Fairy Tail, Part 3 – 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

Beware the past for the pain it sometimes causes is stronger than any magic.

Some anime series start off fun and run out of steam somewhere along the line while others continuously serve up their chaotically fun brand of action without showing any signs of slowing down. Fairy Tail is the kind of series that seems to take pride in being that wildly fun kid in the playground that isn’t interested in catching a breather. In fact, despite a slightly serious tone, Part 3 of Fairy Tail doesn’t stop being an entertaining thrill ride that would put any amusement park ride to shame.

While the final episodes that make up Part 2 were intense, the opening episode of Part 3 is just as chaotic as the Phantom guild continues their major assault on the Fairy Tail guild using a giant mobile fortress that is about to cast a destructive spell known as the Abyss Break. Meanwhile, members of their Element 4 group continue to face off against Fairy Tail wizards. One of them, Monsieur Sol, is going up against the lovely Mirajane and her brother, Elfman, who has gone through his “full body takeover” form that he said was responsive for the death of their younger sister so long ago.

Meanwhile, Gray runs into one of the Element 4 – the attractive “rain woman” named Juvia who becomes instantly (and later obsessively) smitten by him. While she sees no choice but to fight the young Fairy Tail wizard she sees as her “prince,” their fight is downright cool. The outcome of this fight also proves Mirajane’s theory about the Element 4 members and the walking fortress, making their defeat top priority. As Natsu and Happy fight the last two members with Black Steel Gajeel being the one Natsu wants to smack around, Erza finds herself taking on Master Jose who reveals to the beautiful armored-clad wizard his reasons for wanting Fairy Tail destroyed.

It’s clear that Master Jose is far more powerful than Erza but a familiar somebody shows up in time to take her place in the final battle and it becomes a real wizard smackdown. What happens next leads to a series of surprises and the disbandment of the Phantom guild. However, it becomes clear to Lucy that another major player behind the attack is still a threat to her and the guild and that person is her father … the wealthy head of the Heartfilia family.

Lucy’s surprise visit to her impressive family estate leads to a bold confrontation with her father and the realization that Lucy has always wanted to become close to her father but he turns out to be a cold man whose only concern is securing more wealth. Oh but Lucy makes it clear that her future does not involve doing his bidding or marrying some rich aristocrat.

As reconstruction of the Fairy Tail guild continues and Lucy returns to her new home confident that her father will not try anything again, Lucy finds herself intrigued by Fairy Tail’s ultimate ladies’ man, Loke. However, she still doesn’t know why he’s so jittery around Celestial Wizards like herself. When Lucy gets in trouble with two wizards trying to seduce her, Loke steps in to save her and the two begin to actually sit down and have a normal conversation.

It turns out that Loke does have a reason for being uneasy around Celestial Wizards and he does have a major secret that Lucy is just dying to find out. Loke doesn’t volunteer a reason but something in his past that has finally caught up with him pushes the young man to reveal the truth. You see, Loke is about to die and the cause is connected to a Celestial Wizard that he blames himself for killing. As we look into his past, we come to understand Loke even more and, yes, his secret is actually very surprising.

I won’t give anything away but by the end of this story arc we will definitely see Loke in a different way and we will certainly get to see a lot more of him thanks to Lucy. As a thank you for her involvement in saving his life, though, Loke gives Lucy tickets to a beach resort complete with a casino. She invites, Natsu, Gray, Erza and Happy along for some fun in the sun and they have a blast. Even Juvia secretly tags along since she is practically stalking Gray who she still has a major crush on despite the fact that the young man is clueless.

All is well until they go to the casino where all six are attacked by some very unusual enemies. It isn’t until one of them shows himself to Lucy and Erza that we realize that each one of these strange attackers knows Erza well. In fact, this person named Sho calls Erza “sister” and Erza doesn’t deny the fact that she knows them all well. You see, just like Loke, her past has finally caught up to her as well and we come to learn of Erza’s tragic and heartbreaking life as a child slave.

Unfortunately for Erza, Sho and his companions see her as a traitor to their leader that goes by the name of Jellal. As they kidnap Erza to bring her back to the place that haunts her very dreams, Erza comes to realize that Jellal has plans for the Tower of Heaven, which their captors have been trying to build. We get a long glimpse of Erza and her then companions and the cruelty they suffered in the hands of their captors. We also come to learn that to make Jellal’s plans to come true a sacrifice must be made.

A lot happens in Part 3 with Erza’s story arc being dark and Loke’s story being on the serious side. Still, this makes for some interesting storytelling and through their pasts we come to know both characters a lot better. There are also some memorable scenes connected to their pasts including Lucy meeting the Celestial Spirit King. Best yet are Erza’s childhood friends who have unique abilities and appearance like the Wally who looks like he was made up entirely of fleshy LEGOS.

Part 3 of Fairy Tail has two characters facing their inner demons and their story taking a more serious tone but that doesn’t mean you will not be entertained by the high-energy battles and antics of these wizards. Sure, Loke is a fun character to get to know but it is Erza who you will come to appreciate as the episodes that make up part of the series will definitely keep your eyes glued to your screen.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
With the rival guild, Phantom, having launched a full-scale attack, the Fairy Tail wizards fights to save the remains of their guild by attempting to defeat the dangerous members of the Element 4. However, a familiar face shows up in time to go up against Phantom’s guild master. Later, we learn a big secret about the mysterious Fairy Tail member named Loke and Erza’s troubled past comes back to haunt her.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
Fairy Tail’s visual style is certainly one of this series’ many highlights and more so in this third part when characters such as the Celestial Spirit King and Erza’s childhood friends show up. Oh yeah, this is definitely a series that deserves to be seen on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The new opening theme song, “FT.” by FUNKIST is actually pretty cool as is the closing theme song, “I’m Sorry” by Shiho Nanba. There’s plenty of screaming by Cherami Leigh in this one but she manages to pull off a great performance as does Colleen Clinkenbeard (as Erza) and Eric Vale (as Loke).

EXTRAS: B+
There are a few FUNimation trailers to look forward to as well as the clean opening and closing theme songs but, as always, the best stuff comes in the form of the audio commentary tracks led by ADR Director Tyler Walker. In the commentary track for Episode 26, he chats with Mix Engineer Andrew Tipps in an interesting conversation worth checking out if you’re interesting in mixing or being a line producer. Then there’s the commentary for Episode 32 with Cherami Leigh (voice of Lucy) and Eric Vale (Loke) that’s kind of fun.

OVERALL: B+
While Part Three of Fairy Tail takes a slightly serious turn for two different story arcs, it does not lose its wildly fun and adventurous spirit that continues to make Fairy Tail a genuine blast to watch. While it adds some great action-packed moments, it’s also great to see a series that adds more personality to the interesting assortment of characters with each episode. The wizards of Fairy Tail know how to show us a really good time, trust us.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Broken Blade, The Complete Film Series – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action/Sci-fi
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Sometimes a broken blade can cut even deeper.

Anyone who has ever pick up the FlexComix manga series knows that there’s more to Broken Blade than just cool mechs but a deep and involving tale of a young man who proves he has something special to offer and a story of a war from both sides of the conflict. That’s why I was excited when Sentai Filmworks announced The Complete Film Series of Broken Blade (and on Blu-ray, no less) as the six-part animated film series takes us to the frontlines in this riveting series that’s just too good to pass up.

Told in six somewhat lengthy episodic parts, Broken Blade tells the tale of the continent of Cruzon where the soil doesn’t produce any oil but men and women of all ages are born with the special power to manipulate quartz and make up for the lack of this natural resource. With this ability, people are able to create fully functional machines and operate mechs this world calls Golems. Of course, there are a select few that don’t have any powers at all, and it so happens that our hero – a farm boy named Rygart Arrow – is one of these so-called Un-sorcerers.

Oh, but fate has a funny way of showing us that everyone has their own unique potential and for Rygart it comes in the form of a war. It seems that the continent finds itself in turmoil as the kingdom of Krisna; Athens and Orlando are headed for a bloody conflict. It is Athens that has set its sights on Krisna and its ally, Orlando, and it is willing to go to great extremes to see Krisna’s King and Queen dead. How does Rygart fit in all of this, you might ask? Well, he was a classmate and good friend to Hodr who is now King of Krisna and a friend to the beautiful Sigyn who is now Queen of the land.

Both friends have summoned Rygart to the capital to pilot an old Under-Golem that cannot be piloted by anyone else except for an Un-sorcerer. The fact that the mech starts coming to life with him in the cockpit says that Queen Sigyn was right about Rygart. Now Rygart has the means to fight but what does he know about war or killing, for that matter? It isn’t until King Hodr explains that peace is possible but at a terrible price that would cost Hodr and Sigyn their lives that Rygart decides to fight to keep his friends alive. Here’s another shocker, though. It seems the man leading a small band of Golems in attacking Krisna is an old friend to all three of them.

His name is Zess and he fights for his homeland of Athens who sees the peaceful kingdom of Krisna in a different light. Despite his close relationship to Hodr and Sigyn, he is willing to kill them for the sake of Athens. When he and his small squad confront a number of Golems from Krisna, he is surprised to find that his once friend is operating a different kind of Golem that is faster, able to jump high and is more powerful than it looks. Zess escapes Rygart’s attack but returns for another round only this time Zess loses his comrade named Lee in battle. The enemy also loses the big-breasted 12-year old officer named Cleo who is taken captive by Krisna forces and becomes Queen Sigyn’s invited guest.

Meanwhile, Rygart comes to accept that he is now a part of this war and the only one capable of operating the Under-Golem that is given the codename the “Delphine.” While others want to scrap the Under-Golem, Queen Sigyn can clearly see that their ancestors have made a special machine fit for an Un-sorcerer like Rygart who – it is very clear – she has strong feelings for and does not want to see come under any harm. We witness what Rygart, Hodr, Sigyn and Zess were like as friends in their academy days and the type of people they were and still are as they find themselves in a difficult situation.

It is clear that Athens is determined to take the capital as the Secretary of War of the kingdom of Athens sends out the formidable and battle-hardened General Borcuse and his loyal Colonel. Armed with a special kind of Golem, the General’s men prepare to slaughter their way to the Krisna’s capital of Binonten. Meanwhile, back in Krisna, Rygart is put under the command of the sexy Captain Narvi who also takes in a dangerous comrade named Girge who was imprisoned for killing his own companion during a training exercise.

As General Gorcuse gets closer to the capital and blood is shed on both sides, Rygart finds himself learning to become a part of a team as well as deal with Girge who is clearly so out of control that he could very well end up getting everyone killed. Also, word that the farming village where his brother is living is under attack by the enemy, he sets out on his own to save them as he confronts General Borcuse.

There are a number of fantastic and riveting battles in this series but there’s also another side to the war as Cleo – who was taught that people from Krisna were bloodthirsty monsters – comes to not only respect Queen Sigyn but also come to like her even though she is expected to hate her enemy. Sigyn’s relationship with Rygart is also interesting and how it develops throughout the series makes for some touching scenes that tell us everything about their true feelings.

I wish there was more on Zess who is even more interesting a character but he takes a backseat to the other squad led by General Borcuse who turns out to be quite a piece of work. On top of that, the series is actually quite visually stunning and even more so on Blu-ray. The Golem battles are amazing and even the character models look good … although the fan service is a tad overkill when it comes to Queen Sigyn who is seen in her panties more than once.

The series also includes an English dub voice cast with Greg Ayres who is awesome as Rygart and Emily Neves as Sigyn sounds regal. Who actually steals the show, in my eyes, is Shelley Calene-Black as Captain Narvi. She brings a more emotional performance than the original Japanese Seiyuu.

