Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, The Complete Second Season – Blu-ray Review

 

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $44.98 US (Blu-ray)
Running Time: 620 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The UFC fighters have nothing on these brawlers.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files is easily one of those true classics that join have seen multiple releases before and much like the releases of Dragon Ball Z Kai, this beloved anime series certainly deserves the Blu-ray treatment. If the first season of Yu Yu Hakusho didn’t catch your attention then the fighting action of its more intense Season  Two will hook you in and won’t let go until the very last episode.

The Dark Tournament has finally commenced as Yusuke Urameshi, his once rival Kuwabara, a mysterious Masked Fighter and the two demons known as Hiei and Karama stand together as Team Urameshi. Having no choice but to participate in the fighting tournament, they find themselves the underdogs of this event composed of demons. In fact, they’re despised by all in attendance but that hasn’t put a damper on their determination. Team Urameshi is here to win and to finally face off against muscle-bound freak named Toguro who made sure Yusuke participated in the tournament.

It is Kuwabara who takes the first real match against Team Rokuyukai’s Rinku with his serpent yo-yo attack. It’s clear that the big brute has become one of the best fighters but Kuwabara’s anger issues and his blockheaded nature has him losing this fight on the technicality that he failed to be in the ring during the countdown because he was too busy yelling at a still sleeping Yusuke. Meanwhile, Kurama takes on his opponent – Roto – who happens to be a cheater but gets what’s coming to him as Kurama showcases one of his deadliest weapons.

Hiei also steps into the ring to reveal a deadly attack called the “Dragon of the Darkness Flame” that finishes his opponent off in a gruesome manner. Yusuke wakes up in time to face the real team leader of Team Rokuyukai in a battle that is not only exciting but intense as the fight shifts to a bloody “knife edge” deathmatch. Meanwhile, in the stadium, Team Urameshi’s only cheer section (composed of Keiko, Botan and Kuwabara’s sister, Shizuru) are joined by Yukina … a fact that has the love-sick Kuwabara to keep fighting even after obtaining a bad injury later in the tournament.

With the tournament’s committee clearly not on Team Urameshi’s side, Yusuke and the others are pushed into another team battle without even getting a chance to catch their breath after their battle with a twisted Doctor and his collection of fighters that are under his influence. With injuries and one fighter down, Team Urameshi takes quite a beating and we finally get a peek at the Masked Fighter’s face and it happens to be a very pretty face at that. On top of the fact that they’ve been forced into a fight so soon, a sexy enchantress posing as a nurse takes the Masked Fighter and Hiei out of the remaining round. Things are definitely looking really bleak for Yusuke and Kurama.

There are disappointment and surprising developments that makes this particular team battle truly memorable whether it’s Yusuke’s fight with a likeable Irish opponent or the badly injured Kuwabara stepping in to finish the team battle. Another twist in the Masked Fighter mystery reveals what we had suspected since the final episodes of Season One. Actually, it wasn’t hard to figure out her identity since Yusuke did run off to train with her. Genkai is back and begins the final phase of Yusuke’s training that could very well kill him if he doesn’t complete it.

With Master Genkai on the island, the older Toguro brother turns his attention on her. It seems that the two had had a long history together that was close to love. Through both their memories we see that Genkai and Toguro partnered up and participated in the Dark Tournament before. However, Toguro traded everything for great power and eternal youth while Genkai – disgusted by the very idea – walked away from him. Now, after 50 years, Genkai and Toguro clash and the outcome is heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, despite making trillions off the tournament already, Sakyo disposes of those in the committee that oppose him. He reveals what he plans to do with the money and the plan is shocking enough that the last members of the committee protest despite the fact that they know they cannot win against him. On Team Urameshi’s side, the others cope with the loss of a friend and teammate in their own way as each remaining member of the team manages to power up in interesting ways.

This leads us to the finals as Yusuke and his friends will face off against Team Toguro as the fight has now become even more personal. A new member stands in for Team Urameshi and things will definitely get more interesting when Season Three comes along. With fights aplenty and surprising developments that includes Kurama’s other form and a cute moment between Yusuke and Keiko, this second season is nothing short of surprising.

