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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.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Movie (anime review)

Dragonball-Z-Resurrection-FTitle: Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Movie

Director: Tadayoshi Yamamuro

Studio: Toei Animation

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: October 20th, 2015

Format: Blu-ray / DVD/ 95 minutes / Feature Film

Genre: Fantasy, Shonen, Action, Adventure, Supernatural

Age Rating: TV PG

Overal Personal Rating: C-

 

Synopsis:

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is the second Dragon Ball film personally supervised by the series creator Akira Toriyama, following Battle of Gods. The new movie showcases the return of Frieza – one of the anime world’s greatest villains. Frieza has been resurrected and plans to take his revenge on the Z-Fighters of Earth. Goku and Vegeta must reach new levels of power in order to protect Earth from their vengeful nemesis.

Commentary:

Sparkling Blue and Golden are sometimes not what you think they are, but in this case it is not surprise. Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ gives up a strange colorful greatest hits for this never-ending series. I think it is interesting that Akria Toriyama supervised this film because it has serious reminders of the endless battles that took place and that fact that there was a mindless movement from fight to fight.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ brings back Frieza with the intent to make us all remember how great the series was back in the early seasons, but there is a problem with that. Frieza is most notably the weakest of all the enemy and also nowhere near as interesting as the others. I get the nostalgia, but why not extend the story rather than back track.

Overall Grade: C-

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ is one of those films that was great for proving that anime is not dead and that people can get sucked into almost any thing with the title Dragon Ball Z. I have to say that the most disappointing aspect of the movie was the heavy handed Computer Graphics. I would have thought that the production company (Toei Animation) would have been able to a better job of giving us a film with a clean slick style of anime rather than a hard edged inexpensive CG rendering of the iconic characters.

Anyway I doubt if there is anything I can say that is going to make a difference in the minds of those rabid DBZ fans out there, but I have a feeling that there are some fans that will see that they missed the mark with this one. It is also very disapointing to have it become one of the highest grossing anime theatrical release in the U S. I guess it says a lot about what makes it into theaters and how much money is spent on marketing. Well, if you are looking for almost 2 hours of Dragon Ball Z nostalgia then this one if for you.

Noragami season 1 (anime review)

704400072512_anime-Noragami-Season-1-DVD-BD-HybTitle: Noragami season 1

Director: Kotaro Tamura

Studio: Bones

Writer: Deko Akao

Creator: Adachitoka

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

u. S. Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Format: DVD / Blu-ray/ 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Shonen, Action, Adventure, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Minor god Yato is down on his luck. Fed up with his slacker lifestyle, his partner abruptly quits. He has no money, no worshippers, and no shrine to call home. But just when things are starting to seem hopeless, a bus accident forces him to cross paths with Hiyori Iki, a sweet and perky high school girl. After the accident, Hiyori’s soul has a bad habit of slipping out of her body, and after enlisting Yato’s help to get her back to normal, she begins to fall into the world of spirits and gods.

But Hiyori’s not the only one who’s keeping tabs on Yato. A god from Yato’s past is back, and he’s not interested in a friendly reunion.

Commentary:

In the age of supernatural anime Noragmi does its best to try and stand out. There is the simple high school girl who does what she thinks she should and ends up living between two worlds and stuck trying to help a God who is either a simpleton or just so careless that none will ever give him any just due. The God is clearly fighting some self confidence issues and even his regalia (weapons) tend to give him less than a reasonable amount of respect. These aspects alone made me want to like this show because with every episodes it is clear that there is some deep dark secret that all the Gods know and nobody else seems to understand.  This angst helps the plot develop with a even keel, but at times it makes you feel like maybe the secret is a awkward plot device rather than a driving factor in the story.

The animation production quality is standard for Bones and it didn’t leave me feeling anything special about the series. I felt like an added edge to the artistic stylings could have helped elevate the series. I can’t say it made any difference at all.

Overall Grade: B+

Noragami falls into a rather ordinary anime camp with just enough solid writing and plot development that keeps just above the frey. I found the like ability of all the characters a a higher level than I have in some of the more recent supernatural anime and I even enjoyed the darker characters. I guess that they end up playing a much more minor roll than I expected. I wasn’t too sure how the relationship between Yato and Hiyori would play out but I am happy with the conclusion that was delivered. There is also the troubled Yukine as the angry young regalia who’s persona is at an age where he is lost in his world and rather than woe toward understanding this place he would rather act out against the world and everyone in it. The way that this coming of age anger ends up effecting those around him is rather interesting too. As a parent I saw some rather poignant similarities to family life and watching your children grow up. There is only so much you can do and in the end to torment lands on you more than it does the child.

