Black Lagoon, Vol. 4 – Manga Review

 

BlackLagoon4

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rei Hiroe
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: M (Mature)
Release Date: Now available

Between a Rock and a hard place.

So far there has hardly been a dull moment in Black Lagoon as the series followed a hapless Japanese salary man who became an asset to the Lagoon Traders after having been kidnapped by gunpoint by these people. Rock has been in the middle of some mean battles and has even confronted his fellow Lagoon Trader during one mission but his new life has finally come home with him in Japan as Rock returns to his homeland in Volume 4 of Black Lagoon.

In the last volume, an extreme militant group with ties to Hezbollah has turned their attention of the Lagoon Traders thanks to a briefcase filled with documents linking the group to attacks on Israel as well as America. With no choice but to rush the documents to the CIA, Rock and Revy find themselves in a race to head to an American base nearby. Unfortunately, Rock is captured and suddenly rescued by Revy and an assassin named Shenhua and a driver who is on one bad trip.

Volume 4 picks up directly after the rescue as Revy and Shenhua take turns slaughtering their pursuers that includes the group’s leader, Ibraha and his Japanese associate, Takenaka. It’s a short chapter that doesn’t feel very complete in this volume. In fact, it feels like the chapter should have been wrapped up in Volume 3. Two interesting things does happen in this chapter that includes a shocking exchange between Takenaka and Ibraha as well as an interesting revelation about Revy once they do meet up with the CIA operatives who recognize her right away.

In a change of pace, the next chapter finds Rock back in Japan but he’s not in town visiting relatives. He’s been invited by Balalaika and the rest of Hotel Moscow to be an interpreter for her while she conducts business with members of a Yakuza clan known as the Washimine-gumi. Even with Revy by his side, Rock feels a bit uneasy about the situation and even more so when Balalaika demonstrates Hotel Moscow’s military power by destroying a business front of the Kosa Kai clan. It is clear to the Washimine-gumi that playing with the Russians is like playing with a wild fire that will swallow up everything in its path.

Meanwhile, Rock and Revy decide to check out one of Tokyo’s Ennichi, a sort of festival much like our carnivals, only to find Revy going nuts over a fixed shooting gallery game. It is here that they meet a cute school girl and her tall bodyguard named Ginji who Revy identifies as a man who has shed his share of blood. A friendship is struck between Rock and the school girl who turns out to be Yukio Washimine … the only direct descendant of the Washimine-gumi that is currently without a boss seeing as Yukio’s father passed away.

As Hotel Moscow begins its destructive mission in Japan, Rock gets a better understanding of how dangerous the situation is in his home turf when a flashy gangster named Chaka who tries hitting on Revy and ends up beating up Rock. It’s clear to them both that Chaka is an out of control maniac that wanted to get into a gunfight with Revy. On top of the rising tensions in Japan, Revy even asks Benny to ship her guns to Tokyo just in case.

In another chance encounter with Yukio, Rock suddenly comes to the realization that he is talking to a member of the Washimine-gumi. Ginji, it seems, has tried hard to shield the girl from the organized crime underworld but it seems that her family’s honor is at stake and this causes Yukio to make a very rash decision that puts her in a direct confrontation with Hotel Moscow. She swiftly takes action against the Russian’s Japanese connections as Balalaika turns her attention on the girl. As Rock rushes to warn Yukio, traitors among her own ranks do the unspeakable.

Black Lagoon, Volume 4, does a great job of setting up what will definitely become an interesting and action-packed chapter. Sure, I was slightly disappointed by the flimsy ending to the last chapter but there’s a lot more going on in the Japan story arc that looks to be leading into a chapter that will place Rock and Revy in a dangerous yet exciting situation.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
The ending of Volume 3’s exciting story ends hastily as Revy rescues Rock from the militant group to rendezvous with the CIA. In the other half of the volume, Rock (accompanied by Revy) heads back to Japan with Balalaika who asked him to be her translator as Hotel Moscow aims to destroy Yakuza factions getting in the way of her Russian partners. Rock and Revy find themselves meeting a girl destined to take the main seat of her family crime syndicate.

ART: A
Hiroe-sensei’s art is always a treat to look at and his action sequences are wonderfully detailed and over-the-top gruesome.

