Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, The Complete Fourth 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

Now this is how you do the ending of a great anime series.

Without a doubt, Yu Yu Hakusho has every right to be called a true timeless classic of epic proportions. We’re talking about an anime series that hooked you in almost immediately and kept you invested in its story up until the final satisfying moments of the very last episode. The Complete Fourth Season of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files is the perfect way to end a series that never really ceases to surprise or keep you wanting more. Thrust me when I say that this is Yu Yu Hakusho’s finest moments.

Since his death and rebirth as a Spirit Detective, Yusuke Urameshi has seen his share of battles including participation in one of the biggest fighting tournaments. Now, he and his friends are fighting to save the world from its destruction by the hands of an ex-Spirit Detective whose emotional breakdown during the job has made him empathize with the demons. Having kidnapped Kuwabara in an effort to help him open the tunnel to the Demon Realm, Shinobu Sensui and his remaining followers try to keep Yusuke and the others from interfering with the ritual.

As Kurama, Hiei and Kuwabara are swallowed by a Dark Soul that is being controlled by Sensui’s most loyal follower, Itsuki the Yaminade. Meanwhile, Yusuke takes on Sensui in a one-on-one fight that turns ugly when Yusuke discovers a startling secret about Sensui that turns him into an even deadlier foe. In fact, Sensui manages to do more than just give Yusuke the beating of his life. Let’s just say, that when Yusuke does recover from said beating that everything for the young Spirit Detective will change in a big way.

The change in Yusuke does manage to turn things around as the battle goes from riveting to powerfully poignant. It is Koenma who tries desperately to get Sensui to put an end to his plan by dying alongside Sensui because the young prince feels he failed the ex-Spirit Detective. However, it is Yusuke who finally puts a stop to Sensui but – in the end – has put himself and Koenma on King Yama’s hit list and even sends the Special Defense Squad to kill Yusuke and arrest Koenma. Of course, the Special Defense Squad doesn’t carry out the order for fear of Yusuke’s new power and respect for Koenma, but the pair end up fugitives.

With the threat of the Demon Realm letting loose hungry demons on the living world now over, life somewhat returns to normal for all of them including Sensui’s remaining followers who find themselves still alive and willing to make positive changes in their lives. Even Kuwabara decides to take school seriously and study. Unfortunately for Yusuke, he doesn’t feel that his life will ever be back to normal. He wants to understand his true blood lineage that was responsible for the change within him during the battle with Sensui and he seems lost.

It takes advice from Master Genkai and a recommendation that he go see a woman named Kuroko that closely mirrors Yusuke in an interesting way. Just as he is getting enlightenment from their conversation, three mysterious visitors from the Demon Realm confront Yusuke. One of them tell them of three demon lords who have ruled for centuries but are now locked in an internal struggle to be ruler after they discover that one of them – the demon lord Raizen – is dying because he refuses to devour human flesh.

Oh yeah, Raizen also happens to be connected to Yusuke in a very intriguing way that makes the boy face the mystery of who his parents really are and why he has the power of a demon. Yusuke accepts an invitation to travel to the Demon Realm – his second trip seeing as he visited it during the battle with Sensui. Unfortunately, his stay would take him away from his friends and Keiko (who in this season, reveals what she really feels for Yusuke) for approximately 3 years.

Yusuke travels to the Demon Realm and has an audience with the demon Raizen who tells him of their familial roots and what is at stake if either the demon Yomi or Mukuro are to take power. Meanwhile, Yomi manages to recruit Kurama and the mysterious Mukuro recruits Hiei. Just as things are starting to look like a civil war is about to break out forcing Yusuke to face off against his friends Kurama and Hiei, the demon king Raizen meets his fate.

Suddenly, Yusuke is thrust into the role of leader and as he takes Raizen’s followers into a meeting with Yomi who Yusuke discovers is not only blind but overwhelmingly powerful. Instead of taking the Demon Realm into a civil war, Yusuke proposes a fighting tournament where the winner will – no questions asked – become ruler of this world. Yomi accepts as does Mukuro as Yusuke realizes that he might find himself in a position where he will get to fight his friends, Kurama and Hiei.

We learn more about Mukuro and Yomi before and during the fighting tournament, which makes them seem less as villains and more like tragic figures that are each motivated by different things other than just power. Interestingly enough, there’s even a surprising reason why Yomi picked Kurama to be his second-in-command or why Mukuro wanted Hiei on her team. Even the tournament itself has a number of highlights especially since some familiar characters from the Dark Tournament show up.

The outcome of the tournament is one of the biggest surprises, especially the much-anticipated brawl between Yusuke and Yomi in the finals. Of course, things don’t end the way we expect them to but – in the final episode – we get just the right closure. Really, you couldn’t ask for a better ending to a series filled with action and surprises. In fact, I would even go as far as saying that Season Four is one of the best seasons of this series.

On top of the great episodes and a satisfying ending, this fourth season set comes with a number of extra material that makes up for the lack of them in the previous Blu-ray season sets.

