Detroit Metal City, Volume 6 – Manga Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

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

The strange and curious case of Krauser I.

Detroit Metal City is quickly becoming one of this comedic manga series that I look forward to and with good reason … the series is actually very funny. I mean, who can say no to a manga about a seemingly dorky young guy who loves Swedish pop love tunes turn into Japan’s most notorious and outrageous heavy metal god. With Volume 6 of Detroit Metal City, Krauser II is about to find himself in a true rivalry that might threaten his very existence.

Ok, maybe just destroy the alternate identity of a kid who much rather be singing about cheese tarts instead. With all the drama surrounding this mysterious metal head calling himself Krauser I, the very outspoken DMC manager asks all three members to put themselves out there to show this poser who is the real metal gods. Of course, all three members of the band are at a loss as to what to do.

Speaking of cheese tarts, Negishi’s female friend, Aikawa invites him over to try out some cheese tarts she made that were inspired by one of his pop songs. While she doesn’t know Negishi is really Krauser II or is his official girlfriend, Aikawa likes him enough to invite him over. When he tells her he feels all sweaty, she even suggest he takes a bath at her place. In the tub, however, Aikawa’s father arrives and is very particular of guys coming over her place. What results is a Negishi trying to freak her dad out and ends up climbing out the window in Krauser makeup as he streaks the town. How’s that for making the press?

In the next chapter we follow DMC bassist, Masayuki Wada as he secretly meets with a popular Visual-Kei band called Crisis Sham who is about to be signed by a major music producer named Okita. Crisis Sham wants Wada to be their bassist and Wada sees this as an opportunity to leave the metal scene behind for a band about to make it big. However, when he finds himself alone with the band’s laptop, an e-mail from the producer catches Wada’s eye and accidentally sends him a nasty reply that was meant to be a message to DMC’s manager.

What results next is Wada trying to make his first e-mail sound like a joke by ends up promising the music producer two songs with the most unlikely titles that the band has to write and perform at their upcoming show. Wada writes his own tune and the performance isn’t what the band or the producer expected. The outcome is another win for DMC.

Then there’s the perverted Nishida who turns out to be an Otaku with a fondness for figures of his favorite anime characters and maid café/arcades that feature the game called Drum Master. After taking his frustration of not finding his favorite figure, Nishida catches the attention of a young man who wants Nishida to represent him in order for him to win the grand prize … drink juice with the cutest maid in the arcade. Although Nishida can’t even step back into the arcade (for his lewd behavior), his alter ego does. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned but that’s just more publicity for DMC.

The best parts of Volume 6, however, is Nigishi’s various misunderstandings that occur after he meets this talented young guitarist who can shred with the best of them. In him, Nigishi sees a way out of DMC so he can concentrate on his other musical genre of preference. So, as Krauser II, he finds himself mentoring the young man and when he tells his manager that he found a suitable replacement, well, she doesn’t take it well. In the end, he breaks ties with the young man and he sets out on a mission of revenge.

Meanwhile, a paranoid Negishi finds himself ruining his best friend’s show and giving a cop (who might be a closet DMC fan) a really hard time. In fact, the chapter with the police officer – who has the habit of jumping to strange conclusions – is the subject of a bonus chapter. There’s also a chapter where Negishi has trouble writing new DMC music only to find inspiration in the most unlikely place.

However, the more interesting part comes with the young guitarist that Krauser II promised to hand his reign of metal over to who now wants to destroy DMC. He meets somebody on an executive level within Black & Death Records who turns out to be one of the most talented metal musicians in his time. This poor fool who has the unfortunate name of Gaylord, tells him a rather humorous and intriguing tale of his past that will help destroy DMC.

Volume 6 of Detroit Metal City has its really fascinating moments and those outrageously funny comical ones as well but it just isn’t as hilarious as the past volumes in this series. Still, there’s much to like here and the rivalry that puts not only DMC in danger but also Negishi’s music. Things are going to get crazy in the next volume, that’s for sure.
 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B+
With a rival calling himself Krauser I challenging the real Krauser, DMC’s manager pushes the trio to make their presence known. Through three incidents of pure coincidence, the three manage to make some headlines but the real problem comes when Negishi meets a young metal guitarist with some really wicked shredding skills.

ART: A
You just have to love Wakasugi-Sensei’s wonderfully original art and even more so when he’s drawing Negishi’s exaggerated expressions. How can somebody so dorky be somebody that horrifically metal?

OVERALL: B+
While not as hilarious as past volumes, this sixth volume of Detroit Metal City does have its share of funny moments but plays up a rivalry between Krauser II and a talented metal head who wants to replace him. Still trying to find a balance between his gig with DMC and his own sugary pop star dreams, Negishi and his band mates find themselves doing more for DMC.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

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Corpse Princess, Part One – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

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

They might be cute these living dead girls are deadly.

Corpse Princess: Shikabane Hime has been one of the series that everyone in the office has been waiting to see since we first caught a peek at the trailer during this year’s AX 2010 in Los Angeles. Sure, we’ve seen our share of anime series featuring living dead girls but this one just seemed to be not only interesting but fun to watch. As it turns out, Part One of Corpse Princess is just that and you won’t help to get caught up in its creepy and action-packed spell.

We are quickly introduced to Kagami Ouri, a High school student who just so happens to be an orphan raised in a Child Welfare orphanage. He has finally reached the age where adoption is no longer an option so he has decided to get an apartment for himself when – one night – he is drawn to the temple on the premises by a black cat. It is inside the temple that Kagami sees the cold corpse of a beautiful girl in a nearly tattered school uniform. Just then, a group of monks enter the temple, one of which Kagami recognizes as his sort of adopted “brother” who embraces the dead girl and brings her back to life.

So begins Kagami’s interest in the girl he knew was dead and the fact that the only father-figure in his life comes home with scratches and bruises. Thanks to the black cat (who talks to him), Kagami finds himself involved in supernatural cases such as that of a serial killer who jumped off the balcony of a high-rise building and live to strike again. What he discovers is the secret world of the Shikabane, those who have died with an obsession or regret but become dangerous living dead beings. Then, he witnesses the girl he watched come back to life attack the Shikabane with twin submachine guns. His brother, Keisei is there too and finally the truth is revealed to him.

She is Makina, a Shikabane Hime, who has made a contract with a monk to fight the Shikabane. A hard and driven girl who thinks only of slaying Shikabane. Makina finds Kagami’s intrusion in her work of tracking Shikabane something of an annoyance while Keisei will do anything to protect the young man and steer him away from Shikabane Himes and their Contractor monks. Still, the young man is drawn to their world, showing up in other cases such as the little girl that comes back to life after having died in a freeway pileup or the mystery behind a crying infant connected to a medical clinic.

Despite doing his best of keeping Kagami away from Makina’s mission, Kagami lends his support to Makina. In one episode, when he looks into a local pop star’s sudden reappearance after rumors of her death, he helps her. His insistence in helping makes Kagami realize that there are more girls like Makina out there and a group of monks connected to them. He discovers what happens when a monk’s link to a Shikabane Hime is severed as well as the rumor that dispatching 108 Shikabane is the only way a Shikabane Hime can earn their ticket to Heaven.

While we follow Kagami and Makina through different cases, the real interesting parts come later when a traitorous monk named Akasha Shishidou is introduced and faces off against his former friend, Keisei. Akasha is truly a hateful villain and his quest to destroy the order that Keisei follows as well as murder every Shikabane Hime leads the monk to hire the Seven Stars, a group of Shikabane who have been killing for years and are now too powerful to stop.

We are also introduced to other Shikabane Hime like the cute girl Itsuki Yamagami and her contracted archer monk named Sougi as well as a duo that includes a powerful sniper Shikabane Hime. In a riveting final few episodes, Akasha and the Seven Stars launch their attack on the clan of monks and Shikabane Hime, one of which targets Keisei and his friends in a shocking and heartbreaking battle that will change everything.

Filled with plenty of action and creepy supernatural elements, the series starts off slowly with a Shikabane-of-the-Week episodes that simply has Makina going up against various interesting cases of people who turned into a Shikabane. As I said, though, things get a lot more interesting later in this first part of the series and the final twist in the end will definitely make you look forward to Part Two of this series.

Without a doubt a good start to a most absorbing action anime series, Part One of Corpse Princess takes its time setting up the story but still manages to be a compelling viewing experience. The final episodes just turn the series in another direction that is sure to make Part Two something to really look forward to and thanks to its simultaneous release with Part One. Corpse Princess is ultra cool so do not miss this series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
A young orphan named Kagami not only starts his new life outside the orphanage but becomes involved in the life of a living dead girl known as a Shikabane Hime who fights other living dead beings alongside a monk who Kagami knows well. As he becomes wrapped up in their lives, Kagami and the girl known as Makina discover a new threat in the form of a traitorous monk and a deadly group of Shikabane.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is quite stunning at times with the Shikabane stealing the show with the unusual form they take. Expect plenty of blood and plenty of fan service in this series but, more importantly, enough visually impressive battles.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting is handled really well on the English dub end thanks to the talents of Luci Christian, J. Michael Tatum and Aaron Dismuke but the original Japanese voices are really something else so either way you’re in for a treat. Besides that, the original score is amazing and the opening and closing theme songs by Angela work beautifully for this series.

EXTRAS: C+
There are a few trailers as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing theme songs included but the real extra comes in the form of an audio commentary track for Episode 12 featuring ADR Director Terri Doty and voice actors Luci Christian (Makina) and Aaron Dismuke (Kagami).

OVERALL: B+
Part One of Corpse Princess is a creepy, bullet-slinging joyride that will not fail to creep you out but also entertain the hell out of you. While it starts of decently enough, the final episodes will grab you by the throat and won’t let go and you will enjoy every second of it. Part Two will definitely be the one to watch.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 5 – Manga Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Karuho Shiina
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo Beat Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The complexities of not confessing your love and the heartbreak that follows.

Karuho Shiina-san, you have shown me a good time with the first four volumes of your shoujo manga series and made me laugh at Sawako’s awkward attempts at fitting in but now you have officially crossed the line and turned my interest in this series into an obsession with Volume 5 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You. Consider this the volume where things get a whole lot better.

Still reeling over her failure to make Sawako look like the wrong choice for Kazehaya only to have her plans blow up in her face thanks to some investigating done by Chizu and Yano, Kurumi is left a crying mess in the beginning of Volume 5. Everything that could have gone bad did and now Kazehaya believes that Kurumi is in love with their teacher, Mr. Arai, instead. It’s not helping that Sawako is still hanging around with her.

Yes, the truth has finally come out in the last volume and Kurumi now knows that Sawako has romantic feelings for Kazehaya. While both girls agree on many of Kazehaya’s good qualities, it is Kurumi who has had a long history of loving the boy. She had first realized her feeling in Junior High when Kurumi realized that all the girls were spreading vicious rumors about her because of her good looks. The only one who saw her for who she is was Kazehaya and that was it for the beautiful girl.

So Kurumi shows up the next day at school wearing sunglasses and not caring about anything and anyone. While Sawako tries to make peace with the girl, Kurumi flatly refuses to have a friendship with the girl. In fact, she makes it loud and clear that she is Sawako’s rival and will never support her relationship with Kazehaya. We are certainly going to see more of her and the fact that she’s not on friendly terms with Sawako will only make the situation even more interesting.

In the meantime, Sawako is trying to make sense of her feeling for Kazehaya and how to proceed. She doesn’t want to push things and declare her love for him because she’s still getting use to being a part of her fellow students’ lives now. However, Kazehaya might actually have feeling for her as well as he grows closer to the girl he sees is trying hard to be a part of something rather than just hanging about in the shadows.

While Sawako finds comfort in her two best friends who are now visiting her at home, our girl realizes that Chizu and Yano have a complicated love life as well. Yano is in a relationship that is no longer an enjoyable one and Chizu … well, Sawako knows that Ryu is in love with her but she sees him more of a brother than a love interest. So Sawako just goes ahead and asks if she likes somebody and is surprised that Chizu does like somebody but it isn’t who she expected.

Meanwhile, we follow Chizu who really does think of Ryu as a brother seeing as she is very welcome at his house as she hangs around playing video games with him. Like Sawako’s parents did when they first met her and Yano, there’s more to Chizu and Yano than meets the eye that makes people like them anyway despite their juvenile delinquent appearance. It’s no wonder that Ryu likes her in a way that’s not just a brotherly love.

Things get a bit dramatic and intriguing when Chizu attempts to do something for Ryu’s birthday as well as the arrival of Ryu’s older brother. Unfortunately, her attempt at making Ryu’s birthday gift a secret makes Ryu think that she’s avoiding him. Even after her told her not to visit his house, Chizu, Yano and Sawako head over there anyway when a twist in this part of the story takes an even more interesting turn.

It’s like I said, Volume 5 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You is the volume that will make you glad you have invested your time and money on this series. As enjoyable as the first four volumes had been, the story just got even more interesting as another relationship takes the spotlight. We cannot wait for the next installment of this series.
 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
After a failed attempt at making Sawako look bad in front of Kazehaya and not getting what she wanted, Kurumi finally shows her true colors and becomes Sawako’s rival. Sawako, on the other hand, realizes she has true feeling for Kazehaya but just doesn’t know how to express them yet. Meanwhile, Chizu reveals she has a crush on a guy that turns out that is not who Sawako expected.

ART: B+
Like in the past four volumes of this series, Volume 5 continues the tradition of mixing more than decent shoujo-styled art with a refreshingly healthy dose of comedic visuals that works brilliantly for this series. Sawako, Chizu and Yano never fail to crack me up.

OVERALL: A
Things get dramatic and complicated in Volume 5 of Kimi ni Todoke and it works beautifully since the story never loses its charm or good sense of humor. While still concentrating on Sawako and Kazehaya’s relationship, the story steers to a love triangle between two other interesting characters. I am now official hooked on this manga series and looking forward to Volume 6.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Toradora!, Volume Two Premium Edition – DVD Review

 

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $59.99 US
Running Time: 295 minutes
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rating: Teen
Release Date: Available Now
The Palm-Top Tiger sings a song of true love.

Having enjoyed NIS America’s two successful attempts at bringing us quality anime, the first volume of Toradora! quickly became a fan favorite among the office so you can bet we have been looking forward to the second and final part of this series. As it turns out, Volume 2 Premium Edition of Toradora! is not only a bit more serious and dramatic than the first part, it’s also a more interesting and fun final half as well.

After the successful school festival in the first part of the series, the aftermath of the even finds Taiga in good spirits since she not only got to dance with the boy of her dreams – Kitamura – but rumor around the school is that they’re both in love. As a result of her happy attitude, another rumor spreads that Taiga brings good luck to those looking for love … hence the new nickname Palm-Top Tiger of Happiness. Of course, she’s not thrilled that people are looking to her for some good luck by rubbing her head.

Still, despite her current happy state, the upcoming student council elections makes Kitamura act strange to the point that he practically lets out a frustrated scream during class. The next day, the boy shows up with his hair dyed blonde and he later tells Ryuji that he has run away from his house. He doesn’t even want to show up in class or want anything to do with running for President. All signs point to something that occurred between Kitamura and the present President of the student council. It doesn’t take Taiga and Ryuji too long to realize that the problem might be of a romantic nature.

In one of the most memorable scenes in Volume 2, Taiga actually confronts the President who is not only avoiding Kitamura but insults the fact that Kitamura is acting like a child. Their confrontation leads to an actual fistfight between the two. Then, in order to help Kitamura move forward, Taiga runs for the position but in a way that has the entire class begging Kitamura to reconsider. In the end, Kitamura makes a most interesting confession.

Expecting Taiga to be devastated by Kitamura’s sudden confession, she decides to put all her efforts into helping Ryuji win the heart of her oddball friend, Minorin. Ryuji is still very much in love with the girl who has been a spirited girl but lately has been distracted and depressed. While she tries to put on her familiar cheerful face, Minorin starts failing her softball team and she also seems to be avoiding Ryuji.

During the Christmas holiday, Kitamura comes up with the idea to hold a Christmas party with couples in mind. It’s a fun event that has some surprising twists such as Taiga and Ami teaming up to sing a song on stage. Then things change when Ryuji – having asked Minorin to the party – gets shot down by the girl he likes but unknowingly because Minorin happened to have been a witness to Taiga’s outburst as the girl suddenly comes to a sudden realization about her relationship with Ryuji.

As a result, the series takes a very dramatic turn when Ryuji, Taiga and Minorin finally reveal feeling that they have been hiding from each another. Then there’s Ami who also has a crush on Ryuji despite the fact that she knows that she has no chance with a guy who has feeling for two different girls. On top of that, Ryuji finds himself wondering what to do with his life after High school. While his mother wants him to study, he doesn’t want her to push herself as she takes on two jobs and collapses under the pressure of working too hard.

The serious tone of Volume 2 does add an interesting element to this romantic-comedy series but it never loses sight of the comedy either. There are still plenty of genuinely comical moments throughout the series and even when things get too serious there are funny bits that lighten things up. This is a good thing seeing as the final three episodes push things in an intense finale.

An intriguing dramatic twist to the story just serves to make this fun series even more interesting as things change between Ryuji and Taiga in the Premium Edition of Volume 2 of Toradora! Without losing the elements we loved about Volume 1, this second volume simply makes for an utterly compulsive must-not-miss set to a series that will not fail to win you over by Episode 1.
 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Things are starting to look up between Taiga and her crush, Kitamura, but as the holidays come around her relationship with Ryuji suddenly changes in a very drastic way. Things get more complicated as a love triangle is revealed and a confession changes everything.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation in this series is simply some of the best and the series looks spectacular on DVD. The chibi version of the characters in the Toradora! SOS! Hurray for Gourmands are also cute.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting is, one again, at the top of their game with Rie Kugimiya providing the best performance in an impressive cast of voice talent. On top of that, the score is lovely and the new opening theme song is great but the closing theme song – “Orange” – is a classic.

EXTRAS: A
The Premium Edition comes with an awesome hardcover book that serves as an episode guide but there are some interesting character bios and fun interviews with the voice cast. Besides the book and great box, the second disc comes with clean opening and closing theme songs as well as two short episodes of Toradora! SOS! Hurray for Gourmands that is fun to watch.

OVERALL: A
Taking a more dramatic turn without losing the funny moments of the first half of this series, Volume 2 of Toradora! is true compulsive romance/comedy gold that fans of the genre will gladly sink their teeth into from start to finish. Sure, Volume 1 was great entertainment but Volume 2 has everything you can ask for in a shoujo anime series.

Review copy provided by NIS America

Linebarrels of Iron, OVA – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $14.98 US
Running Time: 50 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Let there be more fan service … and Rachel Calvin!

If you’ve been following my review of the Linebarrels of Iron anime series you can see that the series took me totally by surprise and actually turn out to be an exciting and fun series with characters that will gradually win you over to the point that you will actually want to see them again. Luckily for new Linebarrel of Iron fans, we do get to see the characters again in a two-episode OVA. Guess what? It’s actually a short but fun little ride.

Let me repeat that: It’s actually a short but fun little ride … emphasis on the short. I would have loved it if these two OVA episodes were bundled with Part Two of the series but the two episodes do offer enough bang for the bucks and if you loved the funny, crazy and fan service-y parts of the main series this is guaranteed to be a favorite.

The first episode of the OVA moves the spotlight over to the largely ignored character, Rachel Calvin. Throughout the series, Rachel has been the cute child genius with the adorable blonde pigtails that watches over all of Juda Corporation’s Factors as well as offers her valuable input on Machinas. The series also makes it clear that Rachel is American and in the first episode we go back in time when Rachel Calvin first came to Japan to work for Juda.

Having been handpicked by the always hilarious Juda Corporation President on this UN-commissioned Special Counter Machina Agency exchange program, Rachel finds herself lost in Tokyo having failed to see the two Juda reps waiting for her at the airport. While Rachel is a tech genius, she’s still a child and the city seems a lot bigger than she first imagined. She ends up wandering the city with no cash in her pocket and no idea how to contact or find the Juda Corporation main office.

On the verge of tears, Rachel ends up far from the city and hungry. She runs into a beautiful young woman named Aika who – as fate would have it – is a receptionist at Juda. The two quickly become good friends and, a few years later, Aika joins Rachel in following the pint-sized genius around with her robotic camera crew to catch a peek at what goes on in each of her fellow Juda employee’s dorm rooms.

In one room she finds Kouichi Hayase practicing his cool “Linebarrel, come!” line only to be embarrassed by Rachel’s presence and in another room she finds the lovely Emi getting a makeover by the pretty Miss Ogawa only to find that Rachel upset that she hasn’t developed nicely like these two women. Then, in another room, she finds Moritsugu practicing to split a watermelon in half with a wooden sword in a gag from Part One of the series.

Rachel’s little tour is fun despite the fact that we don’t really get to learn a whole lot about her but in the first half we do see her as she really is … smart yet still very much a child. She’s also cute, which makes this episode cute as well.

In the second episode, which takes place after the events of the final episode in the series, the Juda Corporation now dedicates itself in providing a top-notch spa resort service that is unrivaled in all of Japan. Since Factors are no longer needed, Juda’s employees have taken to helping create the place into a beach resort with spa facilities just like the President wanted. That means plenty of bikinis and fun in the sun for all those working for Juda.

The episode finds Kouichi working behind a noodle stall wondering if the rest of his life would be dedicated to just slinging noodles. He clearly misses the action but, then again, he can’t complain seeing as he continues to work with Emi who he is still not able to tell her how he feels about the girl. Emi is also conflicted and everyone can see that they’re crazy about each another.

While the episode is a good excuse to see all the girls in their skimpiest best, there’s some action in this episode as the only working member of the Katou group, Sawatari, finds himself facing off against a Machina that looks too familiar. Sawatari manages to reach the resort on time and tells Kouichi about the machine that resembles a very familiar Machina and suddenly the fun stops as all the Factors return to their Machinas once again for a final showdown against this threat.

There’s more but it would be ruining the surprise but know that the second episode is actually the real reason you shouldn’t miss this OVA. Yes, there’s more fan service than usual in the two episodes but they really don’t get in the way of the fun or the story and that’s a very good thing.

The OVA of Linebarrels of Iron sets out to have some fun and pulls it off nicely enough that you will find yourself having a blast. It’s also just two episodes so the entire affair is over way too soon just as you’re enjoying the funny and cute situations. If you became a fan of Linebarrels of Iron, this is one you will want to buy.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

 

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
In the first story, we go back in time when the cute American genius girl, Rachel Calvin, first came to Japan to work for the Juda Corporation only to get lost on her first day in Tokyo. She then offers a peek into the rooms of each of Juda’s Factors. Then, after the events seen in the series, Juda has turned into a spa resort but the fun in the sun is interrupted by a surprisingly familiar enemy.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
Just like the main story episodes, the OVA contains the same lovely animation only this time around you’ll be seeing a lot more skin in these two episodes.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The English dub cast as well as the original Japanese voice actors sound like they had a lot of fun recording these two episodes and it shows. I never warmed up to the opening theme song but the closing song, “Remedy” by Maaya Sakamoto makes up for it.

EXTRAS: D
There are trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs but nothing else on this disc. We would have loved an audio commentary track and some other extras that were missing from Part Two of the series box set.

OVERALL: B+
A short, fun and excessive in its fan service, the OVA of Linebarrels of Iron still manages to be just as entertaining as the main story of this series. While there’s more emphasis on comedy and displaying the Juda girls in skimpy outfits, there are fun romantic and action elements as well that makes this worth the buy if you liked the main series. 

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

One Piece, Volume 28 – Manga Review

 

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The rumble in the jungle has begun and the Straw Hats get involved.

Leave it to the Straw Hat pirates to get caught up in yet another conflict but, I have to say, each time they do you can expect a grand adventure filled with massive battles and an enemy that is a formidable opponent. This is exactly what we’ve been getting with the Skypiea story arc as Luffy and his crew get ever closer to El Dorado and the deadly Kami who is preparing to enter the fray in Volume 28 of One Piece.

In the last volume, the Shandian people have decided to finally strike back against the Kami Eneru who has ruled the forbidden forest of Skypiea thanks – in part – to the Straw Hats who have taken care of one of the Kami’s impressive Vassals by the name Satori. With one of his own down for the count, the Kami is still confident that he will wipe out the Shandians as well as the Straw Hats in a matter of minutes. With his remaining Vassals out there, he sends forth his Heavenly Warriors.

Meanwhile, the Straw Hats find themselves separated from each another in the forest with Luffy, Robin, Zolo and Chopper far from the Going Merry where the others await their return with the Sky Knight named Ganfor still aboard. It became clear to Ganfor that he must put an end to Kami Eneru’s reign and then maybe finally bring some peace to Skypiea.

That’s easier said then done when the Shandian people, led by a warrior named Wyper, have already begun their assault against Kami’s Vassals and now they find themselves locked in battle with the Heavenly Warriors. Wyper encounters the Sky Rider Shura and they take to the skies in an impressive battle but, in the end, the Shandian leader proves that he’s not only a skilled warrior but that he knows how to use a dial.

Speaking of dials, Ganfor tells Nami all about using a dial as a weapon rather than the practical uses that Conis and her father that told them about since they arrived to Skypiea. As it turns out, though, Nami is about to put a dial to use when Kami Eneru shows up and nearly kills Sanji and Usopp. We know that Ganfor and Eneru have a history and more of it is revealed in this volume. However, two of Satori’s brothers (all identical to the defeated Vassal) attack Ganfor and Nami.

As Nami decides to fight, the rest of the Straw Hats encounter their own opponents. Robin Nico not only takes on a Heavenly Warrior on her own but also goes up against their Jabba the Hutt-like commander. Not far, Zolo finds himself locked in battle with a Shandian warrior named Braham who has some flashy guns. Luffy, on the other hand, encounters Wyper and it doesn’t take too long for them to begin their own battle. It’s clear that Wyper doesn’t like Blue Sea people and will make an example of Luffy for not listening to him when he told them all to leave.

The most impressive of the battles is between Chopper and the Vassal known as Gedatsu who may look tough and mean but is actually one of the more hilarious enemies the Straw Hats have encountered in a long time. Chopper isn’t exactly know for his fighting skills but judging by the way that Gedatsu fights he might not even have to lift a hoof.

Volume 28 of One Piece gets straight to the battle between Kami’s forces and the Shandian warriors and the Straw Hats are once again stuck in the middle. While this volume is big on action, there are some revealing points about both camps as well as Ganfor’s new mission to save all of Skypiea. In other words, this is quite an exciting volume that Eiichiro Oda Sensei has once again crafted and you can bet that the next volume will be just as interesting as enemies from all sides continue this war for Skypiea.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
The war to take down the Kami Eneru has really begun as the remains of the Kami’s Vassels including his troops clash in the forbidden forest in Skypiea. Meanwhile, separated from each another, the Straw Hats encounter various foes from both sides of the conflict and battle it out as the current Kami decides to participate in the battle.

ART: A+
There are more elaborate fight sequences in this volume and impressive battles between each faction but – once again – the oddball Vassals are the craziest looking bunch.

OVERALL: A
The Straw Hats find themselves not only caught in the crossfire of a bloody war but a part of it in Volume 28 of One Piece. As the Shandians get ever closer to the deadly Kami, each Straw Hat crew member encounters enemies from both sides as they are locked in battle. Oh yeah, this is just going to get a lot more exciting.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

 

Linebarrels of Iron, Part Two – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now 

Finally, Kouichi becomes the true ally of justice.

As I said before in my review of Part One of Linebarrels of Iron, Kouichi Hayase was not the easiest character to like but people have a funny way of changing and the boy that really was despicable turned out to be the type of guy you will actually root for as the series just gets a whole lot better with Part Two of Linebarrels. Believe me when I say that you will be glad you stuck with the series from the very beginning.

Picking up after the Juda Corporation and Katou Organizations’ playful little beach getaway, Kouichi Hayase finds himself avoiding his longtime friend, Risako, who kissed him. Everyone in his school as well as the halls of the Juda Corporation seem to know what happened and Emi Kazaki isn’t happy about it one bit. Genuinely humorous moments aside, Part Two really gets started when Moritsugu not only reveals something about himself to the President but does something so drastic that it will not fail to shock.

The events that unfold because of Moritsugu’s betray leads Juda to try to make sense of what went on as the boyish Yamashita is in shock and Kouichi faces off against Moritsugu using Linebarrel. Moritsugu is a powerful opponent but -thanks to Emi – Linebarrel’s true potential is unlocked in mid-battle. While he loses the fight, Kouichi and his fellow Juda teammates watch as an organization led by Moritsugu’s childhood friend, Eiji Kiriyama, begins a coup and takes over Japan.

Kiriyama’s iron hold on Japan is but the first stage and with the help of the Katou Organization it becomes a force to be reckoned with as the new ruler of Japan sees himself as a true ally of justice. Having control over the media, Kiriyama has everyone believe that Juda is a terrorist group. Mobilizing his troops, Juda’s machinas are locked away with the exception of Linebarrel as Kouichi and Emi go on the run.

Hiding with the Americans, who they aided during a space battle in Part One, Emi and Kouichi are discovered by the enemy but thanks to their friends they manage to escape and meet up with their teammates. Together, as a group, Juda strikes back in one of the more impressive moments of the series as people die and Kouichi goes up against Kiriyama in his Transformers-like machina. At last, Kouichi finally does become the hero that is not driven by some self-centered need.

With Kiriyama out of the way, the series isn’t done with the surprises as a character that was thought to be dead is back again and this time targeting Kouichi and one of his closest friends. Meanwhile, with Kiriyama gone, the Katou Organization is back to its old tricks and this time Hisataka Katou reveals a part of him that is connected to Emi as their pasts are finally revealed. There’s another revelation involving Moritsugu that finally sheds a light on what led him to do what he did.

Oh, there are certainly more surprises that Part Two throws at us and I would be ruining things if I explained further but expect some surprises and interesting twists that finally leads to a suicide mission to save Earth. If anything, Part Two is not short on flashy action sequences, truly funny moments and even more romance as yet another girl shows her interest in Kouichi. In fact, aside from Risako, she takes a bold step in trying to win his heart.

Sadly, all is not perfect with Part Two and that is the final battle that has the Juda and Katou factions joining forces to go up against a common enemy from the future. If Hisataka Katou knew about this enemy threat in the first place, why did he have to play the role of the bad guy if he planned on joining forces with Juda? What’s up with The Matrix-like explanation of machinas so late in the game?

Despite the weak ending twist, Part Two of Linebarrels of Iron is an exciting improvement over the first part. In fact, all the things that made Part One so enjoyable is not only back for this final half of the series but it overshadows the series’ earlier weak spots. Unfortunately, the finale isn’t too convincing but – in the end – what we have here is a great slice of anime entertainment you will not help to like anyway.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Just when things started to calm down after the confrontations between the Katou Organization, the head of another group begins a coup that sparks a vicious battle involving all three factions. With the murder of a key member of the Juda Corporation, though, Kouichi and his teammates fight not only for survival but for true justice.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation is still somewhat true to the manga but there is more emphasis on the action this time around than the fan service.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is decent on both sides with the English dub containing better dialogue than the original Japanese. Unfortunately, if you didn’t like the opening theme song the first time you won’t like it a second time, although both closing theme songs – especially “Kokorono Mamani” by Lisa Komine is simply beautiful.

EXTRAS: D
Unlike the first part, there is no audio commentary track so all we can expect is the textless versions of the opening and closing songs as well as a few trailers.

OVERALL: A
The second part of Linebarrels of Iron is certainly the better half of this series and despite a weak ending twist, you can’t help but fall under the spell of this exciting series. Kouichi Hayase has certainly become a better person and, as a result, makes him a hero you’ll actually come to like as that series just gets considerably better.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment