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Initial D Legend 1: Awakening (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns. “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Initial D Legend 1: Awakening

DURATION: 60 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 L

Release Date: December 5, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Shigeno

Directed by Masamitsu Hidaka

Script by Mayori Sekijima

Music by Akio Dobashi

Character Design: Koji Haneda

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Chief Animation Director: Koji Haneda

Anime Production: LIDEN FILMS, SANZIGEN Animation Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Mamoru Miyano/Joel McDonald as Takumi Fujiwara

Daisuke Ono/J. Michael Tatum as Ryōsuke Takahashi

Hiroaki Hirata/Bill Wise as Bunta Fujiwara

Hiroshi Tsuchida/Eric Vale as Kōichirō Iketani

Junichi Suwabe/Brian Mountbatten as Takeshi Nakazato

Maaya Uchida/Brina Palencia as Natsuki Mogi

Minoru Shiraishi/Josh Grelle as Itsuki Takeuchi

Yūichi Nakamura/Gray G. Haddock as Keisuke Takahashi


In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING! Initial D Legend 2: Racer Preview.


For over 15 years, “Initial D” has been a favorite anime series for those interested in drag racing and drifting. Originally created by mangaka Shuichi Shigeno and serialized in Kodansha’s “Young Magazine” back in 1995 and still ongoing in Japan, the first season of “Initial D” was shown on television in 1998.

In 2014, it was announced that a new Initial D film would be released and it would be a three part story based on Shuichi Shigeno’s manga.

The movie is more or less a retelling of the earl stages of the manga and now “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The manga and anime is about Japanese street racing and focuses on a teenager named Takumi Fujiwara, son of Bunta Fujiwara, who owns a tofu shop. Takumi works at a gas station but when he’s at home, he delivers tofu at 4:00 a.m. and is known to speed through the mountain slopes of Mt. Akitna at high speed driving his father’s AE86 Trueno.

The purpose of this is that his father Bunta has wanted to develop his driving skills and sure enough, his skill is top notch.

But for Takumi, although he has been riding and delivery tofu for a long time and has sharp driving skills, driving fast and getting from point a to point b was merely doing it for his father and not for the sake of trying to race.

But when a well-known group of street racers known as the Akagi Red Suns come to visit Mt. Akina and Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns finds himself racing against a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 leaving Keisuke defeated.

Now fired up, Keisuke Takashi wants to know who drives the AE86 and wants to race him.

Meanwhile, the Akina Speed Stars are visited by Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi Redsuns for a joint race but in reality, its Keisuke’s challenge to whoever beat him with the AE86.

With news of an AE86 beating Keisuke Takahashi (as witnessed by Akina Speedstars leader, Koichiro Iketani), Bunta can’t help but talk about it.  But for Takumi, he has no idea with an AE86 is (unaware that the Trueno he drives is an AE86).

In dire need of a member who exceeds in downhill driving after their team leader Iketani gets involved in an accident. He learns from his boss at the gas station, Yuichi Tachibana, that the AE86 is a tofu delivery vehicle owned by Bunta Fujiwara. This leads to Iketani to plead with Bunta to race against Keisuke (unaware that Bunta is no longer delivering the food, nor does Iketani know that Takumi is Bunta’s son and is responsible for doing the deliveries).

Meanwhile, Takumi is getting closer to Natsuki and wants to take her out on a date and needs to borrow the Trueno AE86.  But his father said he can in one condition…he must use the car and race against Keisuke Takahashi.

Who will race for the pride of Akina against Keisuke Takahashi of the Akagi RedSuns?


VIDEO:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in 1080p High Definition and as one can expect from a newer film, the old artwork and CG that was utilized in the past has been modernized with better animation for the race scenes.  The character designs are much closer to the manga series and are well-shaded and the background artwork is also a major improvement.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The lossless audio features crystal clear audio and also utilizing the surround channels for the rev of engines and the squealing of tires but also outdoor ambiance.

It’s important to note that both Japanese and English voice actors from the past have all been replaced, with the exception of Joel McDonald who was the voice actor of Takumi Fujiwara, J. Michael Tatum who was the voice of Ryosuke Takahashi and Brina Palence (voice of Natsuki) in the original English dub soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with no significant special features but the teaser that was at the end of the Japanese credits for the film is featured.  Featuring the appearance of Myogi NightKids Takeshi Nakazato who no doubt wants to take on the person racing with an AE86.

EXTRAS:

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film.


“Initial D” is an anime classic. I’ve watched this series when it first came out and I still don’t get bored by watching it. I’ve played the video games and there is something about the stoic underdog, Takumi Fujiwara, going from food delivery to become a top-notch racer.

But as the anime series was different and cut out a lot of backstory for the characters as featured in the manga.  And with the new “Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” focused on the race between the Mt. Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns, the story doesn’t stray too much into backstories.

No focus on Natsuki’s major secret, no focus on Ryosuke’s brother Keisuke or their friend Kenji. Nor does the film get into nicknames such as Bunta’s “Ghost of Akina” or Ryosuke’s “White Comet of Akagi”.

This is a film that strictly gets to the race between both groups and who will be racing for the Mt. Akina Speed Stars against Ryosuke Takahashi and it’s an hour long film.

The Blu-ray features better artwork and background artwork, with the former respectful to the original manga series.  While the film in Japan featured a teaser for the second film at the end credits, that teaser has been made into a special feature.

Was there anything I didn’t like about the film?  Possibly the 60 minute duration, I felt that they could have added another 30 minutes at least because it was too short.  And because the film was released during the film’s 20th year anniversary, so I wish there were more special features included.

Overall, for those who are fans of “Initial D” or those who are curious about the series, will no doubt want to check out this more recent offering of an “Initial D” storyline featuring the race between the Akina Speed Stars vs. the Akagi Red Suns.

“Initial D Legend 1: Awakening” is a film worth checking out!

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 4, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 If you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

Image courtesy of © 2017 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One

DURATION: (12 Episodes) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: PG

Release Date: December 26, 2017


Originally Created by Shuichi Aso

Directed by Hiroaki Sakurai

Series Composition: Michiko Yokote

Music by Psychic Lover

Character Design: Masayuki Onji

Anime Production: EGG FIRM, J.C. STAFF


Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroshi Kamiya/Jerry Jewell as Kusuo Saiki

Ai Kayano/Tia Ballard as Kokomi Teruhashi

Daisuke Ono/David Wald as Riki Nendō

Haruka Tomatsu/Jamie Marchi as Kusuko Saiki (Female Form)

Kenji Nojima/Chris Patton as Kūsuke Saiki

Maaya Uchida/Megan Shipman as Chisato Mera

Masaya Matsukaze as Saiko Metori

Mitsuo Iwata/Chuck Huber as Kuniharu Saiki

Natsuki Hanae/Joel McDonald as Reita Toritsuka

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Micah Solusod as Shun Kaidō

Rikako Aikawa/Morgan Garrett as Kurumi Saiki

Satoshi Hino/Kyle Phillips as Kineshi Hairo

Showtaro Morikubo/Austin Tindle as Uryoku Chōno

Tomoaki Maeno as Makoto Teruhashi/Tōru Mugami

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Jarrod Greene as Aren Kuboyasu

Yukari Tamura/Jill Harris as Chiyo Yumehara


Saiki Kusuo is your typical 16-year-old high school student, except for one thing—he’s got psychic powers. Incredible ones. In fact, he’s so powerful, he could probably rule the world if he wanted to. Don’t be mistaken though, it’s really not as great as it sounds. After all, you wouldn’t want to hear the weird things people think or all the spoilers they know! And surprise parties? Forget about ’em.

No, this psychic genius is all about keeping a low profile. But high school isn’t about to let that happen. His quirky classmates and embarrassing parents just can’t leave him alone! He’s got the world at his fingertips, but the one thing he’ll never get…is a break.


Back in 2012, mangaka Shuichi Aso wrote and illustrated his gag manga series “Saiki Kusuo no Sai-nan” (The Disaster of Psi Kusuo Saiki).  The series received a serialization in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump” and a total of 23 manga volumes have been published.

The popularity of the manga series would eventually ensure an anime TV series in 2016 and since then a total of 24-compilation episodes have been released and each episode featuring six short episodes.

And now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation titled “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.”.  And will be released in two parts, each release featuring 12-episodes each.

The series is produced by J.C. Staff and EGG FIRM and is directed by Hiroaki Sakurai and written by Michiko Yokote.

The series revolves around Kusuo Saiki, a high school student who was born with psychic abilities and lives with his parents Kuniharu (a father who keeps sucking up to his employers) and his mother Kurumi (who can get very scary when her husband and son defy her).  Kusuo also has an older brother named Kusuke, who wears a “Telepath Canceler” on his head, so Kusuo can never read his thoughts.  But the two often argue of who is more intelligent, the psi user or the the intellectual inventor.

While his parents are normal humans but crazy, they accepted Saiki’s abilities for his special abilties.  Even though he was born reading and teleporting and being mature during the first year of his life as an infant.

As Kusuo became a teenager, he now wears two pink antennas on his head to limit his growing powers.  He has to wear glasses at all times to prevent people from turning into stone.   He never talks to anyone with his lips, he communicates telepathically.

And because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, his special abilities have given him misery and he tries to avoid any attention because he is a psychic.  He tries…

But somehow at P.K. Academy, he attracts the weirdest people.

  • Riki Nendo is a large and muscular student but very stupid.  So dumb that Kusuo can’t read his mind and it frustrates Kusuo because he can’t predict Nendo’s actions.
  • Shun Kaido is a know-it-all, conspiracy-loving person who calls himself “The Jet-Black Wings” and believes that the world is ruled by an evil organization known as Dark Reunion.
  • Kokomi Teruhashi is a girl who glows and considers herself “perfect” except by Saiki (who can read heer thoughts).  She is obsessed with tryin gto get Saiki to react to her, which he doesn’t.  And so it leads to her obsession towards him.
  • Kineshi Hairo is an energetic, sports-loving student who loves to motivate people.
  • Chiyo Yumehara – A romantic who always has painful experiences with guys.  She has a crush on Kusuo.
  • Reita Toritsuka – A psychic aware of Kusuo’s abilities.  He can see spirits and is haunted by the ghost of Nendo’s late father.

Will Kusuo be able to find a way to stay under the radar and not attract attention?


VIDEO:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Colors are vibrant and backgrounds are extremely detailed. Character designs are well-done and is respectful to Shuichi Aso’s manga series.  Background art is also well-painted for outdoor scenes but primarily the artwork is more focused on the characters and close-ups.  I didn’t notice any banding issues while watching the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Featuring crystal clear dialogue and music, the series sounds good.  Surround channels is used sparsely, mainly for action sequences but it’s primarily a dialogue-driven soundtrack.  Both Japanese and English voice acting are well done.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part 1” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (voice of Kusuo Saiki), Micah Solusod (voice of Shun Kaido) and David Wald (voice of Riki Nendo).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song

I first discovered “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” when I first played the video game “J-Stars Victory Vs.”.  I was curious about seeing this character with pink hair with antennas and he didn’t look like your typical Jump protagonist.

Fastforward a few years later and I finally got a chance to view the anime series and realized it’s probably one of the craziest mainstream Jump-related anime series I have seen.

The anime series revolves around a boy born with special abilities and because he can hear everyone’s thoughts, because he sees everyone past their true appearance and his powers can really endanger society, he tries to keep away from people and stay under the radar.

But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  Because he’s so aloof and quiet, he’s attracting the weirdest people at his high school and because he doesn’t give attention to the girls, a few of them have started to fall in love with Kusuo.

As for the series, these are episodes that contain six mini-stories each.  Some of them are continuations of each other but for the most part, these are episodes where Saiki has to use his powers for the greater good, well more often for his benefit in trying to drive people away from him.

But a typical episode would be like this.  For episode 11, the episode begins with a boy named Yuuta who believes Saiki is the superhero Ciderman No. 2 after seeing him use his special abilities, the next episode is about Kuniharu showing Saiki around his job at a manga editorial office, the next story features Yuuta and his family becoming Saiki’s new neighbor, the next episode features Saiki going to the summer festival and seeing one of the guys in school get pickpocketed, he becomes the next person to be robbed.  And in another episode, Kokomi and Chiyo meet each other and both wonder if the other likes Saiki.

These episodes are quite short at around four minutes each, but I enjoy the fact that each of these episodes explore the characters even more.  And yes, this is the first half of the series and character dynamics are important, but I did like how these stories build upon character introductions and mannerisms.  And to explore how crazy each of the characters are.

It’s a fun anime series so far and I look forward to watching and seeing how the anime series progresses.

The series looks vibrant and colorful on Blu-ray and the dialogue is crystal clear.  You get one audio commentary track and the opening and ending theme.

Overall, if you are looking for a fun anime series that is more gag-based with wild & crazy antics coming from each of the characters of the series, “The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Season One – Part One” is recommended.

Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series (A J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Sky Wizards Academy – The Complete Series” is an anime series that is easy to follow, is a lot of fun and fully of action. If you enjoy magical academy anime series and are looking for an anime series with a shorter duration, “Sky Wizards Academy” is worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2014

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: June 7, 2016


Originally created by Yume Mizusawa

Directed by Hiroyuki Kanbe

Series Composition by Naruhisa Arakawa

Music by Yasaharu Takanashi

Original Character Design by Ayumu Kasuga

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita, Masahiro Yamane

Art Director: Katsuhisa Takiguchi

Art Design by Tsukasa Ohira

Anime Production by Production iMS


Featuring the following voice talent:

Maaya Uchida/Morgan Garrett as Twoearle

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Austin Tindle as Sōji Mitsuka

Sumire Uesaka/Bryn Apprill as Tail Red

Chinatsu Akasaki/Mikaela Krantz as Erina Shindō

Hiromi Igarashi/Jennifer Green as Miharu Mitsuka

M.A.O/Michelle Rojas as Mikoto Sakuragawa

Tesshō Genda/Cris George as Lizadgildy

Tetsu Inada/Chris Rager as Draggildy

Yōko Hikasa/Leah Clark as Anko Isuna

Yuka Aisaka/Sarah Widenheft as Tail Blue

Yukari Tamura/Tia Ballard as Mega Neptune Mk. II


Soji Mitsuka of Gonna Be the Twin-Tail is an ordinary high schooler with an extraordinary obsession. Twin tails are his fire, his air, his will to live! But when a mysterious woman from another world enlists his help to fight hideous monsters with various moe fetishes, Soji must transform into a powerful pigtailed…girl?

With the help of his childhood friend, the class president, and his endless devotion to pigtails, Soji and his crew form a twin-tailed threesome to take on the monsters who feed on the “attribute power” of humans. But Soji’s new pigtailed powers come with a price; his surging popularity as the new heroin in town makes the twin-tailed trend explode, giving the monsters ample attribute powers to feed upon! Don’t miss the action in Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!


“Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu”…What began as a light novel series by Yume Mizusawa and illustrator Ayumu Kasuga, would become an anime adaptation in 2014 courtesy of Production IMS.

And now the anime series known as “Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!” is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.

The series revolves around teenager Soji Mitsuka. He has an obsession with twin-tail hair and one day, he comes across a mysterious girl known as Twoearle, who has come from a parallel world.

But when Twoearle arrives, so do many monsters who appear in the city and declare that all twintails belong to them. As the monsters attack and feed off the spiritual energy of humanity, Twoearle gives Soji with Tail Gear, which is an imaginary armor which gives him twintail attributes, turning him to a red-headed twin-tail female warrior.

As Soji names his female warrior persona as Tail Red, she becomes popular and becomes a hero in the city.

His childhood friend Aika has a tsundere personality and is overprotective of Soji, but she also has a crush on him. She becomes jealous when she discovers Soji with Twoearle (because she is well-endowed and Aika is not) and the two women start to have a rivalry with each other. She becomes a Twintail Warrior known as Tail Blue and is excellent in fighting and martial arts.

The three eventually meet Erina Shindo, the Student Council President of Yogetsu Private Academy and she is a masochist and exhibitionist. She falls for Soji and gets aroused when Soji calls her name and she eventually becomes Tail Yellow, despite the fact that she hates twintails.

As these three twintails try to protect humanity from the monsters, they meet another girl from a parallel world named Isuna a.k.a. Tail Black, an obsessed fan of Twoerle and her persona on Earth is a singer named Anko Isuna. Why does Isuna have a deep hatred towards Tail Red? And can Soji keep his secret that he is Tail Red?


VIDEO:

“Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). Animation from Production IMS is good as character designs are well-done, art backgrounds are also well-done. There is subtle softness as one can expect from the majority of anime TV series but the anime series is colorful and animation is done well.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music. The English dub has the edge with its 5.1 surround soundtrack but both voice acting for Japanese and English are well-acted.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series” features the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring a hilarious audio commentary with Austin Tindle (voice of Soji) and Morgan Garrett (voice of Twoerle).
  • Episode 11 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerry Jewell, Bryn Apprill as Tail Red and Mikaela Krantz as Tail Yellow.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series”.

EXTRAS:

“Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!! – The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


Watching the anime series “Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!!”, there is a part of me that found the anime series reminiscent to the classic ’80s manga/anime series “Ranma 1/2” but also having a touch of the “Neptunia” video game series with dose of fan service included.

The series revolves around a teenager named Soji Mitsuka who has an obsession/fetish with twin-tails. And his love for twin-tails gets him into some trouble when a well-endowed being known as Twoearle comes from a parallel world, bringing monsters following her, that want twin-tails to be their own (as these monsters also have an obsession/fetish towards twin-tails).

So, Soji is given power to fight the monsters, but in the process, he turns into a female warrior with twin-tails.

At first I found the anime series to be a bit awkward, fun and crazy but also action-packed.  And was wondering if this is an anime series that would focus more on comedy or action…or would it be another ecchi perverted fanservice driven anime series.

Fortunately, the former is primarily focused on and we see Soji really getting into the role as a twin-tail warrior and despite the series having female twin-tailed characters that fall for him, he’s a kindhearted person that just has an obsession and not at all not too perverted.  Although, it would be interesting if it did go that direction.

I found the anime series to be simple, fun, action-packed but I have to admit that part of the enjoyment of this anime series came from listening to the audio commentaries, especially the slightly mature and hilarious audio commentary between voice actor Austin Tindle and voice actress Morgan Garrett, which was fun to listen to.  While the audio commentary with Mikaela Krantz and Bryn Apprill was also fun to listen to.

As for picture quality, while not a top-notch quality driven anime series, animation and character designs along with background art is good.  The series is colorful but like many other anime TV series, there is slight softness.

Overall, for those who want an escape and are getting burned out with banal anime and want to laugh and watch a crazy, action-packed anime series, may find “Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!!” to be to their liking.

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

December 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

vividredoperation

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” features a series that was no doubt a fun, upbeat sci-fi action anime series.  Unfortunately, its use of underage nudity and its numerous fan service scenes of young junior high girls was unnecessary and hindered the series.

Images courtesy of ©Vividred Project/MBS. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set

TV SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex of America

RATED: Suggested 16 and Up

RELEASE DATE: December 17, 2013

Directed by Kazuhiro Takamura

Series Composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Kazuhiro Takamura

Script by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Shigeru Morita, Tensai Okamura

Character Designs by Kazuhiro Takamura

Animation Director: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Design by Kazuyuki Asaga

Music by Hideyuki Fukasawa

Anime Production: A-1 Pictures

Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Uchida as Himawari Shinomiya

Ayane Sakura as Akane Isshiki

Maaya Uchida as Rei Kuroki

Rie Murakawa as Aoi Futaba

Yuka Ōtsubo as Wakaba Saegusa

Asuka Ōgame as Momo Isshiki

Haruka Yamazaki as Mizuha Amagi

Masaki Terasoma as Kenjirō Isshiki

Mie Sonozaki as Crow

Mika Doi as Yuuri Shijo

Sakura Nakamura as Mashiro Isshiki

On an artificial island, Akane Isshiki, an innocent 14-year-old girl, lives a simple but happy life with her level-headed little sister Momo and their genius inventor grandfather. On clear days just over the water, everyone on the island can see the revolutionary invention that solved all the world’s energy problems, the Manifestation Engine. Thanks to the Manifestation Engine, the peaceful days that everyone had dreamed of had arrived.

But suddenly, a mysterious enemy called the “Alone” appear out of nowhere aiming to attack the Manifestation Engine, jeopardizing their quiet way of life. Equipped with incredibly powerful Palette Suits designed by her grandfather, Akane and her friends must rise up together in this desperate situation. Their friendship is the only hope to save the world.

In early 2013, A-1 Pictures produced the 12-episode TV series “Vividred Operation” aired in Japan.

Having received two manga adaptations plus a PlayStation 3 video game, the anime series “Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” has made its way to American shores courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The series is directed and features character designs by Kazuhiro Takamura (“Strike Witches” series and film, “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World”, “Queen’s Blade”), series composition by Hiroyuki Yoshino (“Guilty Crown”, “My-HIME”, “Dance in the Vampire Bund”) and Kazuhiro Takamura (“He is My Master”, “Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi”, “Mahoromatic” series) and music by Hideyuki Fukasawa (“Yatterman”, “Flowers of Evil”).

A series that features a combination of sci-fi action, magical girl-style transformations and for the otaku, plenty of fan service.

“Vividred Operation” is set in the future of Japan and the future is quite peaceful thanks to the Manifestation Engine which creates energy from the sky and has averted significant energy crisis that the planet was facing years prior.

Living on the island of Izu Joshima, teenager Akane Isshiki and her fifth grade sister Momoko live with their grandfather Kenjiro Isshiki, a renown scientist who was one of the great minds that have developed the Manifestation Engine.

Kenjiro typically locks himself in the house working on his research, while Akane works a part-time job to keep the family afloat and tends to the garden to feed the family.

As Akane is awaiting her friend Aoi Futaba, who is traveling to Izu Joshima for medical treatment, Akane and Momo hear an explosion takes place in their home and when they go to check, their grandfather has switched bodies with a stuffed otter doll and showing his research has progressed, so it seems.

But all of a sudden, the planet is attacked as an alien race known as the “Alone” has showed up on the seas near the island.  As the military try to fight against it, they are destroyed.

Worried about her friend Aoi, Kenjiro gives Akane his latest invention, an Operation Key that can access the Vivid System.  Meanwhile, Akane hurries as she sees Aoi’s plane crashing.  Close to the ledge, she and her grandfather (in otter form) rush to the area, but Akane is scared of heights and she sees the plane about to fall from the edge.  As Akane and Aoi scream for each other, the plane falls and the scared Akane, decides to run after her.

As she dives off the cliff in order to save Aoi, the Operation Key glows and activates the Vivid System which transforms Akane into a super-being, sporting a Pallet Suit and saving Aoi from death.

Sensing power within Aoi, Kenjiro gives Aoi an Operation Key giving her the opportunity to transform using the Vivid System and together they must use their new abilities to fight against the Alone.  And both work together to destroy it.

Because their new school was destroyed in the attack, Akane, Momo and Aoi begin attending New Oshima Academy and through their new friendships, they end up adding kendo student Wakaba Saegusa and computer hacker Himawari Shinomiya to the group and all four become part of the Vividred Operation to protect humanity from the Alone.

But unaware that working with the Alone is another student in their class named Rei Kuroki, who is intent in working with the Alone to destroy the Manifestation Engine.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Vividred Operation:  Complete DVD Set” is presented in 16:9 widescreen and presented in Linear PCM Stereo. To keep the compression artifacts to a minimum on DVD, Aniplex Inc. features all 12 episodes on three DVD’s. For the most part, characters are well shaded and background art is well-painted.  There is a good amount of detail in the mechanical designs from the Alone to the detail on the characters Pallet Outfits.

But this is a vibrant anime series on DVD.

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

Subtitles are available in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

EXTRAS:

“Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” comes with a slipcover case and a five postcard set. Also, the DVD cover is 2-sided and reversible.

vividred-b

“Vividred Operation” is a sci-fi action series about a group of friends, each with their own personal quirks and also weaknesses that become part of the Vividred Operation to defend the Manifestation Engine that has helped the planet from an alien race known as The Alone.

As each episode focuses on Akane meeting friends or new people from her school who eventually obtain an Operation Key and to transform via the Vivid System to fight against the Alone, each must face their weaknesses and put their friendship to a test in order to become teammates.

And as Akane is able to get Aoi, Wakaba and Himawari to join them, they each try to get Rei Kuroki on their team, not knowing that she is working with the Alone and trying to destroy the Manifestation Engine.

The series is quite intriguing as it tries to combine sci-fi action with magical girl transformations.

And while the series is more on the fun, humorous spectrum versus more serious and deep, the series also incorporates quite a bit of fan service and also nudity (which gives it a Suggested 16 and Up rating).

But as much as I enjoyed the series for its storyline and characters, the fan service and nudity, in my opinion, was a significant hindrance.

And this is probably the difference between American and Japanese culture in which certain things just don’t happen.

The camera tends to end up shooting under the legs of a character and or focusing on a character’s rear end, may they be standing or riding a bike, it’s one thing to have fan service, especially for older characters but  it definitely makes one feel uneasy considering the characters are 14-years-old and in junior high.

In fact, the character of Rei Kuroki is shown nude during her shower sequence and and a bathing sequence and what may work in Japan, is definitely not going to work in the U.S.

I know there are anime fans that will say, “Well, this is a Japanese anime and it’s not real, so it’s OK.” or ” It goes by Japanese culture, Americans must see things in the Japanese perspective not American, so it’s OK”.

Having covered Japanese entertainment for over two decades, while I agree that there are certain entertainment where one should expect to see a different side of Japanese culture, it becomes dangerous if underage nudity of an anime character featured in an anime series becomes a cultural norm.

I don’t agree with people who have the mindset of it being OK but that is my opinion and as a parent it’s not something I can or will support.  And as a reviewer, it was unnecessary to have those scenes as the series could have done without it.

Nudity of children in anime and manga has been a debatable topic for a long time, from “Crayon Shin Chan” (and his elephant) to even the “Dragon Ball” manga being released in grade school libraries.  It’s a long debate that will always continue as debates from the old anime BBS forums to present anime forums on the Internet.  Even Usagi’s transformation scene in “Sailor Moon” was also a big discussion at the time.

So, as a parent and a longtime anime reviewer, it’s important for me to let parents and anime fans know that this anime series features under-aged nudity and unnecessary fan service for characters that are of a young age.

In the case of “Vividred Operation”, for the young characters, was it necessary to have so many shots of Akane’s butt while she rides on the bike?  Was it necessary to shoot a horizon between a character’s legs?  Was it necessary for the animators to show a naked Rei in the shower?

I’m sure there are otaku that would scream, “Yes!” but I felt the series could have done without it.  I did enjoy “Vividred Operation”, four friends who have their own personal weaknesses, joining together for the greater good to defend humanity from an unknown alien force.  The characters are enjoyable, the anime series entertaining but it’s unfortunate that certain decision to make these young junior high characters more sexual appealing, had to be incorporated to the series.

As for the DVD, the picture quality is colorful and vibrant and one would expect it to look even better in HD, if Aniplex decides to release it on Blu-ray in the future.  Voice acting in Japanese is well-done and as always with an Aniplex release, you get anime swag with a five postcard set.

Overall, “Vividred Operation: Complete DVD Set” features a series that was no doubt a fun, upbeat sci-fi action anime series.  Unfortunately, its use of underage nudity and its numerous fan service scenes of young junior high girls was unnecessary and hindered the series.

Sankarea: Undying Love – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

For those wanting to see a weird, crazy and at times dark, anime series about a zombie-loving human and a zombie-girl, then “Sankarea: Undying Love” is for you!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sankarea: Undying Love

YEAR: 2012

DURATION: Episodes 1-13

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV M

Release Date: October 1, 2013

Originally Created by Mitsuru Hattori

Directed by Mamoru Hatakeyama

Series Composition by Noboru Takagi

Music by Yukari Hashimoto

Character Design by Kyuta Sakai

Art Director: Hirotsugu Kakoi

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Maaya Uchida/Tia Ballard as Rea Sanka

Ryohei Kimura/Aaron Dismuke as Chihiro Furuya

Mayumi Asano/Lydia Mackay as Aria Sanka

Misato Fukuen/Monica Rial as Baabu

Saori Hayashi/Ryan Reynolds as Mogi

Sayuri Yahagi as Ranko Saoji

Seirou Ogino/Christopher Smith as Doon Furuya

Shiro Saito/Mike McFarland as Jogoro Furuya

Shuuhei Iwase/David Trosko as Yasutaka

Unshou Ishizuka/David Wald as Dan’ichiro Sanka

Yuka Iguchi/Felecia Angelle as Mero Furuya

Zombie-obsessed Furuya is making a potion to reanimate his dead cat when he meets Rea. She’s about as miserable as a girl can get, thanks to her creepy, domineering father. When the pain becomes too much, she tries to commit suicide with a sip of Furuya’s weird elixir. The potion doesn’t kill her – but it does turn her into a zombie after she falls from a cliff.

 

Now that Rea’s undead and ready to finally live, she hides out with Furuya, who’s always dreamed of having a zombie girlfriend. Their one-of-a-kind relationship comes with some challenges, like the fact that Rea is decomposing. Even worse, her freak-show dad is dangerously determined to get her back under his control. As Furuya fights to keep his ghoulfriend safe, Rea finds the secret to resurrecting her happiness: live like you’re dying – even if you’re already dead.

In 2009, mangaka Mitsuru Hattori’s “Sankarea” manga began its serialization in Kodansha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and is ongoing (as of June 2013, a total of eight volumes have been published).

Hattori, known for his work on “Concerto”, “Inu Neko Juno!” and “Kenko Zenrakei Suiebu Umisho” goes for a romantic comedy with darker elements in “Sankarea”.

In 2012, a 13-episode anime adaptation was created by Studio DEEN and would be directed by Shinichi Omata (“Rozen Maiden – Zuruckspulen”), series composition by Noburo Takagi (“C-Control – The Money and Soul of Possibility”, “Baccano!”, “My Little Monster”), music by Yukari Hashimoto (“Koi Kaze”, “MoonPhase”, “Magikano”), character designs by Kyuta Sakai (“Pita Ten”, “Strawberry Panic!”) and art direction by Hirotsugu Kakoi (“07-Ghost”, “Blue Exorcist”, “InuYasha”).

And the anime series “Sankarea: Undying Love” was released on Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack in Oct. 2013 courtesy of FUNimation.

“Sankarea: Undying Love” revolves around a teenager named Chihiro Furuya.  He is obsessed with zombies (he plays only zombie-related video games, watches zombie anime and films) to the point that he has no desire to have a human girlfriend, he wants a girlfriend that is a zombie.

He recently found an old manuscript to resurrect the dead and he tries the potion on his dead cat, Babu.

Meanwhile, Rea Sanka is a teenager who is abused by her father.  His father insists that she be home-schooled as he is obsessed with her and photographs her nude on her birthday each year, as he wants to “note her growth”.

One day, Chihiro overhears Rea talking about her life problems and afraid that someone had heard, she pleads to Chihiro to not tell anyone. As the two become friends, she finds out that he is only interested in zombies.  And jokes that if she is a zombie, would he take care of her and Chihiro agrees.

Meanwhile, she hears about his resurrection potion and one day, she steals and drinks it, as she tries to attempt suicide due to the abuse she receives from her father, Dan’Ichiro Sanka.

Meanwhile, as her father tries to go after her, jealous that she may be seeing a guy, he pursues her near a cliff and tries to bring her back home.  She slaps his hand and while Chihiro sees Rea and her father having a discussion near the cliff, Rea tries to tell her father that he doesn’t own her body and soul and that she wants her freedom.

When his father is upset that she wants the freedom to love, he grabs her and tries to force her to the house and doesn’t want her seeing Chihiro.  Meanwhile, both see Babu resurrected and that the resurrection potion that Chihiro created has worked.  But as her father hates cats, he tries to kill it with a bar but Rea takes the hit and falls off the cliff.  She is impaled by a sharp rock and falls to her death.

As Chihiro runs to her body and cries, suddenly the resurrection potion that she had drunk has kept her alive but now, Rea has become a zombie.

And now Rea lives with Chihiro but starts to show signs of rigor mortis and thus the resurrection potion is not perfect.  So, he tries to find a way to preserve Rea’s body, Rea begins to fall for him, but also his cousin Ranko.

But what happens when Rea’s father, Dan’ichiro’s obsession with his daughter, is wanting her back into his home, despite her being a zombie.

VIDEO:

“Sankarea: Undying Love – The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Studio Deen did a very good job with the anime series.  Colors are vibrant and there are moments in the series where the art backgrounds are actually beautiful to look at, while other backgrounds were static CG.  Character designs and shading are well-done.  But for the most part, the anime series is vibrant and I saw no problems with banding, artifacts or any other issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sankarea: Undying Love – The Complete Series” is presented in English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Japanese stereo.  The anime series features crisp and clear dialogue and music, but while the anime series does have its moments of action and use of the surround channels, the soundtrack is primarily center and front-channel driven.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sankarea: Undying Love – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Episode 3 – Featuring audio commentary with Tia Ballard (Rea Sanka) and Aaron Dismuke (Chihiro Furuya).
  • Audio Commentary – Episode 11 – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Joel McDonald, Teri Doty and David Wald (voice of Dan’ichiro Sanka).
  • Clean Opening and Closing

EXTRAS:

“Sankarea: Undying Love – The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series.

While anything zombie-related has become popular in Japan, from films to manga and even the Zombie walk through Roppongi, the question is if they can create unique stories that are different from what many people have seen before.

For mangaka Mitsuru Hattori, he strays away from the usual zombie infestation but tries to focus on bringing together a romantic comedy with something a bit more macabre.

In the anime series “Sankarea: Undying Love”, which is an adaptation of Hattori’s manga, the anime series is definitely an interesting, “think out of the box”, type of anime-series because the main protagonist is addicted to zombies.

Zombie video games, films, etc.  he is so obsessed by them, that he wants to have a girlfriend that is zombie.

And your first inclination is, how is that going to happen?

Well, he stumbles upon his grandfather’s manuscript of a resurrection potion.  His grandfather, known as Professor Boil, happened to be a well-respected professor in the United States researching zombies and having done experiments with zombies, as his grandfather tried to resurrect his grandmother, which he did accomplish, but only for a short time.

The anime series was interesting because each time it focused on Chihiro, it was more of insane, crazy comedy.  The fact that everyone thinks he’s a weirdo because of his obsession with zombies and dreams of having a zombie girlfriend, his buddies are horny teenagers and he has a busty cousin named Ranko who likes him but also beats him up.

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum is Rea Sanka, a daughter from wealthy family, she’s not very happy with life and is often depressed.  But there is a darker storyline and it is the fact that her father is strict, a germaphobe and so he wants his daughter to stay inside the house and obey his every command.  But even worse is the fact that her father has a thing about taking pictures of his daughter in the nude for each birthday, in order to document her growth.  Suffice to say, there is this incestual atmosphere that is very uncomfortable to watch.  (Note: I don’t want to spoil the storyline but for concerned viewers, the act of actual incest does NOT happen in the anime series.)

Until, Rea becomes  a zombie and starts living with Chihiro.  And thus, the anime becomes a romantic comedy as Rea is now free away from her father, getting taken care of by Chihiro, while Chihiro tries to find ways to prevent the rigor mortis from settling in and killing Rea.

But as this anime series is only 13-episodes long, the end of the 13th episode leaves the viewer with a sort of a shocking surprise and I would imagine that as the manga series continues, it leaves the possibility for a second season as perhaps this romantic comedy may get even darker.

As for the Blu-ray release, colors are vibrant.  I didn’t detect any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series.  Special features include two English dub commentary and clean opening and ending themes.

Overall, “Sankarea: Undying Love” is definitely a zombie storyline that is unique and the fact that it is a romantic comedy but also incorporating these dark, macabre elements, that surprised me.  But the uniqueness doesn’t translate to awesome.  Most of the time, it felt as Chihiro was constantly reminding Rea of how she should treat her body, to reminder her to eat the leaves and not to overdo it. And I understand his concern but I felt that the first six episodes were character driven storylines for Chihiro and Rea and then later for Ranko, Mero, Dan’Ichiro and Aria.  But the storyline does pickup with the latter episodes.

But for those wanting zombie infestations, this is not that kind of anime series. This is nothing like “High School of the Dead” or “Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?” nor the “Resident Evil” video games.

For those wanting to see a weird, crazy and at times dark, anime series about a zombie-loving human and a zombie-girl, then “Sankarea: Undying Love” is for you!

 

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