Dragon Ball Z: Bardock The Father of Goku – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $9.98 US
Running Time: 48 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Like most Dragon Ball Z fans, I found myself not only infatuated with the characters that make up the Dragon Ball Z universe but also the mythos that makes up said universe. It’s a story of epic proportions to be sure and its hero is bigger than life itself and just as iconic as, say, Superman. So if the Dragon Ball series is like the Superman saga then Dragon Ball Z: Bardock The Father of Goku is like the final chapter in the life of Jor-El, Superman’s father.

Bardock The Father of Goku is a short feature that basically tells the story from the very beginning after the birth of Goku on the Planet Vegeta. The infant is regarded as inferior by all the doctors but one who sees this newborn – named Kakarrot – as a Saiyan destined for bigger things. Yes, he might be the son of a low-level soldier working for the mighty Freeza but there’s just something about the baby’s cries that makes him seem like this child will one day make a name for himself.

Meanwhile, Kakarrot’s father, Bardock, is overseeing a mission with his closest companions on the surface of the planet Kanassa. Massive ape-like warriors have invaded this planet and it is Bardock and his team that manages to not only repel the invaders but also slaughter them all. When the leader of the invaders is brought down by Bardock, this foe passes on a strange psychic power to Bardock. The foe calls it a curse for Bardock will witness great destruction as well as his own violent demise.

At first, the threat seems like empty words but Bardock feels the new power within him and while he is healing in a chamber he sees what the enemy had mentioned. He sees the total annihilation of Planet Vegeta and he sees death all around him. More importantly, though, he sees his son in those visions and he can see that he will become a great warrior but not in the same sense as him. At the same time, Bardock is awakened by his son’s cries of fear. Did Kakarrot see the visions as well?

Then there’s young Prince Vegeta, a powerful Saiyan who no longer wants to train but to go on missions. Freeza does send him on a mission far away and sends Bardock’s team – without Bardock – to a planet where the tragic events unfold. Bardock learns of the missions and sets off to join his team only to find a bloody massacre. He does manage to find his close companion and before he dies in his arms he tells him a shocking fact about the mission. It seems like they were betrayed and the culprit is the being looking to wipe out all Saiyans. Dragon Ball Z fans already know who this person is so I won’t be spoiling the fact that it was Freeza.

So begins Bardock’s final moments as he battles his team’s killers then faces off against Dodoria in an impressive battle that is brutal. Bardock is hit with another vision, one that involves his son and the words that inspire Bardock to make a final stand against Freeza. In one of the finest moments in Dragon Ball Z history, Bardock heads to Planet Vegeta as his son is sent off to Earth and goes up against Freeza in a final assault.

Dragon Ball Z: Bardock The Father of Goku is short, indeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on content. There are a few fights in this one as well but they’re monumental, bloody and wonderfully choreographed. More importantly, it’s a meaningful story of a man who risks it all in order to live up to his son’s expectations. This is also the perfect introduction to the Dragon Ball series so if you’re new to the Dragon Ball universe you should start with this one.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Bardock is a low-level soldier working for the most ungrateful boss in the universe but he’s not the type of man to complain. Yet when Freeza is convinced that the Saiyans are a threat to him, a double-cross leads to Bardock making his final stand.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The video quality is actually better than my old copy of this feature so you will certainly love how this one looks on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The English dub voices and dialogue is actually good and does add more to the story than the original Japanese voices. I usually watch the Dragon Ball Z series in its original format but this one is done a tad better in English.

EXTRAS: D
There are only a small handful of trailers here unless you consider the option to include the original Japanese music in your English dub setting an extra.

OVERALL: A-
As far as short Dragon Ball Z features are concerned, Dragon Ball Z: Bardock The Father of Goku is brutal, poignant and worth every dollar. While the fight scenes are few but awesome, it’s the story of a man who wishes to redeem himself in front of the eyes of his infant son that is destined to take on the very enemy and defeat him.

Naruto, Vol. 44 – Manga Review

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 mysteries of Pain and the last message of a true master shinobi.

Disbelief … this is what I felt after I put down Volume 42 of Naruto.

As far as the latest Naruto volumes are concerned, the surprising twists and turns as well as the demise of various characters hasn’t affected me until the final chapters that chronicle the last moments of the Pervy Sage. Jiraiya’s last stand in enemy territory is exactly what we would expect from a man that – while easily distracted by attractive women – is the type of man willing to lay his life on the line in order to gather Intel on the enemy that threatens the village he loves.

In Volume 44, Naruto – who is haunted by the last words Itachi Uchiha ever spoke to him before Sasuke killed him – is summoned to Lady Tsunade’s office. It is there that Naruto receives the most shocking news. At first, he isn’t able to fully understand what is said to him. When he arrived he noticed that Jiraiya’s Sage Frog friends were in attendance as well as the elderly frog Lord Fukasaku … one of the two Great Sages of Mount Myoboku where Jiraiya once trained to become a Sage. Then they tell him that his mentor, the very man that was a lot like a grandfather to him, has died in battle.

Oh, but there’s more news. It seems that the Pervy Sage has managed to secure three key details during his dangerous mission. One of which we do not get to see but the other two are instrumental in unlocking the mysteries of the one called Pain as well as the Akatsuki threat. One thing is unmistakably clear, though, and that is that time is running out and the Hidden Leaf Village is in trouble.

While Sakura as well as Lady Tsunade’s trusted assistant, Shizune, are heading two separate investigations, Lady Tsunade entrusts Shikamaru with deciphering a numeric coded message Lord Jiraiya had managed to send before he met his demise. Shikamaru turns to the Cipher Corps to help him try to unlock the secret of the code. Meanwhile, Naruto isn’t dealing with the death of his mentor all too well as he begins to sulk. It isn’t until Iruka-sensei and Shikamaru comes along that he realizes there’s work to be done.

As Naruto and Shikamaru work on the coded message, Sasuke Uchiha is carrying out the plan that Madara Uchiha and the rest of the Akatsuki had set up. Sasuke and team Taka seek out Eight-Tails, an oddball Jinchuriki who won’t be headlining with hip-hop artist Jay-Z anytime soon. While seemingly clumsy and strange, Eight-Tails manages to keep up with Sasuke and his team in battle.

Meanwhile, in Konoha, the coded message is finally deciphered and it still doesn’t make much sense to the others. Pain might still be a mystery but there is still the two last clues left and the village must prepare itself for an Akatsuki assault. As Lord Fukasaku sees it, there’s something about Naruto that Jiraiya had seen in him and so he makes Naruto the deal of a lifetime. He is to come to Mount Myoboku to train in the Sage arts and only then will he be powerful enough to stop Pain.

The training, it seems, will not be easy seeing as there are consequences that might mean Naruto’s life. Of course, Naruto goes for it anyway but this time he’s not training for the obvious reasons … this time he trains to protect the village and to avenge his fallen teacher. On the other end, the Akatsuki are ready to make the journey to the Hidden Leaf Village. Yes, things are definitely going to get more interesting.

Taking a turn for the more dramatic, Volume 44 of Naruto marks the beginning of some dark times for Konoha as the mystery behind Lord Jiraiya’s death is slowly being deciphered. As the people most important to Jiraiya mourn his passing, time is running out for the village and yes Naruto goes back to train for what is surely going to be one some more interesting times ahead for this series.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
As news of Lord Jiraiya’s death by the hands of the mysterious Pain reaches Lady Tsunade and Naruto, Shikamaru and Sakura lead an investigation with the only clues the Pervy Sage left with his toad companions. Meanwhile, Sasuke and his Taki teammates set their sights on the Eight-Tailed Jinchuriki and Naruto sets out to train with the Frog Sages.

ART: A+
Who would have thought that the most impressive and visually stunning fight sequences belong to Sasuke? Kishimoto’s art is still among the best.

OVERALL: A
The painful loss of a irreplaceable mentor and a trustworthy friend takes center stage in Volume 44 of Naruto while a thorough investigation begins to unravel Jiraiya’s code. On top of that, Sasuke is on the move and so is Pain so the next few volumes will be ones you will not want to miss. You did it again, Kishimoto-sensei.

Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US
Running Time: 104 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The definitive version of a movie that deserves the Blu-ray treatment.

It feels like ages ago when a group of anime-obsessed friends surprised me with tickets to see Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa on the big screen in one of my favorite theaters in Tokyo. I, like them, had followed the series on the small screen so when Ed and Al suddenly appeared on the big screen I was taken aback for but a split second before I applauded with the rest of the audience. That same feeling I felt then I felt the minute the new Blu-ray disc started spinning in our high-def setup.

For those who have picked this one up the Limited Edition version DVD, this Blu-ray release contains nothing new as far as features are concerned and that’s Ok because it’s the main feature’s crisp and vibrant Blu-ray treatment that is the real treat. The high-definition video and audio certainly does make a big difference in the quality. I can only imagine how good the original series would look if FUNimation released it on this format but let’s get straight to the review, shall we?

I should warn those who haven’t seen the television series or are still watching it because this portion of the review will contain spoilers. You see, this movie was meant to be seen after the final episode of the series seeing as it continues two years after the events of said series.

Having made the ultimate sacrifice for his younger brother, Alphonse, Edward Elric is stuck in our recognizable version of 1923 Munich, Germany during the country’s most volatile time. In the two years he has spent in a world that is not his own, Ed has been turning to science to find a way to be back on his old world and reunited with his brother. Interestingly enough, he has met alternate versions of some familiar faces … some of them even have the same names. For example, there’s a police officer by the name of Maes Hughes and a shop owner nearby bares the striking resemblance of Hughes’ wife. More importantly, he has partnered up with a young genius that looks a lot like Alphonse.

On the way to show off their latest collaboration, Ed and his Alphonse look-alike friend (named Alfons Heiderich) hitch a ride with a band of gypsies. One gypsy, named Noah sort of reminds Ed of somebody we met in the first episode of the series. It also seems that Noah, a palm reader who can actually read a person’s future, has been sold to some unsavory people in uniform. Stepping up to come to her aid, Ed rescues the girl and protects her by having her live with him and Afons. Unfortunately, all the locals are starting to see things in a new light thanks to a rising political party so gypsies aren’t exactly welcome.

Then, one day, Ed catches a glimpse of a man that looks suspiciously like the very man that turned his world upside down. Is the man in the back seat of the car the Homunculi the man they had all come to know as the Fuhrer Bradley? While the man turns out to be somebody else (a famous person at that), their meeting starts a chain of events that leads to an encounter with Ed and Al’s father, a transformed old foe that crossed over as well and even an old order connected to Adolph Hitler himself. You see, this organization is hell-bent on crossing over to the “promised land” they call Shamballa. In fact, they even found a way to open the gate and send armored soldiers through.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the gate, a 13-year old Alphonse Elric is still convinced his brother is still alive. Trying to figure out what to do to bring him back, the gate opens an armored infantry begins a mindless assault on a city. Al isn’t alone in fighting off the wave as returning favorites show up including General Mustang and Hawkeye. We even get to see Winry Rockbell and the return of Wrath who actually helps Al try to get Ed back to his own world.

I won’t spoil the events that lead to the gate opening again but I will say that Ed and Al do reunite as they face off against a woman named Dietline Eckhart who doesn’t just want to cross over to Shamballa but to destroy it. The reunion is one of those moments that will not fail to put a smile on any Fullmetal Alchemist fans’ face. There’s a massive battle to save their world as all the troops at Central Command fight back against armored enemies. It’s just unfortunate that Eckhart isn’t the most menacing villain the brothers have faced.

