series did a great job in establishing the main three characters, establishing the importance of the bond between the contracted priest and the shikabane hime.  But also, establishing the story of why Keisei and Makina were so close and who the Seven Stars are and why they must be eliminated.

I admit at first, I felt that Ouri was a character that was starting to get on my nerves, similar to Shinji of “Evangelion”.  Too much whining and always in the way.  But I realize after watching the first half of the series, he’s going to play a much larger part in the series in this second half and it will be interesting to see how both Ouri and Makina are going to respond on the battlefield, especially with his inexperience.

I felt that GAINAX has done a wonderful job in animating this series, artistic backgrounds are well-done and for the most part, the series was enjoyable, action-packed and even a bit dark and violent at times (Note: This is definitely not a series to have the younger children watch).

The overall DVD was very good and I really enjoyed the first half of the series and look forward to watching the second.   I can only hope that FUNimation Entertainment considers “Corpse Princess” for a Blu-ray release in the near future.  It’s important to note that both parts: “Corpse Princess: Aka” and “Corpse Princess: Kuro” are being released simultaneously, so no long waiting time in order for one to get into the complete series.

So,  if you are looking for an action-packed, well-animated, well-written series, definitely give “Corpse Princess” a chance!  An anime series that is definitely recommended!

NOTE: We are reviewing the discs only and can not comment on the actual packaging of the release and if there are any extra additional content that comes packaged with the release.

Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

September 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The action and battles continue as  of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two” is here!  “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is a must-buy, must-own anime series on Blu-ray. Highly recommended!

 

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

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two

 

DURATION: (Episodes 14-26) 325 Minutes

 

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

 

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

 

Release Date: September 14, 2010

 

 

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

 

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

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

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation

 

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

 

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

 

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

Mayumi Tanaka/Mike McFarland as Yajirobe

 

Goku lies battered and nearly beaten, the Dragon Balls have been destroyed, and a new breed of evil looms on the horizon! Frieza, a violent galactic overlord, has discovered the source of the original Dragon Balls, and he’ll eagerly destroy anything to harness their wish-granting power.

Meanwhile, Vegeta – fully recovered from his humiliating defeat – travels to planet Namek on a mission to intercept Frieza and seize the Dragon Balls for own devious desires. With Goku out of commission, courageous young Gohan must journey to the far reaches of space to defeat a foe far more fearsome than anything his father ever encountered. The future depends on it!

For the past few years, I have been raving about FUNimation Entertainment’s releases of “Dragon Ball Z” from the original orange box collections to the recent Dragon Box Z DVD box set releases. And yes, I am a big fan of the anime series and yes, I am going to rave once again about this latest Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two”.

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

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

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

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

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009. But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 100 episodes.

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

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

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

In 2009 and currently in the present, FUNimation Entertainment has released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (as of this review, there have been a total of three volumes released featuring over 30-episodes each). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which were also released last year by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2010, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is now presented in HD, without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, has a duration of 100 episodes and the first volume on Blu-ray and DVD from FUNimation Entertainment consists of the first 13 episodes. It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series. The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes. Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two” (episodes 13-26)  on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – “AN ALL-OUT KAMEHAME-HA! VEGETA’S TERRIBLE TRANSFORMATION” – With Goku unleashing his triple Kaio-Ken, Vegeta resorts to his inner ape.
  • EPISODE 15 – “GOKU ON THE ROPES! PIN YOUR HOPES ON THE SPIRIT BOMB” – Goku is worn out from battle, so Gohan and Krillin try to take on Vegeta in ape form.
  • EPISODE 16 – “DEFEAT THE INVINCIB:E VEGETA! WORK A MIRACLE GOHAN! – Krillin and Gohan continue to fight against Vegeta.
  • EPISODE 17 – DAWN OF A FIERCE BATTLE! THE STAR OF HOPE IS PICCOLO’S HOMELAND! –  Although the battle is over for now, the Z warriors must find the Dragon Balls to resurrect their friends.
  • EPISODE 18 – “THE SHIP RESTING IN YUNZABIT! TIME TO BLAST OFF FOR PLANET NAMEK! – Bulma tries to use the Saiyan ship as a way to travel to the Planet Namek.
  • EPISODE 19 – “A POWERFUL NEW FOE! FRIEZA RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!” – Another foe has their eyes in trying to get the dragon balls.
  • EPISODE 20 – “THE REBELLION AGAINST FRIEZA! VEGETA’S BURNING AMBITION!” – Gohan and Krillin take on Frieza’s henchmen, while Vegeta is about to take on Cui.
  • EPISODE 21 – PROTECT THE DRAGON BALLS! THE NAMEKIANS ALL-OUT ATTACK! – Goku goes off to the Planet Namek, meanwhile Krillin and Gohan watch Frieza’s men slaughtering innocent Namekians.
  • EPISODE 22 – DODORIAS TERRIFYING CHASE! A TURTH REVEALED TO VEGETA! – Gohan and Krillin try to rescue a young Namekian.  Meanwhile, Vegeta learns the truth of the destruction of his home planet.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 23 – VEGETA’S COVERT MANEUVERS! A TRAGIC ASSAULT ON THE NAMEKIANS! – Vegeta searches for the two remaining Dragon Balls.  Krillin and Dende leave to warn the elders of Planet Namek.
  • EPISODE 24 – FRIENDS REBORN! ZARBON’S HIDEOUS TRANSFORMATION! – King Kai tries desperately to warn Goku of the danger in Planet Namek.
  • EPISODE 25 – POWER UP KRILLIN! FRIEZA’S MOUNTING APPREHENSION! – The eldest Namekian unlocks Krillins internal, dormant power.
  • EPISODE 26 – THE SCHEME IS SHATTERED! VEGETA STRIKES BACK AT ZARBON! – Vegeta tries to steal the Dragon Balls from Frieza and Krillin prepares for battle.

VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

Also, as times have changed when it comes to what can be shown on television and stricter laws on what can be shown on television since 1989 and the fact that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” would be distributed worldwide on television in other countries (in the US, the series will begin airing on Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons), most immediate changes are when it comes to the nudity and violence. Nude scenes featuring a young Goku or Gohan now feature their private areas now covered. There is now less blood during the most violent battle scenes.

But the added footage is easily noticed. I caught one scene with Nappa and Vegeta outdoors sitting near a campfire with a digital flame. Also, another scenes with Nappa with the dark stroke around the character which was seen in the later “Dragon Ball Z” movies. There were scenes in which shading was utilized but with all new sequences, it’s important to note that they created the sequences to compliment the older footage. So, everything looks just right together.

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels.  For example, in “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two”, there is a good amount of surround audio during Goku and Vegeta’s battle, while in the Planet Namek scenes, you can hear a lot of flight (as a big part of the series in this arc features characters flying after the enemy or to get from place-to-place).

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome! I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening Song DVD Version 01
  • Textless Opening Song DVD Version 02
  • Textless Opening Song Broadcast Version
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

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

The second part of “Dragon Ball Z – Part Two” focuses on the battle between Goku vs. Vegeta and the Planet Namek/Dragon Ball episodes.  Although, I originally enjoyed this arc from the original series, it was one of the longest story arcs in “Dragon Ball Z” leading up to the battle between Goku vs. Frieza (which should be the focus in the next upcoming release of DBZ Kai).

Fortunately for those who have watched the series many times, we do get various selected scenes from the Planet Namek arc to shorten up the arc in “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.  I do highly recommend for those who have never watched “Dragon Ball Z” to please check out the actual series because watching this arc in its entirety is a must!

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean. Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

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

f you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was an expensive wait to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then.

But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

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

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time. Because the series only lasts 100 episodes, there will be multiple volumes but this is one series that gets better and better with each season and the characters grow especially in powers and skill as they take on enemies that are much worse than the previous enemy.

As for the Blu-ray release and its special featuers, sure… I would love to have more special features included on this release but as the regular series never had them, we’re not going to see it on this Blu-ray release.  Granted, it would have been nice for FUNimation Entertainment to let their ADR director interviewing some of the voice talent and doing a commentary.  It’s done on other anime releases from FUNimation Entertainment, so I wish we had some commentary included.  Also, it would have been nice to have the original Japanese TV Spots included as well.  But you do get several textless opening and ending themes.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series.  Granted, I’m sure that many of us are quite biased towards the “Dragon Ball” series but for those who have always been curious about “Dragon Ball Z” and have no intention watching every episode made, then “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is recommended because it’s a much shorter run at 100 episodes and this particular release cover episodes 14-26 thus far.  So, we are 25% complete.

If you are a fan of “Dragon Ball Z” or one who has always been curious about the series, then it’s about time to watch this series in HD.  Definitely recommended!

Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Full Metal Panic!” is one of the more popular anime series to be released in the US post-2000 and its a series that has been re-released many times as well.  But this is the first time the series has been released on Blu-ray and although this is an older series, this Blu-ray release is for those who want to upgrade to Blu-ray or are simply fans of FMP and want it on HD.  Otherwise, for those looking for a true anime on Blu-ray HD experience, this release may not be for you.

Images courtesy of © Gatoh Shoji/Shikidouji/Jinda High School Student Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-24 (600 Minutes)

 

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

 

RATED: 13+

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: September 7, 2010

 

Originally Created by Shoji Gatoh

Directed by Koichi Chigira

Script by Fumihiko Shimo, Koichi Chigira, Masashi Sogo

Music by Toshihiko Sahashi

Original Character Design by Shikidouji

Character Designs by Osamu Horiuchi

Art Direction by Masaru Ohta

Mecha Design by Kanetake Ebikawa, Toshiaki Ihara

Anime Production by GONZO

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Satsuki Yukino/Luci Christian as Kaname Chidori

Tomokazu Seki/Chris Patton as Sousuke Sagara

Yukana/Hilary Haag as Teletha “Tessa” Testarossa

Akio Ohtsuka/Mike Kleinhenz as Lt. Cmdr. Andrey Kalinin

Ikue Kimura/Monica Rial as Kyoko Tokiwa

Mamiko Noto/Greg Ayres as Shinji Kazama

Masahiko Tanaka/Mike Macrae as Gauln (Gauron)

Michiko Neya/Allison Keith as Melissa Mao

Shinichiro Miki/Vic Mignogna as Kurz Weber

Tomomichi Nishimura/Andy McAvin as Cmdr. Richard Mardukas

Kaname Chidori’s one of the most popular girls at her high school – unfortunately, it’s her growing popularity off campus she should be worrying about. Unbeknownst to Kaname, terrorists are plotting her abduction, believing she possesses the rare and coveted abilities of “the Whispered.”

