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Kokoro Connect Complete Series (anime review)

Title: Kokoro Connect The Complete TV Series & OVA on Blu-ray

Director: Shinya Kawamo

Studio: Silver Link

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 14, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 4 OVA / 425 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Coming of Age, Romance, Drama, Seinen

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Grade: A

Synopsis:

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

Commentary:

I always cringe a little when I hear that a show is about people swapping bodies. Kokoro Connect only made me cringe because it is so good and how it manages to hit some genuine nerves with respect to the human condition. I have not felt this strong about a series since AnoHana made to our market. Kokoro Connect goes straight for that dynamic of exploring our relationships and our own frailties.

The animation style reminds me of the simplistic intimacy the K-ON! delivers or many of the other straight forward slice of life series. The one major difference is the solid development of the characters and the superb writing that brings the series to life. Each one of these students have a plenty of experiences that have helped form who they are, but they are just discovering the people they have become and how to move forward. Each are full and rich with plenty to say and it is very easy to become sympathetic toward them and their world.

The one thing that hit me the hardest was the honesty that came from the writing and exposed itself through these characters. This is where it made me cringe because of the way that they allow these characters to expose themselves and the things that they confess. There are things said that I can honestly say I would never expect to hear from anyone, but seeing it in this format makes those comments seem even more honest and revealing.

Overall Grade: A

Kokoro Connect is not for everyone and because of some of the conversations that happen I would say that it should really be rated 16 +. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the series and in fact adds to its overall attractiveness. Don’t expect this to be a sexy romp through adolescence, but rather a honest view of humans at this age and the things that make us who we are. There is one area that the Japanese are great at and they are coming of age stories that tug at our heart strings and Kokoro Connect hits a home run and made it on to my to ten releases. Be sure to check this one out.

Kokoro Connect  found it’s way into a top pick of mine for the series releases and with the addition of the 4 episodes / OVAs it is clear that it is now more than deserving of that list. I loved the way the series explores relationships without turning it into a silly redundant body swapping series. With the added emotion swapping that goes on in these OVAs it gives us another level of complexity and asked the question “how do we hide our feelings from our friends”? Funny thing is that we have all gone through this but not at this level of stress. The way that it is approached is both interesting and painful, but at all times it still keeps us grounded in both the characters humanity and the humanity of the viewers. There are plenty of other series that explore relationships such as Anohana or even Clannad, but Kokoro Connect does something that even they don’t do and that is touch a nerve that is so universal and at the same time so personal that they almost never come up and are almost never discussed among friends. To place young coming of age kids in the position of having to experience what others feel and all the while be bonded together through both friendship and the fact that they are all placed in this position without their consent. These simple factors make the series powerful for what it is and with the added awkwardness of those highly personal secrets rolling out from time to time makes Kokoro Connect something very special.

If you are looking for a series that makes you look at yourself and your friends in a new light then Kokoro Connect should be high on the list.

Similar Anime:

AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day, K-ON! , Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha are all in line with Kokoro Connect. AnoHana does explore the aspects of relationships and the dark secrets that we all hold back from each other. K-On!, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari follow a much simpler format of exploration of coming of age but they still deal directly with how we discover how to maintain relationships with those close to us as we age and life becomes more complicated. There are plenty of other series that take on relationships and if you want to feel something other than just a punch of adrenaline then you should be sure to pick one of these series up.

Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection (anime review)

little-busters-exreview provided by Andrew and Katie

Title: Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection

Director: Yoshiki Yamakawa

Studio: J.C. Staff

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: December 6, 2016

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 8 Episodes / 200 Minutes

Genre: School Life, Slice of Life, Supernatural, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Little Busters, Little Busters: Refrain

Synopsis:

Does the new girl in Riki Naoe’s life need his help, or is she actually trying to kill him? After a chance encounter on a rooftop brings the enigmatic Saya Tokido into the Little Busters’ world, the only thing that’s certain is that trouble is sure to follow.

As if saving the lives of his teammates wasn’t enough of a task to handle, now Riki must also untangle a web of new mysteries that seem to be rooted in his own personal past! Who are the Dark Executives, why do they want to keep Saya and Riki apart, and what is the nature of the secret treasure that Saya seeks? Sometimes, answers lead to even more questions as Riki and the Little Busters discover that they weren’t the only people drawn into Kyousuke’s artificial world in Little Busters! EX!

Commentary:

Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection in the three-arc OVA series that follows Little Busters!: Refrain. However, it seems that Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection takes place in an alternate world or universe and the characters know about it. Two of the arcs, the Kanata and the Sasami arc make the most sense and fit in with the rest of the series. Saya’s arc made the least sense of all because she only exists in the alternate world and the four episode arc is the only time she is in the entire series. Her arc was also the weakest in that it ends with no resolution while the other two arcs have some kind of resolution even though they are shorter in length.

There was a decent amount of character development in Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection. Saya was an interesting character to say the least.  Apparently she and Riki met each other when they were children and that causes her to fall in love with him. She is also your run-of-the-mill tsundere that appears in every harem amine series. Sasami and Kanata are a bit more realistic but I can name other series where I have seen the cold/mysterious personalities. They are both every stand-offish and keep to themselves. However, both girls did grow as characters over their separate two episode arcs and eventually learned to trust and fall in love.

The animation was very pretty and the backgrounds did not take away from the characters. The voice actors did a good job of bringing the characters to life. The opening and closing songs were catchy and were fun to listen to. All in all, Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection was an interesting addition to the entire series.

Extras:

Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection 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: B-

Little Busters! EX: Complete OVA Collection is an interesting addition to the Little Busters! series. I recommend this release to anyone who has seen the rest of the series.

Re-Kan! (anime review)

re-kanTitle: Re-Kan!: Complete Series on Blu-ray

Director: Masashi Kudo

Written By: Takahashi Aoshima

Music By: Hiroyuki Kōzu

Studio: Pierrot

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date:

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Supernatural

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis: 

Narumi Inoue has a problem with the new girl in school. It’s not that Hibiki Amami is impolite or a bully… it’s just that she sees, speaks with, and befriends ghosts!

Now, it’s at the point that when Amami’s around, Inoue sometimes sees them too, spelling disaster for a girl who’s terrified of anything supernatural. However, Amami’s genuine kindness makes it hard for Inoue to ignore her, especially when her friends Kyoko, Kana, and Makoto, as well as the other students, have accepted Amami’s habit of talking to thin air and walking around invisible obstacles.

With gentle coaxing (and the knowledge that her departed grandmother is watching over her), Inoue finds herself immersed in Amami’s strange, otherworldly adventures. Fulfilling the last wishes of the dead might not be a normal after-school activity, but at least they’ll always know why the ghost crossed to the other side in RE-KAN!

Commentary:

Right off the bat Re-Kan! caught me by surprise. This almost silly series made me feel a little softer and kinder. It seemed to want us to disrespect it because of the overtly yuri leanings, but in the end I still felt warm inside. The tone was everything and I never felt unwanted or left out. The fact that Amami’s ability to see spirits was accepted by her friends and class mates managed to come across more naturally than I would have expected. This connection made the entire series much easier to watch.

Overall Grade: B+

I typically do not enjoy yuri inspired anime or even the hint of love between girls. I guess it is because I am a guy and very jealous about girls not liking guys the same way I like girls, but on a personal level can understand how connections happen between people no matter what sex they are.

None-the-less, I found the simple easy going and mildly funny Re-Kan! to be an anime for everyone. I think that the only shortcoming is the simplicity of the story line. The character development and basic plot are strong enough to carry the full series, but I think that if there were a little more depth to the series / story I think it could have overcome the teenage love interest between the girls and made the series more about the friendships and bonds they all really made in their first year of school together.

Re-Kan! is a anime to watch if you want a simple high school story with kind humor and even kinder characters that are very likable. Check it out I think you will come away with the same warm pleasant feeling that I did.

 

Corpse Party Live Action (review)

liveaction-corpse-party-blu-rayreview provided by Andrew and Katie

Title: Corpse Party

Director: Masafumi Yamada

Studio: Kadokawa Daiei

U.S. Distributor: Switchblade Pictures

U.S. Release Date: September 27, 2016

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 94 Minutes

Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Mystery

Industry Age Rating: 17 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B-

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Corpse Party-Tortured Souls OVA

Fair warning: The following film contains massive amounts of blood, body parts, and entrails

Synopsis:

Horror Movie Lesson Number One: if you want to stay in touch with your friends, performing a binding ceremony on the grounds of a school that was demolished after a series of horrific murders may not be a great idea.

Otherwise, as a group of Japanese teens quickly learn to their horror, the simple ritual may open a doorway to an otherworldly dimension where the infamous Heavenly Host High still exists, and the demonic occupants within seek to redecorate the gore-soaked and carnage-strewn halls with a new set of bloody corpses.

Now, it’s a brutal education in supernatural survival as the students fight both the resident spirits and each other, where the odds of graduating alive, let alone in one piece, are sliced shorter and shorter with every heart-pounding second. Japan’s ultra-violent videogame and anime phenomenon becomes a shocking live action feature film as hell is unleashed at the CORPSE PARTY!

Commentary:

Corpse Party is a live action movie based on the anime series Corpse Party-Tortured Souls OVA and the game series by the same name. We all know how these are usually teasers to get you to buy the games. I don’t play games. I don’t have the time. Most have a tendency to end just as you are getting into it and when the story is getting interesting. I’m happy to say this was not the case. It’s complete, and in an hour and a half they are able to wrap everything up into a nice package and yet still leave something open for a sequel. This feels more like the late 1990s, early 2000s Japanese live action horror movie genre, which included titles like Dark Water, Grudge, Ring, Shikoku, and Suicide Club. It has the same ominous feeling and semi-predictability. But those are features that have endeared these types of stories to their fans. One thing is sure and that is Corpse Party does beat its predecessors with the amount of blood and gore that it shows. Makes most of the recommended titles seem tame actually.

This leads us to the storyline. Most live actions like Corpse Party lack a storyline and are not super original. They solely survive on how bloody it can be and will take another bloody death over a glimpse of story any day. That’s where it breaks from horror and goes into the mystery aspect. Corpse Party does have a couple of twists that you would not expect. Just as you think you know what happened in the past that leads to current events, it throws in something completely unexpected that makes you rethink the entire thing. The only complaint, and considering it’s only an hour and a half, is everything seems rushed. They had to connect the dots in very little time. I have to admit that I had seen the anime and they went into a little more detail in the anime, than they did in the live action. They also had to omit a few things, nothing too consequential, and they also changed up a few times when things happened. The story was pretty decent and you had to connect a lot of those dots yourself, with little explanation outside of contexts clues they give. In the end you will have a few questions left but I think they are not very large compared to the story itself. The other thing was the characters. Though not well developed (how can you with so little time) you get a general idea of everyone and you tend to figure out personalities. In the end you learn to like most of them, but don’t get too attached, as the title lives up to its name. The only other thing to mention is the music is perfect for the setting of the movie.

Because I did love Corpse Party in its animated form, I decided to give it a try in its live action form. I was not disappointed. Maybe one day, if I ever find the time, I will pick up one of the many incarnations of the game, and give it a try.

Extras:

Corpse Party includes scene select and Corpse Party trailer. This movie was released with Japanese with English Subtitles as the only language option.

Overall Grade: B-

Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle; Season 2 (anime review)

chaika-the-coffin-princess-2Title: Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle (Season 2) Blu-Ray

Director: Soichi Masui

Creator: Ichiro Sakaki

Anime Writer: Touko Machida

Studio: Bones

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: September 27th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray/ 10 Episodes + 1 OVA/ 275 Minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Supernatural, Harem

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The battle on the floating fortress is over, but the quest to recover the scattered remains of Emperor Gaz is too important to delay. As Chaika and her companions seek out the hero Claudia in order to obtain the heart, they race against Red Chaika, who seeks the hero, Guy, who possesses one of the arms.

Even as Chaika struggles to learn the new magical skills required to defeat Claudia, a startling new revelation comes to light which may change their mission entirely: not all of Gaz’s magic research was destroyed, and information regarding the creation of the Chaikas may have been taken to a mysterious island!

With the possibility of uncovering the secrets behind their mysterious origins dangled in front of them, the Chaikas must decide whether or not they want to find the hidden island and brave its unknown perils. Could the entire thing be a trap?

It’s highly likely, but how can they resist the bait as the spellbinding adventure continues in CHAIKA THE COFFIN PRINCESS – AVENGING BATTLE!

Commentary:

After almost 10 months Chaika returns to complete the series. Chaika the Coffin Princess Avenging Battle is more than the second season it manages to take the series to another level. There was much less concentration on the harem aspects and real focus on the plot and character development. The simple fact that all of the characters knew what they were after and set their sights on completing their mission was very helpful in drawing a clear line between them. As the mystery unfolded for both the viewer and the lead characters it became obvious that there had to be some soul searching as the final battle drew close.

Overall Grade: A-

Unlike the first season of Chaika the Coffin PrincessChaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle is much faster and full of action. The plot develops at a lightening pace which is great if you are in a hurry to get to the end. I enjoyed it but felt like there could have been a little more story development to help explain everything that was going on. Even with the shortened length I still felt like there was plenty of information and  lots of excitement. I was even pleased with the ending.

It was refreshing to have the series focus on the end and also loose some of the emphasis on the Moe and Harem aspects to provide a solid series that has plenty of characters that anyone can connect with.

If you liked the first season of Chaika then you will love Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle. If you haven’t seen the first season and are interested in some fun and excitement then you should check out the series from the beginning. I think  you should be hooked and ready to see the rest.

Rin-ne collection 2 (anime review)

814131013194_anime-rin-ne-2-blu-ray-primaryTitle: Rin-ne Collection 2 on Blu-ray

Director: Seiki Sugawara

Writer: Michiko Yokote

Studio: Brian’s Base

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: September 6th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray/ 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Supernatural, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Sakura Mamiya’s life was odd long before she started helping her fellow student and half-Shinigami Rinne Rokudo assist lost souls in reaching the land of the dead. However, as strange as the various spooks, specters and other other-worldly entities that Sakura has encountered on a daily basis may have been, nothing is as out and out bizarre as finding herself and Rinne involved in a complicated web of perceived romantic relationships that also include a former childhood friend and now frustrated exorcist, Tsubasa Jumonji, and the air-headed and extremely gullible Shinigami Ageha. After all, Sakura’s not really sure she’s even attracted to Rinne!

On the other hand, given the dangers inherent in foiling the efforts of the soul-stealing Damashigani, worrying about anyone’s love life is going to have to take second place to avoiding becoming part of the afterlife herself. It’s a second round of second thoughts and second chances in the second stunning collection of RIN-NE!

Commentary:

Rin-ne is one of the contemporary classic anime that follows the supernatural world with lots of slapstick comedy and silly comedic romance. With the love triangle between Rinne, Sakura and Tsubasa and of course the more than silly Ageha vying for Rinne the series jumps from situation to situation with much the same result. There are plenty of smiles in this rather silly series and when it comes to playing with the supernatural Rin-ne has a lot of fun.

Overall Grade: B+

With 50 episodes to date this set only gets us half way there. In the world of Shinigami Anime Rin-ne gives us purely comedic look much the same as some newer anime like Kokomo San. It doesn’t get as bogged down as Inu Yasha or Bleach and surely doesn’t have the darkness of Blue Exorcist.

Rin-ne is a fun series and if you are looking for something that has a light romantic tenge or rather silly high school look at a couple of boys after one girl then you should check out Rin-ne. Be sure to start with collection one if you do.

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection (anime review)

when-supernatural-battles-became-commonplanereview provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Masanori Takahashi

Studio: Trigger

Author: Masahiko Otsuka

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: August 30, 2016

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

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Harem, School Life, Slice of Life, Supernatural

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! and Student Council’s Discretion

They may not be known as heroes but superpowers at least make their lives interesting, right?

Synopsis:

The origin of the Senko High School Literature Club’s powers might be a little sketchy, and they may spend more time chatting than engaging in superhuman feats. Still, there is no questioning the incredible abilities of the club’s female members: Tomoyo can control time; Hatoko is a mistress of the elements; Chifuyu can create matter; and Sayumi can return any item to a previous state. With these powers, there are few tasks these girls can’t handle.

Meanwhile, Jurai, the club’s only male member has a dark flame that seems a little pointless in comparison and only time will tell if it matures into anything more useful. Toss in a Student Council president who has developed powers of her own and things are about to get seriously weird as the study of literature takes a comic book turn in When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray.

Commentary:

“Can your common sense explain the secrets behind how this universe originated 13,700,000,000 years ago?” Jurai Ando

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray has to be the most misleading title for an anime series I have ever seen. I was expecting some romance with a lot of battle scenes and what I got was a harem, slice-of-life romance with maybe one or two battle scenes that did not even involve the main cast of characters. Of course, the ending battle did include them and it made the entire series. There is also an epic tantrum involving Hatoko and Jurai in episode seven that also makes the entire series worth watching.

The characters were interesting to say the least. Each main character gets their background explained throughout the series and various episodes explore their personalities. The female characters fit into the usual harem genre archetypes as Tomoyo is the tsundere, Hatoko is the polite airhead, Sayumi is the book nerd, and Chifuyu is the young and playful elementary school girl and niece to the club sponsor. Jurai Ando seems like he was the key in getting each character to develop and fully understand her new superpower. Each girl, in her own way, has a crush on Jurai and it is hilarious to see what they do so that he might notice them in a different light. Towards the end, you can tell that the field has been narrowed down and that only two girls are left. I will let you figure out which two since that is half of the fun.

The animation was pretty good and very pretty to watch. The characters were drawn well and the backgrounds popped. The voice actors did a great job bringing the characters to life. The opening and closing songs were alright but nothing special. There was hardly any fan-service in When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray and what there was usually was aimed at cosplay gimmicks and swimsuit shenanigans.

Extras:

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English Subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: B

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace: Complete Collection on Blu-ray is a cute and enjoyable slice-of-life series. I recommend this series to anyone who loves the slice-of-life genre.

Punch Line (anime review)

punch-lineTitle: Punch Line: The Complete Collection

Director: Yutaka Uemura

Studio: MAPPA

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: August 16th, 2016

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Sci Fi, Harem, Supernatural, Fan Service

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

When your day begins with being held hostage in a hijacking, can things get much worse? How about being kicked out of your own body? Or learning that if you can’t re-possess your physical shell, you’ll trigger a panty-fueled apocalypse that will wipe out all life on the planet?

For Yuta Iridatsu, it’s just the start of the worst out-of-body experience ever. Now, if his dissed disembodied spirit doesn’t pursue the persuasions of a porn-obsessed paranormal pussycat and purloin a missing mystical manual, a meteor will collide with Earth!

And to stack the odds even further, the book is hidden somewhere in the boarding house Yuta shares with a bevy of beautiful babes, but if he gets an eyeful of his ravishing co-renters in their unmentionables before he’s back in himself, it’s flash-forward to Doomsday!

Will the literal end of the world be wearing briefs, a bikini, or a thong? Find out when panties, possessions and extinction level events have the ultimate rear-end collision in Punch Line!

Commentary:

Punch Line is another in the long line of fan service harem anime that has great potential to be something other than a gratuitous panty shot anime. Unfortunately, it seems to focus on the panties and leave the solid plot at home. I really enjoyed the story for the underlying plot line and thought many of the characters where rather well developed. The would have loved to get more about what was really going on. It isn’t until the later episodes that the writers decided to get serious about the story and by that time it was too late to fully develop the plot.

As for the strange aspects to who all of the main characters are doesn’t come out until much of the series has lost its charm. I think that the fixation on the panty obsession early on created a false impression for the series. I understand the thought process behind this fan service focus, but I would hope that the intent of the series was to get a broader audience than just a small minority of fan service fans. None-the-less, Punch Line does end up being solid enough to be entertaining and somewhat confusing until the later episodes.

Overall Grade: B

Punch Line may or may not be your type of anime, so, if you are looking for some light fan service and odd plot with plenty of twist as the later episodes unfold the it is a series for you.

 

Children Who Chase Lost Voices- Sentai Select (anime review)

children-who-chase-lost-voicesTitle: Children Who Chase Lost Voices Sentai Select (Combo pack)

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Studio: CoMix Wave Films

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: July 19th, 2016

Format: DVD / 117 minutes / Feature Film

Genre: Fantasy

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Similar Titles: Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Vally of the Wind

Synopsis:

Quiet and thoughtful Asuna doesn’t have much time for fun. She works very hard in school and at home because with her father passed away and her mother is working long hours as a nurse. The one thing she does enjoy is going up to the bluff that overlooks the city and try to pickup a strange music with the old crystal radio receiver her father gave her. She is not sure what this strange but beautiful music is but she does enjoy it.

A day after she hear a wonderful song, she is confronted on the railroad track bridge by a odd monster that is acting strange and looks to attack her. Just as it appears to be ready to pounce, a young man rescues her and defeats the monster. He uses a strange blueish crystal that emits a strange light. Before she knows it, this young man, Shun, whisks her away and takes her back up to the bluff where she hears the music.

The next day, she returns to find Shun one more time and she shows him the crystal receiver and he notices the special crystal she uses to listen to the music. Shun then explains that he is from a different land and that he was there to meet someone and that he had finished his journey. The next day he was gone and before too long, a boy’s body was found in the river with Asuna’s scarf. This sends Asuna back to the bluff where she runs into someone else that looks like Shun, but isn’t. They are soon surrounded by a group of soldiers called Arch Angels that are after the other boy and the stone he has. In their escape, the boy, Shin, takes Asuna with him into a cave that leads them to a gateway. Just as they get there, the soldiers arrive and one of them manages to take Asuna through the gateway and Shin just barely makes it through. The gateway leads them to the mythical land of Agartha. The one soldier who forced Asuna into the gateway also happens to be her teacher, Morisaki.

Morisaki is searching for the ancient secret to bring back the dead and now Asuna is coming along with him. They find out quickly that they are not welcomed to this mystical land but through much adversity, they manage to find their way to the gateway of life and death. Will Morisaki revive his long lost love or will they be stopped before he can get to the gods?

Commentary:

Makoto Shinkai has made a dramatic move in his development as a creator. His earlier films, Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second took on much different narratives. They tended to deal with relationships and communication and the way in which separation can effect these relationships, but Children Who Chase Lost Voices is something completely different and falls under the genre of a true fantasy. It takes place in the blend of our current world and the ability to travel to a mystical world underneath the surface where we live. There are fanciful beasts and magical stones and a main plot that revolves around the resurrection of the dead. My first impression was that it may not be the best vehicle for Shinkai, but as I moved through this film I was reminded of some of the films produced by Studio Ghibli and most notable is Tales of Earth Sea. But much of the scenery reminded me of Castle in the Sky. Nonetheless, this story does tell a tale of the discovery of the power of love and that we must be able to get past loss of our loves.

As for the animation it also has the feel of a Ghibli film. There is a richness to the background and the fanciful creatures that inhabit the world. The film is very engaging and the story moves along. The typical gorgeous Shinkai sunsets are abundant. I almost began to think the world always had this warm pinkish glow to it. The characters also have a simplistic feel to them that help draws you in and makes you feel comfortable right away. Asuna is one of the young girls that wants everything to work out and her connection to nature ends up being an absolute savior. The music also plays a role in the film because it help set the feel of a mystical world that hasn’t changed for over 2000 years. Mystery and mysticism abound.

Overall Grade: A-

There is a lot to really like about Children Who Chase Lost Voices and it is no sunrise that Sentai Filmworks made it a Sentai Select, but I think it falls a bit short for a Shinkai story. I’m not completely sold on this fantasy world and at times it came across a little too simplistic. I loved the look and feel, but the story ran aground from time to time. One thing is for sure, this is a film that the whole family can enjoy and it does deserve to be mentioned along side the likes of some of Studio Ghibli’s films. I think that this young animator has a great future and I hope to see him continue to expand his repertoire.

Extras: 

In this 4 disc set the special features include: Interviews, The Making Of, Japanese Promo Video, Japanese Teasers, The Works of Makoto Shinkai, Interview with Makoto Shinkai (text).

Akame ga Kill Collection 2 (anime review)

akame-ga-kill 2Title: Akame ga Kill Collection 2

Director: Tomoki Kobayashi

Creator: Takahiro

Written By: Makoto Uezu

Studio: White Fox, C-Station (ONA)

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: May 17th, 2016

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

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Supernatural, Drama

Age Rating: TV14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

The convoluted path that has reunited Tatsumi and Esdeath takes another twist as they find themselves transported to a remote island where their strength will be tested as never before. Dr. Stylish may be dead, but Danger Beasts still remain, and that’s only the first challenge the two enemies now face.

If the bonds of love weren’t enough to bring their fates together, could the fire of combat forge a new form of alliance? Meanwhile, the embers of rebellion are being stoked into open insurrection by the pacifist organization Path of Peace. Drawn into the impending inferno, Night Raid and the Revolutionary Army prepare for a major assault on the Capital. But while their Imperial Arms may be indestructible, their wielders are merely flesh and blood.

On the anvil of battle, only human courage and the willingness to give their lives for a cause will lead to the ultimate triumph or failure in collection 2 of Akame ga Kill!

Commentary:

As series go Akame ga Kill is a little above average, but I was very concerned at the end of the first 12 episodes. I have seen all too many anime that started out with a solid story line that ended up become over indulgent and failed to bring it to a reasonable conclusion. Akame ga Kill manages to make it clear that the story is over and also does something very interesting for a mythic tail of heroes, it gives us closure with the characters.

Without giving anything away I have to say that I was a little emotionally wound up by some of the events and more than once felt both excited and sad by the battles fought.

Overall Grade: B+

I really like the second half of the Akame ga Kill  for what it was. The myth of the hero and the battle for what is right cam sometimes cross lines that both corrupt a moral existence but at the same time exact a price that can be too heavy to bear. When all is said Akame ga Kill manages to find a way to give us finality and hope at the same time.

If you are looking for a real action anime with lots of side plots and a harem tossed in to make it more interesting then Akame ga Kill it the one for you. I often find harm anime rather silly and only a very few make any sense, as for Akame ga Kill the story came together because of the harem and without the love story tossed in the plot would have been less favorable and entertaining. This is a winner and is worth the time to check it out.