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Boruto – Naruto the Movie (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”. Action-packed, full of drama and excitement. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2002 Masashi Kishimoto/2007 Shippuden, BMP 2015. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Boruto – Naruto the Movie

ORIGINAL THEATRICAL DATE: 2015

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, DTS-HD Master Audio: English and Japanese 5.1,  2.0 Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: March 28, 2017


Originally Created by Masashi Kishimoto

Director: Hiroyuki Yamashita

Screenplay: Masashi Kishimoto

Character Design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto, Tetsuya Nishio

Music by -yaiba-, Yasuharu Takanashi

Art by Akemi Konno, Kazuyuki Hashimoto, Kentaro Akiyama, Masanobu Nomura, Mutsuo Koseki, Naruyo Kiriyama, Satoshi Matsuoka

Art Design by Hiroto Tanaka, Masaaki Endou

Chief Animation Director: Tetsuya Nishio

Anime Production: Pierrot


Featuring the following voice talent:

Junko Takeuchi/Maile Flanagan as Naruto Uzumaki

Yuko Sanpei/Amana C. Miller as Boruto Uzumaki

Akira Ishida/Liam O’Brien as Gaara

Chie Nakamura/Kate Higgins as Sakura Uchiha

Daisuke Namikawa/Xander Mobus as Momoshiki

Hana Takeda/Laura Bailey as Kurotsuchi

Hidenori Takahashi/Max Mittelman as Konohamaru Sarutobi

Hiroki Yasumoto/Wally Wingert as Kinshiki Otsusuki

Kokoro Kikuchi/Cherami Leigh as Sarada Uchiha

Kouki Miyata/Brian Beacock as Chōjūrō

Nana Mizuki/Stephanie Sheh as Hinata Uzumaki

Noriaki Sugiyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Sasuke Uchiha

Ryota Takeuchi/Catero Colbert as Darui

Ryūichi Kijima/Robbie Daymond as Mitsuki

Satoshi Hino/Ben Diskin as Sai

Showtaro Morikubo/Tom Gibis as Shikamaru Nara

Yoichi Masukawa/Brian Donovan as Rock Lee

Atsushi Abe/Spike Spencer as Inojin Yamanaka

Hisao Egawa/Catero Colbert as Killer Bee

Kengo Kawanishi/Bryce Papenbrook as Yurui

Kensho Ono/Todd Haberkorn as Shikadai Nara

Saori Hayami/Melissa Fahn as Himawari Uzumaki

Yukari Tamura/Danielle Judovits as Tenten


Boruto: Naruto the Movie takes place in the Hidden Leaf Village with Naruto as the Seventh Hokage. The Hidden Leaf Village is planning to host the Chunin Exams to train new shinobi from the village and from their allied villages. Among the entrants are Sasuke’s daughter, Sarada, Mitsuki, an exceptionally talented yet mysterious shinobi… And Boruto, Naruto’s talented but impetuous son.

Meanwhile, Sasuke who’s been on a mission in another dimension appears before Naruto to warn of a strange impending danger. Shrouded with an evil aura, Momoshiki and Kinshiki appear and attempt to assassinate Naruto. Petrified, Boruto is shielded by Naruto, only to disappear in front of Boruto’s own eyes.


The popular manga series “Naruto” has been going strong since its debut in Shueisha back in 1999 via “Weekly Shonen Jump” magazine.   With 72 volumes published, the manga series ended in November 2014.  Meanwhile, the anime series, the first titled “Naruto” began in 2002-2007 and lasted for 220 episodes.  And would continue with “Naruto: Shippuden” which lasted from 2007-2017 with a total of 500 episodes created.

The original manga by Masashi Kishimoto is about a young ninja named Naruto Uzamaki, a ninja of the Konoha leaf village who grew up facing prejudiced within his fellow ninjas because the evil nine-tailed fox was sealed inside him. But throughout the series, we have seen how Naruto is a kind-hearted boy who has worked hard in protecting his friends and staying true to his word with the goal of someday becoming the next Hokage of the village.

In 2014, Kishimoto wrapped up the “Naruto” manga and in the final chapter (featured in volume 72), Naruto would eventually become the Hokage of the Leaf Village and he and his wife Hinata would have two children, Boruto and Himawari.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and Sakura would have a daughter named Sarada, Shikamaru Nara and Temari would have a son named Shikadai, Sai and Ino would have a son named Inojin and Choji Akimichi and Karui would have a daughter named Chocho.

Everyone has grown up and Naruto is busy as the new Hokage at the village, this causes resentment from Naruto’s son Boruto who feels that his father was never there for him or the family.

This leads us to the film “Boruto – Naruto the Movie” which featured anime production from Studio Pierrot, direction by Hiroyuki Yamashita, a screenplay by Masashi Kishimoto, music by -yaiba- and Yasuharu Takanashi and character design by Hirofumi Suzuki, Masashi Kishimoto and Tetsuya Nishio and art design by Hiroto Tanaka and Masaaki Endou.

The film begins with Boruto telling his story and him and his team partners, Sarada and Mitsuki being trained by Master Konohamaru and trying to capture a bear (or panda).   After their mission, the four go to see Naruto, the Seventh Hokage.

And as Boruto gets into a little argument with his father (for not being part of his life due to his duties as Hokage), he reminds his father about his sister and Naruto’s daughter, Himawari’s birthday and how he needs to be there.

Meanwhile a scientist comes in and introduces the group to a new invention.  Now, a jutsu can be contained in a mini-seal and put into a bracelet which gives anyone, ninja or not, the power to use a jutsu.  No chakra is even needed to use the new technology and the scientists want it used for the upcoming Chunin exam but Naruto is against it and believes a ninja should use their own skills.

Meanwhile, Boruto meets with the scientist and takes the special bracelet.

With the next Chunin exams coming up, Sarada and Mitsuki want to take the exam but Boruto, he has no desire.  He doesn’t want to be like his father and that means not wanting to be Hokage.  But for Sarada, she wants to be Hokage and tries to get Boruto to take part in the Chunin exam to let his father know he could do it.

Meanwhile, Sasuke Uchiha returns to the village and Boruto, not wanting to be anything like his father, goes to Sasuke to take him in as a pupil.  But Sasuke will only agree if Boruto can learn the Sharingan jutsu.

As the groups get ready for their Chunin Exam to see who will become a ninja, round three will be in front of a public audience.  During a battle Boruto uses the bracelet to best his opponent, but for Naruto, he is disappointed that his son resorted to such a tactic and disqualifies his son from the Chunin exam and also taking away his ninja bandana as punishment.

This leads to an argument and Boruto complains that his father is never there for him.  Meanwhile, a new evil force attacks everyone at the Chunin Exam.


VIDEO:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in 1080p High Definition and the film looks vibrant.  Colors look fantastic in HD and with this being a film ,there is a good amount of backgrounds and detail in the background artwork.  Picture quality is fantastic!

I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” is presented in Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. Both soundtracks are fantastic and dialogue and music are both crystal clear through the center, front and surround channels.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Boruto – Naruto the Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Special Naruto OVA – (10:23) It’s Naruto’s big day as his inauguration as Hokage is about to take place.  But time’s getting late because Boruto and Himawari are arguing.  But what happens when Boruto upsets his little sister?
  • Clean End Credits
  • Storyboards – Featuring a gallery of the storyboards for the film
  • Art Gallery – Featuring an art gallery from the film.
  • Trailer – Featuring the Japanese trailers.

Watching “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”, I can’t help but be entertained by the fact that the film focuses on the children of the characters that many of us grew up reading.

“Naruto” having lasted so long as a manga and anime series was a big part of the lives of many people who watched “Naruto” grow from a child, to a teenager and a young adult.  Seeing how his heart and his passion would inspire so many but also seeing him determined to defeat those who threatened the village or his friends.

With Naruto, he is a student that felt he had to prove himself through hardwork and determination.

So, it’s fascinating to see how Boruto is much different than his father.  Naruto, who had always said he would become Hokage is now the new Hokage of the Leaf Village but this new role means being busy with work and unfortunately, that means no time spent with the family.

Hinata is literally taking care of both children and you can see how Boruto is upset at his father for neglecting them, but he harbors a bit of anger for his father not being there for him.

What’s even more interesting is that Boruto is not too aware of his father’s past and how he grew up, so he is not aware of the challenges or difficulties his father grew up with.

And because of his feelings towards his father, he asks his dad’s rival, Sasuke Uchiha to become his master.

But during this peaceful time, a lot has changed as well.  Scientists have developed bracelets with technology that allow anyone to harness jutsu used by ninjas and to make things worse, a new evil has decided to attack the Leaf Village during the Chunin exams (like what happened to Naruto and friends when he was much younger).

And I’ll leave it that.

This is a new beginning, a new chapter as Boruto will continue the storyline of the ninjas at the Leaf Village and while I’m not sure if “Boruto” will last for another 15 years but for this film to jumpstart the new generation and Naruto’s son, Boruto, now the focal point, needless to say, this series will be interesting, considering that he’s not like his father at all.

And if you think Boruto Uzumaki has special skills learned from his father, wait until one gets to see the included OVA which shows us how powerful Himawari Uzumaki can get.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film is vibrant and with it being a film, has more detail when it comes to art backgrounds.  Lossless soundtrack is also well-done and the voice acting for both Japanese and English dub are magnificent.

Overall, if you are a big fan of the “Naruto” manga/anime series, I highly recommend “Boruto – Naruto the Movie”.  Action-packed, full of drama and excitement.

Recommended

 

The Wild Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are looking for an animated film for the entire family featuring a Robinson Crusoe storyline and many talking animals, you may want to consider this animated film.  It’s not exactly the most child-friendly film but it’s an entertaining animated film worth considering for older children.

Images courtesy of © 2016 Summit Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Wild Life

FILM RELEASE: 2016

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:40:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Summit Entertainment

RATED: PG (Mild Action, Peril and some Rude Humor)

RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2016


Directed by Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen

Written by Domonic Paris

Produced by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris, Ben Stassen, Caroline Van Iseghem

Executive Producer: Olivier Courson, Eric Dillens

Music by Ramin Djawadi

Casting by Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris

Art Direction by Vincent Kesteloot, Anthony Leveque


Starring:

Carlos Alazraqui as Long John Silver

Yuri Lowenthal as Robinson Crusoe

Laila Berzins as Rosie

Joey Camen as Scrubby

Jeff Doucette as Mal/Pango

Sandy Fox as Epi

Kyle Hebert as Tom Cat

Marieve Herington as Kiki

Jay Jones as Friday

Colin Metzger as Carmello

Joe Ochman as Rufus

Michael Sorich as Cecil

Doug Stone as Aynsley

David Howard Thornton as Tuesday

Kirk Thornton as Bosun

Debi Tinsley as May


Things are larger than life on a tropical isle where wild animals rule, until a marooned human arrives in the midst of a furious storm and their lives are forever changed.


Way back in 1719, Daniel Dafoe wrote a novel titled “Robinson Crusoe”about a castaway who spent thirty years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad and trying to survive in hopes of being rescued.

As the tale of Robinson Crusoe has received various adaptations, in 2016, a Belgian-French CG animated film titled “Robinson Crusoe” (and renamed “The Wild Life” in North America) was released in theaters in Europe.

And now “The Wild Life” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

The film begins with a red and green macaw named Mak and his friends living in an island in the South Pacific.  Mak is getting bored and dreams of life over the horizon and wants to explore the world.

Also, a pirate named Long John Silver and his crew of pirates rides the seas…

We are then introduced to Robinson Crusoe and his dog Aynsley who book a passage on a ship to explore the islands but when a tropical storm hits, Crusoe, Aynsley and wild and bad cats named Mel and May are locked in the ship’s hull and survive the storm.

When they awake, everyone is gone and Crusoe and Aynsley try to survive on the island.

As Mak and the animals fear the human and his dog, Mel and May try to attack Mak and kill him but he is rescued by Aynsley and Crusoe takes him in and names the Macaw, Tuesday.

But when Mel and May tell the other animals that Crusoe and Aynsley killed Mak, the animals go on a rampage and try to help the wild cats defeat Crusoe but finding out that they have been lied to by Mel and May.  Unfortunately, Mel and May cause an explosion on the remaining ship and in the process, Aynsley is killed.

Now Tuesday and the animals who now want to help the human Crusoe try to create shelter and help him survive on the island but will the evil cats, Mel and May prevent the animals from succeeding?


VIDEO:

“The Wild Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the most part is very good. CG animation is very well-done compared to previous European CG films that I have watched.

There is excellent detail throughout the film. For example, for Mak/Tuesday, you can see the wearing right on its beak and the amount of shading and detail, especially for his feathers.  Another example, is during a rainstorm and seeing the puddles of rain on the ship’s deck.  Fantastic!

Textures are also well detailed along with skin details for human characters.

Granted, many will want to compare with Pixar Animation films which cost many millions of dollars but it’s best not to compare and just enjoy of how good this film looks in CG and the evolving quality of Euro CG animated films.  “The Wild Life” looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Wild Life” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and features crystal clear dialogue and great use of the surround channels and LFE for the film’s many actions sequences.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Wild Life” comes with the following special features:

  • A Wild World: Making the Wild Life – (9:16) The casting and the challenges of animating the film.
  • Meet the Characters – (10:09)  The voice actors discuss their characters.
  • Tips for Your Trip – (3:58) Robinson Crusoe gives tips of what to do if you are stranded in an island.
  • The Wild Life Musical Adventure – (3:13) A featurette showcasing various scenes from the film and the musical score.

