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Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ – The Complete Series (A J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

July 13, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Sexually charged, dark and violent, if you are looking for a mature anime series on Blu-ray, definitely give “Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ – The Complete Series” a try!

Image courtesy of © 2007 XEBEC/GENCO. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ – The Complete Series

DURATION: 6 Episodes (270 Minutes)

 

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

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2010

 

Directed by Shigeru Ueda

Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi

Storyboard by Shigeru Ueda

Music by Takayuki Negishi

Original Character Design by Chuuouhigashiguchi

Character Design by Mitsuru Ishihara

Art Director: Yumiko Kondou

Animation Director: Mitsuru Ishihara

Anime Production by Xebec

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Mamiko Noto/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Rin Asogi

Akira Ishida/Todd Haberkorn as APOS

Rie Kugimiya/Jamie Marchi as Mimi

Rie Tanaka/Monica Rial as Sayara Yamanobe

Sayaka Ohara/Clarine Harp as Laura

Yasunori Matsumoto/Christopher Bevins as Tamotsu Yanagihara

John Swasey as Tajimamori

Kaori Nazuka/Luci Christian as Mishio Maeno

Rin Asogi is an immortal private detective with a thirst for vodka and a talent for attracting things that go bump in the night. In a series of nightmarish vignettes spanning sixty-five years, Rin’s lush body is sadistically pierced, blown up, and mulched to a bloody pulp. The fiend behind her tortured existence is Apos, an eternal being obsessed with sacrificing Rin to Yggdrasil, the tree of all life.

While Rin struggles to unravel the secrets of her endless agony, Apos lurks in the shadows, eager to tear into her ripe body and devour the memories of her countless lives. Rin’s no stranger to the realm of the dead, but her next visit could last forever.

 

Sexually charged, dark and violent, “Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” is a much more mature anime series on Blu-ray from FUNimation Entertainment.

Known as “Mnemosyne: Munemoshune no Musumetachi” (Daughters of Mnemosyne), the six-episode TV series premiered on AT-X in Japan in 2008 and was produced by Xebec (“Bleach”, “Love Hina”, “Arc the Lad”) and Genco and was released on DVD as a complete series by FUNimation Entertainment and an upscale Blu-ray release will be released on July 20th.

The series is directed by Shigeru Ueda (“Serial Experiments Lain”, “Tales of Eternia”, “UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie”), series composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Aquarion”, “RahXephon”), music by Takayuki Negishi (“Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Bakugan Battle Brawlers”, “Ichigo 100%”), character design by Mitsuru Ishihara (“Rockman .EXE”, “Chosoku Spinner”) and art direction by Yumiko Kondou (“Halo Legends”, “Heroman”).

The series revolves around a busty, martial arts female protagonist named Rin Asogi.  Rin runs a private investigation agency and takes on strange cases.  But despite what cases she takes on, no matter how violent or grotesque, no matter how injured or close to death she may find herself in, Rin somehow finds a way to come back and making the viewer believe that there is more to this woman, possibly supernatural.

The series revolves around the concept of immortals and angels.  Immortals who have a time spore which keeps them alive with regenerative abilities, while Angels are driven to consume an immortal (and an immortal is sexually aroused by their presence and want to be consumed to death).  With Rin being an immortal, she does all she can to stay alive even trying to repress her sexual desires by eliminating Angels.  Meanwhile, a being known as APOS wants her dead.

The main characters of “Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” are:

  • Rin Asogi – The main protagonist with a secret past who runs a private investigation agency.   A woman who has a “time spore” which has made her immortal, young and able to withstand and regenerate after being killed or losing a limb.  Very smart, cunning and an awesome martial arts fighter willing to take on any case.
  • Mimi – Rin’s assistant at the private investigation agency.  Also an immortal like Rin, she has the appearance of a teenager despite being older.  It is implied that both Rin and Mimi are intimate with each other.
  • Laura – An assassin hired by APOS to kill Rin and is a constant rival for Rin.
  • APOS – A being (or hermaphrodite) who is an angel and an immortal who has an interested in Rin and enjoys going after Angels and immortals to consume their “time spore”.
  • Koki Maeno – A man saved by Rin who joins the private investigation agency.
  • Sayara Yamanobe - The head of the Aoyama Pharmaceutical research lab.  Sadistic, cold and the scientist responsible for using illegal cloning techniques to create the time spore.

VIDEO:

“Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” is presented in 1080p High Definition 16×9.  The series is an standard resolution upscaled to 1080p and I saw no major compression problems, edge enhancement haloing, blurring, etc.  Blacks are nice and deep and colorful images were vibrant.  But as mentioned, this is an upscale, you will see the edge enhancement stairstepping and some aliasing.  But not as bad as other upscaled anime series on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and DolbyTrue HD Japanese 2.0.  I did notice use of surround during the action sequences and center and front channels were crystal clear.  I didn’t notice any major low frequency but did notice the surround channels more for its ambiance.  But overall, a good soundtrack with the English dub track sounding much better with the lossless 5.1 track but for those with a modern receiver, can easily enjoy both soundtracks via stereo on all channels to make things a little more immersive.  If anything, for those wanting the Japanese soundtrack to be included as a lossless track, should be happy.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • Episode 2 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring ADR director J. Michael Tatum and Rob McCollum, Jamie Marchi and Colleen Clinkenbeard.

Disc 2:

  • Promotional Videos – (10:33) The Japanese promotional video for “Rin – Daughter of Mnemosyne”.
  • Japanese Cast Interview – (13:48) Featuring the pre-AT-X interviews with the Japanese cast of “Rin – Daughter of Mnemosyne”:  Mamiko Noto (Rin), Rie Kugimiya (Mimi), Sayaka Ohara (Laura) and Rie Tanaka (Sayara).
  • Textless Closing Song – Cause Disarray - Featuring a closing theme performed by Galneryus.
  • Textless Opening Song – Alsatia - Featuring a closing theme performed by Galneryus.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers

When I first watched “Rin”, the first thing that came to mind was Marvel’s “Weapon X” (for the X-Men fans) as the storyline of Rin’s regenerative abilities reminded me of Wolverine/Deadpool and the series has its share of violent moments in which Rin’s investigations lead her to dark situations that would lead to anyone’s death.  But of course, Rin is not a normal being.

The first thing that caught my attention while watching this anime series is its use of sex and violence and aside from previous FUNimation Entertainment series liked “Speed Grapher”, it’s a been awhile since we have seen a series that combining sexual themes, bloody violence and action.  In fact, the protagonist – Rin, is quite different from most leads.  She is not perfect and in the first episode, we get a glimpse as she is running from her assassin and has her arm blown off and falls many floors down to the pavement.  Of course, she has regenerative powers, so she can’t die.

Needless to say, the series has its interesting characters.  Add the hermaphrodite antagonist, the sadistic scientist and immortals who also have their share of faults despite being killing machines, “Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” is not really a story about good vs. evil but survival.

Characters that are not like other type of characters you would see in an anime series and a six-episode OVA series that can easily get complex (especially with its timeline) and may require several viewings. In fact, even during the audio commentary, the voice talent said they needed to rewatch it again.

Overall, “Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne” is one of those darker, action-driven series that people have wanted to see.  FUNimation has had its share of violent anime series on Blu-ray such as “Afro Samurai” (action violence), Shigirui: Death Frenzy (action violence and a darker storyline) while “Rin” is much more accessible but has a more mature theme with its nudity and bloody violence, yuri themes but also often has its fine share of dark humor and not always bleak (especially earlier on in the series).

I do caution people that despite the earlier upbeat scenes, “Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~” is a series that can really get disturbing with its depiction of S&M torture.  This is one series that is definitely not for everyone and if you are looking for a romantic comedy or an uplifting anime series, “Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~ – The Complete Series” is probably not for you.  But if you are looking for a more mature, violent anime series, then definitely give this series on Blu-ray a try!

Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who grew up watching “Guyver” the OVA series or reading the manga, were no doubt excited about the release of the TV series which would follow the manga series much more.  But what made “Guyver” so exciting was its combination of violence and dramatic elements, the TV series is unable to get too violent but for the most part, anime fans looking for an action-driven series on Blu-ray may find “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” to their liking.

Image courtesy of © Takaya Yoshiki, Kadokawa Shoten/GUYVER Production Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series

DURATION: 26 Episodes (625 Minutes)

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2010

 

Based on the original manga by Yoshiki Takaya

Directed by Katsuhito Akiyama

Series Composition by Junki Takegami

Music by Hayato Matsuo

Character Design by Yoshihiko Umakoshi

Anime Production by Oriental Light and Magic

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Kenji Nojima/Chris Patton as Sho Fukamachi/Guyver I

Kousuke Takaguchi/Lowell Bartholomee as Tetsuro Segawa

Katsuyuki Konishi/Brian Jepson as Agito Makishima/Guyver III

Mitsuaki Madono/Andrew Love as Masaki Murakami

Nana Mizuki/Luci Christian as Mizuki Segawa

Kinryuu Arimoto/Bill Wise as Richard Gyuot

Michiko Neya/Brittney Karbowski as Shizu Onuma

Saburo Kamei/Klaus Vaux as Hamilcar Barcas

Takeharu Onishi/Illich Guardiola as Toshiaki Hayami/Bio-Freezer

Tetsu Inada/Robert Kraft as Aptom

Tomo Adachi/Kira Vincent-Davis as Natsuki Taga

Unshou Ishizuka/Jason Douglas as Oswald . A . Lisker/Guyver II

Yasunori Matsumoto/Gray Haddock as Archanfel

It is a world controlled by a sinister brotherhood who hide their fangs behind masks of humanity, known as the Chronos Corporation. While investigating a mysterious explosion near his school, Sho Fukamachi happens upon the Chronos Corporation’s greatest weapon: a techno organic suit of bio armor known as “the Guyver.” But Chronos is determined to conceal their secrets at any cost. Sho soon finds himself relentlessly pursued by its army of horrific bio-monsters. With nowhere to run, Sho is forced to call upon the fearsome power of the Guyver and rip his opponents limb from limb in a desperate struggle for survival.

 

In 2006, “GUYVER” made its return! And this time with a new 26 episode anime series which was previous released by ADV Films and now out on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

I have to say that “GUYVER” has been a major anime series among old school anime fans. We grew up watching the 12 episode OAV series and of course there were the two live movies but the manga story of “GUYVER” has been around a long time.

The original manga series written by Yoshiki Takaya back in 1985 in “Shonen Captain” magazine and is currently serialized in Kadokawa’s Monthly Shonen Ace magazine over 20 years later.

The “GUYVER” series can be a bit complex for me to explain but to simplify things, two high school students Sho and Tetsuro discover a mysterious object which pretty much is being heavily sought by the Chronos Corporation.   The object is a Guyver unit stolen by a test type Zoanoid (three units were stolen) and now the corporation is doing what it can to recover them.

While Sho and Tetsuro were messing around with the object, it begins to envelops Sho and merge with him and literally transforms him into the Guyver unit 1.

The Chronos Corporation tries to get the unit back through evil means but standing in their way is Sho who uses the unit to protect and also in many instances, save his friends.

The original anime series (a 12 episode OAV series) was released in Japan from 1989 to 1992 was loosely based on Yoshiki Takaya’s manga, “Bio-Booster Armor Guyver”.  The new 26-episode anime TV series is more closely based on the manga and allows for more character development for Sho, his friends and also the people behind Chronos.

The main characters of “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor” are:

  • Sho Fukamachi – The main character and a teenager who comes across the Guyver unit accidentally and merges with the unit to become “Guyver I”.  Now, he is a wanted man by the Chronos Corporation.
  • Tetsuro Segawa – Sho’s closest friend and highly intelligent.  A big sci-fi fan and the older brother of Mizuki.
  • Mizuki Segawa – Tetsuro’s younger sister who once had a crush on Agito Makishima but through time, develops feelings for Sho.
  • Agito Makishima – A high school student who is stoic in nature.  Discovers one of the Guyver units to become “Guyver III” and for some reason, has knowledge of the Guyver and its abilities.
  • Natsuki Taga – A high school student and a good friend of Sho and the Segawas who helps the three when they get into a bind.

VIDEO:

“Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition and because the series was released on television back in 2006, it is quite obvious that the Blu-ray release is not native HD and is an upscaled release.  And while the series does have its times of vibrant colors (especially the green trees or blue skies), the series puts a lot of focus on making the action sequences come alive and some of the natural background settings are not as detailed but some background elements are handpainted and it definitely brings something different for the artistic backgrounds.  But as far as PQ goes, you will notice edge enhancement and some haloing around the edges.

The new anime series doesn’t have the sketch/drawn style look that the original series (which many OAV’s from the 80’s tend to look like) had but the TV series looks good.  Again, it’s not super-detailed but it does tend to focus more on the action sequences which there are plenty of in this series.  I preferred the original OVA series with its detail and because of its more violent nature which fit the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and DolbyTrue HD 2.0 (Japanese).  First, the English lossless soundtrack features a good amount of surround usage for the various battle sequences.  Good amount of sound effects utilized and the English dub voice acting was well done.  For my experience though, I had an issue with the center channel being a bit low. I usually never have to adjust the center channel when watching an anime series on Blu-ray but for “Guyver”, I had to really boost up the center channel during viewing.

As for the Japanese DolbyTrue HD 2.0 lossless track, I preferred to watch the anime series in the original Japanese dialogue.  Voice acting is well done and for those with a modern receiver, I chose to have my settings set at stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • Episode 1 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring ADR director Charlie Campbell, Ron Peters (marketing manager) and Jack Glausner (marketing associate and convention coordinator).

Disc 2:

  • Episode 13 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring ADR director Charlie Campbell and voice actor Lowell Bartholomee (Tetsurou) and their experience working on an action-driven anime series.

Disc 3:

  • Episode 23 Commentary – Audio commentary featuring ADR director Charlie Campbell and voice actor Chris Patton (Sho).  Discussion about the fandom and the popularity of the series.
  • Episode 26 Commentary - Audio commentary featuring ADR director Charlie Campbell and voice actor Chris Patton (Sho) and Lowell Bartholomee (Tetsurou).  Discussion about the final episode and their experiences working on the series.
  • Manga to Anime Comparisons – (1:06:50) Featuring manga to anime comparisons for episodes 1-26.
  • Clean Opening Animation- Featuring the clean opening animation featuring “Waiting For…” by Reiri.
  • Clean Closing Animation – Featuring the clean closing animation featuring “Cotton Candy” by Bonnie Pink.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

When I first heard that a TV series for “Guyver” would be airing on Japanese TV, I was excited!

I owned older Japanese manga of “Bio Booster Armor Guyver”, I bought the 12-episode OVA series of “The Guyver-Bio-Booster Armor” and at one time, I even had the VHS for “The Guyver” live action-films.  So, I suppose you can say that I’m a big fan of the “Guyver” series and with the announcement of “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor”, you can’t help but be excited with a series that would try to incorporate the manga elements to the storyline.

Granted, because this is a TV series, I figured that the violence would not be as graphic as the OVA series and after watching the first two volumes, I was literally hooked on the series.  I enjoyed how the series would focus on the friendship of Sho, Mizuki and Tetsuro much more than the OVA series but most importantly, the sheer number of characters introduced and also involve storylines with those characters.