Without a doubt, The Complete Second Season of Yu Yu Hakusho is one of the strongest entries in a series that has no shortage of surprises or awesome battles. Then again, this is exactly what you would come to expect from an anime classic that pushed the action envelope back in its day and still manages to be refreshingly intense and irresistible now. Believe me when I say that you will wish Season Three was already here after watching this collection.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
The Dark Tournament has begun and Yusuke and the rest of Team Urameshi find themselves going up against a number of fighters that are prepared to rip them apart in from of a massive stadium filled with demons hungry to see them lose. Meanwhile, Togura targets a member of Team Urameshi as the tournament’s biggest supporter reveals his shocking plan. Do Yusuke and his friends have what it takes to reach the finals and face their greatest foes?

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Considering the fact that this is an anime classic, the series shines beautifully on Blu-ray and should definitely be enjoyed on a big HD screen. There are a lot of classics that need to be seen in high-definition and this is definitely one of them. This second season also contains some of the best fights in the series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice cast for both the sub and dub has always managed to pull off some great performances for this series so whatever your viewing preference is you will find a worthy voice cast. Then there’s the score that is excellent enough to do each scene justice and the new closing theme song is sweet.

EXTRAS: C
Once again, the extras are pretty slim in this Anime Classics release so all you’ll find are the textless opening and closing theme songs and a few Funimation trailers. This release would have benefited from an audio commentary track reuniting most of the English dub voice cast. The biggest deal here is the fact that it’s on Blu-ray and looking better than ever.

OVERALL: A+
A genuine action-packed brawling classic, The Complete Season Season of Yu Yu Hakusho has everything you can ask for in an action anime. In fact, it does not disappoint in the very least to become that type of series you will want to watch repeatedly for years to come. We cannot recommend this series enough to our friends and family and neither will you if you give this amazing series a chance.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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Top 10 Games That Should Be Turned Into An Anime Or Manga Series

Written by: Eden Zacarias

Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, a casual one or haven‘t touched a game since you were 7-years old, it’s hard to ignore the influence that video games have on other forms of media whether it’s a major motion picture or a comic book series. Games have been made into movies before and they have even been turned into manga as well as anime series before … some with mixed results while others (Disgaea and Devil May Cry comes to mind) didn’t quite make much of an impression.

Still, I have hope in my heart that one day they will get it right and bring us a manga or anime series worthy of the game they’re honoring. After all, the reverse seemed to have produced some amazing games as fans of the Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and Bleach series have found out.

Perhaps what is needed is the right choices that would lead to a quality anime or manga series based on a game. So I looked through a number of games and came up with the Top Ten titles that have what it takes to be turned into an amazing anime or manga series.

10. SILENT HILL

The Silent Hill series has managed to continue to prove that this cursed town has more than enough madness and creepy faceless nurses to keep gamers totally freaked out. So, as you can see, the town would be the perfect setting for an anime or manga series of the When They Cry – Higurashi no Naku Koroni style. With plenty of freaks and a town filled with secrets, Silent Hill could easily give horror fans a genuinely scary title.

9. DEAD RISING

Frank West is a photographer sent out to take pictures of a horrifying scene outside one of the biggest shopping malls in America only to find out that the mall has become the last stronghold against a zombie horde. Then there’s a sequel in Las Vegas where a single father must race against time to save his daughter from the zombie infection. Together, these elements put together could make for a long manga series or an anime series with more than one season.

8. ASSASSIN’S CREED

A young man named Desmond finds himself involved in a strange project that has him jumping into the shoes of his ancestors who happen to be the best assassins in two different eras while uncovering the secret of an ancient organization at war with another group. With sci-fi elements, bloody action and a great cast of characters, this has manga and anime written all over it.

7. SOUL CALIBUR

This is a title I’m surprised has not become an anime series considering the eclectic cast of characters that would fit right in with an action brawler with swords and babes. Yeah, I could already see all the fan service bits thanks to characters like Ivy. The series could be about the tournament as all these characters come together to obtain the ultimate sword.

6. MASS EFFECT

This is one another game series that would fit right in as an anime series since there have been comic book releases for it already. The Mass Effect universe is amazing and the story of a Commander trying to save the world from an ancient alien race has all the makings of a long sci-fi action series filled with cool-looking aliens and likeable characters.

5. STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN

Street Fighter has seen its share of anime movies and many of them were good enough that fans wondered why an actual series wasn’t made as well. Add Tekken to the mix like the upcoming Street Fighter X Tekken and you have a formula for a fighting anime or manga series pitting a huge cast of brawlers with their unique personalities and fighting styles. Who doesn’t want to see Chun-Li fight Nina Williams?

4. METAL GEAR SOLID

Solid Snake is such a beloved character that fans nearly cried at the end of Guns of the Patriot and sent creator Kojima angry e-mails for having pretty boy Raiden take center stage in the second game of the Metal Gear Solid series. Add a number of awesome villains like Revolver Ocelot and Sniper Wolf plus a cast of fun characters that join Snake and you have yourself a hit series guaranteed. This is one I would love to see as an anime.

3. RESIDENT EVIL

You cannot go wrong with a great list of characters that span the several releases this series has produced over the years. You can consider this a different kind of zombie series filled with wild conspiracies involving the Umbrella Corporation. I see this one as a long-running series since the games continue to expand on the story in interesting ways. Plus, Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield are two of the strongest female leads.

2. NO MORE HEROES

This is another series I keep wondering why an anime series wasn’t produced as a result of its success and anime feel to the cut scenes. No More Heroes is outright crazy and chaotic and really interesting in the Samurai Champloo mold. This is one series that would fit right at home with anime fans looking for a dark, bloody and mature action series.

Finally, the #1 Game That Should Be Turning Into an Anime or Manga Series …

1. CATHERINE

This one is a no-brainer seeing as the game is presented anime-style and the story and characters would work perfectly for an anime. Filled with dark humor and an edgy adult theme, following the misadventures of a young man caught between Catherine or Katherine would make for an entertaining series. Who will he chose? We don’t know but, if you played the game, you know that half the fun is watching our hero try to make sense of the whole affair.

Blu-ray of the Month: Spice and Wolf, Season One

With the release of Season Two out this very same month, Funimation has also decided to package The Complete First Season of Spice and Wolf on Blu-ray and this is – no doubt about it – the best way to watch a series that not only contains gorgeous animation but also tells a very endearing and fantastical tale that makes it feel like a traditional fable.

The story revolves around a young traveling merchant named Craft Lawrence who encounters a harvest goddess named Holo who appears like a cute girl with a furry tail and wolf ears but is actually a wolf deity. Sensing that the human world has no need for a harvest goddess, she makes a deal with Lawrence to travel with her so she could go back to her home safely.

The pair goes on an amazing journey filled with danger and excitement as both Lawrence and Holo come to form an interesting bond. They not only come to learn about the world but also about themselves as Lawrence and Holo’s relationship takes a meaningful turn as they navigate through a world filled with greedy merchant guilds and a threat that wishes to harness Holo’s power.

As I mentioned, the series contains some stunning animation and you had better believe that it looks even better on Blu-ray … the way this series was meant to be seen and heard. Even the voice acting is topnotch in this series.

We Highly Recommend you pick up this series on Blu-ray if you missed it the first time around and with the Season Two upon us (we will bring you our review soon) you will certainly want to check it out. In the meantime, you can check out our review of the DVD version of Spice and Wolf, The Complete First Season.

Spice and Wolf, The Complete First Season DVD Review

Night Raid 1931, Complete Collection – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Ai Kano

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 400 minutes
Genre: Drama/Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

Welcome to Shanghai in the beginning of its darkest days.

I have to admit that I have a fondness for anime that takes fascinating historical elements and offers an alternative take with elements you wouldn’t normally associate with them such as people with powers. The Complete Collection of Night Raid 1931 is a series like that as it takes a moment in Asian history before the Second World War when things are starting to look bleak and the heroes that rise from this era are not your garden-variety heroes. Trust me when I say that this is one of the smartest, different and most entertaining pre-World War II anime series to come along in a long time and on Blu-ray, no less.

Spanning 14-epsiodes (plus OVA episodes), Night Raid 1931 spins a complex yet exciting tale with an intriguing setup. The year is 1931 as Shanghai is about to experience the first taste of a conflict that is about to set the world ablaze. One region in particular is most worrisome as the great expanse to the northeast of China bordering Russia – called Manchuria – has a Japanese garrison stationed there and nobody is happy about it. It is becoming obvious that this uneasiness on all sides of this situation will soon become something too dangerous to contain.

Before things get too out of hand, however, a man named Shinichiro Sakurai has just obtained the services of a young woman named Yukina Sonagi and her servant named Natsume and puts both of them to a test, of sorts. You see, aboard the SS Nagasaki, young women keep disappearing during the voyage and Sakurai believes they are being lured in by a fake movie company and sold as sex slaves in Shanghai. While Yukina and Natsume seem harmless enough, they both have a secret. You see, Yukina is telepath of the X-Men’s Professor Xavier variety (she can communicate with anyone telepathically) while Natsume is a clairvoyant with the ability to see beyond objects.

Both Yukina and Natsume not only uncover the truth behind the movie film crew and the missing girls but they also meet two other members of what will be part of their team working under the mysterious Mr. Sakurai. We meet Aoi Miyoshi (a reckless young man gifted with telekinesis) and Kazura Iha who is a talented operative who much rather not use his line-of-sight teleportation powers unless it’s absolutely necessary. All four take on missions to not only protect Shanghai from various threats but also to uncover the mastermind behind a dangerous new movement.

Working together, the four operatives learn about each another’s strengths and weaknesses as little by little they start acting like a team. This is a good thing seeing as Shanghai is experiencing a number of events seemingly connected to or is a result of the Manchurian Incident that happened that year. Yukina and her team find themselves dealing with interesting cases such as a famous Russian violin player who might actually also be moonlighting as a spy or the kidnapping of the head of a major conglomerate.

In another mission, somebody is setting off explosives in Shanghai’s most popular department stores and they are tasked with stopping the bombs from going off as well as discover who is behind the terrorist acts. As it turns out, the person setting off the bombs is a soldier with powers similar to Kazura but the most shocking revelation is that he is connected to a man named Isao Takachiho … who just so happens to be the older brother of one of the four.

With Isao clearly being the man leading a group of soldiers in his own revolution, the others try to hunt the man down. As it turns out, however, Isao has assembled people with powers such as his teleported subordinate and a young girl who can predict things to come known as the Prophetess. Together, this group desperately wishes to change Japan’s future and avoid the aftermath that will result from unavoidable World War II. On top of that, the Prophetess happens to be the former girlfriend of one of the four.

Things get even more interesting when Isao shows Yukina and the others what will happen to Japan thanks to a new kind of bomb capable of destroying entire cities. Isao’s plan is finally revealed and his plan sounds noble enough that it has one of them change sides. All of this leads to a climactic finale that is actually quite fitting to a series that manages to surprise.

Night Raid 1931 adds plenty of super powered action to the intelligently well-written series and adds some good humor as well. The characters are fleshed out enough that we actually do come to care about them enough that the final episode makes quite an impact. Even the two OVA episodes are great as one of them involves Yukina and a little girl sold to an opium den and another one that takes place after the events of the last episode.

The Complete Collection of Night Right 1931 is a thrilling and downright intriguing series that adds a refreshing spin to a real historical event. Filled with great characters and cool super powered action, the series has a lot to offer and does not disappoint in the very least when it comes to bringing us a series that keep things interesting but still manages to be loads of fun to watch. That said, missing out on this one would be a real shame so consider this one on our Highly Recommended list.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
In 1930s Shanghai, a group of four young operatives with special powers takes on a series of missions for the mysterious Mr. Sakurai who will have them going up against a group that is plotting a troublesome and very dangerous plan that will threaten the world. Along the way, they encounter a plot that involves a new kind of bomb capable of destroying entire cities so they set out to stop a man who has seen the future and wishes to change it … even if it means killing millions.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation is what you might imagine from Aniplex so expect some impressive visual effects, beautiful backgrounds and striking action sequences. Better yet, the series looks even more stunning on Blu-ray so this is the perfect way to watch this series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The original Japanese voice actors pull off some great performances but, then again, so does the English dub voice cast with great work from Greg Ayres as Aoi, Brittney Karbowski as Yukina and John Gremillion as Kazura just to name a few of the stand out talents. The music in the series is beyond beautiful and the opening and closing theme songs are just right.

EXTRAS: A+
Sentai Filmworks brings out the juicy extras for the Complete Collection set and that just doesn’t include some trailers, credits and the clean closing animations either. We’re talking the two OVA episodes that add to the main story and the Special Episode titled Prophecy that recaps the series with its original Japanese voice cast as well as adds some insight on the story.

OVERALL: A
An ambitious, thought-provoking and riveting series with a lot to offer, Night Raid 1931 is a pitch-perfect series with enough action, intrigue and alternate historic goodness to please fans of the genre. It weaves a complex tale, sure, but it’s one that is smartly written and exciting enough to really get into so you will definitely want to check this one out if you’re looking for something interesting and downright exciting.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

Eden of the East: Paradise Lost, Movie 2 – Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Funimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 85 minutes
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating: Unrated
Release Date: August 23, 2011

This game is over.

It began with a question: If you had the monetary means, how would you go about fixing your country’s problems?

This is the question that was posed to potential candidates of a dangerous game that had them competing against each another for the right to save the country anyway they saw fit by way of a most unusual cell phone that connected them to their own personal concierge that could get them whatever they wanted. As we saw from the Eden of the East series as well as the first feature film, Eden of the East: The King of Eden, one player is inching closer to fulfilling his dream of being Japan’s King.

A lot has happened to Akira Takizawa as he has gone from running naked in front of the White House to becoming something of a world-wide celebrity of sorts when he helped stop missiles from hitting Japan. It is a girl by the name of Saki Morimi who has not only helped Takizawa but has become a part of the game. As we saw in the first movie, it was Saki finds Takizawa once again to help him finish this game as – once again – Japan is in danger of repeating another catastrophic even such as “Careless Monday.”

Paradise Lost finds Takizawa and Saki returning to Japan as they touch down in Narita. It’s clear from the nightmare Takizawa had on the airplane that the game is finally starting to wear him down but it’s far from over and he is determined to make his dream of being the King of Japan a reality. On top of that, though, there was the rumor that Takizawa is the illegitimate son of the new deceased Prime Minister, Seijiro Inuma. Since word leaked out that Takizawa would arrive in Japan, Narita’s airport is not only filled with NEETs waiting for their chance to see him but somebody else has come to see him as well.

That person, as it turns out, is Inuma’s widow, Chigusa Inuma, who accuses Takizawa of being the one that started the rumor that he is Seijiro’s illegitimate child. She even takes a hair sample in order to expose the truth about him his ties to her husband and expose him as a liar and terrorist. Seeing no way out of this, Takizawa asks Saki to find his mother and ask her to reveal the truth about him. His only clue is the cute dog Saki is taking care of and a woman who caught his eye during “Careless Monday.”

As Takizawa finds a way to escape Chigusa Inuma’s men, Saki – once again – enlists the help of her close friends. Unfortunately, Public Security is secretly investigating Eden of the East and painting them as a possible terrorist group. With a few of her friends dodging agents, Saki and her friend Osugi (who still has a monster crush on her), do manage to find a woman that fits Takizawa’s description. She even recognizes the dog right away. However, it isn’t until Osugi finds evidence linking this woman to Seijiro Inuma that they find the truth about the older woman and her connection to Takizawa.

Meanwhile, Hirasawa from Eden of the East digs around enough to locate the mastermind behind the Selecao game who all the players know as Mr. Outside. Their conversation is easily one of the bigger surprises of the movie and his explanation as to why he picked Akira Takahashi actually makes a lot of sense considering the young man’s selfless personality. Even Mr. Outside’s identity is a testament to just how intriguing and mysterious this series has been from the very beginning.

As the game spirals towards its conclusion, Takizawa manages to save his Juiz in time before the other player could destroy it and looks to Chigusa for help as the young man has a final confrontation with Number 1 who is so determined to win that he makes a surprising plea to Takizawa. This leads to a decision that leads to the end of the game as Mr. Outside finally declares a winner.

Paradise Lost might not have the same surprises as The King of Eden nor does it contain the same intense momentum of the series. Sure, it lost its Bourne Identity-styled feel and gained something even more significant. That said, however, the ending is a big disappointment especially since Takizawa calls upon the NEETs for the final time to fulfill his final wish only for their role to fizzle out in the end. Oh, and those expecting something to finally happen between Takizawa and Saki will not be satisfied even when Saki does the unexpected. It was as if all that Saki did for him meant nothing at all.

Ok, so the ending wasn’t what one might expect from such a creative and meaningful series but stick around after the end credits for a teaser to what I hope might lead to a follow-up movie. Even with the not-so-good ending, Eden of the East is the kind of series I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the future.

Eden of the East: Paradise Lost is a deep and powerful film that truly spells out the significance of the game and what is at stake but those looking for a real resolution to the NEETs or the Takizawa-Saki relationship will be in for a major disappointment. This isn’t a horrible ending but it’s not a great one either considering the fact that this series has proven to be nothing short of brilliant. Still, this is a movie you definitely need to watch.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Takizawa and Saki finally make it back to Japan in hopes of stopping another “Careless Monday” from going down but the widow of the deceased Prime Minister finds Takizawa in hopes of exposing him as a liar. Meanwhile, Saki looks for Takizawa’s mother in hopes of learning the truth about his real identity as Mr. Outside comes to a decision as to who won this game.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Just like the first movie as well as the series, Paradise Lost is simply gorgeous to look at and even more so on Blu-ray. Chica Umino’s character designs work nicely for this series as well but it’s the level of detail of the backgrounds that make this an impressive-looking movie.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting has been topnotch from the very beginning and it remains that way even in this second movie so if you prefer to watch it in its original Japanese language track or opt for the English dub you will not be disappointed. There’s an amazing score as well with a good opening theme song and a great closing song like “after laughter” by school food punishment.

EXTRAS: B
You’ll find the original trailers for Paradise Lost as well as the series and first film included here as well as the TV spots for this movie as well as the preview. We also get some Funimation trailers but fans will certainly enjoy the Visual Commentary on the Eden System with an interview with Director Kamiyama that took place last year in Shinjuko to a crowd of fans who got real-time text messages on screen during the viewing of the movie so we get to read exactly what they got to see during that event as we watch the movie. Think of it like those old VH1 pop-up commentary bubbles with facts from the Director and the staff.

Then there’s the U.S. Cast commentary with ADR Mike McFarland as he chats with various members of the cast such as Jason Liebrecht, Leah Clark, J. Michael Tatum, Lydia Mackay and Michael Sinterniklaas just to name a few. It’s a blast to listen to the various voice talents who add their own input on characters and the story.

OVERALL: B+
A bit disappointing but still a riveting animated feature that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, Paradise Lost closes the chapter on Eden of the East in a way that could have been better but still just good enough to keep the suspense intriguing enough to keep us glued to our seats. There’s a lot of meaning to this game and why it was played in the first place but as far as endings are concerned it just falls short.

Review copy provided by Funimation Entertainment

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

Third & final remastered, premium set scheduled for December 6, 2011; To include final arcs of television series, plus Adolescence of Utena movie.

 

GRIMES, Iowa, August 17, 2011 – Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are pleased to announce REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Apocalypse Saga DVD Set L.E. (Remastered Box Set 3) will be available on December 6, 2011.

This third and final limited-edition DVD box set will feature the concluding arcs of the Revolutionary Girl Utena television series and the theatrical film Adolescence of Utena. The episodes and movie will be presented with remastered video and newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese audio tracks (from the recent Japanese DVD releases), as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for English and Japanese audio, and English-language subtitles and on-screen translations.

On-disc extras for the television series will include animated art galleries, an interview with Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, an interview with lead actresses Tomoko Kawakami (“Utena”) and Yuriko Fuchizaki (“Anthy”), interviews with the English-language voice cast, Japanese staff commentaries for episodes 37-39, karaoke for the dueling themes, Japanese TV spots and trailers, and the original North American trailers. On-disc extras for Adolescence of Utena will include a full-length movie commentary by Director Ikuhara, a behind-the-scenes feature with the English-language cast, Japanese TV spots and trailers, and the original North American film trailer and teaser.

Additionally, the set will be housed in a collectors’ art box and include a book with content from the limited-edition Japanese releases, including artwork, commentaries, and the third installment of production notes from the Japanese LaserDisc release. Only a limited quantity of this premium set will be produced.

Nozomi Entertainment’s releases of Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Student Council Saga DVD Set L.E. (Remastered Box Set 1) and The Black Rose Saga DVD Set L.E. (Remastered Box Set 2) are available now.

“Simultaneously beautiful, emotionally powerful, artistically triumphant and absurdly hilarious.”
– Zac Bertschy, Anime News Network

“What is Revolutionary Girl Utena? Simply put: one of the single greatest anime titles ever made.”
– Daryl Surat, Otaku USA Magazine

“…it’s worth every moment and has great replay value.”
– Chris Beveridge, The Fandom Post

“Part high school soap opera, part surreal fantasy, part comedy, part psychological drama, Utena confounds expectations and enthralls viewers, and routinely shows up on ‘best-of’ lists for good reasons: there hasn’t been anything like it before or since.”
– Serdar Yegulalp, About.com Anime

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

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

About REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Apocalypse Saga
As the final duel rapidly approaches, the Student Council’s will to continue is beginning to waver. After all, End of the World’s identity and motives remain a mystery. And Utena, fueled by her desire to protect Anthy, continues to prevail over the feeble ambitions that drive the Student Council to fight.

But the Council’s ambitions are reignited when they hear a sound. At first, it’s faint, but soon it becomes clear: The promised revolution is within reach – and the duels must go on.

And what of Utena’s own ambition? To become a prince, the duels may be only one of the trials she has yet to face.

Contains television episodes 25-39, plus the theatrical film Adolescence of Utena.
REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA: The Apocalypse Saga DVD Set L.E.
(Remastered Box Set 3)
Pre-Book: 11/1/2011
Street Date: 12/6/2011
Runtime: Approximately 460 minutes, Dolby Digital Stereo, Color (Plus movie: Anamorphic widescreen)
Genre: Drama
Suggested Rating: 16+

Format: DVD (TV series and movie: 2.0 English Audio, 5.1 and 2.0 Japanese Audio, English Subtitles, English On-Screen Translations)
Catalog #: RSDVD1158
ISBN: 1-57032-706-8
UPC: 7-42617-1158-2-0
SRP: $79.99

Discs/Set: 6
Case Qty: TBA

DVD Features:
Scene access, remastered video from the recent Japanese DVD re-release, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio for English and Japanese dialogue, new Dolby 5.1 audio for Japanese dialogue, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS TV Series extras: Animated art galleries, interview with Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, interview with actresses Tomoko Kawakami (“Utena”) and Yuriko Fuchizaki (“Anthy”), interviews with the English-language voice cast, Japanese staff commentary for episodes 37-39, dueling themes karaoke (Japanese audio), Japanese TV spots and trailers, and original North American trailers. ALSO Movie extras: Full-length movie commentary by Director Ikuhara, behind the scenes with the English-language cast, Japanese TV spots and trailers, and original North American trailer and teaser. AND: A book featuring content from the recent, limited-edition Japanese DVD box sets, including artwork, episode commentary and liner notes from the LD release (part 3).

UTENA, Revolutionary Girl (Shojo Kakumei Utena) © 1997 BE-PAPAS/CHIHO SAITO/SHOGAKUKAN • SHOKAKU • TV TOKYO.

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

ABOUT RIGHT STUF, INC.
Currently celebrating its 24th 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.

Sound of the Sky (Sora no Woto), Complete Set – DVD Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 355 minutes
Genre: Drama
Rating: 16+
Release Date: Available Now

This is not just about really cute girls in military uniforms.

Admittedly, I’m the first to jump on a series featuring cutesy characters and – admittedly – I often find myself disappointed that most of them don’t really amount to anything truly meaningful. However, there are those rare gems like Aria: The Animation that reminds me that among all the cuteness there is still room for compelling storytelling. As it turns out, the Complete Set of Sound of the Sky (or Sora no Woto) is another rare gem worth picking up right away.

This is high praise indeed, especially since this series has its share of weaknesses but they pale compared to the characters and story. You see, Sound of the Sky takes place in a post-apocalyptic era when the world is experiencing its days of peace despite the fact that peace negotiations between the world’s two most powerful military states are not going well. In the middle of this is a cute young girl, a child really, named Private Sorami Kanata who is transferring to the charming European city of Seize where she will be reporting to the Helvetia Republic Army’s 1121st Platoon.

Sorami arrives in time to witness Seize’s annual festival in honor of the Flame Maidens and she not only is swept up in the festivities but she gets lost looking for the famed Clocktower Fortress where she was meant to report. Instead she meets the beautiful Rio Kazumiya, a young woman that slightly resembles a Helvetian soldier she watched play her trumpet. As Sorami makes it clear to Rio, she too wants to blow the bugle for the army. Although she’s not very good at it, Sorami is the kind of girl that is upbeat and willing to give it her all to get better at playing.

As it turns out, Rio is an officer in the 1121st Platoon who serves under the attractive Second Lieutenant Filicia Heidemann and the narcoleptic tank pilot and mechanic named Noel Kannagi. Finally, there’s the young Private Kureha Suminoya who sees Sorami’s arrival as an annoyance since she was getting all the attention from Rio and Filicia. On top of putting up with Kureha’s irritated and nature, there’s rumor of a ghost in the barracks where the two discover an unexpected inhabitant that’s of the feathery variety.

Life in the Fortress, to Kureha’s annoyance, is calm and laid-back but Sorami starts to fit in and even gets private trumpet lessons from Rio. Meanwhile, Filicia is the type of leader who insists on not only doing away with ranks but also become a part of the community around them whether it’s dealing with the likeable merchant or Yumina, a young girl who wears a nun’s habit and takes care of orphan children. At one point, the girls scare off a group of gangsters that are harassing the merchants.

Despite the fact that the series is only 12-episodes (plus the two OVA episodes) long, it still allows us to get to know more about each of the characters including Yumina. The characters might come off as familiar caricatures but they have intricate pasts that flesh them out well enough that they become endearing. It’s heartbreaking to see Filicia during the worst moment in her life when she took part in the war and wonder how is it that – after all the terrible things that happened to her – she can be cheerful and warm. Even more heartbreaking is Noel’s past and how she is dealing with the things she did during the war.

While the first half of the series is filled with lighthearted moments, the second half takes a turn in a more dramatic direction as both Kureha and Sorami find a female enemy soldier (who the series calls Romans despite the fact they speak German). Suddenly, the Helvetian nation and the Romans are headed to war again as we discover that one of the girls has the power to put an end to the situation before it reignites the flames of war. I should say that the twist isn’t a wee bit surprising and leads to a somewhat disappointing ending.

The ending is but one of many little flaws that pop up throughout the entire series. Never mind that there’s a scene were celebrating soldiers toss their loaded rifles into air or one episode is dedicated to Sorami wanting to pee so badly but she can’t because she has to stay by the phone. Also, the cuteness factor is overwhelmingly high to the point that can be too much at times. Oh, and if there ever was a series that deserves to be on Blu-ray it is certainly this one. The animation is nothing short of stunning.

As I said, these are little flaws that are easily forgivable considering how good the writing in this series is and how emotionally connected you will get to the characters and their situation. In fact, there were times when I came close to tears. By the time you get to the end you will not only understand why these girls no longer want to be a part of a war that had has reduced cities to rubble (or, as the series calls it, No Man’s Land) but you will also feel their fear of watching what is left of civilization crumble to ashes. However, in a world where “Amazing Grace” can still touch people’s hearts regardless of whether they’re Roman or Helvetian, hope still exists.

A beautifully executed and written story with a deep meaning, the Complete Set of Sound of the Sky is powerfully emotional and entertaining. Sure, the sugary sweet cuteness is overkill and there were scenes I had a problem with but they’re mere blemishes on a beautiful work of art that you should not miss. Believe me when I say that this one deserves to be among your collection.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
Transferred to the Clocktower Fortress in the quaint and lovely town of Seize, Private Sorami meets the young ladies of the 1121st Platoon. It is among these very different young women that this bugler-in-training finds life in the fortress is laid back but there’s more than enough to do. However, with the world on the brink of war once again, one of them has the power to stop it.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This is definitely a series that would have been perfect on Blu-ray because that animation is simply breath-taking. Sure, the girls look way too cute but you will find yourself easily distracted by the gorgeous backgrounds that make up this world. This is easily one of the best-looking series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting is handled wonderfully enough and more so when it comes to Misato Fukuen as Yumina and Yu Kobayashi as Rio. The real highlight is Michiru Oshima’s brilliant eclectic and cinematic score that adds a dreamy European feel. Even the use of “Amazing Grace” has a deep significance. Add a lovely opening theme song by Kalafina and a cute yet catchy closing theme song and you have a series you need to watch on a good sound system.

EXTRAS: B+
Each of the four DVDs comes with extras that include RightStuf!/Nozomi trailers as well as Character Bios, Line Art Galleries and the U.S. Trailer. The first DVD even comes with an alternate version of Episode 1 with a few differences and the final disc comes with the epilogue OVA episode that takes place a year after the events of the last episode. Then there’s the 39-page soft cover booklet that includes art from the series plus commentary from the staff that’s worth a glance.

OVERALL: A
Sound of the Sky isn’t without its weak moments but they are quickly overshadowed by its strengths to make this a deeply meaningful and thoroughly entertaining series that I will gladly recommend very highly. Even if it sounds way too cute, you do not want to miss out on a series that is able to convey genuine feelings and tell a well-written story of a shattered world on the brink of war and the five young girls that watch over the town. This is definitely one series you should not miss.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment