Monthly Editorial (Early Edition) – July 2011

Anime Expo 2011 is just a day away and, once again, Animanga Nation will be there to check out all the latest news and features this event always highlights. It’s also a great opportunity to meet our readers and we have met a great number of you who were encouraging and fun to hang out with during the event. If you see a small group of people with Animanga Nation t-shirts, please say hello to us. We love chatting with you guys.

This year’s event is a special one for Anime Expo since it’s their twentieth anniversary but also the event plans to honor and even help the continued relief efforts in Japan. I’m proud to say that anime and manga fans in North America and all over the world have given money and aid to Japan in its time of need after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. As I had said in an editorial, all of us here in this office have been lucky to have lived in Japan for short periods and have been touched by the county and its people that we love Japan just as much as we love the United States.

I was happy to spearhead our own efforts to send Japan money and much-needed care packages with the help our sister sites Comic Revolution and Game Revolver. I would like to thank my sister, Eden Zacarias, of Comic Revolution and Natalie Romano of Game Revolver for having helped me carry out our relief efforts. We would also like to thank all of you who have made donations and have given us words of encouragement to pass along to the people of Japan.

So if you happen to be in Los Angeles for this upcoming weekend, we’ll see you there and will be happy to bring you all the news from the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Eduardo Zacarias
Editor-in-Chief

RideBack, The Complete Series – Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Drama/Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: June 28, 2011

Dance, rider, for the revolution is here.

There are times when I think a short series could have been even better if it were a bit longer in length and, of course, time when I feel that its short length is a good thing. The Complete Series of RideBack is a series that I really wouldn’t have minded if it lasted longer than its 12-episode run mainly because it would have been fun to spend more time with the likeable cast of characters and, of course, the insanely cool limbed motorcycles. Funimation brings us a Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo pack for a series that’s actually a fun ride.

A young ballerina takes the stage with a graceful elegance that seems to captivate the audience who recognize her as Rin Ogata … daughter of the late great premiere ballerina, Yuki Ogata. Her movements are something to behold and there’s a look of complete serenity that makes it clear that she loves dancing. Then, in mid pirouette, Rin Ogata feels a sharp stinging pain in her tendon and takes a fall that she will end her ballerina career forever.

It’s a heartbreaking thing to see your passion taken away from you and somehow Rin tries to recover with the help of her best friend, Shoko, who becomes her roommate in their first day in college. It’s a good time to enter a new life as the cherry blossoms are in bloom and the campus is alive with activity. Rin takes a little walk to a corner of the campus where she catches a glimpse of a machine she’s not fully familiar with but has heard of thanks to a brother named Kenji who is obsessed with them. These limbed machines are known as RideBacks … an unusual fusion between motorcycle and a robot.

A young man from the RideBack club gives Rin the opportunity to try one out and she accepts as she tries a RideBack known as Fuego. Sure, Rin doesn’t quite get the hang of it at first but suddenly she and Fuego become in tune with each another and that passion she thought was long gone is back. Could it be that riding has rekindled the flame inside of her that was extinguished by not being able to dance again? In her first time riding she actually makes Fuego take to the skies as she clears a jump.

Not everyone welcomes Rin to the club as she meets Tamayo Kataoka – the RideBack Queen of the racing circuit. She challenges Rin to a race and it becomes clear to Tamayo that Rin has a natural talent for riding so she is accepted into the club that she runs along with the mysterious Okakura. She is also joined by one of Rin’s fans, a girl named Suzuri. Rin even joins Tamayo in participating in a qualifying RideBack race.

In the meantime, Japan is going through some interesting times as a militant faction known as the Global Government Plan (or GGP) controls the entire group by the year 2025. The military force in Japan is run by a strict commanding officer named Romanov Cullenberg who is about to put into action a plan involving a security force known as the White RideBacks. Naturally, not everyone welcomes the GGP as a group of rebels calling themselves the BMA fight back against the militant forces. Since the group uses RideBacks, Cullenberg targets all riders.

As fate would have it, the BMA attacks the shopping district in order to get the GGP’s attention and Rin’s friend Shoko happens to be in the area. Rin, using Fuego, stages a solo rescue and defying the GGP’s blockade to rescue her friend and ends up meeting the leader of the so-called terrorist group. This action, thanks to some footage taken by witnesses, is seen as an act of defiance and Rin quickly becomes a web and television sensation. Since body knows who she is the media dubs her simply as the Mysterious RideBack Girl.

