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Sailor Moon R: The Movie (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

There is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well. If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing! Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1993 TOEI ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sailor Moon R: The Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 1993

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 18, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Kunihiko Ikuhara

Screenplay: Sukehiro Tomita

Character Design by Kazuko Tadano

Music by Akiko Kosaka, Takanori Arisawa, Tetsuya Komuro

Art Design by Junichi Taniguchi

Animation Director: Kazuko Tadano

Anime Production: Toei Animation/TV Asahi


Featuring the following voice talent:

Aya Hisakawa/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Emi Shinohara/Amanda C. Miller as Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Michie Tomizawa/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

Rica Fukami/Stephanie Morgenstern as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Kae Araki/Sandy Fox as Chibi Usa

Keiko Han/Jill Frappier as Luna

Tohru Furuya/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

Yasuhiro Takato/Ron Rubin as Artemis

Hikaru Midorikawa/Ben Diskin as Fiore

Hiromi Nishikawa as Campanula

Mahito Ohba as Newscaster

Megumi Ogata as Mamoru Chiba (as a child)

Tomoko Maruo as Fiore (as a child)

Wakana Yamazaki as Flower Youma Gurishina

Yumi Touma as Kisenian


Long before Mamoru found his destiny with Usagi, he gave a single rose in thanks to a lonely boy who helped him recover from the crash that claimed his parents. This long-forgotten friend, Fiore, has been searching the galaxy for a flower worthy of that sweet gesture long ago. This Xenian flower is beautiful, but has a dark side- it has the power to take over planets! To make matters worse, the strange plant is tied to an asteroid hurling towards Earth! Faced with an enemy blooming out of control, It’s up to Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians to band together, stop the impending destruction and save Mamoru!


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

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

In 2016, Viz Media showcased “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” at Anime Expo featuring a new English dub, uncut for the first time in American theaters.

The original film was released in theaters back in 1993 and was directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and written by Sukehiro Tomita and takes place after the original “Sailor Moon R” series.

And now, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

The film begins with Usagi, Mamoru, Chiba-Usa and friends taking a trip to the Jindai Botanical Garden.

Meanwhile, we see a flashback of a young Mamoru giving a rose to a mysterious boy and the boy promising to return to bring Mamoru many flowers.

As Mamoru steps outside after the other Sailor Senshi are caught spying on the two as they are about to kiss, the mysterious boy, now a man comes to give Mamoru flowers and holds his hand.

Usagi sees the man’s affections towards Mamoru and Usagi tells him that Mamoru is her boyfriend and the mysterious man knocks her down and vows that no one will prevent him from keeping his promise and he disappears.

As the Sailor Senshi are talking among others, they talk about how Mamoru is not only popular with the women but also probably towards men.  Meanwhile, a ball of light is seen floating and buries itself to the ground and a flower grows.

The following morning, Rei meanwhile senses an evil aura and she and the other Sailor Senshi follow Rei and find many of the local city people all fallen to the ground.  When they go to check on them, the people awaken (like zombies) with plants controlling them and they try to attack them.

They find that the person responsible is a flower monster named Glycina and it drains energy from people. As the Sailor Senshi tries to fight her, Fiore appears and uses a flower called Xenian to hurt them.

As Mamoru shoes up to talk to Fiore and prevent him from fighting the Sailor Senshis, he learns that the Xenian is controlling his mind.  As Fiore tries to attack Usagi, Mamoru saves her just in time but is hurt.  Fiore manages to take the injured Mamoru away from Earth to an asteroid and plans to revive him in a crystal.

What is this connection between Fiore and Mamoru?  And can Usagi and friends save Mamoru and defeat Fiore?  And why is Fiore so angry?


VIDEO:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and one must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.

With that being said, this HD version is no doubt the best version I have seen of this film to date.  Having had the original Pioneer DVD, this Blu-ray release from Viz Media is much better in terms of color vibrance and sharpness.  I didn’t notice any major artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” is presented in Japanese and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both soundtracks are done quite well and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the front channels.  It’s important to note that this animated film on Blu-ray features the current cast featured on the Viz Media releases and not the English dub from the 2000 Pioneer DVD release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sailor Moon R: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette – (16:32) A special feature about the Sailor Guardians, a recap that was shown originally before the animated film in Japan in theaters (presented in Japanese and English).
  • Theatrical Intro with English Cast – (10:46) Featuring the English dub voice talent: Stephanie Sheh, Robbie Daymond and Ben Diskin being interviewed about the film.
  • 2017 Los Angeles Premiere – (34:29) Featuring a post-panel with Voice Director – Suzanne Goldish, the English voice talent of “Sailor Moon R” (from the Los Angeles Premiere) and cosplayers.
  • Gallery – “Sailor Moon R” image gallery
  • Trailer – “Sailor Moon R” theatrical trailer

Back in 1993, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was released in Japanese theaters and for many fans of the animated series, this was anticipated holiday movie release during the Christmas time in Japan.

At the time, Toei Animation really did a lot of promotion for the film, going so far to have a special “Sailor Moon and X’mas” event in Ginza limited to several hundred people.

One of the earlier personal anime-driven websites in the early ’90s owned by Hitoshi Doi, said of the movie, “It was a great movie.  Maybe my favorite movie of all time”.

Meanwhile, on anime BBS, there was a lot of discussion about the content and possible homosexual storyline about love between two boys.  A topic that was debated at the time and while not super controversial, it was enough for Pioneer Entertainment to release it in 1999 on VHS edited and in Japanese only with English subtitles.

But for the bilingual DVD release back in 2000, Pioneer Entertainment released it uncut but also an edited version of the VHS dub as it was censored for content.

Needless to say, with the release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie”, the goal was to release this film, with the new English voice cast that have been used for Viz releases.  But most importantly, to feature a storyline that is not censored but to accept what the original Japanese story had been about and not changing the story to reflect that two young male characters that do care about each other.

So, with the changing of the times, we have a new Blu-ray release of “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” that gets things right by not deviating from the story’s original intention.

I actually wrote back when the original DVD was released, “The movie is actually pretty good.  Touching in some areas and it’ll maybe make you want to cry.  When people buy this, they may think they can just buy this for their kids but if you want to explain to your children about homosexuality references and so forth, then go ahead and buy it.”

Watching this film nearly 25-years later and 17-years after the DVD was released, I look back and see Hitoshi Doi’s 1993 post and in Japan, they don’t make any references about two boys liking each other, in fact, fans loved it because of its dramatic storyline of sacrifice and love.  In addition to the action sequences involved as well.

It’s a shame that back then, companies had to censor the film and it was unfortunate, that I felt the need to warn parents because of the references.  Things have changed so much in terms of what can be accepted in film or pop culture in terms of references to LGBT.  If anything, there is no warning that should be needed.  Children watching this may think friendship, while its the parents who may be doing most of the questioning, hopefully people can watch this film and not make such a big deal of the references made between Mamoru and Fiore.

The story revolves around a young Mamoru and a boy named Fiore.  Mamoru gives Fiore a rose and a young Fiore made a promise to bring a flower back to Mamoru.  So, Fiore made it his life duty to fulfill that promise by searching for a flower across the galaxy just for Mamoru.

And when Fiore comes back as an adult to Mamoru to give him the flower he had found and showing his true affections that he has long had for Mamoru, Usagi tells Fiore that Mamoru is her boyfriend.

Needless to say, that doesn’t suit well for Fiore and to make things worse, since Fiore is possessed by the Xenian flower, he uses the power of the flower-monster Glycina to feed on people’s energy and uses it against Sailor Moon and friends.

But it’s a battle for Mamoru’s affections…who will win?  Usagi or Fiore?

No doubt the ending is quite predictable but the film features a strong dramatic storyline that shows how deep Usagi’s love for Mamoru and her friends.  And how far she will go to sacrifice her life for those who are important to her.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” looks very good in HD.  One must remember that this is an old school anime film and created with cels not digitally as anime is made today.  And handling of anime series were done differently back then and so you may see some occasional spotting in certain frames.  But colors and sharpness are wonderful and this is the best version I have seen of the film to date.

And for lossless audio, we get a lossless audio stereo track that sounds great in HD!

And this release also comes with the original Make Up! Sailor Guardians Featurette, which was shown prior to the film’s screening in Japan, to get fans and also non-fans up to speed about each character and where the story is heading at that point of time. Plus, you get interviews with the English cast and the post-screeening of the film panel shown at the film premiere in Los Angeles.

Overall, there is no doubt that “Sailor Moon R: The Movie” was ahead of its time. A classic, dramatic “Sailor Moon” film that manages to balance drama and action very well.  If you are a big fan of the film, definitely own this film on Blu-ray, it’s the definitive version worth purchasing!

Recommended!

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

April 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2

DURATION: Episodes 15-26 (276 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 28, 2017


Originally Created by Naoko Takeuchi

Director: Chiaki Kon

Series Composition: Yuji Kobayashi

Character Design by Akira Takahashi

Music by Yasuharu Takanashi

Art Design by Takashi Kurahashi

Anime Production: Toei Animation


Featuring the following voice talent:

Kotono Mitsuishi/Stephanie Sheh as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon

Rina Satou/Cristina Vee as Rei Hino/Sailor Mars

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

Hisako Kanemoto/Kate Higgins as Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury

Shizuka Itou/Cherami Leigh as Minako Aino/Sailor Venus

Sayaka Ohara/Veronica Taylor as Michiru Kaiō/Sailor Neptune

Kenji Nojima/Robbie Daymond as Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Kamen

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

Ryou Hirohashi/Michelle Ruff as Luna

Youhei Oobayashi/Johnny Yong Bosch as Artemis

Shoko Nakagawa/Debi Derryberry as Diana


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (a J!-ENT Anime on DVD Review)

November 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

dbz-resurresction

“Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'” manages to maintain the “Dragon Ball Z” animated film via popcorn action consistency. With a story focused on all-out action and the usual comedy, featuring the return of the Z Warriors taking on a more powerful Frieza, “Dragon Ball Z” fans will be no doubt be excited for this animated film! If you are a DBZ fan, “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © BIRD STUDIO/SHUEISHA, 2015 Dragon Ball Z the movie production committee. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’

DURATION: 95 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: October 20, 2015


Original Creator/Character Design by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Tadashi Yamamuro

Screenplay by Akira Toriyama 

Chief Animation Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Art Direction by Shinzo Yuki

Anime Production by TOEI ANIMATION


Voice by:

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Ryusei Nakao/Chris Ayres as Frieza

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Ten Shin Han

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Kouichi Yamadera/Jason Douglas as Beerus

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-Sen’nin/Master Roshi

Masakazu Morita/Ian Sinclair as Whis

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Gohan

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin

Natsuki Hanae/Todd Haberkorn as Jaco

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Shiro Saito/Jeremy Schwartz as Sorbet

Toshio Furukawa/Chris Sabat as Piccolo


Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is the second Dragon Ball film personally supervised by the series creator Akira Toriyama, following Battle of Gods. The new movie showcases the return of Frieza – one of the anime world’s greatest villains. Frieza has been resurrected and plans to take his revenge on the Z-Fighters of Earth. Goku and Vegeta must reach new levels of power in order to protect Earth from their vengeful nemesis.


As the worldwide popularity of “Dragon Ball Z” continues, a 15th film was released in 2015 titled “Dragon Ball Z: Fukkatsu no F” (“Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection “F”).

The animated film did very well in Japan as it took #1 in the Japanese box office earning over $8.1 million (US) and also did very well internationally.  In the US, the film was the first Japanese film to be screened in IMAX 3D and was also screened in Japan at ten 4DX theaters.  The $5 million animated film went on to gross over $62.8 million in the box office making it a major box office success in 2015.

And the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

The film begins with Frieza’s army featuring Commander Sorbet knowing how bad things are without their leader.  But with their Intel which shows that Bulma was not the only human that has the technology to find Dragon Balls, Commander Sorbet and his crew go to Earth in hopes of reviving Frieza by finding Pulaf, Mai and Shu who are in the process of collecting Dragon Balls.

As Sorbet uses the Dragon Ball to revive Frieza, Frieza is briefed on how powerful Son Goku has become, even beating Majin Boo, that he will trained to become even more powerful and will exact his revenge.

As news has traveled throughout space, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman travels to Earth to warn Bulma that Frieza has returned.  But Goku and Vegeta are gone and are training on Beerus’ planet with Whis.  Which leaves Gohan, Piccolo, Krillin, Master Roshi, Tien Shinhan and Jaco to take on Frieza and his soldiers.

As the Z Warriors are not powerful enough to take on Frieza, Bulma sends a distress message to Goku and Vegeta, but are both men ready to take on this newly trained Frieza?


VIDEO & AUDIO

It’s important to note that if you want the best video and audio quality of “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'”, the Blu-ray is the way to go.  As for the DVD, picture quality is very good (as the best it can get on DVD).  Colors are vibrant, the English and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack features crisp and clear dialogue and music, while there are good use of the surround channels on both soundtracks.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features that came with “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'”.


I happened to be in Japan during the promotion of “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'” and there was no doubt, a lot of excitement for the movie.  The battle between Goku and Frieza was one of the biggest anime battles of all time and while there have been many battles showcased on the “Dragon Ball Z” anime series.

I watched the Goku vs. Frieza arc when it first was broadcasted in Japan and was also reading the Japanese “Shonen Jump”, so I was really into these characters and storyline at that time.

So, I have to say that when I found out that Frieza was being revived, while it does make sense, part of me was hoping that the storyline of Frieza’s death would be left alone.  As we saw how the storyline in relation to Frieza was played out with his older brother Cooler, for the fifth and sixth movies, there was part of me that wanted to see the Frieza storyline to be left in the past and new villains to be focused on from here on in.

With “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'”, Frieza has been revived and after hearing of how Goku has gotten popular, Frieza decides to train for the first time in his life and has now become even stronger and can achieve “Golden Frieza” mode.  And now, a more powerful Goku and Vegeta must take on an even more powerful Frieza, but can they do it?

As a “Dragon Ball” fan, one of the positives of this latest film is to see all Z Warriors making their appearance but one of the biggest surprises for me was to see the Galactic Patrolman, JACO in the film.  Having read Akira Toriyama’s JACO one-shot manga (as the manga series shows a relation to Bulma’s family, moreso with her older sister, Tights), it was wonderful to finally seeing this character animated and utilized in a “Dragon Ball Z” film.

But of course, when you have a story that focuses on Frieza, one can expect an intense battle and for the most part, the storyline doesn’t disappoint when it comes to action.  But part of the excitement in the past, is that Goku and friends are often pushed to the extreme because the situation is quite dire and we see an intense buildup with many episodes in order to have the ultimate battle between Goku and an antagonist.  With a film, there is no true buildup, it’s just a fight and then it’s all over in 95 minutes.

Not to say that it’s bad without the buildup but that’s what made the battles between Goku vs. Piccolo, Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, Majin Boo so exciting! Otherwise, the animated “Dragon Ball Z” films are often quick, popcorn action animated films and are not as satisfying as its TV series counterpart.

When it comes to DBZ animated films, my barometer of best story is the fifth film, “Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan” and have felt the Broly-related DBZ films were so much fun to watch, as didn’t feel rushed.

With “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F'”, the animated film tries to incorporate so many characters and this ongoing bickering between Goku and Vegeta was a bit much.  Nevertheless, I did enjoy the animated film and really, to have Frieza as the main antagonist for a DBZ film is huge.  So, I had no doubt in my mind that with the resurrection of Frieza, Toei Animation were no doubt wanting to go big with an international release.  And for the most part, it paid off as the film did remarkably well in box offices worldwide.

As for the DVD, as mentioned, you will definitely want to go with the Blu-ray release if you want the best video and audio quality.  But on DVD, picture quality is good as it can get on DVD.  Colors are vibrant and the voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done!  The only drag about this DVD release is the lack of special features (aside from FUnimation trailers).

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'” manages to maintain the “Dragon Ball Z” animated film via popcorn action consistency.  With a story focused on all-out action and the usual comedy, featuring the return of the Z Warriors taking on a more powerful Frieza, “Dragon Ball Z” fans will be no doubt be excited for this animated film!

If you are a DBZ fan, “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘f'” is recommended!

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition (Movie 14) (a J!-ENT Anime on Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

dbz-movie14

 “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is an animated film that “Dragon Ball” fans have hoped of happening for 17 years, but is it the best “Dragon Ball” film ever made? The answer is no. But I do feel that “Battle of the Gods” was exciting for the fact that the film had “Dragon Ball” creator, Akira Toriyama’s involvement and that he tried to feature as many characters from the series as possible. A fun and entertaining “Dragon Ball Z” animated film!  If you are a fan of the manga/anime series, then “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2014 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition (Movie 14)

DURATION: Theatrical Cut (1:25:15), Uncut Version (1:45:10)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 4×3 Native Aspect Ratio, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: TV14

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Original Creator: Akira Toriyama

Director: Masahiro Hosoda

Story: Akira Toriyama

Music by Norihito Sumitomo

Character Design: Akira Toriyama

Art Director: Hiroshi Kato, Hirotsugu Kakoi

Art Design: Hiroshi Kato

Produced by Gyarmath Bogdan, Rioko Tominaga

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kouichi Yamadera/Jason Douglas as Destruction God Beerus

Masakazu Morita/Ian Sinclair as Wiss

Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Masako Nozawa/Kara Edwards as Son Goten

Takeshi Kusao/Laura Bailey as Trunks

Aya Hirano/Justin Cook as Dende

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Jouji Yanami as Kaio-sama/Narrator

Kôzô Shioya/Josh Martin as Buu

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-Sen’nin (Master Roshi)

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Kuririn

Miki Itou/Meredith McCoy as Android 18

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Tohru Furuya as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Unshou Ishizuka/Chris Rager as Mr. Satan

Yuko Minaguchi/Kara Edwards as Videl

Eiko Yamada/Colleen Cllinkenbeard as Mai

Jouji Yanami as Dr. Briefs

Kaori Matsumoto as Police woman

Kenji Utsumi as Shenlong

Naoki Tatsuta as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Brina Palencia as Puar

Ryouichi Tanaka as Old Kaioshin

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo as Gyuu Mao

Shigeru Chiba/Chuck Huber as Pilaf

Shinichi Karube as Sushi Seller

Shoko Nakagawa as Yogen Gyo

Takahiro Fujimoto as Bubbles

Tesshô Genda as Shuu

Youko Kawanami as Bulma’s Mother

Yuji Mitsuya as Kibitoshin

Following the events of the Dragon Ball Z television series, after the defeat of Majin Buu, a new power awakens and threatens humanity. Beerus, an ancient and powerful God of Destruction, searches for Goku after hearing rumors of the Saiyan warrior who defeated Frieza. Realizing the threat Beerus poses to their home planet, the Z-fighters must find a way to stop him before it’s too late. Only Goku, humanity’s last hope, can ascend to the level of a legendary Super Saiyan God and stop Beerus from destroying Earth, and possibly the entire universe!

In 2013, the 14th “Dragon Ball Z” film (the 18th “Dragon Ball” film overall) titled “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” premiered in theaters in Japan.

The first “Dragon Ball” movie in 17 years, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is the first film in the movie series that was created as part of the “Dragon Ball” canon and is set during the time skip in chapter 517.  It was also a film in which the original creator, Akira Toriyama was involved and now, the film will make its first appearance on Blu-ray in North America courtesy of FUNimation.

The film features Beerus, the God of Destruction, being awakened by Whis from a long slumber.

With Beerus awakened, this has caused distress for many, including Kaio-sama (King Kai), who tries to keep the existence of Beerus as a secret and knowing that if Son Goku finds out, Goku would do anything to fight him as Goku has always wanted to be the most powerful person in the world.

As Goku is on Planet being trained by Kaio-sama, back on Earth, the Z Warriors are celebrating the birthday of Bulma and everyone is having fun.

On the day that Beerus and Whis come to visit Kaio-sama, in search of the God of Planet Saiyajin, Goku meets Beerus and challenges him to a duel.  Beerus allows for it to happen and gives Goku a chance to fight him with all his power.

But even at Level 3 Saiyan, Goku is easily defeated with two blows.

Meanwhile, Beerus the Destroyer heads to Earth in search of the Super Saiyan God and Kaoio-sama sends a message to Vegeta to protect his friends as Goku was easily beaten with two punches.

But to Vegeta’s surprise, Beerus arrives and interrupts the party and as the Z Warriors fears the destruction of Earth, can the Z Warriors fight against the powerful Beerus?

As Goku tries to learn how he can beat a God, he learns from Shenglong that the power of six pure-hearted Saiyans can help him reach the Super Saiyan God form.  But can Goku defeat Beerus, the god of destruction?

VIDEO:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  As expected from a newer “Dragon Ball Z” film, the colors are vibrant and there is also good use of CG for coloring and shading for background art but also buildings/castles.  Picture quality is sharp and the film looks fantastic in HD!

With that being said, I do feel there is a major difference from the cell-shaded “Dragon Ball Z” films in terms of background art and cell shading, but I do feel the older “Dragon Ball Z” films had something magical in terms of background art and cell work.  But this latest animated film does showcase the vibrant colors in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is presented in Japanese and English Master Audio 5.1. with English subtitles.  Dialogue and the film’s musical soundtrack is crystal clear and there are no signs of crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition″ comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes: Battle of Voice Actors – (9:53) A look at the American English dub actors at the studio doing various scenes from the film.
  • The Voices of Dragon Ball Z: Unveiled – (19:22) Featuring the American English dub actors of “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods”.
  • Textless Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailers – “Dragon ball Z” trailers
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

For many of us that read or watched “Dragon Ball”, many of us have wondered if Akira Toriyama would bring fans a new “Dragon Ball” story.

Of course, a few years ago, fans were given a chance to see “Dragon Ball” remastered and made into “Dragon Ball Kai” with new bits of animation.  But fans have wanted to see these characters come back into animated form, not just for video game sake.

And in 2013, the first “Dragon Ball” film to be release in Japan in 17 years, was released in Japan with major PR buildup, especially all over Tokyo, with exhibitions to Kentucky Fried Chicken leading the charge of “Dragon Ball” swag.

Here we are in 2014 and “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” has now made its way to America on Blu-ray via an extended edition which includes the theatrical version of the animated film and a 20-minute longer uncut version.

I typically don’t put too much into “Dragon Ball” films, for this one, it was an exception as Akira Toriyama has said its part of the series’ canon and also, for any fan of the series, you can’t help but be excited to see everyone reunite once again!

While I did enjoy “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” as a fan of the series, I was hoping for more focus on the action rather than a story that tries to bring out every character.

Yes, we get mega action as Goku takes on the god of destruction, Beerus but we also get the comedy that we have typically seen in a “Dragon Ball Z” filler episode.

Aside from the battle, we also get Emperor Pilaf, Shu and Mai trying to steal the Dragon Balls.  Gohan donning the Super Saiyaman outfit once again, Gotenks and Trunks doing the fusion combo and while Trunks tries to impress Gotenks and his mother that he is dating the very short but 40-something year-old Mai, for those wanting some of that comedy will be happy, while those used to the action-driven storyline may find the film straying too far from the action.

But sometimes the comedy is a bit too cheesy.  For example, I found it ridiculous that Beerus was getting jealous of Buu over pudding cups and then all the Z Warriors taking him on and not getting very far.

But when the film does get to the action, especially seeing Vegeta going all out against Beerus, you can’t help but be excited to see Vegeta and also Goku kicking some major butt!

While the extended uncut version of the film is included, I felt the theatrical version was much better because the uncut version just went too long.  I watched the uncut version first and felt part of the story needed trimming down and fortunately, for the theatrical cut, they made the necessary 20-minutes of cuts that was needed.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looked absolutely vibrant and is full of color.  This is the cleanest, sharpest and most colorful “Dragon Ball Z” animated film yet and it looks great on Blu-ray!  Also, both lossless soundtracks are very good and both acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done!  While there are no major Japanese featurettes included on the Blu-ray release, you do get two English dub FUNimation featurettes.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods” is an animated film that “Dragon Ball” fans have hoped of happening for 17 years, but is it the best “Dragon Ball” film ever made?  The answer is no.   But I do feel that “Battle of the Gods” was exciting for the fact that the film had “Dragon Ball” creator, Akira Toriyama’s involvement and that he tried to feature as many characters from the series as possible.

A fun and entertaining “Dragon Ball Z” animated film!  If you are a fan of the manga/anime series, then “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods – Extended Edition” is recommended!

One Piece: Collection 9 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-c9

The conclusion of Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also the first confrontation between the Straw Hat Pirates and one of the three, Marine Admirals.  Exciting, crazy but so much fun, “One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended! 

Image courtesy of © 2001 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Collection 9

DURATION: Episodes 206-229 (Duration: 600 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: April 15, 2014

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

When Luffy and his mates drop anchor at the bizarre island of Long Ring Long Land, they’re challenged to a Davy Back Fight by the fast-talking Foxy Pirates! The Straw Hats are no strangers to squabbles, but the sacred code of pirates decrees that this contest could cost Luffy his crew!

 

Next on the horizon for the Hats, it’s a case of missing memories as everyone but Robin forgets they ever knew each other. Usopp is quick to claim the title of captain, and Zoro does the unthinkable by attacking Luffy! Can Robin recover the crew’s lost recollections before disaster strikes?! She’d better work fast, because far greater foes lie ahead, and the Straw Hats will need all hands on deck if they hope to survive the return of Captain Foxy – and the icy arrival of Admiral Aokiji!

The “Davy Back Fight” competition between Luffy (with an afro wig) vs. Foxy concludes, but who will be the victor?  Meanwhile, while sailing at sea, Nico Robin finds out that everyone on the ship (who has fallen asleep), has lost their memory.  Get a glimpse of each Straw Hat Pirate’s past life before they joined the group.

And as Luffy and Foxy continue to challenge each other, the Straw Hat Pirates come across  the first of the powerful three Marine admirals, Admiral Aokiji.  And the fact that this man has Nico Robin cowering in fear, goes to show how powerful and deadly this man really is.  But why has he been searching for the Straw Hat Pirates?

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide. The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is at 563 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One”.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

“One Piece”, Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates continue their search for “One Piece” and last when seen them, the Straw Hat Pirates were taking on the Marines who have captured them and have taken all their treasure.

But the crew have managed to work as a team and take back their treasure. Now they escaped from the Marines but immediately come into contact with a mysterious pirate ship and are captured by the Foxy Pirate crew. And now Captain Foxy and his subordinates have challenged Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates to a “Davy Back Fight” contest and to make things worse, the Foxy Pirate Crew have taken Chopper and if the Straw Hat Pirates don’t win, Chopper will need to join their crew.

The “One Piece: Collection 9” comes with episodes 206-229 on four DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are actually considered as season 7). Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

  • EPISODE 206 – Farewell, Marine Fortress! The Last Battle for Escape! – How will the Straw Pirates crew escape from the Marine Fortress?
  • EPISODE 207 – Great Adventure at Long Ring Long Land – The Going Merry is captured by the Foxy Pirate Crew.
  • EPISODE 208 – A Davy Back with the Foxy Pirates – Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates are challenged by the Foxy Pirate crew in a Davy Back Fight.
  • EPISODE 209 – Round 1! One Lap of the Donut Race! – The first challenge….a tiny boat race around the island.
  • EPISODE 210 – Silver Fox Foxy! The Merciless Interference! – Fox shows off his Devil Fruit powers and Porche takes Chopper.
  • EPISODE 211 – Round 2! Shoot It Into the Groggy Ring! – The Straw Hat Pirates vs. the Foxy Pirates in a ball game.
  • EPISODE 212 – A Barrage of Red Cards in Groggy Ring! – Sanji and Zoro must work together in order to win…but can they?
  • EPISODE 213 – Round 3! The Round-and-Round Roller Race! – The next round…roller skate competition.
  • EPISODE 214 – A Seriously Heated Race! Into the Final Round! – The Straw Hats come back and now it’s time for the final round!
  • EPISODE 215 – Screaming-Hot Bombardment! Pirate Dodgeball! – Chopper returns back to the Straw Hats but instead of leaving, Luffy accepts another challenge by Foxy.
  • EPISODE 216 – Showdown on the Cliff! Red Light, Green Light! – Foxy takes Robin from Luffy.
  • EPISODE 217 – The Captains Square Off! The Final Combat Round! – It’s the final game….a battle between Luffy and Foxy in a battle of brawn aboard Foxy’s ship.
  • EPISODE 218 – The fight between Luffy and Foxy continues!
  • EPISODE 219  – The conclusion between the battle of Luffy and Foxy.
  • EPISODE 220 – Nico Robin finds out that all the Straw Hat Pirates have lost their memories.
  • EPISODE 221 – Robin and the group try to piece how they lost their memory and what they remember the night before.
  • EPISODE 222 – The group try to find out who is responsible for stealing their memories.
  • EPISODE 223 – Before they can restore their memories, the group must find the entranced Zoro.
  • EPISODE 224 – The thing responsible for stealing memories, tries to steal the memories of the local townspeople.  Can Luffy stop it?
  • EPISODE 225 – The Straw Hat Pirates find a troubled Foxy, Hamburg and Porche stranded in sea.
  • EPISODE 226  – Foxy wants one more battle vs. Luffy.
  • EPISODE 227 – The group encounter the first Marine High Admiral, Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 228 – The Straw Hat Pirates vs. Aokiji.
  • EPISODE 229 – The Straw Hat Pirates meet an old woman named Kokoro and her daughter Chimney, who gives them a map to Water Seven.

VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

It’s important to note that in Japan, the 207th episode was the first “One Piece” episode to be broadcasted in HD and in widescreen. So, it will be interesting to see if FUNimation does release this season on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the series is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most awesome English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

One Piece: Collection 9″ comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 211 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actors Ian Sinclair, Eric Vale and Christopher Sabat.
  • EPISODE 215 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actresses Tia Ballard (Porche) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy).
  • EPISODE 218 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice actress Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) and Jonathan Brooks (Foxy the Silver).
  • EPISODE 229 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talent Stephanie Young (Nico Robin) and Sonny Strait (Usopp).
  • Textless Songs – Textless songs for “BON VOYAGE”, “Kokoro no Chizu”, “Dreamship” and “Eternal Pose”.
  • U.S. Trailer – Funimation trailer.
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases.

With this new DVD volume, the Straw Hat pirates have escaped the Marine Fortress but after escaping one troublesome group, they run into another. This time they run into the very odd Foxy Pirate crew.

These episodes are actually quite fun and what makes it so different from past antagonists is that the Captain Foxy and his crew are somewhat, like rejects. Obviously, Captain Foxy and his crew have not received any recognition, so that is why they are taking on the Straw Hat Pirates who have gained notoriety and are wanted by the marines.

And as odd as Foxy and his crew look, you think it’s all fun and games until you realize that the Straw Hat Pirates are put at a disadvantage (Foxy Pirates are constantly cheating) but suffice to say, Luffy and gang have met another challenge. We see Zoro and Sanji being put together as a team and this is a major challenge as both teammates are always at each other’s throat. And because they are distracted towards each other, they are in dangerous of losing their matchup.

Possibly the cutest situation of this entire volume is seeing Chopper being taken by Porche and with Tony Tony Chopper in tears, the crew makes him remember he is a man and must be brave and watching his character trying to put on brave face for his teammates.

But this is probably one of the craziest seasons of “One Piece” that I have seen yet. These episodes are essentially a game competition filled with colorful, odd looking characters but yet so fun to watch. It may not be the darkest or most threatening of adversaries but despite how nonthreatening or goofy the Foxy Pirates look, they have become an interesting opponent so far. And it’ll be interesting to see how things continue for the remainder of this series and to see if Foxy does pose a threat in the next few episodes.

This set also features the conclusion of the season as we get battles between Luffy vs. Foxy the Silver but also insight to the past history of a few of the members of the Straw Hat Pirates, especially learning why Nami desires money so much, and it’s not about greed but something tragic that happened in her past.

But also, ending with the confrontation with Marine High Admiral Aokiji and the fact that Nico Robin is shaking in fear in Aokiji’s presence, goes to show that this man is powerful and dangerous!

With “One Piece: collection 9”, with episode 207 being the first episode to be broadcast in HD and widescreen in Japan, it would be awesome if the series would get a Blu-ray release in the United States. But as for the DVD, the DVD is colorful, vibrant and looks good on DVD, but it would be interesting to see how this series would look in HD and I’m looking forward to whenever that day comes. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, we do get two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

It’s important to note that this is a re-release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage One” and “One Piece: Seaason Four, Voyage Two” which were released back in 2012.  But the benefit of buying the collections is that you get nearly two dozen episodes and is great if you have never watched “One Piece” and are looking for an economical way to watch the series, considering there are many episodes included.

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul.  While, we are 229 episodes down and are over 400 more episodes behind Japan, it is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is.

“One Piece: Collection 9” is recommended!

One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

onepiece-s4v4

As for “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, the storyline is fantastic, action-packed and also drama to keep you captivated to the overall storyline.  Find out why Nico Robin left the Straw Hat Pirates and learn more about the history of Franky as his past is revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”!  “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four

DURATION: Episodes 242-252 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

Things have never looked bleaker in the world of One Piece. The Going Merry is no longer seaworthy, Robin and Usopp have left the crew, and the rest of the gang stands accused of a cold-hearted assassination attempt! Luffy and his remaining mates have a plan to prove their innocence, but a mysterious gang of cutthroat killers are one step ahead of their every move. Dark secrets and tragic pasts are revealed while a monstrous storm threatens to sink the city!

Contains episodes 242-252.

For the Straw Hat Pirates, having lost Usopp who decided to leave the group and stay with the broken down ship, Going Merry, one member gone from the Straw Hat Pirates is a big loss.

But two?

Nico Robin has decided to leave the Straw Hat Pirates and join a mysterious organization known as CP9 (a secret Cipher Police that are the assassins of the World Government).  But is Robin a traitor?  Would she do anything to hurt her own teammates?  That’s what the crew want to find out and no way, will the group allow Robin to leave them without telling them why.

As the Straw Hat Pirates go in pursuit of Robin, CP9 featuring their leader Rob Lucci goes after Paulie in search of blueprints that are made to create a super weapon known as Pluto.  The only one that can read those blueprints are Robin.  But realizing that the blueprints that Paulie has in possession are fake, they believe his old friend Cutty Flam has them….a man who now goes by the name as Franky!

Will the Straw Hat Pirates get the answers they are searching for?  Meanwhile, the history of Franky and Rob Lucci is revealed!

Find out why Robin left the group and Franky’s past in “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, available now on DVD courtesy of FUNimation!

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide. The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is at 580 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Two”, available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great.  Currently has left the Straw Hat Pirates after a fight with Luffy because he would not abandon the “Going Merry” which is in terrible shape.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become a member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.  She recently left the Straw Hat Pirates to aid CP9 for some unknown reason.

Franky – A shipwright and dismantler, Franky is formerly known as Cutty Flam.  A powerful individual from Water 7, he also has done modifications on himself, that makes him even stronger.  But despite his brute strength, his abilities to create and plan major mechanical devices is one of his major skills.

Iceburg – The President of the Galley-La Company and Mayor of Water 7.  He has a past with Franky that will be revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”.

Paulie – One of the Dock One foremen of Water 7 who specializes in rigging, knots and masts. Iceburg’s go to man.  He doesn’t like to see women dress in skimpy outfits and he enjoys gambling. Has excellent shipwright skills.

While the DVD release is listed as season four for America, in Japan, “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” takes place during season eight in Japan. As the Straw Hat Pirates reach the land of Water Seven where powerful craftsmen, the Galley La Company reside, the crew needs the craftsmen to fix the Going Merry, which has been involved in major wear and tear through the many adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates.

But when CP9 burns down the Galley-La Company to point blame towards the Straw Hat Pirates, the people of Water 7 are not happy with the Straw Hat Pirates and want them dead.  Meanwhile, the crew wants to know why Nico Robin had left them and want to get a straight answer from her of why she left them.

Meanwhile, CP9 is after the Pluto blueprints that Paulie is supposed to have but realize someone else close to him, has them… Franky!

The “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” comes with episodes 242-252 on two DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are part of season 8). Here are the spoilerless summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 242 – The Straw Hat Pirates goes after Nico Robin, meanwhile Luffy is stuck.
  • EPISODE 243 – It is revealed that those closest to Iceburg are actually CP9 and they reveal what they are after.
  • EPISODE 244 – Lucci tries to find out from Iceburg of who has the Pluto blueprints.
  • EPISODE 245 – Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates confront Robin.  Meanwhile, Lucci shows off his transformation.
  • EPISODE 246 – Lucci who ate the Devil’s Fruit has the ability to turn into a Zoan type leopard and fights against the Straw Hat Pirates.  Meanwhile, Usopp tells Franky the story of the Going Merry.
  • EPISODE 247 – Frank tries to open Usopp’s eyes that the Going Merry is in terrible shape and must be dismantled.  Meanwhile, Usopp reveals a story to Franky about the Going Merry.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 248 – The history of Franky and Iceburg is revealed.
  • EPISODE 249 – Frank’s past is revealed and the involvement of Spandam of CP5.
  • EPISODE 250 – Continuing Franky’s and Iceburg’s history.
  • EPISODE 251 – Nami finds out the truth from Iceburg about why Robin joined CP9.
  • EPISODE 252 – Knowing the truth about why Robin left, Nami and Chopper try to find Luffy in order to rescue Robin.  Meanwhile, Sanji trails CP9 alone.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“One Piece” is presented in 16:9.  For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

As for the audio, the series is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 244 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Brina Palencia (Tony Tony Chopper) and Patrick Seitz (Franky).
  • EPISODE 245 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Luci Christian (Nami) and David Wald (Paulie).

DISC 2:

  • Textless Songs – Textless opening song for “Kokoro no Chizu” and closing songs for “Eternal Pose” and “Dear Friends”.
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Brina Palencia – (12:45) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Brina Palencia (Chopper).
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Eric Vale – (16:09) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Eric Vale (Sanji).
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

EXTRAS:

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” comes with a slipcase.

Usopp has left the Straw Hat Pirates and now Robin?

This is the part of the focus in the latest “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” as the Straw Hat Pirates want to hear from Robin why she is bailing from the group and aligning herself with CP9, which belong the World Government, the enemy of pirates.  Has she turned traitor?  What is the reason for her leaving everyone?

In this volume, we learn about how Robin had a difficult past (which has yet to be revealed) and when her life was literally down in the dumps, after Luffy and friends gave her another chance at life, she has come to regard them as one of her family and now she will do what she can to protect them, even if it means, leaving them.  As CP9 is after the Pluto Blueprints which were said to be kept by Paulie or Iceburg, the group realizes that their other friend may have the blueprints that can be used to create a major weapon of destruction and that person would be Cutty Flam, a name once used by a shipwright that now goes by the name of Franky!

So, while the Straw Hat Pirates are going after Robin for a reason why she is leaving them, CP9 are going after Franky.

And with this volume, the history of Franky and Iceburg is revealed!  This volume also features the first battle between the Straw Hat Pirates vs. CP9!

So, you are getting another action-packed (and also emotional) volume of “One Piece”, especially when it comes to Usopp who reveals why he is so attached to the Going Merry.

As for the DVD, you get 11-episodes and the DVD, picture quality is colorful, vibrant and looks good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, it’s awesome to see FUNimation featuring more special features and in this case, two one-on-one video interviews between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and two main cast members Brina Palencia (Chopper) and Eric Vale (Sanji). There are also two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

For longtime fans of “One Piece”, the latest season four, voyage four is exciting and emotional.  For fans of the series, you know how difficult it is for the Straw Hat Pirates to lose another member and for Usopp, you know how hard it is for him to say goodbye to the Going Merry.  But then you have this group of assassins known as CP9 who reveal themselves and the big question is why Nico Robin is helping them and why are they after Franky.

It’s important to note that “One Piece” is one of the longest running Japanese animated series.  While this volume covers episodes 242-252, we are 330+ episodes behind Japan.  So, one can hope that this long running series continues to be released on DVD in the U.S., because there hasn’t really been an anime series with over 600+ episodes released in the U.S.. It is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is and how people gravitate towards this series.

With that being said, you can join in at the beginning of any season and still be interested in “One Piece”. I do recommend at least watching the first season, so you get an idea of what’s going on. To find out the goal of the Straw Hat Pirates is and how they all joined to form the Straw Hat Pirates.

As for “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four”, the storyline is fantastic, action-packed and also drama to keep you captivated to the overall storyline.  Find out why Nico Robin left the Straw Hat Pirates and learn more about the history of Franky as his past is revealed in this latest DVD volume of “One Piece”!

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Four” is recommended!

Gaiking: The Movie Collection (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” takes the best of “Gaiking” the animated TV series to make three feature length films!  For those who grew up in the ’70s, enjoyed the “Shogun Warriors” toys or even watched the original “Force Five” series or is a mecha/super robot fan at heart, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is for you!

Image courtesy of © 1976 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gaiking: The Movie Collection

YEAR OF ANIME: 1976

DURATION: Three Films (326 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English dub, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Shout! Factory

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: May 21, 2013

Originally created by Go Nagai

Directed by Tomoharu Katsumata

Scenario by Masao Maruyama

Script by Kunio Sakatani

Screenplay by Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara, Soji Yoshikawa

Music by Shunsuke Kikuchi

Character Design by Akio Sugino, Kazuo Komatsubara, Takeshi Shirato

Art by Fumihiro Uchikawa

Mechanical Design by Dan Kobayashi

Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Robert Axelrod

Larry Butler

David Gerrold

Don Glut

Marieve Herington

Bradford Hill

Paul Oberle

Shy Pilgreen

Kyle Rea

Robert Tousignant

William Winckler

Kimberly Woods

An iconic classic from the golden age of Japanese animation, Gaiking the transforming super robot (originally featured as part of the Shogun Warriors toy line and the Force Five TV series) is back in a trio of feature-length adventures loaded with high-impact action and mind-expanding science fiction!

Far off in outer space, the planet Zela is doomed by an approaching black hole, which forces the diabolical Great Emperor to set his sights on a suitable world to colonize for his people…Earth! But before the invasion can begin, the Emperor and his four generals scheme to eliminate the troublesome human race by raiding our planet with giant robot monsters!

As one of only a handful of Earthlings with psychic powers, Sanshiro Tsuwabuki is destined to pilot Gaiking, a giant robot that might be Earth s only hope against the monstrous steel hordes of the Great Emperor. Recruited to join an elite team of pilots who control an incredible arsenal of high-tech weapons and mecha, including a massive carrier known as the Space Dragon, Tsuwabuki and Gaiking must square off against a giant robot tarantula, Zelan mind control, deadly hallucinations, nuclear war and more evil, mechanical monstrosities! The battle for the fate of two worlds begins!

When it comes to super robots, back in the mid-to-late ’70s, Japan had a mecha boom with Danguard Ace, Raydeen, Combattler and Gaiking.

And it was one of the few moments where that mecha boom extended to the United States thanks to the release of the Shogun Warriors die-cast toys and the Marvel comic book series (in return, Japan was able to create a tokusatsu version of Spider-Man, who happened to have a big robot).

And for “Gaiking”, having a popular toy was aided by Jim Terry’s “Force Five” animated line-up which included “Gaiking” which was produced by Toei Animation from 1976-1977 with a total of 44 episodes being created.  And the series was also seen on television in various countries.

While “Gaiking” was remade in 2005, in 2009, William Winckler Productions produced three all new English dubbed movie versions edited from the original series.  Winckler, who is known for his work on “Tekkaman the Space Night”, wrote, produced and directed the English films.

It’s important to note that it was Toei Animation that came to William Winckler Productions to make the film series as Toei Animation felt it would be great to establish a “presence in broadband with the films” and that the three films would be easier to sell to “mainstream America”.

Now, all three films will be released in a 2-DVD collection from Shout! Factory titled “Gaiking: The Movie Collection”.

“Gaiking” is an animated series that revolves around Earth in war with an invading race of aliens known as the Zelans and under the order of the Great Emperor, the Zelans attack Earth.  The Earth’s main defense is the Super Robot named Gaiking created by Dr. Daimonji.

But who can pilot such a Super Robot?

This is where professional baseball player Sanshiro Twsuwabuki comes in.  An athlete with a photographic memory (and possibly psychic abilities), one day while playing a baseball game, he is attacked by the Zelans and his pitching hand is fractured that he can no longer pitch professionally again.  The truth is that it was an assassination attempt by the Zelans who are trying to eliminate anyone who may have psychic abilities.

He is recruited by an elite force serving the United Nations and consists of an elite team of pilots serving on the massive carrier known as the Space Dragon.

The first “Gaiking” film consisting of the first 23 episodes focuses on how Sanshiro became selected as a pilot but also getting to know his teammates and also the woman he would fall in love with.  The film features how not all Zelans are bad people but the Great Emperor is forcing his own people to undergo transformation and attacking civilizations.  And thus the first attack by the Zelans is featured in the first movie.

The second “Gaiking” film  focuses on episode 24 and up to 33 and focuses on the second attack by the Zelans.  But this time around, they kidnap Erica and try to transform her to one of their own.  Can Sanshiro rescue the love of his life?  Meanwhile, the Zelans are trying to provoke a war between the United States and Russia.  But what happens when the Zelans capture Sanshiro and the pilots?  Also, is there a traitor in the team?

The third “Gaiking” film features the final battle between Earth and the Zelans.  Everything is on the line for both humans and Zelans and using Gaiking, can Sanshiro end this battle and prevent the Zelans from colonizing Earth and destroying humanit?

VIDEO:

All three “Gaiking” films are presented in 1:33:1 with a black screen around the image (the packaging mentions Anamorphic Widescreen).  It’s important to note that this anime series was made back in 1976.  On DVD, you will see white specks, artifacts can be seen, moreso on blue backgrounds, but this is not a series I was expecting to receive any remastering.  I believe if you do see artifacts, it’s much more evident on big screen televisions than on smaller screens.

According to William Winckler in an interview with ScifiJapan.com, “What’s interesting is that Mr. Morishita wanted both original aspect ratio versions, as well as wide-screen versions… and so that’s what we made… for broadband distribution. We produced HD versions, made off the best master sources available, in both original aspect ratio, as well as wide screen.”

Picture quality is OK, but the question is, because HD versions were produced, is there a possibility of a Blu-ray release?  Personally, I would prefer an HD release of “Gaiking” than on DVD.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is probably the best we are going to see in the U.S. of “Gaiking”, as I doubt the single episodes will be released in the U.S. anytime soon.

AUDIO:

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is presented with an English dub in Stereo 2.0.  I’m not exactly sure if the intention of this dub was to make it sound like it was made in the ’70s, but for a new English dub made in 2009, it doesn’t compare to other anime series of today in terms of acting.  During scenes of where pilots in pain, it’s “Oh! Ah! Oh!” and it has that style similar to older anime that worked back then but a bit odd to hear a new dub made to sound this way in the present.  But if the goal was to emulate the ’70s style of acting, then I suppose the acting of the English dub actors fits the series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gaiking: The Movie Collection” does not come with any special features.

When it comes to “Gaiking”, I absolutely loved the character growing up and how excited I was to watching the films based on the character that I grew up with!

Like most children of the late ’70s, getting your first “Shogun Warriors” was huge!  In America, Shogun Warriors were die-cast metal toys, I was lucky to get Gaiking, Danguard Ace, Poseidon and Mazinger Z.

“Gaiking” was like no other Shogun Warrior.  The Super Robot with horns, fists that shoot out and legs that were so heavy, that you can drop them on anything.  This was the sign of the times, the late ’70s and today, these toys are highly sought after because they don’t make toys completely out of die-cast metal anymore.  (Note: There was a plastic 24″ Gaiking made and released in the U.S. as well)

But I can easily remember me and my friends really loving Gaiking, despite not knowing the story about him.

While the series was aired on syndicated television in 1980 as “Force Five” (which featured “Gaiking”, “Danguard Ace”, “Starvengers”, “Grandizer” and “Spaceketeers”), unfortunately, the series was primarily shown in New England, Virginia and a handful of other markets for a brief time.

But for those who grew up during those Shogun Warrior years or for the anime fan who is interested in classic mecha anime, “Gaiking” has finally been released in the U.S. as a single release featuring three films on 2-DVD’s.  It’s important to note that this is not the same series that people watched on television if you were watching “Force Five”.  The Japanese names are used, so Sanshiro Tsuwabuki, the main protagonist of the series is used, not Aries Astronopolis.

While I can’t comment of how much deviation there was from the original Japanese series and what was featured in producer William Winckler’s version on the films, there is a banality to the super robot theme and that is Earth (or another planet) being under attacked and invaded by alien antagonists.

Where Sanshiro has a photographic memory and develops some sort of psychic ability, can also be juxtaposed to the late ’70’s series Mobile Suit Gundam and Amuro’s ability to learn how to pilot the Gundam quickly and the development of his Newtype ability.

But where Gundam focused on a war and how it affected others throughout the war but also showcased the enemy (and would captivate viewers as “Star Wars” did in the late ’70s), the antagonists are not so likable for  “Gaiking”.  The Zelans are starting to mutate and the Grand Emperor’s mouth is now showing up on its forehead, while warriors have to be forced to become something they are not.  It’s a wacky way to feature the antagonists but I suppose back in the ’70s, what made the series quite interesting is its adventure aspects that remind me of the ’80s second Voltron series (based on the anime series “Armored Fleet Dairugger XV”).

The team goes through adventures, for example, in the first movie, the team ends up stuck inside a cave where an ancient Zelan facility is located and they are trapped in a  hallucinated state or when both Sanshiro and Erica must go out on an assignment.  The series almost has an international feel (not through the English dub) but through the characters names and once again, reminiscent of the “Armored Fleet Dairugger XV” series.

But for many of the super robot anime series of the ’70s, it was about the defense of Earth or humanity by alien invaders.

And while trimming a 44 episode series down to three movies aren’t anything new to anime (as the “Mobile Suit Gundam” movie trilogy was also derived from the anime TV series), like anything trimmed down for a film, you do miss out on other storylines as not all episodes are featured.  But having not seen the original Japanese animated series, I’m not too sure how much viewers are losing out on.

But from what I watched, the film focuses primarily on the Zelan battle and tries to incorporate important elements from the series into each film.  The film also includes the inclusion of Sanshiro saying “Shogun Warrior” which is a nod to those who grew up to the toys because the term is a trademark brand-named created by Mattel, Inc. at that time.

And according to an interview between ScifiJapan.com and William Winckler, Winckler explained, “Although these films were to be designed for mainstream Americans, the plots, stories, character names, background music, etc., remained faithful and true to the original Japanese elements.”

Now, as  I mentioned, this is an older series and if there was an HD version produced, I prefer to watch it in HD.  But the DVD was OK and as for the English dub, as mentioned, for a 2009 production, the English dubbing sounds as if it was recorded in the ’70s.  From the way the acting was, to the overreacting to pain of brief “Oh! Ah! Oh!”.  It’s corny! But having watched some of the older English dubs, that’s how things were things back then.  And I would imagine the goal was to capture that style of English dubbing than what most anime fans are used to seeing in terms of English dubs today.

But I do feel this is the best we are going to get of this series in the U.S. and that is these three animated films of “Gaiking”.

The fact is that classic robot series such as “Gaiking” was a product of our time in the mid-t0-late ’70s.  We grew up with these mecha storylines and as children, we were amazed by it but also had a toyline that kept us fascinated and intrigued!

Today, mecha anime series have become deeper, CG animated, have a long line of models and robot toys that the companies can capitalize on.

Not to say that “Gaiking” wasn’t deep because characters and humans do die in the films.  But for those who are able to watch these older series in original form, you realize the Japanese versions were much more deeper than its English counterpart.  Japanese television were able to show death, while anime mecha TV series didn’t go there.  But because this is the film version and not related to the “Force Five” release, deaths do happen in each of the three films of “Gaiking: The Movie Collection”.

For example, there is a peaceful Zelan who is a scientist who is raising his young daughter alone.  The Grand Emperor has his soldiers take the scientist for conditioning to become a warrior.  The scientist worries about his daughter and as she tries to go after her father, the soldiers kill the young daughter.  Definitely something you will not see on American television at that time.

So, I’m glad that those elements from the series are retained in the films.  And as much as I grew up enjoying “Gaiking”, the only thing that drives me crazy about the films is the English dub.  Yes, I remember how things were in the ’70s through the ’90s but English dubbing has evolved since then. But William Winckler Productions was a product of that generation, heck, I am from that generation, but just because things were dubbed and acted a certain way back then, I know this is subjective but the voice acting (despite its use of veterans) featured voice acting style that I wish, stayed in the past.

And it’s important to note that I prefer to watch a whole entire series rather than a film that comprises of several episodes.  But I do realize not everyone wants to watch many dozens of episodes of a title and the films would suffice.

With that being said, I am a fan of “Gaiking”, grew up with “Gaiking” and I’m quite grateful for Shout! Factory for bringing out this title.  Because William Winckler Productions also did the production for “THE TOEI CLASSIC ANIME MOVIE COLLECTION!”, I hope that also means that Shout Factory intends to release the “Danguard Ace” films, “The Adventures of Nadja” films, “Space Pirates Captain Harlock”, “Fist of the North Star” films and “Starzinger” films for release in the U.S.

Overall, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” takes the best of “Gaiking” the animated TV series to make three feature length films!  For those who grew up in the ’70s, enjoyed the “Shogun Warriors” toys or even watched the original “Force Five” series or is a mecha/super robot fan at heart, “Gaiking: The Movie Collection” is for you!

One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The long-running, popular anime series “One Piece” features the Straw Hat Pirates and the Franky Family trying to find and save Robin, but the mysterious organization known as CP9 stands in their way!  Another wonderful volume of “One Piece”, definitely check out “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five”. Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1999 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five

DURATION: Episodes 253-263 (Duration: 320 Minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English and Japanese stereo

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: May 14, 2013

Originally created by Eiichiro Oda

Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto, Konosuke Uda, Munehisa Sakai

Series Composition by Hirohiko Uesaka

Script by Hirohiko Uesaka, Hiroshi Hashimoto, Junki Takegami, Michiru Shimada, Naoki Koga, Ryota Yamaguchi, Suminori Takegami, Yoshiyuki Suga

Music by Kouhei Tanaka, Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Design by Kazuya Hisada, Noboru Koizumi

Animation Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayumi Tanaka/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Monkey D. Luffy

Akemi Okamura/Luci Christian as Nami

Hiroaki Hirata/Eric Vale as Sanji

Ikue Ohtani/Brina Palencia as Tony Tony Chopper

Kappei Yamaguchi/Sonny Strait as Usopp

Yuriko Yamaguchi/Stephanie Young as Nico Robin

Kazuki Yao/Patrick Seitz as Franky

Izo Oikawa/Philip Weber as Iceburg

Takahiro Yoshimizu/David Wald as Paulie

The Sea Train has left the station! Next stop, Enies Lobby!

Nami, despite her desperate dash, arrives at the station too late to stop the Sea Train, but she’s relieved learn that Sanji has stowed away on board the vessel and will stop at nothing to rescue Robin! With the storm of all storms bearing down upon them, Nami and Chopper risk their lives to save Luffy and Zoro from the rapidly rising waters. Back aboard the train, Sanji is aided in his battle against the CP9 goons by the arrival of the mysterious Soge King, a wandering warrior from the Island of Snipers!

As the scattered Straw Hats fight to reunite, fate draws them ever nearer the foreboding fortress of Enies Lobby. Will our heroes live to face the hour of reckoning?!

Contains episodes 253-263.

Things are not looking so good for the Straw Hat Pirates.

Their ship the Going Merry was destroyed at sea, Usopp is no longer part of the group and Robin leaves the group in order to keep her friends safe.

While Sanji, Usopp and Franky are separated from the others when the Aqua Laguna floods the main station.  Nami, finding out the sacrifice that Robin had made to join Cipher Pol no. 9 keep them safe tells Luffy what Robin had done.  Luffy realizing that Robin has been their friend all this time and trying to protect them has made it is goal to help Robin and find her before it’s too late.

Inspired by what Luffy is willing to do to help Robin, The Franky Family offers to join the Straw Hat Pirates temporarily in order to help their leader, while Kokoro and Iceburg lend the Straw Hat Pirates their sea train, Rock Man.

But as they try to find Robin and hook up with their Sanji, Usopp and Franky, they are attacked by CP9.

What will happen to the Straw Hat Pirates and the Franky Crew?

Find out in “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five”, available now on DVD courtesy of FUNimation!

What is “One Piece”?

“ONE PIECE” is a popular anime series based on the popular manga series serialized in Shonen Jump by Eiichiro Oda. Suffice to say, “ONE PIECE” is the highest selling manga for Weekly Shonen Jump and its popularity has extended to various anime (via the TV series, OVA and films) and video games in America and also worldwide. The series is so popular, the episode count currently in Japan is at 580 episodes and despite receiving a heavily edited version in North America via 4Kids Entertainment earlier on, FUNimation Entertainment began releasing the original, uncut versions since May of 2008 and here we are now with the DVD release of “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Two”, available now, courtesy of FUNimation.

“ONE PIECE” is an adventure anime about a 17-year-old boy named Monkey D. Luffy who gained enormous strength (and stretching abilities) after eating a magical demon fruit. He eventually teams up with a group of pirates and have the name “The Straw Hats”. Luffy’s driven to one day obtain the most sought out treasure known as “One Piece” and eventually become the King of the Pirates.

The Straw Hat Pirates consists of:

Monkey D. Luffy – A 17-year-old guy who is the captain of the Straw Hat Pirates and dreams to be a pirate king by getting his hands on the “ONE PIECE” artifact. When he was young, he accidentally ate a devil fruit which made his body rubbery and can stretch and blow up. An airhead of sorts, loves to eat but always believes and fights for his friends.

Roronoa Zoro – A 19-year-old skilled swordsman. A skilled and very strong fighter. Wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world.

Nami – The navigator of the group. The main female crew member and really good at weapons.

Usopp – A 17-year-old marksman. A talented inventor and artistic. Known by his long nose, his marksmanship with slingshots and weapons are great.

Sanji – The chef of the crew. A skilled fighter that uses only kicks in battle and is passionate towards Nami.

Tony Tony Chopper – A reindeer with a blue nose. Ate a devil fruit known as human-human fruit which makes him human in someways but keeping his reindeer look. Able to speak to humans, walk upright and also able to have transformations to become a huge beast. But his talent is his medical skills as he was trained by the Doctrine to become a doctor. Has very low self-confidence because he had been treated badly not only by his kind but also by humans and has not really had a friend but the Doctor and Doctrine.

Nico Robin – The former Vice President of Baroque Works who has become the newest member of the Straw Hat Pirates despite some of the crew not trusting her since she was a former enemy. Has the ability to use her body parts and project them elsewhere and other mysterious abilities not yet known.

While the DVD release is listed as season four for America, in Japan, “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five” takes place during season eight (note: Actually, episode 229 , featured in voyage two, is the first episode that begins season eight). As the Straw Hat Pirates reach the land of Water Seven where powerful craftsmen, the Galley La Company reside, the crew needs the craftsmen to fix the Going Merry, which has been involved in major wear and tear through the many adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates.

But when misfortune hits the Straw Hat Pirates and pits Luffy vs. Usopp and even Nico Robin has disappeared. Things between the Straw Hat Pirates have gotten worse, but can they get any better?

The “One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five” comes with episodes 253-263 on two DVD discs (note: In Japan, these episodes are part of season 8). Here are the spoilerless summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 253 – The Aqua Laguna floods the main station and Sanji, Usopp and Franky are separated from the others.
  • EPISODE 254 – Nami tells Luffy of what Robin did, meanwhile everyone tries to escape from Aqua Laguna’s giant wave.
  • EPISODE 255 – Sanji manages to find Usopp and Franky, while the Straw Hat Pirates find new allies.
  • EPISODE 256 – A new alliance is born!
  • EPISODE 257 – Ashamed of what he had done to Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates, Usopp comes up with a new superhero identity!
  • EPISODE 258 – Usopp reveals his new identity to Sanji and Franky.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 259 – Sanji vs. Wanze, Franky vs. Nero.
  • EPISODE 260 – As the fights continue, Usopp as Sogeking tries to save Robin.
  • EPISODE 261 – Zoro vs. “Ship Cutter” T-Bone and Sanji vs. Wanze and Franky vs. Nero continues!
  • EPISODE 262 – Usopp (Sogeking), Sanji and Franky try to save Robin.
  • EPISODE 263 – A little of Robin’s past is revealed by Blueno!

VIDEO :

For most television series, because they are created nearly before they are aired on television, unlike film and OVA’s, there typically is not much detail involved in a Japanese animated television series. “ONE PIECE” is probably one of those rare exceptions in that it has really cool character designs and very detailed artistic backgrounds. Of course, since it is on DVD, you will see some artifacting, combing and edge enhancement but it’s not so noticeable unless you are really looking for it.

The anime series is presented in standard 4:3 definition but for a television series, “ONE PIECE” sports cool and unique character designs and beautifully painted artistic backgrounds. Definitely one of the better looking anime series that has remained consistent and has not downgraded since it first aired on television. Character designer Kazuya Hisada (who worked on the “Dragon Ball” and “Dragon Ball GT” series) and Noboru Koizumi (who worked on “Giant Robo”, “Dragon Ball GT” and “Tenchi Universe”) have been very good of capturing “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda’s unique style.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the series is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English Stereo and Japanese Stereo. Of course, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is the better audio choice to listen to, although one who has a receiver that can set their audio to all channels can definitely enjoy the Japanese stereo track as well. But both audio tracks are done very well and I have to admit that “ONE PIECE” has one of the most solid English dub tracks for an anime TV series. Very well done on both audio tracks but again, have been very impressed by the voice talent for the series thus far.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 255 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) and voice talents Juli Erickson (Kokoro) and Doug Goodrich (Zambai).

DISC 2:

  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Christopher R. Sabat – (12:32)  Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Christopher R. Sabat (Zoro).
  • On the Boat: Behind the Scenes of One Piece with Colleen Clinkenbeard – (13:26) Featuring a video interview between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy).
  • EPISODE 263 Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (Line Producer/ADR Director) with Kenneth Thompson (ADR Engineer for “One Piece”), Adrian Cook (Mix Engineer), Josh Kocurek (Marketing and Brand Manager for “One Piece”)
  • Textless Songs – Textless opening song for “Kokoro no Chizu” and closing songs for “Dear Friends”, “Asu wa Kuru Kara”.
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming FUNimation releases.

The final episodes of season 8 of “One Piece”, as things begin to look down for the Straw Hat Pirates, after losing their ship, losing Usopp and now losing Robin, Nami finds out the reason why Robin has left the Straw Hat Pirates to join Cipher Pol No. 9 and that is so she can protect them.

But because the Straw Hat Pirates fight together as a family, there is no way any of them are going to let Robin leave without them and will do anything back to help their friend.

But when the Aqua Laguna floods the station that they are in, Luffy, Nami, Zoro and Chopper find new allies with The Franky Gang, while Sanji finds Franky and Usopp who are separated by the giant tidal wave.

As both group try to find Robin, both sides are attacked.  Meanwhile, Usopp wanting to save Robin as well, despite no longer being in the Straw Hat Pirates, takes on a new masked identity.

With this latest fifth volume of “One Piece”, new alliances are formed and the teams are united in trying to save Robin from Cipher Pol. No. 9.  But what does Cipher Pol. No. 9 want with Robin and will the group be prepared for their battle against various members of CP9.

The race is on to save Robin, but will they get to her in time?

As for the DVD, you get 11-episodes and picture quality is very good. Especially in Japan, all “One Piece” episodes since 2007 have been broadcast in HD and widescreen in Japan, it would be interesting if that means the series would get a Blu-ray release in the United States. But for the DVD, picture quality is colorful, vibrant and looks good as one can expect on DVD. Audio is good, dialogue is clear. And for special features, it’s awesome to see FUNimation featuring more special features and in this case, two one-on-one video interviews between Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer) and main cast members.  There are also two fun audio commentaries featuring the English dub voice talent, textless opening and ending themes plus trailers.

Overall, I enjoy the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates and I’m in it for the long haul. While, we are 263 episodes down, we are 330+ episodes behind Japan.   It is the longest running action anime series in Japan and the fact that young and old continue to read and watch this series, its a testament of how addictive “One Piece” really is and how people gravitate towards this series.

With that being said, you can join in at the beginning of any season and still be interested in “One Piece”. I do recommend at least watching the first season, so you get an idea of what’s going on. To find out the goal of the Straw Hat Pirates is and how they all joined to form their crew, the Straw Hat Pirates.

But “One Piece” is definitely one of the most entertaining, exciting and action-packed series that continues to have a strong presence in Japan for nearly a decade.

Exciting, crazy and just an enjoyable anime series, find out why many people have enjoyed the story of the the Straw Hat Pirates and their adventures in “One Piece”!

“One Piece: Season Four, Voyage Five” is recommended!

Toriko: Part Four (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

April 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Toriko: Part Four” is about partnerships but Toriko knowing that from here on in, Komatsu is going to be his partner and he must do all he can to protect him and that is by getting stronger.  So, Toriko must undergo training and prepare himself for dangers that lie ahead.  A fun and crazy volume of “Toriko” that anime fans and foodies will enjoy!  “Toriko: Part four” is recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Toriko: Part Four

DURATION: Episodes 27-38

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Bilingual Japanese & English, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: 13+

Release Date: May 7, 2013

Originally created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro

Directed by Akifumi Zako

Series Composition by Isao Murayama

Script: Isao Murayama, Tomoko Taguchi, Yoichi Takahashi

Music by Hiromi Mizutani

Character Design by Hisashi Kagawa

Art by Masanobu Nomura

Anime Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Romi Park/Josh Grelle as Komatsu

Ryotaro Okiayu/Ian Sinclair as Toriko

Akio Ohtsuka as Livebearer

Akira Ishida as Tommyrod

Asami Tano/Leah Clark as Rin

Kokoro Kikuchi/Heather Walker as Cruppo

Banjou Ginga as Yosaku

Hideyuki Tanaka/Chuck Huber as Acacia

Hiro Yuuki as Ootake

Juurouta Kosugi as Mansam

Kenji Matsuda as Zebra

Kenjiro Ishimaru/Chris Guerrero as Narrator

Kenyuu Horiuchi as Ichiryu

Kokoro Kikuchi as Kruppoh

Masahito Yabe as Bei

Masaki Terasoma as Midora

Masaya Onosaka/David Wald as Teppei

Mitsuo Iwata/Aaron Robers as Sani (Sunny)

Nana Mizuki/Morgan Garrett as Tina

Sakiko Uran/Juli Erickson as Setsuno

Shinichiro Miki/Scott Freeman as Stajyun (Starjun)

Shinji Kawada/Robert McCollum as Johannes

Takahiro Sakurai/Jarrod Greene as Coco

Tetsuya Kakihara as Tom

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Philip Weber as Jirou

Yuji Mitsuya/Chris Rager as Grinpatch

Get ready for the next great anime adventure from TOEI, the legendary force behind Dragon Ball Z and One Piece! Welcome to the Gourmet Age, a time when the world is full of deliciously deadly ingredients that the wealthiest appetites in existence can’t wait to devour. But only a mighty masticating mercenary like Toriko can track down the rarest animals on the planet and put them on a plate! This gluttonous gourmet hunter is one of the four Legendary Kings, superhuman warriors born to battle the likes of Troll Kongs, Gararagators, and Devil Pythons! Accompanied by his loyal Battle Wolf and the promising young chef Komatsu, Toriko will circle the globe in search of the mouthwateringly lethal ingredients that will one day make up his Full Course Menu of Life! The more ferocious the beast the bigger the feast, but never forget the code of a true gourmet hunter: You gotta eat what you defeat!

The pursuit of for culinary delights continues in “Toriko: Part Three” as Toriko and Komatsu search for the “Century Soup” but unbeknownst to the group, someone powerful named Tommyrod a Sous Chef and members of the Gourmet Corps go after them.

Find out in “Toriko: Part Three” from FUNimation!

What is “Toriko”?

In Japan, we have seen Shonen Jump series that have had a long life, not just as manga but as anime series. From the “Dragon Ball” series, “One Piece”, “Naruto”, “Bleach” and another series that has captivated readers and viewers is “Toriko”.

Created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro in 2008, the manga series has been published on “Weekly Shonen Jump” and is currently on 22nd tankobon volume, while the anime series produced by Toei Animation is still being broadcast since 2011 on Fuji TV. And now the third part of the anime series will be released in the U.S. courtesy of FUNimation in March 2013.

The series is directed by Akifumi Zako (“Fresh Pretty Cure”, “Ashita no Nadia”, “Ojamajo Doremi Na-i-sho”), series composition by Isao Murayama (“Saint Seiya Omega”, “Kaidan Restaurant”), music by Hiromi Mizutani (“Hell Girl”, “Hyakko”), character designs by Hisashi Kagawa (“Bomberman Jetters”, “Hataraki Man”, “Fresh Pretty Cure”) and art direction by Masanobu Nomura (“Blue Drop”, “The Big O”, “K”, “The Idolm@ster”, “Gurren Lagann”).

It’s important to note that in Japan, the first episode was a cross-over special with “One Piece”. For the U.S. DVD release, this cross over episode is not included.

Toriko takes place during a time where gourmet is important. The taste, the texture of food and rare ingredients are what chefs seek for, but in order to get rare ingredients and animals, major organizations hire Bishokuya (which are “gourmet hunters”).

After the last volume of Toriko losing an arm and now going through a process that may regenerate his arm, Komatsu has been trying to find the necessary ingredients to complete the Century Soup and it appears that he has found it and may be able to help Toriko, grow back his arm.

Meanwhile, more adventures await Toriko but he needs to undergo major training in order to compete against significant foes.  But the IGO President gives him advice that from here on in, he will be best to partner with a chef for his adventures and with Toriko and Komatsu having endured several adventures, the question is if Komatsu is ready to put his life on the line for the ultimate ingredients.

Will Komatsu join Toriko in his next quest, this time to find the Ozone Grass that will put them in harms way but also to test out their partnership?

“Toriko: Part Four” features the following episodes (Note: Just to remind everyone that the episode 1 special featuring “One Piece” is not included. So, episode order is an episode off compared to what was shown in Japan.)

  • EPISODE 39 – Komatsu finds the final ingredient to complete the Century Soup!
  • EPISODE 40 – With the final ingredient, Toriko may get his arm back. Will it work?
  • EPISODE 41 – Toriko contacts his architect Smile to build him a candy house.
  • EPISODE 42 – Toriko, Sunny and CoCo look for the Seven-Color Nessie!
  • EPISODE 43 – The group continues on their quest to find the Seven-Color Nessie.
  • EPISODE 44 – Toriko wants to test his out his fighting technique against the IGO President.
  • EPISODE 45 – Toriko and Komatsu go on a mission to find the delicious Ozone Grass.
  • EPISODE 46 – Toriko and Komatsu continue on their perilous quest to find the Ozone Grass.
  • EPISODE 47 – Toriko and Komatsu find the Ozone Grass but also something sinister is also there.
  • EPISODE 48 – Toriko and Komatsu spy on what appears to be a GT Robot near the Ozone Grass.  Why is it there?
  • EPISODE 49 – Toriko goes on another training adventure!
  • EPISODE 50 – Toriko goes to the Underground Forest for training.

The main characters of “Toriko” are:

  • Toriko – A gourmet hunter and one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” who loves to eat! Toriko does not kill and just eat any animal, he only will kill those that he wants to eat. A man with animal-tracking senses, superhuman strength, fighting skills and immunity to many poisons.
  • Komatsu – A five star chef who works for the Hotel Gourmet, a prestigious restaurant owned by the International Gourmet Organization. A highly skilled chef who wants to get better and that is why he wants to join Toriko on his mission to find rare ingredients and become the best chef in the world.
  • Coco – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” who is a fortune teller and has exceptional stealth techniques and a wonderful animal tracker who is also immune to many poisons.
  • Sunny – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” and the older brother of Rin. He has a talent of sensing ones physical state.
  • Zebra – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” and is the most powerful of the four. Often angry and has a short-temper.
  • Rin – A member of IGO who is tomboyish in nature, she has a major crush on Toriko and the younger sister of Sunny.
  • Mansam – The IGO Development Bureau Director and Gourmet Research Facility Chief. An old friend of Toriko.
  • Tina – A television reporter for “Gourmet News” who is following Toriko and Komatsu.
  • Takimaru – A member of the Gourmet Knights and is able to dislodge an opponents bones and joints.
  • Setsuno – The Gourmet Living National Treasure and one of the top five chefs in the world.
  • Match – The Chief of the Gourmet Yakuza and a close friend of Toriko.
  • Teppei – A famous healer working for Yosaku and the grandchild of Jiro.
  • Yosako – Runs a revival institute in Mother Wood. Wears clothes stained in blood.
  • Grinpatch – An evil sous chef for the Gourmet Corps, best known for his black teeth, four arms and giant straw.
  • Tommyrod – An evil sous chef for the Gourmet corps. Able to shoot out parasitic bugs from his body and has no need for a GT Robo.
  • Barrygamon – 4th Branch Head of the Gourmet corps. Known for wearing special armor made from the shell of a Crush Turtle.
  • Bogie Woods – 5th Branch Chief of the Gourmet corps. Able to manipulate his bones and joints.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Toriko” is an anime series that is full of detail for a TV series. Produced by Toei Animation, the animated series has a style of a classic old school anime series in terms of character design but what catches your eye is the detailed art backgrounds which are fantastic. Some scenes are in CG (such as water effects) but I really enjoyed the animation for this series.

As for audio, “Toriko” is presented in English 5.1 surround and in Japanese stereo. The English 5.1 soundtrack has better dynamic range when it comes to use of the surround channels but both are well-acted. For the English dub, both Ian Sinclair and Josh Grelle are both FUNimation veterans who are well-known for their voice work on series such as “Black Butler”, “Bird the Mighty” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”.

For the Japanese soundtrack, you also get to hear veterans Romi Park (best known as Edward Elric for the “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” series and Toushiro Hitsugaya in “Bleach”) as Komatsu and Ryotaro Okiayu (Katsuhiko Jinnai in “El Hazard”, Scar on “Fullmetal Alchemist” and Kunimitsu Tezuka of “Prince of Tennis”) and Park’s delivery of the constant fear that Komatsu is often encountering is well-captured in her voice.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Toriko: Part Four” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 40 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (Toriko) and Jarrod Greene (Coco).
  • Feast with the Cast of Toriko: Episode 42 Video Commentary – Featuring a video commentary by Ian Sinclair (Toriko), Jarrod Greene (Coco), Aaron Robers (Sunny) and Morgan Garrett (Tina) as the four have cooked and brought their own dishes and each tries each other’s food.
  • Episode 46 Audio Commentary– Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (Toriko) and Josh Grelle (Komatsu).
  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs – Textless opening for “Gatsu Gatsu!!” by Akira Kushida and closing theme “Sabrina” by Leo Ieiri.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Toriko”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

The fun adventures of Toriko and friends continue in “Toriko: Part Four”!

With the last volume being action-packed, the storyline begins to take a breather as Toriko has to get better after his last fight and recuperate from losing an arm but knowing that he must get more training in order to prepare himself for more of these perilous adventures.

While the first half of the series deals with Komatsu finding the ingredients to complete the Century Soup and Toriko feeling good about his new attacks, he finds out quickly that it’s not even enough to go against the IGO President.  Knowing this, he needs more training.  And what best than to go on adventures with his brothers but also another adventure with Komatsu.

But most importantly, knowing that any adventures in the future, he will need to bring a partner who is a chef and what best than to put his trust into Komatsu.  The question is…with so much danger, will Komatsu want to be involved in these adventures.

For the second part of the series, it focuses on Toriko and Komatsu’s quest to find the Ozone Grass but knowing that an ominous presence is also there looking for it.  Knowing what is at stake and knowing he must do all he can to protect Komatsu in the future, Toriko knows he needs more training and to become more powerful.  Can he do it?

As for the DVD, the picture quality is pretty cool with the old school style of animation in combined with modern style of detailed art backgrounds and CG use. The series looks very good and it’s a colorful anime series that doesn’t look too soft. And for special features, you get two audio commentary from FUNimation English voice dub talent but possibly the wildest video commentary is featuring four of the voice talent cooking their own food and everyone partaking in the meal.  The video commentary was a wonderful addition to part four and I hope this become a permanent feature for each “Toriko” DVD release because not only does it makes sense, but it’s just so much fun to watch and listen to.

Overall, “Toriko: Part Four” is about partnerships but Toriko knowing that from here on in, Komatsu is going to be his partner and he must do all he can to protect him and that is by getting stronger.  So, Toriko must undergo training and prepare himself for dangers that lie ahead.

A fun and crazy volume of “Toriko” that anime fans and foodies will enjoy!  “Toriko: Part four” is recommended!

Toriko: Part Three (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

March 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“Toriko: Part Three” features even more hardcore action!  The “Century Soup Arc” features plenty of intense battles and the most powerful rival that Toriko has faced so far!  Exciting, action-packed, a lot of fun and definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2013 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Toriko: Part Three

DURATION: Episodes 27-38

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3, Bilingual Japanese & English, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation

RATED: 13+

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Originally created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro

Directed by Akifumi Zako

Series Composition by Isao Murayama

Script: Isao Murayama, Tomoko Taguchi, Yoichi Takahashi

Music by Hiromi Mizutani

Character Design by Hisashi Kagawa

Art by Masanobu Nomura

Anime Production by Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Romi Park/Josh Grelle as Komatsu

Ryotaro Okiayu/Ian Sinclair as Toriko

Akio Ohtsuka as Livebearer

Akira Ishida as Tommyrod

Asami Tano/Leah Clark as Rin

Kokoro Kikuchi/Heather Walker as Cruppo

Banjou Ginga as Yosaku

Hideyuki Tanaka/Chuck Huber as Acacia

Hiro Yuuki as Ootake

Juurouta Kosugi as Mansam

Kenji Matsuda as Zebra

Kenjiro Ishimaru/Chris Guerrero as Narrator

Kenyuu Horiuchi as Ichiryu

Kokoro Kikuchi as Kruppoh

Masahito Yabe as Bei

Masaki Terasoma as Midora

Masaya Onosaka/David Wald as Teppei

Mitsuo Iwata/Aaron Robers as Sani (Sunny)

Nana Mizuki/Morgan Garrett as Tina

Sakiko Uran/Juli Erickson as Setsuno

Shinichiro Miki/Scott Freeman as Stajyun (Starjun)

Shinji Kawada/Robert McCollum as Johannes

Takahiro Sakurai/Jarrod Greene as Coco

Tetsuya Kakihara as Tom

Toshiyuki Morikawa/Philip Weber as Jirou

Yuji Mitsuya/Chris Rager as Grinpatch

Toriko, Komatsu, and a host of hopeful heroes bundle up and begin the treacherous trek into the chilling confines of Ice Hell! The prize that lies ahead, Century Soup, is among the rarest of gourmet treasures – and without a doubt, the most divine delicacy ever to grace a bowl and spoon. Once every hundred years this luxurious liquid forms at the center of a chilling continent crafted completely from ice!

Toriko and his culinarily-inclined sidekick Komatsu are determined to slurp up the sweet rewards of their journey, but something evil stands in their way. While Komatsu desperately seeks the soup, Tommyrod – a Gourmet Corps henchman with insects on the inside – pushes Toriko to the breaking point in a bugged out battle for the ages. Gourmet glory awaits, but only if they survive!

The pursuit of for culinary delights continues in “Toriko: Part Three” as Toriko and Komatsu search for the “Century Soup” but unbeknownst to the group, someone powerful named Tommyrod a Sous Chef and members of the Gourmet Corps go after them.

Find out in “Toriko: Part Three” from FUNimation!

What is “Toriko”?

In Japan, we have seen Shonen Jump series that have had a long life, not just as manga but as anime series. From the “Dragon Ball” series, “One Piece”, “Naruto”, “Bleach” and another series that has captivated readers and viewers is “Toriko”.

Created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro in 2008, the manga series has been published on “Weekly Shonen Jump” and is currently on 22nd tankobon volume, while the anime series produced by Toei Animation is still being broadcast since 2011 on Fuji TV. And now the third part of the anime series will be released in the U.S. courtesy of FUNimation in March 2013.

The series is directed by Akifumi Zako (“Fresh Pretty Cure”, “Ashita no Nadia”, “Ojamajo Doremi Na-i-sho”), series composition by Isao Murayama (“Saint Seiya Omega”, “Kaidan Restaurant”), music by Hiromi Mizutani (“Hell Girl”, “Hyakko”), character designs by Hisashi Kagawa (“Bomberman Jetters”, “Hataraki Man”, “Fresh Pretty Cure”) and art direction by Masanobu Nomura (“Blue Drop”, “The Big O”, “K”, “The Idolm@ster”, “Gurren Lagann”).

It’s important to note that in Japan, the first episode was a cross-over special with “One Piece”. For the U.S. DVD release, this cross over episode is not included.

Toriko takes place during a time where gourmet is important. The taste, the texture of food and rare ingredients are what chefs seek for, but in order to get rare ingredients and animals, major organizations hire Bishokuya (which are “gourmet hunters”).

The series begins with a chef named Komatsu who is dispatched by the International Gourmet Organization (IGO) to find Toriko in order to capture a rare animal known as a Gararagator (level 8). When Komatsu arrives, he sees the gourmet hunter easily catching a Pincer Fish. When Toriko finds out that Komatsu is trying to catch a Gararagator, Toriko who loves the challenge, agrees.

While Komatsu is timid and often scared of the creatures in the swamp and jungle, they come across a Gararagator, which is a gigantic red alligator and Toriko manages to kill it with his “Fork and Knife” technique but instead of giving the Gararagator to Komatsu for his organization, his intention to catching it was for a full-course menu. Wanting to become a world-renown chef, Komatsu feels that by being with Toriko, he can achieve that. So he asks if he can accompany Toriko on his adventures capturing animals for gourmet and Toriko accepts.

But as the two embark on their mission, they are challenged by a rival organization known as the Gourmet Corps who are bent on controlling the world’s ingredients and wanting the two dead.

In part three of “Toriko”, the group head out in the cold, frigid weather to look for Century Soup.  Hard to find and very dangerous, Toriko and friends are ready to find the soup…but also searching for the soup is the evil Gourmet Corps and Gourmet Yakuza.

Who will get to it first?

“Toriko: Part Three” features the following episodes (Note: Just to remind everyone that the episode 1 special featuring “One Piece” is not included. So, episode order is an episode off compared to what was shown in Japan.)

  • EPISODE 27 – Toriko takes on a giant Silver Grizzly.
  • EPISODE 28 – Toriko’s hand is frozen solid during an encounter with the Gourmet corps.  Komatsu goes to find the Century Soup along with Tina.
  • EPISODE 29 – Toriko vs. Tommyrod, Takamaru vs. Bogie Woods.
  • EPISODE 30 – Takamaru vs. Bogie Woods, Match vs. Barrygamon.
  • EPISODE 31 – The battle between Toriko vs. Tommyrod continues!
  • EPISODE 32 – Teppei comes to help out, meanwhile Toriko’s battle against Tommyrod continues.
  • EPISODE 33 – The battle between Toriko and Tommyrod continues as Toriko unleashes his Thirteen-Fold Spike Punch.
  • EPISODE 34 – With Teppei coming to help, Tommyrod releases the Parasite Emperor.  Will Komatsu find the Century Soup.
  • EPISODE 35 – The Gourmet Corps has stolen the Century Soup and now Komatsu is devastated.  But Teppei comes up with an idea.
  • EPISODE 36 – Saved by Granny Setsu, Toriko and friends are taken to Life for some healing.
  • EPISODE 37 – As the group continues to heal, Toriko finds Sunny in the area.
  • EPISODE 38 – Toriko finds out that he may be able to grow a new arm.  Meanwhile, Komatsu tries to find the final ingredient to make “Century Soup””.

The main characters of “Toriko” are:

  • Toriko – A gourmet hunter and one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” who loves to eat! Toriko does not kill and just eat any animal, he only will kill those that he wants to eat. A man with animal-tracking senses, superhuman strength, fighting skills and immunity to many poisons.
  • Komatsu – A five star chef who works for the Hotel Gourmet, a prestigious restaurant owned by the International Gourmet Organization. A highly skilled chef who wants to get better and that is why he wants to join Toriko on his mission to find rare ingredients and become the best chef in the world.
  • Coco – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” who is a fortune teller and has exceptional stealth techniques and a wonderful animal tracker who is also immune to many poisons.
  • Sunny – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” and the older brother of Rin. He has a talent of sensing ones physical state.
  • Zebra – One of the “Four Heavenly Kings” and is the most powerful of the four. Often angry and has a short-temper.
  • Rin – A member of IGO who is tomboyish in nature, she has a major crush on Toriko and the younger sister of Sunny.
  • Mansam – The IGO Development Bureau Director and Gourmet Research Facility Chief. An old friend of Toriko.
  • Tina – A television reporter for “Gourmet News” who is following Toriko and Komatsu.
  • Takimaru – A member of the Gourmet Knights and is able to dislodge an opponents bones and joints.
  • Setsuno – The Gourmet Living National Treasure and one of the top five chefs in the world.
  • Match – The Chief of the Gourmet Yakuza and a close friend of Toriko.
  • Teppei – A famous healer working for Yosaku and the grandchild of Jiro.
  • Yosako – Runs a revival institute in Mother Wood.  Wears clothes stained in blood.
  • Grinpatch – An evil sous chef for the Gourmet Corps, best known for his black teeth, four arms and giant straw.
  • Tommyrod – An evil sous chef for the Gourmet corps.  Able to shoot out parasitic bugs from his body and has no need for a GT Robo.
  • Barrygamon – 4th Branch Head of the Gourmet corps.  Known for wearing special armor made from the shell of a Crush Turtle.
  • Bogie Woods – 5th Branch Chief of the Gourmet corps.  Able to manipulate his bones and joints.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Toriko” is an anime series that is full of detail for a TV series. Produced by Toei Animation, the animated series has a style of a classic old school anime series in terms of character design but what catches your eye is the detailed art backgrounds which are fantastic. Some scenes are in CG (such as water effects) but I really enjoyed the animation for this series.

As for audio, “Toriko” is presented in English 5.1 surround and in Japanese stereo. The English 5.1 soundtrack has better dynamic range when it comes to use of the surround channels but both are well-acted. For the English dub, both Ian Sinclair and Josh Grelle are both FUNimation veterans who are well-known for their voice work on series such as “Black Butler”, “Bird the Mighty” and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”.

For the Japanese soundtrack, you also get to hear veterans Romi Park (best known as Edward Elric for the “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” series and Toushiro Hitsugaya in “Bleach”) as Komatsu and Ryotaro Okiayu (Katsuhiko Jinnai in “El Hazard”, Scar on “Fullmetal Alchemist” and Kunimitsu Tezuka of “Prince of Tennis”) and Park’s delivery of the constant fear that Komatsu is often encountering is well-captured in her voice.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Toriko: Part Three” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 30 Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Ian Sinclair (Toriko), Jason Douglas (Match), Jerry Jewell (Bogie Woods).
  • Episode 34 Audio Commentary– Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (ADR Director) and Dave Wall (Teppei).
  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs – Textless opening for “Gatsu Gatsu!!” by Akira Kushida and closing for “Deli-Deli*Delicious” by Sea A and “Sabrina” by Leo Ieiri.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer for “Toriko”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation trailers

The most intense “Toriko” arc yet!

In the first 25 episodes of “Toriko”, writers have used the episodes to introduce characters and also special abilities but to also how competitive things have been between the IGO and the Gourmet Corps.

Be episode 27, with the “Century Soup” arc, the action and fighting scenes have been increased considerably as Toriko and friends fight their greatest matchup yet.

The battle between Toriko vs. Tommyrod can be compared to epic battles such as Goku vs. Freezer (of “Dragon Ball Z”) but not as drawn out in dozens of episodes.  In the case of “Toriko”, the battle between the two show how far the two would go to win a battle and this includes the two prominent characters losing limbs.  Also, you have other characters involved in battle such as Takamaru vs. Bogie Woods and Match vs. Barrygamon going at the same time.  But if anything, grateful that these battles did not take nearly 20-episodes but half of that and we begin to learn that the rivalry between the IGO and Gourmet Corps is becoming more challenging, difficult and deadly.

There are more characters introduced in the “Century Soup” arc and the introduction of Teppei is pretty awesome as he not only heals, but he also fight!

While a more action-driven story arc, there is still quite a bit of humor and fun scenes included, especially as Komatsu tries to remake the Century Soup that he once tasted and seeing how things will develop for the next story arc involving the IGO taking part in the “Gourmet King Championship”.

While I have read many manga and watched many drama that had centered around food, “Toriko” is rather interesting in the fact that these surprising ingredients tend to be exotic fruit guarded by monsters or some type of behemoth or animals that look like they come out of the Jurassic age.

So far with the first 38 episodes, the adventures are quite enjoyable as Toriko and Komatsu are on various adventures commissioned by the International Gourmet Organization to find an exotic item for a dish or some dangerous animal. Toriko like Kenshiro of “Hokuto no Ken” is gifted with tremendous fighting ability, while Komatsu is well… a good companion and a chef that wants to be the world best.

As for the DVD, the picture quality is pretty cool with the old school style of animation in combined with modern style of detailed art backgrounds and CG use. The series looks very good and it’s a colorful anime series that doesn’t look too soft. And for special features, you get three audio commentary from FUNimation English voice dub talent.

Overall, “Toriko: Part Three” is my favorite arc so far.  Action-packed, a lot of fun and exciting adventures that fans of action/adventure anime series will surely enjoy.  Recommended!

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