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Ajin: Demi-Human Season 2 (anime review)

Title: Ajin: Demi-Human season 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Hiroyuki Seshita, Hiroaki Andō

Written By: Hiroshi Seko

Studio: Polygon Pictures

U. S. Distributions: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 10th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes, 2 Movies / 325 Minutes

Genre: Seinen, Drama, Supernatural, Action

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Ajin: Demi-Human Season 2 contains episodes 1-13 and movies “Comfort” and “Collide”.

Kei’s stopped running, but his decision to stand and fight comes just as Sato launches his second wave of terror. Angered by the governments’ refusal to admit the truth about the live experiments on captive Ajin, the Ajin terrorist has begun assassinating a list of the key individuals connected to Ajin research, and only someone as unkillable as he is has a chance of stopping the man in the hat.

With Sato being better trained, more experienced, and allied with other Ajins, Kei has only two chances at heading off the final apocalypse: to somehow learn how to better control the Invisible Black Matter being he generates or to recruit other Ajins into the battle. The shadow war explodes and the world burns as the ultimate warriors face off in immortal combat!

Commentary:

Ajin season 2 takes us to the war. It also does something that is very, very typical for anime and the protagonist. It gives us the over-the-top brooding protagonist that consistently misses all the right clues in becoming a better person and demi-human. One thing does become clear and that is the fact that Ajin does fall into that trap of the anti-hero complex which manages to slow down the development of the story.The series is very slow where as the movies help complete the circle in a much more favorable pacing.

The most difficult aspect to Ajin is the animation itself. The rough flat computer graphics may have the sole purpose to creating dramatic effect, instead it makes the series look unprofessional and second rate. I have no idea why this artistic rendering was accepted in the creation of the anime. It would have been very easy to clean up the look and still give some of the original creator look and feel. I found myself loosing my attention all too often due to this second rate animation.

Overall Grade: B

Ajin: Demi Human has such a great opportunity to tell a compelling story and the writing manages to pull off the essence of what it should be , but the animation and typical hero Kei just put a damper on the entire series for me.

Amin: Demi Human is a solid A in writing and has plenty of high points that lead you to a somewhat satisfying series. I just wish they would have re-thought the anime styling.

 

 

GARO Red Requiem (film review)

Title: GARO Red Requiem on Blu-ray

Director: Keita Amemiya

Written By: Itaru Eda and Keita Amemiya

Starring: Ryosie Konishi, Mary Matsuyama, Masahiro Kuranuki and Hironobu Kageyama

Studio: Tohokushinsha Film

U. S. Distributor: Kraken Releasing, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray/ Feature Film / 97 Minutes

Genre: Super Sentai, Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: C-

Synopsis:

During the ancient war against the monstrous creatures known as Horrors, many Makai Priestesses have fought and died in battle, yet no woman has ever been chosen to wear the mystic armor of the Makai Knights. Kouga, the current bearer of the gold wolf armor, Garo, doesn’t believe it’s even possible, but when his quest to destroy the Horror Karma thrusts him into conflict alongside the fiery Priestess Rekka, he’s forced to acknowledge that the female is often the deadlier of the species! Because Rekka has a personal score to settle with Karma, and she’s determined to destroy that Horror herself! It will be all Kouga and his Mado Ring Zaruba can do to keep the three of them alive long enough to do it in the GARO universe’s first spectacular feature film directed by Keita Amemiya, GARO Red Requiem.

Commentary:

Garo: Red Requiem is, well, how should I put this, a Super Sentai for adults. Yes, it is Power Rangers all grown up. I can’t say that the transition was all that great, but there are some scenes that contain enough nudity that it requires a mature rating. Other than that, it is just a dark, demonic, Super Sentai. The acting is in par with the Power Rangers and even some of the Ultraman series that have recently been released. It defies logic sometimes to understand how or why the acting is so bad, but it is the nature of this type of shows. Now, in Power Rangers or Ultraman the audience is young enough to see it as fun and extra cool, but in Garo; Red Requiem it just makes it a little more difficult to watch.

Overall Grade: C-

Honestly, I can be a sucker for these silly Super Sentai films because I was raised on Godzilla, Ultraman and even Johnny Socko (who does not rock). Garo: Red Requiem just falls short for me. There is a  solid story line or plot there but the fact that most of the real plot was absent, left me out in the cold. I think that if they would have followed the lead of a film like Zebraman, allowed the story to develop a little more and also added onto the love interest between Kouga and Rekk, then maybe there would have been more connection to the story. Instead there was just hints at connections and then large plot devices left up to the viewer to discover.

For as much as I found lacking with Garo: Red Requiem, I guess that I still enjoyed it enough to laugh at the goofy times and enjoy the battles in a way that is required from these over-the-top stories. So, if you are looking for a Super Sentai film with plenty of computer graphic demons and half naked women to keep you watching, then Garo: Red Requiem is just the ticket.

Chihayafuru Season 2 (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Yuki Suetsugu

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 20, 2018

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Game, Romance, School Life, Sports

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow and Chihayafuru Season 1

 

Synopsis:

Chihaya’s determination to become a master karuta player has not changed, but as a new semester begins, the team’s focus switches to recruiting new members for the club in order to keep their meeting space. Unfortunately, while a number of students initially express interest, few are willing to put forth the effort it takes to play on the level of the existing members. Enter Sumire Hanano, who split with her boyfriend on the first day of school. Now seeking a replacement, she thinks that Taichi might just fill the role nicely, even if it means jumping into a pool with a shark like Chihaya! Now all the cards are on the table or, in this case, the floor and the games are really about to start!

 

Commentary:

I will first try and explain Karuta but it will not be short. Karuta is not to be compared with playing cards in the sense of the Western World. It is not Poker, Rummy or Skat. It would be most comparable to Memory. There are different types of Karuta that can be played. Uta-Garuta is played in Chihayafuru. The card game consists of 200 cards, 100 of which are called Yomifuda, this are the reading cards and 100 Torifuda, which are the cards that are use by the players itself. On the Yomifuda are the first three verses of a traditional Japanese poem. The Poetry comes from the Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems of 100 poets, each poet one poem). The Torifuda (game- or field-cards) contain the last two verses of the respective poem. The challenge consists in recognizing the poems during the reading and to catch the corresponding play card in front of the opponent. Karuta fulfills everything a sport should have, high concentration, excellent memory, lightning reflexes, strategic thinking, endurance, resilience, mental strength and a tremendous commitment to the long training for coordination and precession. The person who touches the right card on the field first gets the card, when you take a card from the opponents side you can give them one of yours, when your half of the playing field is empty you win.
It sounds simple and quite boring but it’s NOT. In order to touch the right card quickly, cards get flung of the playing field, people are sweating, thinking and reacting at full speed and crazy-eating chocolate in between these intense games. To really play Karuta at top level you need memorization skills, good hearing and senses, good posture, analytic and strategic skills, precision, strength, speed, perseverance, an emotional connection to the cards and so much more. As you can see, Karuta is very difficult to play but when it is played by people who love it, it is a beautiful thing.

 

Chihayafuru Season 2 starts off right where season one left off. We are introduced to two new characters who are the only students who join the club in the new semester. We first meet Sumire Hanano, an incoming first year, and she has decided to only join the club and learn to play Karuta in order to get closer to Taichi. Eventually, she is moved by everyone else’s passion and becomes a proper member of the club. She uses makeup, especially mascara, as battle armor and is never without it. We then meet Akihiro Tsukuba, an incoming first year student who has played Hokkaido-style Karuta (second verse karuta using two hands) and wants to join the club and learn how to play first verse karuta. He is the annoying/creepy character that you want to hate but instead learn to love. He has three younger brothers who look up to him and he plays off their attention to the extreme. He is drawn to pretty people so of course he looks up to both Chihaya and Taichi. Both characters added to the plot and made a great addition to the series.

 

Chihayafuru Season 2 focuses more on the competitive karuta than the love triangle between Arata, Chihaya and Taichi. The love triangle was there but we saw a lot more karuta games, both individual and the group games. The Tokyo finals and the High School Nationals were both shown and the other schools from season one were back again, along with a few new ones. Chihaya also faces off against the current kurata Queen and once again loses but she learns an important lesson while doing so.

 

The animation was beautiful and breath-taking. The background animation popped with color and the music really set the mood. I truly cannot wait for the third season to air so I can see what happens next.

 

Extras:

Chihayafuru Season 2 on Blu-ray includes 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: A

Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) Blu-Ray Collection (anime review)

Title:Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) Blu-Ray Collection

Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Writer: Yasuyuki Muto

Music by: Hiroyuki Sawano

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: March 6th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 7 Episodes / 450 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Sci Fi, Action, Adventure, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Synopsis:

Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) Blu-ray Collection contains episodes 1-7.

Universal Century 0096. Three years after the last conflict between Neo Zeon and the Earth Federation Forces, the tentative peace of the Earth Sphere is about to be shattered again. Cardeas Vist, the head of the powerful Vist Foundation, has decided to hand over “Laplace’s Box,” the secret of the Foundation’s prosperity, to the supposed enemy, Neo Zeon. Banagher Links, a student at the space colony Industrial 7, rescues a mysterious girl who calls herself Audrey Burne. Audrey is seeking to prevent a war, but it seems she has come too late. As Banagher’s home colony is devastated by the attacks of the enemy mobile suit Kshatriya, he finds his strange destiny and is forced to fight in the formidable weapon system known as the Unicorn Gundam.

Based on a bestselling novel by the famed writer Harutoshi Fukui and animated with theatrical quality, this new chapter in the Gundam saga is a cutting-edge anime series for all coming generations.

Special Features: The “Story So Far”, Episode EX “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, Episode Recaps, Episode 5 Ending with Lyrics, Trailers, Promotional Videos, Commercials, MS & Character Highlights, Episode 3 Textless Ending.

Commentary:

In the wide world of Mobile Suit Gundam there are few series that I find as well put together as Unicorn. This short but exceptional series does something that others did not manage to do. It makes the characters mostly likable and less melodramatic than most of the other series. Unicorn does play fast and loose with physics and makes some aspects a little hard to believe but it remains fun and entertaining. Maybe not as much fun as MS 08th Team or dramatic and hard hitting as Thunderbolt,  but it still hits most of the high points and leave little to disappoint.

The one thing that I felt was a little to tried and true for a Gundam series was the way Banagher was whinny and somewhat of a punk. This model of the anti-hero is something the Japanese love to have as the star protagonist. At least they toned it down somewhat and didn’t allow him to ruin the series the way Camille or even Amuro Ray for that matter. This whinny hero boy archetype is always the weak link in gundam and it is not surprise that most fans will levitate toward  Char or Full Frontal as the real favorite.

Overall grade: A-

One great benefit to being produced in the last 10 years is the quality of animation. Unicorn is top flight and it really does make a difference. Being easy to watch make all the difference in the world. I found it much easier to overlook the bad physics and melodramatic writing when the overall look is fluid and appealing.

Overall Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn is one of the best short series for Gundam, next to MS o8th Team. I know that this group of disc were out already, but the repackaging in a single group is much appreciated and I have a feeling that plenty of Gundam fans will be standing in line on March 6th to get their copy. I know I am glad to have mine.

 

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version (anime review)

review provided by Andrew and Katie

Title: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version on Blu-ray/DVD

Director: Tatsuya Ishihara

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Author: Jukki Hanada

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U.S. Release Date: October 17, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pac / Movie / 96 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions and Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Heart Throb

 

REALITY, BE RENT! SYNAPSE, BREAK! VANISHMENT, THIS, WORLD!!!

 

Synopsis:

In Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version, it’s just so not fair! Sure, Rikka may be a “chunibyo” afflicted with a state where she’s convinced that she has hidden powers. Maybe she DOES think she has an evil eye that always has to be covered with a patch. But that does not mean that what she believes is not real to her, and Rikka knows in her twisted little heart that Yuta Togashi is much more than just another boy. So why is he always pulling away? At long last, here is the chance to see the world through Rikka’s eyes (or eye, technically, since the evil one is usually covered). Armed with your trusted parasol, you will deal with evil high priestess sisters, enchanted animals, and the scariest thing of all, going literally boy crazy!

 

Commentary:

Basically, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version is cut scenes from season one of the series in Rikka’s perspective. There is an awesome dream sequence in the beginning that I really hope they revisit in the next movie that is due out. I am having trouble seeing this as a movie as the only thing added was that dream sequence and I was quite disappointed when it was found to be a dream. They did pick good scenes from the first season and it did make me remember the first season better.

 

Every character is likable, well developed, and brings something to the story. Yuta, the former chunibyo, looking to get away from it and to being a normal teenager. Rikka, a fully fledged chunibyo, follower of the Wicked Lord Shingan. Dekomori, the pig tailed middle school student, servant to Rikka, and wielder of the Mjolnir Hammer. Nibutani, the seemingly popular girl, cheer leader, class president, and general fantasy of all the guys, that seems to be the oddball-out in this group. And Kumin, who just wants a club she can nap in. They all bring a high level of moe, and you will quickly fall in love with them all. Watch as imaginary fights come to life, with overactive imaginations of the chunibyo. Plus you get a taste of the fascinating martial art of cooking utensils. If that’s not enough for you, enter the comedy. Well thought out Yonkoma style gags, mocking of cultural clichés and overall random insanity assist the whole thing along. Need some drama? Well aren’t you demanding… Well guess what, it has that too. There is a lot of love in this story too, so you know. How can all this work together? They did a great job of combining it all together, and giving it a balance of reality, and the fantasy of escaping reality. They also included some cultural clichés than have transcended Japan, like capcom code, role playing, slapstick comedy, and issues more serious in nature like dealing with loss and the pains of growing up. Some of us may not understand that last one, since we never actually grew up, but that is a story for another day.

 

The animation was well done and the voice actors did a great job bringing the characters to life. The music was catching and the opening and closing was interesting. All-in-all, Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version is a wonderful re-cap of the first season but I was wishing for something more.

 

Extras:

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Rikka Version includes clean opening and closing animations, My Brother 2 short, and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This movie was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options. However, the My Brother 2 short is only in Japanese with English subtitles.

 

Overall Grade: B

Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection
Director: Yoshimasa Hiraike
Studio: AIC
Author: Noboru Kimura and Touko Machida
U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks/Section 23
U.S. Release Date: October 10, 2017
Format and Length: Blu-ray /37 Episodes + 2 OVA’s / 975Minutes
Genre: Drama, Romance, School Life
Industry Age Rating: 13 and up
Overall Personal Rating: C+
Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: KimiKiss: Pure Rouge, Hatsukoi Limited, Clannad, and Kanon (2006)

Synopsis:
Junichi Tachibana has never been lucky in love. Ever since his date stood him up on Christmas Eve two years ago, he has pretty much given up on the whole idea and spends his days inside his closet planetarium, going to school and hanging out with his friends Kaoru and Umehara. However, there are quite a few girls who would all make wonderful partners for Junichi if he would only open his eyes and his heart. Could he have struck up a meaningful relationship with any of them if he’d done the right things and said the right words?

Well, it is time to find out as Fate steps in and decides to see what would happen if Junichi were to snap out of his funk and take a chance. This is a whole new twist on the idea of love at sixth or seventh sight, and if one boy and a whole lot of different girlfriends-to-be sounds like a lot of wishful thinking… well, it is! But wishes have that weird habit of coming true and the statistical odds are definitely on Junichi’s side as the guy without a date’s luck with the ladies goes from bad to multi-verse! Will Junichi find his good ending with one of the ladies, or is he to be lonely for the rest of his life? Watch Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection and find out!

Commentary:
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection is a series that follows Junichi Tachibana as he falls in love with six different girls at different times within the same time period; almost like Groundhog Day. Amagami SS is the first season and Amagami SS+ is the second season. I personally prefer the first season over the second but you will need to watch both and figure out which on you like better. This series is based off a PS2 dating game with the same idea. Each girl gets their own story arc of four episodes and we usually get a nice wrapped up story within those four episodes. Some arcs were better than others, but I enjoyed them all. I am a hopeless-romantic and I love a good romance if it is well done and Amagami SS: The Complete Collection is one of the good ones. I can see myself rewatching this series again.

Junichi’s character is very well developed and we get to see this development through the arcs. However, he is always slightly perverted no matter what, but eventually you accept it and just laugh at those moments. Haruka is the girl the first arc is about. She is a very unique and cheerful girl who loves puppies and other cute things. She is really loveable and her voice actress did an amazing job bringing her to life. Kaoru is a childhood friend of Junichi and the second arc is all about her. She is hard-working and has a cool personality. Sae is the girl in the third arc. She is a first year student at the school and is very shy. They actually make a very cute couple. Ai and Junichi meet up for the fourth arc. This arc has the most emotion and development. The ending was beautiful and really moving. I could not help but feel attached to Ai as her personality is just too cute. Rihoko is the fifth arc’s girl. However, she already loves Junichi but he does not love her. This arc felt very slow and drawn out. She is not a horrible character but this arc did not hold my interest very well. We finally meet Tsukasa in the final arc. She is the class volunteer for the Christmas festival at school and Junichi decides to help her out. Eventually they get closer and something beautiful happens at the end. Tsukasa is a wonderful and likable character.

In Amagami SS+, each girl is given two episodes to wrap up everything in a pretty bow. Personally, I think they could have cut it down to one episode each and made them into OVA episodes. They drew out the episodes by adding more drama than was necessary or by introducing characters that were not in the first season. If I had to pick a favorite arc for the second season I would have to say it was the Sae arc. It was cute but drawn out.

The opening and closing songs were well done and each arc has its own closing songs. There are two different opening songs and both are well done and catchy. Some of the closing songs are better than others but I think that has more to do with how you feel about the arc itself. The artwork was well done and the background pictures jumped off the screen.

Extras:
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series only has Japanese with English subtitles as the language option.

Overall Grade: C+
Amagami SS and Amagami SS+: The Complete Collection is a wonderful romance and I recommend it if you enjoy that genre of anime. It would have a higher grade if the second season was better.

 

Chihayafuru Season One (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season One on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Sumino Kawashima

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: September 12, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Drama, School Life, Slice of Life, Sports, Card Game

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow

Synopsis:

Chihaya Ayase was a girl who never seemed to fit in. She never had much in common with the other kids, and her family was so obsessed with her older sister’s modeling career that, sometimes, it was like Chihaya was not even there. Everything changes when transfer student Arata gets Chihaya interested in the world of competitive Karuta, a unique card-based game that requires lightning fast reflexes, an exceptional memory, and a keen ear. Chihaya is a natural, and she has the skills to take her to the very top. Suddenly, Chihaya has found her goal: to become the best player in Japan! It will not be easy, but when a girl has a dream in her heart, nothing else matters! Will Chihaya become the Queen of Karuta? You will have to watch Chihayafuru and find out.

Commentary:

Chihayafuru is a series that starts off very slow but then it becomes something amazing. The character development is amazing and I truly believe that Chihayafuru loves its characters. Chihaya is the tom-boy who wanted nothing better than for her sister to become the top supermodel in Japan. That was her dream for her life. But thanks to Arata and Taichi, she finally realizes that she wants to be the Queen of Karuta. Taichi is from a wealthy family and he is quite the golden boy as he is smart, good looking, and mature. He also excels at nearly everything he does which is why he is the President of the Misusawa Karuta Club. He has a crush on Chihaya but is hesitant to do anything about it as he believes she only has eyes for Arata. Arata left after elementary school graduation to take care of his grandfather. His passion for Karuta is inspired by his grandfather who was a Meijin (master).

I will try and explain Karuta but it will not be short. Karuta is not to be compared with playing cards in the sense of the Western World. It is not Poker, Rummy or Skat. It would be most comparable to Memory. There are different types of Karuta that can be played. Uta-Garuta is played in Chihayafuru. The card game consists of 200 cards, 100 of which are called Yomifuda, this are the reading cards and 100 Torifuda, which are the cards that are use by the players itself. On the Yomifuda are the first three verses of a traditional Japanese poem. The Poetry comes from the Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems of 100 poets, each poet one poem). The Torifuda (game- or field-cards) contain the last two verses of the respective poem. The challenge consists in recognizing the poems during the reading and to catch the corresponding play card in front of the opponent. Karuta fulfills everything a sport should have, high concentration, excellent memory, lightning reflexes, strategic thinking, endurance, resilience, mental strength and a tremendous commitment to the long training for coordination and precession. The person who touches the right card on the field first gets the card, when you take a card from the opponents side you can give them one of yours, when your half of the playing field is empty you win.

It sounds simple and quite boring but it’s NOT. In order to touch the right card quickly, cards get flung of the playing field, people are sweating, thinking and reacting at full speed and crazy-eating chocolate in between these intense games. To really play Karuta at top level you need memorization skills, good hearing and senses, good posture, analytic and strategic skills, precision, strength, speed, perseverance, an emotional connection to the cards and so much more. As you can see, Karuta is very difficult to play but when it is played by people who love it, it is a beautiful thing.

The animation was so beautiful and colorful. They showed off backgrounds that will take your breath away and traditional Japanese clothing that is just amazing. The voice actors did a great job and I really enjoyed this series even if the first five to six episodes drag a bit.

Extras:

Chihayafuru includes 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: A

Usher and Tora Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Usher and Tora: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Studio: MAPPA, Studio VOLN

U. S Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 29th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 39 Episodes / 975 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Shonen, Drama

Age Rating: MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!

Commentary:

In today’s environment to see so many older series being brought forward and rereleased and not being brought up-to-date makes Ushio and Tora a real unique entity. This series from the early 90’s has been given a new lease on life and even expanded. It is a major plus to see this revisiting of interesting series and even becoming a current hit for the strength of the story.

As for Ushio and Tora I found the story to be too episodic much the way Yu Yu Hakusho  seemed to be focus on simple battles. I think that is where Ushio and Tora looses me. The area it manages to keep me involved is the relationship that is developed between Ushio and Tora.

Overall Grade: B

I wish I could have given Ushio and Tora a higher grade, but I just got worn out by the simplicity of the story line. I do see it as a series that most seekers of action would like and the with it having 39 episodes manages to give everyone plenty to enjoy. The updated animation is strong and fluid enough to make it easy to watch and stay focused on the story and battles.

I realize that there are a great history of episodic series that are only about the battles and Ushio and Tora is not different except for the fact that it becomes a little more tiresome than some of the others. I don’t see it finding it’s way into the hearts and minds of the fan base like Yu Yu or Dragon Ball Z and that is because of the Mature Audiance rating. I think that if the violence would have been reduce down to a 13+ rating there might be a greater fan base to find and a way to secure a more sustained group of followers.

If you are looking for a solid battle anime then Ushio and Tora is one you need to pick up. It is great to see older series getting a true new lease on life.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky on Blu-ray

Director: Kō Matsuo

Writer: Kō Matsuo

Music by: Naruyoshi Kikuchi

U. S. Distributor: Sunrise, Right Stuf

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

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 70 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Action, Adventure, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Their war has not yet ended…

It is Universal Century 0079, at the end of the One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. The space colonies of Side 4, or Moore, were previously destroyed by a Zeon attack, and many colonists lost their lives. Side 4 became a shoal zone filled with the wreckage of destroyed colonies and warships, lit by constant flashes of lightning due to collisions between electrified debris. It soon came to be known as the “Thunderbolt Sector.”

The Moore Brotherhood, an Earth Federation Forces unit made up of surviving citizens from Moore, set out to exterminate the Zeon forces in the Thunderbolt Sector in order to reclaim their homeland. To halt the Federation advance, the Zeon forces deployed their own Living Dead Division, which was established to collect combat data on soldiers with prosthetic limbs.

Io Fleming, though part of the Moore Brotherhood, hates being tied down by his homeland and family history. Daryl Lorenz, having lost his legs in earlier battles, is now an ace sniper of the Living Dead Division. When they confront each other on the battlefield, they will reach a mutual realization. These two are destined to kill each other.

Commentary:

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky is the type of anime film that proves if you keep doing a thing enough you will finally get it right. This film hits on several major points and leave3s you wanting for a lot more. From the opening sequence all the way to end ending montage I found December Sky to be a delight. It did manage to have some of the overly melodramatic elements that Gundam Universal Century calls for and at the same time uses music and lively characters to make this fast paced film something worth watching.

One thing is very clear and that is the fact that Kō Matsuo understood the import of making these characters complex and human enough to sympathize with on both sides. Funny thing, I found December Sky to be one of the most anti war Gundam produces yet.

Overall Grade: A

As you can tell, I really liked December Sky and will recommend it to all Gundam fans and all other Sci Fi fans who love music and action. I don’t really care if it doesn’t resolve anything I think that from the artistic stylings to the insane character development everyone can get a great idea of what this film is all about. So, I just want to tell Kō Matsuo thank you for proving us with 70 minutes of pure excitement.

The Big O (anime review)

Title: The Big O: The complete Series on Blu-ray

Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama

Studio: Sunrise

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 20th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Drama, Post Apocalyptic

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Grade: B+

Synopsis:

Forty years ago, the minds of Paradigm City’s inhabitants were wiped clean of all recollections of the past. Now, ruled by a powerful corporation and cut off from the rest of the world by desolate wastelands, Paradigm has become a virtual police state where Negotiators like Roger Smith keep the wheels of progress, commerce, and society turning.

As a combined hybrid of detective, mediator, and enforcer, Smith’s primary resource is his keen, analytical mind, but it doesn’t hurt to have a mansion filled with gadgets, his butler Norman, and his attractive assistant Dorothy to fall back on. Additionally, for those times when cases end up “in dispute,” he also has the biggest, baddest back-up that any cop or small army could ever hope for: the Big O, a giant robot loaded with all the extras. Film noir thriller meets mecha mayhem masterpiece as the acclaimed classic series returns in the complete collection of The Big O!

Commentary:

If you can imagine a nix of Batman the Animated Series and Cowboy Bebop with a dash of Gun X Sword then you should be able to get a great idea of what The Big O is like. It is very clear that designer Keiichi Sato and director Kazuyoshi Katayama (the creators of the series) are major fans of Batman based on some of the supporting dramatic devices that are cemented in the series. You have a single man living in a rather lavish old bank building with his butler who takes care of the home and the Megadeus (Big O).

This blending of both east and west wrapped in the complicated story of Big O makes the first season a little hard to follow because if is basically episodic. That leaves the viewer with a somewhat cold feeling for both the overall feel of the show and the characters too. Once the second season kicks in there is a much different feeling and the fog begins to lift.

Overall Grade: B+

All too often it is hard to get into older series and with Big O almost 20 years old the animation style comes across very dated. That older TV anime style does let the series down a bit, but if you let the story drive your attention then you should be fine.

As a story I found the Big O to keep my interest once the it got later in the first season and began to introduce much of the recurring cast for the second season. As the second season opens and flows through the first few episodes the series really solidifies. As it winds up there is a solid attempt to bring everything together and manages to hold the story and characters up in a fine fashion.

As an example of anime from the late 1990’s, The Big O sits above average. If you are a fan of Batman the Animated series from the early 1990’s then it is a must see.

As for me I found Big O to be a fun and interesting series because of the nostalgia and the plot that goes from simple to complex in a rather short time span and also manages to confuse me a little. So, if you like a dark hero with a heart of gold mixed with some rather strange characters then  The Big O! is for you.