Murder Princess, The Complete Series – DVD Review

 

MurderPrincessCS

Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 150 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

This is one princess that won’t wait to be saved.

As a hardcore gamer, I’m use to seeing a princess kidnapped and in need of rescue by a strapping young male hero or the occasional plump Italian plumber. So when Princess Alita is seen jumping straight into the fray with a sharp sword and hacking away at a monster that’s the size of a clock tower I wasn’t able to contain my glee as I watched Murder Princess. As great as it was watching a princess doing the rescuing, I was also greatly disappointed with this six-episode series that needed more than just a pretty, tail-kicking princess to save it.

Murder Princess tells the tale of young Princess Alita who, when we first see her, is being whisked away to safety by members of her royal court who decided to stay with their dying King during a violent coup. The instigator is none other than a man of science named Doctor Akamashi and his pair of super cute doll-like robots named Yuna and Ana. During her escape into the wilderness, the Princess is attacked by a forest beast and as she runs she finds herself staring down the blade of an attractive female bounty hunter named Falis. When the monster shows its ugly face, the startled Princess accidentally pushes the bounty hunter (and herself) off the cliff when magic intervenes and changes these two women’s fate.

You see, when they wake up, the skillful swordswoman Falis finds herself stuck in the body of the dainty princess while Alita wakes up in the body of Falis. Just what caused this magical transference of bodies and souls isn’t full explained … not even in the end. Whatever the reason, though, Alita begs Falis for help her reclaim the palace after the royal watches the bounty hunter (in her own body) slaughtering the monster that attacked them. With the promise of a hefty reward and a royal princess’ word that she could have anything, Falis – aided with her two cyborg sidekicks Dominikov and Pete – sets off to defeat Doctor Akamashi and his robots. Surprising everyone around her, Falis becomes Princess Alita who is dubbed the “Murder Princess” because of how she slaughters her opponents.

So begins the bounty hunter’s new role as a royal as the real princess takes the role of a handmaiden named Milano. Falis hadn’t planned on staying but there’s something about the real princess that makes her want to stay until they find a way to reverse the magic that switched their bodies or until Prince Forland reappears. Of course, Doctor Akamashi isn’t going to make things easy as he sends his created creatures after the newly crowned Queen who just isn’t used to the privileged life of a royal. Just about the only one that knows their secret is the wise dwarf-like Judo who thinks Falis is a good substitute.

While most of the series has the Murder Princess taking on the Doctor as well as saving Milano from the clutches of his two dangerous robots with their interchangeable arms, the real threat comes in the form of a mysterious dark knight and a beautiful witch that waits in the shadows for their time to strike. They don’t have to wait long seeing as the Doctor might have staged a successful coup in the beginning but the guy is an inept villain that can’t even handle a single swordswoman. If it wasn’t for the bloody slaughter in the beginning, Doctor Akamashi and his robots would feel right at home with as the comical villains of a Cartoon Network cartoon. Even Falis’ sidekicks (and their Ghost Rider-like motorcycle) just don’t feel like they belong.

The series does become more interesting when Princess Alita’s brother makes a return after helping rescue his sister trapped in another woman’s body. Personally, I think the series missed some really good opportunities when Prince Kaito shows up … although, there’s a reason his interaction with the Murder Princess is downplayed. Then there’s the witch who finally reveals herself as well as the identity of the mysterious knight. Their intrusion leads to Princess Alita to be dethroned and sent into exile.

In the end, Falis, Milano and the others decide to face their enemies one last time in the palace. The fight leads to an ancient secret that connects the royal bloodline with the same technology Doctor Akamashi introduced. It’s the ending that left questions unanswered and a bad taste in my mouth seeing as the ancient secret only complicates the story rather than make it a fascinating plot twist.

As I mentioned earlier, I was left disappointed by Murder Princess. It’s not a bad series at all but it begins to cram in story elements that have been done before in better ways than what is featured in these six episodes. I did love Falis who is more than just a tough chick with a sword but actually a deeply centered character whose flaws make her all the more charismatic and believable. In the end, though, the story is what really matters and this princess deserves better.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C+
As fate would have it, a lovely princess of a kingdom overthrown in a coup exchanges bodies with a skillful female bounty hunter named Falis. With Falis now assuming the role of Princess Alita and the real royal taking the role of handmaiden, the two battle to save the kingdom of Forland from its enemies and an ancient mystery.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
There’s plenty of blood here for those that like their sword fighting action with blood flying everywhere and the animation isn’t at all that bad seeing as the action sequences are decent.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
Monica Rial and Colleen Clinkenbeard are fantastic as usual and make the English dub all the more enticing. It’s not that the Japanese dub doesn’t do it for me but at least they do the body switch right.

EXTRAS: C-
There aren’t many extras to speak of but the best one happens to be the audio commentary track for the final episode featuring Caitlin Glass, Monica Rial and Colleen Clinkenbeard. The rest of the extras are made up of trailers and the usual clean opening and closing songs.

OVERALL: C+
Murder Princess is one of those anime series that could have been a lot better if it followed its own path and brought its own style to the table. It’s not a horrible series seeing as the characters are genuinely likeable but the story feels like we’ve seen all of this before … and a lot more creatively I might add. Still, this one is worth a view.

 

Naruto, Vol. 38 – Manga Review

Naruto 38 Cover

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: Now Available

The rise and sudden fall of a snake called Orochimaru.

If revenge is a dish best served Shikamaru-style then what we just witnessed between the brilliant young tactician and one of the most dangerous members of the Akatsuki is one of the most appetizing morsels this series has produced so far. If Volume 37 belonged to Shikamaru as he and his teammates take on the enemy that had murdered their mentor then Volume 38 of Naruto belongs to Sasuke Uchiha in yet another unforgettable volume.

Yeah, you read that right. I said that this volume belongs to Sasuke … the same Sasuke that had turned his back on the Hidden Leaf village and then on his comrades when they went looking for him in Orochimaru’s secret hideout. I’m getting ahead of myself here because Volume 38 begins where the last one ended … with Naruto unleashing his latest’s jutsu called the Rasen-Shuriken on Kakuzu. It’s a powerful new jutsu alright but Kakuzu isn’t the type that goes down that easily.

Oh, but make no mistake, Kakuzu does go down and does so in a way that shocks even Kakashi-sensei. The result is Naruto’s arm injured and a massive crater where the Akatsuki foe is struggling for his last breath. When they get back to the Hidden Leaf village, Kakashi and Yamato are instructed to never let Naruto use the Rasen-Shuriken ever again. At the same moment, Shikamaru proves that the kid that thought everything was a drag has grown up a little.

Elsewhere, that snake Orochimaru watches Sasuke in quiet awe as the young man leaves a trail of unconscious ninja. Clearly, his skills have become something even more impressive and this is good news to Orochimaru whose health is finally beyond the skills of his medical ninja, Kabuto. Laying sick in his bed, Orochimaru is suddenly attacked by none other than Sasuke himself.

“I knew you’d come for me,” Orochimaru says to him and with that begins a fight that has Orochimaru literally fighting for his life.

What happens next is something I won’t even begin to describe. It’s really one of those moments that have to be seen and even more so when Kabuto suddenly realizes that the man he has been following is no longer there. Yes, Orochimaru is a snake (and he pretty much proves that in this volume) but as we catch a rare glimpse of his youth we come to realize that a Orochimaru’s childhood wasn’t at all a very happy one despite the fact that men like the Third Hokage had nothing but affection for him. In the end, Orochimaru’s fate is sealed by his own greedy nature.

In the wake of Orochimaru’s end, Sasuke begins to assemble the team that would help him carry out his mission at last. His first choice is Suigetsu who Orochimaru had imprisoned in a tube. Grateful that Sasuke had freed him, Suigetsu does join but not before testing the young Uchiha first and then complaining about his two other choices for potential teammates. His second choice is a girl named Karin who Orchimaru has set up as a prison warden. When they finally reach the prison, Sasuke frees all the prisoners and asks Karin to join … who says she’s not interested in joining but clearly her romantic interest in him leads her to do so anyway.

Finally, Sasuke decides to locate the last member of the team. Despite protest from Karin and Suigetsu, the trio cross the desert in search of Jugo … who is not only an unstoppable and bloodthirsty force to be reckoned with but there’s a secret about him that might be the reason Sasuke picked him in the first place. When they reach their destination, Sasuke and his team encounters a massacre.

Kishimoto is certainly shaking things up and so far he is not disappointing Naruto fans with a continued story that just keeps getting better and better with each volume. Where the story will go from here is anybody’s guess but we’re just happy to go along for the ride. Add Volume 38 of Naruto as another favorite volume in this series.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
As Naruto and Cell 10 finish off the last remaining Akatsuki foe using Naruto‘s new Jutsu, Orochimaru’s health begins to fail him up until the point that Sasuke decides to severe the bond between them. In the wake of Orochimaru’s defeat, Sasuke Uchiha begins his real mission with the aid of two of Orochimaru’s former followers.

ART: A
What can I say about the art that hasn’t already been said before except that Volume 38 has some truly unforgettable scenes.

OVERALL: A
Volume 38 of Naruto is like a sudden splash of cold water to the face as you automatically realize that nothing will really ever be the same after this volume. Kishimoto seems to be on a role as he continues to not only surprise his readers but keep them hoping the next volume comes out quickly. He does it again in this one as Sasuke finally begins his mission for revenge.

Baccano!, Vol. 3 – DVD Review

Baccano3

Review by: Edward Zacharias

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

Villains and heroes aboard the Flying Pussyfoot.

Things just keep getting weirder and more interesting aboard the train that seemed to have been destined for doom the very minute is left the station. With a standoff between a mysterious group of terrorists in black and an overly psychotic collection of gangsters in white, things have turned sour but add a vicious monster known as the Rail Tracer and an immortal and you have a surreal-yet-captivating fight for survival. Baccano! is just that kind of series and as we reach the third volume we just can’t take our eyes off it.

If one thing can be said about the series, Baccano! can never be accused of being linear. It jumps timelines in a way that it shows us events that don’t seem to make sense until more layers of the story are revealed in the present. It’s like a magician that shows us the rabbit and makes it disappear into his hat instead of starting with an empty hat and pulling said rabbit out. In Volume 3, more layers are revealed as the Episode 9 begins with the aftermath of what went on aboard the Flying Pussyfoot. We meet Rachel, the girl clad in green military attire who slipped out of the window of the dining cart when the men in black and the gangsters in white started the fight. As it turns out, Rachel just happens to work for the information brokers that pose as a newspaper office.

Rachel begins to tell her side of the story and explains just what happened when she climbed out the window with a knife in her mouth. In the last volume, we know Rachel caught a glimpse of the Rail Tracer as it crawled along the side of the train but what we don’t know is that Rachel decides to play hero by attempting to rescue the kidnapped Senator’s wife and her young daughter.

Meanwhile, we meet a male conductor by the name of Claire Stanfield who slays a fellow conductor and one of Ladd Russo’s men that got his conductor’s uniform from Claire’s mentor. The slaying is brutal and bloody and as the second man dies we come to realize that this young man named Claire is a human monster. I don’t think I have to spell it and I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that Claire is the monster that has been lurking outside the train slaughtering the men in black and the men in white. As Claire continues his massacre, we get a glimpse of his past that includes his ties to the Gandor family.

Speaking of the Gandor brothers, the series jumps back in time as Eve, who is still searching for her brother Dallas, meets the Gandors and makes a startling discovery about them. Jumping a year back we come to see that the Gandors have been targeted by another crime family and head out to meet them when Szilard Quates and Ennis beat them to it. Szilard, you see, happens to know Maizo and as Firo chases Ennis, the immortal battles Maizo. It seems that the older immortal is searching for the crate filled with bottles of the elixir that find themselves in the possession of a group of hoodlums. In a comical chance meeting, the crate filled with elixir is stolen by none other than Isaac and Miria!

Then there’s the boy, Czeslaw who meets with Ladd Russo to ask him a favor that surprises even this cold-blooded psycho. Ladd’s response is equally surprising but things don’t end there for the kid as the mystery behind him is revealed just a little. Speaking of Ladd, he comes face-to-face with the Rail Tracer as well as a girl named Chane who works with the men in black. The fight between the three is one of the most electrifying moments in the series. The outcome is also one of the more surprising as well.

Baccano, Volume 3, is by far one of the best volumes in this series so far and we can tell that this series is just getting warmed up. As some of the mysteries are still yet to be revealed, a good part of it finally becomes a tad clearer. This is definitely one wild train ride that just doesn’t seem to be running out of steam anytime soon. That’s absolutely Ok with us, though.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
The mystery that is the Rail Tracer is finally revealed as the Flying Pussyfoot barrels towards its destination. While the series still stumbles awkwardly between different timelines, we learn a lot about various characters including the kid named Czeslaw. Jacuzzi steps up at bat to face the men in black while Ladd Russo gets even more psychotic as he battles the Rail Tracer.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This is one seriously pretty and gruesome anime series and you’ll be glad to see that the animation is handled flawlessly throughout. We couldn’t have asked for better action scenes.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The Japanese voice acting is some of the best but since the series takes place in 1930s America it’s the English dub voices that are far more effective in telling the story just right. Besides, the voice cast is awesome and the music is as exciting as the action.

EXTRAS: C-
A few trailers here and a few clean opening and closing theme song options there and you get the extras we normally get with any FUNimation feature. The highlight here, though are the juice extras that come in the form of audio commentary for Episode 9.

OVERALL: A
One of the more satisfyingly energetic and gripping volumes in this strange-yet-compelling anime series, Volume 3 of Baccano! will have you on the edge of your seat and loving every minute of it. Yes, this does sound like high praise but by the time the first episode of Volume 3 is over you will see what I mean. This one is definitely not for the squeamish either.

Claymore, Chapter 5 – DVD Review

 

Claymore5

Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

The breaking of the sisterhood.

Like the Claymore that rescued and cared for her, Clare had often preferred taking on her assignments solo. It isn’t until she saves a boy named Raki that Clare finds comfort in being with others but, in the end, still feels so far apart from her fellow sisters of the blade. Interestingly enough, as she is given assignments with other Claymores, Clare finds herself making a stand with her sisters in an unpredictably difficult battle against a mysterious group of Awakened Beings.

In the last two episodes of Chapter 4, Clare finds herself joining some familiar faces such as Deneva, Miria and a few other Claymores she met along her journey to a mission in the far north. In this little town of Pieta, an impressive collection of Claymores are suddenly attacked by the same Awakened Beings that had torn other fellow sisters in half. Let by different captains, the girls not only manage to hold their own in the battle but also manage to defeat these unusual breed of Awakened Beings. Even Clare is amazed by their skill in combat.

Aside from the powerful Miria, there are captains that make an impression on the other ladies among their squad and even more so when one of them uses as much her Yokai powers to its limit. Dispatching the first wave of Awakened Beings, the girls even begin to form bonds with each another and there are moments in the first two episodes of this four-episode chapter that show an almost tender side that is unlike these girls that seldom show intense emotions in front of each another. There’s a scene where a captain – after putting up a brave front – begins to weep only to find comfort in a fellow sister of the blade.

Unfortunately, not every girl forms a sisterly bond when a Claymore confronts Clare about her new arm. Clare is forced to reveal that the arm’s owner, Elena, has given it to her to carry out her important and very personal mission to hunt the Awakened Being named Priscilla. While the Claymore backs off after Clare’s explanation, it’s the thought of seeing the mission through that is more worrisome. Knowing they would be hit again by another wave of Awakened Beings, many Claymores begin to think that this is nothing more than a suicide mission.

Meanwhile, Raki continues his search for Clare. Sporting a sword and a more confident attitude, the young man finds himself heading north thanks to a few rumors about Claymores spotted in the snowy region. His travels take him to an abandoned village where he saves a young girl that silently clings to Raki. The girl named Priscilla is traveling with a swordsman named Isley. Deciding to travel with them after meeting Pieta villagers that have been evacuated by the Claymores, Raki makes a most startling discovery about the cute young girl that has taking a liking to him.

Oh, and he makes an even more shocking discovery about Isley … the same man he begged to train him in the art of the sword. Is this man connected with what’s going on in Pieta? We also meet a stranger named Rigaldo who makes his way to the village and transforms into a known Awakened Being that begins one of this series’ most bloody and vicious battles. This series has always been violent but these four episodes up the gore factor considerable. It’s also one of the more action-packed chapters as well.

Chapter 5 of Claymore raises the bar in terms of the violent action that makes this chapter one of the more exhilarating one so far. Aside from the attention-grabbing battles, there’s an emotional tone that makes the final moments of Episode 22 a truly powerful episode and another good chapter.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
The Claymore sisters put up one spectacular battle against Awakened Beings that are nothing they ever fought before and manage to survive … that is until their enemy’s ringleader shows up and changes things for the worst. Meanwhile, Raki’s search for Clare comes to a short stop when he meets to mysterious travelers.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The battles in this Chapter are by far the most visceral and outstanding animation as well as the more bloodier. Even the cover is super awesome.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
I like the original Japanese language track but I really love the English dub for the outstanding performances from an impressive cast. The opening and closing songs are still on the top of my favorite song list.

EXTRAS: B
Once again, we find the usual assortment of Trailers and textless songs but you have to love the interview with Nobukito Sue (Kusanagi) and the audio commentary for Episode 19.

OVERALL: A
Claymore, Chapter 5, is an over-the-top, action-packed and shockingly ultra violent four episodes that brings Clare a bit closer to her quest for revenge. At the same time, she finds herself joining her sisters of the sword in a battle they all knew they might not survive but boy oh boy do they put up quite a fight. This is another chapter of Claymore that continues have us glued to our screens.

High School Debut, Vol. 9 – Manga Review

 

HighSchoolDebut09

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

The Unlikely Yet Magnificent Captain Yoh.

People can change.

It just takes one traumatic event or a single unpleasant moment in life to turn a person into a bitter person who no longer even believes in love. For Yoh Komiyama that unpleasant moment came in the form of the “beads incident” that had turned him off love and made him a bitter young man who – by a miracle – took a chance on a girl who asked him to be his love coach. By another miracle, Yoh not only changed his way of thinking about relationships but he found love with a girl named Haruna.

People can change and, as we can see, Yoh has changed thanks to dating Haruna. While he’s become more open to all the things that come with a relationship, some things haven’t changed too much and, as the homeroom teachers in their High school announce the upcoming Sports Festival, Haruna wonders how Yoh will feel about participating in an event that requires students to show school spirit in a lively way that just isn’t Yoh’s style.

The school activities that lead up to the Sports Festival involve students to break into two groups that include those that make banners and those who are rooters. On top of that, there’s also a little matter of the grade captains that are chosen to represent each grade. While Haruna is excited about the events, it is Yoh who is clearly uncomfortable with all of it. During the selection process, Haruna’s name comes up as a grade captain for the girls’ side but the honor goes to another prettier girl. Yoh, on the other hand, shockingly finds his name called to not only represent his grade but also the school itself!

Naturally, Haruna gets worried that Yoh will want to run away from his new duties he clearly does not want. Sure, she cheers him on with words of encouragement but can you imagine Yoh being the captain of a cheer squad? As I said, people can change and Yoh dives head in and begins researching past events and practicing. Of course, Yoh’s reluctance has the other grade captains questioning his involvement as a captain. Imagine Haruna’s reaction when she just so happens to hear them talking about Yoh that way.

Like past volumes, Haruna proves once again that she’s not only a loyal girlfriend but also a very helpful one that tries to aid Yoh as much as she can but there’s only so much she could do for him. It isn’t until the day of Yoh’s debut as a captain comes and surprises everyone including Haruna … he even wins over those who doubted him. It is definitely a great moment for Yoh.

Oh, but if anything, Volume 9 will be remembered as the volume where one of Yoh’s closest friends finally crosses the line. Normally, I would not mention who it is but readers who have been following the series since the first volume already have an idea who I’m talking about. Since the beginning, Asaoka has been the kind and smiling friend who always lend a hand. Since the incident in a previous volume, he hinted that he might even like Haruna. Well, in Volume 9, Asaoka makes his intentions known to Yoh as Asaoka so happens to “just show up” at all the right moments when Haruna needs help.

This time around, though, Yoh makes sure he gets a straight answer out of his friend. The outcome of their conversations leads to Asaoka making Yoh a most interesting and competitive wager that involves Haruna. I won’t go into the details but I will say that it will make you look forward to the actual Sports Festival events in the upcoming volume. We also get a look into what Asaoka thought of Yoh when they first met in Junior high and a peek into his real feeling for Haruna in the last chapter. Things might just turn a bit ugly after all of this.

Volume 9 of High School Debut reaches a very promising twist in the series as a friend becomes a rival and a young man proves love has changed him. While not as funny as most volumes in this series, Volume 9 is still a delightful treat wrapped up in a surprising little package. I know we say this often but we definitely cannot wait for the next volume.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Yoh is clearly the star of this volume and it’s a refreshing change of pace that makes this volume really stand out nicely. In preparation for the upcoming Sports Festival, Haruna finds herself cheering Yoh on as he takes on a role she knows he doesn’t like but accepts anyway because he really has changed. In the end, somebody close to Yoh proposes an interesting contest.

ART: A
The art has improved greatly in this series. I know I said that Kawahara got a bit lazy in a few volumes but she totally redeems herself with this volume.

OVERALL: A
With three volumes left in this great series, High School Debut gets even more interesting as an unexpected love rival makes his intentions known in the final chapter of Volume 9. Surprisingly enough, the school’s upcoming Sports Festival places Yoh in a position that actually impresses everyone in their school and makes Haruna proud. This is definitely yet another fun volume.

 

 

Project Blue Earth SOS, The Complete Series – DVD Review

 

ProjectBlueEarth

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 288 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi / Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

This is definitely not “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

Much like Clive Owen’s charismatic grandfather, Grandpa Van De Kamp also reminisces about double features but longs for those old B-movie science fiction pictures and chapter-by-chapter serials that range from Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. In preparation for writing this review, I went through my grandfather’s collection and found a newfound respect for these now campy-yet-entertaining flicks. So when I finally got to see Project Earth SOS, The Complete Series, I found myself loving every minute of this anime series that tips its hat at the classic 1950’s B-movie sci-fi action of yesteryear.

Directed by the talented Tensai Okamura (“Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” and “Wolf’s Rain”), Project Earth SOS is a six-episode series that – while short – manages to cover an impressive plot involving Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrial life in an alternate reality version of America. It is the year 1995 and the Trickstar is completing its space mission when suddenly the shuttle is attacked by an unidentified flying object. Five years later in the year 2000, during the inauguration of a train that runs on a new technologically advanced engine called the G-Reaction engine; the train is whisked away by the same unidentified spacecrafts.

It just so happens that the train and other similar ships and aircrafts that run on the G-Reaction engine just so happens to be the brainchild of boy genius Billy Kimura. As he attempts to piece together the mystery behind the missing G-Reaction vehicles around the world with his friend – a little girl named Lotta Brest (who has a stunning female bodyguard named Emely) – a boy named Penny Carter shows up with his dog named Washington. Almost immediately, Billy and Penny begin a playful rivalry as the two boys discover that the military is involved in the investigation as well. With the aid of Captain Clayton, the boys find out that this might actually involve being from another planet.

As farfetched as that might sound, however, the boys are visited by the spectral vision of a young girl that tells them that the end of humankind is over. Almost at the same time, flying saucers suddenly appear over the Earth capitol of Metropolitan and begin an assault on the planet. Billy and Penny – aided with their friends Captain Clayton and Lotta join humanity in not only battling the space invaders but also dig deep into the mystery of these visitors from another planet. Why are they targeting G-Reaction vehicles? Who is that girl that keeps showing up with cryptic messages? Who is James, the pilot of an experimental aircraft that is capable of destroying the enemy saucers?

As the story progresses, we come to find out a lot about the characters including the fact that Lotta’s father is a famous scientist working alongside Billy’s father. We also come to learn Penny’s tragic past and why he tries to not only outshine Billy but also fight to protect humanity. In the middle of all of this, a mysterious man keeps showing up attempting to stop Billy and the others from learning the truth about the aliens the humans now call the Baguan. As the boy geniuses and their military friends manage to discover and destroy enemy bases on Earth, they find out a startling fact connected to the sudden disappearances of humans on Earth.

Meanwhile, Billy and the others try to thwart the Baguan invaders in another of ways that lead to disaster for a space rocket team and later with Billy’s father who sets out in a new kind of aircraft. The big piece of the mystery becomes clear to Billy and Penny when they look for a mad genius Professor only to discover that the Professor has been dead for a long time and his granddaughter bears a striking resemblance of the mysterious girl that keeps popping up.

The secret behind this mystery leads the others to venture out into space to finally put an end to the Baguan. I won’t spoil things by explaining any further but I’ll just say that the final two episodes will blow you away with a twist that you really won’t see coming when the truth about the aliens is finally revealed. Really, I don’t think even M. Night Shamalan (of “Sixth Sense” and “The Village” fame) couldn’t have thought of a better twist.

While there are a few weak plot elements along the way, it’s hard to ignore Project Blue Earth SOS’s biggest strengths. For starters, the alternate reality version of America is fascinating. There’s just something so cool about a modern America that seems to be stuck in the early 1950’s where there people listen to old radio programs and watch old film reels. There’s also something appealing about the campy elements such as bad guys firing ray guns, a sexy bodyguard driving a pink Cadillac complete with James Bond-styled gadgets and even mindless zombie drones ala “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

Campy fun aside, there’s also a more thrilling and modern twist to the story that manages to slip through the 50’s B-movie elements. We actually do come to like Billy and Penny. Better yet, we actually do come to like Captain Clayton who follows these two kids out of faith. Not all the characters are well developed, though, because James – who was suppose to be the most intriguing character – ends up being pushed aside to make room for the rivalry between the two kids.

Golly gee, Project Blue Earth SOS, The Complete Series, is a real blast and one of the coolest sci-fi action anime that lovingly pays homage to a good old-fashioned ‘50s drive-in flick and gets away with it. With a cast of colorful characters and an intriguing narrative, there’s rarely a dull moment but I must say that what really makes this one shine is its style and, baby, this one has it in spades. If you’re looking for something different then give Project Earth SOS a try.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN 

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
In an alternate reality version of Earth, an alien invasion threatens to destroy humanity but mankind isn’t about to sit back and do nothing. Aided by two boy geniuses, a secret government agency, a military Captain and a fighter pilot that just can’t die, Earth is about to put up quite a fight. There’s a twist ending you won’t see coming as well.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
It’s hard not to take your eyes off the uniquely stylish backdrops and visual effects that blends ’50s era sci-fi appeal with a modern twist. This is some great animation that works beautifully for a series as interesting at this one.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub voice acting does its best to sound like an old-fashioned radio drama complete with accents that sound straight out of the 1950s despite its technical jargon. Even the alien invader ray guns have that old sci-fi B-movie feel. The original score by Michiru Oshima is beautifully cinematic.

EXTRAS: D
The only extras you can look forward to are a few trailers and the cleaning opening and closing songs, space cadet.

OVERALL: B+
An exciting rollercoaster of a ride and a vintage-styled sci-fi romp, The Complete Series of Project Earth SOS is a deliciously campy and utterly satisfying series for fans of the genre. Complete with flying saucers, ray guns and boy geniuses, this series is way too fun to pass up if you like your sci-fi action wonderfully unique.

Shuffle!, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Shuffle!CS

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 575 minutes
Genre: Romance
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Is there an option to pick none of these girls?

You can’t blame a girl for doing everything she can to win the heart of a kindhearted, handsome and fiercely loyal young boy who sees the best in everyone and will even go to Hell to help a friend in need. Rin is that kind of guy and I actually like him despite the fact that he totally doesn’t get girls and overlooks the sacrifice another makes for him on a daily basis. By the end, we’re glad he’s happy but his choice of girlfriends just doesn’t suit a guy like him.

Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself here but Shuffle!, The Complete Series isn’t your typical fun-filled harem-styled romance. Well, it starts as one but ends up being something completely different near the end of the series. You see, Shuffle! Introduces us to a High school student named Rin who, for the past eight years, has been living with a gorgeous girl named Kaede who basically takes care of him as if they were a married couple. He’s even hated by students from his High school that are in love with the lovely domestic goddess.

It isn’t until one fateful morning in class that their voluptuous and lovely teacher announces that they will be welcoming two new students in Rin’s classroom. One girl turns out to be a lovely girl with blue hair named Nerine and the other a perky redhead named Lisianthus (but wants everyone to call her Sia for short). The catch here is that Nerine comes from the realm of the Demons and Sia comes from the realm of the Gods. You see, several years back, a portal to both realms opened in the realm of the humans and now the human world has both Demons and Gods living among them.

Oh yeah, both the girls’ charming fathers make it clear that they want Rin to be a potential husband to either Nerine and Sia who seem to be crazy about the young boy. You see, at some point, both girls ran into Rin when they were children and found comfort in meeting him. So if you thought every guy who hated Rin before all despise him now that he has two very attractive young girls willing to do anything to win his heart. The running gag in the series is Rin being attacked by boys that form funny fan clubs for each girl.

For the next few 12 episodes of this 24 episode series, Shuffle! follows a lighthearted romantic-comedy routine filled with more than enough fan service to please the male audience. In fact, the series goes overboard with the fan service that ranges from excessive panty flashes (there’s even an entire episode dedicated to panties) to a number of nude scenes. If that’s your thing then Shuffle! is the series for you.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for quality storytelling, you won’t find it in this series … although there are episodes that show how addictively watch-worthy this series could have been if the story didn’t fall apart midway. I do enjoy how each girl goes out of their way try to please Rin and it’s even more entertaining when his friend, Itsuki, paints an unsavory picture of his relationship with the girls. Then there’s the other girls in his life that add more trouble. Rin and Kaede’s friend, Asa, joins the group of Rin’s admirers and then there’s a little girl named Primula who shows up (although, Primula becomes more like a kid sister than a romantic interest).

As the series progresses, Rin comes to realize a number of things about his feeling for the girls as well as discovers a few interesting things about Nerine and Sia. Dating Nerine, he comes to learn that the little girl he hung out with one day might not have been Nerine herself. Then he comes to realize that Sia has another side to her that makes her come off as a multiple personality mental patient. Oh, and then there’s the troubled history between him and Kaede. While most of the series begins with Kaede being the cute and understanding girl that is pushed aside, she turns into something else later in the series. If anything, these girls start becoming less and less appealing with each time gets to know them even more.

After the thirteenth episode, however, Shuffle! takes on a more dramatic turn that – sadly – takes out most of the comedic moments from the earlier episodes. Starting with Primula becoming too ill to the point that she is taken back to the realm of the Demon, the series becomes a little too dour. It even becomes a tad uneasy to see somebody as sweet as Kaede show a side of her that is a bit startling when Rin finally does decide who he really loves. At least there’s a happy ending in all of this drama, though, even though the road to that happy ending is filled with some dark moments.

Either way you look at it, though, Shuffle! fails to maintain a solid story with its own personality. Instead, it feels like it tries to be a lot of things and ends up losing its focus. Is this anime a romantic-comedy or is this a complex drama filled with tragic moments? Why are the girls super cute one moment and then totally bonkers later? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the series. In fact, there are a lot of really redeemable qualities and fun episodes. It just doesn’t consistently keep it that way thanks to its story. This series, like most of the girls in the story, looks like our type but – getting to know her better – just turns out to be something of a disappointment.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C-
Rin, the luckiest boy in a world where Demons and Gods now call home, has two new gorgeous girls from the other side looking to become his wife. With his life filled with women wanting to be with him, Rin must put up with jealous students, the decision of picking from regular humans, a Demon or a God as well as saving the life a friend. He does find love but at a price.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The early episodes aren’t as lovely as the animation in the middle and ending of the series since the episodes start out looking a bit hazy as if we’re looking through a soft filter. The girls all seem to look alike, with the exception of their hair.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting works beautifully whether you prefer the original Japanese voices over the English dub that includes an impressive cast of veterans. The score is good but not great, I’m afraid, but at least the opening and closing song (like opening song “You” performed by YURIA) are sweet.

EXTRAS: D
There are no featurettes to look forward to only a scatter of trailers and the clean opening and closing songs from the series.

OVERALL: C-
Shuffle! The Complete Series starts promising enough but it quickly changes its pace to become an exceedingly drawn-out drama that takes the fun right out of this harem-styled romance. What fun moments there are in this series are fleeting but it’s these moments that make Shuffle! a worthwhile series to check out.