Kimi ni Todoke: From Me To You, Volume 6 – Manga Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

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

The heartbreaking story of a tomboy in love.

Don’t you love it when a manga-ka loves their characters enough that they dedicate more than enough time on fleshing them out to the point that they stop being merely bit players and become a big part of the main characters’ lives? Karuho Shiina has certainly made it clear that her characters, even the ones that normally end up being part of the background in other manga, should take the spotlight and one of them does in Volume 6 of Kimi ni Todoke.

Here is the case in point: Chizu, the rough tomboyish girl who favors jeans and a sporty jersey than a sexy skirt or cute dress. She’s been the-girl-next-door to Ryo since childhood and sees the tall guy as her brother but it’s a different story when it comes to Ryo’s older brother, Toru, who – at the end of Volume 5 – shows up late at night. Oh yeah, it starts off as a happy reunion but then the handsome Toru drops a bomb in the opening chapter of Volume 6.

You see, the older young man brings with him a charming and attractive young girl who he introduces to Ryo’s friends that include Sawako, Yano and Kazehaya. Toru then cheerfully tells them the other bit of news regarding said charming and attractive young girl that stuns Chizu and – hilariously – makes Yano and Sawako terribly uncomfortable.

In fact, the aftermath of this evening becomes one long and very uncomfortable turn of events that make both Sawako and Yano uncertain as to how to handle the situation. For starters, they know their friend is in pain despite the fact that she’s still acting like her old self. Yano isn’t the most comforting person and that’s because she isn’t use to situations like this. Meanwhile, Sawako has been socially awkward since grade school that she doesn’t even know where to begin in providing comfort to a friend who so badly needs it. It’s no wonder Sawako gets teary-eyed whenever she even thinks about Chizu.

In the meantime, Ryo approaches the situation another way. As we found out in the last volume, Ryo is in love with Chizu and he has even revealed his feelings for her to Sawako but those feelings – it seems – don’t mean much when the other person is oblivious of the fact. He awkwardly tells Chizu that he’s glad his brother came and dropped that bit of news on them for hopes that Chizu would forget about Toru once and for all. She responds by slamming into him and ignoring the big guy while totally missing Ryo’s reasons for having said that to her.

As it turns out, Sawako – in her own comical way – gets Chizu to finally let it all out. This helps the girl out but it’s clear that it will take a lot more than that to make her forget Toru. Her early memories are that of Toru who has always seen her as a cute little sister and always had time to comfort her or offer a warm smile. He was always dating but his girlfriends never lasted very long and Chizu saw this as a sign that he was destined for her.

In a tender moment, Toru takes Chizu out for a walk as the older boy reminisces of the moments he played big brother and, in a strange way, that walks turns out to be the closure she really needed. As for Ryo, Toru tells him something he always wanted to hear from him since Ryo is the one who is really in love with Chizu. Ryo also goes out to find Chizu as they finally have a peaceful conversation.

In the final half of the volume, it’s Christmas time and Kazehaya has a good idea to hold a Christmas party for all the singles out there who don’t have a date. He invites Sawako, which the girl reacts as if she were getting an invitation to meet the President. She’s excited, confused and amazed as she starts making her own presents for each of her friends. She even knit’s a warm cap for Kazehaya, although she is conflicted about actually giving him a gift.

Unfortunately, she finds out that her father is excited about spending Christmas with her and it makes it difficult for Sawako to ask permission to go to the party. She mentions not going in class and it seems to make Kazehaya rather disappointed by her decision. However, when the night arrives, a phone call to her house changes things in a wonderfully surprising way.

Volume 6 of Kimi ni Todoke is charming, funny and even slightly heartbreaking volume in this series that has remained a fun read since the first volume. It’s taken a small dramatic step but it never loses the comical edge that makes us love the characters. If Shiina-Sensei can keep this up, we will be Kimi ni Todoke fans to the very end.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B+
The arrival of Ryo’s older brother, Toru, turns from a happy event to an emotional rollercoaster for Chizu who has had a monster crush on him since her early childhood memories of him. Sadly, Toru did not come back home alone and this fact devastates the girl. Meanwhile, Christmas is here and Sawako gets a very surprising invitation from Kazehaya.

ART: B+
And here I thought one of the many funniest sights in this manga was Sawako’s hilarious confused expression, here she goes making me laugh by trying hard not to cry.

