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Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Naoko Takeuchi / PNP / KODANSHA / TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2

DURATION: Episodes 15-26 (276 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Chiaki Kon

Series Composition: Yuji Kobayashi

Character Design by Akira Takahashi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Art Design by Takashi Kurahashi

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Rina Satou/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Ami Koshimizu/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Hisako Kanemoto/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Shizuka Itou/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Sayaka Ohara/Veronica Taylor as Michiru Kaiō/Sailor Neptune

Kenji Nojima/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Misato Fukuen/Sandy Fox as Chibi-usa/Sailor Chibi Moon

Ryou Hirohashi/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Youhei Oobayashi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis

Shoko Nakagawa/Debi Derryberry as Diana


The next set in the brand new anime series, Sailor Moon Crystal!

Usagi Tsukino is a little clumsy and a crybaby, but she’s also one spirited eighth grader. One day she meets Luna, a black cat with a crescent moon mark on her forehead, and transforms into the pretty guardian of love and justice in a sailor suit, Sailor Moon! As a chosen guardian of justice, Usagi apparently has a mission to protect a princess, and to find her fellow Guardians and the phantom Silver Crystal. Meanwhile, Queen Beryl of the Dark Kingdom sends her subordinates to the town where Usagi lives. They cause strange events to occur there, all in an effort to acquire the tremendously powerful Silver Crystal… Can Sailor Moon and the other Guardians successfully find the phantom crystal, and protect the princess…!?


Back in 1991, mangaka Naoko Takeuchi would create her shojo manga series “Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon”.

Serialized in “Nakayoshi” (from 1991-1997) with a total of 18 tankobon (graphic novel) versions published, the series would reach enormous popularity with over 35 million copies sold worldwide and the release of the anime series would further the popularity worldwide with 200 episodes created (1992-1997), three animated films, a live-action TV series, musicals, video games and more.

In 2014, Toei Animation did a reboot of the anime series titled “Sailor Moon Crystal” to celebrate the 20th Anniversary but instead of releasing the anime on television, the series was released online on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

The anime series would feature voice actress Kotono Mitsuichi reprising her role as Sailor Moon in Japan while in America, the series would feature an all new English cast.

There first arc titled “Dark Kingdom” was featured in episodes 1-14, while the second arc “Black Moon” is featured in episodes 15-26.  A third season “Death Busters” aired in Japan on April 2016 and a sequel/fourth season was announced in January 2017.

And now the second arc (“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2”) will be released on Blu-ray/DVD as a normal and a limited edition courtesy of Viz Media.

In the second arc, while Usagi and Mamoru are alone, a pink-haired girl falls from the sky.  She immediately points a gun towards Usagi and demands that Usagi give her the Legendary Silver crystal.

As Mamoru goes to the pink-haired girl, he finds out it is a fake gun and because her name is also Usagi, she is called “Chibi-usa”.  When they take Chibi-usa back to Usagi’s home, she immediately hypnotizes Usagi’s parents and they allow her to stay with them.

As for the others, Rei and Minako are looking into incidents of people being abducted and spontaneously combusting.

Meanwhile, the Black Moon Clan is after the Legendary Silver Crystal and with the Spectre Sisters, Rubeus and Prince Demande after the Crystal, they start to go after each of the Sailor Senshi’s and try to kidnap them in order to lure Sailor Moon.

But who can Usagi and Mamoru turn to for help?  Perhaps King Endymion and Neo Queen Serenity?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the animation from Toei Animation is vibrant and colorful.

While the first series of “Sailor Moon Crystal” received a lot of flack with its earlier animation (which had to be redone for the Blu-ray and DVD release), this second series features much better character design and animation, as well as background art.  Better shadowing and for the most part, the series looks much better!

Picture quality is great and I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with the band Momoiro Clover Z Part 2 – (9:58) Featuring footage from Momoiro Clover Z’s appearance at Anime Expo and an interview with the group about their feelings of “Sailor Moon Crystal” and the characters.
  • Art Gallery
  • Clean Opening
  • Clean Ending

As a person who watched the anime series as it was airing in Japan and also reviewing it when the DVD’s were first released in the United States, “Sailor Moon Crystal” is no doubt an entertaining, action-packed, dramatic reboot without the filler episodes.

Back in the ’90s and even with today’s popular anime adaptation of successful manga, filler episodes are important to not just to allow for a mangaka to continue their work on a manga series and further the story, so the manga doesn’t catch up too quickly.

The caveat, as some have seen for series such as “Dragon Ball Z”, “Bleach”, “Naruto” and even “One Piece”, filler episodes can drag on for a long time.  But for companies banking on the successful anime to produce merchandise for years, filler episodes have become part of anime culture.

The same was the case with the original “Sailor Moon” series, as much was focused on to give various members their own identity through many character building episodes, establishing friendships, quarrels and such, and adding so many episodes that in the process, not only was there a ton of merchandising but the character was popular enough to get fans or parents to purchase the merchandise for their daughters.

In America, fans were purchasing soundtracks and video games for the 3DO and the original PSX back in the ’90s and every year since Sailor Moon appeared in Japan, conventions have always had someone sporting an outfit from the series.  It was a popular series and eventually, “Sailor Moon” was released in America.  So popular that even American band Barenaked Ladies featured the mention of “Sailor Moon” in their 1998 hit song “One Week”.

So, “Sailor Moon Crystal” as an ONA (Original Net Animation) versus being shown on television would seem like a big surprise but there was no doubt that Toei Animation was already banking on the series popularity that people would turn into the series online and for the most part, their gamble paid off as people were watching, people responded (especially about the animation in the first arc) and while opinion was mixed, “Sailor Moon” merchandise not just for children but also for adults have become popular in Japan.

But with “Sailor Moon Crystal”, no filler, it’s a series straight-up trying to complete various arcs within 12-14 episodes.  No long seasons and as I grow less patient with anime filler episodes, so thrilled that “Sailor Moon Crystal” arcs manages to achieve completion quickly and not test my or others who are low on patience.

And here we are with the “Black Moon Arc”, the second series featuring episodes 15-26.  Now featuring better character designs and animation, the storyline now introduces Chibi-Usa, as well as an appearance of Sailor Pluto.

While there are not too much of an emphasis on the other Sailor Senshi, there are a few episodes where we get to see each character put up a fight against the servants of Black Moon.

This latest arc primarily focuses on Chibi-Usa and the connection she has with Usagi and Mamoru and how she entered the present-time and left the future and what had happen to everyone, but also the origins of the Black Moon.

There is no doubt an emphasis on emotional drama especially between Usagi and Mamoru but also the two and their relationship with Chibi-Usa but this latest features a focus on the emotional ties that bond these three forever.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation is no doubt better with better shading and detail, while colors are vibrant and the series looks great in HD, part of the benefit with watching this series on Blu-ray is to find out how wonderful the acting is for both the Japanese and English dub.

It was awesome to have Kotono Mitsuishi return to voice Usagi/Sailor Moon for the Japanese dialogue and the Japanese voice acting by everyone else is great.  But with the English dub, I just felt that Stephanie Sheh did an amazing job as Usagi.  Both voice actresses were able to nail the emotional scenes with efficacy and also big kudos to Sandy Fox as Chibi-Usa.

Also on the Blu-ray release, the included interview with Momoiro Clover Z was also fantastic and it was great to see them discuss Sailor Moon and their opinion of the characters and hearing about their favorite character in the series.

Overall, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” features the entire “Black Moon Arc” and features a great balance of humor, drama and action.  The voice acting in Japanese and the English dub was superb and the animation is much better.

Entertaining and quite enjoyable, if you are a fan of Sailor Moon and friends, “Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2” is definitely recommended!

 

Maria the Virgin Witch (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is an entertaining anime series that manages to balance action, comedy and drama with efficacy. It’s a short anime series but nevertheless, a damn good one. “Maria the Virgin Witch” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © Masayuki Ishikawa – KODANSHA. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Maria the Virgin Witch

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: September 27, 2016


Originally created by Masayuki Ishikawa

Director: Goro Taniguchi

Series Composition by Hideyuki Kurata

Script by Hideyuki Kurata

Music by Masato Koda

Character Design by Yuriko Chiba

Art Director:  Shigemi Ikeda

Anime Production: Production I.G.


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hisako Kanemoto/Alexis Tipton as Maria

Ai Kakuma/Lara Woodhull as Anne

Bin Shimada/Barry Yandell as Guillaume

Kana Hanazawa/Leah Clark as Ezekiel

Kensho Ono/Austin Tindle as Joseph

Kenta Miyake/Jeremy Inman as Yvain

Kikuko Inoue/Caitlin Glass as Michael

Mamiko Noto/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Viv

Mikako Komatsu/Jerry Jewell as Priapos

Miyuki Ichijou/Linda Leonard as Martha

Natsuki Hanae/Joel McDonald as Gilbert

Sachiko Kojima/Alex Moore as Lolotte

Takahiro Sakurai/Sonny Strait as Bernard

Yōko Hikasa/Whitney Rodgers as Artemis


Don’t miss this intriguing tale of magic, war, and sexual politics from Production I.G., the studio that brought you Eden of the East, FLCL, and Ghost in the Shell! In the time of the Hundred Years’ War, a young and powerful witch known as Maria leads a reclusive existence. Shunned by the church – but beloved by a few locals – Maria endeavors to use her magic to bring an end to the warfare she so despises. Using her magical ability, she aids humanity alongside her two familiars: a seductive succubus and an incubus who’s a little incomplete. Though she seeks only peace, the archangel Michael despises the way she uses magic to interfere with human affairs and decrees that should she ever manage to lose her virginity, her powers will vanish! To ensure that Maria no longer mixes magic with warfare, Michael sends the angel Ezekiel to keep a watchful eye on the virgin witch. In theory, his plan is sound. But keeping a fiery young woman bound by the rules of a higher power might prove too daunting even for an ever-vigilant angel.


In 2008, Masayuki Ishikawa (creator of the manga series “Moyashimon”) created the manga series “Junketsu no Maria” (which translates to “Maria the Virgin”).

With three volumes created, an anime adaptation was created by Production I.G. from January through March 2015.

The series is directed by Goro Taniguchi (“Active Raid”, “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “Infinite Ryvius”), screenplay by Hideyuki Kurata (“Android Ana Maico 2010”, “Bamboo Blade”, “Dragon Crisis!”, “Kamichu!”), music by Masato Koda (“Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen”, “Arpeggio of Blue Steel”), character designs by Yuriko Chiba (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “Brave Story”, “Berserk”) and art direction by Shigemi Ikeda (“Black Cat”, “Basilisk”, “Bastard!!”, “Afro Samurai”).

And now the anime series has been released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The anime series is set in France during the Hundred Years’ War between the House of Plantagenet (rulers of the Kingdom of England) against the House of Valois (rulers of the Kingdom of France).

Tired of the warring nations and deaths, Maria, a virgin witch uses her succubus and incubus familiars to manipulate the opposing factions and using large-scale illusions in order to help the people and maintain peace.

While witches are seen as heretics, because of Maria’s ideal of helping people, she becomes to be appreciated (and depended on) by villagers but the Church brands her as heretic because she denounces God.

While Maria questions when she will lose her virginity, thanks to the people around her that keeps wondering if she will ever lose it, Maria starts to wonder if she will ever lose her virginity.

Meanwhile, the Archangel Michael has heard of what Maria has done and is upset that she interfered with human affairs and makes the declaration that if she loses her virginity, she will lose her magical powers.  He also forbids her from using any magic and sends an angel named Ezekiel to watch over her.

But when more fighting begins to happen again, Maria wants to interfere to stop the fighting.  But will she?  Or will she try to keep to herself?

The main characters of “Maria the Virgin Witch” are”

  • Maria – A very powerful witch who doesn’t like to see people fighting and killing each other.  So, she interferes to the chagrin of the Church and Archangel Michael.
  • Artemis – Maria’s succubus familiar who often teases Maria for her virginity.
  • Priapus – Maria’s incubus familiar who lacks a penis because Maria doesn’t know what it looks like.
  • Ezekiel – An angel sent by Archangel Michael to watch over Maria and that she doesn’t uses her power.  She begins to sympathize with Maria.
  • Joseph – Serves under Guillaume and is in love with Maria.  He is a virgin and is always there for her.
  • Garfa – A mercenary of the French army who is upset with Maria and wants revenge for her interference (and for losing an arm).

VIDEO:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is presented in 1080p High Definition. While I haven’t read the manga to know if the character designs are inspired from the manga, I will say that compared to other Production I.G. series, the character designs are much simpler in terms of line art but the background art is well-detailed.  Colors are vibrant but like most TV series, there is a slight softness.  But for the most part, animation is well-done and Production I.G. did a great job animating this series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is presented in Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels and I heard no distortion while watching this anime series. The voice acting is fantastic for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Of course, with the English 5.1 soundtrack having better use of more audio channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Maria the Virgin” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Audio Commentary featuring director Sonny Strait (voice of Bernard), voice actress Alexis Tipton (voice of Maria) and Austin Tindle (voice of Joseph).
  • Episode 12 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring director Sonny Strait (voice of Bernard), voice actor Chris Rager (voice of Galfa) and Leah Clark (voice of Ezekiel).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • US Trailer
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Maria the Virgin Witch” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs for the series.


I have to admit that I was surprised that Masayuki Ishikawa’s “Junketsu no Maria” would receive an anime adaptation, because only three volumes of the manga series have been created.

But considering that popularity of the manga series, the chapters created are enough for a full season and the response for the anime series has been quite positive.

For one, it’s a unique storyline that takes place during the Hundred Years’ War and involves a powerful witch who is good and wants peace, a powerful archangel and the Church and its belief that all witches are heretics and for the most part, how religious beliefs can cause issues between those who support Maria, but at the same time, do not want to risk their status or their family status by supporting a witch.

Throw in other characters and of course, comedy that teases Maria of her virginity and what you get is a action-packed comedy at first, but then the series suddenly becomes more serious and dramatic when Maria loses her powers and the Church captures her and wants to imprison her as a heretic.

For the most part, while I don’t know the differences between the manga and the anime, I will say that “Maria the Virgin Witch” manages to have an ending that is quite fitting.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is colorful and dialogue and music are crystal clear.  Voice acting is magnificent and for special features, you get two audio commentaries, textless opening and endings and trailers.  Just make sure you listen to the first audio commentary because it’s one of the more wilder (and enjoyable) audio commentaries I have heard in my life… poor Alexis Tipton.

Overall, “Maria the Virgin Witch” is an entertaining anime series that manages to balance action, comedy and drama with efficacy.  It’s a short anime series but nevertheless, a damn good one.

“Maria the Virgin Witch” is recommended!

 

Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection

DURATION: 100 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

They’ve already had their bodies swapped like musical chairs, had their ages changed at random, and experienced their deepest desires taking control of them without warning, but if you thought Heartseed was finished with Taichi, Iori, Himeko, Yoshifumi and Yui, you’ve got another think coming! Now there’s a new affliction going around, and the name of this peculiar bug is emotion sickness. As in, suddenly your emotions jump out of your body and sic someone else!

Needless to say, that’s more than simply awkward if you’ve got a deep-rooted phobia like a fear of men or repressed emotions that you’ve been trying to keep hidden, but in some situations it can literally be deadly! What is Heartseed up to this time, and why is he making our heroes involuntarily share their innermost dirty laundry?

kokoroconnectova-b

In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others. But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything. But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep. As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies. And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto. While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together. But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are? And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

The four OVA’s featured in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is the conclusion to the series and focuses on the relationships of the club members as founding member, Iori Nagase has grown distant from her club members, friends and people in class.

She has changed to become very cold and distant.  What has happened Nagase and why the drastic change?

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VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). It’s important to note that although an OVA, there is not a huge difference in production quality compared to its television counterpart.

Character designs are colorful, art backgrounds are well-detailed and you do get a good number of location areas, thus more backgrounds featured in the OVA episodes.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series. Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

kokoroconnectova-d

During my review of “Kokoro Connection: Complete Collection”, part of my concern was that the 13-episode anime series left with no closure.

The anime series revolved around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena. From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, It was a series that obviously needed more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears. May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group. But together, they are there for each other.

But fortunately the conclusion to the series continues in its final episodes presented as OVA episodes that revolve around Iori Nagase.  As the club members have overcame many challenges as a group and have worked together to take on Heartseed’s challenges, for some reason, Nagase has grown cold and distant.

She no longer wants to be anyone’s friend.  She rejects Taichi’s love.  She doesn’t want to be around the club nor her friends at school.  And she is now the most talked about student, but not in the good way.

The four OVA’s focus Nagase’s change, the others trying to reach out to her but does Heartseed have anything to do with this?  And how can the group end the phenomenon?

So, fortunately what people will get is the ultimate conclusion to this storyline.

While the best part of these OVA episodes is pushing these friends to the limit and confessions being made, the final episodes featuring Heartseed was not as climactic as I was hoping for.  There was no major excitement that concluded with the primary antagonist but fortunately, the storyline surrounding Nagase was good enough to conclude the series.

Especially how things ended up for each of the five primary characters.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good as one can expect from an OVA release.  While not too far from its TV counterpart, nor does it look like a big production as one would expect from an OVA episode, “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” featured more detailed location scenes (especially backgrounds) for the characters, retained its colorful look and didn’t see any artifacts or banding this time around.

While I wished “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection” was included with the complete collection, for those who did get the complete collection will no doubt want this Blu-ray release to complete the series and get the closure they want to the Heartseed storyline.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities. Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems? But most of all, end the phenomenon courtesy of Heartseed? Find out in “Kokoro Connection: Original Anime Selection”!

Oreshura: Complete DVD Set (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

December 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

oreshura

“Oreshura” is a delightful, entertaining and addictive harem anime series that focuses on character development and story rather than the usual fan service, nudity and lackadaisical plot.  “Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © Yuji Yuji, Softbank Creative Corp./Oreshura Project. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Oreshura: Complete DVD Set

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 widescreen, Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2013

Original Creator: Yuji Yuji

Original Character Design: LLO

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Series Composition by Tatsuhiko Urahata

Character Designs by Mai Otsuka

Art Direction: Yasuyuki Yuzawa

Music by Masatomo Ota

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Chinatsu Akasaki as Chiwa Harusaki

Ryota Ohsaka as Eita Kidō

Yukari Tamura as Masuzu Natsukawa

Ai Kayano as Ai Fuyuumi

Hisako Kanemoto as Himeka Akishino

Kaori Nazuka as Saeko Kiryū

Nao Tōyama as Mana Natsukawa

Risa Taneda as Kaoru Asoi

Eita Kidou is a high school freshman with excellent grades and a disdain for love. Along with his childhood friend Chiwa Harusaki, a girl who’s nearly a sister to him, Eita lives an ordinary school life concentrating on his studies – until the school’s most beautiful girl, Masuzu Natsukawa, surprisingly confesses her love to Eita. However, her true desire is only to fool the eyes of others and pretend to be a couple.

With a “certain secret” of his in Masuzu’s hands, Eita is forced to play along. Moreover, a fierce battle over Eita begins as his ex-girlfriend, Himeka, and his virtual fiance, Ai, join the fray! Will Eita be able to continue his ordinary school life while maintaining a pretend relationship and dealing with all of his admirers?

In 2011, writer Yuji Yuji began his light novel series “Ore no Kanojo to Osanajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru” (better known as “Oreshura”) which translates to “My Girlfrend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much”.

Featuring illustrations by Ruroo and published by SoftBank Creative, the popular light novel has received four manga adaptations and in January-March 2013, the anime adaptation by A-1 pictures aired on Japanese television.

And now Ani-lex, Inc. will be bringing “Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” to the U.S. in Dec. 2013.

“Oreshura” revolves around a high school teenager named Eita Kido.  With parents who have divorced and left him behind, Eita wants to make sure he does something good with his life and that is to study hard and go to medical school (despite him not being that bright).

He has an addiction to a video game in which he addresses himself as “Burning Fighter Fighter”.

But in order to focus on medical school, he decides to stay away from anything that revolves around love or even him look at other girls (which was due to his parents divorcing and finding new lovers and abandoning him), with the exception of his childhood friend Chiwa (nickname: “Chihuahua”) Harusaki.

While Chiwa is short, petite, bubbly and looks like a little sister of Eita, the truth is that she is much older than he is.  She was also involved in kendo at a young age but due to critical injury from a car accident a year before they entered high school, she had to quit.  Because of this injury, it is what inspired Eita to want to go to medical school and do whatever he can to help her.

So, avoiding love or any romance is important for Eita as it fuels his desire to go into medical school.

But one day, Masuzu Natsukawa, who is from Sweden decides to sit next to him and unlike other guys at school who stare and confess their love to her, Eita is the only one that doesn’t even look at her.  Immediately, she begins confessing her love to Eita which gets the attention of all students in his class.  And she wants Eita to walk him home.

As the two are walking home, she explains why she did what she did in class and that is she and Eita are the same.  They are anti-romance and anti-love.  She doesn’t like guys confessing their love to her and what best to keep them away than make people think that she and Eita are a couple.

Eita doesn’t want to have anything to do with Masuzu, but she reveals that one day when she bought a used book, inside was a notebook written by Eita when he was younger.  The book contains his most personal feelings about people and celebrities and information so embarrassing that Eita can’t believe she has it.  She begins to blackmail him by saying that he must be her faux boyfriend or else, the book is made public.  Embarrassed by how this information can hurt him, Eita reluctantly agrees.

As news spreads all over campus that Eita is dating the new student, this causes a bit of jealousy on Chiwa’s part.  Chiwa has always liked Eita, but because they have been childhood friends for so long, he looks at her like a little sister which she hates and wishes they never been so close, because he could never look at her as someone he can love romantically.  So, she pretends just to be a concerned friend while deep inside she really likes him and thus, sets up a rivalry between her and Masuzu.

Meanwhile, Masuzu forms a club titled “Maiden Society for Performing Your Own Life” and how to become popular.  Chiwa wants to be popular, so she goes through Masuzu’s training and eventually she gets the attention of a popular guy in school.

As Eita tries to root for Chiwa, he doesn’t know that she’s just doing it for his sake and to be close to him (and to make sure he and Masuzu aren’t doing anything too romantic).

And as Chiwa and Masuzu are constantly at each other’s throats, one day as Eita is trying to protect Chiwa from bad people, he starts to react like his video game avatar “Burning Fighter Fighter” which in turn catches the attention of another girl named Himeka Akishino.

Himeka believes that her ex-life was a person named “Burning Princess Saint Dragon Lady of Dawn” and believes in the past life, she and Burning Fighter Fighter were lovers.  So now, she wants to be reunited with her past love, which complicates things with Chiwa and Masuzu.

And just when these three young women are vying for Eita’s attention, a student named Ai Fuyuumi who grew up with Eita and signed a makeshift marriage registration back in kindergarten believes that Eita should honor their contract, thus she is in the position of being Eita’s fiance and now also vies for Eita’s affection.

What will Eita do, especially since he is anti-romance and sworn from ever being in love?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.  To keep the compression artifacts to a minimum on DVD, Aniplex Inc. features all 13 episodes on three DVD’s.  For the most part, characters are well shaded and background art is  well-painted, but not as detailed as other anime series with bigger production budgets.  But the animation style works for this series and I didn’t notice any major artifacts during my viewing of the series.

The soundtrack is in Japanese and I would not be surprised if Aniplex does release “Oreshura” on Blu-ray with an English dub soundtrack.  It’s quite an enjoyable series that I do hope it does receive an HD release.  But voice acting is well done and dialogue and music is front-channel driven.

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” comes with the textless opening and endings and the web version previews.

EXTRAS:

“Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” comes with a slipcover case and a 16-page special booklet which includes the character profiles and episode synopsis plus images of the characters.  Also, the DVD cover is 2-sided and reversible.

Quite often I watch anime series that are too banal and this tends to happen quite a bit with harem anime series.

One guy, usually perverted and surrounded by women (most often well-endowed or wearing skimpy clothing) and the usual fan service and adult humor, they all have their similarities.

But with “Oreshura”, I love the fact that it tries to be different than other harem anime series for the fact that its male protagonist is not interested in love, let alone wanting a girlfriend.  He wants to get into medical school and he does his best to avoid any relationships or romantic commitments.  A lot of these feelings stem from his parents divorcing, finding new lovers and abandoning him.  Compounded by his compassionate heart towards his childhood friend Chiwa who has not been able to participate in any physical activities due to a car accident, and seeing her in pain makes him want to become a doctor or finding ways to heal her.

But staying away or resisting love is not easy.

The circumstances that bring protagonist Eita with Masuzu is both are anti-love, anti-romance and want to be left alone.  So, they pretend to be a faux couple.  And of course, by doing this, she starts to see beyond his attitude of disliking love and seeing a very caring person deep inside.  He may not want love for himself, but for others that he cares about, he is willing to protect them.

And sure enough, you can see Masuzu starting to open up to Eita.  Of course, throw in Eita’s childhood friend, who has always liked him but he treats her like a family member, that these two female characters see each other as rival for Eita’s time and affections.

Throw in two more girls into the loop, one who believes Eita is her past lover from a previous life and another in “Love Hina” fashion, a promise made between two kindergarten students to marry each other when they grow up.

So, we have four females vowing for Eita’s affections and their may possibly be a fifth or sixth.

I found “Oreshura” to be quite entertaining, delightful and a lot of fun.  There is fan service in the anime series but it is kept at a minimum and focuses on the characters and story rather than cheap thrills.

As for the DVD release, it’s important to note that this does not include English dubs, only a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with English subtitles.  While I do hope that the series receives an HD release and also includes an English dub for those who are more particular to watching their anime in English, I do recommend watching this series as the Japanese voice acting is very good but also, the storyline for “Oreshura” is so entertaining.

And Aniplex Inc. includes a special 16-page booklet with character profiles, episode synopsis and several pages of artwork of the main characters. Plus a 2-sided reversible cover and includes a slipcover.

Overall, “Oreshura” is a delightful, entertaining and addictive harem anime series that focuses on character development and story rather than the usual fan service, nudity and lackadaisical plot.  “Oreshura: Complete DVD Set” is recommended!

Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2012

DURATION: 325 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: October 22, 2013

Originally Created by Sadanatsu Anda

Original Character Design by Toshifumi Akai

Directed by Shinya Kawamo

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Yasuhiro Misawa

Character Design: Toshifumi Akai

Art Director: Koichi Monma

Anime Production: SILVER LINK

Featuring the following voice talent:

Takahiro Mizushima/Greg Ayres as Taichi Yaegashi

Takuma Terashima/Clint Bickham as Yoshifumi Aoki

Hisako Kanemoto/Emily Neves as Yui Kiriyama

Aki Toyosaki/Monica Rial as Iori Nagase

Miyuki Sawashiro/Luci Christian as Himeko Inaba

Asuka Ōgame/Brittney Karbowski as Rina Yaegashi

Atsuko Tanaka/Molly Searcy as Reika Nagase

Ayane Sakura/Tiffany Terrell as Anzu Kiriyama (secondary)

Keiji Fujiwara/David Matranga as Ryūzen Gotō

Shizuka Itou/Carli Mosier as Maiko Fujishima

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

In 2010, writer Sadanatsu Anda and illustrator Shiromizakana released their light novel series titled “Kokoro Connect” (which translates to “Hearts Connect”).

Since 2010, the duo have produced a total of 11 volumes published by Enterbrain, two manga adaptations and in July-September 2012, a 13-episode anime TV series adaptation aired on television followed by four OVA’s.

Sentai Filmworks has released the TV series on Blu-ray and DVD  in Oct. 2013 which will be followed with an OVA collection to be released on Blu-ray and DVD in December.

“Kokoro Connect” revolves around five teenagers and together, the five form a club at school known as the Cultural Research Club:

  • Taichi Yaegeshi – Taichi is a teen who is always wanting to help people and a big fan of pro wrestling.
  • Himeko Inaba – Himeko is the vice president of the club and often seen as cold and abrasive and tends to distrust others.  But she also has feelings towards Taichi but pushes Iori to go for Taichi.
  • Iori Nagase – The president of the club, she lives with her mother and has feelings towards Taichi but doesn’t want  to be in a relationship until the phenomena is over.
  • Yui Kiriyama – Yui was heavily into martial arts but has developed a phobia towards men (androphobia) due to something that happened in her past.
  • Yoshifumi Aoki – Taichi’s best friend who is carefree and not serious about anything.  But he has fallen for Yui.

As the five students try to become a cohesive club, something unusual happens to them when Yoshifumi and Yui switch bodies temporarily while they were about to sleep.  As the two try to tell the club members of what happened, the other three are skeptical until Taichi and Iori switch bodies.

Now believing that something unusual has happened, the four try to convince Himeko who is still skeptical until the following morning and Himeko, Yoshifui and Yui switch bodies.  And it affects them at school which worries their teacher Mr. Goto.  While the three revert to their original bodies, Taichi and Yui end up switching bodies and in the process, their teacher Mr. Goto swaps bodies with a mysterious entity known as Heartseed, who tells everyone that he is responsible for switching their bodies.

And as the five being switching bodies, they learn more about each other especially Yi’s androphobia, Iori’s family problems which begins to bring the five closer together.  But when Heartseed switches bodies with Iori and has her jumping into a river and nearly dying, Heartseed appears in Mr. Goto’s body and warns everyone that Iori’s body will die in 30 minutes, unless the other four decide who’s soul will die and they can easily switch with Iori to die in her place.

Will the five find a reason to Heartseed experimenting on them and find out what his main intentions are?  And through this experience, will it bring the five closer together or cause problems in their friendship with each other?

Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

VIDEO:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  While a colorful series, there are scenes that have banding and even a with some artifacts, but for the majority the series, it’s a colorful series that looks good on Blu-ray.  Art backgrounds are nicely painted and character designs are also well-done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The series is primarily dialogue-driven, so the soundtrack is appropriate for the series.  Voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and dialogue and music is clear and primarily a front-channel driven series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series” comes with the Japanese promos and clean opening and ending animation.

As I finish watching “Kokoro Connection”, I can’t help but think about how this series had potential, how it reminded me a little of “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” but somehow this series felt incomplete.

The anime series revolves around five high school students who are club members who begin experiencing phenomena.  From switching of bodies with one another, to reverting to a younger version of themselves, these five start to work together and help each other out through their transformations but also by knowing more about each other, being there as friends to assist them during their time of need.

While I enjoyed the relationship between these five friends, this is a series that obviously needs more episodes to bring in some closure or some answers of who Heartseed is and why there are two of them. And why are these two mysterious entities putting these five students into these situations.

Fortunately, these five and their strong friendship despite having their fair share of obstacles and the manage dealing with each other’s fears.  May it be Yui’s phobia, Iori’s problems at home, Himeko’s problems with distrust, Aoki’s carefree attitude and while noble, Taichi’s insistence of helping anyone in need also becomes problematic for the group.  But together, they are there for each other.

So, while the anime series focuses on friendships, the series ends and left me feeling, “is that it?”.  Fortunately, an OVA release is coming soon and I believe the OVA’s will conclude the series and it’s storyline to tie up some loose ends.  But at the same time, I wish the OVA’s were included with the complete TV series collection, so viewers can receive some sort of closure.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was good with some mild banding but it’s a colorful series with beautiful art backgrounds.  There are hardly any special features aside from the Japanese promo’s which is nearly two-minutes long and the clean opening and ending themes.

While I did enjoy “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”, I just felt it was an incomplete storyline because the problems were never solved and series just ended with not really much closure.  It could have benefited with the four episode OVA inclusion with this set.  But with the “Kokoro Connect” OVA being released separately on Blu-ray, I can only hope it gives viewers to the anime TV series some closure.

Overall, “Kokoro Connection” is a series about friendships and the five teenagers being tested by unknown entities.  Will these five friends work together and help one another in conquering their fear or personal problems?  Find out in “Kokoro Connection: The Complete TV Series”!

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