OVERALL: B
Volume 4 of Black Lagoon isn’t as flashy or as fun as the last three volumes in the series but it does a good job of setting up a story that will soon erupt in a bloodbath between the Japanese Yakuza and Balalaika’s Russian forces with Rock and Revy caught in the middle. Unlike the last story, this one will most definitely have a bigger and better ending.

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D.Gray-Man, Season One Part One – DVD Review

DGrayManS1P1

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

What price would you be willing to pay to bring back the dead?

You wouldn’t know by looking at him but Allen Walker is a powerful young Exorcist with the power that shocks even the seasoned Exorcists that have waged a war against the Akuma threat. If you know who Allen Walker is then you are familiar with the Shonen Jump Advanced manga of the same name as FUNimation brings us the first 13-episodes of Season One Part One of D. Gray-Man.

In a nineteenth century alternate version of England, a 15-year old boy with snow white hair gets out of a coach looking for a cat that was entrusted to him that hopped out into the street where a female police officer comes into contact with a demon that is known as an Akuma. As fellow officer are slaughtered right before her eyes, this young boy with the white hear turns to face it with his left hand suddenly turns into a weapon and an eye that can see into the Akuma’s very being. This boy is Allen Walker, a young Exorcist who happens to be the apprentice of a famous Exorcist.

Under the order of his mentor, Allen has come to England to join the Black Order of exorcists that fight the Akuma. More importantly, Allen is here to put an end to the reason there are Akuma in the first place and that is to stop an evil force known only as the Millennium Earl. Who is the Millennium Earl and why does he wish to see the world burn? All we really know is that Earl shows up to convince those grieving from the loss of a loved one with the offer to bring said loved one back from the dead … for a price he never really mentions until the risen dead devours the one that turned him/her into a vile-looking demon capable of twisting its body into a weapon.

Unfortunately, Allen isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms when he does manage to find the Exorcist’s headquarters and immediately angers a fellow exorcist named Kanda who also happens to be a swordsman as well. He does find that the Black Order has more than enough resources to get the job done thanks to a science department run by a likeable Chief. His abilities are quickly noticed by his new comrades who have never seen powers quite like his and it soon becomes known that Allen Walker is cursed … but in a good way. I’d explain but I’d be ruining a big part of the story you really must see for yourself.

Unlike the manga, the anime gets the explanations out of the way rather quickly, spelling out the Black Order’s true mission is to collect fragments – called Innocence – of an ancient cube dropped on Earth. This mission isn’t going to be easy seeing as the Millennium Earl is also after the fragments as well. Speaking of missions, Allen takes on his first mission with Kanda and a Finder (an operative that sniffs out the Akuma) named Toma to an abandoned town called Mater that is haunted by a ghost. What they discover is a very dangerous clown-like Akuma as well as a young man and a young girl … all of which could be the famous “Ghost of Mater.”

On their way back from their lengthy and intense mission in Mater, Allen encounters a town where a young man has cried Akuma one too many times that all the people that know him are finally tired of him. The only one who believes him is Allen who discovers that this boy is the son of one of the exorcists working in headquarters. In order to protect him, Allen heads back to the town just in time to discover that the boy’s friend leads the kid to the Millennium Earl. It is here that Allen Walker meets face-to-face with Earl in a fight that reveals a lot about the young man. It’s lucky that Allen gets some backup from the Chief’s cute sister, Lenalee.

In another mission, Allen and Lenalee head to a town where a woman named Miranda Lotto who is living the same day again and again to the point that the poor girl is going crazy. As the two Exorcists try to discover the cause of this strange phenomenon, Millennium Earl’s “family” sends an agent of evil to find the cause as well. This agent comes in the form of a goth girl named Road Kamelot that proves to be quite intimidating and overly dangerous. They battle to save Miranda who they see as a key to the location of Innocence.

The battle between Road, Allen and Lenalee leaves the two Exorcists badly injured to the point that Allen begins to worry about his right eye that allows him to see Akuma quickly. Without the eye he becomes a target for Akuma attack but thankfully he meets a new friend named Lavi that befriends him. The battle against the Millennium Earl is but the beginning of a bigger picture, it seems.

Fans of the manga will quickly find out that the anime pushes the action above the story and thus really doesn’t give you a chance to warm up to the rest of the cast of characters much like the manga does. Secondly, the English dub is all over the place when it comes to the accents that doesn’t make the series feel like it takes place in Europe. It is good to see that the series does capture some of the lighter moments of the series, like the single episode where one of the Chief’s robot creations chases Allen and Lenalee around headquarters or Kanda’s insistence in calling Allen “Short Stack.”

In the end, D. Gray-Man, Season One Part One is a decent version of this excellent manga series albeit not a very perfect anime. With an emphasis on action rather than building character or offering a more inspiring story, the series does have its really fun moments that should be entertaining enough for devoted fans of the manga or those who never picked up a volume of the series at all.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
In a world where souls can be corrupted by a powerfully evil force known as the Millennium Earl, a young Exorcist named Allen Walker dares to challenge him in an attempt to not only cleanse the troubled souls but also save them. We follow Allen as he looks into the a few cases that has a boy fighting against Akuma, a “ghost” that haunts an abandoned town and a woman experiencing the same day over and over again.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The series sports some amazing fight sequences and you have to love the unique visual style that makes everything from clothing to the Millennium Earl himself really stand out. The series can be a tad too dark but it fits the D. Gray Man theme nicely enough.

AUDIO QUALITY: B-
This is a case where the Japanese voice acting is far more superior seeing as the mishmash of accents in the English dub feels a bit out of place given the location and year the story takes place. This is not to say that the dub is bad but just not handled rationally. The opening song “Innocent” by the abingdon boys is a great song and the closing song by NIRGILIS is cool too.

EXTRAS: C-
There’s an audio commentary track for Episode 2 in the first disc and textless songs and a few trailers on the second DVD. Other than that, there aren’t many bonus material to enjoy.

OVERALL: B
Fans of the manga will certainly enjoy a lot about Season One Part One of D. Gray-Man while complain about the few noticeable issues that could have made this a superior anime adaptation. The few problems there are, however, don’t really take away from a great viewing experience for those new to the world of Allen Walker.

Naruto, Vol. 39 – Manga Review

Naruto 39 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: Available Now

Sasuke Uchiha and the rise of the Hebi.

Orochimaru is dead.

News of Konoha’s biggest threat and one of the most dangerous villains to come along in a long time has finally reached nearly ever village that knew of the snake’s treacherous path of destruction. In Volume 38 of Naruto, the killer was none other than young Sasuke Uchiha … who, soon after slaying Orochimaru, wasted no time in setting off to kill his brother with the aid of two others. In Naruto, Volume 39, Sasuke’s path will lead him to an even darker side as he forms his own cell.

As I mentioned above, though, news spread fast of the defeat of Orochimaru as Naruto and Sakura are called into the Lady Hokage’s office where Jiraiya tells them that the person responsible was their former teammate. This is seen as good news to Naruto since he felt that his friend would never let himself be completely corrupted but when he hears that Sasuke hasn’t let go of his desire for revenge it could only mean that Sasuke is going after the Akatsuki.

Knowing that Sasuke’s life would be in danger if he went after Itachi Uchiha, the suggestion to reach Itachi before Sasuke does sounds like a good idea. However, knowing that the Akatsuki have targeted Naruto and all other Jinchuriki, it is Kakashi that suggests his team work closely together with another cell they worked with in the past. It’s a good suggestion seeing as Itachi and Kisame have already taken down a Jinchuiriki host without breaking a sweat.

Meanwhile, Sasuke finds the final member of his newly created cell he calls the Hebi. Having already convinced Suigetsu and Karin to join his cause, the last member – Jugo – turns out to be an uncontrollable force that doesn’t want to cause the violence and mayhem of his past … but then again he’s enjoys the slaughter at the same time. Jugo joins out of a past memory of a friend that was willing to sacrifice his life to capture Sasuke. It’s puzzling to Sasuke’s teammates as to why he picked Jugo to join the team Sasuke tells them will help him slay his brother.

As Sasuke and his Hebi head out to outfit themselves, Naruto and Team 8 (which consists of Kiba, Akamaru, Hinata and Shino) begin their search for Itachi with the aid of Kakashi’s Ninja Dogs. As the others split up up, it is Naruto, Hinata and Yamato that encounter an old familiar foe who appears to have gone mad during the recent events that lead up to this particular mission. Judging by his appearance, he has become twisted and demented to the point that he is certainly going to be troublesome sometime down the line.

As word of Lord Orochimaru’s defeat also reaches the Akatsuki, it is Deidara who wishes to kill Sasuke for personal reasons. Not caring with the older Uchiha says, Deidara takes the hilarious Tobi with him as they find Sasuke alone in an open space that is perfect for Deidara’s type of explosive attack. Sasuke finds himself taking on the two Akatsuki in a battle the impresses Deidara who witnesses the young man’s transformation and new strength. Deidara can’t help but remember his first encounter with Itachi, knowing full well the potential of those Sharingan eyes.

The battle between Sasuke and Deidara doesn’t finish there and the chase is on as Naruto and the others continue their quest to locate the elder Uchiha as Volume 39 of Naruto sets up what is sure to be one interesting encounter. Naruto is quickly becoming one of those manga series that keeps its fans glued to their seats.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
As Sasuke manages to convince the third member of his new cell to join him on his quest to kill Itachi Uchiha, Naruto and other Kanoha ninja are sent to reach Itachi first before tragedy strikes. Meanwhile, Sasuke begins his quest only to find himself going up against Deidara who has a personal grudge against him.

ART: A
Kishimoto-sensei’s art continues to impress as the series is reaching its fortieth volume. The fighting scenes are among some of his best work even more so in this one.

OVERALL: A
Volume 39 of Naruto finds Naruto and Sasuke on a very dangerous path that all leads to the Akatsuki threat that is finally aware of Orochimaru’s death. As enemies clash on the battlefield, it is clear that Sasuke is determined to finally carry out the mission that has haunted him for so long while his friends attempt to find a way to save him. This is yet another great volume in a series that continues to hold us captive.

Bleach, Season Three Box Set – DVD Review

BleachBS3

Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $69.97 US
Running Time: 550 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now 

The Spiritual Pressure is strong in this one.

Willing to risk everything to save the girl that had given him a power greater than he ever imagined, Ichigo Kurosaki (along with Chad, Uryu, Orihime and Yoruichi) has come a long way to reach Rukia Kuchiki. Having faced Soul Reaper Lieutenants and even a Captain like Kenpachi Zaraki, Ichigo finally reaches Rukia only to be confronted by the very man that nearly killed him back in the world of the living. Bleach, Season Three Box Set, covers The Rescue story arc that will not fail to surprise Bleach fans.

Season Three covers episodes 42 to 63 as a badly injured Ichigo – with the aid of Ms. Orochi – steps in for the fallen Ganju. The opponent is Rukia’s own brother, Byakuya Kuchiki, who attacks are still too overwhelmingly powerful even though Ichigo has gotten a lot faster. Before the battle would turn into another bloodbath, Yoruichi pulls Ichigo out while displaying her lightning fast moves. She promises Byakuya that in three days Ichgo will return with enough power to go against him fairly.

While Ichigo trains to gain the ability locked within his Zanpaku-to (called Bankai), Orihime and Uryu try to reach Ichigo disguised as Soul Reapers. While they do manage to fool a few Soul Reapers along the way, a hidden foe that introduces himself as Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi, President and founder of the Research and Development Institute. Knowing that Orihime doesn’t have it in her to fight, Uryu faces the Soul Reaper only to find out an ugly secret about the cruel Captain who has dissected a Quincy familiar to Uryu. The battle, one many unforgettable moments in this season, will change Uryu Ishida’s life that will echo in other future episodes.

As the intruders are finally captured, the Soul Reapers find themselves in the middle of the supposed murder of Captain Sosuke Aizen. It is Momo Hinamori who is determined to find and punish the murder with the help of a letter that Aizen left her on the night he died. At the same moment she confronts a suspect she never thought would be capable of killing her Captain, the seemingly sinister Gin Ichimaru is on the move and his intentions are becoming clearer. What was Aizen warning Momo about in his letter and what does Rukia’s execution have to do with it? It is the young Captain Hitsugaya.

Meanwhile, as Rukia’s execution is pushed ahead 24 hours, Ichigo’s friends find themselves being aided by the most unlikely people … all the Soul Reapers Ichigo had defeated. This includes Kenpachi, who wants to help the intruders in order to fight Ichigo again under friendlier terms. Surprisingly enough, another familiar former opponent joins Ichigo in his Bankai training. As more than a few Soul Reapers begin to believe that Rukia’s execution is wrong, there are confrontations aplenty as Captains battle Captains and even old man Yamamoto gets into a massive fight.

The best moment comes during the final episodes of the season as Ichigo finally does show up on the day of the execution when the mystery of Aizen’s fate is finally revealed. Ichigo fight Byakuya in one of the best fights of the season when suddenly the Soul Reapers learn of the threat that is connected to Rukia. Suddenly, Soul Reapers and Ichigo turn their attention on the real enemy

Last season we learned a bit about a few Soul Reapers like Renji Abarai whose childhood loyalty to Rukia causes him to risk his life to save his friend. In this season, we learn a little more about the other Soul Reapers, which – personally speaking – is one of the things I love most about Tite Kubo. To Kubo-sensei, even characters that might seem insignificant has their moment to shine and become more than just cardboard cutouts. We get a peek into Momo’s early days as a student as well as Soifon who was Yoruichi’s personal guard. In a great episode, we also get a deeper look into Rukia’s life as her Lieutenant dies before her very eyes.

The Season Three Box Set of Bleach reaches an exciting point in The Rescue story arc that makes this part one of the more riveting moments in the series. As the rescue itself takes a sharp detour, the story focuses its attention on a mystery that – once it becomes revealed – is genuinely shocking. If you’re wondering why this show is so popular, pick this box set up and see why.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
The race to save Rukia from being executed continues as the others face off against powerful Soul Reaper Captains and Ichigo trains with Yoruichi to learn how to release his Zanpaku-to’s Bankai. Meanwhile, a handful of Soul Reapers begin to piece together the mystery behind Captain Aizen’s murder only to find out the ugly truth that is connected to the day of Rukia’s execution when Ichigo and Renji fight Byakuya Kuchiki.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The episodes are presented in their uncut format and they still look great on DVD so this is really the way to watch the series, Bleach fans. This is good news seeing as the animation in this series is some of the best and the action sequences really stand out.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Once again, the original Japanese voice actors are at the top of their game and you just have to love all the energy that Johnny Yong Bosch and the rest of the English dub cast provides. The music is still just as exciting as it was in the first two seasons and the ending tune, “Happy People,” is kind of a catchy tune but we love “Life” a lot better.

EXTRAS: B
There’s production art on every disc as well as the same previews for VIZ Media anime and manga but the real treat here is the cute “Kon’s U.S. Tour” as Kon heads to New York City, San Francisco and San Diego to promote the first Bleach Movie as well as Tite Kubo’s visit to San Diego Comic Con 2008. There’s also a Behind the Scenes of Bleach featurette with interviews.

OVERALL: A
What started out as a rescue mission into the lion’s den has become a conspiracy within the Soul Society itself as Ichigo and his friends become wrapped up in a plot that threatens the Soul Reapers in the exciting Season Three Box Set of Bleach. Impressive battles are fought, friendships are formed and the ending is something you will not see coming. This is a season of Bleach that’s too good to pass up.

Baccano!, Vol. 4 – DVD Review

 

Baccano!Vol4

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

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Stories with no beginning and no endings and the love lives of immortals.

After viewing a single episode of Baccano!, you know you’re in for a completely different anime experience. It’s a story that isn’t told from beginning, middle and end but rather skips through various timelines to finally piece together the puzzle that connects each character to a fateful train ride as well as a secret society of immortals. Volume 4 of Baccano! reaches it finale as truths are revealed and some questions are finally answered in the accompanied OVA episodes.

In the last four episodes of the series, the horrific events that take place aboard the Flying Pussyfoot comes to an end as Ladd Russo is thrown off the train and Jacuzzi Splot – having summoned all his courage – fights Russo’s thug who favors using a flamethrower. While we seen Jacuzzi tremble and cry at the prospect of facing such a dangerous situation, he actually turns out to be one of the bravest characters in the series. On the same train, the Rail Tracer finds Chane Laforet still living and, strangely enough, professes his love for her and makes her an unusual offer.

On land, the survivors find solace in each another and it’s like a strange family reunion … of sorts. You see, back in 1930, the standoff between Maizo and Szilard comes to an end as Ennis (meeting Isaac and Miria again) turns on her master. Before Szilard could slay her, the crazy pair defend her only to be saved by newly made immortals that happen to include Firo. The bottles of the elixir have certainly circulated during the course of the series so let’s just say that the immortal clan has gained a number of new members. This first episode is actually the final episode of the series but, thankfully, FUNimation includes the three OVA episodes that flesh out some of the characters that deserved attention like Nice and her relationship to Jacuzzi. Plus, if what did happen to the other characters?

In the first of the OVA episodes, Eve Genoard – thanks to the three Gandor brothers – finally finds out what happened to her brother Dallas. The answer doesn’t only surprise Eve but it also surprises us as another connection to the elixir of immortality might be involved. Later, we are introduced to Graham Specter, a mechanic who wields a huge wrench and is just as psychotic as Ladd Russo … who just so happens to fight Graham and defeat him. Impressed with Russo’s fighting ability, Graham and his crew work for the psycho boss and their first target is Eve Genoard.

Meanwhile, Jacuzzi Splot’s men find Chane and the little crew befriends the mute girl. It is in these episodes that we get to see not only Chane’s past but also come to see Nice’s past as well. Speaking of Nice, we see why she has burn scars and wears an eye patch and why Jacuzzi tattooed his face. As Graham’s poor Intel has him confuse Chane with Eve, there’s in interesting standoff in Graham’s garage as Jacuzzi offers himself up to the psycho and there’s an appearance by the Rail Tracer who – not too long ago with the help of Rachel from the Information Brokers – has arrived to truly tell her how he feels about her.

With many loose ends finally tied up and many of the mysteries finally revealed, the story doesn’t truly end in the traditional sense despite the fact that we leave many of its characters cheerfully bonding over dominos with Isaac and Miria. It is Gustav St.Germain, the Vice President of Daily Days, who says that some stories don’t really have endings and that’s Ok. Some stories don’t have real beginning either but, in the end, isn’t it more fun to believe that all good things never really end?

Volume 4 of Baccano! is a fitting end to an outstanding and original anime series that brilliantly pieced together a riveting story that was exciting from start to finish. The OVA episodes even add to the story as well as offer an insight on a few of our favorite characters. The series as a whole is one of those anime series that is truly unforgettable and outrageously distinctive to the point that you really can’t just watch one episode without falling in love with it.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
As the story finally jumps away from the bloodbath aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, we come to learn a little more about certain key characters including the mysterious woman in the black dress named Chane. As the fate of Dallas Genoard is finally revealed, Jacuzzi Splot puts his life on the line for a new friend. Stories, as the Vice President points out, don’t always have to have traditional begins or have an ending.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
At risk of repeating myself here, Baccano! does the bloody violence rather well and the action scenes really are quite exciting. This is yet another one of Aniplex’s best-looking series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting has always been strong in this series whether you like the Japanese cast or the English dub … which is my preference for this particular series. The original score by Makoto Yoshimori is amazing and we still love Kaori Oda’s closing theme song.

EXTRAS: C+
The DVD doesn’t bring anything extra for the final chapter in the series but at least there’s the audio commentary (with voice actors Joel McDonald and Chris Patton as well as Line Producer/ADR Director Tyler Walker). There are also trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs.

OVERALL: A+
At last, the world of Baccano! becomes a bit clearer as truths are revealed and new friendships are formed in the immortal clan as Volume 4 concludes this fascinating and thoroughly original anime. The final three OVA episodes has its great moments and an unusual romance. It has certainly been a worthwhile ride and this final chapter is a good way to end a story like this.

COMPLETE SERIES GRADE: A+

Filled with larger-than-life characters, bloody violence and a fascinating supernatural twist, Baccano! is the type of anime that doesn’t come along very often. It’s an original story that strays from the traditional and that’s what makes it stand out in the best way possible. We just can’t recommend this one enough if you’re ready to try something different.

High School Debut, Vol. 10 – Manga Review

 

 

HighSchoolDebut10

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

Yoh meets the parents.

When it comes to manga, there are volumes in your favorite series that really makes you glad you picked it up and then there are volumes that makes you glad you love manga in the first place. In the case of High School Debut, Volume 10 is the latter and, as a huge fan of the series, this is by far one of the most amusing volumes that make this one of the best volumes yet.

In the final chapter of Volume 9, it became clear to Yoh Komiyama that his close friend Asaoka really likes Haruna more than he led on in the past. It wasn’t that long ago that Asaoka playfully let a very oblivious Haruna know the he was interested in her. Not believing a word, Haruna went on believing that her boyfriend’s buddy was just joking around. As their school’s Sports Festival is just getting started, Asaoka offered a challenge. The two would compete in a number of events and if that person won it would be he that would date Haruna.

Now that the Sports Festival has begun, Yoh tackles the events seriously. It becomes very clear that the young man hasn’t taken Asaoka’s challenge lightly and, with his girlfriend at stake, he pushes himself. The trouble is that Asaoka is surprisingly faster and manages to win an event that Yoh completes very poorly. The interesting thing is that Yoh finds inspiration in Haruna’s smile and pushes himself to his limit despite an injury during one event. It surprises even Yoh’s sister that her brother is doing things he normally wouldn’t do. In the end, Yoh manages to pull a victory by taking to the stage again as Captain.

I won’t go into the details about how Asaoka took the defeat and the words that are exchanged but I will say that Mami – he unwittingly hears the conversation between the two – is right in telling Asaoka that he might not know how he really feels deep down and that it’s not weird for him to have fallen for Haruna. Leaving the young man to contemplate his true feeling for Haruna, Yoh decides to take Haruna out on a date seeing as the school’s event had given them very little time together.

The date, though, doesn’t go as planned and it is Haruna who suggest that they go to her place to hang out. The thing is that Yoh isn’t the kind of guy who is comfortable with things like that seeing as being in a serious relationship like this is new to him too. When they arrive to Haruna’s home, he finds a star-struck brother, a mother trying hard to impress him and Haruna’s kind father who is grateful that he’s going out with his daughter. The funny thing is that Haruna’s family is trying very hard to please Yoh … who is clearly very uncomfortable. To make matters more uncomfortable, a little spill has Yoh taking a bath. It is in this awkward moment that Yoh makes a surprising revelation to Haruna’s father about his relationship with Haruna. By the way, the expressions on Yoh’s face in this chapter are priceless.

With that awkward date out of the way, the following chapter takes another comical and interesting twist as Yoh decides to take college prep classes that will prepare him for the difficult entrance exams. On his way to English class that Yoh sees a strange girl in pigtails and thick glasses picking up change she dropped. Their eyes meet and the girl is taken aback by Yoh’s strikingly handsome features. She then makes a comment that obviously depresses Yoh. He keeps running to the girl and each time she makes similar comments that ruin his whole day.

Meanwhile, Haruna runs into the silent-yet-handsome kid she met during the entrance ceremony. Not only does the kid talk finally talk but we also learn a few interesting things about him. For starters, his name is Akito and he just so happens to be connected to the girl that keeps following Yoh. Sure, Yoh does startle this strange girl but he also helps her and thus makes him even more interesting in her eyes. When she comically notices a similarity between their meeting and one in a shoujo manga, it becomes clear to her that there is something special about Yoh.

I won’t go too much into what happens when Yoh sees the girl again but Akito offers Haruna a warning that maybe the girl’s intentions might not be so good. A look into Akito’s past does show us what this girl has been through so where this part of the story goes is anyone’s guess but this is something to look forward to in the next volume as Haruna trails them during their class.

With the series nearing its finish, Volume 10 of High School Debut is one of this series’ standout volumes that will not fail to please High School Debut fans. A lot happens in this volume and much of it is not only brilliantly well told but it is also actually quite hysterical. This is romance-comedy at its most finest and should definitely not be missed.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
The competition heats up between Yoh and Asaoka during the school’s Sports Festival as they compete for Haruna. Later, Yoh and Haruna’s date takes a hilarious turn when they decide to hang out with Haruna’s family. Then Yoh meets a strange girl who takes a keen interest in him.

ART: A
I still love Kawahara’s art and even more so thanks to the comical expressions that Yoh displays in this particular volume. You can practically feel his discomfort in this one.

OVERALL: A+
Kazune Kawahara outdoes herself in not only one of the best volumes this series has produced since the first one but also one funny volume that will not fail to put a smile on your face. I’m actually still amazed at how she is able to keep us this interested in the life of a girl who is finally becoming comfortable with being herself. Volume 10 is High School Debut volume you will not want to miss at all.

Fullmetal Alchemist, Premium OVA Collection – DVD Review

 

FullMetalOVA1

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $14.98 US
Running Time: 35 minutes
Genre: Action/Comedy
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Short, sweet and just the right ticket for all Fullmetal Alchemist fans.

A true anime classic in every sense, Fullmetal Alchemist is the kind of series that will forever haunt your dreams. It’s a timeless story that did deserve to be released on DVD and once again in another set and it’s a loyal fan like myself that has bought it again. So the big Fullmetal Alchemist fan in me rejoiced when Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium OVA Collection was released. Mind you, this reasonably priced DVD isn’t jam-packed with content but it’s a tasty morsel no fan should do without.

Here’s the strange thing about the Premium OVA Collection, though. It only contains four shorts that clock in at about 35 minutes of entertainment. Still, before you file this one under “Extras that should have been included in the last Fullmetal Alchemist set”, know that these four shorts weren’t readily available until now. The good news is that there are two shorts that are truly memorable and the bad news is that the other two are just decent … one is even good for a chuckle or two before you forget about it completely.

We’ll start with the good shorts, which comes in the form of a short called “Kids.” It tells a very brief and very touching little story of three modern-day children that resemble Ed and Alphonse Elric as well as a little girl that resembles Winry. It playfully follows these three kids who are on their way to a place they obvious don’t go to often on their own. It’s short and sweet and has a surprise twist at the end.

The second best short is called Chibi Wrap Party where the original voice cast is reunited in an animated short with the characters as cute and super deformed characters meeting in a restaurant after the completion of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, “Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa.” The short makes some funny references to Mustang and Hawkeye’s romance-that-wasn’t as well as Winry not being a big part of the movie. Better yet, it’s great to hear Vic Mignogna voicing Ed again and point out that Aaron Dismuke no longer sounds anything like Alphonse anymore.

“It’s called puberty, Ed.” Al quips. “It’ll happen to you someday.” Classic!

Speaking of Alphonse, he makes a “live-action” appearance in featurette that has a statue of Al placed in various spots throughout Tokyo. Al is searching for Ed, wondering what might have become of his brother and hopes the talents at BONES have the answers. While not particularly deep or memorable, it is funny. Finally, there’s the Interactive Experience … a somewhat lengthy animation that was part of a Universal Studio Japan Fullmetal Alchemist attraction that – unfortunately – is not longer there. The Interactive Experience basically covers a few shorts that have characters like the Fuhrer, Mustang and even Ed Elric addressing the viewer as a new State Alchemist recruit. These are scenes we have seen before but the action is still just as hot.

We would have loved more material here, of course. Another short would have been great but what is here isn’t too bad if you’re a loyal Fullmetal Alchemist fan. With “Kids” and the “Chibi Wrap Party” being the best of the foursome, it’s great to see the Interactive Experience (although it’s not the same as seeing the theme park attraction) and the short “live-action” feature.

If you’re a huge Fullmetal Alchemist fan, the Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium OVA Collection should be added to your collection for sure. Yes, it’s not jam-packed and yes it’s considerably short but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for it in quality. Besides, missing the two best Fullmetal Alchemist shorts would be a real shame to fans that just cannot get enough of all things Fullmetal Alchemist.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
There are four shorts in total with the Interactive Experience being the longest and “Kids” being the reason fans of the series will want to pick this up. While the “live-action” feature is fun, it’s not as enjoyable as the Chibi Wrap Party.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The whole package looks good in this single DVD and the animation is wonderfully sharp and colorful. Plus, you just have to love the ultra cute super deformed versions of your favorite Fullmetal characters.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The familiar Fullmetal Alchemist score from the series and movie can be heard in a few of the shorts but the highlight is the cast for both the English dub and Japanese voices. It’s great to hear them voice their respective characters again.

EXTRAS: C-
There’s a textless score for those who like the closing tune without text and there are a few trailers as well as the original Japanese trailer for “Conqueror of Shamballa.”

OVERALL: B+
The Premium OVA Collection is not big on content but Fullmetal Alchemist fans will find this to be an irresistible buy and a DVD you will certainly want to complete your Fullmetal collection. The four shorts are actually entertaining and the price is within reason so there’s really no reason you should not pick this one up if you just can’t get enough of the Elric brothers.