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Ajin: Demi-Human (anime review)

Title: Ajin on Blu-ray

Director: Hiroyuki Seshita, Hiroaki Andō

Writer: Hiroshi Seko

Studio: Polygon Pictures

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 16th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episode + Movie / 325 Minutes

Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure, Thriller, Supernatural

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

When the truck slammed into Kei Nagai’s body, he should have died instantly. Instead, the high-school student finds himself resurrected, with all of his wounds somehow healed. However, Kei’s real problems are just starting. Now revealed to be an Ajin, one of a mysterious new breed of demi-human that have begun appearing around the world, he’s been marked with an international bounty, and in the eyes of the world’s governments, Kei is a specimen to be contained by any means possible.

Now he’s on the run, unable to trust anyone except his closest friend, and his only hope is to discover the terrifying secrets behind his new abilities before he’s forced to use them in battle! When you have an infinite number of lives ahead of you, death is only the beginning!

Commentary:

Well, well. Ajin manages to do something I wasn’t sure could be done in the current anime world. It manages to take a interesting story and animate it to almost a sad boring place. Polygon Pictures does a very poor job of animating this series and takes a solid story and almost makes it unwatchable. Fortunately that is where the failures end. The rest of the series is strong enough to give people a reason to watch. I am saying this even though this type of stress has been taken on in other series. Will Kei use his power to harm humans or not? Now I understand it is very common to see this issue in other anime and many of them did a much better job of presenting it. I think it is also very poignant that the real horror is produced by humans and that the Ajin are taught to hate the humans because of it, but of course there are plenty Ajin that are just down right evil.

Overall Grade: B-

Ajin may have found some notoriety by being an exclusive on one of the more notable streaming services, but I think it is great that the first half of the series along with a movie are presented as a set that could have a place in almost any anime collection. I realize that the animation is terrible and it appears as though Polygon still has some work to do with their use of their Computer Graphics program. I am not too sure that some students were given their first shot at animating this one. I realize that Polygon animated Knights of Sidonia and there were some issues with the quality of animation, but the art style and tone of Knights of Sidonia lent itself to this raw CG whereas Ajin really doesn’t.

The rest of the production and writing of Ajin save it and make it worth watching. The story is relatively straight forward, but once again there is enough interesting action and flavor to keep everyone interested.

Even with the poor animation I am still very interested in seeing the remainder of the series released.

Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team (anime review)

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team on Blu-ray

Director:   Takeyuki Kanda (Eps. 1-6),Umanosuke Iida (Eps. 7-12), Shinya Watada (OVA), Mitsuko Kase, Takeyuki Kanda, Umanosuke Iida (Millers Report)

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Rightstuf

U. S. Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes and OVA and Movie / 355 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team contains episodes 1-12 of the Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team OVA Series plus the Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team: Miller’s Report movie.

The year is Universal Century 0079. The Federation has begun mass production of prototype Gundams for use by its ground forces. Shiro Amada, commander of the 08th MS Team, must lead his soldiers through fierce fighting on the ground. However, the Zeons are developing a secret project which could tip the balance of power! Can Shiro and his ragtag team of castoffs, rejects, and bad attitudes save the Federation?

Commentary:

Okay, now we have a Gundam series that is worth a little praise and a hefty pat on the back. Giving us the a hero how commands a standard grunt force stuck in jungle warfare is just beautiful. The team is made up of a wide variety of personalities and each one of them are just precious.

The overall feel of Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team is rather straight forward and doesn’t leave us wondering what is going on. Shiro is one of those commanders who seems rather calm on the surface but makes it clear that he believes in a rather optimistic hope for all of humanity. This and his apparent affection for a Zeon female soldier help him continue to do the right thing and also save the Federation from the Zeon zealots?

Overall Grade:

I really enjoyed the Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team it gave me the kind of character development I have been looking for in the Gundam Universe without the overwhelming melodrama. There is plenty of melodrama, but it is tempered by the 08th Team itself.

The animation quality is rather good for an older series and placing the series on Earth in a jungle setting helps keep it grounded. The action and overall feel of  08th Team has a lightness rarely found and it is easy to see the the writing team enjoyed doing this one. The directing is also rather seamless between directors which also shows a continuity in the writing that helped.

To put it simply, Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team is good and has plenty of tasty meet still left on the bone.

Galaxy Angel Anime Series Review

Title: Galaxy Angel

Publisher: Nozomi

U. S. Re-Release Date: 2/7/2017

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 390 minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Comedy

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

In Galaxy Angel there is a group of 5 females, they form the Angel Brigade and are part of the government special forces with the underlying task of finding the Lost Technology, unfortunately no one actually knows what that is. Besides that, they keep busy taking on special missions, often hired and paid by private citizens. These vary from the seemingly mundane assignment of finding a cat to the more serious saving a world sort of thing.

Commentary:

The Galaxy Angel anime is a comedy set in a Sci Fi universe with a bit of heart thrown in. Originally produced in 2001, this is a re-release. I specify anime, because there are also games and manga.  There is shared similarities, but the differences really make this a different story set. Here, the ladies/girls are the main characters with no real romance ( if there is any, it only amounts to one side imagination). There is also some action and plenty of character interest to balance everything out.

Noting that this is a comedy is important because there are several things off or overdone but that all leads into the silliness. Or at least can be excused by the context. For instance, the anime cliches’ and the character stereotypes or body forms.

This Blu-ray edition can be watched in English dub or sub. I used the English voice option and thought they did a fine job of matching the characters. The sound track also worked well.

The episodes are stand alone mostly, a little bit of story carries over like bringing up the Lost technology and few stories take more than one episodes. Sure, there are 26 episodes, but they are only 15 minutes each. Generally, this anime is quick paced, but I didn’t feel like it rushed. It just is efficient and doesn’t waste time on fillers.  This format works well because there isn’t one story or direction through out the season.

Visually, I enjoyed the saturated color that made it so visually strong. The animation seemed a bit off sometimes, or maybe old, but since it’s a comedy it works okay. Quirky is part of the charm. Keeping the characters straight was comfortably easy. First, they all have different hair color, very different cliche personalities and at least one really weird trait. What I mean about that, for example, the anatomically incorrect, physics defying boobs -plainly looks stupid but I suppose a hyperbole for comedic effect. The main five represented the no nonsense military type, the robotic emotionless, the frilly homemaker and the ever boy crazy (looking for a husband) and the amazing luckiest girl in the universe.

Overall Grade: B  Cute and entertaining to watch, but didn’t pull me in to really connect with the characters. And I don’t think it meant to.

Although it tells a story with a different template, there is a quality that reminded my of El Hazard, the Wanderers. If you like one, you might want to give the other a go.

 

A Few New Models and Stands Just Came In


SHIN MUSHA GUNDAM SENGOKU No JIN, Bandai MG

Full Armor Gundam (Thunderbolt Anime Color) “Gundam Thunderbolt”, Bandai HG Thunderbolt

Black Action Base1 Display Stand 1/100

Bandai Gray Action Base1 Display Stand 1/100

Bandai Clear Action Base1 Display Stand 1/100
Bandai Saiyan Space Pod “Dragon Ball Z”, Bandai Figure-rise Mechanics

Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory & Afterglow of Zeon Film: Complete series (anime review)

Title: Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory & Afterglow of Zeon Film on Blu-ray

Directors: Mitsuko Kase (eps. 1-5), Takashi Imanishi (eps. 2-13)

Writers: Fuyunori Gobu (eps. 1-4), Akinori Endo (eps. 5-6), Asahide Ookuma (eps. 7-8, 10, 12-13), Ryōsuke Takahashi (eps. 9, 11)

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes & film / 444 Episodes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Drama

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 contains episodes 1-13 of Stardust Memory plus the Afterglow of Zeon compilation film.

Universal Century 0083. Having triumphed in the One-Year War, the Earth Federation has grown complacent, while the last remnants of Zeon forces have been planning one final stand. It all hinges on ace Zeon pilot Anavel Gato stealing one of the new prototype Gundams out from under the Federation’s nose. With a nuclear-equipped Gundam missing and their pride wounded, the Federation ship Albion and rookie pilot Kou Uraki set out in pursuit of the Zeon thieves and the stolen Gundam GP02A.

Special Features: The animation shorts “the Mayfly of Space 1” and “The Mayfly of Space 2”, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, and Japanese Promos.

Commentary:

In the Gundam franchise there are few series that I find above average and Stardust Memory is one of the few. There is still plenty of the over-the-top melodrama and one sided seriousness that I do have to cringe from time to time. Stardust Memory is fairly straight forward and clearly opens with the plot and development of the story.

Overall Grade: B

Without giving anything away I can honestly say that I believe that Gundam and non-Gundam fans will find this to be one of the best written series in the Universal Century saga. I can’t say that the age of the series will help bring people to the table because the animation shows it age and some of the dialogue is standard Gundam diatribe.

With all of the Gundam available I would suggest seeing Char’s Counter Attack before watching Stardust Memories (0083). You would at least have some understanding of what is really going on and maybe even have a little more appreciation of this series and Afterglow of Zeon.

I must admit that it great to see the Gundam universe come back to life.

Martian Successor Nadesico (anime review)

Title: Martian Successor Nadesico: Complete series plus Prince of Darkness on Blu-ray

Director: Tatsuo Sato

Studio: Xebec

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi, Lucky Penny

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray/26 Episodes & Feature Film / 740 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Sci Fi, Mecha, Harem

Age Rating: 13+

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The Martian Successor Blu-ray contains all 26 episodes of the TV series and the Prince of Darkness movie across 4 Blu-rays PLUS an entire DVD of extras including the Gekigangar 3 OVA!

Tatsuo Sato’s Comedy Masterpiece Returns in High Definition!

The Earth, its moon and its Martian colonies are under alien attack, but the war against the “Jovian lizards” has, so far, been nothing short of a series of disasters.

Disgusted by the incompetence of Earth’s military, the independent arms manufacturer Nergal builds its own space battleship and plans to launch a desperate offensive to save humanity. But due to a shortage of trained soldiers, they’ve assembled the most unorthodox crew to ever launch into orbit! With a pacifist cook-turned-unwilling mecha pilot and a ditsy admiral’s daughter in command, can this unprecedented gathering of geeks, misfits and anime fans prevail against the Jovian menace?

Commentary:

In the long list of Mecha Harem series, Martian Successor Nadesico stands out as one of the top series for me. Although it may be beginning to show its age it still has plenty of laughs and mecha action to offer. The great thing about this series is that it pokes fun at all of the tropes and silly plot devices that many of the older mecha series used. The unwilling Akito Tenkawa is every young male mecha pilot that shows up in series like Gundam, Evangelion and many others that give us reasons to root for a anti-hero figure, but in Akito’s case he just wants to cook, but may be a better pilot than a chef.

The other great parody aspect to the series is the inclusion of their own anime series “Gekigangar III“. This is a focal point for much of the crew and they exhibit a funny Otaku tenancy that pokes fun at the fan base of the mecha universe of anime. I personally think series like Martian Successor Nadesico provide a glimpse at the anime world that a large number of fans should be required to watch. This series of fun and laughs takes a goofy look at the world it lives in and also makes a very pointed commentary about the obsession that sometimes follows the fandom around.

Overall Grade: A-

I am not sure if there was a good reason to release Martian Successor Nadesico in Blu-ray it is very possible that the quality of the series is about the same on DVD. I am happy to see it coming back out. I think it is a series that needs to be re-released every 5 to 6 years just so new fans can discover the greatness of it and be reminded that anime is just anime.

There are many great anime that hold the mirror up to the fandom and Martian Successor Nadesico stands at close to the very top of the list. The other thing that keeps this anime worthy of praise is the overall humor that comes across and the simplistic approach to telling the story. If you haven’t see Martian Successor Nadesico then you really have a reason to check it out. So, get busy!!!!

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood (anime review)

review provided by Andrew & Katie

Title: Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood on Blu-ray

Director: Risako Yoshida

Studio: Zexcs

Author: Hiroko Kusanagi

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 28, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 180 Minutes

Genre: Reverse Harem, School Life, Supernatural, Shoujo, Vampire

Industry Age Rating: 17 and up

Overall Personal Rating: D

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Diabolik Lovers

Synopsis:

As the sole human living alone with six handsome vampires, beautiful young Yui Komori is slowly becoming used to being the constant focus of all of their attentions, both amorous and otherwise. However, if she was feeling pale and weak before, her ordeal is about to become even more emotionally draining as four new vampire brothers appear with the intention of making Yui their own permanent dinner guest.
Who are the Mukami brothers, and why are they so dead set on keeping Yui for themselves? Why do they keep referring to her as “Eve” and whose master plan are they following? How will the original six Sakamaki brothers react to having Yui stolen out of their clutches? Will the Sakamaki brothers get her back or will the Mukami brothers follow through with their master plan? You will have to watch Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood and find out.

Commentary:

I feel as if I need to add a few warnings to this series before I go any further: 1. Yui is treated like a blood bag and is not just bitten on the neck. 2. There is a religious theme to this season and that might turn you off of the series if that bothers you. 3. This has to be one of the worse reverse harem series I have ever watched.*

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood is the second season of Diabolik Lovers and honestly I cannot be more disappointed in the entire series. There are more plot holes than swiss cheese and just when you think they are actually going to explain what is going on, they end the series with the biggest cliff hanger ever! They rely heavily on the Adam and Eve story and you spend most of the series trying to figure out who is Adam and then they never say anything about it again.

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood has little to no character development and most of the characters are poorly designed with weak personalities that make the characters unlikable. The relationships between Yui and the brothers are terrible to say the least. They treat her like furniture and never have anything nice to say to her at all. I was really hoping that Yui would grow a backbone and tell the brothers off, but of course she cannot do that as their blood bag.

The animation was dark and tried to be gothic but did not get there. Since Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood is about vampires they really do not go out during the day and attend school at night. There really is not any change in the animation between the manor and the school. The voice actors did alright, nothing really stood out but I really did not expect anything to. The opening animation fit the general theme well and was enjoyable to listen to. The ending was nothing special but one out of two is not a bad deal.

Extras:

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood includes both clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: D

Diabolik Lovers II: More Blood seems like it is geared more to the ecchi vampire crowd. The entire series is just about sucking tasty blood from a human. Not my thing.

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

Title: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? on Blu-ray

Director: Yōhei Suzuki

Writer:  Hideki Shirane

Music By: Keiji Inai

Studio: J.C.Staff

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 28th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Harem, Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, Harem

Age Rating : MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Some adventurers delve into the sprawling labyrinths beneath the city of Orario to find fame and fortune. Others come to test their skills against the legions of monsters lurking in the darkness below. However, Bell Cranel’s grandfather told him a different reason: it’s a great place to rescue (and subsequently meet) girls! Now that Bell’s a dungeon delver himself, the ladies he’s encountering aren’t the helpless damsels in distress he’d imagined, and one of them, the beautiful swordswoman Ais Wallenstein, keeps rescuing Bell instead.

As embarrassing as that is, it’s nothing compared to what happens when goddesses get involved. Freya, Hephaistos, and Loki, with their powerful Familias, are intimidating enough, but there’s one goddess whose relationship with Bell is certain to spark trouble. After all, Bell is the ONLY member of the goddess Hestia’s Familia, and she’s not sure if she wants to share him with anyone!

Commentary:

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? hides no bones about what it is. It is a harem wrapped in a fantasy wrapped in a harem. This layering of a straight forward series may just be it’s saving grace. The real issue are the characters and just a few side characters but, both Bell and Hestia tend to bring the house down when they take up too much time. Hestia is a little silly and Bell is the standard anime archetype that is plain whinny. You know the Shinji Ikari whinny where you just want to slap him.

I wills that the series sets itself up for a second season but also makes it possible to end it right there. I thought is was very interesting how Bell did grow into a nice character and that Hestia did manage to become a more sympathetic goddess.

Overall Grade: B

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is about as classic of a harem as it could be. The odd thing was that Bell seemed to be very interested in one person yet in love with another. This confusion with Bells character does play out to be a negative against him. I wanted him to be solely connected to one of the women and let the others just lust for Bell in the typical harem fashion.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is a very easy anime to watch. It is clear right off the bat that the series is out to be a simple series that just entertains. The fan service is borderline which helps keep the male audience focused and also let the female audience watch without feeling to sexualized.

The animation is above average and easy to watch. I thought that many of the fight scenes were well choreographed and came across very smooth and natural even when you consider the amount of unnatural physics display and denial of gravity. The voice acting was good enough to not distract the action and development of the series.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is a series that will please many people and also create a wanting for more. If you are looking for a simple series with an easy to watch animation and character development then Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is for you, just don’t expect too much from it.

Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation (anime review)

Title: Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi

Studio: Telecom Animation Film

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 7th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Gaming, Harem, Comedy, Fantasy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

Phantasy Star Online 2 is the most popular game on the web, and almost everyone at Seiga Academy is deeply immersed in it. When the school administration begins to worry that the game is causing more harm than good, student council president Rina Izumi sets out to prove PSO2’s virtual positives. To confirm her opinion, she recruits Itsuki Tachibana, one of the few students who isn’t already hooked, and instructs him to learn how to play so she can study the effects.

What at first seems like a brilliant and simple plan instead lifts the lid off a Pandora’s Box filled with unexpected complications. As Itsuki’s life undergoes a rapid transformation, it soon becomes clear that PSO2 may be much more than merely a game! In fact, a whole new world waits on the other side of the net!

Commentary:

Once again the popularity of a game pushes creators to make an anime for the chance to make more money. Phantasy Star Online 2 helps to prove the point that the game is always better, at least I would hope so.

The formula is simple one. Take a popular game and put in a school setting where we have the student council wanting to promote the positive aspects of a game and at the same time there is the romantic comedy and harem genres mixed in. I think that there is something wrong with the anime ideal when the main protagonist is on small step from being a simpleton and at the same time has the intuitiveness of a savant. He can read people for who they are but can’t ready a persons interest or intent when it comes to a romantic situation.

Overall Grade: B-

Phantasy Star Online 2 is not terrible or a total loss. The plot line is straight forward and somewhat entertaining. I am very glad it didn’t go past 12 episodes and fully understand why Sentai Filmworks didn’t provide a english dub.

I honestly liked most of the characters and thought that the simplistic development around their stores was sound and plenty for the short series. I guess that I would have like some deeper development of a couple of the main characters but it was fine for what it was.

If you are a gamer who like Phantasy Star Online 2 and want a little fun eye candy to go along with the game then I doubt if you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a series that brings home a solid plot and gives you a closer look into the world of gaming with an anime twist then maybe you should sit this one out.

Bottom line, if you are looking for some simple fun at a typical high school then Phantasy Star Online 2 is for you.

 

 

Amagi Brilliant Park (anime review)

Title: Amagi Brilliant Park: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto

Studio: Kyoto Animation

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: February 28, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 1 OVA / 350 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romantic Comedy

Age Rating : TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When new transfer student Isuzu asks Seiya Kanie out on a date at gunpoint, he knows something odd is going on. Especially since she wants to go to Amagi Brilliant Park, where the rides are either dangerous or mind-numbingly dull and the only costumed performers who aren’t rude or apathetic are the ones who didn’t show up for work.

So when Isuzu asks Seiya to take over as the park’s new manager, he knows she’s crazy. (Well, crazy-er, given the gunpoint thing.) But when Seiya learns that Amagi Brilliant Park is a REAL Magic Kingdom, that the costumed performers aren’t wearing costumes, that they live off the energy created by attendees, and that unless they can attract 250,000 attendees in three months, they’ll lose their jobs and homes… he goes a little crazy himself.

But, even with the aid of scantily clad fairies, giant mice and sniper-trained sheep, can anyone rescue a park that’s sunk so low that its own bus doesn’t stop there anymore? The race is on to get the turnstiles turning and save AMAGI BRILLIANT PARK!

Commentary:

Reading the synopsis I was ready to dislike this series and within the first 10 minutes I was telling myself this just might be very good. Of course, I wasn’t sure if it could sustain the simple enjoyment. After Amagi Brilliant Park gets over the initial weirdness it becomes a solid series with plenty of character development. There are a few characters that it takes some time to build out to their potential but each episode was able to move the story forward and help these odd characters begin to become a noticeable unit.

As for the romantic comedy aspect of the series I found that slower to develop. I also felt like Seiya comes across as too cold at first. I know that may have been necessary for the overall storyline but, it would have been nice to toss in some humanity to his character early on.

Overall Grade: B+

I loved the weirdness of Amagi Parks workforce and how they managed to deal with their odd predicament. I also loved the way the park represented more of the strange little amusement parks around the world. Not all of them can be the fake magical kingdoms that give everyone an overblown experience. I would love to attend a weird park like Amagi Brilliant Park.

The bottom line with Amagi Brilliant Park is that it is a lot of quirky fun and loaded with characters you want to like and some you would like to kick. The one thing I get a kick out of is when Isuzu pulls her guns, I had to stop and think about it for a while the after that every time I chuckled a little.

Amagi Brilliant Park is a worthy pick and I hope it finds a wide audience to have fun with it.