Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Vol 12 – DVD Review

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Review By:  Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Memories can  be very deceptive.

In the search for the scattered memories of a kind and loving Princess of a kingdom known as Clow Country, the travelers have been through a lot on their lengthy journey across different dimensions and alternate realities and have even become as close as a family. What if these memories aren’t what they seem, though?

This is a question that pops up in Volume 12 of Tsubasa as the four episodes pick up right after Volume 11’s last episode. Finding themselves in the land ruled by the seemingly kind Feather King named Chaos, the travelers feel safe in the hands of a young man whose intentions seem to be helpful. His interest in Sakura goes unnoticed mainly because he geniunely seems to want to help them find on of Sakura’s feathers. He even points them in the direction of Mount Goraisan. Suggesting that Sakura stay in the palace with him, Chaos tells Sakura that they share a connection.

For Sakura, the connection comes in the form of a few dreams of when she was a child. In one dream, she is attacked by a giant worm only to be saved by a young man that just so happens to be slightly younger version of Chaos. Sakura quickly becomes attached to the young man who promises to be her protector and traveling companion. Unfortunately, not all of Sakura’s memories are back and she begins to wonder what this handsome young man means to her.

Meanwhile, Syaoran, Kurogane and Fai are attacked near the mountain by a number of monsters. On top of that, they are separated during said attack are are confronted by familiar faces. Kurogane, for example, encounters a man that looks suspiciously like his father while Fai goes face-to-face with somebody that looks like King Ashura.  Something about these encounters doesn’t sit well with Syaoran who – like the others – doesn’t fall for this trap.

It is Sakura, however, that does figure out what is going on when King Chaos asks her to go walking with him. He makes it very clear that he wants to be by her side. In fact, he makes a most interesting and startling proposal that does get Princess Sakura to be taken aback. What does this proposal mean and is this young man that deeply in love with her? These questions don’t matter because Sakura’s answer makes it clear that she has feelings for her companions … especially one in particular.

Sakura’s choice, though, has a negative effect on Chaos who sees Syaoran as his chief rival in winning Sakura’s heart. He faces off against him and the other three only to defeat all three to the point that they are badly injured and Syaoran’s trust sword is broken. As they recover, Chaos sends word that he wishes to challenge Syaoran to a duel with some interesting conditions if he loses the fight. Syaoran  does accept.

The duel, as it turns out, is one of the highlights of this storyline and it’s great to see all four episodes in this volume dedicated to it. As Syaoran takes on Chaos, the Feather King one of his forms that makes him a worthy opponent. I say “one of his forms” because Chaos has another form that makes up the shocking twist you don’t really see coming. It’s stuff like this that makes a series like Tsubasa such an amazing anime. In the end, the outcome will not fail to pull the rug right from under your feet.

Oh, and the hidden threat that is Fei Wang Reed – the man who has been searching for Sakura and the others – becomes more of a problem when he finally locates the travelers. He sends his agents to not only go after them but to lend Chaos a hand in defeating them.  With Fei Wang hot on their trail, this series has just got more interesting.

Tsubasa, Volume 12, deserves a place in your growing anime collection and even deserves to be called one of the best anime series to come along in a long time. Its rich storytelling doesn’t fail to keep Tsubasa fans glued to the screen. Really, you can’t find a more deep and enchanting  anime than Tsubasa.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
While searching a mountain for the next feather, the others aren’t aware that the Feather King Chaos has plans for Princess Sakura that have something to do with memories from her past.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation is still in top form and we definitely love the crisp video presentation.

SOUND QUALITY: A+
The English dub and original Japanese voices are both excellent but I bet you already knew that. Plus, I can’t begin to express how much I love Yuki Kajiura’s original score. The music is just plain gorgeous but the song in Episodes 50 and 51 could only be heard in the Japanese language track.

EXTRAS: C+
The character and world profiles are a nice touch but we still would love an audio commentary track or two.  You’ll still find the clean opening and closing songs as well as a few trailers.

OVERALL: A
The journey continues and we couldn’t be happier as Volume 12 of Tsubasa becomes even more interesting with these four episodes. As the hidden threat becomes more of a presence now, we can only sit back and enjoy a series that doesn’t show any signs of  slowing down.

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Naruto, Vol. 34 – Manga Review

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Review by: Edward Zacharias

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP :$7.95 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here!

If you’ve been reading manga just as long as we have then you know that a long running series like Naruto has those few (or many) volumes that hold that special place in your memory. Personally, I have a number of favorite moments in Naruto, one of them being the cold, dark night Sasuke decided to leave the Hidden Leaf Village by turning his back on the girl who tells him how much she loves him. Well, Volume 34 of Naruto is yet another one of those volumes that will be hard to forget.

In the last volume, a major battle between the new Team Kakashi and the villainous Orochimaru and his loyal follower, Kabuto. While Commander Yamato and Sakura were busy tending to Naruto who unleashed the power of the Nine-Tailed Fox spirit, Sai approached Orochimaru with a letter and then runs off with the evil snake. What words were exchanged between Orochimaru and the young spy for Danzo isn’t clear to Yamato, Sakura and Naruto but Sai’s sketchbook he left behind does give them an idea that Sai might not be as detached as he likes to think.

As the trio follows Yamato’s wood-styled clone to a hidden underground fortress Orochimaru calls home, Sai’s intentions become more clear to the point that Orochimaru has no reason of suspecting a double-cross. In the meantime, Sai meets another one of Orochimaru’s followers and this one seems to be in an eternal bad mood. Meanwhile, Naruto and his two companions manage to infiltrate the hideout in search of Sai and Sasuke. They do manage to run into Sai and confront him about his real mission. It isn’t until Yamato finds a Bingo Book (what ninjas call an assassination list) that belongs to Sai that it becomes painfully clear that Sai is here to eliminate a threat to Konoha and that threat is none other than Sasuke Uchiha!

I’m not spoiling the identity of the mysterious figure seeing as the volume is titled “The Reunion.” I won’t go into details about the reunion but I must say that Kishimoto-sensei does a brilliant job of conveying the emotions the characters feel about seeing Sasuke. It’s clear that not only did Naruto and Sakura change over the years but so did this troubled young man who not only had become more powerful but is completely detached from the place he called home and the people that once called him friend.

In the end, Volume 34 of Naruto is the kind of volume that will have you glad that the series is still in print and going strong. If you’re like me and have a few favorite volumes, you will most definitely consider this one yet another addition to the epic saga that is the Naruto series. Missing this one would be very wrong, Naruto fans.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Team Kakashi finally discovers the location of Orochimaru’s secret hideout and finally finds out why Sai had taken off with the enemy. Taking out Kabuto, the trio make their way into the hideout only to make a startling discovery about Sai’s intentions as well as the moment we’ve been waiting for since a certain member of Team Kakashi took off.

ART: A+
A visually stunning volume from start to finish, Kishimoto says more with one panel than a whole thought bubble filled with text. The art in Naruto just keeps getting better and better with each volume.

OVERALL: A
If you’ve been following the Naruto series since the beginning, you know that there are volumes in the series that not only stand out but will make you glad you picked up this manga series in the first place. Volume 34 of Naruto is that kind of volume and one you won’t soon forget.

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Season 1: Part One

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Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 320 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now
Kenichi: Fists of fury, heart of a wimp.

It takes confidence and bravery to stand up to a person who is not only bigger than you but has rippling muscles that you know are put to good use when said person is so used to brawling. For years, Kenichi was the type of kid who ran away from a fight or was too frightened to even raise a fist to the point that his classmates call him “Weak Knees” Kenichi. Then something had changed that soon his this still frightened lad going up against the toughest brawlers in town in Part One of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Season 1.

Spanning the series’ first 13 episodes, Kenichi introduces us to a young man whose first day of High school turn out to be a lifechanging event for this wimpy youth. He’s also not only late for the first day of school but he’s also close-lined by a cute girl named Miu who acted out of instinct when Kenichi ran too close to her. When he gets to class, he’s surprised to find out that the new transfer student is Miu who takes a seat not far from him. He is even surprised when the girl says she wants to be his friend.

Kenichi has also always loved the martial arts seeing as he carries a number of books on the subjects and is a member of the Karate Club … or, to put it more accurate, he’s a human punching bag for the club. It isn’t until he pisses off the club’s strongest freshman that he knows he’s in trouble. To top it all off, as he’s walking home he witnesses street punks harassing Miu. Summoning what little courage he has, Kenichi stands up to them only to be the one that Miu rescues instead. As fate would have it, Miu is not only adept in the martial arts but she lives in the Ryozanpaku dojo run by her grandfather and five other martial arts masters.

Offering to train him for a fee, Kenichi becomes the dojo’s only disciple under the tutelage of Master Akisame who says he’ll take it easy on Kenichi but has the poor guy going through brutal exercises that include Kenichi pulling Akisame on a rope tied to a tire. Feeling that the lessons are more scary than the big guy that challenged him, Kenichi learns a few moves from Miu and actually wins the fight and humiliate his opponent. It is after his victory that Kenichi becomes the target of other opponents that include the referee of his first fight as well as a gang called Ragnarok.

To take on his new challengers and the gang thugs whose leader wants to meet him, Kenichi trains with the other masters that include the huge child-like Apachai (master of kick boxing), Kensei (a perverted master of the Chinese martial arts) as well as Shigure (a sexy female master of weapons). More importantly, Kenichi is reluctantly trained by Sakaki who packs quite a mean punch and is a more suitable instructor. While each master relishes in taking Kenichi’s training to it’s fullest until the boy is running for his life or – when Apachai trains him – near death.

Back in school, though, more challengers appear and Kenichi, who still doesn’t want to fight and hides in his Gardening Club, uses the lessons he learned from the different masters. Each opponent brings their own set of skills and Kenichi, recalling each master’s lessons, uses what he learned against them. In one instance, he is challenged by a former professional boxer named Takeda. Taking two of Kenichi’s classmates as hostages, the  young kid faces off against him with moves that are sure to defeat a boxer. While the training plays a role in him winning fights, it’s Kenichi’s determination to use martial arts to defend weaker people makes him courageous enough to go up against these foes. It’s even enough to impress Takeda.

In the final episodes of the 13-episode set, one of Ragnarok’s top lieutenants, a big fellow named Shinnosuke, looks for Kenichi and makes him a most interesting proposition. Still, Kenichi might be a bit of a coward at times but he has a real sense of justice that has an old rival coming to his aid when things look grim.

The series contains some decent fighting sequences thanks, in part, to director Hajime Kamegaki (who directed Naruto: Shippuden The Movie). What makes Kenichi such a fun anime series is its sense of humor that is aimed at the martial arts masters who are hilarious. Even Kenichi’s family, most especially his father (who summons his shotgun when he smells trouble), are funny. There’s also a love story here, although it seems a little one-sided seeing and Miu only sees Kenichi as just a friend.

Kenichi, Season 1: Part One, not only delivers quite an entertaining punch but it also makes the fighting action just as fun to watch. The heart of the series is its sense of humor as well as the underdog that much rather tend to a garden than take on a gang of thugs. He’s the kid that doesn’t have the courage to tell a pretty girl that he’s interested in her but has the guts to face a former pro boxer. Kenichi, we are cheering you on and happily awaiting Part Two of this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
“Weak Knees” Kenichi is the kid you would least suspect of being able to stand up to street thugs and gang members and it isn’t until he meets a girl named Miu and her unusual household of martial arts masters. Becoming a disciple of the arts, Kenichi must try to survive tough opponents wishing to test their fighting abilities but also survive the training itself.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation might be a bit by-the-numbers but it does look good on DVD and the fighting sequences are adequate enough to represent the different fighting forms.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub voice cast actually does a great job and the original Japanese voices are a delight if you prefer to watch the episodes the way they were meant to be seen. Top that off with a decent soundtrack and you can’t go wrong.

EXTRAS: D
A few trailers here and clean opening and closing songs there and that about covers the extras in this two-disc set.

OVERALL: B+
The first part of Season 1 of Kenichi is a well-paced anime series that’s loads of fun to watch despite the feeling you’ve seen this type of series before. It’s always a treat when the main character is a likeable underdog and you will happily cheer Kenichi’s attempt to keep from getting pulverized by street gangs and overly enthusiastic  martial arts masters.

Darker Than Black, Volume 3 – DVD Review

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Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi / Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Welcome to the dark side of the Gate.

It didn’t take me very long to get hooked on a series like Ghost in the Shell and it took me even less to get hooked on Darker Than Black. With 10 episodes under its belt, the series feels like you’re still in that getting-to-know-you phase but then again you know enough that you like what you see and enjoy the many surprises it manages to pull off each time. Volume 3 of Darker Than Black continues to astonish so trust me when I say that you will still love this shade of black.

In past episodes, certain things about most of the characters have been revealed but not enough to paint an accurate picture of who they really are in a world affected by a mysterious occurrence. We know that Hei, also known as the Black Reaper, had a sister but what became of her fate. Well, we don’t find out in this one but more about Hei and his sister are revealed. You see, it is said that Contractors don’t dream but somehow Hei does dream and his dreams point to his past and his sister.

In Episode 11, Hei takes on a mission that has him infiltrating the Pandora Research facility at Hell’s Gate itself. He is instructed to not only look into a death at the facility that might not have been an accident as well as obtain an artifact that might be connected with the death. Posing as a janitorial candidate, Hei meets a girl named Moku who brings up a rumor that “you can regain what was once lost in the Gate if you’re willing to pay the price.”

With a Syndicate contact within the facility, Hei begins his investigation only to find that the girl he traveled with goes absolutely bonkers to the point that she’s quickly carried away by the facility’s security officers. It isn’t until she’s found dead that Hei does suspect it’s murder. He does meet a scientist whose astronomy hobby catches Hei’s interest. When they decide to go star-gazing, Hei makes a rather startling discovery about the “fake sky.” The mystery surrounding the murders becomes more evident during Hei’s investigation but before the shocking (and somewhat confusing) finale, Hei comes to realize that there might be some truth behind the rumor about the Gate.

Episode 13 begins another two-part story arc which begins with a girl that bears a striking resemblance to Yin … the mysterious white-haired girl that sits silently behind a counter and works alongside Hei and Mao and their Syndicate handler. As a Doll (which is what they call the vacant-like people affected by the Gate), it’s hard to imagine Yin showing some sign of life as well as a talent such as playing the piano. The fact is that this girl IS actually Yin and a man is looking for her ever since he caught a glimpse of a picture in a traveler’s guide. This man even turns to private investigator Gai Kurosawa (introduced in Volume 2). Meanwhile, two contractors searching are searching for Yin as well.

Gai’s perky assistant, Kiko, does find Yin and the client that hired them finally reveals his link to Yin. In fact, we do get a glimpse of who she was by looking into her past. It seems that Yin had a life before Hell’s Gate appeared. Leaving with the detective and the client, Yin’s absence is seen as a negative sign to the Syndicate and her handler is asked to kill her. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Hai and Mao who attempt to reach Yin before either the Syndicate or the pair of Contractors get to her first. The chase is on and the outcome, well, I won’t get into what goes on.

Darker Than Black, Volume 3, is yet another excellent entry in a series that continues to be one of the smartest and interesting anime series to come along in a long time. The four episodes are not only some of the best written stories so far but we learn a little more about the characters that make up this world and unique events that make this a great sci-fi series. DVD

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A Hei infiltrates a research facility at Hell’s Gate where strange events and murders have the Syndicate very curious. In the last two episodes of the volume, we come to learn a little about Yin as her change in behavior makes her the target of a pair of Contractors and the Syndicate itself.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+ The visual effects and gorgeous backgrounds are a refreshing change over the reused backdrops of the first two volumes. This really is a good-looking series and it shows in this volume.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice work is still topnotch no matter what sound option you pick and, of course, the original compositions from Yoko Kanno works beautifully.

EXTRAS: C+
There are textless opening and closing songs and there are trailers aplenty but the real juicy bits are the audio commentary track for Episode 13 and the Production Artwork feature.

OVERALL: A
Volume 3 is the standout volume for Darker Than Black and quite possibly the best four episodes of the series yet. I’m forced to repeat myself here but this series certainly is beginning to turn into that rare anime gem that can only shine brighter with each volume. Now I’m definitely looking forward to the next volume.

High School Debut, Vol. 8 – Manga Review

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Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Kazune Kawahara
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat Manga)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

Haruna’s super sweet and sour seventeen

It didn’t seem like too long ago that a cute but clueless girl waited and hoped for a boy to notice her only to fail misreably. Now, Haruna has a boyfriend who had seen her through the good and bad moments of a relationship that’s as unique as the girl and boy that make up the main characters of High School Debut. In Volume 8 of the series, Haruna Nagashima turns 17 but darn if that girl doesn’t change.

Then again, this is what we love about Haruna. The girl is still clueless, loopy and – most importantly – strong-willed and these are the very qualities that Yoh has seen and liked about her. In the new school semester, others have seen her come the one that stole the heart of the hottest guy in school. This was enough to have caught the eye of three young male freshmen students that she helped welcome to the school in the last volume and now who now play a role in Volume 8.

Athletic to an almost freakish degree, Haruna manages to stay in the top of her class physically (to Leona’s dismay) and this, of course, continues to catch the interest of the very same freshmen that keep bumping into her in the hallways of the school. One of them, a boy named Shinji Ota, makes it clear to Haruna that he has admired Yoh since Junior High and wishes to be just like him. Thinking the three boys are harmless, it is Yoh who warns her to be careful around them. In fact, he tries to drive his advice into her brain but, knowing Haruna, it is advice that will fall on deaf ears.

As expected, Haruna totally doesn’t listen to Yoh and Shinji manages to find Haruna and strike up another conversation with her. He hopes to find out what exactly does Yoh see in her when there are gorgeous girls just dying to go out with him. It isn’t until he gets really close to her that he realizes that Haruna is actually quite attractive and this compels him to do the most unexpected thing … he plans a kiss on her lips!

Haruna is not only angry to the point of chasing the frightened boy down in one of the many comical moments in this volume but she’s devastated that her wish to only kiss and be kissed by Yoh is ruined. While Yoh says that he’s OK with what happened, Haruna – as always – overreacts and attempts to avoid him. Yoh and Haruna’s friends try to find out what happened but both of them never tell them until Yoh finds a way to resolve the problem. What he does not only stuns everyone around him but it leads to a truly hilarious revelation in Shinji’s part right in front of everyone.

Yoh also comes to discover that one of the three freshmen is out to become Yoh’s rival when it comes to wooing the ladies. This doesn’t faze Yoh who hates the fact that he’s been labeled as a “stud” by most of the male students in the school but because the student seems to be genuinely interested in Haruna. The other student doesn’t even talk, which makes Yoh feel as if he were more of a ghost than a person.

In the next chapters of the volume, Haruna’s seventeenth birthday is coming up and she wishes to spend it with Yoh and only him. Thinking that most of the big dates she had with him were spoiled by a number of things that included Yoh’s ex-girlfriend who had come to town, she hopes that her birthday could tunr into a fabulous date instead. She even leaves the planning to Yoh, which isn’t really a good idea seeing as he never had to do these kinds of things. Yoh even turns to a magazine with a birthday theme. It practically stresses ou tthe poor guy even more when Haruna offers some ideas.

Seeing that Yoh loves baseball just as much as she does, Haruna has an idea to spend it going to a night game with him. Surprisingly enough, the date does off with no problem at all. In fact, of all the dates they attempted to enjoy, this one tunrs out to be one of the more successful ones. How it ends I won’t tell but its’ the perfect end to one of Haruna’s best days ever.

Haruna has had many a crazy moment and Volume 8 certainly has a few that just won’t fail to put a smile on your face. It’s great to see our girl overreact and misunderstand things that end up with her realizing that Yoh DOES love her. Still, it’s even better to see Haruna have a moment that isn’t spoiled by something crazy. High School Debut still doesn’t fail to surprise and this volume is definitive proof.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
The freshmen Haruna painfully wlecomed to the school are interested in her and – despite Yoh’s advice not to be alone with them – Haruna gets the shock of her life by a boy named Shinji. Unable to even face her boyfriend, Haruna is a mess. In another chapter, her birthday is come up and Yoh is tortured by it for a good reason.

ART: B+
Kawahara’s art is still just as good as it was since Volume 1 of the series. I still get a kick out of Yoh’s reactions to the things Haruna says and does.

OVERALL: A
Haruna turns 17 in Volume 8 of High School Debut and things get really interesting in this one. The series never runs out of funny moments but this volume is, by far, one of the more humorous ones yet. This might be Volume 8 but the series still feels as fresh as it did since the first volume.

Honey and Clover, Vol. 5 – Manga Review

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Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Chica Umino
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

You just have to hand it to Chica Umino. She not only knows how to tell a deeply compelling and sincerely amusing story but she knows how to keep her manga’s loyal fans wanting more by the end of each volume. Well, at least, that’s how I feel whenever I finish a volume and after having read Volume 5 of Honey and Clover the waiting will be excruciating.

In the opening of Volume 5, Mayama’s workplace goes under a transition when the nutty pair of Mario and Luigi decide to break up the company in half. As it turns out, Nomiya (who was introduced in Volume 4) comes up with a plan that would keep Mayama in the city as well placing him back to the place he always wanted to be … by Rika-san’s side.

Yeah, you read that right. I won’t go into what exactly happened and what Rika-san’s reaction to having Mayama working with her again despite the history they have but the news reaches Yamada via Nomiya. It’s news that, of course, doesn’t sit well with Yamada and it does change the face of the relationship (or lack of a relationship) between them. It becomes clear to Mayama that Yamada isn’t acting like herself but that doesn’t stop her from kicking him around the way she does since the first volume of the series.

In the meantime, however, Takemoto had decided to put all his effort to turning in a final project worthy of his craft. Just as Hagu had turned to her art after the emotional blow of being kissed by Morita, Takemoto focused on his project enough that he totally ignored Hagu who shows up with a thermos and bread rolls for him to eat. Hagu worries for the young man whose tower has gotten way out the range of normal. In fact, Hanamoto even makes an effort to naming said tower that would give it some meaning to the old timers.

Unfortunately, the stress of turning in the project on time, sleepless nights and the lack of a proper nutrition leads to Takemoto collapsing in front of Hagu, Yamada and Professor Hanamoto. Rushed to the hospital, Takemoto begins to think back on his father who suffered from poor health as well as what would happen if he didn’t turn in his final project. When his mother and step-father come visit him, it is his step-father who has a solution. Why not stay another year at art school? He even offers to pay for school.

With these dramatic developments comes a truly unexpected surprise when Hanamoto brings a portable television for Takemoto only to catch the Mocademy Awards (that’s not a typo, it’s basically the Oscars). Accepting the award for Best Visual Effects for a movie called “Space Titanic” is none other than Morita. His lengthy acceptance speech not only makes Moscar history but he also threatens to sue the director and everyone else involved with the film he took care of all by himself. Another shock is that Morita is actually in the same hospital room as Takemoto.

Oh, but that’s not all because Morita manages to stun his old professor by actually completing the course after eight years of being a student at the art school. Thinking this was going to be the last they would see of Morita, there goes the crazy guy dressed like a kid on his first day of school when the art school reopens for the next school semester. Morita has enrolled in the painting department now. The final chapters of the volume definitely belong to Morita and his crazy exploits that you will really have to read for yourself.

On top of Morita’s hilarious moments, Yamada comes to hear from Mayama’s old co-workers that he’s been busy working with Rika-san as a two-person team. It not only hurts her to hear that but she finds Nomiya and the two rush off with Mayama running after them. What are Nomiya’s intentions? We have yet to find out and that alone has us wishing Volume 6 was already here.

Volume 5 of Honey and Clover doesn’t stray too far from the elements that made fans of the series fall in love with it despite the intriguing dramatic moments. I should say, Morita does know how to lighten the mood and so he does with his return. What we are dying to know is what will become of Mayama and Yamada’s relationship and how will Takemoto cope with his “rival” back in town? Oh yeah, this is definitely a series that keeps getting better with every volume.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Giving it his all now that the final project is due, Takemoto pushes himself only to find that he’s not only pushing away Hagu but also not taking good care of himself physically. Meanwhile, Yamada finds out about Mayama’s new job with Rika-san and begins to distance herself from Mayama. Oh, and Morita returns in a shocking turn of events. The manga even includes two extras at the end.

ART: A
Once again, the art in Honey and Clover doesn’t fail to (A) put a smile on your face, (B) surprise you and ( C ) make you really enjoy how truly unique this manga really is among other manga of the same genre.

OVERALL: A+
A number of surprising turn of events occur in this loaded fifth volume of Honey and Clover and believe me when I say that this just makes it one of the more absorbing volumes in the series. We also see the return of Morita, which injects his brand of hilarious antics to the somewhat serious tone of the volume. As I mentioned, we cannot wait to get our hands on Volume 6.

Nerima Daikon Brothers, Complete Collection – DVD Review

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Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: 49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Musical
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

This is not your usual comedy/musical.

I have to admit that I’m one of the few people around this office that really looks forward to the “musical numbers” that often pop up in the more crude and crass animated comedies like South Park or – the a lighter extent – The Simpsons. So, naturally, I was drawn to Nerima Daikon Brothers … a comedy/musical anime series that is way a bit on the weird side and filled with funny foot-tapping tunes. Why wasn’t the Blues Brothers as funny as this?

Nerima Daikon Brothers tells the story of a burly fellow named Hideki, a girly pretty boy named Ichiro and Hideki’s saucy and vivacious cousin Mako. Hideki dreams of leaving the life of a daikon farmer to turn his fertile land into a stadium where the trio could perform their brand of rocking blues on a nightly bases. They do have the talent for great vocalization despite the fact that their neighbors always complain when they break into song. All three also have a habit of singing whatever’s on their mind whether Hideki sings songs of his forbidden love for Mako or the pink-haired girl singing about her love for the Dom Perignon champagne she plans on drinking when they get famous. Oh, and a stray panda walking into the daikon field and Ichiro falls in love with it to the point that he sings about how much he loves his newly named Pandaikon.

In order to make their dreams come true, though, the three finds themselves searching for their first break. Luckily for them, Ichiro – who works in a host club – has a male client who promised him an audition. Unfortunately, the music producer is ripping off people by charging for each audition. Feeling cheated, the trio decides to get back their money by stealing it back. Stealing from a thief seems justifiable to Hideki and even more so if it means the money could be used to make their dream of having their own stadium comes true. One of the series most repeated sequence and songs are the three of them asking for money (which produces dancing girls that come out of nowhere while hauling a cash machine) or singing to the rental guy who offers an item useful to their mission.

In the end, however, they manage to take down the producer but don’t end up with the money in the end. This becomes the start of a number of missions to earn money only to end up foiling deceitful and greedy folks that think they’re beyond the law and end up with nothing to show for it. In another episode, Mako gets sucked into a Korean Pachinko place that is stealing older ladies looking to spend money on the machines and the good-looking Korean hosts. In another episode, Hideki and the others end up in a hospital where the hospital director is charging patients for unnecessary operations.

It is only after these events that a sexy police detective named Yukika comes to the farm that the series adds another player in this warped musical. The detective starts out looking to catch the three in the act but only ends up having a monster crush on Pandaikon and, later in the series, falls in love with Ichiro. In the course of the series, even Mako falls in love with Ichiro even though the pretty boy slaps her face and ignores her advances. Meanwhile, the man who does love her sees his failure to marry Mako as a law issue, which is why he ends up getting ripped off by a shady lawyer who promised to help him make a change in the Constitution so it would be legal to marry a cousin.

In a related episode, Hideki buys a wedding ring in hopes that Mako would agree to marry him but the girl doesn’t see that as a possibility seeing as she loves Ichirio. In the meantime, they go up against a fortune-teller who is blackmailing her famous clients as well as a woman whose connected with the number one pretty boy of a rival host club.

The final episodes of the series have Hideki turning his back on his friends to pursue his dreams while Ichiro, Mako and Yukika attempt to catch up to him. Mako even turns to Yukel Hakushow who acts and slightly resembles a certain “King of Pop” with removable nose, no less. In the end they even go up against the Prime Minister as friends come to the aid of the Nerima Daikon Brothers.

The good news is that songs are actually funny and the jokes are of the dirty variety that fans of Shin Chan know very well. I should mention that there’s more profanity and the jokes are a lot cruder in the English dub than the original Japanese voice work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all seeing as both language tracks means different jokes. The songs themselves are recycled throughout the series with different lyrics, though. The only time the songs really change is when a villain begins to sing but other than that you’ll be hearing the same melodies. Thankfully, the English dub cast of Luci Christian, Greg Ayres and Christopher Patton have great singing voices as well.

Nerima Daikon Brothers, Complete Collection are 12-episodes of salaciously off-the-wall fun. It’s the kind of series that marches to its own beat and man is that beat really loaded with funny lyrics that hit the right note if you’re into crude humor. While the series isn’t spectacularly hilarious, it will not fail to make you laugh out loud a few times. A Must Have if you like South Park’s naughty tunes or a musical anime with a sense of humor.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
Hideki, Mako and Ichiro make up a fun trio with big dreams of having their own stadium to sing their brand of music to the Nerima masses. The trouble is that they keep running into shady characters they attempt to rob of their money but it just doesn’t work out. Yes, the songs are repeated throughout the series but the lyrics don’t.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The video is sharp and wonderfully colorful. In other words, its just what we want to see in a DVD release. The animation might be a bit by-the-numbers but the sight gags are genuinely funny.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The original Japanese track his great jokes for those that will get the largely Japanese pop cultural references but the English dub has more profanity and highly suggestive dialogue and songs. You just have to love the English dub cast who do a great job with the fun songs.

EXTRAS: C
There’s a audio commentary track featuring Japanese voice actors Shigeru Matsuzaki, Showtaro Morokubo and Ayano Matsumoto. There are also some trailers and – thankfully – cleaning opening and closing songs. What, no sing-a-long track?

OVERALL: B
Wildly crude and utterly fun to watch, the Complete Collection of Nerima Daikon Brothers is a welcomed addition to the musical-comedy genre. I would have loved a variety in the song department but the change in lyrics keep the songs from become too tiresome. Overall, this is not a bad musical-comedy series that is sure to please those fans that like their anime a bit on the refreshingly improper side.