Using this as an excuse to finally initiate his White RideBack program, Cullenberg authorizes their use just as Rin’s brother, Kenji, decides to join a few friends in a moment of vandalism. Meanwhile, a reporter named Kei Yoda tries to uncover the identity of the RideBack Girl only to come to the conclusion that it might be Rin. Kei confirmed this when Rin jumps into action to save her brother from White Riders that end up killing Kenji’s friends in horrible ways.

Rin not only comes to Kenji’s rescue but she smashes a few White Riders in the process, unfortunately, they end up being cornered and captured. It is the BMA leader, Kiefer, who breaks Rin out of a van as she was being transferred to another facility and it is in their company that she discovers Kiefer’s past and his link to the RideBack Club’s sponsor – Okakura. Little by little we come to discover that these “terrorists” have a good reason for defying the GGP.

Now a wanted criminal thanks to using a RideBack, Rin no longer wants to ride no matter how good it felt to ride one. However, when the GGP have all of Japan turn over their RideBacks, a protest leads one of Rin’s friends to defy the White Riders and the whole thing ends in tragedy. Now, Rin finds herself turning to Fuego once again as the BMA decides to strike against Cullenberg and the GGP forces. This is the real start of the revolution as Rin rides again.

As I mentioned in the start of this review, there are series that would have benefited – story-wise – from being a bit longer and RideBack is one of them. The characters are endearing enough that you wouldn’t mind getting to know them more and we would have loved to have seen more of Rin on the racing circuit. Still, the political aspect of the series is far from boring and the GGP/BMA battles are exciting and even more so when Rin joins the fight against them. Top that off with gorgeous visuals and a great voice cast for both the Japanese and English side and we have a series that doesn’t fail to entertain.

A meaningful, exhilarating and occasionally even inspiring series, The Complete Series of RideBack has a lot going for it than just super cool motorcycles with limbs. In fact, it’s a wonderfully written and beautifully animated series that doesn’t fail to impress or tell a good story. Sure, there are times when it feels like this could have been an even more amazing story but is just one of those anime series that shouldn’t be ignored either way and trust me when I say that you will definitely enjoy watching this one.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Rin Ogata was once a talented ballerina who strived to be just as good as her famous mother but an injury shattered her dreams. In college, however, she discovers a RideBack machine called Fuego that suddenly rekindles the flame she lost when she couldn’t dance anymore. Unfortunately, the military targets all RideBack riders thanks to their war against a group of revolutionaries.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The is really one amazing-looking series with gorgeous backgrounds, characters and stunning action. It looks great on DVD but if you want the best visual experience you really should be watching it on Blu-ray since it really does bring out the colors in this series perfectly.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The soundtrack for RideBack is – simply put – spectacular with a score that picks up at just the right moment and an awesome opening tune by MELL. The Japanese voice cast is stellar with Nana Mizuki and the always amazing Romi Park being absolutely brilliant. As for the English dub, the cast does a great job with Tia Ballard being at the very top of the list.

EXTRAS: B+
Aside from the Funimation trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs, you’ll find two audio commentary tracks. The Episode 4 commentary has ADR Director Terri Doty with Tia Ballard (Rin) and Kristi Bingham (Shoko) that fun to listen to as is the commentary track for Episode 10 with Terri Doty, Micah Solusod (Haruki) and Trina Nishimura (Suzuri).

OVERALL: B+
The Complete Series of RideBack has the look and feel of a monumental series but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it could have considering the great characters and cool RideBack action. Then again, there’s much to like about the series anyway and it seldom disappoints in keeping you rooting for its main character who finally finds a way to dance again even if it’s for the last time. This is definitely what you call a guaranteed good time so you can’t go wrong with picking this one up.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Kiddy Grade, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $39.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/ Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

A lady should be elegant … but also powerful.

I have to admit a rather geeky fondness for sci-fi anime action shows because – let’s face it – nobody does sci-fi as uniquely as the Japanese do. Whether it’s following a group of bounty hunters in Cowboy Bebop, a squad of pilots going up against alien invaders in Robotech or the cybernetically enhanced leader of a counter-terrorist group in Ghost in the Shell, anime does the genre justice. So it was good news that FUNimation has released The Complete Series of Kiddy Grade in their new Anime Classics collection because there’s much to like about this series, sci-fi fans.

