Bleach, Season Four Box Set (Part Two) – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $49.95 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

The final battle against the Bounts is also one of Ichigo’s finest moments.

The Bount story arc certainly proved that the Bleach series not only knows how to make good filler episodes but that they can also be entertaining, compelling and loads of fun to watch. Season Four of Bleach managed to start off good enough but Part Two is not only a fitting end but a thrilling 12-episodes that will keep Bleach fans thrilled to be along for the ride.

A lot happened in Part One of this fourth season as Ichigo Kurosaki and his friends find themselves going up against a new kind of foe that makes vampires look like complete posers. Led by a Bount named Kariya, the rest follow their leader draining the spirit energy of the living so, naturally, Ichigo has to stop them. Of course, their presence has also gotten the attention of the Soul Society that already sent the likes of Renji Abarai, Rukia Kuchiki and even a non-combatant such as Hanataro Yamada.

In Part Two, however, the Bounts are gathering their forces to finally put a stop to those who stand in their way. With Ichigo and his friends preparing themselves in the safety of Uruhara’s store and Uryu mourning the death of the female Bount named Yoshino who he befriended, the Soul Society continues its investigation of the Bounts.

Meanwhile, Uruhara thinks its best to prepare for another assault so everyone – with the exception of Uryu – pairs up. Since Ichigo has the aid of the Mod Soul named Lirin, he attempts to find a way to track the Bounts. In a cute and comical episodes, the three Mod Souls (as well as Kon) set up some homemade traps in Ichigo’s house that all seem to backfire.

Unfortunately, the Bounts strike first using a created scourge of giant mosquito-like creatures called Bittos that drain the souls out of the living and deliver the liquefied soul essence in vials that make up their bodies. One of their victims is Ichigo’s friend Keigo Asano. It becomes clear to Ichigo that he must hurry or his friend will die but the Bounts send Go Koga and his dangerous doll that now seems twice as deadly as before. The truth is that all of Kariya’s followers drank the liquefied human soul extract and gained the benefits of more power.

On the other side of Karakura Town, however, Orihime, Rukia and Noba go up against a female Bount named Yoshi who is equally super powered but the real threat comes from her companion – Mabashi – who uses a doll that spiritually drills itself into Rukia and turning her into a human puppet for the Bount to control. In a great scene, Orihime gathers what strength and power she can muster and uses it to save Rukia.

In the meantime, Chad, Renji and Uruhara’s little employee – Ururu – fight the elderly Bount who unleashes a strange ability that has him manipulate wood and turn it into a massive wooden whale that swallows up Ururu. Thankfully, Rangiku Matsumoto shows up to lend a hand and the Soul Society sends other Soul Reapers that finally get some time to show their stuff like Lieutenants Izura Kira and Shuhei Hisagi.

With everyone locked in battle, we do get another glimpse of Kariya and Go Koga’s past that reveal the secrets of their dolls. The flashback reveals a young Bount that Go once mentored who was so determined to create a doll that he goes about it without supervision and – as a result – ends up suffering a fate that affects both Go and Kariya.

In the final act, however, the Soul Society discovers that an intruder has entered as Ichigo and his companions discover Kariya’s true intentions as he finally faces off against him in an ultimate battle. Even Uryu joins the final battle as he makes use of a Quincy accessory to help his friends and avenge the death of Yoshino.

Part Two of Season Four of Bleach might not end this filler story arc but it is still a satisfyingly entertaining chapter true to the series. There’s not only a good dose of action, drama and comedy but the story actually makes for a memorable 12-episodes well worth watching. There’s no doubt why this series has such a loyal following even when they stray off the main story.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
The real battle against the Bounts is just beginning as Ichigo and his friends as well as the Soul Society prepare for the worst. However, when the enemy unleashes a new weapon on the World of the Living. As Ichigo and Soul Reaper alike come face-to-face with the deadly Bounts, Kariya’s true intentions are finally revealed as he takes the fight to the most unexpected place.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
No matter how good it looked on TV, the best way to watch Bleach is on DVD and the episodes certainly look great that way. Plus, the episodes include the short but funny “

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Once again, the voice acting is great if you prefer the English dub voices or the original Japanese cast that are even more amazing. The music is still good and so is the opening and closing theme songs, especially “Tonight Tonight Tonight” by Beat Crusaders.

EXTRAS: B
Each disc contains some great Production Art still as well as the clean opening and closing theme songs as well but the real juicy stuff comes with the last disc that includes the bonus Behind the Scenes of Bleach extra. The behind the scenes feature includes interviews with voice actors Troy Baker (Kariya), Sam Regal (Ichinose), Richard Epcar (Koga) and Julie Ann Taylor (Lirin) just to name a few.

OVERALL: B+
With the finale to this excellent filler story arc coming up, Part Two of Season Four of Bleach is still a satisfying collection of episodes thanks to great storytelling and villains that aren’t just dreamt up to waste time before the series got back to business. Overall, it’s been a great story and this last part is just too good to pass up.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

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One Piece, Season Three Third Voyage – DVD Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

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

The rage of a God and the defiance of a people will make this heaven burn.

Any One Piece fan will tell you that when a One Piece story arc starts rolling it rolls with the momentum of a runaway train and your eyes will be glued to the screen until the very end of said story arc. Just look at the way the Alabasta story had fans hooked. Well, the same can be said about the Skypiea story arc that, with the Third Voyage of Season Three, has reached it’s top speed and heading for yet another unforgettable thrill ride.

As the story arc set up the conflict between a people called the Shandians and Skypiea’s so-called God, the Straw Hats have decided to do what a good pirate crew would normally do … look for treasure. However, having split the crew into two parties, the Straw Hats have no choice but to get involved in the uprising of the Shandian warriors and the twisted game that the God Eneru has set up.

Meanwhile, Wyper and his fellow Shandian warriors’ second assault is a more successful one as they manage to take down one of Eneru’s “priests.” Having been the man that brought down said priest, however, Wyper turns his attention on a lost Luffy who was separated from Zoro, Robin Nico and Tony Tony Chopper. Despite the fact that Luffy much rather continue on towards his goal, Wyper makes it clear that he will not let Luffy stroll around their sacred land so he attacks. The fight is impressive, exciting and cool but the outcome leads Luffy to become even more lost.

While Robin encounters her own trouble and Zoro comes face-to-face with a Shandian gunman named Braham, Chopper runs into the hilarious oddball priest named Gedatsu. It’s because he’s an oddball that Chopper gets to continue on his quest with a victory under his belt. Zoro’s battle, on the other hand, is bloody and stylish as he pits his swords against Braham’s guns. Even Robin shows her fighting prowess in order to protect the ruins she finds precious.

On board the Going Merry, however, Eneru shows up and fries both Sanji and Usopp … nearly killing them both. A terrified Nami is to scared to do anything but Gan For, the Sky Knight, steps in and it is clear that the two have a history together. It’s also clear that Eneru now wants to participate in his own game as well and his entry causes many deaths. Poor Nami is left to fight two new enemies, twins who happen to be the brothers of the balloon-shaped priest named Satori that Luffy and the others defeated.

Making it to the Upper Yard as well, Conis and her father manage to reach the Going Merry but not before saving a little Shandian girl by the name of Aisa. It is Aisa who has the power to feel or “hear” the other Shandians and is worried about Wyper and the female warrior named Laki. Traveling with Nami, Aisa leads her to her friends. Meanwhile, Conis and her father encounters a dying Heavenly warrior who reveals to them Eneru’s true plan. Unfortunately, Eneru s God-like ability strikes the warrior dead as well as taking the life of the person standing next to him.

Chopper is the first to reach the temple ruins only to run into the last real priest by the name of Ohm who fights alongside a giant dog. While Chopper managed to breeze through his last fight with a priest, Ohm unleashes his ability that soon leads to Chopper’s unfortunate defeat. Soon, Zoro, Robin, Wyper and Gan Fall arrive as well and becomes the final four that will take on Eneru. While Nami and Aisa find themselves in a most unusual predicament that leads them to run into Luffy, the others begin their battle against a man who considers himself a God in a battle that is nothing short of breathtaking.

What happens after that is even more intriguing as Nami accepts Eneru’s offer to join him. His master plan, while having been revealed, is explained further and it becomes clear to Nami that his plan may very well destroy all of Skypiea in the process.

The Third Voyage of Season Three is One Piece’s finer moments as well as an epic portion of yet another spectacular story arc. Sure, all the battles are more than amazing and the craziness you’d expect from One Piece is even more crazier but it’s the events that transpire in this collection that will keep your interest down to the very last episode. If this doesn’t make you a One Piece fan then I don’t know what will.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Moving deeper into the Upper Yard, the Straw Hat pirates, the Shandian warriors and God Eneru’s priests fight a massive battle. However, as Eneru steps into the battlefield, he reveals his dastardly plan that puts all of Skypiea in danger. As friends and foes alike fall in battle, the remaining survivors face off against Eneru in the fight of their lives.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The action heats up in these episodes and lead to some shockingly brutal battles with casualties on all sides and then there are the great visual effects and characters such as the massive serpent that shows up. I can just imagine how amazing this would look on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
By now you may already know what to expect from the voice acting in this series for both the Japanese and English dub side and it is still great work … although Cherami Leigh as Aisa definitely works so much better. The opening and closing songs keep getting better and the new ones for the Third Voyage are simply awesome.

EXTRAS: C
Marathon Play still makes for a great feature and yes you can find some trailers as well as the clean opening and closing theme songs. However, there’s a fun audio commentary track for Episode 171 featuring ADR Director/voice actor Mike McFarland and the voice of Usopp, Sonny Strait. Speaking of Sonny Strait, he reveals that he’s a huge fan of Oda-Sensei’s manga version of One Piece.

OVERALL: A+
Simply put: the Third Voyage of Season Three of One Piece is a riveting, edge-of-your seat and powerfully dramatic chapter in this series. Filled to the brim with action-packed moments that are nothing short of monumental, these episodes will make you glad you stuck with this series from the very beginning. Count this one as yet another Must Have for all One Piece fans.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

RIN-NE, Volume 4 – Manga Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Sunday)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

So no father-son picnic for these two, right?

Whether it’s Inuyasha, Ranma ½ or even Maison Ikkoku, Rumiko Takahashi knows how to keep us interested and invested in her stories and while this is the fourth volume of RIN-NE, the series has certainly kept our interest so far. While we know Rinne has a youthful grandmother, we know very little else about his family … until now.

Volume 4 finds Rinne Rokudo suffering from the flu but not just any kind of flu but rather one that happens to be associated with the Afterlife. Since he didn’t go to school, Sakura Mamiya (as well as Tsubaka Jumonji who now tags along) decides to pay the young man a visit in his low-income apartment. Then a “doctor” from the other side arrives to administer a shot but Sakura and Tsubasa realize that the so-called physician is really a Damashigami in disguise trying to poison Rinne.

Somebody is targeting Rinne and it doesn’t take look for the culprit to show his face. We meet a slightly older man with the same red hair as Rinne who happens to be the President of the Damashigami Company. He is Sabato Rokudo, Rinne’s father who also happens to be a deadbeat dad who left Rinne to live with his grandmother. It’s shocking to Sakura and Tsubasa that Rinne’s dad not only steals money from his own son since he was a child but is determined to transfer all his debts on him. It’s no wonder that Rinne hates the guy.

Unfortunately, Sabato hatches a plan to bring his son over to the afterlife by way of cute Damashigami girls that were attempting to seduce living boys into the afterlife. In order to save them, Rinne crosses over with Rokumon, Sakura and Tsubasa. They all head to the main building of the Damashigami Company where Sabato springs another surprise … he wants Rinne to inherit the company and marry a Damashigami girl. Oh yeah, the company is swimming in debt so it’s a lose-lose situation for him.

Of course, only one person is happy that this is happening to Rinne and that is Tsubasa who wants Rinne out of the way in order to win Sakura’s heart. Meanwhile, Sakura looks into the company itself, searching for clues and trying to figure what made Sabato such is despicable man. As Sabato challenges his son to a battle where if Rinne loses he just accepts to become the company’s president and take a wife. It’s just too bad that the man doesn’t fight fairly and uses a weapon that makes everything it touches disappear.

Thankfully, Sakura discovers the secrets of the company and Rinne and his friends manage to beat Sabato at his own game and somebody steps in to put Sabato in his place. The Damashigami girls, however, won’t accept no for an answer until that somebody that stepped in at the last minute that Rinne is dating Sakura. Now there’s an awkward moment but Rinne notices Sakura’s didn’t exactly protest at the thought of dating him.

With the trouble with Sabato behind them, though, Rinne and his friends discover a Damashigami case involving a mechanical pencil that is said to make a student smart but once a student gets 100 on their test that person mysteriously disappears. As Rinne is about to face the Damashigami responsible, a mysterious girl appears wielding a Shinigami scythe who helps him trash the Damashigami and save the students that were kidnapped by them.

Intrigued by Rinne, this pretty girl named Ageha tracks him down and reveals that she is a Shinigami who wants to rid the world of Damashigami as well as find her sister who disappeared after going on a mission. Rinne decides to help her but not after Sakura finds the two together. Is Sakura actually jealous? Did she get the wrong idea when she just barged into his apartment? These are intriguing possibilities.

Oh, there’s more as the only photo that Ageha has of her sister includes a very familiar-looking boyfriend connected to Rinne. On top of that, Ageha’s sister seems to have been taken with this individual to the point that she now servers him so it is up to Rinne and Ageha to work together to discover why she crossed over to the side of the enemy.

Add RIN-NE as yet another highlight in the career of Rumiko Takahashi as Volume 4 of the series introduces new elements while continuing to be engaging. As it did with the last volume when it introduced Tsubasa to the mix, the series surprises us with a different kind of foe and a girl whose presence is already shaking things up. More importantly, however, RIN-NE is a good read so if you haven’t started reading it you are seriously missing out.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Having caught a nasty flu from the afterlife, Rinne gets a visit from his father who is not only the president of a Damashigami company but is also a deadbeat who is trying to pass his debt on to his own son. On top of that, he hatches a scheme that will have Rinne inherit the company on the verge of collapse. Then, Rinne meets a female Shinigami who is looking for her sister that might be connected to his father.

ART: A+
As I said before, Rumiko Takahashi’s art is completely her own so her style is certainly unique enough to be recognizable right off the bat. The highlight here are the various otherworldly Damashigami that Rin and the others must face.

OVERALL: A
Things are certainly getting more interesting in the world of RIN-NE as we can see from Volume 4 and as we introduce a two characters that add a new and intriguing element to the story. Not only do we get a different kind of villain but also introduced another possible love interest for Rinne. Oh yeah, we definitely cannot wait to see what happens in the next volume.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Initial D, First Stage Part 2 – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

This is how legends are born.

Having followed the Initial D series for a long time now, I’m certainly grateful to FUNimation for rescuing the series and releasing every series including the first one that actually turned out even more exciting and fun than the seasons after it. Do you want proof? Just pick up Part 2 of the First Stage of Initial D and you will see exactly what I mean. Oh yeah, it’s just that good.

In the first part of the first season we are introduced to Takumi Fujiwara … a High School student who suddenly becomes famous around the Akina area and thus earning the nickname “the Ghost of Akina.” Since then, Takumi has taken on challengers from various racing groups. One of them makes his presence known by bumping Takumi’s friend, Itsuki, nearly off the road in his Eight-Five. Before that, however, the Night Kids’ racer named Shingo issued Takumi a Gum Tape Deathmatch race.

After seeing Itsuki in his hospital, though, Takumi decides to accept the challenge despite the fact that he still considers himself new to the racing scene. Still, it’s clear that it is not in him to turn down a challenge and on the day of the race he finds himself in one of the most dangerous races of his life. With his hand taped to the wheel, it becomes difficult to turn the wheel during sharp turns and – to add to the difficulty – his opponent plays dirty.

Oh but Takumi proves himself once again and thus continuing his winning streak as well as increasing his fame. Word quickly spreads that Takumi not only beat the Night Kids’ best drivers but survived a Gum Tape Deathmatch with only a few bumps and scrapes on his Eight-Six.

Meanwhile, Takumi’s other friend, Iketani, meets a cute girl named Mako who is struggling with her car’s engine. He lends a hand and gets her number as a result but being an insecure and awkward young man, Iketani just doesn’t know how to handle something as simple as a date. Then the girl drops a bomb on him. You see, she’s a street racer who – along with her partner – is well known outside of Akina as one of the best female racers and she wants her last race to be against Takumi.

Never mind that that poor guy feels used, Iketani is the type of guy who still cares and talks his friend into racing the girl of his dreams and would you believe that Takumi accepts. As it turns out, however, Mako and her partner sitting in the passenger seat, are formidable opponents. In fact, they are his best opponents who really push his talents to the limit. It became clear in Part 1 that Takumi could do wonders with the Eight-Six despite its limitations.

Like the first part of the first season, there is plenty of drama and comedy outside the racing action and it comes in the form of the relationships between Iketani and Mako as well as Takumi and Natsuki. In an interesting turn of events, Takumi finally makes a confession to Natsuki and her response is actually a positive one. As for Iketani, just watching the way he handles his relationship with Mako is quite painful. It’s also one of the many highlights of Part 2.

Then again, the more dramatic part comes in the form of Ryosuke Takahashi who finally wants to test Takumi’s skills himself. Having watching him in action, Ryosuke puts his reputation on the line by issuing the challenge but it is clear that of all of Takumi’s opponents so far, Ryosuke is a true gentleman. Before his race with Ryosuke, however, he is challenged by another racer in the Takahashi brother’s team. This race seals the deal between Takumi and Ryosuke and the main event is absolutely breathtaking and edge-of-your-seat racing action.

As I said, Part 2 of the First Stage of Initial D is one of the more exciting episodes of season one and a true classic for loyal fans of the series. Not only are there a number of intense and unforgettable races in Part 2 but the drama outside the streets adds to the overall enjoyment of one of the best moments of this series. Initial D fans, this is the one you will not forget anytime soon.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Upset over what happened to his friend, Takumi decides to accept the duct tape death match race from an opponent who is accustomed to using dirty tactics. On the heels of his victory, Takumi fame continues to grow as he accepts more difficult challenges until he gets the ultimate challenge from a Ryosuke Takahashi himself.

VIDEO QUALITY: B-
This being the first season of this series, the CG cars look dated but still good enough to tell what kind of cars are racing. The characters are still true to the manga, which is a good thing for fans of the manga but you won’t care thanks to the cool racing action on display.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting has always been great for this series for both the Japanese language track or the English dub and it remains so for Part 2. While the acting is one of the highlights of the sound, the real audio treat comes in the form of the amazing soundtrack and the opening and closing theme songs.

EXTRAS: D
Besides the textless opening and closing theme songs and a collection of trailers, there’s no real extras to be found here. Once again, I wish they includes the music videos for the first closing theme song from M.O.V.E.

OVERALL: A
If you thought Part 1 of the First Stage of Initial D was exciting, Part 2 blows it away with an even more thrilling second half that pushes Takumi’s driving skills to the limit. Simply put: the First Stage has everything you can ask for in a racing series and Part 2 will remain as one of the more exhilarating moments for this series and one Initial D fans should not miss.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Dirty Pair, Part One – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: 13+
Release Date: Available Now

These Lovely Angels will solve your problem … even if it means destroying everything in their path.

This might not be the best way to begin a review but I would like to thank the masterminds who invented DVDs. It is thanks them that anime fans everywhere can experience anime series that we were far too young to catch the first time around or not at all depending on where you live. Among the many mid-1980s anime series I had always wanted to watch was the Dirty Pair and – thanks also to RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment – we get to do just that with the release of Part One of the Dirty Pair.

The series introduces us to the fiery redhead named Kei and her dark-haired partner named Yuri who are Trouble Consultants for a group calling themselves the World Welfare Works Association (the 3WA for short) in a 22nd century city. It was 20 years after warp drive was invented that humans create advanced computer technology capable of sustaining life within it so entire colonies can be found throughout various planets.

Eleanor City, however, is the home of Kei and Yuri who solve any problem the 3WA throws their way in their own unique style that almost always ends destructively to the point that these girls who want to be known as the Lovely Angels are more famously known as the Dirty Pair. When we first meet them, they are tasked with stopping the city’s main computer, known as Brain, from malfunctioning further. They solve the problem, alright, but not after blasting every security defense robot and causing an explosion that tilts the city’s main tower to one side … permanently.

Oh yeah, don’t let their appearances fool you. They may be attractive, charming and totally girly but these young women earn their Dirty Pair nickname. They also get the job done with enough time to think about dates with good-looking men, all the shopping they’ll do with their bonuses as well as talking their boss into giving them week-long vacations. Along with the aid of their giant mutant cat-like creature called Mughi and their egg-shaped robot called Nanmo, the girls take on a number of cases that put the girls in some fun and action-packed situations.

In one case, they are ordered to look into series of luxury ship bombings that might be directly connected to a rival company so the girls go undercover to flush out the culprits aboard one of the luxury ships. Then there’s a mission that has the girls going to Planet Vega to obtain an unusually lucky gambling chip called the Golem Chip before a cat burglar gets his hands on it. The trouble is that the owner is the wealthy casino owner who has some impressive and deadly security measures installed. Plus, could it be that Kei actually finds love during this mission?

Then there’s the case where the girls try to track down a cat who was the subject of an experiment. There’s even a case where the girls are attacked by computer-controlled sentries and ships that come from a waste disposal vessel with a mastermind that might actually be targeting the Dirty Pair for a reason. It’s actually a hairy situation that ends up in an interesting way. One of my favorite cases involves the pair helping transport a rare and priceless mineral and protect it from pirates … one of which might even by Kei’s childhood friend.

Another favorite is news that Yuri’s own childhood friend that swore to marry her finds himself in a hostage crisis as a group of terrorists are demanding that a rocket be made. The outcome is actually bitter sweet and surprising, which shows just how good the writing and animation in this series is and still holds up beautifully today.

Meanwhile, the girls take on even tougher missions such as the time they’re shot down and left on a planet resembling the Wild West with each girl joining a gang that’s at war with each another. They even play bodyguards for the heir to a royal family that is being targeted by the same assassins that killed the King or clean the city’s sewer from a mutated creature. There’s a case where the girls find themselves involved in kidnapping that might actually be a rich kid and a female thief running off together and another where an experimental smart mouse stages a coup. Another story involves the girls being mistaken for a Bonnie and Clyde-like pair of bank robbers.

As I said, the writing and animation in the series holds up well and RightStuf!/Nozomi does right by the series on DVD so even if you’ve seen the series before you will be very impressed with how the series looks. I’ve watched more than enough classic anime series on DVD and this is certainly the right way to bring back the classics.

It’s collections like Dirty Pair, Part One, that need to be in your growing library of anime. An exciting, fun and completely enjoyable series, Dirty Pair was an instant classic back then and it certainly remains that way now thanks to the charming characters and exciting episodes that make this such a joy to watch. We are so looking forward to Part Two of this amazing series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Although the prefer to be known as the Lovely Angels, Trouble Consultants Kei and Yuri are better known as the Dirty Pair who solve problems across the galaxy in their own destructive manner. Whether they’re guarding the heir to a royal family, looking for a missing experimental rodent or protecting a shipment from space pirates, these girls do it their way … even if they end up destroying an entire planet.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
For a series that was released in the mid-80s, the episodes look great on DVD with a crisp transfer that makes this the best way to watch Dirty Pair. While the animation might come off as dated for most tastes, I personally think it still impresses.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voices are intact and that’s a good thing because Kyoko Tongu and Saeko Shimazu are awesome as Rei and Yuki. The music in the series is definitely 1980s and so are the opening and closing theme song but they actually work well for the series even now.

EXTRAS: C
There are some Trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs and nothing else but considering how great the series the lack of extras is forgivable.

OVERALL: A+
Dirty Pair is a true anime classic in every sense and the first half of this DVD set is proof of that. An entertaining, no-nonsense good time, Part One of Dirty Pair is just one of those anime series that will have you watching from start to finish with a smile on your face. Whatever you do, do not miss this collection.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

Seiho Boys’ High School, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Ai Kano

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

Girls just want to have fun; boys just want to understand them.

Having lived near an all-boys school and having dated one or two boys from said school, it was interesting to see how relieved most of the boys were to finally get to see a girl at the end of the day. Now imagine being a boy sent to an all-boy’s school in an isolated area where the only girl you’ll ever see is in a magazine or, if you’re lucky, see one on a rare trip to the school. This is what Seiho is like in Volume 1 of Seiho Boys’ High School where the guys don’t know what to do when girls do start showing up.

Seiho Boys’ High School isn’t your typical shoujo manga and it certainly isn’t yet another romantic-comedy series. It’s not a series that borders on boy’s love either, although there are characters that actually have something of a crush on the hottest guy in school. I love a series that isn’t quite what you expect it to be and Seiho Boys’ High School certainly tries but being different shouldn’t be the only redeeming factor here.

The story revolves around a Seiho, an all-boys school isolated from the city, and the student body. There is a main character that comes in the form of a cute boy by the name of Makki who tells us that the school feels like Alcatraz and with no girls around you can bet that the boys not only feel lonely but are frustrated to the point that they all no longer know how to relate to a girl if one even did manage to show up.

As it turns out, however, Makki’s gay classmate, Hanai, is distressed over the fact that his Junior high girlfriend is coming to their school to visit him. Makki finds out that Hanai had been dating a girl to dispel rumors of his real sexual orientation and now that he is free to be himself he doesn’t want the girl to feel bad that she has been dating a gay guy from the start. The girlfriend in question is Miki Kinashi who is cute and Makki definitely is interested in her and when she tells them that she ran away from home it is Makki who puts the girl sleep in his room. Oh yeah, you can bet things get really awkward. Can Makki try to keep Miki from finding out the truth about Hanai?

Well, the chapter does have an unpredictable finale and Hanai becomes something of a regular fixture in the volume as the story shifts to the cute-yet-geeky Nogami who recently had a taste of freedom and returned to school feeling frustrated once more. Still, he sets his sights on the seemingly comely school nurse who – he often points out – has generously bountiful bosoms that are her redeemable qualities. So Nogami makes the school nurse his pet project to turn her into the hottie that he knows she is to finally give her to confidence to reveal her feeling for the school’s hottest guy.

So giving her a makeover and coaching the girl, Nogami transforms the nurse into one hot mama but when it comes time for her to tell the school’s hunk that she is interested in him she makes a different and surprising confession instead. Finally, there’s the chapter that introduces us to that hunk who is known as Rui Kamiki who is tall, dark and absolutely gorgeous that even all the boys in the school blush at the very sight of him.

Despite being an absolute dreamboat, though, he dresses like a slob so when his cute sister shows up at the school she makes it her priority to fix his fashion errors. However, Kamiki doesn’t want to cooperate and he wants her to leave the school. On top of that, the mere mention that she is going to be married soon seems to bother him but Makki learns the reason why.

Interestingly enough, Kaneyoshi Izumi continues the theme of that final chapter in a bonus story unrelated to the characters or the school. The story revolves around a young boy named Tetsu whose interest in his sister is a little bit, well, frowned upon. However, his sister is linked to his friend so Tetsu finds solace with an older woman he meets in the streets who just had a fight with her boyfriend.

The problem with the series is that first volume just doesn’t really give much room to get to know the characters more and it seems to fall in the girl-of-the-chapter formula that gets old quickly. Izumi-Sensei has a great sense of humor and it shows in her work since there are plenty of comical moments scattered throughout.

Volume 1 of Seiho Boys’ High School has its good moments but not enough to make this first volume really stand out the way it should have seeing as this is not your ordinary shoujo manga title. I would like to say that its sense of humor saved the day but it’s sense of humor is good but not great. Still, I’m still hoping this series will get better and we are certainly sticking around.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: C
Seiho feels more like a prison than a school for the boys of this isolated school and since there are no girls around these cute guys find themselves wondering what to do when they do show up. One boy finds himself wondering what to do about a girly classmate’s “girlfriend” in one chapter while another must come to terms with his feeling over his step-sister. In another chapter, a boy spends his time giving the school nurse a makeover and might just end up liking her.

ART: B+
The art in the series isn’t completely original but that’s not to say that it isn’t good because there are moments where it looks good and many of the boys do look really hunky. The cover is actually really lovely.

OVERALL: C
A few funny moments aside, Volume 1 of Seiho Boys’ High School doesn’t start off as strongly as it should have considering Izumi-Sensei’s talent. In fact, it feels like a missed opportunity but seeing as this is the first volume and there is some potential for a good time, we will wait to see if this series has the potential to do better in the upcoming volumes.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings, The Complete 1st Season – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: Blu-ray: $59.98 US; DVD: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

The unusual case of an anime being better than the video game.

Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Just like big screen adaptations of video game franchises, there hasn’t been a decent video game-inspired anime. It’s not that they didn’t try (Devil May Cry came close to being really good) but somehow the there’s no series that really comes close to capturing the feel of the game. The Complete 1st Season of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings might not be perfect but it’s actually a good start in the right direction and ten times more entertaining than the recent game.

Based on the Capcom hack-and-slash action games of the same name (called Devil Kings on our side of the pond), Sengoku Basara takes place during the Warring States period (otherwise known as the Sengoku period) as the forces of numerous clans are at war. In the center of it all is Oda Nobunaga (better known as the Devil King), a vicious and cruel warlord of extreme power that is determined to sweep across the states to rule over all of Japan by using any means necessary.

It is in one of the many battles of this period that we meet a warrior clan in blue armor leading his men into battle. He is Lord Masamune and he is about to clash with the warriors of Clan Takeda, most particularly their best warrior named Sanada Yukimura. The battle between these two warriors is epic and while there is no winner it is clear that they gain mutual respect for each another. While Lord Masamune sees the conflict as a good excuse to find great battles, Sanada fights only to serve his master, Lord Shingen. One running gag in the series is Lord Shingen and Sanada pumping each another with Sanada sounding like a smitten school girl.

Lord Shingen sees it as a good idea to attack the land of Lord Kenshin who is protected by a rogue ninja babe who is in love with the good-looking Lord who seems to have his heart in the right place. Unlike the other Lords, Kenshin wants to protect his people and the land. Lord Shingen sends Sanada to lock blades with the young Lord Kenshin only to find himself facing off against Masamune again.

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga gathers his troops and allies to his side, sometimes even by force such as when he has his brother-in-law, Azai Nagamasa, join him in battle but also attack his own land. He also convinces a young Lord by the name of Takechiyo who has with him an armored monstrosity called Tadakatsu that looks like a half cyborg and half mech hybrid. The “Battle of Nagashino and Shitaragahara” becomes a memorable moment in this series as Nobunaga betrays Azai and Takechiyo in the frontlines. In fact, the fate that befalls Azai makes his wife, Nobunaga’s own sister, realize that her bother is a twisted fiend.

What the battles also does is make the other clans realize that the real threat is Nobunaga and it takes a vagabond who happens to be a member of a royal clan that all the clans must unite to destroy Nobunaga. So begins an alliance between the clans. This cooperation, however, doesn’t sit well with the Devil King who sends his murderous wife to eliminate Lords that have united to stop him. On top of that, there’s Nobunaga’s white-haired devil known as Mitsuhide who seems to have his own twisted agenda.

As alliances are made between the most unlikely people and new allies lost to Nobunaga’s agents, both sides still continue their battle and Sanada and Lord Masamune join together as comrades to take the battle straight to Nobunaga’s castle. The result is a massive battle that has plenty of surprising twists and turns as well as a confrontation between the Devil King himself. Interestingly enough, the first season ends with a meeting between the Maeda Clan and another less friendly clan.

Unfortunately, the series is far from perfect and most of the characters can come off as two-dimensional with the exception of a few standout characters like the female ninja, Kasuga, who seems to go into ecstasy each time Lord Kenshin gives her a compliment. Worst yet, the story takes a backseat to the action that is the highlight of this series. Leave it to Production I.G. to make the animation and action sequences look amazing. On top of that, the voice acting is topnotch for both the Japanese and English dub.

The Complete 1st Season of Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings does have its many exciting moments and that is thanks to the impressive battle sequences. The problem is that there’s not much room for character development or a deeply involving story that will hold your interest. It’s like a historical-fantasy series for viewers with short-attention spans and a hankering for action rather than historical intrigue. As far as anime-series-based-on-a-video-game, Sengoku Basara is proof that it can be done and done good.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B-
In the Warring States period, the villainous Oda Nobunaga has taken it upon himself to sweep across Japan on a mission of conquest. As other states and clans fight, they all realize that Nobunaga is a much bigger threat and band together to face off against the monster. In the meantime, they must survive encounters with Nobunaga’s subordinates that are equally dangerous.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation for this series is gorgeous and the battles look epic in ways that outclasses even the game. If there’s a series that deserves the Blu-ray treatment it is this series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
There’s some great voice acting in this series for both the original Japanese and the English dub side that includes Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh (both known for their roles in Bleach) as well as Michael Sinterniklass. The music is ripe with cheesy heavy guitar riffs like the video game but the opening and closing theme song rock from awesome artists like Abingdon Boys School and Dustz.

EXTRAS: C+
The usual assortment of goodies are on the Blu-ray disc including clean opening and closing animations plus a few trailers. The feature that really stands out is the Sengoku Basara Chosokabe Motochika-Kun and Mori-Kun three-episode anime shorts that features two of the characters in chibi formand its actually funny as Mori and Motochika hang out together. Why wasn’t there some game footage included here?

OVERALL: B-
If you’ve been looking for an anime that is all about the battles and spares viewers a deep story about this era then Sengoku Basara is an anime series for you. Filled to the brim with impressive, visually stylish battles and gorgeous animation, this series has it but don’t expect fleshed out characters you will come to love or a story that will knock your socks.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment