Chobits, The Complete Series (Anime Classics) – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $54.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

If an android can fall in love would love between a human and a machine truly work?

CLAMP certainly has quite a following among manga and anime fans and with very good reason since they are the creative force behind fan favorites like Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, X and xxxHolic. Among these titles is a series about an awkward young man and a beautiful human-like computer learning about life and love. While these classic anime series has been released before, The Complete Series of Chobits definitely is something else altogether on Blu-ray and thus making this a Must Buy collection.

Covering all 24 episodes plus the Chobits Special, this Blu-ray release is part of FUNimation’s Anime Classics collection and yes the series looks even more spectacular in HD. This is a good thing because the series not only sports beautiful animation that looks just as good as the manga version but because the story will quickly remind you why you’re a CLAMP fan in the first place.

You see, the story introduces us to Hideki Motosuma, a young farm boy who just doesn’t have the grades to get into his favorite university in Tokyo so he decides to head to the big city to attend college prep classes. He’s funny kind of guy who thinks aloud, gets easily emotional and has no idea of how to use a Persocom, which is an android-like computer that looks and talks just like a human. Of course, he couldn’t afford one even if he wanted to but all that changes one evening when he finds an attractive Persocom left out in the trash.

He takes it home and activates it only to find that all this cutie can say is “Chi,” which is what he names her. With the aid of his next door neighbor named Shinbo, his lovely and kind landlady named Miss Hibiya and a Persocom expert named Minoru, Hideki begins teaching Chi how to talk and act. The young man is immediately smitten by Chi who might be a machine but somehow seems to have a kind and noble heart that makes her more endearing to Hideki with each passing day.

Living happily with Chi, Hideki begins to discover that everyone around him in the big city seems to be too attached to their Persocom and he even meets people like the cute and busty Yumi and his teacher named Miss Shimizu who wonders if being with a Persocom is better than being with a human. After all, they’re cute and seemingly perfect. However, there’s clearly something different about Chi and it is Minoru who suggests that she might be one of the “Chobits” – a Persocom who possesses human feelings. Of course, that’s just an urban legend … or is it?

It is Hideki that begins realizing that the legend might actually be true after Chi unleashes a most unusual power that affects all Persocoms around her. Slowly, the mystery of the Chobits begins to unravel as Hideki and his friends discover the truth behind Chi. Meanwhile, Hideki and Chi become part in other people’s lives such as Shinbo and his relationship with their teacher or Yumi’s problems with Persocoms. When Chi goes to work in a bakery, the owner of said bakery even tells Hideki about his past history with a Persocom.

The more they live together, the more Hideki begins to wonder what his true feelings might be when it comes to Chi while Chi herself wonders if she would ever find the one who was meant to be with her. Could a machine really learn how to love? Could a human really fall in love with somebody who isn’t even human? These are questions that will lead up to a most riveting finale as both Hideki and Chi must reveal what they really feel for each another.

A genuinely funny and very sweet story that is actually meaningful, Chobits handles everything – even fan service – with an amusing and heartfelt sentimentality that makes us fall in love with the characters. Even the antics of Sumomo and Kotoko (who are smaller-sized Persocoms) are so damn cute and amusing that you can’t help but love them. Even the finale is so touching and beautiful that most romance-comedy anime series rarely have the same emotional impact.

It’s also great to see the Chobits Special includes in this three-disc collection, which is actually very funny since the chemistry between Sumomo and Kotoko makes for a great comedy. I even loved the filler episodes within the series that has Chi try her hand at cooking (with emphasis on the “try”), Hideki and the others going to the beach, a ghost story and Hideki trying out an online role-playing game.

The Complete Series of Chobits is an endearing, beautiful and bold series that deserves the right to be called a classic. It’s an imaginative story that is told perfectly to the point that you don’t even have to be a fan of the romance-comedy genre to fully appreciate. In other words, you will fall in love with Chobits from the very beginning and even more so thanks to this release.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Farm boy Hideki comes to Tokyo to attend prep school and, although he doesn’t have money to buy an expensive humanoid computer called a Persocom, he finds a really cute sitting outside a dumpster. She is Chi and once activated she becomes a big part of Hideki’s life as he and those closest to him try to unravel the mystery behind the rumor of the “chobits” as Chi proves to be even more special than any of them could possibly imagine.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series looks amazing on Blu-ray and that’s a very good thing seeing as the animation did justice to CLAMP’s original work. You just have to watch this series in high-definition.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice actors are excellent but there’s something about Crispin Freeman that makes his Hideki sound just the way we imagined him to sound like and Michelle Ruff as Chi is just perfect. The score is also beautiful and the opening theme song, “Let Me Be With You” is beyond cute. However, “NINGYO HIME” (MERMAID) by Rei Tanaka is simply breathtaking.

