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Your Name. (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Toho Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Your Name.

DURATION: 107 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: November 7, 2017


Originally Created by Makoto Shinkai

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Script/Screenplay/Storyboard: Makoto Shinkai

Music by RADWIMPS

Character Design:Masashi Ando, Masayoshi Tanaka

Art Director:Akiko Majima, Takumi Tanji, Tasuku Watanabe

Executive Producer: Yoshihiro Furusawa

Producer: Genki Kawamura, Katsuhiro Takei, Kouichirou Itou

Anime Production: CoMix Wave Films


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mone Kamishiraishi/Stephanie Sheh as Mitsuha Miyamizu

Ryunosuke Kamiki/Michael Sinterniklaas as Taki Tachibana

Aoi Yūki/Cassandra Morris as Sayaka Natori

Etsuko Ichihara/Glynn Ellis as Hitoha Miyamizu

Kaito Ishikawa/Ray Chase as Shinta Takagi

Kanon Tani/Catie Harvey as Yotsuba Miyamizu

Masaki Terasoma/Scott Williams as Toshiki Miyamizu

Masami Nagasawa/Laura Post as Miki Okudera

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Ben Pronsky as Tsukasa Fujii

Ryō Narita/Kyle Hebert as Katsuhiko Teshigawara


From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls.

The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint.

When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more; a chance to finally meet. But try as they might, something more daunting than distance prevents them. Is the string of fate between Mitsuha and Taki strong enough to bring them together, or will forces outside their control leave them forever separated?

The Combo comes packaged in a beautiful silver holographic foil slipcover.


Makoto Shinkai, the superstar animation filmmaker who have produced animated film which have been hit after hit and just when you wonder if Shinkai could repeat his success, he hits a grand slam with his 2016 animated film “Your Name.”.

The former Falcom graphic designer, who took the anime industry by storm back in 2001 when he released his anime OVA titled “Voices of a Distant Star”, which he created on his Power Mac G4 and using several software and voice acted by he and his wife Miko and music provided by his friend Tenmon.  The OVA inspired many for the fact it was independent, created on a small budget but looked significantly better than some major anime series by well-known animation studios.

Suffice to say, the person who grew up inspired by Miyazaki films was now given a chance to create more animated films and he would eventually achieve success with “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” (2004), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”) and in May 2013, “Kotonoha no Miwa” (The Garden of Words) was released.

But his 2016 animated film “Your Name.” (in Japan, known as “Kimi no Na wa.”), which he wrote and directed and was produced by CoMix Wave Films has now made Shinkai an internationally known filmmaker and the film has also broke many records in Japan.

“Your Name.” became the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan, the 7th highest grossing traditionally animated film, is now the highest grossing anime film and the 4th highest grossing non-English film worldwide.

The film has made over $355 million worldwide and has been nominated and has won awards worldwide and now the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The film begins with what looks like a meteor splitting off and part of it descending.

We are then introduced to Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the Hida mountainous region of Gifu.  She wakes up and is shocked that she has breasts and her sister Yotsuba thinks she’s acting very strange.

While she goes to school with her good friend Sayaka Natori and Katsuhiko “Tessie” Teshigawara, her friends are a little surprised that she has no recollection of her behavior the previous day.

Performing a dance with her sister and embarrassed that her friends from school are watching her, while descending from the temple, she screams that she was a handsome boy living in Tokyo.

The following morning, we are introduced to a high school boy named Taki living in Tokyo.  But when he wakes up, it’s Mitsuha and she can’t understand why she’s in a boy’s body.  She goes out, trying to hang out with the guys, go to school and the work a job as a restaurant server, Mitsuha thinks she’s in a dream. Because no way she could switch to another body.  She realizes that Taki keeps a diary and starts typing on his phone.

When Taki wakes up, he is shocked to see the diary and shocked when his friends tell him how he behaved the day before.  He and Mitsuha eventually realize that they switch bodies and to prevent any problems, they make rules that neither are able to break and because they switch bodies a few times each week, the two communicate by leaving each other messages.

Mitsuha, her younger sister and her grandmother take their ritual alcohol (kuchikamizake) to an offering at a shrine on the mountaintop where a meteor hit thousands of years ago.  The shrine that the sisters leave their kuchikamizake is believed to represent the body of the village guardian god who rules human experiences and connections

She writes to Taki telling him that a comet is expected to pass Earth on the day of the village festival.  When she and her friends go to check out and see the beautiful comet, they can see a falling star.

As for Taki, the day she wrote the message was the last time he had heard from her.  The two are also unable to switch bodies.

Taki tries calling Mitsuha and all he can think about is her and he begins drawing scenes of the Mitsuha’s village and surroundings. But curious of why Mitsuha has stopped writing him, he decides to visit the Hida Region.

While arriving, he tries to show people of where a village (where a meteor hit long ago) is located.  And a restaurant owner and his wife tell Taki that they know of the village and that her husband is from there.

When Taki asks where it is, they tell him that the place no longer exists since three years ago.

Taki doesn’t understand and they explain that three years ago, a meteor hit her village and everyone very close to the impact area around the village were killed.

Taki decides to learn what happened on that fateful day and what happened to Mitsuha.  But can he find a way to send her a message or switch bodies again in order to save her and everyone in the village?


VIDEO:

“Your Name.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed.  Character designs are fantastic and this is an awesome animated film to marvel on how far Shinaki’s work has gone through to achieve such realism!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Your Name.” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music along with wonderful sound effects during the more action-driven scenes that utilize the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Your Name.” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Makoto Shinkai – (25:35) Featuring a Funimation interview with Makoto Shinkai.
  • Makoto Shinkai Filmography – (10:47) A look at all of Makoto Shinkai’s animated films via excerpts.
  • Special TV Program – (22:26) Hosted by Ryunosuke Kamiki (voice of Taki) and guest starring Makoto Shinkai and Mone Kamshiraishi (voice of Mitsuha), the special visits various locations where Shinkai films were shot, interviews and more!
  • Trailers

I am a huge fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work.  The amount of detail to capture reality through his animated work, the ability to capture human relationships and bonding, capturing human emotion from highs and lows.

One of my favorite films from Shinkai was “5 Centimeters Per Second” (Byoku 5 Centimeter) which was a film about love through different periods of time, breaking up and moving on, his film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” dealt with fallen relationships and sacrifice, while “The Garden of Words” explored an woman trying to find what is important about life and finding the light and learning why life is worth living, after a dark past.

Relationships are a big part of Makoto Shinkai’s work and that goes as far back as Shinkai’s shorts, “She and Her Cat” (Kanojo to Kanjo no Neko).

And as science fiction has played a big part in Shinkai’s earlier works, he manages to blend sci-fi with a touching story about a teenage boy named Taki and a teenage girl named Mitsuha who switch bodies intermittently throughout the week after they sleep.  They are not sure how it happened and why it’s happening, considering these two have never met prior and they live very far from each other.

And as the two start to communicate with each other, often playful messages of support or what happened while the other person was occupying the other person’s body, these two manage to grow close from their unique correspondence.

But one day, the communication and body switch stops which leaves Taki wanting to get answers of what happened to Mitsuha and why she stopped contacting him.  And to the surprise of Taki, the Mitsuha that Taki was communicating with died three years ago when a meteor destroyed her entire village and everyone was in the blast proximity were killed.

But what if Taki was able to relay a message to her?  What if he could switch bodies with her once more, knowing what he knows?

“Your Name.” was no doubt the best Shinkai film I have watched.  From the detail of Shinjuku, Shibuya and many other locations animated and beautifully drawn, to a script well-executed and captivating, during my viewing of the film, all I kept hoping for was a different outcome unlike “5 Centimeters Per Second”.  Rooting for the two characters and while knowing Shinkai likes to play things close to reality, I just wanted to see something magical.

While the film is no doubt unique in some ways, the storyline concept of trying to prevent one’s death in the past is not new.    In fact, the storyline of two protagonists from two different years in time and yet are able to communicate, can be seen in the 2000 South Korean film “Il Mare” (Siworae) from filmmaker Lee Hyun-seung.

But the way Shinkai writes the film and manages to explore different facets of their relationship and also interjecting some elements of “5 Centimeters Per Second” in to the film in order to make viewers guessing of what direction Shinkai would take the characters to.

As for the film on Blu-ray, picture quality is vibrant and detailed.  The Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and music, while surround channels manages to utilize the various sound effects with clarity.  And the special features include an interview with Makoto Shinkai and a special TV program about “Your Name.” and Shinkai’s oevure.

I have to say, Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.” was a pleasure to watch.  I absolutely love this film and I highly recommend it!

Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc” will no doubt please the fans of the video games or those curious of jumping into the anime series, so they can enjoy the video games.  Dark, twisted, violent but consistent with the video games, this anime series on Blu-ray and DVD is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc

DURATION: 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: October 3, 2017


Chief Director: Seiji Kishi

Directed by  Daisei Fukuoka

Series Composition: Norimitsu Kaiho

Music by Masafumi Takada

Character Design: Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Eiji Wakamatsu

Producer: Yoshinori Terasawa

Anime Production: Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mai Nakahara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Chisa Yukizome

Minami Takayama/Johnny Yong Bosch as Hajime Hinata/Izuru Kamukura

Ai Kayano/Stephanie Sheh as Mikan Tsumiki

Ami Koshimizu/Brina Palencia as Ibuki Mioda

Daisuke Kishio/Aaron Dismuke as Fuyuhiko Kuzuryū

Hiroki Yasumot/Patrick Seitz o as Nekomaru Nidai

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Teruteru Hanamura

Kana Hanazawa/Christine Marie Cabanos as Chiaki Nanami

Kanata Hongō/Justin Briner as Ryōta Mitarai

Kotono Mitsuishi/Clarine Harp as Peko Pekoyama

Megumi Ogata/Bryce Papenbrook as Nagito Komaeda

Miho Arakawa/Natalie Hoover as Sonia Nevermind

Romi Park/Morgan Garrett as Akane Owari

Suzuko Mimori/Kira Buckland as Hiyoko Saionji

Tomokazu Sugita/Scott Frerichs as Tanaka the Forbidden

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Kyle Hebert as Kazuichi Sōda

Yu Kobayashi/Carrie Keranen as Mahiru Koizumi


Hope’s Peak High School is a special school that nurtures those with exceptional talents and abilities. While only top students are a part of the main course, anyone can join the preparatory course, like Hajime Hinata has. Hinata wants nothing more than to be part of the talented elite, but his desires lead him to a fateful encounter that drives the future of the school into despair.


The video game franchise “Danganronpa” was no doubt surprising and entertaining but in its unique way, dark and violent.

Created by Spike Chunsoft and released for the Playstation Portable, Playstation Vita and other platforms, the adventure visual novel video game “Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc” was first released on the PSP in 2010.  Followed by “Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair” which followed in 2013 on the PS Vita.  And in 2017, “Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony” was released on the Vita.

And in 2016, two concurrent anime series were produced by Lerche was created, and would serve as the conclusion to the “Hope’s Peak Academy” saga.

One is titled “Danganronpa 3: Future Arc” which takes place after the events of the video game “Danganronpa 2”, while “Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc” takes place prior to the events of the first game and what happened to Hajime Hinata and the cast of “Danganronpa 2” prior to the tragedy that changed the world.

And both are available on Blu-ray + DVD courtesy of Funimation.

“Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc” begins with Chisa Yukizome being assigned as an assistant home room teacher of Hope Peak Academy’s 77th class.  And she finds it difficult to get her students to attend class and she is often going around the school and bring them back to the classroom.  But as Chisa is a teacher, she is also a spy for her friend Kyosuke.

We are introduced to Hajime Hinata, a student from the Hope Peak’s Reserve Course and one of the first people he makes friends with is a gamer named Chiaki Nanami.

Meanwhile, two deaths happened on campus and the higher-ups are covering the deaths up.

As Chisa tries to keep the class together, certain students have other things in mind and as for Hajime, what happens when he  goes through a project known as Kamakura Project in which his original personality is removed form his body and is infused with many talents.

Meanwhile, two new students plan to join Hope’s Peak as part of the 78th class, Junko Enoshima and Mukuro Ikusaba.


VIDEO:

“Fate/Grand Order First Order” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16 x 9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-done, characters are well-shaded and for the most part, the anime series looks fantastic in HD! I didn’t notice any major banding issues or artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Fate/Grand Order First Order” is presented in Linear PCM English and Japanese 2.0. The anime is well-acted both in Japanese and English. Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 7 Audio Commentary – An audio commentary featuring Christian Lamont (ADR Director) with Christine Marie Cabanos.
  • Episode 10 Video Commentary – (23:52) An video commentary featuring Christopher Bevins (co-ADR Director), Christian Lamont (co-ADR Director) and Natalie Hoover.
  • Textless Opening and Closing songs

 


When I first played a “Danganronpa” game, I thought it was fascinating and fun as it incorporated characters with different personalities.  That is until we saw a killer bear named Monokuma with it’s half divide image of white and evil black and big belly button.

But what hits you is the savage deaths of each individual and how people end up getting killed.

It was revealed in “Danganronpa 3” that the person responsible for the deaths is Junko Enoshima, the founder of the terrorist organization, Ultimate Despair and is the True Ultimate Despair.

And here we are now with two anime series from Lerche, “Future Arc” and “Despair”.

With “Despair”, it’s a bit different from the video games in which people were stuck in rooms and were limited to areas they had to live in and everyone being suspicious of each other, as each person had a motive to kill.

But with “Despair Arc”, it seems like a normal school setting at Hope Peak Academy.  You have a cool and caring teacher named Chisa Yukizome and students who are different but many who are just normal students.  But this is just appearances as things changes and people start to die.  And for student Hajime Hinata, he wants to seek the truth.

By episode 5, things change when Junko Enoshima and her sister Mukuro Ikusaba enroll at Hope’s Peak for the new school year and Hajime undergoes testing for the Kamakura Project.  His personality removed and his body infused with every know talent and now goes under the persona, Izuru Kamakura.

As Junko starts to see animator Ryota working on an anime that can utilize subliminal messaging to prompt emotions with viewers, she starts to leak information about experiments and murders to the Reserve Course students and then, leading Ryota to watch a grizzly video of student’s killing each other.  And then Juno telling him that she will be combining his anime with the video to brainwash people and sending them into despair and will subject his classmates to another killing game if he refuses to cooperate.

The series no doubt sets up a chain of events but seeing how far Junko will go to spread despair among everyone in the world and cause self-destructive anarchy.  And watching the events that would lead to “The Tragedy”.

For the most part, “Danganronpa” fans will enjoy the storyline as people gain more insight to how devious, cold and calculating Junko Enoshima is.  From the first game, many thought she would be just a tragic statistic but the anime series helps put the storyline into perspective.  She’s no doubt a person of true evil and while I would like to say “Danganronpa” is a series that may have hope similar to a story like “Battle Royale” where violence and students dying became common place.  But at least “Battle Royale” provided viewers/readers with a glimmer of hope.

“Danganronpa” video games and even the anime series may have given some semblance in hope but in truth, with the popularity of the video games and there is money to be made, I don’t see any end for Ultimate Despair, nor do I see Junko Enoshima going anywhere anytime soon.  She’s no doubt one of the more memorable female antagonists in an anime series and who is any close to defeating her and her terrorist organization?  That remains to be seen.

As for the anime series, the series is absolutely vibrant for a TV series and the character designs very much respects the original character design and art direction of the video games.  Lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue, music and also sound effects through the surround channel.  English soundtrack gets a slight nod for its 5.1 soundtrack, as opposed to the Japanese stereo lossless soundtrack.  But with that being said, both are well-acted and fans of the video games should be thrilled with this anime series.  And as for special features, you get an audio and video commentary.

Overall, “Danganronpa 3: Despair Arc” will no doubt please the fans of the video games or those curious of jumping into the anime series, so they can enjoy the video games.  Dark, twisted, violent but consistent with the video games, this anime series on Blu-ray and DVD is recommended!

Endride: Part Two (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far. Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and the second conclusion made this anime series worthwhile.

Image courtesy of © ENDRIDE Production Committee. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Endride: Part Two

DURATION: (Episodes 13-24) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Directed by Keiji Gotoh

Series Composition by Touko Machida

Music by IMAGINE PROJECT, Kohei Tanaka

Original Character Design by Kazushi Hagiwara, Nobuhiro Watsuki

Art Director: Akira Ito

Chief Animation Director: Junko Watanabe

Anime Production: Brain’s Base, Lapin Track


Featuring the following voice talent:

Karen Miyama/Sarah Wiedenheft as Alicia

Kensho Ono/Aaron Dismuke as Shun Asanaga

Toshiki Masuda/Ian Sinclair as Emilio Ranguhaimu

Akio Ohtsuka/Phil Parsons as King Delzaine

Aoi Yūki/Skyler McIntosh as Mischa

Ayaka Ohashi/Felecia Angelle as Falarion

Hiroki Takahashi/Robert McCollum as Demetrio

Juurouta Kosugi/Bill Jenkins as Alzerm Langheim

Kousuke Toriumi/Tyler Walker as Eljuia

Ryoko Nagata/Jessica Cavanagh as Makiko Asanaga

Satoshi Mikami/ as Kazunobu Asanaga

Shizuka Itou as Louise

Tetsu Inada/Jeremy Inman as Iberuta (Ibelda)

Tomoaki Maeno/Jarrod Greene as Gidoro

Yūma Uchida as Felix

Yuu Mizushima as Pascal

 


After the confrontation in Babel goes awry, Shun, Prince Emilio, and the ragtag team of rebels must face an even bigger problem than before. Without a king, the entire country is falling into chaos, and without a passage to the surface, Shun has no way home. It’s a treacherous journey back to the capital, where Pascal’s research uncovers the world’s dismal fate.


Having been stuck in Babel, what happens when Shun and Prince Emilio check underground and discover a prisoner who may provide them with answers that they are looking for.

Meanwhile, what happens when Shun and Prince Emilio are transported to the surface?  And what happens when Emilio’s memories come to life after meeting Shun’s father?

All this and more in “Endride: Part Two”, available now from Funimation!

What is “Endride” about?

“Endride” is set in a world that is underground, beneath the surface. In order to not be discovered, a myth was created that the underground is hell and demons live there. But in truth, the underground is a world unlike the surface with modern technology.

The series begins with the 16-year-old prince of Endora named Emilio Langheim who tries to assassinate his father, King Delzaine.

The reason is that King Delzaine is not his real father and raised the boy after killing his real father and Emilio wants revenge.

The King manages to defeat Emilio and put him in the dungeon. But when a group goes to the underground to cause something badly for Emilio, out of nowhere, a teenager appears from the surface, Shun Asanaga.

While Shun tries to figure out where he is, he is attacked and out of nowhere, a warp relic emerges within him. He is able to release Emilio and together they manage to escape. And Shun explains how he touched a mysterious crystal found in his father’s company and next thing you know, he was transported to Endora. And now, he desperately wants to find his way back home.

The two are joined by Emilio’s childhood friend Alicia and get some help from the eccentric scientist and former Royal Researcher, Pascal, who left the position after he questioned King Delzaine’s plans of reconstructing Babel.

As Shun and Emilio are like water and ice and are very much different from each other and often are at odds, Shun knows that he needs Emilio’s help in trying to get back home and Emilio needs Shun’s help in order to achieve revenge.

The group meet the Ignauts and they are interested in forming a revolution against King Delzaine and making things equal among those who live in Endora. But what troubles will Shun and Emilio encounter on their adventure to achieve their goals?


VIDEO:

“Endride: Part Two” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are well-done, characters are well-shaded and for the most part, the anime series looks fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Endride: Part Two” is presented in English and Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0. Surprisingly, FUNimation did not give an English 5.1 dub soundtrack for this release. But dialogue and music are crystal clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Endride: Part Two” comes with no special features but the textless opening and closing songs and trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Endride: Part Two” comes with a slipcover case and Blu-ray + DVD versions of the series.


“Endride” may seem like another banal storyline of a person lost in a new world and desperately trying to find his way back home, but there is more to this anime series considering the twists and turns involved and its fascinating storyline.

The story first and foremost focuses on two characters, Shun Asanaga, a 15-year-old hot tempered boy from the Surface who immediately gets transported to Endora after touching a mysterious crystal. The other character is Emilio Langheim, the 16-year-old prince who wants revenge on the man who raised him, King Delzaine, for killing his father.

The two are like fire and water, they are opposites but yet they need each other to accomplish their goals.

But to make a difference in the world, they are caught up in political situations when a group, the Ignauts are wanting to start a revolution and want equality. Seeing opportunities on both sides, Shun and Emilio join forces with the Ignauts, but will Shun ever get home? And will Emilio get his revenge?

With the release of “Endride: Part Two”, a lot of revelations take place as we learn the absolute truth of the Warp Particles and also how Shun and Emilio are connected and more!

“Endride: Part Two” looks great on Blu-ray. Colors are vibrant and for the most part, no major artifacts or banding issues. Lossless soundtrack are stereo on both soundtracks, which is surprising considering FUNimation usually creates an English dub track in 5.1. Also, another surprise is there are no special features (aside from the usual textless opening and ending and trailers), not even the usual FUNimation audio or video commentary which was surprising. So, pretty much, this is a no thrills barebones Blu-ray+DVD release.

But overall, acting is well-done and for the most part, I enjoyed the series and how the film is able to come together for its dramatic and action-packed ending.

Overall, “Endride” has proven to be an exciting an adventurous anime series so far. Great use of characters and an easy-to-follow storyline and the second conclusion made this anime series worthwhile.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The second season continues with Arslan and his companions journeys for recruiting more people to go to battle alongside with him.  Action-packed and filled with many characters, “The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Kodansha, Arslan Project Committee MBS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: (Episodes 1-8) 200 Minutes

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

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: November 8, 2016


Originally created by Hiromu Arakawa, Yoshiki Tanaka

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Taro Iwashiro

Character Design by Kazuo Watanabe, Ushio Tazawa

Art Director: Tadashi Kudo

Chief Animation Director: Kazuo Watanabe, shingo Ogiso, Ushio Tazawa

Anime Production: Liden Films, Sanzigen Animation Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daisuke Namikawa/Christopher Bevins as Narsus

Kenn/Jerry Jewell as Gieve

Maaya Sakamoto/Rachel Robinson as Falangies

Natsuki Hanae/Justin Briner as Elam

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Rico Fajardo as Daryun

Yūsuke Kobayashi/Aaron Dismuke as Arslan

Yuuki Kaji/Vic Mignona as Silvermask

Atsuko Tanaka as Tahamine

Hiroki Yasumoto/Jarrod Greene as Kishuard

Hiroshi Yanaka as Sām

Katsuyuki Konishi/Josh Grelle as Shapur

Kenta Miyake/Chris Ryan as Kubad

Kousuke Toriumi/Ian Sinclair as Rajendra

Manami Numakura/Jad Saxton as Alfreed

Masakazu Morita/Clifford Chapin as Xandes

Shiro Saito/Mark Stoddard as Bodan

Takayuki Sugo/Christopher R. Sabat as Andragoras III

Takehito Koyasu/Eric Vale as Giskarl

Toru Ohkawa/Kent Williams as Kharlan

Toshiharu Sakurai/Jeremy Inman as Innocentius VII

Wataru Hatano/Marcus D. Stimac as Jaswant

Yumi Uchiyama/Ryan Reynolds as Etoile


An incomparable anime epic from the original creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa, The Heroic Legend of Arslan brings political intrigue, thrilling action, and a colorful cast of characters together for a grand adventure filled with treachery and triumph.

As Arslan gathers forces to fight for his cause, his progress is suddenly halted by the warring Princes of the neighboring country, Sindhura. Both brothers believe they have equal claim to the throne, but only one can succeed their father. Sensing the opportunity to form a powerful alliance, Arslan’s trusted advisor, Narsus forms a plan to end the feud once and for all. But their detour in Sindhura gives Lord Silver Mask and his followers time to strengthen their own influence back in Pars. The mystery surrounding Arslan’s true parentage has loyal Parsians questioning his right to rule. Shocked by the revelation that he may be fighting for a throne that isn’t his, Arslan has to wonder: Is blood truly what makes a king? Or is the love he has for Pars and its people enough to see him through.


What happens when Arslan heads to the port city of Gilan to search for reinforcements and Narsus meets his old friend Shagad.  Is he still the same man with ideals or has he changed?

Will Arslan be able to recruit more soldiers to join him?  And what happens when Narsus may need to confront his old friend on the battlefield?

What is “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” about?

Back in 1986, author Yoshiki Tanaka would create a fantasy novel series titled “Arslan Senki” (a.k.a. “The Heroic Legend of Arslan”).

With a total of 15 novels having been published, the series would then receive a four-part OVA adaptation in the 1990’s, followed by a manga series adaptation (1991-1996), two animated film adaptations and a new manga adaptation in 2013 featuring illustrations by Hiromu Arakawa for “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine”.

In 2015, a TV series anime adaptation based on this 2013 manga aired on television and while a second season consisting of eight episodes aired in Japan in the summer of 2016. And now the second season will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The series is directed by Noriyuki Abe (“Bleach”, “Black Butler” series, “GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka”), series composition by Makoto Uezu (“Akame ga KILL!”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Yumeria”), music by Taro Iwashiro (who composed the music for the live action versions of “Azumi”, “Prince of Tennis”, “Rurouni Kenshin”), character designs by Kazuo Watanabe (“Kamen no Maid Guy”, “Oku-sama wa Joshi Kosei”, “Kamen no Maid Guy”) and Ushio Tazawa (“Senyu”) and art direction by Tadashi Kudo (“Gestalt”, “Katanagatari”, “Dokkoida?”).

The series revolves around the kind-hearted Arslan. The Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Pars, who was not originally raised in royalty and has always cared for people. And as he starts to see the world in a bad state, he wants to make a difference.

So, he takes part in the first battle against Lusitania but when King Adragoras III, Arslan’s father is killed by one of his own generals, his loyal servant Daryun rescues him from trouble and they retreat along with the Parsian army.

Wanting to make a different, Arslan and Daryun try to recruit well-known soldiers such as the retired tactician Narsus, his page Elam, the priestess Farangis, the womanizer Gieve and others to their cause.

Meanwhile a mysterious man wearing a silver mask wants nothing more but to see Arslan and his people destroyed.

Arslan manages to see the world and see how many areas use slavery and Arslan is very much into doing all he can to end slavery.  But in doing so, other countries are not so thrilled about and will fight against Arslan and his followers to make sure slavery continues.

While Arslan manages to gain more followers to fight for his cause.  But still his numbers of soldiers are not strong enough.  Can Arslan recruit more people to support him and end slavery?


VIDEO:

“The Heroic Legend of Arslan” 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. Very good animation during the more action intense sequences.

The anime series is colorful but features a slight softness, but that is expected with anime TV series. But overall, wonderful animation especially during the action sequences by Sanzigen Animation Studios and Liden Films.

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Heroic Legend of Arslan” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and there is good use of the surround channels during sequences with a lot of people, army battles and for action sequences.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance” features the following special features:

  • Chapter VII Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Christopher Bevins (voice of Narsus), Aaron Dismuke (voice of young Arslan), Aaron Roberts (voice of Shagad) and Rico Fajardo (voice of Daryun).
  • Corporate Warrior Arslan – (3:11) Six short and hilarious parodies of Arslan in the corporate world.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song

EXTRAS:

“The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


For those who enjoy adventure-driven anime series that deals with warring countries in political stryfe will find “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” to be a series worth their time.

My first brush with “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” were the old Central Park Media OVA releases back in the ’90s and to be truthful, because the English dubs were inconsistent and releases took way too long.

So, I found “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” animated TV series to be more entertaining because there is a lot of focus on character development, a lot of emphasis in the growth of the character of Arslan, not just as a fighter but also his vision of the world.

Also, another major plus is the character development on the people that surround Arslan and watching their adventures, as they are able to recruit allies and some who don’t hesitate in stabbing them in the back. But also showing us the various antagonists throughout the series and how the situations from episode to episode become more complex but also entertaining.

It has a feel of an epic series and while I only have watched the first 13 episodes, from what I have watched thus far, I’m really enjoying this series!

Are there any caveats? I think for those who don’t like series with too many characters or series that are quite long, may find “The Heroic Legend of Arlsan”. These episodes are continuing and there are two seasons but not as long as series such as “One Piece”, “Naruto” or “Dragon Ball”.

As “The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Season II: Dust Storm Dance” is only eight episodes, it’s eight episodes that showcases many characters, so if you want to know more about them, watching the first season is essential.

In fact, while Arslan is a key figure, much fo the second series focuses on other characters, especially Narsus who sees an old friend Shagad but finds out his idealistic friend has changed for the worse.

Meanwhile, Arslan is forced to leave Peshawar by King Andragoras and can not return until he has gathered an army of 50,000 soldiers.  And so Arslan and his friends along with the advisors leave Andragoras to follow Prince Arslan in his journey to build his army and end slavery.

Also, we see more confrntations between Arslan and Silvermask. And we also get to see more Daryun take part in battle with Xandes and Hilmes.

But these first eight episodes are great but it would be unfortunate if this second seasn is not completed.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good. The series is colorful and I really didn’t see any issues with artifacts or banding. As for the lossless soundtrack, the English dub is very well-acted and the Japanese soundtrack as well. But the English dub gets a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD treatment, while the Japanese soundtrack only gets 2.0 (which is typical of anime TV series). And as for special features, you get one audio commentary and a Corporate Arslan short parody episodes.

Overall, “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” is a series that will entertain those who enjoy adventure-driven anime series, with political intrigue, warring countries and many characters. I enjoyed it more than the oldschool OVA’s and felt the storyline had a good balance of humor but also plots focused on character development. While the second volume continues with Arslan and his companions journeys for recruiting more people to go to battle alongside with him.

The second season is worth watching, but it’s important to emphasize that due to the sheer number of characters featured, it’s best to watch the series to grasp an understaning of who these characters are and why they are helping Arslan.

If you are into deeper, action-driven anime about warring states and groups on the battlefield, “The Heroic Legend of Arslan” is recommended!

Fairy Tail – Collection Nine (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fairy Tail – Collection Nine” is fantastic in the sense that FUNimation is now releasing these huge sets for fans to catch up with the series. And with 25-episodes on four Blu-ray and DVD’s, these collections are definitely worth buying! If you are looking for a long-running adventure/action-packed anime series on Blu-ray, definitely give “Fairy Tail” a try. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Fairy Tail – Collection Nine

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2014-2015

DURATION: (Episodes 188-212) 625 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: September 5, 2017


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


The Grand Magic Games come to an explosive end as the Eclipse Gate opens and the unthinkable happens—dragons emerge! Hell-bent on destroying everything in their path, the guilds must band together to fight the most difficult battle they’ve ever faced. But who is behind the rampaging dragons and what dire news does he bring? It’s Dragons vs. Dragon Slayers as the present and future clash!


With Natsu and others frozen in time for seven years on Sirius Island, the Fairy Tail Guild must participate in the Grand Magic Games, an annual competition to decide who is Fiore’s strongest guild.

But as the fights continue, no one is aware of a conspiracy that is taking place and involves the Eclipse Project and may lead to the destruction of the Fiore Kingdom.

Find out what happens in Collection Nine of “Fairy Tail” (episodes 198-212) available now on Blu-ray + DVD 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!

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 has taken place in “Fairy Tail” thus far:

“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!

 


“Fairy Tail” Collection Five 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. He is also gifted with other powers not yet revealed in the first volume of “Fairy Tail”.
  • 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. She becomes great friends of Lucy but also her rival (thinking that Lucy is interested in 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 – Collection Nine” features the following special features:

  • Episode 191 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Jim Foronda (voice of Toma/Mato).
  • Episode 196 Video Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Kyle and voice actor/writer Aaron Dismuke (voice of Hibiki).
  • Guild Pride: Mermaid Heel – (6:39) Featuring an introduction to the all-female guild, Mermaid Heel.
  • Episode 200 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Lydia Mackey (voice of Ultear) and Newton Pittman (voice of Grayful Buster).
  • Episode 205 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (Director/Line Producer/Adapted Script Writer) with Cherami Leigh (voice of Lucy).
  • Guild Pride: Quatro Cerberus – Featuring an introduction to the guild, Quatro Cerberus.
  • Textless Opening Songs
  • Textless Closing Songs
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Fairy Tail”
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS:

“Fairy Tail – Collection Nine” Blu-ray also comes with the DVD version of the series (four DVD’s, four Blu-rays) plus a slipcover.


NOTE: It’s important to note that “Fairy Tail – Collection Five” consists of the same Blu-ray sets that were released in 2015 as “Fairy Tail vol. 17” and “Fairy Tail vol. 18”. So, this set incorporates both sets into the collection.

With “Fairy Tail – Collection Nine”, the episodes featured are season seven which focuses on other members of the Fairy Tail Guild having to take on challengers in the Grand Magic Games, an annual competition to determine the strongest Fairy Tail Guild.  While Fairy Tail Guild is no doubt one of the most powerful, unfortunately Natsu and others are frozen in time for seven years on Sirius Island, so they are unable to participate.

Fairy Tail takes on the Sever Tooth Guild and Hisui initiates the Eclipse 2, Eclipse Cannon and Future Lucy makes a great sacrifice, which leads to past characters meeting their future selves and a fierce battle which leads Natsu to take on Rogue, while Lucy tries to close the Eclipse.

Meanwhile, Lucy tries to summon the twelve Zodiac Spirits but why are their changes for the celestial bodies and the revelation of Frosch’s killer is revealed.

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 four episodes and guild introductions.

Overall, “Fairy Tail – Collection Nine” is fantastic in the sense that FUNimation is now releasing these huge sets for fans to catch up with the series. And with 25-episodes on four Blu-ray and DVD’s, these collections are definitely worth buying!

If you are looking for a long-running adventure/action-packed anime series on Blu-ray, definitely give “Fairy Tail” a try.

Recommended!

Dragon Ball Super – Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a no-brainer that if you are a “Dragon Ball” fan that “Dragon Ball Super” is a must-watch series.  And for all its worth, this series created for the past and present fanbase and a new generation of “Dragon Ball” fans, will no doubt love the humor and the action of “Dragon Ball Super”.  I definitely recommend this anime series!

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


TITLE: Dragon Ball Super – Part 2

DURATION: (Episodes 14-26) 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: October 3, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Kimitoshi Chioka

Script by Atsuhiro Tomioka

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

Character Design by Tadayoshi Yamamuro

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Art Design by Shinzo Yuki

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Brad Jackson 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

Ayano Hirano/Justin Cook as Dende

Eiji Hanawa as Jiren

Eiko Yamada/Carmen Smith as Mai

Kouichi Yamadera/Jason Douglas as Beerus 

Kozo Shioya as Majin Buu

Masakazu Morita/Ian Sinclair as Whis

Miki Itou as Cyborg #18

Mitsuo Iwata as Champa

Takeshi Kusao/Alexis Tipton as Trunks


After reaching an alliance with Beerus, the world is at peace once again. But one of the Z Fighters is feeling restless—namely, Vegeta! The Saiyan prince seeks a new way to become stronger and wants to do so under Whis’ guidance. When Goku finds out they’ve left to train, he’s just as eager to join in.

While two of the strongest fighters train in another world, trouble stirs for planet Earth. The remains of a powerful force have started to gather, seeking revenge for their fallen leader—the wicked overlord Frieza! When evil takes on a new form with the force of 1,000 troops, can Gohan and the remaining Z Fighters take him on? Or will Frieza’s vengeance finally see the light of day?


With the completion of the hugely popular anime series “Dragon Ball Z”, while a new story was created titled “Dragon Ball GT” (1996-1997) and not based on Akira Toriyama’s previous work, Toriyama would return to create an overall plot outline for a new series titled “Dragon Ball Super” produced by Toei Animation.

The series is considered as the true sequel to “Dragon Ball Z” and would take place four years after the DBZ storyline.

The series began airing in July 2015 and as of October 2017, a total of 113 episodes (five seasons) have aired.  The first season is 14 episodes long (known as the “God of Destruction Beerus” Arc) and Funimation had released “Dragon Ball Super” Part 1 featuring episodes 1-13 on Bl-ray and DVD.

And now, part 2 (featuring episodes 14-26) which includes the season one finale and the majority of all episodes from season two (known as the Golden Frieza arc).

In season one of “Dragon Ball Super”, Son Goku had defeated Majin Buu and Beerus, the God of Destruction has awakened and wanting to battle a worthy opponent, he chooses Earth and if the hero loses, he will destroy the planet.  Son Goku is chosen to defend Earth.

Son Goku has since learned to transfom with the help of the Saiyans and Videl to become Super Saiyan God Goku but is this power enough to fight the strongest opponent in the universe?

In season two, Vegeta undergoes training from Whis, Gohan and wife Videl welcome a new baby named Pan, Sorbet and Tagoma are searching for the Dragon Balls in order to resurrect their leader, Frieza.

And with Frieza resurrected, he plans for his revenge against Goku and Future Trunks and this time, to show him his transformation to Golden Frieza.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Super – Part 2” (episodes 14-26) on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 14 –  The conclusion of the battle between Son Goku vs. Beerus.
  • EPISODE 15  – Aliens come to Earth and want their champion to fight against Mr. Satan.
  • EPISODE 16 – Krillin wants to start training again and Whis trains Vegeta.
  • EPISODE 17  – The birth of Pan
  • EPISODE 18 – Goku and Whis arrive on Beerus planet to see how far Vegeta is with his training.
  • EPISODE 19 – Sorbet and Tagoma look for the Dragon Balls to revive Frieza.
  • EPISODE 20 – Frieza has been revived and wants revenge against Goku and Future Trunks.
  • EPISODE 21  – With Goku and Vegeta in Beerus’ planet, they are unaware that their friends and family are taking on Frieza’s soldiers.
  • EPISODE 22 – The fight between Piccolo, Gohan, Gotenks vs. Frieza’s soldiers.  Someone dies!

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 23 – Bulma is able to communicate to Whis of what is happening on Earth and Frieza’s resurrection and Goku and Vegeta try to get to Earth as soon as possible.
  • EPISODE 24  – Goku vs. Frieza
  • EPISODE 25 – Frieza shows his transformation, Golden Frieza
  • EPISODE 26 – The fight between Frieza and Goku continues!

VIDEO:

“Dragon Ball Super” is created in 1080p High Definition (16×9 HD Native).  The episodes are colorful and absolutely vibrant.  Great detail with character designs and wonderful animation for fight scenes.  I saw no major softness, banding issues or artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dragon Ball Super” features a wonderful soundtrack on Blu-ray. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).  Featuring the return of the original Dragon Ball Japanese and also English voice dub talent, the quality of the series voice acting continues with this newer series.

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!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Super – Part 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Watching Dragon Ball Super with Jason Douglas and Ian Sinclair – (12:02) Jason Douglas (voice of Beerus) and Ian Sinclair (voice of Whis) and hanging out at Brina Palencia’s apartment to watch “Dragon Ball Super”.
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation.

EXTRAS:

“Dragon Ball Super” Part 2 comes with the Blu-ray and DVD of episodes 14-26.


I grew up watching “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” (as well as “Dragon Ball GT”) and at the time, I was a college student watching these episodes in straight Japanese until over a decade later, they were released on DVD and eventually on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation.

I played the Japanese video games and always purchased the Japanese animation magazines every month back when Tower Records existed in the US.

So growing up with the anime series and now as an adult with a teenage child who watches “Dragon Ball”, it’s a bit of a surreal feeling that the storyline of Goku and friends are continuing for a new generation of anime fans but also entertaining both young and old.

A series taking place not long after Goku defeated Majin Buu, I liked how the new anime series are now more condensed in storyline arcs.  Where battles would last for months (many, many episodes long), I liked how there were only 14 seasons in season one and completed the fight between Goku vs. Beerus and I think any fan couldn’t help but be happy to see Goku’s powers evolve.

And with this part 2, we get the conclusion of season one.  But here we are with season two and with this storyline, we get a lot of humor as Chi-Chi is adamant of Goku not fighting, an alien race coming to Earth to challenge Mr. Satan and also Krillin and Gohan getting an itch to wanting to fight and get in battle again.  And as the storyline of Goku and Vegeta wanting to get stronger are part of these main episodes, the surprise is Frieza’s soldiers finding the Dragon Balls to bring his body back and Frieza then showing everyone his latest transformation to Golden Frieza.

And it’s no surprise to me, as I remember when the Frieza arc was taking place for “Dragon Ball Z”, his character was among the most popular in Japanese polls at the time and it was no surprise that we see the character back again and proving to be deadly (as another character dies) and difficult to take down.

While nearly all episodes of season two are featured (the conclusion is episode 27, which will be in part 3), this is no doubt a fun and action-packed collection of episodes and I’m glad that Funimation is releasing these regularly and hopefully we’ll get caught up with the Japanese releases (unlike “One Piece” which Funimation is still hundreds of episodes behind).

I love the fact that Toei Animation was consistent in bringing the original voice talent back and Funimation following the same practice with their English dub voice actors.  Both soundtracks are well-acted and on Blu-ray, the anime series is vibrant and colorful in HD while the lossless soundtrack features crystal clear dialogue and sound effects (much better on the English soundtrack thanks to the 5.1 lossless soundtrack).

I also love how Funimation is coming up with newer kind of special features showcasing their English dub actors. In this case, it’s interesting to see a video featurette with Ian Sinclair, Jason Douglas and his three children to watch “Dragon Ball Super” at Brina Palencia’s apartment.  That was something new and different but major props as this idea was very cool and hope to see more like it from Funimation!

Overall, it’s a no-brainer that if you are a “Dragon Ball” fan that “Dragon Ball Super” is a must-watch series.  And for all its worth, this series created for the past and present fanbase and a new generation of “Dragon Ball” fans, will no doubt love the humor and the action of “Dragon Ball Super”.  I definitely recommend this anime series!

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

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Three” is another action-packed but also a more serious and darker volume that explores the Fishman Pirates and the division between Hordy, Arlong and Tiger and how this hatred towards humans manifested to where it is today plus a death of a character.  If you are a One Piece fan, definitely watch this story arc and check out this latest volume of “One Piece” on DVD!

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


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Three

DURATION: Episodes 541-552 (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: October 10, 2017


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

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

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


Fish are not friends when they’re violent pirates!

Gathered in the tranquil Sea Forest, Luffy and his crew learn the history of Fish-men and their struggle against oppression. Back then, the queen of Fish-man Island called for peaceful talks with surface-dwellers while others sought vengeance for years of slavery at the hands of cruel humans. But with every step of progress, an unforeseen tragedy deepened the cycle of hatred. Now, ignited by the flames of the past, the New Fish-man Pirates continue their crusade and threaten anyone who dares to ally with humans. Swallowing a mouthful of steroid drugs, their bloodthirsty captain, Hordy Jones, becomes an unstoppable force ready to decimate the royal guard. Determined to save the island and his crew, Luffy makes a decision that could turn a good friend into foe.


Tiger has attacked Mariejois and Hordy and Arlong go to kill humans, despite Tiger’s objections.   As Arlong kills a marine, this puts him at odds with Tiger.

Tiger tells his Sun Pirates to not seek vengeance against humans and that violence begets violence but Arlong is not willing to listen and when a group of Marines led by Strawberry tragically wounds Tiger, this leads to Arlong vowing to return to Foulshoot Island to kill all humans.  Meanwhile Jimbei becomes a warlord.  And Hordy sends out a message that he will kill all fishman who is affiliated with humans.

All this and more in “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Three”!

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 19th season and a total of 809 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 Nine, Voyage Three” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 541 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Joel McDonald (ADR Director), Amanda Lee (voice Queen Otohime) and Gabe Kunda (voice of Tiger)
  • EPISODE 543 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Joel McDonald (ADR Director), Chris Raeger (voice of Arlong).

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 552 Video Commentary – Video Commentary featuring Joel McDonald (ADR Director), Jim Foronda (voice Vander Decken) and Larry Brantley (voice of Hordy)
  • Textless Opening Song

With the release of “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Three”, the episodes continue the Fishman Island arc (featuring episodes 541-552). Note: In Japan, this arc of episodes is season 15.

In this latest volume, the episodes featured are less about the Straw Hat Pirates but about the history involving Hordy, Tiger and Arlong.  How the war between the Fishman pirates versus the pirates took place and the division within the pirates about the murdering of humans.

And as Hordy issues this declaration, he plans to execute King Neptune, killing the Straw Hat Pirates including Luffy for defying Arlong’s ambitions and meanwhile, a joyful Princess Otohime has collected signed petitions from the Celestial Dragons supporting her cause and as she tries to get the island to sign the petition.  But tragedy strikes and a character is killed.

While I don’t want to spoil anything else, I will say that Hordy uses the character’s death to use on the citizens for his own agenda.  While Luffy is intent on rescuing his crew, this will set a precedence in which Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates on a collision course with the Fishman Pirates.

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 a video commentary.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Three” is another action-packed but also a more serious and darker volume that explores the Fishman Pirates and the division between Hordy, Arlong and Tiger and how this hatred towards humans manifested to where it is today plus a death of a character.  If you are a One Piece fan, definitely watch this story arc and check out this latest volume of “One Piece” on DVD!

Puzzle & Dragons X Part One (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Puzzle & Dragons X” is an anime series that will entertain anime fans who ware looking for a good-natured anime series that will entertain the family but also an anime series that will no doubt satisfy fans of the popular Nintendo 3DS video game.

Image courtesy of © Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Puzzle & Dragons Part X Part One

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: September 26, 2017


Director: Hajime Kamegaki

Series Composition: Dai Sato

Music by Kousuke Yamashita

Character Design: Yukiko Akiyama

Art Director: Akihito Ougiyama, Masanobu Nomura

Art Design: Toshiki Amada

Anime Production: Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Chika Sakamoto/Tia Ballard as Devi

Takuto Yoshinaga/Josh Grelle as Ace

Tetsuya Kakihara/Justin Briner as Lance

Tomoko Kaneda/Alexis Tipton as Tamazō

Akeno Watanabe/Jamie Marchi as Herriot

Anri Katsu/Clifford Chapin as Tiger

Aya Hisakawa/Sara Ragsdale as Rena

Chisa Yokoyama/Greg Ayres as Sturgeon Jr.

Daisuke Sakaguchi/Stephen Sanders as Donny

Junko Minagawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Dafnes

Keiji Himeno as Yamaki

Marina Inoue/Dawn M. Bennett as Hal

Minoru Inaba/Charles Campbell as Vahaton

Miyuki Sawashiro/Monica Rial as Morgan

Takahiro Mizushima/Micah Solusod as Torlie

Tomokazu Sugita/Ian Sinclair as Nyudo

Wakana Yamazaki/Trina Nishimura as Eldora


Ace is an average boy until he hears his name being called by a mysterious egg. The egg leads him to discover the existence of Dragon Callers, humans who tame monsters into allies in their fight against evil. Does this average boy have what it takes to become one?


In 2012, Japanese video game company GungHo Online Entertainment created “Puzzle & Dragons” for the iOS, Android and Kindle Fire.

The company would follow up with the game “Puzzle & Dragons X” (pronounced as “Puzzle & Dragons Cross”) for the Nintendo 3DS.  But to help promote the game, an anime adaptation was released a few weeks earlier by anime studio, Pierrot.

With a total of 66 episodes created and is still ongoing in Japan, “Puzzle & Dragons X” has been released on Blu-ray/DVD in North America with the first 13 episodes included in Part One of “Puzzle & Dragons X”.

The setting of “Puzzle & Dragons X” is in the land of Dragonzola and there are those destined to become Dragon Callers, mediators between humanity and nature.

The Dragon Callers can tame powerful monsters and control them through the use of Drops.  One day, the great dragon caller known as King disappeared and no one has heard of him since.

But his child Ace wants to become the best Dragon Caller but he has a long way to go.  One day he discovers an egg and it happens to be a tamadra known as Tamazo.  Thought to be extinct, the only other tamadra is the arrogant yet loyal Devi, the partner of Lance, a mysterious and uncaring draganoid, who is on a mission.

When Ace starts to show he can control drops, he makes the decision to go on a journey to become a Dragon Caller and learn how to summon dragons and one day pass the training in order to become a Guild Dragon caller.

Along the way, he meets Charo, a man who keeps information on monsters and in-battle occurrences but also wanting to become a Dragon Caller.  A lot of people thinks he is a girl but he is actually a boy and together with Ace, they want to grow stronger.

And to their annoyance, they are sometimes accompanied by a Dragon Caller named Garnet, who is stubborn but yet dreams of becoming an idol.

Will Ace & Charo pass the test and become Guild Dragon Callers?


VIDEO:

“Puzzle & Dragon X” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  The animation is vibrant and colorful.  Animation is well-done for this children’s anime series and for the most part, I saw no signs of artifacts or banding.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Puzzle & DragonX” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.   The English soundtrack has a 5.1 soundtrack, while the Japanese has lossless stereo but for the most part, the lossless audio features crystal clear dialogue and both soundtracks are well-acted.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Puzzle & Dragons X” comes with clean opening and ending themes.

EXTRAS:

“Puzzle & Dragons X” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.


When it comes to anime series that are adaptations from a video game, you have your good series and your bad.  With the popularity of “Puzzle & Dragons”, the popularity of the Nintendo 3DS video game has no doubt lent to the popularity of the series in Japan.

With colorful characters and cute dragons, there is no doubt that many people had made comparisons to “Pokemon” and while the premise are almost the similar, with Pokemon about one wanting to become the best Pokemon trainer and going on adventures to become stronger and better, the same can be said with “Puzzle & Dragons X” as Ace wants to become the best Dragon Caller and goes on adventures with numerous people.

The main difference is that there are mysterious characters and powerful Dragon Callers who assist or guide Ace and friends to become better and lead them on a path to hopefully pass their exam to become Guild Dragon Callers.  But it’s not going to be easy as Ace along with Tamazo and Charo will need to learn a lot with their interactions with people and find ways to be better.

So far, the first 13 episodes are entertaining and while rated TV PG, the series is no doubt an anime series targeted for children.  You have battles (instead of monsters vs. monsters, you often see people battling each other with their monsters and unlike Pokemon, the Dragon Caller can get hurt) and you have rude monsters but for the most part, there is nothing about this series that parents should worry too much about as the series is good-natured.

The anime series is vibrant and colorful on Blu-ray and lossless soundtrack is well-acted for both the English dub and the Japanese soundtrack.  Unfortunately, there are no significant special features than the banal textless opening and closing songs.

Overall, “Puzzle & Dragons X” is an anime series that will entertain anime fans who ware looking for a good-natured anime series that will entertain the family but also an anime series that will no doubt satisfy fans of the popular Nintendo 3DS video game.

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

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”! 

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


DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two

DURATION: Episodes 529-540 (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: August 15, 2017


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

Kazuya Nakai/Christopher Sabat as Roronoa Zoro

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 rough landing on Fishman Island has scattered the Straw Hats throughout Ryugu Kingdom, but a good deed earns them an invitation to the royal palace. Everything goes swimmingly until a psychic’s prophecy turns the whole island against Luffy and the crew. Backs to the wall, their honorable hosts become their hostages, but the timing couldn’t be worse.


Hordy seeks revenge against Luffy for destroying Arlong’s ambitions and threaten to destroy the Ryugu Palace.  Meanwhile, what happens when the citizens of Fishman Island thinks that Luffy had kidnapped Shirahoshi?

Meanwhile, Zoro vs. Hordy and Luffy vs. Decken.

All this and more in “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”!

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 19th season and a total of 809 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 Nine, Voyage Two” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 532 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Doug Jackson (Minister of the Right) and Francis Fuselier (Minister of the Left).
  • EPISODE 534 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Larry Brantley (voice of Hordy) and Jim Foronda (voice of Decken).

DISC 2:

  • One Piece Cast Goes to Matsuricon 2016: Q&A Panel – (32:41) The One Piece cast attend Matsuricon in Columbus, Ohio for the Q&A.
  • Textless Opening Song “We Go!”

With the release of “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two”, the episodes continue the Fishman Island arc (featuring episodes 529-540). Note: In Japan, this arc of episodes is season 15.

In this latest arc, things go a little troublesome for the Straw Hat Pirates as Sharley has a prediction that the island will be destroyed by Luffy.  And with this prediction, there is a feeling that the Straw Hats must be stopped.  So, the Minister of the Left accuses the Straw Hat Pirates for the conspiracy to destroy the island and to kidnap mermaids.

But from that prediction on, things go crazy as Hordy destroy Gyro’s ship and Hordy is intent in killing Neptune and making the fishman a superior race over humans.

Meanwhile, Vander Decken IX intends to marry the princess and in order to accomplish his plans and wanting Hordy to accomplish his goals, both fishmen form an alliance in order to destroy Fishman Island.

What will happen when Hordy and Decken come across the Straw Hat Pirates?

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 the Q&A at Matsuricon 2016.

Overall, “One Piece: Season Nine, Voyage Two” is another fun, action-packed volume as Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are accused of conspiracy of wanting to destroy Fishman island, while the true antagonists wanting to destroy the island,  Hordy and Decken enact their plans to cause major chaos.  Another entertaining volume of “One Piece”!

Black Butler the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Black Butler the Movie” is a film inspired by the popular and anime and manga series.  But the film is it’s own storyline that is different from the story we are familiar with by Yana Toboso.  If you love action mystery films, then give “Black Butler the Movie” a chance.

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kuroshitsuji Film Partners. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Black Butler the Movie

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 120 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV MA

RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2017


Based on the manga by Yana Toboso

Directed by Kentaro Ohtani, Kei’ichi Sato

Produced by Shiho Matsuhashi


Starring:

Hiro Mizushima as Sebastian Michaelis

Ayame Goriki as Shiori Genpo/Kiyoharu

Yuka as Hanae Wakatsuki

Mizuki Yamamoto as Rin

Tomomi Maruyama as Akashi

Takuro Ono as Takaki Matsumiya

Louis Kurihara as Jay the Undertaker

Ken Kaito as Arihito Genpo

Chiaki Horan as Erika Genpo


Black Butler the Movie is inspired by the hit anime series Black Butler, this live-action adaptation brings an all-new story featuring a familiar demon butler doing what butlers do best: helping their masters seek revenge. The Black Butler is back-and there’s an all-new mystery to be solved. It’ll take one hell of a butler to figure it out!


In 2006, mangaka Yana Toboso (“Rust Blaster”) began working on his second manga that year for Square Enix’s “Monthly GFantasy” magazine. The series nown as “Kuroshitsuji” (Black Butler) would receive a large fanbase due to its bishounen characters.

By 2008, “Black Butler” would receive an anime adaptation and later, a live action film.  The popularity of “Black Butler” has led to a musical, drama CD’s, toys, a video game and books have been released in Japan.

With the live action film version directed by Kentaro Ohtani and Kei’ichi Sato, it’s important to note that this film is not about Ciel Phantomhive, the protagonist of the anime and manga series but focuses on a female character named Shiori Genpo who dresses as a boy.

The film stars Hiro Mizushima (“Beck”, “Drop”, “Kamen Rider Kabuto: God Sped Love”), Ayame Goriki (“L.DK”, “Angels and Demons”), Yuka (“Reincarnation”, “Hakuba no Ohjisama”, “Akumu chan”) and Mizuki Yamamoto (“Sadako vs. Kayako”, “The Kirishima Thing”, “I Am a Monk”) and more.

The film is set in a parallel world where the world is split into two major powers.  The West which is ruled by the Queen and the East.

The Queen uses operatives known as the Queen’s Watchdogs to investigate situations that cause concern and with many deaths.  Bodies have been found mummified and found along with these bodies is a card of a demon.  And this time, the Queen’s ambassador Anthony Campelle, was found mummified in his car, become the eighth death of a person involved in a case called “Devil’s Curse”.

We then see a warehouse in which men are stuffing women into crates.  The men’s leader questions one of the women on how she has photos of desiccated bodies but when she doesn’t tell him, he keeps kicking her.

Not long after, footsteps can be heard and a man in a butler’s uniform appears in the warehouse and reveals himself as a devil’s butler for the Genpo family.  The girl gives an order to kill them all and when the butler pulls out a butter knife, all the men start laughing.  But immediately, the butler starts killing them all and showing his quick moves.  When the leader threatens to kill the girl, he tells the butler to drop the knife or else she dies.

The butler drops the knife and is shot in the head.  When the crime boss thinks he has won, the girl tells her butler to stop kidding around and then sure enough, the butler arises.  As the girl tells the crime boss to give him details of the bodies, he refuses and he is killed.

The girl removes her wig and she is revealed to be Earl Kiyohara Genpo, a Queen’s watchdog.

We learn that the girl is really Shiori Genpo (portrayed by Ayame Goriki), the daughter of the heir of the Funtom Toy Corporation.  Her parents Arihito Genpo (a Queen’s Watchdog) and his wife Erika were killed when she was younger and when she was about to be killed, she made a deal with the devil to give her soul up once she gets her revenge on the people who killed her parents.

This contract with the devil, Sebastian Michaelis (portrayed by Hiro Mizushima), a demon with special abilities that he uses to help his master, Shiori Genpo but once she gets her revenge and finds out who is responsible for killing her parents, she will die and her soul will belong to him.

And because Shiori disappeared at that time, in order for someone to claim the Genpo Funtom Toy Corporation fortune, only a son can be in the line to obtain the fortune, so Shiori must disguise himself as Earl Kiyoharu Genpo, the bastard son of Arihito Genpo.

And serving her is Sebastian and a clumsy maid named Rin (portrayed by Mizuki Yamamoto).

The Earl and Sebastian uncover clues and with the help of her aunt, Hanae Wakatsuki (portrayed by Yuka), she is able to infiltrate the club of the wealthy along with Rin.  But while investigating, she is held captive by Shinepi Kujo, the CEO of Episilon Pharmaceuticals, the host of the party.

Kujo is then seen telling a hooded figure about Necrosis, a poisonous new drug developed.  It makes people experience euphoria and then they start bleeding from their nose, ears and eyes and they then go through desiccation.  Only two red capsules can cancel the effects of the Necrosis poison.

Will Sebastian be able to save the Earl and Rin?  And what will their investigation uncover about Devil’s Curse?  And will the Earl learn who is responsible for her parent’s death?


VIDEO:

“Black Butler the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition. A lot of shots indoors but for the most part, picture quality is good, outdoor scenes are vibrant.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Black Butler” is presented in Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD.

Japanese soundtrack is well-done but I also watched the film with English subtitles and with FUNimation onboard, one of the major positives is they have excellent voice talent utilized by the company and the English dub is well-done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Black Butler the Movie” comes with a trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Black Butler the Movie” comes with Blu-ray and DVD.


When it comes to live-action adaptations of popular manga and anime series, sometimes instead of a faithful adaptation, we get something complete different and only a few elements from the series incorporated into the story.

With “Black Butler the Movie”, we have a film that has elements of the manga/anime series but for the most part, it’s a film with a different story and a different young protagonist.

Still, I have learned to understand that differences happen, as they do with superhero films in America and hope that we have a storyline that is entertaining.

“Black Butler” is a film that had potential to be something more. I was fine with actress Ayame Goriki as a protagonist and playing something different and not Ciel Phantomhive (the protagonist of the anime and manga series) and was thrilled that Sebastian and Rin play a major role in the film.

But with so much story written by mangaka Yana Toboso, it makes you wonder why they couldn’t create a film utilizing those stories.   While I felt the action scenes were well-done, I felt the overall storyline was lacking and the film was more of a popcorn action film with and the storyline that people fell in love with in the manga and anime was not well-realized for the film.

Still, I’m not going to say it’s a terrible film.  Unlike “Attack on Titan”(especially the second part) which writers strayed away from the original source material and the old ’90s “Street Fighter” film or the terrible “Dragon Ball” film, “Black Butler the Movie” was not that bad.  Different, yes.  Not a great script, yes.  But thanks to the action and the performance by Ayame Goriki and Hiro Mizushima, as well as the small, clumsy performance of Mizuki Yamamoto as Rin, made the film worthwhile.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is very good and you get a solid lossless soundtrack with both the Japanese and English dub.  There are no special features but a trailer.

Overall, “Black Butler the Movie” is a film inspired by the popular and anime and manga series.  But the film is it’s own storyline that is different from the story we are familiar with by Yana Toboso.  If you love action mystery films, then give “Black Butler the Movie” a chance.

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