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Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

Image courtesy of © 2016 Funimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete SeriesThe Asterisk War: Limited Edition Blu-ray Vol. 3

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: (Episodes 1-11) 275 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

Release Date: December 13, 2016


Originally Concept by Rampo Edogawa

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Makoto Uezu

Music by Masaru Yokoyama

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi

Chief Animation Director: Kouji Yamagata, Yusuke Kamata

Anime Production: Lerche


Featuring the following voice talent:

Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner as Hashiba

Rie Takahashi/Jill Harris as Kobayashi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Akechi

Cho/Mark Stoddard as Nakamura

Jun Fukuyama/Todd Haberkorn as Namikoshi

Kappei Yamaguchi/Jerry Jewell as Shitai-kun (Corpsey)

Katsuyuki Konishi/J. Michael Tatum as Kagami

Saki Fujita/Jad Saxton as Minami

Takehito Koyasu/Sonny Strait as Kage-Otoko (Shadow-Man)

Yōko Hikasa/Mallorie Rodak as Kuro Tokage (Black Lizard)


Inspired by the works of Edogawa Rampo, Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace tells a macabre detective story rife with symbolism and visual tricks that exist somewhere in the delicate balance between gruesome and gorgeous.

Middle school life was dull for the intelligent and charismatic Kobayashi, until the day he was framed for his homeroom teacher’s murder. After the event drew the media’s attention, an infamous high school detective inserted himself into the investigation. Brooding and brilliant, Akechi quickly cleared Kobayashi’s name and took the inquisitive young student on as his assistant. But for every case they closed, two more seemed to open in its place.

The streets were alive with whispers of one deadly name, Twenty Faces–a legendary murderer who killed criminals in the name of justice. With cryptic clues leading the way, Kobayashi and Akechi began following the trail of bodies left by the prolific killer. But will they be able to stop him before countless innocent people, inspired by his deranged cause, start following his lead?


In Japan, one of the most well-respected authors of mystery fiction novels was Edogawa Ranpo (Taro Hirai).  A pseudonym used by Taro is a rendering of one of his favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe.

In 2015, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edogawa Ranpo, a series titled “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace” was produced by Lerche and directed by Seiji Kishi (“Kamisama Dolls”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Fate/Prototype”) and a screenplay by Makoto Uezu (“Akame ga KILL!”, “Assassination Classroom”, “Danganronpa the Animation”).

The anime series is set at a middle school where several murders have taken place.  A 17-year-old middle school boy, who is mistaken for a girl named Kobayashi is blamed for dismembering his homeroom teacher.

A person who loves solving mysteries, Kobayashi and her good friend Hashiba (a popular guy who wants to protect Kobayashi at all costs) want to team up with Kogoro Akechi, a 17-year-old genius detective who solves abnormal crimes.

Kogoro offers Kobayashi to become his assistant only if he can find the killer responsible for dismembering his teacher.

As Kobayashi is successful in helping Kogoro, the trio then work on various cases such as trying to find the Shadow-Man, a thief accused of kidnapping several girls.  But also trying to find a vigilante known as Twenty Faces, who kills murderers who have not been brought to justice and killing them the way the murderers had killed their victims.

But as the trio investigates, Kogoro realizes that Twenty Faces may be tied to a person from his past.


VIDEO:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Colors are absolutely vibrant. There is slight softness, but that is expected with anime TV series. But overall, animation is solid throughout.  I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD Stereo 2.0. Both soundtracks are well-acted and are crystal clear through the front channels but with the 5.1 soundtrack, the English dub has an edge due to the use of the surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” features the following special features:

  • Episode 6 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Eric Vale, Justin Briner, Jill Harris and Sonny Strait.
  • Promotional Videos
  • Commercials – Japanese commercials
  • Textless Opening and Ending Song

EXTRAS:

“Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” comes with a slipcover and also both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the anime series.


In Japan, mystery manga and anime series are quite popular.  In fact, one of the longest running anime series still on television is “Meitantei Conan” (Case Closed) which has been airing since 1996 (and the manga series since 1994).

But part of the excitement surrounding the anime series “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is that it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of Rampo Edogawa.  An author known for creating mystery fiction novels and many works that were inspired by his original oeuvre.

Set for a modern age, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is a mystery anime series that focuses on murder cases, but primarily focusing on Twenty Faces, a vigilante who murders people who have not received justice for murdering their victims.

Where other mystery anime series have a humorous side and often a touch of darkness, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” has that but in a weird, unusual way, one of the main characters, Kobayashi (a boy who is often mistaken for a girl), has a different perspective of seeing things in life.  Perhaps it’s the way she was raised or the challenges in life that she has endured, but sometimes her thinking puts her in odds with her good friend Hashiba (a guy who obviously likes Kobayashi).

Meanwhile, main protagonist Kogoro Akechi is rather interesting in the fact that he also sees life in a different way, similar to Kobayashi.  But he has skeletons in his past that are slowly revealed throughout the anime series.

As for the Blu-ray, animation is fantastic as colors are vibrant and characters are well-drawn.  Lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese soundtracks are well-done, with the English dub receiving the 5.1 treatment.  But both soundtracks are well-acted.  As for special features, you get an audio commentary (possibly one of the worst Funimation audio commentaries that I’ve listened to), Japanese promotional videos and commercials.

Overall, “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace: The Complete Series” is for the anime fan who loves mystery anime series.  And it’s also easier to follow since it’s only eleven episodes long.  “Rampo Kitan – Game of Laplace” is an anime series worth watching!

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Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season 1, Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The second half of season one of “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is exciting and action-packed!   Featuring a major battle between the human army vs. the vampires!  What will happen when Yu and Mika reunite?  Find out in “Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season 1, Part 2”!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, Daisuke Furuya. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season, 1 Part 2

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episode 13-24 (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: September 27, 2016


Originally created by Daisuke Furuya (Storyboard), Takaya Kagami (Story) and Yamato Yamamoto (Art)

Director: Daisuke TokudoNaoyuki Tatsuwa

Series Composition by Hiroshi Seko

Music by Asami Tachibana, Hiroyuki Sawano, Megumi Shiraishi, Takafumi Wada

Character Design by Satoshi Kadowaki

Art Director: Seiko Yoshioka

Anime Production: Wilt Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaito Ishikawa/Ian Sinclair as Shiho Kimizuki

Kensho Ono/Justin Briner as Mikaela Hyakuya

Miyu Irino/Micah Solusod as Yuichiro Hyakuya

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Chris Burnett as Yoichi Saotome

Saori Hayami/Felecia Angelle as Shinoa Hiragi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Ferid Bathory

Yūichi Nakamura/Dave Trosko as Guren Ichinose

Yuka Iguchi/Alex Moore as Mitsuba Sangu

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Krul Tepes

Atsumi Tanezaki/Skyler McIntosh as Sayuri Hanayori

Daisuke Ono/Duncan Brannan as Norito Goshi

Kenichi Suzumura/Austin Tindle as Crowley Eusford

Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Jerry Jewell as Shinya Hiragi

Tomoaki Maeno as Kureto Hiragi

Yu Shimamura/Trina Nishimura as Mito Jūjō

Yui Ishikawa as Shigure Yukimi


With the Shinjuku Battle behind him and Mika lost to the side of the vampires, Yuichiro begins searching for a way to turn his old friend back into a human. But first, he and the rest of his squad must focus on controlling the powerful demons they’ve made contracts with. If they hope to survive, they’ll have to walk the line between being possessed by their demon’s powers and being completely consumed by them. As they continue training, a new threat appears in the form of Kureto Hiragi the ruthless lieutenant general of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. While he prefers to keep his true intentions hidden, Kureto makes it clear he can match the cruelty of any vampire. When he receives intel that the main unit of the vampire army plans to attack again, Guren and the rest of the Black Demon Army are sent on a suicide mission deep behind enemy lines. Their objective: exterminate the vampire nobles before humanity makes its last stand and the Seraph of the End is unleashed.


In 2012, mangaka Takaya Kagami (“The Legend of the Legendary Heroes”), artist Yamato Yamamoto (“Kure-nai”, “Denpa Tei na Kanojo”) and storyboard artist Daisuke Furuya teamed up to work on the dark fantasy manga series “Owari no Serafu”.

While the manga series is ongoing in Japan, the first season of the anime series was released on television in 2015 and was released on Blu-ray + DVD in the US in May 2016.

Produced by Wilt Studios, the anime series is directed by Daisuke Tokudo (“Guilty Crown”, “Hal”), series composition by Hiroshi Seko (“Attack on Titan”, “Ajin: Shototsu”, “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress”), character design by Satoshi Kadowaki (“Attack on Titan”, “Kannagi: Crazy Shine Maidens”) and art direction by Seiko Yoshioka.

“Seraph of the End” begins with an introduction of how an unknown virus brought the world to a sudden end. Only children under 13-years-old survived and those children were enslaved by vampires.

The story introduces us to an impulsive boy named Yuichiro Hyakuya who wants nothing more but to kill vampires. But his friend Mikaela Hyakuya is a boy who is more levelheaded and tries to get his friend to think straight and know they are not powerful enough to defeat them.

For Yuichiro, he wants nothing more but his fellow friends to escape captivity from the underground city of Sanguinem and reach the outside.

And one day, all of them decide to make their escape…but will they be successful?

Yuichiro Hyakuya wants nothing more but to get his revenge on the vampires who killed his friends, especially his best friend, Mikaela Hyakuya, who sacrificed his life in order for Yuichiro to escape.

Fast forward years later and as Yuichiro is wanting to become a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, the army responsible for fighting against the vampires, he needs to learn discipline and train for combat. But first he must go through the various tests in school which include being friends with others and being a team player, all are hard for Yuichiro to try and do.

But now is his chance to pass the test to advance, but it means having to partner with another hot-headed teen like himself, who doesn’t mind getting into brawls…Kimizuki.

Will Yuichiro, Kimizuki and Yoichi be ready for their next test? And will Yuichiro make new friends?

Meanwhile, what happened to Mikaela Hyakuya after Yuichiro escaped from the Vampire lair?

In the second half of the first season, Yuichiro still trying to learn more about his special abilities, must find a way to get his cursed gear Asumaru to work with him.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, interesting partnerships or rivalries created within the ranks of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army and the vampires. The Japanese Imperial Demon Army plans to launch a sneak attack on the vampire nobles and Yuichiro’s team must be ready to go into battle.

The problem is that they continue to work as individuals rather than a team and are not taking the attack as seriously as they should.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Imperial Demon Army is planning to launch a sneak attack on the vampire nobles and Yuichiro’s squad must take on the Fifteenth Progenitor vampire, Lucal Wesker.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Guren Ichinose and Major General Shinya Hiragi work together to take on the Thirteenth Progenitor vampire, Crowley Eusford and vampire nobles, Horn and Chess.

But with their Japanese Imperial Demon Army soldiers being depleted in the war against the nobles, do humans even have a chance?

Or is there a true enemy pulling the strings between the Japanese Imperial Demon Army and the Vampires?


VIDEO:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant and colorful. The background, especially the foreground artwork are beautifully painted and well-detailed, while the character designs are well-done and well-shaded. This is a gorgeous looking anime series and definitely a series a television series that caught my attention because it’s not soft, if features amazing detail and is full of colors and really does a great job of complimenting the manga series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” is presented in Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels and I heard no distortion while watching this anime series. The voice acting is fantastic for both Japanese and English soundtracks. Of course, with the English 5.1 soundtrack having better use of more audio channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season 1, Part 2″ comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 16 Commentary – Audio Commentary featuring Alex Moore, Ian Sinclair, Felecia Angelle and Dave Trosco.
  • Episode 21 Video Commentary -Video commentary featuring Monica Rial, Justin Briner, Eric Vale and Austin Tindel.
  • Episode 24 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Micah Solusod, Garrett Storms, Dave Trosco and Justin Briner.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Song
  • US Trailer
  • Promo Videos
  • BD/DVD Promos
  • Seraph of the Endless Parts 10-13 – (18:49) Hilarious omake that were shown at the end of each episode.

EXTRAS:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs for this first season.


“Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is a dark fantasy anime series based on the manga by mangaka Takaya Kagami (“The Legend of the Legendary Heroes”), artist Yamato Yamamoto (“Kure-nai”, “Denpa Tei na Kanojo”) and storyboard artist Daisuke Furuya.

The three teamed up to work on the dark fantasy manga series “Owari no Serafu” (“Seraph of the End”) and an anime adaptation courtesy of Wilt Studios. The series was rather enjoyable as the storyline featured children living underground as slaves of vampires. Literally, as cattle that they can feed upon.

Wanting nothing more but to escape the vampires even though they are not powerful, the main protagonist Yuiichiro is your typical headstrong teen who desires nothing more but to defeat them but desperately wants the power to do so.

But in order to join the Demon Army, he must make friends and learn the importance of family. But as for his orphan family and the person he was most close to, Mikaela…what will happen when Yuichiro find out the boy he called brother, has become a vampire?

While Mika became a vampire, he still harbors his hatred towards the vampires. While Yuichiro, thinking Mika is dead, has used his thirst for revenge to become a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, the army responsible for fighting against the vampires. And he has trained with his partners and received discipline and power to fight back.

But when he has a chance to kill the vampires, he is shocked to find out that the one he has to kill is Mikaela, and vice versa, as Mikaela finds out the vampire hunters he is to kill, one is Yuichiro.

But now that they know that one another is alive, what will happen to them now?

In the second half of the series, Yuichiro and his team prepare for the army’s sneak attack against the vampire nobles.  But the group are often messing around and not taking things as seriously as they should.

Do they know the ramifications if one of their own is killed in battle?  Are they ready to face the danger that is coming their way?  For now, the army thinks the team has zero chance because their lack of teamwork.

As the army prepares its sneak attack, the group must team up with Makoto Narumi’s team in order to take out the vampire, Fifteenth Progenitor Lucal Wesker.

Also, the series features the battle against Lucal Wesker but showing how the fight against the other nobles have led to the decimation of squads and now, Lt. Col. Guren Ichinose needs whoever is still alive to launch a fight against the powerful vampire, Crowley Eusford and fellow nobles, Chess and Horn.

Meanwhile, Mikaela Hyakyuya, Yuichiro’s childhood friend who has turned into a vampire is looking for him.  But what will he find?

There is quite a bit of potential that leaved me wanting to watch more after all was done, as the humans vs. vampires war seems to get exciting with each episode.

The animation production by Wilt Studio is fantastic! The series is colorful, well-shaded and the art backgrounds was really well done! The series really compliments the original manga style with violence, darkness and more! So, on Blu-ray, picture quality and lossless audio is fantastic! Voice acting is wonderful on both Japanese and English soundtracks, with the English dub getting a nod for its 5.1 lossless soundtrack!

And the Blu-ray also comes with a good number of special features including a video and two audio commentaries!

Overall, the second half of season one of “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is exciting and action-packed!   Featuring a major battle between the human army vs. the vampires!  What will happen when Yu and Mika reunite?

Find out in “Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season 1, Part 2”!  Recommended!

 

Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is an anime series that will entertain those who enjoy action-driven anime series with a good balance of humor and drama, cool characters and set in the Meiji era dealing with samurai and ninjas. How cool is that?  “Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © Kara Kemuri/MAG Garden, NTV, VAP. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series

ANIME SERIES AIR DATE: 2016

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12) 300 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Funimation

RATING: TV 14

Release Date: August 23, 2016


Originally created by Kemuri Karakara

Directed by Hiroshi Haraguchi

Series Composition by Yuuya Takahashi

Music by Shuichiro Fukuhiro

Character Design by Takao Maki

Art Director: Yuki Ikenoue

Chief Animation Director:Takao Maki

Anime Production: Doga Kobo


Featuring the following voice talent:

Yuichi Nakamura/Christopher Wehkamp as Tenka Kumo

Yuuki Kaji/Dave Trosko as Soramaru Kumo

Tsubasa Yonaga/Terri Doty as Chutaro Kumo

Kenichi Suzumura/Micah Solusod as Abe no Hirari

Rina Satou/Morgan Garrett as Botan

Takahiro Sakurai/Robert McCollum as Shirasu Kinjo

Hiroki Yasumoto/Christopher R. Sabat as Seiichirō Takamine

Yuuki Fujiwara/Clifford Chapin as Mutsuki Ashiya

Sayaka Ohara/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Kiiko Sasaki

Kousuke Toriumi/Eric Vale as Abe no Sōsei

Shinichiro Miki/Ian Sinclair as Naoto Kagami

Koji Yusa/J. Michael Tatum as Kotaro Fuma

Mamiko Noto/Jamie Marchi as Nishiki

Hiro Shimono/Joel McDonald as Rakucho Takeda


Under the cloudy skies of turn-of-the-century Japan, three brothers shine brightly. Orphaned at a young age, the responsibility of providing for the Kumo family fell to the eldest brother, Tenka. A skilled swordfighter and proud guardian of his rambunctious younger siblings, Soramaru and Chutaro, Tenka Kumo walks through life with unfailing optimism and devotion to his family. 

But heavy clouds are beginning to settle over their secluded shrine — a growing gloom that signals the return of a deadly serpent known as the Orochi. As the Japanese military’s Yamainu Squad searches for the serpent’s human vessel, the unrest caused by the strict laws of the Meiji era spreads rebellion across the countryside. 

As the Kumo family’s ancient connection to the Orochi comes to light, old rivalries will be reignited, and the brothers’ carefree life will give way to the darkness of an ancient prophecy. As long as they stick together, what’s the worst that could happen?


In 2011, manga artist Karakara-Kemuri would create a supernatural manga series titled “Donten ni Warau” (Laughing Under the Clouds) which was serialized by Mag Garden on “Monthly Comic Avarus”.

A 12-episode anime series adaptation was created by Doga Kobo in 2014 and now, the anime series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Funimation.  The series was also the first anime series for Funimation to show on their network, not long after the episode aired in Japan.  So, where directors and voice actors have time to shoot episodes and it being released months later, this series was a move to a direction where viewers want to see an episode released in US immediately after it is shown in Japan.

The series was directed by Hiroshi Haraguchi (“KAHEY – A Certain Captain’s  Life”), series composition by Yuuya Takahashi (“Luck & Logic”, “Lupin the Third”, “Tiger & Bunny”), music by  Shuichiro Fukuhiro (“Genshiken: Second Generation”, “Robot Girls Z” series), character design by Takao Maki *”Zegapain”, “Majestic Prince”) and art direction by Yuki Ikenoue (“Outbreak Company”, “Himouto! Umaruchan”).

The series is set around 1878 and takes place around the Maiji Restoration (which established imperial rule of Japan to Emperor Meiji and led to the end of the shogunate).  This would lead to samurai rebelling against the system and many escaping jail.

As the government builds a giant prison in the middle of Lake Biwa, the people responsible of taking them to the prison are the Kumo Brothers.

The Kumo Brothers also try to protect the Orochi’s vessel.  The Orochi is a serpent that has cursed Japan since ancient times and can bring havoc if it’s not sealed. Every several hundred years, Orochi tries to reincarnate into the body of a human and possess them.

The Kumo Brothers consists of:

  • Tenka Kumo – The eldest brother who is the parent of his younger brothers after the death of his parents.  He prefers to take on the enemies and not let his younger brothers fight.
  • Soramaru Kumo – The middle child who was entrusted with the family’s twin swords.  He feels that he needs to prove to people that he is strong and can protect the Kumo household like his brother.  Unfortunately, Soramaru suffers from amnesia due to a childhood trauma and witnessing his parent’s murder and nearly being strangled to death.  So, he does not like anyone touching his neck area.
  • Chutaro Kumo – The youngest brother and is the fastest of the brothers. He is always trying to prove himself to his brothers.

The brothers are assisted by Shirasu Kinjou, one of the last remaining members of the Fuma ninja clan and is currently freeloading at the Kumo shrine.

But trouble starts to set when people are after the Orochi vessel in hopes of resurrecting Orochi.


VIDEO:

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9). There is a lot of detail featured in the art backgrounds, a lot of characters featured and these characters have great detail and shadowing. Very good animation during the more action intense sequences.

I found no compression artifacts or any problematic issues with this Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. The series for the most part features crystal clear dialogue and music and there is good use of the surround channels during the action sequences.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” features the following special features:

  • Chapter 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by voice talents Christopher Wehkamp (voice of Tenka Kumo), Terri Doty (voice of Chutaro Kumo) and Dave Trosko (voice of Soramaru Kumo).
  • Episode 10 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Lead Adaptive Writer J. Michael Tatum (voice of Narsus) and voice talents Robert McCollum (voice of Shirasu)
  • Textless Opening Song #1 and #2 and Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer for “Laughing Under the Clouds”

EXTRAS:

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the series plus a slipcover.


For those wanting an action series that focuses on action, there is no doubt that many people will be entertained with the series “Laughing Under the Clouds”.

For one, it’s a short anime series with only 12-episodes, there are a lot of action sequences and a lot of cool characters, especially as it deals with three brothers taking on unforgiving samurai’s and also ninjas.

But the series is an interesting take on the Meiji era when the shogunate was disbanded, many samurai lost their jobs and those who didn’t like what happened, rebelled and crime rates increased.  And many samurai’s escaping incarceration.

In “Laughing Under the Clouds”, to house these criminals, an inescapable lake prison was created.  And the Kumo brothers led by the eldest brother, Tenka, are responsible for taking these criminals by water to the prison.  But the Kumo family does more than ferry criminals, they are also protecting the orochi vessel, which a monstrous orochi has been sealed for hundreds of years.

The Japanese military’s Yamainu Squad is looking for it but also others are looking for this vessel in order to unleash the Orochi.

While we see many people try to obtain the orochi vessel and people you think are on the side of good, showing their bad side, and also some on the bad side of things, showing their good side, “Laughing Under the Clouds” with its humor and action seems like a simple anime series but actually it’s quite complex.  And there are also many scenes that will no doubt touch you as some tragic things may happen throughout the series.  So, I’ll leave it at that and just say that for those who have interest in series revolving around samurai and ninjas, will enjoy this action-driven anime series.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is good. The series is colorful and I really didn’t see any issues with artifacts or banding. As for the lossless soundtrack, the English dub is very well-acted and the Japanese soundtrack as well. But the English dub gets a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD treatment, while the Japanese soundtrack only gets 2.0 (which is typical of anime TV series). And as for special features, you get two audio commentaries and more.

Overall, “Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is an anime series that will entertain those who enjoy action-driven anime series with a good balance of humor and drama, cool characters and set in the Meiji era dealing with samurai and ninjas.  How cool is that?

“Laughing Under the Clouds: The Complete Series” is worth checking out!

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season, 1 Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

seraph1

“Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is an exciting, dark and kick ass anime series that I look forward for the second season! An exciting and enjoyable anime series that I definitely recommend!

Image courtesy of © Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, Daisuke Furuya. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season, 1 Part 1

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: 2015

DURATION: Episode 1-12  (300 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 24, 2016


Originally created by Daisuke Furuya (Storyboard), Takaya Kagami (Story) and Yamato Yamamoto (Art)

Director: Daisuke TokudoNaoyuki Tatsuwa

Series Composition by Hiroshi Seko

Music by Asami Tachibana, Hiroyuki Sawano, Megumi Shiraishi, Takafumi Wada

Character Design by Satoshi Kadowaki

Art Director: Seiko Yoshioka

Anime Production: Wilt Studio


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kaito Ishikawa/Ian Sinclair as Shiho Kimizuki

Kensho Ono/Justin Briner as Mikaela Hyakuya

Miyu Irino/Micah Solusod as Yuichiro Hyakuya

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Chris Burnett as Yoichi Saotome

Saori Hayami/Felecia Angelle as Shinoa Hiragi

Takahiro Sakurai/Eric Vale as Ferid Bathory

Yūichi Nakamura/Dave Trosko as Guren Ichinose

Yuka Iguchi/Alex Moore as Mitsuba Sangu

Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial as Krul Tepes

Atsumi Tanezaki/Skyler McIntosh as Sayuri Hanayori

Daisuke Ono/Duncan Brannan as Norito Goshi

Kenichi Suzumura/Austin Tindle as Crowley Eusford

Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Jerry Jewell as Shinya Hiragi

Tomoaki Maeno as Kureto Hiragi

Yu Shimamura/Trina Nishimura as Mito Jūjō

Yui Ishikawa as Shigure Yukimi


The world of Seraph of the End Vampire Reign is overrun with vampires, and humans have been hunted to the brink of extinction. The only way they can fight back is with a series of demonic weapons known as Cursed Gear. Reserved for soldiers with exceptional talent, these weapons require humans to form pacts with ancient demons in exchange for their power.

Yuichiro Hyakuya is a young member of the Moon Demon Company, a prestigious army squadron armed with Cursed Gear and tasked with exterminating vampires. After the blood-sucking monsters killed his family when he was a child, Yuichiro vowed he wouldn’t stop fighting until every last one was dead.

But when a familiar face from his past appears sporting a new set of fangs, the line drawn between good and evil begins to blur. There’s something special about Yuichiro – a dark power that the vampires call the Seraph of the End. When that power is unleashed, will he be the key to humanity’s salvation or its complete destruction? Don’t miss out on the first season of Seraph of the End Vampire Reign!

 


In 2012, mangaka Takaya Kagami (“The Legend of the Legendary Heroes”), artist Yamato Yamamoto (“Kure-nai”, “Denpa Tei na Kanojo”) and storyboard artist Daisuke Furuya teamed up to work on the dark fantasy manga series “Owari no Serafu”.

While the manga series is ongoing in Japan, the first season of the anime series was released on television in 2015 and was released on Blu-ray + DVD in the US in May 2016.

Produced by Wilt Studios, the anime series is directed by Daisuke Tokudo (“Guilty Crown”, “Hal”), series composition by Hiroshi Seko (“Attack on Titan”, “Ajin: Shototsu”, “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress”), character design by Satoshi Kadowaki (“Attack on Titan”, “Kannagi: Crazy Shine Maidens”) and art direction by Seiko Yoshioka.

“Seraph of the End” begins with an introduction of how an unknown virus brought the world to a sudden end. Only children under 13-years-old survived and those children were enslaved by vampires.

The story introduces us to an impulsive boy named Yuichiro Hyakuya who wants nothing more but to kill vampires. But his friend Mikaela Hyakuya is a boy who is more levelheaded and tries to get his friend to think straight and know they are not powerful enough to defeat them.

For Yuichiro, he wants nothing more but his fellow friends to escape captivity from the underground city of Sanguinem and reach the outside.

And one day, all of them decide to make their escape…but will they be successful?

Yuichiro Hyakuya wants nothing more but to get his revenge on the vampires who killed his friends, especially his best friend, Mikaela Hyakuya, who sacrificed his life in order for Yuichiro to escape.

Fast forward years later and as Yuichiro is wanting to become a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, the army responsible for fighting against the vampires, he needs to learn discipline and train for combat. But first he must go through the various tests in school which include being friends with others and being a team player, all are hard for Yuichiro to try and do.

But now is his chance to pass the test to advance, but it means having to partner with another hot-headed teen like himself, who doesn’t mind getting into brawls…Kimizuki.

Will Yuichiro, Kimizuki and Yoichi be ready for their next test?  And will Yuichiro make new friends?

Meanwhile, what happened to Mikaela Hyakuya after Yuichiro escaped from the Vampire lair?


VIDEO:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” is presented in 1080p High Definition. The anime series is absolutely vibrant and colorful. The background, especially the foreground artwork are beautifully painted and well-detailed, while the character designs are well-done and well-shaded. This is a gorgeous looking anime series and definitely a series a television series that caught my attention because it’s not soft, if features amazing detail and is full of colors and really does a great job of complimenting the manga series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” is presented in Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels and I heard no distortion while watching this anime series. The voice acting is fantastic for both Japanese and English soundtracks.  Of course, with the English 5.1 soundtrack having better use of more audio channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign – Season 1, Part 1″ comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring Micah Solusod, Eric Vale and Justin Briner.
  • Episode 8 Commentary – Audio Commentary featuring Alex Moore, Ian Sinclair, Felecia Angelle and Micah Solusod.
  • Episode 11 Volume Commentary – Video Commentary Micah Solusod (voice of Yuichiro), Justin Briner (voice of Mikaela Hyakuya), Felecia Angelle (voice of Shinoa) and Alex Moore (voice of Mitsuba).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs
  • US Trailer
  • Promo Videos
  • BD/DVD Promos
  • Seraph of the Endless Parts 1-9 – (18:49) Hilarious omake that were shown at the end of each episode.

EXTRAS:

“Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign” comes with a slipcover and both the Blu-ray + DVD discs for this first season.


“Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is a dark fantasy anime series based on the manga by mangaka Takaya Kagami (“The Legend of the Legendary Heroes”), artist Yamato Yamamoto (“Kure-nai”, “Denpa Tei na Kanojo”) and storyboard artist Daisuke Furuya.

The three teamed up to work on the dark fantasy manga series “Owari no Serafu” (“Seraph of the End”) and an anime adaptation courtesy of Wilt Studios.  The series was rather enjoyable as the storyline featured children living underground as slaves of vampires.  Literally, as cattle that they can feed upon.

Wanting nothing more but to escape the vampires even though they are not powerful, the main protagonist Yuiichiro is your typical headstrong teen who desires nothing more but to defeat them but desperately wants the power to do so.

But in order to join the Demon Army, he must make friends and learn the importance of family.  But as for his orphan family and the person he was most close to, Mikaela…what will happen when Yuichiro find out the boy he called brother, has become a vampire?

While Mika became a vampire, he still harbors his hatred towards the vampires.  While Yuichiro, thinking Mika is dead, has used his thirst for revenge to become a member of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army, the army responsible for fighting against the vampires.  And he has trained with his partners and received discipline and power to fight back.

But when he has a chance to kill the vampires, he is shocked to find out that the one he has to kill is Mikaela, and vice versa, as Mikaela finds out the vampire hunters he is to kill, one is Yuichiro.

But now that they know that one another is alive, what will happen to them now?

There is quite a bit of potential that leaved me wanting to watch more after all was done, as the humans vs. vampires war seems to get exciting with each episode.

The animation production by Wilt Studio is fantastic!  The series is colorful, well-shaded and the art backgrounds was really well done!  The series really compliments the original manga style with violence, darkness and more!  So, on Blu-ray, picture quality and lossless audio is fantastic!  Voice acting is wonderful on both Japanese and English soundtracks, with the English dub getting a nod for its 5.1 lossless soundtrack!

And the Blu-ray also comes with a good number of special features including a video and two audio commentaries!

Overall, “Seraph of the End – Vampire Reign” is an exciting, dark and kick ass anime series that I look forward for the second season!

An exciting and enjoyable anime series that I definitely recommend!

 

 

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Violent, tragic, sexually explicit and audacious, these are words that can describe the animated film based on Kentarou Miura’s hit manga series.    And the third film in the “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc” is no doubt a shocker!  Studio 4°C no doubt manages to bring the pages of the manga series alive in “The Advent” and this third film will no doubt leave fans craving for more!  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © KENTAROU MURA (STUDIO GAGA) HAKUSENSHA/BERSERK FILM PARTNERS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent

YEAR: 2013

DURATION: 107 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio), English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: April 14, 2014

Originally Created by Kentarou Miura

Directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka

Screenplay by Ichiro Okouchi

Music by Shiro Sagisu

Character Design by Naoyuki Onda

Art Director: Goki Nakamura, Yusuke Takeda

Chief Animation Director: Naoyuki Onda

Animation Director: Satoshi Iwataki

Anime Production by Studio 4°C

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Iwanaga/Marc Diraison as Guts

Takahiro Sakurai/Kevin T. Collins as Griffith

Toa Yukinari/Carolyn Keranen as Casca

Aki Toyosaki/Rachael Lillis as Charlotte

Houchu Ohtsuka/Mark Thompson as Laban

Kazuki Yao/Sean Schemmel as Gaston

Kenta Miyake/Michael Alston Baley as Nosferatu Zodd

Minako Kotobuki/Michael Newman as Rickert

Rikiya Koyama/Jesse Corti as Adon Coborlwitz/Julius

Takahiro Fujiwara/Patrick Seitz as Pippin

Yoshirou Matsumoto/Doug Erholtz as Corkus

Yuuki Kaji/Christopher Kromer as Judeau

It’s been a year since Griffith’s imprisonment by the Kingdom of Midland. Once praised as the saviors of Midland, the Band of the Hawk is now on the run and on the brink of breaking apart. Much to everyone’s surprise, Guts returns to the Hawks, and the search for Griffith begins!

After his success in the battle of Midland, Griffith, the leader of the Band of Hawks was proclaimed a hero.  But with Griffith’s loss against Guts, in which Guts leaves the mercenary unit, changes happen immediately.

Feeling a loss of morale after his loss, Griffith sleeps with Princess Charlotte and is discovered by a maid.

This leads to the King wanting his revenge by capturing and torturing Griffith while having many of the members of the Band of Hawks being killed.

In “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent”, after a hiatus from the Band of Hawks, Guts returns to find out that the Band of Hawks has been decimated and that Griffith has been imprisoned.

And when Guts, Casca and the surviving members of the Band of Hawks goes to rescue him.  They find Griffith, but now malnourished, in a weakened state, tortured, broken and no longer the same, strong man they once knew.

What is “Berserk”?

In 1990, the manga series “Berserk” was published by Hakusensha for Jets Comics. Created by Kentaro Miura, the series would be serialized in “Young Animal” and a 25-episode episode anime series was made. Also, video games and now an animated film series.

With the first animated film “Berserk Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King” released in Japan on Feb. 2012 and in the U.S. courtesy of Viz Media on Blu-ray in Nov. 2012.

The second animated film “Berserk Golden Age Arc 2: The Battle for Doldrey” was released in theaters in Japan on June 2012 while the third animated film “Berserk Golden Age Arc III: Descent” was released in theaters in Japan on Feb. 2013. And now the second animated film was released by Viz Media in August 2013.

While many fans are drawn to the series for its medieval storyline, its violent action-packed storyline and its characters, for some, it has been a series that Kentaro Miura has taken his time with, as one to two volumes of the manga series are released each year. And as of 2o13, a total of 36 volumes have been released. So, for 20 years, this storyline has been released slowly but still is going strong and admired by many readers internationally.

As the films feature different animated artwork and voice acting since its 1997 anime series, the animated film series is produced by Studio 4°C and is directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka (“Gin Rei”, “Gunbuster”), screenplay by Ichiro Okouchi (“Angelic Layer”, “Azumanga Daioh”, “Brave Story”, “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”), music by Shiro Sagisu (“Bleach”, “Kimagure Orange Road”, “Nadia – The Secret of Blue Water”, “Neon Genesis Evangelion” series and films), character design by Naoyuki Onda (“Armitage III”, “King of Thorn”, “Ergo Proxy”) and art direction by Goki Nakamura (“King of Thorn”, “Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence”, “Cat Soup”) and Yusuke Takeda (“Armitage IIII”, “.hack/Quantum”).

“Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 – The Egg of the King” begins with a war between two countries. With one proud general asking the enemy for anyone to beat him in battle, no one volunteers to fight him except one. The Byronic hero known as Guts. Guts kills the general and his fight catches the eye of the mercenary group known as the Band of the Hawk.

After collecting his payment for killing the general, Guts is attacked by the Band of the Hawk and easily cuts them down. The group’s leader Griffith then sends the female soldier Casca to fight him but before Guts can kill her, Griffith shows up and shoots an arrow towards Griffith’s arm. Guts then tries to fight Griffith but to his amazement, Griffith is so quick and stabs him with his sword.

When Guts wakes up, he finds out he has been out and he was nursed back to life thanks to Casca and Griffith.

Upset that his enemy saved him, Guts wants to fight Griffith once again. Griffith tells him that if he beats him in battle, Guts must join the Band of the Hawk and essentially, he will own him.

The two then get into a fight but once again Griffith wins in battle and Guts must join the Band of the Hawk. He also tells him that he will be responsible for killing Guts, no one else. And that his motivation of needing Guts is to rule his own kingdom.

Fast forward several years later and Guts is seen fighting alongside the Band of the Hawk as a commander but his thirst of fighting and wanting to put himself in the battle before anyone, upsets Casca who screams at him for not taking the group into consideration. But still the men of the Band of the Hawk value Guts heroics and look up to him as a hero. As does Griffith.

One day, the Band of the Hawk goes after a rumored monster known as Zodd the Immortal. As usual, Guts goes into fight the thing before anyone else does and to his shock, Zodd is a monster. Despite being beaten, Guts manages to injure Zodd and earning respect by the monster, who now wants to fight and kill him. But the Band of the Hawk come to save Guts and Griffith tries to save Guts but both are injured while fighting Zodd.

As Zodd is about to kill Griffith, he sees the Behelit around Griffith’s neck. Zodd tells Guts to not trust Griffith, he is not a friend and by following him, it will lead to his death. And the monster flies away.

Guts is not sure what that warning meant but he is curious why the monster escaped when he saw Griffith’s Behelit.

As the two heal, Griffith continues his question to get closer to the nobles and the King.

In “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 – The Battle for Doldrey”, Guts has stuck with the group for three years in his own personal mission to pursue Griffith’s dream together with him and so he can be his equal. As Guts has shown how awesome of a fighter he is on the battlefield, with the promotion of Griffith to nobility, Guts must make a decision if he wants to pursue helping Griffith and the Band of the Hawk. Meanwhile, The Band of Hawk make their way to capture the impenetrable Fortress of Doldrey from the Empire of Chuder. Will they have a chance against an army of 30,000?

In “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent”, Guts has returned to the Band of Hawks to find out that many of the men were killed by the King and Griffith was imprisoned and tortured.  Finding a weakened, broken and tortured Griffith who no longer resembles the man he once was, the Band of Hawks have looked towards Guts as their new leader.

And while Guts and Casca have grown closer, for Griffith, being weak and unlike the man he once was has become too much for him that he makes a decision that will that will lead to tragedy, sadness and incredible anger.

VIDEO:

“Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The first thing that long time fans will see the creative difference that Studio 4°C brings to character designs but also giving a new look with detailed art backgrounds and the studio’s integration of 2D and 3D which they are known for. The anime is colorful, while not super detailed when it comes to shading of the characters, the art backgrounds and mechanical designs are quite pleasing to watch.

But I’m sure viewers will have a subjective opinion towards the overall look of the film versus how things looked in the original 1997 anime series and compared to the manga series.

The biggest difference with this third film is how the violence and sex scenes are presented.  There is no doubt that Studio 4C wanted to bring Kentarou Miura’s pages alive in the film adaptation.  While visually beautiful, the third film is no doubt bloody, violent and also sexual.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 MA with English subtitles. The dialogue and music is crisp and clear and while most surround usage is during the action sequence, the film utilizes a wonderful score from the legendary anime composer Shiro Sagisu. The voice acting is well-done on both Japanese and English soundtracks but it’s important for people to know that the voice acting does not utilize the same talent from the original 1997 animated TV series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Eiko Tanaka – (8:11) Interview with Eiko Tanaka of Studio 4C at SDCC 2012
  • Promotional Video “Breakthrough” – (5:05) Promotional music video
  • Outtakes – (21:35) Outtakes from “The Advent” and “Egg of the King” (28:45)
  • The Advent Promotions – Japanese teaser, trailers, three TV spots and Viz Media Trailer.
  • The Battle for Doldrey US Premiere Highlight Reel – (2:01) Char and Amy at New People Cinema for the world premiere English dub of the first two films.
  • Gallery – Using your remote, you can cycle through various sketches of characters for “The Battle for Doldrey”.

 

berserk-3b

With the third animated film in the “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc” trilogy, “The Advent” was a violent and shocking conclusion that will no doubt make fans of the films demand for more film adaptations of Kentarou Miura’s popular “Berserk” manga series.

“The Advent” introduces us to the creation of the major antagonist, major character deaths and shocking developments that takes the pages of the manga series and brings it to life.

There is no whittling down the storyline’s violence or sex scenes for this final film, the emotion, the turmoil, the sadness, the anger and also love to the most despicable scenes from the manga is brought to life through animation with efficacy.

While it’s difficult to discuss this film without spoiling it for anyone planning to watch these three films, I will say that the bond between Guts and Casca has finally grown and to see Griffith unlike the brave fighter of the first two films is surprising as he has been weakened, broken, tortured and no longer the same man.

And what happens in the second half of the film becomes surreal yet shocking.  And one can only hope that viewers are not left hanging and that more films based on the series are created.  And I’ll leave it at that.

For those new to “Berserk”, it’s important for them to know that like the animated TV series and the manga, this is one of the most violent series that was featured in Japan. And that violence carries onto the animated series. There is a lot of blood, a lot of decapitations, bodies cut apart, guts spilling out… this is a series that will appeal to those who like violent swordfighting action. The third film also features a major sex scene and also a rape scene, so consider yourself warned.

The Blu-ray features a colorful pallete with beautiful art backgrounds and utilization of 2D and 3D was good, dialogue and the beautiful music was crystal clear but not too immersive as I would have hoped. And fortunately this third Blu-ray disc features special features which is a plus!

Overall, “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent” is an entertaining yet violent action animated film based on the manga series.  It goes beyond the banal action or sex as the storyline is geared to the birth of evil and how the major antagonist in the series was created.

Violent, tragic, sexually explicit and audacious, these are words that can describe the animated film based on Kentarou Miura’s hit manga series.    And the third film in the “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc” is no doubt a shocker!  Studio 4°C no doubt manages to bring the pages of the manga series alive in “The Advent” and this third film will no doubt leave fans craving for more!  Recommended!

 

Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

sayilove-a

“Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Kanae Hazuki-KODANSHA/Say “I Love You” Committee.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection

ANIME SERIES RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: Episode 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0, English subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14 LD

Release Date: December 24, 2013

Originally Created by Kanae Hazuki

Director by Takuya Sato

Series Director: Toshimasa Kuroyanagi

Series Composition by Takuya Sato

Music by Yuuji Nomi

Character Design: Junko Watanabe, Yoshiko Okuda

Art Director: Yuka Hirama

Anime Production by ZEXCS

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Ai Kayano/Caitlynn French as Mei Tachibana

Takahiro Sakurai/Leraldo Anzaldua as Yamato Kurosawa

Minako Kotobuki/Emily Neves as Megumi Kitagawa

Nobunaga Shimazaki/Greg Ayres as Kenji Nakanishi

Risa Taneda/Monica Rial as Asami Oikawa

Tomoaki Maeno/Andrew Loves as Kai Takemura

Yumi Uchiyama/Carli Mosier as Aiko Mutō

Friends suck, and trusting someone is just setting yourself up. That’s the lesson Mei Tachibana learned after her heart was ripped out and only a shell was left where a girl used to be. But unlike so many, she found an easy solution: she’ll never make another friend. Ever.

 

Okay, maybe that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worked for Mei – or at least, it did until handsome, charming and annoyingly popular Yamato Kurosawa came along. For some freakish reason, he seems to like Mei. He even gave her his phone number! As if she would ever call him. Except she did. But only because she needed help. Still, he came. He actually came. And now things are getting way too complicated.

 

Mei’s no princess in a tower. She’s not waiting for a knight in shining armor to rescue her. So why did he have to kiss her and confuse everything? And why are those three little words so hard to say?

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In 2008, manga artist Kanae Hazuki created “Suki-tte Ii na yo” (Say “I Love You.”) which received a 13-episode anime adaptation in October 2012 and will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

Produced by ZEXCS, the series is directed and features series composition by Takuya Sato (“Steins;Gate”, “Strawberry Marshmallow, “Fate/stay night”), music by Yuuji Nomi (“Bokurano”, “Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honneamise”, “Whisper of the Heart”), character designs by Junko Watanabe (“Blood+”, “Eden ofthe East: Paradise Lost”) and Yoshiko Okuda (“Gatchaman Crowds”, “Hellsing Ultimate”) and art backgrounds by Yuka Hirama (“Initial D: Third Stage”, “Street Fighter alpha”, “Boogiepop Phantom”).

“Say ‘I Love You.'” is a series that revolves around a 16-year-old teenager named Mei Tachibana.  She has been bullied since she was a child, never had any friends and often teased by the girls in high school for her look and not having had a boyfriend.    And because of a childhood incident in which a rabbit died at her school and the children all put the blame on her, she has since had a lack of trust towards people, thinking that people want to get close and then betray you.

Meanwhile, at the same high school is popular Yamato Kurosawa.  All the girls want to be with him and his friend Kenji Nakanishi wishes he can be like him, but Kenji is often says things without thinking and turns them off.  But Yamato Kurosawa is the guy that many girls dream of being with.

But one day, Kenji runs into her and when Yamato sees her for the first time, Kenji tells Yamato that Mei is the quite girl that never talks to anyone and is often looking out the window in class.

One day, while Kenji was behaving crazy, he sees a girl (which happens to be Mei Tachibana) walking up the stairs and tugs on her blouse.  When Yamato tells Kenji to stop, Mei mistakens Yamato Kurosawa as the pervert and gives him a roundhouse kick.

All the girls are dismayed of what Mei has done but instead of being upset, Yamato laughs it off.

Meanwhile, when Mei opens her locker later in the day, she sees a letter from someone upset of what she had done and tells her that she better apologize to Yamato.  Meanwhile, inside her locker are many thumbtacks as a warning.

Yamato then shows up and wants to apologize to her for Kenji’s action, but Mei does the apologizing and gives him many band aids for his cuts he received after falling after she kicked him.  But feeling uncomfortable about being around someone, she tries to walk off quickly away from him but yet Yamato keeps following her wherever she goes. Yamato tells her that he wants to be friends but Mei doesn’t want to be friends.  He wants to get her phone number but she is not interested in giving it out.  So, he ends up giving her his phone number and tells her to call him if she wants.

One day while working at her bakery job, Mei is freaked out when one of the male customers starts following her wherever she goes.  Mei runs into the convenience store scared and the guy just continues to stand there waiting for her to come out. Mei tries to call her mother for help but her mother is not home.  Not knowing what she should do, she has the paper with Yamato’s phone number and she calls him for help.

Surprised that Mei has called her, Yamato rushes to her rescue.  He tells her to hold on to his arm while they walk out.  The guy who was waiting asks if they are dating and while he looks, Yamato gives Mei a long kiss.  Making the guy leave!

Mei trembles after receiving her first kiss but is not sure how to behave or how to interpret it.  But Yamato tells her that he helped her out with her problem and now he has her phone number and wants to be friends with her.

The next day, Mei tries to understand what happened the previous night but wonders if that kiss meant anything but she can’t help but start thinking and dreaming about Yamato.

She eventually meets Asami Oikawa, a good friend of Yamato and Kenji’s and she learns from Asami that Yamato has kissed every girl in school except one girl, Miki Arai.  Hearing that, Mei is hurt that Yamato can just kiss any girl without meaning.  And thinking that why would Yamato go for a girl like her, when there are beautiful girls like Asami, who is popular in school for her big chest.

But when she and Asami head to the restroom, she hears girls talking bad about Asami and bullying her because of her breasts.  Later that day, Mei overhears two girls talking badly about Asami and tries to tell them to stop talking badly about her and in the process, Mei gets beaten up by the girls.

When Yamato sees her with a big bruise and scratches on her face, she tells him that she fell.  But he takes one of the band aids he has given her and puts it on her face. As she heads to the clinic, she sees Asami and the two start talking.  Meanwhile, the girls that were talking bad about Asami and beat up Mei, show up and Asami learns that Mei got in a fight to protect her.

Meanwhile, as Kenji who was hit in the face by a soccer ball, goes to the school clinic, he sees the ruckus and tries to defend Asami but once again, he starts talking without thinking about why he likes Asami’s big breasts and she runs out crying.

Kenji is devastated that he hurt Asami because he really likes her, but Mei gives him some advice and when Kenji decides to listen to Mei, he goes to Asami and comforts her but also confessing his true feelings for her.

Meanwhile, later that day, Mei follows Yamato to the karaoke and inside, Miki Arai starts flirting with him but he’s not interested.  When he leaves, he sees Mei hiding and Mei confronts him about about kissing girls for the fun of it and that kisses are meant for people you love and a kiss should be with only a meaning of love.

Hearing that, Yamato confronts Mei and kisses her, kisses her repeatedly showing her a kiss that he has given for fun, but a passionate kiss that he gives for love and that the kiss he is giving her is because he feels love for her.

And the girl who had been living a life without friends, becomes the big talk at school as word gets around that she and Yamato are dating.  But of course, with many other girls wanting Yamato, life for Mei Tachibana in high school is not going to be quite easy.

But having had a life of not saying anything or standing back, will she continue loving Yamato, even if that means that she has to put up with a lot of pain?

The main characters of “Say “I Love You.” are:

  • Mei Tachibana – The main protagonist who is a girl who has been bullied by classmates all her life.  She has lived a life with no friends and staying away from people, feeling that people just want to get close and betray her.  So, she never wants to have friends but when she meets Yamato Kurosawa and he kisses her, that one kiss would change her life forever.  While she has never had many friends, she is quite blunt and tells people how she feels and in someway, it’s constructive criticism that ends up helping people.
  • Yamato Kurosawa – The most popular guy in school that many girls want to be with and also has kissed many girls, he falls for Mei Tachibana.  When Yamato was young, he used to be bullied until he got older and became popular with the girls.
  • Asami Oikawa – Asami is a good friend of Yamato and Kenji.  She has a complex about her breasts, which she has been teased throughout grade school and high school.  But she idolizes Yamato after he stood up for her.  She becomes good friends with Mei after Mei defends her from bullies. She is also dating Kenji Nakanishi.
  • Kenji Nakanishi – A good friend of Yamato who gets into trouble because he is always talking before thinking, especially about girls.  But he is in love with Asami and the two become a couple thanks to advice given to him by Mei.
  • Aiko Muto – She is dating Masashi Tachikawa but for the longest time, she has been in love with Yamato.  She can be cold and has a bad-mouth.  She has used a lot of cosmetics and lossed a lot of weight in order to become attractive for Yamato and because of her extreme use of cosmetics, she has damaged her skin.  She has had sex with Yamato before and thus, she can’t understand why Yamato would go for Me.  But although she sees Mei as a rival, when she is bullied by how she used to be and looked like, of all people to defend her from a bully…it was Mei.
  • Masashi Tachikawa – Aiko’s boyfriend and a person who has loved her, no matter how she looked like back then and now.
  • Kakeru Hayakawa – A guy who has slept and been with many girls like Yamato. But when he finds out that Yamato is dating Mei Tachibana, he can’t understand why he would go for a girl like her and wants to try to get close to Mei.
  • Megumi Kitagawa – A popular model who transferred to Yamato’s school.  When she was in grade school, she was teased and bullied and called ugly.  But now that she is a model and adored, she tries to win friends by giving them things and she despises Mei and can’t understand why Yamato would go for someone as plain as Mei.
  • Kai Takemura – A childhood friend of Yamato who was bullied and because he hid and neglected his studies due to the bullies, he moved away.  But he returns back, bigger and stronger and wanting his revenge on the bullies that tormented him. He is addicted to collectables from a theme park, “Land”.  But the first person he meets and falls for is a girl that works at the bakery shop….Mei.
  • Nagi Kurosawa – Yamato’s younger sister who is great at cooking and making stuff animals.  But after being betrayed by her friends who used her just to go to her house and have her cook for them, she feels that she has been betrayed and has stopped going to school, not wanting to be around people ever again.

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VIDEO:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in 1080p High Definition. I absolutely loved the character designs to this anime series and it’s overall look.  The series features a good emphasis on style, hairstyles and locations.  And manages to capture teenage life with well-detailed and shaded character designs and art backgrounds that are beautiful.

A vibrant anime series which I didn’t see any banding or artifact issues during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  While the series is front-channel driven series, dialogue and music is crystal clear and is appropriate for this teenage romance anime series.  While the Japanese voice acting is well-done and usually the version I prefer, in the case of “Say ‘I Love You.'”, Caitlynn French hits the ball out of the ballpark with this wonderful performance as Mei Tachibana.  The awkwardness, the sadness, the playfulness of Mei Tachibana’s character and capturing the eventual growth of her character before she meets Yamato and after, this was one of the best casting decisions I have heard in an anime series and I was very impressed with French’s performance.  Also, Leraldo Anzaldua did a fantastic job as the voice of Yamato.

But I absolutely loved the English dub for this anime series!  Great job by everyone involved.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Say “I Love You.”: Complete Collection” comes with clean opening and closing animation, Japanese promos and “Mei & Marshmallow” animations (typically shown at the end of an episode).

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I have watched and read plenty of Shojo series and I have to admit that I was captivated by Kanae Hazuki’s “Say ‘I Love You’.” anime series.

I have never watched or read the manga series before but it was unlike other anime series, which typically has become a cliche in Japanese animation, of a teenager falling for the handsome, popular guy in school.  Usually a storyline that features a love triangle or some situation that threatens the relationship, while “Say ‘I Love You’.” does follow a similar banality that we often see in shojo romance anime series, it’s different.

For one, “Say ‘I Love You’.” revolves around a teenage girl who was bullied and never had any friends.  She doesn’t know, nor does she care about the social atmosphere at school because she has shunned it, but her life of just trying to be the person that no one pays attention to, changes when she meets Yamato Kurosawa.

And because of how she is, that becomes the main drive of the series of wondering about her emotions, especially about jealousy, how to deal with rumors that she hears on campus about Yamato and how to deal with it.

Also, another major difference that “Say ‘I Love You’.” tries to showcase that even these beautiful girls at school, some have had history of unpleasant things happening to them.

I think anyone who has graduated from high school and looked back at those who were popular or unpopular and have reconnected with these individuals later on in life can understand how high school can really be a living hell for certain students.

Typically in an anime series, the well-endowed female character is often used as a sexual, fan service character which is long overused in anime but also manga.  But for the character of Asami Oikawa, life is not easy for her as other people may think.  Yes, they may get attention from the guys in school and people talk about that person behind their backs, but we see how its affected Asami Okawa and how she tries to hide it.

Aiko Muto is another example of a female who was uncomfortable with her life, lost a lot of weight and tried to experiment with so much makeup and somewhat destroying herself in order to pursue some type of perfection or trying to look beautiful.

Once again, a relevant topic as we have seen many young women (especially in Asian countries), who have had plastic surgery to change themselves to the point of no return.

Megumi Kitagawa is another example of one who has changed herself.  In this case, Megumi was called ugly and plain by people in school during grade school but now, she lives a life of trying to prove that she is beautiful and wants people to know it.  Especially wanting Yamato to be with her, now that she is beautiful.  But can’t understand why he would choose a girl who is unpopular and plain, something she has worked hard to change herself and not be.

And last, Yamato Kurosawa, the popular guy with many girls around him, also had a life that was not like that before.  He was bullied, he always hid from bullies and in the process, regrets how he treated his old friend Kakeru Hayakawa, by not sticking up for him when he was bullied, because of fear.

These are a lot of the cruel things that people endure through grade school and high school and rarely do you find a series who tries to show that bullying is not cool.  And the person in the series, of all people to defend or even speak her mind about how she feels, is no other than Mei Tachibana, the girl who has been bullied and never had any friends growing up.

It’s a very delightful, positive and enjoyable series that I literally watched from beginning to end.  I absolutely loved it!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality looks great in HD and as for the lossless soundtrack, while both Japanese and English soundtracks are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, while the Japanese was good, for the English dub, the voice acting by both Caitlynn French and Leraldo Anzaldua was fantastic.

Caitlynn French literally played the character of Mei Tachibana with amazing efficacy.  You feel, you hear the awkwardness through Mei’s voice, thanks to French’s performance.  It definitely made this series much more captivating that all talent for the English dub did so well and this is coming from a guy who typically prefers to watch anime with its original Japanese soundtrack.

As for the special features, its a little on the slim side with the usual clean and opening endings and you do get the Japanese promos but it would have been wonderful if an audio commentary was included.

Overall, “Say ‘I Love You’.” is no doubt one of the biggest surprises for 2013.  A delightful, addictive and wonderful teenage-romance anime series that I watched from beginning to end in one sitting. It’s that good!

“Say ‘I Love You’.” is highly recommended!

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