That’s where Sousuke Sagara enters the picture. He’s a hotshot soldier from the clandestine counter-terrorist organization known as Mithril – and he’s going undercover at Kaname’s school to try and keep her safe. He may be an ace in the cockpit of an Arm Slave mech, but there’s no training in the world that could prepare him for the warzone of high school.

 

In 1998, Shoji Gatoh along with illustrator Shiki Douji began work on the “Full Metal Panic!” light novels.  The individual chapters were then published on Monthly Dragon Magazine and then were released via paperback compilation.

By 2006, three anime TV series were created “Full Metal Panic!”, “Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu” and “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” by Kyoto Animation and a total of five different manga series.  With FUNimation Entertainment releasing the third TV series “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” on Blu-ray, FUNimation is now releasing the first two series on Blu-ray (as well as re-releasing the series on DVD) in Sept. 2010.

The first “Full Metal Panic!” first aired on television back in 2002 and was directed by Koichi Chigira (“Gate Keepers”, “Kimagure Orange Road”, “Tokyo Babylon”, “Vandread”), the screenplay adaptation was co-written by Chigira, Fumihiko Shimo (“Burst Angel”, “Gravion”, “Kanon”, “Prince of Tennis”) and Masashi Sogo (“Bleach”, “RurouniKenshin”, “Shadow Skill”).  Music for the series is by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Fatal Fury” OVA’s, “Ghost Sweeper Mikami”, “Gunslinger Girl”), character design is by Osamu Horiuchi (“New Cutey Honey”, “Burst Angel”, “Last Exile”, “New Cutey Honey”) and art direction by Masaru Ohta (“The Big O”, “Golden Boy”, “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, “Queen Esmereldas”).

“Fullmetal Panic!” revolves around a covert anti-terrorist private military organization known as Mithril who must protect Kaname Chidori, a teenage girl that happens to have special “Whispered” abilities (abilities that allow these special individuals have knowledge of advanced mathematics, engineering and physics beyond human comprehension) and now the terrorist are after her for her abilities.

But Mithril must keep their identities private and so they assign Sgt. Sousuke Sagara, Melissa Mao and Kurz Weber to watch over her.  But the primary duty will be for Sousuke to disguise himself as a school student and to be close to her.  The problem is that Sousuke doesn’t have any social experience and didn’t grow up like most people and has been fighting in wars since the age of 8.  So, he does find it a bit difficult to fit in at the high school and everyone thinks he is a bit weird.

But somehow, through their time together, Kaname begins to trust Sousuke and starts to become attracted to him but since Sosuke is not a normal guy, he is unaware of her feelings towards him and most of the time, his mind is on battle.

“Full Metal Panic! features the following characters:

  • Sousuke Sagara – A young man who grew up in a war setting.  At the age of 8, he has been involved in fighting in a guerrilla movement and is now a member of Mithril, the covert anti-terrorist private military organization.  He is the main member assigned to protecting Kaname Chidori’s life.
  • Kaname Chidori – A popular girl in high school and a girl who speaks her mind.  She is also a teen who has “Whispered” abilities and while being protected by Sousuke, starts to become attracted to him.
  • Teletha “Tessa” Testarosa – Although a 16-year-old, Tessa is the Captain of the Tuatha da Danaan.  Because of her young age and bubbly personality, many have a hard time believing she is only 16.
  • Melissa Mao – She is the superior officer of both Sousuke and Kurz and is also a woman who likes to have fun by drinking and smoking a lot.
  • Kurz Webber – A lady’s man (who tends to fail in getting close to his superior officer Melissa) and an excellent sniper for Mithril.  Kurz tends to give Sousuke love advice since Sousuke has no clue about romance or social activities.
  • Gauron – The main antagonist of “Full Metal Panic!” who can command the lambda driver and pilots the Venom.  He has bought or blackmailed his way to the top.

“Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series” features episodes 1-24 on three Blu-ray discs. Here is a basic, spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – “The Guy I Kinda Like is a Sergeant” – Mithril sends Sousuke Sagara, Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao to protect Kaname Chidori from terrorists.
  • EPISODE 2 – “I Want to Protect You” – Sousuke has a hard time fitting in high school and begins to irritate Kaname.
  • EPISODE 3 – “Lingerie Panic” – Sousuke finds some guy sneaking into Kaname’s apartment.  Who can he be?
  • EPISODE 4 – “Kidnap” – Kaname’s class goes on a field trip to Okinawa but a terrorist named Gauron hijacks their plane.
  • EPISODE 5 – “Whispered” – Sousuke tries to save Kaname, while Mithril launches a rescue operation to save everyone.
  • EPISODE 6 – “Still Alive” – Sousuke and Kaname survive and are in the woods and they find Kurz who has been inured by Gauron
  • EPISODE 7 – “Boy Meets Girl” – Sousuke takes on Gauron but has a hard time with the Arbalest’s Lama Driver and Kaname’s Whispered abilities appear.
  • EPISODE 8 – “Part Time Steady” – A jealous Mizuki Inaba is upset that her boyfriend Shirai has asked Kaname out on a date, now Mizuki wants revenge by pretending to get closer to Sousuke.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 9 – “Dangerous Safe House” – Mimiko and Kelly try to look for Jiro (who is looking for Kotaro). Meanwhile, Kelly’s true identity is revealed.
  • EPISODE 10 – “Run, Running, Ran” – Tessa checks to see who Takuma Kugayama is and Mithril suspects he pilots a Lamba driver for the terrorists.
  • EPISODE 11 – “Behemoth Awakening” – The terrorists manage to rescue Takuma and kidnap both Tess and Kaname.
  • EPISODE 12 – “One Night Stand” – Takuma pilots the Behemoth and takes on Sousuke (inside the Arbalest)
  • EPISODE 13 – “A Cat and a Kitten’s Rock & Roll” – Melissa challenges Tessa in an AS duel.  Tessa goes to Sousuke for assistance.
  • EPISODE 14 – “Is Narashino Burning?” – Sousuke, Kaname and friends visit the Narashino military festival and learn that Shinji and his father don’t get along too well.
  • EPISODE 15 – “The Wind Blows at Home, Part 1” – Sousuke is sent to Helmajistan after news comes to Mithril that Gauron is still alive.
  • EPISODE 16 – “The Wind Blows at Home, Part 2” – Sousuke finds out that his old childhood friend is now working with the terrorists and he must fight him.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 17 – “The Wind Blows at Home, Part 3 – Sousuke vs. his childhood friend Zaied.  Meanwhile, Gauron takes on the Mithril team.
  • EPISODE 18 – “Deep Sea Party” – Kaname is shocked when Sousuke invites her to a secluded island with him.  Does that mean that Sousuke is attracted to Kaname too?
  • EPISODE 19 – “Dangerous Safe House” – Melissa talks about how she recruited Kurz and Sousuke into the SRT (Special Response Team).
  • EPISODE 20 – “Venom’s Flame” – Tessa explains the nature of resonance of the Whispered to Kaname.  Meanwhile, Gauron is captured in battle.
  • EPISODE 21 – “Deep Trap” – Sousuke takes things hard when Melissa is injured in battle and lashes out on Kaname.
  • EPISODE 22 – “Jack in the Box” – Gauron manages to escape custody inside Mithril’s Tuatha de Danaan and he and his men have captured Kaname and Tessa and are in control of the submarine.
  • EPISODE 23 – “Field of Giants” – Sousuke tries to rescue Tessa and the crew from Gauron.
  • EPISODE 24 – “Is Narashino Burning?” – Sousuke vs. Gauron to the death.

VIDEO:

“Full Metal Panic!” is presented in 1:33:1 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that FUNimation Entertainment is releasing the three series on Blu-ray and while “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” was an awesome looking upconvert, because “Full Metal Panic!” was released on television back in 2002, with that being said, one should not expect spectacular, vibrant animation.  You are going to see edge enhancement, the PQ is a step up from the previous released DVD series.  It’s important to note that the initial opening theme is picture boxed.

For those looking for the true anime HD experience, this title is not one of them.  But are for those who are considering upgrading their series to Blu-ray and getting away from the DVD format.

AUDIO:

“Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  And like the video, this is an older series and while you do get a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, for those looking for an immersive lossless audio experience will not find it in “Full Metal Panic!”.  It’s an older series and if anything, the soundtrack was good but not fantastic.    But with that being said, it’s still a major improvement from the original DVD release.  I detected no hissing or anything audio problems.

I did watch the series both in English and Japanese and both are well-done but it’s all subjective to the user.  I preferred watching the series in Japanese and setting my receiver on stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features on Disc 3:

  • Koichi Chigira x Shouji Gatou Special Interview – (23:22) A 2008 interview (for the original Japanese Blu-ray release) as director Koichi Chigira and FMP creator Shouji Gatou reminisce of the past of when the two worked on the “Full Metal Panic!”, first impressions and also working together once again for “Tower of Druaga”.
  • Japanese Piracy Warnings – (8:23) Featuring 12 Japanese piracy warnings from a different character that are from “Full Metal Panic!”.
  • Original TV Spots – (:34) Featuring the original Japanese commercials promoting the series on television.
  • Textless Opening Song – Featuring “SIN” by Mikuni Shimokawa
  • Textless Closing Song – Featuring “Natsumi Kobayashi” by Mikuni Shimokawa
  • Trailers – Upcoming FUNimation Entertainment Trailers.

