Familiar of Zero photo
Familiar of Zero

Sentai Filmworks licenses Familiar of Zero Season One

Shut up, shut up, shut...oh wait, wrong series
Dec 20
// Pedro Cortes
In a move that pleased me to no end, Sentai Filmworks now has the digital, DVD and Blu-Ray to the first season of Familiar of Zero, known as Zero no Tsukaima to long time fans. Originally licensed by Geneon and then shortly a...

Review: Shakugan no Shana Season One

Nov 01 // Pedro Cortes
Shakugan no Shana: Season One Box Set [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]Studio: J.C.StaffLicensed by: FUNimationRelease Date: 8/21/12MSRP: $59.98 [Amazon RightStuf] Taking place in modern Japan, Shakugan no Shana's story swings between Yuji Sakai, a normal guy in high school, and Shana, a "Flame Haze" that hunts Denizens  from the Crimson Realm. These Denizens consume the spiritual existence of humans in order to gain power and sustenance. The problem comes when the Denizens wantonly consume spirits and throw off the balance between this world and the Crimson Realm. In order to keep that balance, the Flame Hazes hunt down and kill the Denizens that overstep their bounds and try to upset the balance. In order to maintain the balance between the worlds, Flame Hazes can create degrading copies of consumed souls called Torches, which fade away instead of immediately ceasing to exist. At the start of the show, Yuji becomes involved in a battle between Shana and a Rinne, a vassal to a powerful Denizen. Due to injuries incurred in that battle, Yuji is made into a Torch and will not only fade away into nothing, all memory of his existence will disappear.  However, things get more complicated when Shana discovers that Yuji has inherited a special ability that allows him to regenerate his existence. Instead of fading away like other Torches, Yuji regenerates at midnight, making him into both a valuable ally and a target. Yuji decides to play a more active role and joins Shana in fighting off the Rinne and Denizen threat. Having always worked alone, Shana eventually learns to accept Yuji and gain a bit of the humanity that she's lost. She also eventually falls in love with Yuji, which makes things infinitely more complicated for the two of them. Several powerful Denizens, a rival Flame Haze and a rival in love insure that Yuji and Shana are kept on their toes.  While there are some pretty large scale action scenes through out the first season, the thing that makes Shana work so well are the relationships between several of the characters. First and foremost is the Shana/Yuji dynamic. Right from the start, Shana is a Denizen-killing machine with no concept of self. Yuji's introduction into her life fundamentally changed her, as she didn't even have a name before they met. As their relationship intensifies, so do her emotions as she learns to feel again. Rie Kugimiya does a great job channeling the confused feelings of a girl who's starting to feel normal emotions for the first time in a long time. There's also the Shana/Alastor dynamic, which resembles something like a father/daughter relationship. While Alastor is supposed to keep his distance and guide Shana in slaying the Denizens, you see that he cares about her. That theme continues with Yuji's mother, who helps Shana along with her budding human emotions. She's a rock of stability for both Yuji and Shana and she does a lot to help them both out when things get a bit wild. When I first saw Shana in 2006, I found the show entertaining and the characters endearing. I thought the soundtrack was well done and the animation was pretty good to boot. Six years later…not so much. I'm not saying that the show is bad, it just hasn't held up as well as I thought it would have. After watching a ton of stuff in the interim, Shana's animation isn't that good. It might have been good for the time, but it's pretty limited and lacking in detail now. The music holds up a bit better, but not by much. One of things that has held up these last couple years are the Japanese performances. As mentioned earlier, the show runs on Yuji and Shana's relationship, so it's a good thing that the they have some good chemistry. While Shana's tsundere antics will annoy you after a while, there's a certain amount of fun in it that only somebody like Kugimiya can bring to the table. There's also the gravitas that … brings to Yuji's plight as a Torch. Unfortunately, the dub is fairly lackluster. It lacks the personality of the original performances and sounds wooden. Considering how the quality of dubs has drastically improved since Shana's original release, I shouldn't be surprised. While it hasn't held up as well as I thought it would, I still feel that Shana is worth picking up. It's got some nice action scenes that, while not animated particularly well, are large in scope and certainly ambitious. More importantly, the relationships between these characters remain just as good as when I first saw it. The Japanese performers, Kugimiya in particular, bring these characters to life and humanize them in a way that a lot of other shows fail to do.  7.0 – Good. Films or shows that get this score are good, but not great. These could have been destined for greatness, but were held back by their flaws. While some may not enjoy them, fans of the genre will definitely love them.
Flaming hair, burning eyes
When I think of tsundere, the voice of Rie Kugimiya springs to mind. That lady has done some of the most famous bitchy girls in anime history, all within a relatively short span of time. One of the most popular of these girls...

Japanator Recommends: Ergo Proxy

Oct 18 // Kristina Pino
Ergo Proxy [DVD]Studio: Section 23Licensed by: FUNimation Release Date: August 28, 2012MSRP: $39.98 [BUY] According to an informational episode towards the middle chunk of the show, the human population was reduced by about 85%. Some escaped to space to wait out Earth's eventual healing, and some remained. Proxies were created and brought forth in order to maintain domed cities that would foster a manufactured humanity until the time was right for Earth to be re-inhabited. The domed cities were perfect, idealistic environments with little to no crime, and perfectly bio-engineered humans that were created in artificial wombs. Re-l Mayer herself is a top agent in the city's intelligence bureau and is the granddaughter of the man who is in the care of Romdo. One day, the city's Proxy escapes, and just as it attempts to eliminate Re-l, she is saved by Ergo Proxy. When she becomes drawn to the affair and tries to find answers, she is completely shut down by the higher-ups, even to the point of planting her own Entourage with surveillance bugs, and eventually an attempted assassination. With the help of Daedalus, the chief of medical who has overseen her development and care throughout her entire life, she escapes Romdo along with her Entourage Iggy and joins Vincent and an infected Auto-Reiv (robot) called Pino. From then on, you (as the viewer) are slowly fed information about what Proxies are, the situation that brought human kind to its current state, and what it means for the future. Vincent and Re-l are equally the main characters and focus of the show, and stick together through the end in their quest for the truths which have been kept from both of them (and pretty much all of mankind). Throughout Ergo Proxy, you'll encounter more biblical references and philosophy than you'll immediately be able to identify, beginning with the simple concept of cogito, or cogito ergo sum. Perhaps the biggest theme in Ergo Proxy is the subject of self, and what brings meaning to one's existence. Every person and Auto-Reiv introduced in the show will have a clear raison d'etre, and will face the same sort of existential crisis when they no longer have it. Though Ergo Proxy definitely qualifies as drama, sci-fi, mystery, even action, it has its humorous points. Pino is provided as the never-ending source for smiles as you watch her develop after she's infected with the cogito virus. Rather than becoming vengeful when she gains a soul, she ends up acting like any other little girl would. She also frequently dons an adorable bunny suit, and introduces various references to Alice in Wonderland that are also mixed in with all the philosophy throughout. She's the innocent character that buffers all the heaviness. She also happens to share my last name, so she must be rad. Pino's behavior is in distinct contrast with Iggy's post-infection, though. When Iggy is infected, he develops a split personality ruled by his desperate need to be of use to Re-l. In other words, his feelings of being cast aside or written-off pulled him in two different directions: the first is a pleading Iggy who wants Re-l to need him, who will do anything for her and who wishes to protect her. The second is an angry Iggy who resents her for sending him away, calling her useless and needy and then trying to force her to remain under his protection so he can still have a purpose. The performance on the part of the voice actor was superb during this phase, because of the stark differences in his tone of voice depending on which part of his personality was on the surface. Deep down though, Iggy never turned away from his raison d'etre, which was always to be Re-l's protector. FUNimation's Classics DVD Box Set comes with some attractive artwork around it and four discs inside. The fourth disc is the only one with Extras, and you do have the option of enjoying Ergo Proxy in either Japanese or English. Even though the Extras are only contained in one disc along with the last two hours and 15 minutes of the show, there is plenty of material to enjoy: Three features (an overview of the various denizens and special terms in the show, a "behind the scenes," and the English staff interview), various trailers, commercials, and of course the clean OP and ED. The OP is called Kiri (by MONORAL) and remains the same throughout all 23 episodes. The ED is Radiohead's Paranoid Android, which surprised me when I first saw Ergo Proxy. I should also mention here that Kiri is one of my favorite OPs of all time, and the full version of the song is great (to my ears, anyway). As far as the animation quality goes, Ergo Proxy is not among the popular colorful and exaggerated styles we see everywhere. Realism is a key factor, and all the environments outside of Romdo are grungy, dirty, and steampunk-like with dystopian desolation and pollution everywhere. The only complaint I have about it, and I've had this complaint since 2006, is that the picture is too dark. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell what's going on on-screen. I do think there is a significance to this though, because there are key scenes that seem deliberately darker or more clear depending on the situation. When I review new releases like this, I usually listen to just a few episodes with the dubs on to get a feel for how the voice actors perform their roles compared with the Japanese version. I originally saw this in Japanese, and that was fine, but I was blown away by the dubs, which I switched on from the beginning this time around. And I never turned them off. The dialogue and the story appeal to Western storytelling, so much so that the dubs feel completely natural and befitting. The themes in Ergo Proxy aren't so saturated with references to Japanese culture (they're actually nonexistent), so nothing is lost in translation. If anything, it feels like Ergo Proxy references the likes of Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov and their stories about robots, robotics, and self-awareness. Greatest of all, it doesn't feel like anything you end up watching or listening to is unnecessary. What else do you expect though, when the likes of Dai Sato (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf's Rain, Cowboy Bebop, even the recent Tekken: Blood Vengeance which I also reviewed) had a hand in the screenplay? If you enjoyed any or all of those titles, you'll probably enjoy Ergo Proxy. For fans of realism, philosophy, deep human emotion, and robots, this is definitely a show that deserves your time. From when it first aired until now, it holds up well conceptually and in terms of execution. If you want to sample it before buying anything, you also have the option of watching it on FUNimation's website. This box set is a great release that won't break the bank. [9.5 – Exceptional, near-perfect. One of the best things its genre has ever produced.]
cogito ergo sum
Ergo Proxy is an anime I've enjoyed since it first aired, and I was more than willing to grab this review when it came up. Thanks to FUNimation, Ergo Proxy (previously licensed by Geneon) has been rescued and re-released in f...


Lain Blu-ray to be native HD, not upscaled

Aug 30
// Brad Rice
Serial Experiments Lain was one of those special titles that came out in the US in the early 2000s. For lack of a better word, the series was weird. Based off of Yoshitaka ABe's amazing character designs, the show delved...

Japanator Recommends: Chobits

Jun 02 // Pedro Cortes
Title: Chobits: The Complete Series [Classic]Studio: MadhouseLicensed: FUNimation / GeneonReleased: May 2011MSRP:  $54.98 [Blu-ray]  $49.98 [DVD] Before anybody gets their hopes up, the Blu-ray is an upscale of the original DVDs. When compared to Pioneer/Geneon disks, the only discernable difference is that the new release uses white subtitles compared to the old yellow text. Even the old special features are available here. If you already own any of the previous releases, you can skip these new disks unless you absolutely must have everything on Blu. With that said, let's talk about the show proper. Chobits starts off with Hideki Motosuwa, a country bumpkin trying to get into college in the big city, arriving into Tokyo. Here he meets persocoms, computers built into human form that literally walk around with their owners out and about the city. Being a broke kid from out in the boonies, Hideki glumly admits that he'll probably never be able to afford one. Of course, right as he says this he passes an abandoned female persocom in somebody's trash. Being the nice guy (and enterprising poor college student) that he is, he takes the cute droid home and boots her up to find that she literally has no memory or software installed except for an advanced learning program. The series then follows Hideki and his persocom, named Chii, as they go about their lives and find out more about her past. When I first watched Chobits a couple of years back, I really dug everything about it. The premise, the character design, the characters proper, the music, etc. It just sat well with me. However, going back now older and more experienced, there are a few things that really bug me about the entire production. With the jump to a bigger screen, I really notice a bunch of animation shortcuts that I didn't see before. This could perhaps just be because I saw it on my nice flat-screen TV instead of my old dinky iMac monitor, but some of the dull backgrounds and off-scale characters bugged me. Besides that, the show still looks pretty nice, in part due to how cute the persocoms look. CLAMP did a great job designing the various robots, making them stand out against the boring human masses. The soundtrack manages to hold up, though I was certainly tired of a few songs by the end of the show. The best thing about it is easily the OP, which is so happily upbeat that I watched it before every episode. There are few shows that have had that effect on me, so the fact that Chobits was sill able to do that years later is pretty good sign. I'm also happy to say that the performances in both languages are still good to great. For the dub, the standout performance is without a doubt Crispin Freeman. He does a great job going from manic silliness to appropriate gravitas when the scene demands it despite my dislike of the character, which I'll get into in a bit. I wish I could say such praise for Michelle Ruff's Chii. It isn't an awful performance, but the robotic stiffness she puts into her lines doesn't vibe well with me, especially when Rie Tanaka's performance on the Japanese track is so great. My biggest problem with Chobits is unfortunately in its male lead. I don't typically like country bumpkins and 'fish out of water' humor in my media consumption, but there's something about Hideki in particular that really grinds against my patience. More than once I was just aggravated by his naivety and didn't laugh because I found him more annoying than charmingly shy and ignorant. It definitely isn't the fault of either actor, as both the English and Japanese performance give him an actual personality as opposed to having him be a blank-slate. I think it's just seeing characters like him over and over again through the years has made it difficult for me to like guys like him. The last bit I'd like to mention is how the show's meaning has changed for me. First off, there's the issue of romance between a human and a persocom. One of the subplots of the show is the problem of people falling in love with their persocoms. You've also probably have read sometime in the last couple of years that Japan is facing a serious decline in its population. Now I might be looking a bit too much into this, but there are some interesting implications here. Chobits doesn't get into it, but the idea that people make the conscious decision to forgo their natural mating instinct in this world is a bit chilling. Take the problems that Japanese society is having now and put something like persocoms in the mix, there probably wouldn't be any major changes. However, that in itself would make an interesting premise for somebody else now, wouldn't it? The second major change has to do with Hideki and Chii's relationship. On my first watch, I took the show at face value and saw it as a simple love story between man and machine. On this second watch, I find that I'm increasingly creeped out by their dynamic. When the show starts, Hideki is an older, more experienced guy teaching a younger girl about life. In my eyes, he's more of a father figure to her than a teacher or even a brother. So when things get complicated for the two of them later, Chii is essentially falling for her father. That doesn't bug me so much, since there's the common adage that kids fall for people that are like their parents. What bugs me is that Hideki also falls in love with Chii. The implication here is that he's falling for a girl that he treats like a daughter and does it in spite of Chii's past. I know that I'm looking into things way deeper than CLAMP probably intended, but it's something that bothered me this time around. So despite a few minor problems and personal over-analysis, I completely recommend Chobits. If you like cute girls, silly romantic comedies or CLAMP in general, you'll probably dig it. As mentioned prior, the Blu-ray version is an up-scale, so there are few reasons for owners of previous versions to buy again. However, if you've never purchased the show before and have a Blu-ray player I'd recommend the BD, solely based on supporting the format.  However, if you only have a DVD player, Chobits will look just as nice for you too!   8.0 - Great. A perfectly executed film or series that defines its genre without resorting to cliches  

Back in 2004, I started my second year in college and was getting pretty deep into the anime scene. A friend recommended this show called Chobits, based on my affection for all things cute and adorable. Over the course of a c...


AX 10: Notes from Genon Universal's panel

Jul 03
// Tim Sheehy
Just out of curiosity, why is it that every industry panel I go to is at the most inconvenient time? I know it's not their fault, but it really isn't any fun having to rush out of the hotel room to make it in time for these t...

Rin is win in the new Unlimited Blade Works trailer

Jan 09
// Josh Tolentino
Actually, Rin is win anywhere, even in a trailer that she doesn't get much airtime in.But that's OK, since this is a trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Fate stay/night's Unlimited Blade Works scenario. Of the origina...

We here at Japanator love to give stuff away, so here's your chance to win Black Lagoon, courtesy of Funimation! All you have to have is a camera and a sense of humor. Black Lagoon is about a group of bad ass mercenaries who ...

Japanator Recommends: When They Cry (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni)

Aug 12 // Pedro Cortes
When They Cry (season one box set)Creator: Studio Deen, Chiaki KonPublisher: FUNimationRelease date: August 25th, 2009MSRP: $69.98 When They Cry is set during the summer of 1983, where a group of five kids in a rural Japanese town spend their days going to school and playing games together. It sounds like a limp slice of life show, where the main character begins to fall in love with one of the girls, followed by incredible amounts of angst and teenage drama. However, When They Cry disabuses you of that thought in the opening minute of the show. The first episode begins with a hazy screen and the moist sound of metal hitting meat. The labored breath of the main character, a high school age boy named Keiichi Maebara, is heard as you see he's striking something over and over again, that something being the broken bodies of two girls in a room. The camera pans to his face, wide-eyed with hysteria. Then the show goes to its opening theme. Watch the first thirty seconds of the video  below and you'll see what I mean.I have never wanted to see more of a show than after I saw the above clip. It threw me for a loop that something with cute characters could even suggest that a blood bath would occur, much less promising that there WOULD be a blood bath.The show then becomes the cutesy school comedy that the art suggests it is, but there is always something amiss. The way that characters act and the secrets they obviously hold, as well as Keiichi's growing paranoia, always reminds you that nothing is as it seems.And it's done after four episodes. By the end of the fourth episode, the gruesome end foreshadowed comes to fruition and the show seemingly ends. Yet, the fifth episode starts with everybody alive and well. The show goes into a different story with the same characters in the same world, with the relationships slightly tweaked. The shows does this for all of the first season. The characters will start all happy and smiling, yet slowly devolve into paranoid maniacs as the mysterious deaths occur and the bodies start to disappear. After a bloody end where the viewer learns more of the menace the haunts the town, things are reset and the cycle starts again. The first season covers the four question arcs (which set up the mysteries of the town of Hinamizawa) and the first two answer arcs from the original game. While this season does have an ending, it doesn't solve any of the overarching mysteries of the town, leaving the following season and several OVAs to pick up the slack. That's not to say that you'll finish this box set and be dissatisfied, but you'll definitely want to have the rest of the material so you can get to the bottom of the Hinamizawa murders.However, don't expect to get the second season of When They Cry, unless magical things happen and puppies rain from the sky. Thanks to Geneon's mismanagement with the promotion of the show, it didn't get the attention it rightfully deserved when it first came out in 2007. What do I mean by mismanagement? Take a look at the box that Geneon originally put the show in. Cute, very much so. Truth in advertising? Not so much. People walking by and looking at the box would not know that it was a show for adults, much less a murder mystery that has paranormal and psychological elements to it. If this had been given packaging like the current thin-pack release by Funimation, then it could have been  successful and we would be getting the second season and OVAs. Back to the show proper, I have only two complaints with the show. First, the art takes a drastic nose dive in quality as it goes along. While it never really wowed me with the fluidity of its movement or the intricacy of its character designs, it was serviceable until about 10-12 episodes in. By the end of the show, you see some pretty busted stuff like this. The art was improved afterward for the OVAs and the second season. Season one though suffers through janky animation and misproportioned characters right through the bitter end. The worst moment is a climatic fight between two characters at the end of the show on a roof top, which looks like it was animated by people who only had the basic idea of what a humanoid should look like. Second, the dub sucks. The original Japanese voice acting isn't fantastic, but it is serviceable (and also improves in the second season.) The English actors try to sounds like high schoolers and young children, but fail at high impact moments, such as the one shown above. The adults that come in sound bored and accents are forced. It borders on the line of parody at times, resembling the "Casey & Friends" parody that floated around when the series debuted in 2006.Despite these flaws, When They Cry needs to be in your collection. If you can stomach the occasional violent scene (and they do pop up at least once, sometimes twice in every arc), you' can enjoy one of the smartest and most subversive shows out on the market. The mysteries in When They Cry will continually keep you guessing. You'll also never look at cute little girls the same way again, trust me.

The moé phenomenon has become something to be reckoned with in the anime industry. It seems that the most successful shows are the ones that feature doe-eyed girls with giant racks that are either taciturn ice queens, ...


Sentai Filmworks license-rescues Dokkoida, Daphne, and Kannazuki no Miko

Jun 02
// Jeff Chuang
Just in case you were wondering about the fate of our favorite yuri + giant robot anime, Sentai Filmworks decided to pick up three more Geneon's abandoned titles, Kannazuki no Miko, along with Dokkoida?! and Daphne in the Bri...

Geneon Entertainment to merge with Universal Pictures Japan

Nov 13
// Rio McCarthy
As of Wednesday advertising and marketing company Dentsu announced that they will be transferring the majority of its ownership of Geneon Entertainment home video subsidiary to NBC Universal's Universal Pictures International...

Quick pick: FUNi announces when they're re-releasing the first round of Geneon titles

Jul 10
// Brad Rice
Here's a quick tidbit for everyone, so that the FUNimation x Geneon fanfics can keep rolling out: The first round of re-release dates for Geneon's titles have been announced.Black Lagoon Season 1, BL: Second Barrage Vol. 1, a...

FUNimation to release select Geneon titles -- Hellsing has been saved!

Jul 03
// Brad Rice
Here's a nice piece of news, before Anime Expo swings into full gear: FUNimation has signed an exclusive agreement with Geneon to "manufacture, market, and sell" some of Geneon's more established series, including H...

Carrion feeders unite: Right Stuf Geneon blowout sale

Jun 07
// Zero-chan
Recent scientific theories state that every kid's favorite dinosaur, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, may not have been a hunter, but instead a scavenger, feeding on the remains of poor, deceased dinos that other, more agile eat...

Rumors from a Japanator geisha: Geneon to make a comeback?

May 15
// John Martone
Proving that internet trolling can make for interesting reading, the troll Gia has apparently put together more detective work. This time around, Giapet has been following the hypothetical purchase of several Geneon titles. F...

Industry news: Funimation to acquire Geneon licenses?

Feb 08
// Zero-chan
While ADV hasn't said anything about their ongoing situation since last week's cryptic statement, it appears that Funimation is continuing to do very well for itself. According to this ICV2 piece, Funimation is actually quite...

Gonzo enters into the world of digital downloading with fists a flying

Dec 26
// God Len
In the latest effort to claim victory in the war of the fansubs, Gonzo has decided to create their own P2P network that will sell their animated goods for a fee. However, to test the waters out first, this P2P network is on...

Geneon's swan song: Refunds for defective Saber Clocks available

Nov 30
// Brad Rice
While Geneon is departing from the DVD market, they aren't leaving their fans high and dry. As it is, they've released the sixth volume of Fate/Stay Night, and the limited edition of it came with two pencil boards and...

FUNimation dances on Geneons grave

Nov 10
// God Len
Navarre’s CEO, Kerry Deacon, said in a conference call to discuss FUNimations quarterly earnings report that Geneon’s fall had a positive impact on FUNimation’s sales. “[G]enerally we believe it could...

Geneon USA cancels DVD sales

Sep 26
// Dale North
According to Anime News Network, Geneon USA is announcing the end of "sales of DVDs and all related distribution and marketing operations as of 5 p.m. on Friday, September 28, 2007." This looks like the end of the d...

Otakon 2007: Geneon takes the night shift

Jul 21
// Dale North
It's just past 9 p.m., and everyone (Geneon included) wants to start drinky time, but there's some business to get out of the way first. You can tell that everyone even remotely industry related wants to get the hell out of...

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann licensed by ADV Films

Jun 30
// John Martone
Forget what I said earlier, today is a dark day. The gods of anime saw fit to give us ambrosia, then take it away before the meal was done. Anime Expo, which now has a decidedly negative ring to it, has added a couple more ca...

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