FUNimation Sneak Peek Panel – Anime Expo 2012

 

FUNimation held a quick Sneak Peek panel that covered not only recent releases such as Cat Planet Cuties, Season 3 (and the upcoming Season 4) of Hetalia Axis Powers and even Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos but also some new upcoming titles and a few that come straight from their Geneon acquisition. Oh yeah, there was also a big announcement at the end that will definitely make many anime fans happy.

Here is but a taste of what we can come to expect from FUNimation this year. Just keep in mind that more announcements will be made during their official panel tomorrow.

Ergo Proxy, The Complete Series – Straight out of the Geneon vaults, this classic anime series will be released as part of FUNimation’s Anime Classics line. Expect it to be released on August 28, 2012.

Texhnolyze, The Complete Series – Another Geneon title FUNimation will be releasing soon as an Anime Classic and believe me when I say that it is definitely a series you will want to check out for its mature and awesome storytelling. Expect this one in stores and your favorite online retailer on August 28, 2012.

Ai Yori Aoshi, The Complete Series – Yet another Geneon classic that is straight up, old-school harem anime fun. Expect this one to be released on July 24 of this year.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

FUNimation will be brining us Season One and Season Two of Shakugan no Shana as well as the Movie in a DVD + Blu-ray Combo Pack. Although no trailer or preview was shown, those familiar with this series will now be able to see it with an English dub cast that includes Brina Palencia, Greg Ayres, Patrick Seitz and Brittney Karbowski just to name some of the talents involved with this project. Shakaugan no Shana has a release date of August 21, 2012.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If this is but a small taste of what we can come to expect from FUNimation during Anime Expo 2012 then anime fans are in for a great year and some amazing titles that will surely make our money disappear yet still keep us smiling. Expect more surprises tomorrow.

– Felicia Day

Gintama: The Movie – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $39.98 US
Running Time: 95 minutes
Genre: Action/Sci-fi
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

There will be blood … and a man in a bird costume named Elizabeth.

If you’re not familiar with Gintama then you seriously missed out on a quirky and different kind of samurai anime and manga series that introduces a different kind of Edo period. Imagine the era only with an alien invasion having changed the face of the world and Japan in general as old world Japan meets advanced alien technology that mixes things up in the most strangest of way. It’s no wonder Japan needs a jack of all trades like Odd Jobs Gin as the Sentai Filmworks brings us Gintama: The Movie and on Blu-ray, no less.

Here’s a warning: the movie does not go through the trouble to introduce you to the characters nor will it explain the events that occurred throughout the main story of the series so it makes it clear that this movie is targeted at the fans of the series. It does, however, briefly explain the fact that the “Land of the Samurai” has changed because of an alien invader named Amanto who has made a puppet out of the Edo Shogunate and thus sparking the Expulsion War against all foreigners.

Oh yeah, and the cast makes it very clear that it’s been five long years since the 2005 Jump Festa Anime Tour so they’re thrilled that the movie made it to the big screen and – as we find out more than once – brought to us by the good folks at Warner Bros. Pictures. They even run the Warner Bros. logo three times just to let that fact sink in nicely.

The movie finds Edo in some troubled times as a serial killer has been said to slaughter wandering samurai. This does not seem to worry Kotaro Katsura, a Loyalist who fought in the Expulsion War and alongside the famed White Knight otherwise known as Gintoki Sakata. Unfortunately for Katsura, though, he does run into the serial killer late that night who pulls out a most unusual sword that seems to gleam a color similar to the pedals of a cherry blossom. Despite being a talented swordsman, Katsura just isn’t a match against the sword wielded by a very familiar face.

After a body is discovered by the police, the Special Police of Shinsengumi Garrison makes an interesting discovery as well. It seems that the most dangerous ronin of them all, Shinsuke Takasugi, is still in Edo. On top of that, it seems that Shinsuke has assembled a very dangerous bunch that includes Nizo Okada, a sexy gunslinger named Matako Kajima, the genius strategist, Henpeita Takechi and a samurai named Bansai Kawakami. With a crew like this, who knows what Shinsuke is capable of or planning?

Meanwhile, in the offices of Odd Jobs Gin, an odd man in a bird suit shows up. It calls itself Elizabeth and although it only speaks through a number of signs he carries around, it is clear that Elizabeth is here about the murder of Katsura. Gintoki Sakata’s two associates, the perky yet scarily capable Kagura, and the reliable Shinpachi decide to take the case that will have them going up against the serial killer.

Meanwhile, Gin answers a summons from a potential client who happens to be a sword smith named Tetsuya who is something of a loud talker. Along with his sister, Tetsuko, the pair wants Gin to find a special sword that was made by their father that just happened to have been stolen not too long ago. It sounds easy enough; however, Tetsuko mentions that the sword (called the Benizakura or the Awesome Cherry Blossom) happens to be a cursed sword, which is not so awesome.

While Kagura and Shinpachi investigate Elizabeth’s case along with their giant-sized pup, Sadaharu, Gin is attacked by none other than Nizo the Killer who happens to possess the very sword he is searching for with a most unusual gleam to its blade. It becomes clear to Gin that the sword isn’t cursed but something else altogether alien. Before he can discover more, Gin’s battle with Nizo quickly becomes one-sided. It’s a good thing that Shinpachi is nearby.

In the meantime, Kagura follows a clue to the port where she encounters Shinsuke and battles the gunslinger, Matako who is quickly annoyed by the other girl’s taunts and the fact that her own companion has a Lolita fetish so he isn’t much help in the fight. Despite her impossibly incredible strength and amazing fighting ability, Kagura is taken prisoner and, comically, continues to torment Matako who goads the gunslinger into a spitting match.

With Gin recovering from his battle with Nizo, Shinpachi and Elizabeth locates the ship where they are holding Kagura and stages a rescue as members of Katsura’s clan decides to get revenge for the murder of their Lord. What results is a massive and bloody battle as Shinsuke sets his own crew loose as Gin takes it upon himself to face off against Shinsuke and Nizo the Killer as he discovers the truth behind the sword and its maker.

Clocking in about 95 minutes long, the movie manages to add more than enough action and story to keep things exciting. It’s also great to see the series’ brand of quirky comedic elements that – in this case – center on duo of Elizabeth and Shinpachi that practically steals the show. Add the fact that the movie also gives us a peek into Gin’s past, including scenes of him as a child taking in the wisdom of his sensei. It’s great stuff and it adds a little more dimension to his character. Even the animation in the series is impressive and it certainly lovely enough to warrant a Blu-ray release.

Gintama: The Movie is a refreshingly original and outrageously entertaining animated film that is exactly what Gintama fans would expect from the series. It’s great to see returning characters show up and with plenty of twists and turns you will find yourself caught up in the sci-fi samurai goodness that made the main series so darn fun. While it does nothing to accommodate those new to the series, those who do know the story and characters should definitely pick this one up right away.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
In the wake of an alien invasion during Japan’s Edo era, much has changed in the country as a serial killer with a very familiar face kills Kotaro Katsura. Odd Jobs Gin suddenly gets some business as the mysterious Elizabeth (some dude in a bird suit?) hires the staff to look into Katsura’s murder while a swordsmith and his sister hires Gintoki to recover a power sword that might fall into the wrong hands especially since the most dangerous ronin, Shinsuke, has put together an impressive crew.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation in this movie fits right in with the series and it looks even better on Blu-ray, which is definitely the way to enjoy this movie, Gintama fans. You’ll come for the snazzy visual effects and awesome battles but stay for the over-the-top crazy sight gags that are directed at Elizabeth.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
You’ll have quite a decision on your hands such as whether to watch the movie in its original Japanese voice track, which is my personal favorite way to watch it thanks to the great performances, or the solid English dub cast that includes the always great Luci Christian, Chris Patton and Blake Shepard just to name a long list of amazing voice actors. Then there’s the music that is just perfect.

EXTRAS: D
There are no real extras to speak of except for some Sentai Filmworks trailers and the fact that this movie can be found on Blu-ray. We would have really loved an audio commentary track from the cast for this movie.

OVERALL: A
Strictly for the die-hard fans, Gintama: The Movie is what you call a guaranteed good time that not only does justice to the series but also manages to be spectacularly outrageous in the best possible way. With plenty of bloody samurai battles mixed in with the series’ zany sense of humor and sci-fi elements, this is certainly not your average animated feature film and thus deserves to be seen and more so if you’re a fan of the series.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

Blue Exorcist, Volume 4 – DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: Aniplex of America
MSRP: $37.48 US
Running Time: 150 minutes
Genre: Action/Supernatural
Rating: 13 UP
Release Date: Available Now

The war against Satan has begun but will Satan’s own sons be enough to stop him?

Blue Exorcist is one of those shonen anime series that you cannot help but liking from the very beginning and despite the fact that it has elements that are familiar to the genre it marches to the beat of its own drum, which is definitely a good thing. So how does a story that began in the most exciting way end it’s 25-episode run? Well, let’s just say that Volume 4 of Blue Exorcist will have you on the edge of your seat. I mean, how many anime series do you know that have you rooting for the sons of Satan?

Volume 3 heated things up in a major way as not only have Rin Okumura’s classmates and friends found out he’s Satan’s offspring but now his younger brother, Yukio, is showing signs that he’s not quite human himself. It wasn’t easy to accept a son of the devil in their class but Rin’s friends know that the young man has a good heart and has hatred for Satan that is matches their own. However, not everyone welcomes him with open arms like Igor Noihaus – a renegade Exorcist who has targeted Rin purely out of hatred for Satan.

That is why, in Volume 4, Rin and Yukio believe that Noihaus might be behind a vicious and strange attack on the monks of the monastery where both boys grew up. While the monks are still alive, they’re wrapped in spider webbing and the culprit left a message in Polish, which is Noihaus’ native tongue. However, after Rin chases a masked assailant who can produce webbing much like Spider-Man and Yukio runs into Noihaus, the boys come to the obvious conclusion that Noihaus has a partner. Then again, Noihaus denies being involved with the attack on the monks.

Meanwhile, the Vatican sends Arthur Auguste Angel with an arrest warrant for Mephisto for suspicion of being involved in researching artificial life. That has certainly come at a bad time since the masked web-slinger invades the boys’ dormitory of the True Cross Academy grounds and hold Rin’s friends as hostages unless he shows up. While Rin wants to aid his friends, the busty Shura gives him a quick training lesson that could help him control his blue flames.

While Rin rushes off to confront the masked attacker, Yukio has been called upon by a Vatican official to meet with a Vatican priest named Ernst Frederik Egin who claims to be his and Rin’s grandfather by way of their mother. What he reveals to Yukio is convincing enough for Yukio to blindly take his place by his grandfather’s side as he reveals his plan to destroy Satan’s realm of Gehenna using a secret weapon that is sure to pull off this feat. It is clear that he is also behind Mephisto’s arrest and the removal of the Grigori.

Back in the True Cross Academy grounds, the masked intruder manages to escape a battle against Rin and ends up in Shiemi’s gorgeous garden. The identity of the intruder is revealed as well as the connection to Noihaus and it becomes clear to Shiemi that this person isn’t bad at all. However, this doesn’t mean anything to Arthur and his men who arrive. Unexpectedly, Rin shows up and stands in Arthur’s way defending the intruder. In the end, both Noihaus and the intruder’s fate end unexpectedly.

Just when things finally calm down, however, Rin and his friends discover that there’s a new Pope and it is Ernst who makes Yukio the new Preceptor of True Cross Academy in Mephisto’s place. The new order of the Pope is to begin an operation called Jacob’s Ladder that calls for the extermination of all demons no matter how small and insignificant. Even the young Academy students are given unusual guns to carry out the operation that – to all of them – just seems like mass murder.

All of this leads to a ritual that involves Rin being a sort of sacrificial lamb to carry out the plan to open the gateway between the living world and Satan’s world. To Yukio’s horror, however, this ritual would mean the end of his brother instead of what his grandfather had promised. On top of that, Satan shows up to confront them all in a climactic showdown that you must really see for yourself. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Yukio’s true self is revealed as well as is Satan’s real plan.

Speaking of Satan, it is in this collection of episodes that we meet Rin and Yukio’s mother, a young woman named Yuri who Father Fujimoto – the priest who raised both boys – knew very well. We discover who Yuri was but also how she has come to meet and become involved with Satan. Her story is short, fascinating and tragic and is one of the highlights of this final chapter. It is but part of what makes Blue Exorcist, as a whole, an absorbing series to watch.

As far as finales are concerned, Volume 4 of Blue Exorcist makes for a fitting end that is both riveting and engaging to the point that you will not want this series to end. Blue Exorcist is one of those fun anime series that hit all the right notes to create an engaging series worth watching. If you have been following this series, then this volume deserves to be in your collection right away.

BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Rin and Yukio head back home to the monastery where they were raised only to find the monks wrapped in webbing and as they pursue this mystery attacker they go up against Noihaus one last time. Meanwhile, Yukio is approached by a Vatican priest who not only claims to be his and Rin’s grandfather but also has Yukio join his cause to launch a major attack against Satan in an astonishing final battle.

VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The series has always sported some gorgeous animation with flashy visual effects and solid action sequences. If it looks this good on DVD it would look amazing on Blu-ray if Aniplex decides to give it the BD treatment.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
Thanks to a brilliant voice cast, the series contains some impressive performances with Nobuhiko Okamoto being on to very top of that impressive cast list. On top of that, the original score is perfect and the opening and closing theme songs have been awesome.

EXTRAS: B
This being the final volume we would have expected a little more but it’s hard to complain when the Ura-Ex bonus movies are actually fun to watch. You’ll also find the clean opening and closing animation as well as the Web Version previews. Blue Exorcist fans will also love the 2-sided mini-poster as well as the 2-sided reversible cover for the DVD box.

OVERALL: A-
Volume 4 of Blue Exorcist does not disappoint in the very least and even more so when it reaches its intense and satisfying climax that will give fans an ending that is fitting to the series. As far as shonen action series are concerned, Blue Exorcist manages to be genuinely fun and action-packed without sacrificing character development so, in the end, what we have is an anime series that will quickly make a fan out of you. For those who already are fans, then this final chapter should definitely not be missed.

Review copy provided by Aniplex of America

Section23 Films Announces September Slate

          

PERSONA 4 Available on September 18th

HOUSTON, June 19, 2012 – Home video distributor Section23 Films today announced its September slate of releases; including the red-hot new series PERSONA 4 the Animation. Based on the hit game franchise, PERSONA 4 will be released on DVD & BLU-RAY by Section23 client, Sentai Filmworks.

Product details follow, in order of release

Coming September 2012

Title: INTRIGUE IN THE BAKUMATSU ~ IROHANIHOHETO COLLECTION 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 9/4/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: In the final years of the Bakumatsu, wandering mercenary Yojiro Akizuki travels the length and breadth of Japan. And while he employs his sword in the usual fashion, he also uses it help him locate supernatural items which he pursues with single-minded determination, often with bloody results. In the course of his quest, he crosses paths with a traveling theater group whose members have their own dark agenda. Is it a chance meeting or the result of some, as yet, undiscovered conspiracy? Swords will swing and sorcery make itself felt in Intrigue in the Bakumatsu ~ Irohanihoheto Collection 1!