EXTRAS: A-
Aside from the fact that the series is on Blu-ray, the third disc comes with a number of extras that include FUNimation trailers, textless opening and closing songs and two extra episode previews that were omitted from the original release. Thank you, FUNimation, for also including the Chobits Special episode with Sumomo and Kotoko trying to find Chi out in the street. It’s a hilarious extra episode.

Then there’s the three special features that come in the form of “chats” between characters like Shinbo and Sumomo or Minoru and Yuzuki that have the character recap specific scenes concerning Chi or Hideki. The best one is the Hibiya and Kotoko Chat with a sweeter epilogue to the main story.

OVERALL: A+
Chobits is that timeless anime classic that not only speaks volumes about the human heart but also has us questioning the very definition of the word love. That’s when you know you’ve stumbled on a series that is meaningful enough to fall in love with so if you missed this one the first time around you really should pick this one up right away.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Rosario + Vampire: Season II, Volume 3 – Manga Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Akihisa Ikeda
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Advanced)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now Available

Never piss off Mizore’s mother.

The “second season” of Rosario + Vampire has certainly proven to be a tad darker than the first part of this manga series and that’s not a bad thing. However, no matter how dark or bloody each volume gets, you can still rely on the humorous bits and abundant fan service to remind you that no matter how violent things get there’s always room from panty flashing. In Volume 3 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II, though, the serious chapters in this series take center stage over the comedy and fan service to make this one of the best volumes thus far.

Of course, if you’ve been reading the series for its decent laughs and fan service parts you will still find plenty of that in Volume 3. In fact, the first chapter has a morbid-yet-comical feel to it. You see, there are reports throughout Yokai Academy that some prankster monster is attacking girls by slashing their clothes. As Koko is walking in the creepy forest, she hears the howl of a wolf so – smelling a newspaper scoop – she goes to investigate only to find a werewolf with a headband and choker standing over his latest bloody victim.

While the girl named Kohko wasn’t murdered, this is still troublesome news. As Koko returns to the newspaper club, she meets Ginei Morioka … the sleazy, grope-crazy President of the News Club who also happens to be a werewolf that fits the description of the attacker! Despite denying it, Koko tries following Gin with the help of Mizore and Kurumu who reveals something about Gin that is actually quire surprising in a way. What isn’t surprising is that he spent the break (when Tsukune went back to the human world) groping them too so they want payback.

There’s a comical conclusion to this chapter as Gin freaks out when Mizore and Kurumu attacks him and there’s a surprising twist in the end as well as we learn the identity of the culprit. I won’t ruin the surprise but I will say that Gin might not be that entirely selfish as he makes himself out to be … although he still hasn’t changed Mizore and Kurumu’s mind about him. It’s actually interesting to see that Tsukune and Moka do think of the womanizing werewolf in a better light, though.

The volume then shifts it attention to Mizore who invites Tsukune to her Snow Fairy world where she will be participating in a traditional coming-of-age ceremony. Of course, the other girls want to tag along and Mizore feels like she has no other choice but to take them too and since it’s the summer break even Ruby comes along. It’s a good thing too because, despite the fact that the world of the Snow Fairies is beautiful, the ceremony has a very specific meaning to it that could very well change things between them and Mizore.

You see, as Mizore explains to Tsukune after she led him to a field filled with the Snow White flowers that the coming-of-age ceremony is to ensure the survival of her people. You see, the Snow Fairy population is decreasing and Mizore – despite her young age – most find a suitable mate and procreate. Since she has a major crush on Tsukune, she chose him instead of being forces to accept an arranged marriage to somebody she does not love.

Unfortunately, Tsukune isn’t able to act in time as Mizore is snatched away by a snow being who is known in this world as the Snow Oracle who has plans for Mizore. Those plans include a human male who forces himself on Mizore in an unsavory way that makes Gin’s pervy ways seem charming in comparison. It is – interesting enough – Kurumu who decides to stage a rescue. It is Mizore’s mother who supplies them with all the guns (that shoot non-fatal snow bullets) they can use. It’s hilarious to see Mizore’s mom access her impressive arsenal as if she were some mercenary.

So Tsukune and the others set out to save Mizore from the Snow Oracle on a mission to interrupt the ceremony. It’s a bit out of character but seeing Moka, Ruby and Koko get into a gunfight with the ceremony security force is very unusual. Meanwhile, Tsukune, Yukari and Kurumu face off against the human who tells him that Mizore belongs to him now. There’s a very touching scene between Tsukune and Mizore but this part of the story does not end with this volume.

