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Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Image courtesy of © 2017 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Ushio & Tora Complete TV Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-39 (975 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio for OVA’s and 16×9 for movies, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV14

Release Date: August 29, 2017


Originally Created by Kazuhiro Fujita

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Series Composition: Kazuhiro Fujita, Toshiki Inoue

Music by Eishi Segawa

Character Design: Tomoko Mori

Art Director: Tomoyuki Shimizu

Animation Director: Mika Takahashi, Tomoko Mori

Director of Photography: Uehama Makishi, Yuuya Kumazawa

Anime Production: MAPPA, Studio VOLN


Featuring the following voice talent:

Rikiya Koyama/Brett Weaver as Tora

Tasuku Hatanaka/David Matranga as Ushio Aotsuki

Ai Kayano/Brittney Karbowski as Omamori-sama

Ai Satou as Oyakume-sama

Aki Toyosaki /Brittney Karbowski as Yū Hiyama

Ayahi Takagaki/Emily Neves as Jun Moritsuna

Daisuke Namikawa/David Wald as Hyō

Fumiko Orikasa as Mikado Hizaki

Hidekatsu Shibata as Nigira

Kana Hanazawa/Carli Mosier as Jie Mei

Keiji Fujiwara as Shigure Aotsuki

Kiyono Yasuno as Mayuko Inoue

Maaya Sakamoto/Emily Neves as Sumako Aotsuki

Mamoru Miyano/John Gremellion as Giryō

Masaki Terasoma as Kyōji Atsuzawa

Megumi Han/Blake Shepard as Kirio

Megumi Hayashibara as Hakumen no Mono

Mikako Komatsu/Allison Sumrall as Asako Nakamura

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Wittels as Hinowa Sekimori

Nao Nagasawa as Izuna

Risa Shimizu/Patricia Duran as Kagari

Ryota Ohsaka/Clifford Chapin as Satoru Moritsuna

Shinichiro Miki/Jay Hickman as Raishin

Toshio Furukawa as Yamanmoto

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Ian Sinclair as Nagare Akiba

Yui Makino/Kira Vincent-Davis as Reiko Hanyū

Yuuka Nanri/Tiffany Grant as Saya Takatori

Yuuki Kaji/John Gremillion as Jūrō


Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!


Back in 1990, Kazuhiro Fujita created the manga series “Ushio and Tora”.

So popular the series came to be, it received an anime adaptation via three OVA series from 1992-1993.  In 2015, a 30-episode animated TV series was produced by MAPPA and Studio VOLN and now the series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

The series revolves around Ushio Aotsuki, the son of a temple priest and a lady shaman. He’s also a kid who stands up for his friends and can have a temper.

One day, while cleaning up books in the store room, he finds a door and when he opens it and goes inside, he discovers a tiger-like Yokai named Tora.  He also sees a spear that has held the yokai in place and Tora tries to get Ushio to remove it.  But when he tells Ushio that he would eat him and eat all humans, Ushio decides not to help him (even going so far as to kick the spear in place several times).

But when Tora’s aura starts to leak from the wounded area, yokai’s escape into the real world and the only way he can defeat these yokai is with Tora’s help, so Ushio removes the spear off of Tora.  But when Tora tells him that he will not help, Ushio starts to get angry while holding the spear and his hair grows very long, scaring Tora.  It also means that he was destined to wield the Beast Spear.

But the two make an agreement, after they rid of the yokai, Ushio will allow Tora to eat him.

So now, Ushio and Tora work together to stop the yokai that threaten humans.  But are all yokai bad?  And how will the relationship between Ushio and Tora evolve as they continue to work together?

Ushio also goes on an adventure while tracking down Yokai to know more about his mother and why the yokai are after him specifically.

Ushio & Tora features the following characters:

  • Ushio Aotsuki – A kind-hearted individuals who stands up for his friends and can have a bit of a temper.  He values all life and friendships and his kindness helps bridge together humans and yokai.
  • Tora – A tiger-like yokai who was pinned in the basement of Ushio’s temple.  He was once known as Nagatobimaru and was feared.  At first he hated humans but being around Ushio and friends, he is amazed to see how lifestyle has changed among humans and starts to enjoy parts of modern society, especially for hamburgers.
  • Asako Nakamura – Ushio and Mayuko’s friend.  She and Ushio grew up with each other and both care deeply about each other, despite her having more of a temper than Ushio.  Her family runs a ramen restaurant.
  • Mayuko Inoue – A friend of Ushio and Asako.  She cares for both Ushio and Asako.  She also cares for Tora and often buys him hamburgers and she may have Shaman abilities.
  • Shigure Aotsuki – Ushio’s father, who is often stern but also keeps a secret from his son of what he does behind-the-scenes.
  • Reiko Hanyuu – An orphan who’s father was very overprotective and became an oni, so any boys that try to get close to her are in danger.  As she tries to commit suicide, only Ushio can help her father realize what he is doing is hurting his daughter.  After being free, she becomes friends with Ushio and friends.
  • Hyou – A powerful Chinese exorcist who has come to Japan to seek out the yokai who killed his wife and daughter and took out his right eye and left scars on his face.  The yokai is believed by Hyou to be Tora.
  • Jie Mei – A sprit guardian who lives in the Beast Spear who sacrificed her life to create the blade of the spear.
  • Giryo – The brother of Jie Mei, a blacksmith who went insane when he couldn’t prevent his sister’s sacrifice.  His anger, remorse and regret is built and trapped in the shaft of the beast spear.
  • Yu Hiyama – A girl whose father was a pilot who died in an airplane crash due to a Fusama yokai.  She has always blamed her father’s friend Atsuzawa but when Ushio shows her the truth, she learns to forgive and help out Ushio and Tora.
  • Saya Takatori – A descendent of the white-haired women who maintain the success of the Takatori household by appeasing the childlike spirit Omamori.
  • Hinowa Sekimori – A tough and cold girl who was one of the four chosen to control the Beast Spear and she rejects Ushio for possessing it for being undisciplined and reckless.

VIDEO:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. Even back when I watched the initial OVA, I was always impressed of how the animation was true to the manga illustrations of Kazuhiro Fujita.  The TV Series also captures that style with its unique character design, battle animation and for the most part, the anime series looks great on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Ushio & Tora” is presented in lossless stereo and both soundtracks are well-done.  Dialogue and music are crystal clear but as I love the voice acting by Rikiya Koyama as Tora and Tasuku Hatanaka as Ushio, the English dub is very well-done and Brett Weaver does a great job in portraying Tora, as with David Matranga as the voice of Ushio.

Definitely one of the better English dubbed soundtracks for a Sentai Filmworks series on Blu-ray this year!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ushio & Tora: Complete TV Series” comes with no special features.

 


Back in 1993, J!-ENT was founded and in our first year, one of the earlier anime series I reviewed was an OAV episode of “Ushio & Tora”.  I felt the series had tremendous potential and many people watching it at an anime club were supportive and excited each time a new OAV was release.

But that was the early-to-mid ’90s and haven’t heard anything until 20-years-later and an animated series was created courtesy of Mappa and Studio VOLN and what an awesome series “Ushio & Tora” came to be.

The television series featured more characters, more action and was able to capture the friendships that Ushio and Tora encountered through their adventures but most importantly, capturing a lot of the emotion, a lot of the action and featuring wonderful animation and voice acting.

The storyline about a human, a teenager named Ushio and a yokai named Tora (who wants to eat Ushio) in an alliance that first turns out to be like oil and water and both are not really getting a long.  But through working together, learning from each other and becoming friends, they are able to develop a relationship that works.  And while Ushio and Tora are able to take on many yokai, a bit easily in the first half of the series, by the second half, things become more dire as tons of yokai are now after Ushio and Tora and his friends do all they can to protect humanity.

With the release of “Ushio & Tora” on Blu-ray, watching it in Japanese and also with the English dub soundtrack, both soundtracks are wonderful.  And the voice acting in English is possibly one of the best I have listened to this year.  Mappa and Studio VOLN did a wonderful job with the animation and picture quality is vibrant and colorful.

Overall, “Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is for those who love action-driven anime series.  Series with a lot of heart, humor and violence.  It’s the heard of “Ushio & Tora”, a battle between humans and monsters and one human and one monsters doing all they can to protect humanity against all odds.  And with all 39-episodes collected for a great price, this Blu-ray release is definitely worth purchasing!

“Ushio & Tora – Complete TV Series” is definitely one of my favorite anime releases on blu-ray for 2017!

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

rageofbahamut

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an exciting, action-packed series with wonderful animation, plenty of humor and fascinating characters that you will find yourself captivated by the series.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Naoshi Komi/SHUEISHA, SHAFT, MBS. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2014-2015

DURATION: Episode 1-12 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Universal/FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 26, 2016


Director: Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Keiichi Hasegawa

Script by Akira Tanizaki, Keiichi Hasegawa, Masanao Akahoshi

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Character Design by Naoyuki Onda

Art Director: Goki Nakamura

Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Onda

Anime Production: MAPPA


Featuring the following voice talent:

Go Inoue/Chris Rager as Kaisar Lidfard

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Ian Sinclair as Favaro Leone

Risa Shimizu/Tia Ballard as Amira

Eri Kitamura/Leah Clark as Kerberos (Cerberus)

Hiroaki Hirata/Tyson Rinehart as Lavalley

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Brian Mathis as Bacchus

Kenjiro Tsuda/Christopher R. Sabat as Martinet

Masakazu Morita/Kent Williams as Azazel

Megumi Han/Jad Saxton as Jeanne D’Arc

Miyuki Sawashiro/Apphia Yu as Rita

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo/Vic Mignogna as Belzebuth (Beezlebub)

Showtaro Morikubo/Kyle Phillips as Hansa

Tesshô Genda/Barry Yandell as Charioce XIII


Meet Favaro Leone, professional bounty hunter and casual scoundrel. When he’s not crossing swords with his arch nemesis and former best friend, Kaisar Lidford, he can be found at the local tavern spinning tall tales to anyone who will listen. After a one-winged demoness overhears his drunken boasts, she wrangles him into an unbreakable contract that will force him to make good on the promise he made.

With nothing but a destination in mind, the pair set out on their grand adventure – completely unaware of the dark forces working to fulfill an ancient prophecy that will bring about the end of the world. That is, unless a charming rogue, a clueless demon, a disgraced knight, and a tiny zombie can band together to change the course of history.

Visually arresting and fun from start to finish, Rage of Bahamut is a can’t-miss title for any action-fantasy fan.


Back in 2012, a card battle game known as “Shingeki no Bahamut” (Rage of Bahamut) developed by Cygames and published by DeNA was released for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

The video game topped the charts for 16 weeks on Google Play and also was a high grossing game for Apple’s App Store.

Two years later, the first anime adaptation of the game was created titled “Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis” (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis) featuring anime production by MAPPA.

The series was directed by Keiichi Satou (“Asura”, “Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary”, “Tiger & Bunny”), screen composition by Keiichi Hasegawa (“Astro Boy”, “Zoids”, “Devil Lady”, “Gegege no Kitaro”), music by Yoshihiro Ike (“DAYS”, “Blood: The Last Vampire”, “Asura”, “Tiger & Bunny”), character designs by Naoyuki Onda (“Psycho-Pass”, “Resident Evil: Damnation”, “Sol Bianca”, “Detective Story”) and art direction by Goki Nakamura (“Baku Tech! Bakugan”, “Cat Soup”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt”, “Baku Tech! Bakugan”).

Featuring 12 episodes, the anime series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in North America courtesy of FUNimation.

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” takes place during a time where the magical world of Mistarcia has humans, gods and demons trying to co-exist with one another.

Long ago, the winged behemoth known as Bahamut threatened to destroy the land but the humans, gods and demons fought together and sealed its power.

The God Key that was used to seal Bahamut was split into two, one half given to the gods and the other half to the demons in order to ensure that no one can unite the keys and release Bahamut from the seal.

2000 years have passed and the key is stolen by Amira, who is half god and half demon.

Meanwhile, a thief and womanizer named Favaro Leone is on an adventure to find a land known as Elhiem.  Upon hearing this, Amira shows up and asks Favaro to take her there.

At first he refuses, but seeing her beauty, he tells her he will take her if she gives him a kiss.  But soon after, one of the criminals that Favaro is fighting turns into a demon.  But immediately, Amira reveals her powers of a demon and easily defeats the demon fighting Favaro.

As Amira wants to make sure that Favaro keeps her promise, she leans to give him a kiss but instead, she gives Favaro a demon’s tail and tells him that she will only take it off, if he takes her to Elhiem.

Meanwhile, a knight named Kaisar Lidfald is on a mission to kill Favaro as revenge for the death of his father.  Discovering a young girl zombie named Rita, the two search for Favaro.

Also, Jeanne D’Arc leads her knights to find Amira for her role in stealing one half of the keys that could unseal Bahamut.  Also, unrest is happening due to the theft of the God Key and the boundaries that were in place for godkind and demonkind is starting to crumble and a war is about to begin between the two.  And the seal that kept Bahamut sealed, is now starting to disintegrate.

As Favaro tries to make good on his promise to escort Amira to Elheim, they are unaware that everyone is looking for Amira.

Can Favaro protect Amira?  And why did Amira steal the God Key?


VIDEO:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series features great animation and wonderful background art.  Bahamut is well-rendered, human characters, gods and demons are well-drawn and well-shaded.

Because this is a TV series, there is a subtle softness to the overall animation, so it’s not too vibrant. Character designs, animation and background art are fantastic.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  Typically, the English dubbed soundtrack tends to have a 5.1 lossless soundtrack, but how awesome is it that both Japanese and English soundtracks are in 5.1.  So, everyone can enjoy the lossless soundtrack depending on their preference.  Voice acting is well done for both Japanese and English.  Great use of surround channels and LFE.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Episode 1 – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Sonny Strait, Ian Sinclair (voice of Favaro), Tia Ballard (voice of Amira), Chris Rager (voice of Kaisar).
  • Audio Commentary – Episode 12 – Featuring audio commentary by ADR Director Sonny Strait, Ian Sinclair (voice of Favaro), Tia Ballard (voice of Amira), Chris Rager (voice of Kaisar).
  • Episode 6.5 – “Roundup” – A recap of the first half of the series.
  • Episode 6.5 – “Roundup” Preview
  • Textless Opening and Closing
  • Textless Closing for Episode 12 (Full Screen)

EXTRAS:

“Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” comes with both a Blu-ray and DVD version of the anime series.


Prior to watching “Rage of Bahagmut: Genesis”, I was not aware of the video game.

I watched this anime series and thinking how fascinating it was to have a protagonist who was a redhead and had an afro.  Then seeing humans co-existing with gods (angels) and demons, meanwhile the dead are sprouting up and zombies are everywhere.  And seeing a zombie girl become a major character.

Suffice to say, the concept is nothing I have ever seen in an anime series.  And immediately, the characters you followed throughout the first half of the series are immediately put into a chaotic situation and all heck breaks loose.  Not surprising considering the series is only 12 episodes long and the writers had to make the storyline work within those few episodes.

The adventures of four individuals who are quite opposite from each other.  Favaro, the man with the ‘fro who loves to steal and spending time with the ladies.  Kaisar the knight who wants Favaro dead because he blames Favaro for the death of his father.

But I found myself being captivated by the action-driven storyline and its mysterious protagonist, Amira.  She not only kicks ass when in demon mode but she happens to have a spunky side that leads her to act out against Favaro.  And for some reason, she has stolen the God Key which keeps the behemoth known as Bahamut sealed.

And as mentioned, you have a zombie girl who hangs out with Kaisar the knight and has a pessimistic attitude.  And dare I say, there is also a talking duck that the group befriends.

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, You also have Joan of Arc who is a saint/knight who becomes the savior for the people and then ends up being put on the stake to be executed.

Behind-the-scenes, you see tensions building up between the gods and the demons and for the most part, chaos befalls on the magical world of Mistarcia.

So, much goes on throughout this series and there are a number of characters introduced quickly, but not too much that you get confused.  If anything, with 12-episodes, “Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an action-packed anime series that is not difficult to follow and because it’s a short series, you may find yourself captivated enough to watch it straight through.

As for the Blu-ray release, animation by MAPPA was really well done.  The series looks very good in HD and both the Japanese soundtrack and the English dub are well-done and you get two audio commentaries, a 6.5 recap episode and more.

Overall, “Rage of Bahamut: Genesis” is an exciting, action-packed series with wonderful animation, plenty of humor and fascinating characters that you will find yourself captivated by the series.  Recommended!

 

Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 27, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

inuyashamovies

“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 12 episodes (300 Minutes)

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

RATED: TV 14 LD

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013

Original Creator: Yuki Kodama

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe

Script by Ayako Katoh, Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Nobuteru Yuki

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Anime Production by Mappa, Tezuka Productions

Featuring the voices of:

Ryohei Kimura/Chris Patton as Kaoru Nishimi

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Andrew Love as Sentarō Kawabuchi

Aya Endo/Maggie Flecknoe as Yurika Fukahori

Junichi Suwabe/David Matranga as Junichi Katsuragi

Yuuka Nanri/Rebeka Stevens as Ritsuko Mukae

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Blake Shepard as Seiji Matsuoka

Nozomi Furuki/Chris Martinez as Taichi

It’s the summer of 1966 and high school freshman Kaoru Nishimi is struggling to adjust to the latest of many moves in his young life, this time to his uncle’s home in the seaside town of Kyushu. It’s never easy adjusting. It’s never easy fitting in. But this time will be different. This time he’ll meet friends who will change his life forever. And he’ll discover a new passion, one that grabs his heart and rocks him to his very soul. It’s music. A beat. A whole new way of looking at life. It’s called jazz, and together with bad boy Sentaro and music store girl Ritsuko, they’re going to follow their muse to wherever their music takes them! You think garage bands are something new? Think again and travel to a time when dreams and a couple of musical instruments really could change the world! Get ready to be blown away by a tale of life, love and all that jazz in THE KIDS ON THE SLOPE!

In 2007, mangaka Yuki Kodama would create a manga series titled “Sakamichi no Apollon” which was serialized in “Flowers” Magazine.

The manga series would attract the attention of director Shinichiro Watanabe (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Samurai Champloo”, “Baby Blue”).  Knowing that the series would feature a lot of music (especially with jazz), who best than go to a person that is well known for creating music for anime series, Yoko Kanno (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Aquarion”, “Macross Frontier”, “Macross Plus”, “Escaflowne”, “Darker than Black”, etc.).  And in 2012, the 12-episode anime series was featured on Fuji TV’s “noitaminA” anime block.

“Sakamichi no Apollon” would feature a storyline written by Ayako Katoh (“Chihayafuru”, “Stitch!: Itazura Alien no Daiboken”) and Yuuko Kakihara (“Heaven’s Lost Property”, “Stitch!”, “Chihayafuru”), character design by Nobuteru Yuki (“Battle Angel”, “Battle Royale High School”, “The five Star Stories”, “Heat Guy J”, “Space Battleship Yamato 2199”) and background art by Shinichi Uehara (“Aoi Bungaku”, “Ninja Scroll”, “Paprika”, “Summer Wars”, “Tokyo Godfathers”).

And now “Sakamichi no Apollon” will be released in the U.S. with the title “Kids on the Slope” in May 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks as a complete collection.

“Kids on the Slope” is a series that takes place in 1966.

Kaoru Nishimi is a teenager who has to move from Tokyo to Kyushu and live with his Aunt, while his father is working abroad.  Trained in classical piano, Kaoru loves to play but his wealthy aunt is not too fond of him playing piano until a certain time and for the most part, the family is very strict and Kaoru feels like he is living alone.

During his first day at school, he tries to keep to himself and is warned that a boy named Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind him and not to mess with him.

Meanwhile, the class representative named Ritsuko Mukae shows him around the school.  And for Kaoru, her vibrant smile for some reason, makes him very happy.

While looking for a way to get to the rooftop at the school (a place where Kaoru typically runs off to when he wants to be away from everyone), he sees a guy sleeping near the top area.  When Kaoru ask if he knows where he can get the key, a group of seniors come with the key but are not interested in giving it away.  Seeing how badly Kaoru needs it, the guy who was sleeping ends up getting a fight with them and while he is outmatched by the three guys, he manages to get the key to the top floor.

When Kaoru tries to get it, the guy tells him that he will give him the key for money, which Kaoru refuses and becomes upset.

While class is about to start, Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind Kaoru and when Kaoru turns around, he finds out that Sentaro is the guy he met earlier and fought with the three guys.  As Kaoru tries to run away from Sentaro, Sentaro follows him wherever he goes.  Kaoru runs to the roof despite the heavy rain and Sentaro does the same.  But he throws Kaoru’s umbrella and tells him to embrace the rain and both are soaken wet.

As Kaoru tries to help both of them with clean clothes, Kaoru sees Sentaro playing drums with his pencils and finds out that Sentaro is a jazz drummer, while Sentaro finds out that Kaoru is a classical pianist.

After school, Kaoru asks Ritsuko if she knows a record shop in town and surprisingly, she tells him that her father owns Mukae Record Shop.  When Ritsuko finds out that Kaoru plays the piano, she tells him to go into the basement where he sees a piano.  But to his shock, he sees Sentaro there playing the drums.

And that day would be the first time Kaoru is introduced to jazz music.  Sentaro asks Kaoru to play the piano and the two get into a discussion of how Kaoru can’t play jazz music and let his emotions be free while playing. Wanting to prove Sentaro wrong, Kaoru begins to listen to jazz music and learns how to play it on the piano.

Next thing you know, these two different people end up becoming good friends and both become interested in practicing and performing jazz music with one another.  But will their differences lead them to stay as friends or will it push them apart?

As for Ritsuko, being friends to both guys, she knows that the two who have had bad childhoods and because of that, they need each other to be as friends but also for support.  But how strong is their friendship?  And will their pasts interfere with their present?

“Kids on the Slope” features the following characters:

Kaoru Nishima – Lived in Tokyo, but when his mother abandoned both him and his mother. Because times are tough, his father had to look for work, while he stayed with his wealthy aunt who is very strict.  Throughout life, Kaoru has been a shy, timid boy who never knew what friendship or love was all about.  So, while he has learned how to play the piano and does very well in school, he has been used to being a school loner and being bullied at school.  But despite not knowing what true friendship is, he develops a friendship with someone so different than him…Sentaro Kawaguchi.  He also is in love with Ritsuko.

Sentaro Kawaguchi – Sentaro is half Japanese and half American.  When his mother left him and his father, he and his young siblings lived with his grandmother but after she died, his father became an alcoholic and started beating on him and the children.  Forced to grow up at an early age, Sentaro’s life has always been a tough guy who got into a lot of fights.  He’s not interested in school, loves playing jazz music on drums and takes care of his young siblings, while his father works far away.  His only friend at the time was his neighbor Ritsuko, who he grew up with.  But now he finds a new friend in Kaoru and has feelings for a girl named Yurika.

Ritsuko Mukae  – The class representative and nice individual who grew up with Sentaro and always watched over him.  Because she sees how Kaoru is and how he is with Sentaro, not many people treat Sentaro normally, so she hopes the two can be very good friends.  While she grew up liking Sentaro, she is unaware that Kaoru has fallen for her.  How will she respond if he tells her that he loves her?  Ritsuko’s father is also the owner of the local recordshop and in the basement is where her father, Sentaro, Junichi and Kaoru practice their music.

Yurika Fukahori – A girl that was getting accosted by guys, Sentaro came to her rescue.  From the first moment he saw her, it was love at first sight.  And now Kaoru wants to help Sentaro get closer to Yurika, so he can get clsoer to Ritsuko.  But because Sentaro is shy, he tells Yurika that Kaoru is the guy interested in her.  But for Yurika, she is smitten with Junichi.

Junichi Katsuragi – The cool trumpet playing friend of Sentaro. He often joins Sentaro and Ritsuko’s father for a session in the record store basement.  From a wealthy family and attending college, Junichi walks to the own beat of his drum.  And his cool demeanor captivates Yurika.

Tsutomu Mukae – Ritsuko’s father and owner of the local record shop.  He is a bass player and jazz music aficionado.

Seiji Matsuoka – Dreams of becoming a rock star and wants Sentaro to play drums for his band.

Shigetora Maruo – Guitarist for Seiji’s band and a guy who sits next to Sentaro and Kaoru.

VIDEO:

“Kids on the Slope” features fantastic animation and background art courtesy of Mappa and Tezuka Productions!  Presented in 1080p High Definition, the series definitely captures Yuki Kodama’s artwork and brings life to the anime adaptation.  Characters are well-shaded and drawn, while background art is very detailed. I love the overall look of this anime series!  No sign of softness, banding or any major issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Kids on the Slope” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.    While dialogue is crystal clear, how I would have loved to have a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack because of the series’ wonderful music.  The music is so awesome for this series that I was hoping that it would utilize the surround channels but it’s primarily a lossless stereo soundtrack, which is common for an animated television series from Japan.

As for voice acting, both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-performed.  There is one primary difference and that is for the character of Seiji Matsuoka.  In the Japanese version, Seiji sounds like a regular teenager but for the English dub version, they made him sound very feminine and with the lisp, changed the dialogue and have him flirting with Kaoru (which is not in the Japanese version), I thought that was an interesting direction by ADR director Steven Foster to take the character of Seiji in that direction.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Ending
  • Japanese Previews – (3:04) Japanese prevews for “Sakamichi no Apollon”
  • Interview with Shinichiro Watanabe – (16:04) An interview with the director of “Kids on the Slope”.
  • Interview with Yoko Kanno – (21:46) Yoko Kanno talks about how she was brought on board as a composer, how she found the jazz musicians through YouTube and how she had YUKI and Motohiro Hata do the music for the series opening and ending themes.
  • Interview with Takashi Matsuanga and Shun Ishikawa – (13:33) Interview with the teenage pianist and drummer who provided the music for Kaoru and Sentaro for the anime series.

It’s very rare to come across an anime series that captures real life and focus on character interaction, emotions and most importantly, music.

While we have seen these type of storylines featured in Japanese dramas such as “Long Vacation” or “With You”, for anime there is “Nodame no Cantabile” but most of the time, there is always a supernatural, fantasy type of addition to that storyline.

Here we are with an anime adaptation of Yuki Kodama’s “Sakamichi no Apollon” and having watched all 12 episodes, I can’t help but feeling of how awesome, how delightful this anime series was, because it’s such a rarity to see, especially to see it released in the United States.

“Kids on the Slope” captivates the viewer for its storyline of friendship of two broken individuals, the love triangle but also how jazz music is incorporated into the film and I must say, this is one of the coolest, hippest soundtracks I have heard from an anime series.  So much that I wanted to purchase the soundtrack immediately because the music for this anime series was fantastic!

While those used to a certain style of anime may not like a series about a bromance, let alone about music, “Kids on the Slope” is probably one of the best anime series that I have seen in 2013 and I have to put this in my top three for anime series on Blu-ray for the year because it’s that good!

Why is this anime series so captivating?

It’s about the characters!  Kaoru is a guy who hasn’t had many friends or social activities.  He is not good at reading people, nor is he that good at showing emotions.  That so many times, he reads things and his only way of communicating is with anger.  We see Kaoru as this meek character with glasses, always studying and playing the piano.

While Sentaro also never had many friends growing up, but you realize that the reason why he’s gotten into so much trouble is because he was always bullied because he was not full Japanese.  He used his height and his strength to deter people from bullying him and he ended up getting into a lot of fights while growing up.  But like Kaoru, he also had a dysfunctional childhood.

Kaoru needs Sentaro, because he makes him feel wanted and important but most of all, he’s the first guy who never treated him any less, but accepted him as a friend right off the bat.

Sentaro respects Kaoru for his magnificent piano playing but because he cares so much about him.  He lived life feeling that no one cares about him, thus he became a bully but now he has found a friend who believes in him.

And for both individuals, having each other as friends is not easy because they are so different, but despite their problems, they know that they make a great team and are very good friends.  But both are a bit too hardheaded to admit it.

Ritsuko is your good-natured female character and good friends with both.  She grew up with Sentaro and she always took care of him as he was always getting into fights.  She is his neighbor and Sentaro has always practiced the drums at her father’s record shop.

But she sees how Sentaro has opened up to Kaoru and she knows he needs that. But as she gets to know Kaoru, she knows he needs Sentaro as well. But when she finds out that Sentaro likes another girl, let alone finding out that Kaoru has fallen for her, how is a girl supposed to react?

Throw in characters such as Yurika and Junichi and other dramatic situations that really bolster the storyline, the characters and also the emotional angle of the series.

I felt the series delivered in emotional impact when Kaoru felt that he was lonely and no one understood his feelings, but when he found out how his life was all this time and how he lived alone and had to endure abuse and bullying throughout his life, much worse than he has had, it was an emotional scene.  In fact, there are many of these emotional moments throughout the series and I was pleased of how the writing was. Both Ayako Katoh and Yuuko Kakihara did a wonderful job!

As for the Blu-ray release, the anime looks fantastic!  The character designs are different from what most people may be accustomed to but it actually has a taste of the old school anime that I grew up watching.  Characters are well-drawn, well-shaded and the art backgrounds are just beautiful too look at.

And as for special features, I was amazed to find interviews instead of the typical clean opening and ending animations.  So, you do get an interview with director Shinichiro Watanabe, composer Yoko Kanno but also with teenage musicians Takashi Matsunaga and Shun Ishikawa who were both found by Kanno on YouTube.  Two young professional musicians who know jazz music and really made the anime feel believable, entertaining and exciting.

Overall, “Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray!

Highly recommended!

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