The story takes place in the distant future when Earth-born citizens have become akin to nobility and the galaxy is protected by an organization known as the G.O.T.T. that helps enforce the law. Two of these agents of the G.O.T.T. are Éclair and Lumiere who work the information desk of the main headquarters when things are calm but secretly take on missions as part of the ES Force – a shadow unit made up of agents with special abilities. One is a skillful fighter who is rather impulsive at times while the other is a more youthful-looking powerhouse who thinks ladies should be elegant.

With Éclair’s fighting prowess and Lumiere’s power to control machines, the pair is sent on missions by the G.O.T.T.’s Chief Eclipse as the girls are first sent on a mission to escort a smooth-talking (and mysteriously shady) Auditor named Armbrust who becomes their traveling companion in just about every mission they take on. Speaking of their missions, the girls accept some interesting but difficult assignments such as one mission that has them tracking down an illegal anti-gravity material or another where they attempt to transport a crime lord as his goons try to rescue him.

In yet another mission, Éclair poses as a cyborg in a fighting competition in search of a female fighter who has entered the tournament with cybernetic enhancements that are experimental in nature. Then, on another mission, they help a boy reclaim his inheritance from a group of Earth-born Nouvlesse who won’t accept the boy as the new head of their clan.

The girls aren’t the only ES Force members as we meet other pairs such as the brother-sister team of Tweedledee and Tweedledum or the sultry pair of Alv and Dvergr who don’t seem to like Éclair or Lumiere. They do have friends in the cute mismatched pairing of Viola and Cesario but the real fun is in getting to know Éclair and Lumiere whose history is slowly revealed by way of Éclair who doesn’t remember her past. However, while on a mission, an event opens up a flood of memories for Éclair as we learn what led her to the G.O.T.T. and why everyone keeps saying she’s a lot older than she looks.

Things get serious when Éclair and Lumiere accept a mission on the planet Aure for the Nouvlesse who treat their workers like slaves. When she finds herself on the wrong side of a revolt, Éclair decides to defy the G.O.T.T. and back the slaver laborers … an act that forces Chief Eclipse to revoke their ES Force status and consider them wanted criminals. Soon, the Chief sends other ES Force members to hunt them down so once good friends are now enemies.

While their life on the run is interesting, the real drama occurs when two powerful figures that resemble Éclair and her partner destroy the G.O.T.T. headquarters and put a bullet into the Chief. In a surprising twist, Éclair becomes new acting Chief but when two mysterious figures arrive to cause the new Chief trouble the mystery pair uncovers a plot to murder all Nouvlesse for the pain and suffering they endured thanks to the Earth-born clan’s prejudice.

I won’t spoil the details of what happens next but the story gets nail-bitingly intense as the two girls find themselves in a major battle to save the elite as well as the planet they protect. The series doesn’t have any shortage of battles but the final fight is one of the highlights of the story. There are fun moments in the series such as a day off that turns sour for both girls or the episode where they look into a mystery where major robberies are taking place mid-flight with the victim actually holding the item.

As I mentioned earlier, though, it’s Éclair and Lumiere who are deep characters who – at first – come off as clichés but turn out to be fascinating. Lumiere is a redefined lady despite her child-like appearance and the fact that she sips grape juice as if it were a fine wine is hilarious. Meanwhile, Éclair’s complicated past just keeps getting more intriguing the more the series reveals. Sure, Éclair is the fan service-y character but there’s a secret past that connects her to a major character in the most unexpected way.

The Complete Series of Kiddy Grade is a fantastic sci-fi action series that starts off good enough and just gets better with each episode thanks to a number of twists and turns. The 24-episodes that make up this collection are wonderfully written and animated just right to make for a fun and fascinating series that will certainly please fans of the genre.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Éclair and Lumiere might seem like just two young girls manning the information desk of the G.O.T.T. but they are specialized ES Force agents who are sent out to carry out law enforcement missions. While performing their duties, though, a plot to rid the world of its elite is uncovered and both girls find themselves caught in the middle of a new battle.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The visual style isn’t anything new but there are plenty of exciting action scenes that look really good. There’s some fan service for those who care about it but it never gets too excessive. The series is definitely worth watching on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The Japanese voice cast is top notch and will not disappoint in the very least when it comes to the performances but if you prefer the English dub both Colleen Clinkenbeard (as Éclair) and Monica Rial (as Lumiere) really stand out. The score is magnificent while the opening and closing theme songs aren’t too shabby.

EXTRAS: B
This Anime Classics collection includes the original Japanese promotional videos, commercials as well as all eleven Piracy Warnings featuring the original Japanese voice cast that is worth a glance. Then there are trailers for other FUNimation releases as well as the textless opening and closing theme songs.

OVERALL: A-
A highly entertaining sci-fi action romp from beginning to end, Kiddy Grade is one of those series that doesn’t fail to keep you cheering for its two main protagonists. Sure, the ending could have been a bit better but it’s hard to complain when you’re having this much fun watching girls kick butt. The Complete Series collection is a Must Have for sci-fi action fans.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Rosario + Vampire: Season II, Volume 4 – 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

Let the kinky training sessions begin.

There’s a slight change in the wind that is blowing through the pages of Rosario + Vampire as Season II of the series is taking small steps into darker territory. This is actually a good thing but for those worried that the first part’s comedy and excessive fan service will suffer as a result shouldn’t worry because there’s still enough of that to go around. Still, Volume 4 looks to be the start of a new set of problems for Tsukune Aono and his friends.

In the last chapter of Volume 3 of Season II, Mizore invited Tsukune (the others just tagged along) to the Land of the Snow Fairies where she was to take part in a ceremony. Instead, we discover that Mizore asked him to come in hopes that they would hook up in order to save the dwindling Snow Fairy population. Unfortunately, Mizore was kidnapped and Tsukune and his friends stage a rescue only to find themselves surrounded. As we can see from the first chapter of Volume 4, a new foe steps in to try to stop them.

Meet the beautiful assassin named Kalua who has come to ensure Mizore stays captured and she will do anything to ensure that. As it turns out, though, Kalua also happens to be Moka and Koko’s older sister. It’s clear that both girls are afraid of their older sister and, despite the fact that Kalua comes off as a crybaby, there’s a good reason for it because Kalua is a powerful vampire who cries when she’s about to slaughter somebody. In this case, she’s prepared to kill even her own sisters to get the job done.

Still, nobody wants to give Mizore up and they fight a hopeless and bloody battle against Kalua until Other Moka steps forward to fight her and even then Kalua displays a strength and power that gives Other Moka a real challenge. It’s shocking to see Other Moka fighting to kill and against her own sister who tells them that she is under orders to kill no matter who it is and she makes it loud and clear that she is part of an organization named Fairy Tale that has an interest in the Land of the Snow Fairies and the Snow Priestess.

Then Miyabi Fujisaki – the man who nearly forced himself on Mizore in Volume 3 – steps in to stop the two vampire sisters from killing each another. As it turns out, he is a member of Fairy Tale, as is another familiar face who shows up as well. Miyabi gives the Yokai Academy students a warning that Fairy Tale will soon set their sights on the school so we can come to expect trouble from this group whose mission is to make trouble for the human world. As they leave, Tsukune can’t help but feel weak and helpless against a group that had hurt his friends and nearly cost him Mizore.

Taking Mizore back with them to Yokai, all doesn’t go back to normal as Tsukune finds himself in a strange place that resembles another planet. He’s not alone because he has the lovely witch Ruby Tojo with him. In fact, she’s tied to him via a chain as she tells them that this is the beginning of his training. Ruby, who works for the Headmaster, believes that Tsukune can tame the power of Moka’s blood within him. He could harness the power if he just knew how to control it. So she gives him a powerful magic canceling whip called Belmont (as you’ll see, is a playful nod to the Castlevania video games) to help train.

As it was hinted in past volumes, Ruby definitely has an S&M fetish thing going because she doesn’t mind the electrical jolts that pass through her each time Tsukune can’t control his power via the whip. Meanwhile, Moka and the others are worried about Tsukune’s sudden disappearance and – ignoring Koko’s annoyance at not focusing their attention on training – they go looking for him. What they find out instead is that Tsukune and Ruby are in a very dangerous place that is perfect for that kind of training.

As funny as Ruby’s training methods are, Tsukune gets even more interesting training from the most unlikely person … Other Moka. Thanks to the whip that cancels magic, Other Moka is able to stay out longer so she decides to spend an entire day with Tsukune to train him. Instead of jumping into a rigorous training day, though, she takes him out shopping. However, Other Moka manages to make Tsukune notice one of his more obvious abilities. You see, he can sense other monsters … an ability he had been ignoring. Other Moka is actually a good teacher and she promises to keep training him.

In the meantime, Kurumu is depressed that Moka has Tsukune all to herself and it doesn’t sit well with the succubus. Unfortunately, Koko notices it too and tries to get Kurumu to use her succubus abilities to finally win Tsukune’s love in hopes that Moka would stop paying attention to him and pay more attention to Koko. Kurumu doesn’t want to use magic to win the heart of the boy she wants. In her own noble way, she wants Tsukune to realize that she truly loves him.

