Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews (anime dvd reviews)
My main focus is reviewing manga and anime, but I also review Japanese literature, movies, and videogames. Basically, if it has anything to do with Japan, I'll talk about it, along with a dash of Korea and China.

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  • Anime DVD Review: Heroic Age, Episodes 8-13

    Anime dvd review of Heroic Age: The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Takashi Noto. Series Composition by Tow Ubukata. Music by Naoki Sato. Published by Funimation. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+.

    The Argonaut continues to flee to the new human homeworld as the Azz-Azoth fleet under Nilval tries to hold off the Silver and Gold Tribe armadas. Things could get messy as Nodos Mehitak shows up to take down the Azz-Azoth. Meanwhile, Bellcross and Karkinos are still locked in battle. Their fight is not measured in minutes or days, but weeks! Like a rumble between two gods. Dhianeila's two scheming and arrogant brothers try to commandeer leadership of the human forces through bribery and extortion. They begin to move along their plan for all-out war against the Gold and Silver Tribes, with the ultimate end goal of recapturing Earth. Problem is that Meleagros, the scion of the family,  is a tad bit power hungry and isn't shy about sacrificing his own forces or even entire planets if it furthers the glory and power of him and his family.

    I really love the epic space opera feel of Heroic Age. When we have fleets battling each other here, it isn't just a couple of ships on each side. It's thousands, if not TENS of thousands involved. And when you're talking about the insect-like swarms of the Gold Tribes, it could be MILLIONS! It's war the likes of which we reality-bound humans can hardly imagine. And then you have the jockeying forces of the politics within each tribe (except the Gold) as the humans try to decide the best course of action. There are even factions in the Vulcan-like Silver that believe the universe is big enough for Silver and Iron while others think the humans should be destroyed.

    The problems I have with this show are two: one major and one minor. The first is that the battles between the Nodos lack any impact or drama. All the Nodos are completely rendered in CG and are not animated very well, moving very stiffly and awkwardly. They are supposed to be living creatures but they move like robots. The director should have looked at some of the old Evangelion fight scenes or Eureka 7 to learn how to handle this properly. Sadly, I almost wish to jettison the whole giant monster facet of the show.  

    One minor complaint is in the character designs and costumes. The characters look too much like they fell out of a Gundam series, or even Fafner. The costumes of the humans are dull and boring with too much whiteness splashed with some second-thought colors.  It doesn't look like too much effort was spent on their uniforms.

    My Grade: B+

    Listen to my podcast review of the first seven episodes:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=515827

    Direct download: heroic_age_1.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 1:27pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Magical Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 10-13

    Anime review of Episodes 10-13 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki.

    Fate has once again failed to capture Nanoha's Jewel Seeds, so yes, it's time for  a sadistic whipping from her mom, Precia Testarossa (why are the Japanese obsessed with naming their female characters Testarossa?). But this time, Aruf gets pissed and attacks Precia. For her trouble, she is almost destroyed and has to flee to Earth, where she again encounters Nanoha and her pals and decides to switch sides in order to rescue Fate from her mother. Meanwhile, the TSAB are closing in on Precia's space travelling rock for a final confrontation. Nanoha, Yuno, and Chrono have to go in after Precia wipes out an assault team.

    Magical Nanoha comes to a satisfying if uneventful end. Ok, a big battle happens at the end, but what I mean is that while Nanoha has been entertaining and fun, it never really succeeds at seperating itself from the mob. All of the characters were just a tad bit too shallow and one dimensional. The animation, especially on this last dvd, is first rate and rarely reverts to shortcuts, even during the battle sequences. But Nanoha could never cast off its indebtedness to Cardcaptor Sakura, even though it succeeded in its own kinda clone way. Definitely worth watching if you're a magical girl fan but isn't going to ever break into the greatness realm.

    My Grade for the Series: B

    Watch the first part of episode 10 below:

     

    Direct download: nanoha.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:02pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Love Hina, The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13

    Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99.

    In this second batch of episodes, Keitaro's efforts to get into Tokyo U take a backseat to stories focusing on the female leads. Motoko, the samurai girl, finally has to confront her turtlephobia when Su lets a giant mecha-turtle loose. Then she has to enter Keitaro's dream, which is based on an old Japanese RPG, which pisses her off, even though she's in an unconscious state. Kitsune plays the role of Sherlock Holmes (she actually cosplays as him) to find out what has become of the missing monthly Hinata rent payments. Naru might just be leaving her friends and Tokyo U behind as she attempts to break into the cutthroat world of Japanese pop idols, managed by none other than the male diva, Kentaro. We also get a little more background info on the always mysterious Su, as the residents try to find out more about her older brother and sister. Whoops, I almost forgot Shinobu and her desire to experience her first kiss!

    I actually enjoyed this second disk more than the first because, let's face it, Keitaro is a bit of a wanker. The girls are much more interesting, seeing as how they don't have a single goal in life that obsesses them to extremes. Actually, maybe they all do. Motoko with her sword training, Su with her absent family members and gadgets, Kitsune with her drinking, and Naru, whose quest mirrors Keitaro's. I guess I meant that the girls seem to have more texture, and the writers of the show are making them even more individual in these episodes. Even though Love Hina was one of the first harem anime, it still works better than most because there are only five girls, unlike Negima where you have over 30. So it's much easier to get to know them and add layers to their personalities. The animation is top of the line, supplied by Production IG, which wisely modified their super realistic style to suit the design of the original manga. The voice acting is done very well also.

    My Grade: A

    Listen to podcast of Episodes 1-7:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=522459

     

    Direct download: love_hina.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 6:58pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 4

    Area 88 Volume 3: Wings of the Wind,  Episodes 10-12. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake (Captain Tsubasa). Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi (Kekkaishi, FMA: Brotherhood). List Price: $29.98. Also available in a box set.

    There are only 3 ways out of Area 88. The first is in a bodybag. The second is to serve out your 3 year tour of duty. The last is to raise $1.5 million to buy your way out. You get a bounty for every enemy plane you down, but the pilot's ammunition and maintenence of their jet takes up a lot of money so the odds are stacked against that option. In this last volume, Shin Kazuma has scaled that mountain and only needs to shoot down one more fighter craft. Then he can go home to his beloved Ryoko and live happily ever after, remembering Area 88 only in bad dreams. Shin is usually on the ball when he's up in the air, but knowing he only has to take down one more plane puts a lot of added pressure on him. He also has visions of Ryoko dancing through his mind (not literally). This distraction almost costs Kitri her life during a dogfight and Shin's jet takes some damage. Shin is resigned at first to the delay in his liberation, that is, until he finds out Ryoko is getting married to his former best friend who also happens to be the dude that got him shipped out to Area 88!

    Back in the day Viz partially published the original manga upon which this anime is based. It was before the Tokyopop innovation of cheap and original size manga so the Area 88 volumes were those huge trade paperbacks Viz put out for $16 or so. The reason I bring this up is because as I watched the anime I couldn't help but feel that it was only scratching the surface of a much larger story. I didn't think we got much time to get to know the characters or to find out more about the war they were fighting. That's right, even after the series ended, I still didn't know much about the political situation or what brought the conflict about. I don't think I ever even saw the face of an enemy soldier. I guess maybe that was the show's intention, but I doubt that it was the case in the manga. From what the cast and director said about the manga, the original creator was very much influenced by shojo character designs. I would really like to read them, but Viz isn't exactly famous for putting out old series. Maybe under their "Signature" line? I guess I'll see if I can track some of them down on Ebay.

    I wish the show had been longer. Even with its brevity, I still really enjoyed it. The mysterious nature brought about by the shortness made the characters even more appealing, if that makes any sense. There is also an OVA collection from ADV that is readily available. I guess I'll be hunting that down next.

    Volume 4 Grade: A-

    Overall Series Grade: A-

    View the trailer below:

    Direct download: area88big.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 11:28am CDT

    Podcast Episode 185: Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Episodes 1-6

    Podcast anime review of Shigurui: Death Frenzy The Complete Series, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Hirotsugu Hamazaki (Texhnolyze). Series Composition by Seishi Minakami (Paprika, Boogiepop Phantom). Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+.

    From the back cover:

    Two damaged warriors wear the scars of a twisted and violent past. Bitter rivals for the secrets of their master's sword and the right to his daughter, these samurai inflict wounds on each other that would destroy lesser men. The final chapter of their saga unfolds within a brutal samurai tournament, a gruesome contest arranged to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel tyrant overlord.

    The disfigured legends of the blade must summon the strength for one last battle - a final lesson in the artistry of violence where nothing is more beautiful than the kill.

    My Grade: A-

    You can watch all 12 episodes for free at Funimation.com. Here is the link to the first episode:

    http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=330

    And here's the trailer for the box set:

    Direct download: Episode_185--Shigurui_1-6.mp3
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 8:44pm CDT

    Anime Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

    Anime DVD review of xxxHolic Volume 4. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 13-16. Published by Funimation, $29.98 (Rightstuf.com has it for $7.00 and Funimation has recently released a box set of the entire series), Rated 13+.

    Watanuki and Domeki's partnership is growing stronger as the 4th volume of xxxHolic opens, even if Watanuki wants Domeki out of the way when it comes to his would-be romance with Himawari. He always seems to pop up as the third wheel just when he's about to get Himawari by herself. But first things first. Watanuki notices a girl at school with a strange feature on her back. She has a pair of small wings! At first he thinks they might be cosplay or something but they are real. Does it have something to do with the girl hanging out on the school roof, gazing at flying birds?

    Then it's on to a two parter involving two very weird twins. Well, maybe it's all in Watanuki's imagination. When he's around the the two girls, he feels a strange sort of wave effect that does not portend anything good usually. In some way the twins are impacting each other through a psychic link or by the things they say to each other.

    A comedy element of xxxHolic these days is the nine tailed fox spirit that mostly appears in a cute sort of small furry eel form that is always clinging to or wrapped around Watanuki's body. Don't get this spirit confused with Naruto's evil entity. This fox spirit is more like an affection starved dog. He starts causing trouble for Watanuki when he is changed into his full size on this volume.

    xxxHolic is an anime that always falls just a tiny bit short of being a really good show. It succeeds admirably at creating a comedic but always otherworldly atmosphere that at times can creep you out. But its Twilight Zone-like endings never seem to shock or surprise. Because the writing is a bit subpar, you can always figure out what is going to happen long before it does. So the "punchlines" at the end very rarely have the impact the writers intended. This seems to be a problem that CLAMP has a lot. They are very good at designing characters and of concocting interesting plot setups, but do not do a good job with the execution of their stories. Tsubasa is a good example of this. They had awesome characters jumping across time and space but all the worlds they visited seemed so cliched and boring! I think they would be a greater force if they just set up scenarios and supplied the art and let someone else do the actual writing. I really like the characters in xxxHolic and the comedy bits are quite good. The supernatural elements are where inconsistencies popped up. It probably didn't help that I had already read some of the stories in manga form before watching the dvd. Even though it doesn't live up to its potential and the beautiful art from the manga is simplified a bit, xxxHolic is well worth watching.

    My Grade: B+

    All 24 episodes of the series can be watched at www.hulu.com

    You can view Episode 13 below:

     

     

     

    Direct download: xxxholic_4.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:15pm CDT

    Anime Review: Otoboku Volume 3

    Anime dvd review of Otoboku (Maidens Are Falling For Me) Volume 3: Androgynous Antics. Published by Media Blasters. List Price: $19.99, Rated 16+. Episodes 10-13. Running Time: 100 minutes. Directed by Munenori Nawa (Galaxy Angel A&Z). Series Composition by Katsumi Hasegawa. (Japanese with English subtitles)

    It's time to say goodbye to Seio Academy as the last dvd wraps up the series and some of its cast gets prepared to graduate. Luckily for Mizuho, for the most part, he has been able to keep the secret that he's actually a dude from most of the all female student body. This last volume focuses almost exclusively on the love triangle between Mizuho, his childhood friend, Mariya, and the Student Council President, Takako. It's unclear at this point if that love is reciprocated for either girl on Mizuho's side. I think he sees Mariya as his best friend and doesn't really see her in a romantic way. The event that brings things to a head is the staging of Romeo and Juliet at the school festival, with Mizuho and Takako playing the starcrossed lovers. It's left to them whether they will actually kiss during the love scenes. Locking lips has an odd effect on Takako as she goes from overconfident snobbish prude to love struck puppy dog after one kiss from Mizuho. Mariya is going to have to share Mizuho even more as he takes the traditional role of dancing with all the single girls at the annual Christmas dance party. The last episode on the dvd is an OVA sendup of the fairy tale of Cinderella, featuring super deformed versions of the Otoboku cast.

    This series really brought something new to the crossdressing genre, (or maybe this is a harem anime?) whether it be a boy or a girl in the uncomfortable role of masquerading as something they are not. The aspect that made Otoboku unique was that after the first couple of episodes, Mizuho became a girl. What I mean is that he wasn't really a horndog like other anime characters put in the same situation. Mizuho is so nice that you forget he's a guy. There is more fan service in Maria Watches Over Us than this show. He just sorta goes with the flow and you almost feel like you're watching an all girl cast. It was really refreshing that he never tried to take advantage of the situation to seduce or cop feels or spy. But let's face it, he was already so effeminate before he came to Seio, he made Clay Aiken look tough in comparison. I almost wish the show was longer so I could see what happened with the different character's plot lines.

    Extras: Clean Ending, Live Event in Kawasaki featuring the voice actresses singing songs, and a promotional music video.

    Media Blasters will be releasing a box set of the entire series on Oct. 6.

    My Grade: B+

    Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 here:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=398985  

    View the opening sequence of the anime below:

     

    Direct download: otoboku_3.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 5:06pm CDT

    Anime Review: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 6-9

    Anime review of Episodes 6-9 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki.

    Nanoha's friends, Suzuka and Arisa, are getting very worried about her behavior. Just like her family, they can sense that something is up but Nanoha hasn't told them about her new magical girl role yet. Arisa is getting pissed and hurt because she feels Nanoha doesn't trust her. Without her in the triad of friendship, the bond between the three girls just doesn't seem the same. Nanoha, on the other hand, is intent on making a new friend, the mysterious and merciless Fate, the black-clad mage that she tangled with on the previous dvd. Fate, and her shape shifting wolf familiar, Aruf, are intent on seizing Jewel Seeds for Fate's mother. Unfortunately for Earth, and the universe at large, the clash between Nanoha and Fate over the Seeds could destroy the entire space time continuum! A Time-Space Adminstration Bureau Enforcer, a sort of interdimensional cop, arrives on the scene to make sure this doesn't happen.

    While on the surface, Lyrical Nanoha might seem like a Cardcaptor Sakura rip-off, its imagery and plot skews a lot higher to older otaku. Why do I say this? Perhaps because there is some insinuated fan service, total nudity when Nanoha changes to her magical girl costume, and the fact that Fate's mom tortures her with a magical whip...over and over. So maybe I should say Cardcaptor Sakura with a dose of De Sade to poison the otherwise Hello Kitty sweetness? Also, Lyrical Nanoha at its heart is a sci-fi anime. What its users call magic is mathematical equations which mages activate with mental energy. The show gets even more sci-fi with the arrival of the Time-Space Bureau, a police force that patrols multiple dimensions in a starship, looking for people jacking with the universe. The character designs in the show are pretty cool but for the fact that every character in this series has serious "bedhead". No matter if it's a girl or a boy, everyone has these big clumps of uncombed hair poofing off the side of their head. What a tragedy that a show can actually be dragged down by bad grooming! This is not a great show but it can be entertaining if magical girls are your bag.

    My Grade: B

    You can watch the first part of Episode 1 below:

    Direct download: magical.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:50pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 3

    Area 88 Volume 3: Tightrope at the Speed of Sound. Episodes 7-9. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.

    The supplies are getting pretty low at Area 88 as the enemy has shot down multiple transports that were bringing fuel and ammo for the pilot's aircraft. Of course, the enemy know Area 88's dire straits and send out a raiding party to take out the base. They are not only sending fighters but long range bombers that could destroy the whole area! The base only has enough fuel and ammo to send up three jets. Shin is in charge of the mission and picks the new female flyer, Kitri, and young but talented Kim to go with him. Kitri has a real problem with Kim. She thinks he'st too young and a mediocre pilot that has no right to be flying fighters. Another thorny problem crops up when an enemy sniper takes up position around Area 88 and starts picking off its inhabitants. He's so skilled that if anyone tries to take off in a jet, he either shoots the pilot or takes down the plane before it gets off the ground. Wouldn't you know that Shin is gonna be the one to dare the impossible? The title of this volume refers to the last episode where the Area 88 crew must negotiate a canyon in Death Star-like fashion to avoid radar as they attempt to destroy an enemy base.

    The presentation of this series has always left me a little cold. It just seems like there's so much more to the story and characters that we're not getting to see. I was really glad that we got a little more backstory last volume and found out how Shin got stuck in Area 88, but it really just skimmed the surface. We only get very tiny glimpses of who the other characters, like Kitri, really are. In fact, I know next to zilch about where she learned to fly and why she got into Area 88. But I can say that about almost all of the characters. For example, what is Matoko's real motivation to capture all these pictures he's taking? Does he get a high off of it, like Speedgrapher, or does he want to show the plight of the pilots? You really needed a 24-26 episode show to get all these things into the light, rather than 12-13. Even if I feel Area 88 keeps the viewer in a box, I still like the show, especially for its dogfight sequences.

    It would be nice if Viz would republish the manga (I'm not gonna hold my breath). I think they published a couple of volumes back in the good old days of flipped, unnumbered, $17 volumes before Tokyopop enlightened them on how to publish magna.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: area_88.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 1:32pm CDT

    Anime Review: Trigun Volume 2-- Lost Past

    Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 2: Lost Past. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $7). Episodes 5-7, Rated 13+.

    Vash just can't seem to catch a break. Here he is again, just minding his own business in an Inperil City bar when another group of thugs with the $60 billion reward on their minds comes barging in to kill him. Vash takes them out no problem, but then finds that the ENTIRE city wants to take him down. Even kids are pulling out guns! At one time Inperil was a prosperous city centered around a Lost Technology power plant, but it broke and the city began to wither and die. They want to claim Vash's head so they can pay for the expensive specialists that can reignite the power plant's energy source. Realizing that even an entire city is no match for Vash, the local sherrif lets the Nebraska Brothers out of prison. In a send up of giant robots, one brother is a mad scientist type who rides on his godzilla sized cyborg brother who can shoot his fist like a chained rocket launcher. Unfortunately for Inperil, the Nebraska Brothers do not care how much property is destroyed or how many Inperilities are killed in the pursuit of Vash.

    I did not like the first volume of this series at all. In fact, if I hadn't checked the first three volumes of this show out from my local library, I would not have watched this second installment. But since it was free, I was like, "what the hell". I was really surprised with Lost Past. I really liked these 3 episodes. I guess sticking with a show past the first volume really does pay off sometimes. What changed my mind about Trigun? Maybe I got used to Vash's personality and humor, and I started finding some of his mannerisms and dialogue funny. Like when he shoots a whole gang of bounty hunters with toy gun darts before they can even draw their guns. I think what really made the show turn around was that the writers made these episodes form a continuity which flowed together whereas Volume 1 seemed disjointed and unconnected. I also was intrigued by Vash's mysterious past, driven home by the fact that he cannot remember the city he supposedly destroyed to earn the price on his head. I know Vash is more than he seems, but his origin is a mystery I really want to solve.

    The fact that this volume contains only 3 episodes is a bit of a rip-off that could not be pulled today. Just ask Bandai (They tried selling dvds with ONE episode!). But this was par for the anime course back in the day. Since the Trigun show is not really a current show, you should be able to find the dvds pretty easily and at low cost.

    My Grade: B+

    Here's the first part of Episode 5:

    Direct download: trigun_2.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:57pm CDT

    Anime Review: The Familiar of Zero Box Set, Episodes 5-8

    Anime review of episodes 5-8 of The Familiar of Zero Box Set, published by Geneon, List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council, Hayate the Combat Butler). Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka (Elfen Lied, Dears).

    Louise is getting nervous. Why? The annual Familiar Exhibition is about to take place at the Institute. It's like a show-off contest where aspiring Magi put their familiars on display for the school elders in an effort to show whose is best. All Louise has to show is Saito, who has never been able to reactivate his excellent sword fighting skills that he showed in defeating a noble a couple of episodes back. In fact, he has trouble just LIFTING his sword, much less putting on a display. To add to Louise's anxiety, Lady Henrietta, Princess of Tristein, is personally going to attend the Exhibition! Things should go a little smoother since Henrietta grew up with Louise...or actually it might make her even more embarrassed and stressed. Henrietta's visit to the Institute also coencides with the arrival of Fouquet the Sculptor, a mysterious thief that has been stealing magical artifacts. Fouquet intends to break into the school while everybody is busy attending to the princess and steal "The Staff of Destruction".

    I was a little worried after the first disk of this set that The Familiar of Zero could very easily devolve into a heavy fan service harem comedy, what with all the girls around and a semi-horny dude in the midst of them. But, thankfully, that isn't what has happened. We get some nice surprises and characterization in this second group of episodes. Besides Kirche throwing her boobs everywhere, the romance here has an almost decidedly shojo tone of wistful love. Saito and Siesta, a maid, share some charming moments in a bath that Saito rigs up from a large kitchen basin. Even though both of them are naked in the water and in the dark, the writers stay away from the cheap eroticism of bleeding noses. Instead we get the first really tentative conversations of two people that like each other. But at this point, we don't know who Saito really likes. He seems to be closest to Siesta in a romantic way, while he sees Louise as a little sister, and Kirche as an always open avenue to sex. I feel he would be better off with Siesta, but the opening credits of the anime show Saito and Louise kissing with the theme song cranking out lyrics about love which leave me hardpressed to see any other outcome. The animation and character designs are above average and the writers are able to get in all kinds of messages about equal rights and discrimination.

    My Grade: B+ 

    Hear my podcast review of Episodes 1-4 at this link:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=442420

    Direct download: familar.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 3:51pm CDT

    Anime Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1: Episodes 10-13

    Anime DVD review of the fourth disc of the Season 1 box set of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 10-13. Published by Right Stuf. Directed by Yukihiro Matsushita, List Price : $49.99, Rated 13+.  

    As Christmas approaches, Rosa Gigantea takes center stage in Episodes 10 & 11 of Maria Watches Over Us. But it's probably not in a way she wanted. In Episode 10, there is a big buzz at Lilian about a new book named "The Forest of Briars", which purports to be a tell all confessional about life at the all girls academy, disguised as a novel. The author is someone named Sei Suga, which, according to rumor, is none other than Rosa Gigantea (Her real name also happens to be Sei). While most of the Yamayuri Council leaders dismiss the book as beneath their dignity, even if Gigantea is the author, Yumi and some of the younger girls set out to find the truth about its author. In Episode 11, "The White Petals", the yuriness gets turned on full blast as we witness a tragic love affair of the past between Gigantea and a younger girl that she never claimed as her sister. The last two episodes of the disc deal with the results of a contest a couple of episodes back that was sponsored by the school newspaper in which the winners won a date with one of the members of the Yamayuri Council. Yumi is going out with Sachiko, which you think wouldn't be a big deal, given their already established relationship, but Yumi is ready to have a nervous breakdown trying to figure out what Sachiko would enjoy doing on their date. She can't really ask her friends because the extremely jealous Yoshino doesn't even want to hear the word "date" because her beloved sister is being taken from her by a lowly underclassmen, even if it's just a one-time thing. Shimako is also dealing with a bit of tension in this area as her date is the beautiful Shizuka, who happens to be in love with Shimako's sister, Rosa Gigantea (wow, it's all about Gigantea, isn't it?). It doesn't help that the snooping reporter, Tsutako, is stalking all of the couples in hopes of getting  photos for the school paper.

    I really enjoyed the first season of Maria Watches Over Us, even if the girls, with their beanpole designs,  made CLAMP characters look obese. There was always a sense of disquiet in me, as I wondered what diet these girls were on, which made them look like human straws. But, be that as it may, I really enjoyed the characters. They really stand out in your mind. A lot of times when I write a review or record a podcast, I have to jot down a few notes to keep the cast straight. But I didn't have that trouble with this show, because the characters are so memorable and unique. It's cool that we get to see them in regular street clothes in some of these episodes because their school uniforms are a bit boring and stiff. At times, when you are watching this show, the elegance can be a bit overwhelming, like you've arrived at an aristocrat's dinner gala and are extremely underdressed. Of course, I'd never be admitted except as a servant. But it's still good to be able to look through the window and see how the other half lives. Cool show, but probably will not float everyone's boat.

    Disc 4 Grade: B

    Season 1 Grade: B+

    Official site: http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

    My Podcast review of  Episodes 1-3: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094

     

    Direct download: maria.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 9:38am CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2

    Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2: Infiltration. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 3-4, Rated 15+.

    The Labyrinth Alliance, backed by the corporation run by Billy Kimura's father, has come up with the ultimate checkmate to use against the aliens. The time is right to take The Invincible, a state of the art flying battleship, out on its maiden voyage. Decked out with the latest new fangled weaponry, it will join the Sky Knight as one of only two ships that can take on the enemy's helmet worms. Meanwhile, the aliens, calling themselves Baguans, continue to wreak destruction around the globe, destroying military targets and some targets meant to hurt us psychologically, like the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. In a most insidious move, the Baguans have begun reanimating and controlling dead human captives as the means to carry out their evil plans. Penny gets quite a shock when some of the alien saboteurs end up being his long missing parents! Suffice it to say, it causes quite a conflict of interest. If that's not enough, the Baguans have devised a way to shut down anything that runs off a G-Reactor, which means almost everything on Earth. It's up to our heroes to find a way to distinguish friend from foe and find a way to turn the lights back on.  

    I really want to get behind this show and love it because of the great characters and animation, but the writing is beginning to stink. First of all, letting an overconfident brat like Billy make world changing decisions for the military is a little bit much. Billy's plans mostly consist of sending up the latest ships and planes built by his company simply to get shot down by the Baguan flying saucers. He also doesn't seem to have any compunctions about getting innocent people killed as a result of his lamebrained schemes. The fact that Penny has to confront the dead bodies of his parents at least brings him off his high horse and instills his character with a bit of much needed humility and makes him realize that this isn't just some science project he can ace at school. That people are dying in this war.

    I really like the characters on this show, at least in terms of personality, they give SOS a lot of variety. In the hands of a good writer, Project Blue Earth could have been a really good anime. While it can be fun at times, it crosses the line of goofiness way too many times to ever be taken seriously. And what's up with Lotta Brest? When the opening credits roll, it shows all the characters along with their names. When I watched them for the first time, I assumed the hot and sexy Emely was named Lotta Brest (they appear together on the credits), but ironically, Lotta Brest was the 12 year old? Who the hell came up with these names? I also thought it was kinda sad that all we've seen of the aliens so far is a Doctor Evil "Bwuh, Ha, Ha, Ha!" laughing masked villain who gives the Earth 24 hours to surrender. I mean, if the Baguans are so powerful, why don't they just invade and take over instead of all these penny ante hijinks that our own native terrorists could pull off?

    The only extra is the clean opening animation.

    My Grade: C+

     

    Direct download: project_blue_earth_2.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 6:01pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 143: Darker Than Black Volume 1

    Podcast anime dvd review of Darker Than Black Volume 1. Episodes 1-5. Directed and written by Tensai Okamura (Naruto Movie, Project Blue Earth SOS, Wolf's Rain). Animation by BONES. Music by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop). Published by Funimation, Rated 17+, $29.98.

    From the back cover:

    A new and deadly breed of covert agent walks the streets. Known as Contractors, these assassins and spies wield bizarre supernatural powers to carry out the dirty work of others. They thrive in the underworld, between rumor and reality, their loyalties always in question. One among these operatives is more mysterious than the rest; the masked killer BK201, the Black Reaper. His true identity and intentions remain unknown, but as his path weaves through the shadows and alleys of Tokyo, blood is spilled on both sides of the law. It's a new age of confusion, and the rules of engagement have changed.

    My Grade: A

    Visit the official website to watch the first 3 episodes for free:

    http://www.funimation.com/darkerthanblack/

    Here is the trailer:

    Direct download: Episode_143--Darker_Than_Black_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 9:09pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1, Episodes 7-9

    Anime DVD review of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 7-9. The first season is available as a boxset from Right Stuf for the list price of $49.99, rated 13+.

    The big deal going on in these three episodes is the arrival of Valentine's Day at Lillian Girls' Academy and the dilemma of what kind of chocolate Yumi should make for her bouton, Sachiko. Yumi goes around asking all the other girl's advice but noone seems to be able to help her. In fact, they worsen it when one of them tells her that Sachiko is beseiged every year with tons of chocolate from adoring students, but that she usually refuses to receive any of them. Based on this and other disparaging comments that Sachiko makes about chocolate giving, Yumi begins to wonder whether she just hates chocolate or is just disgusted with the whole idea of Valentine's Day. There is also a accelerating breakdown in communication between Yumi and Sachiko as Yumi's consternation about the chocolate combines with the fear that she will be put aside as Sachiko takes on more responsibilities with the Yamayuri Council as its senior members leave for college. The problem is that Yumi keeps all of her anxieties to herself even though Sachiko can sense that something is troubling her and wants to help. Further complications enter the picture when Sachiko is forced into participating in a school contest whose top prize is a date with a bouton. We also meet Mifuyu Uzawa, who wants to replace Yumi as the object of Sachiko's affections.

    I really like this show so far, even if Sachiko is borderline anal retentive. Actually she IS anal retentive. The original contest as first conceived was about students finding hidden handmade chocolates scattered about campus. Sachiko was instantly against it because she thought it was unseemly and just too unclean to leave food (chocolates) lying around. You get the impression that her room is completely white and germfree and that she is constantly washing her hands. Sachiko needs to get out and deal with the real world instead of stagnating at Lillian with all of her flunkies. She probably wouldn't even be able to change a lightbulb without putting on white gloves, goggles, and a surgical mask! Ok, I could go on hating Sachiko, but I'm gonna call off the dogs. When you get past the mannequin creepiness of the character designs, there's actually quite a heartwarming story of friendship and love here, even if the souer relationships sometimes border on that of slave/master dynamics or platonic lovemaking. If nothing else, the girls of Lillian always seem elegant, even when they're bawling their eyes out. In fact, the series sometimes seems like one long tea ceremony...a tea ceremony you're sharing with a close and engaging friend.

    My Grade: A

    You can listen to Podcast 124 for an audio review of Episodes 1-3:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094

    The official website for the show is:

    http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

    Direct download: maria_watches.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 8:53am CDT

    Anime DVD Review-- Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5

    Anime dvd review of Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5: "That Old Black Magic". Directed and written by Hiroaki Gohda. Published by ADV Films. Episodes 17-20, Running Time: 100 minutes, Rated 13+, List Price: 29.98.

    Last volume, Marller suceeded in seprating Urd into her two composite halves, demon and goddess. The two bodies were rejoined into one but there are still some imbalance problems between the two personalities. Because her soul is out of sync, one of the personalities will be lost...unless Belldandy and company can find a higher power than themselves to help Urd. They rule out asking the "Almighty", or God, because Belldandy is afraid that he will get rid of her demon side entirely. That leaves only one other entity with the required power...Hilda, the queen of Hell, and the ruler of all demonkind!  She also happens to be Urd's mother.  She and Urd don't really talk much because Urd fears her corrupting influence. Of course, Hilda would like nothing more than for Urd to give up her Goddess life and come live with her. Hilda tells Urd that she will help her in exchange for a unknown favor. Urd agrees as long as the future favor will not conflict with her role as a goddess. Hilda becomes a new character that goads on the ever ineffectual Marller to continue to get out of her depth in an effort to strike a blow for demons everywhere. Marller even sends a magical ninja to take out the goody-two-shoe band of friends. Ironically, as befits Marller's small mind, the ninja is the size of a mouse.

    It was cool to see Urd's mom, who seems to have been married to the Almighty at some point. Now, that's weird... the queen of Hell sleeping around with God? Does that mean that the Almighty is Urd's dad? Ah My Goddess is a series that is at its least when it tries to get too serious, for instance, when Urd or Belldandy lose control of their powers or are possessed. It is at its best when it moves the story along with lightheartedness, humor, and a mood that almost strikes one as langorous. If you've gotten this far into the second season you should know the characters pretty well so they almost seem like old friends. The show is good at adding new twists and new characters like Hilda, which keep the story fresh and funny. Highly recommended.

    My Grade: A

    The six individual volumes of this series were published by ADV Films and you can pick them up at www.Rightstuf.com for $5 each.

    Funimation has the license now and just came out with the box set this week. Here's the official website:

     http://www.funimation.com/ahmygoddess/

     

    Direct download: ah_my_goddess5.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 10:18am CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1

    Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1: Invasion. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 1-2, Rated 15+.

    Something strange happened on the boundaries of space far above the USA in 1995. A pilot named James was testing out the new G-Reaction jet engine, which would allow a plane to circle the Earth in one hour, when a strange sight confronted him. James' last report was that he saw rainbow colored lights, then a flying saucer, and then ground control lost touch with him. Especially hardhit was his friend and commander, Captain Clayton. Now, five years later, strange occurences around G-Reaction powered vehicles have been more and more frequent. Planes, vehicles, and even aircraft carriers have been disappearing. One such incident introuduces us to most of the cast of the show. It is the maiden route of a new G-Reaction train that brings out most of the movers and shakers of Metropolitan, the capital of Earth. That's right, the capital of Earth. Apparently, in this world, all world governments have given up their sovereignty to the United Nations, one consequence being that the world's military is also controlled by the UN. Any weapons which could be seen as other than defensive have been discontinued. Among the important people at the train ceremony is Billy Kimura, the child prodigy and billionaire heir of Kimura Industries, the company responsible for the design of the G-Reactor. Meeting him there is Lotta Brest (what an unfortunate name!), daughter of a famous scientist, and her tutor, the stunning Emely. Just as they are about to board the train, another boy genius named Penny Carter rushes through the crowd with his faithful dog, named Washington, to warn them that something bad is going to happen to the train. At about this moment, cue the rainbow lights, the train is lifted into the air, and disappears in a blink! Billy and Penny reluctantly decide to join forces to figure out exactly what is going on. Little do they know that they are putting themselves into the middle of an alien invasion. On their side is a secret organization named the Labyrinth Alliance which is devoted to protecting humanity from this threat, and a mysterious pilot named Sky Knight, who appears to have the only weapon that can fight the invaders.

     What little I had read about this series before viewing it was that it was a retro style anime with roots in 1950s pulp sci-fi magazines. I would say yes to that in theory. Back in the old days of sci-fi you could just name things like "black hole transponder" or "anti-matter gun" without having to explain how it worked and the readers let you get away with it. It almost seemed as if everything worked off of magic because there wasn't any scientific elaboration. Now, readers and viewers are a bit more demanding. While some of the plot devices seemed rooted in the 50's, I felt more reminded of 60's and 70's anime or even some of the old kid-friendly Godzilla movies where the little smug kid knew more of how to solve world threatening problems than the adults could ever dream of. Also, SOS kinda reminded me of Gatchaman and, surprisingly, Scooby Doo. So, I guess that whatever era you think SOS is a homage to, you have to accept it as a nostalgic trip. Almost as if it were written in another era. I enjoyed this show, especially its sometimes flagrant use of goofiness and whimsy. For example, cats and dogs help out our heroes at different times during the show.  The animation is definitely not retro though, and uses the latest cutting edge CG, and doesn't skimp during the action sequences. I thought it was cool that we don't even see a proper alien in these first two episodes (running 40 minutes each), except for a lone female preaching apocalyptic prophecies. Besides her, we see ships and robots for now. In fact, we don't even know if these aliens are FROM another world. So I liked the mystery of it. I also like shows with ensemble casts....as long as the characters are interesting and memorable. And the characters of Project Blue ARE interesting. I especially enjoyed the tug of war between Penny and Billy as they alternated between feelings of rivalry and respect. This is a really good start to a 3 volume series, but don't go in expecting hard sci-fi a la Ghost in the Shell. Just have fun.

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: project_blue_earth.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 3:00pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Black Blood Brothers Volume 2

    Anime DVD Review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 2: Emergence. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series composition by Yuu Sugitani. Episodes 5-8, Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 15+.

    Jiro and Kotaro have made it inside the Special Zone, with the help of Mimiko, professional compromiser. We still don't know exactly why Jiro has travelled to the Special Zone, but he seems to have come at the worst possible time. A Kowloon Child has infiltrated the Special Zone somehow and it appears it is the work of Jiro's old enemy, Cassandra Warlock, whose very presence nearly sends Jiro into a murderous rage. She seems to have something to do with Jiro's lost love, a girl named Alice who he was assigned to protect long ago. Not all is peace and harmony in the Special Zone, where a very delicate balance exists between human and vampire and even between vampire and vampire. Along with Company, three vampire families control everything in the city. All of them are concerned about whose faction Jiro will join, because they know how powerful this legendary hero is. Whoever he casts his lot with will be the main power broker of the Special Zone. Surprisingly, the majority opinion seems to be that the Zone would be better without Jiro in town. Only Zelman Clock, leader of one of the vampire clans, is willing to take Jiro and his brother in. His main goal is not to acquire power, but simply to stave off boredom. But one of his underlings has a different agenda that could start a vampire civil war.

    Black Blood Brothers is a show that succeeds in spite of the fact that you can tell the creators didn't have a lot of money to spend on character design or animation. The costumes are mostly dreadful and there are quite a bit of static battles with action lines in place of animation. But the director makes up for this by staging the fight scenes with some interesting shots, dramatic effects, and close ups which convey the action quite well, and give you the illusion of more motion than is actually happening. One of the things I like about the show is the humor. Even though Kotaro is an idiotic pain in the butt, he still makes me laugh as he clumsily makes his way through the life and death stakes of the Black Blood world. Mimiko is also quite funny, but her goofiness is tempered by her extreme dedication to helping Jiro and Kotaro. She might even have a "thing" for Jiro, even though she won't admit it to herself. One criticism I have of the show is that it is two thirds over and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the characters and the plot. I doubt that there are enough episodes left to get through the backstory in anything less than a quick flashback or exposition. Still, this is a series definitely worth watching.

    My Grade: B+

    Funimation just released the box set of this series for $49.98. Best Buy has it for $35.99, but be careful because I picked it up in store and saw it was missing a disc. So check to make sure it's all there before you purchase it.

    You can also watch the first three episodes for free at Hulu.com. Here is episode 1. Just push the play button.

    You can also download the series at Funimation.com

    Direct download: black_blood_brothers.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:12pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Bleach Volume 7

    Bleach Volume 7: The Entry. Directed by Norikyuki Abe. Series Composition by Masashi Sogo. Published by Viz Video, List Price: $24.98.

    Ichigo is finally able to make a cannonball, the art needed to pierce the shield surrounding the Seireitei, the fortress of the Soul Reapers. He is able to do this after getting a few pointers from Ganju. He was the last one of his group comprised of Orihime, Chad, and Ishida that had yet to master it. And he still hasn't. While his cannonball packs a lot of power he lacks the skill needed to keep it under control so it tends to explode in his face. Nonetheless, time is running out for Rukia, and the group must rescue her before she is executed. Things don't go as planned when the cannonball gets stuck in the Soul Reaper shield, which causes it to explode and seperate our heroes. Chad and Yoruichi are by themselves, while Ishida is teamed up with the ever stumbling, ever ditzy Orihime. Ichigo lands with Ganju by his side, and they are the first to have to fight Soul Reapers, as they face off against the psychotic Ikkaku (he's not crazy, he just really likes to fight) and the overly vain Yumichika who is all about his looks. Even though both of them seem to have some major psychological hangups, make no mistake, they are deadly fighters, and perhaps too powerful for Ichigo and Ganju to handle.

    You knew that Ichigo and friends were never going to make it to the Seireitei without getting seperated didn't you? Of course they had to be split up. It wouldn't have been any fun if they had arrived en masse and just started slugging their way to the tower where Rukia is being held. No, they had to be split up so their powers could be diluted and they would have to face foes whose powers might be stronger on an individual level. Through these battles we get to see if our main characters have indeed grown stronger or whether they've just been talking the talk. It's great to see them all rise to the challenge, albeit in very different ways. For example, Ichigo relies on his enormous spiritual energy and his enemy's tendency to underestimate his skills while Ganju uses his speed, wit, and guile to fight. Volume 7 of Bleach was quite good in spite of the fact that maybe some of the fights were a bit too long. But Noriyuki Abe keeps you engaged with some very well orchestrated battle sequences, choreographed with little or no static action lines. He always keeps a sense of coolness about the characters as he reveals their new powers with dramatic relish.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: bleach_7.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:30pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Disc 3, Episodes 9-13

    Anime DVD review of the third disc of Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 9-13, published by Viz Media. Price for the for the 3-disc set: $49.98 (I usually see it for around $35). Rated T+, Older Teen.

    Kazuki has been training every day with Captain Bravo and he's worn out physically and spiritually. But he can't resist a challenge when he sees the star of the kendo team, Shusui Hayasaka, effortlessly defeating all comers. When he hears Shusui mention that he wants to get stronger, he senses a kindred spirit, and decides to take him on. Even though Kazuki has no training whatsoever in kendo. The two quickly become friends and training partners, lifting each other to new heights of fighting skill. Unfortunately, Shusui and his twin sister, Ouka, are agents of the League of Extraordinary Elect (LXE). The LXE knows that an alchemical warrior is attending the school, but they do not know which student he or she is. The one person that knows, Papillon, refuses to identify Kazuki because he wants to fight him alone and in his own due time. So the Hayasaka twins are enlisted to find and kill the alchemical warrior. Dr. Butterfly wants it done quietly as well, because the school is somehow involved with his plans to resurrect the king of the Homunculi, he who is neither human nor a Homunculus, but more powerful than both.

    First thing up with this series is the fact that it should come out and admit its gayness. I don't mean that in an insulting way, but in an honest entreaty. For example, when Kazuki and his friends stop at a public bath house, all the guys start looking at each others schlongs and compare sizes. They seem especially eager to find out Shusui's too, almost falling over themselves to get a look. And then Papillon shows up with a washing bowl hanging off of his! And the League of Extraordinary Elect ratchets up the homosexuality by acting like they are in Rosie O'Donnell's favorite Broadway musical. It doesn't help that they strike effeminate poses and wear leotards either. Moon Face....need I say more. This guy jumps around shouting, or rather, flirtingly cooing "Mooooooooooooon!" as he leaps in the air clicking his heels. And why the hell is Papillion always reaching into his pants to get objects out of his thong? And he seems to be a little more busy in there than just reaching for his kakugane.

    I have to say that the character designs in Buso Renkin are some of the worst and most ridiculous I have ever seen in a manga or anime. I mean, at times these guys, mostly the villains, made me laugh out loud just looking at them. What makes it more funny is that they think they actually look good in their costumes. Papillon goes on and on about how cool his suit looks, even though he looks like a dandified buffoon. While the villains are a complete wash, the heroes are done with at least a sense of good taste. How could the same guy that did Rurouni Kenshin design characters right out of Michael Jackson's wardrobe fantasies?

    If you can get past the horrible design choices and the incredibly cheezy characters, Buso Renkin can be quite entertaining in a Shonen Jumpish sort of way. It seems incredible to me that the same writer behind the extremely well received Rurouni Kenshin could present something this goofy. Too often, the series looks very cheap as we are treated to static scenes with tons of action lines the like of which I haven't seen since the last decade. It seems like Xebec didn't spend a lot of time or money animating this show. Is it worth seeing? Yes. Is this show worth buying? I don't know yet. Probably not. I'll have to check out the second box set before I make a choice. Right now, it is not a series that I would watch more than once. Back in the day, the glory days of anime in 2004-05, I would buy almost every new show that came out. But I was burned too often and now I rent first. If I really like it, enough that I would watch it again, then I buy it.

    Grade for disc 3: B

    Grade for Box Set 1: B

    Here is the link for my review of the first two discs, I did Episodes 1-4 in a podcast and 5-8 in a text review:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/?search_string=buso+renkin&search=1

    Direct download: buso_renkin.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:19pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Aquarion Boxed Set 1, Disc 2, Episodes 6-9

    This is a text review of the second disc of the Aquarion Boxed Set 1 comprising Episodes 6-9 from Funimation. Click on the following link to hear podcast review # 104 of  Episodes 1-5:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=356987

    The Elements of Aquarion have become stronger and are functioning better as a team, but the pilots still have a lot to learn. First up, Gen Fudo, the strange Merlin-like commander of the Elements sets up a Thought Projection Exercise. Partners will stand a kilometer away from each other, with one facing away. The goal is to make your partner turn around with the force of your thoughts. You just know everyone is gonna be paired up with their least favorite person. Sirius and Reika are getting kinda cozy and it's starting to drive Silvia crazy. You see, she has a bit of a "brother complex". She wants so bad for him to be the Solar Wing, her reincarnated lover....uh, but if he is, that brings up some pretty weird issues. I think at this point everyone has decided that Apollo is the real deal. Everyone EXCEPT Sirius and Silvia, and that's probably due to their hypocrisy. Surely, the Solar Wing would be reborn as a noble and not as an animalistic street kid. All these weird resentments reach a boiling point when the Shadow Angels use a device that feeds off negative emotions. Two supporting characters take center stage in Episode 8 as Tsugumi and Jun contemplate what it will be like to merge for the first time with all the attendant innuendoes and comparisons to losing their virginity. But when the time comes will they be able to step up to the plate? And then there's a Mythic Beast lurking in the dreams of the Elements that brings A Nightmare on Elm Street to mind. 

    I'm not really a big fan of giant robot anime but I don't dislike them either. As with any anime genre, if a show is good, it doesn't matter to me what it is about. I will tell you this. I think Evangelion was way overrated and that Rahxephon took the same path but did it even better. Aquarion falls into a cross between Rahxephon and Gravion (I mean the good parts of Gravion) and comes up with a very enjoyable anime. To start with, this show just looks good. The character designs are very beautiful and distinct. The sleek and acrobatic robot designs give a humanity to the battles. There are very few static cut scenes and the CG blends as well as it can with the traditional animation. Everything about this series screams the word EPIC with its attendant 12,000 year old battles between angels and humans and its take on Greek mythology and Christian scriptures. The music of Yoko Kanno just adds to the grandeur with her symphonic and choral score. But, like the director and writers of this show, she never forgets the more intimate characterization elements of the show, composing with simple instruments and singing and a variety of electronic instruments when the mood calls for it. A great show so far.

    My Grade: A

    You can view the first two episodes for free at the official Aquarion website:

    http://funimation.com/aquarion/

    Direct download: aquarion.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:26am CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Buso Renkin Set 1, Disk 2, Episodes 5-8

    This an anime dvd review of Episodes 5-8 of the second disk of the Buso Renkin Box Set 1. The box set is published by Viz and is available for the list price of $49.99. I've seen it at Best Buy for $34.99. Directed by Takao Kato. Series Composition by Akatsuki Yamatoya. Rated 16+.

    The first dvd of this set ended in a cliffhanger, or in reality a FIGHThanger, as Kazuki and a handicapped Tokiko began their battle against Chono's servant, the hawk-type Homunculus named Washio. Tokiko is not operating at full capacity because she has a Homunculus embryo inside her that is slowly making its way to her brain, at which point she will turn into one of the very monsters she has been fighting. It is imperative that they finish the battle quickly so they can find Chono and get an antidote that will save her life. But Washio is not like the other Homunculi. He seems to have extremely acute reasoning skills and even exhibits a very human-like loyalty to Chono that causes him to fight to the death against Kazuki and Chono. And Chono is no longer the only villain of this piece. We are also introduced to the League of Extraordinary Elect, a group of humanoid Homunculi that are apparently led by a turncoat alchemist warrior that disappeared 100 years ago.

    The highlight, or more accurately, the lowlight, of this dvd has to be the transformation of Chono as he assumes the powers of a Homunculus and begins to call himself Papillon. Ok, how low does this anime go? Pretty low. When Chono transforms, all his clothes strip away, revealing him in all the glory a grayish thong with a purple butterfly on it can impart. Instantly he reaches into his thong, moves his hand in a very subversive way and pulls out a huge butterfly mask that couldn't possibly have fit in that tiny little thong. Then he does a little ballet spin in front of a shojoesque background of yellow glitter and strikes a pose, even as he is getting shot at by some of his father's goons. The costume he adopts later on is almost in worse taste than the too-revealing speedo. Papillon has to be the fruitiest villain I have ever encountered in an anime but he fits right in with some of the utterly ridiculous character designs of the monsters and bad buys in Buso Renkin. One of the Elect actually has a head in the shape of a crescent moon! This seems to be weak point of a lot of Shonen Jump titles. For example, the Hollows in Bleach, the monster forms of Naruto and Sasuke in the Naruto manga and anime. I mean, these series are drawn by good artists but when they do monsters, bad guys, or demonesque figures, they just show a complete lack of imagination and make something that is supposed to appear scary look funny. Or they make the villain overly feminine like in Black Cat. So however disturbed Chono makes you feel in his insane rant phases, it is severely undercut when he prances around like he's in a Broadway cabaret.

    Buso Renkin at times seems cobbled together from other manga and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Bleach, but all in all, I have enjoyed the first two volumes of this show even with the whole Papillon debacle. It was cool that we did get some backstory on Chono and that he is simply living his life like his father taught him. Taught probably wouldn't be the exact words I would use. It does seem as though he might not be quite beyond redemption though. I like all of the characters and the chemistry between Kazuki and Tokiko works quite well. They seem to respect each other and there is a very quiet relationship blossoming between them on the down-low.

    My Grade: B

     

     

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 5:45pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Air TV Volume 4

    Air TV Volume 4. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo. ADV Films, $29.98.

    The true finale of Air TV, which took place on Volume 3 as Misuzu fell dead into the arms of her adopted mother was pretty painful to watch. This last volume opens with a recap episode of her short life and ends, again, with her death. The other two episodes on the disc go back to the middle story arc in which the winged girl, Kanna, along with her handmaiden, Uraha, and her warrior guard, Ryuya, are trying to make their way to Kanna's mother while being pursued by soldiers from the temple where Kanna was confined. These two episodes are entirely new and fill out the relationships and adventures the three have, focusing more on the comedic side of things.

    While the first episode was a waste of space, as are all recap episodes unless you haven't watched a series for a while (does anyone remember the one ripoff volume of Wolf's Rain which was entirely FILLED with recap episodes?!), the last two episodes were really enjoyable. Air TV was always a series that took itself too seriously, suffering from the bipolarity of being a moe comedy at one point, then shifting to a magical girl historical drama, then to a pathological torture session of Misuzu intended to make an otaku weep. The two episodes that close Volume 4 injected something much needed by the series as a whole: a little lightheartedness, a little more comedy, to take the edge off of the tragic hardships most of the characters go through. The final arc focusing on Misuzu's slow decay was especially hard to watch and seemed to have no point. In fact, Air TV had one of the worst endings that I've seen in a long time, even though it doesn't reach the depths of the aforementioned Wolf's Rain in terms of "Uh, what just happened so you're telling me this whole show was for nothing and that the characters are just going to have to repeat their struggles till infinity over and over..." but it comes pretty close. The landscapes of the Japanese countryside and the town are beautiful even though the female characters with their plate sized luminescent blue eyes seem a bit creepy at times. Overall, this series is worth watching, but don't expect to get a satisfactory conclusion. I'll probably be watching the movie version sometime soon.

    My Volume 4 Rating: B+

    My Overall Series Rating: C

    Direct download: airtv4.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 10:21am CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 1-- Treacherous Skies

    Area 88 Volume 1: Treacherous Skies. Episodes 1-3. ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.

    Makoto Shinjo is a war photographer that shows no fear when it comes to capturing the essence of his subject, even if his life is on the line. He's come to the desert of Aslan to document the lives and battles of the mercenary pilots fighting against anti-government forces. It's pretty easy to sign up as a mercenary but very hard to get out after you agree to a 3 year tour of duty. You can break the contract early IF you pay the sum of 1.5 million dollars. Even though the pilots are paid very well for every enemy they shoot down and various missions they fly, they are also required to pay for room and board, food, weapons, and maintenence of their aircraft. So it's very hard for them to save up any amount of money. And that's just how the government forces like it. To have the mercenaries underfoot and in debt. Even if they allow them to break the contract they still get a million dollars to hire another one. Makoto is focused on one pilot in particular, Shin Kazama, the only Japanese pilot on the base, and one of the most enigmatic. He doesn't have much to say but he is possibly the best flyer of the whole group. The only things we know about him is that he is utterly miserable working for Aslan and is desperate to get back to a woman in Japan.

    As is the problem for most first volume anime dvds that only contain 3 episodes, there is a shortage of material to truly judge the merit of the series. If you enjoyed movies like Top Gun or Stealth or the anime Yukikaze, you'll most likely enjoy Area 88. If dogfighting jets are not your cup of tea, then you would do best to avoid Area 88. The jets are all CG and look quite nice, if a little cold and flimsy, but they make you feel at times as if you are watching a promo video for the latest Ace Combat videogame. The main characters are not given enough space in these episodes to breath and show much individuality. That was Volume 1's main weakness. We don't learn enough about the characters to care about their dreams or hopes for the future or the extreme dangers they find themselves in. I will wait till I watch the other volumes before making an overall judgement about the series.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: area_88_vol.1.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:52pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: 009-1 Volume 2

    009-1 Volume 2, ADV Films, $29.98

    In the world of 009-1, the Cold War between the Western and Eastern Blocs has gone on for 140 years.  This is not a war fought between great armies on desolate nuclear battlefields. This is a war fought by covert agents on both sides in a cat and mouse contest for technological advantage. Mylene Hoffman, cyborg agent 009-1, is the best spy the Western Bloc has, but she has one distinct weakness. She still has a heart. Time and again, she has faced situations on her missions where her compassion has compromised her original orders. Her superiors are even beginning to wonder whether it's worth the risk to keep her in the field. Her old mentor, ironically named Ironheart, told her a long time ago that the worse thing an agent could do was to let their emotions get the better of them. Wouldn"t you know that Mylene would be seen to talk her one-time mentor into rejoining the Zero Zero Organization or face execution.  She also opens  a heap of worms when pity gets the better of her when she helps a stranded motorist outside Rome who is being chased by gunmen. Mylene  also uses a kid to get closer to a suspected enemy agent and faces another moral quandary. In the last episode we get a flashback to Mylene's past and how she came to become a 00 agent, which is unusual because in most series of this type, the lead character"s past is left a mysterious blank with nary a hint of how they developed.

    This second volume of 009-1 suffered from a sophomore slump after an intriguing but sometimes flawed first volume. While I respect the complex emotions the writing was going for, the episodes were a bit too predictable. They seemed nothing more than a series of moral debates in search of a storyline, or a sequence of yes or no questions. Will she shoot her old mentor? Will she lie to the young boy? Will she help the stranded motorist?  With questions like this, you have a 50% chance of guessing the outcome of each episode. The animation quality was very high and the 1960's wardrobe and car designs were definitely cool in a chic retro sorta way. But the writing didn't aspire high enough for a series with such a beautiful look.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: 009-12.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:13pm CDT

    Eureka Seven Volume 8

    Anime DVD review for Eureka Seven Volume 8. Directed by Tomoki Kyoda. Chief Script Writer: Dai Sato. Bandai Entertainment, $24.98, Episodes 31-34, 100 minutes.

    The Tresoir technicians are feverishly trying to put the Nirvash together but a problem develops when Eureka tells them that it doesn't want to be put together in the same way. Nirvash tells her that he/she/it wants to "fly" so the scientists have to go back to the drawing board in terms of the body design. And who would be better to make the Nirvash a new modified board than Renton's grandpa? Now the problem is delivering it to the Gekkostate without it being captured by the military. And there's the small matter of gramp's risk of being imprisoned or even killed. The Tresoir team doesn't have all day as Dewey tests some mantle busting missles designed to stir up the Coralians. He hopes that if he coordinates them in the right places and with enough firepower, he will be able to annihilate the Coralians. Dewey isn't like Gekkostate, who are searching for some way to cohabit the planet. He wants to utterly eradicate the Coralians. When he shoots the missles into the planet, antibodies, monstrous surreal looking creatures swarm upon the nearest human cities, killing thousands. But Dewey is willing to sacrifice them if it means he can get some hard data on the missle tests. Because she is a Coralian, Eureka feels in some way responsible for the attacks and deaths of so many innocents.

    Over the course of 8 volumes, Eureka Seven has gradually worked its way up to being one of the greatest anime series of all time, at least in my opinion. Renton and Eureka are way past the whole puppy love phase of their relationship, and because of the extreme circumstances, have been forced to a very adult space...minus sex of course. They  both have to deal with seeing the horrors of the Coralian attacks and ruined cities. In earlier volumes, both of them might have withdrawn into their own little rooms of despair to suffer in silence. But now, both Renton and Eureka are ready to share not only the good times, but the bad times as well. It's really a beautiful illustration of what a healthy relationship can be. Just think how happy they could be if their world was at peace. Holland and Talho are also ready to face the music, as they quit pussy footing around their love for each other and Talho makes him finally admit that he doesn't have all the answers doesn't have to act so tough.  Of course, the animation, music, design, and writing of the show continues with a gold standard. This sci-fi opera makes Star Wars look like a fantasy from Barney and Friends.

    My Grade: A+

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 5:43pm CDT

    Solty Rei Volume 2

    Anime DVD review for Solty Rei Volume 2. Directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike. Script by Noboru Kimura. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 7-10, 100 minutes.

    Things are getting shaken up in the Roy Revant household as the outlaw Rose moves in after her hideout is raided by the authorities. Roy has already had a difficult enough time adjusting to living with Solty so to put it mildly, he's not overjoyed at the prospect of a new guest. In fact he tells Rose that he never agreed to let her stay and wants her out. It turns out that Rose is there for an ulterior motive. She wants Solty to join her criminal gang. Ok, they're really not that bad because like Robin Hood, Rose and her two brothers steal to pay for medicine for the poor. If Rose gets a kick out of as well, who's to say whether she's bad or not? But she does have a bit of a dark past that is revealed when she passes the man that murdered her family on the street. It's not all bad news for Rose though as she hooks up romantically with a handsome RUC agent, complete with a silver plate covering part of his face Phantom of the Opera-style.

    A big complaint I have about this show is that its characters are design challenged. For example, Rose has a big hunk of hair that falls in front of her face that looks like a plastic electric circuit. Her boots are too big and look like they would fly off the first time she ran. Solty's large green substitute cat/goat ears look like someone stuck a steel bar through her head. Roy Revant goes the opposite way and is probably one of the most boring looking anime characters of all time. The second volume of Solty Rei finds the show a bit adrift as Roy's job as a bounty hunter seems to have taken a back seat to the drama that is Rose's life. We hardly even see him battle one Resemble thug and that's not all bad. The writers seemed to want to focus more on the relationships and the personalities of the characters, mainly Rose. Sadly, Solty suffers the most within this focus because she has the mind of a elementary school kid and is playing the "blank slate" stereotype. Still, this second volume was entertaining in its own way if you were getting tired of all the tough guy posing from the first volume.  The animation is decent, but the CG can be jarring at times, and the character's faces lack a lot in the expression department.

    My Grade: B

     

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 1:46pm CDT

    Witchblade Volume 2

    Witchblade Volume 2 Anime DVD Review. Directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi. Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 5-8, 100 minutes.

    The second volume of Witchblade opens with a confrontation between Masane and the "Cloneblades", minions of the NSWF, who wield copies of the original Witchblade. NSWF sees itself as the rightful owner of the Witchblade and is willing to use hook or crook to get it back from Douji Industries. Reina Soho, the daughter of NSWF's founder, was actually the host of the Witchblade until the big earthquake 6 years ago that devastated Tokyo and led to its choosing of Masane as its next wielder. Now Reina is a Cloneblade but she is beginning to suspect that the copies are somehow absorbing their hosts. Her suspicions are confirmed when Shioro Tsuzuki's Cloneblade begins to drive her to kill innocent people in its lust for blood. We also learn about the one time alliance between Douji and NSWF to research the Witchblade and of the relationship between Reina and Douji's head, Reiji Takayama. And then there's Yusuke, the sometimes seedy photographer that is beginning to become convinced that the bumbling and dim-witted Masane is actually the superpowered monster fighting Witchblade wielder as well.

    The thing I like about Witchblade is the fact that it can be convoluted without becoming confusing. There are a lot of subplots going on with this show, like the former relationship between Reina and Reiji, that are given just enough exposition to make them make sense, but without overloading the viewer's brain with pointless info. This goes for most of the other plot points as well. Volume 2 also fleshes out the characters a bit more and gives them more depth. Reina is especially intruiging because she seems to be a prime factor in the giant earthquake that rocked the country. The battle sequences are handled very well, even if the Cloneblades and Witchblade look a little awkward, moving so fast and agilely in what are essentially costumes taken from an old 1970's KISS concert. And did I neglect to tell you that those costumes have a lot of skin on display? Masane's figleaf barely covers her genital area and most of the females are ready to bust out of their bras...if they even wear one. Sexy fun with gory action and some domestic comedy.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 6:06pm CDT

    Flag Volume 1 Anime DVD review

    Anime DVD review for Flag Volume 1 from Bandai, Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes. List Price: $29.98.

    If you were born in the last 50 or so odd years, then you are part of a multi-generation raised on images, especially those emanating from television, film, and, more recently, buzzing across the internet in a single lightspeed bound. The traditional news media like newspapers and magazines are outdated almost as soon as they are published and are casting an increasingly nervous eye at websites and bloggers. These days images can spark wars or take a hand in ending them. This is the case with Flag, a 13 episode anime series that was originally broadcast as a pay per view web video show.

    The focus of Flag is a on a single photo taken by a war photographer named Saeko Shirasu in the civil war-torn country of Uddiyana which at times seems a cross between Afghanistan and Tibet, if that makes any sense. The United Nations has come in to help stop the fighting. Saeko takes a shot of a UN flag that highlights a silhouette of someone on their knees praying behind it, which comes to symbolize the call for peace between the government and the insurgents. But as is always the case in wars, there are some individuals or groups whose agendas are best served by fighting. On the eve of the peace talks, the famous flag from the picture is stolen by an insurgent group and is spirited away to a heavily protected fortress. A special forces military unit, the SDC, is prepped to steal the flag back before the fragile peace is shattered. The SDC is equipped with HAVWC technology, which in anime terms means "Mecha"!  The UN wants someone to document the mission and the best person to do that is Saeko.

    Flag has a very weird storytelling strategy, or "gimmick". The anime is shot from the perspective of  image making machines, whether it be still shots from a camera, video footage, computer menus, sometimes, even through a character's reflection on a monitor.  While this is somewhat unique, in the end it becomes annoying to see every cutscene done with a clicking mouse icon on a computer monitor or some such. It also makes the anime seem very cheap, like maybe that didn't do the camera perspective to be original, but to cut costs. I would say that about 75% or more of this first volume is still shots, menu screens, or scenes where there is very little motion. I will say the music is well done and atmospheric. But that's pretty sad when I can say that is the only thing done well. I think the MESSAGE of the show is very important and timely and it deserved a lot more tender loving than Flag gets. It also suffers from the whole Blair Witch Syndrome. I mean, do people actually record everything they do and and leave their cameras on even when they're eating? At some point the constant filming becomes a little unrealistic. The characters seem quite interesting and I would like to see them in a more traditionally styled anime instead of a dehumanizing fishbowl view.

    My Grade: D-

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 2:24pm CDT

    Rescue Me: Mave-Chan  Anime DVD Review

    Fighting Fairy Girl Rescue Me: Mave-Chan, Bandai, $9.98, 25 minutes. Director: Takeshi Mori (Stratos 4, Vandread, Gunsmith Cats, Otaku No Video)

    Rei Sugiyama wins a ticket to a Yukikaze/Stratos 4 convention. He's grown up in a small town and he's never been away on his own before so his parents are very reluctant to let him go to the big city. While Rei is being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people at the convention, he goes through a doorway that leads to another world. He finds himself in a desert where the jets of the anime Yukikaze have taken the form of five cute young girls and women. There's the ditz fighter Mave, the big boobed Super Sylph, the mother hen Sylphide, and the always disrespected duo of One-chan and Two-chan. They are fighting against a super-sized villain named Forgettor. The world that Rei has entered into is the world of the imagination created by the love of the show's fans. But Mave and the other girls exist only as long as the fans interest is not diverted to other anime shows. This lack of attention is embodied in the Demon of the Oblivion, the monstrous Forgettor!

    If you're not familiar with the anime series Yukikaze or Stratos 4 you might be missing the boat by buying this very brief, almost inconsequential one episode dvd. If you don't know, Yukikaze was about an inter-dimensional gate that opened at the South Pole. Groups of highly advanced fighter craft were sent through the gate to battle aliens. I have watched all of the Stratos 4 series, but have only viewed the first volume of Yukikaze. Even if you are a huge fan of those two shows, there's nothing really here to write home about. While the animation is done quite well, there is not enough time to do anything with the characters and the cheezy storyline is so bad that its really not even worth mentioning. This dvd seems like an overlong promo clip to be shown at conventions to slavering otaku fans who would love any cute girl in military fatigues. For a regular fan of anime, it's simply a waste of money. This should be sold with Freedom Volume 1 as a double rip-off special. Ok, actually this one episode of Mave-chan was Oscar-caliber compared to the HD-DVD release of Freedom Volume 1. At least we're not being charged 40$!

    My Grade: D-

    Direct download: mavechan.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 9:42pm CDT

    Innocent Venus Volume 2: Blood of Betrayal

    Anime DVD review for Innocent Venus Volume 2: Blood of Betrayal, ADV Films, $29.98, 100 minutes, Episodes 5-8.

    Jin, Joe, Sana, and Gora are still on the run from Phantom but they manage to find at least a temporary respite from the pursuit by hiding out at the dojo of a man named Chikura. A man who just happens to be Sana's grandfather. He is training rebels for the growing insurgeny against the Logos. He also has a lot of the scientific research left behind by Sana's father, which Jin is mightily interested in. Mysteries deepen when Sana reacts very strongly to particular musical notes as she and Jin play a piano piece, causing her to faint and lose consciousness. But our heroes can't stay in one place for long before Phantom and government forces arrive to root them out. Jin and Joe and the others hook up again with the pirate leader and former Phantom member Toraji Shiba as he transports them to his home city of Satsuma, a city which prides itself on equality and peacefulness. A city, by the way, that is priming a secret war fleet to strike against the Japanese government.

    Volume 2 of this series really upped the ante in terms of quality as the plot became more clear and the writers came up with some very good character twists. While Volume 1 was good, with all the action and emotional baggage the characters had, the viewer had a hard time making sense of the world of Innocent Venus. Now that we've settled into the show a bit, it's a little easier to understand everything that is going on. The animation of this show is incredible. Even during the fastest battle sequences, the show never uses cheap stills or motion lines to imply action. The mecha battles, which are done with CG, still do not blend extremely well with the rest of the show, but it is less blaring because most of the fights occur at night. Be prepared for a cliffhanger at the end of this volume.

    Extras are pretty skimpy. Only includes clean opening/closing.

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: innocent_venus2.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 10:48am CDT

    Mushi-Shi Volume 1 Anime DVD Review

    Mushi-Shi Volume 1 Anime DVD Review. Director and Series Composer: Hiroshi Nagahama. Funimation, $29.98. Volume 1 contains Episodes 1-5 and runs about 125 minutes.

    Mushi are the oldest lifeforms in existence, even below microorganisms and fungi. They evolved so long ago that most humans cannot even see them in their true form. Most of the time they appear as floating, almost plankton-like organisms drifting through the air and effortlessly passing through anything material in their way. Some can even take human form. Mushi are neither good nor evil. They simply are. But on occasion the very presence of mushi can lead to problems for humans. For example in one of these episodes, a girl becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight and has to stay in the dark all the time with a cloth over her eyes because mushi have taken up residence there. When mushi are involved, using the standard problem solving procedures such as doctors and such meets with very little success. No, someone with special abilities has to be called in. Enter the unassuming and serenely calm Ginko, a travelling Mushishi who tries to end any negative consequences caused by the interaction between humans and mushi. A lot of the victims of the mushi tend to be young such as a girl following a moving swamp which is actually a collective mushi. Or a boy whose drawings come to life and another who has grown extremely sensitive to noise and has grown horns!

    The problem that keeps Mushishi from being a great show is its single-minded devotion to the mushi. Because of its monster of the....I mean mushi, of the week, the show can get a bit repetitive. Kinda like Inuyasha's over-reliance on Naraku as the main antagonist which can suck the life out of any original ideas. I mean the writers had to somehow turn every episode of Mushishi into a hunt for mushi. I will admit that they did a good job making us sympathize with all of the supporting characters. If you don't care for the people Ginko is helping out, you must be really emotionally remote. I haven't read the manga but the director of the anime, Hiroshi Nagahama took very careful steps to keep the anime version as close to the manga as possible and was a big fan of the series before he got involved with the anime version. Really, the show reminded me a bit of Sergio Leone westerns in which a lone gunfighter comes to town and straightens out the world temporarily. I look forward to finding out more about this mushishi in the next couple of volumes. The manga the anime is based on is currently being published by Del Rey with two volumes out so far.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: mushishi.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 9:33am CDT

    Air TV Volume 2

    Air TV Volume 2 Anime DVD Review. Released 9/25/07 by ADV Films, 100 Minutes, List Price: $29.98.

    Yukito's quest for the winged girl beyond the clouds takes second priority as the girls around him face large problems that could threaten their lives. Misuzu is getting weaker and weaker as her dreams increase in frequency and intensity. He gets angry with Misuzu's mother for being insensitive about her daughter's plight. But then he remembers that his mother told him about a girl that suffered like Misuzu before she passed away. She had the same kind of dreams and a bizarre and frightening condition. The closer the girl becomes to people, the sicker she became. Eventually, she died. Ironically, Yukito comes to believe that his proximity and emotional ties to Misuzu are the very things that are endangering her life! Meanwhile, there's something weird going on between the quiet and introverted Minagi and her best and only friend, the crazy Yukito-bashing Michuru. When Yukito walks Minagi home, he is shocked when Minagi's mom calls her by the name of Michuru which leads to the revelation of a mental illness of Minagi's mom and and an explanation of why Minagi is so withdrawn. Then we go back in time about a thousand years to learn about this famous winged girl named Kanna that everybody's been talking about for the past seven episodes. Kanna is pretty much incarcerated by priests and carted around the country to bless various things because she is seen as a messenger to the gods, even though she can barely fly. Instead of being a divine messenger, she is really just a young girl who is feeling increasingly entrapped in a role she does not feel she is suited for. Two of those near to her, her guard, Ryuya, and her servant, Uraha, plan a daring escape to free her from the shackles of religion and superstition.

    I must admit that I had a bit of reservation about this second volume because it seemed at first to be more of the same as Volume 1 without any plot progress. But as I got drawn more and more into the strange tale of Minagi and Michiru, I was intrigued by the subtle layering of the story which at times seems strange and at times creepy. The last episode, which began to tell of the events a millenium ago was like a breath of fresh air into a show that was beginning to drag a bit. Hopefully, we'll get some answers in the past that will explain what is happening in the present. Even though I'd like the mysterious atmosphere and strange occurrences to stay in place a little longer. While this show can be a tad too sentimental at times, it has a very quiet beauty and an ethereal feel that can draw you to another time and space that you might not want to come back from.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: airtv2.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:05pm CDT

    Best Student Council Volume 5: Special Talents, Crazy Times

    Pucchan isn't the only puppet on the block anymore. Izumi finds a puppet named Lance in a box in an alley that has the same abilties of sentience as Pucchan. Lance actually knows Pucchan as well. It seems they are old friends and both used to serve Rino's mom back in the old days. His arrival ushers in the fact that Rino has a far more important role to play at the school than was previously thought, even though it's pretty mysterious at this point. There are many mentions of her awakening that leaves the viewer a bit confused as to what Rino is. Rino's friend, Ayumu, takes centerstage when she is enlisted to become a pop idol, being marketed under the slogan My ordinariness is what makes me special. It brings some unwanted attention from her ninja clan family who see her as a traitor because she turned her back on the martial arts in the pursuit of a normal life. Her brother is sent to bring her back or kill her! The last episode concerns a Yu-Gi-Oh type trading card game which uses the Best Student Council as its characters. Most of the students play it and it's also a big revenue source. But some of the Council are not happy with their stats on the cards and want to revise them to be more flattering.

    This is one of the weaker volumes in an otherwise very funny series. The addition of Lance to the cast for a brief time is the prize catch in my view. When he first meets Pucchan, they engage in a slow motion Matrix-like battle that is hilarious. The great thing about Best Student Council is that beneath the humor and zaniness, the characters have depth. For example, Ayumu's battle with her brother ninja is a little goofy on the surface, but the emotional context of it is a very human thing. She wants freedom to do what she wants and her family is stifling her. Even the whole pop idol facet of it is a satire of a Japanese industry that takes young girls and uses them for a time and casts them aside when they are no longer hip. That's the trick for this kind of show. To not only make you laugh at and with the characters, but to make you care for them as well. A funny and sometimes surprisingly touching anime.

    My Grade: B

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 11:40am CDT

    Guyver Volume 3 Anime DVD Review

    With the help of Guyver Unit 3, Sho has managed to destroy the Japan branch of Chronos, and also gotten Guyver Unit 2 out of the way. With its leader, Guyot, presumed dead in a helicopter explosion, Sho thinks it's finally time to kick back a bit and return to his normal life. Boy, is he wrong! Agito, who is secretly Guyver 3, knows that the tendrils of Chronos spread over the world like so many spider webs and that the job is not finished quite yet. The plans of both young men go seriously awry when Guyot shows up alive and well. He now plans to destroy the very life that Sho wants to return to. He kidnaps not only Tetsuro, who knows all about the Guyvers and Chronos, but also the innocent Mizuki, and even Sho's father! They have been taken to Relic's Point, a vast underground island base of Chronos, where the Guyvers were first found. It also doubles as a mass production factory of Zoanoids rights out of Attack of the Clones. Sho heads for the island, along with a mysterious reporter who packs a custom made pistol that can kill Zoanoids.

    Volume 3 is notable for answering some questions that viewers had about the series and its characters. We finally get some clues, or at least one explanation of why Agito is helping Chronos on the surface but secretly working to destroy it from within. Even though he seems seriously in danger of becoming that which he hates. Even though he appears heroic at the moment, we know he's going to go bad because at the beginning of Volume 1, Sho was preparing to do battle with him. What we are watching now is an long flashback on how things got to that point. All the emotions of this show seem real and immediate, namely because Sho is fighting to save his friend, his love, and his dad. What more noble things are there to fight for? The monster designs are the weakest link in this show, but I've seen so many goofy-looking Zoanoids at this point, I've gotten used to it. A great show. Now if we just convince Viz to reprint the manga!

    ADV Films, Episodes 9-12, 100 minutes

    My Grade: A-

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 2:28pm CDT

    Black Cat Volume 6 DVD Review: Cat's Nine Lives

    Creed and the Apostles of the Stars have been thoroughly routed and defeated by the combined efforts of the Sweeper’s Alliance and Chronos so everyone is feeling a bit relaxed. Sven is feeling so relaxed that he even mentions to Eve that maybe it’s time to give up the life of a Sweeper and  live more like a normal kid, maybe even start school. Without realizing it, he hurts her to the quick because he promised her a while back that she would always be by his side. What hurt her so much was that Sven, Black Cat, and Rinslet are the closest thing to family that she has. When she runs away to sulk, Eve falls into the hands of  the Zero Numbers,  a group of  rogue Chronos agents and Apostles of the Stars that are determined to bring about peace and order to the world  through the Eden Project.  If they are allowed to carry out their plans, every human being on the planet will have their bodies and lifeforce absorbed into one universal mind.  If Black and Sven do not act fast, Eve will fully merge with the Eden core.  They  join forces with the Sweeper’s Alliance, Chronos, and the Apostles in an effort to save not only Eve, but the entire human race.

     The final dvd  of Black Cat is what I like to call a Royal Rumble volume. By that, I mean that most of the characters that have appeared in the show come together in one last giant climactic battle with a winner take the world outcome.  The characters in Black Cat are written extremely well. Even Creed got a chance to show a sane side to his personality last volume! The storylines and personalities of the cast run a long way deeper than most Shonen Jump titles.  You would think it would be really exciting to see the final battle but there’s one aspect of this anime that has always held it back from being a great show:  the inconsistent animation quality. During most of the battle scenes, Gonzo really wimps out and presents them as still frames with very little motion, if at all. This has been a problem throughout the entire run. If you’re not going to show action in an action show, then don’t even bother making it! I mean, at least shake the camera or something on the still shots!  Or insert manga pages. While the barely adequate battle sequences weaken the show,  I still liked Black Cat  a lot and definitely recommend it.

    My Rating: B+

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 6:41pm CDT