Monthly Editorial – Jan 2009 Edition

We are grateful for many things in our lives – among them surviving the various problems that 2008 has brought all of us all over the country – but most of all we at Animanga Nation are grateful to have brought anime and manga into the lives of all our readers. We are grateful for all the new readers as well as returning readers who continue to support us. Animanga Nation is nothing without you, my dear friends, and we thank you all for making us a success.

Animanga Nation began as a print publication for college campuses in the Southern California area but since we moved online we have reached more readers this way … even readers as far as Ireland and South Africa. It has brought us great happiness to see so much support for anime and manga that we promise to continue bringing you more news and reviews in 2009 and, with all your blessings, into the coming years. We promise that we will not disappoint.

Thank you all for making 2008 our best year and hope that the coming new year will bring you peace, joy and happiness now and always.

Happy New Year!

Edward Zacharias and the Animanga Nation Staff

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Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Volume 10 DVD Review

tsubasa10

Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: December 2, 2008

Things meant to be remembered.

To Syaoran, there are things worth fighting and dying for and one of those things comes in the form of precious memories that has been broken into many fragments and scattered throughout the ages, dimensions and worlds. These memories don’t belong to him but rather the pretty young girl who just so happens to be a royal princess named Sakura and, most importantly, his best friend who incidentally loves him very much.

In Volume 9, Syaoran continues the quest laid out before him with his traveling companions that also include the Sakura. Their journey is a long and difficult one but the young boy is confident seeing as his companions are loyal friends willing to risk it at all well. Yet in the final episode of that volume, a book filled with blank pages showed him the tragic past of a young Lord in a Feudal Japan-like era filled with demons. The story is so tragic that after the vision of it is finished, Syaoran breaks down in tears.

As Volume 10 begins, the group of travels worry over Syaoran who is resting in room within the library of a world called Rekord Country. It becomes considerably obvious (so I’m not giving anything away) that the book of memories has unlocked a memory of a past that belongs to their warrior friend and guardian, Kurogane. In fact, in this world, a lot more of his past will be revealed but the tragedy in his life has clearly touched Syaoran. While the gruff warrior has very rarely showed his soft side, he tenderly tells his young companion that he isn’t upset about somebody having seen a little of his life and that Syaoran shouldn’t carry around the pain of that past.

Their time in the library revealed that a feather is clearly here with a copy of the original Book of Memories. The problem is that the librarians are under strict orders from the King to keep the book hidden and nobody could waltz in and take a look at it. The only way they can get to it is if they do it by force and they do exactly that by way of prying open a magical doorway leading to their prize. Of course, where there’s magic there’s trouble and the travelers find that out almost immediately when guardians that come in the form of dragons and winged lions attack.

Obtaining the feather deep in the cavern isn’t easy and as Syaoran and Kurogane battle the guardians it becomes clear to Kurogane that Syaoran isn’t himself during the battle. To top it all off, the King is alerted to the fact that the feather and the book of memories are now gone. With the events in Rekord far from being resolved, the group moves on the next realm that just so happens to look a lot like Clow Country where Sakura and Syaoran had grown up. Sakura remembers the feeling of warmth and affection she received by somebody but she just can’t remember who it is when it has always been Syaoran.

When the feather is extracted from the book, however, the group expects to be whisked away to a new world only to find themselves still stuck in Rekord. The librarians call a police squad made up entirely of robotic knights. Fai, who swore not to use magic again, breaks his promise as things start looking grim for the group. In the end, the removal of the feather changes the outcome of what would have been an ugly situation. However, a lot is learned about Kurogane once again when Syaoran opens the book again and is revealed an interest moment in Kurogane’s life.

In the final episode of Volume 10, it is Mokona that becomes the hero of the story due to a magical spell that keeps the others from taking on the mission to find the that world’s feather. Thankfully, help comes in the form of another cute critter named Kero who tells them that Mokona is destined to save the people of this world.

Volume 10 of Tsubasa still reminds us that good anime doesn’t run out of steam but rather hooks us in deeper with its beautiful story. The beauty of these four episodes comes in the form of the character interaction that is just as wonderfully spellbinding as the first episode. This is yet another must-not-miss volume, Tsubasa fans.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
We learn a lot about Kurogane by way of Syaoran and the group secures not one but two feathers. Sakura begins to piece together the missing segments of her memories and the cute Mokona takes center stage as the hero of one episode. That’s a lot for only four episodes and we couldn’t be happier.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
Once again, the video quality is as excellent as the gorgeous animation. This isn’t big news seeing as the DVD releases have been stellar throughout.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
I know I’m at risk of repeating myself but with a solid voice cast for the English dub and the Japanese voices, there’s nothing here to complain about so far. As always, Tsubasa contains the best score heard in an anime and the theme songs – especially the closing theme “Kazemachi Jet” performed by Maaya Sakamoto – is pure ear candy.

EXTRAS: C+
The trailers and textless songs are great and everything but why can’t all DVDs filled with gorgeous fantasy landscapes and interesting characters include extras like the Character Guide and World Guide features like in this series?

OVERALL: A
Tsubasa is proof that great anime does exist and should not be missed by anyone who claims to love anime or any animation, for that matter. Volume 10 of this series dives a little deeper into the life of one of its heroes and as the quest continues we truly are given answers to questions we have yet to find out. In other words, Tsubasa continues to be that refreshingly different anime that will make a fan out of you.

FUNimation Entertainment Acquires Oh! Edo Rocket from Madhouse

Funimation Logo

Flower Mound, TX – December 27, 2008 – FUNimation® Entertainment today announced that it has acquired home entertainment, broadcast, digital and merchandise rights to the 26-episode Edo period comedy anime series Oh! Edo Rocket from Madhouse Studios. FUNimation holds the rights to the series in the U.S. and all of its territories in addition to Canada .

The series is directed by Seiji Mizushima (Fullmetal Alchemist).

About Oh! Edo Rocket

In 1842, government reforms have banned all luxuries, including plays, inventions, and fireworks. Despite the political climate, Seikichi, a young fireworks maker, dreams of making a huge firework the likes of which have never been seen. Unfortunately, every time he fires a test rocket the government officials try to track him down. One day, a beautiful, mysterious girl appears before Seikichi and asks him to build a rocket that can reach the moon.

FUNimation Entertainment will release the complete series on DVD in 2009.

FUNimation Entertainment Acquires Last Exile from GDH

 

Funimation Logo

Flower Mound, TX – December 26, 2008 – FUNimation® Entertainment today announced that it has acquired home entertainment, broadcast, merchandise and mobile rights to the 26-episode sci-fi adventure anime series Last Exile from GDH.

The action is breathtaking and the animation is dazzling in this riveting adventure epic from legendary Studio Gonzo, directed by Kouichi Chigira (Full Metal Panic!) and featuring original character designs of Range Murata.

About Last Exile

It’s the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation on planet Prester, and retro-futuristic sky vehicles known as vanships dominate the horizon. Claus Valca – a flyboy born with the right stuff – and his fiery navigator Lavie are fearless racers obsessed with becoming the first sky couriers to cross the Grand Stream in a vanship. But when the high-flying duo encounters a mysterious girl named Alvis, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between Anatoray and Disith – two countries systematically destroying each other according to the code of chivalric warfare. Lives will be lost and legacies determined as Claus and Lavie attempt to bring peace to their world by solving the riddle of its chaotic core.

Please visit

www.funimation.com/lastexile

to see the series trailer.

Air Gear, The Complete Collection – DVD Review

airgear

Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Sports
Rating: TV M
Release Date: December 2, 2008

The boy who would be (sky) king.

As a sports fan, I find myself wonderfully overwhelmed by the number of fun sports manga titles available and even more overjoyed by the fact that many of these favorites have move to the small screen as anime series. Whether you like tennis, basketball or extreme sports, there’s everything for everyone. This is why I jumped at the chance at reviewing Air Gear: The Complete Collection. Having been a fan of the awesome manga by Oh! Great, the anime series is one I missed but – thanks to FUNimation’s latest release – fans of extreme sports will finally get a chance to experience all 25 episodes in a four-disc set.

Air Gear tells the story of a Junior High student named Ikki Minami who suddenly falls in love with the secretive world of the Storm Riders who use Air Trecks (or ATs), which are an extremely revamped version of inline skates. Little does Ikki know that Storm Riders just don’t skate for fun but rather they form unique teams that act like an extreme sports version of street gangs. As it so happens, Ikki happens to be living under the same roof as the four busty Noyamano sisters who have been keeping a secret from him for so long. You see, the sisters are Storm Riders that have inherited the Sleeping Forest team.

Ok, I should mention that the anime series differs from the manga series and has changed things around, For one thing, in the manga, the sisters invite Ikki to ride with them instead of immediately denying him the chance to try it out like in the anime version. Instead, Ikki defies the older sister Rika and even steals her ATs when he discovers how much he loves it. He even meets the Storm Rider babe named Simca he has been watching for so long.

It doesn’t take Ikki very long to master the basics of riding and soon he becomes good enough that he tries to convince his two closest friends, Kazu and Onigiri, to start a beginning team of their own named after the resident rulers of the school called the East Side Gunz. Before they know it, Ikki and his friends discover that there are several rules, classes and Storm Rider teams out there looking for their chance to climb the ladder. The cool part about this series has always been that all the rival Storm Rider teams are wonderfully unique. Anyone who has seen the movie The Warriors will love the fact that each team also has their own crazy look. It doesn’t take too long for Ikki and his friends to receive challenges from other teams who sees Ikki and a rising star.

The saucy Storm Rider Simca the Swallow takes an interest in Ikki to the Noyamano sisters’ dislike and even more so since the cute and nerdy Ringo Noyamano is in love with Ikki. As Ikki’s skills improves, his skills for flying earn him the Little Crow nickname and somehow he even has the power to befriend his rivals such as the nearly sumo-sized Buccha and then the psychotic/sweet Akito/Agito (who suffers from dual personality depending on the position of his eye patch) who later comes to live with Ikki and the sisters. It becomes apparent to other Storm Riders that Ikki is destined to become the Storm King and lead Storm Riders into a new era.

In episode 11, Ikki and his new set of friends that now include Buccha and Akito/Agito form their own team called Kogarasumaru. It is here that the series changes gears (no pun intended). What started out as a series of a young boy that discovers his new love for an extreme sport and the rivalry that comes with the territory becomes one of a young boy trying reach to the top of Storm Rider’s “tower” to become the Sky King by way of winning battles against foes that now have almost supernatural abilities. Take Kogarasumaru’s battle against a team called Behemoth, for example. Behemoth has a rider with super strength and another can somehow stop time.

Oh, but don’t consider that a complaint because the change does make for some really fun episodes such as the Special Trick episode included in the collection. The series never loses its wacky sense of humor that involves a heavy dose of fan service and the characters really stand out nicely such as their teacher the boys call Tom Tom or Ringo who aids Ikki in secret as Croissant Mask. To top it off the animation is beautiful and there’s some great voice acting (with Chris Patton and Monica Rial really standing out).

An absolutely enjoyable and fun series, Air Gear: The Complete Collection is simply one of the coolest extreme sports anime series to come along in a long time. I can’t remember the time I really laughed aloud in a sports series with a great sense of humor nor really getting into the sports side the way Air Gear handles it. Sure, it’s not completely faithful to the manga, but that won’t stop you from enjoying this series that flies high and flies well.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
Just as fun as the manga series by Oh! Great, Air Gear the anime series is loud, visual dazzling and enjoyable when it’s not too formulaic like the middle part of the series. Ikki’s rise as a Storm Rider contains numerous memorable highlights that don’t often revolve around the extreme sports side … and there is fan service.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
One of the more visceral and impressive-looking extreme sports anime series out there, Air Gear looks amazing. The air tricks really stand out in this series and aren’t overdone like in other sports anime series. There’s fan service … of the nude variety.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub isn’t bad although it obviously changes the dialogue around but that’s not to say the series loses its unique lingo. There’s also loads profanity so this series does earn it’s M rating. The music is solid throughout and the closing theme by Skankfunk is simple Ok.

EXTRAS: D
You can find the cleaning opening and ending theme music and that’s about it. We would have loved some concept art and other goodies. At least the Special Trick episode that’s included was great.

OVERALL: B
Air Gear is one of those series that is over-the-top fun and damn cool because of it. It rarely takes itself too seriously and even when it changes its style in the later episodes Air Gear never loses its steam, sense of humor or steady stream of fan service. In other words, if you like a good anime series about extreme sports than Air Gear is a series that has it all.

 

When They Cry, Volume 6 – DVD Review

whentheycry6

Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Horror
Rating: 16 and Up
Release Date: December 23, 2008

There will be blood.

Imagine a place that’s quiet, pretty and far from the major metropolises of the world. Imagine a place where you are forced to live through many scenarios where you or your friends are involved in gruesome murders that might even lead to your untimely (and bloody) demise only to wake up the next morning to experience new horrific scenarios. Welcome to When They Cry, a series that is not only clever but also downright irresistible.

In Episode 22 of Volume 5 of When They Cry, we were introduced to a new story arc known as the “Atonement” chapter. This chapter concentrated on the shy and withdrawn Rena who spends her time after school “treasure hunting” at the local dump on her own. At the end of the episode, she overhears a con artist couple only to recognize the voice of the female. You see, this woman is dating her newly single father and they plan to rip him off.

Volume 6 finds Rena looking deeper into the matter only to find that her father’s gold-digging girlfriend named Ritsuko really is costing him a lot of money. Determined to put a stop to it as well as protect her father, Rena leads the woman to the dump where she hangs out to confront her. As expected, the confrontation turns ugly really quickly and the older Ritsuko even attack the quiet young girl. In the heat of the moment, the ugly events turn even uglier when Rena looses control and takes her father’s girlfriend out of the picture … for good.

When she comes home, however, she finds that Rena is in time to see Rina’s yakuza boyfriend beating up her father. Once again, the young girl leads the thug to her favorite hideout where the girl does the unspeakable yet again. When Rena’s school friends Keiichi, Mion, Satoko and Rika see that the girl has become even more withdrawn, they head to the dump only to find their young friend disposing of human remains. Even in the face of such a brutal act, Rena’s friends prove their loyalty to her and their friendship by helping Rena by helping her transport the remains to a better location.

Like past episodes, the next episode take a drastically new turn. Two bodies are discovered and the local police quickly identify the corpses. One of the bodies just so happens to belong to Miss Takano so – of course – the police shift their investigation to the school. Once again, the Cotton Festival plays a role in another death so when the police come to question each student Rena thinks it might have had something to do with the two people she killed. Instead, the line of questioning brings to mind a revelation Takano brought up about the town’s history and the so-called curse.

Suddenly, paranoia sets in and Rena tells her friends that she’s being followed and that Miss Takano left her with a scrapbook filled with wild theories that might link the town’s respected families with an alien invasion that comes in the form of a virus born in the river. She’s so convinced that she tells the chief investigator everything but when it’s not taken seriously it is Rena that takes drastic measures. You see, Rena takes her whole school hostage with a gasoline bomb.

Interestingly enough, it is Keiichi that comes to realize that some of these events are starting to feel familiar to him. He even recalls a moment from a past chapter, which is a first for the series and while his past might not be squeaky clean it is Keiichi that attempts to save Rena and keeping things from turning into a real bloodbath. The ending of Episode 26 is truly one of the redefining moment in this chapter as well as this series.

Rarely does a horror/suspense anime bring a smile to my face but the Atonement chapter of When They Cry did just that for the very reasons that make this such a compulsively watch worthy series. You see, the series is brilliant at setting up the events that would eventually careen sharply out off control into dark territory that will have you glued to the screen. Volume 6 of When They Cry might be a new chapter but it still one seriously twisted and fun series that does the horror genre justice.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
The “Atonement” chapter takes a turn for the more bizarre and it’s great to see a character wake up to realize something is so wrong. Rena’s tale is a dark one and watching the poor girl go from shy to really-out-of-her-mind paranoid is what makes this chapter of When They Cry such a rare gem.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The video quality is as good as past episodes and yes the blood really flies in this one.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, the English dub voices prove to be excellent as is the Japanese voice talent. It’s a blast to hear many of the characters sound super sweet before they get really psychotic.

EXTRAS: F
Previews for new Geneon Entertainment releases are all you can expect from the extras. I do love the reversible second covers but the original is genuinely and appropriately creepy.

OVERALL: B+
Volume 6 of When They Cry is utterly brilliant and delightfully demented. In essence, horror this good is rarely smart or extreme but this series nails it rather well in the space of four episodes. Yes, it’s bloody and oftentimes confusing but what we have here is a series you seriously do not want to miss.

Rozen Maiden Traumend, Volume 3 – DVD Review

rozenmaiden3

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Gothic
Rating: 13 and Up
Release Date: December 9, 2008

The Alice Game begins … and dolls will die.

Having been a fan of Rozen Maiden for a long time, I was genuinely surprised by its second season, or chapter, called Traumend. While the first chapter had no shortage of doll violence, Traumend pushes the boundaries to the point that there is now doll death and I have to say that it might not be pretty but its downright mesmerizing. The Alice Game begins and nothing will ever be the same again.

The Rozen Maiden series tells a most interesting tale of humans that obtain a number of beautiful dolls that are nothing short of special or magical. When these dolls come to life, they change the lives of the owners but all is not peaceful for the dolls or the owners. You see, the doll creator known as “Father,” has set up a trail for them that will have doll fighting doll to win the title of Alice that represents the perfect doll ever made. In order to become Alice, another doll must defeat a fellow doll by absorbing another doll’s Rosa Mystica. Sadly, what remains of the doll without their Rosa Mystica is simply an empty, lifeless, ordinary doll.

In Volume 3, it becomes clear to the lovely doll Shinku that the Alice Game (the event that would determine which doll becomes Alice) has begun. Still insisting that she doesn’t plan on fighting or lifting her cane against another doll, Shinku wants to try to convince the other dolls to defy Father’s wishes. This, of course, doesn’t inspire Suiseiseki who still feels a bit down that her twin Souseiseki is out there somewhere ready to jump into the Alice Game with her big shears. Jun and his sister Nori even try to cheer her up by throwing a little somen party for the dolls. Meanwhile, Shinku has a vision of Barasuisho and it becomes a reality when the girls face off against her once friend as well as Suigintou.

Oh, but the confrontation turns ugly immediately and when Souseiseki shows up she puts up a big fight that proves that she is in it to win. While her sister pleads with her not to continue the destructive path, it is Suigintou that quickly turns the tables and the end result is a tragic one. If the first Rozen Maiden was surprising, the ending of Episode 9 is even more so. As tragic as the events in the first episode of this four-episode volume is the truly heartbreaking moment comes in Episode 10. It is here that Jun and the others realize that Hinaichigo doesn’t have to long to remain as a living doll due to the events of the last volume. Jun takes her back to her medium Tomoe as a farewell and it is there that she watches Hinaichigo slip away. Let me just say that I couldn’t get through this episode without crying.

Once I was able to continue without bawling, however, the next two episodes are not only intense but they lead to more heartbreaking moments. Jun sets out with the dolls for a showdown in the real of the Father after having encountered the rabbit demon. Even Suigintou, whose intentions are to become Alice by any means necessary visits Megu in the hospital for the final time. Once on the other side, the dolls do battle, including the weakest doll, Kanaria, who makes a valiant stand.

In the end, however, it does come down to two dolls and as Jun tries to convince the man he thinks is Father to stop the “Game” the outcome of the fight is a major twist in the series. I will stop here because what happens after the final battle of the Alice Game is downright shocking albeit a bit on the confusing side. Let’s just say that Episode 12 will not let you down in the slightest.

Volume 3 of Rozen Maiden Traumend is truly an unforgettable, emotionally-charged and exciting four episodes that make up the second chapter of this wonderful series. As a fan, I couldn’t have asked for a better volume than this one and yes tears rolled down my cheeks by the second episode but this is what makes a great anime series? Rozen Maiden Traumend is the kind of series that easily hooks you into its magical world where even a doll knows the value of life and the things that are worth fighting for in this world and the world of their creator.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Father is one seriously twisted doll maker for wanting to see his creations destroy each another in the Alice Game. Only one can become Alice in the four episodes follow a tragic path that will have Jun fighting to save his friends and Shinku breaking her promise not to do battle with other dolls. Longtime fans of the series will want to have Kleenex nearby thanks to Episode 10.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen looks good even on my HDTV and the series looks just as exquisite Traumend’s other two DVDs. I’ve always loved the animation found in this series and it still works beautifully.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
This is the case where the Japanese and English dub cast equally do an excellent job with the voice work. Shinkichi Mitsumune’s music is simply as stunning as the animation itself. The opening and closing theme songs are simple OK, though.

EXTRAS: D
The only extras come in the form of three trailers. I do love the fact that Geneon Entertainment includes two English subtitle streams.

OVERALL: A-
I thought I have seen and loved all that the Rozen Maiden series has to offer its fans like me but along comes Volume 3 of Rozen Maiden Traumend to show us that there is no shortage of surprises in this excellent series. Volume 3 is nothing short of electrifying, emotional and sweet. In short, it’s that a one-of-a-kind anime experience that make us love anime even more.