The Complete Fourth Season of Yu Yu Hakusho is the spectacular finale that few anime series manage to pull off and thus makes this the show’s finest moments. A lot happens in this collection of episodes that even if you’ve seen it before it still manages to get the same reaction again and, believe me, you will find yourself remembering why you fell in love with this series in the first place. This is definitely a Must Have for any anime fan.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Yusuke and his companions finally reach Sensui who is minutes from opening the tunnel to the Demon Realm as they not only battle against the ex-Spirit Detective but also learn a startling secret about him. The brutal battle ends the threat to the world of the living but marks the beginning of new problems for Yusuke who discovers the truth about himself and his bloodline. Now, Yusuke finds himself in the ultimate competition of his life as the fate of another world rests in his hands.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Without a doubt, these Blu-ray editions of Yu Yu Hakusho are the best way to enjoy this classic so if you have a Blu-ray player you should really not be without this set among your library.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
In my opinion, this fourth season is where Justin Cook and Robert McCollum truly shine as Yusuke and Sensui as their performance is nothing short of brilliant. The rest of the cast is also at the top of their game in both the original Japanese and English dub. On top of that, the new closing theme song is a nice change of pace.

EXTRAS: A+
This final edition gets all the extras that go beyond just a few FUNimation trailers or the clean opening and closing theme songs. The second disc includes audio commentary track for Episode 99 with Justin Cook (Director and voice of Yusuke) and Mixing Engineer Andrew Tipps discussing this 2011 audio remix. The third disc comes with a look at the Yu Yu Hakusho Trading Card Game with Justin Cook himself (which explains “The Dark One” playing card included in this release as well as how to play the game) and an outtakes featurette for Episode 111 and 6 different audio commentary tracks.

The commentary tracks cover Episodes 108, 110, 111 and 112 with the Episode 108 commentary track reuniting Jerry Jewell (voice of Jin), Peter Weber (voice of Shigure) and Justin Cook. The rest are 2003 commentary tracks with the leading cast, supporting cast, the show’s writer as well as a “Memoirs of Yu Yu Hakusho” commentary for Episode 112 with Justin Cook who takes us through his memories of doing the last episode.

OVERALL: A+
One of the strongest entries and not to mention the best finale to a show this epic, The Complete Fourth Season of Yu Yu Hakusho delivers quite punch that you will feel long after the final episode. Exciting, emotional and absolutely thrilling, you cannot ask for a better finish to a show that never ceases to be exhilarating even if this is the third time watching it.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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

Project Eden film, plus Affair of Nolandia & Flight 005 Conspiracy OVAs,
scheduled for May 2012, with remastered video & three audio options.

GRIMES, Iowa, January 25, 2012 – Anime producer and distributor Right Stuf, Inc. and its Nozomi Entertainment division are pleased to announce DIRTY PAIR: The Original Features DVD Collection will be available on May 1, 2012.

This value-priced Dirty Pair DVD collection will contain the PROJECT EDEN theatrical film, plus the direct-to-video (OVA) features AFFAIR OF NOLANDIA and FLIGHT 005 CONSPIRACY. In addition to remastered video from the Japanese DVD release, the set will offer two English audio options (the Streamline Pictures dub, directed by Carl Macek, and the ADV Films dub), Japanese audio, and English-language subtitles and on-screen translations.

“After nine DVDs… I still want more Kei and Yuri, and
it’s not just because of the space bikinis.”
– Ed Liu, ToonZone.net

“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 television series, OVA series, Project Eden and the two standalone OVAs (Affair of Nolandia and Flight 005 Conspiracy) are the first wave of anime adaptations to star the iconic heroines of the long-running Dirty Pair novels and short stories. All portions of the original Dirty Pair anime franchise feature production by Sunrise (Gundam, Outlaw Star, The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop), while the TV and OVA series also feature production by Studio Nue (Crusher Joe, Macross).

The original Dirty Pair TV series and OVA series are now available as DVD sets, with remastered video, from Right Stuf’s Nozomi Entertainment. Nozomi also has plans to release 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, and to order (and pre-order) DVD sets featuring the anime adventures of the original Dirty Pair.

About the DIRTY PAIR: The Original Features

The Lovely Angels are back in a triple-pack of ‘80s sci-fi action!

Project Eden: Kei and Yuri are on their way to the distant planet Agerna. There, they’ll have to ease tensions between rival governments, capture a self-proclaimed master thief and stop a mad scientist from reviving an ancient alien race!

Affair of Nolandia: A little girl has gone missing, but this particular damsel in distress has incredible psychic powers. If Kei and Yuri want to find her, they’ll have to fight their way through a deadly forest of illusions…

Flight 005 Conspiracy: The 3WA’s Central Computer gave the Dirty Pair two cases at once! Kei and Yuri must investigate a space liner explosion and, at the same time, find a missing scientist. It all seems harmless enough, but this is actually the Angels’ most dangerous mission, yet — and if they’re not careful, it’ll be their last.

Contains the PROJECT EDEN theatrical film, plus the direct-to-video features AFFAIR OF NOLANDIA and FLIGHT 005 CONSPIRACY.

DIRTY PAIR: The Original Features DVD Collection
Pre-Book: 4/3/2012

Street Date: 5/1/2012
Runtime: Approximately 190 minutes, Dolby Digital, Color
Genre: Sci-Fi / Action
Suggested Rating: 16+

Format: DVD (English Audio, Japanese Audio, English Subtitles, English On-Screen Translations)
Catalog #: RSDVD1266
ISBN: 1-57032-712-2
UPC: 7-42617-1266-2-8
SRP: $29.99

Discs/Set: 3
Case Quantity: 30

DVD Features:
Remastered video from the Japanese DVD re-release, two English audio options (ADV Films and Streamline Pictures dubs), Japanese audio, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS: Japanese promotional trailers, North American release trailer and Nozomi Entertainment trailers.


DIRTY PAIR Project Eden, Affair of Nolandia, and Flight 005 Conspiracy
© 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 http://www.rightstuf.com and www.nozomient.com.

The World God Only Knows, Season One – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

It will take a God to help these girls even if it’s a God of gaming.

It is utter chaos in Hell.

Somewhere in the world of the living, there are souls running loose and jumping into the bodies of several young girls and it will take some kind of miracle to gets things back to the way they were according to none other than Chief Dokuro. Oh, but there’s a small ray of hope for Hell that comes in the form of “the guy who can control women’s hearts” or, as he is better known, the God of Conquest who has the power to win any girl’s heart. As it turns out, this “God” is not what you might think he is in Season One of The World God Only Knows.

Spanning 12-epsiodes, Season One of this romance/comedy introduces us to Keima Katsuragi, a young High school student who is known in the gaming circles as The God of Conquest because he could conquer any girl in any dating sim game. He’s such a hardcore gamer that you will often find him playing on his PFP (obvious version of Sony’s handheld, the PSP) even during class. Sure, he could win any girl’s heart provided that said girl is digital but in the real world he is seen as a dweeb. Well, not that he cares because he’s more interested in the world created by the game rather than the real one.

One day, he accepts a challenge from what he thought was another gamer and – instead – accepts a hellish contract involving the super cute demon, Elcea de Rux Ima (or Elsie, for short) who tells him that together they will find and collect these Loose Souls. Unfortunately, the Loose Souls have inhabited the bodies of young girls Keima’s age and the only way to extract the wayward soul is for Keima to romance each girl to the point that they kiss!

Keima is reluctant to help, of course, but since the contract also included a collar that will behead him and Elsie, they have to complete the mission. The first Loose Soul they encounter has jumped into the body of Keima’s fellow classmate, Ayumi Takahara, who is truing her best to join the school’s track team. So, using all the knowledge he gained from playing hundreds of dating sims, Keima puts his experience with digital girls to use on a real girl until it begins to work.

Convincing Keima’s mother that she’s her husband’s illegitimate daughter and Keima’s little sister, Elsie comes to live and go to school with the God of Conquest. She comically calls him her “Divine Brother” or “Divine One” even in front of classmates and pair goes on a search for other Loose Souls. Think of them as a cuter version of Bleach’s Ichigo and Rukia and you get the picture.

They find another Loose Soul, this one in the body of a lovely blonde named Mio Aoyama who is known throughout the school as the richest girl in the city since the Aoyama clan is a powerful one. Elsie sees it as a challenge to win this little ice queen’s heart since Mio is not only unapproachable but also sees everyone else as commoners. As it turns out, however, Mio has a secret that surprises Elsie and Keima. So, little by little, Keima slips into Mio’s life until his presence has a positive effect on the girl.

Next, Elsie discovers that a Loose Soul is hiding in the body of her favorite new young pop idol by the name of Kanon Nakagawa who also happens to go to their school. Kanon has a huge fear that one day all her fame will just go away and she will, once again, become invisible to the world. This might make her seem like a shallow person but there’s more to Kanon that meets the eye and Keima recognizes this immediately. Interestingly enough, Keima uses a different approach to reach Kanon’s heart and that is to come off as uninterested in anything the cute girl does. As a result, the girl will stop at nothing to get him to notice her.

It’s not an easy feat to get the Loose Soul out of Kanon especially since the girl is not only afraid of losing her fame but is also riddled with guilt over playing a venue that she knows her former band wanted to play together as a group. This story arc is actually a bit longer and, as a result, makes the payoff in the end a satisfying one and more so if you like cute J-pop tunes that you will hear plenty of throughout the story arc including a mini-concert.

Finally, there’s another Loose Soul and this one happens to inhabit an introverted girl named Shiori Shiomiya who also happens to be the school’s young librarian. Elsie believes that Keima has finally met his match with this one as the girl has trouble communicating her feeling to the library council as well as Keima who does his best to press her buttons especially when it comes to books … something she adores. In fact, both Shiori and Keima share similarities. One becomes absorbed in the world of video games and the other prefers the world of books. This is certainly not going to be an easy one and just like the Kanon story arc, this one requires more than just one episode.

The World God Only Knows also has a charming sense of humor as the series concentrates on the funny and endearing relationship between Keima and Elsie. While Keima finds Elsie’s presence in his life rather annoying, he can’t help but recognize that Elsie is now a part of his life. Meanwhile, Elsie tries hard to receive praise from her Divine Brother whether it’s making him weird lunches or attempting to bake him a cake using dragon eggs. She even helps him when Keima attempts to conquer a game with a glitch that doesn’t let him reach the end. Elsie is also the only one he lets into his gaming lair.

As far as the performances are concerned, I love the Japanese voice cast and enjoy the high-energy performances from the likes of Kanae Ito and Hiro Shimono but – then again – Luci Christian always adds the right amount of cuteness to character like Elsie and Chris Patton is always stellar.

What we have in Season One of The World God Only Knows is an anime series that is delightfully funny and even endearing enough to make it enjoyable enough that you will actually be looking for a second season. Elsie and Keima are a likeable pair and watching Keima come up with different tactics to woo each girl is one of the show’s highlights. There’s more than one season of this series in Japan so here’s hoping Sentai Filmworks will bring it to us.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
When Hell finds out that Loose Souls have found their way into young girls in the living world, they send a cute demon named to join a human boy named Keima who is a master of dating sim video games. Together they try to get the Loose Souls from out of a number of girls by having Keima romance them. It’s not going to be easy to romance a shy librarian, an icy cold rich girl or a popular pop idol.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The DVD version is not bad on the eyes at all and even more so thanks to the colorful and lovely animation. Sure, the character models are nothing to write home about but they’re still pretty cute … especially Elsie and her grotesque lunches.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
As far as the score and opening and closing theme songs are concerned, they’re handled well and the theme songs are actually very catchy. The voice acting in the series is top notch as well no matter your preference but – for my money – the English dub cast is nothing short of stellar and more so thanks to Luci Christian, Brittany Karbowski, Chris Patton, Hilary Haag and Shelley Calene-Black just to name a few of the talents.

EXTRAS: C+
There are a few extras in this collection that includes Sentai Filmworks trailers, the clean opening and closing theme songs and a the Kanon songs like “All 4 You” in a music video format that is actually quite awesome since there are a few long versions of songs heared throughout the Kanon story arc.

OVERALL: B+
A genuinely funny and likeable series that doesn’t do anything completely different, Season One of The World Only God Knows is still amusing enough that you will find yourself enjoying it from start to finish. Both Keima and Elsie make a cute team and they’re a blast to watch. If anything, I’m certainly looking forward to another season of this series and that’s saying a lot right there.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

Fairy Tail, Part 2 – Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $54.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

The past always comes back to bite us in the rear, doesn’t it?

Some anime series really knows how to show their viewers a good time and even more so if the material it is adapted from goes for the One Piece-styled craziness and action. The first part of the series introduced us to the colorful cast of characters that make up this world filled with magic so what we get in Part 2 of Fairy Tail is more of the high-energy antics of a wizard guild you will not forget anytime soon. Trust me when I say that if you’re not already a fan of this series you will be after this second part.

When we last left Natsu, Lucy, Happy and Gray in Part 1, they not only snuck off carry out a difficult S-class mission but they defied the Fairy Tail guild rules in the process the very second they stepped foot on Galuna Island to aid a cursed village. As it turned out, however, Gray’s past comes to haunt him as he comes face-to-face with a young wizard named Lyon and a powerful demon that was encased in ice by their beautiful Master. Now, Lyon and his followers wish to resurrect the demon known as Deliora in order for Lyon to vanquish it once and for and all thus proving that he has surpassed his Master Ur.

Of course, this has the Fairy Tail wizards going up against Lyon and his trio who are determined to help Lyon carry out this insane plan. At one point, Natsu takes on the dog-like Toby and the wizard called Yuka by himself in a comical battle as Lucy goes up against Sherry and her giant demon rat named Angelica using her celestial spirits Taurus and Aquarius.

It is Gray and Lyon’s conflict that makes Part 2 compelling as we find out the truth about these two young men and the past that connects them to this current situation. It is in these episodes that we come to realize just how complex Gray really is as well as why he has the tendency to strip down to his boxer all the time. We meet Master Ur who was not only their teacher in the art of magic but also a mother-figure whose maternal instincts cause her to make the ultimate sacrifice that eventually leads up to the demon Deliora become encased in ice. It’s a tragic story and a highlight of this second part.

As the situation reaches a critical moment filled with surprising twists you will not see coming, Erza shows up to punish the foursome for having taken this quest from S-class wizards. Her presence also makes an impact on the cursed villagers as she helps solve the mystery surrounding the curse. Sure, they all helped complete the quest but that won’t stop Erza or Master Makarov from dishing up a plate full of punishment once they get back him.

When they do get home, however, Lucy shows them a simple enough quest that turns out to be even more complicated when Natsu unleashes a powerful spell that has him and a few of the other Fairy Tail Wizards switch bodies. Normally, I’d roll my eyes at this gimmick but Fairy Tail actually makes the body switching episode entertaining and the ending is certainly unexpected. However, the series switches gears again as the next story arc takes a more serious turn.

Natsu and Lucy are joined by their comrades Erza and Gray on a mission but when they come back they find that the Fairy Tail guild has been attacked and was nearly destroyed. The only prime suspect is a rival guild known as Phantom so you better believe that Natsu and some of the others are fired up and looking for payback. Surprisingly, Master Makarov does not want revenge and asks everyone to overlook this crime. However, when a Phantom wizard known as Black Steel Gajeel viciously attacks three members of Fairy Tail (one of them being a wizard named Levy who has become Lucy’s best friend), Master Makarov finally declares war on Phantom and its guild’s leader, Master Jose.

Fairy Tail’s attack on the Phantom guild is intense and exciting as the Fairy Tail wizards battle against an entire guild in their home turf with Master Makarov leading the attack. However, the tables are quickly turned when the pint-sized Fairy Tail wizard master is taken out by a dangerous magic-sapping spell. Lucy is suddenly attacked by two Phantom wizards, one of which named Jovia who controls water. The plan, you see, is to capture Lucy whose big secret is finally revealed.

Natsu manages to help rescue Lucy who realizes that she is responsible for Master Makarov’s magical injuries as well as the near destruction of the Fairy Tail guild. However, the others do not see it that way and will fight to keep one of their own even when Phantom comes back in a powerful moving fortress complete with deadly cannon that Natsu decides to destroy before it wipes out everyone and what remains of the guild itself. Things are definitely going to get interesting in Part 3.

Maintaining the same exciting pace and action-packed moments of the first part of the series, there’s no shortage of memorable of funny moments. It’s also great that the series takes a deeper look at characters such as Gray as well as Natsu and Happy. We discover how Natsu came to be close to Happy as well as a girl that became his childhood friend. We also get a closer peek at the beautiful Mirajane and her early childhood in the Fairy Tail guild.

Never losing a beat while remaining refreshingly colorful and fun, Part 2 of Fairy Tail is still a guaranteed good time for any anime fan looking for an action series that succeeds in having a blast. We learn more about the characters in this second part and that makes for even more intriguing episodes in a series that plays up the action, comedy and craziness just right. Even if you’re not familiar with the manga you will find that the anime version has more than enough to make you a Fairy Tail fan.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Things start to really heat up in Galuna Island as a group of wizards are closer to freeing a powerful demon from his icy prison and – on top of that – their leader will force Fairy Tail’s own Gray into settling this in a most personal manner. Back home, Fairy Tail wizards fall victim to a body-switching spell and later the guild is attacked by another guild called Phantom. Why are they attacking and what they’re after will certainly surprise.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
Once again, the best choice is obviously the Blu-ray version seeing as this is a colorful anime series that certainly deserves the HD treatment Even if you don’t own an Blu-ray player, the DVD version is not bad on the eyes either.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese voice cast continues to do a great job with their characters and I have to say that the English dub cast closely matches those great performances especially Colleen Clinkenbeard who is simply awesome as Erza. The opening and closing theme songs are delightful to listen to in Part 2.

EXTRAS: B+
You won’t find a lot of extras but you’ll find the clean opening and closing as well as a few FUNimation trailers. The best extras come in the form of two audio commentary tracks, one for Episode 15 and the other for Episode 19. Episode 15’s commentary has ADR Director Tyler Walker and Newton Pittman (voice of Gray) not only chatting but also singing an original song about the series). Then there’s the commentary track for Episode 19 that has Tyler Walker talking to Tia Ballard (Happy), Monica Rial (voice of Mirajane and the show‘s lead writer) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Erza).

OVERALL: B+
Continuing its streak of over-the-top fun and action-packed thrills, Part 2 of Fairy Tail will not disappoint in providing fans a heavy dose of what makes this genre so darn entertaining to watch. There are some sincerely memorable and oftentimes compelling scenes in this second part but, make no mistake, Fairy Tail is about having a blast and that’s exactly what it delivers.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

SECTION23 FILMS ANNOUNCES APRIL SLATE

           

INFINITE STRATOS Available on April 10th

HOUSTON, January 12, 2012 – Home video distributor Section23 Films today announced its April slate of releases; including INFINITE STRATOS. Loaded with special features and a bonus soundtrack CD, the series will be released on both DVD & Blu-Ray by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Product details follow, in order of release

Coming April 2012

Title: MOTTO TO LOVERU COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/3/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: The insanity that began when a very naked (and very female) alien teleported into Rito Yuki’s bathtub (while he was in it) continues. And even though Princess Lala has finally started to admit her true feelings for the young man she’s inexplicably engaged to marry (as a result of what happened in said bathtub and Develuke customs,) her sometimes erratic technology and the snags and snarls of intergalactic politics and intrigue are still causing major problems. That transporter? Yeah, it still has the nasty habit of leaving the clothes behind. Alien bounty hunters? Yep, even more of them and they’re even more devious. Add body switches, alien skunks, a bathroom that changes size and shape, the inevitable sleepover that you just know it’s going to go horribly, horribly wrong (spoiler: it does.) Worst of all, there’s Valentine’s Day, and even in space you’ll be able to hear Rito scream! Love takes a quantum shift into the wrong gear and the star brakes are broken in the extra-special, extra-crazy extraterrestrial romance to end them all, MOTTO TO LOVE RU – The Complete Collection!!!

Title: POLYPHONICA CRIMSON S COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Maiden Japan
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/3/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: To bring law and order you need police, to make music you need musicians, and to make the former using the latter, you need a Dantist! Ever since he was visited by a mysterious spirit as a boy, Phoron’s wanted to become one of the elite battle bards who watch over the continent of Polyphonica. Yet even though he’s mastered the basic skills for singing the Commandia spells and operating a One-Man Orchestra, he’s been unable to summon the required spirit companion because of a promise he made to that first spirit: to sing only for her. But that silence is shattered and Phoron’s musical meanderings are over when his supernatural partner suddenly returns, intent on finalizing the ‘contract’ they made twelve years ago! Which would be great except for one thing: she’s not just any spirit, but the dreaded Corticarte, the Crimson Annihilator! But what the heck, sometimes you just you just have to grit your teeth and duet! Get ready for a musical partnership with more than its share of discord and a distinctly martial beat in Polyphonica Crimson S!

Title: INFINITE STRATOS COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 4/10/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Ten years ago, the development of the revolutionary Infinite Stratos powered exoskeleton changed the world’s balance of power overnight. Unfortunately, while the distribution of IS systems to every nation on Earth HAS ushered in a new era of peace, the fact that only women have thus far been able to pilot the Stratos systems has sent the relationship between the XX and XY-chromosomed halves of the human race into a spiraling tailspin! So when fifteen-year-old Ichika Orimura is suddenly discovered to be the first male with the ability to control an IS, whatever plans he might have had for his own future are tossed out the window even as he’s thrown to the wolves and enrolled at the otherwise entirely female Infinite Stratos Academy by order of the Japanese government! It’s One Boy Vs. All the Girls as Ichika get taken for a ride on some serious heavy metal in INFINITE STRATOS – The Complete Collection!

Title: INFINITE STRATOS COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 4/10/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: Ten years ago, the development of the revolutionary Infinite Stratos powered exoskeleton changed the world’s balance of power overnight. Unfortunately, while the distribution of IS systems to every nation on Earth HAS ushered in a new era of peace, the fact that only women have thus far been able to pilot the Stratos systems has sent the relationship between the XX and XY-chromosomed halves of the human race into a spiraling tailspin! So when fifteen-year-old Ichika Orimura is suddenly discovered to be the first male with the ability to control an IS, whatever plans he might have had for his own future are tossed out the window even as he’s thrown to the wolves and enrolled at the otherwise entirely female Infinite Stratos Academy by order of the Japanese government! It’s One Boy Vs. All the Girls as Ichika get taken for a ride on some serious heavy metal in INFINITE STRATOS – The Complete Collection!

Title: SOMEDAY’S DREAMERS COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/17/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: When can flunking a spelling test cause major problems? When you’re learning how to use magic, of course! And that’s exactly the situation fifteen-year-old Yume Kikuchi finds herself in when she travels to Tokyo to begin her apprenticeship as a licensed magic user. Unfortunately, Yume’s a country girl in the big city for the first time and there are a lot of new-fangled ideas to get used to. Like her new mentor, Oyamada, turning out to be a man instead of the expected woman! Add to that the fact that Yume’s not really very confident about her abilities to achieve her goal of a magic license and she might just jinx herself into failing! It will take a lot of helping hands from her equally challenged fellow students and even more aid from her teachers if she’s going to succeed, but in the end, the most important lesson she’ll learn may not even be about spellcasting. The process of growing up and discovering what lies inside your own heart is the most wonderful magic of all in SOMEDAY’S DREAMERS – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION!

Title: GOLGO 13 COLLECTION 3
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 4/24/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: He never misses his target. No one has ever seen him kill and lived to speak of it. Any witnesses-beautiful woman or stray cat-become just collateral damage, part of the job. And now Golgo 13 is back with some of his most heartless cases ever. The targets this time? Accident survivors turned mindless terrorists. A disgraced politician’s mistress. A Trump-like CEO. Ocean pirates with a sniper of their own. And in the strangest assignment of all time, Golgo is hired to take out an 1800 Romanée-Monts Luisants. (Yes, he’s going to kill a bottle of wine.) Solve the puzzles-if you can-in the most mysterious, action-packed shoot-’em-up ever!

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.

Blue Exorcist, Volume 2 – 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: January 24, 2011

The power of good storytelling compels you!

Don’t you love it when a good series that started off good enough just keeps getting better and better until you find yourself not only loving the story but coming to have favorites among the interesting cast of characters? We found ourselves enjoying the first volume of a series about Satan’s son but Volume 2 of Blue Exorcist is where the series really takes off in the best way possible. Trust me when I say that if you were a fan with Volume 1 you will be with this second helping.

Rin Okumura might be the legitimate son of Satan himself but, having been raised by Father Fujimoto, he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. In fact, after the man who raised him was killed, Rin swears to kill Satan. Of course, first he must learn to control the power within him as well as learn how to wield the Koma Sword. So he joins his brother, Yukio, to the True Cross Academy where he will learn to become an exorcist along with other young people his age.

When we last left Rin, he and his classmates were sent away to a pre-summer boot camp before they return to class to take the ExWire Authorization Exam that will advance them to the next level of ExWire. However, the boot camp turns into a struggle for survival for the tiny-browed Izumo Kamiki and her only friend, Paku, because they are both attacked in the ladies’ room. Izumo is haunted by her inability to do something to avoid Paku from getting hurt and starts beating herself up over her failure as a potential Tamer (the ability to call up animal spirits called Familiars).

As it turns out, the demon makes its return only this time the others are prepared and take it on together as a team. Even after the demon splits in two, the others fight off the one half while Rin goes off to fight the other half. It is here that the shy girl Shiemi shows her stuff and even Izumo snaps out of her funk to lend a hand. Meanwhile, Rin discovers who summoned the demon and the identity is no surprise considering the fact he was hanging around not far from them.

Another surprising twist comes up and that is that the Academy’s director, Mephisto, reveals that the boot camp is actually a cover for the actual ExWire Authorization Exam. As a result, the students find themselves graduating from novice to ExWire where they will train in their specialty. Rin, thanks to his sword, falls under the Knight category. We also find out the talents of Rin’s fellow classmates like Suguro and Konekomaru who excel in incantations thus putting them in the Aria category. As for Izumo and Shiemi have the obvious talents of a Tamer.

Unfortunately for Rin, somebody is indeed targeting him as Yukio discovers that his brother is in danger by the very man responsible for summoning the demon during boot camp. We meet Mr. Noihaus, a man with an obvious grudge that he reveals during an assassination attempt on Rin’s life. Yukio confronts the man in a major battle that ends with Noihaus making a declaration that surprises both Yukio and Rin who came to aid his brother.

With that intriguing and dramatic turn of events out of the way, the series takes on a fun and often comical turn as Mephisto has his newly appointed ExWires take on missions geared towards training their talents as future exorcists. It’s a scorching summer day when a cute Cat Sidhe named Kuro overhears from the gate guards that his master is dead. In an instant, the cat turns monstrously huge and becomes way too aggressive that they must send Yukio to put it down for good. However, Rin tags along and overhears the Familiar’s thoughts and learns the truth behind the identity of Kuro’s master who happens to be connected to both brothers.

In another episode, Rin is joined by Izumo and the laid-back Shima out in the beach when Izumo is saved by a little boy named Yohei whose father was lost at sea after confronting a demon squid known as the Kraken. When the Kraken shows up near the shores of the beach, it is Rin and his two classmates work together to combat it … and make a surprising discovery about the demon. In the meantime, Mephisto is visited by his young brother, Amaimon, who happens to be a lot more quirky than Mephisto.

In a mission that will change everything for Rin, the students are taken to Mepphyland – an amusement park dedicated to Mephisto – in search of a mischievous ghost pulling pranks on the park’s guests. While Shiemi spends the day with the ghost (and revealing that’s she’s surprisingly busty), Rin runs into Amaimon, who steals the Kuro Sword and gives Rin quite a beating. Help comes in an unexpected way as a student they thought was a boy named Yamada turns out to be a busty sword-wielding exorcist named Shura Kirigakure who is a cross between Gurren Lagann’s Yoko and Bleach’s Rangiku.

It is Shura who grabs Rin and drags him into an “interrogation room” where they not only battle it out and pushing Rin’s powers to its limits but she also intends on training him in the art of the sword as requested by the only Paladin exorcist she ever trusted … Father Fujimoto. From what went down between Rin and Amaimon, it’s clear that Rin needs the training.

This second volume has no shortage of great fights and plenty of the humor (Izumo discovering the real reason why the boy found her cute is hilarious) that keeps the series fun. It’s also good to see the secondary characters not only getting more exposure but also actually playing a bigger role in Rin’s life. Shiemi’s relationship with Yukio is further explored and so is a key incident in Rin’s childhood. I even loved the touching moment when Rin managed to reach Kuro as the cat becomes his Familiar.

Volume 2 of Blue Exorcist is where the series truly takes off and ventures into a highly-energetic and thoroughly entertaining territory that makes this series even more fun to watch than the first seven episodes. With more emphasis on characterization as far as the secondary cast is concerned plus more insight on Rin, Blue Exorcist is quickly becoming a genuine fan favorite with more than enough to offer those who love this genre. We are so looking forward to Volume 3 if the series continues on this path.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
During the boot camp excursion, Rin and his classmates are attacked by the same demon once again only this time the students pool their resources together as a team. As a result of their performance, the class moves up to the next level as they see to interesting missions that involve a demon cat, a giant squid and a haunted amusement park. Meanwhile, Rin discovers that he is being targeted for assassination.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The series is still visually stunning with gorgeous backgrounds and a cast of colorful characters that you can come to expect from an Aniplex production. The visual effects still don’t fail to surprise in this series.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
As far as the music is concerned, the score is just delightfully cinematic and you just have to love the new opening theme song, “In My World” by RookiEz is PUNK’D. Our heart still belongs to the awesome closing theme song by 2PM rather than the Ok “Wired Life” tune, though. The voice acting is still consistently decent.

EXTRAS: B+
Once again we find the Backstage Short Movies extra, or Ura-Ex, that has funny shorts such as Mephisto playing video games with Amaimon and a look into Suguro’s morning routine. You’ll also find the textless opening and closing theme song as well as a few Aniplex trailers. There’s even the Web Version Previews of each episode.

The best extra, however, comes in the unaired Special Episode called “Kuro Runs Away From Home” where Kuro runs off after Rin doesn’t give him any meat and Yukio tries to train him like an actual cat, which is so humiliating. Out in the streets, Kuro runs into Rin’s classmates as well as Shura and he even visits Father Fujimoto’s grave for a touching reunion of sorts.

OVERALL: A-
With a more established cast of characters and a more interesting threat introduced, Volume 2 of Blue Exorcist is quickly becoming one of those addictively fun shonen anime series you will find hard not to fall in love with enough to become a big fan. Here’s hoping the Volume 3 is just as good as this volume and that it comes soon.

Review copy provided by Aniplex of America

Glass Maiden, Complete Collection – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Maiden Japan
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action/Mystery
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Something is definitely not right in Rags Town.

Some mysteries unravel slowly as the tension increases just enough to keep you in suspense until the very end. Then there are mysteries like the Complete Collection of Glass Maiden that peels off the layers of its mystery in a high-adrenalin, take-no-prisoners fashion that might not make it a unique or different kind of mystery but this 12-episode series isn’t short on excitement or a good story.

Welcome to Rags Town, a place that isn’t exactly the perfect place to retire or to even call home. It’s a place where runaways litter the alleyways and a muscular tranny watches over the streets like an unusual guardian. Unfortunately, Rags Town will also be known for something a lot more sinister seeing as runaway girls go missing and reappear only to turn into glass and then die. Nobody really has seen these “glass maidens,” that is until tonight.

You see, a homeless man is a witness to a girl being attacked and suddenly go up in flames. Then, just as suddenly, she becomes a living glass statue and finally dies as she crumbles away into dust. Meanwhile, not too far away, the guardian tranny that goes by the name of Poriyln gives the S&A Detective Agency a call. She wants to hire private investigator and ultimate ladies man, Shu, but instead gets his two young receptionists … one of which takes it upon herself to look into the dangerous matter herself. You see, Manami always wanted to be a PI and enjoys working for Shu but she wants a challenge and this assignment looks intriguing.

Manami drags the quiet Ayaka along on an assignment that turns out to be an exchange gone wrong as bullets fly and men start dying. Shu shows up to save the girls and, as it turns out, the exchange was for a beautiful young woman. However, a redheaded woman who with armed female hit squad is also after the mysterious young woman but Shu isn’t about to let his client down and manages to escape with the girl.

Oh, but this is just the beginning of the problems that Shu, his staff that also includes his brother and his friends (a pervy old doctor and his sexy young nurse) will face. The mystery girl has a secret and that is that she can turn to glass like the other “glass maidens” with the only difference being that whatever infected her is killing her slower than the other victims. Who is behind this experimental virus and what is its purpose? This is what makes up the mystery behind the “glass maidens.”

Meanwhile, we learn a little more about the people pursuing the mystery girl that Manami and Ayaka simply call Sara (since the girl doesn‘t even know her own name). You see, the redhead named Kyrie is working for a scientist named Kito who will stop at nothing to get his hands on Sara who holds the key to his research. He commands a little girl who happens to be Kito’s most valuable secret weapon in this secret mystery project. In order to complete his work he needs Sara for reasons I will not get into because half the fun of this mystery is in the why.

As Shu and his friends vow to protect Sara, they must also unravel the mystery of the “glass maidens” and the one who really gets the ball rolling is an attractive journalist named Sophie who Shu is, well, let’s just say their relationship is a very physical one. Sophie manages to dig up enough information that eventually leads her to a seemingly abandoned radioactive waste facility where she finds something that puts her life and that of the young Detective JJ in danger.

Meanwhile, Shu and his friends come face-to-face with Kito and Kyrie as a SWAT team is called in to not only find Sara but also find out what’s going on in the abandoned radioactive waste facility. Things get ugly when Manami and Ayaka are taken prisoner by Kyrie and her henchwomen as Shu stages a rescue that leads to a thrilling and action-packed finale.

There are gunfights aplenty in this series and humorous moments thanks to Manami whose insistence in playing a bigger role around the office and the fact that she drags around poor Ayaka in dangerous situations make up part of the comical moments in the series. The rest of the laughs come from the perverted doctor who enjoys dressing up his nurse in sexy costumes and includes Shu’s younger brother into his pervy photography.

Unfortunately, you will not come to love Shu who – as far as lead characters are concerned – is very unlikable. In fact, I would even go as far as saying I didn’t much care if anything happened to him. I like his mistreatment of Sara even less. Interestingly enough, though, their relationship makes for some interesting scenes. On top of that, the mystery behind the “glass maidens” is a good one that makes the fast-paced story work. Even the side-story where Manami looks into the disappearance of her Senpai is interesting.

While not quite perfect, Glass Maiden does not fail to be entertaining enough to keep you interested in its story and characters. In fact, despite the lack of a likeable male lead, you will find yourself absorbed by the mystery behind the “glass maidens” as well as come to like the fast-paced storytelling style that does a great job making you want to watch it all the way to the finale. The Complete Collection of Glass Maiden is one you will want to check out if you like an exciting mystery.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B
A private investigator and his office of young assistants take on a most unusual case as they are hired to protect a beautiful young woman who just so happens to be turning into a woman made of glass. With Rags Town girls disappearing or dying in a strange fashion, the PI and his friends must unlock the mystery behind the girl they call Sara and a group that will stop at nothing to get their hands on her.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation in this series is actually quite gorgeous and the action scenes flow perfectly enough to the point that you’ll wish they released it on Blu-ray. Even the character design looks good.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
You won’t find an English dub in this series but you can’t complain with a great Japanese voice cast like Yu Kobayashi or Shin-ichiro Miki that make Sara and Shu sound good. On top of that, the score by Ryo Sakai is superb. Closing theme song, “Que Sera Sera” is beautiful but we have become fans of the opening theme song, “Never Look Back” by Rie.

EXTRAS: C
There isn’t much in terms of extras but you will find the clean opening and closing animation as well as a few trailers from Maiden Japan.

OVERALL: B
While the Complete Collection of Glass Maiden might not push the genre to new heights, it still manages to craft a worthwhile story that is certainly not short on surprises or excitement. Sure, the series doesn’t have a very likeable hero but it more than makes up for it with the mystery and action that work well for this series. Glass Maiden is certainly a series you should not miss either way.

Review copy provided by Maiden Japan