And it’s one of the few series where the protagonist ends up being gone for several episodes and focuses on the supporting cast (Sho’s friends) and also the series puts more time into the behind-the-scenes of what Cronos Corporation was planning, the introduction of the Zoalords and for the most part, the series does manage to keep its action-packed storyline from beginning to end as we get to see Guyver III in action.

I have to admit that my enjoyment of “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” is due to my previous love for the original OVA and manga series and part of that enjoyment was that it was a sci-fi violent anime series that had an intriguing story behind it.  Granted, the TV series is is not as violent as OVA episodes, but the fact that it does tend to follow the manga series definitely made many of us excited.  But in many ways, I felt that once it was all done, there should be much more story that needed to be told.  Hopefully there will be another Guyver series in the future.

As for the Blu-ray release, I pretty much made up my mind that if you want outstanding HD anime for a TV series (not a film or an OVA), you may need to look for series created post-2008 versus pre-2008.  “Guyver” is upscaled and definitely much better looking (and sounding) than its previous DVD releases.

Overall, “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” is a pretty cool action-driven anime series but I have to admit that the storyline starts to taper off a bit in the second half.  Some may find the series a bit repetitive, I actually enjoyed the OVA series more because of its animation and the action was more violent in nature which fit the series quite well.  But there is only so much you can do for a TV series.

In the end, if you are like for an action-driven anime series on Blu-ray with battles galore and a dramatic storyline along with it, definitely give “Guyver – The Bioboosted Armor – The Complete Series” a chance.

Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Violent, gory and stylish!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed short anime series featuring an awesome collaboration with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu in to bring out the original manga vision of Takashi “Bob” Okazaki.  Beautiful artistic visuals and animation by GONZO, if you’re  into anime that focuses more on the action, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is definitely for you.

Image courtesy of © 2009 Takashi Okazaki, Gonzo/Samurai Project.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions

DURATION: (Disc 1) 5 Episodes (125 Minutes) / (Disc 2) Afro Samurai: Resurrection 97 Minutes

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English 2.0, Subtitles: English (for special features)

 

RATED: TV MA

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2010

 

Directed by Fuminori Kizaki

Written by Takashi Okazaki

Executive Produced by Leo Chu, Eric Garcia, Shinichiro Ishikawa, Samuel L. Jackson and Arthur Smith

Co-Produced by Eric S. Calderon

Consulting Producer: Tommy Blacha

Character Design and Chief Animation Director:  Hiroya Iijima

Art Director: Shigemi Ikeda

Music by RZA and Michael Baiardi

Casting by Jamie Simone, Kendra Carter

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Ron Perlman as Justice

Kelly Hu as Okiku

Yuri Lowenthal as Juma

S. Scott Bullock as Dharman

Jeff Bennett as Foo

Tara Strong as Otsuru

Jason Marsden as Sasuke

Phil LaMarr as Brother

Afro Samurai: Resurrection:

Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Afro Samurai/Ninja Ninja

Lucy Liu as the voice of Sio

Mark Hamill as the voice of Bin/ODen Shop Master

Grey DeLisle as the voice of Tomoe/Ogin

Dave Wittenberg as the voice of Adolescent/Fencing Brother

Liam O’Brien as the voice of Shichogoro

Zachary Gordon as the voice of Kotaro

Yuri Lowenthal as the voice of Jinno

Afro Samurai. A relentless brother with an ice-cold soul and a jones for revenge. His path is long and violent, and the entire journey so far is now yours to witness.

First, the legendary series: Afro Samurai. As a kid, he saw his father slaughtered. Now a man, Afro walks to the mountain where destiny waits on high. The perpetrators must atone, and they’re gonna get what they deserve. Nothing personal – it’s just revenge.

The saga continues in Afro Samurai: Resurrection. Afro is forced back into the game by a beautiful and deadly woman from his past. She won’t quit until Afro is schooled in the brutal lessons he dealt those who stood in his way. One brother. One path. One thousand deaths.

 

Violent and visually entertaining!  Definitely an original and unique, action-packed anime series featuring a fantastic collaboration with actor Samuel L. Jackson, Takashi Okazaki and GONZO.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (”Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7″ and many other anime) brought us the popular five-episode series (which aired in the US on SPIKE TV back in 2007 ) was released as a special Director’s Cut featuring 15 minutes of never before seen footage.

The short animated TV series featured a collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson, creator Takashi Okazaki and anime production studio GONZO and took three years to develop and the series was followed by a movie titled “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” which takes place a year later after this series.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.  Although both the series and the film “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” were previously released on DVD and Blu-ray, FUNimation Entertainment is re-releasing both in one complete Blu-ray package on June 22, 2010.

The five-episode series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman in order to become #1.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice.

Accompanied by the mouthy Ninja Ninja (also voiced by Samue L. Jackson) during his adventures, the five episodes feature Afro taking on a variety of opponents and also flashbacks of his past when he was a child.

“Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” features a total of 5 episodes on the first Blu-ray Disc:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Revenge – The series features Afro when he was young and watched as his father was killed during a battle.  Now Afro, grown up and a feared samurai, is now wanting his revenge on the man who killed his father.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Dream Reader – Afro is taken care of by a woman named Okiku and we see flashbacks of Afro’s past as a child bent on revenge.
  • EPISODE 3 – The Empty Seven Clan – A clan sends out a robot based on Afro to take on the Afro Samurai.
  • EPISODE 4 – Duel – Afro comes face-to-face on someone sporting a bear mask (a face resembling a teddy bear that Afro’s young female friend used to have) and a flashback from Afro’s past.
  • EPISODE 5 – Justice – The final battle between Afro and his childhood friend and the final confrontation between Afro and Justice.

Afro Samurai: Resurrection:

The top samurai with the afro is back for another round of slicing and dicing galore.  Okazaki’s “AFRO SAMURAI” returns with the animated film “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” that is action-packed and poetically violent.

The popular anime and manga series is created by mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and produced by world renown Japanese animation company STUDIO GONZO (“Full Metal Panic”, “Vandread”, “Gantz”, “Samurai 7″ and many other anime) that brought us the popular five-episode series (aired on SPIKE TV back in 2007) made its return returned with a feature film in 2009.

Because of it’s impressive visuals, violent action scenes, unique characters (especially since the main character is a Black samurai) and its hip hop music courtesy of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame), the anime attracted many fans in the US.

The series revolves around a wandering samurai known as Afro Samurai in his goal of wanting to exact revenge for his father’s death.

In this futuristic, feudal-like Japan,  the country is dominated by the person who is known as the top #1 fighter (which is designated by a “ichiban” headband).  Afro’s father happened to be the #1 man at the time, the person to beat and one day, he was killed by the #2 opponent (note: only the person who has the #2 headband can challenge the #1 fighter) that goes by the name of “Justice”.

Justice decapitated Afro’s fathers head in front of him when he was a child and since that traumatic moment, Afro has trained and has become an excellent swordsman.  So, the series focuses on Afro trying to get his vengeance by challenging the top opponents out there and becoming #2 and finally getting the opportunity to challenge his father’s killer, Justice who is #1.

With “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”, the action takes place a year later.  The story focuses on Afro who tries to live an ordinary, peaceful life since the last events (from the TV series) have transpired.   Afro is literally hated by people due to the people he had to kill in order to get the #1 spot.  Some people who were really bad but some who are pretty good.

As Afro tries to live this normal life, his peaceful life is suddenly changed when Sio and Kuma make their return and steal his #1 headband and also his father’s remains.  Sio’s goal is to avenge the many people killed by Afro but also what Afro did to her step brother Kuma.  By resurrecting Afro’s father, the former #1, Afro will be made to suffer because he will have to fight and kill his own father.

So, Afro’s peaceful and normal life is dampened and now the samurai must return to his old killing ways in order to find out what happened to his #1 bandanna but also to get back at the people who stole his father’s remains.

VIDEO:

GONZO has done a remarkable job with this series.  Presented in 1080p High Definition, the animation and the painted backgrounds are well-done!  Daytime scenes are colorful and vibrant and night-time scenes are dark and work well with this series.  It’s also important to note that “Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (”Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (”Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The series is featured in 16×9 and for the most part, the picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is an anime film that looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. One thing is clear, the film just looks so much better than the TV series and the film showcases its vibrant colors during daylight scenes, its darkness during the night and most of all, impressive detail in the backgrounds courtesy of its 1080p High Definition (16×9) transfer.  The film just looks great!

It’s also important to note that “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” has quite a bit of talent involved with the look of the film such as character designer and animation director, Hiroya Iijima (“Gantz”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Black Cat”).  Also, art direction from Shigemi Ikeda (“Gantz”, “Gasaraki”, “Inuyasha”, Infinite Ryvius, “Black Cat” and many of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series and films).

The picture quality really brings out the detail of the surroundings, including the rocky cliffs to the disembowelment of several characters.  And color from the lush green painted backgrounds, blue skies and huge clouds, villages and buildings to the action sequences which showcases a lot of blood.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is just far superior to the look of the “AFRO SAMURAI” television series in picture quality and animation detail.

AUDIO:

As for the audio, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is featured in Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby Digital: English stereo.  The series actually sounds quite awesome with the clanging of the swords and the metal healing, sounding quite awesome.  Also, scenes with weapons being launched or fireworks being shot up to the sky, “Afro Samurai” has a solid lossless presentation.

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is featured only in English, there is no Japanese soundtrack.   Voice acting is well done by actors Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Yuri Lowenthal.  Samuel L. Jackson definitely brings out the believability of both Afro and Ninja Ninja and gives the series that cool, funky vibe.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • In the Booth – Voice Talent of Afro Samurai – (14:48) Interviews with voice talent Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman, Kelly Hu, creator Takahashi Okazaki and co-producer Eric Calderon discussing how the series came about.
  • RZA Music Production Tour – (4:54) RZA showing us how he created the music and crew talking about how RZA’s music was important for the series.  How hip hop is blended with Japanese animation.
  • Character Profiles with Commentary by Co-Producer: Eric Calderon – (23:42)  Gonzo’s Eric Calderon talks about Afro Samurai, Okazaki’s vision, the voice talent involved in the series and what is cool about the character and the series.

Disc 2:

  • Afro Samurai: The Game - (11:41) Interview with the staff who created the “Afro Samurai” video game.  From the cuts, the music, movement, character animation for the video game and more.
  • Enter the RZA - (6:20) RZA talks about how he came up with the music for the film and the various hardware and software used.
  • Afro In-Depth – (6:37) Interview wtih Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and how “Afro Samurai” became a manga, an animated series and an action figure.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 1 – (19:14) Interviews with creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki and director Fuminori Kizaki about having more freedom now than when they had with the TV series and now, wanting to blend of the cultures and how they had much more freedom to work for “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION”.  Also, interviews with the crew that includes character designs and artistic backgrounds. And also the Eastern staff  working with the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai: East Meets West, Part 2 – (25:03) Interview with actor and executive producer Samuel L. Jackson, executive producer Arthur Smith, voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, actress Lucy Liu and the crew from the Western staff.
  • Afro Samurai at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 - (8:10) Series creator and mangaka Takashi “Bob” Okazaki,  Samuel L. Jackson and RZA at San Diego Comic-Con discussing the series during their panel and also interviews with the excited audience.
  • Part A Video Commentary – (28:59) A roundtable video/audio commentary by Director Fuminori Kizaki, Creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, Character Designer/Chief Animation Director: Hiroya Iijima, Animation Producer: Yuji Hori and Animation Producer: Kenichi Hayashi.   The guys have a fun time watching the animation and discuss what they wanted to accomplish for the film, things that they wanted people to see and taking pleasure in discussing scenes that were well done and more.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers for upcoming or currently released series or films.

EXTRAS:

“Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” comes with a cardboard slip cover.

“Afro Samurai – Director’s Cut” is a solid, violent action anime series.

It’s definitely a violent series  (and I emphasize “violent”) that features plenty of blood and dismembered body parts but it’s interesting to see how samurai anime-based series has come since the early 90’s.  The action is fast and fierce but for “Afro Samurai”, the series is highly stylized.  Even the blood flowing and how the colors are feature is quite artistic in presentation.

Of course, some people may have a hard time seeing characters that are non-Japanese who are samurai, especially a Black anti-hero with a huge afro.  But Takashi “Bob” Okazaki, who was a big hip hop fan definitely was inspired by the music and wanting to do something different and sure enough, Afro Samurai was a unique creation.  Okazaki has done a wonderful job with this series and for the most part, doing something unique and different.  “Afro Samurai” may feature five episodes but in the overall plan, Okazaki has mentioned, that the series is just a very small part of what he has planned for Afro Samurai and for the most part, one can only hope that the series receives a larger storyline than just five episodes.

The “Afro Samurai” series has star power with Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Perlman and Kelly Hu contributing their voices to the series.  You have RZA bringing the hip hop to Japanese animation, so for the most part, it’s a unique blend of East meets West in bringing two cultures together.  I felt that was pretty awesome!

GONZO also has done a fantastic job on the animation and artistic backgrounds for this series.  I felt the action and fighting choreography was well done!  Again, everything is stylized.  Even down to the packaging of this release.  I have to say that “Afro Samurai-Director’s Cut” also features a pretty awesome package design.  Featuring a magnetic case and how the folds are, it’s pretty cool.

As for the TV MA rating, despite the series being shown on television, this is not a series to have children around watching.  It’s violent, bloody and features nudity and a sex scene.   In fact, some might find the series a bit disturbing and too gory for their tastes.

Overall, if you are a fan of “Afro Samurai” that was shown on television, the director’s cut features 15 extra minutes will definitely entertain you.   I personally can’t comment on where the extra footage is located but I would assume that the majority of those extra minutes are the extremely violent scenes.

As for my opinion on the series, for one, its short. The series obviously focuses more on the fighting and violence and the goal for people to become #2 in order to fight the #1 fighter.  I felt that the nature of this series was keeping the Western audiences in mind but utilizing Japanese animation by GONZO.   As far as storyline execution goes, “Afro Samurai” is nowhere near the deepness of other samurai anime like “Samurai Champloo”, “Hakkenden”, “Rurouni Kenshin” or “Samurai 7″.  But again, the series is short and Okazaki has not had the opportunity to have a full-length animated series.

But it’s also a different style of anime that although it uses the concept of samurai and has some inclusion of Japanese culture, the series is very Western.  Afro is stoic, while Ninja Ninja could be easily too vocal or mildly annoying but what I did like about the series is its style.  Sure, it’s bloody but somehow the way these fight scenes, no matter how violent they were, the execution was quite artistic in someway.

Also, the series is unique and how it tries to bring together samurai and hip hop music.  And of course, having the main character being a Black protagonist.  But “Afro Samurai” is a series that is literally action and style over substance.  If Okazaki was given a chance to have a full-length anime series of 26 episodes, it would be interesting to see what he would be capable of plot-wise.

“AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is definitely going to appeal to the fans of the show.  It was pretty unique to see the collaboration between the East and the West for this series and I can only hope that GONZO continues to further production of more episodes (note: Okazaki says that what we have seen so far on the TV series and film is such a small part of what he has already written/planned for the characters).