Before I get into my review, I just want to say that I loved “Full Metal Panic!” when it first came out and I purchased the DVD when it first came out.  I loved the series, its characters and that it was a series that provided us with humor and also mecha action.  And when I first reviewed the DVD a long time ago, I scored it pretty high.

Here we are in 2010 and I’m reviewing “Full Metal Panic!” on Blu-ray but at the same time, knowing that those who are purchasing anime via HD are wanting the best video and audio presentation of the anime series but most of all series that take advantage of the technology.  And I have always felt that anime TV series released post-2008 are series that benefit in Blu-ray as there are a good number of series created for HD.

With that being said, “Full Metal Panic!” is a 2002 anime TV series.  It’s an older anime series that is being re-released once again in the US but for the first time on Blu-ray.  But the series is more of an upconvert and simply for those who are wanting to focus on anime on Blu-ray and getting rid of their DVD’s.  With FUNimation Entertainment having released the third TV series “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” on Blu-ray, now we are going to get both “Full Metal Panic!” and “Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu” on Blu-ray in Sept. 2010.

As I do feel this series is still quite enjoyable, this Blu-ray release is for the fans who want to upgrade to a Blu-ray release and for those fans who have the third series and want to complete their release by having the first two TV series on Blu-ray.  This is NOT a release for those who are picky about PQ and AQ and the fact that this is an older TV series, is going to push those hardcore video and audiophiles away from “Full Metal Panic!”.

The series is an upconvert and its going to look and sound a lot better than your original DVD series but it’s not going to be an enormous difference that you want to show it off to all your friends of anime on HD.  This is not one of those titles.

But what “Full Metal Panic!” does bring to the table is a series with cool characters, a lot of humor and a lot of action.  It’s not as bloody or violent as “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” but it is an enjoyable series.  I enjoyed the interesting chemistry that both Kaname and Sousuke have and in some ways, it’s kind of reminiscent of the “Ranma 1/2” Ranma/Akane relationship.   Sousuke is a guy who was geared for war but his introduction to Kaname has brought out emotions he never felt he had.  Kaname is a strong-willed individual and despite how she dislikes Sousuke, she grows to appreciate him and even like him.  But the problem is, he’s not a normal guy.  He never grew up with love and his whole life was about fighting in wars, so its a bit hard for him to comprehend these social activities that Kaname and her friends experience.

The series does have its share of violence, especially towards the end of the series where things get a little bloody and violent but for the most part, much more tamer than “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid”.  And just to warn people, the second series “Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu” is a complete 180 from this series as it focuses less on the battles and more on the high school teenage life between Sousuke, Kaname and friends.  If anything, the second series is more of a comedy but it does stay within the canon of the FMP series.

Needless to say, if you want to complete your FMP collection on Blu-ray, now is the time.  Otherwise, if you are in it because you have heard that this series is awesome, then that’s great.  But it is important to know that “Full Metal Panic!” is an upconvert and its an upconvert of an older 2002 TV anime series and so it’s not going to look as vibrant as previously released FUNimation Entertainment anime TV series on Blu-ray.  And although I scored the series high when it was released on DVD years ago, it’s hard for me to give this a high rating on Blu-ray.  Great series but not a series that takes advantage of Blu-ray technology, but it is a much better version than its DVD counterparts, so if you never owned the DVD, then this is definitely the way to go.  And for fans, at least you do get newer special features including the interview with series director Koichi Chigira and creator Shouji Gatou which was cool to watch.

Overall, “Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series” is an awesome series but if you are in it strictly interested in having an anime series that looks fantastic and has awesome, immersive lossless audio, then this release is not for you.  But if you are a hardcore “Full Metal Panic!” fan and you are ready to kiss your old DVD’s goodbye or you enjoyed “Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid” and now want to watch the previous two series, then “Full Metal Panic! – The Complete Series” on Blu-ray is definitely for you.

Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you love vampires and you love anime,  then you’ll enjoy “Black Blood Brothers”.  A more accessible anime series that doesn’t get too dark, twisted or bloody and it’s also a shorter anime series as 12-episodes long.  But FUNimation Entertainment does go all out in special features as each episode features an audio commentary.  A series definitely worth checking out!

Images courtesy of © 2006 Kouhei Azano, Yuuya Kusaka/Fujimushiba/BBB Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (288 Minutes)

 

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

 

RATED: 17+

 

COMPANY: Showgate/FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: August 31, 2010

 

Originally Created by Kouhei Azano

Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa

Series Composition by Yuu Sugitani

Original Character Design by Yuuya Kusaka

Character Design by Toshiyuki Sugano

Art Director by Yoji Yoshikawa

Chief Animation Director: Ayako Kurata

Animation Director: Toshiyuki Sugano

Mechanical Design by Nishiki Itaoka

Anime Production by Group TAC, Studio Live

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Ryoko Nagata/Colleeen Clinkenbeard as Mimiko Katsuragi

Takahiro Sakurai/J. Michael Tatum as Jirou Mochizuki

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Cassandra Jill Warlock

Omi Minami/Leah Clark as Kotarou Mochizuki

Ayumi Tsuji/Cherami Leigh as Chan

Hiroki Yasumoto/Christopher R. Sabat as Cain Warlock

Hisao Egawa/Travis Willingham as Badrick Serihan

Jun Fukuyama/Jerry Jewell as Zelman Clock

Kana Ueda as Swan Chen

Ken Narita/Daniel Penn as Shougo Jinnai

Kousuke Toriumi/Todd Haberkorn as Zaza

Kumi Sakuma/Cynthia Cranz as Sayuka Shirane

Kyousei Tsukui/Kent Williams as Johan Tsang

Mami Kosuge/Monica Rial as Kelly Wong

Mikako Takahashi/Kate Oxley as Hibari Kusanoki

Motoko Kumai/Brina Palencia as Yafuri Chao

Mugihito/R. Bruce Elliott as Zhang Lei Kao

Omi Minami/Leah Clark as Alice

Reiko Takagi/Carrie Savage as Sei

Takashi Matsuyama/Mark Stoddard as Mitaka Onezawa

Yasuhiro Takato/Chris Cason as Rinsuke Akai

A decade has passed since the war between humans and vampires, when the infectious bite of the Kowloon Bloodline set the streets ablaze. Today, Jiro travels to the Special Zone, where the peace between vampires and humans is threatening to crack. As a new battle erupts between human soldiers, vampiric refugees, and Kowloon Children, Jiro must draw the Silver Blade once more.

 

From 2004-2006, author Kohei Azano and illustrator Yuuya Kusaka had worked on his light novel series “Black Blood Brothers” (a.k.a. BuBuBu) which was serialized in “Monthly Dragon Magazine” and “Monthly Dragon Age”.  In 2006, Studio Live and Group TAC produced a 12-episode anime series which aired on Tokyo MX.

With the popularity of vampire-based series and storylines in America as of late, now is a perfect time for FUNimation to release the vampire-based anime series on Blu-ray.

The series is directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa (who worked on “Chaos;Head”, “Grenadier” and various “Pokemon” films), writer Yuu Sugitani (“Gin Rei”, “World of Narue”) and features character designs by Toshiyuki Sugano (various “Dragon Ball” related series, “Trigun”, “Gungrave”), art backgrounds by Yoji Yoshikawa (“Grenadier”, “EX-Driver”, “Aria the Natural”) and mechanical design by Nishiki Itaoka (“Grenadier”, “Alien Nine”).

The series revolves around an old noble vampire named Jiro Mochizuki (aka The Silver Blade) who found and defeated the Kowloon King and most of the vampiric Kowloon children during the war known as “Hong Kong Crusade”).  Ten years later, we find Jiro and his brother Kotaro wanting to reach the Special Zone (a city where humans and vampires live).

Along the way, they join human compromiser Mimiko Katsuragi who works for the Order Coffin Company (a company who watches over the vampires and suppresses them if they are a threat) who is taking them to the Special Zone.  But Jiro, Kotaro and Mimiko learn quickly that their arrival will be met with extreme dislike from the various vampire clans and for some reason, many wanting Jiro to leave the area immediately because he is looked as a vampire, despite being a  protector for humans and fighting against other vampires, as one who only attracts trouble.

But when attacks are being made against their lives in the Special Zone, Jiro wants to protect those close to him and knows quite well that trouble follows him everywhere.

“Black Blood Brothers” features the following characters:

  • Jiro Mochizuki – Also known as “The Silver Blade” and “Kin-Killer”, Jiro is an old noble vampire who sided with the humans to fight against the Kowloon Children.  Originally, he grew up in 19th Century London and was a Lt. in the Japanese Imperial Navy and was severely injured when protecting Alice.  He comes from a very special bloodline known as the Blood of the Sage and is an Old Blood.  He is a chosen guardian and despite wearing a clothing that covers most of his body, he is weak against water and sunlight.
  • Kotaro Mochizuki – Jiro’s 10-year-old brother who comes from the same bloodline and has no problems with water and sunlight.  Looks very different from Jiro and also has the ability to withstand major pain.  He bares a resemblance to a woman named Alice that Jiro knew back in the 19th Century.
  • Mimiko Katsuragi – A human compromiser for the Order Coffin Company who is mediating relations between vampires and humans.  She is helping Jiro and Kotaro in getting to the Special Zone and finding a home there.  She also seems to care for Jiro.
  • Cassandra Jill Warlock – An Old Blood who once was very good friends with Jiro and Alice, until the day she killed Alice. She is now the Lord of the Warlock family and is a reincarnation of Morgan the Witch.  She was also the first to be bitten by the founder the Kowloon bloodline.
  • Sei – The creator of the barrier of the Special Zone and controls the night of Hong Kong.  Despite his rebirth and appearance of a young child, he is very powerful.
  • Kain Warlock – An Old Blood who works with the Order Coffin Company. He was a guardian of Alice and from the same bloodline as Cassandra.  A powerful sorcerer and despite working with Jiro at times, he really dislikes him.
  • Zelman Clock – One of the rulers of the Special Zone who works for evil it seems.  He is arrogant and an 800-year-old Old Blood.  From the bloodline of Asura, the great warrior and is very powerful.  Leads “The Coven”.
  • Kelly Wong – The only vampire from her clan who got to enter the Special Zone thanks to Mimiko.
  • Jinnai Shogo – Mimiko’s boss and head of the Compromisers.  He reports to the Order Coffin Company and one of the leaders of the Special Zone.

“Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series” features episodes 1-12 on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a basic, spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – “Black Blood Brothers” – The introduction of the characters and Jiro and Kotaro returning to Japan and wanting to go to the Special Zone.
  • EPISODE 2 – “Compromiser” – Mimiko is dispatched to help Jiro and Kotaro who agrees to help them find the Special Zone.
  • EPISODE 3 – “Kowloon Child” – Kotaro is kidnapped by a vampire named Johan who wants to use him in order to get him and other vampires into the Special Zone.
  • EPISODE 4 – “Old Blood” – Ross is being accused of the death of Hughes.
  • EPISODE 5 – “Special Zone” – Mimiko tries to help Jiro and Kotaro find a home and are attacked by the Coven and their leader August.
  • EPISODE 6 – “Coven” – Jiro, Kotaro and Mimiko meet with Zelman.  Meanwhile, Kain tells Jiro he must leave the Special Zone.
  • EPISODE 7 – “Silver Blade” – Someone has tried to kill Mimiko by destroying her apartment and now Jiro wants revenge.
  • EPISODE 8 – “Protector” – Jiro fights with Yafuri and learns about the Kowloon Children’s plans and that Cassandra is coming for him.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 9 – “Eleventh Yard” – Mimiko and Kelly try to look for Jiro (who is looking for Kotaro).  Meanwhile, Kelly’s true identity is revealed.
  • EPISODE 10 – “Order Coffin Company” – Cassandra holds Mimiko captive and plans to turn her into a Kowloon child.  Kotaro and Zelman try to rescue her.
  • EPISODE 11 – “The Ocean” – Zaza takes on Jiro, meanwhile the Special Zone is going through major chaos.
  • EPISODE 12 – “For the Eternal Pulse of Mine Bloodline, I Would Offer This Blood in Totality” – Jiro reveals the true identity of Kotaro, his true goal and the revelation of the Special Zone and the Eleventh Yard.

VIDEO:

“Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p HD 16×9. The series was released in 2006 and is an upscale, but picture quality-wise, it is a good upscale in which edge enhancement is limited and I did not see any combing or major compression artifacts.  Blacks are nice and deep and I’ve checked to see if there was  lot of haloing and I didn’t see too much of it, but there are scenes where you do see it but by no means is it distracting at all.

At first, I had questioned the overall look of this vampire anime series.  I thought Jiro’s red outfit was somewhat lame at first.  But actually, the costume kind of grown on me and if anything, I can possibly see how cosplayers would go crazy to dress like Jiro or the Dark covenant.  But character designer Toshiyuki Sugano (worked on key animation for “Dragon Ball” related series) did a good job with the overall character designs.  There is a bit of softness to the overall look and feel to the series.

As for art backgrounds, this is where things differ quite a bit.  At times, there are backgrounds that really look nice and some that look plain.  Usually, Yoji Yoshikawa is known for solid background art, from his work on “Aria”, “Grenadier” and “EX-Driver” but according to the director in the final episode audio commentary, the production group were under the gun in trying to produce this anime series to the final seconds of it having it released and aired on Tokyo MX.

So, it does explain why the series does utilize mostly close up face shots and very little art backgrounds and there are some frames where the blue lines are seen instead of black.

Up-close animation was good and some of the fighting scenes were cool but it’s a series that doesn’t show fluid battle scenes, more like pieces of scenes of Jirou slashing a vampire rather than the actual frames of action of him doing it.  But I figured that since it is shown on Tokyo MX (and is the home for Tokyo Governor Ishihara, the Hanshin Tiers and F.C Tokyo) and is partially owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, you’re not going to see major violence.  There is a small amount of blood but nothing to be scared of.

If anything, the more mature themes, comes from the English dub dialogue (which uses profanity) but other than that, the series is not scary at all.

Overall, animation is fine, while the final episode was especially well-done.

AUDIO:

“Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  I have to admit that I was surprised to find out that this action-driven anime series was presented in English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 since most of the anime releases have received a 5.1 lossless soundtrack.

So, for the most part, both lossless soundtracks are front channel driven.  Those with a modern receiver can receive a more immersive soundtrack by having their receiver set on stereo on all channels but for the most part, both lossless soundtracks are front channel-driven.

