Cage of Eden, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Yoshinobu Yamada
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: OT (Ages 16+)
Release Date: Available Now

Well, at least there’s no black mist monster or the Others on this island.

School excursions … it’s but one of many big moments in a Japanese student’s life where bonds are strengthened between classmates, romance occasionally blossoms and wonderful memories are made. For one class, however, a jaunt to an exotic locale turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival for one group of students in a most unusual island in Volume 1 of Cage of Eden.

We meet Akira Sengoku, a 15-year old student who delays the plane that holds all his classmates by arriving late during boarding. Nobody seems surprised at all seeing as they all know him to be something of a slacker with no real prospects. Still, he is a big part of the class that had traveled from Japan to Guam on a pleasant school excursion that – judging by the class pervert’s video footage – was composed of fun in the sun. Akira’s actually quite a popular guy seeing as his friends include the hottest guy in the class by the name of Arita Kohei and the hottest girl in the school who is a childhood friend who goes by the name of Akagami Rion.

The flight starts off peaceful enough for us to see the interaction between Rion and Akira is on the friendly side but Rion clearly sees the boy in a different light. Meanwhile, we meet the class brain, a boy named Mariya Shiro, and a new flight attendant named Ohmori Kanako. However, the peace is suddenly and violently disturbed when the plane suddenly takes a dip as all instruments begin to fail in the cockpit. Then all hell breaks lose in the cabin as Akira attempts to find Rion who moved out of her seat when an unusual anomaly appears before the boy.

The next thing we know, Akira opens his eyes to see that he is on a strange island rather inside an airplane. He thinks the plane might have crashed and he was thrown out somehow but if that was true where is the wreckage? On top of that, he sees unusual animals in this island such as tiny horses and an odd beaver-like creature. When he hears something that sounded like a voice he realizes he has come face-to-face with a huge man-eating bird that has attacked the class smart kid Mariya and the Ohmori, the flight attendant. Akira manages to lead the bird away in order to regroup with the only two survivors.

Thanks to the fact that Mariya managed to somehow fall out of the plane with his laptop, the brainy kid looks through an encyclopedia only to find out that all the creatures they have seen so far – including the giant man-eating bird called a Diatryma have all be instinct for millions of years now. Since they see no wreckage, Mariya also assumes that only ones that survived. Of course, all of this doesn’t sit well with the attractive and busty Ohmori.

Somehow, Akira manages to keep both his companions composed enough to keep searching anyway. It isn’t until Ohmori decides to take a bath in a stream that she notices a water bottle from the airplane that they realize that the plane has crashed somewhere and there might be survivors like them. When they manage to locate the plane, they also find the class pervert’s video camera that seems to have new footage.

Unfortunately, things get even more terrifying when a carnivorous creature with a huge maw kills a few students and forced them all back into the plane. It is Rion who tried her best to keep everyone calm before things turned badly back inside the plane. What they see on the camera is actually very disturbing as they watch what happened to the survivors on the airplane and how the pilot ended up murdered with a knife stuck into his stomach. Panic takes hold of his classmates that turns into something even more shocking.

Still, Akira manages to be reunited with Rion after figuring out what happened to her and the group tries to make sense of all that has happened so far. The four still don’t know what happened to the others since the camera doesn’t show where everyone went after they all became a panicky mess. As the others take on duties they are capable of carrying out, Akira feels useless. When he goes outside the plane, he is attacked by a person in a mask.

Cage of Eden has an intriguing setup and the “Lost” meets “Jurassic Park” vibe offers a number of interesting possibilities. Still, the series isn’t without its few problems that make some things seem so farfetched. Mariya’s laptop not being broken is one of them and just how did somebody smuggle a switchblade on board? Some might even have a problem with the fan service as well that has detailed panty shots from Rion (that seems out of place) and a nude bathing scene with the buxom Ohmori that seems tacked on just for the sake of adding nudity.

Still, it’s hard not to ignore its good qualities such as the decent characters and the fact that the survivors are going up against extinct animals that include saber-toothed tigers. Then, to add to the intrigue, there’s a maniac with a hockey mask on the loose.

Volume 1 of Cage of Eden has numerous possibilities that make for an interesting and fun read that – hopefully – will become stranger and even more exciting in future volumes. The characters and the island itself are fun to follow but despite a few issues I have with some elements I feel that it could have been a lot better. Still, there’s more than enough good here to make it worth picking up in hopes it gets even more fascinating.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
After a fun excursion in Guam, a class trip turns into a terrifying ordeal as the airplane crash lands on a most unusual island. Soon, student Akira finds himself, a fellow classmate and a surviving flight attendant discover that the island is filled with animals that have long been considered extinct. When they manage to locate their crashed plane, they find out that something terrible has happened as their struggle for survival is just beginning.

ART: A-
The artwork in the series is the kind we’ve seen before but, thanks to Yoshinobu Yamada’s attention to detail, you’ll find yourself appreciating the setting and the character design. Then there’s the fan service that can be a bit out of place at times a little too detailed for some, which is why the rating is appropriate for this title.

OVERALL: B
An intriguing survival story with plenty of mystery to boot, Volume 1 of Cage of Eden is off to a good start despite a few weak spots that hold it back from being a truly extraordinary story. Still, there’s plenty of potential in this first volume and, despite its flaws, Cage of Eden is actually a very entertaining read. This is certainly one worth checking out.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics

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Ray: The Animation, Complete Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Kiki Van de Kamp

Publisher: Maiden Japan
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Drama
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Why can’t all medical dramas on TV have a hospital director that’s a pirate?

If you’re one of those who are familiar with the unusual renegade surgeon named Black Jack then you probably already know what to expect from a series that is connected to the good doctor’s world filled with mystery both medical and personal. In the Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation, however, Black Jack sits this one out as we are introduced to another surgeon who searches for the truth about her past and those connected to her in a unique kind of medical drama.

Several years ago, Black Jack plucked a little girl named Ray out of a secret hospital that the good doctor believes was raising children simply to harvest their organs. He tells Ray that she is free and that her future is entirely up to her since she has been given a unique gift. You see, Ray’s own eyes were surgically removed but Black Jack gave her special ocular implants that allow her to see through solid objects. So, the little girl named Ray Kusugano grows up to become a talented and beautiful surgeon who puts her special eyes to good use performing extremely complicated procedures with ease.

When we meet Ray again she performs emergency surgery on a woman who is caught in a gas leak explosion as she is aided by a young nurse named Misato who just so happened to be not far from the explosion. To Misato’s surprise, she discovers that Ray is the new surgeon in the hospital where she works. Ray comes off as a straight-to-business kind of woman who immediately takes an interest in a boy named Kenji who not only has a major medical problem that has him quarantined behind glass but has a special ability of his own.

The hospital, it seems, is the right place for Ray since the staff also includes slacker named Shinoyama who has a talent for creating medical equipment and implants as well as a trio of nurses who can handle themselves in the way of medicine and karate. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in a hospital where the director (a man they all call Director Sawa) is something of a pirate complete with eye patch and a peg leg)? At one point, the nursing staff and Director Sawa physically takes down a group of gangsters looking to silence a patient that Ray is working on in another room.

We follow Ray as she takes on some extreme cases where her steady hand and special eyes are needed such as the case they see in an ocean-side theme park where a patient is being kept underwater in a tank to keep the tumors from spreading so Ray must perform an operation underwater. In another case, a girl needs a transplant and asks her own big sister to sacrifice herself in order to stay alive. Then there’s an unusual case where a girl who seems to be possessed has a very unusual growth inside her that needs to be removed.

Aside from performing her duties, however, Ray continues to search for clues about her past as well as find out more about the mysterious group calling itself simply the Organization. It isn’t until Ray and Shinoyama meet a girl named Red Ribbon who Ray remembers was one of the children the Organization had raised alongside her. Red Ribbon’s sudden appearance also brings with it contact with the “Man with the H Ring” who Ray believes was the man responsible for what happened to her and all the other children.

In looking back at her fragmented memories, Ray recalls a boy named Koichi that she fell in love with during her long stay in the hospital. Of course, Ray never forgot the boy but comes to realize that she might actually have feeling for Shinoyama who is willing to follow Ray into dangerous situations. Even though Shinoyama won’t admit it, his feeling for Ray has him turn down a childhood friend who comes into their lives.

While the first part of the series covers Ray’s life as a surgeon as well as the friendships she forms while working in the hospital, the second half unravels the mystery behind Ray and the other children. In fact, it’s where the series really gets interesting as Ray comes closer to the truth about herself as well as what led the elusive mystery man to do what he did. Believe me when I say that it all leads up to a shocking and well-conceived finale. That’s actually quite impressive seeing as the series only lasts 13-episodes.

The great thing is that the series handles the drama superbly, only slowing the pace for the unusual medical procedures that Ray takes on in the early episodes. There are well-placed comedic moments as well, although it’s a bid strange to find the staff and the hospital director taking on an action role like their appearance in Episode 12. Still, it’s hard to complain about a series that has the perfect balance of drama, romance and humor throughout the series.

The Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation is a surprising and wonderfully conceived anime drama that rarely gets to be seen and that is a shame considering the fact that this series has it all. Pacing issues aside, everything from the characters to the main story come together perfectly as the truth is slowly revealed to us. Make no mistake, this isn’t your usual medical drama and that alone should make this a series you should definitely check out.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Saved from a mysterious hospital by master surgeon Black Jack, a girl named Ray gains special eye implants and grows up to become a surgeon herself. While she performs surgeries that save lives, she continues her quest to discover the truth about the Organization – the group that raised her and other children. What experiments were they running and who is the Man with the H Ring?

