DVD

Gosei Sentai Dairanger photo
Gosei Sentai Dairanger

SDCC '15: Dairanger fights its way to North America


It's Fortification Time!
Jul 11
// Salvador GRodiles
[Update: The gang at Ranger Crew have confirmed that the series hits North America later this year.] Congratulations, people! Thanks to everyone who supported Shout! Factory's Zyuranger release, the company has announced at C...
Gundam photo
Gundam

AX '15: Right Stuf to release Zeta Gundam, Victory Gundam, and more


Believe in the Sign of Zeta
Jul 05
// Salvador GRodiles
Good news, everyone; during Anime Expo '15, the gang at Right Stuf have revealed the next phase of their Gundam distribution deal with Sunrise. This time around, the company plans to release Victory Gundam, Gundam X,&nbs...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 5

Jun 11 // Jayson Napolitano
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 5 Publisher: Viz MediaRelease Date: March 3, 2015MSRP: $44.82 DVD / $54.97 limited-edition Blu-Ray (reviewed) I'll open by saying that 100 episodes in, Ranma fatigue does tend to set in. Fortunately for fans, however, Set 5 contains some of the most entertaining and hilarious episodes yet. That's a good thing, because at just over the half-way mark in the series, there really needs to be something compelling to keep fans wanting more, and this season rarely lets up. There isn't much that I can say is new in this season. You get the same cast of lovable characters, starring the heir to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, Ranma Saotome, and his fiance, Akane Tendo. The two are promised to each other by their parents, and thankfully in this season, we start to see that the two are actually starting to fall for one another. The art style holds up well, and the music ranges from appropriately quirky to downright moving. Perhaps taking some of our past reviews to heart, the episodes in this set have been cut to feature only one opening theme, "Earth Orchestra" (which first appeared at the end of Set 4) and the same closing theme, "Hinageshi." In case you've forgotten, the premise of the show is that Ranma is under an ancient Chinese curse that causes him to change from a man into a woman when splashed with cold water, and back again with hot water. Various other characters are afflicted with similar curses, and the majority of the supporting cast are in love with Ranma in either his man or woman form or Akane, leading to some crazy love... hexagons? Maybe even octagons. They're joined by a great cast of characters, including Akane's protective father, Soun Tendo, Ranma's free-loading father, Genma Saotome, Akane's sisters, and Soun and Genma's master, the creepy undergarment-stealing Happosai. So on with some of the standout episodes of the set, which includes a brand new array of bizarre martial arts styles. There's Marial Arts Tea Ceremony, wherein Ranma is kidnapped and promised to the charming heir and must fight her way to freedom, the Good Ol' Days Style of Martial Arts, a nostalgic bunch who challenge Akane and use nursery rhythms and old toys in their matches, Martial Arts Shogi, where Genma Saotome's cheating catches up with him and gets him and the cast stuck in a life-sized Shogi match, Martial Arts Dining, which is a hilarious insult to French people and Westerners in general with its outrageous eating competition, and Martial Arts Calligraphy, where Ranma is refused a challenge due to his terrible handwriting. Crazy martial arts styles aside, there are a lot of fantastic episodes. In one, the family wins a raffle for a free stay at a hot springs resort, only to find something lurking in its waters. In another, Ranma comes to use one of Happosai's enchanted bandaids that causes him to fall in love with all the show's female characters, and in the aforementioned Martial Arts Dining episodes (the only multi-episode arc featured in this set), the focus on food and the ridiculousness of the eating style the Westerners use is absolutely hilarious. Ryouga has a Western-style adventure protecting the ranch of an old man and his daughter, whom Ryouga falls in love with, Nabiki takes a joke too far and feigns affection for Ranma in a bid to steal him from Akane, and a new student, the exceedingly clumsy and akward Gosunkugi places hexes and curses on Ranma in an attempt to steal Akane away. My favorite episode of all, however, is "Case of the Missing Takoyaki," which is a who's-done-it tale where each character tells their portion of the story leading up to a hilarious conclusion. The last thing I'll note is that we reviewed the limited-edition Blu-ray version, which contains "extras." This time this comes in the form of interviews with cosplayers and anime industry professionals about their experiences collecting Ranma 1/2 paraphernalia, which is interesting, especially when multiple people bring up the SNES Ranma 1/2 game and one interviewee discusses the early days of the Internet. There are also trailers for other Viz Media products and the opening and ending themes as well. In all, this set is as over the top as ever, and that's why I think fans of Ranma 1/2 will be re-energized and ready to delve into the final two sets after watching it. I was as tired as anyone going into the 100th episode, but the latter half of this set is so good that I can't wait for more. Fortunately we won't have to wait long, as Set 6 has just been released, so watch for our review soon. Images © Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan  9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.
Ranma 1/2 Review photo
Just what Doctor Tofu ordered!
And onward we go! Ranma 1/2 Set 5 breaches the 100-episode mark, and as I've noted in past reviews, if you've made it this far, you've likely passed the point of no return. Watching such a lenghthy series is a serious investment, and fortunately while Ranma 1/2 doesn't really have much overarching plot to advance, it somehow continues to be wildly entertaining. Let's dig in, shall we?


Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger photo
Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger

It's Judgement Time: Dekaranger to return as a V-Cinema


Chu Chu Chu Deka Deka!
May 15
// Salvador GRodiles
Oh my. Right when it felt that Hurricanger was going to be the only Sentai show to get the 10 Years After treatment, a new beacon of hope has surfaced for toku fans. Seeing that it's been ten years since Tokusou Sentai Dekar...
Code Geass: Akito photo
Code Geass: Akito

There is, in fact, a 3rd episode of Code Geass: Akito the Exiled


He really was exiled
Mar 29
// Josh Tolentino
Wow, and here I thought Code Geass had just about departed from living memory, when Bandai releases a trailer to remind us that no, we're not done yet. Or rather, that we'll finally be done soon, since the trailer revea...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 4

Mar 29 // Jayson Napolitano
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 4 Publisher: Viz MediaRelease Date: December 9, 2014MSRP: $44.82 DVD (reviewed) / $54.97 limited-edition Blu-RayI admit I was nervous when the second episode of this set was a recap episode featuring Ranma's rival, Ryoga Hibiki. It obviously felt way too early to be relying on these kinds of episodes, but fortunately it's the only episode of its kind in this set. There are some returning minor characters, including Ling Ling and Lung Lung, Shampoo's Amazon sisters from China, who are comically defeated time and time again in their plot to force Ranma to marry Shampoo. Azusa, the ice skating martial artist, also makes a return appearance, bringing our characters back to the skating rink. There're also two episodes featuring the ghost cat, the second of which features this ethereal being possessing Ryoga's body and proposing to Ranma's love interest, Akane Tendo.There are two multi-episode stories featured this time around. The first centers on Ryoga becoming invincible when a silly marking is tattooed on his stomach that he desperately wants to have removed out of embarrassment. In the second, we learn that Ranma's pigtail is actually tied with a powerful Chinese relic known as the dragon whisker, which can be used to grow hair in bald men, leading to some hilarity when Ranma's father, Genma Saotome, and even their master, Happosai, want the whisker for their own gain. From there, we get a series of one-off episodes. There's an inspirational teacher who begins work at the high school that the characters attend who encourages Ranma and Akane to express their feelings for one another, a disciple that Happosai starts training to help him in his underwear-stealing hi-jinx, and some interesting backstory about Kasumi as a childhood friends returns to town. It was interesting seeing more light on her as a character. Some of the more comical episodes center around a love story between Happosai and a young woman teacher that leads to Happosai giving up his underwear collection, Kuno acquiring a magical sword that grants him three wishes which he promptly wastes in order to woo female Ranma, Shampoo's red thread of fate that attempts to magically seal a loving relationship between Ranma and Shampoo, an episode featuring the "Gambling King," who flips Ranma off and is exposed as a cheater who preys on children, and the final episode that features a rift between longtime comrades Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo.There's nothing really new to report in terms of visuals that I haven't noted several times in reviews of the past sets: Ranma's visual appeal has remained surprisingly intact. We get a new opening an ending theme about halfway through this set, with the "Earth Orchestra" opening that doesn't do much for me, and the melancholy "Hinageshi" closing theme which is fantastic.We reviewed the DVD set, which didn't sport any extras this time around except some Viz Media trailers. Past releases have featured footage from various conventions and such. We didn't get our hands on the Blu-ray this time, but the limited edition sets come with a character portrait card and a booklet with a episode summaries. In all, I had a great time with set 4, but as with set 3, this is the point at which you really need to be invested in the series if you want to continue on. Nothing groundbreaking happens in this set, although the episodes are highly entertaining. In an industry where everything seems so broody and serious with a lot of recent anime series I've seen, having access to the upbeat and comical Ranma 1/2 series has been a real treat.  8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
Ranma 1/2 Review photo
Were finally used to Ranmas new voice
  It’s been a while since we’ve visited the world of Ranma 1/2. It was my favorite anime growing up, though I never came close to seeing all that the series had to offer. Like many people out there, I’v...

Right Stuf Contest! photo
Get free stuff from Right Stuf!
[Update: The contest is over, and congratulations to Japanator Community Member Gnikdrazil! We'll be contacted soon at the email address you used to register to Japanator with more details!] It's January 9th, but sometimes it...

Discotek Media photo
Discotek Media

Licensing GET: Discotek grabs Jigen film, Yowapeda, and more


Discotek Media is on a roll
Dec 22
// Salvador GRodiles
The New Year is about to begin in less than two weeks, and Discotek Media is on a winning licensing streak. Why you say? Well. It turns out that the company is releasing Lupin the Third: Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone on DVD and ...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 3

Nov 28 // Jayson Napolitano
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 3Publisher: Viz MediaRelease Date: September 16, 2014MSRP: $44.82 DVD / $51.99 limited-edition Blu-Ray (reviewed) I'll start by saying that set 3 offers some of my favorite Ranma 1/2 episodes yet. There are a ton of memorable moments despite the lack of overarching plots for this season. Some favorites include an episode where Ranma's fiance, Akane Tendo, consumes a bowl of "super soba" that makes her all-powerful (which is difficult for Ranma to accept), but has some rather humorous adverse effects, while another follows Sasuke, servant of the Kuno family, as he's ejected from their household only to take up service with Akane where we learn more about him and the Kunos.One episode features a trip to the beach where Grandfather Happosai (founder of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts) tries to use magic pearls to make the various female characters fall in love with him, while another takes the cast to the past with Happosai's magic mirror, where they're surprised to discover young Happosai's relationship with another of the show's characters. There's magic soap that prevents the transformations that afflict so many of the characters in one episode, and another where Ranma intends to travel into the past to prevent himself from acquiring his curse, only to be sent into the future to make a startling discovery about what may be coming. My favorite episode of all, titled "Am I... Pretty? Ranma's Declaration of Womanhood" sees Ranma sustain an injury to his head that has him believing that his female form is his true form. It's a lot of fun watching Ranma truly play the part of his girl form rather than relying on it to get free food or woo the show's male characters.There is one story arc found in this set. Three episodes center on Ranma losing his strength and his journey and hardships trying to get it back. It's a fantastic run of episodes where we see the relationship between Ranma and his betrothed continue to grow. In fact, throughout the entire set, we see Ranma and Akane grow closer and become convincingly jealous of the shows other characters, which is really touching to see.I discussed the music of Ranma 1/2 in my review of set 2, and nothing has really changed in terms of the short stinger format used throughout. We do get a new opening and closing theme towards the end of the set as we transition into what used to be season 4, with an infectious opening theme and heartwarming ending theme that do the job.There are a couple interesting changes in art style found in this set. The first occurs in the aforementioned episode where Ranma comes to believe he's a woman after a head injury. The art style is much more fluid with an emphasis on shadow effects and a more curvy interpretation of the characters. Generally speaking, the art style for Ranma 1/2 is pretty simple, with lots of solid colors, minimal shading, and straight lines, but this episode was drastically different. There was another episode that I can't recall that also deviated a bit, leading to some particularly funny looking expressions by Ranma's father, Genma Saotome, and Ranma himself. In all, however, regardless of the slight variations, I love the style for its simplicity.Now, there is one big issue I have with set 3. It shattered my world to find that, moving into what used to be season 4, the voice actor for male Ranma changed. For season one through three, Ranma was voiced by Sarah Strange, who lent Ranma a heavily sarcastic and oftentimes indifferent vocal performance. It was perfect for Ranma's character, as he generally goes with the flow and tries to stay out of drama. Richard Cox takes over from there, and while his delivery is much more dynamic in range, I can't help but feel the youthful spunk he brings to the character takes Ranma from the cool and above-the-fray personality to a more typical angsty youth. It's taking a lot of getting used to for me, and to make matters worse, the episode resequencing puts an episode with Ranma's old voice at the very end of the set, right when I was starting to accept his new voice actor. I'll likely have to start over again warming up to Ranma's new voice with the next set. Interestingly, little to no new major characters were introduced this set. Tsubasa Kurenai, a character who was introduced at the end of set 2 and is infatuated with Ukyo was not present at all, much to my surprise. I suppose there's the new school principal, back from Hawaii, where he picked up an outrageously stereotypical Hawaiian speech pattern and new ways to annoy his students, but he only appears in a few episodes towards the end of the set, so the verdict's out as to whether or not he'll be a major character going forward (I certainly hope not, as the I can only take so much of his over-the-top Hawaiian speak). We also see an appearance by Doctor Tofu, who we haven't seen since set 1.I should also mention the bonuses included with the limited edition Blu-ray version that we reviewed this time. While I couldn't really discern any differences in the visual presentation, the disc case comes in a sturdy cardboard sleeve and includes a glossy portrait card of Ryoga and a nice booklet summarizing the series so far and offering recaps of each episode found in this set (super helpful for this review!). In terms of content on the discs themselves, the third and final disc features extras, most of which you won't care about (Viz Media trailers, clean openings and endings), but there is a nice series of interviews and commentaries from New York Comic Con 2013 with some Viz Media staff, anime industry professionals, and cosplayers talking about their love for Ranma 1/2.While I'm still coming to terms with Ranma's voice change (I almost felt like the old Ranma died and I was starting over again with a new character), Ranma 1/2 set 3 features some of the best episodes of the series yet. I wasn't able to mention them all here, but it should suffice to say that this is one of the most entertaining sets yet. I'm enjoying the dynamic between Ranma and Akane, and characters including Happosai, Genma Saotome, and Akane's father, Soun Tendo, are incredibly memorable and are some of my favorites in any anime ever. I'm eager to see what happens with set 4 next month, so stay tuned!9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.
Ranma 1/2 Review photo
More changes than just Ranma's gender this time!
After reviewing Ranma 1/2 set 2 earlier this month, I knew it was time to hunker down and dig deep. This series had a seven season run, and while this latest re-issue from Viz Media has resequenced the episodes to align more ...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 2

Nov 08 // Jayson Napolitano
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 2Publisher: Viz MediaRelease Date: June 24, 2014MSRP: $44.82 DVD (reviewed) / $54.97 limited-edition Blu-Ray At this point, viewers of Set 1 should be familiar enough with the premise of the series. Ranma Saotome of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts and a number of other characters have been afflicted with a Chinese curse that transforms them upon being exposed to cold water. In Ranma’s case, he turns into a girl, whereas other characters turn into all kinds of cute animals. These transformations play out in often comical ways as our protagonist, Ranma, and his fiancé, Akane Tendo, each have their vast following of suitors, some of whom are in love with male Ranma and others who are in love with his female form. Those who were getting tired of the repetition featured throughout Set 1 should be pleased that the random appearance of water just for the sake of these transformations isn’t as prominent in Set 2. More so, this set is about the developing relationship between Ranma and Akane as well as the introduction of several new characters. These new characters include some of my favorites, such as Moose, a martial artist who’s followed the Chinese Amazon martial artist Shampoo from China and is desperately in love with her, and relies on weapons and gadgets procured from his massive sleeves when doing battle with Ranma to win Shampoo’s affection. There's also Happosai, the perverted and often hilarious master of Ranma and Akane’s fathers, Genma Saotome and Soun Tendo. Happosai is obsessed with woman’s undergarments, which is the focus of several episodes, and I have to say that his English voice dubbing is absolutely perfect, convincingly conveying a perverted old man ogling over womans’ bosoms and undergarments. Two more characters are introduced towards the end of the set, including Ukyo Kuonji, a childhood friend of Ranma who’s a master at cooking up okonomiyaki, and Tsubasa Kurenai, an interesting character who’s in love with Ukyo and wants to battle Ranma to win her affection. These new characters offer a new fold in the formula. Whereas Set 1 featured characters who were infatuated with the two main characters, Ranma and Akane, the addition of characters who are after the affection of these potential suitors allows for some variation in their respective relationships. Story-wise, many episodes are stand-alone experiences, although there are two major story arcs featured in Set 2. The first involves some trouble Ranma finds himself in when he’s unable to turn back into his male form, and the second follows our cast as they try to find a cure for the Chinese curse to much hilarity as all of the afflicted characters trample over one another to find the cure for themselves at the expense of their comrades. This seems like a good time discuss the episode sequencing, which is actually a tad problematic. With this re-issue, Viz Media has taken the opportunity to resequence the episodes to fall more in line with the manga series. While this is much appreciated, it has resulted in somewhat jarring transitions in the opening/ending sequences, for example (this was much more of an issue in Set 1, where episodes went back and forth between opening/ending sequences as later episodes were inserted into earliest spots in the episode sequencing). There’s also a long stretch of episodes in this set that are missing their opening sequences entirely. This resequencing also results in rather abrupt endings to the sets, meaning, in the case of Set 2, that you may be a little lost as it picks up right where Set 1 left off, and Set 2 introduces both Ukyo and Tsubasa right at the end of the set, whereas in the traditional seasons, they didn’t appear until season 3. I wish the team had been able to splice the opening and ending sequences into the episodes to create a linear progression rather than jumping around, but this is really a minor gripe. Some of my favorite episodes of Set 2 include one that explores an interesting tale about a previous engagement that Ranma was entered into by his father in exchange for a meal, which requires Ranma and Akane to take part in a ramen race (that is, all entrants must complete a foot race while taking care not to spill a bowl of ramen that they must carry across the finish line) to get out of. Another features a high school production of Romeo and Juliette with Ranma and Akane in the lead roles, which offers a great opportunity to focus on the relationship between the two characters. Finally, one of the funniest episodes involves Ranma and Happosai and their trip to the public bath house, which of course turns into a nightmare for Ranma as he tries to control Happosai’s urges to sneak into the female side of the bath house. Karen hit the nail on the head with her assessment of the art direction in her review of Set 1, so I won’t belabor the point, but I love (and miss) the attention to detail in the animation and the lack of technical magic that we often see today. The music, too, is excellent, with opening and ending themes that I rarely found myself wanting to skip, and in-show cues that accent important moments, with one dedicated to dark or mysterious moments standing out, and another comical cue that I think is really a signature of Ranma 1/2's comedic style. We reviewed the DVD set, which boasts extras such as clean opening/ending sequences and trailers, but these are unfortunately only accessible from the third and final disc, and cannot be enabled throughout the series, but rather viewed separately. It would have been nice to have included an option to turn on clean openings and endings for the entire series, but perhaps that was technically not possible. There’s some mild nudity found throughout the series and in the main opening sequence featured through Set 2 (although, as mentioned before, the opening sequence is missing in a long stretch of episodes), but it’s minor enough that I personally didn't mind watching alongside my son. I know some parents will not be as comfortable. In all, the developing story and new characters add a new dimension to the series throughout Set 2 of Ranma 1/2. While sexism and stereotypes are still rampant (they constantly note how Ranma’s female form is weaker than his male form), Ranma 1/2 doesn't take itself all that seriously; it’s really meant to be stupid, silly fun. I appreciate the fact that they’re not relying as heavily on the transformation gimmick at this point, but I know that the growing number of characters and ensuing love triangles will start to wear on some viewers in a similar fashion. With five more sets to go, watching Ranma 1/2 is definitely a huge investment, and while I couldn't be more thrilled to charge ahead into the series, I realize that some out there will likely begin experiencing Ranma fatigue towards the end of Set 2. 9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.
Ranma 1/2 Review photo
Ahh, Akane-chan no panty!
Ranma 1/2 was my first anime. Sure, I might have watched a few feature-length titles like Ninja Scroll or Akira before sitting down to watch Ranma 1/2 with my half-Japanese friend who was always up on the latest gam...

Zyuranger photo
Zyuranger

Huzzah: Zyuranger is up on Amazon for pre-order


The Guardian Beasts have made their move
Nov 05
// Salvador GRodiles
At long last, the first dinosaur-themed Sentai series is up on Amazon for pre-order. Best of all, the show's price is only $38.49, which is 30% off the set's $54.99 price tag. In other words, this is a really good deal, since...
Kikaider Reboot photo
Kikaider Reboot

Switch On: Generation Kikaida to release Kikaider Reboot in North America


I'm dreaming of a Robotic Christmas
Nov 01
// Salvador GRodiles
I don't know about you, but 2014 has been a good year for toku fans, since Zyuranger is heading to North America, and two Ultra shows are currently streaming on Crunchyroll, To top off things off, Generation Kikaida/JN Produc...
Zyuranger photo
Zyuranger

Zyuranger's English DVD cover art features too much blue


In which Tricera Ranger steals the show
Oct 23
// Salvador GRodiles
It's been a good while since Shout! Factory announced their plan to release Zyuranger on DVD, and the company has revealed an image of the show's cover art. Based on the design, the cover doesn't look too bad-- even...
Kamen Rider Gaim photo
Kamen Rider Gaim

Zawame City's map gets redesigned in Gaim's home release


R.I.P., Gotham City-like map
Oct 16
// Salvador GRodiles
Do you remember the time when Kamen Rider Gaim featured a map of Zawame City that resembled Gotham City? Well, that moment is now gone, since the Blu-ray/DVD version of the show's 33rd episode contained a different map from t...
Zyuranger photo
Zyuranger

SDCC '14: Shout! Factory to release Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger on DVD


Earth's Legendary Warriors finally go west
Jul 26
// Salvador GRodiles
Ladies and gentlemen. I would like to announce that hell has frozen over. Why you say? Well, it turns out that Shout! Factory has plans to bring Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger to North America. As a person who's been ...
Licensing photo
Licensing

Licensing GET: Discotek grabs Shin Mazinger Z Impact


Discotek Media is on a roll
Jun 16
// Salvador GRodiles
Today is a joyous day for Go Nagai and super robot anime fans everywhere. Discotek Media has announced on their Facebook page that they've licensed Shin Mazinger Z Impact (a.k.a. Shin Mazinger: Shogeki Z-Hen!). As a pers...
Junjou Romantica photo
Junjou Romantica

Junjou Romantica getting a DVD Litebox re-release


Love lives!
Jun 12
// Kristina Pino
Shungiku Nakamura's Junjou Romantica remains a relevant title for overseas fans these days, it seems, because Nozomi Entertainment announced they'll be re-releasing the entire first season this September in one 3-disc package...

Review: Princess Nine

May 13 // Karen Mead
Princess Nine DVD Complete Series Publisher: Nozomi/Lucky Penny Release Date: April 1, 2014 MSRP: $39.99 Ryo Hayakawa is the daughter of a great baseball pitcher, although she doesn't know it. She's just minding her own business, playing in a casual sandlot baseball team whenever she's not needed at her mother's tiny restaurant, only to suddenly be offered a scholarship to a prestigious high school out of the blue. Keiko Himuro, the wealthy and dignified president of Kisaragi Girls High School, is deadset on forming an all-girls baseball team, and she wants Ryo in her lineup -- but is it just for her pitching arm, or is there another reason? And will the team see the light of day when not only the school administration, but even Himuro's own daughter, are against it? Princess Nine starts off its 26-episode run with lot of intriguing questions, and in that respect, it doesn't disappoint. I was very impressed with the writing in this series; while it did follow the predictable route of a sports anime in many respects, there were enough deviations from the norm to keep things feeling fresh and exciting. What's interesting is that instead of being a typical shonen sports anime, this is truly a shoujo sports anime; baseball often takes a back seat to relationships. Part of the reason why the story feels fresh is because it deviates from the game to explore the characters for surprising amounts of time, but for that very reason, baseball lovers might be disappointed with the relatively small amount of actual baseball played. While some characters are cut from familiar molds, including Ryo, others have surprises in store. I found Keiko Himuro to be a fascinating character; a rare adult female who has a character arc that has nothing to do with her children. Coach Kido, while basically being Tom Hanks' character from A League of Their Own (which Princess Nine bears many superficial resemblances to), ends up being a lot of fun. Every girl who joins the team adds something new to the table, and even background characters like the regulars who frequent Ryo's mother's restaurant end up having memorable roles to play. While not every character has loads of depth, quite a few of them do, and finding out what makes them all tick is a big part of the appeal of the show. Production-wise, this show is a mixed bag in a very particular way I don't think I've ever seen before. While the art is typical, low-budget '90s anime TV series fare, it seems as though incredible care was taken with the music and the sound design in general. The score, by Masamichi Amano, was performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and the pedigree shows. While the music adds an almost palpable sense of gravitas to the show's more dramatic scenes, I found there was often a disconnect between the art and the music; you would have this amazing, truly epic orchestral score in the background, only the art looks like it could have been taken from any low-budget show circa 1998. That's not to say the animation is poor; it's at the very least adequate, and occasionally even dynamic and exciting during the baseball scenes. It's just that it's usually very typical, workmanlike art and animation (complete with shortcuts like repeated stock footage use) that seems at odds with the high-quality score. Other than this disconnect (which is only a problem insofar as the music is actually so much better than expected), I only have one problem with the show, but unfortunately, it's a doozy. As befitting a shoujo show, there's a dramatic love triangle between the earnest Ryo, snobby genius Izumi Himuro (Keiko's aforementioned daughter), and Hiroki Takasugi, a batting prodigy for the Kisaragi Boys High team. Early on, I didn't mind the love triangle and found that it added an interesting tension to Izumi and Ryo's rivalry. However, by the end, the love triangle completely overwhelms the show and it all degenerates into melodrama; romance tropes that seem beneath the level of the writing on the rest of the show start to rear their trite heads, and baseball gets sidelined in pursuit of the answer to the all-important "Who does Hiroki like?" question. But that's not all; the fact that the love triangle becomes more prominent may be a negative for many viewers, but that's not what made me want to destroy the discs. No, the real problem is that the way the love triangle is depicted seems to undermine the entire message of the show. While Ryo and Izumi's performance on the field becomes increasingly compromised due to their feelings for Hiroki, there's no indication that Hiroki's own athletic performance is ever affected by the romantic turmoil in his life. This double standard ironically serves to reinforce exactly the kind of sexist stereotypes that the rest of the show seemingly exists to challenge. Maybe it was unintentional, but the implication seems to be that while girls may be talented at sports, they can't keep their pretty little heads in the game once romance is involved, while guys have control over their feelings. Given the overwhelmingly progressive nature of the rest of the show, I found this development infuriating. Your mileage may vary; after all, Princess Nine has been out for over a decade and has a pretty stellar reputation, so obviously, not all viewers have the same problem with how the love triangle developed that I do. After all, Ryo and Izumi are depicted as unquestionably two of the best athletes around, of any gender; how strong do they have to be for the show not to be sexist? Still, the fact remains that the way the whole thing played out left a sour taste in my mouth, and I have to be honest about that. If you put aside possible issues with the story, this release from Lucky Penny is pretty flawless. Not only do you get the entire series for under $40, but for once, the set is full of extras. May of them, like the History of Baseball in Japan feature and the voice actress stats, are just some extra text, but the features devoted to the performance of the music by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra are fascinating. Keep in mind, you need to have subtitles turned on to see the subtitles on the special features; if you're watching the dub, the features will play unsubbed. Speaking of the dub, I thought it was adequate without being memorable. Hilary Haag turns in a strong performance as Ryo, as do some of her teammates, but I thought Vic Mignogna's Hiroki lacked the suave quality of Takehito Koyasu's performance and left the character devoid of his original charm. Some of the other performances, like Jennifer K. Earhart as team manager Nene, are kind of grating and made me want to switch back to the Japanese track. In short, if you're a dub-only watcher a few strong performances make watching Princess Nine in English a worthwhile endeavor, but all else being equal I recommend the original language track. So, where does that leave me? I love Princess Nine; I also kind of hate Princess Nine. But I only hate it because I got so invested in the story, which means it's a good show, right? But it can't be that good, otherwise I wouldn't have wanted to use the discs for skeet shooting practice after it ended, right? I have no idea; I'll probably still be puzzling this one out for a while. In the meantime you may want to pick up this series if you'd like to see the interesting combination of a hardball story with a decidedly softball aesthetic; it has an awful lot going for it, and the price is certainly right. And maybe when you're done you can join my new club, where we burn effigies of Hiroki Takasugi and talk about the Princess Nine that might have been if only the dumb love interest had never existed. 7.0 -- A show with many fantastic qualities that drowns in its own melodrama by the end, and seemingly undermines its own premise at times. Nevertheless, when it's good it's very, very good, and the score is peerless.
Princess Nine photo
Dirt, fastballs and romance
At the beginning, I loved Princess Nine. It may be a cliche to say "I laughed, I cried!", but the fact is, I really did laugh and cry. The show seemed to be capable of doing something nigh-impossible: present a story unabashe...

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 1

May 06 // Karen Mead
Ranma 1/2 DVD Set 1 Publisher: Viz Media Release Date: March 25, 2014 MSRP: $44.82 Ranma Saotome is a talented martial artist with a very peculiar curse; when doused with cold water, he changes sex and becomes a curvy red-haired girl. His father, cursed in a similar manner to become a giant panda, has arranged for him to be married to young Akane Tendo so that he can one day take over the Tendo School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. However, Akane is a tomboy who has no interest in marrying a boy, let alone a boy who turns into a girl, and Ranma just wants to get his curse removed...or so he says. Such is the beginning of one of the most beloved anime rom-coms of all time. Needless to say, many other characters vie for the affections of Ranma and Akane respectively (sometimes simultaneously), and plenty of other characters magically turn into stuff when they get wet, and mayhem ensues. Literally rinse and repeat. I expected to spend a portion of this review talking about whether the animation from a show originally broadcast in 1989 "holds up," in today's parlance. Instead, a curious thing happened; though I knew it couldn't be true, when I began watching it really seemed to me like the visuals in Ranma 1/2 were actually better than current fare. How could that possibly be? The colors are often dull, the character designs simple, and the technology at work was primitive compared to the tools that animators have at their disposal these days. So how is it that I find Ranma 1/2 more visually appealing than 90% of the anime I see today? What I eventually realized was that it wasn't that the animation was particularly fluid, but that everything was consistent and well-storyboarded. Too often in modern anime, the focus is split between action scenes (where the studios sink most of their money) and static talking-head scenes that exist to provide info dumps and save money. In Ranma 1/2, that distinction doesn't seem to exist; even seemingly mundane scenes feature a fair amount of movement. Characters are constantly doing acrobatics, throwing things, jumping out of windows, changing into animals, etc. The overall effect can feel a bit like Looney Tunes at times, but what it means is that the show is full of motion. The world of Ranma Saotome and the Tendo sisters feels vibrant and alive, and that more than makes up for the dated animation techniques and frequent lack of detail. Maybe I'm crazy, but it feels so much more like a finished product than a lot of what we see today; I really wish shows still looked like this. Plus, despite the fact that modern anime has tried to turn cute into a science, I honestly find Akana and Ranma much cuter than most characters these days. The story doesn't fare quite as well from a modern perspective. In fact, if you're a viewer who likes to look at things through the lens of gender politics, you will have an absolute field day with this show. There's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is sexist; one of the first things anyone says to Akane on the show is that if she keeps up being such a tomboy, she'll never find herself a husband. Ranma frequently opines that having to be a girl at times is "humiliating," yet claims his female version is better than Akane since girl-type Ranma has bigger breasts. In fact, Ranma is frequently downright brutal to his future bride; when he's not getting on her case for being unfeminine, he's lording his superior martial arts skills over her. Akane spends much of the series violently angry, and it's for good reason. Some viewers are bound to be turned off by these things, and that's fair. However, personally I don't see it that way; to me, complaining about sexism in Ranma 1/2 is kind of like watching an episode of I Love Lucy from the 1950s and complaining that Ricky orders Lucy around too much. It is sexist, but I think you need to take it in the context of its time and place, and also realize that the show subverts its own apparent sexism at times. After all, if Akane is supposedly so unattractive to boys due to her tomboy ways, why are virtually all the guys on the show head-over-heels in love with her? The show is actually more sexist on the surface than it is deep down where it matters, if that makes any sense. There's a lot of talk that "Boys are like this, girls are like this," but the characters themselves really don't practice what they preach. Furthermore, whatever misgivings some might have about the overall arc of the story, there's no denying that Ranma 1/2 is king when it comes to physical comedy. It's the little touches, like Akane's father diving for cover right before she decks Ranma with a table, that make the jokes work. Granted, the humor does get repetitive fairly quickly -- and there seem to be an awful lot of full buckets of water just hanging around for no reason -- but still, the show has a ton of great visual gags up its sleeve. At its best, the over-the-top martial arts action reaches a level of absurdity that's kind of genius. The martial arts rhythmic gymnastics competition featured in this volume is one such incident, and martial arts-figure skating isn't far behind. And even when the action isn't that riveting, Akane is such a likable character that it's just fun looking in on her daily life. There're also plenty of supporting and minor characters who each bring their own brand of humor, quite successfully. You really can't go wrong with either language track here; despite the occasional awkwardness that plagues all early English anime dubs, I think the English cast for Ranma 1/2 really threw themselves into this in a way that's all too rare. Particular standouts are Myriam Sirois, who makes for a feisty but good-hearted Akane, and Angela Costain, who's delightfully acerbic as Akane's manipulative sister Nabiki Tendo. I'm also rather fond of Sarah Strange as male Ranma, since she seems to have a gift for making Ranma seem nice even when he's saying awful things to Akane that you want to slap him for. This release is light on extras; the only thing on offer here besides trailers is a brief featurette filmed at NYCC 2013, featuring some Ranma cosplayers. It's a nice idea in theory, but the whole thing is maybe two minutes long, so it shouldn't effect anyone's purchasing decision. Personally I think the episodes themselves are worth the purchase, but it would have been nice if there was at least some bonus art or something; I'm hopeful that future volumes might have more to offer. Ranma 1/2 may not be for everyone; it calls back to a lot of sexist stereotypes, it's often juvenile in its humor, and even during the first season, can start to feel repetitive. However, at its best it's a riotous blend of over-the-top, well-choreographed martial arts action with many lovable characters and jokes to spare. If that sounds like something you might enjoy, no one does it better than this. 9.0 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. Its example will be copied or taken into account by almost anything that follows it.  
Ranma 1/2 photo
Anything Goes in this comedy classic
The wacky ensemble comedy of Ranma 1/2 occupies an interesting niche in Western anime fandom. The show wasn't likely to be someone's "first anime," in the way that contemporaries Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z generally w...

Berserk photo
Berserk

Third Berserk Golden Arc trilogy film available on Blu-ray and DVD


There should have been a fourth movie
Apr 17
// Brittany Vincent
If you didn't already know this about me, I'm a huge Berserk fan. I've even got Guts' brand tattooed on my left shoulder. If I could, I'd have my own behelit. Alas, the best I can hope for is getting to watch the third and fi...

Review: Blessing of the Campanella

Mar 17 // LB Bryant
Blessing of the Campanella Complete Collection (DVD)Studio: AICLicensed by: Right StufRelease Date: 2/4/14MSRP: $49.99 Let's dispense with this right away... this is a moe harem series through and through. All of the characters are designed to be cute and lovable and the fan service is plentiful. This is a series where you are meant to find at least one character to attach yourself to and feel something special about them. Not that this is a bad thing; not in the least. I'm just letting everyone know ahead of time that if you're looking for some sword-clanging Record of Lodoss War-style fantasy action, you're going to be very disappointed.  If you're going into this series realizing that what you're getting is pure fluff, you'll find that this isn't a bad release at all. It's actually quite fun once you dispose yourself of the notion that Blessing of the Campanella is going to deliver anything particularly hard-hitting or deep. This is twelve episodes (thirteen if you count the OVA episode bundled as an extra) of cute wrapped up in adorable.  As you go through it you're bound to notice all sorts of fun little treats and tidbits. For instance, this is a surprisingly musical series, filled with various theme and insert songs. None of the songs are particularly wonderful (this series isn't trying to be K-ON after all) but they are certainly catchy and so don't be surprised if you find yourself whistling or humming one or more songs from this series long after you've finished watching it.  The big complaint that I have with Blessing of the Campanella is that it relies way too much on fan service to sell the female characters to the audience. Breast shots and bathing scenes are common throughout the series to the point of being pointless and distracting. Hell, one of the extras included on each disc are various 3D animated bathing scenes of the different female characters, which are nothing more than two minute nude scenes. Seriously.  Ignoring that one complaint though, Blessing of the Campanella has a solid story progression all the way through the series. The first few episodes are dedicated to introducing the characters and developing their personalities. We eventually learn everything we want to know about where Minette came from, and why the villain named Aberdeen wants to kidnap her and use her for his own nefarious purposes. The climax has everyone coming together to fix a major problem with their world, and wraps up in a satisfying manner. Overall I enjoyed this series though. It's fun and never takes itself too seriously, which is exactly the right attitude to have when watching this. Go and pick this one up if you're looking for a lighthearted fantasy romp.  Score: 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.
Review: Campanella photo
Fantasy world boobies
In 2010, Funimation simulcasted a fantasy series called Blessing of the Campanella and then, once concluded, it quietly went away. For months no one brought it up again until 2013 when Right Stuf revealed at a summer convent...

K Blu-ray photo
K Blu-ray

Viz to put out K as an A-grade Blu-ray combo pack


Pretty boys and pretty pack-ins
Feb 21
// Josh Tolentino
Much as I've embraced our digital media future, I still have a soft spot in my heart for sweet physical extras. After all, I did once buy a copy of Sakura Taisen that I didn't have a machine for just to get a hilarious-l...
Braving Inwards. photo
Braving Inwards.

Come meet the Kyoryugers of 100 years in the future


What is this sophisticated child-generating technology?
Jan 27
// Chris Walden
We do still have a few weeks of dinosaur-related sentai action, but if the conclusion to the story and a few movies don't seem like enough content for you, why not get excited for the upcoming special? Set 100 years after th...
Amazing Nuts photo
Amazing Nuts

Check out these Amazing Nuts, soon from Discotek


We love the cream, really.
Jan 17
// Jeff Chuang
Amazing Nuts is the kind of thing you normally would not expect to see announced as an oversea license, but it's good news no matter if you like this Studio 4°C music video anthology or not. I'm glad to see this great pie...

Review: Vividred Operation

Jan 04 // Karen Mead
Vividred Operation DVD Complete SetStudio: A-1 PicturesLicensed by: Aniplex of AmericaRelease Date: December 17, 2013MSRP: $74.98 First, the good, and there is a fair amount of it. This is a pretty great-looking show, with fluid animation and some fun design work. I found the characters themselves to be pretty generic-looking, but the crisp artwork and vibrant color palette is consistently appealing. The scenes of the girls using their super-powered Palette Suits to fly over the ocean, both in combat and out, are filled with a sense of genuine exuberance that few anime are able to capture; at times, you almost feel like you're flying yourself. The show has more than cosmetic appeal too, since it has an intriguing setting. Instead of the typical current-day-Japan, our gals live in a near-future where all of the world's energy problems have been solved by a brilliant invention called the Manifestation Engine. Due to the abundance of clean energy, the people of Vividred are basically living in a utopia, and they know it. Of course, when the mysterious bio-machines only known as the Alone start to attack the Manifestation Engine, the utopian setting makes the sudden violence all the more striking. How ironic if, after humans had finally found the means to stop fighting among themselves over resources, the very machine that enabled true world peace led to destruction from without? All of that rather interesting stuff is secondary to what Vividred Operation is really about though, which is admiring middle-school girls from behind as closely and as often as possible: Think I'm exaggerating here? I took both these screenshots during the first minute of the show. The first MINUTE. I feel kind of like I'm beating a dead horse here just by mentioning the sexualization of young girls, since most fans know by now that shows featuring girls this age tend to feature fanservice to appeal to male otaku ("Constant butt shots? It must be Tuesday!") However, if I let it go unremarked, I feel like I'm just accepting it as the status quo, and I don't think that's right either. In the case of Vividred, the constant closeups of gleaming butts-- because yes, they gleam-- render the show inappropriate for younger viewers, whom the show is actually better suited for thematically than an adult audience. See, if the only problem with this show was the amount of fanservice, that would create an interesting little ethical dilemma for me over whether or not I could recommend it, but that's not the case. Vividred Operation has a lot of problems aside from the butts. All the interesting sci-fi stuff about the Manifestation Engine never really goes anywhere, the show doesn't really capitalize on its setting, the action is mostly predictable, and characters tend toward the bland and underdeveloped. I found the first few episodes downright tedious to watch due to their predictability, and while the show admittedly gets better as it goes along, it still never deals with any theme more complex than "The power of friendship can save the world!" Furthermore, the extent to which the show copies from other popular properties is striking. Like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, it's a sci-fi magical girl show-- meaning, the girls' transformations are powered by tech rather than magic. There's nothing wrong with being inspired by Nanoha, however, the mascot character in Vividred ends up being a talking ferret- just like Nanoha. Rei Kuroki, the token "Dark magical girl" has a lot in common with Madoka's Homura Akemi; in fact, the whole show often feels like a kind of poor-man's Madoka. Add in the fact the Alone often seem like very literal copies of the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Vividred rapidly starts to feel like a scrapbook, cataloging items from better shows. Go ahead, shoot that arrow Homura Rei! All this, I could probably forgive if the magical/tech fights were interesting, but they generally aren't. The girls immediately know how to use their new powers upon getting their Palette Suits, so there's no fun to be had by watching them learn the ropes. In every fight, the girls transform, and sometimes merge together to form a more powerful magical girl using a system called "Docking," which naturally involves getting into their panties and kissing each other. Every attack is called out with a name like "Naked Blade!" or "Naked Collider!" just in case the sexual overtones of all of this were somehow too subtle for us. I do think the advanced forms the girls attain by Docking, like Vivid Blue and Vivid Green, look pretty neat, but you can always just buy the inevitable figure and skip the anime. Vivid BLUUUUEEEEEE!!!!!! I really don't know who to recommend this show to; as I alluded above, the simplistic nature of the action and the plot lends itself to a younger audience, but a younger audience probably shouldn't be seeing the constant parade of butt and crotch shots. On the plus side, the show does have a proper ending instead of one of those "Keep your wallet ready for the sequel" deals, so if you're one of the few people this show legitimately appeals to, at least you won't be left hanging. You know, wanting to look at shapely butts doesn't make you a bad person; we all have our weaknesses. I mean, if they released an OVA that was just Shizuo from Durarara!! doing push-ups, I would totally watch that. But what's a shame about Vividred Operation is that it clearly had the potential to be more. 5.0 – Average. This one’s just “okay”. It has many flaws, and just couldn’t follow through on its intentions or had ones that were simply too narrow to warrant consideration. Some will still enjoy it, but should temper their expectations, or perhaps just opt to pass. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.    
Vividred Operation photo
It sure is vivid
I knew basically nothing going into Vividred Operation. I wasn't watching much anime during the Winter 2013 season anyway, and Vividred kind of got blurred together with all those other shows in that broad category of "cute g...

Review: Good Luck Girl

Jan 02 // Brittany Vincent
Good Luck Girl [BD+DVD] Studio: SunriseLicensed by FUNimationRelease Date: 11/19/13MSRP: $69.98 Good Luck Girl follows Ichiko Sakura, a high school student with far too much good fortune. She's beautiful, popular, rich, and intelligent. She's also a bit of a jerk. She sits on her high horse, looking down on the helpless, ugly, and penniless peons. But she's quick to put on a facade if she believes she must to get ahead. Ichiko is ruthless, and she cares not what others think of her. That all changes when Momiji enters her life -- through a toilet, no less. Momiji is the god of poverty, and she's been tasked with taking a little bit of that good luck Ichiko has in droves and spreading it out to those around her. Little by little, Momiji draws the good luck out of Ichiko using a hilariously huge needle. If she doesn't Ichiko will continue sapping it from others as their quality of life continues to decline while hers improves. Even her butler feels the effects of her sucking the luck out of the air around her, nearly succumbing to a heart attack before Momiji can balance out the good fortune Ichiko's been hoarding. It probably sounds pretty dark, right? Sometimes it can be. It's surprisingly adept at handling sensitive situations when it comes to Ichiko and her selfish ways, but overall this is a comedy that draws from the dynamic between Ichiko and Momiji. Momiji's a quick-witted loose cannon who, weirdly enough, also likes to cosplay. Think of her as a less sex-crazed version of Panty traipsing around in Lupin the 3rd outfits. There's no plan that's too out there for her to sneakily usurp Ichiko's good fortune from her, and that's where some of the funniest situations arise. Ichiko and Momiji bicker like an old married couple, though over the course of thirteen episodes they grow to bond over a strained friendship, as one slowly begins to understand the other. While there are male supporting characters (and some particularly weird ones) to speak of, the plot progresses at a nice pace while managing to focus solely on Ichiko and her personal growth. Despite disgusting monsters posing as maids and perverted monks making for some inane moments here and there, there are heartfelt and profound times as well, and that's what kept me interested beyond the laugh-a-minute script I was impressed with. It's a surprisingly poignant mixture of slapstick comedy and outlandish situations that you might actually learn a thing or two from. There can be good in the heart of the rudest person, and perhaps they can't help their rough edges. These types of themes give me the impression that Good Luck Girl could have been produced in a simpler time, before moe blossomed into the industry-enveloping shadow it is today. Even the animation hearkens back to an earlier time, and that makes it a sort of anime comfort food for me. Good Luck Girl is a dark horse you probably haven't heard of (or will hear of in the months to come) but it's an excellent series with plenty to offer: hilarious references, thoughtful character backgrounds, and an excellent script, in both the English and Japanese versions. It may be a little slow to reach a "resolution," but the journey is worth taking, especially if you like a more traditional approach to character studies with wacky dynamics like those of Ichiko and Momiji's. And you just can't say no to characters who cosplay. It's an iron-clad rule for gals. 8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
Good Luck Girl photo
Way too much luck to go around
When I first started watching Good Luck Girl, I had just finished up the sex comedy B Gata H Kei (Yamada's First Time), which was surprisingly hilarious given its lack of actual sex. I'm a big supporter of anime comedies, esp...

Ranma 1/2 photo
Ranma 1/2

Viz announces date for first Ranma 1/2 Blu-ray


Get ready to YAPAPA on March 25th
Dec 21
// Pedro Cortes
Ranma 1/2 was the second anime that I watched as a teen, after Dragon Ball Z. To say it holds a happy little niche in my heart would be an understatement. I got a full year of enjoyment out of that show and I've always wanted...
Space Adventure Cobra photo
Space Adventure Cobra

Space Adventure Cobra gets release date


Nozomi Entertainment are bringing us the goods
Nov 13
// Pedro Cortes
Nozomi Entertainment, the folks who brought us shows like Boogiepop Phantom, Revolutionary Girl Utena and Martian Successor Nadesico, let us know that the first part of the classic action show Space Adventure Cobra will be co...

Review: High School DxD Season 1

Nov 08 // Jeff Chuang
High School DxD Season 1 (Blu-ray/DVD) Studio: TNKLicensed by: FUNimationRelease Date: August 20, 2013MSRP: 64.98 Well, not so fast; how can we, for a review of High School DxD, skip over the fanservice? I think if you enjoy sexy dynamite bodies, lacking a better term, you will like this honest and straightforward boobs anime. The Japanese promo material on the second disc, available as bonus content, says as much--it's a boobie anime. If you like them knockers, this thing has it. I would even go so far as to complement on Rias Gremory's design in general--both dressed and undressed, she has a really well-done character design. It happens when the character's silhouette works so well that the shape of her hair draws your attention to her fierce, but perfect face (and on down). It's good that she's a well-designed character, since High School DxD features Rias an awful lot--both in terms of marketing material and also how the anime puts her in some pretty cool still shots. Alongside her are Akeno, the Japanese, Yamato Nadeshiko-type; Asia, the innocent sister; and Koneko, the smooth-and-flat representative of the bunch. There are others, but not as important (well, save for fellow club member/demon brother-in-arm Yuuto). While I can't hurl as many complements to the rest of the gang purely on a visual level, I think the group rounds out the fanservice elements sufficiently. For me, the lead male character often makes or breaks any kind of a harem setting. In High School DxD, I think Issei gets a pass. He's earnest and hard to dislike. The guy is humble enough and knows to play it like a shy boy when it's appropriate, on occasion borrowing the best attributes from classic playboy heroes like Kintaro Oe. For better or worse, however, High School DxD sets him in a “must get stronger” sort of story where Issei has to step up and pull his weight for the team. It's frankly kind of dull, but the simple vehicle doesn't get in the way of the fanservice, and is inoffensive for the most part. There is a consistent team theme going on throughout the story. The way High School DxD sets up the primary relationships in the first season has to do with how Rias grows her demon family. Like vampires, I guess, the demons in High School DxD can resurrect dead humans and turn them into “reborn” demons. Demons can also give birth to other “pureblood” demons. The demons fight against angels, fallen angels (who may team up with other agents, such as human demon hunters and combat priests), and among themselves, in a three-way balance of power. While season one of High School DxD doesn't get into the setting too much, one thing we do learn is that humans are randomly bestowed with "sacred gears," and all these faction fight over humans with good ones. As you've probably already guessed, our protagonist happens to have an extremely powerful sacred gear. The story focuses on how Rias establishes her family, and also Rias's own role in the society of demons, including the whole Rating Game business where fellow demons compete for societal status in a game of human (demon?) chess. By bringing in Asia and Issei into her family, Rias establishes herself not only in a way that is meaningful to her position, but also in a way that meets her emotional needs. In turn, Rias's guidance and vulnerability complement Issei and Asia's needs too. As the only romantic triangle in the first season, this is a subtly interesting angle to present. And maybe it's for the best. Unlike most harem anime, there are little reasons for High School DxD to spend time with awkward social situations between a dense protagonist and a hot haremette in order to exploit that fanservice element as a slapstick joke. Akeno and Rias simply jget naked on their own, sometimes for no good reason, and all the anime has to do is to show it. This leaves Issei focused on getting stronger (and tearing clothes off Asia). The show is probably at its weakest when Issei, along with his male classmates, sexually harasses the girls at school. We get the point that Issei's mind is full of naughty girl parts, let's move on. Actually, there is another thing that bugged me--the whole nipples-visible-through-the-clothes visual effect. It's just not my thing, especially when it happens to Rias and Akeno while they are wearing their normal school uniforms. It's also kind of random; on occasion you will see their nipples through their outfits, sometimes not. Maybe it's supposed to indicate that they don't wear bras? In any case, I feel like it cheapens the show (as if it wasn't cheap enough), and more importantly, it distracts you from enjoying the alluring character designs. As for production values, High School DxD is competent. The home video release is uncensored, as it should be. The animation quality is okay, although there has to be some praises heaped upon the ending animation. “Study x Study” is a catchy StylipS song, but, those pole dancing moves are definitely animated with more frames then usual, right? They look pretty nice. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes with a good amount of on-disc bonuses. For one, the English dub cast provides commentary tracks for episodes 1 and 7. The aforementioned promo materials are available (subbed only) as well as the original Japanese bonus featurettes, in case you want to see more boobs (or tentacle udon noodles). FUNimation's own ads as well as the original Japanese ads are present, and also the credit-free OP/ED videos. For your information, this review is based on the Blu-ray disc contents, although the screencaps are from DVDs. The voice acting on High School DxD is kind of a mixed bag. The Japanese dub did a decent job of portraying Rias as a cool beauty, and so did the English dub, although the latter came across a little too matter-of-factly. The English Issei is terrific, though. The rest of the gallery sounds about what you would expect from a typical FUNimation dub, although there are a few first-timers in this cast. It's probably worth noting that the Japanese versions of Akeno and Asia sound about as exaggerated as their English counterparts. If you look a little deeper at High School DxD, you might actually find some interesting themes. The one I latched on is how Asia's feeling for Issei serves as a foil for Rias's feeling for Issei; they are drastically different yet surprisingly similar. It's exactly this kind of thing that you miss out if you write off High School DxD as a pure boobs show. Make no mistake, it still is a pure boobs show; but the boobs aren't the only thing the series has to offer. The point I realized that something else might be happening with this series was during an early moment, when Issei got into a debate about Dragon Ball Z: FUNimation's famous bumper is "You Should Be Watching." I wondered at first: should anyone actually be watching High School DXD, with its nipple protrusions? Is this really a good way to spend your time and money? And in true otaku anime fashion, the answer is “yes, but.” If you're willing to look past the surface for some deeper themes, you may be surprised to actually find some here. However, for a lot of viewers, the fanservice is all they will see, and that's okay as long as that's what you want. If nothing else, you could just watch the ED on loop for a while. 6.0 – Okay. 6's are flawed, but still enjoyable. These titles (say "titles" ten times fast) may not have attempted to do anything special or interesting, but they are nonetheless enjoyable. These typically make great rental fodder or bargain grab.
High School DxD photo
Devil's chess with fanservice
Sometimes, companies like FUNimation license certain titles that meet a certain kind of demand. And there’s no beating around the bush for these shows: sex sells. Although these fanservice-heavy anime rarely feature act...

Tiger & Bunny-sensei photo
Tiger & Bunny-sensei

Tiger & Bunny step up to fight...languages?


Enjoy your education with a refreshing glass of Pepsi Nex.
Oct 14
// Chris Walden
There are plenty of weird and wonderful guides in the English language that aim to teach you Japanese. This in mind, it doesn't seem at all strange that Japan's anime industry would want to try something similar for teaching ...
Redline on Youtube photo
Redline on Youtube

Redline is now free to watch on Youtube!


R-R-R-Really!
Oct 04
// Chris Walden
It's the evening, and you're winding down from what has probably been a busy week. You think about what you could possibly do for some rest and relaxation over the coming weekend, to fully prep your mind and body for another...
Tiger & Bunny  photo
Tiger & Bunny

Viz reveals their plans for Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning


Kotetsu and Barnaby are almost ready to suit up again.
Sep 24
// Salvador GRodiles
September is almost over, and Viz is ready to give us the rundown on the upcoming release of the first Tiger & Bunny movie! Obviously, the Blu-ray version will be the one to go for, as it comes with the most extras. I mea...
Ranma 1/2 photo
Ranma 1/2

VIZ's anything goes martial arts technique: Re-releases


Ranma 1/2 coming back strong next year
Sep 18
// Josh Totman
This is the kind of news that this old-timer likes to hear. The long awaited return of Ranma ½ is on its way back out into the wild. VIZ Media sent us some of the details on what’s going to be happening to the se...
Ranma photo
Ranma

Otakon 13': Viz announces Ranma on BD and streaming


Splash me with some hot water
Aug 12
// Josh Totman
Thank you Viz! Thank you very much! I have the bad confession that I didn't buy the Ranma 1/2 TV series DVD box sets when they were available. Probably because I was still in a small bit of rage over how much I spent on the V...
Gundam UC Part 3 photo
Gundam UC Part 3

Right Stuf launches a release date for Gundam UC Part 3


Three release dates down, one more to go.
Jul 31
// Salvador GRodiles
If you don't mind owning Gundam Unicorn in standard definition, Right Stuf has revealed an actual date for Gundam Unicorn Part 3. The actual date for the next DVD set will be on the 5th of November.  I know I'm being del...
Fate/Zero BD/DVD photo
Fate/Zero BD/DVD

Huzzah! Fate/Zero gets a NA BD/DVD release with the dub


Maybe this time you won't pay a bajillion dollars!
Jul 08
// Elliot Gay
I'm in love with Ufotable's Fate/Zero anime adaptation.  On a technical level, it's a beautiful looking show with fantastic direction, a great soundtrack, and amazing cinematography. In fact, I loved it so much that I bo...
Right Stuf's new goodies  photo
Right Stuf's new goodies

AX 2013: Right Stuf grabs Princess Nine and more


A former ADV series is back on the field!
Jul 06
// Salvador GRodiles
Oh good, it seems that a Princess Knight riot didn't occur during Right Stuff's Friday panel. Seeing how all of Right Stuf's divisions have announced something, we can assume that no one got injured during the presentation at...

Review: Natsume's Book of Friends Season 3

Jul 03 // Jeff Chuang
Natsume's Book of Friends Season 3 Premium Edition Blu-ray/DVDStudio: Brains BaseLicensed by: NIS AmericaRelease Date: October 9, 2012MSRP: $69.99 It's not unusual for the third series of a franchise to take a dip in terms of the intensity and interest. Thankfully for season 3 of Natsume's Book of Friends, the story actually gets better while looking as good as it always does. A big part of season 3's charms belongs to the added cast of human friends around Takashi. From his adoptive guardians to his classmates, we now see the lives of the people around him and how Takashi's youkai-related adventures affect them in a direct way. Some of the youkai that showed up in seasons one and two also returns in season three, giving those of us who stuck with it additional emotional value. The plot also kicks up a notch as Takashi walks further down the road of the modern exorcist. Not only Takashi's celebrity friend slash exorcist Natori is similarly gifted, but he becomes Takashi's connection to a secret society of excorists who use and manipulate the spiritual for their own gains. Thanks to that, season 3 of Natsume's Book of Friends is more exciting, now with real antagonists in the form of selfish and misguided human drama, mixing things up with the usual everyday pieces. Even the everyday pieces improved in season three, I think, because now Takashi doesn't have to carry the spotlight the entire time. Sharing it with the poor sap for two seasons is enough; his new friends break up the monotony for both Takashi and Nyanko-sensei. Tanuma and Taki both get a lot of lines towards the second half of season 3. At least now Taki can join in on the never-ending running joke about Nyanko-sensei's appearance. The NISA's release itself is as you would expect from NISA's premium line. The solid box and artbook continues in the same theme as the seasons 1 and 2 box. The artbook looks similar to the Book of Friends, while containing similarly, a list of monsters along with other key data from the show.  The two thinpaks contain a DVD and a Blu-ray Disc each. For this review only the Blu-ray version is tested, and the first nine episodes are on the first disc. The bonus material and the rest of the series resides on the second. With simple menus, this force-subtitled, Japanese dub-only release does the job; colors looked good and things sounded as you would expect. It's not fancy but this show isn't exactly the most flashy thing. The on-disc bonuses are similar to the first box--just the TV commercials and clean OP/ED sequences. In general, production value for season three of Natsume's Book of Friends meet or exceed seasons one and two. Directionally, however, season three is simply more of the same--and there is no reason why they should change a formula that has worked so well. For more details, please refer to our review of NISA's premium edition release of seasons one and two. The music and visuals remain pleasing and effective, if a bit out of the way from the viewer's attention other than the occasional striking impact shot. What's most notable in season three, besides the amplified drama, is the voice acting. Natsume's Book of Friends already begins with a very solid veteran voice acting cast, but with season three the work is spread around, giving both the old voices more life and room to expand on what was working, and allowing the new voices to simply highlight on what was missing from the first two seasons. At the same time, though, while Natsume's Book of Friends season three avoids some of the really sappy trapping from seasons one and two, Takashi Natsume still feels like a wet rag in terms of his worthiness in advancing the plot. There may be more fujoshi pandering in season three, also--it can be hard to tell given how this show always had that tendency. What I do know is that season three simply has more variety than seasons one and two, despite featuring fewer slices of monster stories. However after three iterations, I'd say the variety is necessary to keep things interesting and fresh. 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.
Natsume Review photo
Meet Natsume's new friends
The third season of Natsume Yuujinchou is where the story shifts into the next gear. In similar fashion, NISA's Natsume's Book of Friends Season 3 Premium Edition ups the ante by becoming a Blu-ray/DVD combo release. This NIS...

Review: Natsume's Book of Friends Season 1 & 2

Jul 01 // Jeff Chuang
Natsume's Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Premium Edition DVDStudio: Brains BaseLicensed by: NIS AmericaRelease Date: October 9, 2012MSRP: $69.99 Beginning on air back in 2008, Natsume's Book of Friends is a series that both embodies that everyday life feel plus a compact presentation of "monster of the week." On paper, the series features a coming-of-age theme involving the namesake protagonist, Takashi Natsume, his struggles with a supernatural gift, and how his kindness shines through the difficulties of the realities living in a modern, human world. The first season spends most of the time building up the basis for the series. It introduces us to Nyanko-sensei, a powerful wolf-demon who, lacking anything better to do, decides to be Natsume's bodyguard. Most of the first season is preoccupied with explaining the book of Friends, a notebook containing the names of youkai that Takashi's grandmother, Reiko, subdued in various contests, as Reiko struggled with society while growing up, spending her time playing with demons and wild spirits rather than her human schoolmates. The story at first involves Takashi dealing with his already complicated life as a foster-home-hopping orphan, and the fact that he can see youkai. The Book of Friends adds that additional twist, but also becomes a mixed blessing as he start to learn more about the youkai world and as Takashi encounter the kind spirits that graced his grandmother. Season two shifts gear and becomes a lot more focused on Takashi's internal struggles and his unique outlook on life, his special powers, and the Book. Thematically, the series wears its ideals on its sleeves, as Takashi makes friends with both men and ghosts alike, often at great risk of his own safety. Heart-warming and heart-rending stories, almost fairy tale-like, play out episode after episode in a way that can both be educational but at the same time, repetitive.  The strength of the series is the presentation of the visuals and in the thematic content. Ideas like mono no aware and wabi sabi are often the key elements in the short stories that play out each episode. Between the light-hearted moments and those decisive and dramatic climaxes, the visuals are soft and occasionally painterly. The music is poignant and effective. It certainly works well for a long-running series by not doing too much and doing what it does well. Despite the somewhat serious, if not dour, nature of the series, Nyanko-sensei rises to the challenge and becomes a major part of the show, acting as balance to Takashi's overly naive and way too idealistic point of view. The humor, too, often channels through the monstrous cat-wolf. This becomes kind of an issue as by the end of the second season, as Natsume's Book of Friends has thoroughly explored the dynamics between the two, at least without escalating it via by the promise the two shares, a potential major plot point down the road. It feels as if the running joke has been run to the ground, but thankfully this is something that's remedied in season 3 by the expansion of the regular cast. The Premium Edition DVD set from NISA contains two thinpaks, one for each season. Within each thinpak there are two DVDs covering the entire season. While they are sub-only, the series looks pretty good on my plasma TV, played back on the PS3. The sound is only 2-channel but for a series that isn't action packed, it suffices. The bonus material contains credit-less OP/ED and the TV commercials for the shows, and they're on the second DVDs of both seasons. Natsume's Book of Friends isn't a series that require insane bitrates to capture well, so the DVD version looks quite passable. The best thing about NISA's Premium Edition is how the long-form, hard-cover book that typifies NISA's premium releases looks much like the Book of Friends from the show. As usual, the accompanying book includes some descriptions of the characters, episode guide, promo artwork, and character designs. It vaguely reminds me of a version of Dungeons and Dragon monster manual. In a lot of ways, what NISA has done is to create an appealing package for the fans of the show. If there are any hesitation in recommending Natsume's Book of Friends, it's simply that this is not your typical anime that appeals to your typical anime-viewing crowd. It's somewhat sophisticated, catering to a kind-hearted view of the world, where every soul, even those of monsters, are precious. It's not action packed, but instead, full of emotions. Takashi Natsume is perhaps, too soft. And if you can overcome that urge to face-palm every time Takashi makes a bad decision, maybe this will be the perfect show for you. Lastly, you can take a sneak peek at it from Chris's season four wrap-up, or stream it from Crunchyroll. 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.
Natsume Review photo
The best fat cat since Garfield
NIS America has been the go-to guys when it comes to Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume's Book of Friends. With season 4 done on the air and the subsequent home video release on the horizon, it's a good time to go back and take a...

Di Gi Charat & Gatchaman  photo
Di Gi Charat & Gatchaman

License Reminder! Sentai gets Di Gi Charat and Gatchaman


Will Sentai's release of Gatchaman do good?
Jun 25
// Salvador GRodiles
Actually, Sentai has already talked about their plans for both shows already at their panel during Anime Boston 2013. However, they decided to make their announcement more official by reminding us in a more professional ...

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