Many fans have said that they were disappointed by the fact that the movie doesn’t really resolve many of the things left open in the series. I, for one, wasn’t expecting to know what happened to Hohenheim Elric in the two years absence or why Riza Hawkeye left General Mustang’s side … despite the fact that she’s still crazy about him. What I wanted was to see Ed and Al together again and a story with all the elements that made us fall in the love the series in the first place. Fortunately, we do get that in this movie and yes it is packed with amazing action scenes.

Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa was made for Blu-ray and it shows the very second the movie begins on your HD screen. The movie itself is a fun ride that might not resolve all the issues left over from the series but it still manages to be a movie fans will certainly love and yes we will be watching it more than once. This price tag is steep but if I had a choice between getting this one on DVD or Blu-ray I would choose the Blu-ray version without hesitation.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
While leaving many questions still unanswered and featuring new enemies that aren‘t even menacing, Conqueror of Shamballa is still a great ride with more than enough memorable moments. As Edward Elric attempts to keep a mysterious organization from breaking through to his world, Alphonse continues his quest to save his brother. Plus, there are a number of appearances from returning favorites like Mustang and Armstrong.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This movie was made for the Blu-ray format and it shows the very second the movie begins. You still have to put up with the awkward CG elements when the armored unit makes an entrance but other than that the animation is simply stunning. Even the extras look crisp.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
It’s great to hear the original voice cast for both the original Japanese (Romi Park is still awesome) and the remarkable English dub cast as well (Vic Mignona is amazing as always). Michiru Oshima’s score is powerful and moving and you simply have to love how Blu-ray makes everything sound even better.

EXTRAS: A
There are no Blu-ray exclusive extras but what extras there are in this package are still great. “The Making of Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie” is quite lengthy and informative but it’s the Japanese cast and the separate English dub cast audio commentary that is worth listening to while watching the movie. There’s even a Talk Session with voice actors Romi Park, Toru Okawa and Kie Kugimiya that’s fun to watch. Plus, there are loads of trailers including the original Japanese theatrical trailer for the movie.

OVERALL: A-
Conqueror of Shamballa is an excellent Fullmetal Alchemist movie that might need exceed everyone’s expectations but it will not fail to entertain. It’s great to see Ed and Alphonse again and even more so on Blu-ray so if you missed the first release I highly recommend you skip the DVD copy and pick this one on Blu-ray instead.

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You, Vol. 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

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

A scary kind of love story.

It’s not easy being Sawako Kuronuma as we can see in Volume 1 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You.

Sure, there’s a pretty girl underneath the straight black hair and unwelcoming expression that makes her classmates want to run for the hills but Sawako is a very awkward girl. Sure, it doesn’t help that all the students call her “Sadako” since she looks like she stepped out of a Japanese horror flick like “The Ring” or “The Grudge” but this is the kind of girl who wants to do a good deed every day and to become closer to her fellow classmates.

Of course, it’s not easy for her seeing that the girl has the tendency to creep up to people and, on top of that, her smile looks like a disturbing grin. Besides the fact that the girl comes off as creepy, classmates and other students have circulated rumors that if you look into her eyes for more than three seconds you become cursed with bad luck. Oh, they also think she can summon ghosts for some reason. So you can see why when she opens her mouth, students tend to run away from her.

That is until fellow classmate Shota Kazehaya attempts to have a conversation with her. He’s the only boy in school who greets her with a warm greeting each morning with a smile and while he just isn’t able to look her in the eyes he is clearly not afraid of Sawako. Our creepy girl begins to admire Kazehaya and her admiration for him goes well beyond the fact that the boy is handsome and quite popular. For the first time, Sawako is finally having a pleasant conversation with somebody and that somebody even invites her to an event he planned for his classmates … which turns out to be a test of courage at night.

Because she is seen talking to the most popular boy in class, people slowly begin to approach her. When two classmates, Yoshida and Yano, come up with the idea that somebody (preferably Sawako) show up at the event and play the role of a ghost, it is Sawako who does volunteer. In doing so she wins major points with the two girls who suddenly begin to lighten up around her. The fact is that despite looking like the meanest girls you will ever meet, they have a soft spot for Sawako’s plight. They are even touched by her desire to become friends with everyone.

Meanwhile, Kazehaya doesn’t only want to help the creepy girl become more friendly with everyone around her but he actually wants to see more of her. Before the summer break he even tells her that he’d like to see her again. When he finds a lost puppy, he feels like he found a way to keep seeing her. Soon, other students who would never had approached her want to sit next to her. She even helps her fellow classmates understand their homework. Everything seems to be coming together for the quiet girl but nothing good lasts very long as we can see from the final chapter in the volume. What possible obstacles will come between Sawako and Kazehaya remains to be seen as Sawako comes to realize why the cutest boy in class doesn’t even have a girlfriend.

On the surface, Volume 1 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You feels all too familiar. The creepy-girl-who-is-really-cute plot has been done before in manga like The Wallflower but somehow this one manages to be agreeable and actually kind of cute. The characters are even likeable, although we have yet to see how they develop in future volumes. One this is for sure, though, we will certainly follow this one thanks to Karuho Shiina’s decent art and fun storytelling style.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
Aside from looking like the evil entity from the movie “The Ring,” Sawako Kuronuma isn’t the most approachable of girls. Then she meets the handsome, outgoing and friendly Shota Kazehaya who changes the way people see her. Suddenly, this girl everyone is scared to talk to becomes more popular.

ART: B-
Karuho Shiina’s art is nothing original. In fact, it looks way too familiar but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good and it certainly works well for this series.

OVERALL: B
The first volume of Kimi ni Todoke begins what appears to be a familiar formula that has been done before but the more you read it the more you come to like this series that is actually a fun shoujo read. The characters are actually likeable, although it’s still too early to tell if they will develop into characters you will come to appreciate. Either way, this is a shoujo series we will keep our eyes on for a good reason.

Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks – DVD Review

HistoryofTrunks

Review by: Edward Zacharias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $9.98 US
Running Time: 48 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The fearless and amazing Trunks.

Everyone has a favorite Dragon Ball Z character and in this series there are a number of them that not only manage to stand out but they also bring something to the story. For me, the character that rises above his father’s shadow to become a character that is worthy of his own special is Trunks. If you followed the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z series loyally or even casually you’ll know who Trunks is and why he makes Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks a truly remarkable special.

In the beginning of the special, we witness the passing of one of the greatest heroes to be worthy of the Super Saiyan label. He was Goku and Trunks was but an infant at the time as those that knew Goku mourned the loss. At the same time, however, two of Doctor Gero’s most dangerous and out-of-control artificial life forms decides to attack Peppertown without mercy. With Goku dead, the rest of the Super Saiyans decide to fight the lethal pair. One by one, the heroes fall at the android’s feet. Witness as Piccolo, Yamucha and Kuririn die. Finally, Trunks own father, Vegeta, meets his fate.

Several years pass and a young Trunks still harbors hatred for the two androids that killed his father. Both Number 17 and Number 18 continue their path of destruction and they become an even powerful and unstoppable force that aims their anger at all humans. As Trunks sets out to fight them, he is encountered by Gohan, son of Goku, who stops the youngster from getting himself killed. Instead, Trunks ask Gohan to train him to become a Super Saiyan and Gohan agrees.

I have to say that The History of Trunks stays far away from any cheesy training montages nor does it kill the pace of the special by dragging on Trunk’s training with Gohan. His training scene is brief and touching as Trunks not only comes to appreciate his master’s words but also tries to fill his father’s shoes. Having been an infant at the time of Vegeta’s death, he wonders what his father was like and wonders if he would ever make a mark on the world in the same way.

When the androids attack the city again, Gohan rushes off with Trunks and a battle in an amusement park breaks out. It’s a brutal fight that shows the awesome power of Number 17 and Number 18 who manage to not only defeat the two heroes but nearly kill Gohan. Badly injured, Gohan attempts another confrontation … only this time he leaves Trunks behind. In another massive battle, Trunks manages to reach his master only to watch the great hero’s defeat. It is here that Trunks summons his true strength.

I won’t get into what happens in this memorable fight only that it’s conclusion doesn’t have a typical ending. If anything, the ending is actually quite surprising. What I will say is that in its short length, The History of Trunks manages to cram in enough good action sequences that are animated brilliantly enough to be exciting. I’ve seen some Dragon Ball Z battles that was too chaotic to make sense of what was going on and other scenes that are burned forever in a fan’s mind … the fights in this DVD definitely fall under the Most Memorable Battles category.

Trunks has always been a favorite Dragon Ball Z character of mine and the reasons for this can be seen in The History of Trunks as the boy pushes himself to his very limits to live up to his father’s name as well as the training of his master. While the story is on the short side, this feature makes for it with intense fight scenes true to the Dragon Ball Z label and a great ending that shows that not every battle is a victory for the good guys.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Doctor Gero’s powerful android duo has begun their attack on the city in a time when its great hero has fallen. Even with other Super Saiyans getting thrashed, a boy named Trunks swears to avenge those who had fallen victim to the androids. With Gohan as his mentor, Trunks puts up one hell of a battle.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The newly remastered and digital restored video quality is outstanding and that’s definitely a very good thing. Dragon Ball Z fans will definitely thank FUNimation for the loving care they placed on this transfer.

AUDIO QUALITY: B
Our love is for the original Japanese cast with the original Japanese audio despite the fact that the English dub isn’t bad. The opening theme song is still one of my favorites. Everyone sing it with me: “Cha-La-Head-Cha-La!”

EXTRAS: D
Aside from the fact that the DVD includes the original Japanese audio as well as the ability to watch it with the English voice cast and Japanese soundtrack if you like it that way, there are a few scattered trailers to watch.

OVERALL: B+
The History of Trunks is like a short but intense ride that will have you cheering all the way to the very end and as far as Dragon Ball Z episodes or specials are concerned this is Trunk’s finest moment. Considering its short length, the awesome fight scenes and great price tag is enough for casual Dragon Ball Z fans and the more loyal fans will want to buy. This is one DVD that shouldn’t be missed.

Last Exile, The Complete Series – DVD Review

LastExileCS

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 625 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Flying the unfriendly skies with flyboys and fly girls.

Usually I’m the type of person who does not judge a book, movie, game or anime by its cover but The Complete Series DVD box set of Last Exile not only caught my eye with its beautiful artwork but it made me want to pick it up and take it home. What I found inside did not disappoint me in the very least and while I picked this one up solely by the cover I can safely say that some covers do occasionally hold something special inside.

Last Exile tells the retro/futuristic story of a planet caught up in a war between nobles, common folk and a race of pale elf-like people calling themselves the Guild. Far from the battles between giants ships – like the mercenary ship called the Sylvana – and Vanships (that look like a slightly futuristic version of old World War I planes minus wings), two orphans named Claus Valka and Lavie Head fly their own Vanship as couriers. Sure, they’re quite young but they learned from their fathers who had one day flown on a dangerous courier mission were killed in the mythical Grand Stream.

One day, the pair deliver a message aboard a combat ship and thus get their first taste of what the war is like as the ship is under attack by the enemy. While they manage to deliver their message and befriend a Musketeer named Mullin Shetland, the two manage to escape with their lives and try to forget what they saw but after they compete in a Vanship race the war manages to drag them back into the frontlines. You see, during the race, a Vanship crashes near them and what they find is a dying pilot who is carrying a precious cargo … a little girl named Alvis. Promising the dying pilot, Claus and Lavie decide to take on this dangerous mission to get the little girl out of the hands of Guild hands and to the crewmates of the Sylvana.

Fighting past the triangle-shaped ships of the Guild to get Alvis to the Sylvana, Claus and Lavie join Captain Alex Row’s crew aboard the Sylvana in order to protect the little girl the nicknamed Al. As the enemy attempts to take Alvis by attacking the ship, Claus climbs aboard a combat-enabled Vanship and fights back. Meanwhile, the Sylvana’s best pilot, a young woman named Tatiana is jealous of Claus’ flying skills that even catches the attention of a member of the Guild named Dio. It is Dio who chases after Claus and ends up, along with his loyal servant named Lucciola, a sort of prisoner aboard the Sylvana.

As Claus and Lavie adjust to life aboard a mercenary ship with the weird Dio and their Musketeer friend Mullin, they come to realize the Alvis is not just a little girl but something else that is connected to the Grand Stream and an artifact known as the Last Exile. What it is exactly becomes known the minute Dio spouts a few sentences form an ancient text connected to the Last Exile. Then there’s Captain Row who seems determined to take the battle to the Guild’s leader, Queen Delphina, for personal reasons connected to Claus and Lavie’s fathers.

There are battles aplenty in this series and great dogfights as Claus – sans Lavie as his navigator – decides to fly combat missions with Tatiana. The battle sequences are actually handled beautifully, mixing great animation with CG effects almost seamlessly. One of the most exciting parts in the series comes in the final five or so episodes as the good nations clash, a Sylvana crewmember reveals her true identity and the ships finally head to the Grand Stream.

The true strength of Last Exile is not only the fact that there are great action sequences but the strong characters that aren’t the usual stereotypes you’d find in a series like this. Both Claus and Lavie have their share of problems that make them stand out and yes we know that Lavie likes Claus but it isn’t obvious until another person comes between them. There are also some surprising twists that you will not see coming (e.g. the Sylvana crewmate who isn’t just an officer and Dio’s change from enemy to friend) as well as the final battle with Clause, Lavie and Alvis taking to the air to face off against the Last Exile.

Last Exile, The Complete Series, is simply breathtaking and unforgettable. It’s easy to love an anime series that has personality and enough plot twists to keep you invested in the story that seldom has a dull moment. The series also sports some lovely animation that makes the action really flow nicely and you just have to love how well drawn the characters are in this series. Trust me, the is a series you really shouldn’t miss.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Claus Valka and Lavie Head are childhood friends and orphans who fly the Vanship their fathers once flown as couriers when the war between the good nations and the strange pale members of the Guild forces the young pair to become involved in order to save a little girl of great importance.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
One of the most visually impressive anime series with CG effects that don’t look cheap, Last Exile’s beautiful animation is consistently lovely from the first episode to the very last one.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The Japanese cast is really outstanding and one of my favorite way of watching this series but I must say that Johnny Yong Bosch, Michelle Ruff and Kari Wahlgren makes the English dub truly shine with their outstanding performances. The original score is also beautifully cinematic and we love Hitomi‘s “Over The Sky” ending theme.

EXTRAS: D
There are four discs but the only extra content is just so happens to be a few trailers on the fourth disc and that’s about it. At least the box art and the DVD slips cases features some amazing artwork.

OVERALL: A
Last Exile is one of those unforgettable and wonderfully epic anime series that takes flight immediately and will keep you engrossed from start to finish. With gorgeous animation, original characters as well as stellar action sequences, Last Exile is sure to be the type of series you will actually come to love. Give this one a chance and you’ll see why.

Naruto, Vol. 43 – Manga Review

Naruto 43 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 secret life of Itachi Uchiha.

Hatred can be a powerful motivator as we can see in the case of Sasuke Uchiha. He has harbored a hatred for his older brother, Itachi, who had – mysteriously – slaughtered nearly all the members of the Uchiha clan including his own parents. While Itachi let Sasuke live, the boy was dead inside and thought only of the day that he would stand before his big brother and slay him to restore the Uchiha name. This hatred had him abandon his friends, the village where he lived and even turn to the treacherous snake Orochimaru.

In Volume 43 of Naruto, Sasuke’s hatred has led him to the day he has been waiting for and now, with the power of the fallen Orochimaru, he leaps into the most fierce and personal battle of his life. Of course, Itachi’s strength and ability is beyond Orochimaru’s own power and he pulls no punches and does not hold back any Jutsu as they fight. Even when Sasuke thinks he has him, Itachi manages to push back with everything he has in order to take Sasuke’s eyes.

As the battlegrounds crumble and the nearby forest catches on fire, Sasuke calls upon lightning to try to bring his brother down. The power is enormous and it is devastating but Itachi still remains on his feet. It isn’t until Sasuke calls upon another power that Itachi truly comes to life. You see, that power is none other than that of a certain somebody we thought was completely dead. Revealing an even better Jutsu, Itachi is the one that finally takes care of that said somebody once and for all.

With their chakra spent, however, it is Sasuke who pushes himself to his very limits when he notices that his brother suddenly weakens. Could his attacks finally injured the older Uchiha or did something else cause his brother to suddenly cough up blood? Either way, the young Uchiha takes advantage of this and strikes but a barrier protects the shuffling, bloodied thing that is slowly heading Sasuke’s way. This leads to one of the greatest moments connected to Sasuke and one you will not forget anytime soon.

While the battle makes up this beefy 241 page volume’s most action-packed and moving chapters, it pales compared to what happens after the fight. Exhausted and badly injured, Sasuke is rescued by the most unexpected source … the Akatsuki member known as Tobi. Without spoiling the surprise, we come to learn that Tobi isn’t who he says he is and on top of that he turns out to be somebody connected to the Uchiha clan. Although Sasuke doesn’t want to listen, the mysterious figure who also possesses the Sharingan tells him everything about the Uchiha clan and about Itachi.

I would be doing readers a major injustice if I revealed even half of what the mysterious figure tells Sasuke. What I will say is that he tells the story from the very beginning, mentioning the exploits of Madara Uchiha that Itachi mentioned in Volume 42. He tells the story of the Uchiha clan and their rivalry with another clan during troubled times of war and later the formation of villages like Konoha. Then he drops another bomb, mainly about Itachi’s real mission that includes the reason he slaughtered his clan and why he did not kill Sasuke. You must really read this volume for yourself.

Volume 43 of Naruto is a shocking volume that is both tragic and surprising enough that you will probably want to read it again. Yes, the story focuses on Sasuke and Itachi’s confrontation but there’s a big revelation in the later chapters that is tragic, shocking and sure to replace Sasuke leaving the Hidden Leaf Village as one of the most monumental Sasuke moments. Plus, it’s one of the thickest volumes yet at a regular price tag.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Sasuke’s confrontation against his older brother, Itachi Uchiha, continues in a take-no-prisoners show of power between the two siblings. The destructive power of the two brothers is beyond impressive but the fight comes to a most astonishing end. Oh, but the real surprise comes later as we learn about the history of the Uchiha clan and the secret behind Itachi’s betrayal.

ART: A+
Sasuke’s battle with his brother is simply one of those visually stunning and rare treats that really makes Naruto, Volume 43, an utter delight for the eyes.

OVERALL: A
All we ever wanted to know about Itachi and the Uchiha clan is finally revealed in one fat volume that you will not want to put down until the very last page. Volume 43 changes everything for Sasuke as he comes to understand the truth behind the events that lead to the fall of his clan by the most unlikely source. It’s manga like this that makes me glad I’m a manga junkie.