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

May 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


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

DURATION: (Episodes 99-121) 575 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: April 25, 2017


Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

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

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unsho Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Shino Kakinuma/Kara Edwards as Videl

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Goten


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boruto – Naruto the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”. Action-packed, full of drama and excitement. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden, BMP 2015. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Boruto – Naruto the Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2015

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 28, 2017


Originally Created by Masashi Kishimoto

Director: Hiroyuki Yamashita

Screenplay: Masashi Kishimoto

Character Design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto, Tetsuya Nishio

Music by -yaiba-, Yasuharu Takanashi

Art by Akemi Konno, Kazuyuki Hashimoto, Kentaro Akiyama, Masanobu Nomura, Mutsuo Koseki, Naruyo Kiriyama, Satoshi Matsuoka

Art Design by Hiroto Tanaka, Masaaki Endou

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio

Anime Production: Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Yuko Sanpei/Amana C. Miller as Boruto Uzumaki

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Gaara

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Uchiha

Daisuke Namikawa/Xander Mobus as Momoshiki

Hana Takeda/Laura Bailey as Kurotsuchi

Hidenori Takahashi/Max Mittelman as Konohamaru Sarutobi

Hiroki Yasumoto/Wally Wingert as Kinshiki Otsusuki

Kokoro Kikuchi/Cherami Leigh as Sarada Uchiha

Kouki Miyata/Brian Beacock as Chōjūrō

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Uzumaki

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Ryota Takeuchi/Catero Colbert as Darui

Ryūichi Kijima/Robbie Daymond as Mitsuki

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Showtaro Morikubo/Tom Gibis as Shikamaru Nara

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

Atsushi Abe/Spike Spencer as Inojin Yamanaka

Hisao Egawa/Catero Colbert as Killer Bee

Kengo Kawanishi/Bryce Papenbrook as Yurui

Kensho Ono/Todd Haberkorn as Shikadai Nara

Saori Hayami/Melissa Fahn as Himawari Uzumaki

Yukari Tamura/Danielle Judovits as Tenten


Boruto: Naruto the Movie takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village with Naruto as the Seventh Hokage. The Hidden Leaf Village is planning to host the Chunin Exams to train new shinobi from the village and from their allied villages. Among the entrants are Sasuke’s daughter, Sarada, Mitsuki, an exceptionally talented yet mysterious shinobi… And Boruto, Naruto’s talented but impetuous son.

Meanwhile, Sasuke who’s been on a mission in another dimension appears before Naruto to warn of a strange impending danger. Shrouded with an evil aura, Momoshiki and Kinshiki appear and attempt to assassinate Naruto. Petrified, Boruto is shielded by Naruto, only to disappear in front of Boruto’s own eyes.


The popular manga series “Naruto” has been going strong since its debut in Shueisha back in 1999 via “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.   With 72 volumes published, the manga series ended in November 2014.  Meanwhile, the anime series, the first titled “Naruto” began in 2002-2007 and lasted for 220 episodes.  And would continue with “Naruto: Shippuden” which lasted from 2007-2017 with a total of 500 episodes created.

The original manga by Masashi Kishimoto is about a young ninja named Naruto Uzamaki, a ninja of the Konoha leaf village who grew up facing prejudiced within his fellow ninjas because the evil nine-tailed fox was sealed inside him. But throughout the series, we have seen how Naruto is a kind-hearted boy who has worked hard in protecting his friends and staying true to his word with the goal of someday becoming the next Hokage of the village.

In 2014, Kishimoto wrapped up the “Naruto” manga and in the final chapter (featured in volume 72), Naruto would eventually become the Hokage of the Leaf Village and he and his wife Hinata would have two children, Boruto and Himawari.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and Sakura would have a daughter named Sarada, Shikamaru Nara and Temari would have a son named Shikadai, Sai and Ino would have a son named Inojin and Choji Akimichi and Karui would have a daughter named Chocho.

Everyone has grown up and Naruto is busy as the new Hokage at the village, this causes resentment from Naruto’s son Boruto who feels that his father was never there for him or the family.

This leads us to the film “Boruto – Naruto the Movie” which featured anime production from Studio Pierrot, direction by Hiroyuki Yamashita, a screenplay by Masashi Kishimoto, music by -yaiba- and Yasuharu Takanashi and character design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto and Tetsuya Nishio and art design by Hiroto Tanaka and Masaaki Endou.

The film begins with Boruto telling his story and him and his team partners, Sarada and Mitsuki being trained by Master Konohamaru and trying to capture a bear (or panda).   After their mission, the four go to see Naruto, the Seventh Hokage.

And as Boruto gets into a little argument with his father (for not being part of his life due to his duties as Hokage), he reminds his father about his sister and Naruto’s daughter, Himawari’s birthday and how he needs to be there.

Meanwhile a scientist comes in and introduces the group to a new invention.  Now, a jutsu can be contained in a mini-seal and put into a bracelet which gives anyone, ninja or not, the power to use a jutsu.  No chakra is even needed to use the new technology and the scientists want it used for the upcoming Chunin exam but Naruto is against it and believes a ninja should use their own skills.

Meanwhile, Boruto meets with the scientist and takes the special bracelet.

With the next Chunin exams coming up, Sarada and Mitsuki want to take the exam but Boruto, he has no desire.  He doesn’t want to be like his father and that means not wanting to be Hokage.  But for Sarada, she wants to be Hokage and tries to get Boruto to take part in the Chunin exam to let his father know he could do it.

Meanwhile, Sasuke Uchiha returns to the village and Boruto, not wanting to be anything like his father, goes to Sasuke to take him in as a pupil.  But Sasuke will only agree if Boruto can learn the Sharingan jutsu.

As the groups get ready for their Chunin Exam to see who will become a ninja, round three will be in front of a public audience.  During a battle Boruto uses the bracelet to best his opponent, but for Naruto, he is disappointed that his son resorted to such a tactic and disqualifies his son from the Chunin exam and also taking away his ninja bandana as punishment.

This leads to an argument and Boruto complains that his father is never there for him.  Meanwhile, a new evil force attacks everyone at the Chunin Exam.


VIDEO:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant.  Colors look fantastic in HD and with this being a film ,there is a good amount of backgrounds and detail in the background artwork.  Picture quality is fantastic!

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Special Naruto OVA – (10:23) It’s Naruto’s big day as his inauguration as Hokage is about to take place.  But time’s getting late because Boruto and Himawari are arguing.  But what happens when Boruto upsets his little sister?
  • Clean End Credits
  • Storyboards – Featuring a gallery of the storyboards for the film
  • Art Gallery – Featuring an art gallery from the film.
  • Trailer – Featuring the Japanese trailers.

Watching “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”, I can’t help but be entertained by the fact that the film focuses on the children of the characters that many of us grew up reading.

“Naruto” having lasted so long as a manga and anime series was a big part of the lives of many people who watched “Naruto” grow from a child, to a teenager and a young adult.  Seeing how his heart and his passion would inspire so many but also seeing him determined to defeat those who threatened the village or his friends.

With Naruto, he is a student that felt he had to prove himself through hardwork and determination.

So, it’s fascinating to see how Boruto is much different than his father.  Naruto, who had always said he would become Hokage is now the new Hokage of the Leaf Village but this new role means being busy with work and unfortunately, that means no time spent with the family.

Hinata is literally taking care of both children and you can see how Boruto is upset at his father for neglecting them, but he harbors a bit of anger for his father not being there for him.

What’s even more interesting is that Boruto is not too aware of his father’s past and how he grew up, so he is not aware of the challenges or difficulties his father grew up with.

And because of his feelings towards his father, he asks his dad’s rival, Sasuke Uchiha to become his master.

But during this peaceful time, a lot has changed as well.  Scientists have developed bracelets with technology that allow anyone to harness jutsu used by ninjas and to make things worse, a new evil has decided to attack the Leaf Village during the Chunin exams (like what happened to Naruto and friends when he was much younger).

And I’ll leave it that.

This is a new beginning, a new chapter as Boruto will continue the storyline of the ninjas at the Leaf Village and while I’m not sure if “Boruto” will last for another 15 years but for this film to jumpstart the new generation and Naruto’s son, Boruto, now the focal point, needless to say, this series will be interesting, considering that he’s not like his father at all.

And if you think Boruto Uzumaki has special skills learned from his father, wait until one gets to see the included OVA which shows us how powerful Himawari Uzumaki can get.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is vibrant and with it being a film, has more detail when it comes to art backgrounds.  Lossless soundtrack is also well-done and the voice acting for both Japanese and English dub are magnificent.

Overall, if you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”.  Action-packed, full of drama and excitement.

Recommended

 

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition (Movie 14) (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dbz-movie14

 “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is an animated film that “Dragon Ball” fans have hoped of happening for 17 years, but is it the best “Dragon Ball” film ever made? The answer is no. But I do feel that “Battle of the Gods” was exciting for the fact that the film had “Dragon Ball” creator, Akira Toriyama’s involvement and that he tried to feature as many characters from the series as possible. A fun and entertaining “Dragon Ball Z” animated film!  If you are a fan of the manga/anime series, then “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition (Movie 14)

DURATION: Theatrical Cut (1:25:15), Uncut Version (1:45:10)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV14

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Original Creator: Akira Toriyama

Director: Masahiro Hosoda

Story: Akira Toriyama

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Character Design: Akira Toriyama

Art Director: Hiroshi Kato, Hirotsugu Kakoi

Art Design: Hiroshi Kato

Produced by Gyarmath Bogdan, Rioko Tominaga

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kouichi Yamadera/Jason Douglas as Destruction God Beerus

Masakazu Morita/Ian Sinclair as Wiss

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Son Goten

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Aya Hirano/Justin Cook as Dende

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Jouji Yanami as Kaio-sama/Narrator

Kôzô Shioya/Josh Martin as Buu

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-Sen’nin (Master Roshi)

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Kuririn

Miki Itou/Meredith McCoy as Android 18

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Tohru Furuya as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unshou Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Yuko Minaguchi/Kara Edwards as Videl

Eiko Yamada/Colleen Cllinkenbeard as Mai

Jouji Yanami as Dr. Briefs

Kaori Matsumoto as Police woman

Kenji Utsumi as Shenlong

Naoki Tatsuta as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Brina Palencia as Puar

Ryouichi Tanaka as Old Kaioshin

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo as Gyuu Mao

Shigeru Chiba/Chuck Huber as Pilaf

Shinichi Karube as Sushi Seller

Shoko Nakagawa as Yogen Gyo

Takahiro Fujimoto as Bubbles

Tesshô Genda as Shuu

Youko Kawanami as Bulma’s Mother

Yuji Mitsuya as Kibitoshin

Following the events of the Dragon Ball Z television series, after the defeat of Majin Buu, a new power awakens and threatens humanity. Beerus, an ancient and powerful God of Destruction, searches for Goku after hearing rumors of the Saiyan warrior who defeated Frieza. Realizing the threat Beerus poses to their home planet, the Z-fighters must find a way to stop him before it’s too late. Only Goku, humanity’s last hope, can ascend to the level of a legendary Super Saiyan God and stop Beerus from destroying Earth, and possibly the entire universe!

In 2013, the 14th “Dragon Ball Z” film (the 18th “Dragon Ball” film overall) titled “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” premiered in theaters in Japan.

The first “Dragon Ball” movie in 17 years, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is the first film in the movie series that was created as part of the “Dragon Ball” canon and is set during the time skip in chapter 517.  It was also a film in which the original creator, Akira Toriyama was involved and now, the film will make its first appearance on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of FUNimation.

The film features Beerus, the God of Destruction, being awakened by Whis from a long slumber.

With Beerus awakened, this has caused distress for many, including Kaio-sama (King Kai), who tries to keep the existence of Beerus as a secret and knowing that if Son Goku finds out, Goku would do anything to fight him as Goku has always wanted to be the most powerful person in the world.

As Goku is on Planet being trained by Kaio-sama, back on Earth, the Z Warriors are celebrating the birthday of Bulma and everyone is having fun.

On the day that Beerus and Whis come to visit Kaio-sama, in search of the God of Planet Saiyajin, Goku meets Beerus and challenges him to a duel.  Beerus allows for it to happen and gives Goku a chance to fight him with all his power.

But even at Level 3 Saiyan, Goku is easily defeated with two blows.

Meanwhile, Beerus the Destroyer heads to Earth in search of the Super Saiyan God and Kaoio-sama sends a message to Vegeta to protect his friends as Goku was easily beaten with two punches.

But to Vegeta’s surprise, Beerus arrives and interrupts the party and as the Z Warriors fears the destruction of Earth, can the Z Warriors fight against the powerful Beerus?

As Goku tries to learn how he can beat a God, he learns from Shenglong that the power of six pure-hearted Saiyans can help him reach the Super Saiyan God form.  But can Goku defeat Beerus, the god of destruction?

VIDEO:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  As expected from a newer “Dragon Ball Z” film, the colors are vibrant and there is also good use of CG for coloring and shading for background art but also buildings/castles.  Picture quality is sharp and the film looks fantastic in HD!

With that being said, I do feel there is a major difference from the cell-shaded “Dragon Ball Z” films in terms of background art and cell shading, but I do feel the older “Dragon Ball Z” films had something magical in terms of background art and cell work.  But this latest animated film does showcase the vibrant colors in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is presented in Japanese and English Master Audio 5.1. with English subtitles.  Dialogue and the film’s musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are no signs of crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes: Battle of Voice Actors – (9:53) A look at the American English dub actors at the studio doing various scenes from the film.
  • The Voices of Dragon Ball Z: Unveiled – (19:22) Featuring the American English dub actors of “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods”.
  • Textless Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailers – “Dragon ball Z” trailers
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

For many of us that read or watched “Dragon Ball”, many of us have wondered if Akira Toriyama would bring fans a new “Dragon Ball” story.

Of course, a few years ago, fans were given a chance to see “Dragon Ball” remastered and made into “Dragon Ball Kai” with new bits of animation.  But fans have wanted to see these characters come back into animated form, not just for video game sake.

And in 2013, the first “Dragon Ball” film to be release in Japan in 17 years, was released in Japan with major PR buildup, especially all over Tokyo, with exhibitions to Kentucky Fried Chicken leading the charge of “Dragon Ball” swag.

Here we are in 2014 and “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” has now made its way to America on Blu-ray via an extended edition which includes the theatrical version of the animated film and a 20-minute longer uncut version.

I typically don’t put too much into “Dragon Ball” films, for this one, it was an exception as Akira Toriyama has said its part of the series’ canon and also, for any fan of the series, you can’t help but be excited to see everyone reunite once again!

While I did enjoy “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” as a fan of the series, I was hoping for more focus on the action rather than a story that tries to bring out every character.

Yes, we get mega action as Goku takes on the god of destruction, Beerus but we also get the comedy that we have typically seen in a “Dragon Ball Z” filler episode.

Aside from the battle, we also get Emperor Pilaf, Shu and Mai trying to steal the Dragon Balls.  Gohan donning the Super Saiyaman outfit once again, Gotenks and Trunks doing the fusion combo and while Trunks tries to impress Gotenks and his mother that he is dating the very short but 40-something year-old Mai, for those wanting some of that comedy will be happy, while those used to the action-driven storyline may find the film straying too far from the action.

But sometimes the comedy is a bit too cheesy.  For example, I found it ridiculous that Beerus was getting jealous of Buu over pudding cups and then all the Z Warriors taking him on and not getting very far.

But when the film does get to the action, especially seeing Vegeta going all out against Beerus, you can’t help but be excited to see Vegeta and also Goku kicking some major butt!

While the extended uncut version of the film is included, I felt the theatrical version was much better because the uncut version just went too long.  I watched the uncut version first and felt part of the story needed trimming down and fortunately, for the theatrical cut, they made the necessary 20-minutes of cuts that was needed.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looked absolutely vibrant and is full of color.  This is the cleanest, sharpest and most colorful “Dragon Ball Z” animated film yet and it looks great on Blu-ray!  Also, both lossless soundtracks are very good and both acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done!  While there are no major Japanese featurettes included on the Blu-ray release, you do get two English dub FUNimation featurettes.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is an animated film that “Dragon Ball” fans have hoped of happening for 17 years, but is it the best “Dragon Ball” film ever made?  The answer is no.   But I do feel that “Battle of the Gods” was exciting for the fact that the film had “Dragon Ball” creator, Akira Toriyama’s involvement and that he tried to feature as many characters from the series as possible.

A fun and entertaining “Dragon Ball Z” animated film!  If you are a fan of the manga/anime series, then “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is recommended!

Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tigerandbunny-movie

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” on Blu-ray is awesome!  Not only do you get an awesome film but you get the 2+ hour Japanese world premiere event plus many other special features include with the Blu-ray release!  If you were a fan of the anime TV series or the manga, then I highly recommend “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Movie Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning

YEAR: 2012

DURATION: 92 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: October 1, 2013

Directed by Yoshitomo Yonetani

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Creator: Hajime Yatate

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Hero Design: Masakazu Katsura

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

In the metropolis of Stern Bild, there are heroes who wear the logos of sponsors and protect the city from danger. Their exploits are broadcast on the popular HERO TV. Wild Tiger (Kotetsu T. Kaburagi) is a veteran superhero past his peak who is ordered by his company to team up with the rookie hero Barnaby Brooks Jr. Can these two mismatched superheroes overcome their differences to protect the city?

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.  The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu, the Anime News Network “Neon Alley”.

But in 2012, due to the popularity of the series, a film titled “Gekijo-ban Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning-” was released in theaters in September 2012 and also a simulcast screening in the USA.

And now “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

What is “Tiger & Bunny” about?

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City. 45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet. And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”. While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings. Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr. Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother. His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero. Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”. His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu. He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu. He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents. His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai. He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer. She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory. She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”. He is upbeat and has the power to control air current. He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls. He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge. She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero. She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability. He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy the appearance and voice of another. His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

What is “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” about?

The film establishes the beginning of Kotetsu and Barnaby’s partnership.  Why they became partners but most importantly how Kotetsu lost his first costume, his original sponsorship but most importantly filling in certain details that were not in the TV series.

While animated films are not typically canon, for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”, the film goes into those small details that fans can truly appreciate and it takes place during the time after the second episode in the TV series.

The movie is set not long after “Sky High” has won the title of “King of Heroes”.  But also the importance of being a hero is for Kotetsu, who made a promise to his deceased wife that he will always stay being a hero. So, despite being away from his daughter, who is unaware that her father is the superhero “Wild  Tiger”, she thinks that her father chooses work over being with her, when in truth, Kotetsu is trying to be a protector of the people.

And during the new season of the reality show Hero TV, after a pursuit of a suspect, sometimes being a hero, makes Kotetsu make the decisions without planning them and it often gets him in trouble, especially since his max power limit is only five minutes long.  While nearly falling to his death, he is rescued by Barnaby and immediately, we learn that Kotetsu’s old sponsor could no longer continue and that the new sponsor for Wild Tiger is the same sponsor for Barnaby.

While Kotetsu and Barnaby don’t get along at first, it’s even difficult to get the others to warm up to Barnaby as they consider him a rival on Hero TV.

And as Kotetsu tries to get used to his new partnership, all heroes must work together to stop a thief named  Robin Baxter, who has stolen a statue that represents the importance of heroes.  But what makes it difficult to stop Robin is his NEXT power to instantly switch and trade places with anyone he sees.

Can these heroes work together?

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). “Tiger & Bunny” looks absolutely vibrant on Blu-ray. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done. The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome. Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio  5.1 and 2.0. Both are similar when it comes to special effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack. But this time, you can hear the music and certain sound effects being utilized on the surround channels.  But the lossless soundtrack is fantastic and it’s great to see the film receive the 5.1 treatment.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” comes with the following special features:

  • World Premiere Event – (2:15:24) The live concert performance featuring the voice talent and performers in a concert/stage-like presentation for the world premiere of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • US Premiere Event – (3:59) Interviews with those who attended the screening of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” at New People in San Francisco and those who took part in the cosplay competition.
  • Anime Expo 2012 Highlight Reel – (1:10) “Tiger & Bunny” presence at AX 2013.
  • Ustream Special Digest – (38:59) Featuring interviews with the Japanese voice talent, crew and also the US crew when it came to the simulcast and the world premiere event and more.
  • Production Art – View the production art of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Special Pilot Trailer– (2:10) The special pilot trailer in Japanese.
  • Pilot Trailer – (:38) The original Japanese trailer for the pilot.
  • Preview – (2:30) Original Japanese preview for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Promotional Video  – (3:42) Original Japanese promotional video.
  • Commercial Collection – (1:51) Original Japanese commercials for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Theater commercials – (1:32) A hilarious commercial in Japan featuring real people wearing the suits for Wild Tiger, Barnaby and Sky High, discussing how to prepare for their viewing experience at a theater.
  • Weekly Hero Countdown – (12:35) A weekly hero countdown of who is on top in “Hero TV” (Japanese).
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

I have raved about “Tiger & Bunny” since watching the original TV anime series and while the series is completed, I’m not surprised that people want to see more of the characters.

I tend to look at how America has the Avengers or the Justice League of America, but when it comes to superheroes, aside from sentai, this is probably the superhero team of Japan, of course with the corporate sponsorship and reality TV show twist.

But one thing the animated series and also the manga series have in common is that the story focused strongly on Kotetsu and Barnaby and the progression of these two unlikely partners and friends, growing to be like brothers and watching each other’s back.

Of course, there is only so much story that can be focused on the relationship between these partners and so this is where the film comes in.  Showing more emotional details that the TV series never zeroed in on.

From Kotetsu’s promise to his dead wife, to the losing of his uniform and his original sponsorship and more details of getting his new uniform.  And we get to see more of Blue Rose especially, singing to an audience and no doubt the product placement from Pepsi as the name is brought up several times when she shows up on screen.

But if anything, I think for fans of the series, especially for Tiger and Bunny, the additional details are quite important.  But whether or not the film is canon with the TV series, who knows. But I feel it should be!  The film really does a great job of establishing the partnership between these unlikely individuals but most importantly, for those who have no time to watch the series, now they can enjoy the film and maybe be converted to becoming “Tiger & Bunny” fans!

While the TV series of course, goes into the characters flaws, the film does show a little of Kotetsu not being there for his daughter, but how his daughter became a big Barnaby fan.  For Barnaby, it doesn’t go into too much detail about his parents death but shows how he is driven to find out who killed them.

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful. Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG.  The film looks colorful and vibrant on Blu-ray and the better lossless soundtrack at 5.1 makes a big difference!

But that’s not it.  Viz Media has also included something that surprised even me and that’s the Japanese “World Premiere Event” which is over 2 hours long.  The event features performances and a lot of cool extras for fans to enjoy.  You really don’t see this anymore on US releases but when they are included, not only are anime fans getting what they pay for but you’re getting a whole lot more with the Blu-ray release of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.  Plus there are video from the Ustream event and the New People screening in San Francisco.  So, it’s a pretty jam packed Blu-ray release!

Overall, “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” on Blu-ray is awesome!  Not only do you get an awesome film but you get the 2+ hour Japanese world premiere event plus many other special features include with the Blu-ray release!  If you were a fan of the anime TV series or the manga, then I highly recommend “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”!

Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

June 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tigerandbunny-set2

“Tiger & Bunny” was an awesome anime series when it first began and for its second half, it managed to become better and better with each episode!  I absolutely love this series and for anyone wanting a divergence from the banal anime series that they come across, and want something with a superhero angle but with humor, action and drama. “Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: Episodes 14-25 (280 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 19, 2013

Directed by Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Character Design by Kenji Hayama, Masaki Yamada

Art Direction by Kinichi Okubo

Mechanical Design by Kenji Andou

3D Director: Yoshikazu Kon

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

Hailed as the heroes who saved Stern Bild, Kotetsu and Barnaby face a volley of media attention that includes their learning how to dance! Then, Kotetsu deals with his conflicted feelings about continuing as Wild Tiger and visits his hometown to spend time with his family. He tries to discuss his feelings with Barnaby, but when a possible new lead comes up, Kotetsu gives his full attention to helping Barnaby find the murderer of his parents.

In the first half of “Tiger & Bunny”, Kotetsu and Barnaby were able to overcome the power Jake Martinez, the person that is responsible for the murder of Barnaby’s parents.

And now that both partners have been in sync, they have climbed on top of the ratings.  But suddenly, Kotetsu notices that his power has increased, but the minutes of having power has shortened.

He finds out from a good friend and a former boss, that Captain Legend, the hero that Kotetsu has idolized, also had that same problem and lost his power completely.  And this may be a sign that Kotetsu’s power may disappear within weeks.

With his powers in decline, Kotetsu heads home and realizes how his daughter has had a tough life being left alone with her grandmother since her mother died.  And not knowing that her father is a hero, she thinks her father just doesn’t want to be around her.

So, Kotetsu is contemplating spending more time and a family and retiring as a hero.  But just as he is about to tell Barnaby his plans, Barnaby finds out from one of Jake Martinez’ followers that Jake was not responsible for the murder of Barnaby’s parents.

This leads to Barnaby starting to have another mental breakdown and as for Kotetsu and his declining powers, can he quit now that his partner really needs him?

Find out in the second half of the popular anime series “Tiger & Bunny”!

What is “Tiger & Bunny”?

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.

Directed by Keiichi Satou (“Saint Seiya the Movie”, “Karas”, “Asura”), a screenplay by Masafumi Nishida, music by Yoshihiro Ike (“Asura”, “Cobra: The Animation”, “Dead Leaves”), character designs by Kenji Hayama (“Baccano!”, “The Big O”, “Casshern Sins”, “Getter Robo: Armageddon”) and Masaki Yamada (“Ergo Proxy”, “Appleseed”, “Great Dangaioh”), background art by Kinichi Okubo (“Ex-Driver”, “Honey and Clover”, “Angel Beats!”), mechanical design by Kenji Andou (“Origini ~Spirits of the Past~”, “Votoms Finder”), Yoshikazu Kon (“Gurren Lagann”, “Shangri-La”, “Mobil Suit Gundam 00”).

The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu and the Anime News Network. And most recently on Viz Media’s “Neon Alley”.

In Japan, a one-shot manga by Masakazu Katsura (“Video Girl Ai”, “DNA2”, “Zetman”) was published in “Weekly Shonen Jump” and in Sept. 2012, an animated film was released and a second film currently in production and planned for a fall 2013 release. Also, the anime series has led to a PSP video game released in Sept. 2012 and a second game released in March 2013 courtesy of Viz Media.

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City. 45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet. And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”. While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The series focuses on the partnership between two total opposites, the older hero Kotetsu (Wild Tiger) and the young star, Barnaby.  While both are popular on Hero TV, Kotetsu is a single father who feels it is his obligation to be a hero and protect the public, while his partner Barnaby is tormented by his parent’s murder and wanting justice.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings. Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr. Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother. His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero. Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”. His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu. He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu. He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents. His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai. He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer. She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory. She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”. He is upbeat and has the power to control air current. He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls. He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge. She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero. She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability. He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy the appearance and voice of another. His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). “Tiger & Bunny” is probably one of the best, recent anime TV series that I have seen in awhile. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done. The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome. Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both are similar when it comes to special effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack. While it would have been nice to have a 5.1 lossless track, especially since this series has plenty of action, the series does sound crisp and clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Tamura & Katsura Exclusive Interview – (13:44) Interview with Kazuhiko Tamura (Sunrise) and original character designer, Masakazu Katsura and how he came up with the design for each hero.
  • Production Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the production art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Illustration Gallery – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the illustration gallery of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Japanese Trailers – (3:57) The Japanese trailers for “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

Fantastic!  It’s the one word that I can describe the “Tiger & Bunny” series!

Earlier this year, a friend who attended Tokyo Anime Fair and Anime Contents Expo 2013, gave me a chance to see all the Tiger & Bunny cosplayers and some going so far to make the actual suits for Tiger and Bunny.   Even today, it’s hard for me to imagine that Masakazu Katsura, a mangaka and designer who I followed since “Video Girl Ai” and “DNA 2”, was behind the character designs of these heroes.

An anime series that manages to capture humor, action, drama with wonderful character designs, mechanical designs and art backgrounds, one can say that “Tiger & Bunny” is an animated series that is a total package.

From the first half of the anime series which goes into introducing us to each characters, the second half focuses on Kotetsu and Barnaby as partners but the trouble both face when Kotetsu begins to lose his powers (permanently) and Barnaby finds out that the person they battled and defeated, was not the person who killed his parents.

Suffice to say, both men are at their highest point as heroes but their lowest point as individuals.  For Kotetsu, quitting his job as a hero and focusing on spending more time with his daughter is important, but also his honor as a hero to protect and also be their for his partner is equally important.

As a person who enjoys anime, we have seen the team dynamic in many forms.

From the sentai teams of yesteryear, may it be “Gatchaman”, “Voltron” to super teams such as the Z-Warriors of “Dragon Ball Z”, the ninjas of “Naruto” or the high school friends as seen on “Bleach” and “Yu Yu Hakusho”.

But one thing that we often see in America through comic books, animated series and live action films are the superhero teams. May it be Marvel’s X-Men, The Avengers or Fantastic Four or DC’s Justice League of America, The Teen Titans or Legion of Super-Heroes and it has always been in the back of my mind, what if there was a caped superhero for an anime series?

We have seen a singular costumed heroes from anime series such as “Moldiver” and shows like the Kamen Rider or even Ranger series but what Sunrise was able to create with “Tiger & Bunny” is exciting, unique and different from anything ever featured in Japan.

Humans with special abilities known as NEXT who take on the bad guys, but in a twist, are featured on television and challenge other heroes of who can catch the most criminals and get the most points to increase their ranking, as each compete for the title “King of Heroes”.

The characters are nothing like American superheroes in the fact that these are individuals that are flawed.  The main protagonist Kotetsu is an older superhero who knows he is not a great father. He speaks to her on intercom but is never there to see her face-to-face and his daughter pretty much gave up on seeing him. He knows he causes trouble for the station because he causes quite a bit of damage and now, to help put him on the right path, he is given a partner with Barnaby.

And while Barnaby has a cool demeanor, a strategist who thinks first before attacking, he also has a tragic past that drives him to become a superhero and that is to find the killer responsible for killing his parents.

The two are joined by heroes that are interesting. Blue Rose is popular because of her sexy outfit and cute demeanor when fighting criminals but deep inside, she is torn between pursuing her dream to become a singer or being a hero. Dragon Kid is a tomboy and doesn’t like to wear cute things, but as she gets older, she is starting to discover her feminine side. Meanwhile, Fire Emblem is an effeminate hero who wants to be accepted by the girls, but yet is considered as a guy. Rock Bison is more interested in partying with Kotetsu and getting drunk than capturing criminals and now he is in danger of losing his job because he is in last place. And Origami Cyclone, a shy guy who has the power to shapeshift but feels it’s a worthless power and is more of a cheerleader than a person who does the fighting to capture the criminals.

Suffice to say, each of these characters are unlikely heroes but yet as a team, they are starting to work well with each other. But it takes time, and also, as much as they are a team when facing difficult criminals, they are also rivals trying to get the most points and representing their sponsors with pride.

“Tiger & Bunny” really is an anime series that is unlike anything I have seen before in my decades of watching anime.  And with this second half, the story becomes much more captivating, much better than the first half and I am definitely impressed with this series overall!

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful. Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG. I was really impressed with how cool this series looks. And you get both Japanese and English soundtracks in lossless 2.0 and a few special features are included.

Overall, “Tiger & Bunny” was an awesome anime series when it first began and for its second half, it managed to become better and better with each episode!  I absolutely love this series and for anyone wanting a divergence from the banal anime series that they come across, and want something with a superhero angle but with humor, action and drama.

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” is highly recommended!

Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

February 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The first half of “Tiger & Bunny” has turned out to be a quite awesome.  A unique and original anime series that will entertain anime fans and one of the coolest looking group of superheroes ever featured in an anime series.  A fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: 13 Episodes (310 Minutes))

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 19, 2013

Directed by Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Character Design by Kenji Hayama, Masaki Yamada

Art Direction by Kinichi Okubo

Mechanical Design by Kenji Andou

3D Director: Yoshikazu Kon

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

Stern Bild City is a thriving metropolis where superheroes called NEXTs protect the streets, sponsors pull the strings, and a hugely popular show called Hero TV captures all of it. Veteran hero Kotetsu Kaburagi (AKA Wild Tiger) and hotheaded new hero Barnaby Brooks, Jr. (nicknamed Bunny by his friends) are forced to team up not only to protect Stern Bild City, but to earn as many points on Hero TV as possible. Joined by a diverse cast of heroes, all with different powers and answering to their own corporate sponsors, Tiger and Bunny must find a way to work together, uncover the secret of the Ouroboros, and earn enough points to become this year’s King of Heroes.

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.

Directed by Keiichi Satou (“Saint Seiya the Movie”, “Karas”, “Asura”), a screenplay by Masafumi Nishida, music by Yoshihiro Ike (“Asura”, “Cobra: The Animation”, “Dead Leaves”), character designs by Kenji Hayama (“Baccano!”, “The Big O”, “Casshern Sins”, “Getter Robo: Armageddon”) and Masaki Yamada (“Ergo Proxy”, “Appleseed”, “Great Dangaioh”), background art by Kinichi Okubo (“Ex-Driver”, “Honey and Clover”, “Angel Beats!”), mechanical design by Kenji Andou (“Origini ~Spirits of the Past~”, “Votoms Finder”), Yoshikazu Kon (“Gurren Lagann”, “Shangri-La”, “Mobil Suit Gundam 00”).

The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu and the Anime News Network.  And most recently on Viz Media’s “Neon Alley”.

In Japan, a one-shot manga by Masakazu Katsura (“Video Girl Ai”, “DNA2”, “Zetman”) was published in “Weekly Shonen Jump” and in Sept. 2012, an animated film was released and a second film currently in production and planned for a fall 2013 release.  Also, the anime series has led to a PSP video game  released in Sept. 2012 and a second game planned for a March 2013 released.

And in the U.S., the first volume featuring the first 13 episodes of “Tiger & Bunny” will be released on Blu-ray in Feb. 2013 courtesy of Viz Media.

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City.  45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet.  And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”.  While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings.  Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr.  Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother.  His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero.  Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”.    His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu.  He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu.  He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents.  His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai.  He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer.  She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory.  She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”.  He is upbeat and has the power to control air current.  He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls.  He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge.  She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero.  She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison  – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability.  He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy  the appearance and voice of another.  His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

As the heroes fight and take on various criminals, they must also deal with a vigilante NEXT named Lunatic and doesn’t believe in incarceration but killing criminals.  Meanwhile, as the team try to work together and continue to build their hero’s points and ranking, The Ouroboros criminal organization is planning to have the sadistic Jake Martinez released from prison.  Jake is responsible for killing Barnaby’s parents and has been sentenced to 250 years in prison.  But one of the reasons why he is a criminal that the govt. wants to keep behind bars is because of his mysterious power.

 

Here is a brief synopsis of “Tiger and Bunny: Blu-ray set 1”:

  • EPISODE 1 –  Introduction to the NEXT who are competing in this season’s “Hero TV” network and a new hero named Barnaby joins in the action!
  • EPISODE 2 – A giant stone statue is trying to cause mayhem in the city, meanwhile Tiger and Barnaby try to be partners.
  • EPISODE 3 – Hero TV is doing a documentary on Barnaby and Kotetsu is a bit jealous.
  • EPISODE 4 – Blue Rose struggles with being a hero or pursuing her dream of becoming a singer.
  • EPISODE 5 – Barnaby is upset with Tiger (Kotetsu) for causing so much collateral damage, meanwhile Kotetsu misreads Bunny’s frustrations and tries to organize a surprise birthday party for him.
  • EPISODE 6 – Someone with the power of the blue flame is killing criminals.
  • EPISODE 7 – Barnaby tells Kotetsu and Nathan about the Ouroboros syndicate and how he wants revenge for the death of his parents.
  • EPISODE 8 – Tiger, Barnaby and Origami Cyclone take part in a PR campaign, but unaware that the vigilante named Lunatic is nearby.
  • EPISODE 9 – The heroes must take care of the Mayor’s baby but they leave the baby with Dragon Kid, who gets kidnapped along with the baby.  Now the NEXT heroes must find them.
  • EPISODE 10 – Kotetsu is put on paid vacation and plans to visit his daughter but the Ouroboros Syndicate plan their attempt to have Jake Martinez released from prison.  Meanwhile, Barnaby finds out that Jake Martinez is responsible for his parent’s death.
  • EPISODE 11 – The NEXT hero’s takes on Jake Martinez.
  • EPISODE 12 – Tiger vs. Jake Martinez
  • EPISODE 13 – With many of the NEXT heroes injured in battle, Barnaby takes on Jake Martinez.

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  “Tiger & Bunny” is probably one of the best, recent anime TV series that I have seen in awhile. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done.  The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome.  Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  Both are similar when it comes to special effects.  Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack.  While it would have been nice to have a 5.1 lossless track, especially since this series has plenty of action, the series does sound crisp and clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Tiger & Bunny– (24:01) The challenges from the Japanese crew at Sunrise in creating a new anime series that would appeal to manga fans, longtime anime fans and trying to come up with a series that is fresh and new.  In Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Production Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the production art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Special Logo Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the special logo art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Japanese Trailers – (4:12) The Japanese trailers for “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

As a person who enjoys anime, we have seen the team dynamic in many forms.

From the sentai teams of yesteryear, may it be “Gatchaman”, “Voltron” to super teams such as the Z-Warriors of “Dragon Ball Z”, the ninjas of “Naruto” or the high school friends as seen on “Bleach” and “Yu Yu Hakusho”.

But one thing that we often see in America through comic books, animated series and live action films are the superhero teams. May it be Marvel’s X-Men, The Avengers or Fantastic Four or DC’s Justice League of America, The Teen Titans or Legion of Super-Heroes and it has always been in the back of my mind, what if there was a caped superhero for an anime series?

We have seen a singular costumed heroes from anime series such as “Moldiver” and shows like the Kamen Rider or even Ranger series but what Sunrise was able to create with “Tiger & Bunny” is exciting, unique and different from anything ever featured in Japan.

Humans with special abilities known as NEXT who take on the bad guys, but in a twist, are featured on television and challenge other heroes of who can catch the most criminals and get the most points to increase their ranking, as each compete for the title “King of Heroes”.

The characters are nothing like American superheroes in the fact that these are individuals that are flawed.

The main protagonist Kotetsu is an older superhero who knows he is not a great father.  He speaks to her on intercom but is never there to see her face-to-face and his daughter pretty much gave up on seeing him.  He knows he causes trouble for the station because he causes quite a bit of damage and now, to help put him on the right path, he is given a partner with Barnaby.

And while Barnaby has a cool demeanor, a strategist who thinks first before attacking, he also has a tragic past that drives him to become a superhero and that is to find the killer responsible for killing his parents.

The two are joined by heroes that are interesting.   Blue Rose is popular because of her sexy outfit and cute demeanor when fighting criminals but deep inside, she is torn between pursuing her dream to become a singer or being a hero.  Dragon Kid is a tomboy and doesn’t like to wear cute things, but as she gets older, she is starting to discover her feminine side.  Meanwhile, Fire Emblem is an effeminate hero who wants to be accepted by the girls, but yet is considered as a guy.   Rock Bison is more interested in partying with Kotetsu and getting drunk than capturing criminals and now he is in danger of losing his job because he is in last place.  And Origami Cyclone, a shy guy who has the power to shapeshift but feels it’s a worthless power and is more of a cheerleader than a person who does the fighting to capture the criminals.

Suffice to say, each of these characters are unlikely heroes but yet as a team, they are starting to work well with each other.  But it takes time, and also, as much as they are a team when facing difficult criminals, they are also rivals trying to get the most points and representing their sponsors with pride.

“Tiger & Bunny” really is an anime series that is unlike anything I have seen before in my decades of watching anime.

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful.  Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG.  I was really impressed with how cool this series looks.  And you get both Japanese and English soundtracks in lossless 2.0 and a few special features are included.

Overall, the first half of “Tiger & Bunny” has turned out to be a quite awesome.  A unique and original anime series that will entertain anime fans and one of the coolest looking group of superheroes ever featured in an anime series.  A fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!

Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting battles and even more emotional than the first half of the series.  Definitely one of the better anime series that is based on a video game!  Recommended for fans of the “Shin Megami Tensei” video games and anime fans wanting something different for an action anime series but also something unique, stylish, cool!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Index Corporation/P4A Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 13-26 (365 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: January 15-2003

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Shoji Meguro

Original Character Design by Shigenori Soejima

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi, Shinji Nagaoka

Chief Animation Director: Kiyotaka Nakahara

Anime Production by AIC A.S.T.A.

Featuring the voices of:

Amanda Winn Lee as Yukiko Amagi

Erin Fitzgerald as Chie Satonaka

Johnny Yong Bosch as Yu Narukami

Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke Hanamura

J.B. Blanc as Ryotaro Dojima

Johnny Yong Bosch as Toru Adachi

Karen Strassman as Nanako Dojima

Laura Bailey as Rise Kujikawa

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Naoto Shirogane

Sam Regal as Teddie

Troy Baker as Kanji Tatsumi

When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life, or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns, and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!

Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer… or lead him to his doom.

The “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” role-playing video game series developed and published by Atlus and has won over fans due to its darker storyline and it’s one of the few games to incorporate a Japanese atmosphere incorporating simulation type games relating to its characters.

Created back in 1996, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” has continually evolved and its fifth installment, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” (the fifth installment in the SMT: Persona series) was no doubt a popular title in the series when it was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008.

The video game would inspire a 25-episode anime series titled “Persona 4: The Animation” , which aired on Japanese television in 2011-2012.

In 2012, with the release of the PlayStation Vita version of the game (titled “Persona 4: Golden”) and the fighting game sequel “Persona 4 Arena” for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360, what better time than now to release the anime series “Persona 4: The Animation” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

With the first volume of “Persona 4: The Animation” featuring the first 12-episodes released in September 2012, the second collection featuring 13-26 will be released in January 2013.

What is “Persona 4: The Animation” about?

“Persona 4” begins with a clip inside the limousine as an older man named Igor and his assistant Margaret introduce themselves to someone. They explain their location, The Velvet Room as a place that exists between “dream and reality” and not many people can find this special room.

We are then introduced to high school student Yu Narukami arriving in the countryside of Inaba. Because his parents are working abroad, he must live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, the resident investigator and his cousin Nanako Dojima for the entire year.

While attending Yasogami High School, he meets two people who become his friends. Yosuke Hanamura is a teenager who also moved to Inaba a year prior and his father own the huge department store, Junes (pronounced as “Joo-Ness”). And his friend Chie Satonaka is a teenage girl with an appetite. While she is often teasing and hitting her friend Yosuke, she also hangs out with her best friend Yukiko Amagi.

Meanwhile, a student named Saki Koshi is seen cutting class and discovers the body of TV announcer Mayumi Yamano.

With the murder of a known TV personality scaring people in town, leading to Ryotaro Dojima and his partner Detective Adachi investigating the crime scene, For Yu, he has heard of the rumors at school that a “Midnight Channel” shown on television may be connected to the murders. Apparently, if one watches the channel at midnight, they should be able to see an image of a person When Yu watches the channel at midnight, he sees someone show up. The image is of a young woman. When Yu puts his hand on the TV, he is nearly pulled into the TV.

Yu tries to tell Chie and Yosuke about it but they don’t believe him, but Chie said she wants to see if it would happen on a larger television. So, the three head to Junes Department Store to see if he can duplicate the same situation on a bigger television set and sure enough, when Yu sticks his hand, it goes through the TV set and all three are pulled in.

The trio end up in different world and encounter a bear named Teddie. Teddie explains that they are in a world where if foggy, it would be clear on Earth. If it is clear on Earth, then it would be foggy in his world. And to see things in his world, he must wear special glasses.

The trio are then attacked by shadows and fearing for their lives, the persona of Yu Narukami is awakened. It is learned that Yu has the Persona of the Wild Card and that it could lead to infinite possibilities, which include the use of other Personas or fusing two or more Personas to create something more powerful.

Eventually as Yu and his friends enter the TV set, they encounter other classmates and friends who eventually join the team and together they try to find the culprit responsible for murdering people and also sending people to the alternate world.

“Persona 4: The Animation” consists of the following characters:

  • Yu Narukami – The main protagonist who moves to the countryside of Inaba for a year while his parents are traveling.  He stays with his uncle, local police detective Ryotaro Dojima and his daughter Nanako Dojima.  Yu begins attending Yasogami High School and begins to make friends.  And as he develops these relationships with friends, he begins to attain more stronger persona and is the only person in the group who can use different persona’s during battle.
  • Yosuke Hanamura – A teenager who moved to Inaba a  year before Yu. His father is owner of the Junes Department Store.  He is often thinking about girls and wanting to score!
  • Chie Satonaka – A friend of Yosuke and a girl who is obsessed with kung-fu. She is best friends with Yukiko Amagi and often beating up Yosuke when he is in pervert mode.
  • Yukiko Amagi – Introverted yet popular, Yukiko’s family owns a famous ryokan in the city and is expected to take over the family business.
  • Kanji Tatsumi – A delinquent and bully, but deep inside he’s a tough guy that loves sewing cute things.  He is often teased for liking guys or being interested in Naoto.
  • Teddie – A bear from the TV world, he becomes good friends with Yu and friends and is invited to stay in the human world, where he created a human version of himself.  Always excited and curious, Teddie wants to know more about the human world, but also wanting to remember his past.
  • Naoto Shirogane – A young detective who moves to Inaba to help the police investigate the serial-murder case.  Despite looking like a boy, he’s actually a girl.
  • Ryotaro Dojima – The uncle of Yu and father of Nanako.  Ryotaro is a police detective and is often so busy with his work especially with the escalating crimes, that he has to leave Nanako at home.
  • Nanako Dojima – The young daughter of Ryotaro who looks at Yu as her “Big Bro”.  Nanako likes the companionship of Yu and his friends and although she can take care of herself at home when her father is away, Nanako worries that her father is more interested in catching bad guys than her.

What’s happening in “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”?

In the second half of the anime series, Yu and friends are happy that the serial murderer is behind bars and that their lives can go back to normal.  But young detective Naoto Shirogane is not convinced as there seems to be a few holes that he needs to figure out.  Especially his interest in Yu and friends and their relationship to the case.

Eventually Naoto finds himself in the TV world and Yu and friends must do all they can to save the detective.

Meanwhile, another accident has taken place in the area and it is revealed of what happened to Nanako’s mother and why her father is constantly working late hours.  But with Nanako’s father always at work, Nanako begins to question if her father loves her or prefers catching criminals more.

And things continue to get worse for Yu as he begins receiving letters, threatening him that a family member will die if he continues to save people.  Eventually, the serial-murder case that the group thought was over is not and this time, tragedy hits closer to home.

And finally, a thick fog has entered Inaba and it’s unusual nature has been keeping the residents uneasy. After a major tragedy, the group must work together and find out who is truly responsible for the serial-murders.

VIDEO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The anime series is vibrant and colorful. The overall look of “Persona 4” is stylish and cool, but it’s interesting to see its use of pink with white on the faces of the characters. It’s definitely a different use of coloring for characters but watching this anime series, color plays a big part in this series to set a mood. May it be the looming danger of the fog rolling into Inaba, the use of blues in the Blue Room but for the majority of the anime series, everything is colorful. Chie’s red hair and green/yellow track jacket, Yukiko and Rise’s use of red and of course the beautiful combination of animation and CG elements, for the most part, I felt the series compliments the video game remarkably well.

But overall anime production from AIC A.S.T.A. is fantastic, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray with no banding or artifacts. The series looked sharp, black levels were nice and deep and colors were absolutely vibrant! “Persona 4: The Animation” looks awesome!

AUDIO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented only with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack. While the English version is well-acted, it is somewhat of a disappointment that the Japanese soundtrack is not included. The reason for this is that the Japanese licensors did not want reverse importation of the Blu-ray release, but yet the DVD will include both soundtracks. It’s sad because the Japanese soundtracks utilize the same voice actors, which would have been nice to see. But the fear of reverse importation does happen and unfortunately some series are released in America without its Japanese soundtrack. Interesting enough, on the video game side of things, the recent U.S. release of “Persona 4 Arena” became the first video game to be region-locked for the PlayStation 3. One again, in fears of reverse importation.

With that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels. And when it comes to voice acting, Sentai Filmworks brought voice acting veterans to the series such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Amanda Winn Lee, Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, Karen Strassman and more.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Trailers for Sentai Filmworks releases

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting and even more emotional than the first half.  Definitely one of the best anime series created that is based on a video game!

I’m a big fan of the entire “Shin Megami Tensei” video game series. My first experience with a “Shin Megami Tensei” video game was “Persona II: Eternal Punishment” and I absolutely loved the game for its characters but also it’s darker theme, use of Personas and it’s use of Japanese pop culture ingrained into an RPG game, the video games were a distinct style compared to other games from the major software makers.

And things changed no doubt with “Persona 3” which included a dating simulator and the ability for one to strengthen relationships, friendships and the overall gameplay becoming much more stylish and cool! Suffice to say, when “Persona 4” came out, once again, Atlus was able to create cool characters and further the experience for fans and gamers (who love Japanese RPG’s), but most importantly, making the games different from other companies and continuing to set the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” apart from its competitors.

And more American video game critics have started to take notice in the “Shin Megami Tensei” series. While many people who are discovering it are wondering, what is the appeal?

“Persona 4: The Animation” is a series that captures the fun of the video game series but in animated format. It’s one thing to have animated cut scenes but to have a series that compliments the video game is wonderful. Many people who have watched anime series based on video games, may it be “Final Fantasy”, “Xenogears”, “Tekken”, “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters” will notice that the stories are much different than the video game. While there are series such as the “.Hack” anime that does compliment the video games, it doesn’t use the actual characters of the video game series completely. “Persona 4: The Animation” not only features the characters, but it also showcases the supporting characters and goes into things that make the video game series so fun such as one’s ability to strengthen relationships and friendships.

Like the video game, the main protagonist Yu can make a difference in people’s lives. From making a difference in the life of his cousin, young Nanako to also his relationship with his female friends…Chie, Yukiko and Rise. And like the video game, the series shows how Yu can easily heighten his relationship with these female characters if he focuses on it. The video game of course allows you to build these relationships, but the anime series showcases those relationships and what one can accomplish.

And then there is the Persona element. With most of the Persona games, there is always a character who has the special ability to use more than one Persona. The series uses Igor and Margaret from the Blue Room to start off each episode and shows how Yu has received a new Persona for strengthening his bonds with other people. This is important in the video game and it’s great to see the series start off with the Blue Room and set the tone for the series, may it be to guide Yu or to warn him of major danger.

The second half of the series continues the action, but also the friendships that Yu and friends have.  But how these people function almost like a family.  But just when you think the serial-murder case was over, think again!

And what shocks the audience is when an unexpected tragedy hits close to home and a death you never expected.  Definitely makes the series more emotional but everything works itself out by the end of the series that you can’t help but want to watch more “Persona 4: The Animation”.  A lot of twists and turns with this second half but it was definitely worth watching!

Watching “Persona 4: The Animation” made me feel giddy like a fanboy. Why? Because I absolutely love the video games and to see it explored in such a way, like this anime series and getting it right, I don’t know how many times I have watched an anime series inspired by a video game and felt disappointed because it seemed as if the writers of the anime series were not on the same page as those who developed the video games. But for “Persona 4: the Animation”, the writers were in tune with what happens in the series and managed to incorporate those elements from the video game to this anime series.

The Blu-ray looks absolutely fantastic! Colorful, vibrant, the anime series looks fantastic on Blu-ray. As for the audio, I’m sure there are those who are going to be disappointed that the Japanese soundtrack was not included but once again, fears of reverse importation has happened before for an anime series on Blu-ray and in the case of “Persona 4”, it not only has affected this Blu-ray release but also the most recent release of the “Persona 4 Arena”video game being region-locked.

Sure, the Blu-ray may not have both soundtracks (while the DVD does) but if you do enjoy English dubs, the good news is that Sentai Filmworks brought in their veterans for “Persona 4: The Animation”. From Amanda Winn Lee, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthall, Karen Strassman, Laura Bailey to name a few, I’m quite pleased with the English dub. As for special features, you get the usual clean opening and ending animations but also both director’s cut and on air versions of the first episode.

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting battles and even more emotional than the first half of the series.  Definitely one of the better anime series that is based on a video game!  Recommended for fans of the “Shin Megami Tensei” video games and anime fans wanting something different for an action anime series but also something unique, stylish, cool!

Highly recommended!

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

An anime film based on a video game series that doesn’t suck!  “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” was an enjoyable, action-packed sci-fi film that fans and even those not familiar with the “Mass Effect” video games can enjoy.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mass Effect: Paragon Lost

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 95 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: 14+

Release Date: December 28, 2012

Directed by Atsushi Takeuchi

Screenplay by Henry Gilroy

Music by David Kates, Joshua R. Mosley

Character Design by Tokuyuki Matsutake

Creature Design by Yoh Yoshinari

Anime Production: Production I.G.

Featuring the voices of:

Freddie Prinze Jr. as James Vega

Bruce Carey as Admiral Hackett

Eric Vale as Essex

Jason Douglas as Archunk

Josh Grelle as Nicky

Laura Bailey as Kamille

Vic Mignogna as Messner

Jad Saxton as April

Justin Cook as Brood

Kara Edwards as Chrsitine

Marc Swint as Mason

Patrick Seitz as Cpt. David Anderson

Todd Haberkorn as Milque

Travis Willingham as Captain Toni

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is the prequel to the highly-anticipated Mass Effect 3 and follows the early career of Alliance Marine, James Vega. Vega leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against a mysterious alien threat known as The Collectors. Stationed at a colony in a remote star system, Vega and his soldiers must protect the civilians from a ruthless invasion determined to capture the population for unknown purposes. Learn more about the Mass Effect universe with an unprecedented glimpse into the haunted past of Mass Effect’s newest hero!

“Mass Effect”, the popular and succesful sci-fi RPG/third person shooter from Canadian company BioWare (“Baldur’s Gate”, “Neverwinter Nights”, “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic”, “Dragon Age”) released in 2007 would become one of the most succesful franchises in video game history and known for featuring wonderful graphics and storytelling.

The game which would feature the adventures of Commander Shepherd who works hard to stop the rogue Spectre Saren Arterius from leading his army of geth to conquer the galaxy.

In  2010, BioWare released the sequel “Mass Effect 2”, Commander Shepard is forced into an uneasy alliance with the Pro-Human paramilitary organization known as Cerberus in order to discover why human colonies were attacked and how everyone disappeared without a trace.

And in March 2012, the third and final installment titled “Mass Effect 3” revolves around the Reapers returning and trying to purge the galaxy and attacking Earth.  And this time Commander Shepard must race against time to rally the advanced races of the galaxy to make one final stand to fight the Reapers and also to save Earth.

With novels and comic-book series taking place in the Mass Effect universe having been released since 2007, an animated film was announced to be released in 2012 produced by T.O. Entertainment and would be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.  The storyline of the film, known as “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” would be a prequel to “Mass Effect 3” and follow the earlier career of Alliance Marine James Vega who leads an elite Special Forces into battle against an alien race known as The Collectors.

With “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost”, the story revolves takes place in the human colony of Fehl Prime, a colony known for producing pharmaceuticals for the Systems Alliance.

But the colony is attacked by the Blood Pack mercenaries led by krogan Archuk.  So, the alliance sends out the marines to aid the colonists and during landing, unfortunately, the majority of the alliance sent to Fehl Prime are shot and killed, but one manages to land and its the marine unit, Delta Squad (featuring Kamille, Nicky, Milque, Essex and Mason) led by Lt. James Vega.

The Delta Squad manages to defeat the Blood Pack and Admiral Steven Hackett orders the squad to stay in Fehl Prime to protect the colonists from future attacks.

Two years later and Fehl Prime has a better defense with anti-ship cannons, kinetic barriers and Delta Squad has made an impact in improving the defenses of the Fehl Prime.  But one day, the group receives a jamming signal and Lt. Vega along with asari anthropologist Treeya, the colonist Messner go to investigate and find out that an unknown alien device is jamming signals.

As Treeya wants to protect it from harm, Essex destroys it.  But as the group heads back to the colony, they find out that a Collector ship has flown overhead of the colony and deploys its Seeker Swarms to attack the colony and for some reason are capturing colonists.  But will Lt. Vega and team be able to defeat the Collectors?

VIDEO:

“Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Production I.G. is my favorite animation studio from Japan.  When it comes to character designs and art backgrounds, they are known for detail.  But with Electronic Arts/BioWare involved with the CD animated film for “Dragon Age”, it was great to see that they went for an anime release.  Picture quality of the film is absolutely vibrant.  Excellent shading, art backgrounds were nicely detailed with black levels inky and deep and for the most part, the film not showing any signs of artifacts or aliasing.  Nor did I see any banding during my viewing of the film.

With that being said, I did feel the animation and character design were suited for a western audience.  I’ve seen Production I.G. go all out before in anime such as “Eden of the East” and “Ghost Hound” and while animation and art backgrounds from the studio tend to be magnificent, “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” looked great, but just not magnificent.

AUDIO:

“Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  An as one can expect from an action-driven film, the film utilizes the surround channels and LFE effectively.  Great dynamic range and immersiveness when it comes to explosions, fights against monstrous enemies to the zipping of energy blasts.  Lossless audio is very good.  Voice acting is well-done and it’s interesting to see Freddie Prinze, Jr. doing the voice of James Vega.    Unfortunately, there are some characters that with overacting! But for the most part, the English dub is very good.

Unfortunately, for those wanting a Japanese voice acting soundtrack, there isn’t one.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” comes with the following special features:

  • All Doors Open: A Look Inside Electronic Arts – (8:36) Pat O’Brien, Vice-President of Electronic Arts gives people a tour of the studio.
  • An Inside Look at the Mass Effect Universe – (12:39) The creators of “Mass Effect” discuss the design of the characters, creation of the characters, creating the music and integrating them to the game.
  • Directing Effect – (24:18) BioWare’s Casey Hudson (Executive Producer of the “Mass Effect” franchise) discusses the guidelines of the “Mass Effect” universe and the collaboration with FUNimation and work with Japanese animators.
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:17) FUNimation trailer for “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost”.
  • Trailers – Featuring FUNimation trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” comes with the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the animated series.

At first, I was a bit hesitant if I would be able to understand what is going on with “Mass Effect: Lost Paragon”.

As a gamer who owns the games (and have yet to beat any of them), I’m not exactly an erudite on the whole “Mass Effect” story.  So, I worried that I may be lost when it comes to the “Mass Effect” storyline.

Fortunately, the writers kept the story simple.  A group of colonists are being attacked and the marines from the Delta Force Squad must protect the colonists from any harm but also help them protect their colony with defensive weaponry.

But there are enough complexities to make the storyline incorporate clever plot twists, action but also emotion, as one leader must make the decision of sacrificing soldiers and colonists for the better future of tomorrow or to sacrifice data and information that would serve the better good of the people in the future to save soldiers, the people right at that moment.  A crucial decision that has to be made, which one would you pick?  And similar to the game, which is about making choices, Vega had to make a decision that no matter which one he picked, lives would be lost.

If anything, the animated film gives new insight to the the disappearance of the colonists of the third game but also gives us details of the character, James Vega.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and lossless audio were fantastic.  Some may not be used to seeing the characters in anime format and there may be some who prefer seeing the CG style that was utilized for “Dragon Age”.  But it’s all subjective and for me, the fact that Production I.G. was involved tells me that Electronic Arts wanted the best and they got one of the best (in my opinion, is the best) anime studio for the project.  Voice acting for this anime series was well-cast and Freddie Prinze, Jr. did a wonderful job portraying Vega.

Most of the time, anime that was inspired and based on a major video game franchise, typically does not translate well as an animated film or OVA.  If anything, most often, these films or OVA’s based off video games tend to suck.  But with the collaboration between the major video game companies in America, utilizing American writing but Japanese animation work and style, these collaborations have been good so far.  I enjoyed “Dragon Age” and I enjoyed “Mass Effect: Paragon Lost”.

At first, I thought the film would be another “Starship Troopers” type of storyline and while there is a lot of chaos and a large body count, along with the action, you have a smart and effective storyline.  It’ s not all popcorn action, the decision that Vega must make was very difficult and you can easily sympathize with the character, especially to when Vega must confront the true reality of the decision he made.  It’s quite heartbreaking!  But you understand why he did it.

An action-packed sci-fi film that captures the soul of the “Mass Effect” video games and the difficult choices that must be made for the many, not the one.  And for the character of James Vega, we get to see how one man’s decision will have an major effect on the alliance, and a decision that will affect this character.

“Mass Effect: Paragon Lost” was an enjoyable, action-packed sci-fi film that fans and even those not familiar with the “Mass Effect” video games can enjoy.  Recommended!

Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A series that captures the video game series remarkably well, “Persona 4: The Animation” is fun, captivating and truly awesome!   if you are a video game fan that has enjoyed the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” series or one wanting to see a video game anime series done right, I highly recommend “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One”.

Images courtesy of © Index Corporation/P4A Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 1-12 (305 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: September 18, 2012

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Shoji Meguro

Original Character Design by Shigenori Soejima

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi, Shinji Nagaoka

Chief Animation Director: Kiyotaka Nakahara

Anime Production by AIC A.S.T.A.

Featuring the voices of:

Amanda Winn Lee as Yukiko Amagi

Erin Fitzgerald as Chie Satonaka

Johnny Yong Bosch as Yu Narukami

Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke Hanamura

J.B. Blanc as Ryotaro Dojima

Johnny Yong Bosch as Toru Adachi

Karen Strassman as Nanako Dojima

Laura Bailey as Rise Kujikawa

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Naoto Shirogane

Sam Regal as Teddie

Troy Baker as Kanji Tatsumi

When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life, or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns, and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!

Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer… or lead him to his doom.

The “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” role-playing video game series developed and published by Atlus and has won over fans due to its darker storyline and it’s one of the few games to incorporate a Japanese atmosphere incorporating simulation type games relating to its characters.

Created back in 1996, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” has continually evolved and its fifth installment, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” (the fifth installment in the SMT: Persona series) was no doubt a popular title in the series when it was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008.

The video game would inspire a 25-episode anime series titled “Persona 4: The Animation” , which aired on Japanese television in 2011-2012.

In 2012, with the upcoming release of the PlayStation Vita version of the game (titled “Persona 4: Golden”) and most recently its fighting game sequel “Persona 4 Arena” for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360.  And what better time than now to release the anime series “Persona 4: The Animation” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Persona 4” begins with a clip inside the limousine as an older man named Igor and his assistant Margaret introduce themselves to someone.  They explain their location, The Velvet Room as a place that exists between “dream and reality” and not many people can find this special room.

We are then introduced to high school student Yu Narukami arriving in the countryside of Inaba.  Because his parents are working abroad, he must live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, the resident investigator and his cousin Nanako Dojima for the entire year.

While attending Yasogami High School, he meets two people who become his friends.  Yosuke Hanamura is a teenager who also moved to Inaba a year prior and his father own the huge department store, Junes (pronounced as “Joo-Ness”).  And his friend Chie Satonaka is a teenage girl with an appetite.  While she is often teasing and hitting her friend Yosuke, she also hangs out with her best friend Yukiko Amagi.

Meanwhile, a student named Saki Koshi is seen cutting class and discovers the body of TV announcer Mayumi Yamano.

With the murder of a known TV personality scaring people in town, leading to Ryotaro Dojima and his partner Detective Adachi investigating the crime scene, For Yu, he has heard of the rumors at school that a “Midnight Channel” shown on television may be connected to the murders.  Apparently, if one watches the channel at midnight, they should be able to see an image of a person  When Yu watches the channel at midnight, he sees someone show up. The image is of a young woman.  When Yu puts his hand on the TV, he is nearly pulled into the TV.

Yu tries to tell Chie and Yosuke about it but they don’t believe him, but Chie said she wants to see if it would happen on a larger television.  So, the three head to Junes Department Store to see if he can duplicate the same situation on a bigger television set and sure enough, when Yu sticks his hand, it goes through the TV set and all three are pulled in.

The trio end up in different world and encounter a bear named Teddie. Teddie explains that they are in a world where if foggy, it would be clear on Earth.  If it is clear on Earth, then it would be foggy in his world.  And to see things in his world, he must wear special glasses.

The trio are then attacked by shadows and fearing for their lives, the persona of Yu Narukami is awakened.  It is learned that Yu has the Persona of the Wild Card and that it could lead to infinite possibilities, which include the use of other Personas or fusing two or more Personas to create something more powerful.

Afterward, because of the discovery of this new world, Yu and friends find out that there may be a link between those who are missing (or dead) and this new world they have discovered.  And along the way, the more they keep visiting this other side, they will be facing danger but also possibly awakening their own Persona.

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One” features the first 12 episodes of the series on two Blu-ray Discs.  Here is a brief summary of each episode featured:

  • EPISODE 1 – The introduction to Yu Narukami and friends Yosuke and Chie.
  • EPISODE 2 – Yosuke plans to take Saki out to a movie but the school learns that Saki is dead. Is her death an accident or did someone murder her?  Meanwhile, a creepy guy tries to ask Yukiko out for a date.
  • EPISODE 3 – Yukiko has gone missing and fearing that she may be killed, the three must head to the other world to save her.  Meanwhile, Chie must face her own personal dark side.
  • EPISODE 4 – With Yu, Yosuke and Chie now each having their own Persona, the three must use their abilities to save Yukiko’s shadow.
  • EPISODE 5 – Yu is asked to join the basketball team by Kou Ichijjo and meets the team manager Ai Ebihara.  Ai wants Yu to be her fake boyfriend in order to get closer to Kou.  Will that plan work?
  • EPISODE 6 – It’s Golden Week and this time, the Midnight Channel is showing a student named Kanji Tatsumi who has a very bad reputation of being a gang leader.  As the group tries to help him, they noticed a mysterious boy talking to him for some reason.
  • EPISODE 7  – Yu, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko try to help Kanji Tatsumi by facing his shadow in the TV world.
  • EPISODE 8 – The group goes out on a school camping trip and meet Saki Konishi’s younger brother Naoki who has been having problems at school.
  • EPISODE 9 – Popular singer and idol Rise “Risette” Kujikawa makes a pubic announcement that she wants to take a break from her career and return to to Inaba to hep her grandmother’s tofu shop.  As the publicity has brought many people to Inaba, Yu who has no idea that Rise is a popular idol, becomes her friend.  Meanwhile, the group becomes concerned with they noticed Rise showing up on the Midnight Channel.
  • EPISODE 10 – Yu, Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko and Kanji head to the TV world to save Saki and must confront her Shadow.
  • EPISODE 11 – Someone has killed the group’s teacher, Morokawa.  Meanwhile, the actions of Mitsuo Kubo begin the worse as he becomes more threatening.  Meanwhile, Teddy finds a way to leave the TV World and join Yu and friends.
  • EPISODE 12 – The group find out who is the murderer and must stop him in the TV world.  But can they each defeat this evil shadow.

VIDEO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The anime series is vibrant and colorful.  The overall look of “Persona 4” is stylish and cool, but it’s interesting to see its use of pink with white on the faces of the characters.  It’s definitely a different use of coloring for characters but watching this anime series, color plays a big part in this series to set a mood.  May it be the looming danger of the fog rolling into Inaba, the use of blues in the Blue Room but for the majority of the anime series, everything is colorful.  Chie’s red hair and green/yellow track jacket, Yukiko and Rise’s use of red and of course the beautiful combination of animation and CG elements, for the most part, I felt the series compliments the video game remarkably well.

But overall anime production from AIC A.S.T.A. is fantastic, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray with no banding or artifacts.  The series looked sharp, black levels were nice and deep and colors were absolutely vibrant!  “Persona 4: The Animation” looks awesome!

AUDIO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented only with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack.  While the English version is well-acted, it is somewhat of a disappointment that the Japanese soundtrack is not included.  The reason for this is that the Japanese licensors did not want reverse importation of the Blu-ray release, but yet the DVD will include both soundtracks.  It’s sad because the Japanese soundtracks utilize the same voice actors, which would have been nice to see.  But the fear of reverse importation does happen and unfortunately some series are released in America without its Japanese soundtrack.    Interesting enough, on the video game side of things, the recent U.S. release of “Persona 4 Arena” became the first video game to be region-locked for the PlayStation 3.  One again, in fears of reverse importation.

With that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.  And when it comes to voice acting, Sentai Filmworks brought voice acting veterans to the series such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Amanda Winn Lee, Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, Karen Strassman and more.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 01: You’re Myself, I’m Yourself (On Air Version) – (26:05) The shorter version shown on television minus the other version featured on the first disc which is over three minutes longer.
  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Trailers for Sentai Filmworks releases

I’m a big fan of the entire “Shin Megami Tensei” video game series.    My first experience with a “Shin Megami Tensei” video game was “Persona II: Eternal Punishment” and I absolutely loved the game for its characters but also it’s darker theme, use of Personas and it’s use of Japanese pop culture ingrained into an RPG game,  the video games were a distinct style compared to other games from the major software makers.

And things changed no doubt with “Persona 3” which included a dating simulator and the ability for one to strengthen relationships, friendships and the overall gameplay becoming much more stylish and cool!  Suffice to say, when “Persona 4” came out, once again, Atlus was able to create cool characters and further the experience for fans and gamers (who love Japanese RPG’s), but most importantly, making the games different from other companies and continuing to set the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” apart from its competitors.

And more American video game critics have started to take notice in the “Shin Megami Tensei” series.  While many people who are discovering it are wondering, what is the appeal?

“Persona 4: The Animation” is a series that captures the fun of the video game series but in animated format.  It’s one thing to have animated cut scenes but to have a series that compliments the video game is wonderful.  Many people who have watched anime series based on video games, may it be “Final Fantasy”, “Xenogears”, “Tekken”, “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters” will notice that the stories are much different than the video game.  While there are series such as the “.Hack” anime that does compliment the video games, it doesn’t use the actual characters of the video game series completely.  “Persona 4: The Animation” not only features the characters, but it also showcases the supporting characters and goes into things that make the video game series so fun such as one’s ability to strengthen relationships and friendships.

Like the video game, the main protagonist Yu can make a difference in people’s lives.  From making a difference in the life of his cousin, young Nanako to also his relationship with his female friends…Chie, Yukiko and Rise.  And like the video game, the series shows how Yu can easily heighten his relationship with these female characters if he focuses on it.  The video game of course allows you to build these relationships, but the anime series showcases those relationships and what one can accomplish.

And then there is the Persona element.  With most of the Persona games, there is always a character who has the special ability to use more than one Persona.  The series uses Igor and Margaret from the Blue Room to start off each episode and shows how Yu has received a new Persona for strengthening his bonds with other people.  This is important in the video game and it’s great to see the series start off with the Blue Room and set the tone for the series, may it be to guide Yu or to warn him of major danger.

And with the majority of the episodes for this first collection, we get to learn how Yu’s friends are able to obtain their Persona’s but also utilizing them for battle.

Watching “Persona 4: The Animation” made me feel giddy like a fanboy.  Why?  Because I absolutely love the video games and to see it explored in such a way, like this anime series and getting it right, I don’t know how many times I have watched an anime series inspired by a video game and felt disappointed because it seemed as if the writers of the anime series were not on the same page as those who developed the video games.  But for “Persona 4: the Animation”, the writers were in tune with what happens in the series and managed to incorporate those elements from the video game to this anime series.

The Blu-ray looks absolutely fantastic!  Colorful, vibrant, the anime series looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  As for the audio, I’m sure there are those who are going to be disappointed that the Japanese soundtrack was not included but once again, fears of reverse importation has happened before for an anime series on Blu-ray and in the case of “Persona 4”, it not only has affected this Blu-ray release but also the most recent release of the “Persona 4 Arena”video game being region-locked.

Sure, the Blu-ray may not have both soundtracks (while the DVD does) but if you do enjoy English dubs, the good news is that Sentai Filmworks brought in their veterans for “Persona 4: The Animation”.  From Amanda Winn Lee, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthall, Karen Strassman, Laura Bailey to name a few, I’m quite pleased with the English dub.  As for special features, you get the usual clean opening and ending animations but also both director’s cut and on air versions of the first episode.

A series that captures the video game series remarkably well, “Persona 4: The Animation” is fun, captivating and truly awesome!   if you are a video game fan that has enjoyed the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” series or one wanting to see a video game anime series done right, I highly recommend “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One”.

K-On! Season Two, Collection 2 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The immensely popular “K-ON!” anime series is back with the final episodes of season two.  Graduation time has come for the members of the Light Music Club, but before they go on their own separate ways, enjoy the final episodes featuring Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa. Definitely one of my favorite anime series to be released in 2012!  If you are looking for a lighthearted, fun and hilarious anime series, “K-On!” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of ©Kakifly/Houbunshua/Sakura High Band. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: K-ON!: K-On! Season Two, Collection 2

DURATION: Episodes 14-26 + OVA (350 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Dolby Digital, Audio: English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: TBS Animation/Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: August 28, 2012

Originally Created by kakifly

Directed by Naoko Yamada

Screenplay by Jukki Hanada, Katsuhiko Muramoto, Masahiro Yokotani, Reiko Yoshida

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Character Design by Yukiko Horiguchi

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Chief Animation Director: Yukiko Horiguchi

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Featuring the voices of:

Aki Toyosaki/Stephanie Sheh as Yui Hirasawa

Asami Sanada/Karen Strassman as Sawako Yamanaka

Ayana Taketatsu/Christine Marie Cabanos as Azusa Nakano

Chika Fujitō/Laura Bailey as Nodoka Manabe

Madoka Yonezawa/Xanthe Huynh as Ui Hirasawa

Minako Kotobuki/Shelby Lindley as Tsumugi Kotobuki

Satomi Satou/Cassandra Lee as Ritsu Tainaka

Yōko Hikasa/Cristina Vee as Mio Akiyama

Yoriko Nagata/Michelle Ann Dunphy as Jun Suzuki

Sometimes music and words come together so perfectly that the combination is far more powerful than either would be alone. In much the same way, the five members of the Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School’s Light Music Club have become far more than just a group of girls with similar interests. More, even, than just a group of friends. Through the medium of music they’ve found a common course in life, and whatever the future may bring, they know they can get through it if they stand together. Which makes the coming end of the school year and the graduation of the four older members something that’s dreaded as much as it’s looked forward to. But in the meantime there’s so much going on, it’s as life has decided to throw everything it can at them. Going to music festivals won’t be hard to swing, but running a marathon? That will be a stretch! Yearbook photos? The horror! And a school play with Mio and Ritsu cast as Romeo and Juliet? Ooo, VERY awkward. And then, of course, there’s one big final performance for the band! The tempo is rising and emotions run wild as the final encore approaches in K-ON! Season 2 Collection 2!!

All good things must come to an end and for the Light Music Club at Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi are graduating high school and will be moving on their own separate directions.  And for sophomore Azusa, will she be left alone or will new members join the Light Music Club?  Find out in “K-On! Season Two, Collection 2”!

The girls of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School’s Light Music Club (K-On!) are back in season 2 of the hit Japanese animations series known as “K-On!”.

“K-ON!”, happens to be one of the hottest anime series in Japan that has not only dominated in the TV ratings but also on Japan’s Oricon music charts!

The series has been a phenomenon as it has attracted fans all over the world, those who want to cosplay as the characters, those who want to sing like the characters and those who want to play the music of the characters. Just one look on YouTube and all over the Internet and you can see how passionate fans have been for this series!

“K-ON!” began as a four-panel comic strip written and illustrated by kakifly and the manga would then be serialized in Houbunsha’s seinen manga magazine “Manga Time Kirara” between May 2007-October 2010. In April 2011, the manga was relaunched on both “Manga Time Kirara” and Houbunsha’s magazine “Manga Time Kirara Carat” with two separate storylines.

The popularity of the manga series led to a 13-episode anime TV series which aired in Japan on April-June 2009, an OVA episode in Jan. 2010 and a 26-episode second season titled “K-ON!!” which aired in Japan from April through Sept. 2010, a new OVA released in March 2011 and an animated film last winter.

The series would also lead to a Sony PSP music rhythm video game and now,  for American audiences who have been wanting more K-On!, “K-On!” Season Two, Collection 2 will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

What is K-On!?

“K-ON!” is a play on the Japanese word “keiongaku” (light music) and the series follows four high school students of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School who are members of the “keiongaku” club. The four characters featured thus far in the series are Yui Hirasawa, a naive and clumsy student entering high school who is not entirely sure what she wants to do in terms of extracurricular activities. While she tries to figure out what she wants to do, two other students, Ritsu Tainaka and Mio Akiyama join the keiongaku club to find out that most of the members have graduated and the only way they can keep the club open is if they have four members.

Because Ritsu plays the drums and Mio plays the bass guitar, they hope they can find other musicians and form a band.

Fortunately, a new member joins the group, Tsumugi Kobobuki, a student from a wealthy family who plays a Korg Triton Extreme 76-key keyboard. Now all they need is one member.

While Yui is trying to think of activities to do, she sees a flyer for the keiongaku club and in her mind, she remembers light music as something she did when she was young student in elementary school and so she joins. Meanwhile, the other three members are happy because with a fourth member, the club will stay alive but also the fact that maybe Yui is a guitarist and now, they can start their own band.

But Yui is not a musician and if anything, what she loves about the club is the ability to eat desserts and drink tea with the other members but when the three members perform in front of her, she becomes inspired and wants to be a member of the club and be part of the band.

Eventually Yui learns the guitar rather quickly and the four would go on to form a band known as Hokago Tea Time thanks to the advice from their advisor and former K-On! Club member and rocker Sawako Yamanaka.. By the end of the first season, the club gains a new club member named Asuza Nakano, a best friend of Yui’s younger sister Ui.

And the first season featured the band performing live in a non-school related event.

So, what happens in Season 2?

As the first season focused on group dynamics and the group wanting to perform live and work on being a band, as expected with the first season, they were character building episodes. Getting to know Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa as well as their friends Nodoka and advisor Sawako.

The second season now features some music related episodes but now focuses on their senior year and high school. Wondering what they will do after graduating and for young Azusa, being sad that her friends will be graduating and wondering what will happen to the Light Music Club after they leave and will they find any new members.

For their final senior school year, their music advisor Sawako Yamanaka is now their teacher and to make things interesting, she has brought together all senior classmates of the Light Music Club and also Nodoka into the same class. So, a lot of the episodes focus on their senior year in high school, rather than focusing on strictly music.

We are also get to see the introduction of Azusa’s friends who have an interest in joining the club, after seeing how much fun Asuza has with her bandmates.

For the second half of the series, the storyline becomes more emotional as the members know they are graduating high school and for Azusa, she realizes how much her new friends have made an impact on her life and wondering if she can continue the Light Music club without them.

Here is what to expect in the second half of episodes of “K-On! Season Two, Collection 2” (spoilerless summaries):

  • EPISODE 14 – Ritsu and Tsumugi hang out, but what happens when Tsumugi wants to be hit, like how Mio hits Ritsu in the head?
  • EPISODE 15 – Summer vacation is over and the girls participate in a school-wide marathon.
  • EPISODE 16 – Azusa wants the group to practice more but can she get them to do that?
  • EPISODE 17 – The Light Music club room is closed down as it will be undergoing repairs.  Now the group have to figure out where to practice.
  • EPISODE 18 – What happens when Mio is nominated by the club to be Juliet and for Romeo…Ritsu?
  • EPISODE 19 – It’s the big day for the “Romeo & Juliet” play but with the light music club’s upcoming live concert, she fears they haven’t had enough time to practice.
  • EPISODE 20 – It’s time for the girls to perform live at the school festival!
  • EPISODE 21 – The girl’s prepare for their graduating yearbook photos and think about what kind of haircut they should have for their senior photo.
  • EPISODE 22 – Azusa wants to make a chocolate cake for the members of the Light Music Club to celebrate Valentine’s Day but also their upcoming graduation.
  • EPISODE 23 – Members of the club want to hang out before their big graduation day.
  • EPISODE 24 – It’s graduation day and the final day that the Light Music Club with its current members, will be together in high school.
  • EPISODE 25 – A story that takes place after episode 21, Azusa finds the Light Music Club’s recruitment video.
  • EPISODE 26 – A story that takes place before episode 23, Nodoka shows the club a sample of their graduation yearbook.
  • OVA – The storyline takes place before episode 14 and features the girls wanting to go overseas.  But can they?

“K-ON!” features the following characters:

  • Yui Hirasawa– Yui is a naive and clumsy student who likes to sleep, eat and go shopping. But when she joins the Keiongaku club, she becomes the group’s newest member and the band’s guitarist. She tries to learn how to play a Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul standard electric guitar.
  • Ritsu Tainaka – The most vocal person of the Keiongaku club. She is a drummer that plays a yellow Rick Marotta Signature Yamaha hipgig drum kit and always upbeat, energetic, sarcastic and often always playing jokes on her good friend Mio. Sometimes she can get in the nerves of the other members but she is the most determined in wanting to make sure the club exists and that they form a band.
  • Mio Akiyama – The levelheaded person of the group and the smartest student among the four. She plays a Fender Jazz Bass. She originally was planning to join the literary club but her friend Ritsu tore up her applications and made her join the Keiongaku club. Although a person who knows quite a bit about music, she is also quite shy and is easy to scare. She can’t take anything that deals with anything scary, ghosts, blood, injuries or anything macabre.
  • Tsumugi Kotobuki – The daughter of a very wealthy family. Known as “Mugi”, she plays a Korg Triton Extreme keyboard and is a piano prodigy. She is known for her blonde hair and thick eyebrows. Because her father owns a variety of businesses including a maid cafe, she often brings desserts to the club meetings.
  • Azusa Nakano – The same class as Yui’s sister Ui, Azusa joins the Keiongaku music club but not sure if she wants to stay because the members do not appear to be taking their band practices that seriously.

OTHER CHARACTERS:

  • Ui Hirasawa – Yui’s younger sister who tends to get Yui out of a jam. Unlike Yui, Ui is more responsible and mature and takes care of her older sister.
  • Nodoka Manabe – Yui’s childhood friend and confidant. Smart and intelligent, despite how Yui is at times, Nodoka always supports her.
  • Sawako Yamanaka – A beloved teacher known for her kind heart, she also carries a secret, she is a former member of the Keiongaku music club during her high school years and was a member of a death metal band known as “Death Devil” as the lead guitarist and vocalist. She has tried to hide her past but when the members find a photo and music of her past, as part of a deal for them to keep it a secret, she becomes their advisor. Despite seeming to be responsible, she is quite wild and an airhead like Yui. And also making the members dress up in costumes that she creates.

VIDEO:

“K-ON!” is an anime series that is stylishly created but also features beautifully painted art backgrounds. Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen), one thing that I love to see when it comes to anime series is the attention to detail when covering a modern setting.

A lot of TV series tend to not make the backgrounds of a city landscape so detailed and tend to put a lot of recycled trees, dirt and sky but “K-ON!”, is not one of those anime series. There are scenes and also still images of natural settings that are beautifully painted and added to the series. There is detail for the instruments, for the desserts and I felt that with each episode, aside from the practice room and the wideshot image of their school, there was always something new being featured in terms of location. So, the color palette of the series is full of color and nothing is stale or seemed regurgitated.

With that being said, the colors are a bit saturated but for an anime TV series (which is expected) but the OVA does feature more vibrant colors and a bit more detail.

For the many decades I have watched Japanese animation, for anime series that are set in a modern Tokyo setting, I prefer anime series that focused on the smallest details, such as what is inside their bedrooms and home. What’s inside the stores when they go shopping, etc. I love seeing those details instead of the typical walls or trees that are part of the banality anime TV series.

“K-ON!” is one of those series where those little things matter and for me, those attention to small details enhanced my appreciation for the series.

AUDIO:

If there was a weak side of this Blu-ray release, I’m sure the audiophiles might be a bit cranky that the soundtrack is not Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA. What you get is an English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack. What surprised me is the fact that even with the work for the English dub version, there was no change to make it a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack or to increase the bitrate for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA. But for a Blu-ray release, those who are expecting immersive lossless audio may fret about it, while those who have been waiting for this series to come out to the U.S. will be perfectly fine with the its 2.0 lossless soundtrack.

Personally, I chose to have my receiver play the anime series with stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape. As for the voice acting, I am a bit biased to the Japanese voice acting but I did watch the series also with the English dub soundtrack and for the most part, both are well-done and the voice acting should appeal to fans who prefer their anime in Japan or English.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K-On! Season Two, Collection 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmworks trailers.

Since I first began reviewing “K-On!” and enjoying the series a lot, playing the video games to even purchasing the “K-On!” Figma figures, suffice to say, I always wondered if the series would go on for several seasons before the girl’s would graduate.  I just never thought that it would happen in season two.  But all things come to and end, but there is always a new beginning and this second half of “K-On!” is about one chapter ending, another chapter begins.

And for the Light Music Club, the music will continue.

As a fan of “K-On!”, we have watched as Yui looked for a club to join, purchasing her first guitar, hanging out with her friends during the holiday season, sleepovers, New Year’s Eve and we have seen them work hard to make their music (although, they possibly did more eating and having fun that practicing) but eventually growing their friendship and carrying the Light Music Club to new heights at Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School.

I will remember Mio’s fear of scary stories, I will remember Ritsu’s jokes and lackadaisical approach to music and of course, who can forget Tsumugi’s cheerfulness, her tea and sweets.

But here we are now with “K-On!” Season Two, Collection 2 and its time for Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi to graduate from high school.  And as the first half featured the girl’s taking part in several events and having fun during summer vacation, this time around it’s about their final activities in school.  From taking part in a school play and performing at their last music festival at school but most importantly, seeing how this affects their young member Azusa.

Azusa has always been strong and not the type to express her emotions.  Sure, she may be frustrated as the group had slacked off from practicing but she also learns that her friendship has taught them a lot.  That it’s OK for her to show her sweet side, it’s ok for her to show off her emotions but most of all, what it feels like to have older sisters and friends who will be by you, no matter what.

And these last episodes are a culmination of that friendship and the final months leading to their graduation and a new beginning for the Light Music Club.

While the series is the end for Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi as members of the Light Music Club, the story has continued in an animated film which ties into the final episode of the series.  But one of the cool things about this Blu-ray release are the inclusions of the two extra episodes and the OVA.

The two extra episodes are more or less episodes that take place before a certain time of the series and the OVA takes place before episode 14, if anything, episodes to prolong the fun times that these members have together.  But nevertheless, these final episodes for season two were fun and very emotional.    Graduating is emotional, saying goodbye to friends is emotional but as one chapter ends, another begins.

And I like to think that “K-On!” will exist.  Maybe not with the same members, but it will hopefully continue on with maybe Azusa or a whole new group of students.

But after watching season two, my feelings for the series have not changed.

I really love this series! And loved the progression of the Hokago Tea Time band and how each of these young ladies grew up together to become a band that can actually perform quite well and start playing their first major gig to now growing together and getting ready to prepare themselves to whatever happens after high school but for now, enjoying this final year together.

My favorite episodes of the second half of season two includes episode 20 featuring the group performing their songs as the school festival, episode 22 which features the girl’s taking their entrance exams for college but Azusa wanting to go the extra mile of doing something special for her friends before they graduate.  And of course, episodes 23-24 were great but episode 24 being the graduation episode, will no doubt bring a fan to tears, as it is the final goodbye.

I enjoyed every episode of the series and I just enjoy how lighthearted and fun they all were.  I love the fact that it focuses on normal high school life but also the formation of a band and the dynamics with each of the members as they go through their ups and downs but also the little cute quirks that come with each character.

I typically don’t go crazy over anime series, nor am I the hardcore fan that goes out and buys anything after I see a series but this is probably the first time since I watched an anime series such as “Ranma 1/2″ back in 1992, where I went out and started buying merchandise related to the series. In fact, I have purchased the PSP video game, the Figma figures and it has become one of my favorite series that I have really got into in a very long time in this manner.

The music is awesome! The characters are entertaining. The animation and art backgrounds were very good and for the most part, it has been a long time, possibly since “Azumanga Daioh” in which I really enjoyed gakusei-based anime series (student anime series – focused on a school setting).

As for the Blu-ray release, I know one of the major criticisms that the first season (released by Bandai Entertainment) was its price and that it only came with four episodes per volume. And many wondered if Sentai Filmworks would follow the same path. And fortunately, for fans, Sentai Filmworks included 13-episodes with this first collection and the second half, you get 14 episodes total.

As for picture quality and audio quality, “K-On!” also receives a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese. And the TV series looks great on Blu-ray! And as for special features, the first season never really came with any and the second only comes with the clean opening and ending themes. But fortunately, fans should be happy that this second season Blu-ray release comes with the first 13-episodes, instead of just four episodes.

If you are an anime fan who loves a straight-up, feel-good anime series with nothing dark, nothing to risque but something just all out-fun, give “K-ON!” a chance! It’s a wonderful anime series on Blu-ray and there is really nothing like it out there (although one may want to check out the live action film “Linda Linda” if they are interested in a storyline of all-girl rock bands).

Overall, a fun, hilarious and entertaining second season of “K-ON!”.  It’s sad to see the character’s saying goodbye, especially after enjoying each episode for season one and two and watching the adventures and wild club meetings featuring the members of the Light Music Club.  But like life for many, after high school graduation, everyone moves on in their own separate direction and begins life anew.  But I will remember “K-On!” for its characters, its bubbly and happy storyline, its music and upbeat energy.

Definitely one of my favorite series to be released in 2012 and an enjoyable anime series overall!

I highly recommend both “K-On! Season Two, Collection 1 and 2.  Definitely recommended!

 

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