As far as samurai anime goes, “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” is a violent anime.  Part of Afro’s unique fighting style is his ability to slice and dice people with multiple hits with his sword.  There are a lot of decapitations, loss of limb and blood featured throughout the series, so for the parents wondering if this film is child-safe, the answer is that this film is definitely not child-safe.

There is a lot of Western appeal and as seen at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2008, this series has its large fandom who love this series.  For those who enjoy samurai violence and a samurai anime that is just full of action, there are many positives of “AFRO SAMURAI: RESURRECTION” from its beautiful animation, magnificent art and of course, the music by RZA just adds another positive reason why people the series but also the film.

Also, another major plus is that this Blu-ray goes beyond what many anime Blu-ray tend to have in terms of special features.  You get several featurettes and the Blu-ray definitely explores the Japan and American side of their working collaboration.  So, there are a good number of special features include on this Blu-ray disc.

Of course, the biggest question is if you own these previously on DVD or Blu-ray, is there a reason to buy “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions”? The answer is that if you have the DVD, then the upgrade to 1080p HD is worth it, if you enjoyed the series.  For those who own the previous two Blu-ray releases, the answer is no.  This is simply a collection of both releases, re-released in one complete package.    So, if you haven’t purchased “Afro Samurai” before, then most definitely, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is the way to go!

Overall, “Afro Samurai: The Complete Murder Sessions” is an anime film that features a ton of action, humor and violence.  If you dig samurai anime and a lot of fighting and violence, definitely check this film out!

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part One (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” has the making of a great anime series!  It will make you laugh, cry and by the end of the first volume, you are left with wanting more!  If you are looking for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that has a great balance of cool characters, an addictive storyline and for the most part, looks good and sounds wonderful in HD.  Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!

Images courtesy of ©Hiromu Arakawa/FA Project, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part One

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: November 17, 2009

Originally Created by Hiromu Arakawa

Directed by Yasuhiro Irie

Series Composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi

Music by Akira Senju

Opening and Ending Theme by L’Arc~en~Ciel

Character Deisgn by Hiroki Kanno

Art Director: Takeshi Satou

Art Design: Kazushige Kanehira

Anime Production by BONES

Featuring the voices of:

Rie Kugimiya/Maxey Whitehead as Alphonse Elric

Romi Paku/Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric

Iemasa Kayumi/Kent Williams as Father

Megumi Takamoto/Caitlin Glass as Winry Rockbell

Shinichiro Miki/Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang

Unshou Ishizuka/Aaron Dismuke as Van Hohenheim

Ai Satou/Brittney Karbowski as Mrs. Bradley

Akemi Okamura/Cynthia Cranz as Paninya

Anri Katsu/John Burgmeier as Dolcetto

Atsuki Tani as Berthold Hawkeye

Chika Fujimura/Gwendolyn Lau as Sheska

J. Michael Tatum as Scar

Fumihiko Tachiki as Sloth

Fumiko Orikasa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Risa (Riza) Hawkeye

Go Shinomiya as Storch

Kikuko Inoue/Laura Bailey as Lust

Wendy Powell as Envy

Edward and Alphonse Elric’s reckless disregard for alchemy’s fundamental laws ripped half of Ed’s limbs from his body and left Al’s soul clinging to a cold suit of armor. To restore what was lost, the brothers scour a war-torn land for the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled relic which grants the ability to perform alchemy in impossible ways.

The Elrics are not alone in their search; the corrupt State Military is also eager to harness the artifact’s power. So too are the strange Homunculi and their shadowy creator. The mythical gem lures exotic alchemists from distant kingdoms, scarring some deeply enough to inspire murder. As the Elrics find their course altered by these enemies and allies, their purpose remains unchanged – and their bond unbreakable.

In Japan, “Fullmetal Alchemist” (Hagane no Renkinjutushi) has been a popular long running anime and manga series created by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa.  The original manga series was serialized in Square Enix’s “Shonen Gangan” since 2001, while the 51-episode TV series created by BONES was shown on television in 2004 and was followed by a film to conclude the series.

The popularity of “Fullmetal Alchemist” has led to many novels, OVA’s, drama CD’s, soundtracks and video games and a lot of these releases have been distributed in various countries and its popularity is a testament of how people have come to love the series which has won many awards in Japan including being voted for the #1 most popular anime series of all time.

Despite it’s popularity, the series could have gone on longer but because the anime series was created when the manga was only several years old, the anime series only lasted 51-episodes and there were differences between what the director featured on the anime series and what Arakawa had in the manga.

So, in 2009, a new series titled “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Furumetaru Arukemisuto) was created by BONES and this time around, the series would follow the manga much more closely.  Currently there are over 60 episodes that have aired in Japan and the series is still ongoing.  Also, unlike the previous anime series, this series would be created in HD (540p).  The first 13 episodes of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would feature its first 13-episodes covering the first 26-episodes from the original anime series but from that point on, the series becomes a whole new storyline which features more characters and for the most part, something new and different for the viewers, especially fans of the original series.

To make sure that there is a difference between this series aside from the storyline differences compared to the original, the staff is different this time around as well as the character designs.  The director for “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would be Yasuhiro Irie (who worked on RahXephon”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Macross Plus”, “Gunparade March”), series composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Eureka Seven”, “Area 88, “Aquarion”, “RahXephon”, “RIN”, “Skullman”), music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Mobile Suit Victory Gundam”, “Silent Service”), character designs by Hiroki Kanno (“Angelic Layer”, “Eureka Seven”, “Ninja Scroll”, “RahXephon”) and art design by Takeshi Satou (“Mobile Suit Gundam 00″, “Ghost Slayers Ayashi”, “Please Twins!”).

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is a series about two young alchemist brothers named Edward and his younger brother Alphonse Eric (aka “Al”).  Their father left them and several months after their father left, an epidemic hit their village and killed their mother.  Grieving and alone without their mother, the two quickly tried to hone their alchemist skills and hope to bring their mother back alive by using a human transmutation (this is illegal and considered taboo by alchemist).

While performing the transmutation, a dark shadow comes and literally breaks apart the body of Alphonse and as for Edward, he is shown “the truth” but in return for doing the transmutation, there is a toll and in this case, he loses his legs and feet and his right arm.  And the transmutation to bring their mother fails as Edward was only able to revive a disembodied figure.  In a short time allowed before the dark shadow leaves, Edward was able to bond Al’s soul to a suit of armor but there are some consequences.  And these consequences and guilt have plunged Edward to the lowest he had ever been.

Meanwhile, a military figure named Roy Mustang has come and is shocked to see that Edward was able to survive a human transmutation and also anchoring his brother’s soul and thus gives Edward a chance to join the military to fight with them but at the same time, gaining access that may give Edward a chance to bring his brother back to life and also his own body as well.

With this opportunity, this gives Edward a chance to repair what he did wrong and help his brother.  But as they investigate on how they can get their bodies back and investigating what is known as a “Philosopher’s Stone”, an unknown group is out there, observing his every move and willing to kill in order to get to Edward.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” features the following characters:

  • Edward Elric – The oldest of the Elric brothers who manage to survive a transmutation and managed to bond his brother to a suit of armor just in time.   In the process, he lost his legs and his right arm in which his childhood friend Winry has created metal prosthetics known as “automail”.  He is also quite short but also very destructive as he is skillful with alchemy and the fact he survived a transmutation shocks the military.  Working as a State Alchemist in order to find a way to bring his brother’s body back and possibly getting his own body back.
  • Alphonse Elric – Al is the youngest brother of Edward who was bonded to a suit of armor.   Almost invulnerable and very strong.  Often mistaken as the eldest because of his size.
  • Roy Mustang – The Lt. Colonel of the State Military who wants to become the next Fuhrer of Amestris.  He is the one who discovered Edward and Alphonse.
  • Winry Rockbell - A childhood friend of Edward and Alphonse.  She is also very gifted in technical and mechanical things.   Often is the person who repairs Edward’s automail (metal prosthetic limbs).  And always arguing with Edward, but its quite obvious that she cares about him.
  • Alex Louis Armstrong – A strong arm alchemist who is extremely strong and hulking in size but also very sensitive.
  • Izumi Curtis - The teacher of Ed and Alphonse Eric who helped them hone their alchemy right after their mother died.
  • Maes Hughes – An old friend of Roy Mustang’s who tries to help him with his goal to become a Fuhrer.  He works in military intelligence and has a loving wife and young daughter.  A family man, he lets Winry stay with them when she is in town.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part One” features a total of 13-episodes on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a basic summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Fullmetal Alchemist – Edward and Al are sent to capture rogue State Alchemist Isaac McDougal.
  • EPISODE 2 – The First Day - We learn how Edward lost his limbs and how Al was bonded to a suit of armor.
  • EPISODE 3 – City of Heresy – Ed and Al arrive at Liore and learn about Father Cornello’s “miracles”. Does he really know alchemy?
  • EPISODE 4 – An Alchemist’s Anguish – Who is the mysterious man who has murdered State Alchemists?
  • EPISODE 5 – Rain of Sorrows – After the battle against the mysterious man, now Edward and Al must take on Scar.
  • EPISODE 6 – Road of Hope – The Elric brothers and Armstrong go to Resembool to find a former State Alchemist.
  • EPISODE 7 – Hidden Truths – Ed and Al arrive back in Central and find out that the library they need to visit has been burned down by someone.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Fifth Laboratory – Al vs. Barry the Chopper while Ed takes on Slicer.
  • EPISODE 9 – Created Feelings – The aftermath of the battle and Al starts to have conflicted feelings.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – Separate Destinations – Both Edward and Al go to visit their old alchemist teacher Izumi Curtis.  Meanwhile, tragedy hits the State Alchemists.
  • EPISODE 11 – Miracle at Rush Valley – The Elric brothers and Winry visit Rush Valley (where the best automail creators live).
  • EPISODE 12 – One is All, All is One – Ed and Al learn the truth about their teacher.
  • EPISODE 13 – Beasts of Dublith – Al is captured by homunculus.  Edward searches for his brother.

VIDEO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is presented in 1080p HD 16×9 via a HD native source.  It’s important to note that although the conversion was made to 1080p, I’ve read that the actual Japanese original masters were created in 540p.  With that being said, this is a TV series and one can’t expect OVA or film quality but I manage to compare the DVD and Blu-ray verson and the Blu-ray looks much more colorful, much more detailed and looked much better and more colorful than its DVD counterpart.

I did notice edge enhancement and I’m sure the conversion of a 540p source to 1080p possibly led to the jaggies that can be seen at times.  Granted, I’m a bit picky when it comes to video quality but the fact that this is created by BONES (a busy anime production company) and the fact that this is not an OVA or film, for a TV series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” looks very good. Granted, it’s not uber-vibrant but there is a good amount of shading, detail, blacks are deep and overall, I felt the Blu-ray looked much better than its DVD counterpart.

AUDIO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part One” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.  Overall, the 5.1 lossless soundtrack sounds very good and there is a good  amount of surround usage and its much more immersive than its Japanese lossless counterpart.

The Japanese lossless soundtrack is still good, especially if you have a receiver in which you can change the setting to stereo on all channels.  I do prefer the Japanese lossless soundtrack in terms of acting.  For example, the scene where Edward is screaming in pain after performing the transmutation is incredibly acted by Romi Paku, Vic Mignona did a good job but I felt Romi was much more emotional and you can hear that pain in his voice.  But the English lossless of course, has a much better sound overall.  So, it all comes down to preference.

Subtitles are in English.

NOTE: You can not use your audio button to switch from Japanese to English and vice versa while watching the series.  You will need to press your guide button to switch to another audio.  Also, you can not optionally remove English subtitles unless you choose the English lossless soundtrack.  So, for those who want to watch the series in Japanese with no English subtitles may be disappointed by this.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood – Part One” comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 1 Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Director and voice of Gene) and voice talents Colleen Clinkenbeard (Riza Hawkeye and Rose Thomas), Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang) and Maxey Whitehead (who plays Al).  The talent talk about the differences of playing the character in the original series and playing the characters now.
  • EPISODE 10 Commentary – Audio commentary by American voice talent Caitlyn Glass (ADR Director and voice of Winree Rockbell), Sonny Strait (voice of Hughes) and Laura Bailey (voice of Lust).  The talent talk about the differences of their characters compared to the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” series.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – The textless opening and ending theme songs.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” comes with a cardboard slipcase and four postcards (note three of the four postcards are seen via the images on this review).

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” made me laugh, made my cry but for the most part, made realize how much I love this series and how happy I am that we are getting the version based on the manga series.

Not to say that I don’t miss the original anime series but “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is what should have been to begin with but overall, I enjoyed this Blu-ray release.

The first 13-episodes pretty much covers the first 26-episodes of the original series, so certain parts of the storyline that were much more fleshed out in the series will definitely upset the hardcore fans of the original series but I felt that the point is to get over the primary 13-episodes and then afterward, go full force in a different direction from the original anime series.

As that is one major difference between the two series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” also features a different look for some of the characters and more characters are introduced.  The series is much darker, bloodier but it eventually works itself out.  The storyline of Hughes is not as fleshed out as in the original but still, the impact of what happens to him is still there.

The brotherly bond between Edward and Al is still there and it was great to see Winry so direct in how she gets her emotions across was quite nice.  But of course, these are the first 13-episodes and there are over 60-episodes in Japan (and the series is still ongoing).  But I have no doubt that this will be one of the more exciting ongoing long series to be available on Blu-ray that I have no doubt in my mind is going to be action-packed, hilarious, fun, sad and even more than what we got with the original series.

The only thing that I know where people will have their differences in opinion is the actual picture quality of the series.  As many Japanese companies are going through cost-cutting situations due to their economy, we are going to see some anime released in 4:3 instead of widescreen and we are going to see Japanese companies not taking advantage of 1080p and focusing on 540p.  This is going to be a major contention with videophiles wanting the best for anime in the US (and have been disgruntled by the amount of upscale releases).

Personally, I’m not as critical because this is a TV series (you can’t expect OVA or film quality) and just because it’s from BONES, like any major anime studio, sometimes the staff are working on multiple series and for those familiar with Japanese anime studios, sometimes these series are turned in to the network up-to-the-last minute of being aired on television.

But with that being said, I was able to compare the DVD and the Blu-ray release of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and the artistic backgrounds and its details are much better looking on Blu, the colors are more cleaner, sharper and more colorful on Blu and for the most part, for a TV series, I’m quite content with the PQ.  I felt the black levels were good and again, for a TV Series released in 2009, the picture quality is good not great (it’s not 1080p) and there is a hint of edge enhancement but it’s still pretty good.

Overall, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” may not please the diehards who have loved the original anime TV series but the fact is, we are getting a series that is now closer to the manga series and also more episodes than the original release.  Not to say one should forget the original series but in a way, the “Fullmetal Alchemist” brand has moved on to bigger and better and the FMA: Brotherhood series is much more consistent to what the creator, Hiromu Arakawa intended.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” has the making of a great anime series!  It will make you laugh, cry and by the end of the first volume, you are left with wanting more!  If you are looking for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that has a great balance of cool characters, an addictive storyline and for the most part, looks good and sounds wonderful in HD.  Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CLAMP’s “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” features all 52 TV episodes and the Tsubasa film in one set for a great price!  But If you previously purchased season 1 on Blu-ray, I recommend purchasing the second season individually and also the Clamp Double feature.  Overall, if you enjoy fantasy/adventure/action-based anime, definitely give “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” a try!

Images courtesy of © 2010 CLAMP/KODANSHA/NHK-NEP. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories

DURATION: 52 episodes and 1 film (1375 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9, Dolby True HD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (for movie), Subtitles: English

RATED: TV PG

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 11, 2010

Originally Created by CLAMP

Directed by Koichi Moshimo

Screenplay by Hiroyuki Kawasaki

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Minako Shiba

Art Director: Shin Watanabe

Sound Director: Toru Nakano

Executive Producer: Hisako Matsumoto

Anime Production by Bee Train

Featuring the voices of:

Daisuke Namikawa/Vic Mignona as Fay D. Flourite

Mika Kikuchi/Carrie Savage as Mokona

Miyu Irino/Jason Liebrecht as Syaoran

Tetsu Inada/Chris Sabat as Kurogane

Yui Makino/Monica Rial as Sakura

Kouki Miyata as Yukito

Maaya Sakamoto/Amber Cotton as Tomoyo

Shinichiro Miki as Touya

Colleen Clinkenbeard as Yuko Ichihara

J. Michael Tatum as Seishiro Sakurazaka

A true and noble heart holds much power, stronger than the hardest fist and mightier than the most potent magic. Four disparate travelers begin an epic journey; their goals different, their destiny the same. Along the way, the past will meet the future in the present. Of all the paths of every life, mingling in the dimension between dimensions where a foe has the face of an ally, and an ally the face of a monster.

At the center of this heroic undertaking is Syaoran, a young man called upon to save his fated, the princess Sakura. Her memory has been shattered, the very essence of her soul sent adrift across the universe. Feathers float down on strange lands, torn asunder if only to prove the power of love.

With fellow travelers Kurogane and Fai, a warrior and a wizard, an epic quest begins. One of danger and mystery… The possibilities are endless.

The fantasy shonen manga known as “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” by the well-known mangaka group CLAMP (“X”, “xxxHolic”, “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Angelic Layer”, “Chobits”) was created in 2003 and has been featured on Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen through October 2009. In 2005, a 52-episode anime series aired through 2006 and included five OVA’s released between 2007-2009.

The series was featured on FUNimation Entertainment’s “Funimation Channel” in 2008 and had been released on DVD previously in the US back in 2007. And the popular CLAMP series received its High Definition treatment in the Nov. 2009 with the first season (26 episodes) released on Blu-ray and the second season of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” (featuring the final 26-episodes) and the  Tsubasa/xxxHolic double-feature on Blu-ray released on May 11, 2010.  But released on this date is “Tsubasa – Collected Memories” which includes all 52 episodes of both seasons and the Tsubasa-only film collected together on seven Blu-ray discs in one box set.

The series is directed by Koichi Mashimo (“Sorcerer Hunters”, “.Hack” series, “”Dirty Pair: Project Eden”, “Noir”) and features a screenplay by Hiroyuki Kawasaki (“Irresponsible Captain Tylor”, “Martian Successor Nadesico”, “Sorcerer Hunters”, “Sakura Wars”, “Tekkaman Blade”). Music for the series is courtesy of Yuki Kajiura (“Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “.Hack” series”, “My-HIME”, “Madlax”), character designs by Minako Shiba (“.Hack” series, “Noir”, “Kuroshitsuji”, “Darker than Black”) and art direction by Shin Watanabe (“Arc the Lad”, “Batman: Gotham Knight”, “Diamond Daydreams”).

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” is about a young man named Syaoran who returns home and meets up with his friend Sakura (who really likes him). She has wanted to confess her love to him but due to circumstances, she has to go back to the castle. While Syaoran goes back to the ruins, he sees Sakura who seems to be levitated in light. As he goes to rescue her, small feathers of light disappear and Sakura is left unconscious.

In order to save Sakura, Syaoran along with a unconscious Sakura, a magician named Fay D. Flourite and a ninja named Kurogane are transported to present day Japan in which they come in contact with a dimension witch (Yuuko Ichihara of the CLAMP anime series “xxxHOLIC”). Yuuko explains that they were brought together for a reason and that in order to get home, they would need to travel to various alternate universes to find their way back home. And in each universe, Syaoran must find these feathers which represents Sakura’s memories and are now scattered in various alternate universes, he along with his two compatriots must travel these alternate universes but must find these feathers and return them back to Sakura. After finding each feather(s) for that universe, they will then go to another universe where things are different than the last.

But in order to begin their adventure for Syaoran to revive Sakura and for each of them to return back home, Yuuko must collect payment and that is for each of them to give up something precious. Syaoran makes the biggest sacrifice in which if he is able to revive Sakura, she will no longer have any memory of Syaoran. So, the four embark on their trip to various worlds where familiar faces from their own world are different people from different backgrounds and occupations.

Meanwhile, as Syaoran and the others try to find the feathers, an enemy rival named Fei Wang Reed has interest in obtaining the feathers. He will kill anyone and anybody to obtain Sakura’s feathers.

Both seasons of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” features a race for Syaoran with Sakura, Fay and Kurogane to get the feather of Sakura’s memories before anyone else is able to and taking on various evils and encountering alternate versions of people they know in these different worlds. Will Syaoran, Sakura, Fay and Kurogane survive their adventure?

The main characters of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” are:

  • Syaoran – The main protagonist from the Kingdom of Clow who likes a girl named Sakura. But when Sakura’s memories are lost, he has made it his mission to find each feather of her memory and bring her back to life, even if she will no longer remember him. Syaoran is an aspiring archaeologist and in each universe, seems to have developed certain supernatural or fighting skills.
  • Sakura – The princess of Kingdom Clow who has always loved Syaoran. On the day she was to tell him that she loves him, she loses all her memories and magical powers and left unconscious. Only when Syaoran brings back a feather of memories and returns it back to her does she start to get better little at a time.
  • Fay D. Flourite – A magician from the country of Selece. He has sealed King Ashura and has run away from Selece, never wanting to return back home. He gladly accepts traveling with Syaoran and Kurogane but unlike them, he has no intention of going back home. He gives up his treasured item, a tattoo as payment to Yuuko.
  • Kurogane - A ninja who is always fighting and shows no mercy. And because of this, Tomoyo sends Kurogane (without his approval) to where Syaoran and Fay. But also cursing him and that if he kills anyone, his strength will decrease. Tomoyo’s goal is for Kurogane to learn what true strength is and let him know that it is not about his sword or killing people that brings strength.
  • Mokona Modoki - Two bunny-like creatures that are given to the three by Yuuko Ichihara. The white creature allows for teleportation to the alternate universes, while the black creature allows the three to keep in direct contact with Yuuko. But both can also sense Sakura’s feathers of memories.

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” features the following 52-episodes on 1 Blu-ray disc with disc 7 focused on the film “Tsubasa the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom”:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 1: Destinies Converge – Something has gone wrong in the Kingdom of Clow, leaving Sakura unconscious.
  • EPISODE 2: The Power to Fight – Syaoran (with Sakura), Fay and Kurogane are whisked to a new world.  What will be their mission?
  • EPISODE 3: Sword of Demon Destruction – The first alternative universe places Syaoran and the group in the Hansin Republic where people have their own powers.
  • EPISODE 4: Innocent Wandering – Sakura has gone missing.  Will Syaoran be able to find her?
  • EPISODE 5: The Battle of the Mage – The gang leader Shogo challenges Syaoran in a Kudan battle.
  • EPISODE 6: Unshed Tears – The fight between Syaoran and Shogo begins.
  • EPISODE 7: The Broken Memento – The group travel to their next world, the Koryo Country and learn from Chun Hyang of an evil group known as Ryanban.
  • EPISODE 8: God’s Beloved Daughter – Sakura is drawn to the local castle for some reason.
  • EPISODE 9: Princess of Shadows – The gang encounter the Ryanban and learn about their famous weapon.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10: Mirror of Separation – Syaoran vs. the Ryanban leader’s son.
  • EPISODE 11: The Chosen Tomorrow – The Ryanban takes control of the villagers.
  • EPISODE 12: A Warm Smile – The group are whisked into another world that consists only of a large lake.
  • EPISODE 13: Advocate of Illusions – The group visit a new world, the Jade Country in which the princess is supposedly has a magical feather.
  • EPISODE 14: Truth in History – A ghost princess visits Sakura.
  • EPISODE 15: A Heart That Believes – Sakura tries to rescue children from the castle with the help from the ghost princess.
  • EPISODE 16: Strength in Kindness – The group now goes to the Storm Country in which a fight tournament is taking place.
  • EPISODE 17: Demon Hunters – The group reach Oto Country in which they are attacked by oni.
  • EPISODE 18: Cats and Dogs – Fay and Kurogane learn a secret of Syaoran.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 19: Resolution to Live – Syaoran wants to learn how to use a sword and asks Kurogane to teach him.
  • EPISODE 20: The Afternoon Piano – Kurogane trains Syaoran on how to use a sword.
  • EPISODE 21: The Demon’s True Face – The gang encounters the oni Seishiro (from the CLAMP anime/manga series “Tokyo Babylon”).
  • EPISODE 22: Indelible Memory – Syaoran and the group try to protect Seishiro from the town hall.
  • EPISODE 23: The Fading Life – Seishiro starts to attack Syaoran and the others.
  • EPISODE 24: Blade of a Desperate Fight – The group learn that they are in a virtual reality world leading to a battle between Kurogane and Seishiro.
  • EPISODE 25: The Ultimate Game – The battle between the Oni heats up, meanwhile Syaoran tries to get the feather from Seishiro.
  • EPISODE 26: The Last Wish – The group end up in a new world, Tsarastora County where the group learns that if they can reach to the top of a blessed temple, the would be granted a wish.

Disc 4:

  • EPISODE 27: Dangerous Race – The group lands in a futuristic world in which a feather is part of a 1st place price during a race.
  • EPISODE 28: The Three Badges – Tomoyo of the Piffle Princess Company warns the group that someone is tampering with the Dragonfly race.
  • EPISODE 29: Goal of Glory – The person responsible for tampering with the race is revealed.
  • EPISODE 30: Sorrowful Miracle – Another feather is found but it’s on a dragon.
  • EPISODE 31: A Young Man’s Resolve - The group land in Portoria Country in the middle of an ocean.
  • EPISODE 32: A Date With a Wizard – The group land in Fort City Brit, a city that uses magic.
  • EPISODE 33: The Origins of Ashura – The group arrives in Shara County but this time, the group is separated from each other.
  • EPISODE 34: Endless War – An earthquake hits Shara County.
  • EPISODE 35: Two Memories – The group visit Shura County and learn the story of Ashura and Yasha.

DISC 5:

  • EPISODE 36: Love That Transcends Time - The story of Ashura and Yasha is continues.
  • EPISODE 37: Mokona the Artist – The group land in a super-deformed world and only Mokona can help the group.
  • EPISODE 38: Dangerous Road – The group lands in the Principality of Dargoa but gangsters terrorize a group of passengers on a bus.
  • EPISODE 39: Parting of Beginnings – The fight against the gangsters.
  • EPISODE 40: Black Steel – The group lands in Rekord County and discover a book with Kurogane’s past.
  • EPISODE 41: Secret of the Library – The group finds out that Syaoran has read the original Book of Memories.
  • EPISODE 42: Faraway Homesickness – The group are now in the Country of Clow and look for anything living.
  • EPISODE 43: The Fifth Oath – Kurogane wants to learn more about his past and Kurogane starts learning more than he should about his travel partner.
  • EPISODE 44: Kero and Mokona – The group take a break and go to sleep and when they woke up, everyone shrunk to an inch tall.

DISC 6:

  • EPISODE 45: The Second Hardship – The group arrive in Koryo County, to discover things have changed in their homeland.
  • EPISODE 46: The Secret of Hijutsu – Kishim tells the group about a hidden country known as Kiishimu that runs parallel to Koryo County.
  • EPISODE 47: Sakura Works – The group land in Ragtime World and the group must get the feather but end up getting in a fight with a gang.
  • EPISODE 48: Feather-King Chaos – The group land in Tao Country which is ruled by King Chaos.
  • EPISODE 49: A Warped Wish – Sakura has a dream of her childhood in Clow Kingdom and is attacked by a worm, but who is the mysterious person that saved her?
  • EPISODE 50: Determined Friends – Chaos tries to kidnap Sakura but is miffed that she cares so much about Syaoran. So, Chaos challenges Syaoran to a duel.
  • EPISODE 51: A Frozen Spirit – Kurogane trains Syaoran before his fight against Chaos.
  • EPISODE 52: Wings Toward Tomorrow – Final episode. The final conclusion between Syaoran vs. Chaos and Sakura makes a revelation of who Chaos really is.

Disc 7:

  • Tsubasa the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom

For “Tsubasa the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom”, the 30-minute animated film features the four main protagonist and Mokona in another land and takes place between season 1 and 2.  Syaoran and Sakura are separated away from Fay and Kurogane.  As for Fay and Kurogane, they are encountered by the king’s soldiers who are wondering how they were able to enter their land (which is protected by a magical birdcage, no one can get in or out).  Immediately, a fight ensues and both men are imprisoned in bird cages.

Meanwhile, Syaoran and Sakura meet Princess Tomoyo who lost her voice when her uncle, the current king took it away from her.  He is now after her ring which will give him the full power to enclose their land permanently and will be in complete control of the kingdom with his magical power.  With the King having so much power, can Syaoran and friends defeat the king and find the feather for Sakura’s memories?

VIDEO:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9).  So, far with some of the upconverted anime series from FUNimation Entertainment really looking gorgeous on Blu-ray, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One” has its moments of vibrancy and sharpness with beautiful, colorful backgrounds and the noticeable CLAMP character designs but on Blu-ray, you also see compression artifacting.  There are times where you can see the artifacts quite clearly on a larger television set (I have a 52″, so it really stood out and I would imagine those with larger screens will also see it become more prevalent).  It’s not too distracting as it doesn’t happen throughout the whole episode but you do notice it from time to time.  And in terms of animation, when it comes to CLAMP animated series, there is always less emphasis on the actual look (in fact, one thing you’ll notice with certain characters in “Tsubasa” are similar to “xxxHolic” with characters sporting the long arms, long bodies, long legs, etc.) but more emphasis on the storyline and how the character design and artistic background compliments it.   So, PQ wise, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One” is not going to be the greatest look anime series on Blu-ray but it compliments CLAMP’s storytelling quite nicely.  (NOTE: I did do a video test to see if season 1 was re-encoded for the “Collected Memories” version but the season 1 on this set is the same as the season 1 individual Blu-ray release).

With “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two”, things are much more different. Presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9), one will see that this season looks much better than the first. The artistic backgrounds and characters have a good amount of shading but in some way, it’s not the best looking anime series though. CLAMP series are typically known for their character designs and storytelling but in terms of PQ, don’t expect a tremendous leap in quality from the first to the second season.

First, because this is a TV series, let alone a series released back in 2005-2006, you’re not going to get a superb HD release of an anime series released in late 2008-present. The series does feature plenty of colors and at time is quite vibrant. In fact, the video is much, much better than the first season. I didn’t notice any discoloration problems and I didn’t see many artifacts or aliasing (they are there) compared to the first season.

Overall, I’m glad to see that FUNimation fixed the video problems they had with the first season release as this release is much, much better.

“Tsubasa the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  It’s important to note that this film was released in 2005 and with that being said, I know there are other reviewers who have said these films were both upscaled.  Truthfully, if they were upscaled, then similar to “Fullmetal Panic: The Second Raid” (from FUNimation which looks great despite being an upscale), I’m inclined to say that this film looks great.

The film is quite vibrant in colors and actually look very beautiful in HD.  Unlike the TV series for “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One” on Blu-ray in which I had problems with the aliasing, compression artifacts and discolorization problems but because this not a TV series but a film, I was expecting for much improved video quality over the TV series and sure enough, the movie looks great.  Again, colors are vibrant and the artistic backgrounds for the film look wonderful.

Overall, if this film truly is an upscale (and the fact that these two films were released in 2005 and the fact that both films were not released via Blu-ray in Japan leads me to believe this release is an upscale) and despite it being upscaled, the colors and background art for both films are wonderful.  It’s not a picture perfect release as you can see ghosting near the edges of the characters, if you look very close but by no means is this going to hamper your enjoyment of both films.  Both CLAMP TV series were never known for their detail to begin with and CLAMP releases tend to be story-driven, but nevertheless, both films looked very good on Blu-ray.  Again, not perfect but very good for an upscaled Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” delivers in lossless audio (English dub) as their is utilization of the surround channels of the series. Good use of special effects in this second season. You hear the vehicles flying through the air, the panning of speed from left to right surround channels and also, the action sequences being utilized through the surround channels including crowd ambiance.  But all is not perfect.In fact, similar to the first season, once again, the center channel seems low that I felt I had to adjust it constantly.

Front channel music and surround sound good…but it’s almost a similar to the “Grease” effect (for those who have the Blu-ray of the movie “Grease”) where the front channels overpower the center channel. The sound effects and music are much louder than the spoken dialogue when your volume is low that the only way to get things to sound right is to increase the volume of your receiver or by increasing your center channel volume.

Otherwise, once fixed…you realize that “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” does sound awesome and it’s great to have an anime series taking advantage of actions sequences involving explosions and various sound effects. And as always, the quality of the English dub courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment is well-done with this series.

For those who were hoping for a lossless Japanese audio soundtrack, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” is presented in Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 only. For those who have a modern home theater receiver, this can be easily remedied by selecting stereo on all channels but I can understand for hardcore anime fans who prefer the Japanese dialogue wanting lossless Japanese audio.

I will say that I did prefer the Japanese version a bit more. When it comes to the background music, for the English dub, they opted to go with the instrumental version of the theme music, while the Japanese version features the Japanese vocals. It makes more sense to have it with the vocals because otherwise, the English dub version sounds like it has an electronic instrumental soundtrack and personally, it just didn’t seem right. But this my opinion and others who dislike J-Pop will more than likely be happy the Japanese vocals from the songs were taken out during the action sequence.

“Tsubasa the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom” is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and a Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack.  And I have to say the lossless soundtrack was fantastic.  During the action sequences of the film, there is very good use of the surround channels and also a bit of LFE .  For the most part, dialogue is clear and I admit that I was quite pleased to find out that FUNimation did include a lossless Japanese soundtrack with this release.

Subtitles are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • Cast Auditions – The cast auditions (audio only)  for those who provided the English dub for the characters Syaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, Fai, Mokona and Yuko.
  • Faces in the Crowd – A text-based character bio.  Featuring a variety of characters that have appeared in other CLAMP manga/anime series.
  • Character Guide – A text based bio for the main characters of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One”.
  • World Guide – A text based guide to the various worlds featured in the anime series.
  • Textless Theme Songs – Textless opening theme song “Blaze” and closing theme song “Loop”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

Disc 6:

  • Character Guide – A text based bio for the main characters of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two”.
  • World Guide – A text based guide to the various worlds featured in the anime series.
  • Textless Theme Songs – Textless opening theme song “Blaze” and closing theme song “Loop”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

Disc 7:

“Tsubasa the Movie: The Princess in the Birdcage Kingdom” comes with the following special features:

  • 2005 Premiere in Ikebukuro – (8:15) Featuring the main seiyuu cast for both films as they introduce themselves to the viewers at the premiere in Ikebukuro and also answering questions from the host.
  • 2005 Movie Event in Shibuya – Featuring a special screening at Tower Records in Shibuya.  Featuring a music performance by Kinya singing the theme song “Aerial” and guests Yui Makino (voice actress of Sakura) and Miyu Irino (voice of Syaoran) and a video message from music artist Suga Shikao who did the theme song  for “xxxHolic the movie”.
  • Recording Session Montage – (1:59) A brief music  montage with the seiyuu at work and recording for the film.
  • Japanese Staff and Cast Commentary – (35:47) Featuring picture-in-picture audio commentary by Mika Kikuchi (Mokona), Yui Makino (voice actress of Sakura) and Miyu Irino (voice of Syaoran) plus producer Iwasaki from Shochiku.  The producer talksa bout how they made certain animation for the film and the cast being impressed by the final cut of the film.  A fun, upbeat commentary.
  • Additional Movie Event Coverage – (:40) Featuring music artist Kinya commenting about CLAMP’s work.
  • Production Artwork – (6:14) Featuring a music montage with the character designs and sketches for the film.
  • Background Slides – (1:44) Featuring a music montage of the beautiful concept and background art for the film.
  • Origin of Birdcage Kingdom – (1:46) Featuring a music montage about the origin of Birdcage Kingdom (featuring art and the story in Japanese with English subtitles).
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” comes with a cardboard slipcase.

Let me first say that I have been a big fan of CLAMP-related anime and manga series. When “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” was originally released, I felt that the appearances of characters from various CLAMP series was just awesome.

With that being said, I’ve always felt that CLAMP series although known for their character designs, the overall enjoyment of their work is how well written the stories are and how much they focus on character development. So, with that being said, for those looking for a series that features a well-written storyline that is quite addictive, you’re going to enjoy “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”.

With that being said, I will say that “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” looks much better than the first season and for audio, once you have your surround system up and center channel configured, the series does sound great. But I will be truthful with you and tell you that this is not the best looking or sounding anime TV series on Blu-ray. But its strength relies on its characters and its adventure storyline.

Personally, I feel that those who want an entertaining anime series will enjoy “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”. It’s too good of a series to pass up on Blu-ray, especially with its enjoyable and addictive storyline. Especially how the series features many characters (and alternate versions of them) plus, you also will see CLAMP cameos of characters from other anime/manga series. Definite cool!

And for those who do enjoy English dubs, you will enjoy the lossless audio as surround channels are well utilized and overall, a pretty solid soundtrack during its action sequences (despite the front channels slightly overpowering the center channel during a lower volume setting).

For those expecting some closure with this second season of “Tsubasa” are probably going to be disappointed. Similar to the other CLAMP series “xxxHolic”, the anime series was shown on television before the manga was wrapped up. So, if you want to know how things end for the series, you’re not going to find it in the anime series but only in the manga. Also, the five Tsubasa OVA’s have yet to be released on Blu-ray or DVD, so its a shame that we haven’t seen that release just yet.

So, the big question – Should I purchase the seasons and films separately or purchase “Collected Memories”?

Well, first off…if you purchase both seasons and the movies separately, it will cost you over a $100.  Purchase “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” and you pay around $65-$75.  So, it’s a no-brainer that this set is definitely worth purchasing because of its price.  And I know there are people who purchased season 1, who may be upset that a collected version did come out because they would have saved money purchasing this than having to buy season two and the films later on.  And speaking about the films, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” only comes with the “Tsubasa” film, not the “xxxHolic” film.  “xxxHolic the Movie” does tie into the Tsubasa film but is not entirely necessary for viewing but if you are a CLAMP or “xxxHolic” fan, then you can easily purchase this set and the “Tsubasa the Movie/xxxHolic the Movie – Clamp Double Feature” separately.

But overall, because of its price, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Collected Memories” is the way to go, if you haven’t purchased season 1 yet.  If you have season 1, then it’s probably best to purchase season 2 and the double feature separately.

Overall, I do feel that among the current offering on Blu-ray in terms of anime television series, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” is definitely one of the better series storyline-wise at this time.  It has all the elements of fantasy, adventure, action, science fiction incorporated to its storyline and the characters which are fun to watch.  Definitely a series worth owning on Blu-ray!

Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CLAMP’s “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” continues the action and adventure.  With a much better storyline and also better video quality compared to its first season, fans of the “Tsubasa” anime series will no doubt be entertained by this latest release!

Images courtesy of © 2010 CLAMP/KODANSHA/NHK-NEP. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two

DURATION: Episodes 27-52 (640 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9, Dolby True HD English 5.1 and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV PG

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 11, 2010

Originally Created by CLAMP

Directed by Koichi Moshimo

Screenplay by Hiroyuki Kawasaki

Music by Yuki Kajiura

Character Design by Minako Shiba

Art Director: Shin Watanabe

Sound Director: Toru Nakano

Executive Producer: Hisako Matsumoto

Anime Production by Bee Train

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Daisuke Namikawa/Vic Mignona as Fay D. Flourite

Mika Kikuchi/Carrie Savage as Mokona

Miyu Irino/Jason Liebrecht as Syaoran

Tetsu Inada/Chris Sabat as Kurogane

Yui Makino/Monica Rial as Sakura

Kouki Miyata as Yukito

Maaya Sakamoto/Amber Cotton as Tomoyo

Shinichiro Miki as Touya

Colleen Clinkenbeard as Yuko Ichihara

J. Michael Tatum as Seishiro Sakurazaka

A true and noble heart holds much power, stronger than the hardest fist and mightier than the most potent magic. Four disparate travelers begin an epic journey; their goals different, their destiny the same. Along the way, the past will meet the future in the present. Of all the paths of every life, mingling in the dimension between dimensions where a foe has the face of an ally, and an ally the face of a monster.

At the center of this heroic undertaking is Syaoran, a young man called upon to save his fated, the princess Sakura. Her memory has been shattered, the very essence of her soul sent adrift across the universe. Feathers float down on strange lands, torn asunder if only to prove the power of love.

With fellow travelers Kurogane and Fai, a warrior and a wizard, an epic quest begins. One of danger and mystery… The possibilities are endless.

 

The fantasy shonen manga known as “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” by the well-known mangaka group CLAMP (“X”, “xxxHolic”, “Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Angelic Layer”, “Chobits”) was created in 2003 and has been featured on Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen through October 2009. In 2005, a 52-episode anime series aired through 2006 and included five OVA’s released between 2007-2009.

The series was featured on FUNimation Entertainment’s “Funimation Channel” in 2008 and had been released on DVD previously in the US back in 2007.  And the popular CLAMP series received its High Definition treatment in the Nov. 2009 with the first season (26 episodes) released on Blu-ray and now here we are with the second season of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”.   It’s important to note that released simultaneously on Blu-ray is the Tsubasa/xxxHolic double-feature on Blu-ray which ties into the series and also released is “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Blu-ray Collected Memories” which collects the first two seasons plus the Tsubasa-only feature (xxxHolic film is not included).

The series is directed by Koichi Mashimo (“Sorcerer Hunters”, “.Hack” series, “”Dirty Pair: Project Eden”, “Noir”) and features a screenplay by Hiroyuki Kawasaki (“Irresponsible Captain Tylor”, “Martian Successor Nadesico”, “Sorcerer Hunters”, “Sakura Wars”, “Tekkaman Blade”). Music for the series is courtesy of Yuki Kajiura (“Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”, “.Hack” series”, “My-HIME”, “Madlax”), character designs by Minako Shiba (“.Hack” series, “Noir”, “Kuroshitsuji”, “Darker than Black”) and art direction by Shin Watanabe (“Arc the Lad”, “Batman: Gotham Knight”, “Diamond Daydreams”).

To recap “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” Season 1, the series is about a young man named Syaoran who returns home and meets up with his friend Sakura (who really likes him). She has wanted to confess her love to him but due to circumstances, she has to go back to the castle. While Syaoran goes back to the ruins, he sees Sakura who seems to be levitated in light. As he goes to rescue her, small feathers of light disappear and Sakura is left unconscious.

In order to save Sakura, Syaoran along with a unconscious Sakura, a magician named Fay D. Flourite and a ninja named Kurogane are transported to present day Japan in which they come in contact with a dimension witch (Yuuko Ichihara of the CLAMP anime series “xxxHOLIC”). Yuuko explains that they were brought together for a reason and that in order to get home, they would need to travel to various alternate universes to find their way back home. And in each universe, Syaoran must find these feathers which represents Sakura’s memories and are now scattered in various alternate universes, he along with his two compatriots must travel these alternate universes but must find these feathers and return them back to Sakura. After finding each feather(s) for that universe, they will then go to another universe where things are different than the last.

But in order to begin their adventure for Syaoran to revive Sakura and for each of them to return back home, Yuuko must collect payment and that is for each of them to give up something precious. Syaoran makes the biggest sacrifice in which if he is able to revive Sakura, she will no longer have any memory of Syaoran. So, the four embark on their trip to various worlds where familiar faces from their own world are different people from different backgrounds and occupations.

Meanwhile, as Syaoran and the others try to find the feathers, an enemy rival named Fei Wang Reed has interest in obtaining the feathers. He will kill anyone and anybody to obtain Sakura’s feathers.

Both seasons of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” features a race for Syaoran with Sakura, Fay and Kurogane to get the feather of Sakura’s memories before anyone else is able to and taking on various evils and encountering alternate versions of people they know in these different worlds.  Will Syaoran, Sakura, Fay and Kurogane survive their adventure?

The main characters of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” are:

  • Syaoran – The main protagonist from the Kingdom of Clow who likes a girl named Sakura. But when Sakura’s memories are lost, he has made it his mission to find each feather of her memory and bring her back to life, even if she will no longer remember him. Syaoran is an aspiring archaeologist and in each universe, seems to have developed certain supernatural or fighting skills.
  • Sakura – The princess of Kingdom Clow who has always loved Syaoran. On the day she was to tell him that she loves him, she loses all her memories and magical powers and left unconscious. Only when Syaoran brings back a feather of memories and returns it back to her does she start to get better little at a time.
  • Fay D. Flourite – A magician from the country of Selece. He has sealed King Ashura and has run away from Selece, never wanting to return back home. He gladly accepts traveling with Syaoran and Kurogane but unlike them, he has no intention of going back home. He gives up his treasured item, a tattoo as payment to Yuuko.
  • Kurogane - A ninja who is always fighting and shows no mercy. And because of this, Tomoyo sends Kurogane (without his approval) to where Syaoran and Fay. But also cursing him and that if he kills anyone, his strength will decrease. Tomoyo’s goal is for Kurogane to learn what true strength is and let him know that it is not about his sword or killing people that brings strength.
  • Mokona Modoki - Two bunny-like creatures that are given to the three by Yuuko Ichihara. The white creature allows for teleportation to the alternate universes, while the black creature allows the three to keep in direct contact with Yuuko. But both can also sense Sakura’s feathers of memories.

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” features the following 26-episodes on 3 Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 27: Dangerous Race – The group lands in a futuristic world in which a feather is part of a 1st place price during a race.
  • EPISODE 28: The Three Badges – Tomoyo of the Piffle Princess Company warns the group that someone is tampering with the Dragonfly race.
  • EPISODE 29: Goal of Glory – The person responsible for tampering with the race is revealed.
  • EPISODE 30: Sorrowful Miracle – Another feather is found but it’s on a dragon.
  • EPISODE 31: A Young Man’s Resolve - The group land in Portoria Country in the middle of an ocean.
  • EPISODE 32: A Date With a Wizard – The group land in Fort City Brit, a city that uses magic.
  • EPISODE 33: The Origins of Ashura – The group arrives in Shara County but this time, the group is separated from each other.
  • EPISODE 34: Endless War – An earthquake hits Shara County.
  • EPISODE 35: Two Memories – The group visit Shura County and learn the story of Ashura and Yasha.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 36: Love That Transcends Time - The story of Ashura and Yasha is continues.
  • EPISODE 37: Mokona the Artist – The group land in a super-deformed world and only Mokona can help the group.
  • EPISODE 38: Dangerous Road – The group lands in the Principality of Dargoa but gangsters terrorize a group of passengers on a bus.
  • EPISODE 39: Parting of Beginnings – The fight against the gangsters.
  • EPISODE 40: Black Steel – The group lands in Rekord County and discover a book with Kurogane’s past.
  • EPISODE 41: Secret of the Library – The group finds out that Syaoran has read the original Book of Memories.
  • EPISODE 42: Faraway Homesickness – The group are now in the Country of Clow and look for anything living.
  • EPISODE 43: The Fifth Oath – Kurogane wants to learn more about his past and Kurogane starts learning more than he should about his travel partner.
  • EPISODE 44: Kero and Mokona – The group take a break and go to sleep and when they woke up, everyone shrunk to an inch tall.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 45: The Second Hardship – The group arrive in Koryo County, to discover things have changed in their homeland.
  • EPISODE 46: The Secret of Hijutsu – Kishim tells the group about a hidden country known as Kiishimu that runs parallel to Koryo County.
  • EPISODE 47: Sakura Works – The group land in Ragtime World and the group must get the feather but end up getting in a fight with a gang.
  • EPISODE 48: Feather-King Chaos – The group land in Tao Country which is ruled by King Chaos.
  • EPISODE 49: A Warped Wish – Sakura has a dream of her childhood in Clow Kingdom and is attacked by a worm, but who is the mysterious person that saved her?
  • EPISODE 50: Determined Friends – Chaos tries to kidnap Sakura but is miffed that she cares so much about Syaoran.  So, Chaos challenges Syaoran to a duel.
  • EPISODE 51: A Frozen Spirit – Kurogane trains Syaoran before his fight against Chaos.
  • EPISODE 52: Wings Toward Tomorrow – Final episode. The final conclusion between Syaoran vs. Chaos and Sakura makes a revelation of who Chaos really is.

VIDEO:

I was a bit hard on my review for “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season One”.   Granted, it was a TV series but there was major aliasing, discoloration blobs and for the most part, I have to admit that it was a bit of a downer that the picture quality for the series was not that great.  BUT with “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two”, things are much more different.

Presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9), one will see that this season looks much better than the first.   The artistic backgrounds and characters have a good amount of shading but in some way, it’s not the best looking anime series though.  CLAMP series are typically known for their character designs and storytelling but in terms of PQ, don’t expect a tremendous leap in quality from the first to the second season.

First, because this is a TV series, let alone a series released back in 2005-2006, you’re not going to get a superb HD release of an anime series released in late 2008-present.  The series does feature plenty of colors and at time is quite vibrant.  In fact, the video is much, much better than the first season.  I didn’t notice any discoloration problems and I didn’t see many artifacts or aliasing (they are there) compared to the first season.

Overall, I’m glad to see that FUNimation fixed the video problems they had with the first season release as this release is much, much better.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Where the season did shine for the first season was its English dub soundtrack and the same can be said of the first. One thing you will notice about “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” is the utilization of the surround channels of the series.  Good use of special effects in this second season.  You hear the vehicles flying through the air, the panning of speed from left to right surround channels and also, the action sequences being utilized through the surround channels including crowd ambiance.

But all is not perfect.In fact, similar to the first season, once again, the center channel seems low that I felt I had to adjust it constantly.

Front channel music and surround sound good…but it’s almost a similar to the “Grease” effect (for those who have the Blu-ray of the movie “Grease”) where the front channels overpower the center channel. The sound effects and music are much louder than the spoken dialogue when your volume is low that the only way to get things to sound right is to increase the volume of your receiver or by increasing your center channel volume.

Otherwise, once fixed…you realize that “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” does sound awesome and it’s great to have an anime series taking advantage of actions sequences involving explosions and various sound effects. And as always, the quality of the English dub courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment is well-done with this series.

For those who were hoping for a lossless Japanese audio soundtrack, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” is presented in Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 only. For those who have a modern home theater receiver, this can be easily remedied by selecting stereo on all channels but I can understand for hardcore anime fans who prefer the Japanese dialogue wanting lossless Japanese audio.

I will say that I did prefer the Japanese version a bit more.  When it comes to the background music, for the English dub, they opted to go with the instrumental version of the theme music, while the Japanese version features the Japanese vocals.  It makes more sense to have it with the vocals because otherwise, the English dub version sounds like it has an electronic instrumental soundtrack and personally, it just didn’t seem right.  But this my opinion and others who dislike J-Pop will more than likely be happy the Japanese vocals from the songs were taken out during the action sequence.

Subtitles are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Character Guide – A text based bio for the main characters of “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two”.
  • World Guide – A text based guide to the various worlds featured in the anime series.
  • Textless Theme Songs – Textless opening theme song “Blaze” and closing theme song “Loop”.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” comes with a cardboard slipcase.

Let me first say that I have been a big fan of CLAMP-related anime and manga series. When “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” was originally released, I felt that the appearances of characters from various CLAMP series was just awesome.

With that being said, I’ve always felt that CLAMP series although known for their character designs, the overall enjoyment of their work is how well written the stories are and how much they focus on character development. So, with that being said, for those looking for a series that features a well-written storyline that is quite addictive, you’re going to enjoy “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”.

I will say that “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE” looks much better than the first season and for audio, once you have your surround system up and center channel configured, the series does sound great.  But I will be truthful with you and tell you that this is not the best looking or sounding anime TV series on Blu-ray.  But its strength relies on its characters and its adventure storyline.

Personally, I feel that those who want an entertaining anime series will enjoy “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE”. It’s too good of a series to pass up on Blu-ray, especially with its enjoyable and addictive storyline. Especially how the series features many characters (and alternate versions of them) plus, you also will see CLAMP cameos of characters from other anime/manga series. Definite cool!

And for those who do enjoy English dubs, you will enjoy the lossless audio as surround channels are well utilized and overall, a pretty solid soundtrack during its action sequences (despite the front channels slightly overpowering the center channel during a lower volume setting).

For those expecting some closure with this second season of “Tsubasa” are probably going to be disappointed. Similar to the other CLAMP series “xxxHolic”, the anime series was shown on television before the manga was wrapped up.  So, if you want to know how things end for the series, you’re not going to find it in the anime series but only in the manga.  Also, the five Tsubasa OVA’s have yet to be released on Blu-ray or DVD, so its a shame that we haven’t seen that release just yet.

Not sure if there are any plans to bring the final chapter of the manga for an anime series but overall, “Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE – Season Two” is no doubt an enjoyable series, let alone an enjoyable season but I hope someday that the anime series would receive another season in the very near future in order to close out the series and give it a true ending.

Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part One (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The 20th Anniversary of “Dragon Ball Z” brings us a new HD version of the popular animated series.  Featuring an absolutely fantastic presentation of “Dragon Ball Z” via HD video and lossless audio , this Blu-ray release is truly a winner!  “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is a must-buy, must-own anime series on Blu-ray.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation.  2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part One

DURATION: (Episodes 1-13) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4×3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: May 18, 2010

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

 Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Produced by Shinichi Fukumitsu

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

 

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

Mayumi Tanaka/Mike McFarland as Yajirobe

 

The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku – the strongest fighter on the planet – is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he’ll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord – Prince Vegeta.

For the past few years, I have been raving about FUNimation Entertainment’s releases of “Dragon Ball Z” from the original orange box collections to the recent Dragon Box Z DVD box set releases.  And yes, I am a big fan of the anime series and yes, I am going to rave once again about this latest Blu-ray release of  “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part One”.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman.  I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil.  But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect.  He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult.  The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before.  “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases.   It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.  But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 100 episodes.

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan,  while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy.

Now, having watched “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part One” on Blu-ray and as a long time viewer of the series, I have just one thing to say about this Blu-ray release… Awesome!

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series.  If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has two releases of the series on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai” but it is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

Currently available from FUNimation Entertainment (and is still being released) is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku.  “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”.  All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes, was remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

In 2009 and currently in the present, FUNimation Entertainment has released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (as of this review, there have been a total of three volumes released featuring over 30-episodes each).  These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which were also released last year by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2010,  “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is now presented in HD, without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, has a duration of 100 episodes and the first volume on Blu-ray and DVD from FUNimation Entertainment consists of the first 13 episodes. It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series.  The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes.  Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of each episode on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 1 - A summary of the “Dragon Ball” series and how afterwards, Goku and Chi-Chi now have a family and a son named Gohan.  Having been away from his friends for years, Goku wants to introduce Gohan to his old friends.
  • EPISODE 2 – A Saiyan named Raditz claiming himself as Goku’s older brother has arrived on Earth and wants Gohan to destroy Earth.
  • EPISODE 3 – Goku and Piccolo vs. Raditz.
  • EPISODE 4 – With the events that took place after the battle with Raditz, the Z Warriors learn they have one year until more Saiyans arrive on Earth and thus they must train and prepare.  Meanwhile, Goku must undergo training as well from King Kai.
  • EPISODE 5 – Piccolo trains Gohan to prepare him for what is to come in one year’s time.
  • EPISODE 6 – Six months have passed and we see where both Goku and Gohan are in their training.
  • EPISODE 7 – Goku continues his training with King Kai, meanwhile the Z Warriors complete their training on Earth and now prepare for the Saiyan visitors.
  • EPISODE 8 – Goku completes his training and King Kai warns Goku of overuse of the powerful Kaio-ken technique.
  • EPISODE 9 – Vegeta and Nappa arrive on Earth and they send their Saibaman after the Z warriors and tragedy hits the team hard.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – Nappa takes on the Z warriors but his power is so tremendous and more Z warriors go down in battle.
  • EPISODE 11 – Vegeta spares the remaining Z Warriors three hours in order to wait for Goku’s arrival.  Will he show up in time?
  • EPISODE 12 –  Vegeta loses patience and thus the battle begins again as Nappa takes on Piccolo, Kuririn and Gohan.  But what happens when Goku arrives?
  • EPISODE 13 –   Goku vs. Vegeta

VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings.  But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks.  The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3.  As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD.  The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD.  But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes?  That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray.  You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality.  Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors.  Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

Also, as times have changed when it comes to what can be shown on television and stricter laws on what can be shown on television since 1989 and the fact that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” would be distributed worldwide on television in other countries (in the US, the series will begin airing on Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons), most immediate changes are when it comes to the nudity and violence.   Nude scenes featuring a young Goku or Gohan now feature their private areas now covered.  There is now less blood during the most violent battle scenes.

But the added footage is easily noticed.  I caught one scene with Nappa and Vegeta outdoors sitting near a campfire with a digital flame.  Also, another scenes with Nappa with the dark stroke around the character which was seen in the later “Dragon Ball Z” movies.    There were scenes in which shading was utilized but with all new sequences, it’s important to note that they created the sequences to compliment the older footage.  So, everything looks just right together.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does not look like a series that came from 1989.  Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine.   In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts.   I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio.  The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack.   And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio.  Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels.  For example, the first episode with Goku and his son as they are near a river.  You can hear the water splashing and flowing through the surround channels.  During battle, you can hear each blast panning from left surround channel, through the front channels and then right surround channel to full effect.    When a person is screaming, the surround channels are used as well.  I didn’t notice major activity via LFE but felt the series was more front, center and surround channel driven.

But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music.  As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme.  Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels.  You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely.  Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it.  Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track.  But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy.  It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective.  And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets.  If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you.  If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar.  In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good.  Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku.  But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku.  For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome!  I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” Disc 2 features the textless opening and ending themes and FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.  I’m still impressed after watching part one and how this TV series looks on Blu-ray.

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean.   Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai” replace my feelings towards the original series.  Of course not but I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long.  We would literally have to wait as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and would contain maybe two to four episodes.  And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.  If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was an expensive wait to collect all volumes.  Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then.

But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences.   Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series.  It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time.  Because the series only lasts 100 episodes, there will be multiple volumes but this is one series that gets better and better with each season and the characters grow especially in powers and skill as they take on enemies that are much worse than the previous enemy.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series.  Highly recommended!

Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The sequel to “Gunslinger Girl” is not more of a sequel but side missions featuring members of the Section 2.  If you thought the cyber-enhanced girls of Section 2 were deadly, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” introduces us to a young male killer who has his sights in killing the cyber girls.  Plenty of action and story-wise, an improvement over the first season.

Image courtesy of © Yu Aida/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. Marvelous Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series

DURATION: 15 Episodes inc. OVA (360 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: March 16, 2010

Originally created by Yu Aida

Directed by Hiroshi Ishiodori

Series Composition by Yu Aida

Screenplay by Tatsuhiko Urahata, Yu Aida

Music by Ko Otani

Character Design by Noboru Sugmitsu

Art Director: Chikara Nishikura

Anime Production by Artland

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kana Akutsu/Lauria Bailey as Henrietta

Risa Mizuno/Alese Watson as Claes

Atsuko Enomoto/Caitlin Glass as Triela

Kana Hanazawa/Monica Rial as Angelica

Anri Shiono/Luci Christian as Rico

Masaya Matsukaze/Masashi Ebara as Hirscher (Hilshire)

Takehito Koyasu/Eric Vale as Jean

Kazuki Yao/Jim Foronda as Marco

Kozo Mito/John Burgmeier as Jose

The girls of the Social Welfare Agency are no ordinary children. They are the grisly remains of human wreckage pieced back together with cybernetic implants and trained to kill by the government.

The oldest, Triela, pursues her targets with a ferocious enthusiasm, unwilling to settle for less than total annihilation. Her mirror in this bloody stalemate is Pinocchio, a shell of a boy raised as an assassin by the FRF: a terrorist faction at war with the SWA. Cold and cruelly efficient, he wields sharpened steel as though it were an extension of his own hand.

Once human, these shattered souls have become murderous machines with only vague recollections of what it meant to be real – and a brutal compulsion to be the last killer standing.

In 2002, mangaka Yu Aida had her first manga “Gunslinger Girl” published in the monthly shonen magazine “Dengeki Daioh”. A year later, her manga series was adapted into a 13-episode anime television series airing on Fuji TV. The manga and anime series would continue with another 13-episode anime television series titled “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” in 2008 and has also inspired video games for the Sony PlayStation 2.

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” the sequel to the popular anime series would start anew in terms of animation by this time going with Artland for the anime production instead of  Madhouse Studios.  Hiroshi Ishiodori (“Peach Girl”, “Chrono Crusade”, “Bubblegum Crash”) would take the role as chief director,while Rei Mano (“Cardcaptor Sakura”, “Guardian Hearts”) would be the main director of the series.  Also, this time “Gunslinger Girl” mangaka Yu Aida would have a more hands on approach to the screenplay for the sequel.  Character design for the series would be by Noboru Sugimitsu (“Mushi-Shi”, “Infinite Ryvius”, “Turn A Gundam”), art direction is by Chikara Nishikura (“Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf”, “Koi Kaze”, “Story of Saiunkoku”) and music by “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing”, “Pumpkin Scissors”, “Blade of the Immortal”, “Eyeshield 21″).

The series has been released by FUNimation Entertainment on DVD but the series makes its High Definition on Blu-ray along with the original “Gunslinger Girl” which were both released on March 16, 2010.  Also, included on the “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” Blu-ray are the two “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” OVA’s which were released separately on DVD.

The concept of “Gunslinger Girl” revolves around the Social Welfare Agency which is a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government. Known by the public to help those who are physically injured, the truth is that the agency is a a military organization that specializes in counter-intelligence and counter terrorism. Their soldiers, young orphan girls enhanced with cybernetic implants and are taught to kill and pare of the SWA’s “Section 2″.

The girls have synthesized muscle implants giving them super-human strength and reflexes, as well as the ability to be resilient to any damage. Each of these girls are partnered with a trainer/handler and together they are known as a “fratello”. Some handlers are caring for the girls they are partnered with but for the agency, they look at these girls as weapons and also as expendable.

“Gunslinger Girl” was more about episodic stories feature the female members of the group but “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” is more like side stories for certain members.  Considering the manga series is still ongoing, for those wanting to know if there is a conclusion to this series, the sequel is not a conclusion but more of extra adventures.  The main story arc of this sequel revolves around a young killer named Pinocchio who seems to have as much or even more skills than any of the cybergirls.

The main characters of “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” are:

  • Henrietta/Jose – Henrietta’s family were massacred and she was assaulted and left for dead. She has suffered from psychological trauma and had wanted to die. But since being brainwashed and conditioned for the agency, she is an assassin who feels a strong bond with Jose and cares deeply for him. As for Jose Croce, his counterparts think he has gotten to close emotionally with Henrietta.
  • Rico – Born with severe birth defects, she was signed over to the agency by her parents when she turned 11. But since joining and receiving a new body with the agency, she is happy. She is the only cyborg girl with memories of her past life.
  • Triela - Rebellious and masculine, she is one of the elder Cyborg girls that tries to help her counterparts. But for some reason, she is losing her memory.
  • Claes - A peaceful cyborg who is used more as a test subject since the death of her handler. Claes enjoys gardening and reading books more than engaging in violence.
  • Angelica - A girl that was nearly killed by her father trying to collect insurance, Angelica is the first cyborg of the agency.  Angelica has been hospitalized due to events fro the first season and now is eager to get back on a mission but will she ever be the same?

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~- The Complete First Season” consists of 13-episodes + two OAV’s on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Distance Between Two: Brother and Sister – Jose and Henrietta along with Jean and Rico join Hilshire and Triela to take on a group of bombers.
  • EPISODE 2 – Pinocchio – In this flashback episode, the storyline is about a young murdering child named “Pinocchio”.
  • EPISODE 3 – Simulacra – Hilshire and Triela are on a mission to find a missing Public Safety Division member and confront the young killer “Pinocchio”.
  • EPISODE 4 – Angelica’s Return – Angelica is on her first field mission since her hospitalization but when things don’t go as well, she starts to feel frustrated.
  • EPISODE 5 – Transcience and Reminiscence – Marco is worried that Angelica may not be able to be like her original self.
  • EPISODE 6 – Retiring Tibetan Terrier – Section 2 are asked to be on a mission to watch and protect the politician, Chairwoman Isabella d’Angelo.
  • EPISODE 7 – Katerina’s Annulus of Vengeance – Could their be a link between Franca and Pinnochio?
  • EPISODE 8 – A Day in the Life of Claes – Claes has these dreams of Raballo but she doesn’t know whey she has these dreams or who this Raballo is.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 9 – Wise Serpent, Pure Dove – Section 2 are on a mission to find out more about Giuseppe’s background.
  • EPISODE 10 – White Flowers – Triela is not doing too well and is frustrated that she was unable to beat Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 11 – Budding Feelings – A flashback about Cristiano and the young boy who would become Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 12 – Fighting Doll – The mission is now to find Franco, Franca and Pinocchio.
  • EPISODE 13 – And Pinocchio Became Human – The final battle between Triela and Pinocchio.  Who will become victorious?
  • OAV 1 – EPISODE 14 – The Light of Venice, the Darkness of the Heart – Jean and Rico are on a mission to take out a mafia boss supporting Roman terrorists.
  • OAV 2 – EPISODE 15 – Fantasma – A story that takes place around the time of ep. 10 and 11 of “Gunslinger Girl” during Rico, Henrietta, Jean and Giuseppe in Sicily and an episode that deals with Giuseppe dressing Henrietta in Enrika’s  (who is dead) clothing which causes some friction among the group.

VIDEO:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” is an anime television series presented in 1080p High Definition (16×9) and was a series that came out in 2008.   Fans of the series have been critical because of their preference of the Madhouse Studios anime production of “Gunslinger Girl” back in 2007.  Personally, I felt the character designs were much more better in the first series, while the second series features more focus on shading and lighting of the backgrounds.

As for video, there is noticeable use of edge enhancement on the series.  One must be wondering that if this is a 2008 release anime series, we are going to get great visuals.  Unfortunately, this is where Japanese anime TV series are a mixed bag.  There are series where production companies have enough time and manpower to making a television series look great via the backgrounds and its colors, but with “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~”, the series was good but not great wen it comes to animation.  There are some scenes such as the focus on weapons which are nicely detailed but for the most part, animation was OK and some episodes looked good on HD I have to agree that the animation and production for the first series was much better than the sequel (but the storyline is much better in the sequel than the first series).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Fortunately with FUNimation Entertainment Blu-ray releases in 2010, we are getting lossless Japanese soundtracks and sure enough, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” features audio sporting both an English and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack.  The English dub soundtrack seems to be much more louder than its Japanese counterpart in terms of dialogue and special effects.  Certain scenes do feature good use of lossless through the surrounds during the gun battle scenes but it’s not as immersive as I would like.  But at the same time, the fact that we get a lossless Japanese soundtrack is a big step and will sure to please fans who have been wanting lossless Japanese soundtrack with their anime series.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” contains the textless songs and trailers.  Unfortunately, special features from the DVD release such as the “Japanese Cast Interview: Voice of Marco”, original TV commercials and from the OAV DVD release, “Japanese Cast Interview: Voice of Hilshire” are not included on this Blu-ray release.

EXTRAS:

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ The Complete Series” comes with a slipcase (note: The first season did not come with a slipcase).

“Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” was an enjoyable series but at the same time, you kind of hoped there was some conclusions but knowing that the manga series is still ongoing, the “Gunslinger Girl” series continues and one may wonder when or if there will be another season.

As mentioned earlier, this sequel is not a series that features anything significant that will affect the series in the near future.  If anything, you can look at these episodes as “side stories” with Triela dealing with failure, Angelica being frustrated of not being the same before she was hospitalized and as for Henrietta who was prominently featured in the first series, this sequel tries to feature as many people as they can but also showing us the other perspective of the young killer Pinocchio who is featured in several episodes.

But I will say that I did enjoy this series more than the first.  Mainly because we see certain characters being shown with faults and then trying to overcome those faults. Also, it was interesting to see a boy who was just as deadly and even more deadly as the girls.  Granted, because of the introduction of Pinocchio, makes you wonder if we are going to see some major wars between cyber boys vs. cyber girls if a series is created in the near future.  Personally, I was expecting something tragic with maybe one of the primary characters getting killed.  But for the most part, the series plays off as not a sequel but “Gunslinger Girl” missions.

As for the animation, its clearly up to preference.  I preferred the first series in terms of animation but preferred the second in terms of storyline.  But that’s just me.  As for the Blu-ray release, the fact that you get two lossless soundtrack is great but video quality, was good.   It’s great that FUNimation included both OAV’s on this Blu-ray release but wished the special features from the DVD’s were included.  Not sure if it was due to space limitation but being spoiled by series such as “Claymore” and even “Witchblade” on Blu-ray with plenty of special features, I was hoping that what is on the DVD for special features would make it onto the Blu-ray release as well.

Overall, “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~” is a series worth owning if you have the previous series on Blu-ray.  But it’s important to note that for those expecting some type of conclusion, will probably have to wait until the manga series is over or another season of “Gunslinger Girl” is released.  Nevertheless, a series worth having in your collection.

Trinity Blood – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Humans vs. vampires, political corruption and more!  Featuring an intricate, deep and dark storyline with strong action elements, “Trinity Blood – the Complete Series” is a stylishly dark anime series worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2005 Trinity Blood Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Trinity Blood – The Complete Series

DURATION: 24 Episodes (600 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV MA

Release Date: February 23, 2010

 

Originally novel by Sunao Yoshida

Directed by Tomohiro Hirata

Series Composition by Atsuhiro Tomioka, Tomohiro Hirata

Script by Atsuhiro Tomioka, Yuuji Hosono

Character Design by Atsuko Nakajima, Thores Shibamoto

Music by Takahito Eguchi

Art Director: Toshiyuki Tokuda

Chief Animation Director: Atsuko Nakajima

Art Design by Tomoaki Kaneko

Anime Production by GONZO

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroki Touchi as Abel Nightroad

Mamiko Noto as Esther Blanchett

Junichi Suwabe as Cain Nightroad

Junko Minagawa as Ion Fortuna

Kazuya Nakai as Tres Iqus

Kenichi Suzumura as Dietrich von Lohengrin

Michiko Neya as Astharoshe Asran

Shinya Kitade as Hugue de Watteau

Takako Honda as Catherina Sforza

Yoshinori Fujita as Alessandro XVIII

Yuki Matsuoka as Seth Nightroad aka Augusta Vradica

Armageddon. The ultimate sin of humanity, perpetrated upon itself, which cast the shroud of death across the world centuries ago. And out of that lasting darkness, they emerged… From the legends of ancient times, they have been called forth into the world anew… vampires.

Two races – Terran and Methuselah, human and vampire – are locked in a struggle for existence, trembling on the brink of war. Some seek the path to a peaceful coexistence, while others pursue a dangerous shift in the balance of power. The world’s enemy, Contra Mundi, is starting to move. Cooperation and goodwill between the two races may be their only chance for survival.

Abel Nightroad, a touring priest for the Vatican, walks calmly where others fear to tread. A member of the formidable AX, tasked with the protection of the fragile equilibrium. Neither human nor vampire, with an awkward yet optimistic nature, this Father is a force wholly his own. When the greater threat emerges, the enemy of my enemy is my friend… and Abel Nightroad seeks a safe path for all.

Be strong in your endeavors for the sake of the world.

“Trinity Blood”, the anime series that had captured the attention of anime fans with its vampire storyline and J-Rock feel, makes its first appearance on High Definition on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Trinity Blood” began as light novels by the late Sunao Yoshida (and illustrations by Thores Shibamoto) back in 2001 and serialized in Japanese light novel magazine “The Sneaker” and was inspired by real life alchemist and noblewoman Caterina Sforza.  With Yoshida’s unfortunate death in 2004, mangaka Kentaro Yasui (author of “Ragnarok”), a friend of Yoshida’s would complete the novels.

The light novels received a manga series adaptation in 2004 (and is ongoing) while a 24-episode manga series was produced by GONZO and aired in Japan in 2005 on the WOWOW network.

The anime series would be directed by Tomohiro Hirata (“Irresponsible Captain Tailor”, “Crusher Joe” OVA’s) and a screenplay by Atsuhiro Tomioka (“Eat-Man 98″, “Hikaru no Go”, “Pokemon”, “Vandread”) and Yuuji Hosono (“Prism Ark”, “Pumpkin Scissors”, “Ray”).   Character designs are by Atsuko Nakajima (“Haunted Junction”, “Ranma 1/2″, “Violinist of Hamlin”), art direction by Toshiyuki Tokuda (“Mermaid Forest”, “Major”, “Inuyasha”) and music by Takahito Eguchi (“D.N.Angel” and “Rental Magica”).

“Trinity Blood” is a series that may seem like your typical vampires versus humans but the story is much deeper.  The series begins with a priest named Father Abel Nightroad who is riding on an airship.  All of a sudden, a vampire (known as Methuselah) abruptly boards the airship and kills the pilots and inhabitants with a pilot trainee/restaurant employee taking over the airship while father Abel Nightroad fights against the Methuselah.  We learn that Abel is a Crusnik, a vampire that feeds on the blood of a Methuselah.

We learn through the series that the introductions to Methuselah and Crusnik came from Earth dealing with its population increase and trying to colonize Mars.  During the colonization, they discover alien technologies: The Bacillus and the Crusnik nanomachines and sure enough, the colonists install the Bacillus into their bodies and they became Methuselahs.  While, four test tube babies – Seth, Cain, Abel and Lilith were given the Crusnik.

Back home in Earth, Earth was going through Armageddon and when the colonists came back to rebuild, unfortunately the humans did not take kindly to the vampiric methuselah’s and a war between the two have taken place with the Roman Catholic Church as the main force to fight the Methuselah with the use of the Crusnik’s (who are part of the AX, Arcanum Cella Ex Dono Dei) who specialize in taking on powerful Methuselah.  Among the Crusnik, Cain has deserted his brothers and sisters and has gone mad.  He now heads the Rosenkreuz Orden, a vampire terrorist organization who wants to make a new world order and destroy the Vatican.

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” consists of 13-episodes on three Blu-ray discs.

The main characters of “Trinity Blood” are:

  • Abel Nightroad – A compassionate Catholic priest who is always broke and hungry.  But he’s also a Crusnik known for his power and hunts down Methuselah.  One of the four test tube babies injected with the Crusnik nanotechnology.    His past was filled with hatred towards humans and during the war between the Methuselah and humans (terrans), he slaughtered seven million of them.  But after his brother Cain murdered his sister Lilith (she defended the humans), he went into mourning for 900 years.  But after meeting Caterina Sforza who was trying to escape from the Methuselah, he vowed to continue his dead sister’s work and is now a member of the AX.
  • Cain Nightroad - One of the four test tube babies installed with the Crusnik Nanotechnology.  During the Methuselah and human wars, when he saw his sister Lilith trying to bring Abel to her side of defending the humans, he killed her.  In revenge, his brothers Abel and Seth tried to kill him but he survived.  Now he leads the Rosenkreuz Orden in order to destroy the Vaticans and human kind.
  • Esther Blanchett – The legitimate granddaughter of the Queen of Albion.  Esther joins with Abel and eventually becomes an AX agent and becomes close to Ion Fortuna.  Her storyline becomes prevalent as the Crusniks try to protect her from being killed by the Methesulah.
  • Astharoshe Asran – An undercover agent of the New Human Empire (Empire for Methuselah) who teams up with Abel in trying to arrest Endre Kourza, a vampire mass murderer.  She despises humanity but through her partnership with Abel, she starts to see them in a different light.
  • Ion Fortuna – A member of the New Human Empire who is also the Imperial messenger negotiating with the Vatican.  He despises humans until he meets Esther Blanchett.
  • Augusta Vradica (Seth Nighlord) – The youngest of the test tube babies and is the empress of the New Human Empire and was responsible for find a home for the Methuselah and save them from persecution.
  • Caterina Sforza – Was instrumental in changing the mind of Abel Nightroad to defend humans.  She heads the AX Agency and wants peace between humans and vampires, which her brother Cardinal Francesco is against.

VIDEO:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” is an anime television series which aired on television in 2005. It’s important to note that a) “Trinity Blood” is a television series and not an animated film or OVA. The second part to note is that when it comes to anime television series, prior to 2008, pretty much a lot of the anime TV series on Blu-ray have been upconverted.

With that being said, “Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” is an upconvert and is presented in 1080p High Definition, 16×9 widescreen.  You can see the compression artifacts, aliasing, edge enhancement and for me, I pretty much expected this because although released in 2005, it’s before many anime companies became serious about HD and because it is a TV series (which didn’t air on a major network but on satellite via Wowow), you’re not going to see major restoration being done.  But with “Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” being an upconvert, I will say the video was not as problematic as “Samurai Champloo” or “Basilisk” when it came to the discoloration problems.

But the series does benefit from it being a GONZO production and that means beautifully painted backgrounds and solid character design.  I actually enjoyed the animation of “Trinity Blood” as well as the overall look and feel.  From the eyes, free flowing hair, the uniforms.   It’s a very dark but artistic anime series and when it first came out on DVD, many people really enjoyed the overall look.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” shines with the lossless English dub.  From the very first episode, you realize how immersive the English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 soundtrack is as the action and fight sequences literally envelop the soundscape of your home with the center, front and surround channels along with LFE being utilized quite nicely.

Dialogue is clear and understandable.  I know some anime fans will take an offense by the Japanese soundtrack not being lossless but Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0.  But overall, voice acting is well-done on both audio tracks and definitely the English lossless track is the highlight of this Blu-ray release.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” contains the following special features:

DISC 3:

  • Historical Artifacts - Text-based historical information that was used in the anime series.
  • Textless Songs -Featuring the textless theme songs from BUCK-TICK and Tomoko Tane.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment Trailers

EXTRAS:

“Trinity Blood – The Complete Series” comes in a slipcase and also comes with a 24-page booklet with interviews with light novel character designer Thores Shibamoto, character information, Kadokawa’s Editorial Department are interviewed and discussing how Sunao Yoshida wanted the anime series to be and pretty much giving them the freedom to not follow the original light novel too closely.

When “Trinity Blood” first began, the first thing I was expecting was a steampunk, “Devil May Cry” type of series.  Humans vs. Vampires and a guy who was a vampire helping the humans and my love for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” TV Series led me to originally watch the series when it was first released on DVD.

But by episode 3, you start to realize that the series is much deeper as it begins to focus on the political and opposing sides of humanity (Terrans) and the New Human Order (Methuselah) and with each episode, the series goes much further into the corruption and politics as there are those who want peace between the two groups and those who will never accept the Methuselah.  While we try to figure how the AX Agents and those of the New Human Order can work together to protect Esther, who may be the next in line for royalty.

The storyline of “Trinity Blood” was definitely far off what I was expecting but nevertheless, I did enjoy how deep the series was and how intricate the storyline would go into the warring factions but part of the difficult of the series is that there are a good number of characters introduced and because the manga series is ongoing and the light novel series never completed, the creators of the anime series had to come up with an ending that would be satisfactory for viewers but also fans of the manga and light novel series.

As for those who have owned the previous DVD series, as mentioned, this is a series that came out in 2005 and is an upconvert.  Video quality is not going to be the greatest upgrade on Blu-ray and it doesn’t have a lossless Japanese soundtrack.  But for those who never purchase the DVD, will probably want to pick it up on Blu-ray and if you enjoy the English dub, you’ll definitely enjoy the lossless soundtrack.

Overall, “Trinity Blood” is going to attract those who love stories with vampires and for those looking for a more deeper and darker anime series on Blu-ray.  Featuring an intricate and deep storyline with strong action elements, “Trinity Blood – the Complete Series” is a series worth checking out!

Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Gunslinger Girl” is an anime series for those looking for a series that is more serious and dramatic but also incorporating action.  As a Blu-ray release, the shining point of this release is its lossless English and Japanese audio.

Image courtesy of © Yu Aida/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. Marvelous Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 16, 2010

 

Originally created by Yu Aida

Directed by Morio Asaka

Series Composition by Junki Takegami

Music by Toshihiko Sahashi

Character Design by Hisashi Abe

Art Director: Hisashi Ikeda

Anime Production by Madhouse Studios

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Alese Watson as Claes

Eri Sendai/Caitlin Glass as Triela

Hitomi Terakado/Monica Rial as Angelica

Kanako Mitsuhashi/Luci Christian as Rico

Yuuka Nanri/Laura Bailey as Henrietta

Brina Palencia/Mamiko Noto as Elsa

Cynthia Cranz/Rie Nakagawa as Ferro

Dameon Clarke/Masashi Ebara as Hirscher (Hilshire)

Eric Vale/Mitsuru Miyamoto as Jean

Jim Fornoda/Norihiro Inoue as Marco

John Burgmeier/Hidenobu Kiuchi as Jose

Troy Baker/Masami Iwasaki as Alfonso

Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that’s in the business of saving lives. In reality, it’s an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government’s dirty work.

In 2002, mangaka Yu Aida had her first manga “Gunslinger Girl” published in the monthly shonen magazine “Dengeki Daioh”.  A year later, her manga series was adapted into a 13-episode anime television series airing on Fuji TV.  The manga and anime series would continue with another 13-episode anime television series titled “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” in 2008 and has also inspired video games for the Sony PlayStation 2.

The “Gunslinger Girl” anime series would feature anime production by Madhouse Studios and feature Morio Asaka as the director (“Chobits”, “Rozen Maiden”, “Street Fighter”, “Galaxy Angel”) and series composition by Junki Takegami (“Aoki Densetsu Shoot!”, “Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”, “Inuyasha”, “Naruto Shippuden”).  Character design would be by Hisashi Abe (“Chobits”, “Spirit Warrior”, “Devil May Cry”), art direction by Hisashi Ikeda (“Millenium Actress”, “Perfect Blue”, “Ghost in the Shell”) and music by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Hunter x Hunter”, “Fullmetal Panic!”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”).

The series has been released several times by FUNimation Entertainment on DVD but the series makes its High Definition on Blu-ray along with the sequel “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino” which both were released on March 16, 2010.

“Gunslinger Girl” revolves around the Social Welfare Agency which is a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government.  Known by the public to help those who are physically injured, the truth is that the agency is a a military organization that specializes in counter-intelligence and counter terrorism.  Their soldiers, young orphan girls enhanced with cybernetic implants and are taught to kill and pare of the SWA’s “Section 2″.

The girls have synthesized muscle implants giving them super-human strength and reflexes, as well as the ability to be resilient to any damage.  Each of these girls are partnered with a trainer/handler and together they are known as a “fratello”.  Some handlers are caring for the girls they are partnered with but for the agency, they look at these girls as weapons and also as expendable.

The main characters of “Gunslinger Girl” are:

  • Henrietta/Jose – Henrietta’s family were massacred and she was assaulted and left for dead.  She has suffered from psychological trauma and had wanted to die.  But since being brainwashed and conditioned for the agency, she is an assassin who feels a strong bond with Jose and cares deeply for him.  As for Jose Croce, his counterparts think he has gotten to close emotionally with Henrietta.
  • Rico – Born with severe birth defects, she was signed over to the agency by her parents when she turned 11.  But since joining and receiving a new body with the agency, she is happy.  She is the only cyborg girl with memories of her past life.
  • Triela - Rebellious and masculine, she is one of the elder Cyborg girls that tries to help her counterparts.  But for some reason, she is losing her memory.
  • Claes - A peaceful cyborg who is used more as a test subject since the death of her handler.  Claes enjoys gardening and reading books more than engaging in violence.
  • Angelica - A girl that was nearly killed by her father trying to collect insurance, Angelica is the first cyborg of the agency.

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” consists of 13-episodes on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – fratello – We are introduced to Henrietta and her handler Jose and learn about how Jose cares for his cyborg while his counterparts feel he’s getting to emotionally close to her.
  • EPISODE 2 – orione – Jose’s caring for Henrietta wants to give her another perspective of life outside of murdering.
  • EPISODE 3 – ragazzo – We are introduced to Rico and her handler Jean and both go on a mission.
  • EPISODE 4 – bambola – It’s Christmas time and Triela is sent on a mission.
  • EPISODE 5 – promessa – We learn about a cyborg named Claes and her handler Raballo.
  • EPISODE 6 – gelato – Henrietta, Rico and Triela go out on a mission.
  • EPISODE 7 – protezione – Rico and Jean meet a man named Filippo and go on a tour through Florence.
  • EPISODE 8 – il Principe del Regno Della Pasta – We are introduced to Angelica and her handler Marco.
  • EPISODE 9 – Lycoris Radiata Herb (Cluster Amaryllis) – We are introduced to a cyborg named Elsa and her handler Lauro.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – amare – Cyborgs and their handlers discover news about the death of one of their cyborg’s and handler’s.
  • EPISODE 11 – febbre alta – Continuing the storyline as Jose and Henrietta try to learn about the deaths of a cyborg and her handler.
  • EPISODE 12 – simbiosi – Angelica is injured during training and now the head of the Social Welfare Agency questions the value of Section 2.
  • EPISODE 13 – stella cadente – The cyborg girls go see a meteor shower.

VIDEO:

When “Gunslinger Girl” was released on DVD, I know that when I first saw this series, I was happy about how this series tried to capture the settings of Italy, the pureness of the faces of the cyborg girls and then the violence and action sequences.

With that being said, this upconvert on Blu-ray is what one would expect from a series released in 2003.  You’re not going to get vibrant colors, you are going to see edge enhancement and truthfully, unless it was released 2008 or later, you’re not going to get gorgeous HD picture quality from this television series.  And it’s important that people know it’s a TV series and not a film or OVA which tend to have much more production and a bigger budget in terms of animation and artistic backgrounds.

With that being said, the painted artistic backgrounds are well-done and the character designs (especially facial expressions) based on Yu Aida’s work is also well-done.   There is some artifacting and aliasing but I didn’t catch any discoloration problems and I believe the series utilizes DNR (Digital Noise Reduction).

There is a hazy look towards “Gunslinger Girl” but there are episodes such as the final episode that utilizes earthtone colors that do pop but for the most part, the series is not exactly too vibrant but somehow, the look and feel tends to work well with this series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” features lossless Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1.

Anime fans have been wanting lossless audio for their Blu-rays especially for the Japanese soundtrack and so far, FUNimation Entertainment has listened with “Ouran High School” and “Gunslinger Girl” series on Blu-ray both receiving lossless Japanese audio.

But I had the opportunity to test out the audio tracks on both vocal tracks and although the series is dialogue/front-channel driven, when the series does include gunfire and machine guns, that is where you will notice the use of the surround channels.  Lossless audio is well-done during those action sequences. Also, a good amount of ambient noise such as dogs barking to footsteps can be heard through the surround channel as well.

As for the music, the music is also integrated into the surround channels as well.  “Gunslinger Girl” definitely takes advantage of the beautiful musical scores by using it on the surround channels.   I don’t recall hearing much LFE though.  The series is pretty much center, front and surround channel driven.

As for subtitles, subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” contains the following special features on disc 2:

DISC 2:

  • Building Henrietta – (1:05) A musical feature showing how the character of Henrietta is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
  • Building Rico- (1:07) A musical feature showing how the character of  Rico is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
  • Meet the Real Gunslinger Girls: A featurette featuring the English voice dub actresses talking about their characters including Henrietta (Laura Bailey, 4:42), Claes (Alese Watson, 3:00), Angelica (Monica Rial, 4:44), Rico (Luci Christian, 4:48) and Triela (Caitlin Glass, 4:17).
  • “Simbiosi” Production Commentary – Audio commentary by the production crew in regards to “Simbiosi” episode and discussion of Italy and writing the English dub for the show and mixing the audio.
  • “Simbiosi” Voice Director Commentary –  Audio commentary by director and voice talents Christopher Sabat, Laura Bailey, Chris Bevins and Eric Vale.  The four discuss their involvement directing the show.
  • Dossiers: Dossiers for Henrietta, Claes, Angelica, Rico and Triela.  With your remote, you can view text-based information of each character.
  • Textless Sons – Textless theme songs for the Opening theme “The Light Before We Land” and the Closing theme “Dop Il Sogno”.
  • Trailers - FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“Gunslinger Girl” is an interesting anime series and some may find comparisons to Yu Aida’s work with Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” in that children are being used by their government as weapons.

The series is not your typical jovial or comedy-driven anime series and nor is lighthearted.  The series is about a group of girls who have been brainwashed and cybernetically enhanced to become assassins.  But even with their brainwashing, these young girls have been damaged emotionally and psychologically.

This first season focuses on the girls dynamics with one another but also how they interact with their handlers.  Some who feel possessive of their handlers and some who push them away.  If anything, the series does feature these girls on missions but deep inside, these girls have suffered some unfortunate situations and although wiped out from their memory, you can’t help but feel bad for them because they tend to have emotions that they don’t understand.

In a way, I’m happy to see this serious released on Blu-ray for the fact that many have clamored for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that is much more serious and dramatic.  The good news is that “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” and its sequel “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” fits that bill, the bad news for those expecting the latest and best looking anime series on Blu-ray are not going to be happy that these two series are slightly older series that are being upconverted to BD.

So far, there have been a split of anime fans.  Those who just want anime on 1080p and are satisfied to have anime on Blu-ray and those who are not thrilled to see upconverts and want native-HD anime on Blu-ray.  For me, I’m in the middle and can easily understand both sides.

But I’m not going to complain.  “Gunslinger Girl” was a popular series and yes, it has been released several times on DVD but you’re getting a Blu-ray release with slightly better visuals but much better audio quality with both English and Japanese soundtrack provided via lossless.  Also, you get a good number of special features in this release.

So, if you have never owned this series on DVD or looking to upgrade your collection to Blu-ray, “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete Series” is an anime series worth considering for your anime on BD collection.

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