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

April 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2

DURATION: Episodes 15-26 (276 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Chiaki Kon

Series Composition: Yuji Kobayashi

Character Design by Akira Takahashi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Art Design by Takashi Kurahashi

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Rina Satou/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

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

Hisako Kanemoto/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Shizuka Itou/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Sayaka Ohara/Veronica Taylor as Michiru Kaiō/Sailor Neptune

Kenji Nojima/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

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

Ryou Hirohashi/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Youhei Oobayashi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis

Shoko Nakagawa/Debi Derryberry as Diana


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you enjoyed the first season, “Motto to Love RU” is much more wilder, crazier, perverted than ever.  Now featuring three crazy mini-stories per episode, “Motto to Love RU” ups the ante in perverted anime comedy TV series.  While not for everyone, if you are wanting something a bit more risque and perverted, this anime series is for you!

Image courtesy of © Kentaro Yabuki-Saki Hasemi/SHUEISHA, Toloveru Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection

DURATION: 300 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV14D

Release Date: May 27, 2014

Originally created by Kentaro Yabuki, Saki Hasemi

Directed by Atsushi Ootsuki

Series Composition by Yasutomo Yamada

Music by Takeshi Watanabe

Character Design: Yuichi Ouka

Art Director: Yoshimi Umino

Anime Production by Xebec

Featuring the following voice talent:

Akeno Watanabe as Rito Yuki

Haruka tomatsu as Lala Satalin Deviluke

Ayako Kawasumi as Saki Tenjoin

Fuyuka Oura as Ren Elsie Jewelria

Kana Hanazawa as Mikan Yuki

Ryoka Yuzuki as Lisa Momioka

Misato Fukuen as Golden Darkness

Aki Toyosaki as Peke and Momo Belia Deviluke

Sayuri Yahagi as Haruna Sairenji

Takehito Koyasu as Zastin

The insanity that began when a very naked (and very female) alien teleported into Rito Yuki’s bathtub (while he was in it) continues. And even though Princess Lala has finally started to admit her true feelings for the young man she’s inexplicably engaged to marry (as a result of what happened in said bathtub and Develuke customs), her sometimes erratic technology and the snags and snarls of intergalatic politicse and intrigue are still causing major problems.

That transporter? Yeah, it still has the nasty habit of leaving the clothes behind. Alien bounty hunters? Yep, even more of them and they’re even more devious. Add body switches, alien skunks, a bathroom that changes size and shape, the inevitable sleepover that you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong (spoiler: it does). Worst of all, there’s Valentine’s Day, and even in space you’ll be able to hear Rito scream!

In 2006, the series “To Love Ru” (which in Japanese “Toraburu” can be read as in English “Trouble”) is a manga series by Saki Hasemi (“Moetan”, “Pinky:st”) and Kentaro Yabuki (“Black Cat”, “Yamato Gensouki”) was created and is currently featured in Weekly Shonen Jump. In the spring of 2008, Studio I.G. subsidiary Xebec, Inc. (known for working on “Love Hina” and “Martian Successor Nadesico”) released a 26-episode anime series which was followed by video game releases for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.  The first season of the anime series was released in the US courtesy of Sentai Filmworks in 2009-2010 in two DVD volumes.

In 2010, a second season titled “Motto To Love-RU”, a twelve episode series aired in Japan.  And now in May 2014, the second season will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Motto To Love RU” is produced by Xebec but features a new creative team.   The second season is directed by Atsushi Ootsuki  (“Kanokon: The Girl Who Cried Fox”, “Wagnaria!! Season Two”) and features a screenplay by Yasutomo Yamada (“Bakegyamon”, “Boys Be…”, “Potemayo”, “Venus Versus Virus”).  Character design is by Yuichi Ouka (“Softenni”, “Over Drive”), art direction by Yoshimi Umino (“DNA2″, “Ben-To”, “.hack” series) and music by Takeshi Watanabe (“Moetan”, “Saki”, “Ichigo Mashimaro”).

The second season also is different from the first.  In the original, each episode had a full storyline but now “Motto to Love RU” features episodes with three short stories about seven minutes long.

What is “To Love RU” all about?

“To Love RU” is about a teenager named Rito Yuki. A teenage boy who has always loved his classmate Haruna Sairenji. But somehow due to unusual circumstances, by trying to save a girl named Lala (who happens to be an alien princess) and now Lala believes that Rito is in love with her and because Rito has proposed to her in Deviluke tradition (grabbing the woman’s breast and telling her that he loves her), they are now officially engaged.

Lala has made her residence at Rito’s home and expects Rito to be her husband. But Rito is in love with Sairenji, not Lala…what is a powerless, teenage boy going to do? Rito has been trying to find ways to have the marriage dissolved but finds himself getting deeper and deeper in trouble that even Lala’s father, King Deviluke expects him to marry or else Earth will be destroyed.

Now Rito finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala but what is this young teenager going to do?

What about “Motto To Love RU”?

The second season is much different than the original series.  More adult humor, more perverted and really doesn’t get into anything serious.  If anything, the harem storyline and love triangle still exists as Sairenji and Lala both want to be closer to Rito but Rito is not so much of a major factor in this season in terms of having to save Lala.  If anything, he is more of the comic character who is typically getting involved in the wrong situation against his will and has his butt kicked by the extra terrestrials.    While the emphasis are more on the female characters as they discuss their emotions and each other’s breasts, grabbing each other’s breasts and having fun, it is more evident that this series is targeted for more the lonely otaku who love tons of fan service.  And you definitely get it with “Motto To Love Ru”.

Because there are 12 half-hour episodes (3 mini-episodes each episode, thus 26 different episodes in all), here are a few storylines that are featured in “Motto to Love RU”.

  • Yui and the discipline committee implement a demerit policy to ensure morality in school.
  • What happens when Mikan’s teacher goes to visit her home to meet her and Rito’s father (a manga creator).  Since their family has been gone for a long time, Rito must pretend to be her father.  But because he is not good at lying, Lala gives him a drink to calm him down, but instead it makes him drunk.
  • Yami wonders how it would be to wear Earth fashion, so the girls take her out on a shopping spree.
  • It’s Valentine’s Day and Yui wants to make chocolate for Rio.
  • What happens when Saki invites Rito and friends to her private beach.
  • Yami is ill and Rito tries to get her some medical help.
  • When Rito does poorly on his exam, Yami tries to help him.
  • Haruna, Sairenji and Oshizu take part in an alien process to make their breasts larger.
  • What happens when Momo accidentally transports Rito into Peke’s body.
  • What happens when Celine drinks Cola.
  • Nana and Momo get angry when she tries to sneak into Rito’s bed.
  • Which girl will Rito pick at the end?

“Motto To Love RU” features the following main characters:

Rito Yuuki – A teenager who is deeply in love with Haruna Sairenji. Not a popular guy at his high school and quite shy until he meets Lala. After saving Lala and squeezing her breasts, now he is officially engaged to her. Now Rito wants nothing but to get out of this engagement but finds himself caring for both Haruna and Lala.

Lala Satalin Deviluke – The Princess of Deviluke who ran away from home (left her planet) because she did not want to marry any of the men that her father has chosen for her to marry but when she sees Rito fighting and defending her, she falls in love with him and after he grabs her breast, by Deviluke customs, she becomes engaged to him and moves in with him. She is complete oblivious to the fact that Rito cares about Haruna. Lala tends to not know about Earth’s customs and gets herself in trouble when she takes off her clothes off. She also is an inventor but her inventions tend to not work the way she wants at times.

Haruna Sairenji – Rito’s classmate who cares about Rito but keeps her emotions to herself due to Rito’s engagement with Lala. She cares for him and knows that he cares for her.  She often wonders if Rito cares for girls like Lala and girls with bigger breasts.  Often entangled in Lala’s inventions and she and Rito and gets caught up in unusual, nude circumstances.

Yami/Golden Darkness – An assassin hired by one of Lala’s suitors to kill Rito but is now more of a person who loves to read books and study Earth culture.  She is not sure why Rito is nice to her, despite her being his enemy and wanting to hurt him.  Often punishing Rito as he thinks he is always trying to look at her panties and see her nude.

Peke – Lala’s robot who can change to a weapon or the clothes that she wears. He tends to be the voice of reason when Lala is confused.

Ryoko Mikado – The school doctor of Sainan High School who also worked for a black market extraterrestrial organization. She uses her medical skills to help the students at the school but also aliens. Likes to wear slinky clothing and sometimes no clothing at all.

Kenichi Saruyama – Rito’s best friend who is a pervert. Never can get a girlfriend but with his friendship to Rito, he’s having a ball with meeting his new female friends.  He likes a girl but doesn’t know it was Rito who was changed into a girl due to Lala’s invention.

Yui Kotegawa – An uptight student who doesn’t like things that are unacceptable behavior and thinks Rito and Lala’s behavior towards each other is unacceptable. Dislikes delinquent behavior at her school and is now in charge of writing demerits for those who are mischievous.  Unfortunately, she gets caught up in getting groped by other girls.  She also wonders if she is falling for Rito.

Risa and Mio – Risa Momioka and Mio Sawada are Haruna’s and Lala’s friends. Risa has a tendency of groping other girls.

Nana Asta Deviuke -Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Momo (has longer hair and a visible tooth).  She somewhat likes Rito but also has a breast complex because hers is so small.  Always trying to find ways to make her breasts big.

Momo Velia Deviluke – Lala’s younger sister and twin sister of Nana.  Has shorter hair, sweeter and has bigger breasts than her sister and likes to flaunt it around Nana.  Collector of plants.

Mikan Yuuki – The younger sister of Rito. She knows he got himself in deep trouble and that he cares for both Haruna and Lala and thus, tries to help him at times.

Saki Tenjouin – The popular girl at school who dislikes Lala because she is suddenly getting all the attention at school. Her friends Rin and Aya are loyal to her and do her dirty work.  Lately, Rito has been falling on her lately and landing on her breasts.

Ren/Run Elsie Jewelria – A childhood friend of Lala who changes from male to female when he/she sneezes. As Ren, he wants to marry Lala. As Run, she is secretly in love with Rito.  Run is also a extra terrestrial pop star.

Kyouko Kirisaki – A pop star who is also a half-Earthling/Half-Alien and can generate fire.  She is the star of “Magical Kyoko”.

Oshizu Murasame – A ghost at the school building who now has a prosthetic body created by Mikado-san that she can possess and attend school with the other girls.  She also has feelings for Rito.

Celine – A carnivorous plant given to Rito by Lala for his 16th birthday.  She has the appearance of a little girl (with a big flower on her head) and Rito takes her in as part of the family.

 

VIDEO:

“Motto To Love RU” is presented in 1080p High Definition. For a television series, the series features a lot of colors and artistic backgrounds feature a good amount of backgrounds from school settings, shopping/city settings, Rito’s home, etc. Typically for a TV series from a smaller studio, I don’t expect to see so many backgrounds or an over utilization of artwork but XEBEC did a wonderful job in the animation and Yuichi Oka with the character designs. I don’t know how close his designs are actually to Kentaro Yabuki and Saki Hasemi’s original manga but overall, character design and art backgrounds are well done.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Lossless audio is featured in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with English subtitles. Voice acting by the seiyuu are well done as Akeno Watanabe (Taruru of “Sgt. Frog”, Jo of “Burst Angel”, Chachamaru Kamakuri of “Negima”) does the voice of Rito. Haruka Tomatsu (Mileina of “Gundam 00″, Misao of “Asura Cryin’ 2″) does the voice of Lala and Sayuri Yahagi (Chisato of “Sola”, Hanaka of “Buso Renkin”) as Haruna. Anime is front channel driven but if you have a receiver that allows for stereo on all channels, that was my listening preference.

There is no English dub track in this Blu-ray release of “To Love RU”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Motto To Love RU – Complete Collection” features the Clean Opening and Closing Animation themes and Sentai Filmworks trailers.

Wilder, more perverted and more fan service than the previous season, “Motto to Love RU” will definitely appeal to those wanting more risque anime with tons of fan service and adult humor!

While watching “Motto to Love RU”, I have to admit that I was in one sense happy that the series was back, since I enjoyed the first season but also a tad bit disappointed that the full stories that were featured in each episode have now been replaced by three mini-episodes.   And the episodes were definitely made to be more wilder and perverted.

In the last season, it was basically dealing with the love triangle between Rito, Lala and Sairenji and of course, Rito having to defend his honor and the people he cares about.  There was a bit more action in the first season but this time around, Rito is more of the comic-centric character that is always in the wrong place at the wrong time (mainly caught for peeking up a girls skirt or in some situation that happened beyond his control) and getting punished for it.  If anything, this season focuses more on perverted comedy and a lot of fan service.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of mangaka Rumiko Takahashi’s “Urusei Yatsura” as a character ends up engaged to an alien. But in this case, Rito is nothing like Ataru (nor is he perverted). But “To Love RU” has its fair share of crazy antics, fan service and yes… nudity. Unlike Lum, Lala doesn’t know how Rito feels inside, even though family and friends know that he’s gotten himself into a mess. Also, similar to another Rumiko Takahashi anime series (Ranma 1/2), the character of Ren/Run able to change genders is quite interesting and makes me wonder if series creator Kentaro Yabuki was paying homage to Takahashi’s works.

But this second season definitely amps up the hijinks, the craziness, fan service and the perverted humor of the series.  And for those who enjoy this type of anime, “Motto to Love RU” is for you!  Do you need to watch the original anime series to understand this second.  Yes and no.  The first does explain why the aliens are living with Rito and of course, you get their introductions.  But the second series is created as mini-episodes with hijinks and fan-service that one can understand what is going on.

It’s only the final episode where you actually get something somewhat deep as the question of which girl Rito will pick comes to play.  But needless to say, I’m sure that the hijinks of these characters will continue, in the manga series or with more seasons of anime episodes.

As for the Blu-ray release, I wished there were more special features than the clean opening and closing themes and I’m sure there are fans who wish there was an English dub included. The Japanese voice acting is still enjoyable and well-performed.

While the Blu-ray is rated TV 14 D, it’s important to note that there is nudity and a lot of sexual humor and images, so this is not an anime series you want younger people to be watching.

Overall, “Motto To Love RU” is a hilarious anime series that was fun for me as I enjoyed the first season, but also a step back as it was not full-story episodes but an episode of three short, wild and crazy stories..

If you are looking for a series with adult, perverted humor and a lot of fan service, “Motto To Love RU” is the anime series you definitely want to watch! Recommended!

Haganai: I don’t have many friends (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 26, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

haganai-a

For those wanting a harem anime series that is not overly perverted but is fun and crazy, we’ll enjoy the adventures of the characters in “Haganai: I don’t have many friends” in their quest of learning how to make friends.  An entertaining first season and I can’t wait for season two!

Images courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Haganai: I don’t have many friends

YEAR OF FILM: 2011

DURATION: 13 Episodes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV M

COMPANY: FUNimation

RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2013

Originally Created by Yomi Hirasaka

Original Character Design: Buriki

Directed by Hisashi Saito

Screenplay by Tatsuhiko Urahata

Music by Tom-H@ck

Character Design by Yoshihiro Watanabe

Art Direction by Yuka Hirama

Anime Production by AIC Build

Featuring the voices of:

Kanae Itō/Jad Saxton as Sena Kashiwazaki

Marina Inoue/Whitney Rodgers as Yozora Mikazuki

Ryohei Kimura/Jerry Jewell as Kodaka Hasegawa

Kana Hanazawa/Alison Viktorin as Kobato Hasegawa

Misato Fukuen/Alexis Tipton as Rika Shiguma

Nozomi Yamamoto/Ashleigh Domangue as Yukimura Kusunoki

Yuka Iguchi/Kristi Yang as Maria Takayama

Yozora’s an abrasive loudmouth whose only friend at school is imaginary. She knows she’s difficult – which makes her better off than Kodoka, a new transfer student who picked up an undeserved bad reputation the second he stepped on campus. Inspired by their shared status as social catastrophes, the two loners unite and start the Neighbors Club, an organization dedicated to finding other misfits and making friends.

In no time, a third member joins their ranks: Sena, a pretty, popular rich girl who annoys Yozora to no end. With Kodoka in the middle of the chaos, the brash brunette and the blonde boy-magnet go ’round and ’round, even as the Neighbors Club begins to grow. Hopefully, the girls can get past their rivalry, because sometimes the friendship you’re looking for is right in front of you, and sometimes the best friends are the friends you never even wanted.

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From light novel author Yomi Hirasaka comes a mature comedy series titled “Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai” (I Don’t Have Many Friends), in shortened form titled “Haganai”.

Originally illustrated by Buriki and published by Media Factory in 2009, the light novel story would receive several manga adaptations written by Itachi and another by Misaki Harukawa and Shuichi Taguchi.

In 2011, a 12-episode anime series was adapted by AIC Build and in Japan. The series is directed by Hisashi Saito (“Fantasista Doll”, “Heaven’s Lost Property”), a screenplay by Tatsuhiko Urahata (“Aria – The Natural”, “Ichigo 100%”, “Monster”, “Nana”, etc.), music by Tom-H@ck (“K-ON!”, “Katekyo Hitman Reborn!”), character designs by Yoshihiro Watanabe (“Bamboo Blade”, “Heaven’s Lost Property”) and background art by Yuka Hirama (“Gurren Lagann”, “The Big O”, “Boogiepop Phantom”, “Gad Guard”).

An OVA was released in Sept. 2012 and a second season titled “Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT” recently aired between January through March 2013.

With a live action film in the works, FUNimation will be releasing the first season of “Haganai” on Blu-ray/DVD in August 2013.

“Haganai” is a series that revolves around Kodaka Hasegawa, a student who just transferred to St. Chronica Academy, a private Catholic school.  But because of his natural blonde/brown hair and his serious looking eyes, the students think he must be some sort of  thug and during his first time in class, he trips and nearly falls on the teacher, which rumors immediately begin in class that Kodaka must be some kind of deviant.  So, the students avoid him like the plague.

One day, he watches a teenage girl named Yozora Mikazuki talking to herself.  He wonders if she is talking to a ghost and approaches her about it.  Yozora, who has a cold attitude tells him that she is talking to her imaginary friend named “Tomo” which Kodaka thinks is weird.  And as the two talk, they discuss how they have no friends in school.

So, in order to change things for them, Yozora starts a new club in school titled the “Neighbor’s Club” for people with no friends but also find ways to get friends.  Immediately, the club starts to bring in others who have no friends and together, each try to experiment in various activities that teenagers are taking part in and see if it can benefit each member in making new friends.

From playing the latest cool multi-player video game, going to the beach, going to the public pool, going to karaoke or a cultural festival, from these new experiences, what will they learn?

But as each club member begin hanging out each other trying to learn how to make new friends, they are totally oblivious that each have made friends with each other and may not need to make friends outside of their circle.

But also, the longer they stay together, the more each tends to have some sort of attraction or bond with Kodaka.

The Neighbors Club consist of the following members:

Kodaka Hasegawa – The main protagonist who is naive about social activities but he is good-natured.  He has been watching over his young sister Kobato since his mother passed away and his father is working in the U.S. as an archaelogist.  Because the family has moved so many times, he has not had many friends but one person from his childhood named Sora.  Kodaka treats everyone with kindness.

Yozora Mikazuki – Very brash and can be very mean or manipulative to others.  She can be physically and emotionally abusive towards others and has a rivalry with Sena Kashiwazaki, who she keeps calling her “Meat”.  She is the founder of the Neighbors Club.

Sena Kashiwazaki – Known for her blonde hair and large breasts, Sena is the daughter of the school’s headteacher and because she is attractive and successful in academics, she can be a bit arrogant.  She sees the male students as servants and she is obsessed with video games, especially dating games and those with adult content.  She and Yozora have a rivalry, but despite each trying to have the upperhand against each other, they try to get along for the sake of the club.

Kobato Hasegawa – Kodaka’s younger sister who is a junior high student at St. Chronica’s Academy.  She has a brother complex and always wanting attention from her brother.  She is addicted to an anime series known as “Fullmetal Necromancer” and wears a red contact lens in one eye and often calling herself a vampire that drinks blood (tomato juice).  She is rivals with Maria, because Maria calls Kodaka her brother.

Yukimura Kusunoki – A male student that has been stalking Kodaka.  A guy with low self-esteem but also one who wears female clothes and acts like a female.  She has been stalking Kodaka to learn how to be more manly, but somehow Yozora tends to make her wear female clothing. Often wearing a maid outfit and cooking food for Kodaka.

Rika Shiguma – The mad scientist at the Academy who is addicted to stories about sex.  When Kodaka saves her after she falls from a bad lab experiment, she wants to repay Kodaka with sexual favors and joins the Neighbor’s Club to get closer to him.  While a genius, she is very unusual but also a big fan of fujoshi (boys love) and mecha intercourse.

Maria Takayama – The supervising teacher of the Neighbors Club.   A ten-year-old nun and a child genius who can’t stand Kodaka’s younger sister, Kobato. She looks up to Kodaka as her older brother.

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VIDEO:

“Hagenai: I don’t have many friends” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Colors are vibrant, very good shading when it comes to the characters, art backgrounds are well-done and the good thing is because each character are often visiting different locations, there are no repetitive backgrounds featuring clouds, trees, and roofs but actually seeing various locations that the characters visit.

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

AUDIO:

“Hagenai: I don’t have many friends”  is presented in English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0.   This type of series is primarily dialogue driven.  But dialogue and music are crystal clear.  I didn’t notice an abundant use of surround channel use, but you do hear it during the more action-driven scenes (during their fantasy video game gaming scenes).

The English dub is very well done, definitely good Americanized translation for the series in terms of character interaction (especially the bickering between Yoshizora and Sena).  But the English dub is well-acted and the Japanese soundtrack is also well done.  But in terms of comparison, the English dub is much better because of its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack and features a better dynamic range.  But both soundtracks are well-done!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Haganai: I don’t have many friends” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 2 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Jerry Jewell (Kodaka), Jad Saxton (Sena) and Whitney Rogers (Yoshizora).
  • Episode 8 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Zach Bolton (ADR Direct), Alison Viktorin (voice of Koboto) and Kristi Yang (voice of Maria).
  • Blu-ray and DVD Spots – (3:40)  The Japanese Media Factory Blu-ray and DVD TV spots.
  • Original Commercials – (:50) The original Japanese commercials for “Haganai”.
  • Promotional Videos – (2:36) The promotional videos for “Haganai”.
  • TV Spots  – (:49) Japanese TV spots for “Haganai”.
  • Textless Opening Song: Zennenkei Rinjinbu
  • Textless Closing Song: Watashi no Ki-Mo-Chi
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:35) The FUNimation trailer for “Haganai: I don’t have many friends”.

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“Haganai: I don’t have any friends” has the elements of an anime series that resembles the usual harem anime series.

Typically with a harem anime series, it’s a story about one guy as the protagonist and a lot of female characters that are attracted to the male character.  And quite frequently, the type of harem anime series that we see here in the United States are mature series that involve sexual humor.

But before anyone thinks this is an anime series with the overplayed, banal cliche storyline, “Haganai: I don’t have any friends” is different for the fact is that the male protagonist, Kodaka Hasegawa, is not a pervert, he’s like a big brother or good friend that cares about people.  But most importantly, this is not a storyline that deals with sci-fi elements, this is not a series in which fan service is the primary factor of watching the series.

It’s the fascinating storyline of a group of people who become members of a club because they can’t find any friends.  They are without any social experiences that they try to integrate themselves of what people are doing today and see if they can find friends that way or learn the way to become more social that they can attract new friends, not really knowing that within their club, by hanging out together often…they have become good friends.

But because of the mature rating of this anime series, does it fall within the category of other FUNimation perverted harem anime series such as “Sekirei” or “Heaven’s Lost Property”?

The series does feature a character, Sena Kashiwazaki, who happens to be well-endowed and yes, always in scenes where her chest is often bouncing or somehow her boobs become a revolving joke because she is often despised by Yozora Mikazuki, the founder of the club, that each member belongs to.

But where “Sekirei” or even “Heaven’s Lost Property” features multiple women in scantily clad outfits with huge breasts, “Haganai” only features one character, which is Sena, often featured in those situations.

The adult situations are more about the humor within its other wacky characters such as Rika Shiguma, a mad scientist who is addicted to boys love anime/manga and just wants to see Kodaka engage in certain acts that will turn her on.  The other is Yukimura Kusunoki who is a boy but yet looks like a girl and acts like a girl and is often dressed in female’s clothes.  Because he tries to hid his chest like a girl when changing into a swimsuit, because of his feminine ways, it’s too much for Kodaka to even look at him.

But then you have two other members who are younger.  Kobato is Kodaka’s younger sister who has a brother complex (ie. has a crush on her brother) and Maria who is a child genius and she looks at Kodaka like a brother.  But these two are often squalling as Maria is in her nun outfit and Kobato is always in vampire mode and both are often at each other’s throats.

So, in terms of a harem anime series, it’s not so perverted in the sense of other anime series but there is adult humor and a few times where there is nudity featured.  But compared to other anime series where fan service is continually used in every episode, “Haganai: I don’t have many friends” focuses on its characters really trying to learn how to make friends.  Trying to take on varies fads and hobbies that friends take part in, may it be video games, karaoke, going to the beach, going to the public pool, etc.

To see how socially awkward each of them are as they try to experiment with various social activities.  For the video games, we often see the characters in their fantasy form and having fun but its so fun and hilarious because most often, they fail in trying to learn why these things are popular, but not knowing that doing these activities as a team, actually brings them closer together as friends.  In other words, they are trying so hard to make friends that they don’t realize that each of them have become friends with each other.

As for the Blu-ray release, colors are vibrant, very good shading when it comes to the characters, art backgrounds are well-done and the good thing is because each character are often visiting different locations, there are no repetitive backgrounds featuring clouds, trees, and roofs but actually seeing various locations that the characters visit.  But the series does look good on Blu-ray and as for audio, this type of series is primarily dialogue driven.  But dialogue and music are crystal clear.  I didn’t notice an abundant use of surround channel use, but you do hear it during the more action-driven scenes.

Both voice acting on the Japanese and English soundtrack are well-done and there are a good number of special features included with this first season of “Haganai: I don’t have many friends”.

Overall, for those wanting a harem anime series that is not overly perverted but is fun and crazy, we’ll enjoy the adventures of the characters in “Haganai: I don’t have many friends” in their quest of learning how to make friends.  An entertaining first season and I can’t wait for season two!

 

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