Volume 3 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II takes an interesting and more dramatic turn that makes this an excellent read and even more so for those who have been following this series for a long time. While the drama is handled well, it is slightly held back by the usual funny bits that feel a little out of place at times but trust me when I say that this doesn’t stop you from really enjoying this volume.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A-
Reports of girls being attacked and their clothes getting ripped becomes a reality for Koko who is in time to witness a werewolf at the scene of an attack. When Koko describes the attacker, the girls point the finger at the only werewolf that enjoys pawing at women – Gin. Then, Mizore invites Tsukune and the others back to her icy world for a ceremony only to find out that the fate of the Snow Fairies is in her hands but at the cost of her free will.

ART: A+
The art in this particular volume is strikingly beautiful thanks to a unique setting in the later half of the volume and even the action scenes look amazing. Akihisa Ikeda really

OVERALL: A-
A mix of the usual comedic antics as well as a more serious tone, Volume 3 of this series keeps things interesting and even slightly heartbreaking enough to make this volume one of Season II’s highpoints. Sure, it falls back on the panty-flashing fan service in the middle of all the drama and Koko goes all The Matrix on us but in the end the drama here is good and well worth the read.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars, Complete Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Genre: Sci-fi
Rating: 7+
Release Date: Available Now

Welcome to the village of Tenmo … the most mysterious place in all of Japan.

At first glance, the quaint village of Tenmo is a quiet and lovely little place where not much seems to happen. In fact, even school events like the junior high Sports Festival feel a little a major event for everyone who lives there. Oh, but even the smallest town and village has its share of secrets and Tenmo is hiding a big one as we can see from the Complete Collection of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars.

Late April usually brings quiet sunny days and cherry blossoms in full bloom and, for the most part, it’s exactly what Japan gets when – suddenly – there’s a massive communications blackout throughout the country. Just as suddenly, a strange acorn-shaped ship hovers over Tokyo bay. It’s an alien spacecraft and, while everyone wonders what its intentions might be, a white robot-like entity appears and attacks the ship until it is safely destroyed. It doesn’t take the world too long to figure out that this is Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrials.

We witness what happens after that through the eyes of junior high student Hajime Murata, class representative for Class 2-C and the story’s narrator. He, like all his classmates, is just as interested in Earth’s first contact with aliens but all of this takes a backseat when the class is introduced to a handsome transfer student named Muryou Subaru. Mysterious yet friendly, Muryou quickly becomes Hajime’s friend. Who is Muryou and why does he wear a very dated school uniform? Why does he live in a mansion that belongs to the well-respected and affluent Lady Momoe Sanemori?

As more alien ships begin showing up again, this time a lot closer to home, Hajime witnesses a most unusual battle between his new friend and classmate Muryou and a boy named Kyoichi Moriguchi who Hajime always sees hanging out with a group of students who meet in secret. It is then that Hajime realizes that Muryou and Kyoichi have special powers. In fact, the students that Kyoichi hangs out with have powers too and are known as the “Chosen” – children chosen to be planet Earth’s defenders.

On top of that, a masked intruder attacks Hajime in his room and it turns out to be one of the female members of the Chosen who wields the power of the Shingu. She is Nayuta Moriyama and Hajime discovers her secret and her connection to the white entity that destroyed the alien spacecraft. Suddenly, things are getting a lot more interesting for Hajime as he meets Muryou’s energetic, bubbly and very mysterious sister named Setsuna.

Oh, there’s more, we also meet a group of adults that also include Hajime’s teacher and the physical education teacher. They all have secret identities of their own, especially the laidback Jiltosh who sheds some light on the alien invaders situation. We learn about the secret intergalactic war and of the Galactic Federation that is studying Earth to see if they are fit to join other alien species as part of the GF family. He even takes in an alien who accepts asylum on Earth as well as aiding the Zaiglian’s fellow soldiers who come to change their minds about Earth and its people. How can they possibly hate a planet where they’re welcome warmly?

While Hajime, Muryou and the Chosen must deal with alien invaders, they still make room for their school activities as the upcoming Sports Festival and the Culture Festival. We are wrapped up in their relationships such as Nayuta’s growing affection for Hajime (although she’s too embarrassed to admit it) as well as the love story between Kyoichi and the young girl sworn to protect him. Then there’s Hajime’s home life that includes his kid sister (who develops a huge crush on Muryou), his kind mother and a father who shows up in the later episodes to reveal his connection with Earth’s attempts to communicate with the aliens.

While the series jumps into the liveliness of the Sports Festival’s events and the relationships between different characters, the mystery of Tenmo plays a big part in keeping the episodes fascinating enough that you can’t help get wrapped up in its intrigue. As the layers of the mystery behind the adults are slowly peeled away, the series manages to be surprising and be true to its sci-fi roots. There’s even some action sequences that aren’t bad at all.

It’s also great to see that the series has a great sense of humor as well that makes many of the characters endearing and fun to follow. One of the running gags is Hajime’s narration style that often has him turning to us – the audience – to address us personally … thus making him seem weird to those around him. Nayuta’s awkwardness towards Hajime and her dislike of Muryou is also amusing as she tries to make sense of her emotions.