OVERALL: B+
As one of Sawako’s friends gets the spotlight, Volume 6 of Kimi ni Todoke manages to remain refreshingly funny but also surprisingly emotional as we learn a lot more about Chizu. It’s clear that Shiina-Sensei has much love for her secondary characters as well as our main protagonist and this definitely shows in this still very delightful shoujo series.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye, Complete Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $79.99 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: 15+
Release Date: Available Now

I spy with my third eye something that begins with awesome.

At first glance, The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye looks like every other series about a desert wasteland planet where the most unlikely person becomes the hero that saves said planet. Yet sometimes appearances can be very delightfully deceiving and this is the case of this series as it brings us something worth watching and enjoying. It’s great to see The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye get the Complete Collection treatment as we meet a girl a most unusual eye.

Like I said, the series takes place in a desert wasteland where giant desert creatures roam at night and the Third, a highly evolved race of humanoid beings with a red eye on their forehead control everything. In the middle of all of this is a young girl named Honoka, a jack-of-all-trades with a talent for using her sword and thus earning her the nickname, “Sword Dancer.” Honoka is not alone in her travels, though, because she has Bogie – a tank with a talking AI system installed.

During one of her routine missions that involve clearing out pesky Sand Spiders, Honoka encounters a young blonde-haired man who isn’t even a bit worried about his safety. He is Iks, mysterious and – to Honoka – downright handsome to the point that she often stares at him. Her infatuation with the young man leads her to accept his offer of accompanying her on her various assignments. While Honoka doesn’t learn a whole lot about Iks during their travels, Iks learns much about this tomboyish girl including the fact that she happens to possess a blue eye on her forehead called an Astral Eye.

Unfortunately, nothing is ever peaceful in this desert world and even more so since the Council of the Third enforces strict laws involving technology. Honoka constantly finds herself combating the Third’s robotic enforcers who are sent to deal with anyone breaking a Technos Taboo law and she often finds herself confronting a member of the Council named Joganki who has an interest in Honoka and not because of her Astral Eye.

Her distaste for the Third becomes amplified when she loses her close friend/mechanic (who helped modify an armored suit for her called the PSP) to a mechanical killing machine known as Blue Breaker. The death of her friend leaves her to take care of his daughter, a cute little girl named Millie who adores Honoka. Often returning to a city called Emporium Town, Honoka and the others meet a gorgeous teacher named Paife who turns out to be something of a hired gun as well who happens to take a fancy to Honoka. There’s an interesting rivalry between Paife and Iks because of Paife’s attraction to Honoka.

We follow Honoka and her friends on a number of missions but the ones that do stand out are the ones connected to the Third. At one point, they encounter an out-of-control weapon known as Gravestone that has an artificial-intelligence and shows them a glimpse of the past. It also battles each member of the group as Honoka discovers Gravestone’s secret.

Later in the series, Honoka runs into a hunter named Leon who is searching for the mythical Desert Fairy and ends up clashing with Honoka and nearly killing her. You see, Leon has a special ability to turn into liquid metal and this makes him a formidable opponent. Interestingly enough, Honoka finds herself being aided by the actual Desert Fairy and a wolf named Kamui. In another major story arc, the Third hires Honoka to find and rescue Joganki from somebody in his past that has control over the Third’s powerful satellite weapon called Wormhole Driver. In an interesting twist, Honoka finds herself teaming up with the most unlikely ally … Blue Breaker.

The series has plenty of action-packed moments and the action sequences look actually good with CG effects that don’t look out of place. Aside from that, the series also has a good sense of humor and characters that you will actually care about because they’re personalities shine through perfectly. It’s fun to see Honoka get annoyed by Bogie’s overprotective nature or Honoka getting girly whenever Iks is near her. The finale is even surprisingly good.

The Complete Collection of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye is a fantastic series that hits all the right notes all the way through to the final episode. Smartly written and wonderfully animated, the series pushes the action, humor and good characters into a deeply enjoyable 24 episodes. We definitely recommend this series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
In a desert wasteland, a feisty girl named Honoka and her tank take on all kinds of jobs that require her brilliant sword fighting skills when she encounters a mysterious young man by the name of Iks walking the desert alone. Joining her, Iks comes to understand this rough girl as well as discover her secret as she goes up against a race of evolved beings known as the Third.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation isn’t completely original in any way but there are some amazing CG effects throughout and visually-striking fight scenes as well. Despite its bleak and sandy setting, the backgrounds look really good so you’ll be glad the series looks wonderfully colorful and crisp on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice acting is superb with Megumi Toyoguchi as Honoka standing out, then again, the English dub voices are equally good. The original score is also wonderfully cinematic and the opening tune, “Sajou no Yume” is cool. Still, it doesn’t beat the two closing songs, especially “Late Show” by Super Flying Boy.

EXTRAS: A
Each disc comes with extras that includes clean opening and closing theme songs, two karaoke songs to sing your heart out (and they’re really awesome songs) and the U.S. trailer for the series as well as some Nozomi trailers as well. The best extras come in the form of a Voice Actor Interview feature with two interviews (one with Megumi Toyoguichi and the other with the Japanese voice actor for Iks, Daisuke Namikawa). Then there’s the Character Bios, a few that actually contains audio commentary.

OVERALL: A-
A thoroughly enjoyable anime series with a lot to offer, The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye is likeable enough that you will gladly watch it through to the end with a smile on your face. The reason for this that the episodes and characters won’t fail to make you like them and, on top of that, the action is fun and the main theme deep enough to make this series a real gem worth buying.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

Dragon Ball Z Kai, Part Three – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

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

Now this is the stuff that Dragon Ball Z dreams are made out of, Saiyan fans!

Like the rest of my fellow reviewers in this office, I am really enjoying the Dragon Ball Z Kai releases. It’s not that the original was flawed in any way that made fans of the manga disappointed and it’s not that the filler made for a bad viewing experience but Kai cuts straight to the story and the action in a way that makes this a more exhilarating thrill ride for Dragon Ball Z fans new and those returning for more.

In Part Two, a voyage to Planet Namek by way of Piccolo’s spacecraft had Bulma, Gohan and Krillin set to find the seven Dragon Balls in hopes of resurrecting their deceased friends. Of course, that was easier said than done since not only is the Saiyan named Vegeta on the planet but so is the evil Frieza and his minions that have been wiping out the Namekian people. In the meantime, Goku is late to the party but is spending his time in space training.

Now, time is running out as Frieza is losing his henchmen by the hands of a powerful Vegeta who has managed to collect nearly all the Dragon Balls to summon Shenron to make him an immortal. Obtaining another Dragon Ball from Krillin – who has no choice but to hand it over – little does Vegeta know that Gohan discovered the location of the Dragon Ball Vegeta hid underwater. With that, Gohan and Krillin head to the Grand Elder who gives Gohan quite a power boost to help him in his inevitable confrontation with Vegeta.

As Vegeta finds the Gran Elder’s tower, however, the Saiyan senses an immense power heading their way. In fact, there are more than one and it becomes clear to Vegeta that Frieza has called in the Ginyo Force – a squad composed of dangerous enhanced foes. In a comical twist, the Ginyo Force does arrive on the planet … complete with their own theme song, teammate introductions and cool pose at the end. How is it that Vegeta is afraid of them?

As it turns out, however, he does have a reason to fear them because all five members of the Ginyu force have their own abilities that make them formidable opponents. Vegeta, sensing he has no shot of taking them on by himself, decides to join forces with Gohan and Krillin. Seeing as these Dragon Balls grant three wishes, Gohan and Krillin agree to give Vegeta his one wish of immortality. So begins an exciting battle with the most unusual sight of seeing Vegeta fighting alongside Gohan and Krillin.

The battles against the Ginyu Force is one of many highlights in Part Three especially since the special abilities of each Ginyu Force member sets them apart such as Ghurd who has the ability to manipulate time to his advantage. Meanwhile Vegeta battles the one called ReaCoom who is a vicious opponent that makes short work out of all three. Luckily for them, Goku finally arrives with all the abilities of a Super Saiyan and goes up against Ginyu himself only to fall victim to Ginyu’s special ability … that of switching bodies with whomever his blast hits.

Meanwhile, Frieza makes his move and collects all the seven Dragon Balls that are currently being guarded by nobody and realizes that he just can’t make a wish. A special phrases needs to be spoken and Frieza thinks that one called the Great Elder might help him only to find himself fighting the Elder’s last remaining warrior. Not far from them, Goku finds a way to get his body back and uses it to defeat Ginyu while Gohan, Krillin and Gohan manage to steal the Dragon Balls Frieza left behind to find the phrase that will summon the great Shenron.

It is Gohan and Krillin, along with the aid of the young Nemekian named Dende that uses the power of the Dragon Balls to summon a creature that is connected to Shenron. It tells them that they can’t bring back all their fallen friends but one of the dead has a brilliant idea that will not only help them in their upcoming battle against Frieza but also find a way to bring back the rest from the dead. Before they could make their final wish, something very unexpected occurs that royally pisses Vegeta off.

Finally, there’s Frieza who confronts all of them in a major battle where Frieza shows off his true power and his transformations that make him an even more dangerous opponent. With Goku recovering in a healing chamber, it is up to Vegeta and the others to fight Frieza and they learn quickly that Frieza isn’t in their league. Help arrives in the form of the one Gohan and Krillin brought back and things get really interesting from here.

Without a doubt, Part Three of Dragon Ball Z Kai is nothing short of brilliantly spectacular. If you thought the first two parts were explosive then what we have here is an H-bomb wrapped in dynamite. It’s a nail-biter, to say the least, but also a 13-episode set that is action anime at its finest so do not miss this part and even more so on Blu-ray.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Vegeta manages to defeat Frieza’s henchmen and continues on his quest to collect all seven Dragon Balls when Frieza calls up the deadly (and hysterically funny) Ginyu Force that arrives on Planet Namek. In a strange twist, Vegeta ends up joining Gohan and Krillin to fight them and secure the Dragon Balls. Goku finally arrives as well but Frieza finally shows up as Gohan and Krillin make a surprising decision.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
I can’t begin to explain how good anime looks on Blu-ray but then again one look at this series on this format says it all. It is also available on DVD but I very highly recommend going for the Blu-ray version.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting on both sides is spectacular with strong performances on both sides. Personally speaking, it doesn’t get any better than hearing Monica Rial as Bulma and Colleen Clinkenbeard as Gohan. The music remains as lively as ever as well.

EXTRAS: C+
The best new feature comes in the form of a U.S. Cast Interview feature that features a short interview with most of the cast that includes Sean Schemmel, Christopher R. Sabat and Sonny Strait just to name a few. Plus, there are trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs.

OVERALL: A
Jumping straight to the story and avoiding all the filler, Dragon Ball Z Kai paints an even faster-paced story that is even more epic than the original and the original was amazing. Part Three of this series is nothing short of breathtaking and if the first two sets didn’t grab you then this one will do the trick nicely. This is what Dragon Ball Z fans have been waiting for and you will not be disappointed.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Volume 3 – Manga Review

Review by: Ai Kano

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Hiroyuki Asada
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available

The ballad of the determined crybaby.

Tegami Bachi is one of those series that grabbed my attention from the very start and the reason is quite simply that it’s a manga series that is beautifully written and has a lot of heart. It’s a touching, funny and intriguing story and, in Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, it will make you feel that the human spirit is strong in those who believe that the heart is an organ capable of turning a young crybaby into a brave soul.

Having passed the Letter Bee exam with flying colors and nearly in record time, Lag Seeing finds himself a newly appointed Letter Bee in Yuusari. However, he is still very determined to find Gauche Suede, the Letter Bee that inspired him a few years. It is a fellow Letter Bee, however, that tells him a troubling bit of news. It seems that Gauche not only turned his back on the Bees but has also disappeared after having secured a good place for him and his handicapped sister to live in a good part of the city.

Of course, Lag doesn’t believe the boy and, weeping, he tells him fellow Bee to take back that lie but – as it turns out – this news might actually be true. The only way to truly find out is to go to Akatsuki and talk to Gauche’s little sister, Sylvette. He sets out with the other Bee as well as his Dingo, Niche, to the lovely little part of the city where a beautiful young girl in a wheelchair is trying hard to make ends meet to keep the place. She also happens to be carrying Gauche’s Shindanjuu (the Letter Bee weapon of choice that shoots part of the user’s heart).

Lag and Niche find Sylvette in a rather annoyed state and she isn’t a lot of help but she does make it clear that she hasn’t seen Gauche and she also happens to possess a letter of dismissal with Gauche’s name on it. What exactly did Gauche do that caused the Head Bee to dismiss him from the roster permanently? Why did Gauche, a man who was determined to become Head Bee, give up his heart?

Back on the carriage, Lag just doesn’t accept Sylvette’s attitude or lack of a real explanation so – despite the fact that she told him that she didn’t want to see him again – Lag takes off by himself and goes back to Sylvette’s home. It is them and there that the to youngsters cry and take comfort in each another. She tells him that her brother had wanted her to give Lag his Shindanjuu. With the weapon, Lag is able to see into Guache’s heart and he sees everything leading up to his disappearance. He swears he will find Guache and bring him back home.

Taking in this new information plus a Shindanjuu and Sylvette’s respect, Lag Seeing shows up to the final Letter Bee interview and tells him his real dream. He speech impresses even Aria, the Assistant Director of the Bees and Guache’s close friend. She shows up at Sylvette’s home where Lag, Niche and Steak now live, and takes Lag to a beautiful spot that Aria tells him was Gauche’s favorite place. It is there that she reveals an interesting event that somehow played a part in Gauche forget about his mother altogether. This event, called the “Day of the Flicker,” is also connected to Lag as well. It’s painfully clear to Lag that Aria told him all this out of her feelings for Gauche. There’s more to their relationship than being just childhood friends.

We also get to experience Lag’s first day as a Letter Bee that includes helping out a fellow Bee who is being attacked by a Gaichuu as he makes use of the Shindanjuu. Then, Lag and Niche receive their first assignment that will have them journeying near Lag’s hometown. The package, it seems, is an old dog-like animal named Darwin who just happened to have been the Dingo of a Letter Bee that disappeared.

The journey, as he is told, is certainly a dangerous one but with Darwin as their guide it becomes somewhat easier. I say somewhat because Darwin is not as young as he once was and they make a stop where they meet a man who tells them a most startling and unfortunate bit of news that makes this part of the story very touching indeed. It certainly brought a tear to my eye.

Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi is strangely beautiful and emotional to the point that you can’t help but recognize the greatness of the story and Hiroyuki Asada’s writing. It’s manga like this that makes me glad I love manga in the first place and is proof that manga can make you think, feel and – yes – cry. This one is quickly becoming one of my personal favorite Shonen Jump titles and with good reason.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Having officially become a Letter Bee, Lag Seeing and his Dingo, Niche, find themselves a part of the roster. Lag also finally gets to meet Gauche’s young sister, Sylvette, who tells him a bit of troubling news that makes him make a vow to the girl. Meanwhile, Aria fills him in on an event that might be related to Gauche’s disappearance and Lag and Niche take on their first real assignment that is connected with a Letter Bee that disappeared.

ART: B+
Asada-Sensei’s art isn’t exactly beautiful but it is original and looks beautiful at various points in the volume. The visual effects are also startlingly lovely.

OVERALL: A+
A beautifully told and moving chapter in this lovely story, Volume 3 of Tegami Bachi is the volume that will make you realize how special this manga series really is and a charming one at that as well. As Lag finds himself a member of the Letter Bees, he will continue to seek the truth behind the man who inspired him.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Naruto Shippuden, Season One: Box Set 4 – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $49.95 US
Running Time: 350 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

Is the bond of hatred stronger than the bond of friendship?

The Naruto Shippuden series certainly has taken a more serious and dramatic turn that goes well beyond what we have seen from the first half of the series and this is still just Season One. A lot has happened to Naruto and all the characters around him but there are just some things that don’t change and that is Naruto’s determination to save a teammate who turned to the dark side. In Season One: Box Set 4, Naruto displays the power locked within him and he and Sakura finally come face-to-face with the one they lost.

Captain Yamato’s plan to disguise himself as one of the fallen Akatsuki to meet up with the mysterious informer was a sound plan and it was working up until said informer turned out to see through the disguise and reveal himself to be none other than Kabuto … Orochimaru’s right hand man. In the first episode of the set, we find that Orochimaru is on the other side of the bridge as well.

Oh yeah, you read it right. Orochimaru, the treacherous snake who attacked the Hidden Leaf Village, killed the Third Hokage and managed to convince Sasuke Uchiha to join him. Seeing Orochimaru, the man who knows the location of Sasuke, Naruto’s anger pushes his Jinchuriki power of the Nine-Tailed Fox. As it did with the Pervy Sage during Naruto’s training, Naruto begins to sprout tails … four of them to be exact. Unfortunately, in this state, Naruto is out of control.

Locking horns with Orochimaru on a whole new level, Sakura, Sai and Yamato watch in horror as Naruto’s appearance in this state becomes frightening. Interestingly enough, even Orochimaru can’t help but think that the Jinchuriki power is more than enough to give him a real physical workout to the point that he does manage to push Orochimaru to his very limits. At one point, Naruto even smashes a massive crater that tears up the forest. Try as she might, Sakura rushes to help Naruto only to be injured by Naruto in the process.

Sensing that he’ll get killed by Naruto if he continues to battle him, Orochimaru retreats only to find himself confronting Sai. However, Sai isn’t there to battle Orochimaru but rather presents him with a scroll from Danzo instead. To Yamato’s surprise, it appears as though Sai has not only betrayed Team Kakashi but also the Leaf Village. Lady Tsunade was right all along when she told him to keep an eye on Sai so Yamato sends a clone to follow the young man when he goes off with Orochimaru and Kabuto.

Meanwhile, Yamato manages to calm Naruto’s Jinchuriki form down. He makes it clear that he was put on the team for this very reason seeing as he was the subject of a very interesting experiment. In fact, it is Orochimaru who recognizes something about Yamato as well as what he is capable of doing. Interestingly enough, Naruto doesn’t remember anything … until Yamato tells him everything.

As far as the situation with Sai is concerned, the rest of Team Kakashi try to piece together clues as to why Sai had betrayed them. Sakura finds Sai’s sketchbook and its contents are somewhat disturbing and leads them to believe that the young man’s childhood consisted of doing dirty work for Lord Danzo. It isn’t until Yamato’s clone takes them to Orochimaru that they come to realize the shocking truth about Sai and his real mission.

You see, within Orochimaru’s lair is none other than Sasuke Uchiha who we haven’t seen since he cut ties with the Leaf Village and his friends. What Sai finds is a more arrogant, angrier and deadly young man who immediately takes a disliking to Sai. He doesn’t quite understand why Naruto and Sakura are trying hard to save a person who doesn’t want to be saved.

Infiltrating Orochimaru’s lair, the rest of Team Kakashi discover Sai’s true intentions and they’re a taken aback by the possibility that the Hidden Leaf Village may be in danger. Then the moment Naruto fans have been waiting for occurs in one unforgettable scene that makes Box Set 4 a Must Have alone. It is here that Sasuke shows us exactly how powerful he has become over the years. Let’s just say that he’s in a whole other league. Which answers the question: Is the bond of hatred stronger than the bond of friendship?

Box Set 4 of Naruto Shippuden takes us through episodes that are slightly more darker as this series is really becoming far more interesting than when it first started. On top of that, there are memorable moments that will – no doubt – be one of many moments we can continue to look forward to in future installments. Naruto fans, this is the box set you must own.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
The Akatsuki informer’s identity is finally revealed as Captain Yamato and the rest of Team Kakashi face him but when Orochimaru shows his face it is Naruto who unleashes great power to beat him. Unfortunately, this power gets really out of control. Meanwhile, a betrayal among their ranks reveals a threat to the Hidden Leaf Village. More importantly, Naruto and Sakura are finally reunited with Sasuke Uchiha.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The episodes look sharp and crisp on DVD and that’s a very good thing seeing as there are plenty of jaw-dropping battles here and, of course, an unforgettable scene that’s better on a bigger screen.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Once again, the Japanese voices and the English dub voice actors make for a great experience equally on both sides. For my money, however, Maile Flanagan is the voice I hear when I see images of Naruto. The score continues to work for this series and the new closing theme song is a new favorite.

EXTRAS: B+
The “Who’s Playing Who?” interactive voice actor game is actually very fun and a really entertaining addition we hope to see more of in future box set releases. There’s Production Art stills as well and the Interactive Character Relations Chart of Sound Village characters is worth a look as well. Of course, there are also trailers as well.

OVERALL: A-
As the Naruto Shippuden series starts going down a darker path, it’s also becomes a lot more exhilarating as well as we can see from Season One’s fourth Box Set. Old villains are back and the reunion we’ve been waiting for since the first part of the series makes this a box set no Naruto fan shouldn’t be without. Interesting plot developments are certainly in the works and we will definitely be there.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Trigun, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Meet Vash the Stampede … a human trouble magnet.

Sit a spell and allow me to spin a yarn about a gunslinger so dangerous that whenever he got into a fight he’d leave a town in rubble and the town folk running for the hills. It’s no wonder they call him Vash the Stampede, or more affectionately, the Humanoid Typhoon. His adventures are also pretty darn entertaining and, at times, deep enough to make you ponder how good anime can get when everything comes together well. The Complete Series of Trigun is a four-DVD set you will certainly come to appreciate even if you missed out on the manga.

Based on Yasuhiro Nightow’s manga series, Trigun tells the tale of Vash the Stampede who has become famous for leaving a trail of destruction wherever he goes. This is why the Bernardelli Insurance Society has sent two agents, Meryl Stryfe and her bubbly partner, Milly Thompson, to shadow Vash and keep him from causing destruction. The problem is that Meryl and Milly don’t know what Vash really looks like so they ask around and think Vash is a Mohawk-wearing bandit.

As fate would have it, the real Vash runs into this bandit and his men and he reveals that he is something of a bumbling coward who believes in love and peace. He’s hardly the homicidal maniac that the rumors made him out to be and – despite the fact that he matches the real description of him – both Meryl and Milly don’t believe this weird guy in red is the same man that everyone calls the Humanoid Typhoon who has a bounty of 60 billion double-dollars on his head. It isn’t until other gunmen identify Vash that the girls believe the rumors.

Traveling with the man, though, both girls come to find out that there’s more to Vash than meets the eye. He’s the type of man who lends a hand to a person in trouble and never mind the rumors of him leaving a trail of corpses where he goes because the man is actually a true pacifist who will stubbornly not take a life no matter what because of a promise he made somebody near and dear to him.

Along the way they encounter a slick “priest” named Nicholas D. Wolfwood who carries a giant cross with him. Early on in the series, Wolfwood reveals that he’s also a gunslinger but – like Vash – there’s more to him than just being a broke ladies’ man. Unlike Vash, however, Wolfwood isn’t afraid to take a life and it isn’t until later that Vash’s peace-loving ways begin to affect him.

For the most part, the series finds Vash, Meryl, Milly and occasionally Wolfwood traveling to different towns and cities in this westernized desert wasteland. Of course, it’s Vash’s reputation and the price on his head that gets them all in trouble. In one episode, Vash tries to escape an entire town filled with people trying to collect on the reward for Vash in order to use the money to repair their power plant. On top of that he has to deal with professional bounty hunters as well as barbaric gunslingers looking to collect as well.

When not getting into trouble, though, Vash is helping people. In one episode he helps a town drunk find meaning in life once again and in yet another he rescues a female gambler who is taken hostage by a group of bandits. In another situation, he helps a child stowaway get his father’s desert steam ship from a group of terrorists. Vash often finds himself becoming a bodyguard for extra cash but, more importantly, leads his employer down the right path.

While often cowardly or acting like a total goof, it becomes clear to Meryl and Milly that Vash has a good heart and the two women become close to him to the point that they follow him out of friendship and, in Meryl’s case, something else. It isn’t until later in the series that we discover the truth about Vash, particularly where he really comes from and who exactly is the woman who has influenced his peaceful attitude. The series also gets a lot more darker and interesting as an assassin group called the Gung-Ho Guns is introduced and leads Vash down a very violent path.

Trigun is still refreshingly exciting and still just as entertaining as it was back when it was first seen and that is mainly do to the stories that are written well and filled with characters that actually have personalities that set them apart. Sure the animation isn’t as fresh as it once was but that won’t stop you from enjoying all the great visual effects.

That said, Trigun has classic written all over it and with good reason … it’s an amazing anime series that has everything you can ask for in an action series. It’s also wonderfully deep at times, genuinely funny in others and just exciting enough that you won’t help watching it from start to finish. Even if you’ve seen it before, you should definitely own this collection.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Hot on the trail of the mysterious destructive force that is Vash the Stampede in a desert wasteland planet, Meryl and Milly from the Bernardelli Insurance Society find that the young spiky-haired blonde gunslinger in red is not what he seems despite the rumors and the three are joined by a roguish priest-gunslinger on their journey to discover the truth about Vash as well as who is targeting him.

VIDEO QUALITY: B-
Trigun looks surprisingly good despite its age and it looks as close to Nightow’s manga series … which is a really good thing, indeed. Some of the action sequences really do look great as well.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast is where it’s at when viewing this series but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the English dub thanks to the talents of Johnny Yong Bosch (Vash), Dorothy Melendez (Meryl) and Jeff Nimoy (Wolfwood). The score is decent yet dated and the closing theme song is so much better than the rocking opening theme.

EXTRAS: D
The entire series collection can be found on four discs but as far as extras are concerned you won’t find much except for some trailers as well as the clean opening and closing animations.

OVERALL: A+
The Complete Series collection of Trigun deserves to be among your collection if you’re an anime fan or someone who appreciates animation with a lot of heart. It’s a classic in its own way with stellar writing that makes the episodes not just good entertainment but deep enough to make you care about the characters. Consider this a real Must Have for sure.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Birdy The Mighty: Decode, Part Two – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

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

A sexy alien superstar finds love but will it mean the end of her as well?

Having liked the original series a long while back, it was good to see Birdy again and she’s looking a lot better in this new series as we saw in Part One of Birdy the Mighty: Decode. It’s also a lot more entertaining as this sexy intergalactic crime-fighter takes on even bigger threats while taking her time to model for the fan boys in Akihabara. Part Two brings us more of the same but that’s not a bad thing at all considering there’s a lot to like in this second half of the series.

It has been one month since the Ryunka was awakened by the greedy media mogul named Shyamalan and Federation investigator Birdy Cephon Altera – along with her human partner Tsutomu Senkawa saved the day before the Ryunka could level all of the city. Instead, of destroying all of Tokyo, entire blocks have been reduced to rubble and hundreds died as a result.

In Part Two, a group of alien terrorists responsible for having stolen the Ryunka that caused the destruction on Earth break out of custody and decide to hide out on our planet. Obtaining an alien device by an elderly alien called Mister Dusk, the small band is now disguised as humans but word soon gets out by the Federation that they might be hiding somewhere in Japan. This means Birdy and Senkawa (who is back in Birdy’s body again) must find and arrest them.

A lot has happened in the month after the even for Birdy’s alter ego, Shion Arita, who has now become even more popular thanks to a music CD she just put out. Aside from juggling her career and Federation job, she also allows time for Senkawa to live his life … although he spends his time disappointing classmates and depressed that his romance with Nagasugi is forgotten by the girl that loved him.

peaking of romance, Birdy runs into a childhood friend of hers named Nataru who has been living as a human for a few years now as a physical therapist in a hospital. It’s clear to Senkawa that Nataru sees Birdy in a more romantic light while Birdy still sees him as a friend. Nataru comes off as a good-natured young man who even has a young female admirer in a patient that was the little sister of his best friend that died during the Ryunka‘s path of destruction. He also happens to be the son of the mysterious Mister Dusk.

Meanwhile, the convicts start dying in violent ways by a mysterious young assassin with white hair who seems to see their murder as punishment for having killed so many people during the Ryunka’s awakening. Fearing for their lives, the prison escapees get try to stick together but one-by-one they’re being hunted and massacred. Birdy arrives late to the scene of the crime with the killer gone as if he vanished into thin air.

When not trying to track down the convicts, Birdy finds herself meeting up with Nataru often including on accident when Senkawa and his friends decide to visit the refugee camp for those who lost their homes and loved ones to the Ryunka. Senkawa learns, through Birdy’s stories, that she met Nataru when they were kids. However, after her battle with the convicts’ leader named Valic, Senkawa finds himself fused mentally to Birdy’s body so he goes deep into her memories to get her back. Her memories not only cover Birdy’s relationship with Nataru but also his robotic caretaker named Violin.

Through Birdy’s memories Senkawa also sees what really happened during a known terrorist attack on a huge tower as well as the memory of the fate that befalls Violin. More importantly, though, Senkawa is a witness to Birdy’s upbringing that is hardly what you might call a childhood.

Part Two gets even more interesting when the identity of the mystery man that is murdering the convicts as the rest of the prison escapees find out his identity as well and strikes back. As the killer reveals his true power, it is Birdy who fights to put an end to the killer’s mission before it destroys him. It’s quite a dramatic turn of events. Still, this half of the series isn’t too serious with one of the highlights being Senkawa – when his mind fused with Birdy’s body – spends his time trying to carry out Shion’s modeling gigs. It’s also good to see Capella (the girl that partnered with Shyamalan) again and this time as a personal assistant to Birdy.

On another note, nothing is really revealed in the Gomez front and even less regarding Cristella Revi who was introduced to us in the final episodes of Part One. Here’s hoping we do get to find out more about these people in another season if this series continues.

Part Two of Birdy the Mighty: Decode doesn’t push the envelope either but when it comes to being a real blast it doesn’t get any better than Birdy. Still charming and filled with action, this second part shows us more of Birdy’s past and what makes her tick but also that she has a much bigger heart that makes her a unique kind of superhero. You really do have to check this series out.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
One month has passed since Birdy and Senkawa saved Tokyo from the awakened Ryunka but the group responsible for stealing it has escaped to planet Earth so it is up to Birdy to find and apprehend them. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be an easy task since there is a mysterious figure who is killing them one-by-one. Meanwhile, Birdy encounters a childhood friend living on Earth.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series looks amazing compared to the old series, of course, and watching Birdy in action is a visual treat. This really is quite a good-looking anime series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, the English dub voice acting is top-notch and the original Japanese voices are good as well but makes for a very different dialogue experience. The score is wonderful and so is the closing theme song but it’s the new opening theme, “Kiseki” by NIRGILIS that is already a song that is well loved by everyone in this office. We really do play it often.

EXTRAS: D
The lack of features or extras besides a few trailers is disappointing. We could have at least loved the cleaning opening and closing animation.

OVERALL: B+
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is one of those anime series that isn’t afraid to have some fun despite the fact that it doesn’t really push anything particularly new or anything we haven’t seen before in this genre. Still, there’s no denying that Birdy is too enjoyable to ignore, as we can see from Part Two, and one we hope will continue.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment