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My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A hilarious and fitting conclusion to “My Bride is a Mermaid”.  I absolutely enjoyed this second part so much, that I re-watched it again.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (300 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 13+

Release Date: September 7, 2010

Originally created by Tahiko Kimura

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Maho Takahashi

Music Director: Satoki Iida

Anime Production: AIC, avex mode, GONZO

Featuring the following voice talent:

Halko Momoi/Alexis Tipton as San Seto (Sun Seto)

Takahiro Mizushima/Todd Haberkorn as Nagasumi Michishio

Daisuke Ono/Eric Vale as Kai Mikawa

Kenta Miyake/John Swasey as Gouzaburou Seto

Rika Morinaga/Caitlin Glass as Mawari Zenigata

Sakura Nogawa/Cherami Leigh as Luna Edomae (Lunar Edomae)

Monica Rial/Natsuko Kuwatani as Maki

Eri Kitamura/Trina Nishimura as Akeno Shiranui

Atsushi Imaruoka/Andy Mullins as Nagasumi’s Father

Noriko Namiki/Lydia Mackay as Nagasumi’s Mother

Eriko Matsushima/Juli Erickson as Nagasumi’s Grandmother

Vanilla Yamazaki/Linda Young as Narrator

Nagasumi’s in hot water after a beautiful young mermaid named Sun saves him from drowning. The deep-sea sweetheart’s dad is a merman yakuza prone to executing anyone who learns his family’s scaly secret! Luckily, there’s a loophole: if Nagasumi agrees to marry Sun, he just might avoid sleeping with the fishes!

He’s doing his best to keep his finned fiancee happy, but a rising flood of rival suitors and gilled gangsters has Nagasumi gasping for air! He’s definitely in over his head, but there’s no denying the mermaid’s allure – Nagasumi’s hooked now that Sun has come ashore!

Since 2002, the manga series “Seto no Hanayome” by Tahiko Kimura has been entertaining readers of Monthly Gangan Wing (published by Square Enix). The popularity of the manga series led to a drama series released in 2004 and in 2007, the manga received a 26-episode anime TV adaptation courtesy of Gonzo and now is being released on DVD in the U.S. courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment with the title “My Bride is a Mermaid”.

The anime series was directed by Seiji Kishi (“Galaxy Angel Rune”, “Angel Beats”, “Ragnarok the Animation”) and series composition by Makoto Uezu (“School Days”, “Sola”, “Yumeria”). Character designs were done by Kazuaki Morita (“Nyan Koi!”, “Tentai Senshi Sunred”), art direction by Maho Takahashi (“Bamboo Blade”, “Tokko”, “Cobra the Animation”) and music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Gantz”, “Hell Girl”, “Eyeshield 21″, “Halo Legends”, “Naruto Shippududen”).

“My Bride is a Mermaid” is an anime series that revolves around Nagasumi Michishino. Nagasumi and his family go on a family vacation near the oceanside where Nagasumi’s grandmother lives. While swimming, Nagasumi drowns but is rescued by a mermaid named Sun.

When Nagasumi comes to, he is found on rocks and when he tells his family that he thinks he was rescued by a mermaid, his mother and father think he is joking around. But his grandmother has heard of the tales of mermaid in the sea and that if a mermaid is seen by a human, the mermaid must die or the human must marry the mermaid.

Of course, Nagasumi and family don’t believe the tale, until Sun makes her appearance and tells him that she wants to be his bride.

Of course, Nagasumi feels that he can’t do it because he’s a young guy but when he meets Sun’s family, he and his family realize that Sun’s family are like the yakuza and if Nagasumi does anything to cause harm to Sun, her father Gozaburo will kill him. Also, her father and the Seto group are not exactly too fond of Nagasumi (because they seem him as a weak person and for Nagasumi taking his daughter away from him).

Nagasumi knows that she saved his life and by doing that, has risked her life by being seen by a human. So, Nagasumi feels that he must do the right thing. To have Sun as his bride.

But of course… life for both Nagasumi and Sun can get a bit complicated as Seto’s father is against the marriage, Sun’s rival wants to marry Nagasumi and the richest boy in Japan wants to marry Sun.

And now in part two of “My Bride is a Mermaid”, a mysterious student named Akeno Shiranui has arrived and her goal…to split Nagasumi and Sun up.  Also, other young ladies start to have feelings towards Nagasumi.   With all these obstacles, will Nagasumi and Sun ever get married?

“My Bride is a Mermaid” focuses on the following characters:

Nagasumi Michishio – The main character who drowned and was saved by a mermaid named Sun. Because Sun was seen by a human, tradition is that the mermaid must die unless she becomes the bride of that human. So, Nagasumi does all he can to care for his wife. Unfortunately, the majority of the Seto group are against their marriage.

Sun Seto – A mermaid and the bride of Nagasumi. The daughter of Gozaburo Seto, an underwater yakuza boss. She loves Nagasumi with all her heart and although she doesn’t have the same mannerisms like the other yakuza members in the Seto group, she can show off her fighting skills if need be.

The Michishio Family – Nagasumi’s father is a jealous father when his wife starts to show interest in Seto Yakuza member Masa. They are upbeat parents who tend to get on Nagasumi’s nerves.

The Seto Family – Gozaburo Seto is the boss of the Seto Group (an underwater yakuza group). His love is all about his daughter Sun and hates Nagasumi for taking her away. Ren Seto is the mother of Sun and is the family matriarch and Seto group disciplinarian. She is supportive of Sun’s marriage to Nagasumi.

Other Characters:

Akeno Shiranui – A mermaid and mermaid examiner.  She deports mer-people who do fail to qualify as mermaids who resemble humans and not arousing any suspicion that they are mermaids.  Also, an excellent in swordfighting.

Masa – A member of the Seto Group and helps to keep Gozaburo’s anger in check. He is responsible in watching over Nagasumi and Sun.

Maki – An assassin of the Seto Group that is only a few inches tall and is fond of Sun and despises Nagasumi for taking Sun away.

Lunar Edomae - The childhood friend and rival of Sun. Because Nagasumi also sees Lunar in her mermaid form, Lunar wants to take him away from Sun and also to one up her by wanting him to marry her.

Kai Mikawa – The richest boy in Japan and the son of the head of the multi-million dollar Mikawa Corporation. He is also from the mermaid group and is a killer whale who wants to marry Sun.

Mawari Zenigata – The daughter of the police chief and childhood friend of Nagasumi. She has always had a crush on Nagasumi and wants to become a police chief when she gets older.

Here is a basic summary of each episode on “My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2″:

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 14 – Koneko Monogatari (The Adventures of Chatran) – Nagasumi finds a kitten and realizes how the mer-people are terrified by it.
  • EPISODE 15 – What’s Your Name?- Nagasumi and Sun, Lunar and Mawari and Saru and Mikawa go on a double date.
  • EPISODE 16 – Minority Report – Akeno Shiranui joins Nagasumi’s school but she’s not a normal student.
  • EPISODE 17 – Cops vs. Thugs – Due to Akeno’s strength and great body, the thugs at school start to fall for her.
  • EPISODE 18 – Gate of Flesh – The whole class goes ona  field trip to Kyoto but why did Maki attack Akeno?
  • EPISODE 19 – There’s No Business Like Show Business – Akeno continues to try to find ways of splitting up Nagasumi and Sun.
  • EPISODE 20 – A Better Tomorrow – Lunar’s father tries to find a way to express his love for his daughter.

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 21 – 10 Things I Hate About You – Nagasumi receives an anyonymos love letter from the class president but to help call him down, Sun’s mother gives him a special drink that has interesting side effects.
  • EPISODE 22 – Privilege - Lunar is preparing for part in a drama and asks Sun to play her boyfriend.
  • EPISODE 23 – The Man Without a Past – Akeno believes Masa was an acquaintance of her missing older brother.
  • EPISODE 24 – Farewell Friend – Kai has a boil in his bottom and Saru accidentally hears wrong information that Kai is dying and spreads the news to everyone.
  • EPISODE 25 – The Family Game – Sun feels that Nagasumi doesn’t appreciate her and ends up going to a party held by a noble.
  • EPISODE 26 – Antwone Fisher (The Place You Go Home To) – The noble has drugged Sun and plans to marry her, now Nagasumi and friends try to save her before its too late.

VIDEO:

“My Bride is a Mermaid” is presented in Widescreen 16:9. I have to say that the anime series is pretty cool as it features various styles of animation and artwork plus there is a good amount of detail in the artistic backgrounds. Gonzo did a fantastic job with this series and making the animation and surroundings so vibrant and beautiful to look at.

Although I am not too familiar with Tahiko Kimura’s work, I really dig the character designs by Kazuaki Morita and Gonzo staff just having a wild and crazy time with the various and different styles of designs for the characters. May it be in normal mode, chibi mode, etc. Art direction by Maho Takahashi also brings this series to life with the beautiful art backgrounds.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My Bride is a Mermaid” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital and Japanese stereo. The series is front and center channel driven. I felt the audio was well-done on both the English dub and the Japanese vocal track. I’m a big fan of Haruko Momoi and it was great to see her play the role of Sun Seto. I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack but the English dub was done very well!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2″ comes with the textless opening and ending theme songs (by voice actress Halko Momoi) and FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2″ continues the hijinks of Nagasumi, Sun and friends as the plot to split Nagasumi and Sun continues with the arrival of mermaid examiner Akeno Shiranui.

If anything, the series continues it’s crazy humor as Nagasumi tries to scare his father-in-law and other mermaids with a kitten and also hijinks that include Sun pretending to be Lunar’s boyfriend, the school president falling for Nagasumi and quite a few episodes featuring Akeno Shiranui, a mermaid with an awesome body but also a no-nonsense character.    And as for Nagasumi, although the women’s feelings towards him are not as pronounced as other harem-based anime series, the number of characters featured in this second part is pretty cool and for the most part, just a fun and enjoyable series to watch.

The series doesn’t get too serious until it reaches the last two episodes but for the most part, I found this series to be a fun, enjoyable and crazy anime series that doesn’t get too dramatic nor does it get too convoluted with all the characters.  If anything, the stories are rather enjoyable and you end up getting to know each of the supporting characters this time around.

The character designs showcase the characters in various styles and the artistic backgrounds really do compliment the characters and the voice acting for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done.  Personally, I love Halko Momoi’s songs and her seiyuu role as Sun, so that was a major plus.  But I also watched the whole second part about twice now, in Japanese and English and found myself really enjoying this series a lot.  And I think others will as well.

If I had only one major nitpick with the DVD release is the lack of special features and audio commentary but other than that, this is still an anime series for those who enjoy comedy.

If you are looking for a fun, crazy anime series, definitely give “My Bride is a Mermaid” a chance and for those who watched part 1, definitely give part 2 a chance as the episodes do get better and also are much funnier than the first half of the series. As for “My Bride is a Mermaid – Part 2″, definitely a hilarious and fitting conclusion to the series.  Definitely recommended!

One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Humorous and action packed!  The Skypeia Arc continues as The Straw Hat Pirates take on various enemies and learn the history of the new land they are in. “One Piece” fans will not be disappointed!

Image courtesy of © 2001 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage

DURATION: Episodes 157-169 (Duration: 325 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 31, 2010

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation by TAP

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Misa Watanabe/Caitlin Glass as Vivi Nefertari

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Yong as Nico Robin

The Straw Hats traveled to Skypiea in search of adventure, but they may have gotten more than they bargained for. It took less than a day for Luffy to earn the title of public enemy number one, and now his crew is subject to the harsh judgment of an angry god and the four lethal priests of Upper Yard!

Zoro, Nami, Chopper, and Robin are trapped aboard the Going Merry when it’s commandeered by a crustacean and marooned on a sacrificial alter. Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp are quick to mount a rescue mission, but they’ve got a problem of their own: a dancing dango of madman with an endless supply of agonizing ways to die! It’ll take more than a miracle for this crew to be reunited – especially all in one piece!

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide. The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is over 400 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since the May of 2008 and now the final volume of the second season is here with “One Piece – Season Three: Third Voyage”.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

In season three of “One Piece”, Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates continue their search for “One Piece”. But with this latest adventure, the group looks for the legendary Skypeia, a land which is built in the clouds and features winged humanoids and in this volume, the group have now arrived in the land in the clouds but are encountered by priests who are want to take them out.

It’s important to ntoe that in the US, this latest season also marked the first season that FUNimation Entertainment licensed the series (previously licensed and heavily edited by 4Kids Entertainment) and was broadcast on the Cartoon Network in 2008.

The “One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage” comes with episodes 157-169 on two DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are actually considered as season 6). Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 157 – Is Escape Possible?! God’s Challenge is Set in Motion! – Robin, Chopper, Nami and Zorro are taken hostage by God Enel.
  • EPISODE 158 – A Trap on Lovely Street! The Almighty Eneru! – Conis leads Luffy, Usopp and Sanji to the Upper Yard and decides to tell them the truth of what she did.
  • EPISODE 159 – Onward, Crow! To the Sacrificial Altar! – While Robin, Zoro and Nami explore the Upper Yard, Chopper must stay and defend the ship.
  • EPISODE 160 – 10% Survival Rate! Satori, the Mantra Master! – Luffy, Sanji and Usopp confront Priest Satori.
  • EPISODE 161 – The Ordeal of Spheres! Desperate Struggle in the Lost Forest! – Luffy, Sanji and Usopp must fight their way through the forests, meanwhile Chopper must defend the ship from an invader.
  • EPISODE 162 – Chopper in Danger! Former God vs. Priest Shura! – The invader, Priest Shura is too much for Chopper that he must use the whistle to call on Gan Fall.
  • EPISODE 163 – Profound Mystery! Ordeal of String and Ordeal of Love?! - Luffy and Sanji vs. Priest Satori.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 164 – Light the Fire of Shandora! Wyper, the Warrior! – Chopper receives some help by new friends.  Meanwhile, the people of Shandora attacks the Upper Yard.
  • EPISODE 165 – Jaya, City of Gold in the Sky! Head for God’s Shrine! - The crew is united and the people of Shandora continue their attack.
  • EPISODE 166 – Festival on the Night Before Gold-Hunting! Feelings for Vearth! – Gan Fall tells the crew about the history of Upper Yard.
  • EPISODE 167 – Enter God Eneru!! Farewell to the Survivors! – Who is the mysterious person fixing the ship?
  • EPISODE 168 – A Giant Snake Bares Its Fangs! The Survival Game Begins! – A giant python goes after Luffy, Robin, Chopper and Zoro.
  • EPISODE 169 – The Deadly Reject! War Demon Wyper’s Resolve! - Wyper vs. Priest Shura.

VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

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. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage” comes with the following special features:

DISC 2:

  • Episode 166 Audio Commentary – Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) with Stephanie Young (voice of Robin) and Luci Christian (voice of Nami).  The two talk about working on “One Piece” was airing in television and recording now.  The challenges they faced and more.
  • Textless Songs – Textless Songs for the opening and ending theme.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

“One Piece” is one of the more popular manga and animated series in Japan and in the US, many fans experienced their first anime series through “One Piece”.

With “One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage”, the episodes featured in this volume was a first for many people as the episodes were the first created by FUNimation Entertainment and aired on the Cartoon Network. Many fans were excited because the episodes were uncut and now would be handled by a company known for carefully hiring the voice talent for the series.

“One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage” (technically, it’s the sixth season if going by the original Japanese season) continues with the Skypeia arc. The second volume starts to pickup as the crew has reached sky island and experience the wrath of the priests and also meet Wyper and the people of Shandora.  If anything, there is a good amount of action in this volume but it is starting out a wee bit slower than the previous season where there was a lot of drama and action, this season so far is more about the adventure and teamwork.  If anything, the Straw Hat Pirates in unknown territory and it’s more like an adventure through the clouds or jungle for now. Granted, this is still the earlier episodes of the season and things are sure to ramp up soon.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage” is an enjoyable volume which has its share of action and humor and so far its more about the introduction of the characters and back history of the area especially Upper Yard but the volume is definitely setting the viewer up for bigger things to come. For those who are familiar with “One Piece” know each season has its payoff storywise as each season progresses past the initial beginning episodes, things typically start a little slow but eventually starts to ramp up.

If you are a fan of “One Piece”, stay persistent as this is one of the longest airing anime TV shows in Japan that is still ongoing and it’s all about being part of the wild ride with the Straw Hat Pirates.  Definitely give “One Piece: Season Three, Second Voyage” a chance!

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” part two is another fantastic volume featuring more action, more humor and also its fair share of heartbreaking moments.  This is definitely an addicting series that continues to get better and better and I can’t wait for part 3.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of ©Hiromu Arakawa/FA Project, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part Two

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 (320 Minutes)

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

 

RATED: TV 14

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2010

 

Originally Created by Hiromu Arakawa

Directed by Yasuhiro Irie

Series Composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi

Music by Akira Senju

Character Design by Hiroki Kanno

Art Director: Takeshi Satou

Art Design: Kazushige Kanehira

Anime Production by BONES

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Rie Kugimiya/Maxey Whitehead as Alphonse Elric

Romi Paku/Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric

Iemasa Kayumi/Kent Williams as Father

Megumi Takamoto/Caitlin Glass as Winry Rockbell

Shinichiro Miki/Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang

Unshou Ishizuka/Aaron Dismuke as Van Hohenheim

Ai Satou/Brittney Karbowski as Mrs. Bradley

Akemi Okamura/Cynthia Cranz as Paninya

Anri Katsu/John Burgmeier as Dolcetto

Atsuki Tani as Berthold Hawkeye

Chika Fujimura/Gwendolyn Lau as Sheska

J. Michael Tatum as Scar

Fumihiko Tachiki as Sloth

Fumiko Orikasa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Risa (Riza) Hawkeye

Go Shinomiya as Storch

Kikuko Inoue/Laura Bailey as Lust

Wendy Powell as Envy

The path to the Philosopher’s Stone now enters unfamiliar territory, as the Elrics face exotic strangers who use alkahestry, a version of alchemy native to the distant kingdom of Xing. As insight is gained into the secret world of the Homunculi and their enigmatic creator, Lust feels the fires of Mustang’s rage in battle – and the outcome of the clash will shock you. Winry endures the trial of her life when new horrors of the Ishvalan massacre are revealed.

 

In Japan, “Fullmetal Alchemist” (Hagane no Renkinjutushi) has been a popular long running anime and manga series created by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa. The original manga series was serialized in Square Enix’s “Shonen Gangan” since 2001, while the 51-episode TV series created by BONES was shown on television in 2004 and was followed by a film to conclude the series.

The popularity of “Fullmetal Alchemist” has led to many novels, OVA’s, drama CD’s, soundtracks and video games and a lot of these releases have been distributed in various countries and its popularity is a testament of how people have come to love the series which has won many awards in Japan including being voted for the #1 most popular anime series of all time.

Despite it’s popularity, the series could have gone on longer but because the anime series was created when the manga was only several years old, the anime series only lasted 51-episodes and there were differences between what the director featured on the anime series and what Arakawa had in the manga.

So, in 2009, a new series titled “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Furumetaru Arukemisuto) was created by BONES and this time around, the series would follow the manga much more closely. Currently there are over 60 episodes that have aired in Japan and the series is still ongoing. Also, unlike the previous anime series, this series would be created in HD (540p). The first 13 episodes of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would feature its first 13-episodes covering the first 26-episodes from the original anime series but from that point on, the series becomes a whole new storyline which features more characters and for the most part, something new and different for the viewers, especially fans of the original series.

To make sure that there is a difference between this series aside from the storyline differences compared to the original, the staff is different this time around as well as the character designs. The director for “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would be Yasuhiro Irie (who worked on RahXephon”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Macross Plus”, “Gunparade March”), series composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Eureka Seven”, “Area 88, “Aquarion”, “RahXephon”, “RIN”, “Skullman”), music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Mobile Suit Victory Gundam”, “Silent Service”), character designs by Hiroki Kanno (“Angelic Layer”, “Eureka Seven”, “Ninja Scroll”, “RahXephon”) and art design by Takeshi Satou (“Mobile Suit Gundam 00″, “Ghost Slayers Ayashi”, “Please Twins!”).

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is a series about two young alchemist brothers named Edward and his younger brother Alphonse Eric (aka “Al”). Their father left them and several months after their father left, an epidemic hit their village and killed their mother. Grieving and alone without their mother, the two quickly tried to hone their alchemist skills and hope to bring their mother back alive by using a human transmutation (this is illegal and considered taboo by alchemist).

While performing the transmutation, a dark shadow comes and literally breaks apart the body of Alphonse and as for Edward, he is shown “the truth” but in return for doing the transmutation, there is a toll and in this case, he loses his legs and feet and his right arm. And the transmutation to bring their mother fails as Edward was only able to revive a disembodied figure. In a short time allowed before the dark shadow leaves, Edward was able to bond Al’s soul to a suit of armor but there are some consequences. And these consequences and guilt have plunged Edward to the lowest he had ever been.

Meanwhile, a military figure named Roy Mustang has come and is shocked to see that Edward was able to survive a human transmutation and also anchoring his brother’s soul and thus gives Edward a chance to join the military to fight with them but at the same time, gaining access that may give Edward a chance to bring his brother back to life and also his own body as well.

With this opportunity, this gives Edward a chance to repair what he did wrong and help his brother. But as they investigate on how they can get their bodies back and investigating what is known as a “Philosopher’s Stone”, an unknown group is out there, observing his every move and willing to kill in order to get to Edward.

In part two of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, the story begins to focus on the military encounter with the Homunculi, the investigation of Hughes death and Winry coming face-to-face with the murderer who killed her parents.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” features the following characters:

  • Edward Elric – The oldest of the Elric brothers who manage to survive a transmutation and managed to bond his brother to a suit of armor just in time. In the process, he lost his legs and his right arm in which his childhood friend Winry has created metal prosthetics known as “automail”. He is also quite short but also very destructive as he is skillful with alchemy and the fact he survived a transmutation shocks the military. Working as a State Alchemist in order to find a way to bring his brother’s body back and possibly getting his own body back.
  • Alphonse Elric – Al is the youngest brother of Edward who was bonded to a suit of armor. Almost invulnerable and very strong. Often mistaken as the eldest because of his size.
  • Roy Mustang – The Lt. Colonel of the State Military who wants to become the next Fuhrer of Amestris. He is the one who discovered Edward and Alphonse.
  • Winry Rockbell - A childhood friend of Edward and Alphonse. She is also very gifted in technical and mechanical things. Often is the person who repairs Edward’s automail (metal prosthetic limbs). And always arguing with Edward, but its quite obvious that she cares about him.
  • Alex Louis Armstrong – A strong arm alchemist who is extremely strong and hulking in size but also very sensitive.
  • Izumi Curtis - The teacher of Ed and Alphonse Eric who helped them hone their alchemy right after their mother died.
  • Maes Hughes – An old friend of Roy Mustang’s who tries to help him with his goal to become a Fuhrer. He works in military intelligence and has a loving wife and young daughter. A family man, he lets Winry stay with them when she is in town.
  • King Bradley – The head of the State Military and King of Amestris who has a major secret.
  • Riza Hawkeye – Roy Mustang’s most trusted subordinate.  The voice of reason and excellent in using firearms.
  • Jean Havoc - One of Roy Mustang’s subordinates who is exceptionally trained in firearms.
  • Lin Yao – A prince of Xing who is trying to find ways of immortality in order to prepare for his goal as Xing’s future emperor.  An excellent swordsman.
  • Lan Fan – Lin Yao’s bodyguard and a skilled fighter willing to protect her boss at all costs.
  • May Chang – A young princess of Xing who goes to Amestris with her panda Xiao Mei.  She has the power to heal and also manipulate energy.

The Homunculi

The main antagonists which consist of artificial humans who are trying to create the philosopher’s stone and has become a major thorn in the military’s side.  They are hard to defeat as they can regenerate.

  • Lust – A homunculi who is a sexy woman who can use her fingers to become weapons and grow to larger lengths and cut through anything.
  • Gluttony – A homunculi who likes to eat people or anything.  He has powerful jaws with acidic saliva.
  • Envy – A homunculi who can assume any appearance and makes him infiltrate the military HQ quite easily and is known to create and instigate major problems.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Two” features episodes 14-26 on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a basic, spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – Those Who Lurk Underground – King Bradley takes on Greed, meanwhile Martel hides inside Al.
  • EPISODE 15 – Envoy from the East - Scar takes on the “Silver Alchemist” and he also meets May Chang.
  • EPISODE 16 – Footsteps of a Comrade-in-Arms – Ed, Al and Winry learn the fate of Hughes.
  • EPISODE 17 – Cold Flame – Ross is being accused of the death of Hughes.
  • EPISODE 18 – The Arrogant Palm of a Small Human – Ed and Armstrong  go to the ruins of Xerxes and learns a major secret.
  • EPISODE 19 – Road of Hope – Hawkeye vs. Gluttony.  Mustang vs. Lust.
  • EPISODE 20 – Death of the Undying – Ed sees his fathr Hohenheim again.  Meanwhile, Ed wants to find out if the thing he transmutated was his mother.
  • EPISODE 21 – Advance of the Fool – Ed talks to Al and tries to find out what happened during the transmutation and if he can remember anything.
  • EPISODE 22 – Father Before the Grave – Winry learns the details of her family’s death and who was responsible for their murders.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 23 – Girl on the Battlefield – Ed and Al vs. Scar and the truth about King Bradley is revealed.
  • EPISODE 24 – Inside the Belly – Ed, Al and Lin try to survive and escape from Gluttony.
  • EPISODE 25 – Doorway of Darkness – Ed and Lin must escape from Gluttony’s stomach.
  • EPISODE 26 – Reunion – Ed and Lin vs. Envy.

VIDEO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Two” is presented in 1080p HD 16×9 via a HD native source. It’s important to note that although the conversion was made to 1080p, I’ve read that the actual Japanese original masters were created in 540p. With that being said, this is a TV series and one can’t expect OVA or film quality but I manage to compare the DVD and Blu-ray version and the Blu-ray looks much more colorful, much more detailed and looked much better and more colorful than its DVD counterpart.

I did notice edge enhancement and I’m sure the conversion of a 540p source to 1080p possibly led to the jaggies that can be seen at times. Granted, I’m a bit picky when it comes to video quality but the fact that this is created by BONES (a busy anime production company) and the fact that this is not an OVA or film, for a TV series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” looks very good. Granted, it’s not uber-vibrant but there is a good amount of shading, detail, blacks are deep and overall, I felt the Blu-ray looked much better than its DVD counterpart.

AUDIO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Two” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Overall, the 5.1 lossless soundtrack sounds very good and there is a good amount of surround usage and its much more immersive than its Japanese lossless counterpart.  There is quite a bit of action in this second volume, plenty of battles are featured and many episodes that utilize the surround channels.

The Japanese lossless soundtrack is still good, especially if you have a receiver in which you can change the setting to stereo on all channels. I do prefer the Japanese lossless soundtrack in terms of acting especially during the more emotional moments in this second volume (which there are many).  But I’ve watched the series in both Japanese and English and for the most part, both are well done and similar to “Dragon Ball Z” and “One Piece”, the English dub has caught my attention and this time around, I was watching many of the episodes in English.  But both voice acting are well done.

Subtitles are in English.

NOTE: You can not use your audio button to switch from Japanese to English and vice versa while watching the series. You will need to press your guide button to switch to another audio. Also, you can not optionally remove English subtitles unless you choose the English lossless soundtrack. So, for those who want to watch the series in Japanese with no English subtitles may be disappointed by this.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 14 Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Director and voice of Havoc) and voice talents Chris Patton (Greed) and Vic Mignona (Edward Elric) talking about reprising their role for “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood).
  • EPISODE 23 Commentary – Audio commentary by ADR director and voice talent Mike McFarland (Havoc) and English Dub voice talents Todd Haberkorn (Ling Yao), Monica Rial (May Chang), Trina Nishimura (Lan Fan).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – The textless opening and ending theme songs.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

Like the first part of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, there is a good amount of episodes that will make you laugh and even make you want to shed some tears as not only does the series feature a good amount of action, fun and upbeat moments but also heartbreaking episodes.  Especially those dealing with Ed and Al’s realization of what happened to their good friend Hughes and when we see Winry confront the man who killed her parents.  Heartbreaking scenes but definitely added to the enjoyment of this series.

Aside from the more emotional scenes, the battle between the military and the homunculi is starting to ramp up and we get to see a number of awesome battles between the military and the Homunculi and also an introduction to Lin Yao, Lan Fan, May Chang and also a confrontation with the murderer Scar.

If anything, while the first series was more or less trying to jam pack a lot of story (that people saw in the first series) in its first 13 episodes, this time around the storyline becomes much more focused on what took place on the manga series.  More character development was needed on the military characters and the writers have done a wonderful job in including more scenes with Roy Mustang, Jean Havoc, Riza Hawkeye and also on the newer characters Ling Yao, Lan Fan and May Chang.  As well as showcasing the homunculi and what they are capable of.

I really enjoyed part two of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and how well-paced, how action-packed and how much deeper the episodes were.  This latest volume was quite addicting and I definitely enjoy how the series has continued to grow and improve with each episode.

As for the Blu-ray release, as explained with my review for the first volume, some people may have issues that this series is not true 1080p but created in 540p and then upscaled to 1080p.   As many Japanese companies are going through cost-cutting situations due to their economy, we are going to see some anime released in 4:3 instead of widescreen and we are going to see Japanese companies not taking advantage of true 1080p and focusing on creating anime series in 540p.  It’s the nature of the industry right now and if we want to support anime, we’ll need to support them even during these tough times.

But with that being said, I was able to compare the DVD and the Blu-ray release of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and the artistic backgrounds and its details are much better looking on Blu, the colors are more cleaner, sharper and more colorful on Blu and for the most part, for a TV series, I’m quite content with the PQ. I felt the black levels were good and again, for a TV Series released in 2009, the picture quality is good not great (it’s not 1080p) and there is a hint of edge enhancement but it’s still pretty good.

Overall, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” may not please the diehards who have loved the original anime TV series but the fact is, we are getting a series that is now closer to the manga series and also more episodes than the original release. Not to say one should forget the original series but in a way, the “Fullmetal Alchemist” brand has moved on to bigger and better and the FMA: Brotherhood series is much more consistent to what the creator, Hiromu Arakawa intended.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” has the making of a great anime series and part two is fantastic!

It will make you laugh, cry and you’ll notice how things continue to get better and better with this series and you are left with wanting more! If you are looking for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that has a great balance of cool characters, an addictive storyline and for the most part, looks good and sounds wonderful in HD. Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!

Casshern Sins: Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The final second half of “Casshern Sins” features a more deeper storyline with continuous action and plenty of battles.  Overall, a fitting conclusion to the series and definitely one of the more unique and artistic looking anime series to be released on Blu-ray thus far.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2008 Tatsunoku Productions/CASSHERN Sings Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Casshern Sins: Part Two

DURATION: Episodes 13-24 (288 minutes)

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

COMPANY: Tatsunoku/Madhouse Studios/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 17+

Release Date: August 17, 2010

 

Originally created by Tatsuo Yoshida

Directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Screenplay by Akatsuki Yamatoya, Natsuko Takahashi, Reiko Yoshida, Takashi Yamada, Tsutomu Kamishiro, Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Kaoru Wada

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Art Design by Ryu Sakamoto, Shinzo Yuki

Produced by Tatsunoku

Anime Production: Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Tohru Furuya as Eric Vale as Casshern

Akiko Yajima/Trina Nishimura as Luna

Cho/Jerry Russell as Ohji

Kenji Utsumi/J. Paul Slavens as Braikingboss

Mami Koyama/Shelley Calene-Black as Leda

Nami Miyahara/Brina Palencia as Lyuze

Tomoko Akiya/Carrie Savage as Sophita

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Jerry Jewell as Dio

Yuko Minaguchi/Monica Rial as Ringo

Yuto Nakano/Jason Douglas as Dune

In the wake of a devastating plague known as the Ruin, Casshern – a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past – must fight to save a civilization he pushed to the brink of destruction. He hunts the one they call Braiking Boss, the robotic overlord who ordered Casshern to serve as the executioner of Luna: bringer of salvation.

Surrounded by dying eyes that look upon him with fear and disgust, Casshern walks the wasteland of his own creation, driven to destroy Braiking Boss and remind Luna of her duty. Should she fail to heed his warning, Casshern must assume the specter of death in order to salvage what little beauty remains in a ruined world.

In 1973, animation studio Tatsunoku Productions created the anime series “Shinzo Ningen Casshern” (Neo-Human Casshern) which was written and directed by Takao Koyama and was an adaptation of the manga serialized on Kodansha’s Terebi Magazine and Akita Shoten’s “Boken Oh”. The character has sinced appeared in a 1993 OVA and in 2004, a live action film was made.

In 2008, big news was announced that Casshern would be appearing in the video games “Tatsunoku Fight” and “Tatsunoku vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars” but the biggest announcement was that the series would receive a reboot and begin airing on television under the name “Casshern Sins”. A series that will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment and both parts (featuring 12 episodes each) will be released simultaneously on August 17th.

The new series would be directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi (director for “Dragon Ball Z”, “Dragon Ball GT”, “Saint Seiya” and “Xenosaga: The Animation”), the series would feature a screenplay by Yasuko Kobayashi (“Galaxy Angel”, “Claymore”, “Witchblade” and “Yume Tsukai”). Character designs for the series is by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (“Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”, “Zipang” and “Marmalade Boy”).

In the original series, the story revolved around a cybernetic neorider named Casshern who turned himself into a Cyborn in order to stop robots from ruling the world. His father Dr. Kotaru Azuma had created robots to serve mankind but the first android known as Braiking Boss escaped and ended up leading the robots and creating an army to destroy mankind.

In the new reboot titled “Casshern Sins”, the story is much different as the Braiking Boss has ruled the world and a mysterious girl named Luna was the hope of mankind to save the world from the robots. Because Luna has become a big threat, Braiking Boss sent three cyborg warriors to kill her: Casshern, Dio and Leda.

Casshern ends up killing Luna and ended up creating a catastrophic event which nearly ended the world as the atmosphere was filled with poison, humans were no longer able to reproduce and now humanity is near extinction. But the poison also caused harm to the robots as the poison had eroded their parts and now in order for the robots to survive, they are told that if they find Casshern, they must devour him for eternal life.

But Casshern has been missing since he killed Luna and now he is back, but with no memory of what he did to the world and now is on a journey to learn more about his past and what he was created for.

“Casshern Sins” features the following characters:

  • Casshern – Created by Braiking Boss in order to assassinate Luna.  After the act triggered a worldwide cataclysmic event, Casshern has lost all memory of who he is.  Casshern finds out what he truly is from Lyuze and choose to be a different being and vows to protect Lyuze and Ringo while they try to search out Luna.
  • Lyuze - A female robot who is bent on revenge in killing Casshern for the death of her sister Liza who died while trying to protect Luna and died a slow and painful death to corrosion due to the cataclysmic event.  But she eventually starts to become close to Casshern and joins him on his journey to find Luna.
  • Ringo – A young girl who befriends Casshern and is raised by an older robot named Ohji.  She accompanies Casshern because she has faith in him.
  • Ohji – A robot technician who maintains robots and is Ringo’s guardian.
  • Friender – Casshern’s robot dog who was not corrupted by the corrosion after the cataclysmic event.
  • Luna – A mysterious girl who is summoned by the human race for salvation.  Because she was a threat to the Braiking Boss, he sent three robots to assassinate Luna.  Despite her assassination, rumors are running that a new Luna is back.
  • Braiking Boss – The leader who commands the robots to destroy all humanity and is threatened by Luna, so he created Casshern, Dio and Leda to assassinate her.
  • Dio – A robot built identical to Luna but is jealous of Casshern because despite being equal, Casshern reached and assassinated Luna first.  Now Dio is consumed by hate and wants to prove he is better than Casshern.
  • Leda – A female robot created alongside Casshern and Dio.  She also cares for Dio.
  • Dune – A bodyguard of Luna and was known as the “God of Death” but was unable to stop Casshern from assassinating Luna and now roams the world in mourning.

“Casshern Sins: Part Two” features the last 12 episodes of the series on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a spoiler-free synopsis of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 13 – The Past Rises Before My Eyes – Casshern, Friender and Lyuze continue their journey to find Luna.
  • EPISODE 14 – The Truth Illuminates the Darkness – Dio vs. Casshern.
  • EPISODE 15 – The God of Death, Dune - Casshern vs. Dune.
  • EPISODE 16 – For the Strength to Believe - The past of Ohji and Ringo revealed.
  • EPISODE 17 – The Glass Cradle - Casshern and the others meet three robotic kids who are later attacked by Leda.  Casshern vs. Leda.
  • EPISODE 18 – The Time I’ve Lived and the Time I Have Left - Lyuze ponders about her original intention to kill Casshern but now has a change of heart.
  • EPISODE 19 – Believe in the Flower that Lives in Your Heart - Casshern and Lyuze fight against Castor and Helene and Lyuze starts to learn that she is starting to corrode.
  • EPISODE 20 – For Whom Do the Flowers Bloom? – Casshern and the others reach Luna’s castle and in the process, encounter Dune.
  • EPISODE 21 – The Paradise of Lost Hope - Casshern finds out the truth about Luna’s “healing”.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 22 – A Drop Called Eternity – Dio captures Casshern but has his own intentions of what he wants done with him.
  • EPISODE 23 – Those Who Return – Casshern vs. Dio, the final battle.
  • EPISODE 24 – To the Wandering, Blooming Flowers – Casshern vs. Braiking Boss, the final battle.  Who will survive and who will die?

VIDEO:

“Casshern Sins: Part Two” looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Presented in 1080p the animation style features solid colors but there is a dream-like state to the animation and during the fight sequences, you can pause and just frame-by-frame, look at how cool they made those certain scenes look and how much detail they put into Casshern as he goes for the kill or is just leaping all over the place to defeat the enemy.

It’s also important to note of how the animation really pays homage to the original Tatsunoku Productions animation with the look and feel of the characters but then adding the modern spin by the blacks and grungy sequences during the battles. Very good shadowing and definitely one of the better looking anime TV series to be released on Blu-ray ths far.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Casshern Sins: Part Two” is presented in English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 and Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0 stereo. The good news is that the series does take advantage of the surround channels and you can hear the booms, thumps and the metal breaking through the surrounds and also the clear dialogue through the center and the music and other sound effects through the front channels. I do wish there was more use of the LFE throughout the first 12-episodes. Of course, the English lossless soundtrack has more utilization of the surrounds, while the Japanese lossless soundtrack effectively uses the front left and right speakers during the action sequences and utilizing the panning of sound between the two speakers.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Casshern Sins: Part Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Mini Concert - (3:34) Featuring a live performance of Color Bottle singing the opening theme “Azure’s Flowers”.
  • Original Commercials - (1:06) Featuring two Japanese commercials promoting the Japanese release of the DVD & Blu-ray box sets.
  • Textless Opening Song: Aoi Hana
  • Textless Closing Song: Reason
  • Trailers – Trailers for FUNimation Entertainment titles.

“Casshern Sins” continues its action-packed storyline as it did with the first half of the series but instead of being an anime series of mindless and continuous battles between Casshern and robots, the second series becomes more of a story of morality and the appreciation of life but also death.  The storyline is much more deeper, richer and if anything, a fitting conclusion to the end series.

The second half of the series definitely improves in story as we get to see Casshern and his newfound friends as they journey to Luna but to discover something much more different than they have ever expected.  That was one surprise but the anime series delivers in more surprises as we get to see how characters such as Dio, Leda and even the Braiking Boss start to have a change of heart and without spoiling the story, the writers did a really good job in developing the characters for the remainder of the final episodes.  Well done!

As for which series was better, the 1973 “Neo-Human Casshern” or the 2008 reboot “Casshern Sins”, I haven’t watched the original anime series but by reading the synopsis of each, both are quite different with the former dealing with the protection of humanity against the robots, while “Casshern Sins”…humanity is pretty much nearly extinct and so the series is more about life and death and appreciating that life, robot or human.

Needless to say, I would assume the newer series is much more darker and deeper than the former but despite all the violence in this newer series, the fact that those who are being killed, impaled, corroding or destroyed are primarily robots. The series can be seen as violent and even though we can see a lot of blood coming out of Casshern at times, we know he’s not human and was developed by Braiking Boss, so I believe it gave writers some leeway to show this much violence because the majority of the characters are not humans.

The series has definitely been one of the more artistic and unique looking anime series to appear on Blu-ray thus far.  Picture quality is very well done, lossless audio is also well done with its amount of action and fans should be happy to see the addition of a Japanese lossless audio track.  Both volumes are not loaded with special features and at least you do get something instead of the typical trailers and textless opening and ending themes.

Overall, I was very content with how this series had ended and how it became a more deeper story towards the end of the series.  if you are looking for a beautiful looking anime series on Blu-ray with a lot of action and a very good storyline, I definitely recommend both volums of “Casshern Sins”.

Casshern Sins: Part One (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Action-packed and one of the best looking anime series on Blu-ray today!  If you are looking for a sci-fi, all-out fighting-driven anime series on Blu-ray…definitely give “Casshern Sins” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2008 Tatsunoku Productions/CASSHERN Sings Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Casshern Sins: Part One

DURATION: 288 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Tatsunoku/Madhouse Studios/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 17+

Release Date: August 17, 2010

 

Originally created by Tatsuo Yoshida

Directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Screenplay by Akatsuki Yamatoya, Natsuko Takahashi, Reiko Yoshida, Takashi Yamada, Tsutomu Kamishiro, Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Kaoru Wada

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Art Design by Ryu Sakamoto, Shinzo Yuki

Produced by Tatsunoku

Anime Production: Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Tohru Furuya as Eric Vale as Casshern

Akiko Yajima/Trina Nishimura as Luna

Cho/Jerry Russell as Ohji

Kenji Utsumi/J. Paul Slavens as Braikingboss

Mami Koyama/Shelley Calene-Black as Leda

Nami Miyahara/Brina Palencia as Lyuze

Tomoko Akiya/Carrie Savage as Sophita

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Jerry Jewell as Dio

Yuko Minaguchi/Monica Rial as Ringo

Yuto Nakano/Jason Douglas as Dune

Casshern, a cybernetic assassin with no memory of his past, awakens in a corrosive wasteland where nothing survives for long. A plague known as the Ruin sweeps across this once-vibrant world, reducing everything in its path to rubble and scattering any chance for salvation. Robots and humans alike – or what little remains of them – seek vengeance against Casshern for the life he took and the role he played in their Ruin. A machine built to kill, Casshern murdered the last hope for this world, but now, lost in a future he does not recognize, he will fight to save the dying.

In 1973, animation studio Tatsunoku Productions created the anime series “Shinzo Ningen Casshern” (Neo-Human Casshern) which was written and directed by Takao Koyama and was an adaptation of the manga serialized on Kodansha’s Terebi Magazine and Akita Shoten’s “Boken Oh”.  The character has sinced appeared in a 1993 OVA and in 2004, a live action film was made.

In 2008, big news was announced that Casshern would be appearing in the video games “Tatsunoku Fight” and “Tatsunoku vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars” but the biggest announcement was that the series would receive a reboot and begin airing on television under the name “Casshern Sins”.  A series that will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment and both parts (featuring 12 episodes each) will be released simultaneously on August 17th.

The new series would be directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi (director for “Dragon Ball Z”, “Dragon Ball GT”, “Saint Seiya” and “Xenosaga: The Animation”), the series would feature a screenplay by Yasuko Kobayashi (“Galaxy Angel”, “Claymore”, “Witchblade” and “Yume Tsukai”).  Character designs for the series is by Yoshihiko Umakoshi (“Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”, “Zipang” and “Marmalade Boy”).

In the original series, the story revolved around a cybernetic neorider named Casshern who turned himself into a Cyborn in order to stop robots from ruling the world.  His father Dr. Kotaru Azuma had created robots to serve mankind but the first android known as Braiking Boss escaped and ended up leading the robots and creating an army to destroy mankind.

In the new reboot titled “Casshern Sins”, the story is much different as the Braiking Boss has ruled the world and a mysterious girl named Luna was the hope of mankind to save the world from the robots.  Because Luna has become a big threat, Braiking Boss sent three cyborg warriors to kill her: Casshern, Dio and Leda.

Casshern ends up killing Luna and ended up creating a catastrophic event which nearly ended the world as the atmosphere was filled with poison, humans were no longer able to reproduce and now humanity is near extinction.  But the poison also caused harm to the robots as the poison had eroded their parts and now in order for the robots to survive, they are told that if they find Casshern, they must devour him for eternal life.

But Casshern has been missing since he killed Luna and now he is back, but with no memory of what he did to the world and now is on a journey to learn more about his past and what he was created for.

“Casshern Sins: Part One” features the first 12 episodes of the series on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoiler-free synopsis of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – At the End of the World – Casshern is not sure about what he is but he fights against robots in an desolate world.  The world is nearly extinct of humanity and Casshern meets a robot girl named Ringo.
  • EPISODE 2 – A World Replete with Death Throes – Casshern meets a robotic couple who seem nice to him, until they realize who he is and now they turn against him.
  • EPISODE 3 – To the Ends of Agony - Casshern meets a human named Akos who teaches him about humanity.
  • EPISODE 4 – The Angel of Ruin - Casshern meets a female robot named Sophita, and together they must fight against a group of killer robots.
  • EPISODE 5 – The Man Who Killed the Sun Named Moon - Casshern asks Lyuze about his past and wants to learn about who is Luna.
  • EPISODE 6 – Reunited with Fate - The cyborg Dio takes on Casshern and for Casshern, he is unsure how there is another cyborg like him.
  • EPISODE 7 – The Woman of the TaH Tower - Casshern meets Lizabel, a worker robot building a tower of robot parts.
  • EPISODE 8 – A Hymn of Hope – Casshern escorts a singing robot named Janice who wants to sing a song of hope for robots in the city of Bazaar.  But other robots want to destroy her before she inspires them.
  • EPISODE 9 – The Flower that Booms in the Valley of Ruin - Casshern plans to find Luna and meets Nico, a former servant of Luna.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – The Man Entrapped by the Past – Dio works to build his robotic army and alongside with Leda, are encountered by Luna’s mourning bodyguard Dune.
  • EPISODE 11 – By One’s Calling – Gido, a hero amongst a group of robots/humans encounter Casshern’s dog, Friender.
  • EPISODE 12 – Turn the Time to Color – Casshern and Friender arrive in a city where they meet a robot painter named Margo. Meanwhile the leader of the robots of that city wants Margo destroyed.

VIDEO:

“Casshern Sins: Part One” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Presented in 1080p the animation style features solid colors but there is a dream-like state to the animation and during the fight sequences, you can pause and just frame-by-frame, look at how cool they made those certain scenes look and how much detail they put into Casshern as he goes for the kill or is just leaping all over the place to defeat the enemy.

It’s also important to note of how the animation really pays homage to the original Tatsunoku Productions animation with the look and feel of the characters but then adding the modern spin by the blacks and grungy sequences during the battles.  Very good shadowing and definitely one of the better looking anime TV series to be released on Blu-ray ths far.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Casshern Sins: Part One” is presented in English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 and Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0 stereo.  The good news is that the series does take advantage of the surround channels and you can hear the booms, thumps and the metal breaking through the surrounds and also the clear dialogue through the center and the music and other sound effects through the front channels.  I do wish there was more use of the LFE throughout the first 12-episodes.  Of course, the English lossless soundtrack has more utilization of the surrounds, while the Japanese lossless soundtrack effectively uses the front left and right speakers during the action sequences and utilizing the panning of sound between the two speakers.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Casshern Sins: Part One” comes with the following special features presented in 1080p High Definition:

  • Pre-Air Event - (11:57) Featuring the Japanese pre-air event of “Casshern Sins” and the seiyuu and director Yamauchi talking to the audience about the series.
  • Textless Opening Song: Aoi Hana
  • Textless Closing Song: Reason
  • Trailers – Trailers for FUNimation Entertainment titles.

So, far with the first 12-episodes of “Casshern Sins”, the anime sci-fi series definitely showcases quite a bit of action but its important to note that the series is a bit bleak.  If anything, it’s less bleak compared to other series in which humanity is shown suffering, in this case, humanity is shown but with most of the human race extinct, it’s pretty much watching robots and humans both wanting to survive and looking towards Casshern as a way to prolong life after he literally destroyed civilization after killing the world’s savior Luna.

If anything, the first series is more about the writers showing us how Casshern is an amnesiac and trying to learn more about his past, while learning more about his other fellow cyborgs who want to rule the world and know they must defeat Casshern in order to gain power.

Where the original series was for the fight to defend humanity, it’s too early to know where “Casshern Sins” is heading as this reboot so far gives us an idea that all robots are seeking to devour Casshern for eternal life.  And somehow, despite wanting to be destroyed, there is something within Casshern that clicks on and turns him to the ultimate killing machine.

It’s far too early to know where this series is going to be headed but with the second part of “Casshern Sins” released simultaneously on Blu-ray and DVD with the part one, I definitely look forward to seeing where this series wil be headed.

Overall, if you are looking for a beautiful looking anime series on Blu-ray and one that features plenty of action, definitely give “Casshern Sins: Part One” a try!

Master of Martial Hearts – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In first glance, “Master of Martial Hearts” appeared to be more of a perverted fighting anime OVA series featuring all-female fighters who happen to lose their clothing while fighting but by the final episode of the five-episode OVA series, the writers manage to do a convincing job by throwing a major twist to the story that a viewer will not be expecting.  “Master of Martial Hearts” is still a perverted anime series that has a lot of fan service but story-wise, this anime series ends literally with a bang!  Fighting game fans or “Ikki Tousen” fans, definitely give this series a try!

Image courtesy of © Master of Martial Hearts Committee/FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Master of Martial Hearts – The Complete Series (Zettai Shougeki: Platonic Heart – 絶対衝激〜プラトニックハート〜)

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episodes 1-5 (110 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Japanese Dolby Digital, English Dolby Digital, English Subtitles

COMPANY:  FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: August 10, 2010

Directed by Yoshitaka Fujimoto

Series Composition by Hideki Shirane

Music by Masaru Kuba

Original Character Designs by Jin Happobi

Character Designs by Naomi Miyata

Art Director: Yoshihiro Hiramure

Anime Production by ARMS

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaori Nazuka /Anita Neukar as Aya Iseshima

Ai Nonaka/Alexis Tipton as Miko Kazuki

Satomi Akesaka/Cherami Leigh as Natsume Honma

Akemi Kanda/Luci Christian as Azusa Suma

Ami Koshimizu/Lindsay Seidel as Emi Daimonji

Hiromi Hirata as Izumi Hayakawa

Kana Ueda as Ryu Geturei

Ryoko Shintani/Brittney Karbowski as Yu Daimonji

Shiho Kawaragi/Tiffany Patterson as Saki Daimonji

Ui Miyazaki/Kristi Bingham as Rin Hiroishi

Aya Iseshima’s carefree existence takes a bone-crushingly violent turn when she wanders into the midst of a sadistic, girl-on-girl martial arts tournament. Her freshly pressed school uniform doesn’t stand a chance of surviving this pugilistic peep show, but Aya’s out to prove that she can take a pounding just as well as the other knock-outs in this clandestine competition.

If she manages to survive a series of fabric-shredding fights with titillating teachers, sultry stewardesses, and mesmerizing maidens of the moe variety, Aya’s every wish will be granted by a mysterious jewel known as the Platonic Heart. But if she goes down for the count, she’ll join the growing ranks of brutally bruised yet resiliently buxom beauties that are never heard from again!

For those who follow fighting video games and anime series, the concept of all-female fighters is nothing new.  We have seen popular female fighters such as “Street Fighter” character Chun-Li, “King of Fighter” and “Fatal Fury” fighter Mai Shiranui and even the well-endowed and shapely fighters of “Dead or Alive” have its share of fans in the US.  But it also goes farther in Japanese culture from “Ranma 1/2″, “Sailor Moon”, “Arcana Heart”, “Asuka 100%”, “Rumble Hearts” and even more fan service type of anime street fighting series such as “Ikki Tousen”.

And with the popularity of these series which appeal to anime fans and gamers, you will occasionally run into series that are created for the purpose of giving viewers cheap thrills through women fighting while wearing next-to-nothing and I admit that when I first started watching/reviewing “Master of Martial Hearts”, I thought this would be a kitschy anime series that was designed to be more fan service as we do get the female fighters but with each punch, it appears that a character loses their clothing and each shot reveals the character’s underwear or other body parts that would necessitate the adult rating for this five episode OVA series.

But fortunately, the writers did take the liberty to give us one freaky twist for the final episode and for that, it made this series much more interesting.

“Master of Martial Hearts” known as “Zettai Shougeki: Platonic Heart” is an anime OVA series produced by ARMS Corporation known for producing the fan service anime fighting series “Ikki Tousen” and also series such as “Queen’s Blade”, “Kite”, “(La) Blue Girl Returns” and “Nakoruru”.

The series is directed by Yoshitaka Fujimoto (“All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash!”, “Arjuna”, “Galaxy Angel”, “Nuku Nuku”) and features a story written by Hideki Shirane (“Dual! Paralle Trouble Adventure”, “Spider Riders”, “Potemayo”).  Music is by Masaru Kiba, original character design by Jin Happobi (“Girl Next Door”, “Resort Boin”, “Hooligan”), character designs by Naomi Miyata (“Lost Universe”, “Fortune Quest”, “Slayers” series) and art direction by Yoshihiro Hiramure (“Haibane Renmei”).

“Master of Martial Hearts” revolves around two best friends Aya Iseshima (played by Kaori Nazuka) and Natsume Honma (played by Satomi Akesaka).   While on their way home, they encounter a fight in progress.  A girl in traditional garb and an airline stewardess in a battle in what seems like to the death.  The stewardess looks to be overpowering with her clothes and accessories being used as weapons and is about to defeat the other girl until Aya comes out of hiding and comes to the rescue and defeats her.

We learn that Aya is an experienced fighter who learned from her mother, who was a former professional fighter.  Her father has been deceased for several years and is being raised by her mother.  Aya has memories of her past when she defeated a group of boys who were bothering the female students but because she hurt them so bad, no girl at her school wanted to be associated with her.  But despite her ability to fight, her best friend Natsume is there to stick close to her no matter what.  Also, it helps that Aya has a crush on Natsume’s older brother Hiroki, so hanging out with Natsume is a plus.

The two high school girls befriend the girl Aya saved, her name is Miko Kazuki and she is taking part in a martial arts tournament known as “Platonic Heart”, a subject that is mostly a children’s tale about finding a jewel which will give a person a wish that will come true.  But in this case, the jewel is sent as an image to a fighting contestant.  Miko explains that whoever is able to fill the jewel gets to have there wish come true and for Miko, her dream was to have friends (something she has never been able to have).  The two end up being friends with her and Miko is ecstatic because she will no longer need to fight.

Aya thinks the contest is fake but when she receives an anonymous text message on her cell phone that because Miko’s wish came true and that she interfered, she will be now taking her place in “Platonic Heart” competitions.

At first Aya thinks the whole thing sounds fishy until the airline stewardess who was fighting Miko earlier comes to fight against Aya to the death.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, Miko ends up missing and Aya suddenly learns that she is now part of these fighting competitions and that each battle she fights, she is fighting for a way to save her new friend from whoever kidnapped her.

Is Aya prepared to fight to the death?

VIDEO:

“Master of Martial Hearts” is presented in 16:9 widescreen.  The character designs are well done and it helps to have a veteran like Naomi Miyata (known for her work on “Slayers”, “Revolutionary Girl Utena”, “Sakura Wars”) working on the character designs but also designing the character during their fighting battles and emphasizing the fan service, may it be the nude scenes to the shredded clothes.  You have a female character designer responsible for these designs.

Because this is an OVA series, there is more time for the character designer and background artists to work on the series and production is fitting for an OVA series versus an animated TV series.  Colors are vibrant and the compression artifacts and edge enhancement are not distracting or very visible for this DVD release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, “Master of Martial Hearts” is presented in Dolby Digital English and Japanese.  I watched the series in both languages and the primary difference is that in the English dialogue, it’s quite appropriate during the arguments between the female characters to see the female rivals speak to each other with nasty comments ie. “You are such a slut!”, “You are a bitch!”, etc.  The dialogue is different from its Japanese counterpart but the English dialogue definitely has an edge to it and for those who prefer English dubs will probably enjoy that more edgier tone to the English dialogue.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Master of Martial Arts” comes with an audio commentary featuring the three Japanese voice actresses Kaori Nazuka (Aya), Ai Nonaka (Miko) and Satomi Akesaka (Natsume) watching the first episode of the series (which is ala picture-in-picture format with the primary screen on the voice actresses) and commenting on the first episode.  Also, trailers for FUNimation Entertainment is included.

I have to admit that when I first started watching “Master of Martial Hearts”, my first impression was that this anime series is a series that was created for the sake of fan service and the fact that the series is from the company known for “Ikki Tousen”, the series is going to be violent and have an enormous amount of scenes with panty shots.

And I was right.

In each fight that Aya gets involved in, each time a hit is connected, a piece of clothing is ripped off exposing a woman’s breasts and there is a perverted theme as the camera tends to focus on the female character nude breasts, their rear and somehow everyone is sporting scantily clad clothing.    And to go along with that fan service is perverted humor.  In one scene, Aya is late to school and her P.E. coach who happens to be the gate guard tells Aya that he will let her in if she promises to run 100 laps in her t-shirt, wearing no bra and wearing tight short-shorts.  Needless to say, writer Hideki Shirane really has a perverted sense of humor, especially director Yoshitaka Fujimoto who really wanted to focus on the panty shots, under-skirt shots and some interesting sexually suggestive shots as well.

But what I was not expecting from this series (which despite has its share of violent scenes but also humorous and uplifting scenes) was the way the series ended.  Despite the first four episodes having its share of fan service, nudity and female fighter vs. female fighter, the screenwriter was definitely setting the viewer up for an ending that is not only dark, it’s pretty twisted.

And because of that, what could have been a very kitschy anime fighting series that is about boobs, panty shots and martial arts becomes more about family, relationships and a destructive and tragic past that you just don’t see coming until you reach the final episode.

Needless to say, you get something different and entertaining and for those who are fans of “Ikki Tousen”, you are treated with the fan service but a fitting way to end the story literally with a bang!

Overall, this is strictly for the fans who enjoy fighting video games (especially with scantily clad female characters) and anime series.  I’m glad this series was an OVA series and not extended to a full-on TV series.  Five episodes was enough and for the most part, action-packed, engaging and most definitely, perverted.

The Duel (Da jue dou) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Legendary martial arts director Chang Cheh and popular Shaw Bros. martial arts fighters David Chiang and Ti Lung team up for an awesome yet violent, bloody, action-packed martial arts film – “The Duel”.

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

DVD TITLE: The Duel (Da jue dou)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1971

DURATION: 110 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Mandarin and English Mono (Dolby Digital), English Subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED

RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2010

Directed by Cheh Chang

Written by Kang Chien Chiu

Produced by Runme Shaw

Music by Yung-Yu Chen

Cinematography by Mu-To Kung

Edited by Ting Hung Kuo

Art Direction by Johnson Tsao

Costume Design by Chi Li

Starring:

Lung Ti as Tang Jen Chieh

Ping Wang as Hu-Dieh (Butterfly)

Jeanette Yu Wei as A-Hsiu

David Chiang as Chiang Nan (Rambler)

Yuan Chuan as Kan Wen-pin

Chih-Ching Yang as Shen Tien-hung

Feng Ku as Tang Jen Lin

Kang-Yeh Cheng as Hsiao Mao

Hu Hsia as Ling Tzu

Bin He as Liu Shou-yi

Ching Ho Wang as Chao Hai-shan

Liu Hung as Hsu Li

Chung Wang as Kan’s man

Kuang Yu Wang as Liu Sung

Tan Jen-chieh’s life spins out of control when he’s forced into exile to clear his name following the murder of his adopted father and he’s hunted in the streets. His lover, Butterfly, turns to prostitution, and his father’s likely killer – a smooth operator known as the Rambler – is always lingering nearby. But before Tan and the Rambler can slit each other’s throats, they learn they’ve been double-crossed and go two against everyone in a rage of double-edged vengeance.

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 1971 film”The Duel” (Da jue dou) also known as “Duel of the Iron Fist” gets its US DVD release courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment and would star popular Shaw Bros. action stars David Chiang and Ti Lung and would team them up with legendary martial arts director Chang Cheh.

The film would revolve around two martial arts schools (which also function as an earlier version of The Triad).  Tang Jen Chieh (played by Ti Lung) is the youngest of the brothers of his school and he is an excellent swordsman, one day he joins his school which are planing to ambush another school during a mourning period.  In order to make sure the ambush goes perfectly, the school’s elder hires another excellent swordsman/martial arts weapon expert Chiang “Rambler” Nan (played by David Chiang).

Jen-Chieh’s school successfully slaughters everyone at their rival school but the owners were able to escape.  As Jen-Chieh’s brothers and fellow students celebrate their successful ambush on their rivals, Jen-Chieh tells his fiance that the butterfly tattoo on his chest will be filled with a color to signify his love for her.  All seems to go well at the celebration party until the owners of the rival school ambush them during their celebration dinner.

Needless to say, many things go wrong, more people are dead and Jen-Chieh’s godfather has been killed.  Because of the deaths of the godfather and their ties with the local authorities, someone must take the wrap for the godfather’s death.  Each brother are willing to sacrifice themselves and take the blame but instead, Jen Chieh decides to take the blame and cast himself off as an exile and leave his school and his fiance to honor his godfather.

As Jen-Chieh has lived in exile for a year, he wonders why his brothers have not come back for him and why he has lived a harsh life.  As he goes about his normal day dreaming of his fiance and returning back home, something goes wrong as people are trying to kill him.  As he fights, defends and kills his attackers, he takes the train and tries to escape. But when he senses that people are after him on the train, he jumps off and finds himself in another predicament of people trying to kill him.  To make things worse, he knows these people as students of his school.

Jen-Chieh learns the truth that one of his elder brothers was responsible for his godfather’s death and now his brother wants him dead.  Jen-Chieh is confused and is now determined to go back home and find out what went wrong but also to return to his fiance and hope she is doing fine.

But when he makes his long awaited return back home, what Jen-Chieh learns about his brothers, his fiance and what has happened during his one year exile will shock him.

VIDEO:

“The Duel” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and for the most part, Celestial Pictures has done a wonderful job thus far in their remastering of the Shaw Bros. films and “The Duel” is no exception.  “The Duel” is one of the earlier Shaw Bros. films released from FUNimation Entertainment and picture quality does show the films age just a bit.  But for the most part, for a film that is 38-years-old, this is probably the best presentation of “The Duel” that Shaw Bros. fans will see yet of the film.

AUDIO:

“The Duel” is presented in Mandarin and English mono.  Mandarin is the way to go for this film as the English dub is not only cheesy but the old original English dub sounds tinny and recorded badly.  In fact, you lose a lot of the crowd ambiance and the background music if you watch the English dub.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Duel” comes with no special features but the FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“The Duel” comes with a slip cover case.

“The Duel” is an action-packed, bloody fight-fes courtesy of Chang Cheh and features two awesome Shaw Bros. martial arts stars David Chiang and Ti Lung, all together for this film.

This film is quite interesting because not only does it feature martial arts but it also features an earlier version of when these martial arts schools started to become more corrupted, political and eventually an earlier film showcasing the triad.  Many of the fights combine martial arts with the fighters armed with swords, knives axes and also machine guns.  In some way, despite the era of when the film takes place, “The Duel” is somewhat reminiscent of the 1985 Shaw Bros. film “Hong Kong Godfather” which revolves around the triad, revenge, martial arts and a lot of slashing and blood.

But where “Hong Kong Godfather” takes place in the ’80s and looks like a film from that era, “The Duel” is a martial arts film and one can expect a lot of action and even a duel between the characters played by Chiang and Lung.

Interesting part about this film is its use of sound and music.  Some sounds seem to be misplaced at times but the most striking is the use of the main theme song which is literally a copy but slightly modified version of Richard Strauss’s “Sprach Zarathustra” (which is used for the opening of the Stanley Kubrick 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey”) and  hearing the song over and over makes you wonder if director Chang Cheh or composer Yung-Yu Chen was a big fan of Strauss or the film which debuted in theaters a few years earlier.

I really did enjoy “The Duel” and although it is a visual bloody fight fest of a film, I did enjoy the younger brother seeking revenge and just seeing how life has changed for the worse at his school, his older brother and most of all, what happened to his fiance.  Fans of David Chiang and Ti Lung films should be happy by their action-packed performance and most of all seeing these two kick ass.

There is a lot of humor and a lot of action and it’s definitely one of the more violent and bloody martial arts films from the Shaw Bros.  that has been released on DVD from FUNimation Entertainment (with “Hong Kong Godfather” being the most violent).  For those expecting more martial arts, this film does include it but focuses primarily on the use of swords and knives versus hand-to-hand combat.

As for the DVD, the video presentation is well done due to the remastering by Celestial Pictures but the old English dub is terrible (personally, I could never stand dubs for martial arts films and it’s quality is not the best) and as mentioned earlier, Mandarin is the way to go for this film.  And like the other previous releases, there are no special features.

Overall, another solid inclusion to FUNimation Entertainments Hong Kong Connection and a Shaw Bros. film on DVD worth picking up!


FUNimation Acquires “Blessing of the Campanella”

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Simulcast to begin in August, DVD release planned for 2011

Flower Mound, Texas (July 30, 2010) – FUNimation Entertainment, the leading distributor of Japanese animation in North America, announced today it will partner with Marvelous Entertainment for the online simulcast of the “Blessing of the Campanella” exclusively in the United States.

FUNimation has also acquired home entertainment, digital, broadcast and merchandise rights for the 12 episode fantasy anime series.

Known as “Shukufuku no Campanella” in its native Japan, “Blessing of the Campanella” is based on the popular Japanese visual novel of the same name. The series takes place in the magical city of Ert’Aria. As the residents prepare for a harvest festival, a young technician named Leicester Maycraft witnesses the crash of a mysterious shooting star. Upon further investigation, Leicester is surprised to find a young woman at the site of the crash. Now the young man must figure out who this mysterious girl is, and why she keeps calling him Father.

Animation for the series is done by studio AIC (“Strike Witches 2”, “Heaven’s Lost Property”). The series features as Nobuhiko Okamoto (“Air Gear”, “Sacred Blacksmith”) as Leicester Maycraft and is directed by Shinji Uchiro.

FUNimation Acquires Okamisan

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The FUNimation.com video portal will also soon be the online simulcast home for the fairy-tale-ish parody, “Okamisan”, exclusively in the U.S. on behalf of Media Factory, Inc.

FUNimation Entertainment’s rights also include home entertainment, digital, broadcast and merchandise for the 13 episode series with plans to release the title on DVD in 2011.

Known as “Ōkami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tach” in its native Japan, the series is animated by Japanese animation studio J.C Staff and directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (“Love Hina”, “The Familiar of Zero”).  The show features an all star cast including veteran voice actress Shizuka Itou (“xxxHOLiC”, “Blassreiter”) and actress Kanae Itou (“Queen’s Blade”, “Tetsuwan Birdy Decode”).


Based on the light novels released by ASCII in Japan, the anime follows tomboy Ookami Ryouko and her spunky best friend, Akai Ringo.  Both work for a special club at their high school that specializes in solving students’ problems, no matter how dangerous.  The anime is well known for parodying famous children’s stories including Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood.

FUNimation Entertainment to Acquires Hetalia World Series and the Movie HETALIA AXIS POWERS: PAINT IT, WHITE

July 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Flower Mound, TX – July 30, 2010 – Flower Mound Texas, FUNimation Entertainment, the leading distributor of Japanese anime in North America, announced today it has reached an agreement with Japanese production studio Media Factory, Inc. for the online simulcast and home entertainment release of the comedy series “Hetalia World Series” in the United States.

Starting in August, FUNimation Entertainment will premiere the newest episode of “Hetalia World Series” shortly after its initial digital download premiere in Japan.  The anime will be available with its original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles through FUNimation.com and FUNimation streaming partners.  A date and time for its U.S. debut will be coming soon.

“Hetalia World Series” continues the off-beat tradition of its predecessor, “Axis Powers Hetalia”, following Italy, Germany, and now joined more prominently by Prussia on their escapades re-interpreting the past.  Colorful, cute, and crass; this is world history as you have never seen it before.

Created by Hidekaz Himaruya, Hetalia World Series reunites the voice cast “Axis Powers Hetalia”.  The anime stars Daisuke Namikawa, as Italy, Hiroki Yasumoto voicing Germany, and new addition Atsushi Kousaka as Prussia.  The series is produced by Studio Deen (“Fruits Basket”, “Vampire Knight”).



FUNimation has also acquired to first animated feature-length adaptation of the series “Axis Powers Hetalia.” The film is called HETALIA AXIS POWERS: PAINT IT, WHITE and is the first appearance of the character Iceland. The nations must ward off aliens and save mankind as we know it from extinction and the draining of color throughout the world.


FUNimation will release the movie on DVD in 2011.


For more information about the series, please visit http://www.funimation.com/hetalia .

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