I watched the series both in Japanese and English and both are well-done.  I actually enjoyed the English dubbed soundtrack a lot and did test this disc on a few systems and screens. Audio is crisp and clear and its important to note that the English version does give it a more mature feeling because of the profanity that is used.  Much different dialogue than its Japanese counterpart.

I will say that the subtitling may be hard to read for those with smaller screens, especially since it utilizes a smaller white font.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 Commentary – Audio commentary by original creator Kouhei Azano, voice actress Mikako Takahashi (Hibari) and Ryoko Nagata (Mimiko).
  • EPISODE 2 Commentary – Audio commentary by original creator Kouhei Azano, voice actress Mikako Takahashi (Hibari) and Ryoko Nagata (Mimiko).
  • EPISODE 3 Commentary – Audio commentary by original creator Kouhei Azano, voice actress Mikako Takahashi (Hibari) and Kaki Ueda (Swan).
  • EPISODE 4 Commentary – Audio commentary by original creator Kouhei Azano, voice actress Mikako Takahashi (Hibari) and Kaki Ueda (Swan).
  • EPISODE 5 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Hiroki Yasumoto (Cain Warlock).
  • EPISODE 6 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Hiroki Yasumoto (Cain Warlock).
  • EPISODE 7 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Ryoko Nagata (Mimiko) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.
  • EPISODE 8 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Hiroki Yasumoto (Cain Warlock) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 9 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Hiroki Yasumoto (Cain Warlock) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.
  • EPISODE 10 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan), Ryoko Nagata (Mimiko) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.
  • EPISODE 11 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.
  • EPISODE 12 Commentary – Audio commentary by voice talents Mikako Takahashi (Hibari), Kaki Ueda (Swan) and original series creator Kouhei Azano.
  • Original TV Spots – (2:27) Original Japanese TV commercial spots. (presented in standard definition)
  • Original Commercials – (4:29) Original commercials for the various DVD releases in Japan (presented in standard definition).
  • Sneak Peeks – (5:16) “Black Blood Brothers” sneak peaks (presented in standard definition).
  • Textless Opening Song – Ashita no Kioku
  • Textless Closing Song – Shikirou
  • Trailers – Upcoming FUNimation Entertainment Trailers.

I have to admit that with the vampire craze still in full-effect in the US, it’s perfect timing for FUNimation Entertainment to take advantage of the craze by releasing the anime series “Black Blood Brothers”.

As mentioned earlier, I was taken back by the red outfit of the main protagonist, Jiro.  I was not feeling any love for this vampire in a red campy outfit but it somehow grew on me and I figured that the Victorian look for some of these vampires will surely attract the cosplayers out there.

But I found the storyline to be quite interesting.  In a “Angel” (for the “Buffy the Vampire” series fans) type of way, having this vampire take on other vampires is pretty cool.  Granted, you’re not going to find any major love between the characters of Jiro and the human Mimiko but their friendship and their adventures through the Special Zone was quite interesting to watch.

The characters, primarily with the three main characters, Jiro, Kotaro and Mimiko were fun to watch, as the humorous banter between the three characters is quite fun to watch at times.  Especially to see Jiro teasing Mimiko and to see her get very violent when she feels she is being teased.  And as for Kotaro, it’s interesting to see Jiro punish his young brother by slamming his head into the wall (yes, Kotaro is a young boy but he is immune to having his face bashed to a wall or being thrown around).

I’m not too familiar with the light novel series from Kouhei Azano, so I’m not too sure of how much of the actual storyline was not featured on the anime series but judging from this series alone, viewers should be content that you do receive some closure with this series and it helps to know that this is a short anime series at 12-episodes long.  Also, Azano does play a major role in the audio commentary included in this Blu-ray release.

“Black Blood Brothers” may not be a blood-fes nor a dark, violent anime series but it is a fun and enjoyable series and for the most part, an easily accessible short anime series from FUNimation Entertainment on Blu-ray.  I know that there are people who will balk at the decision to not have a lossless 5.1 soundtrack but I’m not going to complain for a series that was released in 2006.

But PQ for an upscale and the inclusion of the Japanese lossless 2.0 soundtrack should make some fans happy.  Also, this release also has a lot of audio commentary (one for each episode) by the original Japanese voice talent and a few with the original creator Kouhei Azano plus a good amount of extra special features included as well.   This may be the first anime series on Blu-ray in the US to have a commentary track for each episode which is fantastic!

It’s important to note that the series is not for younger audiences.  For the most part, it’s a safe, accessible anime series that doesn’t show too much blood but it does have its darker moments and the anime series English soundtrack does have its fair share of profanity.

Overall, “Black Blood Brothers” is a fun, vampire anime series with a good amount of humor, drama and action.  It’s not the best anime TV series on Blu-ray in the US but it’s easy to get into and it is quite fun and very enjoyable and despite being only 12 episodes long, the series makes up for it with the Japanese audio commentary for each episode, which is rarity for any anime Blu-ray or DVD release, especially to have the original creator involved.  That is very rare.

So, I really enjoyed this release and the “Black Blood Brothers – The Complete Series” is definitely worth checking out!

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