We’ve seen Kurumu try to win Tsukune before but this time we can feel that the old routine of past volumes is no longer enough for her. In a freak accident, she casts a Charm spell on Tsukune and she takes advantage of it by spending the day with him in a way she had always dreamed of and it’s actually quite endearing until she tries to have the boy tell her that he loves her. It’s a heartbreaking scene that shows even more desperation than Mizore did in the last volume. By the end of the volume, I found myself actually rooting for Kurumu hoping Tsukune would pick her.

Volume 4 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II pushes a new threat in the direction of Tsukune and the others and the result is a more serious feel that makes things interesting. The relationship between Tsukune and the girls who like him are also changing and hopefully change enough that the kid actually picks the one for him but – in the meantime – we have enough comedy, fan service and a new group to keep our interest.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A-
In the Land of the Snow Fairies, the truth behind Mizore’s kidnapping comes to light and a formidable enemy appears in the form of Moka and Koko’s older sister who has been hired by a dangerous monster organization. Wanting to protect his friends from this group, Tsukune decides to train with Ruby and later with Other Moka whose training begins interestingly enough. Meanwhile, a misfired charm spell has Kurumu living out her fantasy with Tsukune.

ART: A+
It’s clear that Moka comes from a family of gorgeous girls as we can see from her older sister who makes her first appearance in this series. There are plenty of funny visual gags and unexpected kink from Ruby who turns out to really love pain.

OVERALL: A-
A new group is introduced in Volume 4 of Rosario + Vampire: Season II and its very presence is giving the series a slightly more serious tone. Meanwhile, as we saw with Mizore, another of Tsukune’s admirers reaches her breaking point in her pursuit to win him over. This leads to yet another dramatic and very intriguing moment. Let’s hope the series stays this interesting in the coming volumes.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, Season One – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $44.98 US (Blu-ray)
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The Spirit Detective is back and shining more brightly on HD.

You just have to love FUNimation’s new Anime Classics line and even more so when they’re presented on Blu-ray as we can see from the high-definition release of Season One of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files … a true anime classic series that makes a smooth transition to Blu-ray and thus making it the perfect opportunity to introduce it to a new crowd of anime fans.

Then again, Yu Yu Hakusho is one of those rare classics of the Dragon Ball variety that are timeless so all generations could enjoy it so it makes perfect sense to bring it on Blu-ray. You see, Season One begins – interestingly enough – with the death of the hero of this story.

We meet Yusuke Urameshi, a young troublemaker who rarely comes to class in his junior high, likes brawling – especially against his chief rival, a big guy named Kuwabara – and defying his school by not wearing the standard blue uniform. Despite being a juvenile delinquent, though, Yusuke has a heart of gold that becomes evident when he encounters a child playing with a ball too close to traffic. When the ball rolls out into traffic, the little boys runs out to get it as a car comes speeding towards him. So Yusuke does what nobody would expect him to do … he saves the boy but sacrifices his life.

However, this is not the end of his story as Yusuke finds himself floating over his body and it is then that he meets an attractive female Grim Reaper named Botan who tells Yusuke that his brave act has won over the son of the Spirit King Yama. The toddler-like Koenma makes the dead boy a very interesting offer that would allow him to get a second chance at life. Yusuke doesn’t want a second chance until he realizes that people will actually miss him such as his childhood friend, Keiko, as well as his alcoholic mother. Even Kuwabara weeps during Yusuke’s wake.

Getting his body back actually turns out to be a challenge that keeps the first part of the series very exhilarating and fun to watch as Yusuke comes to realize that there are people in his life that do care about him deeply but the story really gets started once Yusuke is back in his body for good. Yusuke is then entrusted with a special duty as a Spirit Detective protecting the world of the living against demons and other supernatural threats. He even gets some nifty powers such as his Spirit Gun (a power that has him direct a Spirit Energy blast from his finger as if it were a gun).

Yusuke quickly finds himself protecting the living world from criminals from the Spirit Realm as he takes on a three-man group who has stolen artifacts important to Koenma. Strangely enough, Yusuke finds an interesting ally in Kuwabara and Botan lends a hand as well as the trio take down the criminals. Among the three thieves are the red-haired Karama and the three-eyed Hiei who actually turn out to be likeable characters and, a little later, become Yusuke’s allies as well. In fact, he even befriends them to the point that they aid Yusuke on two very important missions.

The first mission has Yusuke and his companions that still include Kuwabara (who is not only a great fighter but also has the ability to sense the supernatural) against a group of foes stronger than any Yusuke has gone up against. It’s good that he won a fighting competition that earned him the right to train with a powerful old woman named Genkai. As each of his companions takes on an opponent, Yusuke fight their leader who threatens the life of the girl who has strong feelings for him.

In anther mission, Yusuke and the others are put on a search-and-rescue mission to find a Snow Princess named Yukina who was taken by a human gangster who knows that her tears turn into precious gems he plans on selling. What turns out to be a rescue mission turns into a fighting tournament as Yusuke and his friends go up against the powerful Toguro Brothers and their gang of demons. It is during this mission that the Toguro Brothers reveal that they’ve been working for somebody else … a person with ties to a fighting tournament called the Dark Martial Arts Competition.

When Toguro, who shows us that he’s more powerful than he originally let on during his first battle with Yusuke, threatens the young Spirit Detective that he would kill everyone he loves if he doesn’t enter the tournament, Yusuke accepts the offer. Getting some training from Genkai again and gather his team to join a tournament composed of demon fighters from all over. This is definitely a great setup for Season Two of the series.

Season One of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files is an impressive and epic series that definitely should be seen on Blu-ray and damn does it look amazing in high-definition. Sure, we’ve seen the series released before but it just doesn’t compare to the quality of this set. As far as the series is concerned, Yu Yu Hakusho is a true anime classic in every sense and one you will definitely want to see again and again. It really is that good.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Yusuke is a juvenile delinquent with a talent for fighting and slacking off but, when he dies saving a little boy, he is given a second chance at life by the sexy grim reaper named Botan. Regaining his body back, Yusuke then becomes a Spirit Detective to defend the living world. While carrying out his duties, though, Yusuke and his once rivals soon become involved in various battles that lead up to a fighting tournament.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
FUNimation has released the series before and it looked good but there’s no denying how truly amazing this series looks on Blu-ray. In fact, it looks even better than it did when it first came out so this is certainly the best way to watch this classic.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast is where its at if you want to really enjoy the series but that doesn’t mean the English dub cast isn’t bad at all. The soundtrack is a bit on the dated side but you have to admit it makes the fighting scenes even more exciting. Even the opening and closing theme songs are great.

EXTRAS: C
Sadly, there are no audio commentary tracks or other extras aside from the textless opening and closing theme songs and a few FUNimation trailers.

OVERALL: A+
Yu Yu Hakusho is one of those series that deserves to be on Blu-ray and believe me when I say that Season One of this brawling action series will leave you wanting more. This series delivers on every front and by the end of the first episode you will definitely be a fan so if you’ve never seen the series you really do not want to miss this Blu-ray release.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

RIGHT STUF’S NOZOMI ENTERTAINMENT Announces the EMMA: A Victorian Romance DVD Complete Series L.E. (Bundle)

Contains previously released limited-edition sets for Seasons 1 & 2; available Sept. 6, 2011.

GRIMES, Iowa, June 15, 2011 – Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are pleased to announce the EMMA: A Victorian Romance DVD Complete Series L.E. (Bundle) will be available on September 6, 2011.

This new bundle offers the previously released limited-edition DVD box sets for EMMA: A Victorian Romance and the series’ “Second Act” together and will include all previously released limited-edition packaging and extras.

It will include all 24 episodes of the series, plus “Episode 0: Intermission,” a recap/preview that aired prior to the start of the Season 2 telecast in Japan, as well as character biographies, textless opening and closing sequences, Japanese commercials, fan credits, the U.S. Season 1 and Season 2 trailers, and Right Stuf/ Nozomi Entertainment trailers.

Physical extras will include a collectors’ art box for each season, featuring artwork by EMMA creator Kaoru Mori, plus a 96-page “Victorian Gazette” for Season 1 and a 48-page “Victorian Picture Book” for Season 2, which include historical background and illustrations, a full glossary, comments and comics by Ms. Mori, and an interview with Ms. Mori.

This will be fans’ last chance to purchase the limited-edition DVD box set releases for the EMMA: A Victorian Romance anime series.

****

A “masterpiece that shows the true potential of anime as an international art form”
Anime News Network

“…completely captivates and entrances.” “Highly recommended.” – AnimeOnDVD.com

“…if you’re looking for a unique anime with some real heart then definitely give this one a shot.” “Highly recommended.” – DVD Talk

“…there’s really no way you can go wrong with this release.” – Otaku USA

“I am in love.” – Anime News Network’s Shelf Life

****

A historical drama set in late 19th-century London, the series chronicles the love story – and the complications that result – when Emma, an honest and hardworking young maid, and William, an earnest suitor and member of the “gentry” class, fall for each other.

