Junjo Romantica, Season 2 DVD Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day
Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Yaoi
Rating: 17+
Release Date: Available Now

Let there be obstacles, confessions of love and a lot of teddy bears.

Season 1 of Junjo Romantica introduced us to three very different couples that have gone from courtship to jumping into a relationship that each of these six men are not familiar with but when it comes to falling in love they each realize that gender doesn’t even come into the equation. In Season 2 of the series, we discover that into each life some rain must fall but, then again, there’s always a sunny day.

Season 2 of Junjo Romantica follows the three couples again but this time there is more emphasis on Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami’s romance as we find the two still living together. Just as we last left them, Usami is the one who sweeps the younger man off his feet – literally – and Usami tries to fight back only finding himself not able to really resist Usami’s kisses. About to seduce the young man, Isaka and Aikawa barge into their bedroom to announce that Usami will be attending a commemoration party in his honor for having won the Kikukawa Award for his latest novel. Usami doesn’t want to go but Misaki convinces the older man.

This is where the problems begin when – on his way to the party with a bouquet of followers – Misaki runs into an older man in the subway station. Misaki helps the older man but it turns out that this stranger is none other than Haruhiko Usami … his lover’s older brother. Haruhiko is both similar and different from Akihiko but it is clear that the older brother hates the younger Usami and is often at odds with each another. Surprisingly, since he comes to talk to Misaki on their way to the same place … Haruhiko suddenly tells Misaki that he is in love with him!

With another Usami chasing after him, Misaki’s life is soon becoming way too complicated as Haruhiko sends various presents to the younger man to the younger Usami’s great annoyance. Usami wants Misaki all to himself and he makes it clear that he should not talk to Haruhiko ever again. As fate would have it, Haruhiko manages to convince Masaki to come to the Usami family home where he reveals a number of things the young man didn’t know about his lover. Haruhiko also attempts to hide Misaki away from his brother but Akihiko arrives to steal him away.

In the course of the season, Usami becomes conflicted about Misaki’s true feeling for him since the young man has even yet to say the words “I love you.” Misaki doesn’t quite say it at first but – as he helps Usami out in a project and even rescues him from Sumi-Senpai, who reveals the real reason he as become friends with Misaki – Misaki does say it. In fact, it’s one of many great moments in this season.

Oh, there’s much more as Papa Usami shows up and while he seems like a nice enough gentleman, he slowly reveals that he does not want Misaki near either of his sons who are fighting over Misaki. Should Misaki do as Papa Usami says in order not to make any more trouble for the family or should he follow his heart and stay with the one he loves? Would he ever become a burden to Usami later in life? These are questions that Misaki will have to answer.

Meanwhile, the series cleverly fits the other couples into the story as all of these characters’ lives intersect at one some point. We find Hiroki Kamijou troubled and acting coldly towards Nowaki Kusuma and the reason is that the younger man seems to be drifting away thanks to his medical career. Then Kamijou comes home to find Nowaki sleeping half-naked with a fellow physician and comes to the conclusion that Nowaki is having an affair and, on top of that, he discovers that Nowaki was looking into moving away. However, nothing is as it seems and Nowaki sets the record straight in a way that makes Kamijou finally realize something about himself and Nowaki.

Then there’s Miyagi who believes that Shinobu is no longer interested in being in a relationship with him anymore since Shinobu is no longer showing up at his place. Then Miyagi makes a discovery of his own: Shinobu found an old picture of the older man and his teacher that he fell in love with a long time ago. So Miyagi grabs Shinobu and shows him the truth behind the woman in the picture as well as makes a confession that takes the young Shinobu by surprise.

The 12-episodes that make up this season find each couple hitting many rough patches that any relationship – straight or otherwise – face and it’s great to see each of these couples deal and overcome each of their problems. It’s refreshing to find a series that handles drama and comedy flawlessly and this second season seems to concentrate more on romance than highlighting fiery love scenes. In fact, there’s even more comedy elements in this season such as when Usami’s female cousin comes to visit or watching Usami’s reaction to Misaki easily saying “I love you” to his favorite manga-ka when he meets him.

In the end, what we have in Season 2 of Junjo Romantica is simply more of what we loved about the first season of this series. The relationships just don’t get more interesting but even more meaningful as each character discovers that there’s nothing stronger than true love and even when things seem strained there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Yaoi fans, there’s a reason that Junjo Romantica is so popular and if you pick this one up you will see why.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Misaki finds himself still living with Usami as their relationship hits a series of speed bumps that comes in the form of Usami’s older brother and the Usami patriarch. Meanwhile, Kamijou begins to wonder if Nowaki is heading in a direction that will lead him away from him. At the same time, Miyagi wonders if Shinobu is no longer interested in pursuing a relationship with him since the younger boy is distancing himself from him. Plus, will Misaki ever tell Usami that he loves him?

VIDEO QUALITY: A
This second season still looks just as good as the first with the exception that there are more cute and funny visual sequences in this one. There are also more romantic moments in this one than steamy ones … although that not to say you should ignore the 17+ rating. I said it once and I’ll say it again, this series definitely should be watched on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Once again, the voice acting in the series is excellent with standout performances scattered throughout this season. I absolutely love the score in this season that seems to have a romantic French feel to it that does the series justice. The new opening and closing theme songs are also wonderful with “Aioi” by JUNED being yet another great closing theme song.

EXTRAS: B+
The neat Liner Notes from the last release are, thankfully, back as well as a few trailers for each disc. Meanwhile, you can find original Japanese TV and DVD Spots for this series as well as the clean opening and closing theme songs. There’s also a 24-page booklet with character bios, production artwork and some fun extras as well.

OVERALL: A
Season 2 of Junjo Romantica is an even more heartfelt, funny, romantic and very entertaining second half to a series that has already shown us that this is exactly what makes us fans of the genre in the first place. Sure, the Misaki-Usami relationship gets more screen time but it’s hard to complain when their relationship is one of the more endearing and fascinating part of Junjo Romantica. This is definitely worth buying for any yaoi fan out there.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

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RIGHT STUF’S NOZOMI ENTERTAINMENT Announces REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Black Rose Saga DVD Set L.E.

Second remastered, premium set available on August 2, 2011.

GRIMES, Iowa, April 27, 2011 – Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are pleased to announce REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Black Rose Saga DVD Set L.E. (Remastered Box Set 2) will be available on August 2, 2011.

This second of three, limited-edition DVD box sets will feature remastered video and a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese audio track from the recent Japanese DVD release, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for English and Japanese audio, and English-language subtitles and on-screen translations.

On-disc extras will include animated art galleries, 1997 Utena promotional video footage, and interviews conducted with Utena Director Kunihiko Ikuhara during a previous visit to the United States. Additionally, the set will be housed in a collectors’ art box and also include a book with content from the limited-edition Japanese release with episode commentary, artwork, and the second installment of production notes from the Japanese laser disc release. Only a limited quantity of this premium set will be produced.

Nozomi Entertainment’s release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Student Council Saga DVD Set L.E. (Remastered Box Set 1) is scheduled for June 7, 2011.

“Utena is more than an adventure; it’s a psychological roller coaster.”
One of the ten “Best Anime Ever” – Anime Insider

Revolutionary Girl Utena has been both critically acclaimed and a fan favorite since its 1997 broadcast debut on TV Tokyo and features direction by Kunihiko Ikuhara (Sailor Moon S and SuperS), series composition by Yoji Enokido (Ouran High Host Club, FLCL, Sailor Moon SuperS) and animation by J.C. Staff (Honey and Clover, Slayers, Toradora!). Utena has been described as one of the top five “best anime of all time” (Anime Insider magazine, among others), and the project also inspired animated film, manga and stageplay adaptations. Both shoujo (girls’) manga, written and illustrated by Chiho Saito, were published in North America by VIZ Media.

Visit utena.rightstuf.com to see the series’ trailers (featuring the remastered video) and to pre-order the first two REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA limited-edition DVD sets.

About REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Black Rose Saga

Utena and Anthy have become close during their time as roommates. So when Anthy casually mentions she has a brother, Utena can’t help but feel shocked. She thought she knew Anthy, but the longer she and Anthy are friends, the more she discovers she doesn’t know. What other secrets could Anthy be keeping?

However, Utena won’t have time to dwell upon such matters. A new group of duelists has emerged from the shadows. These new challengers wear black rose signets and also seek revolution, but their methods are different than those of Ohtori’s Student Council. They don’t wish to possess Rose Bride. They want to kill her.

Contains episodes 13-24.

REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Black Rose Saga DVD Set L.E.

(Remastered Box Set 2)
Pre-Book: 7/5/2011
Street Date: 8/2/2011
Runtime: Approximately 300 minutes, Dolby Digital Stereo, Color
Genre: Drama
Suggested Rating: 16+

Format: DVD (2.0 English Audio, 5.1 and 2.0 Japanese Audio, English Subtitles, English On-Screen Translations)
Catalog #: RSDVD1156
ISBN: 1-57032-705-X
UPC: 7-42617-1156-2-2
SRP: $49.99
Discs/Set: 3
Case Qty: TBA
DVD Features:

Scene access, remastered video from the recent Japanese DVD re-release, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio for English and Japanese dialogue, new Dolby 5.1 audio for Japanese dialogue, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS: Animated art galleries, 1997 Utena promo, and interviews with Utena Director Ikuhara, conducted during a previous visit to the United States. AND: A book featuring content from the recent, limited-edition Japanese DVD box set, including episode commentary, artwork and production notes from the Japanese laser disc release (part 2).

** Product specifications and content may be subject to change.

ABOUT RIGHT STUF, INC.

Currently celebrating its 23rd year in business, Right Stuf, Inc. was one of the first players in the U.S. Japanese Animation (“anime”) industry, as both an anime producer/distributor and a retailer. Right Stuf works to promote knowledge of its own products, as well as the anime and manga industry, in general, through its online storefront at RightStuf.com and a variety of media including podcasts and special publications.

Nozomi Entertainment, Right Stuf’s production division, is dedicated to the highest quality releases. True to the Japanese word that inspired its name, Nozomi’s focus is on “what fans want.” By focusing on a limited number of anime properties each year, the Nozomi production team ensures each release receives the care and attention to detail it deserves.

From anime classics like Astro Boy, Kimba and Gigantor to modern comedies, dramas and favorites such as The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, His and Her Circumstances, Gravitation, Ninja Nonsense, The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye, Emma: A Victorian Romance, Maria Watches Over Us, ARIA, Gakuen Alice, Rental Magica, Dirty Pair and Junjo Romantica, Right Stuf and Nozomi Entertainment produce quality programming for fans of all ages and interests. For more information, visit www.rightstuf.com and http://nozomient.com.

Eden of the East: The King of Eden, Movie 1 – Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 80 minutes
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating: Unrated
Release Date: April 26, 2011

Noblesse oblige, I pray that they continue to make anime this good.

Having been a huge fan of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Eden of the East just proved to me that Kenji Kamiyama is a brilliant mastermind that not only knows how to tell a great story with but also keep his audience hooked with visually dazzling animation and themes that make you think. In Eden of the East: The King of Eden, Saki and Takizawa are back as the fate of Japan rests in the hands of those who continue playing this deadly game.

Movie 1 takes place six months after the events seen in the series as Saki Morimi and Akira Takizawa helped divert a series of missiles heading for Japan and thus stopping a catastrophic event similar to “Careless Monday.” As a result of this action, Takizawa was seen as a savior of Japan and it didn’t take too long before phone cam pictures turned the young man into a global icon people known as the Air King. He’s even on t-shirts and billboards across the world.

However, after their arrest, Takizawa disappeared leaving no real indication of where he went except for the Noblesse cell phone he left behind. Having been interrogated by the authorities, Saki is released but finds herself worried about what has become of Takizawa. Along with her friends who started the Eden of the East website that has become a world-wide phenomenon, they use the Noblesse phone to search for clues. What they find is that not only did Takizawa ask the Selecao consigliore called Juiz to be named the King of Japan but also that he memory be erased.

Oh, there’s another clue that puts in motion the events that will lead to the ultimate goal of the dangerous game all Selecao are playing and that is that he planned on meeting up with Saki again in “their special place” but in New York City. As it turns out, Saki knows exactly what that message means since she carries with her a picture they took together when they first met. So, armed with the strange phone and help from his friends that now includes the master hacker they all call Panties, Saki heads out to the Big Apple.

Of course, her trip to New York City doesn’t go smoothly as her cab driver discovers that she’s carrying a travel bag filled with guns, ammo and grenades. The cab takes off with her purse and the phone, leaving the poor girl stuck outside Grand Central with an open bag filled with weapons and ammo. She makes her escape thanks to a well-timed car accident and finds herself determined to find Takizawa near the spot that is special to them both.

Meanwhile, her friends used the Eden of the East website plus a program that Panties designed to look into the Selecao movements and what they find is actually quite startling. For starters, there are still Selecao still active, one of them being the very sexy Diana Kuroha Shiratori and the mysterious Number Six whose identity cannot be pin-pointed by the group. What they do know is that he might be the one who packed Saki’s bag filled with guns.

We also meet another player in the game, a mystery man who has turned the whole Air King phenomenon into a mass merchandizing empire thanks to his manipulation of the NEETs. There’s also Number One, who has his own agenda that is bringing him closer to winning the game. Each Selecao still counts on the aid of Juiz, who – comically – starts sounding annoyed with the outrageous demands of one of the Selecao that is tailing Saki.

When Saki is finally reunited with Takizawa, she discovers that the rumors of him using Juiz to wipe his memory are all true. Going by another name and working in the city, Takizawa doesn’t even recognize Saki, although she does get him to help her get her purse and phone back. It is thanks to the Noblesse phone that Takizawa starts realizing that Saki might actually be telling him the truth.

Unfortunately, they are being tracked down by more than one Selecao, one of which has cleverly made it out to look as if Takizawa is the illegitimate son of recently deceased Prime Minister of Japan. They get help from the most unlikely person, though, and I won’t spoil things by revealing what happens to said person as a result. What I will say is that things are really heating up as the movie does a brilliant job of setting up the events for the inevitable second movie as Japan is once again in danger.

There’s a lot to The King of Eden despite its 80-minute running time and that says a lot right there but on top of the suspense, meaningful character interactions and the intrigue, there’s a message of hope for a great country striving to be better in tough times. The film contains great dialogue and the animation is simply stunning, especially when it comes to the detailed background. It’s impressive to see New York City animated this beautifully.

Eden of the East: The King of Eden is simply one of the most compelling and convincing animated features that does justice to a series that seems hard to top. Once again, Kenji Kamiyama weaves a story that is intelligent and utterly engrossing that you will find yourself caught up in this mysterious and deadly game all over again. This combo pack has everything you can ask for including an extra feature that recaps the entire series. In other words, there’s no excuse for not picking this one up right away, Eden fans.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Six months after the missiles failed to destroy Japan, the young man who is now hailed as a savior has disappeared. Worried that the other Selecao playing the deadly game are targeting Takizawa, Saki heads out to New York City after receiving a message meant for her. When she does find him, though, Saki finds out that the other Selecao are determined to carry out their own plans to win the game.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The series looks amazing whether you watch this on Blu-ray of DVD with the gorgeous backgrounds, good CG effects and endearing Chica Umino character designs. This is definitely worth watching on HD if you have a Blu-ray player.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting is topnotch once again no matter if you prefer the original Japanese voices or the excellent English dub cast. Both Jason Liebrecht and Ryouhei Kimura still pull of great performances as Takizawa. Then there’s the amazing score by Kenji Kawai and great sound effects that make this worth watching with a good sound system hooked up.

EXTRAS: A
The extras come in the form of FUNimation trailers, the Movie 1 preview as well as the original TV spots and a neat News Flash tease. Best yet, however, is the “prequel movie” called Air Communication that is more of a lengthy recap of the events from the series with the Japanese voice cast making comments in character.

On top of these extras, it’s good to find that FUNimation has included the DVD version with this combo pack so if you don’t have a Blu-ray player you can always check out the two-DVD version.

OVERALL: A+
For those who loved Eden of the East, The King of Eden is everything you can ask for in a feature film that continues this riveting and compelling tale. This being the first movie in this series, you will find yourself wanting a second movie in this series that is both intelligent and exciting enough to make you a big fan of an original and brilliant animated series.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Cross Game, Volume 2 (Omnibus) – Manga Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Mitsuru Adachi
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Sunday)
MSRP: $14.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

The portables make their debut and it’s nothing short of impressive.

As a baseball enthusiast and a devoted manga lover, Cross Game comes as the best of both worlds and now a fan favorite. While the first thick omnibus edition of Cross Game was the perfect setup for this sports manga series, it’s Volume 2 that finally takes us to an actual game between a team that is already made up of powerhouse players against a team setting out to prove they have enough skill to make their debut one to remember.

A lot has happened to the boy named Ko Kitamura who lost his childhood friend and the only girl he truly loved in a tragic occurrence during a field trip. The loss of Wakaba also weighs heavily on the mind of one of her sisters, Aoba Tsukishima, who isn’t exactly one of Ko’s biggest fans. In fact, she’s annoyed by the older boy. Aoba is also one hell of a pitcher, a fact that has inspired Ko to not only become a pitcher but also fulfill her sister’s dream of seeing him play to a bug crowd at Koshien in hopes that even Aoba would approve of his skills.

As a matter of fact, this is why he shows up at the Tsukishima Batting Center to talk to Aoba only to find the girl annoyed by the fact that he takes her out to the park where lovers meet. Still, she quickly sees that he’s not there to try anything funny but rather he has asked her out to get her opinion of his pitches. Although she doesn’t give him glowing praise, she is obviously impressed and her reaction certainly meant a lot to him. He also makes a bet with her that if he holds the Varsity team to under five runs in the upcoming game she treats him to a Napolitan.

The day of the game is here and the portable team that Ko is on realizes that all the fanfare is for the Varsity team as the announcer only introduces their players but the scoreboard simply reads: Seishu and P. It is clear that Coach Daimon doesn’t think much of the portable team and even feels that it is not even worth keeping score because his team is the big leagues compared to them. After all, he is the one who scouted and picked the players that include the powerhouse, Azuma, and a solid lineup that includes Miki and Takizawa. Oh, and just for laughs, he has Senda as a pitcher.

What Coach Daimon doesn’t anticipate, however, is the fact that the portable team has spirit and the determination to make the Varsity team sweat bullets. In the course of the lengthy game, they manage to make the Varsity team work hard as Ko pitches a hell of game to the point that the Interim Principal can’t help but acknowledge that the boy is not a small fry like the Coach Daimon thinks. In fact, his pitching makes the Coach kick Senda off him team and has him report to the portable team where they make him their shortstop … surprisingly, to much success.

While it is clear that Ko has a talent for pitching, he’s not exactly perfect either but when he steps up to the mound as a batter he manages to hit a homer and surprising everyone including Aoba and a mysterious old man (who everyone just calls Grandpa) she sits next to during the game. The real challenge comes when Ko takes on Azuma who is just about the only player on the Varsity team that takes Ko seriously and possibly even respects him as a player.

Coach Daimon, on the other hand, is determined to show everyone that his team is winners and pushes his players harder as the final innings of the game prove that the portables are good but not quite there yet as rivals. The end result is not favorable to the portable team despite the fact that the loss wasn’t bad and when they return for practice it seems that Coach Daimon has shut them off from their facilities. So this leaves the portables to train elsewhere.

In the meantime, Ko’s friends spot the young boy carrying shopping bags for the Interim Principal’s stuck up daughter and rumors start flying around that Ko might actually be kissing up to get a position on the Varsity team. After all, he is the player that made an outstanding debut. Even Aoba sees that the rumors of Ko hanging out with the girl is true but the reason – she later finds out – is not what she expected.

Speaking of Aoba, she finds herself heading to where the portable team is practicing over the summer to bring Ko his things he left at home. She takes the wrong exit and ends up somewhere else but Ko finds her and she sees that the portable team really is hard at work training to be better. When she believes that Ko is messing around somewhere, she sees that he is working the hardest of the bunch. Could it be that she is slowly finding him less annoying now?

Volume 2 of Cross Game is certainly the more exciting volume in this series so far as the portable team as well as Ko shows the Varsity team what they’re made of during a brilliant debut. The story maintains its delightful sense of humor and it is obvious that Adachi Sensei has a deep-rooted love for the game of baseball as we can see from the nail-biting moments during the game. He also knows how to tell a good human drama and we cannot wait to see how he ends this story.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A-
Set out to test their skills against Coach Daimon’s hand-picked varsity team, Ko and the rest of the portable team take the mound and show them what they can really do. More importantly, though, Aoba and everyone in the stadium can see that Ko is amazing to the point that even the other team recognizes his skill. However, at the end, the portable team finds themselves training harder to make an even bigger impression for their next game.

ART: B+
The art in the series is still decent enough to make the game look exciting and the backgrounds are still downright gorgeous. My complaint is still the same … certain characters look too much alike.

OVERALL: A-
While the first volume in this series was a crowd-pleasing homerun, Volume 2 of Cross Game still manages to impress with some of the more exciting chapters in this omnibus release. We finally catch a glimpse of what Ko can do out on the field as a team fights to be recognized and ends up making quite a rousing impression in the end. Fans of sports manga should definitely not miss this one.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Junjo Romantica, Season 1 DVD Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Yaoi
Rating: 17+
Release Date: Available Now

Love takes many shapes and forms but it is still love.

While yaoi and other boys-love titles are an acquired taste that might not suit everyone’s palette, those who do enjoy it have a deeper understanding that sometimes love stories of the unconventional type are often the best love stories. To prove my point, I ask that we turn our attention to Season 1 of Junjo Romantica, a BL series that is a delightfully appealing and heartfelt look into the romance of three couples. Believe me when I say that if you’re not already a fan of yaoi then you certainly will be after picking up this series.

Focusing on three different but somewhat related relationships, the 12-episodes that make up the first season of Junjo Romantica first gives us a glimpse of one couple before moving on to the other two couples that link up with various characters throughout the series. We meet Misaki Takahashi, a high school student preparing for his college entrance exam only to find himself frustrated with the fact that his scores aren’t as high as they should be to get to the university of his choice.

Suddenly, Misaki walks in on his older brother about to be kissed by a handsome gentleman by the name of Akihiko Usami who happens to be a law school graduate with a few award-winning books to his name. Misaki’s brother suggests that Usami should tutor the younger Takahashi and Usami agrees. However, during their time together, Misaki realizes that Usami has always loved the older Takahashi and now that love is not going to be returned because Misaki’s brother is about to get married to his girlfriend.

Compelled by strong feelings of regret that Misaki’s brother is overlooking true love, Misaki demonstrates how he feels about Usami’s unrequited love. Usami is touched by this act and actually kisses the younger man. Now, Misaki finds himself being pursued by the older man who – often comically – seduces Misaki every chance he gets. Misaki fights him off each time but a big part of him realizes that he has strong feeling for the man who collects big fluffy teddy bears and secretly writes steamy BL novels.

Is he just a substitute for his older brother or does Usami really love him for him? These are questions that Misaki asks himself as he tries to make sense of this relationship that is very new to him. In the meantime, we meet Hiroki Kamijou, a young professor who has – at one point before Misaki – had a passionate fling with Usami but realizes that Usami is deeply in love with somebody else. Crushed by the fact that the man he loves cannot love him back, a toy rocket lands near his feet and its owner happens to be a gorgeous younger man.

All of sudden, Kamijou is literally swept away by Nowaki Kusama and the older man spends the day at the park with Nowaki (whose name means “typhoon”). To his annoyance, Nowaki will not leave him alone and won’t take no for an answer when he asks that Kamijou become his tutor. The older man does end up tutoring him, I mean, how can he not when Nowaki is refreshingly honest and pure? Things, however, change when Nowaki reveals that his is in love with Kamijou. For the younger man, it was love at first sight.

So here we have another dilemma as Kamijou, trying to fight off the advances of a strange young man who insists that he is really in love with him as well as his feelings for a man that will not return his love. Finally, we meet You Miyagi who happens to be a fellow professor and friend of Kamijou at the same school. One day, Miyagi happens to save a young man named Shinobu Takatsuki from a group of bullies. Instantly smitten by Miyagi, he feels that it is their destiny to be together but – unfortunately – he finds out that Miyagi is about to get married to his sister. A few months later, though, Miyagi gets divorced and Shinobu returns from Australia in hopes that the older man will fall in love with him.

The problem with this relationship is that Miyagi has never had a relationship with a member of the same sex since he not only married Shinobu’s sister but also was also deeply in love with his beautiful teacher when he was younger. However, he comes to realize something about Shinobu and because of this he comes to a conclusion that there’s nothing wrong with falling in love with a person who loves you regardless of the other person’s gender. Love is love no matter what shape it takes.

The series alternates between each couple‘s budding relationships, mainly touching on their problems that range from the insecurities of different characters. For instance, Misaki finds the female editor that keeps showing up at Usami’s place threatening while Kamijou feels conflicted about Nowaki’s sudden departure from Tokyo to study in New York City. We see the difficulties of each relationship and the heartfelt and occasionally even comical way the characters deal with these events.

For the most part, the series does a great job in displaying the beginnings of romance between each couple and, yes, there’s sex involved … particularly when it comes to the Misaki-Usami relationship. Sometimes the scenes can get a tad graphic but these scenes are overshadowed by their sexier kissing scenes. Junjo Romantica is about romance and it handles it with absolute respect to the manga and makes us feel it.

A funny, sweet and endearing series that pushes the boys-love theme to a very entertaining level that yaoi fans will not help but fall in love with it from start to finish, Season 1 of Junjo Romantica should be among your collection if you enjoy this genre. While the love scenes can be a bit on the hot and heavy side, it shouldn’t stop its intended target audience from having a blast watching this one. We are so looking forward to the second season.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Misaki turns to his older brother’s friend as a tutor only to find that this famous author by the name of Usami has had feelings for his brother that are unreturned but, suddenly, Misaki finds himself being seduced by Usami. In another relationship, we find the older Kamijou pining over Usami only to finding himself drawn by a handsome young man. Finally, there is Shinobu who thinks he is destined to be with his ex-brother-in-law, Miyagi, who is recently divorced.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is actually excellent so it’s good to see the series look sharp and colorful on DVD the way it was meant to look. The actual love scenes are definitely on the steamy side that viewers should consider the 17+ rating but other than that yaoi fans will definitely love watching these hunky men kiss.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting in the series is topnotch with a standout performance by Kentaro Ito as Kamijou. As for the series’ original score, it’s quite beautiful as well. On top of that, the opening and closing theme songs are our personal favorite here in the office with “Baby Romantica” by SCRIPT being the better of the two.

EXTRAS: B+
Each of the three discs comes with helpful Liner Notes as well as original trailers for the show as well as other RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment releases. There’s a fun 24-page booklet included as well with character bios and artwork for the series.

OVERALL: A-
Season 1 of Junjo Romantica is everything you can ask for in a yaoi series and it won’t take you long to become a fan of the wonderful animation, great storytelling and outstanding performances that make this a great series for those who love the genre. Even if you never picked up the manga, you will find yourself drawn into the three relationships almost immediately. This is definitely a series worth checking out.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

CLANNAD: AFTER STORY ON SALE

HOUSTON, April 19th, 2011 – Section23 Films is pleased to announce the release of CLANNAD: AFTER STORY. The complete collection which includes all 25 episodes and an all new English dub on 4 DVD’s, is available today.

Title: CLANNAD: AFTER STORY COMPLETE COLLECTION

Running Time: 625 min.
Age Rating: TV PG
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
CAT: SF-CL600
UPC: 814131012500
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Street Date: 4/19/2011
Format: DVD
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: A few months have passed since Tomoya declared his love to Nagisa. Now their relationship is entering a new phase, and neither is quite sure where it will take them. As their friends move on to lives of their own, Tomoya and Nagisa get ready to start a family of their own. But Nagisa’s health has always been precarious, and an event that should bring nothing but joy delivers tragedy instead. Now Tomoya must learn to accept the bitter with the sweet and to understand that the most important thing is to hold onto love, no matter what. Don’t miss the heartbreak and triumph of the masterful conclusion to one of the most beloved anime series ever in CLANNAD: AFTER STORY!

About Section23 Films:
Section23 Films provides home video marketing and distribution services for a variety of companies, including Sentai Filmworks, Switchblade Pictures, Maiden Japan and AEsir Holdings. With its special focus on genre entertainment, Section23 Films distributes some of the very best anime, martial arts, and horror titles on the market today.

Gantz, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

There will be blood and dismemberments as well as aliens.

I should confess that I wasn’t a big fan of Gantz as a manga series and not because of all of its overblown violence and fan service but because there are instances when a series is just so much better in animated form and I found this to be the case before I finished the third volume of the manga. The Complete Series of Gantz is a shocking, thrilling and downright fascinating in ways that blow the manga away and makes this a series you will not forget anytime soon.

Taking up four DVDs, the 26 episode series introduces us to Kei Kurono, a self-centered and rude high school student whose raging hormones makes him fantasize even in class. One day, on the subway waiting for the train, a drunken homeless man takes a nasty tumble down on the tracks. Nobody is willing to save the man except for another high school student and Kurono’s childhood friend named Masaru Kato who recognizes Kurono. Kato asks Kurono to help him save the man, the young man reluctantly does so, and while they save the homeless man, the two boys are ripped to pieces by the train.

This isn’t the end of their story, however, as both boys are teleported to an apartment where a group of people are sitting around a mysterious black orb. Suddenly, a beautiful (and impossibly busty) young naked girl named Kei Kishimoto is teleported into the room and it causes a furor among the collection of men including a Yakuza thug who wants to take advantage of the girl and would have if Kato hadn’t stepped in to save her. Then there’s Nishi, a young man who tells them that they are all dead and the orb he calls Gantz is about to give them a message.

Gantz does come alive with a message that they have no choice but to do as it says and what they want them all to do is kills aliens that live on Earth undetected. The orb opens up to reveal tight black power suits and a variety of futuristic guns. Feeling they have no choice but to carry out their first assassination hit, they group heads out to eliminate strange alien beings in hopes that Nishi’s word that if they reach 100 points during their many hunts they could live once again.

While most of the series concentrates on this twisted “game” where the players must kill or be killed in the process, we are also given a glimpse into the lives of the survivors that include Kurono, Kato as well as the beautiful Kei; it also gives us a look at the lives and deaths of the replacement players. Most interesting is Kurono who falls for Kei who finds herself living with him for a very surprising reason. Unfortunately, for Kurono, Kei has fallen in love with Kato who quickly takes up the role of leader during each hunt. We also come to witness changes in Kurono who started off as a selfish jerk to a brave and strangely heroic hero.

It is clear that Gantz does not discriminate as it sets up players that range from a biker thug, two psychotic killers and there’s even an elderly grandmother with her spoiled grandson. The hunt even becomes more dangerous as the aliens they hunt get bigger and the rules have all players remain within an area or risk having their heads blown off. Plus, not everyone is a killer so eliminating each target isn’t easy either.

The story takes many interesting turns along the way as Kurono and the others try to make sense of the mystery that is Gantz. What is it and why does it want these strange aliens (some living in strange human body suits) dead? Who is the sleeping man inside the orb? Why is there a naughty dog among the group? These are all questions that make this situation an intriguing one.

There is also plenty of action and gory deaths as players of this deadly game are slaughtered by the various aliens. Really, there’s no shortage of scenes where somebody loses their head or other limbs and there’s even a scene where a character (and his cute/creepy) stalker are sliced in half. Then there is the profanity – particularly the English dub where the F-word is heard throughout the series. Oh yeah, there’s graphic sex in the series as well not to mention the fact that Kei is often grope or exposed.

Even with all of this, however, Gantz manages to grab a hold of your attention and keep you glued to your screen. There’s more to the series than just the violence and sex as it also happens to make the lives of each character interesting as well from Kato’s dilemma of getting his little brother out of an abusive household to a biker trying to juggle his old biker gang lifestyle and married life.

Then there is the finale that is one of the most unpredictable plot twists you’ll come across in a show like this. I’d get into it but that would ruin the surprises this series throws at the viewer. It’s actually refreshing to find an anime series that surprises and shocks at the same time but Gantz pulls it off beautifully.

The Complete Series of Gantz is a trippy, bloody and complete absorbing sci-fi anime classic that goes beyond its guns, big boobs and gore exterior. There’s a solid story here that is both mysterious and exciting and Gantz manages to hold your interested from the opening frame to the very last second of the final episode. For my money, this anime is a lot better than the manga series itself and if you don’t mind the F-bombs, dismemberment and sex, you will find yourself really loving this anime.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Having saved a drunken homeless man who fell on the subway tracks, Kurono and childhood friend Sato are killed by the train only to find themselves transported to a strange room where a mysterious orb called Gantz has them and other chosen individuals assassinate aliens scattered throughout the city. As the “game” progresses and players are killed, Kurono and the others find themselves not only fighting aliens but also each another and, finally, Gantz.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
This is a visually striking series with ultra violent scenes, nudity and sex as well as decent visual effects. The animation is solid throughout and this series looks great on DVD. If dismemberment and excessive gore is not your thing then you may want to stay clear of this series. If it is then you are seriously in luck.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The voice action for both the Japanese language track as well as the English dub contains some good performances, especially by both Chris and Greg Ayres. The original score is intense and truly cinematic and the closing theme song by Bonnie Pink is perfect. Personally, I think the opening theme song is annoying but then again I’m not a big RIP SLYME fan.

EXTRAS: B+
There are trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs but the real extras come in the form of two separate interview sessions with the first one being a short interview with Director Ichiro Itano and the second one being with Itano as well as Yasuhiro Kato (the 3D Director) talk about the show‘s overall design.

OVERALL: A+
Gantz is an ultra violent thrill ride that is disturbing and utterly awesome in ways that you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Sure, the violence, sex and big boobs is one of its selling points but there’s more to this series than meets the eye and if you give it a chance you will find yourself totally invested in this deliciously twisted sci-fi tale.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment