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One Piece Film Gold (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created. If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: One Piece Film Gold

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: 120 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 2, 2017


Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto

Script by Tsutomu Kuroiwa

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Character Design by Masayuki Sato

Art Director: Kazuo Ogura 

Chief Animation Director: Masayuki Sato

Mechanical Design: Hiori Denforword Akishino 

Art Design by Nobuhito Sue

Animation Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

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 Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard



“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 in its 18th season and a total of over 776 episodes having been aired in Japan.  Several animated films, many video games and for the most part, a very successful anime/manga series worldwide.

“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.

And here we are with the latest film (2016) titled “One Piece Film Gold”, the 13th “One Piece Film” which will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and HD Digital in May 2017.

The film begins with the Straw Hat Pirates arriving at Gran Tesoro, a large entertainment city-ship which is owned and ruled by Gild Tesoro.

When the team arrive to the music of Tesoro and Carina, they are suddenly attacked by enemy pirates.  The group show their battle and might as a team and beat the pirates and are visited by a concierge named Baccarat.  Baccarat offers the Straw Hat Pirates VIP access to Gran Tesoro due to the group’s infamy.

When Gild Tesoro challenges the group to a dice game where they can become millionaires, the hotel will give them $300 million to spend.

When the group takes on the challenge, they start to win. Gran Tesoro offers a deal, if they win a challenge they get 10x of what they have. But when they bet it all on the competition and Gran Tesoro uses her Devil Fruit powers to take away Luffy’s luck and the group loses, Gran Tesoro demands the Straw Hat Pirates to pay for losing the $320 million they lost.  But the group accuses Baccarat of cheating and she admits to them that she used her power to make Luffy unlucky.

The group fights Tesoro and his executives, Baccarat, Tanaka and Dice but the executives outsmart the Straw Hat Pirates and they are beaten.

When Roronoa Zoro goes to attack Tesoro, he shows them his power of manipulating gold and encases Zoro’s legs.  And now, Tesoro gives the Straw Hat Pirates ’till 12:00 the following day to pay their debt.  If they don’t, Zoro will be executed.

Knowing they need money, Nami spots an former friend named Carina from her past.  Carina tells the group that Tesoro posesses 20% of the world’s wealth and keeps his riches in a suite on top of the hotel.  She offers to help the Straw Hat pirates to break into the hotel and steal the money to help repay their debut.

But can the group pull out this major heist?


VIDEO:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant. Colors look fantastic in HD and his is probably the most detailed “One Piece” film that I have seen yet.  Great balance of CG for the detailed backgrounds, animation is well done and for the most part, character designs are great.

Overall, animation production from Toei Animation is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“One Piece Film Gold” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 . Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.  Music plays a big part in this film, as well as action.  So, this is no doubt one of the better lossless soundtracks I have heard in a “One Piece” film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the following special features:

  • Place Your Bets on the Straw Hats – (28:06) A featurette featuring the English dub voice actors: Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Luffy), Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Roronoa Zoro), Eric Vale (voice of Sanji), Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook), Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper), Stephanie Young (voice of Nico Robin), Luci Christian (voice of Nami) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Trailers – Funimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece Film Gold” comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.


“One Piece” meets “Oceans Eleven”.

Where the majority of “One Piece” films tend to have a story about the team finding ways to outsmart their antagonist and saving locals who can’t fight for themselves, “One Piece Film Gold” is consistent with the other films with a powerful antagonist and his group, but this time, what makes the film so different is that the storyline is about outsmarting the other opponent.

Set in a huge ship that functions as a giant casino, the whole area is ruled by Grand Tesoro.  A cruel ruler who uses his Devil Fruit powers of controlling gold and able to control it and manipulate it.  Which makes him dangerous.  To make things worse, he has a group of executives such as Baccarat who makes people lose with her Devil Fruit power to make those unlucky.  And so many people become slaves (including their families and children) to Grand Tesoro to pay off their debt.

And now, Tesoro and his group has created a ruse and used deception to win against the Straw Hat Pirates and now they are in debt.

In this case, the Straw Hat Pirates are in bad situation as Grand Tesoro is threatening to execute Rorona Zoro if the group can’t come up with $320 million to pay off their debt.

The group plans to do the impossible by stealing from Grand Tesoro as his riches are kept in a suite on the top of the hotel.  And they must do it with the help of a thief named Carina that Nami knows from her past.

And just when you think the Straw Hat Pirates have enough with Tesoro and his executive team to fight against, thinks are even more complicated when the Marines arrive.

“One Piece Film Gold” is no doubt the best looking “One Piece” film I have so far.  The amount of detail for the art backgrounds and the characters are wonderfully detailed and shaded.  Toei Animation definitely put a lot of time and effort in the making of this film.

Special features include a half hour featurette with the English dub voice cast.  And you get the Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD version of the film.

Overall, definitely one of the more exciting “One Piece” films I have watched in a decade (my favorite is still the eight film “One Piece Movie: The Desert Princess and the Pirates: Adventures in Alabasta”) and definitely the best looking “One Piece” film created.  If you are looking for a “One Piece” film with action, wonderful animation and awesome voice acting, definitely give “One Piece Film Gold” a try!

Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

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


TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One

DURATION: (Episodes 99-121) 575 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: April 25, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

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

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


Seven years have passed since Cell’s defeat, and the Z Fighters have returned to normal life. Goku has continued his training in the Other World, Krillin has gotten married, and Gohan has his hands full attempting to navigate the pitfalls of high school. But with the new World Martial Arts Tournament about to begin, it’s time for Goku and the Z Fighters to reunite and face off against the greatest warriors on Earth!

Meanwhile, the evil wizard Babidi has traveled across the galaxy on a quest for revenge, hoping to fulfill his father’s thwarted dreams of universal domination. The Supreme Kai has come to enlist the aid of the Z Fighters in his effort to prevent Babidi from awakening a monster of unimaginable terror—Majin Buu!


The exciting action-packed anime series “Dragon Ball Z” is back with the final HD version of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (volume seven) as the safety of the world rests on the shoulders of young Gohan, as he takes on the evil Perfect Cell.

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

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

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

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

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes (plus a bonus 98th episode or extra which was included in the Japanese release).

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

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

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

FUNimation Entertainment have also released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (all eight volumes of “Dragon Box Z” have been released). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which follows the Z-Warriors ten years later and focuses on Goku, an adult Trunks and Goku’s granddaughter Pai. This series was released on DVD in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2017 with the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” presented in HD. These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” + the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 167 episodes and with this latest volume, you have episodes 99-121.

The focus for these episodes is the arc known as “World Tournament Saga” and takes place seven years since the battle with Cell.

Gohan is now a teenager and will be attending public high school for the first time.  As expected, with his strict mother Chi Chi, Gohan becomes a straight A student.  But you also learn that he has a seven year old brother named Goten.

As Gohan enters high school in Satan City (named after Mr. Satan because of his lie that he is the one that defeated Cell), he sees that there is trouble in the city with bank robbers and so forth, so with the help of Bulma, creates a costume for him and thus Gohan goes under the secret identity of Great Saiyaman.

In high school, he meets Bedil (Mr. Satan’s daughter) who is a powerful fighter and helps the police force take on the criminals.  Eventually, she catches on to Gohan’s identity and demands Gohan to teach her how to fly or else, she will reveal his secret identity.

I have to admit that when I first watched these episodes (when it was first released in Japan), I absolutely loved the chemistry between Gohan and Bedil.  So, it was great to see how the two fighters get close to each other and it’s almost similar to how Goku and Chi Chi became boyfriend and girlfriend (and eventually husband and wife).

For the third arc, a new World Martial Arts Tournament is happening and the Z-Fighters intend to take part.  Also, Goku has been granted a 24-hour stay in Planet Earth to take part in the tournament.  The first part of this third arc features the junior division in which Son Goten and Trunks enter the tournament.  The second part features the main division which the Z-Fighters (Goku, Vegita, Piccolo, Krillin, No. 18, Gohan, Android 18 and Trunks/Goten in disguise) are taking part in.   But introduces two mysterious characters named Shin and Kibito which somehow scares Piccolo for some unknown reason.

And then there are other fighters who seem to have superhuman power levels and along with the two mysterious characters, the Z-Fighters must find out who they are and what is their scheme.


VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is awesome!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 112 Video Commentary – (23:11) ADR writer J. Michael Tatum, Kara Edwards (voice of Goten and Bidel), Andrew T. Chandler (voice of Spopovich), voice of Kyle Ebert (voice of Gohan).
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” Part One comes with a slipcover case.


With the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters Part One”, I really enjoyed the Great Saiyaman arc.  We watched little Gohan grow up and now he is a teenager and although he doesn’t know it yet, he has met someone he cares about and willing to help her no matter what.  The chemistry between Gohan and Bedil is just awesome and episodes just focusing on these two were just great.

Also, episodes featuring Goten and Trunks and seeing these two go against each other in the Junior Division of the World Tournament was fun to watch.

And of course, to see how everyone has changed.  Especially Krillin who is now married to Android 18 and both have a daughter.  Heck, Krillin now has hair!

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

“Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters ” part one is primarily the tournament battle, this time, the little ones, Goten and Trunks get in the action.  Of course, these episodes are a nice diversion before going full force with the Majin Buu arc that comes afterward.

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

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was expensive to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then. But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” and the previous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

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

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series if you love “Dragon Ball Z” or wanting to watch “Dragon Ball Z” but just don’t have the time necessary to watch every episode. Also, it helps that the series is now on Blu-ray, so people can enjoy these episodes in HD.

Exciting, action-packed showcasing the Great Martial Arts World Tournament, for those wanting to experience “Dragon Ball Z” in HD, will definitely want to watch “Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters” on Blu-ray.  Recommended for the die-hard DBZ fans!

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

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: My Hero Academia: Season One

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2016

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Kohei Horikoshi

Director: Kenji Nagakasaki

Series Composition: Yousuke Kuroda

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Music by Yuuki Hayashi

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda, Yukiko Maruyama

Anime Production: BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Ayane Sakura/Luci Christian as Ochaco Uraraka

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Izuku Midoriya

Kaito Ishikawa/J. Michael Tatum as Tenya Iida

Kenta Miyake/Christopher R. Sabat as All Might

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin as Katsuki Bakugō

Yuuki Kaji/David Matranga as Shōto Todoroki

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Tsuyu Asui

Eri Kitamura/Caitlin Glass as Mina Ashido

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Sonny Strait as Present Mic

Inuko Inuyama/Morgan Berry as Thirteen

Junichi Suwabe/Alex Organ as Shota Aizawa

Kaori Nazuka/Felecia Angelle as Tooru Hagakure

Kei Shindou/Trina Nishimura as Kyōka Jirō

Kiyotaka Furushima/Christopher Bevins as Hanta Sero

Kōsuke Kuwano/Joel McDonald as Yūga Aoyama

Kosuke Miyoshi/MikeMcFarland as Mashirao Ojiro

Kouki Uchiyama/Eric Vale as Tomura Shigaraki

Marina Inoue/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Momo Yaoyorozu

Masakazu Nishida as Mezō Shōji

Ryou Hirohashi/Brina Palencia as Minoru Mineta

Takahiro Fujiwara/Chuck Huber as Kurogiri

Tasuku Hatanaka/Kyle Phillips as Denki Kaminari

Tooru Nara/Cris George as Rikidō Satō

Toshiki Masuda/Justin Cook as Eijirō Kirishima

Tsuguo Mogami as Noumu

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Joshua Grelle as Fumikage Tokoyami


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My Hero Academia” focuses on the following characters:

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

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part Two

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 13-14) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: February 1, 2017


Originally created by Takeshi Azuma

Directed by Masato Sato

Series Composition by Atsushi Maekawa

Music by Ryuuichi Takada

Character Design by Isao Sugimoto

Art Director: Daiki Kuribayashi

Art Design by Iho Narita

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Anthony Bowling as Jun’ichirō Kagami

Rena Matsui/Mikaela Krantz as Suzune Kagami

Aki Toyosaki/Tia Ballard as Kōtarō Araki

Aya Hirano as Yamato Tōne

Ayahi Takagaki as Tim Berners Lynn

Ayane Sakura as Kisaki Tenjōin/Sachiko Tanaka

Azusa Tadokoro/Dawn M. Bennett as Kiriko Shikishima

Daisuke Namikawa/Eric Vale as Hell Gates

Kana Hanazawa/Lindsay Seidel as Reiko Mukyō

M.A.O/Alexis Tipton as Madoka Kuramachi

Rina Hidaka/Monica Rial as Kanon Chinami

Risa Taneda/Kristi Yang as Matome Nishikujō

Risae Matsuda/Felecia Angelle as Taki Komiya

Saori Ōnishi/Caitlin Glass as Makina Momozono

Satsumi Matsuda/Bryn Apprill as Nagaru Komiya

Shiina Natsukawa/Leah Clark as Moemi Kushinada

Sora Amamiya/Sarah Wiedenheft as Minako Kanō

Suzuko Mimori/Jad Saxton as Koyomi Hiiragi

Tomoko Tsuzuki/Terri Doty as Kazuya Momozono


The ultimate otaku teacher, Junichiro Kagami, is back with his unique group of students. But as the school year goes on, things start to get…spooky! When tasked to clean out the old dorms, Kagami and his students stumble upon the ghost of a former classmate. All she wants to do is pass on to the next life but is having a little trouble. Are they up for this spiritual lesson?

Things heat up when conflict arises between a gang leader and pop idol. Are street smarts more important than school smarts? Once things start to calm down, even Kagami’s most troubled students start settling into better lives. Realizing that he’s neglected things he used to care about like his blog, figurines, and anime, Kagami begins to question if teaching is where he truly belongs. When the opportunity to work on his Anywhere Door arises, he’ll have to make a tough choice.

What does Kagami really yearn to do: teach or research?


In 2011, mangaka Takeshi Azuma created the manga series “Denpa Kyoshi” (which translates to “electromagnetic-wave teacher”).

As the series is still ongoing in Japan, an anime adaptation was produced by A-1 Pictures in 2015 and the anime has now be released in two parts on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The anime series is directed by Masato Sato (“Explorer Woman Ray”, “Silent Mobius”, “Montana Jones”), script by Atsushi Maekawa (“Digimon Adventure”, “Bakugan Battle Brawlers”, “Dragon Ball Z”), music by Ryuuichi Takada (“Idolm@ster”, “Dusk maiden of Amnesia”), character design by Isao Sugimoto (“Bakuon!!”, “Kemeko Deluxe!”, “Maze”) and background art by Daiki Kuribayashi (“Show By Rock!!”, “Code: Breaker”, “Chaos;Child”).

The anime series introduces us to Jun’ichiro Kagami, a 24-year-old mega-otaku who rather work on his anime blog. But while a big otaku, Jun’ichiro was once an intelligent physics major who published a paper that would make headwaves in the scientific world when he was 17. And Jun’ichiro was scouted to work at one of the most important research centers in the world. But when he wanted to create the “Anywhere Door” that allows teleportation, he became ridiculed by academics and so far, his efforts to dispute his critics have failed and he hasn’t developed the technology to create it.

So, Jun’ichiro decudes that he suffers from “YD” and only wants to work that he yearns to do and not do anything else. And that is be a hardcore otaku.

But his younger sister Suzune is tired of him staying at home and not making a living, and because she is responsible for the family finances, she forces her brother to get a job. Or else she will beat him up.

So, Jun’ichiro takes up a job to become a teacher at Hiiragi Academy and help students and teach students his own way. So, he can balance his teaching job (doing things his way) and also focus on his otaku lifestyle. But can he teach these students with his otaku style?

In the second part of “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”, new characters are introduced such as Tim Bernards Lynn, the head scientist at CERM Particle Physics Laboratory; Madoka Kuramachi, the student council treasurer; Joe Odawara, a student of Jun’ichiro who wants to confess his love to Makina; gang leader Taki Komiya and childlike intern, Reiko Mukyo.

Also, what happens when Jun’ichiro challenges Hell Gates, the CEO of Activision Frigate and a computer game world champion. If Jun’ichiro wins, Hell Gates must takeover KMC. If Hell Gates wins, Jun’ichiro can never play any computer game ever again.

And what is the results of Jun’ichiro teaching at the academy? Does he pass or fail?


VIDEO:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. A vibrant anime series from A-1 Pictures.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” features the following special features:

  • Episode 15 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips, Alexis Tipson (voice of Madoka Kuramachi) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (voice of Tim Berners Lynn) and script writer and voice actor, Clifford Chapin (voice of Joe Odawara).
  • Episode 21 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Kyle Phillips and voice talents Felecia Angelle (voice of Taki Komiya), Mallorie Rodak (voice of Yamato Toune) and Bryn Apprill (voice of Nagare Komiya)
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Ultimate Otaku Teacher”.

EXTRAS:

“Ultimate Otaku Teacher” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


What happens when you get a former intelligent academic student turned hardcore otaku and make him a teacher and allow him to teach his students with his otaku style?

This is the story of Jun’ichiro Kagami, a hardcore otaku who has kept away from working professionally because he wants a job which he can be himself.

Unfortunately, not many jobs are open to that until Koyomi Hiiragi, chairman of Icho Academy who wants Japan to be a more amusing place. Having spied and followed Jun’ichiro, she feels that his teaching methods, no matter how absurd they may be, can teach the students at the Academy.

Each episode features how Jun’ichiro helps out a student. In Part 2, for example, Jun’ichiro wants to save student council treasurer, Madoka Kuramachi. Madoka’s family owns the KMC company who makes a video game that Jun’ichiro plays. And the company is about to be take over by Activision Frigate, a rival company and she is being forced to marry the rival company’s CEO, Hells Gate.

Another episode has Jun’ichiro trying to help a ghost who is a big fan of “Kisaki Tenjoin” and wants to know how the manga ended before author Sachiko could complete it. And the ghost wants desperately to know how the manga would have ended.

And how will Jun’ichiro help Taki Komiya, a gang leader named Taki, whose twin sister happens to be to be idol singer, Komi-Ryu.

And the series culminates as we learn the results of Jun’ichiro being at teacher. Will he succeed?

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful, while lossless audio for both Japanese and English soundtracks are 2.0 DTS-HD MA. For special features, you get two audio commentary.

Overall, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” is an anime series that may be compared to “Assassination Classroom”, teachers who have their own way of teaching their own students, students who are truant or have major problems at school. Where “Assassination Classroom” is more action-packed and driven by the fact the students must grow in order to assassinate their alien teacher who plans to destroy the planet, “Ultimate Otaku Teacher” is about an otaku teacher who loves his anime, video games and figurines.

While he is obsessed with otaku duties, the fact that he is given an opportunity to teach at an Academy and be himself is a major plus to him. So, using his love for video games, anime, etc. allows him to reach out to these troubled students.

The series has elements of what people tend to enjoy in an anime series. From having an otaku protagonist, a tsundere sister and students who are helped by Jun’ichiro’s otaku ways, may it be through video games or something really weird or awkward, he manages to get the job done.

Overall, if you enjoy anime that is set in high school and focuses on a hardcore otaku teacher trying to help his students through unusual ways, will no doubt want to give “Ultimate Otaku Teacher Part 2” a try!

Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

 I can’t recommend “Wolf’s Rain” enough for those wanting a deep, captivating story with wonderful animation.  It’s a classic anime series for sure!  Yes, it may not be perfect but it’s still one of the shining gems from the early 2000’s worth owning on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series

YEAR: 2003

DURATION: Episodes 1-30 (750 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 7, 2017


Originally Creator: Keiko Nobumoto

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Script by Keiko Nobumoto

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Toshiro Kawamoto

Art Director: Atsushi Morikawa

Mechanical Design by Shinji Aramaki

Anime Production by BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Akio Suyama/Joshua Seth as Hige

Hiroki Shimowada/Mona Marshall as Toboe

Kaho Kouda/Kari Wahlgren as Cher Degre

Kenta Miyake/Crispin Freeman as Tsume

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kiba

Arisa Ogasawara/Sherry Lynn as Cheza

Atsuko Tanaka/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Jagura

Mayumi Asano/Jessica Straus as Blue

Mitsuru Miyamoto/Robert Buchholz as Hubb Lebowski

Takaya Kuroda/Steven Jay Blum as Darcia

Unshō Ishizuka/Tom Wyner as Quent Yaiden


Paradise-a legend, a myth, and a hopeless dream in a world that has become a wasteland. It is not meant for everyone, only the wolves thought to be extinct yet still roam the lands. When the Flower Maiden awakens, the path to the end will open.

Kiba, a lone white wolf, wanders into a poverty stricken city on a quest. The scent of Lunar Flowers and the will to find Paradise is all he has. Along the way, he runs into other outcast wolves: Tsume, Hige, and Toboe, each with their own story and troubles. Fate bringing them together, and together they seek out the Flower Maiden, Cheza, and their way to Paradise. But, doing so is no simple matter.

Up against a world that fears them and a man with mysterious abilities, their journey is overrun with challenges and worse-sacrifices. With limited time, they must fight to protect Cheza against everyone who seeks her and discover the hidden path to their destiny. This group of broken souls will form a pack and take their journey to the doors of Paradise. But is it worth the end of the world?


Back in 2003, BONES anime studio released the 26-episode + 4 OAV anime series “Wolf’s Rain” on Fuji TV.  The series would receive a short two-volume manga retelling by Keiko Nobumoto and Toshitsugu Iida (illustrations) and serialized in “Magazine Z”.

The anime series was done well in Japan but when the anime series was released on Adult Swim, needless to say, it would attract many America viewers.  So popular that the DVD release sold well in North America .  And now 15-years later, the series will be released on Blu-ray as a complete series courtesy of FUNimation.

The series begins with a telling of an old legend that when the end of the world is coming, Paradise will appear.  But only wolves can find Paradise.

While wolves have been extinct on Earth for nearly 200-years, they still exist, but now casting illusions onto themselves to make them appear human to the public.

The anime series first introduces us to an injured lone white wolf who is going to Freeze City (where the majority of people are living in poverty).

As Kiba, the lone white arctic wolf is going to Freeze City following the scent of the Lunar Flower, Kiba is in search for this flower as it is a key to open Paradise but most of all, to protect Cheza, the flower maiden.

Kiba is rescued by a Mexican wolf named Hige, who loves to eat and talk to women.  While he feels comfortable living in human society, he decides to join Kiba in his mission to find Paradise.

Toboe is a red wolf and the youngest of the group.  He is considered the runt of the group and was raised by an old woman who found him outside the city and wears bracelets that she gave him.  He is friendly and protective towards most humans and he was saved by the rash Tsume.  He is not much of a fighter and is quite naive.

Tsume is a grey wolf with a X scar across his chest.  He is a strong fighter, rash, rude and seems as if he is mad at the world.  After his human gang leaves him, he decides to join Kiba, Tsume and Hige in their quest of paradise, even though he is skeptical that it exists.

Meanwhile, an ex-sheriff named Quent Yaiden is on the hunt for wolves, whom he blames for killing his wife and son.  Quent has developed a pure hatred towards wolves and despite hunting them, humans don’t believe that wolves exist but Quent has suspicions that wolves are disguising themselves as humans after he comes across Toboe.

He is approached by a police detective named Hubb Lebowski, who is investigating that wolves are involved, despite being skeptical.

His ex-wife Cher Degre is a scientist studying Cheza and her dedication of learning about Cheza has taken over her life, and thus her divorcing her husband.  But when Cher disappears, Hubb tries to find her.

When Hubb discovers the banned book “Book of the Moon” in Cher’s apartment, he joins forces with Quent in hopes it would lead him to his ex-wife, who he still loves.

Will any of these four wolves searching for Paradise find what they are looking for?


VIDEO:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. With this being an older anime series, it’s important to note that this is an SD Remaster.  While colors are vibrant, there is softness as one could expect for a TV series.  But for the most part, this classic anime series features wonderful animation and art backgrounds and watching it nearly 15-years later, you can’t help but feel that BONES did a marvelous job with this anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD stereo. Both soundtracks are well-acted but I felt the English dialogue had the advantage of the use of the surround channels when it comes to lossless audio utilization.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Cast Interview 1 – (6:57) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actors: Mamoru Miyano (voice of Kiba), Kenta Miyake (voice of Tsume) and Hiroki Shimowada (voice of Toboe).
  • Cast Interview 2 – (8:18) Featuring an interview with Unshou Ishizuka (voice of Quent Yaiden), Takaya Kuroda (voice of Darcia), Kaho Kouda (voice of Cher Degre), Mitsuru Miyamoto (voice of Hubb Lebowski), Arisa Ogasawara (voice of Cheza).
  • Staff Interview – (6:08) Behind-the-scenes recording with the producers and staff about the creation of “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • Pilot Film – (2:18) Japanese pilot film for “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • Promo Film 1 & 2 – Japanese promotional videos for “Wolf’s Rain”.
  • 15-Second Promos
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs

EXTRAS:

“Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.


Back in 2004, “Wolf’s Rain” was no doubt a hit anime series that captivated not just Japanese audiences but also American audiences.

An anime series that managed to have wonderful, dark visuals plus fascinating characters and a lot of action, I enjoyed “Wolf’s Rain” for its originality and also how the series ended.

Similar to feudal Akira Kurosawa series, where you never know if the protagonists are going to survive to the end, “Wolf’s Rain” is a series that shows that in this dismal world, these wolves that dream of paradise have made the decision to move forward, whether or not paradise exists or not.

All I can say is have the tissue box nearby, you’ll be shedding a few tears watching this anime series.

As much as I enjoyed this series, as most people who followed the series back then are aware that “Wolf’s Rain” did suffer production problems.  And episodes 15-18 were recap episodes told from the perspective of Tsume, Toboe, Hige and Hubb expanding the series to 30 episodes.

With the release of “Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series” on Blu-ray/DVD you get the full series for a lower price.  Back in 2004-2005, people had to purchase all seven volumes to watch the entire series until the limited edition box set was released in late 2005 and a Perfect Collection (Anime Legends) release came out in 2009.

This release is essentially the Perfect Collection but with an SD Remaster onto Blu-ray.  So, for those wanting the better picture quality and lossless soundtrack will want to opt for this version.

Overall, I can’t recommend “Wolf’s Rain” enough for those wanting a deep, captivating story with wonderful animation.  It’s a classic anime series for sure!  Yes, it may not be perfect but it’s still one of the shining gems from the early 2000’s worth owning on Blu-ray!  Recommended!

Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” is a series that will interest those who continue to play the “Sengoku Basara” video games and those who have watched the previous anime series and the animated film. With the many characters featured, literally there can be new “Sengoku Basara” anime series dedicate to various army’s and multiple storylines. This third series focuses on the Battle of Sekigahara and focuses on Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu. All in all, an anime series with a good combination of humor and action but also more of a focus on human emotion after tragedy. If you enjoy “Sengoku Basara”, definitely give “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” a try!

Image courtesy of © CAPCOM/TEAM BASARA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 27, 2016


Directed by Takashi Sano

Series Composition by Natsuko Takahashi

Character Design by Michinori Chiba

Art Director: Daisuke Jinba

Chief Animation Director: Toshimitsu Kobayashi, Yumenosuke Tokuda

Anime Production by Telecom Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kazuya Nakai/Robert McCollum as Date Masamune

Souichiro Hoshi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Sanada Yukimura

Tomokazu Seki/Matthew Mercer as Ishida Mitsunari

Toru Ohkawa/Liam O’Brien as Tokugawa Ieyasu

Ami Koshimizu/Kat Steel as Tsuruhime

Fumihiko Tachiki/Mark Stoddard as Ohtani Yoshitsugu

Jun Fukuyama/Tony Oliver as Kobayakawa Hideaki

Kenichi Ogata/R. Bruce Elliott as Shimazu Yoshihiro

Mamiko Noto/Laura Bailey as Oichi

Masakazu Morita/Eric Vale as Maeda Keiji

Natsuko Kuwatani/Stephanie Sheh as Kasuga

Noriaki Sugiyama/Brittney Karbowski as Otomo Sourin

Rikiya Koyama/Richard Epcar as Kuroda Kanbee

Romi Park/Greg Ayres as Uesugi Kenshin

Takehito Koyasu/Michael Sinterniklaas as Sarutobi Sasauke

Tessho Genda/Chris Ayres as Takeda Shingen

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Travis Willingham as Katakura Kojuro


Get ready for the hacking, slashing battle of a lifetime in a new adaptation of the Sengoku Basara franchise. The new installment, based on the world created by Capcom, revolves around one massive conflict featuring mechanized samurai, mystical ninjas, gun-toting warriors, and a blinding array of deadly special moves! During the turbulent period of warring states, numerous feudal lords sought to rule the land of the rising sun. With Nobunaga defeated, Hideyoshi lead a brutal campaign to wipe out the remaining combatants. His ambitions were crushed, however, when he was betrayed by the idealistic Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu’s rebellion marked the start of a new conflict that would put old and new alliances to the test as Hideyoshi’s loyal followers began plotting their revenge, and the other remaining lords prepared their armies for the showdown at Sekigahara.


When it comes to video games that feature samurai’s and a general taking on hoards of enemies, in the US, “Samurai Warriors” (similar to Dynasty Warriors) from KOEI is well-known. But in Japan, CAPCOM began their own series known as “Sengoku Basara” (Devil Kings) which takes place during the Sengoku period and a similar concept as their rivals and has also earned its strong fan following.

In 2005, the first game was released for the Sony Playstation 2 and was released in the U.S. (as “Devil Kings”) but unfortunately, CAPCOM tried to change the whole story of the Sengoku period by trying to connect it to their “Devil May Cry” series in order to attract players but because of the changes and the localization crew feeling they needed to make it more difficult in America, needless to say, it was a failure. People wanted the same game that was in Japan and within the last six years, there have been numerous video game releases.

In Japan, two seasons of “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings” aired. Followed by “Sengoku Basara II” in 2010, a film version titled “Sengoku Basara: The Last Party” was released in 2011 and in 2014, a third TV series titled “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” based on the video game “Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes” was released and was released by Funimation.

What is “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” about?

The third anime series is much different from the previous two seasons as the previous were animated by Production I.G. and now the series is produced by Telecom Animation Film.  As this storyline is considered an “alternate setting” and instead of focusing on many battles, the storyline focuses on the Sekigahara Battle and takes place after the death of Oda Nobunaga.

The anime series takes place during the Sengoku Period and the warlord Oda Nobunaga was betrayed and killed by his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi would defeat Mitsuhide and would launch an attack on Odawara Castle, home of the Houjoi Clan.

As the Date Army got involved with the battle, they were defeated by Toyotomi’s warrior, Ishida Mitsunari.

Toyotomi’s attack was short-lived as Tokugawa Ieyasu would defeat Toyotomi Hideyoshi and kill him in combat.  But another force tried to attack Tokugawa’s forces, Oda Nobunaga’s sister, Oichi.   As for Toyotomi’s army, the new leader would now be led by Ishida Mitsunari.

Meanwhile, word gets through to Chousokabe Motochika that his land had been attacked by his friend, Tokugawa.  And due to his betrayal, Chousokabe wants revenge.

And as everyone worries about war in the land, new alliances are formed.  Who will be left standing?


VIDEO:

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Telecom Animation is slightly different from Production I.G. when it comes to character design and also background designs.  It’s subjective to the viewer and I’m slightly biased towards Production I.G., but I will say that Telecom Animation did a good job.

Colors are absolutely vibrant and bold. Also, very good lighting effects throughout the film.  I detected no banding, artifacting or anything negative about the picture quality for “Sengoku Basara: The Last Party”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sengoku Basara: The Last Party” is presented in lossless English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Personally, I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack because the generals sound much more menacing while I felt the English dub, as good as it is, sometimes I feel certain voice talent are overly used and they sound the same for no matter what characters they play.

Personally, I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack because the generals sound much more menacing while I felt the English dub, as good as it is, sometimes I feel certain voice talent are overly used and they sound the same for no matter what characters they play. In the first season, I mentioned that although I enjoy Johnny Yong Bosch’s acting work when it comes to “Bleach”, but his Yukimura (Sengoku Basara) sounds like an annoying version of Ichigo (Bleach). But with that being said, the English dub has grown on me and felt the FUNimation English dub actors did a fine job.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“SSengoku Basara: Edge of Judgement” contains the following special features:

  • Episode 01 Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary by Taliesen Jaffe (ADR Director) and Michael Sinterniklaas (voice of Sarutobi Sasuke).
  • Episode 03 Audio Commentary – Audio Commentary by Christopher Bevins (ADR Director), Robert Mccollum (voice of Data Masamune) and Eric Vale (voice of Maeda Keiji).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song – Featuring “Thunderclap” and “Hokkyokusei ~Polaris~”.
  • Trailers

There is no doubt that in Japan, “Sengoku Basara” has a pretty strong fan following from its video games and anime series, especially among the cosplayers who are often seen doing group cosplay of the characters from the series.

For “Sengoku Basara”, it’s a popular video game series that has tried to make these warring clans (that happen to live in the same time period) and generals with amazing abilities take on each other. But in order to keep the storylines fresh for the video games, alternate settings are going to be common place and the same can be said for the “Sengoku Basara” anime series.

In the case of “Sengoku Basara”, because there are many characters, instead of focusing on a certain historical battle of the same two people, the series tends to focus on other characters.

“Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is the third series and the two characters foucused on is Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  For those not familiar with Japanese history, the “Battle of Sekigahara” was a battle that would establish the Tokugawa shogunate and prove to people the power and leadership of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The series focuses on the storyline of Oda Nobunaga as the person who had control of most of Japan until he was betrayed by his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi avenged his master.  And this is where the anime series differs from history as Tokugawa Ieyasu betrays Toyotomi Hideyoshi, leaving Hideyoshi’s warrior Ishida Mitsunari to seek revenge on his former friend.

In the first series, we saw various battles between Sanada Yukimura and Date Masamune vs. Oda Nobunaga and Kojuro vs. Mitsuhide.  In the second series, the series focused on Toyotomi Hideyoshi as the antagonist.

And for this third anime series, we have Ieyasu Tokugawa as the main antagonist and Mitsunari wanting revenge on Ieyasu for killing his master, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The other characters have significant roles but more of showing which their allegiance lies.  Fans of Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura may be surprised that their significance in the series is decreased, but they still remain important to the storyline.

And it’s probably best to leave it at that because of the numerous characters featured, unless you are familiar with the game and the anime series, just the sheer mention of the characters and the alternate plots will confuse people.

But I will say that if you followed the anime and the video games, “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” is an interesting way to keep the storyline fresh as it’s an anime with new motivations, interesting perspectives but most of all, a focus on different characters, but yet also introducing new characters as well.  Also, how this series tend to show more of the human emotion after the deaths of various leaders and how certain individuals are affected by the deaths.

The third series features a new anime production team with Telecom Animation in charge, but cast of both the Funimation series and the video game series are involved in the third series as it was a collaboration between Funimation and Capcom as mentioned in the first audio commentary.

Animation is very good, but it’s subjective as I’m sure there are those who prefer Production I.G.’s animation and those who may prefer the Telecom Animation animation.  But the anime series is colorful and vibrant and both lossless soundtracks are well-done with the English dub having an edge with the 5.1 lossless soundtrack.

Overall, “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgement” is a series that will interest those who continue to play the “Sengoku Basara” video games and those who have watched the previous anime series and the animated film.  With the many characters featured, literally there can be new “Sengoku Basara” anime series dedicate to various army’s and multiple storylines.  This third series focuses on the Battle of Sekigahara and focuses on Ishida Mitsunari and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  All in all, an anime series with a good combination of humor and action but also more of a focus on human emotion after tragedy.

If you enjoy “Sengoku Basara”, definitely give “Sengoku Basara: End of Judgment” a try!

Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete SeriesThe Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 3

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-11) 275 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally Concept by Rampo Edogawa

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Kouji Yamagata, Yusuke Kamata

Anime Production: Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Hashiba

Rie Takahashi/Jill Harris as Kobayashi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Akechi

Cho/Mark Stoddard as Nakamura

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Namikoshi

Kappei Yamaguchi/Jerry Jewell as Shitai-kun (Corpsey)

Katsuyuki Konishi/J. Michael Tatum as Kagami

Saki Fujita/Jad Saxton as Minami

Takehito Koyasu/Sonny Strait as Kage-Otoko (Shadow-Man)

Yōko Hikasa/Mallorie Rodak as Kuro Tokage (Black Lizard)


Inspired by the works of Edogawa Rampo, Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace tells a macabre detective story rife with symbolism and visual tricks that exist somewhere in the delicate balance between gruesome and gorgeous.

Middle school life was dull for the intelligent and charismatic Kobayashi, until the day he was framed for his homeroom teacher’s murder. After the event drew the media’s attention, an infamous high school detective inserted himself into the investigation. Brooding and brilliant, Akechi quickly cleared Kobayashi’s name and took the inquisitive young student on as his assistant. But for every case they closed, two more seemed to open in its place.

The streets were alive with whispers of one deadly name, Twenty Faces–a legendary murderer who killed criminals in the name of justice. With cryptic clues leading the way, Kobayashi and Akechi began following the trail of bodies left by the prolific killer. But will they be able to stop him before countless innocent people, inspired by his deranged cause, start following his lead?


In Japan, one of the most well-respected authors of mystery fiction novels was Edogawa Ranpo (Taro Hirai).  A pseudonym used by Taro is a rendering of one of his favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2015, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edogawa Ranpo, a series titled “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace” was produced by Lerche and directed by Seiji Kishi (“Kamisama Dolls”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Fate/Prototype”) and a screenplay by Makoto Uezu (“Akame ga KILL!”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Danganronpa the Animation”).

The anime series is set at a middle school where several murders have taken place.  A 17-year-old middle school boy, who is mistaken for a girl named Kobayashi is blamed for dismembering his homeroom teacher.

A person who loves solving mysteries, Kobayashi and her good friend Hashiba (a popular guy who wants to protect Kobayashi at all costs) want to team up with Kogoro Akechi, a 17-year-old genius detective who solves abnormal crimes.

Kogoro offers Kobayashi to become his assistant only if he can find the killer responsible for dismembering his teacher.

As Kobayashi is successful in helping Kogoro, the trio then work on various cases such as trying to find the Shadow-Man, a thief accused of kidnapping several girls.  But also trying to find a vigilante known as Twenty Faces, who kills murderers who have not been brought to justice and killing them the way the murderers had killed their victims.

But as the trio investigates, Kogoro realizes that Twenty Faces may be tied to a person from his past.


VIDEO:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant. There is slight softness, but that is expected with anime TV series. But overall, animation is solid throughout.  I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD Stereo 2.0. Both soundtracks are well-acted and are crystal clear through the front channels but with the 5.1 soundtrack, the English dub has an edge due to the use of the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” features the following special features:

  • Episode 6 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Eric Vale, Justin Briner, Jill Harris and Sonny Strait.
  • Promotional Videos
  • Commercials – Japanese commercials
  • Textless Opening and Ending Song

EXTRAS:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” comes with a slipcover and also both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the anime series.


In Japan, mystery manga and anime series are quite popular.  In fact, one of the longest running anime series still on television is “Meitantei Conan” (Case Closed) which has been airing since 1996 (and the manga series since 1994).

But part of the excitement surrounding the anime series “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is that it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of Rampo Edogawa.  An author known for creating mystery fiction novels and many works that were inspired by his original oeuvre.

Set for a modern age, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is a mystery anime series that focuses on murder cases, but primarily focusing on Twenty Faces, a vigilante who murders people who have not received justice for murdering their victims.

Where other mystery anime series have a humorous side and often a touch of darkness, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” has that but in a weird, unusual way, one of the main characters, Kobayashi (a boy who is often mistaken for a girl), has a different perspective of seeing things in life.  Perhaps it’s the way she was raised or the challenges in life that she has endured, but sometimes her thinking puts her in odds with her good friend Hashiba (a guy who obviously likes Kobayashi).

Meanwhile, main protagonist Kogoro Akechi is rather interesting in the fact that he also sees life in a different way, similar to Kobayashi.  But he has skeletons in his past that are slowly revealed throughout the anime series.

As for the Blu-ray, animation is fantastic as colors are vibrant and characters are well-drawn.  Lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done, with the English dub receiving the 5.1 treatment.  But both soundtracks are well-acted.  As for special features, you get an audio commentary (possibly one of the worst Funimation audio commentaries that I’ve listened to), Japanese promotional videos and commercials.

Overall, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

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Attack on Titan: Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released back in 2014 and as much hype that has come out for this series, the fact that all the hype is warranted. The characters, the storyline, the animation and it’s overall presentation from FUNimation makes this one anime series worth owning! “Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: The Complete First season

DURATION: Episodes 1-25 (625 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: January 24, 2017


Originally created by Hajime Isayama

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi

Music by Hiroyuki Sawano

Character Design: Kyoji Asano

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

3D Director: Shuhei Yabuta

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Production by Wit Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yui Ishikawa/Trina Nishimura as Mikasa Ackerman

Yuuki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook as Eren Jaeger

Marina Inoue/Josh Grelle as Armin Arlelt

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Erwin Smith

Hiro Shimono/Clifford Chapin as Conny Springer

Hiroshi Kamiya/Matthew Mercer as Levi

Keiji Fujiwara/David Wald as Hannes

Kishô Taniyama/Mike McFarland as Jean Kirschtein

Romi Park/Jessica Calvello as Hanji (Hange Zoe)

Ryota Ohsaka/Austin Tindle as Marco Bodt

Saki Fujita/Elizabeth Maxwell as Ymir

Shiori Mikami/Bryn Apprill as Christa Renz

Tomohisa Hashizume/David Matranga as Bertholt Fubar (Bertholdt Hoover)

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Robert McCollum as Reiner Braun

Yu Kobayashi/Ashly Bursch as Sasha Browse

Yu Shimamura/Lauren Landa as Annie Leonhart


When the man-eating giants called Titans first appeared, humans retreated behind massive walls. After a hundred years of safety, a colossal-sized Titan smashes through the defenses, unleashing a flood of giants and carnage in the streets. Eren Jaeger watches helplessly as one of the creatures devours his mother.

He vows to kill every Titan walking the earth.

Eren and his surviving friends enlist to fight against the insatiable monsters. The future looks bleak, but there’s more to Eren than meets the eye: he may be humanity’s last hope against extinction. From the director of Death Note and High School of the Dead comes the series Anime News Network calls “an intense, visceral, and graphic thrill ride.” The Titans have come to feast. Anything can happen. No one is safe.


Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is currently on its 13th tankobon volume.  With several light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and two live-action films, many would discover “Attack on Titan” thanks to its 25-episode anime series which began airing in April 2013.

With the announcement that “Attack on Titan” season two will be created, Funimation has released “Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray.

“Attack on Titan” is set in a world that was besieged by giant humanoid creatures over a hundred years ago.   These humanoid creatures nearly wiped out all humans and want nothing but to devour humans.

Humanity has no answer to defeat the Titans but to protect what is left of humanity, the country of surviving humans now live within three enormous walls which include the outer wall Wall Maria, the middle wall known as Wall Rose and the inner wall known as Wall Sina.

And for 100 years, despite having a team that ventures out to confront the Titans, humanity has had no such luck.

We are introduced to three children which includes the impulsive and hotheaded Eren Yeager, his friend that always protects and cares for him, Mikasa Ackerman and the often scared but very smart Armin Arlert.

One day, while these three children were together in what was supposed to be a peaceful land where Titans are unable to enter, lightning has struck and born was a 200 ft. Titan who is taller than the walls that were constructed.  The titan breaches the outer wall, allowing the smaller Titans to enter the village and devour humans.  While Eren tries to find his mother, he finds her pinned under the house.

While a family friend named Hannes is able to rescue the two kids, Eren’s final memory was seeing his mother devoured by a Titan and from that point, he has dedicated his life to defeat and destroy the Titans.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin survives the attack by the Titans and have no choice but to retreat behind Wall Rose.  But he has these nightmares of his father injecting him with something and reminding him about his key and for him to go into the cellar.

As the food shortage hits the country and refugees are forced to work in farms or fight to reclaim Wall Maria, Eren vows to destroy the Titans and to do that, he must join the army in which Mikasa and Armin follow their friend.

Fast forward five years later, Eren, Mikasa and Armin are training in the army and each meets new friends and rivals but just when they thought there was some semblance of peace, the Colossus Titan returns once again.  Mikasa is set to a different squad to backup the front lines, while Eren and Armin must prepare to attack and fight the Titans, learning that the weakness of a Titan is cutting a piece of their flesh from the nape of the Titan’s back neck.

Will the army have what it takes to protect humanity from this new attack from the Titans?


“Attack on Titan features the following main characters:

Eren Yeager – A hotheaded teenager who wants to destroy the Titans for what they have done to his family and people. Often upset that Mikasa is constantly defending him. For some reason, he has nightmares of his father injecting him with something and telling him to bring the key to the cellar.

Mikasa Ackerman – The adoptive child of the Yeager family who was rescued by Eren and her father when she was younger. She is quiet, often wants to protect Eren from trouble and cares deeply for her foster brother.

Armin Arlert – Often bullied by other kids and rescued by Eren and Mikasa, Armin has a sharp mind when it comes to strategy. But he sees himself as a person always in fear and often scared.

Levi Ackerman – A member of the Survey Corps and is seen as humanity’s most powerful soldier. He leads the Special operations Squad.

Annie Leonhart – A former member of the Military Police Brigade. A lone wolf and excels in unarmed combat.

Reiner Braun – A former member of the Survey Corps. A man with a strong sense of duty.

Hange Zoe – A former Squad Leader of the fourth squad. Conducts research on Titans and is obsessed with them.


VIDEO:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant. Character designs are well-shaded and I like how the series uses the strong darker lines around the character designs which shows plenty of detail. But I felt the transition of Hajime Isayama’s work from the manga series received a fantastic adaptation and bringing these Titans to life. I personally didn’t notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the anime series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Attack on Titan” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. While both voice acting soundtracks are well-done, as one can expect from the English soundtrack receiving a 5.1 lossless treatment, while the Japanese is crystal clear through the front channels, the English soundtrack is immersive. Great use of sound effects from the surround channels and also great use of LFE.

One thing I also want to add is that FUNimation made the right decision by bringing Mike McFarland to become the ADR Director for this series. He has done an epic job for “One Piece” and for a series this important with a multitude of characters, he’s the man for the job and the casting for the English dub was well-done. Yes, it is different for those who are familiar with the Japanese vocal talent but I felt that the comparable differences and love the fact that the voice casting was not repetitive of talent used in many other FUNimation series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 3 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Trina Nishimura, Josh Grelle and Bryce Papenbrook.
  • Episode 13 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer), Scott Freeman and Clifford Chapin.
  • The Making of Attack on Titan – (52:34) The first  major in-depth FUNimation featurette about how hard they worked in bringing “Attack on Titan” to the United States.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:10) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Feuerroter Pfeil und Bogen”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Utsukushiki Zankoku na Sekai”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer
  • Episode 14 Commentary -Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), J. Michael Tatum (Lead Adaptive Writer/voice of Erwin Smith) and Matthew Mercer (voice of Captain Levy).
  • Episode 25 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Lauren Landa (Annie Leonhardt) and Bryce Papenbrook (Eren Yeager).
  • Attack on Titan at Anime Expo – (16:21) “Attack on Titan” group cosplayers from Anime Expo and also featuring interviews with producer Joji Wada.
  • Chibi Theater: Fly, Cadets, Fly! – (47:15) Animated shorts in super-deformed format featuring the Cadet Corps.
  • Eyecatch Gallery – Gallery collection.
  • Textless Opening Song “Jiyuu no Tsubasa”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Great Escape”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

EXTRAS:

“Attack on Titan: The Complete First Season” features the series on Blu-ray and DVD and comes with a slipcover.


Once in awhile, you run across an anime series or film that becomes not just a hit among anime fans but even non-anime fans.

“Attack on Titan” has captivated fans all over the world thanks to its characters, its story of humanity’s survival but also its fight against humanoid behemoths. And along with the series comes a stylish costume design for its army which have driven people all over the world to cosplay as a military member from the anime series.

Yes, “Naruto” and even “Bleach” have captivated many fans throughout the years but any anime series tied to a Shonen Jump has no doubt become bonafide hits in Japan and outside of the country, “Attack on Titan” is rather unique as it has partnered with various companies from having a car commercial, a burger release and also a live action film that people are heavily anticipating.

The fact is “Attack on Titan” is a captivating, violent but entertaining anime series and there is no slowdown in the pacing of the anime series, it’s just one exciting episode after the other and frankly, having watched anime series and having reviewed them for decades, I found myself becoming a “Shingeki no Kyojin” fan.

I love the us vs. them storyline and this time it’s not a zombie infestation, nor is it an attack by alien species.  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the Titans are but they have humanoid features with mouths of monsters wanting to chomp down on any human it comes in contact with.

By the second season of the series becomes very interesting as it was revealed that Eren Yeager has the special ability to transform into a Titan. While he is not sure how to control the power or his rage towards the Titans, despite being thought of as humanity’s threat, because of his determination to stop all Titans, he is also a final resort into protecting of what is left of humanity from the Titans.

As he now becomes part of the team led by Levi Ackerman, one of the best soldiers out there, Eren must learn to keep his temper in check and to become part of a team rather than fight alone.

Meanwhile, a tall female titan has appeared out of nowhere and is causing destruction to those who kill it. But with captive Titans being murdered by an unknown assailant, humanity must push forward into finding how to defeat the Titans but finding a weakness of mobilizing the female titan.

It’s important to note that while the series is popular, by no means should children watch this anime series. It is violent as body part dismemberment are shown, people being eaten or crushed by the Titans are shown and if anything, it’s visual violence adds to the viewer being interested in what happens because simply, you want to see humanity kick some major ass! That is if they can…

As for the Blu-ray, you get great picture quality as colors for the series are vibrant. Black lines are nice and solid and character design is well-done, well-shaded. Backgrounds are nicely painted and for the most part, “Attack on Titan” looks incredible in HD! As for the lossless audio, while I love the Japanese vocal track, the fact is that the Japanese soundtrack is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 while the English dub, which was well-cast, received a much better Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Great use of special effects and use of the surround channels and LFE. If anything, I loved the fact that there was amazing focus in bringing this series out to the United States with the quality that fans and anime HD fans have come to expect and fortunately received in “Attack on Titan: Complete Season One”.

And I can’t wait until second season of “Attack on Titan” is released hopefully in the near future.

Also, for special features, FUNimation really went out of their way to give fans several audio commentary, an Anime Expo featurette with Studio I.G. producer Joji Wada to show how much time was put into bringing this series to the United States. You also get a Chibi animated shorts special feature and more!

Overall, “Attack on Titan” was one of the most heavily anticipated series to be released in 2014 and to this day, there is still a lot of anticipation for the series completion.  The first season is full of action, full of drama and overall, a captivation storyline with fascinating characters and overall presentation.

“Attack on Titan” is highly recommended!

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

February 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 505-516 (Duration: 300 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: December 13, 2016


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 Production by Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

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 Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Ian Sinclair as Brook

Travis Willingham as Portgas D. Ace

Edward Newgate as Whitebeard


The tragedy at Marineford sends shockwaves around the world, and the Straw Hats struggle desperately to meet again in Luffy’s most heart-wrenching time of grief.

Incapable of protecting his friends, Luffy questions his ability to become the King of the Pirates. His crew members, scattered to the farthest reaches of the globe, are more determined than ever to keep their promise and return to Sabaody Archipelago in three days. But when ”Dark King” Rayleigh offers Luffy a stern suggestion, Luffy must choose between reuniting with his friends or joining Rayleigh in training. Luffy’s decision drives him back to Marineford, where he pays his respects to the fallen and sends a secret message to his friends. The news stirs enemies from all walks of life. Monkey D. Luffy is ringing in the New Age!


As Luffy mourns the death of his brother, the latest episodes featured on “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” features on the aftermath as Luffy wants to train harder for the next two years, so he can protect those he cares about.

As news of Ace’s death starts to reach the Straw Hat Pirates, they also know that with two years left, until they all meet again, they must get stronger and train.

Meanwhile, Luffy’ makes a daring appearance at Marineford to deliver a message throughout the world.

What is “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 in its 18th season and a total of 776 episodes have been aired in Japan.

“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. He quit the Straw Hat Pirates and took on a new identity.

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.

Franky – A cyborg who can rebuild his body using pieces of metal and his dream is to build a ship and become its shipwright and sail to the end of the world.

Brook – A pirate from before the time of Roger, he was killed but because of the Paramecia-type-Revive-Revive Fruit, he rose again as a skeleton. An excellent musician, he becomes a member of the Straw Hat Pirates.


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, “One Piece” 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 Eight, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 506 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Brina Palencia (voice of Chopper) and Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Zoro).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Outtakes: Part 1 – (10:50) Featuring outtakes with the English dub talent for the Straw Hat Pirates.
  • Episode 515 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (voice of Brook) and Sonny Strait (voice of Usopp).
  • Textless Opening Song – “Fight Together”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five”, the episodes are the final episodes of the Japanese 14th season (featuring episodes 505-516) as this volume features the aftermath of Ace’s death and Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates know they have two years until they reunite, but with the two years, they must do all that’s necessary to become stronger.

As Luffy needs to get a message to the Straw Hat Pirates, he must take a bold trip to Marineford. Meanwhile, Luffy must learn a new skill in order to become a stronger leader and fighter. And Rayleigh, will do whatever is possible to get Luffy ready.

Chopper must train in Birdie Kingdom and learn more medicine, on Weatheria, Nami must learn on how to become a better navigator and learn from the scientists, on Kurakiri Island, Franky must learn new skills from Dr. Vegapunk’s inventions, on Kamabakka Kingdom, Sanji must learn from Ivankov about newkama cooking, in the Tehna Gehna Kingdom, Brook must train himself to reach 40 degrees and in the Bowin Islands, despite gaining a lot of weight, Usopp is trained by Heracules to become stronger. And Robin joins up with the Revolutionaries at East Blue’s large bridge to improve herself before returning to the group.

As this DVD volume prepares viewers for Season 15 (Japan) and fastforwards two years later, the volume focuses on Luffy and the Strawhat Pirates and their commitment to get stronger and train harder for the next two years.

The episodes also bring back footage from the past as they remember why they joined the Straw Hat Pirates and how Luffy was there for them. But also seeing pirates and even admirals who will become significant characters in the series.

For “One Piece” fans, this latest volume finally showcases the Straw Hat Pirates and seeing what they have been up to since each of them went their separate ways and making a vow to reunite a few years years later.

Needless to say, “One Piece” fans will not be disappointed!

As for the DVD, picture quality is very good on DVD, audio is also crystal clear with both voice acting soundtracks are well done, as “One Piece” is one of the best cast anime series, everyone is right for their role and considering that Toei was strict on the casting for the English dub, FUNimation did a fine job in their cast selection and I was pleased with both Japanese and English dub soundtracks. As for special features, you get two audio commentaries and an outtakes featurette.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Eight, Voyage Five” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates must become stronger and train harder for the next two years before reuniting. But will they be able to get the training to become stronger?

Fairy Tail vol. 22 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 is an action-packed storyline concluding the Tartaros Arc which features several deaths and a lot of destruction. And the Fairy Tail guild will never be the same.  A fantastic conclusion for season seven!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2016 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fairy Tail Vol. 21

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 253-265) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English DolbyTrue HD 5.1, Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

Release Date: December 6, 2016


Originally created by Hiro Mashima

Directed by Shinji Ishihara

Script by Atsuhiro Tomikoa, Fumihiko Shimo, Masashi Sogo, Shoji Yonemura

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Character Design by Aoi Yamamoto

Art Director: Junko Shimizu

Chief Animation Director: Takao Sano

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures, Satelight


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hirano/Cherami Leigh as Lucy Heartfilia

Tetsuya Kakihara/Todd Haberkorn as Natsu Dragneel

Rie Kugimiya/Tia Ballard as Happy

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Erza Scarlet

Yūichi Nakamura/Newton Pittman as Gray Fullbuster

Shinichi Kotani/R. Bruce Elliot as Makarov

Akira Ishida as Zeref

Daisuke Kishio/Eric Vale as Loki/Loke

Daisuke Namikawa as Jeral/Mystogan

Eri Kitamura/Jamie Marchi as Kana Alberona

Hiroki Touchi as Pantherlily

Hiroki Yasumoto as Elfman

Kazuhiko Inoue as Gildarts Clive

Mai Nakahara as Juvia Loxar

Mariya Ise as Levi Macgarden

Miyuki Sawashiro/Lydia Mackay as Ultear Milkovich

Ryoko Ono/Monica Rial as Mirajane

Satomi Satou as Wendy

Sayaka Narita as Aries

Wataru Hatano as Gajeel Redfox

Yui Horie as Charle


With the battle of Tartaros still raging on, the wizards of Fairy Tail may have finally met their match. The threat of three thousand Faces hangs over them, and the power of the Demon Gates takes their breath away when they reveal their true Etherious Forms.

Right when things begin to look up, an even bigger threat appears Acnologia! Beaten and exhausted, can the wizards find the strength to take on Tartaros and this monstrous dragon? When the fire inside Natsu erupts, he will have a startling and unexpected reunion. But the time for catching up and seeking answers will have to wait E.N.D. and the ready-to-detonate Faces are moments from destroying the magical world as they know it!

The final battle for the magical world happens now!


The seventh season of “Fairy Tail” concludes with a devastating finale.

Gray confronts his father Silver, who reveals that he is a corpse that was brought back to life by Keyes’ necromancy curse and he desperately wants his son to kill him, but can Gray do it?

Meanwhile, the search is over for Natsu as his father, the dragon Igneel has returned, as does Mard Geer and Acnologia who intends to wreak destruction on the world.

Erza takes on Kyoka in a battle to the death.

Who will die?  Who will survive?

Find out in the final episodes of the “Tarturos Arc”.  All this and more in vol. 22 of “Fairy Tail” (episodes 253-265) available now on Blu-ray + DVD combo pack from FUNimation.

What is “Fairy Tail”?

For those who are not familiar with “Fairy Tail”, let’s just say that it’s one of the most exciting, long running anime magic/adventure series to be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

In Japan, “Fairy Tail” is a manga series which began in 2006 and was created by mangaka Hiro Mashima (known for his manga series “Rave Master”). Featured in Weekly Shonen Magazine, the manga series is still ongoing, meanwhile an anime adaptation of the manga series was created in 2009 produced by A-Pictures and Satelight. And similar to the manga series, is also ongoing!

With the 22nd Blu-ray release of “Fairy Tail”, this latest volume features episodes 253-265.

The anime series is directed by Shinji Ishihara (“Aoi Kokuhaku”, “Tenbatsu Angel Rabbie”, “Tokyo Majin” and is written by Masashi Sogo (“Bleach”, “Yukikaze”, “Hunter x Hunter”). The anime series features character design by Aoi Yamamoto, art direction by Junko Shimizu (“Midori Days, “Blue Dragon”, “Trinity Blood”) and music by Yasuharu Takanashi (“Naruto Shippuden”, “Hell Girl”, “Gantz”, Ikki Tosen”).

A Quick Summary of what “Fairy Tail” is about?:

“Fairy Tail” revolves around a 17-year-old celestial wizard named Lucy Heartfilia who dreams of joining a sorcerer guild known as Fairy Tail, a group known and feared for the destruction they cause. One day, she runs into Natsu Dragneel, a guy who is traveling to the land of Fiore along with his partner Happy (a talking blue cat with wings) who is searching for his foster parent, a dragon named Igneel who has disappeared.

While traveling to Fiore, both Lucy and Natsu encounter a sorcerer claiming to be the famous Salamander of Fairy Tail. Natsu is the first to object that the man is a phony but the fans of Salamander are dismayed by Natsu’s comments and beat him up, meanwhile Lucy finds out that this fake Salamander is using his sorcerer abilities to make young women fall for him.

As Lucy tries to show her gratitude to Natsu for breaking the spell that would have otherwise have hypnotized Lucy, the two become friends.

But when the fake Salamander tells Lucy that he would get her into Fairy Tail, she knows he is a fake but any chance of getting to join the guild would make her dream come true, so she decides to visit him.

But it’s all a ruse and the fake Salamander is just trying to find female slaves and because he is so powerful, Lucy does not have the magic necessary to beat him. But coming to Lucy’s rescue is Natsu, who is revealed to be a true member of Fairy Tail and also revealed to be the true “Salamander”. And he easily beats the fake Salamander up.

When Natsu discovers that Lucy’s dream is to become a Fairy Tail member, he asks her to join him and he can help her get into the guild and from that moment on, Lucy becomes Natsu’s partner in various Fairy Tail guild missions and for each mission they beat, the more income they make.

And more money means more keys to gain more powers, which would help Lucy become a powerful celestial wizard!

And together, Natsu and Lucy develop a wonderful friendship as they grow as partners but also a guild members with their other teammates.


“Fairy Tail” Vol. 22 features the following characters:

  • Natsu Dragneel – Also known as “Salamander”, Natsu is a kindhearted, always hungry wizard who travels with his partner Happy in search of Igneel, a dragon who raised Natsu but is now missing. Natsu is a dragon slayer and a wizard who can perform “Lost Magic and can have physical properties of a dragon. He specializes in Fire Dragon Slayer Magic which allows him to breath fire and ingest fire as a form of nourishment.
  • Lucy Heartfilia – A celestial wizard who can summon contracted spirits (with special abilities) through a set of keys known as Gatekeys. She treats these spirits as friends. Her dream is to join Fairy Tail and through meeting Natsu, now her dream can come true.
  • Happy – A blue cat with wings and a best friend to Natsu. He can fly and can carry a person while flying. He is also known to irritate Lucy.
  • Gray Fullbuster – A powerful wizard of Fairy Tail and the opposite of Natsu, in that he has control of ice. Gray has the power of Ice Make which can make him create weapons or anything out of ice. He was raised by the wizard Ur. He also has a bad habit of taking of all his clothes without realizing it.
  • Erza Scarlet – An S-Class wizard (high-ranked) and is the most powerful member of the Fairy Tail guild. She has magic known as “The Knight” which allows her to summon and equip weapons and armor and also has the ability to resist magic attacks. She is feared by others because of her lack of compassion.
  • Mirajane – A 19-year-old S-Class wizard who is the cover girl of Sorcerer’s Weekly magazine and helps Lucy understand what is happening with the members of the Fairy Tail guild. She has the ability to change her appearance to something she previously encountered.
  • Cana Alberona – A short-tempered heaving drinking woman. She uses card magic to cast her spells.
  • Elfman – Mirajane’s younger brother who is known for his physical strength. He can absorb the power of any monster he defeats.
  • Loke – A flirtatious wizard who is often seen in the company of many women.
  • Makarov Dreyer – The elder master of Fairy Tail. He is constantly busy because of his guild members becoming too violent.
  • Juvia Lockser – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild and now a member of Fairy Tail and is obsessed with Gray.
  • Gajeel Redfox – Originally a member of the Phantom Lord Guild, Gajeel is similar to Natsu in the fact that he is a Dragon Slayer raised by the dragon Metalicana. He can transform his body into metal weapons.
  • Jellal Fernandes – A former child slave that grew up with Erza Scarlet. Thought to be dead, he is found by Oracion Seis and revived by Wendy Marvell and is being used to find the destructive spell known as Nirvana.
  • Wendy Marvell – A female Dragon Slayer who is accompanied by her Exceed partner Carla. A master of Sky Dragon Slayer magic, she can heal injuries. She becomes an ally of Fairy Tail.

VIDEO:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). It’s important to note that this is a anime TV series, not a film or an OVA and is a weekly anime series. What that means is A-1 Pictures and Satelight, have their hands full, especially if they have other TV series to work on that week. Typically a lot of anime series are quickly done in order to make it by their weekly deadline and sometimes, they are done the day of deadline. So, production values for TV series are typically not that high if they are working on multiple series.

Fortunately A-1 Pictures has become one of the newer studios that have been doing production for quite a number of popular hit series such as “Blue Exorcist” and “Big Windup!” and Satelight does a lot of the in-between animation. So, while they are a smaller, growing company, they are not overburdened as other studios and that means, more time dedicated to the anime series.

“Fairy Tail” features cool production value. A lot of detailed artwork, because of the many adventures, you get so many locations and not the typical regurgitated scenery.

There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant, black levels are deep. I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release. If anything, the Blu-ray really brings out the details and colors of the series and looks fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fairy Tail” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Dialogue and music is clear through the front channels for the lossless stereo soundtrack but because the English is 5.1, there is better use of the surround channels.

In fact, I found myself listening to the English dub track for “Fairy Tail” much more than the Japanese soundtrack because of the 5.1 but also, FUNimation did a magnificent job with the casting of this series. I was very pleased especially with the casting of Lucy, Natsu, Happy, Grey and Erza and for the most part, I think whichever you prefer, you will be pleased with Japanese and English audio tracks.

But for the most part, for a TV series, lossless audio is crystal clear and while not the most immersive soundtrack (which I typically don’t expect TV series to boast incredible immersive lossless soundtracks, unlike a film or OVA series), “Fairy Tail” does sound very good on Blu-ray!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 features the following special features:

  • Episode 253 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with voice actor Newton Pittman (voice of Gray).
  • Episode 258 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Vic Mignogna (voice of Mard Geer) and Janelle Lutz (voice of Kyoka).
  • Fairy Tail in the Booth: Sting, Rogue and Mard Geer – (3:05) Featuring the behind-the-scenes in the studio showcasing the voice actors for Sting, Rogue and Mard Geer.
  • Textless Opening Song: “Believe in Myself”
  • Textless Closing Song: “Azayakana Tabiji”
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Fairy Tail”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Fairy Tail” vol. 22 Blu-ray also comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version.


With the seventh season “Fairy Tail” and the final “Tartaros” arc coming to a close, we have watched as the dark guild of Zeref’s demons are trying to resurrect their master and Zeref’s ultimate creation, E.N.D.!

In the early part of the “Tartaros Arc”, as the Magic Council discusses Tartaros recent activity and the decrease in dark guilds, Jackal of the Nine Demon Gates infiltrates the meeting and destroys the building the council are meeting at and everyone is killed including Lahar.

News of the Magic Council’s assassination spreads throughout the villages and Doranbolt, who is one of the few survivors from the attack, goes to the dungeon to extract information on Tartaros. And more members of the Nine Demon Gates continue their attacks leading to more deaths.

While this latest volume is probably one of the darkest story plots of “Fairy Tail” prior to the “Tartaros Arc” is a storyline that features the demons of Tartaros planning to destroy Fairy Tail. And with a few of the primary characters escaping, it places each character in danger and fighting their most difficult battle yet.

In this latest 22nd volume, the battles continue as Natsu and Gajeel take on Torafuzar and Tempester, Erza takes on the final Demon Gate Kyoka, but just when all battles reach its peak, Acnolgia shows up out of nowhere and wreaks destruction in the area.

But coming to the defense of the guilds is the one dragon that Natsu has looked for, his fire dragon father Igneel.  And to make things worse, Mard Geer steals the book of the E.N.D.

Needless to say, this is a tragic arc with many deaths and something that will change the course of the Fairy Tail guild.

And what’s shocking is that we have seen the Fairy Tail guild take on powerful foes, nearly lose but are able to overcome their challenges.  But can this latest challenge be too much for them?

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good for a TV series and features a good solid lossless soundtrack. It’s important to emphasize that this is a TV series and not a film or OVA, thus the production quality of animated TV shows tend to be lower (and created in a short time) than a film/OVA, so there is a bit of softness and shadowing and detail are not utilized a lot for this series.

As for special features, you do get the English voice actors providing commentary for two episodes and also get to see a short video clip of a few voice talents recording their scene.

Overall, “Fairy Tail” vol. 22 is an action-packed storyline concluding the Tartaros Arc which features several deaths and a lot of destruction. And the Fairy Tail guild will never be the same.  A fantastic conclusion for season seven!  Recommended!

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