Spanning a total of 24 episodes between the two seasons, this anime adaptation of the manga by Kaoru Mori (A Bride’s Story) features direction by Tsuneo Kobayashi (The Twelve Kingdoms, Glass Mask OAV, Super GALS!) and scripting by Mamiko Ikeda (Sgt. Frog, Fruits Basket, Rental Magica). The original manga was honored with an Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival and was released in North America by DC Comics’ CMX Manga imprint.

Visit emma.rightstuf.com for more information about Emma: A Victorian Romance, including an interview with the series’ creator, Kaoru Mori.

About EMMA: A Victorian Romance DVD Complete Series

In 19th-century London, class lines are sharply drawn, and the social standing to which people are born dictates the path their lives will follow. Emma, an honest and hardworking young maid, never felt her place in life to be a burden. But then she met William, a member of the gentry and the eldest son of a wealthy family. His warm smile and earnest affection threaten to capture her heart… but can love truly conquer all?

Contains both Seasons 1 and 2 (24 episodes, plus the “Episode 0: Intermission” re-cap/preview episode), with limited-edition packaging and books for each.

EMMA: A Victorian Romance DVD Complete Series L.E. (Season 1 + 2 L.E. Bundle)

Pre-Book: 8/2/2011
Street Date: 9/6/2011
Runtime: Approximately 625 minutes, Dolby Digital Stereo, Color
Genre: Drama / Romance / Historical
Suggested Rating: 7+
Format: DVD (2.0 Japanese audio, English Subtitles, English On-Screen Translations)
Catalog #: RSDVD1101
ISBN:1-57032-658-4
UPC: 7-42617-1101-2-2
SRP: $69.99
Discs/Set: 8
Case Qty: TBA
DVD Features:

Scene access, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio for Japanese dialogue, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS: “Episode 0: Intermission;” character biographies; textless opening and closing sequences; Japanese commercials; fan credits; U.S. Season 1 and Season 2 trailers; and Right Stuf/ Nozomi Entertainment trailers. AND: A 96-page “Victorian Gazette” for Season 1 and a 48-page “Victorian Picture Book” for Season 2, which include historical background and illustrations, a full glossary, comments and comics by EMMA creator Kaoru Mori, and an interview with Ms. Mori.

EMMA: A VICTORIAN ROMANCE © Kaoru Mori • ENTERBRAIN, INC./Emma Production Committee.

EMMA: A VICTORIAN ROMANCE 2 © Kaoru Mori • ENTERBRAIN, INC./Emma 2 Production Committee.

** 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, Junjo Romantica and Revolutionary Girl Utena, Right Stuf and Nozomi Entertainment produce quality programming for fans of all ages and interests. For more information, visit www.rightstuf.com and www.nozomient.com.

Chrono Crusade, The Complete Series – DVD Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Action/Supernatural
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

There’s more to this series than just pistol-packing nuns and devil worshipers.

Chrono Crusade was one of those manga series I revisit every once and awhile because there was something about the story that spoke to me so – naturally – I found myself loving the anime version for many other reasons that include finally being able to see Chrono and Sister Rosetta in action and it didn‘t disappoint. FUNimation brings us The Complete Series of Chrono Crusade and trust me when I say that you will find yourself drawn into the world of interesting new exorcists.

Covering the 24 episodes that make up The Complete Series collection, Chrono Crusade takes place in 1928 New York City where a convent of the Magdalene Order dispatches Ministers and nuns into exorcising demons they simply call Devils. Among the Order is the attractive yet impulsive Sister Rosetta Christopher and her loyal partner, Chrono, who happens to be one of the Devils yet comes off as kind and considerate. Together, they make an interesting pair as they exorcise Devils and look into cases involving the supernatural.

Aside from taking out Devils with her guns and ticking off Sister Kate, who is in charge of the Order, Rosetta is searching for her brother, Joshua. You see, Rosetta and Joshua once stumbled upon an underground temple where they first encountered Chrono. Befriending the demon, though, came with its own set of problems as Joshua was whisked away after a dangerous Devil called Aion placed demon horns on the young boy. So Rosetta made a contract with Chrono, one that has shortened her lifespan considerably as the hourglass pendant around her neck counts down what life she has left.

Sure, Rosetta is a walking wrecking ball that ends up destroying buildings and every vehicle she gets her hands on but she and Chrono get the job done. However, the pair finds themselves suddenly thrust into a case that might involve Aion who is targeting a special group of people the Order calls Apostles that have been touched by God much in the way that the three children of Fatima were touched. One of the targets is a cute young girl named Azmaria Hendric who happens to be an accomplished soprano who is being held by her domineering father who also has a contract with Viscount Lerajie, a Devil much like Chrono.

They manage to rescue Azmaria who comes to join Rosetta and Chrono in the Order and becomes a regular character in the series as well as the duo’s partner. All three look into Aion’s mission to collect Apostles and meet the beautiful and wealthy Jewel Witch named Satella Harvenheit who joins them despite the fact that she takes an immediate disliking to Chrono. All four end up becoming powerful allies against Aion and his Devils who are still targeting Azmaria and now Rosetta using her brother who seems to confuse his sister with his caretaker … a girl named Fiore who might actually be connected with one of Rosette’s companions.

Aion, in the meantime, sends his cohorts after them starting with a puppet master who can manipulate people into doing her bidding. There are more Devils as well and little by little we learn of Chrono’s connection with Aion and his followers. We also witness Joshua’s suffering due to the horns as he finally runs into his sister who he – sadly – does not recognize. In fact, he has little memory of what he did when he obtained his horns that fateful day.

The series has many lighthearted moments scattered throughout with all the comical mischief coming from Rosetta herself. It’s fun to see her goad Satella on or watching Azmaria try to keep up with group’s difficult battles. Half way into the show, the series turns darker and more dramatic as Aion’s plan becomes revealed and finally executed as the truth about the Devils, Apostles and Mary of Magdalene comes to light.

There’s also plenty of action but the real fun of the show are the characters and how they develop throughout the series … particularly Chrono and Rosetta’s relationship that turns into something even more special. That’s why the ending is a genuine tearjerker so I dare anyone to watch final episode without tearing up. On top of that, there are some great performances both in the original Japanese track and the English dub. And those who like a complete package will find exactly that with this set seeing as it comes with some great extras.

The Complete Series of Chrono Crusade has everything you could ask for in a supernatural-themed anime series and there are more than enough reasons you will find yourself totally captivated by its story. Aside from the interesting theme, exciting action and funny moments that turn serious by the end of the series, you have a different kind of love story that shows us that even the darkest of days has its bright moments. This is one series you really should consider checking out right away.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Sister Rosetta and her kind Devil partner, Chrono, are exorcists for the Magdalene Order in 1920s New York City and their job is going to get very dangerous thanks to a Devil named Aion who knows what happened to Rosetta’s brother. Meanwhile, the pair befriends allies in the fight against Aion and his secret plan to use special people known as Apostles to carry out his evil plan involving a Holy figure.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation might be a bit on the dated side but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything good to look at throughout the entire series. The visual effects, fight sequences and the Devils definitely give us something to look forward to visually.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting in the series is excellent either way you prefer the standout performances by the original Japanese cast or the English dub cast with Hilary Haag and Greg Ayres doing spectacular work voicing Sister Rosetta and Chrono. Then there’s the score that’s superbly cinematic and the opening and closing theme songs are favorites here in the office.

EXTRAS: A
This set includes a number of extras that range from the cleaning opening and closing theme songs but also the original on-air opening for certain episodes as well as two unused never-before-seen openings for Episodes 21-24. There are also a few FUNimation trailers as well. Best yet there are two audio commentary tracks with Episode 1’s track featuring Hilary Haag and Grey Ayres with the ADR Director Matt Greenfield that’s a lot of fun. Then there’s the audio track for Episode featuring Greenfield plus Chris Patton (the voice of Joshua) that’s rather interesting.

Still, the best stuff comes in the form of all seven volumes of Azmaria’s Extra Classes that feature Azmaria lecturing viewers on the era, exorcist weapons, enemies and key figures of importance that relate to the series. It’s worth a view if you’re not familiar with the religious elements or never read the manga series. Plus, Azmaria is pretty darn cute too.

OVERALL: A-
There are a very few anime series out there that that takes religious context and makes it absolutely riveting, comical and thoroughly entertaining but Chrono Crusade manages to do it almost perfectly. Ripe with dramatic moments and great plot twists, the series blends a good sense of humor and plenty of action to make The Complete Series set a Must Have for those who like a different kind of Heaven versus Hell story.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment