ANIME EXPO® ANNOUNCES GURREN LAGGAN DIRECTOR AND CHARACTER DESIGNER AS 2009 GUESTS OF HONOR

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Celebrated Talents Imaishi and Nishigori to Attend Nation¹s Largest Anime
and Manga Convention

Anaheim, California (May 29, 2009) ‹ 12th Animation Kobe Director Award
winner, Hiroyuki Imaishi and 7th Annual Tokyo International Anime Award
recipient, Atsushi Nishigori, are now announced as official Anime Expo® 2009
Guests of Honor at the nation¹s largest anime and manga convention held July
2-5, 2009 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More information can be
found on the website

www.anime-expo.org <http://www.anime-expo.org> .

After graduating from Tama Art University, Mr. Hiroyuki Imaishi, was hired
as an animator for the Gainax Company, Limited. His first work was the
animation that many critics considered a social phenomenon NEON GENESIS
EVANGELION. Since then, Mr. Imaishi has worked on storyboards and as art
directors for such hit anime series as HIS AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES and FLCL.
Mr. Imaishi made his directorial debut with the OVA DEAD LEAVES. Mr.
Imaishi has also worked on RE: CUTEY HONEY and TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGGAN franchise. Mr. Imaishi was also the recipient of the 12th Animation Kobe
Director¹s Award.

Character designer Mr. Atsushi Nishigori has worked on many titles including
MAHOROMATIC, THIS UGLY YET BEAUTIFUL WORLD, HE IS MY MASTER, OVER THE TOP! 2 and serves as the character animation director for the TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGGAN franchise. Mr. Nishigori was also the recipient of 7th Annual Tokyo International Anime Awards¹ Individual Character Design Award category.

Mr. Imaishi and Mr. Nishigori join Daisuke Ishiwatari, Yosuke Kuroda,
Toshimichi Mori, Morning Musume, Yasuhiro Nightow, Satoshi Nishimura and
Kari Wahlgren as official Anime Expo® 2009 Guests of Honor.

Attendees, Press and Industry Members are also encouraged to view the video
coverage site of the 2008 convention at www.AXBackstage.org
<
http://www.AXBackstage.org> .

Red & Black Sponsors include: FUNimation, Silver Sponsors include: Anime
News Network and Digital Manga Press, Patron Sponsors include: COPIC,
Central Park Media and The Right Stuf, Media Sponsors include: ImaginAsian
TV, Animation Magazine, Anime Insider Magazine, Anime News Network and UTB
Hollywood.

About Anime Expo®
Located in Los Angeles, California – Anime Expo®, the nation¹s largest
anime/manga convention, serves to foster trade, commerce and the interests
of the general public and animation/ comics industry. This event serves as a
key meeting place for the general public to express their interest and
explore various aspects of anime/manga, as well as for members of the
industry to conduct business. AX 2009 will be held July 2 ­ July 5, 2009 at
the Los Angeles Convention Center in Southern California. More information
can be found at its website (www.anime-expo.org).

About Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is a non-profit
organization with a mission to popularize and educate the American public
about anime and manga, as well as provide a forum to facilitate
communication between professionals and fans. This organization is more
popularly known by its entertainment property ­ Anime Expo®. More
information can be found at its website (www.spja.org <http://www.spja.org>
).

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Ragnarok: The Animation, The Complete Series – DVD Review

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Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: DVD: $59.98
Running Time: 625 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Where’s the Restart button?

Aside from our love for anime and manga, the people in our little office have another major crush and that’s games whether its on a console or on our PC. We love our role-playing games and we’re even more in love with MMORPGs like World of Warcraft as well as the impressive Ragnarok Online that has stole many an hour from our lives. So it came as a pleasant surprise that Ragnarok: The Animation, The Complete Series has found its way on my desk.

Now imagine my heartbreaking when the anime series just isn’t the exciting experience it should have been considering the fact that most of the elements from the game are present and the anime even pokes some good natured fun at some features from the game such as the guides in frilly maid outfits. You’ll even find familiar monsters as well. With all these elements, how did this anime go so wrong?

Well, for one thing, Ragnarok: The Animation doesn’t develop the one-dimensional characters and – besides their motivations – we don’t feel like we really know these characters enough to care about them. We meet a young budding swordsman named Roan and his close friend since childhood and acolyte named Yuna who embark on an adventure together. The pair are the clichéd couple that doesn’t admit to the other they have romantic feeling and so, for the most part, we watch Roan and Yuna awkwardly try to sidestep the fact that they like each another.

During the course of their travels they meet an attractive Mage named Takius who wears a blindfold for training purposes and decides to join the pair after they defeat a clock tower monster as well as a sewer filled with roaches together. In the same sewers they meet a spunky little girl named Maya (and her pet blob named Poi-Poi) whose actually a merchant that travels with them mainly for her own protection. The party grows again when they meet a sexy female archer named Judia and her traveling companion named Iruga who knows both Roan and Yuna.

Oh, and Yuna’s brother who she watched die in the hands of a dark knight is back but he’s no longer the kindhearted young man she remembers. Her brother is joined by an evil warrior named Zealotus who is half human and half monster as the main villains that keep showing up throughout the series. Why has Yuna’s brother turned evil and why does he continues to pursue them? Who is Zealotus and why are there whispers of the Dark Lord’s resurrection? These are questions that pop up often in this anime and are answered in the final five episodes of this 26-episode set.

In the meantime, we follow the band of adventurers as they travel to towns aiding those that need their help such as the time they help a young girl from the Thieves Guild clear an underground city of a curse and in another mission they head into Geffen Tower to clear it from powerful spirits. The band of heroes even makes it to a port town that just so happens to be where Maya is from and then travel into a desert where Takius is tested by her Master’s influence.

As I mentioned earlier, we really don’t get a true feel of what the characters are really like even though we do get a glimpse of their pasts such as how Judia met (and fell in love with) Iruga as well as a look into Maya’s tragic past. We know Roan’s motivation for protecting Yuna so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he leaves the group for a little while to train with a Crusader. Even Yuna takes a break from adventuring to study to being a Priest (which is the world of Midgard’s version of a religious magic-user). We just don’t care when they rejoin the party because their personalities are as wooden as the trees in the Labyrinth Forest.

To top it all off, the animation is generic and the animation is lazy when it comes to the action so we have to sit through the same spells being cast continuously during each fight. With boring battles and uninteresting character development, it becomes hard to want to sit through the whole experience. All isn’t bad, however, because the series does have some interesting moments scattered throughout (like the attack in the city of Comodo) and there are even genuinely comical moments (Iruga and Judia’s cosplay wedding). The final four episodes really pick up with a refreshing change of pace that includes characters hooking up, an evil French kiss and a number of deaths. Why wasn’t the whole series like the last episodes?

In the end, Ragnarok: The Animation fails to be an epic fantasy anime worthy of the game itself. With characters that are lifeless and uninteresting, it’s hard to find a reason to continue watching the 26-episode collection. Sure, there are some fun moments but they’re wasted on a production that is lacking in all the qualities we love about the fantasy genre. 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: D
A young swordsman and his childhood friend set out on an adventure in a world familiar to fans of the Korean MMORPG of the same name. Along the way they meet other fellow travelers that soon join their party and take part in an adventure that involves a Dark Lord, a crazed teacher of the magical arts and plenty of monsters.

VIDEO QUALITY: C-
The bland-looking characters and lazy fight sequences are just too noticeable to ignore although the backgrounds can be very pretty in certain episodes. Still, the animation could have looked better than what we see here.

AUDIO QUALITY: C+
The English dub voice cast does its best with the poorly scripted dialogue in the earlier episodes but it’s best to watch Ragnarok in its original Japanese. The music isn’t stellar but it does the job right and the opening and closing theme songs are simply Ok.

EXTRAS: D
There are only a small collection of trailers in the fourth disc so don’t expect very much in terms of extras.

OVERALL: D
The Complete Series of Ragnarok: The Animation is a disappointing fantasy anime that – sadly – is a forgettable experience with very little to offer even the most dedicated Ragnarok Online fans. While it takes time for the story to really take off, it becomes hard to really care about characters that just aren’t interesting. Sorry, Ragnarok fans, but you’re better off skipping this one.

Bleach, Vol. 26 – Manga Review

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Review by: Clive Owen

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

Sing it with me … “Getting strong now!”

Our boy Ichigo Kurosaki has come a long way since he met a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki and having fought numerous battles against powerful opponents he couldn’t have done it without training and more training and … well, more training. Having turned to everyone from Urahara to Yoruichi, Ichigo turns to the most unlikely people to train for the upcoming battle spearheaded by Aizen and his Arrancar army. Yes, Volume 20 of Bleach has Ichigo and the others training – again – but there’s still a good story here with an ending that will have you wanting more.

Then again, Bleach fans already knows that Tite Kubo is able to maintain all the elements that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. Volume 26 has action, comedy and a few surprises but, unfortunately, the training sequences are starting to get really old to the point the you can practically hear the “Rocky” training song in your head. The goal, this time, is the become Hollowfied for a longer period of time and thus controlling the part of himself Ichigo tried to hold back.

In the last volume, Orihime Inoue has been revealed quite a shocking bit of news and, of course, her first stop is with Ichigo. Somehow, Orihime is able to not only sense Ichigo’s spiritual energy but she is able to slip through the Vizards’ protective barrier. We’ve known Orihime to be loopy yet determined but she is really beginning to be quite a remarkable character that surprises everyone around her including Hachi … the Vizard who created the barrier. Oh, she also catches the eye of somebody else but you really have to read the volume to find out.

Orihime finds Ichigo training with the Vizards but he isn’t the only one working to become stronger. In Urahara’s training grounds, Chad is training  with the Soul Reaper Renji and in another spot Uryu Ishida is training/battling his Quincy father who is helping Uryu regain his lost spiritual powers. The only one who feels left out is Orihime and even more so when Yoruichi brings her before Urahara who tells her to sit the upcoming fight out.

This news, of course, hurts Orihime in ways she isn’t really able to show. Still, she runs into Rukia who sees Urahara’s decision to keep Orihime out of the fight a really bad idea and offers to train the determined girl in the Soul Society. Even Hachi offers to repair the source of the girl’s power and does so successfully.

While Orihime clearly makes up the more interesting parts of this volume, we find Captain Hitsugaya’s crew being confronted by a quartet of Arrancars that step out into Karakura. The foursome include two new Arrancars selected by Aizen as well as the return of Yammy and Grimmjow. Despite being told that he’s just not ready to go up against that Arrancars, Ichigo runs off the join the fight and ends up taking on Grimmjow who is itching for payback after their last encounter. The battle is brutal and we find Hitsugaya, Ikkaku, Yumichika and Rangiku struggling to stay alive against an Arrancar that proves to be considerably deadly.

Yes, the training sequence is wearing out its welcome but the story builds up to an exciting and attention-grabbing ending that will not only end up drawing you in once again. Volume 26 of Bleach pushes the training scenes but it doesn’t hold back the volume filled with outstanding action scenes with splash panels that won’t fail to impress. We love Orihime for many reasons but she really become quite a favorite thanks to this volume.

I say this often about Bleach … each volume makes you look forward to the next one and you better believe this one is no different.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: C+
As Aizen’s threat to take out the king of the Soul Society as well as destroy all of Karakura is quickly reaching its deadline, we watch Ichigo train yet again and it’s already getting a wee bit tiresome. Still, there are plenty of other interesting things that happen in Volume 26.

ART: A+
Tite Kubo’s art certainly compliments his storytelling style and his fight scenes are just as flashy as ever. Bleach is just one good-looking manga.

OVERALL: C+
Bleach, Volume 26, isn’t a bad volume but it paints a familiar picture that we seen one too many times in this series. Still, Bleach is a series with a lot of personality and it definitely shines through the already tiresome training  scenes. Orihime is also starting to become one of my more favorite Bleach characters.

Tokyo Majin, Part Two: Martial Fist Chapter – DVD Review

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Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

The last battle is always the sweetest.

Tokyo Majin is the kind of series that begins with a mystery and slowly – and awkwardly – peels away the layers to reveal what was concealed to us from the first episode. When we finally understand why five High school students with different backgrounds came together to fight a supernatural threat you better believe you’ll be hooked in like a stubborn bass that suddenly finds that shiny lure attached to a hook oh-so inviting. Part Two: Martial Fist Chapter of Tokyo Majin isn’t perfect but it still has enough appeal to make you want to see it through to the end.

After having met the five Magami High students who discovered a hidden power of the Stars of Fate within them, the five students have taken on dangerous supernatural foes as well as a major threat known as the Demonic Horde in Part One. Part Two of Tokyo Majin covers the final 12 episodes entitles the Martial Fist Chapter that takes place after the events of Part One. As things seemed to have calmed down, the students are attacked by a group of highly-trained warriors that claim to be the Twelve Generals of the Martial Fist.

The Martial Fist claim to fight to preserve the peace against demonic enemies but why are they attacking Tatsuma, Kyouichi, Daigo, Aoi and Sakurai? Each one faces off against a General but it’s Tatsuma, Kyouichi and Daigo who have trouble with their oppoents. Kyouichi is even violently defeated by his sword-wielding foe while Diago (and Sakurai) find themselves going up against an enemy named Renji who happens to know Daigo. When Renji manages to threaten Sakurai’s life, Daigo unleashes an even greater power that transforms the wrestler into a remarkable spirit beast. Startling even the likes of tough girl Sakurai, Diago does the unthinkable.

Having murdered guardians belonging to a group known as the 28 Constellations of Kanto, members of the Martial Fist begin to question their motives until the Director of the group reveals himself to Magami High’s guardians. It becomes clear that the Martial Fist was being manipulated and the reason shockes even Tatsuma.

Speaking of Tatsuma, after the Martial Fist story arc concludes, he becomes the center of attention in the rest of the episodes starting with an episode that has the quiet young man befriending Marie Claire – the powerful and wild little girl from Part One – and then experiencing tragedy by the hands of a puppet master-like villain calling himself Chaos.

As one of the five goes on a quest for revenge, the story takes a darker tone although it does manage to sneak in some lighthearted moments that come in the form of Anko (the journalist) and all the other characters that had but a minor role in Part One. The characters are fleshed out a bit more in this second chapter and when the final major threat is introduced it leads to an impressive battle that involves all of the characters that have become allies of the five. The result is a fight that literally tears Tokyo apart and yes a few familiar characters die.

The 2-disc set also includes two extra episodes, although their inclusion – while much appreciated – really doesn’t add a whole lot to the big picture or the ending. One story basically gives a peek into Kyouichi’s life after having become an orphan and how his life intersects with the others. In the second extra episode, the graduating class is putting on a play (a unique version of Romeo and Juliet). While it’s a fun little story, if definitely doesn’t add anything. Oh, and the ending of the main story just doesn’t  add much either, by the way. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

I would like to say that the fina chapter of Tokyo Majin, Part Two: Martial Fist Chapter is an excellent one but it is far from perfect. In the end, Tokyo Majin as a whole is an action-packed bloody good time that started off interestingly and ends with an impressive battle before the so-so finale ruins things. Part Two isn’t shy when it comes to the eye-catching violence and there are surprises aplenty but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the ending leaves much to be desired. Still, you’ll have a blast with Tokyo Majin.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C+
The Martial Fist chapter is certainly one of the more action-packed story arcs of this series and it certainly is a more darker final chapter with an unimpressive finale. As the young students of Magami High go up against a group dedicated to bringing justice, a hidden threat will reunite all those touched by the Stars of Fate in a massive battle that could end up destroying Tokyo.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
Tokyo Majin is gruesomely violent and the gory animation simply doesn’t disappoint. The fight scenes look great as well so there’ a lot to like about the visuals.

SOUND QUALITY: A
A solid voice acting cast for both the English dub and Japanese versions but the advantage goes to the Japanese cast in my book. The closing theme song, “Hanafubuki,” by ACID is still great to hear and the new ACID opening song called “Prayer” is better than Part One’s awful opening tune.

EXTRAS: D
There are only a few trailers and there’s the textless opening and closing theme songs. The two extra episodes are the best extra features.

OVERALL: C+
Part Two of Tokyo Majin is darker if not slightly disjointed final chapter that still manages to be appealing despite its flaws. It’s good to see that the gory action is back and the characters are a tad more fleshed out this time around but – as far as the ending is concerned – the series doesn’t end as grand as it should have.

Dragon Ball Z Triple Feature – DVD Review

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Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 165 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

It’s a Super Saiyan triple smackdown!

Grandpa Owen still mourns the loss of double features in the theaters but it’s Papa Owen who really mourns the passing of triple features much like they had in the 1970 grindhouses of old. Dad, the triple feature isn’t completely dead if you just so happen to be a Dragon Ball Z fan (he is!) thanks to FUNimation’s release of Dragon Ball Z movies 8, 9 and 10 featuring a powerful Super Saiyan foe named Broly. Dad and Grandpa are proud yet again.

BROLY: The Legendary Super Saiyan

The first movie in the triple feature begins with the sudden fall of the Southern Galaxy by the hands of a mysterious and yet unidentified Super Saiyan. King Kai worries that if nothing is done to stop this threat the Northern Galaxy and Earth will perish. Pulling Goku out of a school meeting, King Kai spells out it for him … as usual.

Meanwhile, an alien visitor interrupts a pleasant picnic that includes Vegeta and his family as well as Gohan, Kururin, Oolong and Master Roshi. The visitor is a man named Paragas who asks Vegeta to assume the role of King and help the planet of New Vegeta from the Super Saiyan threat. Vegeta accepts and Gohan and his friends sneak aboard to ship that carries them off.

On the planet, however, the evidence of destruction is visible and Paragas and his son Broly leads Vegeta on a wild goose chase that doesn’t lead anywhere. It isn’t until Goku arrives that he comes to realize something wrong about Paragas’ son. In fact, when Broly sees Goku, it awakens a rage in the young man to the point of triggering a violent reaction. Could it be that Broly is actually the famed Legendary Saiyan that attacked the Southern Galaxy? It’s safe to say that the answer is yes … well, seeing as the movies have Broly’s name in the titles.

Broly attacks Goku and proves to be one of the most powerful enemies he or Vegeta have ever have faced against. So powerful is this Super Saiyan that not even Goku’s most powerful attacks could even faze him. We also come to discover Broly’s reasons for hating Vegeta and wanting to kill Goku who he knows as his real name. It takes the combined powers of each Super Saiyan hero to bring Broly down.

BROLY: SECOND COMING

The Second Coming picks up a few years after the events of The Legendary Super Saiyan as Brody’s body has crash landed on a peaceful planet and remained there for years. Since time has passed and Goku out of the picture, we find Gohan, Videl and Trunks as the stars of the movie.

The young trio find themselves in Natade Village where a young girl is about to be offered as a sacrifice to a “Mountain Spirit.” Offering to help them put an end to this ritual, the three young heroes wait to unveil the identity of this spirit only to have Gohan’s cry awaken Broly from his slumber.

Broly, despite being badly injured and battered, fights the young fighters and is still able to give them quite a workout. The battle is quite spectacular and there are even appearances from some familiar faces that comes to their aid. When things look bad, another guest shows up to lend a hand in putting Broly in his place.

BIO BROLY

In the final movie, Mister Satan takes center stage as he is being blackmailed into participating in a battle tournament set up by an old rival named Jaguar. The man pits Mr. Satan against biologically engineered warriors. Thankfully, the big goof has Goten, Trunks, Andriod 18 and Kururin lending a hand.

During the battle, though, Jaguar releases his secret weapon … a bio-modified version of Broly. Oh, but much like the original, this Broly cannot be controlled and he turns on Jaguar and his staff to the point of killing a lot of people. Goten and Trunks find themselves battling Broly but how can you fight an enemy that is even harder to kill?

All three movies have no shortage of great action scenes and there are some impressive fights as well. The best of the movies is The Legendary Super Saiyan thanks to the fact that it is more dramatic and the fights really make quite an impact. Second Coming is the more comical of the three and it’s refreshing after the serious tone of the first film. Trunks peeing on Broly is damn funny. Meanwhile, Bio Broly is both serious and funny, although the big battle leaves much to be desired.

In the end, what we have is three of the most exciting of the Dragon Ball Z movies and a near perfect trio that Dragon Ball Z fans will truly appreciate. For my money, The Legendary Super Saiyan is well worth the price of admission but staying for the other two is definitely a Must, triple feature fans.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
A deadly and uncontrollable Super Saiyan named Broly takes his rage out on Goku and later his children as the powerful enemy fights the good Super Saiyans standing in his way. The Legendary Super Saiyan has plenty of action while Second Coming and Bio Broly aren’t as serious.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The movies look great and FUNimation did a great job of making the animation look sharp and colorful.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
There are plenty of options for those viewers who are picky and like the original Japanese voice cast but loves the English tunes. The English dub works well too so it’s a win-win deal here.

EXTRAS: C-
The real treat here is the fact that you can watch the three movies in their original Japanese voices and music. No, wait, the real treat is that there are two DVDs here (the second containing Movie 9 and 10. Oh, and the tin case is awesome.

OVERALL: B+
Dragon Ball Z Triple Feature brings us three top notch action movies that offer more bang for you buck than the last movie collection. Sure, the first film of the trio is the best but the two other movies are way too much fun to pass up.

Kurohime, Vol. 10 – Manga Review

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Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Masanori * Ookamigumi * Katakura
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Advanced)
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date:

Love and Punishment.

Having defied the Gods themselves, Kurohime has paid the ultimate price having not only lost her true physical form but also having lost the ability to be with the one she loves the most … a boy named Zero. She defies the Gods still with her quest to not only regain her lost memories but also reunite with her one real love that will finally break the curse.

In past volumes, Kurohime journey to regain more power via imprisoned Gods has left her making enemies left and right including the Goddess Yashahime who – in Volume 9 – resurrected her love Zero and turned the newly formed Death Angel against Kurohime. We’ve also felt the presence of something else that has set out to put a stop to Hime’s quest and now we finally get to meet them in Volume 10 of Kurohime.

After the heartbreaking reunion between Kurohime and Dark Zero, Kurohime not only gains a slightly older physical form but she also refocuses her attention on attempting to free Zero from his duties as a Death Angel. Volume 10 begins with the group – now joined by the child versions of the Snow Gods from Mt. Oosore named Yuki Otoko and Yuki Onna – planning their next destination. Kurohime wants to push on but it is Kazuma who suggests they all go to the grand city of Oedo in Yamato for much needed rest.

One of the biggest advantages of going to Oedo, of course, is that Kazuma is from there since he is the son of the Shogun of Yamato. When they do get there, it’s amusing to see that Kurohime and Kazuma do get to spend some time alone together … a fact that results in some comically awkward moments for the young man who is clearly very in love with Kurohime. He even asks her to come with him to meet his father.

Unfortunately, their time alone is interrupted by a giant flying whale/dragon transport (you really have to see this thing for yourself) called Kairyu that belongs to Otohime. Aboard the creature is Sword, a young girl who just so happens to be the leader of the Kurohime Punishment Squad that has come to the city to force its citizens to help them find Kurohime. On top of that, Sword doesn’t care about destroying the city as well as murdering the citizens.

The Kurohime Punishment Squad consists of Witch Gunslingers including a powerful sniper, a girl named Barahime that can bring objects to life and Saika (who was introduced in an earlier volume). Meanwhile, Sword takes on Kazuma’s father, the famed Shogun, as he attempts to defend his Palace and the people. Before the battle, however, he sends his daughter to give Kazuma something very important.

As the city crumbles around them, Kurohime and her friends battle the Punishment Squad. Kazuma and Kurohime take on the sniper and Saika only to find Otohime is tied to Kairyu. Freeing Otohime during the battle, the whale/dragon turns on their captors and manages to swallow them and Kurohime.

It is in the belly of the beast that Kurohime discovers that Kairyu is able to send a person back in time. It might be possible to go back in time to fix the past so Zero wouldn’t turn out to be her enemy in the present. There’s a downside to traveling back in time, though, and it could very well mean the end of Kurohime.

Interestingly enough, this volume ends in a cliffhanger and even more surprising is that Volume 1o includes a one-shot story called “Village of Love” that offers a peek into what happened directly after Kurohime was cursed and turned into a child. Hime finds herself in a strange village with beings that were reduced into infants after having defied the Gods. In the village she meets a child without eyes and a cute young man who aids Kurohime in looking for a way out.

Finding an exit, though, isn’t going to be easy seeing as the guardian of said village is a giant big-breasted woman that dishes out the ultimate judgement … and breast milk. This is two-part story that continues in Volume 11 but, if anything, it shows that Kurohime has come a long way as far as her personality is concerned.

Volume 10 of Kurohime is a volume loaded with plenty of action, comedy and even a one-shide side story that’s actually enjoyable. The direction the series is taking is an interesting one and even more so now as Kurohime’s quest takes a turn for the more interesting yet again. It’s no wonder we’re really beginning to love this series.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A-
Kurohime and her friends reaches the city of Oedo to rest after the events of the last volume only to find the city overrun by the Kurohime Punishment Squad. Battling against experienced Witch-Gunslingers, the group attempts to save the people. Meanwhile, Kurohime discovers another way to save Zero.

ART: A
We love Kurohime’s new look and the art in this volume is simply stunning … especially when Kairyu makes its entrance.

OVERALL: A-
Things just keep getting better and better in the world of Kurohime and if you’ve been following the series for some time now you will definitely love Volume 10. On top of the great story, there’s a fun one-shot extra that makes this one of the best volumes of Kurohime yet.

Black Lagoon, The Second Barrage Box Set – DVD Review

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Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: 16 and Up
Release Date: Available Now

Twice as much bullets means twice as much fun.

If you read our reviews of Rei Hiroe’s bullet-fueled action anime and manga, Black Lagoon, you know we have a fondness for this highly entertaining series. The first season’s box set was a genuine thrill ride but Black Lagoon, The Second Barrage Box Set, manages to outshine the first 12 episodes in every way.

Having made the transition between Japanese salaryman to crewmember of the Black Lagoon of the Lagoon Traders courier service in the ultra dangerous city of Roanpur, Rokuro “Rock” Okajima thought he has seen it all. Then again, Rock never imagined that the blood bath that claimed the lives of two soldiers of Hotel Moscow was caused by two unlikely assassins … and this is the first episode on the four disc box set!

In the wake of the massacre, for the first time the Chinese syndicate, the Colombian cartel, the Italian mafia and the Russian mob run by Balalaika work together to find the assassins with only one clue of their identity … they’re twins and they are children. Known as Hansel and Gretel, the two creepy kids dressed like Goth dolls have a healthy appetite for blood and torture. It doesn’t really matter to Balalaika, though, because she offers a hefty reward for anyone willing to take the twins down.

Of course, Revy is enticed by the reward money and she is joined by Edna, the “nun” from the so-called “Rip-off Church” that acts as the local arms dealer. In fact, assassins from all over the area start arriving in order to collect the bounty. Of course, none of them really realize how skillful these twins are as they not only turn on the people that hired them to take out Balalaika but they’re even able to give every skilled gun (like Mr. Chang, for instance) a real shootout.

Yet if there’s one thing we learn in The Second Barrage is that Balalaika is definitely not the type of woman you want to mess with because she sets up a trap that manages to take out one of the twins without a moment’s hesitation. She definitely has no reservation about taking out a child. Meanwhile, the other twin manages to get Eda to talk the Lagoon Traders to take her/him off Roanpur only to end up – to Rock’s horror – ending the story arc in tragedy.

As heartbreaking as the first few episodes of the set are it is the “Greenback Jane” episodes that kick up the action a couple of hundred notches. We meet Jane, a master counterfeiter and perfectionist that manages to piss off the impatient gangsters that hired her. Jane runs away with the gangsters giving chase only to confuse the “Rip-off Church” for a real church. Lucky for Jane, Eda and Revy are present as they defend Jane.

Sensing a profit, however, Eda talks Revy into keeping Jane nearby in order to get their hands on the printing plates Jane uses for her counterfeit bills. Unfortunately, the gangsters that are looking for her hire some of the deadliest professionals in the vicinity. This includes Shenhua (remember her from the first season?) as well as Sawyer the Cleaner and an assassin that favors a flamethrower.

The story takes a turn for the more interesting when these assassins make an assault on the offices of the Lagoon Traders that result in one of the most exciting battles that will give most action movies a run for their money. I won’t spoil it with details but those who have been waiting to see Revy go up against Shenhua will not be disappointed and even Rock gets into the action. We also learn a big secret about Eda aboard the Black Lagoon that is quite unexpected.

Finally, we find Rock and Revy in Japan with Balalaika who is looking to set up a home base in Tokyo among the Yakuza. Acting as an interpreter, Rock finds that he feels out of place in a world he once called home. When Revy suggests that Rock visit his family, Rock hesitates. Has he really become part of the underworld? A big part of him thinks so.

During their stay in Tokyo, Rock and Revy meet a high school girl named Yukio and her bodyguard named Genji who Revy says he “smells of blood.” It isn’t until Balalaika begins eliminating other Yakuza clans that Rock realizes that Yukio is the daughter of a dead clan member and thus one of Balalaika’s targets. Taking it up with Balalaika, Rock’s confrontation with her is surprising and violent. This is actually the first time we see Balalaika mistreat Rock. Their relationship had always seemed respectful until now.

Interestingly enough, Yukio takes her role as her father’s successor seriously to the point that those loyal to her father join her in attempting to restore honor to the clan. She suddenly gives Balalaika something to worry about when she lays a trap for her and the Russians. Meanwhile, Rock attempts to talk Yukio into stepping down to live a normal life. Much like him, Yukio feels she no longer belongs to the “real world.”

What results is one of the most impressive fights as a captured Yukio is rescued by Revy and the bodyguard named Ginji and then a final showdown that ends in a heartbreaking conclusion.

All is not grim in this second season set and this is what makes The Second Barrage an even more delightful season. With standout scenes like Jane showing her appreciation for a fellow tech geek as well as Revy playing with Japanese children, these episodes will not fail to put a smile on your face.

If the first season box set with like a thrilling rollercoaster, Black Lagoon, The Second Season Box Set is like a theme park filled with heart-stopping thrill rides. With some compelling storylines and hard-hitting action, The Second Barrage is anime at its most action-packed.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
A pair of twins with a troubled past turns Roanpur into a warzone as they take on Hotel Moscow. Then we meet “Greenback” Jane who runs from her employers and forces the Lagoon Traders to take a bullet-filled stand against professional killers. Then, in Japan, Rock and Revy become involved in a fight for honor and survival.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The episodes look great on DVD just as they did in the first season box set. There’s still a lot of blood but this time it’s a bit more gruesome.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English sub and Japanese voices are straight-up awesome and the music will get you pumping. It’s good stuff, indeed.

EXTRAS: B+
Each disc comes with Geneon previews but the fourth disc is dedicated to the more impressive extras such as an interview with Director Sunao Katabuchi (interesting), textless opening and closing theme songs and small handful of promotional videos.

OVERALL: A+
The Second Barrage Box Set is Black Lagoon’s finest moment with episodes that raise the action level. Yes, the first season has a lot of memorable moments, but these episodes will stay with you for a very long time. Thank you, Black Lagoon, for make us addicted to your action all over again.