Rss

Archives for : Madhouse

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

Den-noh Coil: Collection 2

814131014290_anime-den-noh-coil-2-blu-ray-primaryTitle: Den-noh Coil: Collection 2 on blu-ray

Director: Mitsuo Iso

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: September 20th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mystery, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Synopsis:

Tracking down the secrets concerning Kana’s death has led Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi into a new series of virtual rabbit holes. Like Alice through the looking glass, Yuko discovers that the digitally augmented world on the other side of her glasses is far more complex and confusing than she could have imagined.

With shocking e-spaces filled with mysterious un-erased levels of data, and virtual creatures that act and think as if they’re truly alive, how many other secrets might these parallel worlds hide? Who is responsible for hiding them?

As new memories from her past begin to surface, she must now confront whether the e-spaces themselves are somehow affecting the real world and how this involves the “other” Yuko. Their destinies may be intrinsically linked as the real and virtual worlds collide in the climactic conclusion of DEN-NOH COIL!

Commentary:

Den-noh Coil collection 2 starts off slow and somewhat disappointing. As the episodes processed it was clear there was either a clear attempt to attract a younger audience or misdirect the viewer completely. Once the writers found their new focus things got more serious and much better. The series did not disappoint at all.

The thing that I find amazing is that this series is almost 10 years old and that it took so long for it to make it over to the U. S.. All I can do is tip my hat to Maiden Japan for putting this one out.

Overall Grade: A-

If the first few episodes hadn’t lost their way I would have given Den-noh Coil a solid A. I think that in many ways it spotlights what solid writing and a mostly clear vision on how to create a story that keeps the mystery alive until the very end.

I know that Den-noh Coil may not find the audience that it deserves, but I hope that people do find this mysterious series and gives it a try. If you are looking for a series that doesn’t give it away right and keeps you wondering what is going on then Den-noh Coil is for you. This is also one that the entire family can watch together. Don’t let the fact that this series is centered around children scare you away. It is a wonderful offering and well worth the time to check out. So, please give it a chance!

 

Parasyte the Maxim Collection 2 (anime review)

Title: Parasyte the Maxim Collection 2 blu-ray

parasyte-the-maxim-2Director: Kenichi Shimizu

Creator: Hitoshi Iwaaki

Screenplay: Shoji Yonemura

Music: Ken Arai

Studio: Madhouse

U. S Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Thriller, Sci Fi, Drama

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

They seem like the perfect killing machines: taking the form of their latest victim as they move on to hunt their next meal, blending invisibly into chaos of human civilization.

But as the human race becomes aware of the invaders, the rules unexpectedly change. Because, while the predators may be far more deadly individually, human beings hunt in packs… and no species in the universe has spent more time perfecting new ways to kill than man.

As the military secretly mobilizes and a shadow war erupts, Shinichi and Migi find themselves trapped in the escalating purge. Born from a merging of both sides and yet belonging to neither, the best they can do is merely hope to survive as the lines between friend and foe cease to exist.

The war between the planet’s two apex species spills into the streets as human sheep reveal the wolves hidden inside in the apocalyptic second collection of PARASYTE- THE MAXIM!

Commentary:

Parasyte the Maxim does something that reminded me of why I enjoy anime and much of the Japanese culture. It manages to turn this dark story into a lesson in Buddhism. Particularly a lesson in Zen Buddhism. The concept that all life is precious and that humanity has a very narrow view of the world hit home. The odd awareness that Migi goes through is poignant and the awakening that Shinichi experiences is something to be jealous of.

The series did fall back on some rather weak plot line legs that allowed it to slow down and begin to shift focus from a crazy blood lust of season one to a understanding that defines the dichotomy that is humanity. This change over manages to make the series a little less pop culture and I think this is also where it lost a large number of fans. For me, it is where it became stronger and defined itself as a series that had something to say.

Overall Grade: A-

Parasyte the Maxim collection 2 is a hit in my book, I am just afraid that it might loose some of its fan base because it was not as splattery as collection one and there just isn’t the body count that the Parasyte started with. This simple fact gained some respect from me, I feel like anime that makes it over to North America has become too pigeon hold and teed to only offer some of the worst of the art form.

The animation quality of Parasyte is of average quality and is classic Madhouse work. The english voice acting was fine, I can’t say that it made me notice any weakness or strength. Overall, it is simply the emphasis on the plot and change in dialog the series focused on that made the difference for me.

If you are looking for a series that showcases a true Japanese cultural viewpoint the you should pick Parasyte the Maxim up!

 

Den-noh Coil Collection 1 (anime review)

den-noh-coil-1Title: Den-noh Coil: Collection 1 on blu-ray

Director: Mitsuo Iso

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mystery, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Grade: A-

Synopsis:

In Den-noh Coil, Yuko “Yasako” Okonogi and her little sister Kyoko can’t remember a time when they weren’t looking at the world through their digitally augmented glasses. After all, e-space, a series of world-wide overlays of images and information, is where their virtual dog Densuke lives, and like many kids, the girls rarely take their glasses off.

But when their family moves to Daikoku City, the e-space suddenly seems different. Yasako’s new classmates are involved in hacking, and the urban legends about dangerous entities hidden in the programming become much more believable when she learns that one of their friends may have died chasing one.

Scariest of all, Yasako has missing memories from the last time she was in Daikoku City. Did something happen to her? And did it happen in our world or one that shouldn’t even exist? To find out, she’ll have to take a journey through the digital looking glass and learn the shocking secrets of DEN-NOH COIL!

Commentary:

Den-noh Coil is one of the more unique offering so far this year. I’m not completely sure what is going on but the hints lead to an unusual event including Yuko. The funny thing is that even after 13 episodes anything is possible. All I can be sure of is that Den-noh Coil is interesting and fun to watch. The mystery surrounding all of the main characters is deep and wide and with them being children and the goofy old grandmother who seems to know the secret to making things work.

Den-noh Coil doesn’t come across as a slick production with a big budget marketing team behind it and win fact Maiden Japan has provided several titles that still fly under the radar and for some unknown reason the U. S. Anime world appears to be blind to the greatness found in this and some other Maiden Japans offerings.

Overall Grade: A-

Den-noh Coil appears to be a great series based on the first 13 episodes. I hope that the second half of the series stays strong and opens the door to most of the questions that have been raised. The only drawback I have is the fact that the series would have made a lot more sense if the main characters would have been older. The idea that someones past holds the secrets if a great way to hide the plot, but if these characters would have been in their 20’s or 30’s it would have had a much more dramatic effect. Much the 20th Century Boys played off an older history of the main group.

The animation of the series is a little light, but I don’t see that as a detractor. I think the artist selection helps place the importance on the writing and character development. I do feel like the characters are a little slow to come around and that they are falling into some easy and somewhat minor personality traits that may end up failing them and the series. Only time will tell.

If you don’t mind a series where the main characters are kids and that much of the story remains hidden after 13 episodes then you will really like Den-noh Coil. If you are looking for a good mystery they will also like Den-noh Coil. I like it very much and am really looking forward to discovering what is going on and what it all means.

Parasyte the Maxim Collection 1 (anime review)

parasyte-collection-1Title: Parasyte the Maxim Collection 1 on blu-ray

Director: Kenichi Shimizu

Creator: Hitoshi Iwaaki

Screenplay: Shoji Yonemura

Music: Ken Arai

Studio: Madhouse

U. S Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Thriller, Sci Fi, Drama

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis: 

It’s the ultimate nightmare. One minute Shinichi Izumi is a normal teenager asleep in his bed. The next he’s been infected with a deadly parasitic organism determined to devour his brain and turn his body into the planet Earth’s new apex predator.

But Shinichi partially foils the attack and, instead of being consumed, finds that the creature known as Migi has taken the place of his right hand. Now forced to share the same body, the two must become unwilling allies. Migi isn’t the only one of his kind, and unless human and parasyte work together, they’ll both be killed as abominations. Prepare yourself for a horrifying new world where the survival of the fittest and the survival of the human race are no longer the same thing. Monsters lurk behind every corner and every face as the human race becomes prey in Parasyte ~ the maxim!

Commentary:

Brace yourself, this is not the bloody horror story that cover art would leave you to believe. It is in fact a story of human and alien integration and a battle for survival. Parasyte the Maxim is a serious drama with plenty of blood, but it is more of a conversation of how to coexist rather than destruction. That in itself saves the series from a sorry death of over the top cut up festival. I admit there is plenty of useless slaughtering of people and plenty of dark moments that feel like pure violence for spectacle sake.

Parasyte the Maxim does a very good job of telling this story and the real strength is in the growth and development of Shinichi and how he deals with his changing body. I found his character to be easy to feel some sympathy toward and also have a little dislike for the way he often became a weak kneed young man. The real drama came from the dilemma about taking another life and how Shinichi deals with it. With the focal point being on this dilemma it become a little redundant, but Shinichi is given enough struggles to overcome to make the series move at a decent pace.

Overall Grade: B+

Parasyte the Maxim manages to over come the easy trap of being just another slasher series and gives us a series to with some thoughtful drama. There is a slight tenancy to make Shinichi a tad weak but they keep him strong enough to push the series forward. Parasyte the Maxim is a sold drama that doesn’t play up the gross blood fest that it could be. I am very interested to see collection 2 and wonder if he manages to save his life and the life of the alien life form that is living in him.

 

Black Lagoon Complete Series + OVA Premium Edition Blu-ray (anime review)

Black-Lagoon-Premium-EditionTitle: Black Lagoon Complete Series + OVA Premium Edition Blu-ray

Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Studio: Madhouse

Music: Edison

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: November 17, 2015

Format: Blu-ray/ 29 Episodes / 600 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, Crime Drama, Seinen

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Take a twisted trip to the city of your nightmares in this hard-boiled shootout inspired by masters of action like John Woo and Quentin Tarantino!

Rokuro was an ordinary Japanese business man. A suit hired to entertain corporate high rollers and serve as a whipping boy for the big bosses with the real juice. A mission to deliver a mysterious disk to the deadly waters East of China seemed like his big break, but some things just weren’t meant to be. A ruthless gang of mercenaries fronted by a gunslinging femme fatale in scandalously short shorts kidnapped Rokuro and held him for ransom. When his company refused to pay, he became their property. To survive, he was forced to reinvent himself as Rock, the brains behind the beauty and brawn of Black Lagoon: the most cutthroat crew of mercs ever to hustle the mean streets of Roanpur. A nightmare of a metropolis where the bad guys are really bad – and your friends might be even worse.

Contains episodes 1-12 of Black Lagoon, episodes 1-12 of Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage, and episodes 1-5 of the OVA, Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail.

Commentary:

Black Lagoon is an action packed seinen title often with dark and depressing undertones. Taking place in the fictional modern-day city of Roanapur, Thailand, the anime centers around the life of Rokuro “Rock” Okajima as he is attacked out at sea by some pirates and is taken hostage. After being with them when one thing after another goes wrong possibly due to Stockholm syndrome. If so, Rock never regrets it, although he continues to use words over fighting. The Lagoon Company, the pirate-mercenaries Rock works with, all are much more jaded and his unwillingness to fully embrace the ideals, or lack thereof, of the darkest of the underworld and pick up a gun causes tension, especially for Rebecca “Revy”, the company’s main fighter and one of the deadliest around.
Black Lagoon  is a great example of existentialism with a myriad of examples. None of the major characters are at all flat and most of the secondary characters like Mr. Chang all have twisted and distorted pasts. All of the ones revealed make Rock’s past look kind of mild in comparison. The best two examples of this are third (episodes 8-10) and fifth (episodes 13-15) mini-arcs.
The third arc has the Lagoon Company transporting Garcia Lovelace for the Columbian mafia. En route to their destination, they discover there is more to the situation they weren’t told. Garcia is convinced that he will be saved by his maid, Rosarita “Roberta” Cisneros, a unbeknownst former FARC guerilla trained in assassination known formerly known as “Hellhound”. After Garcia saw Roberta in battle, he did not know what to think. However, as the arc went on her devotion to saving him and seeing her like that and comparing it to the happy memories of his past reminded him that he really cared for her, not a maid, but as family member. The arc ends on a happy note with Belilika, a former Soviet military officer who now works for the Russian mafia out of Hotel Moscow, helping out Garcia, Roberta and the Lagoon Company for Roberta’s unexpected aid in helping the Russian mafia and a sense of owing the  Lagoon Company help for their past dealings.

 Roberta’s Blood Trail is a continuation of this arc with the Lagoon Company thrown back into the mix trying to save Roberta from her own madness and Rock begins to become much more of the chess master which is a little out of character for him.

In contrast, the fifth arc does not have such a happy ending. It is about two twins, Hänsel and Gretel, who have dissociative identity disorder in which they can both reverse the role of  Hänsel and Gretel, but in such a way that those personalities are distinct from each other in both voice and mannerism. The twins were taped by the Russian mafia for guro pedophilic films and later were forced to kill other children in order to escape this kind of treatment. There is evidence to suggest they were based on the twins from Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s not known what gender either are, although it is implied that they are both females. In the anime they are hired by Verrocchio because of their ability to be overlooked. However after killing one of Belilika’s men, they decide to dispose of them. Before that happens, the twins realize this and slaughter Verrocchino. However, Belilika, pissed at the death of her comrade, hunts the twins down. After splitting up, Gretel contracts the Lagoon Company to save her and befriends Rock, the only person other than her “brother” she felt comfortable with since she could remember, she is shot in the back from the contact they went to who was paid by Hotel Moscow.
These two arcs, along with the final arc (episodes 19-24), show that outside Rock, Belilika is possibly the most complex character. Unlike Rock, she does not put her feelings above business and getting the job done, but also seems to have a side who would still like to see things have a happy ending when it doesn’t cause her problems. In the case of the twins, the death of her comrade by some of the most torturous means imaginable was too much as she considered all of her military comrades as family. This is also why she probably goes out of her way to find a reason to help Garcia and Roberta and praises Garcia for the way he acts in the end.
Overall Grade: A
Black Lagoon works on many levels. On the surface it is just another action anime with some comedic elements to break up the often bloody and intense atmosphere and could easily be mistaken for that just seeing one episode. However, the series really deals with the human condition and what would make someone turn their back on a normal life and seek a life in the underworld of crime. For Revy, that answer is simple; she never had a good life to begin with; Revy’s past was seen to be the worst for much of the series having never had a good life living in a crime filled neighborhood where she had to kill just to live. However, the fifth arc showed that there is always someone worse off.  For Rock, his life was going just fine, but when confronted with the choice he wanted the life of freedom. In spite of his weak-willed personality, he really enjoys the intense moments to the point that their boss, Dutch, fears the consequences should he really be pushed that far; instead he prefers him to work as the accountant and negotiator.
The series constantly has Revy and Rock arguing about idealism in this world. For Rock he wants to hold on to it because of his past and for Revy she never had it because of her past. She is constantly berating him for putting his morales first and causing him, and by extension her and the Lagoon Company, trouble. In the final arc he is confronted by another who also berates him for living within the twilight ― not wanting to live a normal life in Japan, but not wanting to fully embrace the life of the underworld and crime.

More than that though the series plays upon the general themes seen in such epics Paradise Lost by John Milton. In this all of the characters start out with great dreams and ideals hoping to make the world better or even just their family happy. However, each one is tempted after some incident and falls from grace to the underworld of crime or the like. Unlike the poem though, it wasn’t some incarnation of evil itself that caused these people to fall; instead, it was the betrayal of other humans they knew personally or the general abandonment by the rest of humanity as trash. Even then, they still long for their ideals; however, their eyes are opened and they knew ideals will never come to pass. Sometimes, like with Roberta, they could find a new ideal to live for, but for others, like the twins, it was too late.
In the end the only thing I am disapointed about the series is that it did not explore Rock’s persoanlity enough. Outside the first arc, he wasn’t really pushed to the edge and his ability as a skilled negotiator capable of resolving disputes without the need for bloodshed was only hinted at. As mentioned before, Rock still is one of the more idealistic members in the series and it seems clear he has not reached the level where he comfortable with what he’s become (and not criticizing those around him) while still maintaining his ideals.

If you enjoy hard hitting series and have not been introduced to one of the more thoughtful existentialist series then you need to check it out. It is a great reminder that if violence is needed then the story needs to say something other than kill, kill, kill and hey don’t forget we are humans. Black Lagoon shows us how easy it would be to turn someone into a heartless killer and how we are not as wonderful a species as we might think.

WXIII: Patlabor The Movie 3 (anime review)

Patlabor-WXIII-Movie-3Title: WXIII: Patlabor The Movie 3 on Blu-ray

Director: Takuji Endo and Fumihiko Takayam (chief)

Screenplay by: Miki Tori

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: September 8th, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 107 minutes & 38 minute extra

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating B+

Synopsis:

The SV2’s giant Ingram Patrol Labors may be the ultimate in crime-fighting technology, but there are never enough to tackle every pending case. So when a mysterious series of deadly attacks targets Labor operators across Tokyo’s harbor region, the job goes to “conventional” detectives Hata and Kusumi.

After all, just because it looks like a giant robot-created crime doesn’t mean that it is a giant robot-created crime, and deep inside a web of half-truths and government cover-ups, the detectives uncover a secret biological weapons project called WWXIII. But while this secret may have been buried, it’s still very much alive. And that’s when having the armored force of the SV2 as backup may become a literal lifesaver for the entire city!

Commentary:

The last of the Patlabor franchise films is something very different then the rest of the series, but it is not detached. The one thing that is very consistent is the high quality of story development. One thing that may lose people is the strange concept behind the story. Although the Japanese are not too afraid to take on the issue of monsters derived from mutations and experimentation.

I can say that I was drawn into the story right off the bat and continued to stay with it all the way trough. I loved the way they wrapped it up but I would have liked to see more Patlabor. As a police drama it is solid.

The animation was a let down for me. Almost 10 year passed from Patlabor 2 and the production quality just doesn’t match up. It almost felt older than and lacked the special visual prescience the earlier film had.

Overall Grade: B+

Patlabor the Movie 3: WXIII is a fine film but maybe its title should not have been Patlabor the Movie 3 because of the lack of the Patlabor Mecha and team. Maybe it should have been called the Promise from Space and Death.

Honestly I found Patlabor the Movie 3 to be a wonderfully strange and at the same time a little disappointing. It is telling how production ideals and approaches changed over the years and also the interest that is given to some of the small details. This alone is a simple pleasure that comes with much beloved dramas. I have always marveled at how the Japanese can take some of the strangest story lines and make them interesting and good.

If you are trying find that real “diamond in the ruff” then WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 is what you might be looking for.

No Game No Life (anime review)

No-Game-No-LifeTitle: No Game No Life Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Atsuko Ishizuka

Writer: Jukki Hanada

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: July 28th. 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 300 minutes/ 12 Episodes

Genre: Gaming, Harem, Comedy, Drama

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Synopsis:

On the internet, they’re legends: the tag-team duo known as BLANK, famed for their incredible game-playing skills. In the real world, however, the lives of 18 year old Sora and his 11 year old stepsister Shiro have been spiraling out of control. Now existing as shut-ins, they rarely leave their house and are unable to be separated without suffering panic attacks. Games, for them, are the safest retreat from reality. Until they win a chess match against a mysterious opponent known as Tet and find themselves pulled into a game bigger than any they could have ever imagined.

Now, in a world where the outcome of games determines the fates of both civilizations and species, they must defend Humanity in the ultimate challenge, vying against a host of otherworldly competitors for the right to rule them all! But if they fail, it means slavery or destruction for all mankind. No pressure, of course! Can two misfits who can barely handle their own lives somehow rise to the occasion and save the human race?

Commentary:

Oh no not another stuck in the game anime! Yep, that’s right it’s a mother story where the main characters get stuck in a game world. Can you say .hack, Sword Art Online and Log Horizon just to name a few already showing the way? I was already regretting watching No Game No Life before I hit play and the first episode left me feeling like I was right. I started off so self assured and pretentious that I really didn’t want to keep going. Well, to say the least I managed to stomach a few more episodes and found that my disillusionment was all mistaken. The series managed to do something I would have never expected, it ended up being good.

No Game No Life takes the stuck in the game concept and adds onto the smart player roll developed in Log Horizon and thorns it on its ear with Sora and Shiro. They seem to understand the game better than anyone else and things unfold in unexpected ways. This plot device helps save the show and take it to a level that both entertains and gives rise to questions about the series itself. I’m not trying to say that they intentionally write in gaps of understanding, but because of the way the series progresses it becomes clear that there were simple basics overlooked to make it all work.

Overall Grade: B-

No Game No Life is an interesting series that takes the genre to another level. It is just too bad that there are so many aspects of the series that slow it down or just derail it from time to time. The fact that the concepts are so strong should have lent it to not having to rely on fan service or moe, but these elements tend to stay rather close to the core of the series. There is also the artistic palate that disrupts the flow and visual aesthetics of the series. I found the overwhelming amount of blue and pink to be oppressive and distracting. In the first few episodes I found myself wanting to walk away because of the visual and conceptual aspects of the series. I have to say that the writing saved it from a rather gruesome death.

There is plenty to dislike about this little series, but in the end I found a fondness for it that I can only call baffling at best. For all you gamers out there who need some sex-appeal in your life then you just might find this series worth the time to watch 12 episodes. For all you fan service / moe fans you should be sold by the cover and I doubt if you will be disappointed. So, check it out and if you are not sure about the series you should wait until the 4 or 5th episode before you turn if off. I have a feeling that you will end up sticking around to find out how it ends. I know I am still wondering that myself.

Ninja Scroll on Blu-ray (anime review)

Ninja ScrollTitle: Ninja Scroll: The Motion Picture

Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Re-release Date: May 19th, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / 94 minutes / Feature Film

Genre: Action, Adventure, Edo Period, Historical

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Jubei Kibagami has always been the master dealer of death, but in rescuing a ninja woman from a monster he sets loose a chain of events that puts death in his own veins and sends them on a nightmarish odyssey through a surreal and devil infested ancient Japan. How do demonic possessions, an annihilated village, and a man Jubei thought safely buried in his past all connect? If Jubei can’t piece the blood-soaked clues together, his only consolation will be that he won’t live to regret it for very long!

Commentary:

Some films and series keep finding their way back into the spotlight  and consistently are begin resurrected just to try and make some more money. In the case of Ninja Scroll saw it most recent reincarnation in December of 2012 when it was re-released on DVD and now Sentai Filmworks has moved it onto Blu-ray. I know that I’ve seen plenty of older series and movies reproduced on Blu-ray and I am constantly stumped as to what difference it makes. For Ninja Scroll I see a little improvement in color and brightness, but overall I can’t say it is a hit for me. I almost like it on the original Manga Entertainment VHS version just because a gritty look to the film adds to its mystic.

Overall Grade: B+

I know that Ninja Scroll is a anime classic and the one thing that stands out is the action and battles. The simplistic violence that is presented comments on how cruel that time period was. The only thing that really makes a difference for me is the blatant simplicity these films and stories were created and written in the 80’s and 90’s. They thought that they were presenting some deep commentary, but in fact were playing to the basic fan base of the single males audience and gave us plenty of violence and sex to keep the viewer interested. I have a feeling that if they were to make it any more complicated they would have lost their audience and it wasn’t until later in the decade that it was discovered that deeper reflection or complicated plot lines really do make a difference.

Ninja Scroll is wonderfully animated and the action scenes are phenomenal but the plot is simple and only slightly interesting. I’m not sure how this latest iteration of the film is going to go over. I suspect that it will only be a item for the collector who wants to own it on blu-ray. I can’t say that the high definition doesn’t really make the film any better.

Ambition of Oda Nobuna, The: The Complete Collection (anime review)

Ambition of Oda NobunaTitle: Ambition of Oda Nobuna, The: The Complete Collection

Director: Yuuji Kumazawa

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Mikage Kasuga

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: December 16, 2014

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Historical, Harem

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Battle Girls: Time Paradox and Sengoku Collection

Synopsis:

Yoshiharu Sagara, or Monkey as he is known to Oda Nobuna and her retainers, thought he knew his Japanese history backwards, forwards, and upside down, but when he inexplicably finds himself in the past everything he thought he knew was wrong and he is in a very different history altogether! Not only is this timeline’s version of the legendary (and very male) Oda Nobunaga now the cute (and very female) Oda Nobuna, but one of the first things Yoshiharu manages to accidentally accomplish is getting one of the Sengoku era’s most important historical figures killed!

Still, what’s your best present course of action when you find yourself stuck in the past, having only a semi-reliable knowledge of one possible future, and there is now a vacancy in the history books? Aligning yourself with someone with the potential to become one of the most powerful warlords in any of Japan’s possible histories might not be a bad start. Provided, of course, that you can keep yourself from becoming too intimately involved in the cloak and dagger action during a time when the cloaks cover body armor and the daggers are paired with multiple swords! But that is just part of the risk you assume when your history becomes her story! Will Yoshiharu make it back to his own time? Will Oda Nobuna conquer Japan? You will have to watch The Ambition of Oda Nobuna and find out!

Commentary:
The Ambition of Oda Nobuna: The Complete Collection has four main plot lines: The Arrival in the Sengoku Period Arc, The Invasion of Mino Arc, The Kyoto Arc, and The Retreat at Kanegasaki Arc. While The Ambition of Oda Nobuna: The Complete Collection may look like your typical rom-com harem, this time there is a story line and interesting characters to enjoy. Each story arc lasted around three episodes and was wrapped up in that time. The story line follows the history that we know of with slight changes made when Yoshiharu time-traveled to the Sengoku Period. However, that does not mean that you will know literally everything that is going to happen. You will still be pleasantly surprised and will enjoy the series.

The characters in The Ambition of Oda Nobuna: The Complete Collection are your typical rom-com harem characters but they were well developed and a few were absolutely adorable. Goemon Hachisuka has an adorable lisp and will likely steal your heart for the series. Toshiie Maeda is another adorable one as she always wears a lion costume. Both of these girls look very young, but do not let that fool you as they can take care of themselves just fine. Oda Nobuna is a girl that had a very hard life and it shows at times as she is leery of letting people into her heart because as soon as she does they leave her. She also has blonde hair in this series, which suits her character’s personality perfectly. Oda Nobuna’s retainers all have personalities that fit the historical character they are portraying well and they add entertainment to the story.

The art work is well done and the battle scenes look realistic. The characters were drawn well and the voice actors did a great job. The opening song was catchy and the closing animation is where all the fan-service was placed for the series. There really was not much besides that.

Extras:

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna: The Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options. I recommend the Japanese with English subtitles for this release.

Overall Grade: B

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna: The Complete Collection is an interesting series and I recommend it if you enjoy history.