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

May 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Image courtesy of © 2017 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Wolf’s Rain: The Complete Series

YEAR: 2003

DURATION: Episodes 1-30 (750 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 7, 2017


Originally Creator: Keiko Nobumoto

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Script by Keiko Nobumoto

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Toshiro Kawamoto

Art Director: Atsushi Morikawa

Mechanical Design by Shinji Aramaki

Anime Production by BONES


Featuring the following voice talent:

Akio Suyama/Joshua Seth as Hige

Hiroki Shimowada/Mona Marshall as Toboe

Kaho Kouda/Kari Wahlgren as Cher Degre

Kenta Miyake/Crispin Freeman as Tsume

Mamoru Miyano/Johnny Yong Bosch as Kiba

Arisa Ogasawara/Sherry Lynn as Cheza

Atsuko Tanaka/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Jagura

Mayumi Asano/Jessica Straus as Blue

Mitsuru Miyamoto/Robert Buchholz as Hubb Lebowski

Takaya Kuroda/Steven Jay Blum as Darcia

Unshō Ishizuka/Tom Wyner as Quent Yaiden


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

tokyoghoul

For those wanting a dark, violent and action-packed anime series, “Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series

SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2014

DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: Suggested 17 and Up

Release Date: September 22, 2015


Originally Created by Sui Ishida

Directed by Shuhei Morita

Series Composition by Chuji Mikasano

Screenplay by Chuji Mikasano

Music by Yutaka Yamada

Character Design by Kazuhiro Miwa

Anime Production by Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Natsuki Hanae/Ken Kaneki as Ken Kaneki

Sora Amamiya/Brina Palencia as Tōka Kirishima

Ayahi Takagaki/Jamie Marchi as Itori

Kana Hanazawa/Monica Rial as Rize Kamishiro

Katsuyuki Konishi/Mike McFarland as Kōtarō Amon

Mamoru Miyano/J. Michael Tatum as Shū Tsukiyama

Rintarou Nishi/Christopher R. Sabat as Jason

Shintarō Asanuma/Eric Vale as Nishiki Nishio

Sumire Morohoshi/Lara Woodhull as Hinami Fueguchi

Takahiro Sakurai/Aaron Roberts as Uta

Takayuki Sugo/Sean Hennigan as Yoshimura

Toshiyuki Toyonaga/Clifford Chapin as Hideyoshi Nagachika

Yūichi Nakamura/Phil Parsons as Renji Yomo


In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans, yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.


Back in 2011, Sui Ishida created the hit manga series “Tokyo Ghoul” which was featured on Shueisha’s “Weekly Young Jump”.

In 2014, a 12-episode anime series adaptation by studio Pierrot aired on Tokyo MX, followed by a second season featuring 12-episodes titled “Tokyo Ghoul √A“, which is an original story which aired in Japan from Jan. through March 2015.

And now the first season of “Tokyo Ghoul” will be released by FUNimation in Sept. 2015.

The anime series is directed by Shuhei Morita (“Coicent”, “Possessions”) and features a screenplay by Chuji Mikasano.  Music composition is by Yutaka Yamada and character designs are by Kazuhiro Miwa (who worked in key animation for series such as “Bleach”, “Eureka Seven”, “Tokyo Majin”).

Set in Tokyo, Japan, the story of “Tokyo Ghoul” is set during a time when many mysterious and grizzly murders are happening throughout Japan due to monsters known as ghouls.

Monsters known as “Ghouls” like to eat human flesh and have the ability to change themselves to look human.

We are introduced to college students, Ken Kaneki and his friend Hide.

Kaneki is a big fan of horror novels and he often goes to a cafe to see another girl named Rize Kamishiro who likes horror novels.  And because of their similar taste in authors, the two go out on their first date.

And while the date is going very well, things suddenly take a turn when Rize reveals herself to be a ghoul.

Taking a bite out of Kaneki and impaling him and preparing for the final kill, out of nowhere, a metal beam falls from above and crushes Rize.

As the two are taken to the doctor, the doctor avoids waiting for family donors and takes Rize’s organs and transplants it into Kaneki.

As Kaneki heals and is lucky to be alive, he begins to notice that every food he eats and tastes is terrible.  He can’t understand why until he learns that ghouls have that similar problem and he knows that the only way to satisfy his hunger is to kill and eat human flesh, which he will never do, as he intends to maintain his humanity.

He realizes that he has become a ghoul (with one eye showing that he is a ghoul), while he also is human.  But he thirsts for eating humans but rather not do that.

As other ghouls taunt him for his weakness and his inability to eat humans, one ghoul starts to threaten Hide, Ken’s best friend.

What will Ken do about it?


 

VIDEO:

“Tokyo Ghoul” is presented in 1080p High Definition and for the most part, studio Pierrot has done a fine job with the anime adaptation of Sui Ishida’s series.  Characters and environments are well-shaded, but for the most part, the violence of the series is captured including the emotion of a character’s face.  The series tends to utilize a lot of closeups, but for the most part, background art well-detailed.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts during my viewing of the series or any major banding issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tokyo Ghoul” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  While the voice talent on the Japanese end is well-done, watching it in English, I have to say that voice actor Austin Tindle did a magnificent job playing Ken Kaneki.  Kaneki has to go through a lot of emotions each episode, especially the final episode of season 1, it required tremendous emotion from the character and Tindle delivered!  But the English dub is well-done!

While dialogue and music are crystal clear, there are moments that utilize the surround channels.  But for the most part, the most memorable in terms of the lossless audio are the more emotional moments (as there are plenty), because this series gets uber-violent!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 4 Commentary – Featuring commentary by ADR Director Mike McFarland, voice talent Austin Tindle (voice of Kaneki), Brina Palencia (voice of Kirishima) and J. Michael Tatum (voice of Tsukiyama).
  • Kaneki in Black and White – (27:42) ADR Director Mike McFarland, Assistant Director J. Michael Tatum (voice of Tsukiyama), voice talent Austin Tindle (voice of Kaneki), Brina Palencia (voice of Kirishima) discuss their characters and the series.
  • Episode 12 Commentary – Featuring commentary by ADR Director Mike McFarland, voice talent Monica Rial (voice of Rize), Austin Tindle (voice of Kaneki) and Christopher R. Sabat (voice of Yamori).
  • Japanese Commercials – (2:12) The original Japanese TV commercials for “Tokyo Ghoul”.
  • Promotional Videos – (2:34) Japanese promotional video for “Tokyo Ghoul”.
  • Preview Collection – (6:22) A hilarious collection of “next episode” previews (in Japanese with English subtitles).
  • U.S. Trailer
  • Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series” comes with both Blu-ray and DVD discs for the first season.


 

Having read Sui Ishida’s manga series, “Tokyo Ghoul” is no doubt a violent, action-packed anime series that was well-adapted by studio Pierrot.

Featuring all emotion and violence of the manga series and magnified by terrific voice acting by both Natsuki Hanae and Austin Tindle (the Japanese and English dub voice actor for Kaneki), they really did a magnificent job of bring the character of Kaneki alive and it’s what makes the anime series truly work!

The series revolves around teenager Ken Kaneki who falls for a girl named Rize, who happens to be a ghoul.  She wants to devour him, takes a bite and as she is about to kill him, steel beams fall on both of them.  While Rize is dead, Kaneki is saved by a doctor who transplants Rize’s organs into Kaneki and thus turning him into a One-eyed Ghoul.

But as Kaneki tries to keep his humanity and thinking that Ghoul’s are just savage monsters, he befriends a few Ghouls who take him in, understands his hunger for human blood but also understanding his unwillingness to accept being a Ghoul and not wanting to be like them.

But the more he hangs out with the Ghoul’s, the more he stars to learn about the Doves, humans that are no different from savage ghouls that want to eliminate all ghouls.

The first season is a perfect introduction to the characters but also showing us how Kaneki is throughout every major moment after being turned into a ghoul.  For the most part, he is a whiny, good boy.  But when he is put into the situation of trying to make choices of using his ghoul powers, his fear and unwillingness to turn into a ghoul ends up being a detriment to others.

And things start to go downhill for him, unless he makes the decision to accept what he has become.

The series requires Kaneki to become emotional and that is where having the right voice talent becomes important.  And while the Japanese soundtrack features great voice acting, because I prefer a 5.1 lossless track, I went with FUNimation’s English dub soundtrack and Austin Tindle, Brina Palencia, J. Michael Tatum and Monica Rial did a magnificent job.  While the series is not super-immersive via the lossless soundtrack, the soundtrack is crystal clear when it comes to dialogue and music.

In terms of picture quality, studio Pierrot did a very good job as characters are well-animated, art backgrounds are detailed.  But for the most part, the anime series does a good job of complimenting Sui Ishida’s original manga series.

As for the special features, you get two audio commentaries with the ADR Director and English voice dub talent, a video interview with the voice talent and ADR director and also the Japanese commercials and previews.

It’s important to emphasize that this anime series is very violent and those who do not like dark or bloody anime series may want to be aware of that.

Overall, for those wanting a dark, violent and action-packed anime series, “Tokyo Ghoul: The Complete Series” is highly recommended!

HAL (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

hal-a

“HAL” is a short animated film that will captivate you by its charm, its characters but what makes you enjoy it even more is its surprising twist.  A gorgeous animated film on Blu-ray, “HAL” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: HAL

YEAR: 2013

DURATION: 60 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV-14

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Directed by Ryoutarou Makihara

Screenplay by Izumi Kizara

Storyboards by Ryoutarou Makihara

Music by Michiru Oshima

Character Design: Katsuhiko Kitada

Art Director: Yusuke Takeda

Director of Photography: Koji Tanaka

Anime Production: Wit Studio

Featuring the following voice talent:

Yōko Hikasa/Bryn Apprill as Kurumi

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Chris Burnett as Haru

Mamoru Miyano/Todd Haberkorn as Ryuu

Shinpachi Tsuji/Bill Flynn as Aranami

Tamio Ohki/Grant James as Tokio

Ako Mayama/Pam Doughtery as Tsukiko

Hikari Yono/Linda Leonard as Rumiko

Hiroki Gotou as Maru

IKKI/Mike McFarland as Nepali

Kanami Satou as Megane

Ryō Kuratomi as Ryuu’s Friend

Shoko Tsuda/Lauri Steele as Mami

Yuko Tachibana/Juli Erickson as Erika

Kurumi’s heart was broken by the sudden death of her boyfriend in a tragic airplane accident. Forced to carry on without her beloved Hal, she fell into a reclusive and joyless existence. Kurumi had given up on the world, but a brilliant scientist devised a plan to win her back. By melding futuristic technology with the binary equivalent of human emotion, they created an ultra-lifelike robotic surrogate to take Hal’s place – and lure Kurumi from her shroud of solitude.

Resistant at first, this shattered beauty slowly yielded to her feelings of longing – and took comfort in the company of a robot. Though their unique bond grew stronger with each passing day, Kurumi and Hal would soon discover that nothing about their artificial love story was quite as it seemed.

From director Ryotaro Makihara (“Guilty Crown”, “Tatami Galaxy”) and writer Izumi Kizara comes the animated film “HAL”.

With a Japanese and United States theatrical screening back in the summer of 2013, FUNimation has picked up the distribution rights to the animated film.

While the DVD release of “HAL” is to be announced, journalists received a screener of the animated film.

“HAL” takes place in the future where robot technology has come to the point where robots can emulate humans and for one older man, he has requested for a robot named Kuroichi to become the robot “HAL” in hopes he can save his girlfriend/companion Kurumi.

Kurumi has not been herself since a major plane accident in which Hal died. She no longer has her smile, she no longer has shed tears and she is hurting to the point that she has isolated herself from everyone.

With Kuroichi now becoming the new HAL, he tries to learn about how the previous HAL had lived and do all he can to make her happy. And with each layer that HAL peels away from the wall that Kurumi has around her, will HAL be able to reach her and help mend her heart?

VIDEO:

“HAL” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Because this is an animated film, the production values are much higher and it shows with its beautiful backgrounds, sharp and colorful environments and great shading with the characters.  There is a bit of softness and a little banding but for the most part, the picture quality of this animated film is great!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“HAL” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.    The film is dialogue-driven but there is great use of the ambiance of the environments, may it be near the water or festival, the film utilizes the surround channels effectively for ambiance.  Both soundtracks are well-acted and overall audio is very good!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“HAL” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Mike McFarland, Chris Burnett (voice of Hal), Bryn Apprill (voice of Jurume) and Bill Flynn (voice of Aranami).
  • Making Of: Production Process – (11:10) A Japanese featurette about the storyboards made for “HAL”.
  • Making Of: Animatics and Scratch Tracks – (6:17) A Japanese featurette on the animatics for “HAL”.
  • Textless Closing Song – (3:23)
  • Original Trailer – (1:13) Theatrical trailer for “HAL”.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “HAL”.

An alternate future when humans and robots co-exist.

And a story about one helping out one in need.

“HAL” may be a short animated film at an hour long, but what an emotional, enjoyable film with a surprising twist.

I enjoy sci-fi animated series and for “HAL”, I thought it was your typical story of a robot or android trying to help a grieving girl get over tragedy.  It seemed like a simplistic film about a boy trying to help a girl during her darkest time in her life and thought it was your formulaic story that was far too easy to predict.

Was I wrong!

And I’m glad I was.  The film is one of those rare stories that you see in an anime where they surprise you with a twist that you never really expect.  And without going into details, I recommend this animated film because it’s non-banal, it’s gorgeous and the acting on both Japanese and English were well-done.

Yes, it’s short and a longer storyline would have made the film flow much better.  But considering a lot of animated films in Japan are short (especially those that are derived from a popular TV series), I’m glad that film is affordable and American fans looking for a sci-fi film that is not overly deep or violent, will find “HAL” possibly to their liking.

But it’s an accessible animated film that doesn’t require you to know any long back story, it’s a straightup one-hour animated film that you can easily watch, enjoy and be surprised at the end of the film.

The Blu-ray features great picture quality and lossless audio was very good thanks to the use of the surround channels.  And you also get a few special features including an audio commentary and making of featurettes.

Overall, “HAL” is a short animated film that will captivate you by its charm, its characters but what makes you enjoy it even more is its surprising twist.  A gorgeous animated film on Blu-ray, “HAL” is recommended!

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