Black Lagoon, Vol. 7 – Manga Review

Review by: Edward Zacharias

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

La cancion de la venganca y el baile de la muerte.

It took a few seconds for the tall, graceful and seemingly harmless woman wearing glasses and a maid’s uniform to tear a saloon apart with bullets and grenades when we first met Roberta … the loyal maid of the Lovelace family in Volume 3 of Black Lagoon. In Volume 7, another maid – this one smaller and cuter – finds herself in Roanapur recreating Roberta’s path of destruction in the same bar filled with criminal scum in a volume that’s simply one of the best yet.

In the final chapter of Volume 6 we met Fabiola, yet another maid working for the Lovelace family or, more importantly, working for Garcia Lovelace. After the assassination of his father, Roberta has apparently gone rogue so it’s not a surprise that Fabiola has come in search of the head matron who has come to Roanapur in search of those responsible for the death of the man that had taken her out of her brutal life as a member of the FARC in Colombia. As the Colombians begin to make their way into Bao’s already torn up bar the diminutive younger maid turns to the Lagoon Traders for help.

Of course, the situation is a lot more serious than expected and it’s the Triad’s own Mister Chang that spells it out for the Lagoon Traders and Gracia Lovelace who has come to Roanapur with Fabiola. It seems that Roberta has managed to track down the key members responsible for the bombing as well as those that had a hand in the planning. The assassination was too well coordinated to be that of the local rebel factions or the political party rivals. To Roberta, it smelled of United States covert operatives and the hunch turned out to be true.

In Roanapur, though, the deadly maid’s rampage has all the criminal element terrified to the point that Mister Chang not only talks Rock into helping the young master Lovelace and Fabiola locate Roberta but he has called the other criminal heads to a meeting. With the United States NSA on the hunt for Roberta, Dutch isn’t crazy about being involved so Rock decides to help Garcia without the help of Revy and the others. Their search of the city, however, makes Rock realize that even with him being part of Lagoon Traders he is still not able to earn the confidence of the city.

Meanwhile, Roberta is getting along famously in Roanapur, finding help and threatening her way to get what she needs to eliminate the people she’s looking for in the city. Unfortunately, all is not well with Roberta who is not only self medicating herself but is also seeing people who aren’t really there. To top it all off, somewhere in the city is a U.S. SOCOM team, lead by Major Caxton, who is also looking for Roberta. Just as Mister Chang and Balalaika feared, their presence could only be bad for business and the Colombians want to be left alone in their hunt for the maid.

Seeing no other choice but to turn for help, Rock asks Revy to join him in locating Roberta. It’s clear from their little exchange that Revy is tired of jumping into the fray just because Rock has a big heart. Their relationship has come along way since they first met and both have seen some tough situations so it is this bond that makes Revy decide to help Rock. Along with Fabiola, the three search for leads when they come to a realization that Roberta is just about ready to begin a war.

Once again, Roanapur is going to become the center of a major war as a woman’s quest for revenge is leading her down a dark and bloody path in Volume 7 of Black Lagoon. With all the major players lined up, this could only end in bullets and dead bodies and that’s Ok with us. This is a lengthy story arc but seeing as its this good we will gladly await the next volumes to come.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Roberta is on a destructive path for revenge that has all of Roanapur’s criminal underground worried that she will bring the city down as American covert operatives are looking for her as well. Meanwhile, Rock chooses to aid Garcia Lovelace and his loyal maid, Fabiola (who is just a great character), locate Roberta before the Colombians and American soldiers get to her first.

ART: A+
Hiroe-sensei’s art just keeps getting better and better and the action scenes still stand out beautifully.

OVERALL: A
The Roberta story arc is certainly a lengthy one but it becomes clear that it will become a major turning point for the series. If Volume 6 is the set up for the events to come then Volume 7 of Black Lagoon is the spark that will light the fire that will burn Roanapur. This is Black Lagoon at its most ultra coolest.

Naruto Shippuden, Volume 2 – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $24.92 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

The fall of Gaara of the Sand Village.

So far the Naruto Shippuden series has been off to a slow yet undeniably intriguing start that sets this second half of the Naruto apart from its beginnings. This isn’t the story of kids training to become shinobi worthy of their village but rather this is now the story of youths who have proven themselves capable of standing up for their village as we can see from the four episodes that make up Volume 2 of Naruto Shippuden.

In a repeat of the trail Kakashi-sensei placed Naruto and his two teammates a long time ago, Sakura and Naruto find themselves one man short but their training has given them the edge. It’s clear from Sakura’s extraordinary strength that she learned more than just healing from Lady Tsunade and while Naruto is still overeager, he has learned how to strategize. It is this combo that allows them to not only come up with a plan to take Kakashi-sensei’s bells but also execute said plan successfully.

As Lady Tsunade tells them, their success has placed both Naruto and Sakura in a position that now places them as Kakashi-sensei’s equal. The days of their mentor playing the role of lead is over and now the three become a fully functional squad now known as Team Kakashi. This is but one of the two highlights that make up Volume 2.

The other highlight, of course, is the attack the Akatsuki member named Deidara has initiated against Gaara. As the Kazekage of the Sand Village, Gaara has sworn to protect the people of his village. He had put aside the hatred he felt for the village the shunned him and decided to follow in the path that Naruto follows. It’s actually quite endearing to hear Naruto’s former rival express himself this way and it is clear from the battle that Gaara has changed for the better and will put his life on the line for the village that now loves and respects him.

Unfortunately, Deidara is not a foe that should be underestimated. While Gaara pushes his abilities and Chakra to its limits, Deidara is a tricky adversary with the unusual ability to produce powerful C4 explosive clay from his hand. Yes, Gaara has the power of his Jinchuriki as well as his ability to manipulate sand but when Deidara puts the village in danger the young Kazekage focuses his power on saving the Sand Village rather than protecting himself. The result, of course, isn’t good for Gaara.

Before things went sour for Gaara, a Sand ninja sent word that the village is under attack and the distress message was sent to Konoha. Coincidentally, Team Kakashi arrives in time to learn that the Kakekage of the Sand is in trouble so they are the ones that will be sent out to aid the Sand. Lord Jiraiya is the only one who sees sending Naruto on a mission involving the Akatsuki isn’t such a good idea. Meanwhile, Kankuro confronts the escaping Akatsuki only to be pitted against the second Akatsuki member named Sasori who recognizes Kankuro’s puppets.

While the first four episodes of the series set up the events that lead to Gaara’s big battle, the second Volume still has something of a pacing issue as Volume 1. Still, that’s not to say that there isn’t more to love in this volume such as the scene where Sakura actually accepts a date with Naruto. There’s even an endearing change in Kankuro who has become more protective of Gaara as well as an interesting exchange between Shikamaru and Tamari.

A far more exciting four episodes than the first volume, Volume 2 of Naruto Shippuden is the beginning of what will be an exciting rescue mission. The enemy has finally revealed their intentions as they attack Gaara and, with Naruto and the rest of Team Kakashi on the move, things can only get more interesting. Now this is more like it.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
After having bested their mentor at the same trail they failed many years ago, Naruto and Sakura find themselves on equal ground with Kakashi-sensei. Meanwhile, Gaara fights against an Akatsuki agent named Deidara in an impressive battle of survival. Unfortunately, the aftermath of the battle will have allies called into action.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The Naruto series has always been great at displaying exciting battles and this volume isn’t any different. There’s a reason we still think Gaara is ultra cool and he proves it again in these episodes.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, it’s great to hear the same cast again for both the English dub and Japanese voices and the soundtrack is still great.

EXTRAS: D
There are no real extras in this volume either so all you’ll find are the same trailers.

OVERALL: B+
Gaara’s battle against Deidara is just one of a few standout moments in this second volume of the Naruto Shippuden series and things could only get more interesting from here. As Team Kakashi heads out to save Gaara from an enemy that has proven to be more powerful, we can come to expect some very interesting times ahead.

Naruto Shippuden, Volume 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $24.92 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

Return of the boy who would be Hokage.

If you’ve been following the first half of the Naruto series on Cartoon Network, you have probably felt the sting of being cut off from the series even despite the fact that the last portion of the series has been nothing but filler episodes. Thankfully, VIZ Media has brought the episodes we missed on DVD and ran the Naruto Shippuden episodes online via the Naruto website. Well, we finally get a chance to see the second half of the series the way it was meant to be seen … on DVD with the option to watch it with the original English dub cast.

Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden begins, interestingly enough, with a slightly older Naruto and Sakura desperately searching each room in a long corridor that leads to the outside where the friend they had been searching for finally reveals himself to them. It’s a surprising and memorable scene and if you have been keeping up with the manga this reunion doesn’t take place until later. Still, it goes to show you that the anime does things slightly differently and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

The four episodes in Volume 1 finally gets straight to the heart of the story as Naruto Uzumaki finally returns to the Hidden Leaf Village after having taken off to train with Lord Jiraiya two and a half years ago. His shinobi outfit isn’t the only thing different about Naruto as the spunky kid is replaced by a spunky teen who is slightly taller, somewhat wiser and still – according to Sakura – quite annoying. Naruto is happy to see Konoha and realizes that much has changed in the village besides the addition of Lady Tsunade’s likeness on the cliff face overlooking Konoha.

We find Sakura has not only grown more beautiful but also more sure of herself after having trained directly under the guidance of the Lady Hogake. Every student in Naruto’s class has also moved up in rank, leaving the young shinobi behind. Of course, some things haven’t changed at all such as Kakashi-sensei’s love for the “Make Out” series books and even an older Shikamaru still thinks everything is a drag.

In an effort to test Naruto and Sakura’s training, Lady Tsunade asks the pair to go up against Kakashi-sensei much like they did in the first two episodes of the series when they were grouped with Sasuke. Even the objective is the same … grab the two bells that are dangling from Kakashi-sensei’s belt. Meanwhile, the moment Lady Tsunade and Lord Jiraiya feared has come as the Akatsuki finally make their move by sending two of their agents to the Sand Village where the once villain Gaara is Kazekage. Their mission, of course, is still capturing Jinchuriki like Gaara and Naruto.

The four episodes take their time to reach the memorable moments of the manga such as Sakura and Naruto taking on their mentor and Gaara facing the Akatsuki threat. Surprisingly, the Shippuden series skips the usual child-like antics of the first half of the series for a more serious tone that lets the blood fly. There are still moments where Naruto falls back on his usual antics but they feel out of place in a series that is trying to establish a sense of dread. It’s not that the series doesn’t try to lighten things up (I don’t remember Kakashi-sensei being actually funny like he is in this half of the series) but somehow the humor is lost in the drawnout emergence of the Akatsuki and its infiltration of the Sand Village.

Still, Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden manages to be every bit as entertaining as the manga version and yes we love having the Naruto Shippuden series on DVD. Still, the series starts off pretty slow and the pacing does hurt the story … especially since there are some exciting moments to be seen when Gaara takes on the Akatasuki. We will definitely be coming back for more of this series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
After a two and a half year absence from the Hidden Leaf Village, Naruto and Lord Jiraiya finally returns to Konoha. While physically older and just a tad wiser, Naruto finds himself reunited with Sakura to test his training against his mentor, Kakashi-sensei. Meanwhile, the Akatsuki are on the move and are targeting Gaara of the Sand who has a new role.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The real visual treat is seeing the older version of familiar characters so you’ll be glad the DVD looks sharp and does justice to the series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
It’s great to hear the usual cast in both the English dub and original Japanese that continues to bring all these great characters to life. The opening track, “Hero’s Come Back!!” by nobody knows (with DJ MITSU) is just awesome.

EXTRAS: D
There are a few very short trailers on the disc with very little else in terms of extra content. There’s no audio commentary tracks either so there’s isn’t much to look forward to after you finish viewing the four episodes.

OVERALL: B
After a long absence on the small screen, Volume 1 of Naruto Shippuden is like welcome houseguest you have been dying to see in your home again. The four episodes do an adequate job of setting up the events to come but in the meantime the humor of past episodes seems to take a backseat to a more serious tone that makes this series less exciting and more fascinating.

One Piece, Season Two Second Voyage – DVD Review

Review by: Edward Zacharias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 320 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Baroque Works attacks and there will be dinosaurs, giants and tea!

While Season One of the charming and action-filled series One Piece was exciting enough, here comes Season Two blowing a great introductory series out of the water with a grand storyline worthy of the Straw Hat pirates. Traveling unknown waters on a new mission, the Second Voyage of Season Two is by far one of the most zany and fun parts of the second season of One Piece.

Having finally crossed into the Grand Line, Luffy and company have found themselves in a number of peculiar incidents that have led them to a port town that put their lives in danger. It was also in this port that they discover that one of the members of the infamous Baroque Works was actually a spy from the kingdom of Alabasta. As a matter of fact, she was more than just a spy … she’s a Princess named Vivi who has infiltrated to group to locate the leader of Baroque Works who might be the cause of the civil unrest in her kingdom.

Sensing a big reward, it is Nami who accepts Princess Vivi’s offer to not only protect her but to take her back to Alabasta. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t take Baroque Works long to find out that the Straw Hats are aiding the Princess and send two of their agents – Ms. Valentine and Mr. Five – after them. As Princess Vivi’s protector makes the ultimate sacrifice to aid in her escape with the Straw Hats, the crew runs into a mysterious and sexy agent of Baroque Works who tells them of an easier path to Alabasta. Mistrust leads the Straw Hats on a different course that would take them to an island known as Little Garden.

When the crew reaches Little Garden they find out that there’s nothing “little” about the island and – to Princess Vivi’s annoyance – her escorts decide to check the island out in search of food and some time to recalculate their course to Alabasta. Interestingly enough, Little Garden is a Jurassic Park-like island filled with dinosaurs and two battling giants named Dory and Broggy who have been fighting for 100 years. As the crew separates, they befriend the giants and learn of their history on the island.

Meanwhile, Baroque Works is on the move again as we are introduced to new agents like Mr. Three and Ms. Golden Week who decide to not only eliminate Princess Vivi but also get the reward for the capture of the two giants. Setting up a trap that manages to topple both giants, the two new agents plus Ms. Valentine and Mr. Five go up against the Straw Hats. It’s actually a blast seeing Usopp and Vivi’s faithful bird named Karoo put up a brave front in front of capable enemies or watch a helpless Luffy as he is being controlled by the child Ms. Golden Week who has the pirate join her for tea rather than help her friends literally turning into wax statutes.

The battles in this collection aren’t plentiful but they are monumental and actually quite impressive. The series has showed a lot of heart in past episodes and this season is no different whether we learn about the history of the two giants or look into Coby and Helmeppo’s new life as members of the Marines. It isn’t a One Piece series if it also didn’t contain the series’ own quirky touch and there’s no shortage of it here whether it’s watching Zoro and Sanji dragging defeated dinosaurs in a contest to see who can bag the biggest dinosaur or seeing Princess Vivi’s reactions to the Straw Hats at their worst.

One interesting part I should point out is the Han Solo impression Sanji pulls off in Little Garden’s Baroque Works hideout as he speaks to the Baroque Works boss who calls himself Crocodile. As we can tell from what a sick Nami reveals at the end of this second part of Season Two is that Alabasta is in bigger trouble than Vivi expected. The Alabasta story arc is surely going to get more interesting really soon.

Season Two’s Second Voyage of One Piece is nothing short of outrageous and thoroughly enjoyable as the series takes a turn for the more interesting and fun. One Piece fans will simply love the grand battles and the crews stay on an island bigger than life. At risk of repeating myself, we can only look forward to the next voyage in this already unforgettable season.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Accepting the dangerous task of taking the Princess of Alabasta to her home that is about to erupt in a bloody civil war, the Straw Hats set sail once again only to find themselves the target of Baroque Works and a mystery man calling himself Mister Zero. Stuck on an island where giants and dinosaurs roam, the crew faces their toughest opponents yet.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The video quality is still great on DVD and it makes me wonder just how amazing this series would have looked on Blu-ray. Still, the DVDs are nothing to sneeze at and the animation is still great.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The quality of the voice acting hasn’t changed much when it comes to the Japanese and English dub so expect some great voice work on both ends. Caitlyn Glass does a marvelous job with Princess Vivi and her performance does stand out. The last closing tune is sung by Stephanie Young and she can definitely carry a tune.

EXTRAS: C
There’s an audio commentary track for Episode 67 with Caitlyn Glass and Stephanie Young that’s worth listening to if you’re a fan wondering how they got cast in One Piece. Other than that’s there are trailers, clean opening and closing songs and – of course – Marathon Play.

OVERALL: A+
There’s more to love in Season Two’s Second Voyage of One Piece as the crew not only begins its most engaging story arc yet but also hands us some of the most wildly fun episodes as well. The interesting combination of giants, dinosaurs and bizarre Baroque Works agents just keeps the adventure wonderfully zany and loads of fun to watch. You just have to love the Straw Hats.

High School Debut, Vol. 12 – Manga Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Kazune Kawahara
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available

The interesting tale of sisterly love.

Despite what fellow reviewer mentioned on her review of High School Debut, Volume 11, Volume 12 is not the last volume in the shoujo series we have come to love so much in this office. The series is coming to a close, that much is certain, but in the meantime Kazune Kawahara continues the story of a girl we not only have come to cheer on but to love and there’s certainly a lot to love about Volume 12 of High School Debut.

Having made plans to go on their first weekend getaway, Haruna hysterically finds out that going away with your boyfriend for the weekend not only means sharing a room together but – according to all the magazines she still reads as well as input from Asami – it also means a chance to take the relationship to the next level of intimacy. While Haruna begins to prepare herself for that possibility, Yoh’s sister does not like the idea of such a thing happening.

While the weekend getaway begins awkwardly, the young couple do have fun at the pools and hot springs when the evening comes and hilarity ensues. It seems that Haruna has been building up the moment in her mind that when it doesn’t occur she’s actually devastated and when it seems like things begin to move forward Asami shows up with Mami, Fumi and Asaoka to ruin the evening and the trip. Oh, but it doesn’t end there because Asami begins to make it known that she doesn’t approve of Yoh and Haruna dating.

As Haruna and Asami fight over who loves Yoh more, it is actually Haruna who comes to a conclusion as to why Asami is so angry about her dating Yoh. It’s actually funny to see Haruna come to the correct conclusion and seeing her stand up to confront Asami about it. This is, by far, one of the most interesting and unforgettable chapters in High School Debut that’s right up there with Yoh finally wanting to date Haruna.

In the next chapter, a conversation with Mami leads Yoh to find out that Haruna’s best friend is hiding something from Haruna. She tells him that she’s not so great as Haruna makes her out to be and has actually betrayed her friend. On a class trip, Haruna – who is wondering why her friend isn’t interested in romance – seems to be sad. While she was right on the mark with the Asami situation, Haruna is back to jumping to offbeat conclusions when she thinks that Mami might just be in love with Yoh.

In the volume’s final chapter, a trip to the career councilor’s office makes Yoh realize that he hasn’t thought out his future after High school. While his friends have an idea of what they would like to do, Yoh is struggling to find out what he wants so, naturally, Haruna decides to lend a hand. As Haruna figures out what she wants to do, so does Yoh … a fact that makes Haruna realize that his career choice will take him to Tokyo and away from her. Would a long-distance relationship but an end to their romance? Will Haruna make the sacrifice and let Yoh go? I’m not saying but this is something we can come to expect in Volume 13.

You can definitely count Volume 12 of High School Debut as yet another favorite volume in the series. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it will probably be remembered as one of the best volumes that comes close to toppling your previous favorite volume. We are definitely looking forward to the next volume as this amazing and funny series will soon come to what is sure to be an unforgettable end.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Yoh’s sister, Asami, is clearly not liking the fact that Haruna and her brother seem to be taking their relationship to the next step and you better believe that Asami confronts Haruna about it. Then, Haruna’s best friend is hiding a secret that might damage their long-lasting friendship and in the final chapter both Yoh and Haruna think about their future after High school.

ART: A
Kawahara’s art is one of the many highlights of this series mainly for the other characters’ reactions to Haruna’s insane conclusions. You also have to love Haruna’s expressions to things she doesn’t quite understand.

OVERALL: A+
Volume 12 of High School Debut reaches new heights in comedy and romance as both Yoh and Haruna think about their future. Kawahara is also something of a genius when it comes to comedy seeing as the series – even in its twelfth volume – manages to remain so refreshingly funny.

Comic Party Revolution, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

The revolution will be televised but not very comedic.

Having taken part in writing my own manga as well as gotten together with actual doujinshi aaaaa9self-published manga) enthusiasts and artists in Tokyo, Comic Party Revolution is a series that got my attention to the point that I just had to review it. If The Complete Series of Comic Party Revolution was meant to be a comedy, it failed on that front but if it attempted to deliver a series with a respectful nod to the doujinshi lifestyle then it does so well enough that you should at least give this series a chance.

Comic Party Revolution should be considered Season Two with Comic Party being the first season that introduced us to Kazuki Sendo, Mizuki Takase, Aya Hasebe and Eimi Ohba. In this second part of the series, we find Kazuki and Aya at the summer ComiPa (a fictionalized version of Comiket) promoting and selling their own manga as the pair find themselves in their college years. While you don’t have to see Comic Party to fully appreciate Comic Party Revolution, I do recommend checking out the first part of the series but it is always good to see a series manage to make its second part able to stand on its own.

Being the only male in a doujin circle of authors that are mainly girls, Kazuki finds himself helping the others finish their books as well as receive support from the others much like a fictional version CLAMP. We witness the hardships each author goes through as well as the joys of publishing their work in time for the next ComiPa. The series covers the doujin aspect well but it also offers a glance at the cosplay end of the convention with Reiko (who takes it seriously) and then the professional end of working on an anime/manga publication. These are very interesting points the series handles wonderfully.

Unfortunately, the rest of the series lacks the comedic and romantic elements that made Comic Party amusing and fun to watch. It’s not to say that Comic Party Revolution isn’t funny or has romance in the 13 episodes this set contains but the comedy is simply lackluster and the romance is just hinted at lightly. There are nods to other anime and manga series that are the sneeze-and-you-miss-it variety but it’s just not funny. Neither is the rivalry between Yu (who seems to come straight out of Brooklyn) and Eimi (who is the self-proclaimed Doujin Queen).

While not working on their own books, the group finds themselves getting together to do fun things like heading to the beach, challenge each another to a game of baseball as well as compete in a cosplay battle contest with the winner getting Kazuki’s first boy’s love book … against Kazuki’s wishes. There’s even a hot springs episode that is simply just an excuse to see the girls in a state of undress. Incidentally, the fan service in the series is actually on the light side with Mizuki’s Magical Girl transformation magic being more of a playful nod to the Magical Girl genre.

There are some fun moments in this series such as when Subaru decides to help a girl named Chisa keep her father’s printing business afloat or the group participating in a survival game. The romance element, while a tad on the weak side, has its interesting moments as Kazuki takes rising pop star Asahi Sakurai out on a date or comes to the conclusion that Yu might just like him as a husband to help her run her family’s hot springs. One of the best episodes has Kazuki and Aya visiting a professional manga publishing company to see how the professionals work compared to how the doujinshi authors work.

The Complete Series of Comic Party Revolution lacks the charming and comical appeal of the first part of the series and what remains is a somewhat likeable collection with a few good points. Yes, there’s very little here that will make you laugh out loud but if you ever wanted to see an anime about the otaku and doujinshi culture then you might want to at least check it out.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C-
Kazuki is surrounded by a bevy of cute doujinshi authors trying to make a name for themselves selling their manga during ComiPa. There’s cosplay fun, a trip to the beach and – of course – a fellow doujin’s family hot springs. The romance and comedy are very thin in this anime.

VIDEO QUALITY: B-
The anime looks great on DVD as it has in the first individual DVD release and despite some generic-looking characters the series still isn’t bad on the eyes. Sadly, the sight gags aren’t very funny either.

AUDIO QUALITY: C+
The original Japanese voice work is the way to enjoy this series but the English dub isn’t bad if you overlook a few questionable accents. The opening theme “Fly” performed by Arisa Nakayama is a favorite but it is “Issho ni Kurasou” by Emi Motodo that will be stuck in your head.

EXTRAS: D
The extra material is super thin with nothing much to write home about but it’s still good to find the clean opening and closing songs as well as a few trailers. There is very little else to look forward to in this set.

OVERALL: C-
Unfortunately, the Complete Series of Comic Party Revolution lacks the comedic chops to be an amusing anime series but there are some interesting moments scattered throughout that makes this worth a glance. That said, if you’re looking for a series that will make you laugh out loud you will not find it here.

Naruto, Vol. 45 – 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: Available Now

Konoha feels the Pain at last.

While the playful tone of the earlier chapter in the Naruto saga isn’t completely gone, it would be the understatement of the year to say that the series has gotten darker and surprisingly intense to the point that you will not help but get caught up in the shocking developments of each volume. Once again, Kishimoto does it again as Pain and his Akatsuki followers carry out their plot to infiltrate the Hidden Leaf Village in Volume 45 of Naruto.

Having accepted the Great Sage Frog’s invitation to train in Mount Myoboku, Naruto’s Sage training has already begun to show greater improvement to the point that the Great Sage Frog thinks he has already surpassed Lord Jiraiya in that respect. The training is not easy, mixing familiar Chakra with a flow of nature-based Chakra, but Naruto’s determination to become stronger makes him grasp the basics a lot sooner. Of course, he also has a reason to learn the way of the Sage when he leafs through the first book his fallen mentor wrote.

Meanwhile, Sasuke and his Taka go up against the Jinchuriki known to the Akatsuki as Eight-Tails but it better known as Killer Bee. It’s an impressive battle as Sasuke, aware of what a Jinchuriki could do thanks to his fight with Naruto, pushes his skills and abilities to its limits. While disabling his teammates, Killer Bee sees Sasuke as a major threat and unleashes his host transformation form. Seeing no other choice, Sasuke pulls off his most powerful new Jutsu to finally bring down Eight-Tails.

As news of Killer Bee’s defeat begins to reach the nearby Raikage, the latest Intel on his brother’s attacker begins to surface. It seems like Sasuke’s insistence on continuing to wear the symbol of his clan has the Raikage looking to send Konoha a message the he will be the one to take down the rogue Konoha ninja. He assembles a cell to seek out Sasuke even after he finds out that Sasuke and his friends manage to eliminate shinobi hot on their trail.

Back in the Hidden Leaf Village, meanwhile, the autopsy reveals something peculiar about the black rods and studs that Pain’s closest followers have all over their bodies. On the other investigative end, the interrogation leads to a new development but all of this is too late because Pain and his closest Akatsuki members breach the barrier into Konoha. Their attack is immediate, fierce and destructive to the point that it makes Orochimaru’s assault on the village pale in comparison.

As all the Konoha shinobi band together to battle Pain and the others, Tsunade makes it clear that Naruto should be recalled back to the village to help defend it despite the fact that the Akatsuki are in Konoha to capture him. This doesn’t sit well with the Elders and another person who, secretly, will certainly become a problem. As building explode and ninja fall, Kakashi seeks out Pain and takes him on only to learn that Pain has unique Jutsu that make him a formidable opponent that will not be easy to take down even in a one-on-one battle.

Volume 45 of Naruto begins the battle we’ve been waiting for since Naruto left the Hidden Leaf Village with Lord Jiraiya. As Pain finally launches his assault on the village to find and capture Naruto, all of Konoha gather together to fight in what is sure to be one hell of a battle as things get even more interesting in the world of Naruto.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
As Naruto begins to unlock the mysteries of his Sage training, the intelligence gathering division in Konoha unlock another type of mystery. Meanwhile, Sasuke pulls no punches when it comes to facing off against Master Killer Bee. Finally, Pain and his followers have finally launch their assault on the Hidden Leaf Village as Lady Tsunade comes to a decision regarding Naruto.

ART: A+
The most visually stunning artwork comes in the final chapter of this volume as Konoha is viciously attacked and all the village shinobi are finally facing off against the Akatsuki. As always, Kishimoto’s art is absolutely stunning.

OVERALL: A
The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here as Pain and the other members of the Akatsuki attack the Hidden Leaf Village and thus making Volume 45 one of the more shockingly intense moments in the Naruto series. The fight to save Konoha begins now and believe me when I say you will not want to miss what happens next.