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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!

Trigun: Badlands Rumble (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Vash the Stampede and friends are back in an action-packed film with destruction galore!  Audiophiles who have been clamoring for an anime film on Blu-ray with awesome lossless audio will definitely love the lossless, immersive track for this film!  And for “Trigun” fans, this Blu-ray release is fantastic and packed with special features.  “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Tetsuhiro Nightow/Shonengahoisha, TRIGUN PARTNERS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Trigun: Badlands Rumble

DURATION: 137 Minutes

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: September 27, 2011

Originally created by Yasuhiro Nightow

Original Story by Satoshi Nishimura, Yasuhiro Nightow

Directed by Satoshi Nishimura

Screenplay by Yasuko Kobayashi

Storyboard by Hideki Inoue, Satoshi Nishimura, Soichi Masui

Music by Tsuneo Imahori

Character Design by Takahiro Yoshimatsu

Art Director: Minoru Akiba

Mechanical Design by Noriyuki Higuji

Sound Director: Yasunori Honda

Anime Production: Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiromi Tsuru/Luci Christian as Meryl Stryfe

Masaya Onosaka/Johnny Yong Bosch as Vash the Stampede

Satsuki Yukino/Trina Nishimura as Milly Thompson

Sho Hayami/Brad Hawkins as Nicholas D. Wolfwood

Maaya Sakamoto/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Amelia

Tsutomu Isobe/John Swasey as Gasback

In town surrounded by quicksand, an outlaw from Vash the Stampede’s past has resurfaced after twenty years. His name is Gasback – and he’s looking to cause a little trouble. It seems Gasback has a serious beef with the town’s mayor, who’s paying dozens of bounty hunters to protect his turf.

One of those hired guns is a beautiful woman with a vendetta against Gasback. Will she get a shot at revenge? Maybe, if she can get through Gasback’s bodyguard, Wolfwood. And what’s Vash got to do with this mess? Nothing much – except for the fact that he personally set off the entire chain of events two decades ago!

In 1996, mangaka and game creator Yasuhiro Nightow (also known for creating the characters and story of the video game and anime series “Gungrave”) published his manga seires “Trigun” in Shonen Gahosha’s “Young King Ours” magazine.  Two years later, the manga series received its manga adaptation and aired in April through September 1998.

While the series was not so popular in Japan, the series would become very popular in the United States in 2003 as it aired on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim where it aired along with “Cowboy Bebop”.

By 2005, because of the popularity overseas, rumors of a “Trigun” movie began to surface and in 2007, Nightow confirmed at the US convention Anime Central that it was being developed.

And by 2010, the movie “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” would have its premiere in Japan and would have its debut at Sakura-Con 2010 in Seattle (without any dubbed voice overs or subtitles) and not long after, FUNimation Entertainment had licensed the film which would be released in theaters and a subtitled version of the film would be screened at Anime Expo 2010.

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” would be directed by Satoshi Nishimura (“Trigun”), a screenplay by Yasuko Kobayashi (“Claymore”, “Death Note”, “Galaxy Angel”, “Shakugan no Shana”), music by Tsuneo Imahori (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Fighting Spirit”, “Trigun”), character design by Takahiro Yoshimatsu (“Slayers”, “Trigun”, “Hunter x Hunter”) and background art by Minoru Akiba (“Pokemon” films, “School Rumble”).  Anime production for the film is by Madhouse Studios.

For those not familiar with the original storyline, “Trigun” is a comedy/action series about a man named Vash the Stampede who is accompanied by two Bernadelli Insurance Society employees who follow him in order to minimize damages caused by his appearance.  Vash is a wanted man due to his destruction of the City of July and with a bounty of $60 billion dollars on his head, many bounty hunters are after him.    He is joined by a priest named Nicholas D. Wolfwood (a mysterious gunfighter and we learn about Vash’s mysterious history and life on the planet Gunsmoke.

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” begins with a bank robbery led by the thief known as Gasback, known for only going after difficult heist that offers the biggest rewards.

But his henchmen including second-hand man Cain have had enough of the danger that Gasback had put them through and he shoots and tries to kill Gasback and tells him that they are no longer going to follow him again and will retire with the money and live a good life with the stolen money.  But disturbing their plans is Vash the Stampede, who happens to be in the vicinity and in the process between Vash and Gasback arguing with each other.  The henchman escape with all the money, Gasback manages to escape as well, but also unleashing missiles on the city and causing destruction.

But because Vash the Stampede is known for destroying many cities and that Gasback was in the same vicinity, Vash gets linked to the robbery and is seen as the mastermind of the heist.

Fast forward to 20 years later and we learn that Gasback’s original henchman have lived life in luxury since stealing the money but now Gasback wants revenge.  We learn that one of the henchman, named Cain Kelper, has become a hero of the city, he used his money to repair the City’s plant damaged by Gasback and eventually becomes the mayor of the city and has a huge statue in his image.

Gasback now wants to steal the statue which was insured for $5 billion and thus, two Bernadelli Insurance Society employees Milly Thompson and Mery Strife travel to Macca City to prevent it from happening, because a theft of something that expensive can easily bankrupt the insurance company.

Meanwhile, Vash also travels to the city  and ends up meeting a young woman named Amelia who he starts to flirt with.  But it is learned that Amelia develops an allergic reaction when touched by men and thus tries to avoid him.

But quickly we learn that Amelia is a bounty hunter who has traveled to Macca City and is targeting Gasback who has a $300 million bounty on his head.

Meanwhile, Gasback is back in town but also has a new bodyguard who turns out to be Nicholas D. Wolfwood, who was saved by Gasback when he was in the middle of the desert dying of thirst and thus is indebted to protecting the thief.

As Vash the Stampede courts Amelia, Gasback confronts his former henchman Cain and all hell breaks out.  As for Amelia, she learns that Vash the Stampede was the person responsible for helping Gasback escape from a bank robbery 20 years ago and tells him that because of his escape, Gasback has affected many lives including her own life but also her mother who died because of Gasback, and that is her true motivation for wanting to catch Gasback…because of revenge.

So, now Vash knowing what his action that he did many years ago had affected Amelia and possibly killed her mother, he wants to help Amelia but not knowing that his old friend Nicholas D. Wolfwood is working for Gasback.

What happens when Amelia and Vash confront Gasback?

VIDEO:

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9 HD Native).  Madhouse Studios did a wonderful job in creating the environment as there are crowds of bounty hunters and people all over Macca City.  There is no doubt that the studio wanted to give people a lot of visuals, so you have a good use of beautiful painted backgrounds but also a balance of CG as well.

Character development is well-done and definitely a not to the classic look of “Trigun” but also incorporating a lot of colors and good solid use of character design during the action sequences.  So, “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” is a vibrant film with black levels that are nice and deep but for the most part, a wonderful job by Madhouse Studios in making the city feel lively and dangerous at the same time.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” is presented in Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1.  When it comes to lossless audio, I have to say that “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” is perhaps one of the best use of lossless audio in an anime film in the last two years.  This is an immersive soundtrack with missiles and bullets, explosions that not only are well-done directionally as sound goes from one end to the other but also a great use of audio as you can feel it via LFE but also having a film that has plenty of action.

I have no doubt in my mind that audiophiles who have been clamoring for an immersive lossless soundtrack for an anime film will love how “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” sounds.  Personally, I think this is one of the best lossless, immersive soundtracks that I have heard in an animated film within the last two years.

Also, good use of crowd ambiance and the musical score from Tsuneo Imahori is also awesome as it is used not only from the front channels but also in the surround channels as well.

Optional subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Yasuhiro Nightow  – (11:08) Featuring an interview with Yasuhiro Nightow (comic author/story concept)
  • Interview with Masaya Onosaka – (8:59) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actor Masaya Onosaka (Vash the Stampede)
  • Interview with Satsuki Yukino – (8:31) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actress Satsuki Yukino (Milly Thompson)
  • Interview with Satoshi Nishimura – (11:06) Featuring an interview with director Satoshi Nishimura
  • Interview with Show Hayami – (10:00) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actor Show Hayami (Nicholas D. Wolfwood)
  • Interview with Maaya Sakamoto – (6:43) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actress Maaya Sakamoto (Amelia Ann Mcfly)
  • Interview with Takahiro Yoshimatsu – (7:26) Featuring an interview with character designer and chief animation director Takahiro Yoshimatsu.
  • Interview with Hiromi Tsuru – (3:13) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actress Hiromi Tsuru (Meryl Strife)
  • Interview with Tsutomu Isobe – (7:06) Featuring an interview with Japanese voice actor Tsutomu Isobe (Gasback Gallon Getaway)
  • Movie Premiere at Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro – (8:47) Featuring the introduction of the cast and director at the movie premiere in Ikebukuro.
  • Post Recording – (3:51) Behind-the-scenes post-recording with the Japanese voice talent in the studio.
  • A Mildly Awesome Story by Something Yoshimatsu – (:28) Takahiro Yoshimatsu talks about signing an autograph on someone’s boob at Sakura-Con 2009.
  • Video Footage from Anime Expo 2009 – (1:38) Featuring the Nightow, Nishimura and Jinguji meeting their fans at AX 2009.
  • Talk Event at Kawasaki Cinecitta – (3:32) A scene from the ticket raffle at the talk event at Kawasaki Cinecitta.
  • Special Talk Show – (38:14) Talk show segment with the Japanese voice talent from Kawasaki Cinecitta.
  • Web Promotion Clip – (1:37) web promo clip for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble”.
  • Promotional Video – (2:24) PV for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble”.
  • Theatrical Commercial – (:37) Japanese theatrical commercial for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:40) The original Japanese theatrical trailer for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble”.
  • Original Commercials – (:49) Commercials for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble”
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

EXTRAS:

“Trigun: Badlands Rumble” comes with a slipcase.

As a fan of the “Trigun” TV series, I have to say that the announcement of the return of Vash the Stampede and friends was a pretty big deal for many people.

“Trigun” was much popular in the United States than in Japan and many have wanted a return of the characters. The problem is, what warrants a second season or a film for a series is typically how ratings are in Japan and how the merchandise sells.

“Trigun” unfortunately didn’t have the big Japanese backing, nor was it featured in the most popular manga magazine but still, with it being aired during the time of “Cowboy Bebop” on the Cartoon Network, needless to say, “Trigun” was a huge hit in America.  But fortunately, its popularity outside of Japan was noted and  a standalone film was created.

With that being said, I for one am glad to see Vash and friends back in a new story.  But while others probably have had such high hopes in storyline, “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” turned out to be a pretty good story and because a lot of animated films derived from an anime series are typically non-canon, abridged versions of season or just plain bad, “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” features a canon-based storyline that not only delivers in action but also makes for an awesome Blu-ray release!

You have some of the original crew who worked on the TV series, working on this film as well as the Japanese and American voice talent.  Because this is a film, production elements are much better than a TV series, especially since “Trigun” is looked at as a old school anime series (it was released back in 1998).  So, it’s been 12-years since the TV series aired in Japan and a lot has changed in the anime industry since then.

For this Blu-ray release, I was quite impressed by the animation but also the sheer number of characters featured throughout the film.  But the audio of this Blu-ray release is magnificent.  The lossless soundtrack is immersive and because this film constantly showcases action sequence after sequence, audiophiles will definitely be impressed by how active the lossless audio track is.  It’s been awhile since I have heard a true immersive soundtrack from an anime series or film, so it was great to har “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” via its special effects and ambiance but also its wonderful musical score.

And the special features, I have to say that this is one of the most jam-packed special features on an anime on Blu-ray release in America thus far.  Granted, there are series that have plenty of audio commentary but in this case, there was a good amount of interviews with the Japanese voice talent and interviews at movie premieres.  So, fans should no doubt be appreciative and happy with the Blu-ray release.

A big question that I was asked was if one had to know about the series or watch it before watching this film and my answer is yes and no.  Yes, in the fact that you can see how much destruction there is when Vash the Stampede is around and his relation to the other characters such as Nicolas D. Wolfwood or even Mery Stryfe and Milly Thompson.  But there is enough explanation of why Vash is a wanted man and the writers do their best to make things more accessible for those who have never watched the series before.  The only thing that people who have never seen the series before will miss out on is the actual relationship Vash has with other characters.

With that being said, the storyline for “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” was enjoyable, but was it great?  Not great but good.  I guess after 12-years, I know others who watched the film have expected something deep or perhaps people expected something unexpected (perhaps a death of a beloved character)?   But with watching so many anime films derived from a TV series, most often the films have better production as expected from a film but the storyline comes up short.  So, I try not to have too high of expectations when it comes to animated films based on a series (unless it’s mecha related).

But for the most part, I really enjoyed the presentation, the backgrounds, the music, the action, the lossless audio and the number of special features included in this Blu-ray release.  There are many positives that I found with this release and for the most part, I’ve watched this film now three times because I enjoyed it so much.

Overall, if you are a “Trigun” fan, I highly recommend checking out “Trigun: Badlands Rumble” on Blu-ray.  It’s a solid release and you get your money’s worth.

Highly recommended!

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