RIGHT STUF’S NOZOMI ENTERTAINMENT Announces DIRTY PAIR: The Original OVA Series DVD Collection

10-episode sequel series, with remastered video, available Jan. 2012.

GRIMES, Iowa, September 28, 2011 – Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are pleased to announce DIRTY PAIR: The Original OVA Series DVD Collection will be available on January 3, 2012.

This value-priced DVD collection will contain the entire 10-episode, direct-to-video (OVA) sequel to the original Dirty Pair television series and will feature remastered video from the Japanese DVD release, as well as the previously released English-language audio, Japanese audio, and English-language subtitles and on-screen translations.

A high-water mark for sci-fi comedy in anime…”
– Serdar Yegulalp, About.com Anime

Holds up incredibly well after twenty-five years and deserves a slot on most people’s shelves.”
– Chris Beveridge, AnimeOnDVD at Mania.com

Cute, kick-arse girls going around the universe and blowing stuff up in the name of justice.” – Mike Dent, Otaku USA

The Dirty Pair OVA series and its preceding television series are part of the first wave of anime adaptations to star the iconic heroines of the long-running Dirty Pair novels and short stories. The TV and OVA series feature production by Sunrise (Gundam, Outlaw Star, The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop) and Studio Nue (Crusher Joe, Macross).

The original Dirty Pair television series is now available as two DVD box sets from Right Stuf’s Nozomi Entertainment. Nozomi has plans to release the remaining classic Dirty Pair OVAs and movie, plus the 1990s, alternate-universe series Dirty Pair Flash, in 2012.

The Dirty Pair’s literary adventures – written by Haruka Takachiho (creator of Crusher Joe) and illustrated by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (character design for Mobile Suit Gundam, Gundam Unicorn) – have won two Seiun Awards for science fiction and inspired an array of media, including anime, radio series and English-language comics. The first two novels, The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair and The Dirty Pair Strike Again, are published for English-speaking audiences by Dark Horse.

Visit dirtypair.rightstuf.com to read a multi-part interview with Dirty Pair creator Haruka Takachiho, to view trailers, to purchase the DIRTY PAIR television series (available now) and to pre-order the OVA series.

About the DIRTY PAIR: The Original OVA Series

Criminals of the universe beware – the Dirty Pair are back in action! It doesn’t matter if you’re the warden of an infamous prison, a robot that’s literally armed to the teeth, or that snotty little kid who thought it’d be fun to hijack mankind’s biggest space cannon. If Kei and Yuri get orders to bring you in, then these two Lovely Angels will use any combination of beauty, brains, and brute force to bring you to justice! Contains the complete 10-episode, direct-to-video series!

DIRTY PAIR: The Original OVA Series DVD Collection
Pre-Book: 12/6/2011
Street Date: 1/3/2012
Runtime: Approximately 250 minutes, Dolby Digital Stereo, Color
Genre: Sci-Fi / Action
Suggested Rating: 13+

Format: DVD (English Audio, Japanese Audio, English Subtitles, English On-Screen Translations)
Catalog #: RSDVD1262
ISBN: 1-57032-710-6
UPC: 7-42617-1262-2-2
SRP: $34.99
Discs/Set: 3
Case Qty: 30

DVD Features:
Scene access, remastered video from the recent Japanese DVD re-release, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for English and Japanese dialogue, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS: Clean opening, clean closing, U.S. trailer, liner notes and Nozomi Entertainment trailers.


DIRTY PAIR Original OVA Series © Takachiho&Studio Nue • SUNRISE

** 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.

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SENTAI FILMWORKS LICENSES HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

HOUSTON, September 28, 2011Sentai Filmworks announces the acquisition of the upcoming anime mega-series HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, based upon best-selling author Minoru Kawakami’s ongoing, eight-book franchise that has already sold over 750,000 copies in Japan. Directed by Manabu Ono (My Hime, Saki,) the huge and epic story that combines everything from giant robots and aerial ships to witches and werewolves will employ a staff of four Character Designers – Tomoyuki Fujii, Shinya Nishizawa, Yukiko Aikei and Kanta Suzuki- to adapt the original concepts by Satoyasu (TENKY), while script supervision and adaptation falls into the capable hands of Tatsuhiko Urahata (Nana, Master Keaton, Monster, Strike Witches 2.)

‘History’ is coming to an end. When humans came down from the sky they brought with them the Testament, the guide to the path they must follow if they wish to return to the skies again. Now, in a strange world where only the islands of Japan are inhabitable, the nations of the world vie for power and protect the portions of Japan that they have claimed, each armed with its own ultimate weapon: a Roysmoi Opro, the Armor of Deadly Sins. But there may be a far greater threat to mankind than the Roysomi Opro, for the Testament ends abruptly, and it is now the last year. Is this the end of humanity, or can Tori Aoi and his fellow students from the aerial metropolitan ship Musashi somehow affect the course of destiny? Who and what is the HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?

Weekly episodes of HORIZON IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE will begin airing digitally on The Anime Network on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 in Japanese with English subtitles. Additional digital outlets and home video releases will follow in 2012.

About Sentai Filmworks:
Sentai Filmworks is one of the fastest-growing anime companies in North America, including hit series like Highschool of the Dead, Guin Saga, Needless, Canaan and Angel Beats. Sentai Filmworks programs can be found on home video distributed by Ingram Entertainment, Baker & Taylor, Section23Films, The Right Stuf and other good and fine distributors. Digital product offerings may be found at iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Zune Marketplace, Anime Network, Playstation Network and YouTube.

Blue Exorcist, Volume 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: Aniplex of America
MSRP: $37.48 US
Running Time: 175 minutes
Genre: Action/Supernatural
Rating: 13+
Release Date: October 18, 2011

So no father-son picnics for this family.

On the surface, Rin Okumura might seem like your average high school student with all the problems a boy his age would normally suffer throughout but looks can be deceiving as we find out in a series about demons, exorcists and the spawn of Satan. Volume 1 of Blue Exorcist introduces us to a young man who holds a very interesting secret that will have him go up against a great evil connected to him.

Covering the first seven episodes of the series, Volume 1 introduces us to Rin who just so happens to live in a monastery with his twin brother named Yukio. The boys were practically raised there by Father Fujimoto who happens to be in charge of the monastery. We find out that Rin is the polar opposite of his brother who not only is a lot calmer but has good enough grades that he just got into the prestigious True Cross Academy. Rin, on the other hand, has a hair-trigger temper and hardly even shows up to class. When we first see him he’s actually beating up a tough kid.

However, Rin isn’t a total bad seed as we find out that the reason he got into said fight was to stop this bully from killing pigeons with a crossbow. The kid even goes out to an interview, tackling a job at a local supermarket with lively enthusiasm. Sure, he’s awful at it but he also demonstrates something he’s really good at … cooking. However, Rin Okumura’s life takes a most interesting detour when he witnesses a demon tormenting a little girl.

It is right there and then that Rin also realizes that he has a most unusual power that revolves around a powerful blue flame that is connected to a strange transformation within him. Just what this means is beyond the boy.

As it turns out, Father Fujimoto performs exorcisms and Rin is suddenly thrust into a world new to him as he begins to see demons everywhere. Seeing no other choice, the Father tells Rin the truth about him and the two worlds that make up the material world (Assiah) and the demon realm (Gehenna). He even shows him the Koma Sword, a legendary demon-slaying sword from ancient times that he was destined to wield against Satan himself. Oh yeah, and in case you didn’t see this coming, Rin just so happens to be Satan’s son.

In a tragic confrontation in the monastery, Rin manages to survive an attack by dad but others are not so fortunate. As a result, Rin swears to destroy Satan. It won’t be an easy feat, of course, but a friend of Father Fujimoto that goes by the unusual name of Mephisto Pheles invites Rin to attend True Cross Academy to become an exorcist for the Japanese branch of the Knights of the True Cross.

As Rin finds out, the school is a fantastical place surrounded by supernatural magic as the young boy becomes a student in the art of exorcism. Meanwhile, Rin makes a surprising discovery about his brother’s role in the school that goes beyond just being a student. Yukio knows Rin’s secret but, to him, he is still his older brother. They even share an empty dorm together that, they later find out, is not quite as alone as they initially thought.

Not surprisingly, Rin isn’t exactly a good student in this school as well and finds out that his brother is quite popular in a school filled with student serious about becoming exorcists. Rin does make friends in school such as the shy Shiemi who tends to his grandmother’s garden and dreams of one day finding the Garden of Amahara. While Shiemi has a crush on Yukio, it is Rin who helps the girl when they figure out that her affliction is of the supernatural variety.

Through Rin we also meet the rest of his classmates that include Suguro; a sullen youth who is very much like Rin to the point that the other boy recognizes that and competes against him. Meanwhile, we also get to see more of Shiemi who joins the class as well and yearns to make friends with the mean-spirited Kamiki. Sure, the action that the manga version displays has yet to really become a part of the story but its good to see a series that spends time developing the characters and setting up the threat. It even has a good sense of humor, such as Rin’s cook-off battle against a demon called Ukobachi or Rin’s awkward friendship with Shiemi.

Volume 1 of Blue Exorcist doesn’t bring anything new to the table but if you give it a chance it will certainly know how to show you a really good time. Rin is actually a likeable enough fellow that getting to know him is half the fun of these first seven episodes. While we have yet to dive into the heart of the story, you will find yourself enjoying a series about a different kind of exorcist and his quest to take a boot to the devil’s backside. We are so definitely looking forward to Volume 2 of this series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Rin and his brother Yukio have been living in a monastery but when the world of demons and exorcists is introduced to him it suddenly makes Rin face a startling secret about himself. As fate would have it, Rin is given the opportunity to attend a school for potential exorcists with Yukio in a surprising role. Meanwhile, the young exorcist-in-training participates in an exorcism and come to meet his classmates.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The animation is true to the manga and that’s not a bad thing at all and seeing the gorgeous visual effects and detailed backgrounds come to life makes the series easy on the eyes and even more so on DVD.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
There’s no English dub option to be found but the original Japanese voice cast is excellent and Hiroyuki Sawano’s score is score is awesome. On top of that, the opening theme song by UVERworld is a new favorite of ours as is “Take Off” by 2PM.

EXTRAS: B+
The DVD extras include the textless opening and closing theme song as well as the collection of web previews of the series but the best feature comes in the form of “VRA-EX that contain bonus scenes such as one of Yukio counting all his moles and finding out that a series of them form the Big Dipper on his chest. The bonus scenes are actually quite hilarious and definitely worth a look. Oh, this DVD release even includes a two-sided poster and a two-sided reversible cover as well as Aniplex trailers.

OVERALL: B+
While the premise is far from original, Volume 1 of Blue Exorcist manages to be an entertaining and high-energy series that makes this a blast to watch. While the series has yet to really jump to the real action, getting to known Rin and the world of the exorcists in this first volume is fun enough to make you look forward to the next volume.

Review copy provided by Aniplex of America

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Volume 2 – Manga Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Kenji Kuroda
Artist: Kazuo Maekawa
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 13+)
Release Date: Available Now

You don’t need a Stylus to enjoy this Phoenix Wright adventure.

Phoenix Wright is a name you’ll recognize if you just so happen to be a gamer or own a Nintendo DS since the Ace Attorney games have a huge following among those who like solving puzzles and murder cases. It’s style certainly has anime and manga written all over it so it wasn’t surprising to find the Capcom series translates rather well in manga form. Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is here and our favorite lawyer is on the case and there will be unusual murders.

Volume 1 ended in a cliffhanger as charismatic defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his cute-yet-oddball assistant, Maya Fey is invited to the house of Robin Wolfe – the president of a well-known corporation. Suddenly, the evening turns ugly when a fire breaks out in a special room the president shares with his spider-loving brother and Robin Wolfe is found dead with a blow to the head. At the scene, the police round up Mr. Wolfe’s brother, Bobby Wolfe, who they found intoxicated and with a lighter in his pocket.

Once again, on the case, Wright and Maya look for clues around the scene of the crime only to find Wright’s suave rival, Miles Edgeworth also there to check for clues seeing as he has taken the case on the side of the prosecution against the crime‘s only suspect – Bobby Wolfe. Talked into defending Bobby in court, Wright gathers what few clues he can find but it won’t be easy considering the fact that Edgeworth is a worthy opponent in the courtroom.

As it turns out, proving Bobby Wolfe’s innocence is far more difficult a task than Wright imagined. Edgeworth quickly shoots holes in Wright’s insistence that Bobby loves spiders so much he wouldn’t dare set fire to a room containing all his beloved arachnids. He wouldn’t even dream of seeing his prized collection of books turn to ash either. Still, Edgeworth paints a picture that reveals that Bobby Wolfe often argued with his brother.

Still, Wright believes there were others there that day that had a real motive to see Robin Wolfe dead and points out that Robin was responsible for the suicide of his daughter’s boyfriend, Eddie Johnson. Among the guests that evening was the late Eddie Johnson’s brother, Brock Johnson, who also blames Robin for Eddie’s death. Yet how can he tie Robin Wolfe’s murder with the fire and fatal blow to the head when everyone has a seemingly airtight alibi?

If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll know that Phoenix Wright is the type of attorney who pulls out his tricks late in the game and he does so here. The problem is that the explanation of Robin Wolfe’s murder is not only complicated and outrageously unreasonable. There are no plausible factors that make this case seem possible, which distracts from the drama of the courtroom duel between Wright and Edgeworth.

Still, Volume 2 more than makes up for the first case’s ridiculous outcome with its second case that is not only a lot more fun to read but makes for a complex and interesting murder case. You see, Wright and Maya spend a fun evening in a theme park dedicated to Maya’s favorite Teletubby-like character named Sparklestar. Snooping around the backstage of the Sparklestar and Friends Show, both Wright and Maya enter and find the performers of the show getting ready to put on their costumes. Normally, Wright wouldn’t be interested in anything that’s going on at the moment but he finds the show’s hostess so irresistible cute that he sticks around to see the show.

The show starts off fun enough and there’s even a kid video taping the antics of the characters when one of the mascots comes staggering onto the stage and drops dead. Immediately, Wright jumps into the case as everyone on stage realizes that the victim, Flip Chambers, was stabbed in the stomach. To top it all off, the mascot’s costume had its zipper glued and there doesn’t appear to be a hole in the suit where one would expect a knife to go through if he was stabbed with a knife.

Immediately, fingers point to Julie Henson who is the only who might hold a grudge against Flip seeing as he dumped her not that long ago. Besides that, though, she’s the only one who could actually physically do it seeing as the costumes aren’t able to hold any objects and other performers can’t get out of the costumes by themselves … or so it seems.

While Edgeworth had the upper hand in the first case, he doesn’t really have much of a case here as Wright makes some rather interesting arguments that work in Julie Henson’s defense. Along with the video tape evidence taken by the Sparklestar fan that day as well as Wright’s talent for spotting little details, he makes a play that reveals the true killer.

Phoenix Wright fans will definitely enjoy the little touches that both Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa sprinkle throughout the manga. All the familiar touches are intact, including the recognizable Judge, the appearance of Detective Dick Gumshoe and even Wendy Old bag (who has a hilarious crush on Edgewood) are present. Unlike the games, the manga does offer a brief explanation of the strange legal system that has the lawyers do all the investigative work instead of the police. Sure, it makes for interesting gameplay for the DS games but – in a manga series – it just comes off as odd albeit entertaining.

Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney falls short when it comes to the first case only to become engaging and even deliciously complex in its second half. If we see more cases like the second one then this series could very well be the perfect companion to favorites like Case Closed. If you’re looking for a realistic courtroom drama series you will not find it here but if you’re looking for a different kind of lawyer tale then Phoenix Wright is the attorney for you.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B-
A visit to a company president’s home turns into a complicated murder case as Wright defends an eccentric spider-lover accused of killing his own brother and goes up against Edgeworth in a dramatic courtroom face-off. Then, a trip to a theme park turns deadly for a mascot as a cute show hostess is put on trial for a murder Wright believes she did not commit.

ART: A-
Kazuo Maekawa’s artwork is actually delightful to look and filled with more than enough details to make it more than adequate. Sure, the character design comes off as a bit simplistic but that’s only because it’s capturing the art design of the games. Even the “Objection!” and “Hold it!” fonts come straight out of the games.

OVERALL: B-
While the first case comes off as totally absurd in many places, it more than makes up for it with the second case as this murder trail makes Volume 2 of Phoenix Wright worth reading. If you’re a big fan of the Phoenix Wright games, though, this manga series does it justice and more so if you enjoy the murder/mystery genre.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics

Trigun: Badlands Rumble – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US (Blu-ray), $29.98 US (DVD)
Running Time: 120 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: September 27, 2011

Vash the Stampede is back and insurance prices will definitely go up after he’s done.

Sadly, I missed the theatrical release of Trigun: Badlands Rumble that hit a few select movie theaters not too long ago but I found myself really anticipating the DVD/Blu-ray release of this full-length feature film that marks the return of The Human Typhoon. Yes, Vash the Stampede is back and – after an impressive TV series – he makes his return in a full-length animated movie that will definitely please the longtime fans who have been hoping that Vash’s adventures would continue. Trust me when I say that this one’s strictly for the fans and it doesn’t disappoint.

If you’re not familiar with the world of Trigun or it’s quirky hero/outlaw then you are out of luck because this 120 minute movie will not introduce the Wild West-meets-futuristic-wasteland setting or why the man called Vash the Stampede (AKA The Human Typhoon) has a 60 billion double-dollar bounty on his head. It won’t even give his friends a quick-refresher-course-like introduction. What it does do is take what fans know about the characters and offers a new story with all-new characters.

Badlands Rumble begins in Bocci City as the major bank in the city is being robbed by the notorious bank robber known as Gasback and his gang. Even though the report was made by law enforcement officers, nobody feels like going up against the big guy who is considered really dangerous. However, during the heist, Gasback’s men turn on their leader and it becomes frighteningly clear that there is going to be bloodshed.

Oddly enough, Vash is there in the bank as one of the hostages and manages to complicate the situation when he comically won’t let go of Gasback’s arm because the big guy stepped on Vash’s yummy donut. During the mayhem that ensues, the bank becomes completely totaled thanks to the police’s overreaction when they hear that Vash is also inside the bank. In the end, Gasback’s backstabbing friends escape and – thanks to Vash – so does Gasback.

Twenty years has passed since the bank robbery in Bocci City as two mysterious strangers appear in the thriving city of Macca City. The strangers had arrived in time to see a large number of bounty hunters and hired guns scattered throughout town mainly because of a rumor that Gasback is heading to the city to cause trouble for the city’s major and chief benefactor. As it turns out, the two strangers happen to be none other than returning favorites Meryl Stryfe and her partner Milly Thompson of the Bernardelli Insurance Society.

The girls, you see, have come to Macca City on the request of its benefactor who built an expensive bronze statue of himself in the center square of the city. This man happens to be Mr. Kepler, a powerful man with a secret. His request is to put his statue in an insurance policy in case something was to happen to it if Gasback does pay the city a visit.

Meanwhile, a surface ship brings with it a collection of more rough bounty hunters. Among them is a beautiful redhead by the name of Amelia who is headed for Macca City to hunt down and kill Gasback for reasons other than obtaining the huge bounty. On board is Vash the Stampede who is instantly smitten by the girl who not only finds him annoying but also actually breaks out in a rash whenever he touches her. She’s also a tough girl who isn’t afraid to take on scumbags that bother her. Together, Vash and Amelia reach Macca City where Vash invites her to eat dinner with his good friends Meryl and Milly.

Somewhere, not too far away, Gasbank and his gang that now includes the familiar “priest” gunman named Nicholas D. Wolfwood who still carries his huge cross (that’s still a deadly weapon). As it turns out, Gasback saved Wolfwood so the priest repays his kindness by being his bodyguard until they reach Macca City. When they do, all hell breaks loose as Gasback goes on the warpath inside the city.

Oh, there’s a real reason why Gasback decided to hit Macca City and it has nothing to do with money as the real secret behind Gasback and Mr. Kepler are revealed. Meanwhile, Vash and Wolfwood are reunited in battle. More importantly, Amelia makes it painfully clear that she wants revenge for an event that occurred during the bank robbery twenty years ago. We also learn more about Amelia’s past, which leads up to the film’s more emotional moment.

The best scenes come towards the end when Amelia and the rest of the bounty hunters race off to catch Gasback who gets away with Macca City’s important resource. It leads to a number of exciting and memorable moments such as Wolfwood and Amelia teaming up to take on Gasback and an incident with Vash who is trying hard to keep Amelia from doing something she will come to regret.

There’s more than enough reasons for Trigun fans to really enjoy this movie and even more so thanks to the animation that – although inconsistent in some places – is still stunning to look at and even more so on Blu-ray. The story is a good one and filled with all the same elements that made us fall in love with the series in the first place.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble is a high-energy, action-filled wild ride that will not fail to put a smile on the face of fans of the series. It contains everything you can ask for in a Trigun movie, which will definitely sit well with those familiar with the content while leaving everyone else in the dark. That said, there are a number of standout moments that certainly make this a Must See even if you’re a casual admirer of Vash the Stampede. Trigun fans, you do not want to miss this one.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
A bank is being held up by none than the outlaw known as Gasback and one of the hostages just so happens to be the infamous wanted “criminal” known as Vash the Stampede. Although he manages to escape, Gasback swears revenge against the men who double-crossed him twenty years ago. Meanwhile, a beautiful young woman comes to the same town where Gasback, Vash, and his friends are about to collide with each another.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
If you thought the movie looked good in theaters then be prepared to be blown away by how good it looks on Blu-ray. The animation in movie naturally outshines the TV series although there are times the animation itself takes a slight dip in quality but you’ll find it hard to complain when the rest of it looks so good. Also, it’s great to see familiar characters reunited again.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese cast is back and it’s great to hear Masay Onosaka as Vash but for those who prefer the English dub it’s great to hear Johnny Yong Bosch do Vash as well as John Swasey and Gasback and Colleen Clinkenbeard as Amelia. The music by Tsuneo Imahori is simply pure ear candy.

EXTRAS: A+
The single Blu-ray disc comes with a number of extras that include a wide assortment of promotional videos that include the web promo clip as well as the theatrical and DVD/Blu-ray trailers. There’s a feature with video footage of Anime Expo 2009 when Trigun manga author Yasuhiro Nightow and the film’s director meeting fans. There’s even a short yet funny clip from something that happened to Character Designer Takehiro Yoshimatsu during Sakura-Con 2010 involving a busty Trigun fan.

The best stuff comes from the fun “talk” events from Kawasaki Cinecitta where moviegoers were treated to a quick Q&A with three of the Japanese voice actors, the Director, Character Designer and Nightow himself. There’s even a feature on the movie’s premiere that included the cast but the real juicy bits come with the eight separate interviews with the cast and crew. For those who wanted a peek at who Japanese seiyuu work there’s a Post Recording extra.

OVERALL: A-
Trigun fans; Badlands Rumble is a guaranteed good time seeing as this feature film hits all the right notes that make it the perfect companion piece to the series. With all the comedy, over-the-top action and likeable characters, it doesn’t fail to entertain even thought it alienates anyone unfamiliar with the TV series. Other than that, there are plenty of memorable moments that will have you glad that Vash the Stampede is back.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Noir, The Complete Series (Anime Classics) – DVD Review

Review by: Ai Kano

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

These ladies deal in lead and business is booming.

There’s just something about cute girls with guns that had Director Koichi Mashimo revisiting the theme in his other titles that include El Cazador de la Bruja and Madlax but the anime series that truly deserved its place among the Anime Classic line is Noir. A stylish action series with deliciously dramatic, The Complete Series of Noir is one of those classics that stands as a girls-with-guns series done right.

The 26-episode series introduces us to a beautiful and skilled female assassin named Mireille Bouquet who receives a message from a young dark-haired girl who wants to meet her immediately. The stunning blonde want to ignore the request but the message calls to her thanks to a familiar little tune that’s included with the cryptic words the girl sent. Mireille meets the girl named Kirika Yuumura who – surprisingly enough when they are attacked by armed goons – shows Mireille that she’s good at killing too.

Kirika, it turns out, knows who Mireille is as well as her assassin code name, Noir, but she does not know who she really is since she woke up in a strange room with guns, a school uniform and an ID card with what could be a fake name. She asks Mireille to help her discover the truth about her self in return Mireille will find out the truth behind the blonde’s only tragic past. It is then that Mireille and Kirika become partners in the assassination trade and traveling companions searching for the truth.

Together the two women travel most of Europe, particularly France, trying to connect the dots that make up Kirika’s big picture as well as get some work out of it as well. Mireille has been doing hits as the famous Noir for a while but now with a partner it becomes easier to take down the target as instructed via emails. Their first job together goes down in Paris where their target is the leader of a far right terrorist group and the Director of France’s Public Peace Department who are responsible for the killing of man who was part of an anti-terrorist unit. In another job, they are tasked with taking out a big shot businessman connected to the “accidental” death of the company president.

As Mireille finds out as they continue to take out contracts, Kirika is even more skilled at killing than she is but Mireille is still sticking to her plan of killing the young girl after they discover the truth. Unfortunately, armed gunmen continue to pursue them and both girls discover that the men that are hunting them down belong to a group calling themselves The Soldats. Who are they and why do they want Kirika? As the young women begin to look into this mysterious group, they make intriguing discoveries about their practices.

Even more interesting is that they discover that the codename Noir is an old one belonging to not only one assassin but rather an assassin duo team. They meet a fellow female assassin who uses the same codename as she reveals herself to be Chloe … an assassin that reports to a woman named Altena who holds the key that unlocks the mystery of Kirika’s past. Chloe shows up often and even helps both assassins as they get closer to finding the truth.

Meanwhile, Mireille learns much about her past as well when the daughter of a mafia family don becomes the head of the crime family. As it turns out, this woman named Silvana has met Mireille when they were younger and has an idea of who might have the blonde assassin’s parents killed. The deeper Mireille digs into the deaths of her parents the more she learns the truth that leads up to a shocking twist.

Oh yeah, you can bet that said shocking twist leads up to a brilliant finale that we actually do not see coming. The series does not disappoint when it comes to telling a story that is surprising and dramatic enough to keep you watching.

Noir never really relies on fanservice to win over the audience unless you count the girl-on-girl kiss near the end of the series. Instead, it tells a compelling story with the focus being character development and intense action scenes where even Mireille and Kirika are badly injured physically and emotionally. These women have their flaws as well as interests such as the episode where Kirika takes a liking to an older man who paints beautifully. The action is handled perfectly as well, although those looking for bloody shootouts will not find it here.

The Complete Series of Noir is certainly worthy of being labeled a classic and with an astounding story, great action scenes and characters that don’t come off as cardboard cutout; you will find yourself loving every minute of this anime series. Whether you’ve seen Noir before or if this is the first time hearing about it, this Anime Classics collection is version you really should buy.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Mireille is a top assassin who receives a message from a young girl named Kirika who happens to be a talented killer with no memory of who she is and why she’s so good at assassinations. Together, they go on a journey of self-discovery as well as take on a number of contracts that lead them closer to a mysterious group that is connected to both girls. It’s a good story told superbly.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation is on the dated side but the visual style isn’t bad at all with beautiful backgrounds that really sell the exotic European setting just right. There are some great action scenes that are bloodless but still very fun to watch.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting is topnotch whether you prefer the talented Japanese voice cast or the magnificent performances by the likes of Monica Rial, Shelly Calene-Black and Hilary Haag in the English dub. The opening and closing theme songs are hauntingly beautiful but it is Yuki Kajiura score that is simply gorgeous and unforgettable

EXTRAS: A+
FUNimation loads this Anime Classics release with more than enough extras to keep any fan happy and this is a very good thing since the extras go beyond trailers, original Japanese promos as well as the textless opening and closing theme songs. The juicy extras include audio commentary for Episode 15 and Episode 16 as ADR Director Matt Greenfield chats with Monica Rial (Kirika), Shelly Calene-Black (Mireille), Hilary Haag (Chloe) and Tiffany Grant (Altena) who go off topic but are loads of fun to listen to in these two commentary tracks. There’s even a Kirika Music Video of the song “Canta per Me.”

Better yet, FUNimation included a fifth DVD packed with even more extras like in three separate interviews with Monica Rial, Shelly Calene-Black, Hilary Haag and Tiffany Grant so if you ever wanted to know about these talents and how they go started you will enjoy this. Then there are four interviews with the original Japanese cast members such as Aya Hisakawa and Kotono Mitsuishi just to name a few. Then there’s “Noir – The Unsoled Story … with live-action sock puppets!

OVERALL: A-
A dramatic, action-packed and delightfully cinematic experience, The Complete Series of Noir should be among your collection if you like a meaningful girls-with-guns action series that relies more on story than cheap gimmicks. Mireille and Kirika’s journey is one you will not forget anytime soon so this is one collection you really should check out.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

xxxHolic, Volume 17 – Manga Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Author: CLAMP
Genre: Graphic Novel (Kodansha Comics)
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 13+)
Release Date: September 13, 2011

The store is under new management and it’s business as usual.

Those who have been following xxxHolic (as well as key volumes in the Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle) knows that the series has never been short on surprises and none was more surprising than the loss of a main character who made the series such an interesting one. Now, in Volume 17 of xxxHolic, the new shopkeeper starts to really fit into the role that will change his life forever.

A few years has passed since Yuko – the Temporal Witch and owner of a mystical shop – met her fate and vanished from this world leaving young Kimihiro Watanuki in her place. It was not easy taking over the shop he had once served as a mere apprentice and even harder now that Yuko was not there to guide him. However, Watanuki has gained much from his sacrifice that goes beyond immortality and knowledge. Despite becoming more powerful since he took over as shopkeeper, he is never to leave the confines of said store.

Of course, he’s not alone because Shizuka Domeki has become Watanuki’s assistant and link to the outside world. As we saw in Volume 16, Watanuki has taken awhile to become accustomed to the duties of being shopkeeper but, in this volume, we find that his personality has changed enough that he has the same mysterious and all-knowing allure that Yuko possessed. He even wears her robes, although there’s another reason he does this that is revealed later.

He even smokes her same pipe, which brings us to the opening of Volume 17 as he is visited by the Pipe Dealer rabbit who not only fixes Watanuki’s pipe but also has the new shopkeeper say the words that invite the beautiful Joro Gumo that had devoured Watanuki’s right eye. She’s as seductive as ever as she comes to him for an item that she needs him to obtain. She wants a red pearl, which isn’t easy to come by but she gives him spider thread that will help him find the way.

It is Domeki who looks into the matter as he discovers the location of the red pearl or the way to obtaining one coming from an apartment building that reminds Watanuki of one he went to with Yuko in a case where a woman was hooked on the internet. Since he’s not able to leave the store, Watanuki visits the apartment via his power that allows him to travel via dream. There he meets a beautiful woman who is wrapped in bandages.

As it turns out, this mysterious young woman tells him that she is being beaten by the one she lives with and as Watanuki continues to speak with her it becomes clear what this woman is and how she’s connected to the red pearl that the Joro Gumo wants from her.

As Watanuki fulfills his side of the transaction, we come to learn a little more of what having taken the store means to Watanuki and those around him. In an interesting and heartbreaking few pages, Watanuki is on the phone with Himawari as they make a long overdue confession. Unfortunately, Himawari isn’t even able to be in the store either but, despite this great sacrifice, he is still content with the decision he made in taking this responsibility.

In the final chapter, Watanuki gives Domeki his birthday present that actually turns out to be a powerful tool that he gets to test out when Watanuki lets the wards against evil entities down. It’s clear that Watanuki and Domeki’s relationship has come a long way since they were just students and his role as assistant is an interesting turn of events.

Volume 17 of xxxHolic speaks volumes of Watanuki’s commitment to seeing to the store that Yuko had left under his care as the young man is accepted as the shopkeeper. The Watanuki we once knew is replaced by a wiser young man who has taken it upon himself to carry out the unusual duties that were once Yuko’s obligations and, yes, a new owner brings with it something new as the series is quickly coming to an end. CLAMP never ceases to amaze and this volume is proof of that.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Still settling into the role of new shopkeeper, Watanuki finds himself doing a service for the beautiful Joro Gumo who wants Watanuki to get a red pearl for her. Using spider thread, the young shopkeeper and Domeki discover its location. However, Watanuki finds himself meeting a very unusual girl on the other end of the thread who might need his help.

ART: A+
The artwork throughout the series has been extraordinary and that’s no real surprise considering the fact that CLAMP has never disappointed with it comes to their visual style. Watanuki in Yuko’s slowing robes is an unusual sight, to say the least, but somehow it suits him.

OVERALL: A
If anything, Volume 17 of xxxHolic really drives home the feeling that Watanuki is now officially the true inheritor of Yuko’s shop. Things begin to change for the young man and those around him as he performs a task that shows us that his powers are growing in a very interesting manner that will make the next final volumes something we will definitely look forward to as this series comes to an end soon.

Review copy provided by Del Rey Manga (Ballantine Books)