The Complete Film Series of Broken Blade thrusts us into a wonderfully told story that goes beyond fighting mechs and bloody battles. It weaves an intricate tale of friendship, sacrifice and two sides to a massive war between two kingdoms. It’s also an exciting series that packs in a lot in its six-episodes to the point that it will definitely not disappoint anyone looking for a great series with fighting mechs.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
In the midst of a war against a neighboring land, the kingdom of Krisna finds itself in danger of being invaded. Joining the fight is Rygart Arrow who is friend to the King and Queen of Krisna and the only un-sorcerer who is capable of piloting an older but powerful mech. Meanwhile, the man helping the enemy is an old friend to Rygart and the royal couple of Krisna as both kingdoms push towards an unavoidable bloody confrontation.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Broken Blade is one of those visually stunning anime films that really should be seen on Blu-ray and Sentai Filmworks definitely does not disappoint in the very least in bringing us a flawless high-def format. You’ll certainly see the difference since this is a colorful series with gorgeous backdrops and truly eye-popping visceral fighting scenes.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese language track brings us a great voice-acting cast but you just have to love the English dub performances that include the talents of Greg Ayres, Emily Neves, Brittney Karbowski and Shelley Calene-Black among others. The score by Yoshihisa Hirano is absolutely stunning and the opening theme song by KOKIA is fantastic. However, we have fallen in love with the closing theme song, “Serious-Age” by Faylan.

EXTRAS: C+
You’ll only find the clean version of the opening and closing animation so don’t expect much in terms of extras. Just about the best feature, of course, is the fact that the film series is available on Blu-ray and includes an English dub track.

OVERALL: A-
Broken Blade is certainly one of those compelling, edge-of-your-seat riveting animated film series that – at first glance- seems like familiar fare but it manages to march to its own beat in a way that you can’t help but get caught up in its story. This six-part collection is a definite Must Have for anyone who likes an intelligent, absorbing and enjoyable series with plenty of mech action.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

SECTION23 FILMS ANNOUNCES MAY SLATE

       

PLANZET Available on May 22nd

HOUSTON, February 16, 2012 – Home video distributor Section23 Films today announced its May slate of releases; including PLANZET, a science fiction tale of invasion, human struggle and survival. PLANZET will be released on both DVD & Blu-Ray by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Product details follow, in order of release

Coming May 2012

Title: PSYCHIC SQUAD COLLECTION 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 5/1/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: They’re cute, adorable and three of the most powerful Espers the world has ever seen: Kaoru, the brash psychokinetic who can move objects with her mind; Shiho, the sarcastic and dark natured psychometric able to pick thoughts from people’s minds and read the pasts of inanimate objects like a book; and Aoi, the most collected and rational of the three, who has the ability to teleport herself and the others at will. So what to do with these potential psychic monsters in the making? Enter B.A.B.E.L., the Base of Backing ESP Laboratory, where hopefully “The Children” and others like them can become part of the answer to an increasing wave of psychic evolution. It’s a win-win solution… Unless you’re Koichi Minamoto, the overworked young man stuck with the unenviable task of field commanding a team of three pre-teen girls! Will Koichi survive the experience? Will the PLANET survive the experience? Find out as the girls get meta-physical in the first totally mental collection of PSYCHIC SQUAD!

Title: GUIN SAGA COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 650 min.
Street Date: 5/8/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $79.98

SYNOPSIS: On the run from an army that destroyed their kingdom, the twin heirs to the Parros throne must avoid a magical land filled with incredible dangers. They are surrounded on all sides-by warring armies, an apelike tribe of desert creatures called the Sem, and the ruthless Langon clan. Giant sandworms, glowing, malevolent creatures, and powerful wizards mastering in the dark arts threaten them at every turn. If they were alone, they would surely perish. But in a dark forest, they are discovered by a mysterious stranger, a powerful warrior wearing a cursed leopard mask he cannot remove. His name…is Guin. He becomes their protector and companion, though he remembers nothing of his life before meeting these young runaways. Together, they begin a treacherous quest to find safety for the royal twins-and the answers to Guin’s secret origins. Based on the bestselling novels, this magical, animated epic is now available in one complete, sweeping set!

Title: GUIN SAGA COMPLETE COLLECTION BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 650 min.
Street Date: 5/8/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $89.98

SYNOPSIS: On the run from an army that destroyed their kingdom, the twin heirs to the Parros throne must avoid a magical land filled with incredible dangers. They are surrounded on all sides-by warring armies, an apelike tribe of desert creatures called the Sem, and the ruthless Langon clan. Giant sandworms, glowing, malevolent creatures, and powerful wizards mastering in the dark arts threaten them at every turn. If they were alone, they would surely perish. But in a dark forest, they are discovered by a mysterious stranger, a powerful warrior wearing a cursed leopard mask he cannot remove. His name…is Guin. He becomes their protector and companion, though he remembers nothing of his life before meeting these young runaways. Together, they begin a treacherous quest to find safety for the royal twins-and the answers to Guin’s secret origins. Based on the bestselling novels, this magical, animated epic is now available in one complete, sweeping set!

Title GET BACKERS COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 1225 min.
Street Date: 5/8/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Whether it’s a favorite stuffed animal, a priceless painting or even your last shred of hope, if someone’s taken it from you, Ban and Ginji will get it back. They’re the Get Backers, an expert “recovery” service. And they’ll retrieve what’s been stolen, no matter what it is or who took it. Of course, with Ban’s special “Evil Eye” and Ginji’s lightning strike capability, they’ve got a head start on the crooks. No job is too big, no job is too small. At least not until they pay off their tab at the local coffee shop. Its 49 episodes of non-stop action. It’s the Get Backers Complete Collection – don’t let anyone take yours!

Title: THE BOOK OF BANTORRA COLLECTION 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 5/15/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: In another time and place, on a world of pain and sorrow, when someone dies, their soul doesn’t go to Heaven or Hell – it becomes a book. A book that reveals the deceased’s innermost secrets… and can be read by anyone. Protecting these priceless treasures is the elite organization known as the Armed Librarians. It’s their job to keep the books and the knowledge within them safe from those who would misuse or destroy them. It’s a tough, dangerous job, so Chief Librarian Hamyuts Maseta recruits only the best and the brightest psychics to join her team of expert fighters. But will they be good enough to stop the fanatics of the Shindeki Church from wrecking vengeance on the entire world? Only time will tell, but that book hasn’t been written yet. Don’t miss the non-stop action of The Book of Bantorra Collection 1!

Title: PLANZET
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 53 min.
Street Date: 5/22/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $29.98

SYNOPSIS: In 2047, an unknown, alien life-form descends upon the Earth, destroying all the major cities in one fell swoop. The survivors unite and build a Diffusor to stop the Februus, the invaders the military would later codename the FOS, and a temporary peace is achieved. Jump forward to 2053, the present. A last, desperate counterattack is being mounted against the enemy. Hiroshi Akishima, soldier in the Planetary Defense Forces Alliance, would like nothing better than a shot at the aliens responsible for his father’s death six years ago. However, the new offensive requires the Diffusor to be dropped, leaving the entire planet terribly vulnerable once more. Will humanity regain the stars or lose everything in the final, ultimate gamble?

Title: PLANZET BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 53 min.
Street Date: 5/22/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $39.98

SYNOPSIS: In 2047, an unknown, alien life-form descends upon the Earth, destroying all the major cities in one fell swoop. The survivors unite and build a Diffusor to stop the Februus, the invaders the military would later codename the FOS, and a temporary peace is achieved. Jump forward to 2053, the present. A last, desperate counterattack is being mounted against the enemy. Hiroshi Akishima, soldier in the Planetary Defense Forces Alliance, would like nothing better than a shot at the aliens responsible for his father’s death six years ago. However, the new offensive requires the Diffusor to be dropped, leaving the entire planet terribly vulnerable once more. Will humanity regain the stars or lose everything in the final, ultimate gamble?

Title: GINTAMA THE MOTION PICTURE
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 95 min.
Street Date: 5/29/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $29.98

SYNOPSIS: Odd Jobs Gin has taken on a lot of odd work in the past, and when you’re a Jack of All Trades agency based in a feudal Japan that’s been conquered and colonized by aliens, the term “Odd Jobs” means REALLY ODD jobs. But when some more than slightly suspicious secrets from the shadows of Gintoki Sakata’s somewhat shady former samurai past and a new pair of odd jobs collide, the action is bound to get so wild and demented that only a feature film will do it justice! So, if you’ve had the good fortune to see Gintama, Japan’s most popular science fiction samurai series before, get ready for more of the same on an epic scale! And if you haven’t seen Gintama before, well, this is your quick and easy introduction to why Gintama (the series) is the hottest thing to hit the Land of the Rising Sun since a certain large, green reptile whose name we can’t use due to certain litigious lawyers! So sit down, strap yourself in and make sure you’re not wearing anything too tight or constricting as the junior half of OJG takes on the task of tracking down a tenacious terrorist while their silver-haired slickster of a partner seeks out a certain sword in the stunningly side-splitting screwy GINTAMA!

Title: GINTAMA THE MOTION PICTURE BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 95 min.
Street Date: 5/29/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $39.98

SYNOPSIS: Odd Jobs Gin has taken on a lot of odd work in the past, and when you’re a Jack of All Trades agency based in a feudal Japan that’s been conquered and colonized by aliens, the term “Odd Jobs” means REALLY ODD jobs. But when some more than slightly suspicious secrets from the shadows of Gintoki Sakata’s somewhat shady former samurai past and a new pair of odd jobs collide, the action is bound to get so wild and demented that only a feature film will do it justice! So, if you’ve had the good fortune to see Gintama, Japan’s most popular science fiction samurai series before, get ready for more of the same on an epic scale! And if you haven’t seen Gintama before, well, this is your quick and easy introduction to why Gintama (the series) is the hottest thing to hit the Land of the Rising Sun since a certain large, green reptile whose name we can’t use due to certain litigious lawyers! So sit down, strap yourself in and make sure you’re not wearing anything too tight or constricting as the junior half of OJG takes on the task of tracking down a tenacious terrorist while their silver-haired slickster of a partner seeks out a certain sword in the stunningly side-splitting screwy GINTAMA!

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.

Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3: The Apocalypse Saga – DVD Review

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $79.99 US
Running Time: 460 minutes
Genre: Romance/Drama
Rating: 16+
Release Date: Available Now

Did you know? Did you know? They saved the best for last.

When it comes to anime epics, it is our Revolutionary Girl whose three-part saga has captivated from intriguing beginning to heartfelt end and still make room for a theatrical animated film that does the story justice. Ah, but every good story must come to an end as we reach the last chapter called The Apocalypse Saga that makes up Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3, which is – by far – one of the best chapters of this series.

THE APOCALYPSE SAGA

Utena Tenjou has been through a lot since she has come across the lovely Rose Bride otherwise known as Anthy Himemiya and has dueled her way to the point that only she is considered the “one who will bring the world revolution.” In other words, Utena’s destiny is to change the world but is that even possible when she has yet to unravel the mystery behind End of the World or what exactly is beyond the Dueling Arena? Will she ever be reunited with the Prince who Utena was so captivated by that she herself decided to become a prince?

All of these questions will be answered in this final chapter but – thanks to a mysterious foe – the answers are being obstructed by the mysterious puppet master who has been pulling the Student Council’s strings all along. He is none other than the Acting Chairman himself who rides a shiny red sports car that corrupts anyone who rides inside it. It is the Chairman who gives the humiliated Saionji a ride as he reveals to the green-haired Adonis the truth behind End of the World. Let’s just say that the experience opened Saionji’s eyes wide enough to see that he still wants the Rose Bride so badly.

Of course, this means Saionji will duel against Utena once again but it is during the duel that Utena witnesses the Sword of Dios abandon her by simply vanishing. Still, with Anthy on her side, our girl manages to defeat Saionji who now no longer wants anything to do with End of the World who wants nothing more than to see Utena defeated by any means necessary and that means manipulating those close to her in order to carry out his plans.

Meanwhile, Utena finds herself becoming attracted to the Akio (the Acting Chairman) and is completely oblivious of his plans for her. It is Akio who corrupts Miki’s sister, Kozue, and gets her brother to challenge Utena despite the fact that the young Student Council member being a friend to her and Anthy. Then the Acting Chairman sets his sights on another member of the Student Council … Jury.

Speaking of Jury, who is still Captain of the Fencing Club, she discovers that her upperclassman mentor and ex-Captain named Tsuchiya Ruka returns. He is handsome and popular with the ladies but one in particular has Jury worried. It’s her friend Shiori who says she has always been in love with Ruka who missed school for a long time due to sickness. A conflict arises between Jury and Ruka that has the master fencer challenging Utena. Then, after the tragic duel between Ruka and Utena, it is Jury who crosses swords with Utena.

Things change after a hilarious episode where the always comical Nanami believes she laid an egg. Oftentimes she jumps to some really oddball conclusions that are not often true but when she suspects something about her big brother, Touga, the suspicion actually turns out to be truth. This leads Nanami to not only leave her beloved big brother but to live with Utena and Anthy in the Acting Chairman’s comfortable pad. It is there that Nanami also makes a shocking discovery about Akio and Anthy.

In fact, a number of revelations are made in this final chapter that saying more would spoil all the shocking surprises and twists that make up the final episodes. We also discover more about the Rose Bride myth as well as the floating castle in a play by the Shadow Girls. It all leads to a final duel as Utena fights to save Anthy from her true fate.

I can’t say I was too thrilled by the ending but The Apocalypse Saga is certainly one of the more intriguing, shocking and more entertaining part of this epic. By the end, you will not know everything about the castle in the sky or other details that we have been kept in the dark since the first saga but it offers more than its share of memorable scenes such as Touga making a confession to Utena or Anthy’s big reveal to Utena. It’s scenes like that that make Utena fans love the series even more.

ADOLESCENCE OF UTENA

Thankfully, RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment included the theatrical feature film in this set and I should say that it’s just as good as the TV Series if not more juicier. It’s not a condensed version of the anime series either, adding more layers to the relationships and changing things enough to make it unpredictable. In the movie, we are re-introduced to Utena Tenjou who is obsessed with her Prince in a different way than the series as she comes to the Academy as a new student.

It doesn’t take this Utena long to discover that members of the Student Council are involved in a society of duelists fighting for the chance to take the Rose Bride for themselves. When Utena finds her own Rose Crest Ring, she becomes involved in the world of dueling and – at first – she isn’t interested but two things change her mind. The first is seeing Touga Kiryuu who she has a connection to in this story and the second is Anthy Himemiya who is actually a lot more captivating and sultry her than in the series.

Torn by her past with Touga and her startling new feelings for the Rose Bride, Utena finds herself dueling the familiar faces that make up the Student Council. All of this leads up to unlocking the mystery of the Rose Bride herself and what it means to become engaged to her. The story of the Rose Bride is actually a lot clearer in the movie and believe me when I say that it makes the film even more interesting.

I should say that the movie is a lot steamier than the series with scenes between Anthy and Utena that don’t dance around their true feelings for each another like the series does. Here, we actually get to see them kiss and there’s even a Titanic-like nude portrait sketching scene between the two. However, the best stuff comes between Utena and Touga mainly because we’re not use to seeing the two in such an intimate manner. Touga nearly steals the show when we discover his past and his heartbreaking fate. It certainly made this reviewer shed a few tears.

Oh yeah, Utena also transforms in the finale … a feat that isn’t surprising seeing as there are plenty of odd scenes scattered throughout. My favorite is a cameo of the cow version of Nanami (complete with her designer cow bell) and the loveable little scamp that is Chu-Chu. It’s weird, sure, but downright hilarious. As far as the ending is concerned, it’s a lot more cheerful than the series’ ending and that’s not such a bad thing at all.

The Apocalypse Saga is everything you can ask for in a finale for such a mesmerizing and unforgettable series and that makes Utena, Revolutionary Girl DVD Set 3 one that is worth every dollar. There’s much to absorb in this final chapter and, on top of that, there’s the theatrical film that is just as stellar as the series. That makes this a package that no anime fan should be without and one I cannot recommend enough.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Utena and Anthy’s lives have changed since they both moved in together in the Acting Chairman’s incredible living quarters but behind Akio’s charming exterior is an even more devious motive that has him turning the members of the Student Council against Utena once more. As Utena duels for the Rose Bride, secrets aplenty begin to surface as the story speeds towards a surprising finale.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
This is still one of the more visually interesting anime series out there with original backdrops, stylishly unique character models and a good use of symbolism scattered throughout. The movie, Adolescence of Utena, is also visually fascinating and also stranger (Utena transforms!) and more romantic (Utena and Anthy kiss!) than the series.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Once again, the original Japanese voices pull off some great performances with Tomoko Kawakami stealing the show as Utena. As far as the English dub cast is concerned, they all pull off great performances as Leah Applebaum (as Nanami) never failing to be hilarious. The music for both the TV series and the movie are just so breathtakingly lovely that it never gets old. Even the dueling song is awesome.

EXTRAS: A+
This DVD Set 3 not only contains The Apocalypse Saga on four DVDs but it also includes the Adolescence of Utena movie and a sixth disc with a generous number of extras for both the TV series as well as the movie. The best extra on the sixth DVD is the Interview with Cast & Crew that includes 10 short interviews with the likes of Director Kunihiko Ikuhara, Yuriko Fuchizaki (voice of Anthy), Mandy Bonhomie (voice of Jury) and Roxanne Beck (who voices Utena and sings a song for us) among others. For the movie, there’s even a Behind the Scenes feature where Director Ikuhara came to New York to oversee the English dub recording session.

Also included in the sixth disc are original trailers and TV spots for the series as well as the movie. The fourth disc of the series contains a rare audio commentary track for the final three episodes with Director Ikuhara and Utena manga artist Chiho Saito. Then there’s the 129-page soft cover book that contains artwork, interviews and thoughts on the series by the cast and crew,

OVERALL: A+
The Apocalypse Saga reaches a gratifying and emotional finale that makes this third and final chapter just as unforgettable as the other two sagas. Add the feature-length film that captured the feel of the series and the manga just right and you have a DVD Set 3 that is the perfect addition to your collection. Utena, Revolutionary Girl is the kind of series that just doesn’t get old and if you pick this one up you will see why.

Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Volume 1 Limited Edition Box Set – Blu-Ray/DVD Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: Aniplex of America
MSRP: $94.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Adventure
Rating: 13 UP
Release Date: February 14, 2012

If you weren’t a fan of magical girl shows, you will be after this one.

Admittedly, most of the girls in this office love the magical girls theme and we even have favorites whether it’s Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha or even the classic Sailor Moon but we have seen a few others that have fallen victim to the same wand-waving cookie cutter pattern as well. Well, magical girl fans, Aniplex of America have given us a magical girls series that will rekindle your love for the genre in a big way with its Limited Edition Box Set of Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Covering the first four episodes of the series in a collectible edition, Puella Magi Madoka Magica – or just Madoka Magica – is a magical girl series with an artistic visual style and a story that is both surprising and compelling. You see, we are introduced to a cute girl named Madoka Kaname, an eighth grader in Mitakihara Middle School with a charming little family that consists of a stay-at-home dad and a young but successful mother as well as an adorable baby brother. She considers herself very average and often tells others that she’s not a great student nor does she have any redeemable qualities or talents.

Oh, but Madoka has some pretty bizarre dreams like the one she has about being lost in a most unusual labyrinth only to find herself witnessing a battle between a girl her age and a foe that is even stranger than their surroundings. There’s even an unusual cat-like creature in her dream. When she wakes up and goes to school with her two best friends, Hitomi and Sayaka, Madoka discovers that the new transfer student named Homura Akemi is the same girl from her dream!

While the idea of Homura being the girl she seen in her dream is absurd, it turns out that Homura does recognize Madoka and tells the girl that if she treasures her life, friends and family that she should stay the same no matter what. Ok, cryptic message aside, Madoka and her friend Sayaka decide to ignore Homura who doesn’t seem to like both girls. As fate would have it, however, a trip to the mall changes the lives of both girls forever.

You see, Madoka hears a voice in her head crying for help when she encounters the same cat-like creature from her dreams being hunted down by none other than Homura in a magical girl outfit. The creature happens to be called Kyubey who speaks telepathically and it happens to accompany another girl who shows up in time just as the world around them changes in a strange way. This other girl is a magical girl named Mami Tomoe who uses her magical girl abilities to get them out of the strange labyrinth by defeating a witch.

Both Madoka and Sayaka learn much about the world of magical girls from Mami who also attends their school. A kind-hearted girl who lives alone, Mami has an interesting past that become even more interesting when she made a contract with Kyubey. As a matter of fact, Kyubey wants Madoka and Sayaka to make a contract with him to become magical girls. As Mami points out, the benefit of becoming a magic girl is that they are granted a single wish no matter how impossible that wish might be. The downside is that these magical girls must fight a deadly battle against witches.

The offer to become magical girls is a big one and both girls start to weigh the benefits versus the dangers of becoming one. For Sayaka there’s a boy named Kyosuke who she visits often in the hospital where he is a patient but what motivation does Madoka have for becoming a magical girl? Little does she know that Mami sees something special in Madoka and so does Homura.

Fate does have a way of nudging a person in the right direction but this nudge is more like a violent push that puts Madoka and Sayaka in the line of danger. She and Sayaka had witnessed a witch hunt and its aftermath involving a magical item but what happens when Mami finally shows up to help the two girls leads to a shocking chain of events that pushes both Sayaka and Madoka towards their fate.

I will say no more since it will ruin the surprises and exciting cliffhanger but know that by the end of the fourth episode of this first volume you will definitely be looking forward to the next volume. It certainly packs a lot of story in just four episodes. Madoka Magica certainly manages to tell a great story while adding its own unique twist in its visual style. The Labyrinth is delightfully twisted visual treat and its colorful animation is quite stunning and even more so on Blu-ray.

The Limited Edition Box Set makes for an excellent collector’s item since it contains more than enough juicy extras such as a third disc that’s actually a CD consisting of the wonderful soundtrack. There’s also booklet, two-sided mini-poster and postcards plus stickers. The price tag, unfortunately, might not fit everyone’s budget but if you do have the money you really will find much to love about this set.

Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is, by far, one of the more visually stunning and delightfully remarkable magic girls series to come along and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that there are a number of great ones already available. However, Madoka Magica casts a convincing and compelling spell that makes its magic worth admiring. Sure it’s a very pricey package for only four episodes but trust me when I say that the series will make you a big fan and you will kick yourself for missing out on this Limited Edition Box Set.

BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
After waking up from a bizarre dream involving a mysterious girl battling a strange entity, Madoka meets the new transfer student who happens to be the same girl. Suddenly, Madoka is introduced to the world of magical girls who hunt witches as she and her friend, Sayaka, are given the choice to become magical girls in exchange for a wish. However, a single event changes everything for both girls.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Madoka Magica is simply a stunning-looking anime series with an intriguing visual style when it comes to the witch hunts. The DVD version looks great but the Blu-ray version is – naturally – the way this series was meant to be enjoyed.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice cast is top notch for both language tracks and while I favor Aoi Yuki as Madoka but the English dub cast has talents like Christina Vee, Carrie Savage, Kyle Hebert and Christine Marie Cabanos that do a great job. Then there’s the music by Yuki Kajiura that’s excellent and great opening theme song from ClariS and even better closing theme song from Kalafina that is a favorite in this office.

EXTRAS: A+
The Limited Edition Box Set is a Must Have item if ever there was one especially since the third disc in this set is the soundtrack CD composed of the brilliant music from this series. On top of that awesome extra there’s the fact that it includes both the Blu-ray and the DVD version and the slipcase is downright cute. The discs themselves contain trailers for the series, the textless opening and the music video of the closing theme song “Magia” by Kalafina.

Also includes in this set is a 24-page booklet with artwork, interviews with the voice cast and an even cuter 4-panel “Comic Theater” by aokiume that is a fun read just like the rest of the booklet. There’s even a two-sided mini-poster with the key characters, Kyubey stickers and a few “Preview Illustration” postcards featuring the artwork seen in the Previews screen in the end of each episode.

OVERALL: A+
By far one of the more artistically stunning and refreshingly enjoyable magical girl series to come along in a long time, Volume 1 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is simply one series you should not miss especially if you’ve given up hope on the magical girl theme. Come for the gorgeous animation and appealing characters and stay for the well-written story. You will definitely not be disappointed.

Review copy provided by Aniplex of America

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, The Movie & Eizou Hakusho – DVD Review

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 195 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

The Spirit Detective is back and while this adventure is short it is definitely a ride well worth taking.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files is one of those iconic anime series that has a loyal fan following for a number of reasons so it came to no surprise when FUNimation brought us the recent re-release on Blu-ray. However, fans of the Spirit Detective know that the collection is not complete without the movie (technically there are two) or the OVA and Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, The Movie & Eizo Hakusho brings us both in a two-disc package.

As a huge fan, it’s great to find the movie and OVA in one package and you have to love the inclusion of Nightmare Hakusho, which I will get into in a minute. First, however, we should start with the main feature, which is the movie that clocks in about 25 minutes but what it lacks in running time it more than makes up for with a story that is just loads of fun to watch. It even reunites the English dub cast from past FUNimation releases of the series.

THE MOVIE

The lovely “grim reaper” known as Botan is in desperate need of Yusuke Urameshi’s help only to find the Spirit Detective and his once rival, Kuwabara, about to slug it out with an entire gang. Once she gets his attention, however, she gives him the news that – while sunbathing in a beach filled with demons – Koenma is kidnapped by a hideous giant named Garuga who makes a most unusual demand. If they want Koenma back in one piece, they should bring him the Gold Seal in the Valley of Magma by sundown.

Unfortunately, the Gold Seal is a tool that King Yama uses to pass judgment on the dead so – in the wrong hands – it could very well spell doom for the Demon Realm and the Living World. Once again, Yusuke gathers his allies that include Kurama, Hiei and Kuwabara to join him on a mission to save Koenma who comes to realize that Garuga isn’t the mastermind behind the kidnapping.

Meanwhile, Yusuke takes the Gold Seal to secure Koenma’s release only to run into other demons who can practically smell the seal on the Spirit Detective. So now Yusuke and the others have to deal with a new set of problems that make way for one seriously exciting and action-filled moments that lead up to a grand finale. Overall, this short film plays up the comedy and action in ways that make it seem like a really good filler episode from the series so trust me when I say that that movie alone is worth the price of admission.

NIGHTMARE HAKUSHO

Also included in the set is Nightmare Hakusho, an entertaining feature that has Yusuke having a bad dream involving a naked Master Genkai (yikes) only to wake up and find that he’s married to none other than Botan and this his bosses that are coming over their little love nest is none other than Kurama and Hiei. Things get even stranger when Yusuke wakes up yet again and find himself in the middle of a war with Kuwabara as a commanding officer.

The nightmare doesn’t stop there as more characters that show up like an evil Keiko and Shizuru pop up in the dream making this Inception-like feature a very unusual and very entertaining. It’s just great to see the Yu Yu Hakusho characters in such unusual setting and roles.

EIZOU HAKUSHO

The second disc contains Eizou Hakusho, a sort of six-episode OVA that covers key moments in Yusuke and his friends’ lives such as the Dark Tournament, the battle with Sensui and finally the tournament in the Demon Realm in the final episodes of the series. The episodes are featured in their original Japanese language track but it’s still a blast to see this “best of” clips from the series’ key major events that begin with Yusuke taking on Chu in the Dark Tournament as Kuwabara, Hiei, Kurama and the Masked Fighter take on their opponents during the tournament.

The rest of this feature is composed of chapters starting with the Yusuke Chapter, Kurama Chapter, Kuwabara Chapter and the Hiei Chapter that look into these four characters’ best battles and personal moments. For example, the Kurama Chapter covers Kurama’s battles in the Demon Realm but also touch on his past as we see why he joined forces with one of the demon rulers.

There are even a number of extras included in the two-disc set such as the rarely seen Anti-Piracy clips with updated dialogue from the English voice cast that’s great to hear. One of the best extras comes in the form of the Opening & Closing Encyclopedia that basically inserts even rarer small scenes before or after the opening and closing animations. In one such scene, during the Dark Tournament, an interviewer finds Team Urameshi in a dark mood. Then, in yet another, Yusuke invites his friends to eat at his foot stand. My favorite is a scene between Hiei and Yukina that is something of a continuation of the final episode.

Without a doubt, The Movie and Eizou Hakusho collection for Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files is strictly for the fans and turns out to be quite a worthwhile collection that should be in any Yu Yu Hakusho’s library. Sure, the movie is short but it’s the icing on a cake that fans will happily devour while Eizou Hakusho is the cherry on top. If you’re not familiar with the series, I suggest picking up the four season sets before even considering checking out this collection because it certainly doesn’t make room for introductions. If you are a fan, however, you cannot go wrong buying this one.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
In the movie, Botan goes to Yusuke for help after she hears of Koenma’s kidnapping by the hands of a giant while enjoying some fun in the sun. Once again, Yusuke gathers his friends to save Koenma and the Spirit Realm. In Nightmare Hakusho, Yusuke’s has a dream-within-a-dream nightmare and, in Eizou Hakusho, we witness Yusuke at his best during the Dark Tournament.

VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The movie as well as Nightmare Hakusho and Eizou Hakusho look just as good as they did back in the day, although this collection could have been even more awesome if it got the same Blu-ray treat as the recent high-def release.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original English dub voice cast is back for this release so you’ll find Justin Cook, Laura Bailey, Chuck Huber and Christopher Sabat reprising their roles along with other familiar voices. Even the original score can be found as well as the various opening and closing theme songs from the series as well. As for Eizou Hakusho, however, it’s in its original Japanese.

EXTRAS: A
You can say that these two discs are made up of nothing but extras that accompany the main this that is the entire four season series. On top of the movie and Eizou Hakusho, there are FUNimation trailers, a vintage trailer for the series, the clean opening and closing theme songs as well as six Anti-Piracy clips with the original English dub cast. Then there’s Nightmare Hakusho and the Opening & Ending Encyclopedia that inserts rare and interesting scenes in-between each opening and closing animation.

OVERALL: B+
Simply put, no Yu Yu Hakusho fan will want to be without this 2-disc collector’s item that is made up of short but worthwhile features. Sure, the movie is just as long as a typical episode but it a real blast to watch while the rest are extras that no fan of the series should miss. Now if FUNimation could get their hands on Yu Yu Hakusho the Movie: Poltergeist Report our collection would be truly complete.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Volume 1 Premium Edition – Blu-Ray/DVD Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $69.99 US
Running Time: 273 minutes
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rating: E (Everyone)
Release Date: Available Now

Sometimes it’s the quiet ones that are the sweetest people you will ever meet.

Sure it’s a cliché but you really can’t judge a book by its cover as things and people have the tendency to take you completely by surprise. Take Sawako Kuronuma, for example. She looks like she came right out of that popular horror movie, “The Ring” but take a closer look and you’ll find somebody who is helpful and genuinely sweet who is longing to be liked. Sawako is one of the reasons you will fall in love with Volume 1 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You.

As I mentioned above, Sawako is seriously misunderstood in her school what with the rumors swirling around her that one glance from her will give you bad luck for three days or that she can summon ghosts. She so looks like the vengeful spirit of “The Ring” called Sadako that that’s what they call the poor girl. But deep down inside she’s a girl who wishes to be surrounded by friends and to be liked instead of feared. She is so kindhearted that she tries to do at least one good deed a day. Unfortunately, every time she tries to smile or even talk to somebody, they all run away.

That all changes the day the most popular boy in school, a cutie named Shota Kazehaya, talks to her without fear. Kazehaya comes off as encouraging and – for reasons Sawako only understands – kind towards her to the point that others begin to notice their constant interactions. In fact, it catches the attention of the school’s toughest girls who have quite a reputation (but more on that later). Thanks to Kazehaya inviting Sawako to a “bravery competition” over the summer, these girls named Ayane Yano and Chizuru Yoshida become friendly towards her.

Suddenly, Sawako has something that she didn’t think she would ever have … friends. Very slowly, Sawako’s reputation for cursing anyone that looked at her or summoning ghosts is disappearing from the minds of most students. In fact, they come to rely on her wonderful note-taking ability and the fact that she gets good grades. However, many of the girls in school do not like the fact that Sawako is becoming very close to Kazehaya who most have sworn not to chase after … hence his nickname “Everyone’s Kazehaya.”

Soon, the girls spread wild rumors about Sawako’s friendship with Chizuru and Ayane. These are rumors that both rough girls begin to wonder and worry about since they genuinely like Sawako and want to be close to the girl. When they overhear a conversation between Sawako and another classmate, they draw the wrong conclusion and believe that Sawako doesn’t even see them as friends. This, in turns, makes things so awkward and confusing to Sawako that she believes the rumors and stays away from both girls and Kazehaya.

However, Sawako comes to the realization that in order to keep the things you have come to love you must fight for it and she does just that. It is Kazehaya, Chizuru and Ayane that has shown her a world she had always longed for and the girl stands up for their friendship. Suddenly, Chizuru and Ayane come to understand the truth about the way Sawako feels about them as does Kazehaya who roots for her all the way.

It is through these three characters – plus their friend and classmate, Ryu Sanada – that Sawako’s life truly begins to change for the better. She becomes a big part of their lives and begins to hang out with them while Sawako comes to learn of other feels within her that are centered on Kazehaya. They come to talk more and while both are awkward around each another, they both have a mutual respect for one another. They even share a secret involving a scrappy and cute puppy.

Just as everything seems to be going great for Sawako, the Sports Festival brings up two problems. One, she’s bad at sports and can’t even kick a soccer ball and the second being the very attractive idol-like Ume Kurumizawa. Ume comes off as sweet and kind towards Sawako but it becomes clear that the girl has an ulterior motive that becomes clear during the festival. Suddenly, Sawako finds herself with a rival for the most important person in her life.

If you’ve been following our reviews of the manga version, you know that we love Karuho Shiina’s artwork but – most importantly – her great sense of humor. Sawako doesn’t come off as a sugary sweet character but rather a well-rounded one with obvious flaws and a likeable spirit that you can’t help but root for the girl. The same can be said about the rest of the cast of characters who aren’t cardboard cutouts. We love that Chizuru and Ayane have a troubled and hilarious past but they’re also emotional and (in the case of Chizuru) funny as hell. There are even a number of memorable scenes scattered throughout this series that are funny as well as endearing.

Then there’s the animation that is simply stunning and more so on Blu-ray as well as the standout performances by the likes of Mamiko Noto, Yuko Sanpei and Daisuke Namikawa that make this a series with a lot to offer visually and performance-wise.

Volume 1 of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You is an engaging and overwhelmingly likeable shoujo tale that doesn’t do anything particularly unique but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for with a lot of heart. In fact, it’s charming characters, genuinely funny moments, gorgeous animation and a story that takes its time in developing relationships makes this series one that will not fail to turn you into a fan from the very beginning. Buy this one right away, you will not regret it one bit.

BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Sawako is the sweetest girl you’d ever meet but the students at her high school are afraid of her because she resembles the ghostly apparition straight out of a horror film. That all changes when Kazehaya, a popular boy in the school, starts talking to her and helps her improve the way people see her. Suddenly, Sawako finds herself making friends, gaining a rival and discovers feelings she never knew existed as she comes to know more about Kazehaya.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The Blu-ray version is the best way to really enjoy this series seeing as the animation in this series is simply stunning with vibrantly gorgeous backgrounds that look water colored and characters that are true to Karuho Shiina’s manga. Even her cute expressions are hilarious in motion.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Like most NIS America anime offerings, there is no dub to be found but it’s nothing to complain about considering the fact that the Japanese voice cast – Mamiko Noto (voice of Sawako), in particular – is simply outstanding. The opening theme song is good but we love the closing theme song the most and the score is what you would expect from a shoujo anime series.

EXTRAS: A
We are so loving that NIS America is including the Blu-ray and DVD versions in the same Premium Edition package. As far as extras are concerned, all you will find are the clean opening and closing animations on the discs. The big collector’s item, of course, is the hardcover book entitled “My Memories” with art from the series as well as character profiles.

OVERALL: A-
A charming and delightfully engaging shoujo series, Volume 1 of Kimi ni Todoke doesn’t do anything particularly new but at least it handles the story beautifully and contains all the right elements that make us fans of the genre in the first place. You’ll find yourself very easily swept along for the ride and love every second of this series while cheering on a truly endearing main character.

Review copy provided by NIS America