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Yoko Kanno to debut “PIANO ME” concert at Otakon 2013

May 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Baltimore, MD (May 15, 2013) – The renowned composer will present the world premiere performance of her new project, “PIANO ME”, at Otakon. For this concert, the simple intimacy of one performer with one instrument will be enhanced by experimental live visuals that respond to her performance. To see a sample of that performance, you can see it on our website at http://www.otakon.com/.

While studying at Waseda University, Yoko Kanno made her first debut as a member of “Tetsu 100%” which was released from CBS Sony. After the group split up, she became a composer/arranger for commercials, animation, movies, games and TV series. Known as a great master of animation music, her best works include Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Cowboy Bepop, MACROSS Frontier, Genesis of Aquarion, and The Vision of Escaflowne. She has also written and produced songs for artists such as SMAP, May’n, YUKI, Miki Imai, Maaya Sakamoto, Kyoko Koizumi, Crystal Kay, T.M Revolution, Shione Yukawa, Chitose Hajime, YOSHIKA, ORIGA and more.

Her recent performances include in 2008 the “Galaxy Tour” for MACROSS Frontier as well as in 2009 for the “YOKO KANNO SEATBELTS / Chojiku Tanabata Sonic” event of which both were sold out almost immediately.

For the recently released movie Petal Dance which came out in April 2013, she wrote a piano soundtrack which she performs herself. The piano score will be released from her own label PIANO. In summer 2013, she plans to release a score of “Song of departure, which is A Cappella Arrangements for Male Voices.”

Otakon 2013 will be held August 9­11 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD.

ABOUT OTAKON AND OTAKORP, INC.: Now entering its twentieth year, Otakon is an annual celebration of Japanese and East Asian popular culture, and also one of the largest gatherings of fans in the United States. Otakon celebrates popular culture as a gateway to deeper understanding of Asian culture, and has grown along with the enthusiasm for anime, manga, video games, and

music from the Far East. Since 1999, Otakon has been held in Baltimore, Maryland; currently, Otakon is one of Baltimore’s few large, city­wide events, drawing over 32,000 people for three days each year (for a paid attendance of over 89,000 turnstile attendees). Otakon is a membership based convention sponsored by Otakorp, Inc., a Pennsylvania­based, 501(c)3 educational non­profit whose mission is to promote the appreciation of Asian culture, primarily through its media and entertainment. Otakorp, Inc. is directed by an all­volunteer, unpaid staff – we are run by fans, for fans.

For more information about Otakorp, Inc., see http://www.otakon.com/otakorp/index.asp For more information and the latest news on Otakon 2013, see http://www.otakon.com/

Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 27, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

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“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 12 episodes (300 Minutes)

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

RATED: TV 14 LD

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013

Original Creator: Yuki Kodama

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe

Script by Ayako Katoh, Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Nobuteru Yuki

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Anime Production by Mappa, Tezuka Productions

Featuring the voices of:

Ryohei Kimura/Chris Patton as Kaoru Nishimi

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Andrew Love as Sentarō Kawabuchi

Aya Endo/Maggie Flecknoe as Yurika Fukahori

Junichi Suwabe/David Matranga as Junichi Katsuragi

Yuuka Nanri/Rebeka Stevens as Ritsuko Mukae

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Blake Shepard as Seiji Matsuoka

Nozomi Furuki/Chris Martinez as Taichi

It’s the summer of 1966 and high school freshman Kaoru Nishimi is struggling to adjust to the latest of many moves in his young life, this time to his uncle’s home in the seaside town of Kyushu. It’s never easy adjusting. It’s never easy fitting in. But this time will be different. This time he’ll meet friends who will change his life forever. And he’ll discover a new passion, one that grabs his heart and rocks him to his very soul. It’s music. A beat. A whole new way of looking at life. It’s called jazz, and together with bad boy Sentaro and music store girl Ritsuko, they’re going to follow their muse to wherever their music takes them! You think garage bands are something new? Think again and travel to a time when dreams and a couple of musical instruments really could change the world! Get ready to be blown away by a tale of life, love and all that jazz in THE KIDS ON THE SLOPE!

In 2007, mangaka Yuki Kodama would create a manga series titled “Sakamichi no Apollon” which was serialized in “Flowers” Magazine.

The manga series would attract the attention of director Shinichiro Watanabe (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Samurai Champloo”, “Baby Blue”).  Knowing that the series would feature a lot of music (especially with jazz), who best than go to a person that is well known for creating music for anime series, Yoko Kanno (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Aquarion”, “Macross Frontier”, “Macross Plus”, “Escaflowne”, “Darker than Black”, etc.).  And in 2012, the 12-episode anime series was featured on Fuji TV’s “noitaminA” anime block.

“Sakamichi no Apollon” would feature a storyline written by Ayako Katoh (“Chihayafuru”, “Stitch!: Itazura Alien no Daiboken”) and Yuuko Kakihara (“Heaven’s Lost Property”, “Stitch!”, “Chihayafuru”), character design by Nobuteru Yuki (“Battle Angel”, “Battle Royale High School”, “The five Star Stories”, “Heat Guy J”, “Space Battleship Yamato 2199″) and background art by Shinichi Uehara (“Aoi Bungaku”, “Ninja Scroll”, “Paprika”, “Summer Wars”, “Tokyo Godfathers”).

And now “Sakamichi no Apollon” will be released in the U.S. with the title “Kids on the Slope” in May 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks as a complete collection.

“Kids on the Slope” is a series that takes place in 1966.

Kaoru Nishimi is a teenager who has to move from Tokyo to Kyushu and live with his Aunt, while his father is working abroad.  Trained in classical piano, Kaoru loves to play but his wealthy aunt is not too fond of him playing piano until a certain time and for the most part, the family is very strict and Kaoru feels like he is living alone.

During his first day at school, he tries to keep to himself and is warned that a boy named Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind him and not to mess with him.

Meanwhile, the class representative named Ritsuko Mukae shows him around the school.  And for Kaoru, her vibrant smile for some reason, makes him very happy.

While looking for a way to get to the rooftop at the school (a place where Kaoru typically runs off to when he wants to be away from everyone), he sees a guy sleeping near the top area.  When Kaoru ask if he knows where he can get the key, a group of seniors come with the key but are not interested in giving it away.  Seeing how badly Kaoru needs it, the guy who was sleeping ends up getting a fight with them and while he is outmatched by the three guys, he manages to get the key to the top floor.

When Kaoru tries to get it, the guy tells him that he will give him the key for money, which Kaoru refuses and becomes upset.

While class is about to start, Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind Kaoru and when Kaoru turns around, he finds out that Sentaro is the guy he met earlier and fought with the three guys.  As Kaoru tries to run away from Sentaro, Sentaro follows him wherever he goes.  Kaoru runs to the roof despite the heavy rain and Sentaro does the same.  But he throws Kaoru’s umbrella and tells him to embrace the rain and both are soaken wet.

As Kaoru tries to help both of them with clean clothes, Kaoru sees Sentaro playing drums with his pencils and finds out that Sentaro is a jazz drummer, while Sentaro finds out that Kaoru is a classical pianist.

After school, Kaoru asks Ritsuko if she knows a record shop in town and surprisingly, she tells him that her father owns Mukae Record Shop.  When Ritsuko finds out that Kaoru plays the piano, she tells him to go into the basement where he sees a piano.  But to his shock, he sees Sentaro there playing the drums.

And that day would be the first time Kaoru is introduced to jazz music.  Sentaro asks Kaoru to play the piano and the two get into a discussion of how Kaoru can’t play jazz music and let his emotions be free while playing. Wanting to prove Sentaro wrong, Kaoru begins to listen to jazz music and learns how to play it on the piano.

Next thing you know, these two different people end up becoming good friends and both become interested in practicing and performing jazz music with one another.  But will their differences lead them to stay as friends or will it push them apart?

As for Ritsuko, being friends to both guys, she knows that the two who have had bad childhoods and because of that, they need each other to be as friends but also for support.  But how strong is their friendship?  And will their pasts interfere with their present?

“Kids on the Slope” features the following characters:

Kaoru Nishima – Lived in Tokyo, but when his mother abandoned both him and his mother. Because times are tough, his father had to look for work, while he stayed with his wealthy aunt who is very strict.  Throughout life, Kaoru has been a shy, timid boy who never knew what friendship or love was all about.  So, while he has learned how to play the piano and does very well in school, he has been used to being a school loner and being bullied at school.  But despite not knowing what true friendship is, he develops a friendship with someone so different than him…Sentaro Kawaguchi.  He also is in love with Ritsuko.

Sentaro Kawaguchi - Sentaro is half Japanese and half American.  When his mother left him and his father, he and his young siblings lived with his grandmother but after she died, his father became an alcoholic and started beating on him and the children.  Forced to grow up at an early age, Sentaro’s life has always been a tough guy who got into a lot of fights.  He’s not interested in school, loves playing jazz music on drums and takes care of his young siblings, while his father works far away.  His only friend at the time was his neighbor Ritsuko, who he grew up with.  But now he finds a new friend in Kaoru and has feelings for a girl named Yurika.

Ritsuko Mukae  – The class representative and nice individual who grew up with Sentaro and always watched over him.  Because she sees how Kaoru is and how he is with Sentaro, not many people treat Sentaro normally, so she hopes the two can be very good friends.  While she grew up liking Sentaro, she is unaware that Kaoru has fallen for her.  How will she respond if he tells her that he loves her?  Ritsuko’s father is also the owner of the local recordshop and in the basement is where her father, Sentaro, Junichi and Kaoru practice their music.

Yurika Fukahori – A girl that was getting accosted by guys, Sentaro came to her rescue.  From the first moment he saw her, it was love at first sight.  And now Kaoru wants to help Sentaro get closer to Yurika, so he can get clsoer to Ritsuko.  But because Sentaro is shy, he tells Yurika that Kaoru is the guy interested in her.  But for Yurika, she is smitten with Junichi.

Junichi Katsuragi – The cool trumpet playing friend of Sentaro. He often joins Sentaro and Ritsuko’s father for a session in the record store basement.  From a wealthy family and attending college, Junichi walks to the own beat of his drum.  And his cool demeanor captivates Yurika.

Tsutomu Mukae – Ritsuko’s father and owner of the local record shop.  He is a bass player and jazz music aficionado.

Seiji Matsuoka – Dreams of becoming a rock star and wants Sentaro to play drums for his band.

Shigetora Maruo – Guitarist for Seiji’s band and a guy who sits next to Sentaro and Kaoru.

VIDEO:

“Kids on the Slope” features fantastic animation and background art courtesy of Mappa and Tezuka Productions!  Presented in 1080p High Definition, the series definitely captures Yuki Kodama’s artwork and brings life to the anime adaptation.  Characters are well-shaded and drawn, while background art is very detailed. I love the overall look of this anime series!  No sign of softness, banding or any major issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Kids on the Slope” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.    While dialogue is crystal clear, how I would have loved to have a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack because of the series’ wonderful music.  The music is so awesome for this series that I was hoping that it would utilize the surround channels but it’s primarily a lossless stereo soundtrack, which is common for an animated television series from Japan.

As for voice acting, both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-performed.  There is one primary difference and that is for the character of Seiji Matsuoka.  In the Japanese version, Seiji sounds like a regular teenager but for the English dub version, they made him sound very feminine and with the lisp, changed the dialogue and have him flirting with Kaoru (which is not in the Japanese version), I thought that was an interesting direction by ADR director Steven Foster to take the character of Seiji in that direction.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Ending
  • Japanese Previews – (3:04) Japanese prevews for “Sakamichi no Apollon”
  • Interview with Shinichiro Watanabe – (16:04) An interview with the director of “Kids on the Slope”.
  • Interview with Yoko Kanno – (21:46) Yoko Kanno talks about how she was brought on board as a composer, how she found the jazz musicians through YouTube and how she had YUKI and Motohiro Hata do the music for the series opening and ending themes.
  • Interview with Takashi Matsuanga and Shun Ishikawa – (13:33) Interview with the teenage pianist and drummer who provided the music for Kaoru and Sentaro for the anime series.

It’s very rare to come across an anime series that captures real life and focus on character interaction, emotions and most importantly, music.

While we have seen these type of storylines featured in Japanese dramas such as “Long Vacation” or “With You”, for anime there is “Nodame no Cantabile” but most of the time, there is always a supernatural, fantasy type of addition to that storyline.

Here we are with an anime adaptation of Yuki Kodama’s “Sakamichi no Apollon” and having watched all 12 episodes, I can’t help but feeling of how awesome, how delightful this anime series was, because it’s such a rarity to see, especially to see it released in the United States.

“Kids on the Slope” captivates the viewer for its storyline of friendship of two broken individuals, the love triangle but also how jazz music is incorporated into the film and I must say, this is one of the coolest, hippest soundtracks I have heard from an anime series.  So much that I wanted to purchase the soundtrack immediately because the music for this anime series was fantastic!

While those used to a certain style of anime may not like a series about a bromance, let alone about music, “Kids on the Slope” is probably one of the best anime series that I have seen in 2013 and I have to put this in my top three for anime series on Blu-ray for the year because it’s that good!

Why is this anime series so captivating?

It’s about the characters!  Kaoru is a guy who hasn’t had many friends or social activities.  He is not good at reading people, nor is he that good at showing emotions.  That so many times, he reads things and his only way of communicating is with anger.  We see Kaoru as this meek character with glasses, always studying and playing the piano.

While Sentaro also never had many friends growing up, but you realize that the reason why he’s gotten into so much trouble is because he was always bullied because he was not full Japanese.  He used his height and his strength to deter people from bullying him and he ended up getting into a lot of fights while growing up.  But like Kaoru, he also had a dysfunctional childhood.

Kaoru needs Sentaro, because he makes him feel wanted and important but most of all, he’s the first guy who never treated him any less, but accepted him as a friend right off the bat.

Sentaro respects Kaoru for his magnificent piano playing but because he cares so much about him.  He lived life feeling that no one cares about him, thus he became a bully but now he has found a friend who believes in him.

And for both individuals, having each other as friends is not easy because they are so different, but despite their problems, they know that they make a great team and are very good friends.  But both are a bit too hardheaded to admit it.

Ritsuko is your good-natured female character and good friends with both.  She grew up with Sentaro and she always took care of him as he was always getting into fights.  She is his neighbor and Sentaro has always practiced the drums at her father’s record shop.

But she sees how Sentaro has opened up to Kaoru and she knows he needs that. But as she gets to know Kaoru, she knows he needs Sentaro as well. But when she finds out that Sentaro likes another girl, let alone finding out that Kaoru has fallen for her, how is a girl supposed to react?

Throw in characters such as Yurika and Junichi and other dramatic situations that really bolster the storyline, the characters and also the emotional angle of the series.

I felt the series delivered in emotional impact when Kaoru felt that he was lonely and no one understood his feelings, but when he found out how his life was all this time and how he lived alone and had to endure abuse and bullying throughout his life, much worse than he has had, it was an emotional scene.  In fact, there are many of these emotional moments throughout the series and I was pleased of how the writing was. Both Ayako Katoh and Yuuko Kakihara did a wonderful job!

As for the Blu-ray release, the anime looks fantastic!  The character designs are different from what most people may be accustomed to but it actually has a taste of the old school anime that I grew up watching.  Characters are well-drawn, well-shaded and the art backgrounds are just beautiful too look at.

And as for special features, I was amazed to find interviews instead of the typical clean opening and ending animations.  So, you do get an interview with director Shinichiro Watanabe, composer Yoko Kanno but also with teenage musicians Takashi Matsunaga and Shun Ishikawa who were both found by Kanno on YouTube.  Two young professional musicians who know jazz music and really made the anime feel believable, entertaining and exciting.

Overall, “Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray!

Highly recommended!

Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor: The Complete Second Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A great balance of action and drama, the sequel to the popular series “Darker than Black”, “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” features a much deeper storyline and for fans of Hei and Yin, you’ll definitely love the four OVA’s also included in this combo pack.  Overall, I enjoyed this Blu-ray release but watching the first season is important.   Hopefully, FUNimation Entertainment considers releasing the first season on Blu-ray for fans who are interested and curious about the series.  

Image courtesy of © 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Darker than Black: The Complete Second Season

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12 + OAV 1-4)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 8, 2011

Originally created by Tensai Okamura

Original Character Designs by Yuji Iwahara

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Scenario by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Mari Okada, Shinsuke Onishi, Shotaro Suga, Tensai Okamura

Music by Yasushi Ishii

Character Design Takahiro Komori

Art Director: Takashi Aoi

Chief Animation Director: Takahiro Komori

Anime Production: BONES

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hidenobu Kiuchi/Jason Liebrecht as Hei

Ikuya Sawaki/Kent Williams as Mao

Kana Hanazawa/Alison Viktorin as Suou Pavlichenko

Kiyomi Asai/Cherami Leigh as July

Houko Kuwashima/Lindsay Seidel as Shion Pavlichenko

Kaho Kouda/Jennifer Greene as Madame Oreille

Kenta Miyake/Newton Pittman as Genma Shizume

Kozue Yoshizumi/Tia Ballard as Yōko Sawasaki

Masaya Matsukaze/Gregory Lush as August 7

Mitsuki Saiga/Kara Edwards as Mina Hazuki

Nana Mizuki/Kate Oxley as Misaki Kirihara

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo as Gorou Kobayashi

Sanae Kobayashi/Monica Rial as Kanami Ishizaki

Tomoyuki Shimura/Christopher R. Sabat as Yuusuke Saitou

The intrigue and danger continues in Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor. Hei – aka the masked killer, BK-201 – encounters Suo, a young Russian girl whose life changed the night a meteor fell to Earth. With Contractors attacking from all sides and the mysterious organization Section 3 closing in, Hei must fight to keep Suo alive.

In 2007, Tensai Okamura’s anime series “Darker Than Black: The Black Contractor” premiered on television in Japan.

Featuring music by Yoko Kanno and receiving a manga series adaptation, the anime series won “Best Original Anime of the Year” by GoGoPlex.  Two years later, its sequel “Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor” made its premiere in Japan in Oct. 2009 and now, the sequel receives its Blu-ray and DVD release via combo pack titled, “Darker than Black-Gemini the Meteor: The Complete Second Season”.  Also, included with this Blu-ray release are the four OVA’s which take place between the first and second series.

In the first season of “Darker than Black”, a mysterious territory known as Hell’s Gate appeared in Tokyo and it immediately altered the sky and the landscape.  All the stars were replaced by false stars and people started to emerge with new special abilities.  These people are known as “Contractors” and each fake star above corresponds to a Contractor.

And Contracts are kept a secret from the masses and many are known to murder people and also known for changing one person full of life and energy to a person with no emotion.  But there is a price that the Contractors must pay for their use of power.  Each time they use it, they must pay by either eating certain foods or completing tasks.

Certain organizations and governments around the world have used these Contractors as spies and assassins which led to “Heaven’s War” in which the United States lost their position as the country of dominance against a mysterious organization known as the Syndicate.

The main protagonist of the first season focuses on elite Contractor Hei who takes on espionage missions in Tokyo for the Syndicate.  But later on, he and others are kicked out by The Syndicate and contracts have been taking out on all their lives.  And he discovers secrets regarding the Contractors that he and his Doll (emotionless “mediums” which were created to mimic the form of humans) Yin are in hiding from the Syndicate and the many Contractors that are after them.

This leads to the sequel “Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor”, Hei is still in hiding from the Syndicate but now he has become an alcoholic working on jobs for the CIA.  He comes into contact with Suou Pavlichenko, a 13-year-old girl who is the brother of Shion Pavlichenko (who was born a contractor at birth). Shion can produce an object from nothing and this includes making clones of himself.  He has the ability to communicate with Suou when he is far and he teaches her or tells her how to fight, what to do and also learn self-defense.

And now there is a search for both children and Hei ends up kidnapping Suou.  But when she sees her childhood friend being killed by a her good friend, turned Contractor, she loses her emotions and becomes a contractor herself and now Hei mus train her.  But unlike other Contractor’s who lose all emotion, Suou has emotions which she can’t fully understand.

Meanwhile, a group of hired Contractors have captured a weapon named “Izanami” which turns out to be Yin (who used to work with Hei), who can disable a Contractor’s abilities and kill them.

Trying to hide from the Syndicate, Hei, along with Suou, July and Mao (who is in a flying squirrel’s body) escape from Russia to Tokyo.

But with Contractors going after them, will these four have any chance of surviving?  And when they discover sensitive documents that state that disaster will take place if  the Izanami weapon, Yin and the Izanagi weapon, Shion are to meet, the four do what they can to prevent this from happening.

For the four OVA episodes of “Darker than Black Gaiden”, for those who wondered how Hei and Yin were separated after running and hiding from the Syndicate will find out how the two were separated, but also how Hei became an alcoholic.  The OVA’s are also a primer that helps introduce people to the sequel.

VIDEO:

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Typically, TV series tend to lack a lot of detail but the series is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1) features crisp animation, especially with the character designs with real nice shadowing and well-saturated colors, while a lot of the focus is on the details of the painted backgrounds. And as expected, the OVA’s for “Darker than Black Gaiden” even look better with the colors, detail and is much sharper and even more details on the background.  I didn’t detect any artifacts or banding, in fact, this is a beautiful anime series!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear, voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and interesting enough, for the OVA’s, FUNimation Entertainment even brought out Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh (typically known to be voice actors for Viz and Bandai) for the OVA’s.   But as the English soundtrack was well-done, what I enjoyed about the Japanese soundtrack was more of the emotional voice acting by voice actress Kana Hanazawa.  She really brings out the emotion and pain out of Suou quite effectively.

But as expected from this anime series, with a lot of action, there is good use of the surround channels.  Of course, the English soundtrack is much better because it is a 5.1 lossless track but still, the Japanese soundtrack also sounds great (and if you have a receiver capable of playing stereo on all channels, that was my preference when watching with the Japanese lossless soundtrack).

Note: The English subtitles are forced (no option to turn them on or off) if you watch the series in Japanese.  Some Japanese companies do request this from time-to-time (usually for near-simultaneous releases and sometimes even eliminate the Japanese soundtrack).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Darker than Black-Gemini the Meteor” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Audio Commentary (Episode 4) – Audio commentary features Zach Bolton (ADR Director), Alison Viktorin (voice actor for Suo) and Kate Oxley (voice actor for Misaki).
  • Textless Opening Song “Tsukiakari no Michishirube” by Stereopoony
  • Texless Closing Song “From Dusk Till Dawn” by Abingdon Boys Club

DISC 2:

  • OVA Part One Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with  Zach Bolton (ADR Director), Brina Polencia (voice actor for Yin) and Jason Liebrecht (voice actor for Hei).
  • FUNimation Entertainment Trailers

EXTRAS:

This is a combo-pack as FUNimation Entertainment has been doing with many of their anime series on Blu-ray recently.  So, for those who want to share with friends or watch the series during a long commute or plan to purchase a Blu-ray at a later time.  Also, one can easily compare the picture quality between the Blu-ray and DVD release.

An intriguing anime series with a lot of twists and turns, action and cool characters galore!

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” is an enjoyable anime series featuring cool character design, beautifully painted backgrounds but when it comes to its storyline, its important that viewers watch the first season.  And I think this is where things may become problematic in some ways.

Typically, FUNimation Entertainment has released the first season of a series before its sequel.  Granted, not so with “Full Metal Panic” (the third series was released first, followed by the first series months later) but in the case of “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor”, unlike “Full Metal Panic” which season 1 and 3 are more connected and season two was more comedy-driven, to understand the “Darker than Black” sequel, you need to watch the first series.  So, I’m a bit surprised that the first season was not released on Blu-ray at all, to help those who are not familiar with the series know what’s going on.

But fortunately, FUNimation Entertainment did include the four OVA’s of “Darker than Black Gaiden” which takes place between both series and to tell you the truth, is a much deeper storyline as it focuses on the relationship between Contractor, Hei and Doll, Yin.

While the first season explains why Hei is unlike other Contractors (I don’t want to confuse anyone who hasn’t watched the first season but he is not a true Contractor, he was “merged” with his sister’s powers before she died), we also learn how Yin is not a typical “Doll” and that she may not have emotions like humans but there is something special about her that hints that both she and Hei have some bond.

And the same can be said with “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” as the young Suou doesn’t understand her emotions that she feels towards a guy that she thinks she liked and also her feelings towards Hei, because she is a Contractor.

If anything, the addition of Suou brought a bit of sympathy towards a contractor like her because she just wants to be a normal girl.  She has a vibrant attitude and if anything, I think some viewers may find it difficult to see this character being mistreated in a way.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some fans started to look at Hei much differently because he has changed quite a bit since the first series.  He’s become an alcoholic and I guess you can say, abusive.   Especially his treatment towards Suou as everytime she doesn’t listen to her, he tends to smack her.  Hei was a real kindhearted person in the first series but eventually, he has gone through a lot since then and some may feel that he’s turned out too much of a jerk.

But fortunately, instead of the focus on the violence by Hei, the story eventually gets better with each episode.

But needless to say, if you are familiar with the first season, the OVA’s and the sequel are pretty entertaining and feature a good blend of action and drama.  Definitely one of the better anime TV series I have seen on Blu-ray released in 2011, not just in story but also overall look and performance.

The Blu-ray release as mentioned is quite solid in terms of picture quality and audio quality.  While not the most immersive anime lossless soundtrack out there, it’s still pretty good.

Sure, I would have loved a 5.1 Japanese lossless soundtrack but still, I enjoyed both soundtracks for this series.  Voice acting in Japanese and English were fantastic.  I wish there were more special features but granted, I’m glad that FUNimation Entertainment added two audio commentary tracks and also included the four OVA’s instead of releasing it separately.  And also, because this is a combo-pack, you do get the Blu-ray and DVD release.

If you do own the first season of “Darker than Black” on DVD, you’ll find the sequel to be quite compelling and the sequel and OVA’s to be captivating.

But for those who are going to hold out in hopes that FUNimation Entertainment does release the first season on Blu-ray, hopefully FUNimation Entertainment will release the first series on Blu-ray in the near future.

J!-ENT Article: A J-Pop July in Los Angeles (featuring photography by Nergene Arquelada and K.L. Vo.)

August 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In July, Los Angeles was a host to several J-pop related events which include Anime Expo 2010 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and MAX 2010 at Club Nokia.  Here are photos from J!-ENT’s Nergene Arquelada who covered AKB48, Beni, Megumi Nakajima, May’n and Yoko Kanno.  And also photos from K.L. Vo. at MAX 2010 with photos of Erina Mano.

Click here to download this pictorial

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