There’s more but half the fun of watching this 26-episode series is watching the mystery unravel on its own, although I felt that the main threat didn’t feel like a real menace, which is disappointing.

The Complete Collection of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars does not disappoint in bringing us an intriguing sci-fi story whose mystery will keep you fascinated from the very beginning. While it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s more than enough excitement and danger to bring the characters and this unusual situation together quite nicely. Fans of the genre, take note, Shingu is one set you should definitely buy if you like your sci-fi engaging and likeable.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
On the surface, the village of Tenmo looks like a peaceful enough place but, when Earth finally makes contact with aliens, it becomes the center of secret intergalactic war. As junior high student Hajime is about to find out after befriending the new transfer student, Tenmo has some interesting secrets itself that range from visiting aliens to a group of students with the power to defend Earth with the help of a power known as Shingu.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The episodes definitely shine the best on DVD and while the animation can be on the dated side it still looks really good … especially the alien battles. Even each character stands out nicely throughout the series.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is actually very good whether you like the original Japanese language track or the dub so whatever your preference you’re in for more than decent performances from the cast. The score by Yuji Oono is actually very charming and adds to the mystery and the opening theme song, “TAKE” by KAKO is sweet and lovely.

EXTRAS: B
Each disc comes with Character Bios, Line Art Galleries and a few Original Production Notes animation fans might really enjoy, especially those who are interested in animation design. There are also a few RightStuf! trailers as well but you will certainly enjoy the 44-page booklet with English production notes, designs for places and things as well as an interview with Director Tatsuo Sato. You’ll even find a few four-panel comics in the booklet as well.

OVERALL: B+
Trust in the power of Shingu for it will show you its mysteries and keep you deeply engaged in its lively and worthwhile story. Filled with colorful characters, alien battles and a group of young students trying to live their lives in a place shrouded in secrecy, the Complete Collection of this series is definitely not a bad way to get your sci-fi anime fix.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

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

The legend begins and it’s not a bad start at all.

Arina Tanemura is a master of her craft as we can see from her list of shoujo titles that include the fan-favorite Full Moon O Sagashite and I.O.N to the enjoyable Gentleman’s Alliance Cross and Time Stranger Kyoko. We can now add another title to her impressive body of work as Volume 1 of Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura starts off predictably enough until the story takes a very interesting turn to make this fantasy Heian Era story quite enticing.

We are introduced to the beautiful 14-year old Princess Sakura, a girl who lost her family early in her life but – because she’s betrothed to a Prince – she lives in comfort thanks to his financial help. Unfortunately for her, Sakura finds that she is to finally meet and marry the young Prince Oura. The Prince event sent a handsome young emissary who has come to escort her to the palace. Comically, Sakura climbs up a tree to avoid being dragged away but when she falls, it is the rude and outspoken emissary who calls himself Aoba.

Following the advice of the wiser and older Byakuya as well as Sakura’s handmaiden Oumi, she decides to go with her escort to the palace. Aoba discovers that the lovely Princess is very different from other girls. For one thing, she talks to a cute female Mononoke (a tiny spirit) named Asagiri who she once saved from a life of slavery. Secondly, it is rumored that Princess Sakura cannot look up at the full moon.

When they are attacked my a Youko – a flesh-eating demon – attacks them, Sakura shows them that she can call up a power and a sword called Chizakura that Sakura can’t really control. She even has a cute outfit to go with said power. After vanquishing the demon, Sakura finds out that she is the granddaughter of the legendary Moon Princess Kaguya. She was born to destroy Youko and, interestingly enough, the word “destroy” is actually her Soul Symbol (a symbol each person possesses that best represents his or her true nature).

There’s a cute twist after Sakura’s first battle with a Youko and it concerns the emissary Aoba. As it turns out, he’s not what he initially said he was and it surprises Sakura as well as compels the girl to reveal her true feeling about Prince Oura. You see, she always hated him for not having visited her throughout the years when she felt the loneliest. At the same time, she always wondered what he would be like and if he too felt lonely.

The Prince seems to be the perfect match for Sakura. He’s young, handsome, educated and even beloved by the people who see him as the better choice for Emperor than Oura’s older brother. On the evening before their arranged marriage would finally be consummated, Sakura tries to run away. How could she marry somebody she doesn’t have feelings for or even know at all? The young Prince does catch up to her and all seems well for the young couple. Maybe love can grow from this marriage.

This is when Arina Tanemura pulls the rug from right under our feet and makes what would have been a predictable romance into something else. After defeating another Youko in the palace grounds, Prince Oura reveals the truth about his feelings for her. He even shows how he really feels by striking her down with an arrow!

Just barely escaping with her life, Sakura meets a cute and sassy young ninja named Kohaku and her friend that use to be human but was turned into a frog. These people keep Sakura alive as the girl tries to put together the pieces of this troublesome puzzle. Does the Prince really mean what he said to her and continue hunting her down until she’s dead? Who was that girl she saw in her dream when she passed out from her wound? Why did said would heal so quickly without even leaving a scar?

These are questions that make Volume 1 of Sakura Hime a promising series that may have started off as another typical shoujo period fantasy but – thanks to solid writing, a pleasant sense of humor and surprising twists – this is starting to shape out to be an interesting and fun read already. Arina Tanemura fans should definitely check this out and if you’re new to her work you might just want to check it out as well.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
In the Heian Era, there lived the beautiful Princess Sakura who, at 14-years old, is betrothed to the handsome young Prince Oura who has taken care of Sakura financially. When the Prince sends an emissary to take her to her husband-to-be, Sakura discovers that her escort is not who he seems and that she’s the granddaughter of the Moon Princess who battles demons with a mystical sword. Then, on the day of her wedding, Sakura’s life takes a most interesting and dangerous turn.

ART: A
Arina Tanemura’s art is still quite lovely with some nicely detailed backgrounds and a cute fashion sense that makes all the characters in this series really stand out. We’ve seen big-eyed characters like this before but Tanemura’s style is still easy on the eyes (no pun intended).

OVERALL: B
While it may seem like a by-the-numbers fantasy period piece, Volume 1 of Sakura Hime has a surprising twist that makes this a worthwhile read even if you’re not a big fan of Arina Tanemura. If you are a fan, Sakura Hime may definitely be a series you should consider picking up because, judging by this first volume, there are some intriguing possibilities that make it worth picking up.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Disgaea, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $39.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Sorry, but this one is not as much fun as the games, dood.

As die hard gamers ourselves, the Disgaea gaming franchise has been one of our personal favorites around the office as are the Prinny spin-offs on the PSP. So we say this as a fan of Disgaea that The Complete Series collection of the anime might have all our favorite characters but it manages to be one of the biggest disappointments.

The Complete Series of Disgaea is one of the last Geneon releases that might have been missed the first time around but now FUNimation brings us all 12-episodes of the series based on the characters from the game. In this series we find a cute girl with tiny wings by the name of Flonne looking for none other than the Overlord of the Netherworld. While she might look adorable, Flonne just so happens to be an assassin sent by the Celestials as their Angel trainee. She stumbles upon a part of the castle only to fall into the castle’s dump. It is there that she encounters a casket with the Overlord’s seal on it.

As it turns out, the casket contained the sleeping heir to the Overlord’s throne. He is Laharl, a selfish demon who thinks everyone should bow down to him and recognize him as the new Overlord since he will take the life of his own father to obtain the title. While he talks big, Laharl has a weakness and that is the talk of love, which Flonne seems to be obsessed with in a big way. Flonne ends up following Laharl on his quest to overthrow his father when they run into Laharl’s subordinate, the female demon named Etna who commands an army of penguin-like creatures called Prinnies.

It is Etna who informs Laharl that the young prince has been asleep for two years and since then his father, King Krichevskoy is dead … apparently from choking on a dumpling. So now Laharl goes on a quest to obtain a Tome that will secure his place in the throne as new Overlord. This isn’t going to be easy because there are demons who are all fighting for the title as well. On top of that, Earth has sent three heroes to destroy the demon Overlord. We meet the incredibly cheesy Captain Gordon along with the sexy Jennifer and their “Lost in Space”-inspired robot, Thursday.

On their journey, Laharl begins to change a little and even though he still remains nothing more than a brat he does come to change thanks to Flonne. Meanwhile, we learn that Etna is not the loyal follower that she says she is as we come to learn a big secret about her and the fact that Laharl’s slumber was caused by a poison. We also find out that Laharl might even have a little sister who just doesn’t quite convince Laharl … although she does know a few things about him and his father.

Besides zany characters like Captain Gordon, we are also introduced to the dashing demon Vyers who considers himself a Dark Adonis. While both these clichéd characters add some humor to the series, it is the Prinnies that steal the show. Despite the fact that they get kicked around by Etna, they’re loyal servants who sound like tiny surfers who had way too much coffee. In one episode, the Prinnies go on strike in a hilarious way and in another episode there’s a Prinny coup d’état that includes a massive Prinny mech.

It would have been great if the series concentrated on Flonne and Laharl’s relationship since her presence does play a hand in changing Laharl’s personality a tiny bit. It is because of her that he shows mercy to one opponent and it is because of her friendship with him that Flonne gets in trouble with the Celestial Angels.

