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Initial D Legend 3: Dream (anime review)

Title: Initial D Legend 3: Dream on Blu-ray

Director: Masamitsu Hidaka, Tomohito Naka (co-director)

Studio: Sanzigen & Liden Films

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 12th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 60 minutes

Genre: Car Racing, Coming of Age

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

In Initial D Legend 3: Dream, this is it! As the final showdown between breakout downhill racing phenomenon Takumi Fujiwara and Ryosuke Takahashi, the unbeaten leader of the Akagi RedSuns, draws near, both drivers and their teams go into overdrive. Takumi’s 86 and Takahashi’s RX-7 are broken down, retuned and transformed for battle. Skills that are already at the top of their form are honed into razor sharpness. Takumi must resolve his romantic situation with Natsuki. And then the race is on! Get ready for the ultimate duel on blacktop as the masters of drift square off in a winner-take-all competition that will steal your breath away in new theatrical movie Initial D Legend 3: Dream directed by Masamitsu Hidaka!

Commentary:

This last of 3 films does a wonderful job of bring us to the classic series. As with the other two films the story helps us get back up to speed with the essence of the Initial D franchise and introduces us to everyone that matters early on. Bottom line is that it Takumi is forced to understand his talent and discover what makes him really want to do this. On the other hand you have Ryosuke who knows why he does this and why he must be the best. In the end there is the final challenge between pure natural ability and cunning knowledge.

For any guy that is into cars and racing this series of films and the original series would we a great fit. For everyone else that might not be enough to keep them involved.

Overall Grade: B

I thought the animation production values were average at best and that some of the racing scenes tended to over develop the racing, but in series and films like this it really is about the drama and how to show it. I guess that all too often I felt like I was in a Bleach scene where some huge power was being unleaded rather than racing in some road race.

I guess that thing that failed me the most was the overall weakness of some of the main characters. I went away feeling rather cold toward Takumi and somewhat sorry for Ryosuke and maybe just maybe that is what they wanted, but the films are setup to make you want to root for Takumi. I guess I just didn’t care enough about him or what he was doing.

I do know that fans of the original Initial D series will love every minute of the films and snap them up like crazy. Maybe at some point in the future all 3 films will be released in one set.

Long Riders! The Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Long Riders! The Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Tatsuya Yoshihara

Studio: Actas

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: July 17th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy, Sport

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Ami’s always been small, a little clumsy and unsure of herself, unlike her more athletic friend Aoi. But when she sees someone using a folding bicycle on the way home from University, she realizes that the compact bike might be a perfect fit for her. Plus it’s really, really cute.

Before you know it, Ami’s bought her own bicycle and she and Aoi are going on biking trips together! Suddenly Ami’s world is so much bigger as she and Aoi meet a whole new group of friends who share their love of this sport, and the thrill of competing in long distance cycling events. Join in the fun and share in the adventure as a group of young women discover the joy of hitting the streets and touring Japan under their own power!

Commentary:

One thing that the Japanese really know how to do is produce sweet light slice of life that manage to remind us what a perfect world might look like. Long Riders is just one of those anime. It takes a young woman who has somewhat low self-esteem and givers her something that lifts her confidence and also surrounds her with friends that either push her or judge her for being who she is. These loving friends allow her to progress at her own pace and even find ways to help her improve without making it look like they are doing anything but just being friends. This little group of friends don’t seem to have a mean bone in their bodies and when it comes to Ami they want her to feel great about riding.

I know that it is just another of the many feel good anime that are produced, but after seeing so much violence and over the top fan service it sure is nice to sit down and watch a simple story about friends who enjoy the simple pleasure of riding bicycles.

Overall Grade: B+

Based on my commentary you would think that this series would earn a higher grade and typically I would have been more generous, but for Long Riders there are aspects of it that missed the mark. First of all the production values are rather cheep. When there was straight use of Computer Graphics (CG) I felt like it diminished the story because the quality was so poor. Some of the scenes looked like they were CG from 1998 to 2005. The hard edge and high contrast shadows just made everything too blocky and became a distraction rather than aid.

Most of the writing and character development was solid, but some of the story took the super easy way out and didn’t help these characters develop at all. At the end of the series I felt like there was still entirely too much I still wanted to know about the group than what I learned.

With a little better animation production value and a solid character development I could see Long Riders as being a real hit rather than just a nice series. I still want to recumbent Long Riders to everyone who enjoys feel good anime and really appreciates series that support the characters rather than set them up for bitterness and anger. Long Riders is a hit in my eyes so please give it a chance I think you might feel a little better after you watch it.

Kabukibu Anime Review

Title: Kabukibu!

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks

Director: Kazuhiro Yoneda

U. S. Release Date: June 5th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Kurogo Kurusu is now a high school student and the one club he passionately wants to join doesn’t exist.  When he was little, his grandfather shared with him his love of Kabuki. Now, Kurogo wants to be able to share and create this theatrical art with other students at his school. He eagerly requests to form a club but the answer no. But, he delivers an inspired monologue from a famous scene. His passion was quite moving, his advisor relents, and not a club, but the kabuki “group” is granted permission form.

Kurogo along with his best friend Tondo, set out to recruit members so they can begin to create their own performances. Of course, because kabuki is an old, stiff art form, with out of date language, it doesn’t really hold the young people’s interest. It is so hard to follow the dialogue making it boring and even tedious. Kurogo is undeterred and sets out to find new ways to introduce his beloved kabuki to a new audience.

Commentary:

I’d definitely recommend Kabukibu. My impulse answer to why is because there wasn’t anything annoying in it. At least not for me. But there is more to it than that. The main character has the effervescent, optimistic personality that reminds me of so many other characters (like in Tamako’s Market, or Haikyu!) searching for a way to achieve their goal and make things better for those around them along the way.  These are the type of people who work hard to succeed for the greater good. As the viewer, I feel swept along with friends, cheering them all along the way. This is why it was an uplifting and fun anime to watch.

Kurogo is a solid and charismatic main character. He has a deep respect for the past and tradition but understands the need for things to be relevant for the modern person and even having respect for today’s culture. He isn’t complaining or lamenting how people now days are at a fault. He brings the past to meet the future where it is. Tondo is the arguably the Hermione (from Harry Potter) of the anime. He’s the one who can find the information and make things happen.

I sure hope the information about kabuki they were teaching others was true because we were learning alongside of them. Since I enjoy learning about the Japanese culture, stemming from anime, it is really lovely to and anime that gives us more exposure to the cultural history.

The ending was satisfying, so it doesn’t feel like there needs to be a second season.

Who would like this anime? I think if you enjoy the school slice of life anime where friends are interacting and living a shared story you’ll like this one. I don’t really categorize it as comedy, but it is light, uplifting and comfortable. Fun. Kabukibu would be good for all ages, so I would prefer that there was a dub option. Without it, the younger viewer is basically eliminated. Well, that’s the way it goes, often. Anime like Aria come to mind.

Overall Grade: B+: Kabukibu is a fun and culturally interesting show. I just wish spellcheck would stop correcting the title as I write!

 

Anonymous Noise (anime review)

Title: Anonymous Noise

Director: Hideya Takahashi

Music by: Sadesper Record, NARASAKI / Watchman

Studio: Brain’s Base

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 5th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Shojo, Romance, Music

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Six years ago Momo taught Nino the joy of singing from her heart. When Momo’s family moved away without warning, Nino found herself lost and adrift. Until she met Yuzu, who also had a musical gift that he shared with her until he was suddenly gone as well, leaving nothing but the memory of his music. Before they disappeared, both Momo and Yuzu said the same thing- that Nino should keep singing, because that was how they’d find her again.

Now, as Nino starts high school, their paths are all about to cross again. But while Nino has kept singing and remembering how things were, Momo and Yuzu have changed. Now it may take a miracle to bring them back together when a triangle becomes more than a musical instrument.

Commentary:

True shojo anime is not really my bag but there always seems to be something about these anime that draws me in.  Anonymous Noise is one of those anime series that does a good job of keeping my attention and telling a somewhat simple story in a entertaining way. Granted, love triangles are typically one sided and Anonymous Noise leans that way and of all the issues I might have with the series this is the most petty issue I have. I know that people come to series like Anonymous Noise looking for this type of drama and honestly it is the one thing that makes me want to turn away. The thing about Anonymous Noise that kept me coming back was the underling story about the band and their rise and the difficulties they had based on members needs. Having grown up with musicians in my life I understood the trials and tribulations they had to go through even if their road to success was easy yet strange.

Even though I like the underling story, I realize that it was really all about the romance and love triangle and can easily see why anyone would be attracted to it.

Overall Grade: B

I wish I could say that Anonymous Noise hit a home run, but in reality it didn’t. Expecting some hard hitting music with some love triangle drama ended up being a setup for disappointment. I loved the basic story, but fund the music to be overly simplistic and the love or romance of the story to be forced at times. With all of that being said I did enjoy the dynamics between everyone and appreciated the overall writing. If you love Shojo anime and are looking for a solid story with a melodramatic love story intertwined them Anonymous Noise is just the ticket.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria (anime review)

Title: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria

Director: Yōhei Suzuki

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 29th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genere: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Fan Service

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis: 

Contrary to what the adventures of Bell and the Goddess Hestia might imply, not everyone goes into the dungeon of Orario to pick up girls. The veterans of the Goddess Loki’s Familia have lots of reasons for risking life and limb facing the monsters and mayhem lurking within the deadly labyrinth’s multiple levels, but new member and mage Lefiya just wants to prove that she’s worthy to be on the same team as her hero, the famed sword princess Aiz Wallenstein.

As for Aiz herself, she’s seeking something that no one else even suspects, and she may find it when trouble comes after her from the previously unreached 59th level! If you thought you knew the Danmachi universe, be prepared to think again as the adventure continues from an all-new point of view!

Commentary:

As much as I liked Is It Wrong To Pick Up A  Girl In A Dungeon, I have to say that Sword Oratoria gave me even more appreciation for the complete series. Knowing that the 12 episodes will not have Bell and his adventures in it I did have moments when I could see the team back fighting together. The Loki Familia is great and all but Bell and Hestia and many of the others do make a difference in the entire mix.

Of all the characters to have focus on, Aiz, is by far the least entertaining one. She might be on the clueless side and have great talent but her flat persona is a lost cause. I also think that having Bell faun all over her is much more entertaining than seeing the girls in the Loki Familia have the hots for her is just sad indeed.

Overall Grade: B+

The action is very good and the pacing of the series is great. We don’t get too bogged down and things move along without giving up too much to soon. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria is solid and very entertaining. I feel as though it is important to provide more character development for many side characters and most series just toss out a bad  OVA to help create some back story. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria helps us see some of the other characters in a new light. I am contemplating going back and revisiting the original just to see some of these players with a new appreciation.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria is worth owning and if you are fan of the original series this is a must. I think it does nothing short of helping the series stay relevant and opens doors for more to come.

 

ClassicaLoid Anime Review

Title: ClassicaLoid on Blu-ray

 

Publisher: Sentai

U. S. Release Date: April 24, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 25  Episodes / 625Minutes

Genre: Comedy

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Kanae is in in high school, but she doesn’t have much time to focus on that. See, she is left alone in her grandmother’s big mansion. Although her dad is still alive, she doesn’t know where he is and only has limited and sporadic contact with him since he works at some mysterious job. At a loss as to what to do to maintain the old home, she decides to sell it all. So, she is surprised when “Mozart” shows up intending to take a room there. A stoic and intense man, he is soon contrasted by “Beethoven” who is crazy and free spirited. The magic begins to happen when the house is about to be torn down by the people buying the mansion, and in their emotional state, the two new squatters unleash a powerful musical energy that’s unearthly- what they call Musick.

As things progress, Kanae and Sosuke (her wannabe musician friend) are surrounded by additonal well known- apparently reincarnated?- Classical composers. Beethoven refers to them as “Loids”. Kanae almost seems to expect the strange things to happen, and so just goes about taking care of the house and hoping all the residents of the now rooming house will actually pay rent or do their share of the work.

Odd as all the Classical Loids occupying house is, there is a mystery at work. What are they exactly, they don’t seem to know or at least admit they know, and what is the purpose of their sudden appearance. Kanae’s father appears to be connected to the confusion but he is as uncommunicative as ever, as we wait for the world to experience profound change…? Bach, what are you up to?

Commentary:

ClassicaLoid was fun to watch. I enjoyed the story elements of Classical music twisted into the unexpected. The characters became unique because of the mash of historical with pop culture. While Shubert was on the historical side, Beethoven went all the way to pink pop. Really a fun mix.Since overall this is a comedy, there was plenty of humor. Some dry, some slapstick. But there is also a good building of friends and relationships.

ClassicaLoid has the blend of “here is our comedic life” and “something mysterious/serious is hidden”.  It’s one of those common combos in comedy anime like Chobits, Tamako Market or Love Hina. (If you liked any of those, I think you’ll like ClassicaLoid) I always find this it be rough in blending together, even unnecessary, but I suppose it does add a complexity that in all makes it more interesting, opening it up to more than the friendship/comedy genre.For me, I would have been happier with the whole thing if we would have just had fun with the characters.

Visually, I like this anime. The well thought out images and backgrounds were secondary to the character creations. And topping both, I thought there were some great special effects. They had to be creative with the scenes depicting the magic of the Musick, and they really delivered. I mean, to visually express music has been attempted countless times, but it is really tough to do. I think ClassicaLoid found a expressive and accomplished way to do so.

I found the story ending satisfying it could all end right here. But I have read that there is a second season. So, you can enjoy this on its own or look forward to a second helping.

Overall Grade: B+  

ClassicaLoid  is one of those anime that is like visiting friends, incorporating a fun mix of old and new by bringing the historical composers into contemporary times, flavored with comedy, sci-fi, and magic.

 

Atom the Beginning (anime review)

Title: Atom the Beginning on Blu-ray

Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro

Studio: OLM, Production I.G, Signal.MD

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 1st, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Action

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Atom the Beginning contains episodes 1-12 of the anime series directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro.

In the aftermath of the Great Catastrophe, grad students Hiroshi Ochanomizo and Ummataro Tenma are working at the forefront of the exciting new field of super-robot development. Creating the next level of technology isn’t cheap, however, and not only do the guys have to take on side jobs to keep their research going, they also have to contend with both jealous rivals and sinister organizations who want their secrets. Fortunately, our heroes also have an ace in the hole: their latest prototype, A106, who may just be the smartest, most powerful robot yet, and might even possibly be ATOM – THE BEGINNING!

Commentary:

Atom the Beginning is a prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy manga/anime series, depicting the events up until the birth of Astro Boy. Atom the Beginning may be a homage to Astro Boy but I found it to be better in almost every way. The writing is better, the animation is superb and the overall production quality proves that the new generation has a greater feel for this art form.

Of course there is some silliness in Atom the Beginning, but I didn’t seem to mind . It was the development and delivery of the story that made every moment worth while.

Overall Grade: A-

Before I sat down and began to watch Atom the Beginning, I was very concerned that trying to connect it to Tezuka would blind their own vision. The only other time I have seen a winning attempt to honoring Tezuka was in Urasawa’s Pluto. Which is also a reimagine of the Astro Boy story. Atom the Beginning didn’t have to rewrite the story it just had to come up with a valid beginning and present it in a way that didn’t fly in the face of the 65 year old series that stretched over 15 years.

I am impressed with Atom the Beginning and would tell everyone to forget that it relates to Astro Boy and look at it as a stand alone series. You will find it to be wonderfully told and crafted.

In Is It Wrong to Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon?! (anime review)

Title: In Is It Wrong to Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon?!

Director: Yoshiki Yamakawa

Music by: Keiji Inai

Studio:  J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 8th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray/ 25 Minute OVA / 2 Music CDs

Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Action, Adventure, Fan Service

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

In Is It Wrong to Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon?! contains the OVA and 2 Disc Original Soundtrack.

Our band of bold adventurers has just blown through the 18th level of the world’s most fearsome dungeon, so what do they do for an encore?

Since the city of Orario doesn’t have a theme park, the next choice for Bell, Hestia, Lilly and the gang would seem to be a trip to the hot springs… and, conveniently enough, a battle with some hellhounds has led them to an undiscovered underground oasis! However, there’s something fishy about these springs, beyond the fact that Hermes happens to have bathing suits for all the ladies in their correct sizes! Will the secret be discovered before it’s too late? Will Hestia finally come clean with Bell? It’ll all come out in the wash when our heroes learn the answer!

Commentary:

All in all, In Is It Wrong to Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon?! is exactly what you would expect from a 25 minute OVA that is clearly about the characters in a Hot Spring. Of course, this is Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and it is really about the sexual innuendoes and fan service. I didn’t expect anything else and that is what I got. The OVA did not try to hide its meaning or shy away from what it was trying to purvey. The real purpose of the set is the 2 Music CDs. That is a full 95 minutes of music.

The animation is the same quality as the series and there is nothing to note there and the music is a rather standard fair for soundtracks I guess the one big this is that you won’t find the opening or closing soundtracks on the CDs just a full tracks of music. The majority of them are rather ordinary European style orchestral arrangements that are so short that they really don’t express much of any feeling. There is a large amount of songs and also understandably relate back to the fantasy aspect of the series but that is as close as it gets.

Overall Grade: B

I completely understand the reasons for putting In Is It Wrong to Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon?! out and can see why this can find a solid place in someones collection. Where it all breaks down for me is the soundtrack and the solo issue of the OVA. For me it is clear that the OVA should have been packaged with the series and I honestly am not sure why the soundtracks even exists.

This little set is something that Is It Wrong fans will have to have and for everyone else I think it is a maybe. For the real essence of the set it really comes down to the CHEESECAKE. You would never guess from the cover.

 

Urara Meirochou the Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Urara Meirochou the Complete Collection on blu-ray

Director: Youhei Suzuki

Writer: Deko Akao

Studio: J. C. Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 17th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Chiya was raised in the woods and most of her friends were animals. But now she needs to find something, and since it may take the skills of an Urara, or fortune teller, to find it, she’s come to the town of Meiro-cho to learn to become an Urara herself.

It won’t be easy adjusting… and not just because Chiya still tends to check to see if people have tails or want their tummies rubbed! But the other girls studying at the Natsumeya teahouse are all unusual in their own ways, and it’s clear from the beginning that Chiya’s going to be great friends with studious Kon, rambunctious Koume and shy Nono. And that’s good, because if Chiya’s going to find her missing mother, she’ll need all the help and support she can get!

Commentary:

Urara Meirochou the Complete Collection is one of the cutest anime I have see in some time. each of the characters, especially Chiya, steals your heart from the very first episode. Like most of these slice of life anime the girls are easy to connect with and their personalities are also obvious from the very start.

There is a solid plot and with the humor of the naive young ladies and the weird world they have entered the series doesn’t have to be long to be good. There are plenty of small twist along the way with an overwhelming splash of silly playful humor to keep the viewer tagging along for all 12 episodes.

Overall Grade: B+

The one thing that Urara Meirochou has going for it is the solid animation. The production really matched the feel of the series rather than try to push a false dynamic. The look adds to the feel good aspect of the series and also provides for a soft easy flow.

The real strength of the Urara Meirochou the Complete Collection is the simplicity of the story and the warmth of the characters. Having each of them with sweet unassuming nature and a rather naive approach to life allows the story to give plenty of humor and happiness to the time spent watching.

Bottom line is if you are looking for some light sweet entertainment then Urara Meirochou the Complete Collection is the cure for you.

 

Uta No Prince-Sama Legend Star Season 4 (anime review)

Title: Uta no Prince-Sama Legend Star Season 4 on Blu-ray

Director: Takeshi Furuta

Writers: Tomolo Konparu, Sayaka Konno

Studio: A-1 Pictures

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 3rd, 2018

Format: Blu-Ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Reverse Harem, Musical Slice of Life

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Uta no Prince-Sama: Legend Star contains episode 1-13 of season 4.

The contest to become the opening group for Triple S may have been shaken up by the arrival of the now seven-member group HEAVENS, but QUARTET NIGHT generously declines to take advantage of the decision in their favor… as long as the other two bands agree to an unexpected new phase of the competition!

Are the other two rival groups ready for a new series of cross-band duets, with each song pairing one member of STARISH and one member of HEAVENS? Will Haruka be up to writing yet another round of spectacular songs? It’s time to pick up the tempo and sing to the balconies as the musical one-upmanship only gets wilder!

Commentary:

I never really minded reverse harem anime and I must say that I found the first few seasons of Uta no Prince Sama a little more entertaining than most. Season 4 Legend Star manages to fill some of the requirement and also left me a little flat at times. I guess that it really all comes down to the music with Uta no Prince Sama and for this season I just didn’t connect the way I had hopped to. It was still very happening and if this genre of music is your bag then you will be up dancing your heart out.

Overall Grade: B

With all the drama and competitive vibes going on I believed that Legend Star would have given me more. It is clear that the series is a real hit in Japan and it clearly has its following her in the states, but it is very possible that these types of bands just don’t have the staying power in the west the way they do in the east.

I will say that the animation, writing and storyline manage to prove very adequate and fluid. The production values are by for the strong point followed by the writing. The story is rather basic and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Uta no Prince Sama Legend Star keeps things rolling but also left me sitting way to still for the 13 episodes. I realize that I am not the target audience and that the true believers will love every minute. If you are looking for a boy band reverse harem that has some lively music the the Uta no Prince Sama series is for you. If you haven’t seen any before then I would suggest starting at the beginning with season 1 and working your way over to season 4. If you are already into Uta no Prince Sama then you are ready for season 4 and please move straight ahead.