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Tamayura Hitotose (anime review)

Tamayura HitotoseTitle: Tamayuri Hitotose 

Director: Junichi Sato

Music by: Noboyuki Nakajima

Studio: TYO Animations (series), Hal Film Maker (OVA)

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: Oct. 6th, 2015

Format: DVD/ 389 Minutes / 12 Episodes and OVA

Genre: Slice of Lice, Coming of Age, Shojo

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

As a little girl, Fuu Sawatari’s father taught her to love photography. They took pictures everywhere they went. But after he passed away, seeing those photographs only served as a reminder of her loss, so she locked them away to be forgotten. Years later, her brother Kou finds their father’s picture album, and as he flips through its pages, the pictures remind Fuu of all the happy memories of her father that she will carry with her forever.

Now, as the shy Fuu enters her first year of high school, she once again takes up her father’s old camera, determined to take wonderful pictures that will bring joy and happiness to others.

Commentary:

Tamayuri Hitotose is one of those sweet light series that looks simple but dives much deeper and interesting than expected. With the basic concepts being rather simple and straight forward I would have expected it to be more about the day to day life of these girls. What I found was a series that provides just that a simple look at a group of girls as they begin their journey into adulthood, there is also a interesting look at the fine art of photography. Now I must disclosed that I have a degree in fine art photography and it clearly colored my perspective. The thing about Tamayura Hitotose and the narrative exploring art photography is that it does a great job of bringing up the general concepts of what a good photo is compared to a “messed up” or not so good photo. It is not that it points out a general perspective of the good photo but rather questions the notion of what a messed up photo is. In fact it provides an honest opinion that there is beauty in all photographs and many that might not show us the perfectly framed head with the happy glowing smile are eve more meaningful than the expected perfect shot.

Tamayura Hitotose also gives a very sentimental look at a father who is no longer alive and missed dearly. As touching as I found that aspect of the plot I can’t say that it was anywhere near as important as the discovery of what friendship is between these girls and the art appreciation of photography. The character development was rolled out wonderfully with plenty of story built around all of the girls not just Fuu. The one aspect of their personalities that I found over the top and somewhat disappointing was the way they ended up being hyper personalities and they tended to overreact to situations that highlight their personal traits.

Overall Grade: B+

Again, Tamayura Hitotose is now of those series that is perfect for girls under the age of 15 but the series is only provided with sub titling. I’m not sure why Nozomi does not spend the extra bucks to provide a solid english dub for this and other series like Aria, Sketchbook or even The Sound of the Sky. I think they could introduce the rich wonderful world of great story telling married with a strictly eastern philosophy on life and growth. There are some great life lessons here and they are provided in a kind sweet forum that is entertaining and only makes the viewer smile in the end.

Tamayura Hitotose is a great series for anyone who loves photography and someone who likes the feel go story of friendship and kindness that a positive life can bring.

Please Twins! The Complete Series (anime review)

Please-Twinsreview provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Please Twins! The Complete Series

Director: Yasunori Ide

Studio: Bandai Visual, Studio Orphee

Author: Yousuke Kuroda

U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment

U.S. Release Date: August 4, 2015

Format and Length: DVD / 12 Episodes + 1 OVA / 325 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Drama, School, Sci-Fi, Harem

Industry Age Rating: 16 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Please Teacher!

Synopsis:

Maiku Kamishiro grew up in an orphanage with no history of his family or of his past. Left with only a childhood picture of himself and another person in front of a house, he believes that the other person in the picture is his long lost twin sister. Upon discovering his old home, two young girls, both carrying the same picture as Maiku, show up on his doorstep one day both claiming to be his long lost sister. Maiku’s life is about to be turned upside down and with two pretty girls living under the same roof as him, how will Maiku be able to keep his mind on school and work while trying to figure out which one of these girls is his sister and which one is the love of his life?

Commentary:

Please Twins!: The Complete Series takes place in the same place as Please Teacher and some of the characters are in both series. Please Twins picks up after the UFO TV special in Please Teacher, however we do not see that part as when the series actually begins Maiku is already living in the house from the picture. Somehow he was able to talk the orphanage into letting him live on his own for high school as long as he keeps a good job. I do not believe that he thought that through very well. The story line flows well throughout the episodes and the comedy is always spot on.

The characters are your basic love triangle/rom-com characters. They do not have much in the way of character development but the personalities make up for that. Maiku Kamishiro is the lead male character who is quiet and standoff-ish. All the girls in school are in love with him and think he is the shy and quiet type. However, he is more interested in working and being able to live on his own. Minna Miyafuji is a very outgoing and energetic girl and she is not shy about anything. Karen Onodera, on the other hand, is a shy and polite girl. She seems very delicate and if she gets overwhelmed she will say “nyu” and faint. She has far too much cute packed into her character. Ichigo Morino also makes her appearance known with her evil laughter. She brings some much needed life to the plot and adds some dark humor in places.

The OVA episode is a lot like the OVA for Please Teacher because all of the over-the-top fan-service is packed into one episode along with some possible incest between two minor characters. The rest of the episodes have some fan-service but most of it is in the OVA and it detracts from the story. The animation is colorful and bright and the characters are drawn well. The small town Japanese backgrounds were beautiful and well done. The music was enjoyable and I loved singing along with it.

Extras:

Please Twins!: The Complete Series includes clean opening and closing animations, image vocals, promotional clip, Japanese commercials, and Nozomi Entertainment trailers as special features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: B

I really enjoyed watching Please Twins!: The Complete Series and you do not need to watch Please Teacher first but I recommend you do as the characters that cross-over have their development in it.

Please Teacher! (anime review)

Please Teacher!review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Please Teacher!

Director: Yasunori Ide

Studio: Daume

Author: Yosuke Kuroda

U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment , Lucky Penny

U.S. Release Date: June 2, 2015

Format and Length: DVD / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Comedy, Romance

Industry Age Rating: 16 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Waiting in the Summer, Please Twins and To-LOVE- Ru

“This is a priority one.”

Synopsis:

Kei Kusanagi isn’t your typical 15-year-old high school student. He is actually an 18-year-old with a rare disorder that puts him into what he calls, a “standstill”! When he was younger, this disorder left him in a deep coma which stunted his growth for three years. So he must make up the time that he lost to his “standstill”. Mizuho Kazami isn’t your typical teacher, either. She’s actually an alien sent by the Galaxy Federation to observe the Earth! As the sole human being with knowledge of Ms. Kazumi’s secret, Kei must marry her?! Between homework, dating, and a gorgeous wife – going to school has never been quite this fun! Will Kei have more “standstills”? Will Kei and Mizuho’s marriage last? You will have to watch Please Teacher! and find out.

Commentary:

Please Teacher! has to be one of the best rom-coms I have seen. Yes, the premise if the story is one of the silliest I have seen in a while; however, what develops out of this turns into a very touching romance as Kei and Mizuho both develop their love and feelings for one another. It was also refreshing to see that all the female characters were not in love with the same guy. Plus, the supporting characters also have romances of their own and those create interest in the plot line. The plot was also well done and did not seem rushed or slow. Twelve episodes plus the OVA is the perfect length for this series. Also, the alien aspect of the series and the real reason for Mizuho being on earth is just a small sub-plot so do not let that keep you from watching Please Teacher!.

Speaking of the characters, there was some amazing character development in Please Teacher! Almost each and every character in the series changed and grew in some way. Kei eventually learns that he must move forward instead of coming to a “standstill”. I really believe that without his marriage to Mizuho he never would have learned that lesson. After his three year “standstill”, Kei moves in with his aunt, Konoha, and his uncle, Minoru. Minoru is the town’s doctor and also faces the wrath of Konoha whenever he acts like a dirty old man. Those moments had me laughing.

Kei also had a few friends at school. They were Koishi Herikawa, Hyosuke Magumo, Kaede Misumi, Ichigo Morino, and Matagu Shidou. Hyosuke and Kaede were especially cute together and they could really have their own series. Koishi Herikawa loves Kei but eventually accepts that he loves someone else and moves on. If Mizuho was not in the picture, I believe they would have made a cute couple. However, I believe that Masami Yamada was introduced for a reason but nothing is ever said or done. Ichigo Morino has her own secret in the series and when it is made known it will probably surprise you. Matagu is the typical perverted teenage male character and sadly they do not really expand past that.

I also really loved Maho, Mizuho’s little sister. Maho is very close to her big sister and initially refuses to accept the fact that Kei is married to her. She follows Kei around town and tries to catch him cheating or doing something stupid. Eventually, Maho accepts the relationship between Kei and Mizuho and becomes one of their biggest cheerleaders. Then there is Hatsuho Kazami, Mizuho’s mother. She is a real piece of work as she is a very sensual, self-assured, and bold but subtly assertive woman. She makes Kei and Mizuho’s lives interesting to say the least. As you can tell, there are some amazing characters in Please Teacher! and it is difficult to choose a favorite.

As for the OVA, that is where all the fan-service for the entire series lives. It also gives you the conclusion you were wondering about after the last episode. Hatsuho interferes once again with Kei and Mizuho’s relationship, however this time it might actually be helpful. Needless to say, that is where the fan-service is and you will either have you use your imagination or watch the OVA.

The animation looked great for the age of the series, but I wish it had been in widescreen format instead of 4×3. However, I am ecstatic that Nozomi/Lucky Penny is picking up these older series and I cannot wait to see what they are releasing next. The voice actors were good and I really enjoyed the Japanese voice actors the most. The opening and closing songs were catchy and reminded me of other series that came out at the same time.

Extras:

Please Teacher! includes clean opening and closing animations, Marie Love Theater, Promotional videos, Music Clips, Commercials, Episode 13 preview, and Nozomi/Lucky Penny previews as special features. Please Teacher! has English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: A-

Please Teacher! is a well done rom-com. I was pleased that it had a conclusion and it was also a sweet series. I recommend watching Please Teacher! if you enjoy the rom-com genre as it is the best of both worlds.

Rose of Versailles: Part Two (anime review)

Rose of Versailles: Part Tworeview provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Rose of Versailles: Part Two

Director: Osamu Dezaki

Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Author: Riyoko Ikeda

U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment, Lucky Penny

U.S. Release Date: April 7, 2015

Format and Length: DVD / 20 Episodes, 480 Minutes

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Historical, Romance

Industry Age Rating: 13 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Le Chevalier D’Eon

Synopsis:

Rose of Versailles: Part Two begins where Part One left off. Oscar is beginning to feel out of place among the nobles, but does not know what to do about it. Looking to challenge herself further, Oscar leaves Marie Antoinette’s side and enlists with the French Guards. The French Guards are common soldiers who put their lives on the line every night as they patrol the streets and keep the peace. However, Oscar soon learns that an anti-noble sentiment resides everywhere, even amongst the guards that grudgingly follow her orders. Will Oscar eventually find herself torn between her loyalty to the crown and her loyalty to France itself?

Marie Antoinette’s indulgences are beginning to take their toll on the common citizens. While the nobles live in sheer decadence, the poor children are left to starve on the streets. Counts and countesses are attending masquerade balls while normal families are forced to bury their loved ones because they are unable to afford medicine. Pleas that were once for equality are now enraged demands for radical change, but what does the nobility have to say for themselves?
Commentary:

Rose of Versailles: Part Two is a wonderful conclusion to this historical anime. At first, I was not very interested in this anime, but after a few episodes, it drew me in. Rose of Versailles is an old anime that has been re-released and might be hard to watch, but give it a chance if you are able to see past the lack of action and the tragedies that fall upon the characters. Be prepared to get emotionally attached to certain characters though.

I really loved that Rose of Versailles: Part Two focused more on Oscar’s life than on Marie Antoinette. They did an amazing job in describing the drama that had become Oscar’s life. Oscar loved Fersen, but was sure that he loved Marie Antoinette. Fersen loved Oscar but decided to stay by Marie Antoinette’s side until the end. Andre’ loved Oscar but he kept it to himself until the end of their time together. That is a lot of drama for one girl to deal with. Finally, Oscar and Andre’ are able to tell each other that they love one another however; it was too late for a happy ending. But sometimes that happens when there is a Revolution going on.

The plot picked up pace in Rose of Versailles: Part Two. It still seemed like each book of manga equaled one episode of Rose of Versailles, however I got very caught up in the battle scenes and that seemed to make episodes fly by. Be careful though, you can easily marathon the entire series in a matter of a few days, which I did because it is just that good. Each disk has five episodes and they go by pretty quickly. The opening and closing music fits the mood of the anime very well. It is slightly bittersweet and the background music depicted the music of the 17th Century, although there were a few instances of “dramatic” piano playing, but that is par for the course for an anime of this age. The opening and closing music is catchy and I found myself singing along by the third disk; thankfully there are subtitles with the lyrics too. The animation does look dated but then again you have to remember the age of this anime. Some of the scenes will take your breath away and others will just make you laugh. The backgrounds are very detailed and look beautiful. Be careful of the sparkles though, they may blind you.

While Rose of Versailles: Part Two is not completely fact, if you enjoy history or love historical fiction then this anime is for you. This anime is a classic and deserves a special place in the history of anime in general.
Extras:

Rose of Versailles: Part Two has clean opening and closing animation and Nozomi trailers as special features. Each disk has two trailers and the fourth disk has an interview with the director, Osamu Dezaki.
Overall Grade: B+

Rose of Versailles: Part Two is a wonderful conclusion to the Rose of Versailles story. Despite its age, it is very enjoyable. If you are a fan of older animes or you are open minded with different genres of anime then you should enjoy Rose of Versailles: Part One and Part Two. As a complete series that I watched once again back-to-back without interruptions, I would give the entire series an overall grade of an A-. It is definitely worth a watch. I can recommend either Revolutionary Girl Utena or Le Chevalier D’Eon. Revolutionary Girl Utena also features a young woman blurring the gender lines with sword fights and Le Chevalier D’Eon revolves around the French Revolution. I also suggest watching Rose of Versailles: Part One, but that goes without saying.

Rose of Versailles: Part One-Litebox (anime review)

Title: Rose of Versailles: Part One-LiteboxTitle: Rose of Versailles: Part One-Litebox

Director: Tadao Nagahama (episodes 1-18) and Osamu Dezaki (episodes 19 and 20)

Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Author: Riyoko Ikeda

U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment, Lucky Penny

U.S. Release Date: February 3, 2015

Format and Length: DVD / 20 Episodes / 480 Minutes

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Historical, Romance

Industry Age Rating: 13 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Le Chevalier D’Eon

Synopsis:

Rose of Versailles: Part One begins with the birth of General Jarjayes’ latest child. The General is desperate for a son to preserve the family name and noble standing so he names his daughter Oscar and chooses to raise her as a boy. Her best friend and training companion is Andre’ and he a servant in the family’s home. As a teenager, Oscar is the newly appointed Commander of the French Royal Guards and she is a masterful duelist, an expert shooter, and a master swordsman. Her first assignment is to protect Marie Antoinette, who is engages to the French prince and future king, Louis-Auguste (King Louis XVI). Lady Oscar’s beauty and noble spirit maker her a shining figure in the eyes of both men and women but she is torn between her chosen life of service and duty to class and country and her own heart and desires.

The French court is a dangerous place, even though the arranged marriage should provide both countries, France and Austria, with some much needed peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, Marie Antoinette’s naiveté makes her an easy target for those who wish to see the monarchy overthrown and thus begins the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette also makes her own trouble when rumors begin floating around Versailles about her and Han Axel von Fersen. Soon, Oscar finds herself both defending Marie Antoinette’s reputation from those who seek to discredit her and protecting her life from those who wish to harm her.
Commentary:

Rose of Versailles: Part One is a wonderful historical anime. At first, I was not very interested in this anime, but after a few episodes, it drew me in. Rose of Versailles is an old anime that has been re-released and might be hard to watch, but give it a chance if you are able to see past the lack of action and the tragedies that fall upon the characters.

I thought the character development of Lady Oscar was awesome. You first see her right before she takes her position as Commander of the French Royal Guards and you think that she is just a spoiled teenage brat, but she is anything but. Oscar is a woman of her word and lives to serve the Royal family. She is also very strong willed and members of both sexes are attracted to her. I really loved the interaction between Andre’ and Oscar because you could really tell that Andre’ loved Oscar, however Oscar did not or could not give the feelings back. Marie Antoinette’s character was really sweet and cute in the beginning of the series, but as the series progressed, she became more selfish and immature. She put her own happiness ahead of the happiness of her people. Those are really the two most interesting characters at this point in the series.

The plot was very slow. It seemed like each book of manga equaled one episode of Rose of Versailles. Personally, I think that some parts could have been left out; however, by the end of Rose of Versailles: Part One I was happy to have seen every part. As I said above, it really draws you in and then you do not want to stop watching. Each disk has five episodes and they go by pretty quickly. The opening and closing music fits the mood of the anime very well. It is slightly bittersweet and the background music depicted the music of the 17th Century, although there were a few instances of “dramatic” piano playing, but that is par for the course for an anime of this age. The animation does look dated but then again you have to remember the age of this anime. The backgrounds are very detailed and look beautiful. Be careful of the sparkles though, they may blind you.

While Rose of Versailles: Part One is not completely fact, if you enjoy history or love historical fiction then this anime is for you. This anime is a classic and deserves a special place in the history of anime in general.
Extras:

Rose of Versailles: Part One has clean opening and closing animation and Nozomi trailers as special features. Each disk has two trailers and the fourth disk has the clean opening and closing animation.
Overall Grade: B+

Rose of Versailles: Part One is a very good anime and is worth a watch. Despite its age, it is very enjoyable and I cannot wait for Part Two to see what happens. If you are a fan of older animes or you are open minded with different genres of anime then you should enjoy Rose of Versailles: Part One.

Cat’s Eye: Season Two (anime review)

Cat's Eye Season 2

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Cat’s Eye: Season Two

Director: Kanetsugu Kodama

Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Author: Tsukasa Hojo

U.S. Distributor: Lucky Penny,  Nozomi Entertainment

U.S. Release Date: November 4, 2014

Format and Length: DVD / 37 Episodes / 925 Minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mystery, Romance

Industry Age Rating: 16 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Lupin III and Cat’s Eye: Season One

Synopsis:

Hitomi, Rui, and Ai are back in Cat’s Eye: Season Two! Toshio is also in tow and has yet to figure out that Hitomi is a member of Cat’s Eye. As you know, they are the greatest art thieves Japan has ever known. However, they do not steal for money or fame; they do it in the hopes of finding their father, a great painter who went missing after World War II.

A new female thief claiming to be Cat’s Eye starts wreaking havoc in Tokyo while they are off searching for their father in Europe. She steals anything and everything she can get her hands on and her brutal methods are putting the lives of the police, including Toshio, at risk. It is finally time for the real Cat’s Eye to head back to Japan and bring her reign of terror to an end! Will the true Cat’s Eye make it back in time? Will they finally find their father? You will have to watch Cat’s Eye: Season Two to find out.

Commentary:

You really have to love anime series from the 1980’s. Do not allow the age of this series to put you off because Cat’s Eye: Season Two will deliver a truly satisfying experience from the first episode to the ending credits. Cat’s Eye: Season Two is an episodic series so you are able to watch a few episodes at a time in between other series and still know what is going on. Some episodes are better than others but I did not find that any of them really disappointed me.

This season really focuses on the relationship between Hitomi and Toshio and the hilarity that ensues as Hitomi hides her true identity from Toshio. Or in many cases, knocks him out so she is able to make her great escape. Toshio is a very naïve, dense person who cannot figure out that his fiancé is a member of the infamous Cat’s Eye gang. But he really does care for her and maybe love is truly blind. Rui and Ai are interesting characters to say the least. Ai is the tech girl and loves tinkering with stuff as she invents things to use during their robberies. She seems to be a tomboyish high school or college student and loves to cause trouble when she can. Rui is the eldest Kisugi sister and is also the classiest of the three. She is the one who plans all of their robberies.

The animation and audio were re-mastered for this release and the subtitles were updated as well. Even though these series was re-mastered it is still the typical style of animation for the early 1980’s. The fight scenes and anything with fast movement is depicted in stills leaving it up to your imagination as the technology at the time could not handle those scenes. The opening and closing animations are completely 1980’s as they include the characters in unitards dancing around to the workout music of that time.
Extras:

Cat’s Eye: Season Two includes clean opening and closing animations and two Nozomi Entertainment/Lucky Penny trailers per disk as special features. Japanese with English subtitles is the only language option available for this series.

Overall Grade: B

If you have read my previous reviews, you are aware of my love for the old animes I grew up with. It continues to bring me great joy that someone is releasing the true classics. Cat’s Eye: Season Two continues the retro anime being made available to the new generation.

Cat’s Eye season 1 (anime review)

Cat's Eye season 1Title: Cat’s Eye season 1

Director: Yoshio Takeuchi

Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha

U. S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: July 1st, 12014

Format: DVD / 36 Episodes / 900 Minutes

Genre: Crime Drama, Action, Kaito

Age Rating: 16+

Overall Personal Rating: B

 

Synopsis:

Cat’s Eye is the most notorious group of art thieves in Japan. No one knows their identities, but for most of Tokyo, the mystery only heightens their allure. To bumbling detective Utsumi Toshio, Cat’s Eye is a colossal pain in the neck. They outwit him and the rest of the police at every turn, making them look ridiculous. He would never dream of being in love with someone in Cat’s Eye. Except he already is.

Toshio has no idea that Cat’s Eye is actually his girlfriend, Hitomi Kisugi, and her sisters Rui and Ai. Running the Cat’s Eye Cafe next door to the police station, they bring “hiding in plain sight” to a whole new level. But thievery and romance are difficult to balance. Hitomi will need all the help she can get to stop Toshio from discovering her identity – especially when he starts having feelings for her alter-ego!

Commentary:

It is easy to see why this stylized series was such a big hit in the 1980’s. It was the Disco Era and being a beautiful thief who doesn’t really hurt anyone is very cool. The 1960’s & 70’s introduced us to the handsome mail spies and jewell thieves that everyone want to emulate like James Bond and Lupin the III. So, when Cat’s Eye came along in the early eights it was very easy for the Japanese to gab this story and find it more than just a little alluring.

Even thought the animation is dated and much of the dialog feels like it is from another time and place, I feel like it gives us not only a glimpse at the past but a look at how a story can be told to make it somewhat timeless. Cat’s Eye comes across a bit silly at times but with each individual story it still give the impression of a series that wants to give us action that is not about piling up the body count as it goes along.

Overall Grade: B

Cat’s Eye is something to see for yourself. I seemed to have some rather nostalgic moments with this series. From the opening where they are doing their calisthenics to a disco song, very similar to the 5 minute workouts that HBO used to show in the 80’s of  young woman on a rotating stage performing some rather sensual exercises. I enjoy the simplistic depiction of the bumbling cop who is so close to the thieves he is even dating one of them.

There is plenty to enjoy about Cat’s Eye, but remember it isn’t for kids. There is mild violence and at time rather suggestive. That doesn’t take away from the simple pleasure that comes from the series itself. It is great to see this series revived by Nozomi, but it would also be fun to see it given a real facelift and re-created. I think that in today’s anime world the focus on body found or boob  and panty shots tend to take away from the essence of entertainment and it would be nice to see a revival of series that manage to leave a lot to the imagination.

Cat’s Eye is a series that any fan or student of anime should check out. It is a great peek back at what made this form of entertainment for more than kids.