Sadly, the story feels so disconnected to the final outcome that you’ll find it unmemorable and oftentimes not as funny as one would expect in a series that is suppose to be a comedy-action show. There are a few laughs to be had and most of them come from the Prinnies or Captain Gordon or sometimes even a sly joke here or there from the trio. The best and most interesting part comes in the final few episodes like the two-part story that has Earth invading the Netherworld as Laharl and Captain Gordon work together to save the Netherworld itself.

There’s also an emotional moment in the last few episodes of the series that shows us that the series really could have been better if it had followed the same exciting feel of these last episodes. This all feels like a missed opportunity for Disgaea fans and anime lovers alike. Even the animation isn’t inspiring or even adds to the humor, although the Prinny mech is a riot.

Unfortunately, The Complete Series of Disgaea is a completely forgettable anime series with only a small number of truly funny moments. Yes, it’s great to see the games’ colorful cast and the Prinnies are a real hoot but the story is weak and the comedy is on the tame side so what we have here is a missed opportunity that should have been a lot better than this. Sorry, dood, but there’s not enough here to really recommend even to fans of the series of games.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: C-
Awakened from his two-year poison-induced sleep by a cute Angel Trainee named Flonne, the young demon Laharl sets out to claim his Overlord of the Netherworld title now that his father is dead. Joined by his subordinate, Etna, the three must deal with other demons, the 37th Defender of Earth and an army of Prinnies.

VIDEO QUALITY: B
The series looks good in FUNimation’s hands and that’s a very good thing but the animation won’t wow you even if you’re familiar with the games or the characters. There are some great visual effects in the later episodes that make you wish there were more like it in the earlier episodes. There’s just something about a whole island filled with Prinnies that will put a smile on your face.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The score tips its hat to the wonderful music of the Disgaea video games and the opening and closing theme songs aren’t bad at all. The Japanese voice cast does a good job with the characters while the English dub has a few standout performances from the likes of Michelle Ruff and Barbara Goodson.

EXTRAS: B+
The second disc holds all the extras such as the original Japanese promo for the series, textless opening and closing theme songs as well as a few FUNimation trailers. There’s even the video game trailer for Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. However, the best feature is the four-part Special Talk feature that has an interview with voice actors Sohei Niikawa and Kaori Mizuhashi that’s short but worth a viewing.

OVERALL: C-
Disgaea has all the makings of an excellent comedy anime series based on the games but what we have here feels like a failed attempt to do justice to the games while giving us an anime that is just as fun. Yes, there are a few good laughs to be had and the series does get interesting in the later episodes but they

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Naruto Shippuden, DVD Set Five – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

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

It’s filler time again for Naruto but this time around it’s not a bad thing at all.

If you’ve been following the anime version of Naruto for a long time now you know by now that the filler episodes and story arcs are either hit or miss with a bigger emphasis on miss but this is the Naruto Shippuden series where things are slightly bleaker than Naruto’s early adventures. Box Set Five of Naruto Shippuden offers us a rarity … a filler story arc that’s actually entertaining enough that Naruto fans should definitely not skip.

Unlike past Naruto Shippuden releases, the 12-episodes are offered up in three DVDs that pick up immediately after the events of Season One’s fourth box set. In this fifth installment, Naruto wakes from a horrible nightmare that he feels might be connected to the failed attempt to bring Sasuke Uchiha back home. Determined as ever to try again, he turns to Kakashi Sensei who is about to be released from the hospital after he was badly injured facing off against the Akatsuki.

As it turns out, though, Kakashi didn’t just spend his recovery time reading his favorite book but rather he has come up with a Jutsu that will benefit Naruto alone. Excited by the prospect of training again, Kakashi and Captain Yamato (who is the only one who can suppress Nine-Tails) aid Naruto in his training to manipulate one of the Chakra Natures. You see, Naruto possesses the Wind Nature and he could use it to his advantage. Even more interesting, however, is that the Kakashi has found a way for Naruto to learn a technique that would take a Jonin several years to master. The shortcut is actually quite brilliant and obvious that it’s actually hard to believe Naruto himself didn’t realize it.

As Naruto pushes himself to learn the new Jutsu and even gets Wind Nature training tips from Asuma Sensei, word reaches Lady Tsunade that a village bordering the Land of Fire has been wiped out by unknown assailants. Thinking this might be the work of the Akatsuki; the Hokage sends Asuma and his old team that consists of Shikamaru, Choji and Ino to investigate. Thinking it might be safe to send Naruto away as well, Tsunade has Team Kakashi accept a request from the monks in the Fire Temple to look into grave robbers looting the graves of respected Shinobi.

Team Kakashi, minus Kakashi Sensei for no good reasons, sets off with Captain Yamato to look into the grave robbers. Failing to meet up with the monks, Naruto runs into a young man who confuses him for one of the thieves and attacks him. It’s clear that the young man is skilled and gives Naruto quite a fight but – as it turns out – he is a monk-in-training by the name of Sora. Immediately taking a disliking to Naruto, Sora’s personality and background resembles that of Sasuke. Sora even has a similar mission: to kill the man that murdered his father.

Together with the monks, they try to find the thieves responsible for taking the caskets of four members of the Guardian Shinobi Twelve … heroic ninja guardians who watched over the Land of Fire. Tracking the thieves, Team Kakashi walk into a trap as the four thieves face off against each Leaf Ninja. Meanwhile, Sora encounters the leader who reveals that he not only knew Sora but the young man’s father as well. As Naruto battles a sexy opponent who can manipulate all Chakra Natures, he learns that you can combine them in ways that make attacks even more powerful.

After having escaped the trap, it becomes clear that the enemy is after somebody and that somebody might actually be Sora. So Captain Yamato has Sora accompany them back to the Leaf Village where the young man has a bonding moment with Naruto over training. In one of the many comical scenes in this set, Sora has a free-for-all battle with Naruto, Choji, Akamaru, Kiba and even Rock Lee.

A lot happens in the later half of the set as Sora comes to like Asuma who reveals that he too knew Sora’s father. Then there’s Lady Tsunade who feels that Danzo of the Foundation is up to something so she has him investigated. As it turns out, Danzo was up to something and there’s a very interesting confrontation between these two and it becomes even clearer that Danzo isn’t happy to leave the Hidden Leaf Village in her hands.

In the final episodes, Sora does find out who murdered his father and the killer happens to be a Leaf ninja as the young man uses his full power that he has hidden. On top of that, the four Shinobi that fought Team Kakashi are back as they too reveal the reason they stole the caskets as well as why they slaughtered villagers who threaten the well-being of the Land of Fire. All of this ends in a cliffhanger finale as Tsunade orders all Leaf Village ninja to stop Sora.

As interesting as the story arc is I found the four enemies to be simply Ok villains for this story and Sora doesn’t exactly come off as likeable either. What does work is the humor and there are a good number of laugh-out-loud scenes such as Sai calling Sakura “ugly” after having obtained bad advice from a book on meeting people. Then there’s Asuma who is embarrassed that everyone knows about his relationship with Kurenai Sensei.

DVD Set Five of Naruto Shippuden is a filler story arc that will is actually good enough to show Naruto fans a really good time. The story works well thanks to its good sense of humor that isn’t too goofy and action sequences that are simply just Ok. In fact, you’ll find enough to like about this installment and find yourself glad that Naruto is able to give us quality filler worth watching.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
As Naruto begins his training with Kakashi Sensei and Captain Yamato, word reaches the Hidden Leaf Village that a group of thieves is digging up the bodies belonging to twelve powerful guardian ninjas. Lady Tsunade sends Asuma’s team to investigate and Team Kakashi to meet up with the monks from the Fire Temple where they meet a bitter young man named Sora. However, the there’s more to the thieves as their real plan is finally revealed and the Leaf Village comes under fire.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The episodes might be filler but that doesn’t mean they don’t look good or feature some great scenes. Sakura losing it and smacking Naruto and Sai in one scene is worth the price of admission alone.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting is actually excellent when it comes to the dub with a surprising performance from Vic Mignogna as Fuen … a female character. Then there’s Laura Bailey who never fails to make her sexy characters sound even sexier. Believe me when I say that the opening and closing songs will quickly become favorites.

EXTRAS: B
The third disc comes with extras that include Storyboards, Production Art, a few VIZ trailers but the best feature comes in the form of the English dub-only Omake (the short scenes that appear after the end credits) pulled from all 12 episodes.

OVERALL: B+
It’s a rare thing to find good filler episodes in the Naruto series and even rarer to find a filler story arc that’s actually handled well but this fifth DVD Set of Naruto Shippuden manages to pull it off well. There are enough really memorable moments here to recommend this as a Must Have for all Naruto fans. Here’s hoping the next box set will due justice to this filler story arc.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Ga-Rei-Zero, The Complete Series – Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $64.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

It’s the sisterhood of the traveling blades.

Ga-Rei-Zero is the kind of anime series that I feel I’ve seen before and that’s not such a bad thing, really, but I’ve seen shows like it that fall back on the same clichés and plot twists. Fortunately, The Complete Series of Ga-Rei-Zero walks its own path and walks it well enough that you will find yourself drawn into its world of monsters, phantoms and two girls who are destined to cross blades in an epic battle.

This 12-episode series begins in the most brilliant and original manner before it gets to the familiar main story. We meet Taru and Natsuki, two elite agents working for Section 4 of the Paranormal Disaster Countermeasure Headquarters (or PDCH) who are tasked with eliminating monsters and dangerous phantoms. They are quickly called into action after the impulsive Section 1 unit is wiped out. It’s clear that these Section 4 folk are good at what they do as they not only take care of the mammoth monster but also a type of Phantom called Latchers that take control of the dead Section 1 troops.

Oh, but after celebrating their victory over another Category B monster, they are swiftly attacked by a beautiful young girl in a High school girl uniform wielding a katana. She slaughters the Section 4 members as if they were nothing and finally turns to Taru – the young man haunted by memories of a boy surrounding by glowing blue butterflies – meets his fate as well.

That’s right, after having been introduced to this team and a character we think might have been a main character are murdered right in the first episode. The girl who killed them, we come to know, is a member of the PDCH’s other branch, who goes by the name Yomi Isayama. In comes another team to take Yumi down, this team has a younger girl with a sword by the name of Kagura who knows Yomi well and even calls her “big sister!” Still, this doesn’t stop both girls from locking blades in a fight to the death.

To better understand the relationship between these girls and why they fight despite Kagura’s connection to Yomi, the series jumps back in time to before this whole mess took place. We come to meet a Yomi who is sweet and gentle and not brutal and cold-blooded. She is the heir to the Isayama clan who will soon marry into another family to secure the future of said clan of Vanquishers (those will save the world from Phantoms and monsters). Yomi is so warm and understanding that she is the one that asks her father to accept the cute young Kagura into their household to live with them since Kagura’s mother was killed by a Phantom and her father spends his days looking for the one responsible.

Yomi welcomes Kagura with all the affection of an older sister and despite the younger girl’s awkwardness she does comes to accept Yomi as her “big sister.” The two girls form a close bond that is endearing as they each come to discover many things about each another. Yomi finds out that Kagura has had a strict upbringing thanks to a father who is rarely there for the young girl and has shown her no affection at all. It becomes clear why Kagura becomes so attached to Yomi and her family. It is here that she finds the encouragement and love she always wanted.

Meanwhile, Kagura discovers that Yomi works as a Vanquisher with a team of people just like her and that she is engaged to fellow Vanquisher, Noriyuki Izuna. Seeing as Kagura is to inherit a powerful Spirit Beast herself as well as put herself through sword training, Yomi has Kagura join her in taking on Phantoms as part of the squad.

Unfortunately, the PDCH discovers that the increase in Phantom activity might have something to do with an unknown entity that corrupts a girl named May who feels that she should have been the heir to the clan. It is this same entity that sets in motion the events that eventually transforms the sweet Yomi into a cold-blooded Category A “monster” that will go up against Kagura in a surprising and tragic finale.

There’s a surprising number of action scenes where the blood really flies and limbs will be lost, which is the reason the series is rated TV MA. You can tell right away that the production values are high in this on since the animation is superb and thus making the Blu-ray version of the Blu-ray plus DVD Combo Pack really shine.

Ga-Rei-Zero is a visually striking and thoroughly engaging anime series that might not be any different from shows like it but it still manages to make enough of an impact to hold our attention from start to finish. It’s hard to ignore a series that follows a familiar formula but still manages to shake things up in its own way to make this a series you should definitely not skip out on even if you’ve seen shows like it. That said the Blu-ray version should definitely be the best way to watch it.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Supernatural phantoms and monsters plague Japan but the Ministry of Defense has their secret weapon that comes in the form of a squad of Vanquishers. Among them are Yumi and Kagura, two girls who form a close relationship akin to sisters as the younger girl not only comes to live with Yumi but also becomes part of the Vanquisher life … until a mysterious foe changes everything.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
A visually stunning series with spectacular visual effects and outstanding action sequences, this series really does deserve to be seen on Blu-ray rather than DVD. The high-def quality shines through but, just in case you don’t have a Blu-ray player, the DVD version is not bad at all.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast does a marvelous job and it’s definitely one of the best ways to view this series but the English dub cast does a good job as well. The score is also magnificent and wonderful cinematic to the point that the confrontation between Yumi and Kagura are even more intense thanks to it. The opening and closing theme songs are both equally awesome.

EXTRAS: B+
We so love FUNimation’s recent Blu-ray plus DVD combo packs so both Blu-ray and DVD owners will be happy to have both. The extras come in the form of promotional videos for both the DVD releases and the original TV premiere commercial spot. You can also find the textless opening and closing songs and a few FUNimation trailers.

However, the real treat can be found in the six-part Location Special that chronicles the Director and his staff’s location research for the series as they photograph and film key locations that appear throughout the series and how it ends up in animated form. You won’t believe the level of detail that goes into animating real locations.

OVERALL: B+
The Complete Series of Ga-Rei-Zero might feel like familiar territory but it handles the story in its own way making this a visual feast with a story you can really sink your teeth into from shocking beginning to surprising end. The Blu-ray version is where its at but the DVD version isn’t bad either so you should definitely consider picking this one up.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment