Top

Soul Eater – Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoyed the action and craziness from the first part of “Soul Eater”, this second part features more intense action and hard hitting battles!   Get into the trippy, dark fantasy world of Atsushi Okubo’s “Soul Eater”. Definitely an anime series worth watching!

Image courtesy of © Atsushi Okubo/Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Soul Eater – Part Two

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (315 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Japanese 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 30, 2010

Originally created by Atsushi Ohkubo

Directed by akuya Igarashi

Series Composition by Akatsuki Yamatoya

Music by Taku Iwasaki

Character Design by Yoshiyuki Ito

Art Director: Norifumi Nakamura

Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi

Director of Photography: Yohei Miyahara

Anime Production: BONES

Featuring the following voice talent:

Chiaki Omigawa/Laura Bailey as Maka Albarn

Kouki Uchiyama/Micah Solusod as Soul Eater Evans

Yumiko Kobayashi/Brittney Karbowski as Black Star

Kaori Nazuka/Monica Rial as Tsubaki Nakatsukasa

Mamoru Miyano/Todd Haberkorn as Death the Kid

Akeno Watanabe/Jami Marchi as Liz Thompson

Narumi Takahira/Cherami Leigh as Patty Thompson

Toru Ohkawa/Vic Mignona as Death Scythe (Spirit)

Rikiya Koyama/John Swasey as Shinigami-sama (Lord Death)

Yuya Uchida/Chuck Huber as Dr. Franken Stein

Chieko Honda as Mari Mjolnir

Emiri Katou/Leah Clark as Blair

Houchu Ohtsuka/Barry Yandell as Little Demon

Houko Kuwashima/Luci Christian as Medusa

Junko Noda as Mira Nygus

Keiji Himeno/Sonny Strait as Ragnarok

Maaya Sakamoto/Maxey Whitehead as Chrona

Masafumi Kimura/Kent Williams as Sid Barett

Michiko Neya as Arachne

Takehito Koyasu/Troy Baker as Excalibur

Toshiko Furukawa/Chris Patton as Asura/Kishin

Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon – literally. When Soul transforms into a razor-sharp scythe and Maka wields him against the supernatural forces of evil, he gets more deadly with every defeated soul he sucks down. They’re a freakin’ lethal team – but that bond is about to be tested.

The witch Medusa and her ghoulish minions are out to unleash the Kishin, who isn’t just a demon: he’s the greatest force of darkness ever known; a wicked fiend of unspeakable power. Luckily, Maka and Soul are used to saving the world from evil. But if they can’t stop Medusa’s freakish army in time, Maka, Soul, and their fellow Weapon/Meister classmates will be fighting to save themselves!

In 2003, mangaka Atsushi Okubo created his Japanese manga “Soul Eater”. Published by Square Enix, the manga had several one shots and eventually serialized in Square Enix’s “Monthly Shonen Gangan”. The manga went on to receive an English translation in 2009, several video games on various consoles but in 2008, the series received its anime adaptation by Bones and shown on TV Tokyo and featured a total of 51 episodes. FUNimation Entertainment released volume 1 earlier this year and now the second volume covering episodes 14-26 has been released.

“Soul Eater” is directed by Takuya Igarashi (“Ashita no Nadja, “Ojamamo Doremi”, and many “Sailor Moon” episodes), series composition by Akatsuki Yamatoya (“Blue Dragon”, “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Inuyasha”, “To Love-Ru”), character designs by Yoshiyuki Ito (“Fullmetal Alchemist”) and music by Taku Iwasaki (“R.O.D.”, “Gurren Lagann”, “Getbackers”, “Persona – trinity soul-“).

“Soul Eater” is a series that focuses on a group of students who attend the Death Weapon Meister Academy in a place known as Death City in Nevada. The school is run by the Shinigami known as Death and human wielders train with their weapons which are known as meisters. The meisters and their weapons collect various souls that they are assigned to, but at times, the missions are quite difficult, challenging and can be deadly. And if they do not collect the correct soul, by the rules of academy, their soul collecting is reset to zero.

The main characters of “Soul Eater” are:

  • Maka Albarn – One of the primary characters who is dedicated as a scythe meister of the demon scythe known as Soul Eater (Soul Evans). She and her partner Soul Eater want to collect 100 souls in order to make Soul Eater into a Death Scythe and surpass her father Spirit, who she doesn’t get along with. She cares about her partner Soul.
  • Soul Eater (Soul Evans) – Maka’s partner and a cool person who loves to eat souls and crazy about sexy women with big boob. He and Maka tend to argue quite a bit but he is loyal to her.
  • Black Star – A very egotistical young ninja/meister who thinks he is the best there is. He is the sole survivor of his Black Star ninja clan and is partners with Tsubaki. He is very athletic and very persistent but at the same time, sometimes his emotions get in the way and thus prevents him and his partner from collecting souls.
  • Tsubaki – Black Star’s partner and is a “dark arm” weapon. She can turn into various ninja weapons and in human form, very calm and quiet girl.
  • Death the Kid – The son of the Shinigami and partners with Liz and Patty Thompson. He is a powerful fighter but is obsessive compulsive about things being in symmetry and that everything must be balanced in his life. This obsession also affect his focus.
  • Liz and Patty – The weapon partners of Death the Kid. They can turn into guns. The eldest Liz tends to bicker with Death the Kid but is often scared while Patty is always cheerful. These two can wield each other if needed.
  • Shinigami (Lord Death) – The founder and head of Death Weapon Meister Academy. Often secretive and playful.
  • Spirit Albarn (Death Scythe) – The weapon of the Shinigami and also the father of Maka who is divorced from her mother and is often drunk and messing around with women. All he wants is his daughter’s attention but she doesn’t give it to him and thus it makes him depressed.
  • Dr. Franken Stein – The mad scientist of the Academy. Always wants to research and dissect things. Also, a three star meister who can fight.
  • Crona – The child of Medusa who was forced by Medusa to become evil (even though she didn’t want to) but with a mean weapon named Ragnarok and being locked in the dark, she now becomes the ruthless enemy of DWMA.

“Soul Eater – Part Two” features episodes 14-26 on two DVD’s. Here is an episode listing featuring spoiler-less summaries:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – The Super Written Exam – Heart-Pounding, Reeling, and Restless. You’re Kidding!? – The students of the DWMA must prepare for a big test but a few decide to resort to cheating.
  • EPISODE 15 – The Soul Eating Black Dragon – Scaredy-Cat Liz and Her Merry Friends? – Kid, Liz and Patty investigate the Black Dragon.
  • EPISODE 16 – Fierce Battle Aboard the Ghost Ship – The Hell Inside My Head? – Kid vs. Crona and Ragnarok.
  • EPISODE 17 – Legend of the Holy Sword 2 – Wanna Go Drinking, Gambling, and Playing? – A story about Ox Ford and his encounter with the legendary sword Excalibur.
  • EPISODE 18 – The Eve Party Nightmare – And So the Curtain Rises? – Medusa and crew begin their attack on Death City.
  • EPISODE 19 – The Underground Battle Commences – Break Through Medusa’s Vector Arrow? – Lord Death talks about the threat and the origin of Asura.  Meanwhile, the battles begin!
  • EPISODE 20 – The Black Blood Resonance Battle! – A Small Soul’s Grand Struggle Against Fear? – Maka and Soul versus Crona and Ragnarok.

Disc 2:

  • EPISODE 21 – May My Soul Reach You – A Dry Heart Inside Unbearable Isolation? – In order to fight Cronus, Maka allows madness to consume her.
  • EPISODE 22 – The Seal Shrine – The Immortal Man’s Tricks? – Kid and Free continue their fight but Kid gets some help from Black Star.
  • EPISODE 23 – Dead or Alive – In the Rift Between Revival and Dazzlement? – Stein and Medusa fight to the death, while Kid and Black Star take on Free and Eruka.
  • EPISODE 24 – The Battle of the Gods – Death City on The Verge of Collapse? – Asura attacks Death City and Lord Death is forced into battle.
  • EPISODE 25 – The Death scythes Convene – Stop Dad’s Staff Reassignment!? – With Asura now free, Death summons the Death Scythes.  Spirit fears that because he was unable to protect Death Scythe, he will be demoted.
  • EPISODE 26 – The Exciting and Embarrassing Trial Enrollment! The DWMA New Lifestyle Support Fair Is open? – Maka and Marie try to help Crona with her new surroundings at DWMA.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Soul Eater” is an interesting anime series when it comes to animation and character design. With mangaka Atsushi Okubo inspired from Tim Burton and David Lynch films, “Soul Eater” is anime series that features many vibrant colors but also uses minimal detail. Character designs are quite simple and not detailed nor are they shaded, but the art backgrounds are detailed and colorful and thus enhance the look of the character designs.

Typically, I’m not a fan of anime series that feature minimalistic character designs but in the case of “Soul Eater”, because of its Burton-esque flavor, Okubo’s world around these characters is brought to live in animation and for the most part, the quirkiness and creative style works for this action-driven anime series.

As for the series, the anime is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and Japanese Stereo. Voice acting on both the Japanese and English dub is well-done but of course, the action scenes are much more pronounced audio wise for the English dub. Although, for those with modern home theater receivers, you can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track via setting stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Soul Eater” comes with a few special features. Included are:

DISC 2:

  • Episode 23 Commentary – Audio commentary by Vic Mignona (Death Scythe), Chuck Huber (Dr. Stein) and Lucy Christian (Medusa) talk about watching the fully rendered episode and hearing the other voice talents voices.  Also, what they love about the show.
  • Soul Eater Late Show – (22:24) Featuring episodes 14-26 Japanese promo/teaser spots for each episode. That range from opening and closing theme, naughty-like teasers, bumper art galleries to character-based goofiness. Each promo spot lasts around a minute and a half each.
  • Textless Opening Song – T.M. Revolution – “Resonance”
  • Textless Opening Song Version 1 – Style
  • Textless Closing Song  Version 2 – Style
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“Soul Eater” is becoming a pretty awesome action/comedy anime series.  This latest volume is pretty cool because it’s more action-driven as Medusa and her group begin their attack on the DWMA.  And where the first volume was somewhat lighthearted when it came to the action scenes, things get a bit more darker with this series.

Especially some of the enemies, as one enemy who looks like a thin, frail man….has the ability to stretch his skin to attack.  In some way, it’s kind of a disgusting character to watch as it’s mannerisms of fighting was unlike a character I have seen before.  Typically stretching characters ala “Fantastic Four” Mr. Fantastic or Justice League’s Plastic Man look cool when stretching and fight in battle but this character of Free is just disgusting to watch as he just stretches out skin from his arms and each hit smacking their enemies with such force.

The storyline with Crona is quite interesting as well because you feel bad for her character and what Crona had to put up with.  The battle between Medusa and Stein is also awesome to watch.

But overall, this second part of “Soul Eater” really steps up the action and definitely sets things up for the third part as they will have to deal with a powerful nemesis that can bring the DWMA down.

For those who appreciate what Tim Burton was able to do for his own dark films can easily appreciate the twisted, dark world created by Atsushi Okubo.  The look and feel of “Soul Eater” is quite different from any other anime series that I have seen and that’s a positive. Sure, character designs may be a bit minimal without the usual shading and detail that people expect from an anime series, especially from Bones. But I really dig the character designs because it’s fresh and different from what I’m usually seeing and for the most part, it works.

Overall, “Soul Eater – Part Two” was even more enjoyable than the first part and the series has turned out to become an action-packed anime series which left me wanting more!   I look forward to part three!

Strike Witches – The Complete 1st Season (A J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Humorous, action-packed, girl-power anime series with a lot of fan service.  “Strike Witches” has its share of ups and downs but overall, an enjoyable series.

Image courtesy of © 2010 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Strike Witches – The Complete 1st Season

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Stereo, English Subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 17+

Released on March 30, 2010

Originally created by Humikane Shimada

Directed by Kazuhiro Takamura

Series Composition by Tsuyoshi Tamai

Music by Seikou Nagaoka

Character Design by Kazuhiro Takamura

Art Director: Hiromasa Ogura

Anime Production by GONZO

Featuring the following voice talent:

Misato Fukuen/Cherami Leigh as Yoshika Miyafuji

Ami Koshimizu as Charlotte E Yeager (Shirley Yeager)

Chiwa Saito/Trina Nishimura as Francesca Lucchini

Erika Nakai/Caitling Glass as Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen

Kaori Nazuka/Kate Bristol as Lynette Bishop

Mai Kadowaki/Jennifer Forester as Sanya V. Litvyak

Mie Sonozaki/Stephanie Sheh as Gertrud Barkhorn

Miyuki Sawashiro/Jad Saxton as Perrine-H. Clostermann

Rie Tanaka/Anastasia Munoz as Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke

Saeko Chiba/Kira Vincent-Davis as Mio Sakamoto

Sakura Nogawa/Luci Christian as Erica Hartmann

The year is 1944 and the world lives in fear of unidentified flying objects called Neuroi. With the old-boy old guard unable to thwart this deadly menace, humanity turns its desperate eyes to an aerial attack force with much nicer legs. Meet the girls of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, better known as the Strike Witches. These darlings of the great blue yonder may not have standard issue uniforms, but they do have all the right stuff. Where the average flyboy falters, these dolls blast aliens to bits in the bat of an eyelash. With a little magic and a whole lot of leg, the girls of the 501st are winning the war on pants, and aliens!

In 2006, Humikane Shimada (“Sky Girls”) began his “Strike Witches” illustrated columns. The popularity of the columns led to a light novel series, a manga series an anime OVA and a 12-episode TV anime series which is now available on DVD via “Strike Witches – The Complete Series” courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

The TV series is directed by Kazuhiro Takamura (“He is My Master”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “Mahoromatic”, “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World”) and also was responsible for character designs, series composition by Tsuyoshi Tamai (“Galaxy Angel”, “Chobits”, “Azumanga Daioh”), art direction is by Hiromasa Ogura (“Patlabor”, “Nadia – Secret of Blue Water”, “Ghost Hound”) and music by Seikou Nagaoka (“El Hazard” series, “Tenchi Muyou” series”).

“Strike Witches” is a series that takes place in 1939 in an alternate universe of Earth.  During this year, the Earth was attacked by an alien force known as Neuroi.  The Neuroi has shown up sporadically but various military around the planet have fought back with the use of Strike Witches, a female witch gifted with powerful magic and technology.  And thus, the war between Earth vs. the Neuroi but it’s up to the 501st division to train the Strike Witches from all over the world and prepare them for battle.

The main characters of “Strike Witches” are:

  • Yoshika Miyafuji – The main character of the series from the Fuso Empire (alternate version of Japan).  She has the power of healing and her father was responsible for designing the Striker Units for Strike Witches.  Because of her father’s death, Miyafuji hates the war but because people are in need of help, she joins the 501st.
  • Mio Sakamoto – The first Strike Witch and is the squadron leader.  Also from the Fuso Empire, she trains the new recruits and is responsible for scouting Miyafuji.  Has the magical ability to fight Neuroi with a magical katana.
  • Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke – The ranking officer of the 501st and takes care of her subordinates.  Because of the death of her boyfriend, she fears of losing people.  Also, is a very good singer.  She has the power of spatial awareness.
  • Lynette Bishop – A Strike Witch from the Britannian Commonwealth.  Can be clumsy but an excellent sharpshooter.
  • Perrine-H. Clostermann – The wealthy Perrine is a Strike Witch very attached to Mio and dislikes Miyafuji because of the attention she gets from Mio and is constantly jealous of her.  Has the power of using lightning.
  • Erica Hartmann – Quite sloppy and disorganized, Erica is a Strike Witch from Karsland and is an ace Strike Witch known for her victories.  Her skill is her ability to barrel storm.
  • Gertrud Barkhorn – A Strike Witch from Karsland known for her shot tally.  Has the magic power of strength.
  • Francesca Lucchini – A Strike Witch from the Duchy of Romagna and the youngest soldier and most childish member of the Strike Witches.
  • Charlotte E. Yeager – A Strike Witch from the United States of Liberion who is known for her buxom body and her enjoyment of speeding through the air.

The following 12-episodes are featured on two DVD’s. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode of “Strike Witches – The Complete Series”:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Mio Sakamoto tries to recruit Yoshika Miyafuji to join the 501st.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Neuroi attack an aircraft carrier that Akagi, Mio and Miyafuji are riding.
  • EPISODE 3 – Miyafuji is introduced to the other Strike Witches.
  • EPISODE 4 – Perrine becomes jealous of Miyafuji.
  • EPISODE 5 – The Strike Witches train in the Britannian Coast.
  • EPISODE 6 – Miyafuji trains with Sanya and Eila on night patrol and fight against the Neuroi.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 7 – When Erica misplaces her panties, everyone thinks their is a panty thief nearby.
  • EPISODE 8 – Akagi starts to become overprotective of Miyafuji when people start to show their praise to Miyafuji.
  • EPISODE 9 – Perrine’s jealousy gets out of control and  thus she challenges Miyafuji and challenges her to an aerial duel.
  • EPISODE 10 –  After contact with a new type of Neuroi, Mio is injured and Miyafuji is confined in her quarters.
  • EPISODE 11 – The 501st is disbanded and a new anti-Neuroi unit known as Warlock is created.
  • EPISODE 12 – Warlock is now out-of-control and Miyafuji goes against it alone.

VIDEO:

“Strike Witches” is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  For a television series, “Strike Witches” focuses on the battles over sea and in the skies.  So, there is a not a whole lot of detail going on in the series.  If anything, more emphasis is put on the special effects and characters up-close especially showcasing the Strike Witches and their weapons.   Also, a good amount of detail for the mechanical designs especially the Neuroi and the vehicles.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Audio for “Strike Witches” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Japanese Stereo 2.0.  Dialogue is clear and understandable.  Voice acting for both English and Japanese are done well.   The series doesn’t really showcase an immersive soundtrack but overall, dialogue is clear and understandable.  Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Strike Witches – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features on disc 2:

  • Episode 12 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Scott Sager, Kate Bristol (voice actress of Lynette Bishop) and Cherami Leigh (voice actress of Yoshika Miyafuji).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

In some way, “Strike Witches” can be seen as an anime series that looks as if it’s been overused, you’ve seen this kind of anime before but there are a few things that makes “Strike Witches” quite different from the others and that is a focus on character development, introducing many characters but yet fleshing them out throughout the series and last, the series has its share of naughty bits.  There is nudity, there is plenty of fan service and lesbian-teases.

Here are a group of teenagers who are star pilots and responsible on taking on the Neuroid and defending the planet but at the same time, these girls have teen impulses and curiosities.  So, needless to say, this is the kind of series that will appeal to the anime action fans by the aerial dogfights and mecha usage and then of course the number of pantie shots, face in boobies and more will appeal to the perverted otaku.  But seeing the younger characters in their underwear is going a bit far in anime series and for me, it definitely lessened the series appeal.

Overall, “Strike Witches – The Complete 1st Season” is an  action anime series that has its moments of enjoyability but also has its share of problems.  If anything, this series is a girl-power, fun, action-packed anime series but in the end, it’s an average anime at best.

Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The sequel to “Gunslinger Girl” is not more of a sequel but side missions featuring members of the Section 2.  If you thought the cyber-enhanced girls of Section 2 were deadly, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” introduces us to a young male killer who has his sights in killing the cyber girls.  Plenty of action and story-wise, an improvement over the first season.

Image courtesy of © Yu Aida/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. Marvelous Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series

DURATION: 15 Episodes inc. OVA (360 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: March 16, 2010

Originally created by Yu Aida

Directed by Hiroshi Ishiodori

Series Composition by Yu Aida

Screenplay by Tatsuhiko Urahata, Yu Aida

Music by Ko Otani

Character Design by Noboru Sugmitsu

Art Director: Chikara Nishikura

Anime Production by Artland

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kana Akutsu/Lauria Bailey as Henrietta

Risa Mizuno/Alese Watson as Claes

Atsuko Enomoto/Caitlin Glass as Triela

Kana Hanazawa/Monica Rial as Angelica

Anri Shiono/Luci Christian as Rico

Masaya Matsukaze/Masashi Ebara as Hirscher (Hilshire)

Takehito Koyasu/Eric Vale as Jean

Kazuki Yao/Jim Foronda as Marco

Kozo Mito/John Burgmeier as Jose

The girls of the Social Welfare Agency are no ordinary children. They are the grisly remains of human wreckage pieced back together with cybernetic implants and trained to kill by the government.

The oldest, Triela, pursues her targets with a ferocious enthusiasm, unwilling to settle for less than total annihilation. Her mirror in this bloody stalemate is Pinocchio, a shell of a boy raised as an assassin by the FRF: a terrorist faction at war with the SWA. Cold and cruelly efficient, he wields sharpened steel as though it were an extension of his own hand.

Once human, these shattered souls have become murderous machines with only vague recollections of what it meant to be real – and a brutal compulsion to be the last killer standing.

In 2002, mangaka Yu Aida had her first manga “Gunslinger Girl” published in the monthly shonen magazine “Dengeki Daioh”. A year later, her manga series was adapted into a 13-episode anime television series airing on Fuji TV. The manga and anime series would continue with another 13-episode anime television series titled “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” in 2008 and has also inspired video games for the Sony PlayStation 2.

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” the sequel to the popular anime series would start anew in terms of animation by this time going with Artland for the anime production instead of  Madhouse Studios.  Hiroshi Ishiodori (“Peach Girl”, “Chrono Crusade”, “Bubblegum Crash”) would take the role as chief director,while Rei Mano (“Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Guardian Hearts”) would be the main director of the series.  Also, this time “Gunslinger Girl” mangaka Yu Aida would have a more hands on approach to the screenplay for the sequel.  Character design for the series would be by Noboru Sugimitsu (“Mushi-Shi”, “Infinite Ryvius”, “Turn A Gundam”), art direction is by Chikara Nishikura (“Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf”, “Koi Kaze”, “Story of Saiunkoku”) and music by “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing”, “Pumpkin Scissors”, “Blade of the Immortal”, “Eyeshield 21”).

The series has been released by FUNimation Entertainment on DVD but the series makes its High Definition on Blu-ray along with the original “Gunslinger Girl” which were both released on March 16, 2010.  Also, included on the “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” Blu-ray are the two “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” OVA’s which were released separately on DVD.

The concept of “Gunslinger Girl” revolves around the Social Welfare Agency which is a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government. Known by the public to help those who are physically injured, the truth is that the agency is a a military organization that specializes in counter-intelligence and counter terrorism. Their soldiers, young orphan girls enhanced with cybernetic implants and are taught to kill and pare of the SWA’s “Section 2”.

The girls have synthesized muscle implants giving them super-human strength and reflexes, as well as the ability to be resilient to any damage. Each of these girls are partnered with a trainer/handler and together they are known as a “fratello”. Some handlers are caring for the girls they are partnered with but for the agency, they look at these girls as weapons and also as expendable.

“Gunslinger Girl” was more about episodic stories feature the female members of the group but “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” is more like side stories for certain members.  Considering the manga series is still ongoing, for those wanting to know if there is a conclusion to this series, the sequel is not a conclusion but more of extra adventures.  The main story arc of this sequel revolves around a young killer named Pinocchio who seems to have as much or even more skills than any of the cybergirls.

The main characters of “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” are:

  • Henrietta/Jose – Henrietta’s family were massacred and she was assaulted and left for dead. She has suffered from psychological trauma and had wanted to die. But since being brainwashed and conditioned for the agency, she is an assassin who feels a strong bond with Jose and cares deeply for him. As for Jose Croce, his counterparts think he has gotten to close emotionally with Henrietta.
  • Rico – Born with severe birth defects, she was signed over to the agency by her parents when she turned 11. But since joining and receiving a new body with the agency, she is happy. She is the only cyborg girl with memories of her past life.
  • Triela – Rebellious and masculine, she is one of the elder Cyborg girls that tries to help her counterparts. But for some reason, she is losing her memory.
  • Claes – A peaceful cyborg who is used more as a test subject since the death of her handler. Claes enjoys gardening and reading books more than engaging in violence.
  • Angelica – A girl that was nearly killed by her father trying to collect insurance, Angelica is the first cyborg of the agency.  Angelica has been hospitalized due to events fro the first season and now is eager to get back on a mission but will she ever be the same?

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~- The Complete First Season” consists of 13-episodes + two OAV’s on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Distance Between Two: Brother and Sister – Jose and Henrietta along with Jean and Rico join Hilshire and Triela to take on a group of bombers.
  • EPISODE 2 – Pinocchio – In this flashback episode, the storyline is about a young murdering child named “Pinocchio”.
  • EPISODE 3 – Simulacra – Hilshire and Triela are on a mission to find a missing Public Safety Division member and confront the young killer “Pinocchio”.
  • EPISODE 4 – Angelica’s Return – Angelica is on her first field mission since her hospitalization but when things don’t go as well, she starts to feel frustrated.
  • EPISODE 5 – Transcience and Reminiscence – Marco is worried that Angelica may not be able to be like her original self.
  • EPISODE 6 – Retiring Tibetan Terrier – Section 2 are asked to be on a mission to watch and protect the politician, Chairwoman Isabella d’Angelo.
  • EPISODE 7 – Katerina’s Annulus of Vengeance – Could their be a link between Franca and Pinnochio?
  • EPISODE 8 – A Day in the Life of Claes – Claes has these dreams of Raballo but she doesn’t know whey she has these dreams or who this Raballo is.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 9 – Wise Serpent, Pure Dove – Section 2 are on a mission to find out more about Giuseppe’s background.
  • EPISODE 10 – White Flowers – Triela is not doing too well and is frustrated that she was unable to beat Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 11 – Budding Feelings – A flashback about Cristiano and the young boy who would become Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 12 – Fighting Doll – The mission is now to find Franco, Franca and Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 13 – And Pinocchio Became Human – The final battle between Triela and Pinocchio.  Who will become victorious?
  • OAV 1 – EPISODE 14 – The Light of Venice, the Darkness of the Heart – Jean and Rico are on a mission to take out a mafia boss supporting Roman terrorists.
  • OAV 2 – EPISODE 15 – Fantasma – A story that takes place around the time of ep. 10 and 11 of “Gunslinger Girl” during Rico, Henrietta, Jean and Giuseppe in Sicily and an episode that deals with Giuseppe dressing Henrietta in Enrika’s  (who is dead) clothing which causes some friction among the group.

VIDEO:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” is an anime television series presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9) and was a series that came out in 2008.   Fans of the series have been critical because of their preference of the Madhouse Studios anime production of “Gunslinger Girl” back in 2007.  Personally, I felt the character designs were much more better in the first series, while the second series features more focus on shading and lighting of the backgrounds.

As for video, there is noticeable use of edge enhancement on the series.  One must be wondering that if this is a 2008 release anime series, we are going to get great visuals.  Unfortunately, this is where Japanese anime TV series are a mixed bag.  There are series where production companies have enough time and manpower to making a television series look great via the backgrounds and its colors, but with “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~”, the series was good but not great wen it comes to animation.  There are some scenes such as the focus on weapons which are nicely detailed but for the most part, animation was OK and some episodes looked good on HD I have to agree that the animation and production for the first series was much better than the sequel (but the storyline is much better in the sequel than the first series).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Fortunately with FUNimation Entertainment Blu-ray releases in 2010, we are getting lossless Japanese soundtracks and sure enough, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” features audio sporting both an English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack.  The English dub soundtrack seems to be much more louder than its Japanese counterpart in terms of dialogue and special effects.  Certain scenes do feature good use of lossless through the surrounds during the gun battle scenes but it’s not as immersive as I would like.  But at the same time, the fact that we get a lossless Japanese soundtrack is a big step and will sure to please fans who have been wanting lossless Japanese soundtrack with their anime series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” contains the textless songs and trailers.  Unfortunately, special features from the DVD release such as the “Japanese Cast Interview: Voice of Marco”, original TV commercials and from the OAV DVD release, “Japanese Cast Interview: Voice of Hilshire” are not included on this Blu-ray release.

EXTRAS:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ The Complete Series” comes with a slipcase (note: The first season did not come with a slipcase).

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” was an enjoyable series but at the same time, you kind of hoped there was some conclusions but knowing that the manga series is still ongoing, the “Gunslinger Girl” series continues and one may wonder when or if there will be another season.

As mentioned earlier, this sequel is not a series that features anything significant that will affect the series in the near future.  If anything, you can look at these episodes as “side stories” with Triela dealing with failure, Angelica being frustrated of not being the same before she was hospitalized and as for Henrietta who was prominently featured in the first series, this sequel tries to feature as many people as they can but also showing us the other perspective of the young killer Pinocchio who is featured in several episodes.

But I will say that I did enjoy this series more than the first.  Mainly because we see certain characters being shown with faults and then trying to overcome those faults. Also, it was interesting to see a boy who was just as deadly and even more deadly as the girls.  Granted, because of the introduction of Pinocchio, makes you wonder if we are going to see some major wars between cyber boys vs. cyber girls if a series is created in the near future.  Personally, I was expecting something tragic with maybe one of the primary characters getting killed.  But for the most part, the series plays off as not a sequel but “Gunslinger Girl” missions.

As for the animation, its clearly up to preference.  I preferred the first series in terms of animation but preferred the second in terms of storyline.  But that’s just me.  As for the Blu-ray release, the fact that you get two lossless soundtrack is great but video quality, was good.   It’s great that FUNimation included both OAV’s on this Blu-ray release but wished the special features from the DVD’s were included.  Not sure if it was due to space limitation but being spoiled by series such as “Claymore” and even “Witchblade” on Blu-ray with plenty of special features, I was hoping that what is on the DVD for special features would make it onto the Blu-ray release as well.

Overall, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” is a series worth owning if you have the previous series on Blu-ray.  But it’s important to note that for those expecting some type of conclusion, will probably have to wait until the manga series is over or another season of “Gunslinger Girl” is released.  Nevertheless, a series worth having in your collection.

Shaolin Hand Lock (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Featuring martial arts legend David Chiang in one of his many awesome martial arts films for the Shaw Brothers.  An awesome, action-packed martial-arts film!

Images courtesy of © 2005 Celestial Pictures, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Shaolin Hand Lock (Shi zi mo hou shou)

DURATION: 89 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1, Anamorphic Widescreen 16×9

RATED: Not Rated: Parental Guidance Suggested

COMPANY: Celestial Pictures/FUNimation Entertainment

Released on March 23, 2010

Directed by Meng Hua Ho

Written by Kuang Ni

Produced by Mona Fong, Run Run Shaw

Assistant Producer: Po-Nan Wen

Music by Yung-Yu Chen

Cinematography by Hui-chi Tsao

Starring:

David Chiang as Li Cheng-ying

Peng Chen as Li Meng-Ping

Lieh Lo as Ling Hao

Dick Wei as Li Bai

Wai-Man Chan as Kun Shih

Shen Chan as Fang Yun-piao

Hsia Hsu – Li’s Student

Kara Hui as Li’s Student

From the director who gave Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung early breaks in film, Ho Meng-hua teams up with Mr. Kung-fu hero, David Chiang, in a funky, over the top, martial arts chiller based upon a secret kung-fu technique that is also the film’s English title, Shaolin Hand Lock. Fans and non-fans of the genre will elate to again see Chiang match fists with Shaw Brothers’ number one villain, Lo Lieh.

The Shaw Brothers, the company known for their many releases of Hong Kong films for many decades ran by producer Sir Run Run Shaw, knighted by the British government and founder of Shaw University in Hong Kong and even founded the HK-TVB TV network was a major power behind the company and his third brother Runme Shaw (who founded South Sea Film), the film company would become known as Shaw Brothers Studio and become the first studio to bring Hong Kong cinema with sound in 1934.

The Shaw Brothers have created over a thousand films and with several having been aired on US television and some being released on video, “The 14 Amazons” gets its release on DVD courtesy of Celestial Pictures and FUNimation Entertainment via their Hong Kong Connection line featuring original masters of the original film and both the Mandarin and English dub dialogue.

In 1978, the film “Shi Zi So Hou Shou” (Shaolin Hand Lock) was released in theaters and would feature action star David Chiang (who is currently regarded as a Kung Fu legend/icon).

The film revolves around brother Li Cheng-Ying (played by David Chiang) and his sister Meng Ping (played by Chan Ping) who are trained at their father’s martial arts school.  Li Cheng’s father Li Bai (played by Dick Wei) is the creator and master of the Shaolin Hand Lock which he teaches to his son.  But because the move leaves open a vulnerable spot, his father gives him his armored vest to protect him from battle.

As Cheng-Ying and his sister go out for grocery shopping, an old acquaintance visits Li Bai but immediately, goes under the attack and tells him that someone has hired to kill him.  Li Bai uses the Shaolin Hand Lock but because he gave up his armor to his son, the killer strikes him with hidden knives from his forearms in the vulnerable areas and killing him.  The killer then kills two students who he thinks is the children of Li Bai.

When Cheng-Ying and Meng Peng arrive, they find out that their parents and friends have been murdered and immediately want revenge.  Cheng-Ying goes to find the killer while his sister stays back home.  Eventually, when Cheng-Ying finds the killer, he finds out that person responsible is the rich Ling Hao who is now living in Bangkok.  So, off to Thailand and Cheng-Ying must do what he can to infiltrate his father’s killer by joining the enemy and pretending to be his bodyguard in order to kill him.

But killing Lo Lieh is not going to be easy as the man is still agile and is a master of secret weapons.  Also, to make things difficult for Cheng Yang, another bodyguard of Lo Lieh is suspicious of him and Ming Ping who was supposed to stay home ends up going to Bangkok to kill Lo Lieh as well.

Will the children of Li Bai get their revenge?

VIDEO:

“Shaolin Hand Lock” is presented in 16:9 and received restoration by Celestial Pictures. I was absolutely impressed by the restoration since a lot of the older Shaw films I have seen definitely shows its age. Watching this film, I was impressed by the colors and how the film looks as if it was made recently (of course, by the clothing is a dead give away the film is from the ’70s) versus the film being made in 1978. I can definitely imagine how beautiful the print would be on Blu-ray where I’m sure the colors of the film would definitely pop.

The film utilizes quite a bit of colors and since the characters are seen during the outdoors, a good level of natural light is shown through the film. While watching the film, I saw no major scratches and a few speckles.  The remastering of this film looks very good on DVD.  Colors are vibrant, outdoor scenes are well shot (especially a scene at the temple) and blacks are very good on DVD.  Just the scene where Cheng-Ying is given a tour through Bangkok is a beautiful sight!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, the film is presented in English Dolby Digital stereo and Mandarin Mono. Personally, having endured these Shaw films with the terrible (yet humorous) English dubs back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, just watching it again with the English dub just didn’t make sense anymore.   So, watching it with the Mandarin mono track was my choice and preference.

I did watch the film again via English dub and for this film, the English dubbing is not bad.  Especially since this is an action-driven film, the dialogue is short and for the most part, I usually get irked by the English dubs for this film, I wasn’t.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Shaolin Hand Lock” comes with trailers of upcoming or previous released FUNimation Entertainment live action releases.

EXTRAS:

The DVD comes with a slipcase.

I was quite impressed by “Shaolin Hand Lock”.  There is a bit of humor in the film but it’s a film that has a good amount of action and a pretty enjoyable storyline.  David Chiang definitely shines in this film as Li Ching Yang.  He and Ling Hao (who plays Lo Lieh) really have great chemistry as the boss and bodyguard including the scenes where these two must battle each other.  Two veterans who have done a good number of Shaw Brothers films, they definitely did a really good job during their fight sequences.

There is also pretty good cinematography during several major scenes from “Shaolin Hand Lock”.   We get to see the beautiful scenery and statues of Bangkok but of course, the film is primarily all action from martial arts combat to even a boat chase scene!

“Shaolin Hand Lock” looks absolutely great on DVD.  As mentioned previously, the colors look very good and there is no way I could tell what year this film was made (I was thinking early ’80s but it was late ’70s).  Celestial Pictures really did a good job on the remastering of many of the Shaw Brothers films and it shows with the release of this film.    Also, both the Mandarin and English audio tracks are included and the English dub is not too bad, especially since the action scenes seem to be much more numerous than the actual dialogue scenes.  Unfortunately, there are no special features.

If there was any surprises about “Shaolin Hand Lock” was that the film had full frontal nudity of a woman during as a scene featured Fang Yun Biao about to make love to a prostitute in Bangkok.  Rarely do you see nudity, let alone full frontal in a Hong Kong film, let alone a martial arts film, let alone a live action film from FUNimation Entertainment.  So, for those looking to screen this film at your local college or club, although the film is unrated, aside from the violence and blood shown, the film does have nudity.

As for the violence and parents who are wondering what kind of violence in this film aside from the martial arts, there are knives being used and people being stabbed and killed.   Of course, there are no blood splurging out of limbs or anything too disgusting but “Shaolin Hand Lock” does have its fair share of blood featured in the film.

So, far FUNimation Entertainment’s entry with their first two Shaw Brothers martial arts films “The 14 Amazons” and “Shaolin Hand Lock” have been quite impressive thus far.  With over a thousand films made by the Shaw Brothers, “Shaolin Hand Lock” and “The 14 Amazons” are two films that are very well-done and are quite enjoyable.

Definitely recommended!

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

March 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Humans vs. vampires, political corruption and more!  Featuring an intricate, deep and dark storyline with strong action elements, “Trinity Blood – the Complete Series” is a stylishly dark anime series worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2005 Trinity Blood Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Trinity Blood – The Complete Series

DURATION: 24 Episodes (600 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: February 23, 2010

 

Originally novel by Sunao Yoshida

Directed by Tomohiro Hirata

Series Composition by Atsuhiro Tomioka, Tomohiro Hirata

Script by Atsuhiro Tomioka, Yuuji Hosono

Character Design by Atsuko Nakajima, Thores Shibamoto

Music by Takahito Eguchi

Art Director: Toshiyuki Tokuda

Chief Animation Director: Atsuko Nakajima

Art Design by Tomoaki Kaneko

Anime Production by GONZO

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroki Touchi as Abel Nightroad

Mamiko Noto as Esther Blanchett

Junichi Suwabe as Cain Nightroad

Junko Minagawa as Ion Fortuna

Kazuya Nakai as Tres Iqus

Kenichi Suzumura as Dietrich von Lohengrin

Michiko Neya as Astharoshe Asran

Shinya Kitade as Hugue de Watteau

Takako Honda as Catherina Sforza

Yoshinori Fujita as Alessandro XVIII

Yuki Matsuoka as Seth Nightroad aka Augusta Vradica

Armageddon. The ultimate sin of humanity, perpetrated upon itself, which cast the shroud of death across the world centuries ago. And out of that lasting darkness, they emerged… From the legends of ancient times, they have been called forth into the world anew… vampires.

Two races – Terran and Methuselah, human and vampire – are locked in a struggle for existence, trembling on the brink of war. Some seek the path to a peaceful coexistence, while others pursue a dangerous shift in the balance of power. The world’s enemy, Contra Mundi, is starting to move. Cooperation and goodwill between the two races may be their only chance for survival.

Abel Nightroad, a touring priest for the Vatican, walks calmly where others fear to tread. A member of the formidable AX, tasked with the protection of the fragile equilibrium. Neither human nor vampire, with an awkward yet optimistic nature, this Father is a force wholly his own. When the greater threat emerges, the enemy of my enemy is my friend… and Abel Nightroad seeks a safe path for all.

Be strong in your endeavors for the sake of the world.

“Trinity Blood”, the anime series that had captured the attention of anime fans with its vampire storyline and J-Rock feel, makes its first appearance on High Definition on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Trinity Blood” began as light novels by the late Sunao Yoshida (and illustrations by Thores Shibamoto) back in 2001 and serialized in Japanese light novel magazine “The Sneaker” and was inspired by real life alchemist and noblewoman Caterina Sforza.  With Yoshida’s unfortunate death in 2004, mangaka Kentaro Yasui (author of “Ragnarok”), a friend of Yoshida’s would complete the novels.

The light novels received a manga series adaptation in 2004 (and is ongoing) while a 24-episode manga series was produced by GONZO and aired in Japan in 2005 on the WOWOW network.

The anime series would be directed by Tomohiro Hirata (“Irresponsible Captain Tailor”, “Crusher Joe” OVA’s) and a screenplay by Atsuhiro Tomioka (“Eat-Man 98”, “Hikaru no Go”, “Pokemon”, “Vandread”) and Yuuji Hosono (“Prism Ark”, “Pumpkin Scissors”, “Ray”).   Character designs are by Atsuko Nakajima (“Haunted Junction”, “Ranma 1/2”, “Violinist of Hamlin”), art direction by Toshiyuki Tokuda (“Mermaid Forest”, “Major”, “Inuyasha”) and music by Takahito Eguchi (“D.N.Angel” and “Rental Magica”).

“Trinity Blood” is a series that may seem like your typical vampires versus humans but the story is much deeper.  The series begins with a priest named Father Abel Nightroad who is riding on an airship.  All of a sudden, a vampire (known as Methuselah) abruptly boards the airship and kills the pilots and inhabitants with a pilot trainee/restaurant employee taking over the airship while father Abel Nightroad fights against the Methuselah.  We learn that Abel is a Crusnik, a vampire that feeds on the blood of a Methuselah.

We learn through the series that the introductions to Methuselah and Crusnik came from Earth dealing with its population increase and trying to colonize Mars.  During the colonization, they discover alien technologies: The Bacillus and the Crusnik nanomachines and sure enough, the colonists install the Bacillus into their bodies and they became Methuselahs.  While, four test tube babies – Seth, Cain, Abel and Lilith were given the Crusnik.

Back home in Earth, Earth was going through Armageddon and when the colonists came back to rebuild, unfortunately the humans did not take kindly to the vampiric methuselah’s and a war between the two have taken place with the Roman Catholic Church as the main force to fight the Methuselah with the use of the Crusnik’s (who are part of the AX, Arcanum Cella Ex Dono Dei) who specialize in taking on powerful Methuselah.  Among the Crusnik, Cain has deserted his brothers and sisters and has gone mad.  He now heads the Rosenkreuz Orden, a vampire terrorist organization who wants to make a new world order and destroy the Vatican.

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” consists of 13-episodes on three Blu-ray discs.

The main characters of “Trinity Blood” are:

  • Abel Nightroad – A compassionate Catholic priest who is always broke and hungry.  But he’s also a Crusnik known for his power and hunts down Methuselah.  One of the four test tube babies injected with the Crusnik nanotechnology.    His past was filled with hatred towards humans and during the war between the Methuselah and humans (terrans), he slaughtered seven million of them.  But after his brother Cain murdered his sister Lilith (she defended the humans), he went into mourning for 900 years.  But after meeting Caterina Sforza who was trying to escape from the Methuselah, he vowed to continue his dead sister’s work and is now a member of the AX.
  • Cain Nightroad – One of the four test tube babies installed with the Crusnik Nanotechnology.  During the Methuselah and human wars, when he saw his sister Lilith trying to bring Abel to her side of defending the humans, he killed her.  In revenge, his brothers Abel and Seth tried to kill him but he survived.  Now he leads the Rosenkreuz Orden in order to destroy the Vaticans and human kind.
  • Esther Blanchett – The legitimate granddaughter of the Queen of Albion.  Esther joins with Abel and eventually becomes an AX agent and becomes close to Ion Fortuna.  Her storyline becomes prevalent as the Crusniks try to protect her from being killed by the Methesulah.
  • Astharoshe Asran – An undercover agent of the New Human Empire (Empire for Methuselah) who teams up with Abel in trying to arrest Endre Kourza, a vampire mass murderer.  She despises humanity but through her partnership with Abel, she starts to see them in a different light.
  • Ion Fortuna – A member of the New Human Empire who is also the Imperial messenger negotiating with the Vatican.  He despises humans until he meets Esther Blanchett.
  • Augusta Vradica (Seth Nighlord) – The youngest of the test tube babies and is the empress of the New Human Empire and was responsible for find a home for the Methuselah and save them from persecution.
  • Caterina Sforza – Was instrumental in changing the mind of Abel Nightroad to defend humans.  She heads the AX Agency and wants peace between humans and vampires, which her brother Cardinal Francesco is against.

VIDEO:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” is an anime television series which aired on television in 2005. It’s important to note that a) “Trinity Blood” is a television series and not an animated film or OVA. The second part to note is that when it comes to anime television series, prior to 2008, pretty much a lot of the anime TV series on Blu-ray have been upconverted.

With that being said, “Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” is an upconvert and is presented in 1080p High Definition, 16×9 widescreen.  You can see the compression artifacts, aliasing, edge enhancement and for me, I pretty much expected this because although released in 2005, it’s before many anime companies became serious about HD and because it is a TV series (which didn’t air on a major network but on satellite via Wowow), you’re not going to see major restoration being done.  But with “Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” being an upconvert, I will say the video was not as problematic as “Samurai Champloo” or “Basilisk” when it came to the discoloration problems.

But the series does benefit from it being a GONZO production and that means beautifully painted backgrounds and solid character design.  I actually enjoyed the animation of “Trinity Blood” as well as the overall look and feel.  From the eyes, free flowing hair, the uniforms.   It’s a very dark but artistic anime series and when it first came out on DVD, many people really enjoyed the overall look.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” shines with the lossless English dub.  From the very first episode, you realize how immersive the English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 soundtrack is as the action and fight sequences literally envelop the soundscape of your home with the center, front and surround channels along with LFE being utilized quite nicely.

Dialogue is clear and understandable.  I know some anime fans will take an offense by the Japanese soundtrack not being lossless but Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0.  But overall, voice acting is well-done on both audio tracks and definitely the English lossless track is the highlight of this Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” contains the following special features:

DISC 3:

  • Historical Artifacts – Text-based historical information that was used in the anime series.
  • Textless Songs -Featuring the textless theme songs from BUCK-TICK and Tomoko Tane.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” comes in a slipcase and also comes with a 24-page booklet with interviews with light novel character designer Thores Shibamoto, character information, Kadokawa’s Editorial Department are interviewed and discussing how Sunao Yoshida wanted the anime series to be and pretty much giving them the freedom to not follow the original light novel too closely.

When “Trinity Blood” first began, the first thing I was expecting was a steampunk, “Devil May Cry” type of series.  Humans vs. Vampires and a guy who was a vampire helping the humans and my love for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” TV Series led me to originally watch the series when it was first released on DVD.

But by episode 3, you start to realize that the series is much deeper as it begins to focus on the political and opposing sides of humanity (Terrans) and the New Human Order (Methuselah) and with each episode, the series goes much further into the corruption and politics as there are those who want peace between the two groups and those who will never accept the Methuselah.  While we try to figure how the AX Agents and those of the New Human Order can work together to protect Esther, who may be the next in line for royalty.

The storyline of “Trinity Blood” was definitely far off what I was expecting but nevertheless, I did enjoy how deep the series was and how intricate the storyline would go into the warring factions but part of the difficult of the series is that there are a good number of characters introduced and because the manga series is ongoing and the light novel series never completed, the creators of the anime series had to come up with an ending that would be satisfactory for viewers but also fans of the manga and light novel series.

As for those who have owned the previous DVD series, as mentioned, this is a series that came out in 2005 and is an upconvert.  Video quality is not going to be the greatest upgrade on Blu-ray and it doesn’t have a lossless Japanese soundtrack.  But for those who never purchase the DVD, will probably want to pick it up on Blu-ray and if you enjoy the English dub, you’ll definitely enjoy the lossless soundtrack.

Overall, “Trinity Blood” is going to attract those who love stories with vampires and for those looking for a more deeper and darker anime series on Blu-ray.  Featuring an intricate and deep storyline with strong action elements, “Trinity Blood – the Complete Series” is a series worth checking out!

The 14 Amazons (a J!-ENT Asian Cinema DVD Review)

March 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Epic, ambitious, action-packed and bloody violence galore!  Martial arts and women who can kick some serious butt can be seen in the film “The 14 Amazons”.  The Shaw Brothers film makes its first appearance on DVD via FUNimation Entertainment’s Hong Kong Connection featuring the restored original master and also featuring the original Mandarin and English dub soundtrack.  If you are a fan of the Shaw Brothers, these DVD releases are definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2005 Celestial Pictures, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The 14 Amazons (Shi si nu ying hano)

DURATION: 117 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1, Anamorphic Widescreen 16×9

RATED: Not Rated: Parental Guidance Suggested

COMPANY: Celestial Pictures/FUNimation Entertainment

Released on March 23, 2010

Directed by Kang Cheng, Shao-yung Tung

Original Screenplay by Yang Kao

Screenplay by Kang Cheng

Produced by Run Run Shaw

Music by Fu-lin Wang

Cinematography by Hsin Chang, Chia Hsin Chu, Chieh Huang, Shan Hua, Shao-yung Tung, Toru Watanabe, Chi Yu

Edited by Hsing-lung Chiang, Kung Wing Fan

Art Direction by Chi-Jui Chen

Costume Design by Chi-Yu Liu

Starring:

Lisa Lu as the Grand matriarch

Ivy Ling Po as Mu Kuei Ying

Chen Yen Yen as Grandmother

Ouyang Sha Fei as Chai Chau Chu

Lily Ho as Yang Wen

Li Ching as Tsou Lan

Huang Chin Feng as Ma Sai Ying

Tina Chin Fei as Tu Chin Ngo

Yeh Ling Chih as Yang Chiu Mei

Liu Wu Chih as Yang Chiu Lan

Shu Pei Pei as Yang Pai Feng

Ching Miao as Wang Ching

Tien Feng as King of Western Xia

Wang Hsieh as First Prince

Nian Kung as Second Prince

Tien Ching as Third Prince

Chin Pei as Fourth Prince

Yuen Biao as Yang soldier

Long before feminism made it to Hong Kong, women proved themselves more than equal to men in this martial arts classic, a forerunner to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Set in ancient China, a matriarchal clan proves as adept with sword, fist, and gravity-defying leaps as anything conjured up by the Crouching Tiger ladies thirty years later.

The cast is a veritable “who’s who” of the golden age of Shaw Brothers swordplay adventures, and was not only a major box office hit (ranking fourth for 1972), but also a top prize winner, including Best Supporting Actress for Lisa Lu, a special citation for outstanding lead female performance for Lily Ho, Best Director for Cheng Kang, and an award for Honorable Mention For Drama.

The Shaw Brothers, the company known for their many releases of Hong Kong films for many decades ran by producer Sir Run Run Shaw, knighted by the British government and founder of Shaw University in Hong Kong and even founded the HK-TVB TV network was a major power behind the company and his third brother Runme Shaw (who founded South Sea Film), the film company would become known as Shaw Brothers Studio and become the first studio to bring Hong Kong cinema with sound in 1934.

The Shaw Brothers have created over a thousand films and with several having been aired on US television and some being released on video, “The 14 Amazons” gets its release on DVD courtesy of Celestial Pictures and FUNimation Entertainment via their Hong Kong Connection line featuring original masters of the original film and both the Mandarin and English dub dialogue.

In 1972, the film “The 14 Amazons” was released in theaters and won Best Director (Cheng Kang), Best Supporting Actress (Lisa Lu), Best Sound Recording and Honorable Mention for Drama for the 11th Golden Horse Awards in 1973 and earn Lily Ho the “Oustanding Female Lead Performance” for the 19th Asian Film Festival (1973).

“The 14 Amazons” (Shu si nu ying hao) begins with General Yang Tsung Pao being ambushed and killed in battle.  He manages to send two of his men back home to their country (Northern Sung) to inform his people of what has happened to them.

Back at home in Northern Sung, the Yang family is ran by the Grand Matriarch (played by Lisa Lu) who has all the daughters celebrating the General’s birthday but the celebrations are quickly dampered when the women are informed that General Pao was ambushed and has been killed while defending his country by the army of the King of Western Xia.

Immediately Genera Pao’s widow Mu Kuei Ying (played by Ivy Ling Po) wants revenge as does his only son Yang Wen (played by Lily Ho) and the heir to the Yang family.  So, the Yang family join together with their countrymen to exact revenge against the King of Western Xia.

The King of Western Xia rules his country with an iron fist and instilling fear to everyone.  With his sons as ruthless as he is and a much larger army outnumbering the Yang family, they look unbeatable.

Who will emerge victorious in the end?

VIDEO:

“The 14 Amazons” is presented in 16:9 and received restoration by Celestial Pictures.  I was absolutely impressed by the restoration since a lot of the older Shaw films I have seen definitely shows its age.  Watching this film, I was impressed by the colors and how the film looks as if it was made recently versus in 1972.  I can definitely imagine how beautiful the print would be on Blu-ray where I’m sure the colors of the film would definitely pop.

The film utilizes quite a bit of colors and since the characters are seen during the outdoors, a good level of natural light is shown through the film.  Details on mountains and lush scenery can be seen and of course, a lot of red for the blood seen on this film.

But aside from the colors which I enjoy, there are some problems that I did find.  There is a blurring effect when the camera pans quickly and also some parts, was not sure if it was intentional (to be artistic) when you see the picture pause for a split second.  Also, one scene where I felt the editing was cut to abruptly.

But overall, aside from those few negatives, it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the film at all.  The restoration of “The 14 Amazons” is quite impressive.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, the film is presented in English Dolby Digital stereo and Mandarin Mono.  Personally, having endured these Shaw films with the terrible (yet humorous) English dubs back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, just watching it again with the English dub just didn’t make sense anymore (unless you get a kick of how bad they were acted).  So, watching it with the Mandarin mono track was my choice and preference.

I felt the English stereo soundtrack was OK but felt the Mandarin mono to be much better.  For listening, I had my receiver set for stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

Some may be wondering why the film is presented in Mandarin when Hong Kong films are typically in Cantonese.  The Shaw Brothers Studio had films split into Mandarin and Cantonese.  Kang Cheng spearheaded the Mandarin division and was known for his violent martial arts films which were box office hits for the Shaw Brothers.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The 14 Amazons” comes with trailers of upcoming releases.

EXTRAS:

The DVD comes with a slipcase.

“The 14 Amazons” was actually quite an epic film and at first I was expecting a cheesy film but I was very impressed by the sheer amount of action, violence and also how many talent were featured in this film to showcase the battles between the two clans.  I use the word “epic” but not in the way that you see many people onscreen like John Woo’s “Red Cliff” but for a ’70s film, there’s a lot of extras on this film to create the feeling of war.

And in some ways, I felt that this film was quite ambitious with the amount of obstacles the Yang Family had to endure during their march towards Western Xia and showing the sheer violence of the King and his sons.

Also, different compared to other Hong Kong Wuxia films is that the cast is mostly all female (for the Yang family).  Although General Pao’s remaining son Yang Wen is played by a woman (Lily Ho), the film which the actress really shines in but can see her in other Shaw Bros. films such as “The Golden Knight”, “Jade Faced Assassin”, “Silver Fox” and “Angel” films.

But “The 14 Amazons” was definitely an exciting adventure/martial arts film.  The amount of action and violence worked well with each other as well as having a clan full of women who can kick ass makes things a bit more exciting as well.  Interesting to note is a short early appearance by now world renown martial arts actor Yuen Biao (who trained with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Corey Yuen) who has a role of a Yang soldier.

As for the DVD, I’m glad that you do have the option of the Mandarin or English dub track and the restoration of the film definitely adds to the enjoyment of the film as well.  A shame that there are no special features but then again, since the Shaw Bros. churned out films one after the other, I’m not sure if that type of footage of the making of the film is lost.

But on its own, FUNimation Entertainment and Celestial Pictures are doing a great service for fans of these classic martial arts films by releasing it on DVD in the US.   If you are a fan of the Shaw Brothers, these restored DVD releases are worth watching!

Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Gunslinger Girl” is an anime series for those looking for a series that is more serious and dramatic but also incorporating action.  As a Blu-ray release, the shining point of this release is its lossless English and Japanese audio.

Image courtesy of © Yu Aida/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. Marvelous Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 16, 2010

 

Originally created by Yu Aida

Directed by Morio Asaka

Series Composition by Junki Takegami

Music by Toshihiko Sahashi

Character Design by Hisashi Abe

Art Director: Hisashi Ikeda

Anime Production by Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Alese Watson as Claes

Eri Sendai/Caitlin Glass as Triela

Hitomi Terakado/Monica Rial as Angelica

Kanako Mitsuhashi/Luci Christian as Rico

Yuuka Nanri/Laura Bailey as Henrietta

Brina Palencia/Mamiko Noto as Elsa

Cynthia Cranz/Rie Nakagawa as Ferro

Dameon Clarke/Masashi Ebara as Hirscher (Hilshire)

Eric Vale/Mitsuru Miyamoto as Jean

Jim Fornoda/Norihiro Inoue as Marco

John Burgmeier/Hidenobu Kiuchi as Jose

Troy Baker/Masami Iwasaki as Alfonso

Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that’s in the business of saving lives. In reality, it’s an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government’s dirty work.

In 2002, mangaka Yu Aida had her first manga “Gunslinger Girl” published in the monthly shonen magazine “Dengeki Daioh”.  A year later, her manga series was adapted into a 13-episode anime television series airing on Fuji TV.  The manga and anime series would continue with another 13-episode anime television series titled “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” in 2008 and has also inspired video games for the Sony PlayStation 2.

The “Gunslinger Girl” anime series would feature anime production by Madhouse Studios and feature Morio Asaka as the director (“Chobits”, “Rozen Maiden”, “Street Fighter”, “Galaxy Angel”) and series composition by Junki Takegami (“Aoki Densetsu Shoot!”, “Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”, “Inuyasha”, “Naruto Shippuden”).  Character design would be by Hisashi Abe (“Chobits”, “Spirit Warrior”, “Devil May Cry”), art direction by Hisashi Ikeda (“Millenium Actress”, “Perfect Blue”, “Ghost in the Shell”) and music by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Hunter x Hunter”, “Fullmetal Panic!”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”).

The series has been released several times by FUNimation Entertainment on DVD but the series makes its High Definition on Blu-ray along with the sequel “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino” which both were released on March 16, 2010.

“Gunslinger Girl” revolves around the Social Welfare Agency which is a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government.  Known by the public to help those who are physically injured, the truth is that the agency is a a military organization that specializes in counter-intelligence and counter terrorism.  Their soldiers, young orphan girls enhanced with cybernetic implants and are taught to kill and pare of the SWA’s “Section 2”.

The girls have synthesized muscle implants giving them super-human strength and reflexes, as well as the ability to be resilient to any damage.  Each of these girls are partnered with a trainer/handler and together they are known as a “fratello”.  Some handlers are caring for the girls they are partnered with but for the agency, they look at these girls as weapons and also as expendable.

The main characters of “Gunslinger Girl” are:

  • Henrietta/Jose – Henrietta’s family were massacred and she was assaulted and left for dead.  She has suffered from psychological trauma and had wanted to die.  But since being brainwashed and conditioned for the agency, she is an assassin who feels a strong bond with Jose and cares deeply for him.  As for Jose Croce, his counterparts think he has gotten to close emotionally with Henrietta.
  • Rico – Born with severe birth defects, she was signed over to the agency by her parents when she turned 11.  But since joining and receiving a new body with the agency, she is happy.  She is the only cyborg girl with memories of her past life.
  • Triela – Rebellious and masculine, she is one of the elder Cyborg girls that tries to help her counterparts.  But for some reason, she is losing her memory.
  • Claes – A peaceful cyborg who is used more as a test subject since the death of her handler.  Claes enjoys gardening and reading books more than engaging in violence.
  • Angelica – A girl that was nearly killed by her father trying to collect insurance, Angelica is the first cyborg of the agency.

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” consists of 13-episodes on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – fratello – We are introduced to Henrietta and her handler Jose and learn about how Jose cares for his cyborg while his counterparts feel he’s getting to emotionally close to her.
  • EPISODE 2 – orione – Jose’s caring for Henrietta wants to give her another perspective of life outside of murdering.
  • EPISODE 3 – ragazzo – We are introduced to Rico and her handler Jean and both go on a mission.
  • EPISODE 4 – bambola – It’s Christmas time and Triela is sent on a mission.
  • EPISODE 5 – promessa – We learn about a cyborg named Claes and her handler Raballo.
  • EPISODE 6 – gelato – Henrietta, Rico and Triela go out on a mission.
  • EPISODE 7 – protezione – Rico and Jean meet a man named Filippo and go on a tour through Florence.
  • EPISODE 8 – il Principe del Regno Della Pasta – We are introduced to Angelica and her handler Marco.
  • EPISODE 9 – Lycoris Radiata Herb (Cluster Amaryllis) – We are introduced to a cyborg named Elsa and her handler Lauro.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – amare – Cyborgs and their handlers discover news about the death of one of their cyborg’s and handler’s.
  • EPISODE 11 – febbre alta – Continuing the storyline as Jose and Henrietta try to learn about the deaths of a cyborg and her handler.
  • EPISODE 12 – simbiosi – Angelica is injured during training and now the head of the Social Welfare Agency questions the value of Section 2.
  • EPISODE 13 – stella cadente – The cyborg girls go see a meteor shower.

VIDEO:

When “Gunslinger Girl” was released on DVD, I know that when I first saw this series, I was happy about how this series tried to capture the settings of Italy, the pureness of the faces of the cyborg girls and then the violence and action sequences.

With that being said, this upconvert on Blu-ray is what one would expect from a series released in 2003.  You’re not going to get vibrant colors, you are going to see edge enhancement and truthfully, unless it was released 2008 or later, you’re not going to get gorgeous HD picture quality from this television series.  And it’s important that people know it’s a TV series and not a film or OVA which tend to have much more production and a bigger budget in terms of animation and artistic backgrounds.

With that being said, the painted artistic backgrounds are well-done and the character designs (especially facial expressions) based on Yu Aida’s work is also well-done.   There is some artifacting and aliasing but I didn’t catch any discoloration problems and I believe the series utilizes DNR (Digital Noise Reduction).

There is a hazy look towards “Gunslinger Girl” but there are episodes such as the final episode that utilizes earthtone colors that do pop but for the most part, the series is not exactly too vibrant but somehow, the look and feel tends to work well with this series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” features lossless Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1.

Anime fans have been wanting lossless audio for their Blu-rays especially for the Japanese soundtrack and so far, FUNimation Entertainment has listened with “Ouran High School” and “Gunslinger Girl” series on Blu-ray both receiving lossless Japanese audio.

But I had the opportunity to test out the audio tracks on both vocal tracks and although the series is dialogue/front-channel driven, when the series does include gunfire and machine guns, that is where you will notice the use of the surround channels.  Lossless audio is well-done during those action sequences. Also, a good amount of ambient noise such as dogs barking to footsteps can be heard through the surround channel as well.

As for the music, the music is also integrated into the surround channels as well.  “Gunslinger Girl” definitely takes advantage of the beautiful musical scores by using it on the surround channels.   I don’t recall hearing much LFE though.  The series is pretty much center, front and surround channel driven.

As for subtitles, subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” contains the following special features on disc 2:

DISC 2:

  • Building Henrietta – (1:05) A musical feature showing how the character of Henrietta is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
  • Building Rico– (1:07) A musical feature showing how the character of  Rico is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
  • Meet the Real Gunslinger Girls: A featurette featuring the English voice dub actresses talking about their characters including Henrietta (Laura Bailey, 4:42), Claes (Alese Watson, 3:00), Angelica (Monica Rial, 4:44), Rico (Luci Christian, 4:48) and Triela (Caitlin Glass, 4:17).
  • “Simbiosi” Production Commentary – Audio commentary by the production crew in regards to “Simbiosi” episode and discussion of Italy and writing the English dub for the show and mixing the audio.
  • “Simbiosi” Voice Director Commentary –  Audio commentary by director and voice talents Christopher Sabat, Laura Bailey, Chris Bevins and Eric Vale.  The four discuss their involvement directing the show.
  • Dossiers: Dossiers for Henrietta, Claes, Angelica, Rico and Triela.  With your remote, you can view text-based information of each character.
  • Textless Sons – Textless theme songs for the Opening theme “The Light Before We Land” and the Closing theme “Dop Il Sogno”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“Gunslinger Girl” is an interesting anime series and some may find comparisons to Yu Aida’s work with Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” in that children are being used by their government as weapons.

The series is not your typical jovial or comedy-driven anime series and nor is lighthearted.  The series is about a group of girls who have been brainwashed and cybernetically enhanced to become assassins.  But even with their brainwashing, these young girls have been damaged emotionally and psychologically.

This first season focuses on the girls dynamics with one another but also how they interact with their handlers.  Some who feel possessive of their handlers and some who push them away.  If anything, the series does feature these girls on missions but deep inside, these girls have suffered some unfortunate situations and although wiped out from their memory, you can’t help but feel bad for them because they tend to have emotions that they don’t understand.

In a way, I’m happy to see this serious released on Blu-ray for the fact that many have clamored for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that is much more serious and dramatic.  The good news is that “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” and its sequel “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” fits that bill, the bad news for those expecting the latest and best looking anime series on Blu-ray are not going to be happy that these two series are slightly older series that are being upconverted to BD.

So far, there have been a split of anime fans.  Those who just want anime on 1080p and are satisfied to have anime on Blu-ray and those who are not thrilled to see upconverts and want native-HD anime on Blu-ray.  For me, I’m in the middle and can easily understand both sides.

But I’m not going to complain.  “Gunslinger Girl” was a popular series and yes, it has been released several times on DVD but you’re getting a Blu-ray release with slightly better visuals but much better audio quality with both English and Japanese soundtrack provided via lossless.  Also, you get a good number of special features in this release.

So, if you have never owned this series on DVD or looking to upgrade your collection to Blu-ray, “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete Series” is an anime series worth considering for your anime on BD collection.

Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

More hijinks!  More fun!  And more destruction in this latest volume of “Sgt. Frog”!

Image courtesy of © Mine Yoshizaki/Kadokawashoten, SUNRISE, TV TOKYO. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2

DURATION: Episodes 40-51 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Sunrise TV/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: January 26, 2010

 

Based on the manga by Mine Yoshizaki

Chief Director: Junichi Sato

Director: Yusuke Yamamoto

Series Composition by Mamiko Ikeda

Script by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Kuniaki Kasahara, Mamiko Ikeda, Masahiro Yokotani, Satoru Nishizono, Yasuko Kobayashi

Character Design by Fumitoshi Oisaki

Animation Director: Asako Nishida

Sound Director: Yota Tsuruoka

Anime Production by Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Akiko Hiramatsu/Jamie Marchi as Aki Hinata

Chiwa Saito/Cherami Leigh as Natsumi Hinata

Houku Kuwashima/Leah Clark as Fuyuki Hinata

Haruna Ikezawa/Monica Rial as Momoka Nishizawa

Kumiko Watanabe/Todd Habekorn as Keroro

Etsuko Kozakura/Brina Palencia as Tamama

Jouji Nakata/Christopher R. Sabat as Giroro

Takehito Koyasu/Chuck Huber as Kururu

Takeshi Kusao/J. Michael Tatum as Dororo

Keiji Fujiwara/R. Bruce Elliott as Narrator

Mimiko Noto/Carrie Savage as Angol Mois

 

How long can it take to conquer a planet whose inhabitants are constantly distracted by glorious celebrations, exotic foods, and all the anime you can watch? Apparently, a really, really, really long time. But fear not, citizens of Keron, for Sergeant Frog and his courageous comrades have vowed to stay in the trenches, feverishly building model mechas until this invasion is back on track!

No stone will go unturned, no sweet potato dango uneaten, no manga unread, and no floor un-vacuumed! Those puny Pekopons better watch their backs because the Kero Platoon will not rest until humanity trembles at their webbed feet!

Since 1999, the manga series “Keroro Gunso” (aka “Sgt. Frog”) by Mine Yoshizaki (“Arcade Gamer Fubuki”, “Chibi Kero” and “Seven of Seven”) has been entertaining readers. Since 2004, the anime series has been entertaining viewers and both continue to be popular long-running series in Japan. Now the award winning series continues with its second part of the second season courtesy of FUNimation entertainment.

The anime series is directed by Yusuke Yamamoto (“Welcome to the NHK, “Sakura Taisen”, “Mobile Suit Victor Gundam” and Arjuna”) and features character designs by Fumitoshi Oisaki (“Romeo x Juliet”, “Ontama” and “Kaleido Star”). The series is known for its use of parodies of pop culture and in the Japanese case, you will see a plenty of pop culture references to anime and video games. While, the English dub features a slightly different script than the Japanese and utilizes American pop culture (which I will describe more in the video and audio segment of this review).

The series revolves around an alien race of frogs who have come to conquer the planet Earth. But somehow along the way, things didn’t go as expected and the leader of the platoon, Sergeant Frog finds himself living with the Hinata family. In the first season, we saw how the members of the Armpit Platoon reunited and worked together to accomplish certain missions.

In this second part of the second season, Sgt. Keroro and the Platoon come up with more ideas in order to dominate the world and beat the Pekopons.

The main characters of “Sgt. Frog” are:

The Hinata Family

Fuyuki – A boy who just wants to be best friends with Sgt. Frog (Keroro) and always sees the positive in him. An odd kid who is obsessed with paranormal and supernatural things, really doesn’t have any friends and runs a high school club based on the paranormal and supernatural with no members. Possesses Keroro’s weapon of mass destruction (because his sister told him to hold on to it).

Natsumi – Athletic and very intuitive when it comes to what is going on in her home. Natsumi is hot tempered and not very appreciative that her mother let Keroro live with them. Whenever Keroro (and the other frogs) misbehave, she’s quick to beat him to a pulp.

Aki – The beautiful mother and a manga editor who lets Keroro live with the family. Not for kindness but mostly to get ideas for her new manga. She also gives Keroro one of the rooms to the house for him to live in but mainly because a ghost has been inhabiting the room and also because it’s messy and expects him to clean it up.

The Armpit Platoon consists of:

Sgt. Frog (Keroro) – The green frog is the leader of the platoon. Despite being the sergeant of the platoon, he is quite a daft and lazy frog. He enjoys building Mobile Suit Gundam models, eating and watching television. He knows that each time something breaks, Aki and Natsumi Hinata will be on his case so he is somewhat mindful of the Hinata family. Also knowing that if he does chores at home, he can use his allowance to buy Gundam models. But he knows his role in Earth and that he and his platoon needs to conquer the Earth but most of the time his other hobbies get it in the way of that.

Corporal Giroro – The red frog with a scar on his face who happens to be a weapons expert. Loves combat and is a gung-ho type of character. He is the main person in the Platoon who has a disdain of Sgt. Frog’s leadership and is the one often yelling at him to remember their goal. But he also has a soft side and that is the fact that he is attracted to Natsumi Hinata’s strength and temper. So, much that he has fallen for her and will do what he can to protect her. He lives in the back yard of the Hinata’s home and finds friendship in the neighborhood cat Mr. Furbottom.

Private Second Class Tamama – The black frog with a tadpole tail and the youngest and most experienced member of the Platoon. When pushed, he can be quite destructive (shooting beams out of his mouth). Known for his gas problems and also for his major jealousy complex. He lives with the wealthy Momoka Nishizawa and gets everything he wants. But is very jealous of the female alien Angol Mois (who is in love with Keroro) and gets very upset that someone else likes the Sgt.

Sergeant Major Kururu – The yellow frog and the platoon’s intelligence and strategic planning officer. Very intelligent and loves building things but despite being a superior to Keroro, he defers to him because he’s somewhat of a mad scientist. In someways, when testing his creations on Keroro, he enjoys seeing people getting in bad or painful situations the experimenting on those creations. Also, loves listening to music in his earphones. He originally was taken into the home of Mutsumi Saburo but has built a base under the home of the Hinatas.

Lance Corporal Dororo/Zeroro – The blue frog and a member of the Elite Assassin Squad and the Armpit Platoon. Looks like a ninja by the mask he wears and is even more deadlier than Corporal Giroro. When he was younger, he didn’t have any friends and was befriended by Keroro and Giroro (because he was rich and had a large collection of Gundam’s). Each time he went out with Keroro, he would get hurt badly. He is starting to learn that his friends when he was younger really weren’t that good of friends and thus, has resentment towards the Platoon (because they all forgot about him) and thus changed his name from Zeroro to Dororo. Spends his time with ninja Koyuki Azumaya taking on aliens and protecting humankind (Pekopons).

Other significant characters:

Momoka Nishizawa – The daughter of a billionaire and very much in love with Fuyuki. Does what she can to get close to Fuyuki but the emotions that she is feeling, doesn’t necessarily come out the way she wants when she says it. Has a distrust towards any female near Fuyuki and can’t stand it when anyone interferes with her time with Fuyuki. The alien frog Tamama stays at her place.

Mutsumi Saburo – Very intelligent and excels at almost everything. A DJ and a lover of Gundam, he happens to be a guy who Natsumi Hinata likes but her brother Fuyuki doesn’t like him at all. The alien frog Kururu once stayed with him and even taught Saburo some tricks.

Paul Moriyama – Momoko’s butler and guardian. Known to have great fighting skills and has sworn his life to protect Momoko.

Angol Moa – An alien from another tribe. Also known as the “King of Terror” wand was supposed to destroy Earth in July 1999 but arrives 500 years early and thus went to sleep in orbit. She wakes up but finds out that she is five years late. She is known for using a cell phone which she inputs in order to create a major weapon which can destroy the Earth and the ability to shoot powerful blasts. But because of her love for Keroro, she will do what he says and thus, decides not to destroy the Earth. Although she is doesn’t know it, she is the rival to Tamama (who can’t stand Angol Moa’s smile and kindness) and will do whatever she can to protect Keroro.

Koyuki Azumaya – A ninja who joins Natsumi’s school and has athletic ability that rivals Natsumi. Friends with the alien frog Dororo and together they take on aliens who pose a threat to the Pekopons (Earthlings) and also has a thing about sniffing people.

Jessica Harpie – A member of the galactic Interpol and catches criminals around the galaxy.

Omiyo – The ghost that lives in the Hinata house and occupies what is now Keroro’s room.

“Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2” (which is actually the final episodes for season 1 in Japan) features a total of 12 episodes on two DVD’s. Most of the episodes consists of two mini-episodes but sometimes an episode can be a full-length episode. Here is a spoiler-less summary:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 40 – We Don’t Needs No Education! – The Armpit Platoon’s New Year’s tradition and how they take advantage of Corporal Giroro.  In the second episode, Sgt. Keroro receives a delivery from HQ.
  • EPISODE 41 – A Low Down Dirty Game! – Fuyuki and Natsumi take part in a large size board game.  In the second episode, Lance Corporal Dororo encounters Mr. Kogoro and tells him about how he feels he has no presence in the Armpit Platoon.
  • EPISODE 42 – War of the World’s Cup! – The Armpit Platoon comes up with an idea of creating a soccer team and beating the Pekopons (humans).
  • EPISODE 43 – Springtime For Hitters! – Sgt. Keroro comes up with an idea inspired from a story about the “Blue Demon”.
  • EPISODE 44 – Domo Arigato, Aki Roboto! – Sgt. Keroro challenges Fuyuki in a competition for world domination.  In the second episode, Sgt. Major Kururu creates an Akibot.
  • EPISODE 45 – V For Valentinedetta! – Sgt. Keroro comes up with an idea to take advantage of Valentine’s Day by utilizing his dumplings to surpass chocolates.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 46 – Ghost in the Cell! – Omiyo the ghost makes her presence known to everyone.
  • EPISODE 47 – Frogs and Dolls! – It’s “Girl’s Day” and Fuyuki and Natsumi are transported to another dimension.  In the second episode, Sgt. Keroro tries to bribe Natsumi by supplying her concert tickets for Dancemaster Afroman.
  • EPISODE 48 – Lazy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down! – Sgt. Kiroro is upset that Natsumi thinks he is a slacker and thus Keroro decides to test a device to make human to slackers.
  • EPISODE 49 – How to Succeed in Pekopon-Conquering Without Really Trying! – Keroro and Giroro are jealous that Natsumi and Fuyuki are being nice to Kururu.  In the second episode, Momoka uses a supercomputer to see if she can become closer to Fuyuki in a simulator.
  • EPISODE 50 – No More Mr. Nice Frogs! – Giroro wants to revert back to fighting the Pekoponians but something happens to Natsumi.
  • EPISODE 51 – A Farewell to Arms, Legs, And Other Froggy Parts! – The Armpit Platoon receive an order from HQ that they must return back to their home planet but they must erase Natsumi and Fuyuki’s memories of them.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Sgt. Frog” is presented in 4:3. For the most part, the entertaining part of “Sgt. Frog” are its characters but also the little Japanese pop culture references, especially Keroro’s love for “Gundam” (which the model kits are featured in the anime series). The colors are vibrant and for a television show, the animation works great for this series. Keroro and his members of the Armpit Platoon are frogs with a cool and cute character design, that it’s no surprise that this series has an extensive merchandise collection in Japan.

As for audio, the English dub is featured in Dolby Surround Sound and the Japanese is featured in stereo. For the most part, I have watched both in English and Japanese and the voice acting on both are great. As for audio quality, I preferred to watch the series with my receiver setting at stereo on all channels but for the most part, the English dialogue is front and center channel driven if watched via 5.1 Dolby Surround.

Now when it comes to audio and watching it on both languages, there is a difference between the English and Japanese version. For the most part, the English version has a rewritten script that utilizes the same storyline as the Japanese version but features American pop culture references and more dialogue. So, for example, when the Japanese dialogue is quiet, in the English dialogue, you may hear the narrator speaking.

Although I tend to prefer watching anime in Japanese, I have to admit that I found the English dub quite wild and crazy. The English dub tends to use quite a bit of references to American pop culture. Granted, some people may not be familiar with the American pop culture references especially if you watch this anime several years later but overall, FUNimation has done a fun job of making this series more appealing to the American crowd.

Subtitles are featured in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Pekopon Invasion Recon Data – Using your remote, you can cycle through various data such as the school uniforms, ski wear, Nishizawa Family Transport Plane, The Wall Clock and Step Ladder, Costumes and more.
  • Textless Opening Song – Ribbit March – (1:32) Textless opening theme
  • Textless Closing Song – Afro Gunsou – (1:32) Textless closing theme
  • Textless Closing Song – Three versions of the new closing theme plus one version with each of the five members of the Armit Platoon.  This feature consists of: Official Keroro Platoon Character Drawing, Song, Wildly-Welcomed Version, Keroro | Giroro | Tamama | Kululu | Dororo
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment upcoming releases

“Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2” features more  crazy ways (to fail) for the Armpit Platoon to defeat the Pekoponians and more “Sgt. Frog” wackiness.

The first 51 episodes have been quite intriguing and fun.  But with over 307 episodes having been aired in Japan, it makes me wonder if FUNimation Entertainment plans to continue the series or end it with this volume.  Aside from the “Dragon Ball” related series in which all combined is over 400 episodes and other ongoing anime-related series like “Naruto”, “Bleach” and “Inuyasha”, the fact that this series is ongoing in Japan, it all comes down to fan dedication here in the US.    The main difference is that “Sgt. Frog” is a series based on hi-jinks and comedy while the other longer series are action-driven.

In “Sgt. Frog – Season Two, Part 2”, the series ends with what could be seen as a proper open-ended finale but in this latest volume, one can expect a good number of episodes such as Sgt. Keroro taking on Fuyuki in a competition, the ghost Omiyo finally making her presence known and more Hinata family craziness with Aki discovering a destructive robot based on her and more.

Overall, the latest volume of “Sgt. Frog” has a fine share of fun and crazy comedy-driven episodes.  These episodes do not require one to watch the previous volumes (maybe with the exception of the first volume to learn of why the Platoon has come to Earth and their backgrounds) but more than likely, if you enjoy the series, you will want to watch each volume.  And if you have been dedicated to the series and purchasing the first three volumes, this fourth one will not disappoint.

If you are a fan of “Sgt. Frog”, definitely give this latest volume a chance!

Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Delightfully fun and hilarious!  On Blu-ray, “Ouran High School Host Club” looks absolutely vibrant and colorful in HD!

Image courtesy of © NTV/VAP/BONES/Hakusensha. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series

DURATION: 102 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 30, 2010

 

Originally created by Bisco Hatori

Directed by Takuya Igarashi

Series Composition by Yoji Enokido

Music by Yoshihisa Hirano

Character Design by Kumiko Takahashi

Art Director: Norifumi Nakamura

Chief Animation Director: Kumiko Takahashi

Anime Production by BONES

Featuring the following voice talent:

Maaya Sakamoto/Caitlin Glass as Haruhi Fujioka

Mamoru Miyano/Vic Mignogna as Tamaki Suou

Ayaka Saito/Luci Christian as Mitsukuni Haninozuka

Daisuke Kirii/Travis Willingham as Takashi Morinozuka

Kenichi Suzumura/Greg Ayres as Hikaru Hitachiin

Masaya Matsukaze/J. Michael Tatum as Kyoya Ootori

Yoshinori Fujita/Greg Ayres as Kaoru Hitachiin

Ouran High School. An institution of extravagance and prestige where learning is secondary to luxury. Bookish Haruhi can’t afford to slack, being on a scholarship and out of place among the moneyed. No matter – the Host Club is now open! A group of handsome boys dedicated to selling their charms to their bored female classmates, Haruhi is suddenly in debt to the club after breaking an expensive vase in their lair. The only way to pay for the damage? Haruhi will work as a Host! The only problem? Haruhi is a she!

Between the wildly inflated ego of the expert escorts and the potential calamities of constant cross dressing, Haruhi’s freshman year looks like it will be one to remember.

In 2003, Bisco Hatori (creator of “Millennium Snow”) released her manga series “Oran Koko Hosuto Kurabu” (Oran High School Host Club) which was serialized on Hakusensha’s “LaLa” magazine.  The popularity of the series led to three audio dramas that same year and eventually a 26-episode anime television series released in 2006 and aired on NTV.

The anime series would be directed by Takuya Igarashi (“Soul Eater”, “Sailor Moon SuperS” Special and the second “Konjiki no Gash Bell!” film) an adapted to a television by Yoji Enokido (“Neon Genesis Evangelion”, “Sailor Moon S”, “RahXephon”).  Character designs is by Kumiko Takahashi (“Dragon Ball”, “DNA^2”, “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Witch Hunter Robin”) and music by Yoshihisa Hirano (“Midori Days”, “Air Master”, “Maria Watches Over Us”).

The manga and anime series has attracted many fans outside of Japan and in the US, was the fourth biggest selling anime video series in 2009.  Now the complete series will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.  “Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” features 26-episodes on three Blu-ray discs.

“Ouran High School Host Club” revolves around a group of guys who are members of the elite Host club of Ouran High School, a private and prestigious Acdemy for teenagers from very rich families.  These members which consists of six guys have one goal and that is to entertain their clients.

One day, a student named Haruhi Fujioka, a scholarship student who is not rich, was looking for a place to study and ended up in the music room of where the Host Club gathers.  Immediately, the guys start teasing Haruhi and he ends up walking backward and knocking over an antique vase which costs Y8 million yen.  Because Haruhi is not rich, he has to pay the club back and that is by becoming the pet for the guys.

Immediately, the guys (especially club leader Tamaki Suoh) starts taking advantage of Haruhi and eventually making him one of the host club members.  They will forego any debt he owes, if he can host over a thousand clients.  Of course, Haruhi being broke has no choice, so he reluctantly does what they say.

But one day while Haruhi is changing in the dressing room, Tamaki walks in and finds out that Haruhi is not a “he” but actually a “she”.  Now the guys must keep up the charade that Haruhi is a boy but at the same time, Tamaki finds himself being attracted to her.  But also, some of the other guys of the Host Club.

The main characters of “Ouran High School Host Club” are:

  • Haruhi Fujioka – The main character who is from a lower-class family but has a scholarship to study at the prestigious school.   She literally gave up dressing up as a girl after a boy put gum in her hair and had to chop it off.     At first she seems like a person who has no interest in the lives of the host club and could care less of what is going on, but eventually we start to see her change.  But while she’s a member of the Host Club, she must keep up the charade that she is a boy in order to pay off her debt.  And somehow she is able to attract the girls (while disguised as a boy) by her charm.
  • Tamaki Suoh – The Host Club president at Ouran High School.  He is so rich that he can’t imagine any life outside of being wealthy.  So, he is amused by Haruhi because she is not rich.  He’s very passionate for the duties of the host club but finds himself becoming attracted to Haruhi.
  • Kyoya Ootori – The vice president of the Host club who manages to keep his cool.  Also, has data on nearly everyone at the school and usually is planning on some sort of scheme.
  • Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin – Two identical twins who like to flirt with Haruhi and make Tamaki jealous.  But also known for their shonen-ai ways of playing off their sexuality (ie. if one has a cut, the other brother goes to suck his finger) in front of other female students that go crazy over them.
  • Mitsukuni Haninozuka – The child prodigy young child who is called “Honey”.  The Lolita type that is known for his cuteness and carries a stuff-bunny around.  But behind those child-like looks, he is very strong and a capable fighter.
  • Takashi Morinozuka – Mori is the strong and silent member of the group and usually is the protector of Honey.

VIDEO:

“Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” is an anime television series which aired on television in 2006.  It’s important to note that a) “Ouran High School Host Club” is a television series and not an animated film or OVA.  The second part to note is that when it comes to anime television series, prior to 2008, pretty much a  lot of the anime TV series on Blu-ray have been upconverted.

With that being said, “Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” is an upconvert and where the back of the package says the series is 16×9 widescreen, the series is actually presented in 4:3 format and black bars can be seen on the sides.

With it being an upconvert, I will say that the video is going to be a mixed bag for some.  On the positive side, this series is absolutely vibrant with colors.  Many reds and pinks, light blues and these colors do pop.  There is a bit of aliasing but seriously, I didn’t really pick up on any major artifacting and the fact that this anime series is so vibrant, it worked for this series and I felt series looks good.  The painted backgrounds of the scenery and the schools are well-painted, character designs are good.  But the biggest part of “Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” is its color pallet and how vibrant and colorful this series is.

But I am well aware that there are anime fans who are not thrilled by upconverts let alone video quality that is not widescreen.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” features lossless Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 2.0.  Personally, I was surprised that the English dubtrack was 2.0 and not 5.1 since FUNimation Entertainment tends to have given their anime series, especially recent releases a 5.1 soundtrack on DVD, so I was expecting a 5.1 soundtrack for “Ouran High School Host Club”.  But considering that this series is a comedy, the lossless audio is satisfactory and the fact that there is an actual Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Japanese lossless track was a surprise (since previous releases were just Dolby Digital 2.0).

The audio on both soundtracks are quite clear and understandable and through the front channels, the series soundtrack and music definitely was good and clear.  Personally, I wasn’t digging the dubbed English music track but hardcore fans of the series include the English dub voice talent were well-selected and ADR Director Caitlin Glass did a good job on voice talent selection.  But personally for me, I preferred to watch the series in Japanese but needless to say, both vocal tracks were well done.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” contains the following special features spread out on three Blu-ray cases.

DISC 1:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass and Greg Ayres.
  • Episode 4 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass and voice talent and script writers J. Michael Tatum and Monica Rial.
  • Episode 5 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass along with voice talent Greg Ayres and Todd Habekorn.

DISC 2:

  • Episode 18 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass along with voice talent Aaron Dismuke and Luci Christian.

DISC 3:

  • Episode 22 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass and voice talent Christopher Sabat and Travis Willingham.
  • Episode 24 Commentary – Featuring ADR Director and voice actress Caitlin Glass along with voice talent J. Michael Tatum and Vic Mignogna.
  • Ouran High School  Host Club Manga Pages presented by Viz Media – 14-pages from Viz Media’s “Ouran High School Host Club” manga series which viewers can cycle through the pages using their remote.
  • Outtakes Part 01 – (15:07) “Ouran High School” English voice talent bloopers #1.
  • Outtakes Part 02 – (18:26) “Ouran High School” English voice talent bloopers #2.
  • Textless Opening Song – Sakura Kiss
  • Textless Closing Song – Shissou
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRA:

“Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray slip cover with metallic hot pink foil.

“Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” was a pleasant surprise.  When I started watching the first episode, the first thing that went on my mind was “is this a shonen-ai” or “yaoi” anime series?  Especially with the sexuality displayed by the twin brothers. But the way things unraveled at the end of the first episode made sense, especially the voice acting for the character of Haruhi.

But I will say that the big positive for me when it comes to this series is that FUNimation Entertainment has chose to bring a comedy series on Blu-ray.  The majority of all releases are action-based and thus, it was great to see something different when it comes to anime on HD.  After watching the series, I enjoyed the overall humor and crazy hi-jinks that take place in the series.  If anything, the series reminded me of “The Wallflower”, “Special A-Class” and “Hana Yori Dango”.  If anything, the series never gets too serious and maintains its humor throughout.

As for the Blu-ray release, I think it’s a good start for FUNimation Entertainment to have the Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Japanese soundtrack included and hope this continues with future releases as many anime fans have hoped for a Japanese lossless audio track.   But the fact that this series is upconverted and has the black bars on the sides is probably going to upset some hardcore anime on BD fans.  But I’m not as disappointed since this is a TV series, not a film or OVA and since it was pre-2008, I was not expecting for anything spectacular in terms of picture quality.

But I really did enjoy “Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” as the series had a lot of heart, humor and for the most part, fun and enjoyable characters.  Again, this is the first anime comedy TV series on Blu-ray in the US and for those who have been demanding anime series on Blu-ray that is not always action or sci-fi related, “Ouran High School Host Club – The Complete Series” should definitely be excited that FUNimation Entertainment is bringing this series out on Blu-ray.

Vibrant, fun and enjoyable, “Ouran High School Host Club” is an anime series worth checking out and even worth having in your collection.

The Slayers Revolution (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 16, 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 DVD!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Slayers Revolution

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 16, 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.  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).

“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 DVD 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.

DISC 2:

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

Granted, because this is on DVD and the series was shown for television, there are artifacts and even edge enhancement utilized.  But if “The Slayers Revolution” does get a Blu-ray release, I wouldn’t be surprised if the series looked gorgeous in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the series is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. Overall, “The Slayers Revolution” sounds good on Dolby Digital 5.1.   Japanese voicework is really well-done and the English dub is also quite solid as well.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The Slayers Revolution” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Songs – Textless Songs for the opening and ending theme.
  • 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.

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.

For fans of “The Slayers”, “The Slayers Revolution” is definitely recommended!

« Previous PageNext Page »

Bottom