Noragami is a solid anime that should provide plenty of entertainment to anyone who strays across its path.

Soul Eater NOT! (anime review)

Soul Eater NotTitle: Soul Eater NOT!

Director: Masakazu Hashimoto

Studio: Bones

U. S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: June 30th, 2015

Format: DVD / Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Supernatural, Slice of Life, Shonen

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

When 14-year-old Tsugumi discovers her ability to transform into a weapon, she decides to enroll at Death Weapon Meister Academy, or DWMA. There, she hones her skills, and practices with other weapons and the meisters who wield them.

With the help of Maka and the others Tsugumi, Meme and Anya will discover the importance of friendship and the how to appreciate each other for who they really are.

Commentary:

If you are looking for another Soul Eater, well all I can say in NOT!. Soul Eater NOT! may be placed in the same world and have some of the same general feel it is not the same type of series at all. Where Soul Eater is all about the action and bizarreness of the world they live in, Soul Eater Not is all about these 3 girls. After a few episodes I looked over and mentioned to a friend watching the series with me and said this feels like Soul Eater meets K-On!

Now I’m not saying it doesn’t have some of the classic Soul Eater flavor. It still has plenty of the strange characters and colorful world known as Death City and the DWMA. As you move through the series you get to see most of the old favorites and try to guess when the series takes place. I am convinced that it is after the original series, but there are things that make you stop and think maybe not. I’ll leave that up to you.

Overall Garde: B+

Being a huge fan of Soul Eater I was looking forward to Soul Eater NOT! and at first I was a little disappointed, but as the series wound though its paces I came to appreciate it for what it is. I do have a weak spot for slice of life stories and think that series that explore friendship and self awareness tend to get deeper in character development that just the action series. Now Soul Eater Not really didn’t have the time to get into solid character development, but it did give us several fun and easy to connect with characters and the 3 girls were all very much likable and very sympathetic.

I have a feeling that there will be plenty of Soul Eater fans that will pass on this fun little series just because it is more of a slice of life rather than action adventure. I hope everyone gives Soul Eater NOT! a try I believe they will enjoy it.

 

One Piece Season Six Voyage Two (anime review)

One Piece Season Six Voyage TwoTitle: One Piece Season Six Voyage Two

Director: Hiroaki Miyamoto

Original Creator: Eiichiro Oda

U. S. Distributor: FUNimation

U. S. Release Dates: Nov. 18th, 2014

Format: DVD / 12 Episodes / 300 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Action,  Adventure, Shonen

Age Rating: TV14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Luffy’s impulsive attack on Gecko Moria ends up costing the rubber-man something he can’t live without – his shadow! When Zoro and Sanji find themselves in the same boat, the three fierce fighters must find a way to recapture what was lost, or face the possibility of death by sunlight. Luckily, their skeleton friend, Brook, knows the trick to defeating Moria’s zombie army, and he’ll gladly share the secret in exchange for a little help defeating a sinister zombie samurai!

Meanwhile, Nami is kidnapped by an undead scoundrel who wants to make her his wife, and Usopp must rely on his natural state of negativity if he hopes to survive his encounter with a gothic Lolita and her ghostly minions. Hair-raising thrills are the story of the hour as the Straw Hats attempt to escape Thriller Bark with their shadows – and souls – intact!

Commentary:

Hey everyone here’s Brook! For a series as long as One Piece there is rarely introductions of recurring characters and this one little grouping provides maybe the best thing that has happened in the series in a long time and that is Brook. He is a funny strange character that provides even more humor to this silly show.

As with the rest of the One Piece series I can’t say that this is a standout or anything special. The story feels like an endless string of filler arcs that really don’t go anywhere. The humor is still the main focus of the series and with the introduction of Brook there is a brief improvement of the quality of comedic relief, but all in all it is a silly series that just keeps going.

Overall Grade: B

One Piece is one of the longest running series and it has a simple formula and sticks to it. The artistry of the series doesn’t stand out. The depth of the subject matter doesn’t even exists. The warmth and loving personas of the characters has never developed. There really isn’t much that this iconic series has to offer other than it is just silly. So, if looking at Season 6 voyage 2 I have to say that it does a decent job of providing humor and even a little stranger and sillier than usual. My only real question is how long can it go? Personally I would like to see it go the way of Dragon Ball Z and just focus on the movies because I find them much more entertaining.

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of GodsTitle: Dragon Ball Z Movie: Battle of Gods

Director: Masahiro Hosoda

Studio: Toei Animation

U. S. Distributor: Funimation

U. S. Release Date: Oct. 7th, 2014

Format: DVD/ Blu-ray / Feature Film / 105 Minutes

Genre: Shonen, Action Adventure, Martial Arts Battle

Age Rating: TV 13

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Following the events of the Dragon Ball Z television series, after the defeat of Majin Buu, a new power awakens and threatens humanity. Beerus, an ancient and powerful God of Destruction, searches for Goku after hearing rumors of the Saiyan warrior who defeated Frieza. Realizing the threat Beerus poses to their home planet, the Z-fighters must find a way to stop him before it’s too late. Only Goku, humanity’s last hope, can ascend to the level of a legendary Super Saiyan God and stop Beerus from destroying Earth, and possibly the entire universe!

Commentary:

In the world of anime there are some very consistent truths and one of those truths is that Dragon Ball Z will never end. With that thought in mind you might think why would they keep making these movies, well the simple fact is that the fans are all nuts about it no matter how good or bad the movie is. In the case of Battle of Gods I guess you could say it was good. At least better than most of the films. It does everything any dragon ball fan wants to see and then just a little more. There is plenty of high action and Goku on the verge of getting beet. There is a foe that appears to be more powerful than anything anyone except the Kai’s have ever see. There is a mythical story about a Saiyen or should I say a Saiyen God. There is also Vegeta, well being Vegeta.

If there is anything really missing it is that Krillin doesn’t die and also has a full head of hair. For me those are two things that are right out misses for me.  Everybody is there for Bulma’s big birthday bash which give way to some very funny action and also some rather goofy stunts. Honestly I enjoyed the action at the party more than the fighting. It still ends up being the bash to be at for all of the characters.

Overall Grade: B

Even though I enjoyed the film for what it is, I can still say it is not an outstanding film in its own right. If it didn’t have so much history and story behind it I think that Battle of Gods would be a rather average action film at best. Most of the jokes are there because of the series and simply put if you don’t know the series then you won’t understand what is going on most of the time. Of course there may only be 5 people on earth that would sit down to watch this film and not know the back story.

Battle of Gods is a relatively good Dragon Ball Z film and it does one thing that most of the films don’t do, and that is to lead you to the next story. Battle of Gods does everything it can to setup the future for the franchise and look out once it gets hear you better keep your arms and hands tucked in or you might loose something on the ride.

Psyren vol. 16 (manga review)

Psyren 16Title: Psyren vol. 16

Author/Artist: Toshiaki Iwashiro

Distributor: Viz Media

American Release Date: May 6th, 2014

Format: Manga

Genre: Action, Supernatural, Shonen

Publisher Age Rating: T+ for older teen

Overall Personal Rating: A-

 

Synopsis:

Miroku Amagi is in the habit of using his powers to toy with the lives of other humans, but Ageha isn’t going to stand for it anymore. What will happen when the two foes pit their incredible powers against each other?

Ageha’s fellow Psionists and the Elmore Wood gang attack W.I.S.E’s capital to rescue their friends, and Kyle and the others find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives against the Star Commanders. Fortunately, the long-lost Oboro appears just in time, as do Matsuri and Kagetora, who have finally made it to Psyren. As the melee intensifies, Ageha confronts Miroku Amagi alone to settle the score once and for all.

This is it, the final volume. Don’t miss the action.

 

Commentary:

Psyren 16 does something that very few series manage pull off with their final volumes and that is the ability to bring it home and have it all make sense. The story unfolds and an action packed battle that reveals everything but at the same time leaves the door open for more interpretations to come. I’m not saying that you will walk away not feeling satisfied or left feeling like something is missing. Rather, I believe you will find this volume very well developed and properly completed.

I love the way Ageha manages to take on Miroku Amagi and unravel his entire plan. The others do their best and are able to stand their found, but it all comes down to Ageha and how well he can do. I can say that the way this final battle is put together comes across well and compared the rest of the series it stands out as the best so far and of course it should be.

Overall Grade: A-

Psyren has been a tail of two cites for me. I found the early volumes to be rather slow to develop and the pacing was way off. As the story developed things really came together. This brings us to the final volume where everything needs to come together and sure enough they do. The pacing was just right and the way it is wrapped up was done in a rather nice job, even if it could have been a little cleaner I still really enjoyed it. Toshaki Iwashiro managed to create a rich and action packed world. For anyone thinking about taking on this series all I can say is stick with it the final product stands along side other series like FMA or even Bleach with it only being shorter. This is truly a top notch shonen series and worth a try.

One Piece volume 70 (manga review)

One Piece 70Title: One Piece volume 70

Writer/Artist: Eiichiro Oda

U. S. Distributor: Viz Media

U. S. Release Date: March 4th, 2014

Format: manga paperback / 192 pages

Genre: shonen, adventure, comedy, action

Overall Personal Rating: B

Publisher Age Rating: T for teen

Synopsis:

The battle on Punk Hazard heats up as Luffy faces off against the diabolical Caesar Clown. Meanwhile, can the rest of the Straw Hat crew escape the deadly gas that is spreading all over the island?! The goal of capturing Caesar may be realized but the real goal of bringing Doflamngo to his knees might be even a bigger deal.

While trying to make it all work the crew manages to save some kids and at the same time give some Marines a reason to question how much they hate Pirates. Now with the battles winding down will things get even more interesting? Will Luffy finally get that great meal he’s been waiting for or will dinner be interrupted? What is going on in the New World and how does this effect the plan to bring down all four Emperors? I guess you will just have to read volume 70 to get back on the path of understanding.

Commentary:

Eiichiro Oda has one of the most active imagination I have ever come across and proves that there are very few people that can pull off this absurd of a story with the simplistic comedic touches that make it so popular. Personally, I have never been a great fan of One Piece, but as I get further into this story I can say that I respect Oda’s talent. He sure can weave a story together and at the same time come up with some of the craziest ideas. I know that his creativity and story telling is what keeps all the fans coming back, but what amazes me is that he just keeps pulling it out of nowhere. No matter how tiresome I find some of the characters I have to recognize Oda for being very talented.

Now as for the characters and their tiresome ways, I must be very clear that Luffy is by far the worst of the bunch. I get the fact that he comes cross as a simpleton who just might be a lot smarter than everyone else, but it would be great to see him take on an air of awareness that makes him look a lot less stupid. Most of the others have good and bad moments except for maybe Usopp who is the second least favorite character. I don’t mind it when some of the secondary characters are simpletons but when they reach the main group it is nice to see them have something other that naive or dumb written on their foreheads.

Overall Personal Grade: B

Volume 70 of One Piece sells the story well and keeps the action moving. It is a show case of Oda’s creativity and at the same time gets off the island. It also helps take this arc to the next level and sets up some rather interesting premisses. Of course there is no clear end to this arc in sight which could honestly become a real detriment to its development. I am hopping to see more in volume 71, but because of the way Oda typically move through these arcs, I don’t have much hope for any real enlightenment.

Anyway, One Piece 70 is a very fun read and plenty of great stuff happens to give this one a solid grade. I am looking forward to volume 71 and can only hope we learn even more once it is delivered. All you crazy One Piece fans enjoy it is worth it this time.

Naruto volume 65 (manga review)

Naruto 65Title: Naruto volume 65

Creator: Masashi Kishimoto

U. S. Distributor: Viz Media

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 5th, 2013

Format: Manga / Paperback / 192 pages

Genre: Shonen, Action, Adventure, Supernatural

Age Rating: T for Teen

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

The ninja war approaches its climax as Obito and Madara manage to awaken the powerful beast known as Ten Tails. Standing in their way are Naruto and the Allied Shinobi Forces. However, the entire war may be turned upside down when Sasuke succeeds in doing what many thought was impossible!

With Sasuke and Orochimaru returning to Konoha to revive all of the Hokages this take a turn for the strange. Orochimaru is able to bring them back and also give them enough freewill to be able to answer Sasuke’s questions. As the enlightenment follows what comes next is the real question. Will Sasuke decide that Konoha still needs to be destroyed or will he take the power of the Hokage and use it to help defeat Madara and Obito and end the great war?

Commentary:

I know that most Naruto fans dislike Sasuke and over the years he did become even more of a punk than he should have, but now that he is back it looks like maybe his brother, Itachi did have an impact on him after all. This reunion with the Hokages does something that I never thought I would enjoy in this extra long series. That something is the journey back in time and the almost inevitable flashbacks that always seem to drag on and on. In volume 65 history actually makes a difference in the story. No only does it help enlighten us in the motives of Madara but it also gives us insight into what makes the Uchia Clan so different and also the motivation that lead to their destruction. Honestly, I found it rather nice to read about this history. Most of the time the flashbacks and history lessons don’t have much meaning and just muddy to waters and extend the series in a way that is not always desirable.

Masashi Kishimoto does us a big favor her and in the end I think everyone will be happy with what happens. I’m not real sure why it took so long to get to this point other than the fact that the longer the series the more money they will make. I think the movement in this volume just might make all the difference and allow the series to actually bring a few issues to a close. At least that is what I hope to see.

Overall Grade: B+

Just the fact that I didn’t find this volume tedious is a huge plus, but there is also the fact that part of the plot finally turns a corner and allow some light to be shed in a possible closure of a long running plot device. I was also impressed with the speed in which the answers came to Sasuke, I expected it to take several volumes to get to this point and have to live through some rather pointless flashback and history lessons. Naruto 65 should be a huge hit with all of the Naruto fans and maybe just maybe Sasuke can find a little appreciation for the person who he is becoming.

Magi Volume 4 (manga review)

Magi Volume 4Title: Magi Volume 4

Author: Shinobu Ohtaka

Distributor: Viz Media / Shonen Jump

American Release Date: Feb. 11th, 2013

Format: Traditional Manga

Genre: Shonen, Action, Adventure, Comedy

Publisher Age Rating: T (for Teen)

Personal Review Rating: C

 

Synopsis:

After many adventures, Aladdin finally reaches the great city of Balbadd. There he reunites with his friend Alibaba hoping to once again capture a dungeon together. However, a more cruel destiny lies ahead. The road to Balbadd is fraught with plenty of trials and the fist of which is Morgiana dealing with the bandits and slave traders who stand in her way.  The one they didn’t expect was someone with her stubbornness and desire to help others. Once she frees Aladan he is able to find his flute and then they all learn a very hard lesson.

As they get back on the road to Balbadd they meet a fellow traveler who was robbed of all his possessions. There kindness ends up paying off once they reach their destination and in a way they would have never expected. Will they be able to locate their old friend Alibaba or are there more forces that stand in their way?

Commentary:

Blending the Arabian Nights into a fanciful manga series is fun and somewhat entertaining, but that is where it begin to fall apart. The imagination that created the 1001 Arabian Nights used the stories to weave fanciful tails of heroism and the darkness of the human condition. For the series Magi it becomes more of a weak premiss for a series that could have some very powerful potential. Volume 4 of Magi doesn’t so much other than set up a more interesting confirmation to come, or at least I hope so. The characters come across rather shallow and a little simplistic. There was something interesting that began to happen when Morgiana confronted the Slave Trader, but it was over before it could ever really begin.

This quick hit plot pacing might be the reason why I was left a little flat while reading it. The story moved so fast that I was wondering why this section needed to even happen. I guess that it is possible that some of the characters that where involved  in the first half of this volume can come back later, I just don’t see how they would add any meaning to the story.

Overall Grade: C

I guess that there are plenty of shonen jump series that only exist to provide a quick hit of action and lack any real meaning or essence. I have a felling that Magi is one of those series. It is a shame that there isn’t more to this series when it is using  and blending some rather beloved characters from other great story tellers from around the world. This is something that the Japanese constantly try to do and constantly miss the point when it comes to context and meaning. Maybe just maybe the Magi would have come across with richer characters and a more interesting story line if it would not have drawn its characters from the literary history of the Middle East. It is very possible that I am wrong about this series and there is some potentially rich entertaining story to come, but with it coming across this flat this early in the series makes it hard to keep following along. I am an open reader and will continue to follow Magi and hope for more. So, bring it on amaze me I always love a surprise.