EXTRAS:

“The Wild Life” comes with a slipcover, an UltraViolet code and a DVD version of the film.


Perhaps one of the best things that were decided when the Belgian-French film “Robinson Crusoe” was released in North America is changing the film’s title.

As Robinson Crusoe is a classic novel title, the animated film is less about Robinson Crusoe but a CG animated film that revolves more about the birds and animals living in an uninhabited island which Robinson Crusoe happens to be stranded on.

The film revolves around a parrot named Mak/Tuesday who dreams of going beyond the island and discovering life elsewhere, as he has grown bored of the island.

Meeting the stranded Robinson Crusoe and his dog Aynsley, Tuesday looks to Crusoe in hopes of taking him away from the island, not knowing that Crusoe is actually stranded.

But as the animals on the island fear Crusoe and his dog, you have two wild and mangy (and yes, evil) cats who serve as the film’s antagonists.  These cats remind me of the Gremlins (from the classic 1984 film) and somehow, these two cats are persistent and truly evil that their actions leads to one of the deaths of the film’s characters.  No doubt, earning the film it’s PG rating.  But similar to the Gremlins, these cats spawn and create more evil, mangy looking cats to join them in causing problems for Crusoe and animals.

But as the animals band together to help Crusoe, the film starts to focus more on the animals starting to enjoy Crusoe’s presence, but not all.

Meanwhile, throw in Long John Silver’s presence into the film and you have an interesting adventure for Robinson Crusoe and his bird, Tuesday.

Overall, “The Wild Life” is an entertaining CG animated film.  While it’s story is a tame version of what appears on the original Robinson Crusoe novel and focuses on Crusoe and the few animals that live with him, while in essence, this is an animated film, there are moments of peril and you have one character death.  So, parental guidance is definitely suggested.

Also, I have to say that for a European animated film, this is probably one of the better animated films I have seen in the last five years, when it comes to animation quality and detail.

But the film’s problem lies within its storytelling especially at the end. Despite the film’s adventures, the film ends far too soon and abruptly and tries to end its storyline with a brief narration, with still CG sequencs of what happens to the characters.

But I enjoyed the film for what it’s worth.  If you are looking for an animated film for the entire family featuring a Robinson Crusoe storyline and many talking animals, you may want to consider this animated film.  It’s not exactly the most child-friendly film but it’s an entertaining animated film worth considering for older children.

Bayonetta: Bloody Fate (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

bayonetta-a

“Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” compliments the original video game with its story, action, lewd humor plus its fantastic animation from Gonzo. But the animated film also serves as an introduction to the world of “Bayonetta” for those who are playing the “Bayonetta 2” video game on the Wii-U, having not played the original game. If you are a fan of the “Bayonetta” video games, then definitely give the animated film a try!

Image courtesy of © FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Bayonetta: Bloody Fate

DURATION: 90 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Anime News Network

RATED: M

Release Date: October 21, 2014


Director: Fuminori Kizaki

Screenplay by Mitsutaka Hirota

Storyboard by Fuminor Kizaki

Original Character Design by Mari Shimazaki

Character Design by Ai Yokoyama

Mechanical Design by Katanao Akai, Takashi Watabe

Produced by Gonzo


Featuring the following voice talent:

Atsuko Tanaka/Helena Taylor as Bayonetta

Daisuke Namikawa/Yuri Lowenthal as Luka

Mie Sonozaki/Grey DeLisle as Jeanne

Miyuki Sawashiro as Cereza

Norio Wakamoto/Grant Albrecht as Balder

Tesshô Genda/David Fennoy as Rodin

Wataru Takagi/John Kassir as Enzo


Twenty years after her awakening, Bayonetta is still searching for clues that could help unravel the mysteries of her dark past. Aided in her quest by the clandestine weapon smith Rodin – and his deadly creations: Scarborough Fair – Bayonetta continues to leave a trail of angel corpses in her wake. Her search for answers leads to encounters with a mysterious – and eerily familiar – little girl, a vengeance-obsessed journalist, and a deadly white-haired beauty that seems to know more about Bayonetta than the witch herself.


“Bayonetta” is one of the well-known third-person beat’em up games in America.  Developed by Platinum Games and Sega, the game is best known for its sexy protagonist, a witch named Bayonetta, who uses firearms and special attacks to fight against the angelic enemies.

With two games released in the U.S., an animated film based on the video game was produced by Gonzo and released in Japan back in 2013.  And the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of FUNimation.

Featuring the same voice cast from the video game, the animated film follows the events and the characters of the video game with slight changes.

The film starts with a narration about how the Umbra witches which serve the demons and the Lumen sages of Europe serve the angels and both worked together to ensure the balance of time.

But when a lumen sage and a umbra witch violated the decree and had a child together, the woman was imprisoned and the man was banished.

With the birth of the child, many feared what would happen.

With both clans producing an eye, to govern the power of creation, the forbidden child that was taken care of by the Umbra Witches possessed the power of the left eye.  When the eyes are brought together, Jubileas would be resurrected and would be incarnate once more.

The conflict over the left eye would lead a war between angels and demons.  In the end, it led to their destruction and the truth of their existence slipped into obscurity.  The child would grow up to be a witch but was kept in a secret place.

500 years later, the witch known as Bayonetta who slays angels has awakened with no memory of her previous life.

Meanwhile, a photojournalist named Luka tries to enter the church to expose the truth about Bayonetta and hopes to avenge his father who was killed by Bayonetta.

While Bayonetta fights a horde of angels, Luka who can not see them is unsure what is happening and tries to take pictures of her as she fights against Fortitudo, one of the four Cardinal virtues and defeats him.

As news shows the head of the Ragna believers making his first debut in public.  The head, Balder is a modern day sage and while Bayonetta, Rodan (a bartender and weapons master) and Enzo watch the news, Balder looks at the camera and says something which startles Bayonetta.

As Bayonetta continues to look into her missing memories, she feels that maybe Balder is the person that may bring back her memories.

Bayonetta heads to the valley and comes into contact with a little girl named Cereza runs toward her and calls her “mommy”.  She is surprised that the little girl can see the angels but suddenly they are attacked by angels.

As Bayonetta seeks out answers to restoring her memory, who is this young girl and why does she think Bayonetta is her mother?


VIDEO:

“Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  Gonzo did a wonderful job with the animation as the film compliments the videogame with beautiful character animation, special effects and backgrounds.  There are a few banding issues but for the most part, this animated film looks fantastic in HD with its vibrant colors and detailed character designs.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  The film features a wonderful, immersive lossless soundtrack thanks to the constant action throughout the film.  There is good use of the surround channels and explosions feature LFE and crystal clear dialogue.  Both lossless soundtracks are fantastic and the voice acting is wonderful!  Fans of the video game will no doubt enjoy the film for its use of the original voice actors from the video game.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” comes with the following special features:

  • Actor Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with ADR Director Jonathan Klein and voice actress Helena Taylor.
  • Storyboards – Navigate with your remote to see the storyboards from the animated film.
  • U.S. Trailer – FUNimation trailer

For anyone who has enjoyed the “Bayonetta” video game, “Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” serves as a solid animated film based on a video game but also provides a storyline that may will want to watch if they delve into “Bayonetta 2” on the Wii-U without having played or beaten the first video game.

The storyline is rather intriguing because it features a role reversal as the witches/demons are seen as the good group, while the angels are seen as the evil group in the film and video games.

Of course, part of the most important factor of the “Bayonetta” video game is the main character’s sex appeal as she is constantly wearing a tight leather outfit and shooting her enemies and slashing at them without fear.

While the storyline has its slight differences from the video game, the storyline is pretty much on target about Bayonetta trying to learn more about herself and discovering things that may help her jog her memory.

Characters from the video game such as Luka and Bayonetta’s rival Jeanne, the antagonist Balder, the bar owner and weapon specialist Rodan and informant Enzo make their appearance in the animated film.  And like the video game, the profanity also carries over to the animated film.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality features fantastic animation and background artwork from Gonzo.  The colors from the film feature darker colors to vibrant colors which look great in HD.  There are some scenes with banding but for the most part, the animated film looks awesome!  As for the lossless audio soundtrack, it’s another plus with this animated film because it features constant action, the animated film sports an immersive soundtrack that utilizes the surround channels and LFE.  You also get a fascinating audio commentary with English dub voice actress Helena Taylor and ADR Director Jonathan Klein, storyboards and a theatrical trailer.

Overall, “Bayonetta: Bloody Fate” compliments the original video game with its story, action, lewd humor plus its fantastic animation from Gonzo. But the animated film also serves as an introduction to the world of “Bayonetta” for those who are playing the “Bayonetta 2” video game on the Wii-U, having not played the original game.

If you are a fan of the “Bayonetta” video games, then definitely give the animated film a try!

The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

swanp-arft-a

Fun, entertaining and action-packed, for parents with daughters or those who grew up with the original films will find “The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” to be an animated family film worth watching.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Swan V LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 78 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (For Mild Peril)

Release Date: February 11, 2014

Directed by Richard Rich

Screenplay by Brian Nissen

Storyb y Richard Rich and Brian Nissen

Produced by Richard Rich, Seldo O. Young, Jared E. Brown

Executive Producer: Seldon O. Young

Music by J. Bateman

Songs by Jenny Frogley and J. Bateman

Featuring the voices of:

Yuri Lowenthal as Prince Derek

Elle Deets as Princess Odette

Jennifer Miller as Uberta

Joseph Medrano as Lord Rogers/Scully

David Lodge as The Forbidden Arts

Clayton James as Jean Bob

Gardner Jaas as Puffin

Doug Stone as Speed

Joey Lotsko as Mangler

Jeff Michaels as Cutter

Kirk Thornton as Jojo

Brian Nissen as Brodie/Ferdinand the Chef

Cahterine Lavin as Bridget

Carly G. Fogelson as Alise

The memorable characters of THE SWAN PRINCESS series are back for an all-new adventure! Shortly after the Royal Family adopts a young girl named Alise, she is taken away into the forest. Princess Odette, Derek and their woodland friends, Jean-Bob the Frog and Speed the Turtle, must work together to find a way to bring her home to the castle. With friendship, teamwork, original songs and plenty of laughs, THE SWAN PRINCESS: A ROYAL FAMILY TALE is a must-see for the whole family!

Back in 1994, the animated film “The Swan Princess” was born.  The original film was directed by former Disney animated director Richard Rich (“The Fox and the Hound”, “The Black Cauldron”) and since then, two more animated films were created and released direct-to-video with “The Swan Princess II: Escape from Castle Mountain” (1997) and “Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure” (1998) and in 2012, “The Swan Princess: Christmas” was released.

For those not familiar with the original storyline,  the storyline introduced us to King William and his daughter Odette, and widowed Queen Uberta and her son Prince Derek, and introducing them at a young age and as they become adults, they fall in love with each other.  But jealous of Prince Derek of having to rule the kingdom, the evil sorcerer Rothbart wants to make sure that in order to rule the kingdom, he must get rid of Derek and Odette.  Rothbart has put a transformational spell on Odette, changing her to a swan during the day and human at night.  The only way the spell can be broken is if the two believe in everlasting romantic love.  In the first film, Derek kills Rothbart and life for he and Odette is living happily everafter.

In Feb. 2014, “The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale”, the latest “Swan Princess” feature will be released on Blu-ray and DVD.

“The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” features both Prince Derek and Princess Odette trying to have children.  Derek’s parents are quite verbal of how they want a grandchild and the two hope they will have a child.

But what the Royal Family is unaware is that The Forbidden Arts has arrived and is destined to destroy the Age of Goodness and the Swan Princess  with the help of a squirrel tribe which has been falsely told that the Swan Princess is destined to destroy all squirrels.

But as the squirrels try to kill the Swan Princess, they fail.  Thus leading the Forbidden Arts to go on a rampage and destroy the home of an innocent family.

As Derek and Odette see the blast, the two hurry to the area in which they find a young girl trying to rescue her father.  Derek manages to rescue the man but the man is mortally wounded and asks for Derek to watch over his daughter Alise and promise him.  Derek promises the man and the man passes away.

This leads to Derek, Odette and the servants at the castle to make Alise feel at home and both Derek and Odette fall in love with Alise and want to adopt her into their family and be her parents.

But in a calculated attack, the squirrels kidnap Alise and Derek’s parents.

And now Derek and Odette set off to rescue them.

VIDEO:

“The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  It’s important to note that this animated film is direct-to-video and it’s not made with the highest of budgets compared to a Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks animated film.  But the film is well-animated in the sense that it doesn’t look low-budget and the characters especially the animals look cute and will attract the attention of children.

But while scenery does look very good and is detailed, character animations may seem like older animation and not as detailed.  Which is not bad, but it’s important for people to not expect the kind of animation that they are use to seeing in the more expensive, higher budget animated films.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Swan Princess” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear.  There is a lot of music throughout this film and noticed that there is use of the surround channels for the more action-driven scenes.  Also, the voice acting by Yuri Lowenthall and Elle Deets is well-done!  Especially the talent who provided their singing voices throughout the film.

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” comes with two sing-along songs.

EXTRAS:

“The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” comes with a Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet code for digital streaming of the film.  The slipcover also has a pink rubber princess tiara for young children.

swanp-arft-b

“The Swan Princess: Christmas” is an entertaining animated film for the entire family.

 

Many young parents grew up watching “The Swan Princess” when they were younger and now, they can enjoy this latest animated film as Derek and Odette start their own family.

As always with the theme of “The Swan Princess”, there is always something dark and brooding that wants to kill both Prince Derek and Princess Odette (the Swan Princess) and in this latest animated film, the Forbidden Arts has returned to try once again to end the “Age of Goodness” and to put an end to the Swan Princess.

While the first animated film did have tragedy, this one has a young girl being kidnapped by squirrels and and who have been duped that Princess Odette is out to end their entire species.  So, they want to stop that from happening.

 

But the film is not too violent and for children (boys and girls), they will be entertained by it.  I felt this film was created to include the younger children, unlike past films which were more for older children.

 

The release is also the first Blu-ray release for “The Swan Princess” and while the animated films were never known for the greatest animation, this one is for the children and they will no doubt love the film and probably won’t care if it’s not big-budget animation ala Pixar or Dreamworks.

 

Overall, “The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” is the continuing story of Prince Derek and Princess Odette and for many people who grew up watching the original animated films back in the ’90s and are now adults and parents, will find the progression in the relationship of Derek and Odette similar to their own, as the two go on to start their own family.

 

Fun, entertaining and action-packed, for parents with daughters or those who grew up with the original films will find “The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale” to be an animated family film worth watching.

Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tigerandbunny-movie

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” on Blu-ray is awesome!  Not only do you get an awesome film but you get the 2+ hour Japanese world premiere event plus many other special features include with the Blu-ray release!  If you were a fan of the anime TV series or the manga, then I highly recommend “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Movie Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning

YEAR: 2012

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: October 1, 2013

Directed by Yoshitomo Yonetani

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Creator: Hajime Yatate

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Hero Design: Masakazu Katsura

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

In the metropolis of Stern Bild, there are heroes who wear the logos of sponsors and protect the city from danger. Their exploits are broadcast on the popular HERO TV. Wild Tiger (Kotetsu T. Kaburagi) is a veteran superhero past his peak who is ordered by his company to team up with the rookie hero Barnaby Brooks Jr. Can these two mismatched superheroes overcome their differences to protect the city?

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.  The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu, the Anime News Network “Neon Alley”.

But in 2012, due to the popularity of the series, a film titled “Gekijo-ban Tiger & Bunny – The Beginning-” was released in theaters in September 2012 and also a simulcast screening in the USA.

And now “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Viz Media.

What is “Tiger & Bunny” about?

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City. 45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet. And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”. While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings. Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr. Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother. His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero. Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”. His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu. He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu. He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents. His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai. He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer. She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory. She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”. He is upbeat and has the power to control air current. He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls. He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge. She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero. She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability. He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy the appearance and voice of another. His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

What is “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” about?

The film establishes the beginning of Kotetsu and Barnaby’s partnership.  Why they became partners but most importantly how Kotetsu lost his first costume, his original sponsorship but most importantly filling in certain details that were not in the TV series.

While animated films are not typically canon, for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”, the film goes into those small details that fans can truly appreciate and it takes place during the time after the second episode in the TV series.

The movie is set not long after “Sky High” has won the title of “King of Heroes”.  But also the importance of being a hero is for Kotetsu, who made a promise to his deceased wife that he will always stay being a hero. So, despite being away from his daughter, who is unaware that her father is the superhero “Wild  Tiger”, she thinks that her father chooses work over being with her, when in truth, Kotetsu is trying to be a protector of the people.

And during the new season of the reality show Hero TV, after a pursuit of a suspect, sometimes being a hero, makes Kotetsu make the decisions without planning them and it often gets him in trouble, especially since his max power limit is only five minutes long.  While nearly falling to his death, he is rescued by Barnaby and immediately, we learn that Kotetsu’s old sponsor could no longer continue and that the new sponsor for Wild Tiger is the same sponsor for Barnaby.

While Kotetsu and Barnaby don’t get along at first, it’s even difficult to get the others to warm up to Barnaby as they consider him a rival on Hero TV.

And as Kotetsu tries to get used to his new partnership, all heroes must work together to stop a thief named  Robin Baxter, who has stolen a statue that represents the importance of heroes.  But what makes it difficult to stop Robin is his NEXT power to instantly switch and trade places with anyone he sees.

Can these heroes work together?

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). “Tiger & Bunny” looks absolutely vibrant on Blu-ray. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done. The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome. Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio  5.1 and 2.0. Both are similar when it comes to special effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack. But this time, you can hear the music and certain sound effects being utilized on the surround channels.  But the lossless soundtrack is fantastic and it’s great to see the film receive the 5.1 treatment.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” comes with the following special features:

  • World Premiere Event – (2:15:24) The live concert performance featuring the voice talent and performers in a concert/stage-like presentation for the world premiere of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • US Premiere Event – (3:59) Interviews with those who attended the screening of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” at New People in San Francisco and those who took part in the cosplay competition.
  • Anime Expo 2012 Highlight Reel – (1:10) “Tiger & Bunny” presence at AX 2013.
  • Ustream Special Digest – (38:59) Featuring interviews with the Japanese voice talent, crew and also the US crew when it came to the simulcast and the world premiere event and more.
  • Production Art – View the production art of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Special Pilot Trailer– (2:10) The special pilot trailer in Japanese.
  • Pilot Trailer – (:38) The original Japanese trailer for the pilot.
  • Preview – (2:30) Original Japanese preview for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Promotional Video  – (3:42) Original Japanese promotional video.
  • Commercial Collection – (1:51) Original Japanese commercials for “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.
  • Theater commercials – (1:32) A hilarious commercial in Japan featuring real people wearing the suits for Wild Tiger, Barnaby and Sky High, discussing how to prepare for their viewing experience at a theater.
  • Weekly Hero Countdown – (12:35) A weekly hero countdown of who is on top in “Hero TV” (Japanese).
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

I have raved about “Tiger & Bunny” since watching the original TV anime series and while the series is completed, I’m not surprised that people want to see more of the characters.

I tend to look at how America has the Avengers or the Justice League of America, but when it comes to superheroes, aside from sentai, this is probably the superhero team of Japan, of course with the corporate sponsorship and reality TV show twist.

But one thing the animated series and also the manga series have in common is that the story focused strongly on Kotetsu and Barnaby and the progression of these two unlikely partners and friends, growing to be like brothers and watching each other’s back.

Of course, there is only so much story that can be focused on the relationship between these partners and so this is where the film comes in.  Showing more emotional details that the TV series never zeroed in on.

From Kotetsu’s promise to his dead wife, to the losing of his uniform and his original sponsorship and more details of getting his new uniform.  And we get to see more of Blue Rose especially, singing to an audience and no doubt the product placement from Pepsi as the name is brought up several times when she shows up on screen.

But if anything, I think for fans of the series, especially for Tiger and Bunny, the additional details are quite important.  But whether or not the film is canon with the TV series, who knows. But I feel it should be!  The film really does a great job of establishing the partnership between these unlikely individuals but most importantly, for those who have no time to watch the series, now they can enjoy the film and maybe be converted to becoming “Tiger & Bunny” fans!

While the TV series of course, goes into the characters flaws, the film does show a little of Kotetsu not being there for his daughter, but how his daughter became a big Barnaby fan.  For Barnaby, it doesn’t go into too much detail about his parents death but shows how he is driven to find out who killed them.

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful. Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG.  The film looks colorful and vibrant on Blu-ray and the better lossless soundtrack at 5.1 makes a big difference!

But that’s not it.  Viz Media has also included something that surprised even me and that’s the Japanese “World Premiere Event” which is over 2 hours long.  The event features performances and a lot of cool extras for fans to enjoy.  You really don’t see this anymore on US releases but when they are included, not only are anime fans getting what they pay for but you’re getting a whole lot more with the Blu-ray release of “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”.  Plus there are video from the Ustream event and the New People screening in San Francisco.  So, it’s a pretty jam packed Blu-ray release!

Overall, “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning” on Blu-ray is awesome!  Not only do you get an awesome film but you get the 2+ hour Japanese world premiere event plus many other special features include with the Blu-ray release!  If you were a fan of the anime TV series or the manga, then I highly recommend “Tiger & Bunny the Movie: The Beginning”!

Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

June 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

tigerandbunny-set2

“Tiger & Bunny” was an awesome anime series when it first began and for its second half, it managed to become better and better with each episode!  I absolutely love this series and for anyone wanting a divergence from the banal anime series that they come across, and want something with a superhero angle but with humor, action and drama. “Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: Episodes 14-25 (280 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 19, 2013

Directed by Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Character Design by Kenji Hayama, Masaki Yamada

Art Direction by Kinichi Okubo

Mechanical Design by Kenji Andou

3D Director: Yoshikazu Kon

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

Hailed as the heroes who saved Stern Bild, Kotetsu and Barnaby face a volley of media attention that includes their learning how to dance! Then, Kotetsu deals with his conflicted feelings about continuing as Wild Tiger and visits his hometown to spend time with his family. He tries to discuss his feelings with Barnaby, but when a possible new lead comes up, Kotetsu gives his full attention to helping Barnaby find the murderer of his parents.

In the first half of “Tiger & Bunny”, Kotetsu and Barnaby were able to overcome the power Jake Martinez, the person that is responsible for the murder of Barnaby’s parents.

And now that both partners have been in sync, they have climbed on top of the ratings.  But suddenly, Kotetsu notices that his power has increased, but the minutes of having power has shortened.

He finds out from a good friend and a former boss, that Captain Legend, the hero that Kotetsu has idolized, also had that same problem and lost his power completely.  And this may be a sign that Kotetsu’s power may disappear within weeks.

With his powers in decline, Kotetsu heads home and realizes how his daughter has had a tough life being left alone with her grandmother since her mother died.  And not knowing that her father is a hero, she thinks her father just doesn’t want to be around her.

So, Kotetsu is contemplating spending more time and a family and retiring as a hero.  But just as he is about to tell Barnaby his plans, Barnaby finds out from one of Jake Martinez’ followers that Jake was not responsible for the murder of Barnaby’s parents.

This leads to Barnaby starting to have another mental breakdown and as for Kotetsu and his declining powers, can he quit now that his partner really needs him?

Find out in the second half of the popular anime series “Tiger & Bunny”!

What is “Tiger & Bunny”?

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.

Directed by Keiichi Satou (“Saint Seiya the Movie”, “Karas”, “Asura”), a screenplay by Masafumi Nishida, music by Yoshihiro Ike (“Asura”, “Cobra: The Animation”, “Dead Leaves”), character designs by Kenji Hayama (“Baccano!”, “The Big O”, “Casshern Sins”, “Getter Robo: Armageddon”) and Masaki Yamada (“Ergo Proxy”, “Appleseed”, “Great Dangaioh”), background art by Kinichi Okubo (“Ex-Driver”, “Honey and Clover”, “Angel Beats!”), mechanical design by Kenji Andou (“Origini ~Spirits of the Past~”, “Votoms Finder”), Yoshikazu Kon (“Gurren Lagann”, “Shangri-La”, “Mobil Suit Gundam 00”).

The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu and the Anime News Network. And most recently on Viz Media’s “Neon Alley”.

In Japan, a one-shot manga by Masakazu Katsura (“Video Girl Ai”, “DNA2”, “Zetman”) was published in “Weekly Shonen Jump” and in Sept. 2012, an animated film was released and a second film currently in production and planned for a fall 2013 release. Also, the anime series has led to a PSP video game released in Sept. 2012 and a second game released in March 2013 courtesy of Viz Media.

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City. 45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet. And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”. While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The series focuses on the partnership between two total opposites, the older hero Kotetsu (Wild Tiger) and the young star, Barnaby.  While both are popular on Hero TV, Kotetsu is a single father who feels it is his obligation to be a hero and protect the public, while his partner Barnaby is tormented by his parent’s murder and wanting justice.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings. Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr. Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother. His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero. Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”. His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu. He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu. He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents. His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai. He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer. She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory. She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”. He is upbeat and has the power to control air current. He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls. He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge. She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero. She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability. He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy the appearance and voice of another. His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). “Tiger & Bunny” is probably one of the best, recent anime TV series that I have seen in awhile. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done. The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome. Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both are similar when it comes to special effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack. While it would have been nice to have a 5.1 lossless track, especially since this series has plenty of action, the series does sound crisp and clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” comes with the following special features:

  • Tamura & Katsura Exclusive Interview – (13:44) Interview with Kazuhiko Tamura (Sunrise) and original character designer, Masakazu Katsura and how he came up with the design for each hero.
  • Production Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the production art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Illustration Gallery – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the illustration gallery of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Japanese Trailers – (3:57) The Japanese trailers for “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

Fantastic!  It’s the one word that I can describe the “Tiger & Bunny” series!

Earlier this year, a friend who attended Tokyo Anime Fair and Anime Contents Expo 2013, gave me a chance to see all the Tiger & Bunny cosplayers and some going so far to make the actual suits for Tiger and Bunny.   Even today, it’s hard for me to imagine that Masakazu Katsura, a mangaka and designer who I followed since “Video Girl Ai” and “DNA 2”, was behind the character designs of these heroes.

An anime series that manages to capture humor, action, drama with wonderful character designs, mechanical designs and art backgrounds, one can say that “Tiger & Bunny” is an animated series that is a total package.

From the first half of the anime series which goes into introducing us to each characters, the second half focuses on Kotetsu and Barnaby as partners but the trouble both face when Kotetsu begins to lose his powers (permanently) and Barnaby finds out that the person they battled and defeated, was not the person who killed his parents.

Suffice to say, both men are at their highest point as heroes but their lowest point as individuals.  For Kotetsu, quitting his job as a hero and focusing on spending more time with his daughter is important, but also his honor as a hero to protect and also be their for his partner is equally important.

As a person who enjoys anime, we have seen the team dynamic in many forms.

From the sentai teams of yesteryear, may it be “Gatchaman”, “Voltron” to super teams such as the Z-Warriors of “Dragon Ball Z”, the ninjas of “Naruto” or the high school friends as seen on “Bleach” and “Yu Yu Hakusho”.

But one thing that we often see in America through comic books, animated series and live action films are the superhero teams. May it be Marvel’s X-Men, The Avengers or Fantastic Four or DC’s Justice League of America, The Teen Titans or Legion of Super-Heroes and it has always been in the back of my mind, what if there was a caped superhero for an anime series?

We have seen a singular costumed heroes from anime series such as “Moldiver” and shows like the Kamen Rider or even Ranger series but what Sunrise was able to create with “Tiger & Bunny” is exciting, unique and different from anything ever featured in Japan.

Humans with special abilities known as NEXT who take on the bad guys, but in a twist, are featured on television and challenge other heroes of who can catch the most criminals and get the most points to increase their ranking, as each compete for the title “King of Heroes”.

The characters are nothing like American superheroes in the fact that these are individuals that are flawed.  The main protagonist Kotetsu is an older superhero who knows he is not a great father. He speaks to her on intercom but is never there to see her face-to-face and his daughter pretty much gave up on seeing him. He knows he causes trouble for the station because he causes quite a bit of damage and now, to help put him on the right path, he is given a partner with Barnaby.

And while Barnaby has a cool demeanor, a strategist who thinks first before attacking, he also has a tragic past that drives him to become a superhero and that is to find the killer responsible for killing his parents.

The two are joined by heroes that are interesting. Blue Rose is popular because of her sexy outfit and cute demeanor when fighting criminals but deep inside, she is torn between pursuing her dream to become a singer or being a hero. Dragon Kid is a tomboy and doesn’t like to wear cute things, but as she gets older, she is starting to discover her feminine side. Meanwhile, Fire Emblem is an effeminate hero who wants to be accepted by the girls, but yet is considered as a guy. Rock Bison is more interested in partying with Kotetsu and getting drunk than capturing criminals and now he is in danger of losing his job because he is in last place. And Origami Cyclone, a shy guy who has the power to shapeshift but feels it’s a worthless power and is more of a cheerleader than a person who does the fighting to capture the criminals.

Suffice to say, each of these characters are unlikely heroes but yet as a team, they are starting to work well with each other. But it takes time, and also, as much as they are a team when facing difficult criminals, they are also rivals trying to get the most points and representing their sponsors with pride.

“Tiger & Bunny” really is an anime series that is unlike anything I have seen before in my decades of watching anime.  And with this second half, the story becomes much more captivating, much better than the first half and I am definitely impressed with this series overall!

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful. Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG. I was really impressed with how cool this series looks. And you get both Japanese and English soundtracks in lossless 2.0 and a few special features are included.

Overall, “Tiger & Bunny” was an awesome anime series when it first began and for its second half, it managed to become better and better with each episode!  I absolutely love this series and for anyone wanting a divergence from the banal anime series that they come across, and want something with a superhero angle but with humor, action and drama.

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 2” is highly recommended!

Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 19, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch!  From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.   “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” is definitely is definitely deserving of five stars and receives our highest recommendation!

Image courtesy of © GAINAX, Kazuki Nakashima/Aniplex, KDE-J, TV Tokyo, DENTSU. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition (天元突破グレンラガン Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan)

DURATION: Episodes 1-27

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 LB, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Release Date: May 14, 2013

Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

 Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

 Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

 Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

 Editing: Junichi Uematsu

 Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

 Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex

Featuring the following voice talent:

 Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

 Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

 Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

 Yukari Fukui/Bridget Hoffman, Hynden Walch (as Nia)

 Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

 Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

 Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

 Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

 Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

 Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

 Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

 Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

 Shizuka Itou/Julie Ann Taylor (as Boota and Darry)

This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him…

 

In the distant future, mankind has lived quietly and restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are two young men: one named Simon who is shy and naive, and the other named Kamina who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon, and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!

Fantastic!

It’s the single word that describes how I feel about the brand new “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition″ released by Aniplex, Inc.

In 2007, GAINAX, Aniplex and Konami would bring a new mecha anime series to television.  Known as “Tengen Toppa Gurenn Lagann” in Japan, the 27-episode series would air on TV Tokyo with a huge following and received positive reviews.

Featuring anime production by GAINAX, “Gurren Lagann” was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi  (“Dead Leaves”, “Eureka 7: Astral Ocean”, “Anime Tencho”), featuring series composition by Kazuki Nakashima (“Kill la Kill”, “Nodam Cantabile: Finale”), music by Taku Iwasaki (“009-1”, “Black Butler”, “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”, “Getbackers”), character design by Atsushi Nishigori (“The Idolm@ster Movie”, “Magi – The Labrynth of Magic”) and background art by Yuka Hirama (“Fractale”, “Gad Guard”, “Tales of Phantasia”, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”).

While a limited edition of the series was released on DVD by Bandai Entertainment back in the 2009 in three parts, many people missed out on the opportunity to get the sets.  With Bandai Entertainment’s presence for releasing anime in the U.S. on physical media having ended in 2012, in May 2013, Aniplex Inc. acquired the rights to release the series via a complete set known as “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” featuring all 27 episodes, two soundtrack CD’s and as usual from Aniplex, Inc., a large number of anime swag that fans have come to love about the company.

What is “Gurrenn Lagann” about?

The series centered around two characters Simon and Kamina.  Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around.  But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy.  Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake.  So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find.   While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang.  He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him.  He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill.  The plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail.  Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground.  A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot.   Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.

As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground.  It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots.  It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans.  The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann.  Kamina eventually commandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren.  As a duo, the group is called Gurren Lagann.

With episode after episode, the three would gain more people to ally alongside with them and take on the Beast men.  These animal like beings who worked for Lord Genome and would try to kill the humans with these huge mecha robots known as Gunmen.

Kamina, Simon and others in the alliance known as Team Dai-Gurren have been successful in taking control of Gunmen and make their way towards the Beastman Empire in order to take on the Spiral King.  But the King orders  Thymilph, the first of the four divine Generals of the the Spiral King was the first to go onto battle and thus the battle ensued with Team Dai-Gurren winning but losing someone special to them.

As the first half deals with Kamina, Simon and Yoko growing as friends and as a team, the second half of “Gurren Lagann” fast forwards seven years later after the battle with the Beast Men and the Beastman Empire.

Years later, Simon has become the new leader of Kamina City while Rossiu Addai became second-in-command.  The other members of Team Dai Gurren have become officers or employees of Kamina City while Yoko Littner became a school teacher.

But the seven year peace in the planet did not last as the anti-spirals wreaked havoc on the city.  But will humanity be ready to fight again for their survival?

“Gurren Lagann” features a total of 27 episodes.  A summary of each episode (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS):

  1. Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko.   The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
  2. Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! – With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”.  But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon).  But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
  3. Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? – With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral.  A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina.  But Viral pilots a Gunmen with a second head that shoots out a devastating attack.  Kamina feels that Gurren Lagann can combine and by unifying, they can become unstoppable.
  4. Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great!  – After the battle with Viral,  Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base.  By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted.  But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe?  We are introduced to Kittan Bachika, the leader of the Black Siblings who is accompanied by his three younger sisters as they try to eliminate Beastmen.
  5. Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! – As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu.  But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population  at 50 people or less.    Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark.  Gurren Lagann receives a new member to the team.
  6. Episode 6 – There are Some Things I Just Have to See! – There are two versions of episode 6.  The unedited version and the TV version which is part of the special features.  For the unedited version, the group really smell bad and it seems they met some luck as they are invited to the hot springs with food galore!  The group run into their friends, the three women of the Black Siblings and as the group relaxes in the hot springs, both Kamina and Simon can’t stand hearing the women talk about their breasts.  Being the horny guys that they are, both men do what they can do get a peek of the ladies nude.  But awaiting them is some trouble as well courtesy of the Beastmen.
  7. Episode 7  – You’re Gonna Do It! – With the defeat of the Beastmen, Viral makes his return but this time, one of the four leaders who pilots a giant Gunmen fortress.  While Gurren Lagan tries to fight them, they are joined by some old friends who have followed Kamina’s lead and stolen some gunmen for themselves.
  8. Episode 8 – Later, Buddy – With Simon’s quick thinking in the last episode, the group manages to get the Gunmen fortress to be trapped.  But Kamina wants to take control of the fortress in order to protect everyone and this time have a super combination to create Dai Gurren Lagann.  So, one major battle in order to take the Beastmen leader’s mega fortress.   But while Simon starts to think about Yoko and tell her his feelings for her, he sees both Kamina and Yoko kissing.  So, as they go into battle, Kamina depends on Simon to have Lagann penetrate the fortress but because his emotions all out of whack due to seeing the kiss, it’s going to cost someone’s life.
  9. Episode 9 – What, Exactly, Is a Human? – With the events of the last episode, everyone is in mourning.  Meanwhile, a new character named Nia is introduced.  Who is she and why is she so curious about humans?
  10. Episode 10 – Who Is This Bro? The group comes head to head against Adiane, the second of the Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals.  But retreats when she sees Nia.  It appears Nia is the daughter of the Spiral King.  Nia appears to be very naive about humans, their emotions, etc.  She doesn’t understand why Simon would be depressed over someone who’s dead.
  11. Episode 11 – Simon, Hands-off – The team meets Guame, the third of Spiral Kings Four Divine Generals.  He uses Beastmen disguised as women to fool the crew and ends up taking over their ship and putting the crew underground in prison.  Only Simon and his drilling can save the day and for Nia, she learns why she was discarded by her father.
  12. Episode 12 – Yoko, Will You Do Me a Favor? – Team Dai-Gurren’s fortress needs to be refitted to travel in the water.  So, the crew goes through a little R&R and becomes too friendly with Nia and favoring her over Kyoko.  Kyoko is not sure he can trust her and sure enough, the crew goes into battle against Adiane.
  13. Episode 13 – Eat Up, Everyone – Nia really wants to fit in, so she found a job for herself, to become a cook.  Meanwhile, Cytomander, the fourth of Spiral King’s Divine Four Generals makes his attack on the crew and with Rossiu sick, Kyoko must fill in and be Simon’s co-pilot for Gurren Lagann.
  14. Episode 14 -Well, Met Everyone – The crew arrives near the Beastman Empire but must take on the last two of Spiral King’s Four Divine Generals – Cytomander and Guame to the death.
  15. Episode 15 – I Will Head Towards Tomorrow – Team Dai-Gurren now has one final battle left and that’s against the Spiral King.  It’s all or nothing!
  16. Episode 16 – Compilation Episode – This episode serves as a bridge for between the first arc and the second arc of the series.  It’s literally a special episode condensing major scenes from the first 15 episodes to one episode.  Mainly focusing on Kamina, Simon, Kyoko and Nia.
  17. Episode 17 – You Don’t Know Anything – With Team Dai-Gurren successful against the Spiral King, the series flash forwards seven years later.  The planet has flourished with cities and vehicles, Simon, Rossiu and everyone else has grown up.  People own homes and have their own jobs.  Simon is in his early 20′s and is the Supreme Commander and is bored doing paper work.  Rossiu is the Chief who does all of the work but unlike Simon, holds an iron fist on how the city should be ran and for some members of Team Dai-Gurren are just head employees who answer phones.   They wonder what Lord Genome meant by his final words before he died of a new emanating threat and sure enough, that threat has materialized on the planet.  Meanwhile, something has happened to Nia.
  18. Episode 18 – Tell Me the Secrets of the World – A new evil has appeared on the planet and says that because Earth has reached 1,000,000 people and has used Spiral technology to further their growth, they will now be exterminated.  Simon goes to battle against one of the enemies and succeeds in defeating it but since the enemy is composed of energy, that energy becomes like bombs and when Simon defeated the enemy and it exploded, in essence many people have died, buildings and structures destroyed and people want blood…Simon’s blood.    Nia’s true purpose is revealed and Rossiu keeps a secret.
  19. Episode 19 – We Will Survive, By Any Means Necessary The public is very upset against the government because of the destruction and deaths from the Gurren Lagann attack against the Anti-Spiral and Second-in-Command Rossiu knows the only way they will appease the public is with the arrest and the execution of Simon.  But with another attack on the city by an Anti-Spiral, Rossiu has to release Simon temporarily from custody to fight the enemy.
  20. Episode 20 – How Far Will God Test Us? –  Simon is put into the same prison with his cell next to Viral.  Meanwhile Kittan who is incensed that his sister is siding with Rossiu in the execution and imprisonment of Simon.
  21. Episode 21 – You Are Someone Who Ought To Survive – The story shifts to Yoko as a school teacher who is stern but caring for the kids.  When she finds out what is happening with Simon, she decides that she must return back to Kamina City immediately.
  22. Episode 22 – This is My Final Duty  – Rossiu must make the most difficult choice by trying to rescue as many people he can in a secret spaceship and escape the planet but knowing that many will have to perish from the moon crashing down on the planet.  But on planet, Simon and Viral team up with Gurren Lagann and Arc Gurren as both join forces to form Arc-Gurren-Lagann and stop the Human Extermination System that the Anti-Spirals have implemented.
  23. Episode 23 – Let’s Go, This is the Final Battle – Team Dai Gurren prepares for the war against the anti-spirals.  Meanwhile, Rossiu who is amazed with how Simon is able to save everyone decides that his life is not worth living.  Can Simon get to Rossiu in time?
  24. Episode 24 – I Will Never Forget This Minute, This Second – With the help of Lordgenome, while Rossiu takes command on the planet, Simon and Viral lead several members from Team Dai Gurren to transport right into the Anti-Spirals home world.  Simon had made a promise that he would save Nia and is determined to do so.  Meanwhile, the Team suffers a loss of a few team members.
  25. Episode 25 – I Accept Your Last Wish – Team Dai-Gurren is caught in the ocean of despair set by the Anti-Spirals.  Meanwhile, another major team member of Team Dai Gurren sacrifices his life to save his friends.
  26. Episode 26 – Let’s Go Buddy – Simon,Viral and Team Dai Gurren combine into Super Galaxy Gurren-Lagann in order rescue Nia.  Meanwhile, the Anti-Spiral uses their own memories against them.  But a familiar face from the past is there to help Simon, Kyoko and Team Dai Gurren.
  27. Episode 27 – The Lights In the Sky Are Stars – One of the Team Dai Gurren members decides to take a stand against the Anti-Spiral and sacrifices themself in order for Simon to gain the enemies drill.  Simon, Nia, Viral and Team Dai Gurren put everything they have on the line to become the galaxy sized Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann in the final battle against the enemy.

VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

Each episode is  featured in 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.  The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different.  I absolutely enjoy the character and mechanical designs and the whole anime is quite vibrant and looks stylish and pretty cool.  And it yet makes me wonder why this series has not been released on Blu-ray?

As for the audio, the Digital 5.1 effects utilized in the English dub is actually very well done.  I liked the effective use of splitting the audio of action scenes through the various speaker channels and overall, the audio track for the 5.1 English dub is well done.

The Japanese audio is featured only in 2.0 Stereo but the dialogue and action scenes also come clear through the front channels, the main difference is that the war seems to come alive on the English dub.  As one can expect with the 5.1 soundtrack, very good use of surround channels and LFE, so the dub gets a nod for being immersive and having a better dynamic range.

Both soundtracks feature exceptional acting.  The Japanese voice acting were wonderful when it came to the emotional performance by Tetsuya Kakihara, Katsuyuki Konishi and Marina Inoue.  But “Gurren Lagann” also features a fantastic performance from the English dub cast.  Yuri Lowenthal was perfect as Simon, Kyle Hebert and Michelle Ruff were also marvelous in their acting role as Kamina and Yoko.  It’s important to note that this is the same English dub that was featured on the Bandai Entertainment DVD release in 2009.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Preview of episode #6 (TV) – (:16) English episode #6 preview with a little fan service.
  • Episode 6 (TV Version)
  • Yoko Goes to Gainax -Study Animation at GAINAX- – (24:48) Marina Inoue, Japanese voice actress for Yoko goes to GAINAX and sees how people create “Gurren Lagann”.  The featurette features Marina  learning the difference between “Key Animation” and “In-Between Animation” and “Composition”.  She actually takes part in doing in-between work for the first time and also, learning some of the jobs the staff did for “Gurren Lagann”.  A very fun featurette!
  • GAINAX Interview – (10:21) A very cool featurette with producer Takeda from GAINAX, GAINAX President Yamaga and assistant director Otsuka on the concept of “Gurren Lagann” and what their goal was in creating this anime series.
  • Sangizen 3D Test Footage –  (15:16) The Sangizen 3D Test Footage is a 15-minute featurette with various preliminary 3D features of the Anti-Spirals destroying city structures, to the combination of the mecha and various fight scenes.  Many were created but only selected footage were used in the final cut.
  • Shokotan Interview – (7:36) The interview with Shoko Nakagawa (aka “Shokotan”) who sings the main theme song was done in the US after her appearance at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in 2008.  Shoko talks about being an otaku and also said that she wanted to become a mangaka while growing up.  Also, her happiness to perform in the US and to meet the fans and much more.
  • Textless Opening and Ending themes – For those who love the cool music of opening theme “Sorairo Days” by Shoko Nakagawa and ending theme “Underground” by High Voltage.
  • Japanese Trailer
  • U.S. Trailer

EXTRAS:

“Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set Limited Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Gurren Lagann Slipcase (Rigid Box illustrated by You Yoshinari/Mechanical Design)
  • 2-Tray clear Amaray cases with reversible wraps of original Japanese DVD cover design
  • 36-Page Deluxe Illustration Booklet
  • 2-Sided Poster (Yoko & Kamina)
  • 2-Stickers of Kamina’s Famous Remarks
  • 12 Postcards of Japanese DVD Cover Art & Original Illustration by You Yoshinari (Mechanical Design)

  • Gurren Lagann Original Soundtrack CD’s 1 & 2

DISC 1 (Duration:1:09:45)

1. 仕方ねえ!1分20秒だけ媚びてやる
2. モグラはモグラのままなのか?
3. ラップは漢の魂だ!己を信じて天を指差す怒涛の男・カミナ様のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ~く聴きやがれ!!
4. ブタモグラは螺旋の夢を見るか?
5. ボインVSボイン
6. 燃えてばかりでいいのかい?
7. お前の×××で天を衝け!! ~初めて見た地上ver.~
8. 骸骨になっちまったカミナの親父に寄せる哀歌
9. 狼が来た!!
10. Nikopol
11. 月と星とア・タ・シ
12. 萌えろ三姉妹
13. ああああッ!骸骨がぁ!! 骸骨がぁ!!!
14. お前ら全員燃えてしまえっ!!!
15. お前の×××よ、そそり立て!
16. He is so ×××
17. ラブリーボイン
18. Peeping Tom
19. 髭とハーレム
20. 親父の塊
21. お前なんか信じられっか!
22. 今は準備が必要なんだよ!!
23. 合体なんてクソくらえ!(合体挿入曲第一番 ハ短調アレグロ K2564)
24. 「萌え」っていったい何ですか?
25. お前の×××で…
26. 愛・掴みますI

Disc 2 (Duration: 1:10:37)

1. 愛・掴みますII
2. ラップは漢の魂だ!無理を通して道理を蹴っ飛ばす!俺たち大グレン団のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ~く聴きやがれ!!(Short Start Edit)
3. 旅ってなぁ疲れるもんなんだよ
4. 「萌え」っていったい…?
5. 暗闇の中で何を考えてやがるッ!!
6. BafBaf! そんなに燃えるのが…好きかい?
7. 超合体(合体挿入曲第二番K3845プログレ)
8. 回って回って回って回っ!?
9. 回って回って回って回ってててて…
10. 熱砂の荒野を抜けて大グレン団が行くのだ
11. 愛・掴みますIII
12. 愛・掴みますIV
13. 月日は百代の過客なり
14. アダイ村のデコ助
15. メガネで決めよう
16. どうだ!俺のトランペットは凄いだろ!!
17. ラップは漢の魂……だった…よな…
18. リゾートライフのイロハ
19. ポイズンプリズン
20. 誰かが誰かを恨んでる
21. The Blue monday e”r”ectrical parade
22. “Libera me”from hell
23. Love Conservative
24. お前の×××で天を…
25. お前の×××で天を衝け!!
26.  商品の概要に戻る

For the “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition”, included is the two-CD album “Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan Original Soundtrack” that was released in 2008.  This is different from the Bandai Entertainment vol. 3 DVD release which came with the “Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan BEST SOUND” album which came with the vocal tracks.  The primary difference is that this original soundtrack album comes 51 tracks with the primarily instrumental music featured throughout the series.  The music is composed by Taku Iwasaki and also features music by tarantura and quadtbep.

For anyone wondering if there are any vocal tracks, there are four.  On Disc 1, there is “Kamina’s Theme” (ラップは漢の魂だ! 己を信じて天を指差す怒涛の男・カミナ様のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ~く聴きやがれ!!) which comes with the rap that people hear throughout the series ala “Bro! Bro! Fight the Power!”.   Also, quadtbep’s guitar churning rock tracks “Nikopol” and “合体なんてクソくらえ! (合体挿入曲第一番 ハ短調アレグロ K2564)” are included.

Also, included on Disc 2 is “Libera me” from hell featuring Tarantura and Taku Iwasaki, so you get the hip hop “Bro, Bro Fight the Power!” song but with beats from Tarantura and piano by Taku Iwasaki along with an operatic element.  But if you want the Shoko Nakagawa, HIGH VOLTAGE or Afuroman tracks, those tracks are included on the BEST SOUND album.

But the soundtrack, if you enjoy instrumentals is fantastic.  Tracks incorporating jazz elements, ambient, gentle harp and wind instrument tracks, synth pop, synth choir to heavy hitting rock tracks.  The soundtrack is a wonderful addition to the “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition”.

I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch!  From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.  I absolute found the series to be exciting, a lot of fun, yes a bit perverted but ultimately…fantastic!

The character of Kamina is just so wild and crazy with how he is just so carefree and just doesn’t plan for battle, he just does what he believes in and what he thinks is right and decides at the spur of the moment.  He has a way with his words, no matter how crazy it may sound but it makes his character so cool!

As for Simon, he is simply the underdog.  He is a major component to the team because he pilots Lagann but at the same time, his fear and his emotions get the best of him.  But like most underdogs in anime series, it’s the confidence and support that gets them going and Simon turns out to be a fascinating character to watch overtime.

Yoko, her character is sexy and cool.  Sometimes you wonder if GAINAX or the character designer Atsushi Nishigori created such a sexy character for the purpose of being sexy or for the fact that many cosplayers will try to emulate the character and not wear much clothes.  Nevertheless, her character is cool as her body features somehow provide the fan service and also gets Simon distracted.

But Team Gurren Lagann are simply fun to watch and to see them engage in battle with the Beast Men but also see other members join the team and see how Team Gurran Lagann grows over time during this war between humanity and the Beastman Empire.

But the series is rather fascinating as the first half deals with humanity wanting to be free and to fight to live on the land, while the second half deals with humanity now thriving seven years later but with humanity in trouble once again.  The way things are for both halves are completely different and it’s like watching two seasons but both are just captivating, addictive and mecha fans and I think also anime fans in general, can get into this series!

While many early episodes feature a bit of fan service, things become less perverted from episode 10 and on.  Granted, the series becomes a bit more dark, emotional and dramatic especially due to Simon’s worsening depression.  So, while there are episodes such as episode 6 that tend to focus on adult humor and fan service, the series gets better overtime in terms of plot and character development.

I’m sure there are people who purchased the Bandai Entertainment DVD sets, that are wondering if there are any significant difference with the Aniplex, Inc. DVD releases.  There are some slight differences.  The episodes remain the same, the post cards that Bandai Entertainment released were fewer than what is included on Aniplex, Inc.’s set, also the Aniplex versions do not have any writing, logos or numbers as the Bandai Entertainment postcards had.

But another primary difference is that the Bandai Entertainment version included the first vol. 1 of the manga (since Bandai Entertainment released manga at the time in the U.S.) and that the CD soundtrack featured was the “Gurren Lagann BEST SOUND” soundtrack (which had the vocal tracks by Shoko Nakagawa, HIGH VOLTAGE and Afuromania).  For the Aniplex Inc. version, you get the “Gurren Lagann Original Soundtracks” (Both CD’s which are primarily the instrumental music tracks).  The Aniplex Inc. version also comes with the 36-page booklet and 2-sided poster and stickers that the Bandai Entertainment set did not have.

So, for those wondering if you should upgrade your Bandai Entertainment DVD to the new Aniplex, Inc. DVD, the answer is no. It’s the same content DVD-wise, just different swag offered by both companies.  With that being said, the question is if the “Gurren Lagann” Blu-ray set will be released in America.  There is an import Blu-ray release that will be available in June 2013 that does have English subtitles, also comes with the “Gurren Lagann” movies and the drama CD’s with a ton of features, but the price for this “Gurren Lagann”Blu-ray Complete Box Set” is $550.

Let’s just hope Aniplex, Inc. considers releasing a Blu-ray release for “Gurren Lagann” as this series just looks too good and sounds too awesome that it’s deserving of a Blu-ray release.

But as far as the DVD goes, picture quality is still very good, soundtrack especially the English dubtrack receives the 5.1 treatment and is a bit immersive as it does utilize the surround channels and LFE.  Both voice acting soundtracks are magnificent, with the Japanese hitting the nail on the more emotional scenes, but when it comes to action, the English soundtrack has the better dynamic range and use of the surround channels.  And the English dub is also well-done!

Overall, the experience of watching “Gurren Lagann” was wonderful!  From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, perverseness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.

Just how the pacing of the anime series goes from people wanting to get out of the underground and seeking freedom, to the characters fighting to survive and eventually growing up but having to face their own insecurities and also consequence and then furthering their adventures as we see the characters start off young and right to end where they are older adults.  And of course, this anime series is action-packed but most of all well-acted (both in Japanese and English), awesome animation, great character development and well-written storyline.

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!” but to experience the complete series from beginning to the end, what an experience!  “Gurren Lagann DVD TV Series Box Set – Limited Edition” is definitely deserving of five stars and receives our highest recommendation!

Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

February 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The first half of “Tiger & Bunny” has turned out to be a quite awesome.  A unique and original anime series that will entertain anime fans and one of the coolest looking group of superheroes ever featured in an anime series.  A fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © SUNRISE/T&B Partners. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: 13 Episodes (310 Minutes))

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

COMPANY: Viz Media

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: February 19, 2013

Directed by Keiichi Satou

Series Composition by Masafumi Nishida

Music by Yoshihiro Ike

Original Character Design by Masakazu Katsura

Character Design by Kenji Hayama, Masaki Yamada

Art Direction by Kinichi Okubo

Mechanical Design by Kenji Andou

3D Director: Yoshikazu Kon

Anime Production: Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hiroaki Hirata/Wally Wingert as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger

Masakazu Morita/Yuri Lowenthal as Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Go Inoue/Patrick Seitz as Keith Goodman/Sky High

Hiroshi Iwasaki/Dave Wittenberg as Doc Saito

Katsuhisa Houki/Beau Billingslea as Ben Jackson

Keiji Fujiwara/Steven Blum as Jake Martinez

Kenjiro Tsuda/John Eric Bentley as Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem

Koji Yusa/Liam O’Brien as Yuri Petrov/Lunatic

Mariya Ise/Laura Bailey as Pao-Lin Huang/Dragon Kid

Michiko Neya/Stephanie Sheh as Kriem

Minako Kotobuki/Kari Wahlgren as Karina Lyle/Blue Rose

Nobuaki Fukuda/Jamieson Price as Albert Maverick

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Michael Sinterniklaas as Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone

Rina Hidaka/Een Riegel as Kaede Kaburagi

Taiten Kusunoki/Travis Willingham as Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison

Wataru Yokojima/Daran Norris as Alexander Lloyds

Yuko Kaida/Tara Platt as Agnes Joubert

Stern Bild City is a thriving metropolis where superheroes called NEXTs protect the streets, sponsors pull the strings, and a hugely popular show called Hero TV captures all of it. Veteran hero Kotetsu Kaburagi (AKA Wild Tiger) and hotheaded new hero Barnaby Brooks, Jr. (nicknamed Bunny by his friends) are forced to team up not only to protect Stern Bild City, but to earn as many points on Hero TV as possible. Joined by a diverse cast of heroes, all with different powers and answering to their own corporate sponsors, Tiger and Bunny must find a way to work together, uncover the secret of the Ouroboros, and earn enough points to become this year’s King of Heroes.

In 2011, the anime studio Sunrise, best known for its anime series for “Mobile Suit Gundam”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Dirty Pair”, “City Hunter” to name a few, went on to work on anime series that would captivate older viewers but also something unique and different for anime fans.

And the 25- episode TV series “Tiger & Bunny” was created.

Directed by Keiichi Satou (“Saint Seiya the Movie”, “Karas”, “Asura”), a screenplay by Masafumi Nishida, music by Yoshihiro Ike (“Asura”, “Cobra: The Animation”, “Dead Leaves”), character designs by Kenji Hayama (“Baccano!”, “The Big O”, “Casshern Sins”, “Getter Robo: Armageddon”) and Masaki Yamada (“Ergo Proxy”, “Appleseed”, “Great Dangaioh”), background art by Kinichi Okubo (“Ex-Driver”, “Honey and Clover”, “Angel Beats!”), mechanical design by Kenji Andou (“Origini ~Spirits of the Past~”, “Votoms Finder”), Yoshikazu Kon (“Gurren Lagann”, “Shangri-La”, “Mobil Suit Gundam 00”).

The series aired in Japan on April 2011 and also was seen in the U.S. via Hulu and the Anime News Network.  And most recently on Viz Media’s “Neon Alley”.

In Japan, a one-shot manga by Masakazu Katsura (“Video Girl Ai”, “DNA2”, “Zetman”) was published in “Weekly Shonen Jump” and in Sept. 2012, an animated film was released and a second film currently in production and planned for a fall 2013 release.  Also, the anime series has led to a PSP video game  released in Sept. 2012 and a second game planned for a March 2013 released.

And in the U.S., the first volume featuring the first 13 episodes of “Tiger & Bunny” will be released on Blu-ray in Feb. 2013 courtesy of Viz Media.

“Tiger & Bunny” takes place in NC1978 in the city of Sternbild City.  45 years prior, humans with supernatural abilities known as “NEXT” began appearing in the planet.  And now, these people with special abilities and are superheroes sponsored by major corporations such as Pepsi, Softbank, Calbee, etc. and are featured on the popular reality TV show titled “Hero TV”.

Each season, these heroes try to achieve points by capturing/defeating criminals and the best ranked superhero will be crowned as “King of Heroes”.  While each are competing with each other, often they work as a superhero team.

The primary characters are of “Tiger & Bunny” are:

  • Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger – One of the main protagonist, he is one of the oldest superheros and unlike others, tends not to listen to orders as he is the “Crusher of Justice” and could care less about the ratings.  Because he causes too much damage and likes to do things alone, he was forced to take on a new partner, Barnaby Brooks Jr.  Kotetsu is also a single father who never gets to see his daughter because of his superhero obligations, so she lives with his mother.  His daughter is unaware that he is a superhero.  Tiger’s power is the ability to increase his physical abilities for five minutes using his “Hundred Power”.    His sponsors are Bandai and Softbank.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr./Bunny – A rookie that is called “Bunny” by Kotetsu.  He is more about strategy and is not as rash as Kotetsu.  He has a reason why he became a superhero and that is to find the one who killed his parents.  His sponsors are Amazon Japan and Bandai.  He also has similar powers to Kotetsu and becoming “King of Heroes” is important to him.
  • Karina Lyle/Blue Rose – A popular girl in high school who wants to be a singer.  She has freezing power abilities and is sponsored by Pepsi Nex and Suntory.  She represents Titan Industry.
  • Keith Goodman/Sky High – A popular hero and is the current “King of Heroes”.  He is upbeat and has the power to control air current.  He is sponsored by Tamashii Nations and Ustream and represents Poseidon Line.
  • Nathan Seymour/Fire Emblem – An effeminate hero with flame abilities, Nathan wants to be part of the girls.  He is sponsored by FMV and Animate and represents Helios Energy.
  • Huang Pao-Lin/Dragon Kid – A tomboy Chinese girl who has the power to generate electrical discharge.  She lived in China with her parents but they wanted her to go to Sternbild City to become a hero.  She is sonosred by Calbee and DMM.com and is represented by Odysseys Communication.
  • Antonio Lopez/Rock Bison  – Kotetsu’s best friend since high school, his power is invulnerability.  He is in last place of the Hero’s standings and is sponsored by Gyu-Kaku and represents Kronos Foods.
  • Ivan Karelin/Origami Cyclone – A young hero who is typically seen standing behind-the-scenes and not fighting, Ivan has the power to shapeshift and copy  the appearance and voice of another.  His sponsors are .ANIME and he represents Helperidese Finance.

As the heroes fight and take on various criminals, they must also deal with a vigilante NEXT named Lunatic and doesn’t believe in incarceration but killing criminals.  Meanwhile, as the team try to work together and continue to build their hero’s points and ranking, The Ouroboros criminal organization is planning to have the sadistic Jake Martinez released from prison.  Jake is responsible for killing Barnaby’s parents and has been sentenced to 250 years in prison.  But one of the reasons why he is a criminal that the govt. wants to keep behind bars is because of his mysterious power.

 

Here is a brief synopsis of “Tiger and Bunny: Blu-ray set 1”:

  • EPISODE 1 –  Introduction to the NEXT who are competing in this season’s “Hero TV” network and a new hero named Barnaby joins in the action!
  • EPISODE 2 – A giant stone statue is trying to cause mayhem in the city, meanwhile Tiger and Barnaby try to be partners.
  • EPISODE 3 – Hero TV is doing a documentary on Barnaby and Kotetsu is a bit jealous.
  • EPISODE 4 – Blue Rose struggles with being a hero or pursuing her dream of becoming a singer.
  • EPISODE 5 – Barnaby is upset with Tiger (Kotetsu) for causing so much collateral damage, meanwhile Kotetsu misreads Bunny’s frustrations and tries to organize a surprise birthday party for him.
  • EPISODE 6 – Someone with the power of the blue flame is killing criminals.
  • EPISODE 7 – Barnaby tells Kotetsu and Nathan about the Ouroboros syndicate and how he wants revenge for the death of his parents.
  • EPISODE 8 – Tiger, Barnaby and Origami Cyclone take part in a PR campaign, but unaware that the vigilante named Lunatic is nearby.
  • EPISODE 9 – The heroes must take care of the Mayor’s baby but they leave the baby with Dragon Kid, who gets kidnapped along with the baby.  Now the NEXT heroes must find them.
  • EPISODE 10 – Kotetsu is put on paid vacation and plans to visit his daughter but the Ouroboros Syndicate plan their attempt to have Jake Martinez released from prison.  Meanwhile, Barnaby finds out that Jake Martinez is responsible for his parent’s death.
  • EPISODE 11 – The NEXT hero’s takes on Jake Martinez.
  • EPISODE 12 – Tiger vs. Jake Martinez
  • EPISODE 13 – With many of the NEXT heroes injured in battle, Barnaby takes on Jake Martinez.

VIDEO:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  “Tiger & Bunny” is probably one of the best, recent anime TV series that I have seen in awhile. From the detail of the futuristic structures, the costume design for the characters in superhero form, the mechanical design of vehicles and costumes and just the many location shots utilized for this anime series alone, these days, you don’t see too many anime studios going all out for a TV series, but in this case, Sunrise went all out with “Tiger & Bunny”.

Awesome character designs, background art is fantastic but just the character and mechanical designs featuring animation and CG is well-done.  The character designs catches your attention with the colors and shading but the mechanical design and the superhero character designs look awesome.  Even the art backgrounds as the futuristic city is well-painted, full of detail and adds to the overall look of the series.

“Tiger & Bunny” looks magnificent in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Tiger & Bunny” is presented in lossless English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  Both are similar when it comes to special effects.  Dialogue is crisp and clear but voice acting is well-done on both the Japanese and English soundtrack.  While it would have been nice to have a 5.1 lossless track, especially since this series has plenty of action, the series does sound crisp and clear through the front channels.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tiger & Bunny: Blu-ray Set 1” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Tiger & Bunny– (24:01) The challenges from the Japanese crew at Sunrise in creating a new anime series that would appeal to manga fans, longtime anime fans and trying to come up with a series that is fresh and new.  In Japanese with English subtitles.
  • Production Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the production art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Special Logo Art – Using your remote (or keyboard), you can look at the special logo art of “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Japanese Trailers – (4:12) The Japanese trailers for “Tiger & Bunny”.
  • Clean Opening and Clean Ending

As a person who enjoys anime, we have seen the team dynamic in many forms.

From the sentai teams of yesteryear, may it be “Gatchaman”, “Voltron” to super teams such as the Z-Warriors of “Dragon Ball Z”, the ninjas of “Naruto” or the high school friends as seen on “Bleach” and “Yu Yu Hakusho”.

But one thing that we often see in America through comic books, animated series and live action films are the superhero teams. May it be Marvel’s X-Men, The Avengers or Fantastic Four or DC’s Justice League of America, The Teen Titans or Legion of Super-Heroes and it has always been in the back of my mind, what if there was a caped superhero for an anime series?

We have seen a singular costumed heroes from anime series such as “Moldiver” and shows like the Kamen Rider or even Ranger series but what Sunrise was able to create with “Tiger & Bunny” is exciting, unique and different from anything ever featured in Japan.

Humans with special abilities known as NEXT who take on the bad guys, but in a twist, are featured on television and challenge other heroes of who can catch the most criminals and get the most points to increase their ranking, as each compete for the title “King of Heroes”.

The characters are nothing like American superheroes in the fact that these are individuals that are flawed.

The main protagonist Kotetsu is an older superhero who knows he is not a great father.  He speaks to her on intercom but is never there to see her face-to-face and his daughter pretty much gave up on seeing him.  He knows he causes trouble for the station because he causes quite a bit of damage and now, to help put him on the right path, he is given a partner with Barnaby.

And while Barnaby has a cool demeanor, a strategist who thinks first before attacking, he also has a tragic past that drives him to become a superhero and that is to find the killer responsible for killing his parents.

The two are joined by heroes that are interesting.   Blue Rose is popular because of her sexy outfit and cute demeanor when fighting criminals but deep inside, she is torn between pursuing her dream to become a singer or being a hero.  Dragon Kid is a tomboy and doesn’t like to wear cute things, but as she gets older, she is starting to discover her feminine side.  Meanwhile, Fire Emblem is an effeminate hero who wants to be accepted by the girls, but yet is considered as a guy.   Rock Bison is more interested in partying with Kotetsu and getting drunk than capturing criminals and now he is in danger of losing his job because he is in last place.  And Origami Cyclone, a shy guy who has the power to shapeshift but feels it’s a worthless power and is more of a cheerleader than a person who does the fighting to capture the criminals.

Suffice to say, each of these characters are unlikely heroes but yet as a team, they are starting to work well with each other.  But it takes time, and also, as much as they are a team when facing difficult criminals, they are also rivals trying to get the most points and representing their sponsors with pride.

“Tiger & Bunny” really is an anime series that is unlike anything I have seen before in my decades of watching anime.

And as for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is vibrant and colorful.  Sunrise is known for creating magnificent looking anime series but “Tiger & Bunny” features wonderful character and mechanical designs and a great balance between animation and CG.  I was really impressed with how cool this series looks.  And you get both Japanese and English soundtracks in lossless 2.0 and a few special features are included.

Overall, the first half of “Tiger & Bunny” has turned out to be a quite awesome.  A unique and original anime series that will entertain anime fans and one of the coolest looking group of superheroes ever featured in an anime series.  A fantastic anime series that I highly recommended!

Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting battles and even more emotional than the first half of the series.  Definitely one of the better anime series that is based on a video game!  Recommended for fans of the “Shin Megami Tensei” video games and anime fans wanting something different for an action anime series but also something unique, stylish, cool!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Index Corporation/P4A Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 13-26 (365 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: January 15-2003

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Shoji Meguro

Original Character Design by Shigenori Soejima

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi, Shinji Nagaoka

Chief Animation Director: Kiyotaka Nakahara

Anime Production by AIC A.S.T.A.

Featuring the voices of:

Amanda Winn Lee as Yukiko Amagi

Erin Fitzgerald as Chie Satonaka

Johnny Yong Bosch as Yu Narukami

Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke Hanamura

J.B. Blanc as Ryotaro Dojima

Johnny Yong Bosch as Toru Adachi

Karen Strassman as Nanako Dojima

Laura Bailey as Rise Kujikawa

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Naoto Shirogane

Sam Regal as Teddie

Troy Baker as Kanji Tatsumi

When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life, or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns, and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!

Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer… or lead him to his doom.

The “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” role-playing video game series developed and published by Atlus and has won over fans due to its darker storyline and it’s one of the few games to incorporate a Japanese atmosphere incorporating simulation type games relating to its characters.

Created back in 1996, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” has continually evolved and its fifth installment, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” (the fifth installment in the SMT: Persona series) was no doubt a popular title in the series when it was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008.

The video game would inspire a 25-episode anime series titled “Persona 4: The Animation” , which aired on Japanese television in 2011-2012.

In 2012, with the release of the PlayStation Vita version of the game (titled “Persona 4: Golden”) and the fighting game sequel “Persona 4 Arena” for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360, what better time than now to release the anime series “Persona 4: The Animation” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

With the first volume of “Persona 4: The Animation” featuring the first 12-episodes released in September 2012, the second collection featuring 13-26 will be released in January 2013.

What is “Persona 4: The Animation” about?

“Persona 4” begins with a clip inside the limousine as an older man named Igor and his assistant Margaret introduce themselves to someone. They explain their location, The Velvet Room as a place that exists between “dream and reality” and not many people can find this special room.

We are then introduced to high school student Yu Narukami arriving in the countryside of Inaba. Because his parents are working abroad, he must live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, the resident investigator and his cousin Nanako Dojima for the entire year.

While attending Yasogami High School, he meets two people who become his friends. Yosuke Hanamura is a teenager who also moved to Inaba a year prior and his father own the huge department store, Junes (pronounced as “Joo-Ness”). And his friend Chie Satonaka is a teenage girl with an appetite. While she is often teasing and hitting her friend Yosuke, she also hangs out with her best friend Yukiko Amagi.

Meanwhile, a student named Saki Koshi is seen cutting class and discovers the body of TV announcer Mayumi Yamano.

With the murder of a known TV personality scaring people in town, leading to Ryotaro Dojima and his partner Detective Adachi investigating the crime scene, For Yu, he has heard of the rumors at school that a “Midnight Channel” shown on television may be connected to the murders. Apparently, if one watches the channel at midnight, they should be able to see an image of a person When Yu watches the channel at midnight, he sees someone show up. The image is of a young woman. When Yu puts his hand on the TV, he is nearly pulled into the TV.

Yu tries to tell Chie and Yosuke about it but they don’t believe him, but Chie said she wants to see if it would happen on a larger television. So, the three head to Junes Department Store to see if he can duplicate the same situation on a bigger television set and sure enough, when Yu sticks his hand, it goes through the TV set and all three are pulled in.

The trio end up in different world and encounter a bear named Teddie. Teddie explains that they are in a world where if foggy, it would be clear on Earth. If it is clear on Earth, then it would be foggy in his world. And to see things in his world, he must wear special glasses.

The trio are then attacked by shadows and fearing for their lives, the persona of Yu Narukami is awakened. It is learned that Yu has the Persona of the Wild Card and that it could lead to infinite possibilities, which include the use of other Personas or fusing two or more Personas to create something more powerful.

Eventually as Yu and his friends enter the TV set, they encounter other classmates and friends who eventually join the team and together they try to find the culprit responsible for murdering people and also sending people to the alternate world.

“Persona 4: The Animation” consists of the following characters:

  • Yu Narukami – The main protagonist who moves to the countryside of Inaba for a year while his parents are traveling.  He stays with his uncle, local police detective Ryotaro Dojima and his daughter Nanako Dojima.  Yu begins attending Yasogami High School and begins to make friends.  And as he develops these relationships with friends, he begins to attain more stronger persona and is the only person in the group who can use different persona’s during battle.
  • Yosuke Hanamura – A teenager who moved to Inaba a  year before Yu. His father is owner of the Junes Department Store.  He is often thinking about girls and wanting to score!
  • Chie Satonaka – A friend of Yosuke and a girl who is obsessed with kung-fu. She is best friends with Yukiko Amagi and often beating up Yosuke when he is in pervert mode.
  • Yukiko Amagi – Introverted yet popular, Yukiko’s family owns a famous ryokan in the city and is expected to take over the family business.
  • Kanji Tatsumi – A delinquent and bully, but deep inside he’s a tough guy that loves sewing cute things.  He is often teased for liking guys or being interested in Naoto.
  • Teddie – A bear from the TV world, he becomes good friends with Yu and friends and is invited to stay in the human world, where he created a human version of himself.  Always excited and curious, Teddie wants to know more about the human world, but also wanting to remember his past.
  • Naoto Shirogane – A young detective who moves to Inaba to help the police investigate the serial-murder case.  Despite looking like a boy, he’s actually a girl.
  • Ryotaro Dojima – The uncle of Yu and father of Nanako.  Ryotaro is a police detective and is often so busy with his work especially with the escalating crimes, that he has to leave Nanako at home.
  • Nanako Dojima – The young daughter of Ryotaro who looks at Yu as her “Big Bro”.  Nanako likes the companionship of Yu and his friends and although she can take care of herself at home when her father is away, Nanako worries that her father is more interested in catching bad guys than her.

What’s happening in “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”?

In the second half of the anime series, Yu and friends are happy that the serial murderer is behind bars and that their lives can go back to normal.  But young detective Naoto Shirogane is not convinced as there seems to be a few holes that he needs to figure out.  Especially his interest in Yu and friends and their relationship to the case.

Eventually Naoto finds himself in the TV world and Yu and friends must do all they can to save the detective.

Meanwhile, another accident has taken place in the area and it is revealed of what happened to Nanako’s mother and why her father is constantly working late hours.  But with Nanako’s father always at work, Nanako begins to question if her father loves her or prefers catching criminals more.

And things continue to get worse for Yu as he begins receiving letters, threatening him that a family member will die if he continues to save people.  Eventually, the serial-murder case that the group thought was over is not and this time, tragedy hits closer to home.

And finally, a thick fog has entered Inaba and it’s unusual nature has been keeping the residents uneasy. After a major tragedy, the group must work together and find out who is truly responsible for the serial-murders.

VIDEO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The anime series is vibrant and colorful. The overall look of “Persona 4” is stylish and cool, but it’s interesting to see its use of pink with white on the faces of the characters. It’s definitely a different use of coloring for characters but watching this anime series, color plays a big part in this series to set a mood. May it be the looming danger of the fog rolling into Inaba, the use of blues in the Blue Room but for the majority of the anime series, everything is colorful. Chie’s red hair and green/yellow track jacket, Yukiko and Rise’s use of red and of course the beautiful combination of animation and CG elements, for the most part, I felt the series compliments the video game remarkably well.

But overall anime production from AIC A.S.T.A. is fantastic, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray with no banding or artifacts. The series looked sharp, black levels were nice and deep and colors were absolutely vibrant! “Persona 4: The Animation” looks awesome!

AUDIO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented only with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack. While the English version is well-acted, it is somewhat of a disappointment that the Japanese soundtrack is not included. The reason for this is that the Japanese licensors did not want reverse importation of the Blu-ray release, but yet the DVD will include both soundtracks. It’s sad because the Japanese soundtracks utilize the same voice actors, which would have been nice to see. But the fear of reverse importation does happen and unfortunately some series are released in America without its Japanese soundtrack. Interesting enough, on the video game side of things, the recent U.S. release of “Persona 4 Arena” became the first video game to be region-locked for the PlayStation 3. One again, in fears of reverse importation.

With that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels. And when it comes to voice acting, Sentai Filmworks brought voice acting veterans to the series such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Amanda Winn Lee, Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, Karen Strassman and more.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Trailers for Sentai Filmworks releases

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting and even more emotional than the first half.  Definitely one of the best anime series created that is based on a video game!

I’m a big fan of the entire “Shin Megami Tensei” video game series. My first experience with a “Shin Megami Tensei” video game was “Persona II: Eternal Punishment” and I absolutely loved the game for its characters but also it’s darker theme, use of Personas and it’s use of Japanese pop culture ingrained into an RPG game, the video games were a distinct style compared to other games from the major software makers.

And things changed no doubt with “Persona 3” which included a dating simulator and the ability for one to strengthen relationships, friendships and the overall gameplay becoming much more stylish and cool! Suffice to say, when “Persona 4” came out, once again, Atlus was able to create cool characters and further the experience for fans and gamers (who love Japanese RPG’s), but most importantly, making the games different from other companies and continuing to set the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” apart from its competitors.

And more American video game critics have started to take notice in the “Shin Megami Tensei” series. While many people who are discovering it are wondering, what is the appeal?

“Persona 4: The Animation” is a series that captures the fun of the video game series but in animated format. It’s one thing to have animated cut scenes but to have a series that compliments the video game is wonderful. Many people who have watched anime series based on video games, may it be “Final Fantasy”, “Xenogears”, “Tekken”, “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters” will notice that the stories are much different than the video game. While there are series such as the “.Hack” anime that does compliment the video games, it doesn’t use the actual characters of the video game series completely. “Persona 4: The Animation” not only features the characters, but it also showcases the supporting characters and goes into things that make the video game series so fun such as one’s ability to strengthen relationships and friendships.

Like the video game, the main protagonist Yu can make a difference in people’s lives. From making a difference in the life of his cousin, young Nanako to also his relationship with his female friends…Chie, Yukiko and Rise. And like the video game, the series shows how Yu can easily heighten his relationship with these female characters if he focuses on it. The video game of course allows you to build these relationships, but the anime series showcases those relationships and what one can accomplish.

And then there is the Persona element. With most of the Persona games, there is always a character who has the special ability to use more than one Persona. The series uses Igor and Margaret from the Blue Room to start off each episode and shows how Yu has received a new Persona for strengthening his bonds with other people. This is important in the video game and it’s great to see the series start off with the Blue Room and set the tone for the series, may it be to guide Yu or to warn him of major danger.

The second half of the series continues the action, but also the friendships that Yu and friends have.  But how these people function almost like a family.  But just when you think the serial-murder case was over, think again!

And what shocks the audience is when an unexpected tragedy hits close to home and a death you never expected.  Definitely makes the series more emotional but everything works itself out by the end of the series that you can’t help but want to watch more “Persona 4: The Animation”.  A lot of twists and turns with this second half but it was definitely worth watching!

Watching “Persona 4: The Animation” made me feel giddy like a fanboy. Why? Because I absolutely love the video games and to see it explored in such a way, like this anime series and getting it right, I don’t know how many times I have watched an anime series inspired by a video game and felt disappointed because it seemed as if the writers of the anime series were not on the same page as those who developed the video games. But for “Persona 4: the Animation”, the writers were in tune with what happens in the series and managed to incorporate those elements from the video game to this anime series.

The Blu-ray looks absolutely fantastic! Colorful, vibrant, the anime series looks fantastic on Blu-ray. As for the audio, I’m sure there are those who are going to be disappointed that the Japanese soundtrack was not included but once again, fears of reverse importation has happened before for an anime series on Blu-ray and in the case of “Persona 4”, it not only has affected this Blu-ray release but also the most recent release of the “Persona 4 Arena”video game being region-locked.

Sure, the Blu-ray may not have both soundtracks (while the DVD does) but if you do enjoy English dubs, the good news is that Sentai Filmworks brought in their veterans for “Persona 4: The Animation”. From Amanda Winn Lee, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthall, Karen Strassman, Laura Bailey to name a few, I’m quite pleased with the English dub. As for special features, you get the usual clean opening and ending animations but also both director’s cut and on air versions of the first episode.

If you thought the first half of “Persona 4: The Animation” was exciting, wait until you watch “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection Two”.  More action, more exciting battles and even more emotional than the first half of the series.  Definitely one of the better anime series that is based on a video game!  Recommended for fans of the “Shin Megami Tensei” video games and anime fans wanting something different for an action anime series but also something unique, stylish, cool!

Highly recommended!

Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A series that captures the video game series remarkably well, “Persona 4: The Animation” is fun, captivating and truly awesome!   if you are a video game fan that has enjoyed the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” series or one wanting to see a video game anime series done right, I highly recommend “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One”.

Images courtesy of © Index Corporation/P4A Committee. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One

YEAR OF SERIES RELEASE: 2011-2012

DURATION: 1-12 (305 Minutes)

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

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: September 18, 2012

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Series Composition by Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Shoji Meguro

Original Character Design by Shigenori Soejima

Character Design by Kazuaki Morita

Art Director: Ayumi Miyakoshi, Shinji Nagaoka

Chief Animation Director: Kiyotaka Nakahara

Anime Production by AIC A.S.T.A.

Featuring the voices of:

Amanda Winn Lee as Yukiko Amagi

Erin Fitzgerald as Chie Satonaka

Johnny Yong Bosch as Yu Narukami

Yuri Lowenthal as Yosuke Hanamura

J.B. Blanc as Ryotaro Dojima

Johnny Yong Bosch as Toru Adachi

Karen Strassman as Nanako Dojima

Laura Bailey as Rise Kujikawa

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Naoto Shirogane

Sam Regal as Teddie

Troy Baker as Kanji Tatsumi

When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life, or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns, and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it!

Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer… or lead him to his doom.

The “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” role-playing video game series developed and published by Atlus and has won over fans due to its darker storyline and it’s one of the few games to incorporate a Japanese atmosphere incorporating simulation type games relating to its characters.

Created back in 1996, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” has continually evolved and its fifth installment, “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” (the fifth installment in the SMT: Persona series) was no doubt a popular title in the series when it was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008.

The video game would inspire a 25-episode anime series titled “Persona 4: The Animation” , which aired on Japanese television in 2011-2012.

In 2012, with the upcoming release of the PlayStation Vita version of the game (titled “Persona 4: Golden”) and most recently its fighting game sequel “Persona 4 Arena” for the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360.  And what better time than now to release the anime series “Persona 4: The Animation” on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Persona 4” begins with a clip inside the limousine as an older man named Igor and his assistant Margaret introduce themselves to someone.  They explain their location, The Velvet Room as a place that exists between “dream and reality” and not many people can find this special room.

We are then introduced to high school student Yu Narukami arriving in the countryside of Inaba.  Because his parents are working abroad, he must live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, the resident investigator and his cousin Nanako Dojima for the entire year.

While attending Yasogami High School, he meets two people who become his friends.  Yosuke Hanamura is a teenager who also moved to Inaba a year prior and his father own the huge department store, Junes (pronounced as “Joo-Ness”).  And his friend Chie Satonaka is a teenage girl with an appetite.  While she is often teasing and hitting her friend Yosuke, she also hangs out with her best friend Yukiko Amagi.

Meanwhile, a student named Saki Koshi is seen cutting class and discovers the body of TV announcer Mayumi Yamano.

With the murder of a known TV personality scaring people in town, leading to Ryotaro Dojima and his partner Detective Adachi investigating the crime scene, For Yu, he has heard of the rumors at school that a “Midnight Channel” shown on television may be connected to the murders.  Apparently, if one watches the channel at midnight, they should be able to see an image of a person  When Yu watches the channel at midnight, he sees someone show up. The image is of a young woman.  When Yu puts his hand on the TV, he is nearly pulled into the TV.

Yu tries to tell Chie and Yosuke about it but they don’t believe him, but Chie said she wants to see if it would happen on a larger television.  So, the three head to Junes Department Store to see if he can duplicate the same situation on a bigger television set and sure enough, when Yu sticks his hand, it goes through the TV set and all three are pulled in.

The trio end up in different world and encounter a bear named Teddie. Teddie explains that they are in a world where if foggy, it would be clear on Earth.  If it is clear on Earth, then it would be foggy in his world.  And to see things in his world, he must wear special glasses.

The trio are then attacked by shadows and fearing for their lives, the persona of Yu Narukami is awakened.  It is learned that Yu has the Persona of the Wild Card and that it could lead to infinite possibilities, which include the use of other Personas or fusing two or more Personas to create something more powerful.

Afterward, because of the discovery of this new world, Yu and friends find out that there may be a link between those who are missing (or dead) and this new world they have discovered.  And along the way, the more they keep visiting this other side, they will be facing danger but also possibly awakening their own Persona.

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One” features the first 12 episodes of the series on two Blu-ray Discs.  Here is a brief summary of each episode featured:

  • EPISODE 1 – The introduction to Yu Narukami and friends Yosuke and Chie.
  • EPISODE 2 – Yosuke plans to take Saki out to a movie but the school learns that Saki is dead. Is her death an accident or did someone murder her?  Meanwhile, a creepy guy tries to ask Yukiko out for a date.
  • EPISODE 3 – Yukiko has gone missing and fearing that she may be killed, the three must head to the other world to save her.  Meanwhile, Chie must face her own personal dark side.
  • EPISODE 4 – With Yu, Yosuke and Chie now each having their own Persona, the three must use their abilities to save Yukiko’s shadow.
  • EPISODE 5 – Yu is asked to join the basketball team by Kou Ichijjo and meets the team manager Ai Ebihara.  Ai wants Yu to be her fake boyfriend in order to get closer to Kou.  Will that plan work?
  • EPISODE 6 – It’s Golden Week and this time, the Midnight Channel is showing a student named Kanji Tatsumi who has a very bad reputation of being a gang leader.  As the group tries to help him, they noticed a mysterious boy talking to him for some reason.
  • EPISODE 7  – Yu, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko try to help Kanji Tatsumi by facing his shadow in the TV world.
  • EPISODE 8 – The group goes out on a school camping trip and meet Saki Konishi’s younger brother Naoki who has been having problems at school.
  • EPISODE 9 – Popular singer and idol Rise “Risette” Kujikawa makes a pubic announcement that she wants to take a break from her career and return to to Inaba to hep her grandmother’s tofu shop.  As the publicity has brought many people to Inaba, Yu who has no idea that Rise is a popular idol, becomes her friend.  Meanwhile, the group becomes concerned with they noticed Rise showing up on the Midnight Channel.
  • EPISODE 10 – Yu, Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko and Kanji head to the TV world to save Saki and must confront her Shadow.
  • EPISODE 11 – Someone has killed the group’s teacher, Morokawa.  Meanwhile, the actions of Mitsuo Kubo begin the worse as he becomes more threatening.  Meanwhile, Teddy finds a way to leave the TV World and join Yu and friends.
  • EPISODE 12 – The group find out who is the murderer and must stop him in the TV world.  But can they each defeat this evil shadow.

VIDEO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The anime series is vibrant and colorful.  The overall look of “Persona 4” is stylish and cool, but it’s interesting to see its use of pink with white on the faces of the characters.  It’s definitely a different use of coloring for characters but watching this anime series, color plays a big part in this series to set a mood.  May it be the looming danger of the fog rolling into Inaba, the use of blues in the Blue Room but for the majority of the anime series, everything is colorful.  Chie’s red hair and green/yellow track jacket, Yukiko and Rise’s use of red and of course the beautiful combination of animation and CG elements, for the most part, I felt the series compliments the video game remarkably well.

But overall anime production from AIC A.S.T.A. is fantastic, the series looks wonderful on Blu-ray with no banding or artifacts.  The series looked sharp, black levels were nice and deep and colors were absolutely vibrant!  “Persona 4: The Animation” looks awesome!

AUDIO:

“Persona 4: The Animation” is presented only with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack.  While the English version is well-acted, it is somewhat of a disappointment that the Japanese soundtrack is not included.  The reason for this is that the Japanese licensors did not want reverse importation of the Blu-ray release, but yet the DVD will include both soundtracks.  It’s sad because the Japanese soundtracks utilize the same voice actors, which would have been nice to see.  But the fear of reverse importation does happen and unfortunately some series are released in America without its Japanese soundtrack.    Interesting enough, on the video game side of things, the recent U.S. release of “Persona 4 Arena” became the first video game to be region-locked for the PlayStation 3.  One again, in fears of reverse importation.

With that being said, dialogue and music is crystal clear through the front channels.  And when it comes to voice acting, Sentai Filmworks brought voice acting veterans to the series such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Amanda Winn Lee, Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, Karen Strassman and more.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One” comes with the following special features:

  • Episode 01: You’re Myself, I’m Yourself (On Air Version) – (26:05) The shorter version shown on television minus the other version featured on the first disc which is over three minutes longer.
  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Trailers for Sentai Filmworks releases

I’m a big fan of the entire “Shin Megami Tensei” video game series.    My first experience with a “Shin Megami Tensei” video game was “Persona II: Eternal Punishment” and I absolutely loved the game for its characters but also it’s darker theme, use of Personas and it’s use of Japanese pop culture ingrained into an RPG game,  the video games were a distinct style compared to other games from the major software makers.

And things changed no doubt with “Persona 3” which included a dating simulator and the ability for one to strengthen relationships, friendships and the overall gameplay becoming much more stylish and cool!  Suffice to say, when “Persona 4” came out, once again, Atlus was able to create cool characters and further the experience for fans and gamers (who love Japanese RPG’s), but most importantly, making the games different from other companies and continuing to set the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” apart from its competitors.

And more American video game critics have started to take notice in the “Shin Megami Tensei” series.  While many people who are discovering it are wondering, what is the appeal?

“Persona 4: The Animation” is a series that captures the fun of the video game series but in animated format.  It’s one thing to have animated cut scenes but to have a series that compliments the video game is wonderful.  Many people who have watched anime series based on video games, may it be “Final Fantasy”, “Xenogears”, “Tekken”, “Street Fighter”, “King of Fighters” will notice that the stories are much different than the video game.  While there are series such as the “.Hack” anime that does compliment the video games, it doesn’t use the actual characters of the video game series completely.  “Persona 4: The Animation” not only features the characters, but it also showcases the supporting characters and goes into things that make the video game series so fun such as one’s ability to strengthen relationships and friendships.

Like the video game, the main protagonist Yu can make a difference in people’s lives.  From making a difference in the life of his cousin, young Nanako to also his relationship with his female friends…Chie, Yukiko and Rise.  And like the video game, the series shows how Yu can easily heighten his relationship with these female characters if he focuses on it.  The video game of course allows you to build these relationships, but the anime series showcases those relationships and what one can accomplish.

And then there is the Persona element.  With most of the Persona games, there is always a character who has the special ability to use more than one Persona.  The series uses Igor and Margaret from the Blue Room to start off each episode and shows how Yu has received a new Persona for strengthening his bonds with other people.  This is important in the video game and it’s great to see the series start off with the Blue Room and set the tone for the series, may it be to guide Yu or to warn him of major danger.

And with the majority of the episodes for this first collection, we get to learn how Yu’s friends are able to obtain their Persona’s but also utilizing them for battle.

Watching “Persona 4: The Animation” made me feel giddy like a fanboy.  Why?  Because I absolutely love the video games and to see it explored in such a way, like this anime series and getting it right, I don’t know how many times I have watched an anime series inspired by a video game and felt disappointed because it seemed as if the writers of the anime series were not on the same page as those who developed the video games.  But for “Persona 4: the Animation”, the writers were in tune with what happens in the series and managed to incorporate those elements from the video game to this anime series.

The Blu-ray looks absolutely fantastic!  Colorful, vibrant, the anime series looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  As for the audio, I’m sure there are those who are going to be disappointed that the Japanese soundtrack was not included but once again, fears of reverse importation has happened before for an anime series on Blu-ray and in the case of “Persona 4”, it not only has affected this Blu-ray release but also the most recent release of the “Persona 4 Arena”video game being region-locked.

Sure, the Blu-ray may not have both soundtracks (while the DVD does) but if you do enjoy English dubs, the good news is that Sentai Filmworks brought in their veterans for “Persona 4: The Animation”.  From Amanda Winn Lee, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthall, Karen Strassman, Laura Bailey to name a few, I’m quite pleased with the English dub.  As for special features, you get the usual clean opening and ending animations but also both director’s cut and on air versions of the first episode.

A series that captures the video game series remarkably well, “Persona 4: The Animation” is fun, captivating and truly awesome!   if you are a video game fan that has enjoyed the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona” series or one wanting to see a video game anime series done right, I highly recommend “Persona 4: The Animation – Collection One”.

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