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series sports some excellent animation but the unusual procedures and ailments look appropriately gruesome and one episode will have you cringing at the sight of the spores. The CG mixed in to animation doesn’t look awkward either, which is a really good thing.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The opening and closing theme songs are actually really good and the original score by Masami Okui with God Speed makes those nail-biting moments really intense. The voice cast is strictly reserved for the original Japanese language track but you won’t complain with decent performances from the likes of Hiroki Takahashi (as Shinoyama) and Sakura Nogawa (who voices Ray) just to name a few of the talented seiyuu.

EXTRAS: D
Just about the only extras you will find here are the clean opening and closing theme songs and a trio of Maiden Japan trailers.

OVERALL: B+
Even if you’re not a big fan of medical dramas, the Complete Collection of Ray: The Animation will not disappoint or fail to hook you into its suspenseful 13-episodes. It’s good to jump back into the world of Black Jack again but Ray just makes for an even more interesting mystery that unravels before us an interesting manner. Plus, who doesn’t like karate nurses?

Review copy provided by Maiden Japan

Shin Chan, Season 3 Part 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $39.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Comedy
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now

It’s the summer of Shin.

It’s been two years since the last Shin Chan release and boy did we miss the antics of this little boy obsessed with hotties, Action Bastard and his own big bubble butt. If you’re new to Shin Chan, it’s one of those shows that inject its own brand of below-the-belt humor that made it one of Adult Swim’s more poplar animated comedies with good reason. Sure, it’s been a long while but as we can see from Part 1 of Season 3 of Shin Chan; it was definitely worth the wait.

In Part 1 of this third season, Shin finds himself enjoying the summer break as he spends a hot summer day at the beach with his family where adult film stars have Shin’s dad, Hiro, walking on eggshells hoping not to piss Mitzi off. Then Mitzi takes Shin to meet up with their friends at the movies to see “Bowel’s Moving Castle” that takes a jab at Miyazaki and Christian Bale’s meltdown.

In other lazy summer days, Shin and his friends are invited to the Musby-White Country Club where their friend Georgie’s mother invited them to a day at the pool where Shin embarrasses everyone. Speaking of embarrassing others, Shin embarrasses Georgie who tries to go on a date with a Republican girl. Shin even hangs out in school just to check on the faculty like Principle Ench and the female teachers who are having trouble finding love and – in the case of Miss Polly – finding way too much of it. Oh yeah, they’re a dysfunctional bunch.

It isn’t easy being Mitzi either as she finds herself pushing Shin to get rid of his old toys and Hiro to throw out his immense collection of nudie magazines. She’s also a good sport, role-playing in a sexy femme fatale dress as she plays spies versus Nazis with Shin and Hima. When her neighbor gives her a mushroom (the psychedelic kind) to share with Hiro, it is Shin who trips the light fantastic when he accidentally eats it with rice. Mitzi even gets a makeover to compete with the hot young moms in the park that Shin likes to hang out with when they go for walks.

When Shin goes back to school, he finds that Principle Ench hires a new physical education coach who happens to be a shy young man that – unfortunately – falls victim to Miss Polly’s vicious other self and ends up quitting. The result is a new coach that Shin meets in the park who believes he is an evolved life form who calls himself The Flamer. Meanwhile, the kids hold an intervention for Miss Polly while Miss Katz gets drunk in Shin’s house.

The Flamer isn’t the only new face in the series as we are introduced to Mitzi’s younger and more out-of-control sister named Bitzi who comes to visit and is immediately arrested by the police following a misunderstanding between her and Shin. Bitzi tries to loosen Mitzi up a little but only comes off as unstable and pretty darn funny.

While Shin obviously steals the show throughout the series, it’s good to see the other characters get the spotlight such as Boo who feels his hanging snot is an asset rather than something gross. Georgie who suffers through the bad economy by not only bashing President Obama and Nancy Pelosi (referring to her as a Nazi) but also revealing his love for a rich magical girl named Yaz. Even Penny and Ai get to shine, as they put on a play complete with an expensive set and wardrobe.

The humor in Season Three is less gross-out and more razor-sharp witty with plenty of great jokes that bring pop culture phenomenon like “True Blood” when Shin goes on a skiing trip with Hottie Nanako and a guy he suspects is a vampire. There are plenty of jabs at Republicans thanks to Georgie and sly sexual references all add up to a hilarious season.

As it turns out, Part 1 of Season 3 of Shin Chan was not only well worth the wait but it just happens to be an over-the-top hysterical and overwhelmingly witty season. With more than enough laughs and humorous short segments, the season just goes back to what made us fall in love with it in the first place. If you’re not a Shin Chan fan now, this first part of the third season will definitely do the trick.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
It’s the summer break and Shin, his friends and family keep busy by going to the country club, checking in on the school staff and going to the movies. When they finally go back to school, Shin must deal with the faculty’s problems with their own lives as well as dealing with two new coaches. Meanwhile, Mitzi’s sister, Bitzi, pays them a visit and arrests are made.

VIDEO QUALITY: B
The animation is as crude as the humor but it works and the sight gags make for plenty of laughs as well. This is good stuff, indeed.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice cast is topnotch and the performances will not fail to make all the jokes work beautifully. Laura Bailey is still awesome as Shin and the jokes – that poke fun at everything from Obama to the Tea Party – will not fail to make you laugh out loud.

EXTRAS: D
There are no real extras to speak of except for a few FUNimation trailers and all the trailers for previous seasons of Shin Chan that are all funny to watch.

OVERALL: A+
Shin Chan is back and Part 1 of Season 3 immediately jumps right back into all the things we loved about the first two seasons of an animated comedy that keeps pushing the envelop in a deliciously crude and absolutely hilarious manner. Just about the only complaint I have is that we had to wait two years for this third season that will have you laughing from gut-busting beginning to pants-soaking end.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

SECTION23 FILMS ANNOUNCES JANUARY SLATE

             

THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS Available on January 24th

HOUSTON, October 18, 2011 – Home video distributor Section23 Films today announced its January slate of releases; including THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS, The devilishly fun anime will be released on both DVD & Blu-Ray by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Product details follow, in order of release

Coming January 2012

Title: AND YET THE TOWN MOVES COMPLETE COLLECTION

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 1/3/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Hotori Arashiyama loves mysteries, but there’s one she just can’t solve: Why does the solution to one problem inevitably seem to lead to another? Like how when Hotori has to start working at the Seaside Maid Café after school to pay off a debt and her friend Toshiko fortunately knows exactly how a Maid Café should be run. Which is fortunate since Hotori has no clue. Except that, unfortunately, Toshiko has no interest in working at the café, UNTIL she discovers that Hotori’s childhood friend Hiroyuki is a regular. Which SEEMS fortunate. Except that Hotori doesn’t know that, while Toshiko likes Hiroyuki, Hiroyuki secretly likes Hotori, while Hotori secretly has a crush on… No, no more spoilers! But if that’s not enough drama, there’s work, angst with a certain math teacher, table tennis between her classmates, her younger brother versus the school’s bad girl… And yet, even though everything seems like it’s going to crash at any moment, somehow Hotori’s life keeps going hilariously forward in AND YET THE TOWN MOVES!

Title: AKIKAN! COMPLETE COLLECTION

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 350 min.
Street Date: 1/10/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Hobbies are often a great way of meeting new people, but how could Kakeru Diachi, who collects rare juice cans, have ever suspected that he’d meet a fascinating new girl when he attempted to DRINK her? Naming her Melon, because she’s got great melon… soda, Kakeru quickly learns that she’s an Akikan – a beautiful girl who’s also a special can created to fight other Akikans in a strange experiment to determine what kind of container is better: steel or aluminum! Will becoming involved in this ridiculously twisted research project gone amuck complicate Kakeru’s life incredibly? Of course it will, but because Melon’s steel body needs carbon dioxide to breathe, he’s now stuck with her since she’s too CO2 dependent! And when his wealthy, attractive, best childhood friend Najimi gets HER own aluminum Akikan, the trouble really begins! For once, it’s not what’s inside that counts as battling beverage containers run wild in AKIKAN – The Complete Series!

Title: PRINCESS RESURRECTION COMPLETE COLLECTION

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 650 min.
Street Date: 1/17/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: She’s a hot Goth vixen with a love-jones for swords, chainsaws and mace balls. And it’s a good thing she’s handy at using them all because every zombie, vampire, mummy and demon spawn is gunning for her. But weapons aren’t the only thing Princess Resurrection has going for her. She’s got a team of ass-kicking darksiders right beside her-a pint-sized android maid, a half-werewolf hottie, a sexy high school vampire, a wicked-cute little sister and a young boy she brought back from the dead. Fighting evil was never this sexy. Or this much fun! All new dub featuring the voices of Shelley Calene-Black and Blake Shepard!

Title: THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS COMPLETE COLLECTION

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 1/24/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Keima is a dating sim champion. Cute girls are rendered powerless by his irresistible game playing techniques. Too bad things aren’t that way in the real world. That is, until his tempting game playing causes a real live-and very bubbly-cute-demon hunter named Elsie to materialize! Now Elsie wants Keima to help her free hot girls from sneaky demons who secretly possess them. Rack up the love points with the devilishly fun anime The World God Only Knows!

Title: THE WORLD GOD ONLY KNOWS COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 1/24/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Keima is a dating sim champion. Cute girls are rendered powerless by his irresistible game playing techniques. Too bad things aren’t that way in the real world. That is, until his tempting game playing causes a real live-and very bubbly-cute-demon hunter named Elsie to materialize! Now Elsie wants Keima to help her free hot girls from sneaky demons who secretly possess them. Rack up the love points with the devilishly fun anime The World God Only Knows!

Title: EF ~ A TALE OF MEMORIES COMPLETE COLLECTION

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 1/31/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: One Christmas Eve, Hiro Hirono helps Miyako, the victim of a purse snatching, and discovers that she goes to the same school he does. To the dismay of his childhood friend, Kei, Hiro starts hanging out with Miyako. But Kei is not about to let a new girl in Hiro’s life take him away from her, and sets out to prove that she’s the only one for him. When Renji Asou meets Chihiro Shindou at an abandoned train station, he doesn’t notice anything unusual at first. But he soon discovers that she suffers from a rare form of amnesia and can only remember things for thirteen hours. Chihiro dreams of writing a novel, but her amnesia has made it an impossible task.Now, however, Renji is determined to help her fulfill her dream. Emotionally charged, beautifully animated and now available for the first time with an all-star English cast. Don’t miss one of anime’s masterpieces: ef ~ A Tale of Memories!

Title: EF ~ A TALE OF MEMORIES COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY

Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 1/31/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: One Christmas Eve, Hiro Hirono helps Miyako, the victim of a purse snatching, and discovers that she goes to the same school he does. To the dismay of his childhood friend, Kei, Hiro starts hanging out with Miyako. But Kei is not about to let a new girl in Hiro’s life take him away from her, and sets out to prove that she’s the only one for him. When Renji Asou meets Chihiro Shindou at an abandoned train station, he doesn’t notice anything unusual at first. But he soon discovers that she suffers from a rare form of amnesia and can only remember things for thirteen hours. Chihiro dreams of writing a novel, but her amnesia has made it an impossible task.Now, however, Renji is determined to help her fulfill her dream. Emotionally charged, beautifully animated and now available for the first time with an all-star English cast. Don’t miss one of anime’s masterpieces: ef ~ A Tale of Memories!

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

Amagami SS, Collection 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Romance
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Welcome to the three different alternate reality romances of one boy.

A single human life can see a hundred different people pass them by and many of which a person never really gets to meet. However, what if there are multiple universes and thousands of worlds where we and everyone know exists within them? Imagine that girl you met briefly in high school became your sweetheart in one universe while, in another similar world, you totally ignore her instead and romance a childhood friend. This is the alternate lives and loves of one boy as we witness three different “What if?” moments that make up a multi-verse in Collection 1 of Amagami SS. Things are about to get cosmically interesting in a good way.

There is something all three multi-verses – that make up Collection 1 of the series – have in common and that is young high school student Junichi Tachibana has been stood up on Christmas by a nameless/faceless girl he really liked. As a result, Junichi finds himself wondering what he did or said wrong two years after the incident as he lays depressed inside his closet he set up to look like the galaxy. Would he ever find love again? Would he even attempt to fall in love? Those are question he continuously asks himself.

However, in the first story arc, he discovers that he’s very fond of an upperclassman named Haruka Morishima who is seen by his classmates as the school’s idol. Although she sees the girl as unapproachable thanks to the fact that she’s very popular, Junichi and Haruka have a chance meeting that makes him realize that he is completely smitten with Haruka. The more they hang out together the more he realizes that he is falling in love with the beautiful and sweet girl who has a puppy obsession.

Junichi is so in love with Haruka that he finally confesses his love for her and is rejected right on the spot. Fortunately for him, however, Haruka would still like to hang out with him and Junichi sees this as a sign that he still has a chance with her. Despite the fact that she had shot down many guys, Junichi tries again and makes a second confession that gets a very different reaction from Haruka who sees this as a first time a guy would put his heart on the line by risking rejection a second time. Could it be that she might actually be falling in love with him?

In the second story arc, Junichi doesn’t think he could ever find love two years after he was stood up so, instead, he find solace and companionship with his two childhood friends, Masayoshi and the lively and beautiful Kaoru Tanamachi. As fate would have it, though, Junichi and Kaoru spend more time together as their friendship suddenly starts getting a wee bit awkward. It becomes clear – when Junichi wants to see Kaoru in her cute waitress uniform – that their friendship is evolving to that of mutual attraction. When they accidentally kiss, things really change.

Oh, it gets a bit kinky too when Junichi is dared into kissing her naval as the two close friends start considering the possibility of becoming a couple. It’s not an easy thing considering their past history but Junichi has fallen in love with Kaoru who does not want to lose a beautiful friendship yet wants more from her relationship with Junichi.

Then, in the third story arc, this Junichi doesn’t want to risk getting hurt ever again so he dismisses love altogether to just simply enjoy his school activities. Then he gets an eyeful of an extremely shy yet busty underclassman named Sae Nakata who just so happens to be a transfer student who befriends Junichi’s sister, Miya. Once again, fate has these two meet but despite thinking how cute she is this Junichi really doesn’t see anything remotely romantic in his interest in Sae.

Out of pure friendship and the fact that Junichi is a nice guy, the young man and his sister help Sae overcome her shyness and help her get a job as a waitress. It is Junichi who becomes her coach as he gets her to speak a little louder and become more confident in herself. As a result of his oftentimes hilarious and unusual methods, Sae is the one who falls in love with an oblivious Junichi. It isn’t until she makes it clear to him that she does not want him to see her as another little sister that he slowly comes to realize that she likes him and that he might actually like her too.

Amagami SS interestingly weaves each story arc together so we can see just how easy it is to dismiss the numerous possibilities that life throws at us. In the second story arc, for instance, Haruka is just but a familiar face and nothing else just as Kaoru was in the first story arc. We can also see that there are other girls that Junichi comes across in all three story arcs that could eventually end up as love interests.

The series handles the romance well enough; sometimes the story takes its sweet time taking us through the motions of Junichi’s romance with all three girls. Personally, I felt the ending of the first story arc was more fulfilling than the others. There’s also fan service in the series with Kaoru’s mentioned naval kiss and Sae’s bountiful bosoms standing out. Junichi is actually a pretty cool guy and watching him stumble through each romance is a blast.

It is these things that make Collection 1 of Amagami SS a worthwhile and utterly entertaining romance anime series that makes this a fun series to watch if you’re into the genre. Each of the three story arcs offers their own highlights and, in the end, we get alternate endings that are as unique as the girls Junichi romances. Still, despite a few slow moments, Amagami SS proves to be a great first half. We definitely will look forward to Collection 2.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
High school student Junichi’s heart was broken when he was stood up on a date on Christmas, however, he discovers that there is room in his heart to fall in love again … in three different alternate realities. In the first reality, he falls for his senior who happens to be the hottest girl in school. In another alternate universe, Junichi finds love with his childhood friend. Finally, in yet another reality, he finds love while helping a cute underclassman.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The animation in the series isn’t bad at all and the overall visual design is handled beautifully enough despite the fact that the girls could have looked a lot cuter. There fan service that ranges from light nudity to some kinky moments but nothing too outrageous.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
While the soundtrack feels like it comes straight out of an old-school Japanese dating sim, it’s the excellent voice cast that more than makes up for it with Tomoaki Maeno as Junichi pulling off a standout performance. The opening and closing theme songs are actually really cute as well.

EXTRAS: D
Each of the three girls get their individual DVD but only two of the DVDs contain slim extras such clean opening and closing animation plus a few trailers. That’s all there is in terms of extras.

OVERALL: B+
While not all of the three romance stories are perfect, there’s a lot to like about each of them that ultimately makes Collection 1 of Amagami SS a very delightful treat for those who love the genre. Sure, there are moments where each story takes it too slow but when things get interesting they do so with enough charm and humor to keep shoujo fans happy.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

Gon, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Masashi Tanaka
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 10+)
Release Date: Available Now

The story of a little dinosaur who dishes out the hurt on the animal kingdom’s jerks.

Gon is a name that a few people in our side of the shore might know seeing as he’s been around in Japan for a long while now to the point that he even makes an appearance as an unlockable character in one of the Tekken games. If you’re familiar with a dinosaur who has managed to survive the cruelty of the Ice Age to defy the extinction of his kind then you are in for a treat because Kodansha Comics brings us Volume 1 of Gon and he will not fail to put a smile on your face.

First, here’s an interesting fact about Volume 1 of Gon: there are no word or thought balloons to be found nor are there captions with any text at all. Masashi Tanaka tells a story using solely his artwork and that’s more than sufficient seeing as his art is expressive enough to convey emotion from his non-human characters. Through Gon’s actions, we know all we need to about this little yet mighty dinosaur.

In the first chapter of the first volume, we get to see just how might he is as the tiny reptile sleeps so soundly that he doesn’t even feel the field mouse that happened to have landed on his belly. Nor does he wake when a leopard curiously swats at him with his powerful paw and suddenly decides to take a bite with disastrous results for the leopard’s teeth. He doesn’t even wake when a rhino comes charging in and smacks the pint-sized terror across the land. Gon wakes up on his own wondering just how in the world he got so far away from this original resting place.

In another chapter, which takes place a day after Gon’s first birthday, a young American Black Bear stumbles upon a stream filled with delicious Sockeye Salmon going downstream. It manages to catch one and is about to take a much-deserved bite when an older and more aggressive Black Bear shows up. The older bear shows his dominance quite clearly to the point that the younger bear has no choice but to flee and leave his delicious bounty behind.

Then Gon shows up and the older Black Bear tries to show him who is the bigger critter only Gon doesn’t even flinch. The little dinosaur snubs the aggressive bear and totally ignores him as he makes his way to the tasty fish. You better believe the bear won’t stand for this outrage but before it could even think of attacking, Gon head butts the bear and sends the older creature flying back across the stream and breaking a few trees along the way. Oh, the humiliation doesn’t stop there for the bear as it realizes that sometimes age and size do not matter.

In the next chapter, the peace and tranquility of the Serengeti is disturbed as an older lion decides to lunge towards a herd of Blue Wildbeasts. It races after them as the herd scatters and they prove to be faster than the lion who is clearly being too lazy to want to continue giving chase. Then Gon shows up and bites the lion’s head and manages to climb on its back as if he were riding a horse. Yanking the lion’s mane, Gon forces the lion to give chase after a Wildbeast and pushing the poor lion to his limits as it has no choice but to play the part of the dinosaur’s ride.

Then, a busy beaver is in the process of making his dam and is looking mighty proud of his handiwork thus far when the tiny dinosaur shows up and starts construction of his own dam as well. Suddenly, a small competition between beaver and dinosaur heats up as Gon uses his great strength and the fact that he doesn’t care about anyone else. In the end, the beaver makes his damn but Gon’s dam comes at a hilarious price.

Finally, Gon finds himself in the comforting warmth of a Golden Eagle nest as it awaits mama eagle just as eagerly as the babies all around him. Imagine the mother’s surprise when she not only has an extra mouth to feed but the mouth belongs to something that clearly did not come from her. Still, despite the obvious inconvenience, Gon’s presence is suddenly seen as a good thing since a determined bobcat managed to climb up to try and snatch a baby eagle away.

Instead of finding a tasty, defenseless meal, however, the bobcat’s attempt is thwarted by Gon himself who manages to save the babies from it but also ends up giving the bobcat a nightmarish scare and quite a beating as Gon joins a flock of angry Golden Eagles in dishing out the hurt. And so, Gon finds himself an honorary member of mama’s own flock.

As I said, the story of Gon is a visual one and works brilliantly seeing as the animals’ reactions say it all. In fact, it’s the animal reactions are comedy gold and will not fail to make you laugh. The American Black Bear Gon puts in his place is so frightened of Gon after he was sent flying that he much rather play dead than face the little guy. Masashi Tanaka’s art is really something to behold.

Volume 1 of Gon is nothing short of hilarious and absolutely exceptional in ways that make it one of those rarities in manga. Using nothing but gorgeous visuals to tell the story, Tanaka is able to showcase a series of encounters that will make you smile and laugh aloud at the antics of a very likeable little dinosaur. In other words, if you’re looking for a manga series that is actually very funny then this is a series you will certainly need to buy.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Meet Gon, the last living dinosaur who somehow survived the Ice Age and walk his own path as he adapts to a different kind of environment in his scrappy manner. Still, despite his short stature, Gon is a mighty little dinosaur who jumps into the circle of life with the strength of a T-Rex as he turns the king of the jungle into his personal ride, beats a beaver in making his own dam and defends a nest of baby golden eagles from a bobcat.

ART: A+
Relying solely on the visuals is quite a feat and a risk but Masashi Tanaka manages to say more with one panel than other authors do with two word balloons. His artwork is not only expressive and amazingly well detailed but the reactions from the animals will not fail to make you really laugh aloud. Really, this is a case of not judging a book by its weak cover.

OVERALL: A+
A brilliant and gorgeous visual feast that will not fail to make you laugh, Volume 1 of Gon is one of those rare gems that uses no words but is still able to convey emotion and hilarity just as easily. On top of that, Gon is a likeably little bugger who unintentionally does what’s right. If you like something different and genuinely funny, give this little dinosaur a try.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics

Dragon Ball Z Kai, Part Six – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US (Blu-ray), $29.98 US (DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

There are fights and then there are Super smack downs.

The original Dragon Ball Z alone stands as a true classic in every sense but I have to admit that Dragon Ball Z Kai is starting to become my favorite way of viewing this series mainly because it removed the filler that got in the way of the more exciting moments in the series. Still, there are still some quiet moments like the calm before a monster storm and Part Six of Dragon Ball Z Kai begins softly and ends in a way that will have you begging for more.

In the fifth part of the saga, we were introduced to Doctor Gero’s most dangerous creations that were so unpredictable that they coldheartedly killed their creator to follow their own path of destruction. Androids 17 and 18 are joined by the hulking and silent Android 16 who – despite the murder of his creator – is still determined to carry out Gero’s orders to kill Goku. While the “brother-sister” team go on a rampage just for the fun of it, Android 16 reacts only when needed and even then he’s more interested in the birds that seem to be interested in him.

Meanwhile, with Goku in a coma-like slumber, the others wonder what to do next when Piccolo makes an interesting comment that involves the older Namekian named Kami who is watching all the action from afar. It seems that both Namekian warriors have the power to merge as one being to the point of becoming a Super Namekian. Of course, this also means that Kami and Piccolo would cease to exist as we know them.

As Kami is thinking on what to do, Krillin decides to take Goku away from his home in case the androids know where he lives. They load the sleeping Saiyan aboard their ship to take to Master Roshi’s island when Bulma calls with some news that should be of interest to older Trunks … her son from the future. It seems that her Capsule employees discovered a ship much like the one Trucks traveled across time in but this ship seems to have been here on Earth for years. Investigating the ship, Trunks and the others find what looks to be some kind of hatched egg and the remains of some humanoid-reptile skin.

Coincidentally, a news report comes in that the people of a city known as Gingertown have all disappeared. From above, Kami sees what cause behind the mass disappearances and decides to merge with Piccolo who accepts the other Namekian’s power. While it makes him incredibly strong, fast and powerful, Piccolo finds that the creature that turned Gingertown into a ghost town is even more powerful. On top of that, it seems to know him as well as a certain move that Goku has mastered.

Meet Cell, a creature whose origin is revealed as the two powerhouses battle and yes this freakish thing with a tail that is capable of draining people of their Ki is lethal. Piccolo is clearly no match for Cell and takes off before the thing could kill him. Cell, in the meantime, means to fulfill the first part of his mission and that is to drain and use the power of Androids 17 and 18.

Goku, in the meantime, finally wakes up and wants to become powerful in order to take on the Androids and now this new threat. Of course, he comes to the realization that he’s not up to the task just yet and knows of one way that could do the trick. You see, he knows a way to accelerate a year’s worth of training into one day and that is by way of a chamber he has used before when he was Gohan’s age. Despite Chi-Chi’s protest, Goku decides to take his son with him as well as Vegeta and his son from the future to partake in the training as well.

Unfortunately, the androids finally come close to finding Goku only to learn that the Saiyan has gone off for training. Piccolo decides to take the androids on to stall for some time as Vegeta and Trunks use the chamber to discover their true form. With the new power he possesses, Piccolo is able to go toe-to-toe with his challenger, Android 17, who is surprised by Piccolo’s new power.

It’s just too bad that Cell finally senses the android from far away and finds them. Knowing that if Cell were to absorb the androids he would become unstoppable, Piccolo defends Android 17. Suddenly, the three androids are fighting alongside Piccolo against an enemy that means the death of all of them. The battle that ensues us nothing short of breathtaking and surprising as Cell suddenly gains the upper hand in an unexpected way. Even Tien, who sees no choice, steps into the fight as well as Android 16 who realizes something good about himself.

In the finale, Android 18 sees no choice but to run as Cell is on the hunt for the remaining android. At the same time, Vegeta and Trunks finally steps out of the chamber leaving it to Goku and his son to train. Vegeta manages to show up for an even bigger battle that will eventually lead to one hell of a brawl. Oh yeah, Dragon Ball Z Kai fans, it’s that big a fight.

Part Six of Dragon Ball Z Kai has a slow buildup that leads up to one of the more exciting encounters the series has thrown at Goku and the others. Sure, it takes its time getting to the heart of the matter but when it reaches the main event it does so with just the right impact that will have Dragon Ball Z fans sitting up in their seats. Without a doubt, we are so looking forward to the next set and so will you, believe me.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
With the powerful Androids searching for Goku who has yet to wake up, the others rush to be by his side while Piccolo makes a very difficult decision involving Kami. However, the three Androids are but part of the problem when a new enemy from the future makes an appearance and he’s even more dangerous that all three Androids combined. Meanwhile, a newly awakened Goku and son decided to take Vegeta and his future son Trunks to train for their upcoming battle with their enemies that are closing in fast.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
There are a number of impressive battles in this sixth set as even the enemies turn on each another and Piccolo’s newly powerful form makes for some intense visuals. On top of that, there’s nothing quite as drool-worthy as watching Dragon Ball Z Kai on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the newly dubbed English track is handled beautifully enough but I still have a soft spot for the Japanese cast and the original music that still gives me goose bumps. If you have a good sound system hooked up, crank that sucker up.

EXTRAS: D
No special extras aside from the textless opening and closing animation will disappoint Dragon Ball Z fans but at least there are a few trailers and the thought that it’s on Blu-ray is a pretty big deal.

OVERALL: A-
As the pace slows down a little, Part Six’s biggest strength comes in the later half of this set as things heat up to the point of making us remember why we fell in love with Dragon Ball Z Kai. As Goku’s friends struggle with enemies that exceed their own strength, a new combatant steps in to make things more dangerous for them and really exciting for us. We officially cannot wait for Part Seven.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment