Dragon Ball Z, Double Feature: Movie 12 and Movie 13 – DVD Review

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Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $24.98 US
Running Time: 105 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The walking undead and brothers-in-arms.

Dragon Ball Z fans can tell you that there are more hits than misses when it comes to the Dragon Ball Z movies … and that’s even if you count the horrible live-action Dragon Ball movie that tanked in theaters this year. This being a double feature that packs the twelfth and thirteenth Dragon Ball Z movies, the first might not be as great as the second movie but this one certainly doesn’t count as a miss.

FUSION REBORN

In the twelfth Dragon Ball Z movie, Fusion Reborn takes places somewhere after the demise of Goku. Spending his time in the afterlife, that is known as Other World, participating in fighting tournaments, Goku is in the middle of a particularly spectacular fight against Pikkon when an accident in a soul processing plant causes a disruption with disastrous results. You see, the cause of the accident – a young man – is transformed into an entity known as Janemba. On top of that, every dead foe is unleashed on the world of the living.

Back on Earth, Gohan and Videl continue their crime fighting career aiding the police when a number of undead foes begins their assault on the city. Dead loved ones pop out of their graves, a Hitler-like dictator rises again with his soldiers and tank forces and very familiar enemies that include Frieza who is out looking for Super Saiyans. With Gohan and Videl taking on Frieza, Goten and Trunks look for Dragon Balls to summon Shenron but the mythical dragon isn’t able to help them so the two kids set off the stop the Hitler-like leader.

Meanwhile, Goku and Pikkon take on Janemba who starts off as a huge baby that doesn’t seem threatening but is powerful enough that he isn’t easy to defeat. In fact, the huge child-like entity manages to lock away Pikkon and put the hurt on Goku. Things get really bad when Janemba transforms again into its ultimate form that would have killed Goku if it wasn’t for a very pissed off Vegeta who teams up with Goku to combine in order to truly destroy the entity.

As I mentioned, it’s not a bad story but it isn’t particularly noteworthy either. It does a good job of capturing the feel of the series. In fact, it does feel like a typical Dragon Ball Z episode … perhaps a “lost episode” from one of the earlier seasons. This isn’t a bad thing, really, but the story doesn’t really give time to sink in the feeling that the world is in jeopardy like in past Dragon Ball Z movies. There are funny moments aplenty, like the scene where Goku and Vegeta are unsuccessful in their first attempt to combine into an ultimate fighter but they aren’t enough to make a great Dragon Ball Z movie.

WRATH OF THE DRAGON

On the other hand, the thirteenth movie is an excellent one with all the things we love about the Dragon Ball Z series plus a threat that does add more excitement to the mix. Wrath of the Dragon finds Goku alive and well and living with his family on Earth. His son, Gohan, and the always loyal Videl are fighting crime as their masked alter ego when they hear that an old man has climbed the tower threatening suicide. When they manage to rescue the old man, he tells them his plight.

You see, the old man has come to Earth from another planet looking for Super Saiyans to help him unlock a strange music box that would awaken a slumbering hero that could save his home world. Naturally, Gohan wants to help but isn’t able to open it. In fact, neither could Goku so they turn to Shenron to open it for him.

What happens next is that the hero does awake and is angry for having been brought out of his slumber. He is Tapion, a lone warrior with a sword and an ocarina who instantly impresses young Trunks. Despite his efforts in befriending Tapion, Trunks finds the young alien on the reserved side and considerably quiet. Then the city is attacked by a huge beast and Tapion disappears. Everyone suspects that Tapion is the beast since the arrival coincides with Tapion’s awakening. Trunks doesn’t believe it, though.

The truth is revealed when the old man that asked them to open the music box attacks Goku and his friends. He tells them that the ancient monster called Hirudegarn has destroyed Tapion’s planet before the hero sliced the creature in half. The only one who can stop the monster is Tapion but in order to do that the young warrior must be sacrificed or put back to sleep somehow. In the meantime, Tapion’s stops giving Trunks the cold shoulder and befriends the young boy that so badly wants to be like Tapion. Trunks reminds the warrior of his own little brother so he is inspired to finally put Hirudegarn down for good.

Wrath of the Dragon has a number of great fights but, more importantly, it’s a deep and emotional story as well. There’s a key scene that is actually impressively dramatic as Tapion asks Trunks to do something frightening in order to save the planet. While the other Super Saiyans step in to lend a hand, this story is more about Trunks and the warrior that really inspired him to be a true warrior.
As a Dragon Ball Z fan, I bought the movies individually a long while back and liked them but seeing this double feature in its newly digitally remastered format I could safe that this is the best way to watch these two movies on DVD. That said, as far as the movies are concerned, Wrath of the Dragon is a far better movie than Fusion Reborn since it’s a fun ride Dragon Ball Z fans will relish. Even if Wrath is the only movie you truly love, though, this double feature set should still be on your Wish List.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
In Fusion Reborn, the dead invade the world of the living as Goku and his family attempts to restore order while fighting a threat that is born from disaster that caused this mess in the first place. The best of this double feature happens to be Wrath of the Dragon, though, which follows a hero who is summoned one last time to fight an powerful enemy that could destroy the planet.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The two movies look wonderful in their new digitally remastered format and that goes double for Wrath of the Dragon that just stands out beautifully. This is definitely the way to experience these two Dragon Ball Z movies.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
There are plenty of sound options so if you feel like watching the movies the way they were seen in Japan then you are in luck. There’s the English dub version as well and it’s actually good but I just have to say that the original Japanese track is the best.

EXTRAS: C-
There are few extras in the two discs except for a few trailers and the sound options. I still love the tin case and the fact that the movies are packed together instead of separate.

OVERALL: B
You just have to love the newly remastered Dragon Ball Z movies that have been packaged together in a double feature set Dragon Ball Z fans should definitely own. In this set, Wrath of the Dragon is the better movie but Fusion Reborn isn’t a bad movie so picking this double feature up is certainly in order.

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Rosario + Vampire, Vol. 6 – Manga Review

 

 

 

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Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Akihisa Ikeda
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Advanced)
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now available

Blood, sweat and tears in Yokai Academy.

You just have to love a series with different monsters in each volume, cute girls, a generous serving of fan service and fights that are progressively getting more violent. The best part, however, is that the stories are now connecting with each another to make for a bigger and better main story. Volume 6 of Rosario + Vampire is definitive proof of this as the life of an average student going to a High school filled with monsters is going to getting a lot more complex in the best way possible.

In the last volume, Tsukune is jumped by a group of monsters known simply as monstrels that hate the pure breed of monster that goes to Yokai Academy. Among the students they hate, Tsukune is on the top of their list for all the rumors flying around the school that Tsukune is responsible for defeating a number of rivals. They attack, leaving Moka no choice but to infuse the injured boy with more of her vampiric blood. The result was a powerfully energized Tsukune defeating the monstrels.

Oh, but the defeat is seen as a disappointment to a monstrel named Kusabi Mido who decides to finally intervene and show Tsukune the full extent of his monstrel power. Before Mido unleashes his plan to kill Tsukune, the young human shows notable injuries that his transformation caused him. It worries Kurumu who quickly connects the dots between Tsukune’s battle and something Moka might have done to him. Yes, we know she has a monster crush (no pun intended) on him but it becomes considerably evident in this volume that she really loves him more than even she ever expected. She even lashes out on Moka.

When Mido does unleash his plan, it works because he intelligently kidnaps Moka when the girl lets her guard down while reflecting on how her relationship with Tsukune is hurting him. Tsukune, in the meantime, is confronted by Mido and the rest of his gang of monstrels. Unfortunately, Tsukune finds himself on the receiving end of a serious beat down as he turns to the “Other Moka” for assistance. Speaking of Moka’s other half, she has always helped Tsukune for her softer side’s sake but it becomes clear that this side of the vampire girl wants to know what she means to him? I won’t get into it but Tsukune’s response is really surprising.

Moka also makes a startling announcement to Tsukune concerning the “blood transfusions” she’s been giving him but during the course of the battle, it’s clear that Tsukune is giving her no choice but to accept her blood. The outcome, however, doesn’t have the exact same effect as the last time because Tsukune’s transformation takes a bad turn. How bad, you might ask? Let’s just say that he becomes an unstoppable force that gives Moka no choice but to take care of the problem violently. It’s a shockingly emotional moment that even alarms Kurumu, Yukari and Mizore.

Before things get even more uglier, a returning character saves the day to pay back the group for having aided her a little while back in a previous volume. Tsukune finds himself reverting back to his old self again, not really realizing how close he was to meeting his fate. The funny thing is that he has somebody watching over him, pulling him out of horrifying situations more than once. While he knows who put him in this situation, Tsukune hopes to see Moka again but the girl is finally convinced that being around him is dangerous. Unfortunately, this is the perfect opportunity for another attack on Moka. It’s a cliffhanger ending that means things are going to get very ugly again so quickly after a bloody confrontation.

Things are certainly getting very interesting and very dark in the world of Rosario + Vampire as Volume 6 pushes the situation into a bloody conflict. Blood is definitely shed but feeling also come up that begins to reveal something even more interesting than the great fight scenes that make each panel jump to life. In other words, Rosario + Vampire is heading into new territory fans of this manga will not fail to keep you reading.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B+
Having faced off against the monstrels with the aid of Moka, Tsukune is targeted yet again but this time by the gang’s leader that wants revenge. Using a captured Moka as bait, Tsukune is ambushed and placed in a very deadly situation that you won’t see coming. Later, it’s Moka who becomes the new target of another attack.

ART: A-
This is one of the more visually stunning volumes in the Rosario + Vampire series as well as one of the more bloodier ones too. The fight scenes really make each panel a visual treat.

OVERALL: B+
Volume 6 of Rosario + Vampire is an unexpectedly darker, bloodier and more action-filled volume that’s an interesting change of pace that deviates from the usual monster-of-the-month volumes. With a story that now branches into other volumes, the upcoming volumes promises to be exceedingly gripping and well worth the wait.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s, Complete Box Set – DVD Review

 

 

 

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Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Rating: 13 and UP
Release Date: Available Now

Nanoha’s greatest battle is also her best.

Unlike Ai Kano who reviewed the first season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, I actually liked the season from start to finish although I will admit that the season did get a lot better in the final four episodes. Sure, the cuteness of the first introductory episodes was there but the final episodes were dramatic and wonderfully executed. Well, the Complete Box Set of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s captures the feel of those exciting last episodes but manages to maintain it through the 13-episode season that makes this the better half of the Magical Girl series.

Once again, we return to Uminari City where a little wheelchair-bound girl named Hayate Yagami is in possession of a rare book that suddenly starts glowing, floats to the center of the room and opens in a blinding flash. What happened after that isn’t revealed just yet but this is the event that sparks a new conflict in the life of third grade student Nanoha Takamachi.

After having saved a girl named Fate Testarossa during the Jewel Seed incident in the first season, Nanoha has been practicing her magic and learning new Mage abilities with her staff Raging Heart. Even better, Fate (who is now Nanoha’s good friend) is coming to live in the city and will attend school with Nanoha. It seems that Fate has had a long trail but thanks to Chrono and his mother at the Time-Space Administration, Fate and her canine-like “Familiar” named Aruf have been studying to become a part of the Administration for good.

Just as things are starting to look good, Nanoha feels the presence of something magical and something powerful. She encounters a young Mage with a staff and is attacked by her. The fight is not only intense but it’s also a small taste of what Nanoha and her friends will be up against in this second have of the series. Their battle leaves Nanoha struggling to stay on her feet and just as she is about to be smashed to nothing, Fate steps in to save her friend only to find herself trying to keep from being killed herself. Then more enemies show up. All of this and it’s the first episode!

As more Mages from the Time-Space Administration are being attacked, it is clear to Chrono that they have a threat the Administration should not take lightly. The investigation begins as Nanoha and Fate try to return to their other lives as Fate enters her first day of school with Nanoha. While Fate makes friends with her classmates, one of Nanoha’s close friends makes a friend of her own … it’s Hayate Yagami, the girl in the wheelchair. Hayate, it seems has a group of loving caretakers, each one dedicated to her every needs. One of them is the same young Magical Girl that attacked Nanoha. Her name is Vita and her companions are also Mages that have sworn allegiance to Hayate as her protective Knights.

With the help of the young archeologist who introduced Nanoha to her magic as well as her duties as a Magical Girl, Yuuno and Chrono discover that the ancient Book of Darkness has been unleashed on the world. It’s power is destructive and since its awakening the book’s pages are gathering enough power that it will spell disaster for the city if the Book of Darkness isn’t frozen and sent to another dimension where it won’t do any harm. So why do these Knights want to use the Book’s powers so badly?

In the course of their many confrontations with these Knights that are far from pretty and blood is even drawn in some of the more violent clashes, pieces of the mystery reveals the big picture and the reason why these magic users are fighting. Interestingly enough, the Knights’ reasons are actually quite heartbreakingly noble. I won’t go into the details because half the fun is discovering the mystery behind their motives but I will say that Hayate is connected to the main reason.

This is why the final four episodes of the series becomes so deeply moving as Hayate is thrust out of existence when the Book of Darkness finally takes its real form. Even the Book’s human form is fighting for a cause that is nothing close to what one would have expected in the first place. The final battle, I must say, is one of the more impressive ones and so is the outcome that makes Nanoha really stand out as a truly great Magical Girl series.

Make no mistake, Nanoha A’s is still just as cute as its first season set but there’s a more mature tone that takes over in this one. There aren’t many funny elements in this part of the series, though, but there are some surprisingly fun ones scattered throughout. When Vita mispronounces Nanoha’s name, Nahoha flips out a little. It’s cute and it works. What doesn’t still work is the fan service, which – in another series with older protagonists would have been acceptable – is still a bit on the creepy side. Thankfully, it is way toned tone here but still present.

In the end, the Complete Box Set of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s has everything you could ever want in a surprisingly exciting, fun and action-packed Magical Girl anime. Having enjoyed the first season, I truly love Nanoha A’s more for the very reason that made the final part of the first season so compelling and a better change of pace. If you are looking for a Magical Series worth sharing with a fellow Magical Girl fan, make it this one.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Nanoha Takamachi is back and even better than ever as she and returning favorite Fate Testarossa discover a group of magically-inclined individuals are out to fulfill an old and dangerous prophecy revolving around a powerful book known as the Book of Darkness. It’s up to Nanoha and her friends to discover who they are and why they want to unleash the book’s power.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
You just have to love how good this season’s episodes look and even more so on DVD that makes the animation look so wonderfully crisp and more colorful. The visual effects really stand out here and Nanoha and Fate’s Magical Girl “transformations” are not toned down but reduced to two or three times throughout the thirteen episodes.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is in top form when it comes to the English dub but the original Japanese is the way to watch Nanoha. Like the story, even the score has become more exciting this time around and picks up at all the right moments. The opening and closing theme songs are just as cute as Nanoha.

EXTRAS: C+
Aside from the fact that all three discs have three trailers in each of them as well as textless songs. The set also includes the full version of the first season’s opening theme song as well as the extended textless version of the last episodes ending credits.

OVERALL: A
A vast improvement over the likeable first season, Nanoha A’s is just a far more exciting and action-packed 13-episode set that is sure to please all Magical Girl fans out there. It’s also surprising to see how visually dazzling the series has become as well but when it comes to the story, Nanoha proves to be just the ticket for those looking for a truly magical and lyrical series worth investing.

 

Kaze no Stigma, Volume 1: Wind – DVD Review

 

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Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 288 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

 

This one could have used a lot more magic.

Kazuma Yagami is the black sheep of his prominent and powerful family. He’s enough of a black sheep that he was immediately disowned by his family and tossed out like garbage left for the garbage men to pick up the next day.

No, he didn’t knock up the neighbor’s daughter or sold his mom’s jewelry to buy drugs. He didn’t insult his father or hit his kid brother. Kazuma’s crime was not mastering the Kannagi Clan’s fire magic that has been passed down from family member to family member for centuries. Understandable, Kazuma grew up angry and even changed his last name to Yagami. More importantly, he made a pact with a powerful force that granted him Wind magic so powerful that it trumps fire magic.

This is the only background information you’ll get about Kazuma in Kaze no Stigma, Volume 1: Wind. We don’t learn a lot about this young man. In fact, we don’t learn much about any of the other characters in the series and that’s what makes them all so one-dimensional and uninteresting. Kazuma, though, does have one thing going for him … he’s something of a bad ass from the very start of the series and that sets him apart from other protagonists like him.

Kaze no Stigma begins with Kazuma returning after his long absence to accept a paid job to clear a dangerous spirit from a house. His cousin from the Kannagi clan is there but isn’t able to rid the house of the spirit so Kazuma does it for him. Yes, he’s clearly more powerful now that he has the stigma of the wind. So when his cousin and other clan members are slaughtered by wind magic, all fingers point at Kazuma.

At least, this is what her beautiful young distant cousin Ayano Kannagi thinks and she takes it upon herself to exact revenge. Ayano is what you call a hot-headed girl who yells a lot. She also possesses powerful fire magic and has the ability of calling up a sword. Even with all this, however, she isn’t able to take Kazuma on or beat him in a fight. It doesn’t take the clan too long to discover that Kazuma isn’t a murderer. He might hate their guts but he wouldn’t slaughter them because there’s no money in it for him.

The series follows a short story arc of the Kazuma and Ayano working together to not only uncover the real culprit but also find out why they want Kannagi family members dead. When they do figure it out and close the case, Kazuma stays to help the Kannagi family with other matters … but for a fee, of course.

We follow Kazuma and Ayano as well as Kazuma’s young brother Ren in a small series of cases. One case involves his brother after he is kidnapped by the Fuga clan that has served the Kannagi family in the past but now harbors a secret grudge against them. After being invited to stay longer, Kazuma is attacked by the family servant that wants revenge for the death of her brother that occurred in the first episode of the series. This is actually one of the more interesting stories in the series as Misao, the servant in question, turns to a supernatural source to gain enough power to slay Kazuma … even if it means that innocent people have to die to get the power.

The series also has a lighter side, such as the assignment that takes Kazuma and Ayano (along with her two classmates) to Ayano’s school where it is said that a ghost haunts the halls. In the final few episodes of this 12-episode volume, Ren meets a cute girl his age who is running away from her prominent family. She holds a shocking secret that is connected to a woman whose family is responsible for protecting Mount Fuji.

If any of this sounds interesting and fun then that’s because some of it is interesting and fun. Sure, the series doesn’t offer any room to really get to know the characters better and the action scenes are handled quite lazily to the point that they’re not exciting but the stories are actually really good. Even the obvious crush that Ayano has on Kazuma is actually fun and Ren taking the spotlight for a sweet romantic twist to the final story arc is enjoyable. These positives show that this series has something promising to offer in Volume 2 … if it doesn’t follow the same path as Volume 1, that is.

Kaze no Stigma isn’t a bad series at all. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that it’s actually an entertaining show with a lot of promise but it just doesn’t quite make the grade thanks to a number of elements that hold it back considerably. For starters, the show fails to make the characters interesting and by the end you won’t really care a whole lot about them. Still, there are some fun moments to enjoy in Volume 1 of Kaze no Stigma if you give it a chance.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C-
After having been disowned by his family for not mastering their clan’s fire magic, Kazuma returns with a new magical mojo that suddenly puts him in the spotlight when family members end up dead. Teaming up with distant cousin Ayano and his little brother named Ren, Kazuma takes on a number of problems that pop up.

VIDEO QUALITY: B-
Like most animation we’ve seen from GONZO, Kaze no Stigma looks really good and the characters are equally great to look at as well. The problem with this series in particular, though, is that the action sequences are handled lazily and thus they are quite boring.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Don’t blame the wonderful cast for both versions, they did a marvelous job and display a lot of energy. Blame the awful dialogue that makes them sound just as one-dimensional as their characters make them out to be in this series. The music is really good as well including the opening and closing theme songs.

EXTRAS: C
There are a few trailers to be found in the second disc’s Extra section as well as the textless opening and closing songs. The most interesting extras has to be the three-part promotional feature called Ayano’s House Call: All-You-Can-Eat Cakes that features the Japanese voice actors Ayumi Fujimura, Shizuka Itou and Yuka Inokuchi out promoting the series as well as sampling food in places like Kobe.

OVERALL: C-
We really wanted to like Kaze no Stigma for all the reasons that make this flawed series also a fun one to watch with some entertaining moments that manage to push its way through its imperfections. Had the series had better character development and more visceral action scenes, this would have been a great anime series but – as it stands – Kaze no Stigma’s first 12 episodes could have been better. Consider this one a series well worth renting.

Bleach, Vol. 27 – Manga Review

Bleach 27Cover

Review by: Edward Zacharias

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

Goodbye old friend, hello best Bleach volume ever.

Just like our own Clive Owen, I too was a just a tad disappointed with Volume 26 of Bleach. It wasn’t a bad volume at all, mind you, but the Ichigo-in-training theme was already done to death in this series. Thankfully, other things happened in that volume that nearly overshadowed the chapters where Ichigo trained with the Vizard and the ending was actually quite startling. Bleach, Volume 27, is a different story altogether and – if I may say – one of the best volumes to come along in a long time.

In the last volume, as Orihime was attempting to cross over to the world of the living after having spent a long time in the Soul Society training with Rukia, her journey is interrupted by none other than the Arrancar named Uliquiorra. He tells her that Lord Aizen wants to see her and makes it very clear that if she refuses it is not her life that would be in danger but the lives of her beloved friends – who are currently fighting other Arrancars – that will be in danger.

The battle, as Uliquiorra shows Orihime, is starting to look a bit one-sided as everyone including Captain Hitsugaya, Rangiku and even Ichigo are struggling to stay alive. As Hitsugaya and Rangiku try to keep from being crushed to death by the one called Luppi, the Arrancar named Yammy is confronted by none other than Urahara. When you see Mister-Hat-and-Clogs going all out you know the enemy is not your average foe. On the other end, Ichigo finds himself getting a beat down by Grimmjow to the point that he officially loses the fight. Fortunately for him, Rukia steps in to lend a hand but even then the two are in trouble. It is a familiar (and very unlikely) person who saves them.

Then the enemy stops their attacks and leaves.

The truth is that they completed their objective, which was to secure Orihime. She is given a chance to say goodbye to one person under the condition that the person in question wouldn’t know about her visit. Orihime could have picked Tatsuki or Rukia or even Chad but she chooses Ichigo. Given a bracelet that allows her to walk through solid objects, she enters Ichigo’s room and finds Kurosaki very badly injured and unconscious. We’ve always known that Orihime has had a crush on Ichigo and that she would do anything for him but in this chapter she doesn’t hold back her feelings. This is, by far, one of the most meaningful and emotionally powerful scenes that happen between these two characters and (to me, anyway) one of the reasons this volume is rightfully memorable.

Then there’s the aftermath of Orihime’s goodbye. Ichigo wakes up fully healed and senses Orihime’s spiritual pressure on him but in a meeting with the other Soul Reapers staying in the world of the living he comes to learn that Orihime is missing and possibly killed by the Arrancars. While Rukia and Renji offer to help save their young friend, the Captain General orders that all Soul Reapers return to the Soul Society and that Ichigo sit tight.

Of course, Ichigo doesn’t sit tight and despite the fact that he begins to worry his three friends Keigo, Mizuiro and Tatsuki, he turns to Uruhara to help him enter Hueco Mundo and rescue Orihime. Interestingly enough, he is joined by Uryu and Chad who had been training and the three set out to the other side where Orihime finds herself wondering if the decision she made to join the Arrancars was right. After all, they are the type of people that will savagely turn on each another. As Ichigo, Chad and Uryu quickly find out, Hueco Mundo is not what they expected. The rescue is actually reminiscent of when the trio (along with Orihime and Yoruichi) infiltrated the Soul Society to rescue Rukia from being executed. Oh, but there’s a different feel to this rescue and you can believe this is starting to look like another amazing story arc.

Once again, Tite Kubo proves that he can tell a story that will have you pausing ever so often to re-read what you just finished reading. Volume 27 of Bleach is like that and after the last volume that felt like a tiresome training story arc, this one manages to be yet another unforgettable and unexpected volume that will remind you why you picked up Bleach in the first place. Whatever you do, do not miss Volume 27.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
The Arrancars are not only battle-ready but they win the unanticipated fight that badly injures Ichigo and has Urahara pulling no punches. Meanwhile, Orihime is confronted by the Arrancar Ulquiorra and is told that Lord Aizen wants to see her and will take not take no for an answer. Worst yet, Orihime’s sudden disappearance is seen a treason by the Soul Society so it is up to Ichigo, Chad and Uryu to rescue her.

ART: A+
Kubo-sensei’s art is particularly strong in this volume and his action sequences are not only getting more violent but more wonderfully detailed as well. Best yet, however, is how well he is able to display emotion.

OVERALL: A
As a Bleach fan, volumes like Volume 27 just doesn’t make me glad I’m a fan of the series but it makes me glad I picked manga as a hobby in the first place. It’s a considerably deep and unpredictable story that will surely open up a story arc that we will definitely and most happily follow.

FUNimation Entertainment Announces First U.S. Release of Dragon Box

 

Funimation Logo

Produced From THE Original Dragon Ball Z Masters, Available on DVD in November

Flower Mound, TX – July 18, 2009 — FUNimation Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Navarre Corporation, today announces that it has acquired the original masters for the entire Dragon Ball Z anime series, episodes and films, and will release all as the Dragon Box for the first time in the U.S. The first of seven Dragon Boxes will be available at major retailers nationwide this Fall.

The Dragon Box will be produced from the original Dragon Box masters after a frame by frame restoration and will span the entire 291 episode television series and all 13 of its movies.

This definitive DVD box release begins with Dragon Box One which includes the first 42 episodes, uncut, on 6 discs.

The Dragon Box releases will feature an aspect ratio of 4:3, the original Japanese audio (with options for an English track or English subtitles), the original episode previews, complete opening and closing credits and a collector’s booklet.

Dragon Box One will be available at major retailers nationwide on November 10, 2009 and will have an SRP of $79.98.

About FUNimation Entertainment

FUNimation® Entertainment, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Navarre Corporation, is the leading company for home video sales of Japanese animation in the United States. FUNimation has a proven formula for launching and advancing brands, and manages a full spectrum of rights for most of its brands including broadcasting, licensing, production, internet, and home video sales and distribution. For more information about FUNimation Entertainment and its brands, visit

www.funimation.com <http://www.funimation.com/> .

 

Vandread, The Complete Series – DVD Review

 

 

 

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Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi/Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

How the battle of the sexes turned into a battle for human survival.

Having missed out on Vandread when it was first released but heard nothing but good things about it from everyone in this office, I patiently waited for The Complete Series set and quickly found myself realizing why everyone loved it so much. You see, Vandread feels familiar but at the same time it does its own thing and does it very well. By the end of the 26th and final episode, I was completely hooked.

Vandread tells the futuristic story of a young man named Hibiki Tokai who lives on a planet composed entirely of men because, centuries ago, their forefathers believed that women were the cause of all problems and were evil creatures that drained the life out of men. As a result, this planet of men build mech-like war machines called Vanguards to fight against women‘s armored Dreads. On the day the military sends out a ship to fight against the planet of the women, Hibiki sneaks onboard the ship only to find out that said ship took off into space. Being a third-class citizen, Hibiki’s presence aboard a military ship is a crime but when the ship is attacked by a group of female pirates, Hibiki’s life changes forever.

During the attack, Hibiki, along with a male officer named Bart and the ship’s Doctor named Duero, are taken captive by the women. During the course of the invasion, however, the male Captain orders the section of the ship destroyed but an event turns that section of the ship into a whole new vessel. With the exception of a cute girl named Dita – who is fascinated by Hibiki – all the women aboard the new ship consider the men prisoners of war.

It isn’t until a mysterious enemy known as the Harvesters attack the ship that everyone on board, including the men, lend a hand to defeat them. With Bart taking control of the ship physically and the Doctor becoming the ship’s physician, it becomes Hibiki’s job to man the only Vanguard on the ship. To Hibiki, it becomes second nature to pilot the Vanguard and he does so to the point of impressing all the girls on board the ship they later call the Nirvana. Slowly, the men on board are accepted by many of the women pirates. Dita, for instance, has something of a crush on him despite the fact that she continuously calls him “Mister Alien” instead of calling him by his name.

The first half of the series finds Hibiki not only becoming comfortable with his new role piloting the Vanguard but also making heads or tails of women. He’s actually annoyed by them, particularly Dita, but slowly finds himself accepting advice from many of the women including combat leader Meia who he unwittingly comes to see as a big sister figure. He even begins to gain the respect of the elderly Captain and the Commander the girls call BC. As all three men become accustomed to working with the girls, the notion of the old days when men lived with women didn’t seem so farfetched or a bad thing.

There are moments when the women turn on the men but they realize that they might need the men more than they care to admit in order to defeat the Harvesters whose plans become known and surprises everyone. As the crew of the Nirvana stops to aid humans attacked by the enemy – such as the time when the crew saved a cult – the pirates begin to focus more on their mission than looking for loot. Many of the crew even begin to grow close to each another especially the three girls that combine their female Dreads with Hibiki’s Vanguard to create three different kinds of Vandread types.

The series’ first season concludes with a number of new characters making their introductions, such as a male pirate and his female gorilla who pisses Hibiki off enough that the young man learns that he should stand up for himself with more conviction. It is on this journey that the young man does become more sure of himself. So, in the second season included in the set called The Second Stage, Hibiki not only pushes on to protect the girls and everyone on board the Nirvana but also discovers the meaning of his existence. He does some growing up … or rather situations make him grow up like the time he helps deliver a shipmate’s baby or when he loses the one motherly figure that made a lot of sense to him.

In the second part of the series, not only is the truth about the enemy is revealed but also the truth about Hibiki as well. Fighting to save humanity, the crew learn many other things about themselves and there’s a big shocking secret about the Commander that pops up as well. Believe me, you don’t see any of this coming and even the final battle against the Harvester foes is downright impressive.

Vandread has plenty of action throughout the entire series and even more mech action to keep the combat fresh throughout. Still, what makes the series such a compelling series is the interactions between the many colorful characters and how they slowly begin to change the way they view the opposite sex. Even more interesting is the peek into what life would be like if women only existed or what a planet filled with men would be like as well. I even enjoyed the playful flirting between characters and how each one awkwardly responds to it. In the end, gender really doesn’t play a role in their final fight but rather what humanity as a whole could do to save what is important to all of them.

What we have in Vandread, The Complete Series, is a meaningful and thoroughly entertaining anime series that is way too much fun to even want to stop watching. It’s characters and interesting plot might seem familiar to fans of the genre but believe me when I say that Vandread is one of those anime series that follows its own path and we’re just glad enough to come along for the ride. Consider this one another Must Buy set.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Hibiki Tokai is a third-class citizen in a planet where there are no women and consider them mortal enemies of all men. It isn’t until he is taken captive by a band of women space pirates that Hibiki and three other men from his planet learn that the two genders can work together to fight a common enemy that threatens all of humanity.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation if just plain gorgeous, especially in The Second Stage where even the CGI effects look better. There are some inconsistent animation in the first half of the series but that’s not to say it isn’t pretty at all.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting for the English dub and Japanese voices are both top notch, although I definitely like the original Japanese voices a bit more thanks to a stellar cast. I like the opening and closing theme songs in the first half of the series more than the decent Aki Kudou songs in the second half. Plus, the original score by Yasunori Miasaki is amazing.

EXTRAS: D
There are no extras to speak of besides the scatter of trailers that comes with the fourth disc. I do love the DVD slim case artwork, though, but that doesn’t count as an extra. On the plus side, it’s great to find The Second Stage in this set.

OVERALL: A
The beauty of anime like Vandread is that we’ve seen this type of anime before but, thanks to its own unique twist and a likeable cast of characters, this series manages to be a surprisingly deep and meaningful series destined to remain a fan favorite. If you haven’t seen if before, we most definitely recommend you pick this one up right away.