Title: INTRIGUE IN THE BAKUMATSU ~ IROHANIHOHETO COLLECTION 1 BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 9/4/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: In the final years of the Bakumatsu, wandering mercenary Yojiro Akizuki travels the length and breadth of Japan. And while he employs his sword in the usual fashion, he also uses it help him locate supernatural items which he pursues with single-minded determination, often with bloody results. In the course of his quest, he crosses paths with a traveling theater group whose members have their own dark agenda. Is it a chance meeting or the result of some, as yet, undiscovered conspiracy? Swords will swing and sorcery make itself felt in Intrigue in the Bakumatsu ~ Irohanihoheto Collection 1!

Title: PSYCHIC SQUAD COLLECTION 3
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 325 min.
Street Date: 9/4/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Between training and field experience, the abilities of the three girls in the esper team “The Children” have continued to expand and diversify. However, as Aoi, Kaoru and Shiho keep learning new ways to apply and utilize their powers, it soon becomes obvious that the real question is not how they use their powers, but rather what they might use them for. With sinister organizations like P.A.N.D.R.A. and its teams of espers as an example, and capabilities that are already far beyond those of any normal human, are they becoming TOO powerful? But if that’s so, why is Ichirou Tanizaki suddenly teaching the girls how to understand the way that criminals think? And just what is this secret mission that Koichi has left on without them? Are they lambs being intentionally led astray, or are they closely watched wolves in good girls’ clothing? And whether they’re really heroes or prisoners, their already chaotic existences are about to be shaken to the core once again as a new psychic force enters their world in PSYCHIC SQUAD- COLLECTION 3!

Title CLUSTER EDGE COLLECTION 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 9/11/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Cluster Edge Academy isn’t just any school; it’s THE school, where the offspring of the elite come together to prepare for their roles running a world where artificial soldiers and religious sects are major factors in the battle for total control. Which may be part of why new transfer student Agate Fluorite doesn’t quite seem to fit in. It’s not just that Agate’s enthusiastic attitude stands out among the somber, brooding balance of the student body. There’s something about him that demands notice, even from jaded honors students like Beryl Jasper, and from the moment of arrival he’s been at the center of a series of mysteries that not even Agate understands. Because Agate’s not just another student, he’s part of a something so momentous, and dangerous, that the world that built Cluster Edge may not survive its passing. And while it may take a miracle to survive the deadly forces already in motion against him, Agate may just be able to produce one in CLUSTER EDGE – COLLECTION ONE!

Title: UFO ULTRAMAIDEN COLLECTION
Published by: ADV FILMS
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 670 min.
Street Date: 9/11/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Valkyrie is a member of the Intergalagtic Royal Family of Valhalla. She is elegant, beautiful and a really bad driver. She crashes her spaceship right through the roof of the Tokino bathhouse and onto the head of its owner, Kazuto. To save his life, Valkyrie gives up half of her very soul. Oddly enough, it works! Katzuto is resurrected! But, there’s one small side effect: Valkyrie. She has transformed into half her age. She’s cute, cuddly and nutty as a pit-bull. (And then things start to get weird.) Valkyrie and Kazuto fall in love. Housekeeping cat girl Ms. Sanada is sent to protect Vakyrie. Hydra the warrior princess has some size issues. Princess Laine has some shopping issues. Earthly sweetheart Akina has some emotional issues. And, Valkryie’s dog Spot has some issue issues. So grab a towel and take a dip into the silly, sexy space-romp – UFO Ultramaiden. It’s time to answer the age-old question of the universe – does size matter?

Title: ALLISON & LILLIA COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 650 min.
Street Date: 9/18/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: On a world literally split in half by mountains and rivers, a series of wars have been waging for longer than history can remember, with the latest incarnation now in its 130th year of continuous conflict! But when a hastily staged rescue attempt launches fighter pilot Allison and marksman and bibliophile Wil into the middle of the action, it initiates an incredible chain of events that could possibly end the wars forever! But Allison and Wil can’t do it all alone, and sometimes the torch has to be passed to the least likely of heroes. So when Lillia, the daughter of two war heroes, goes off on a vacation, the last thing she’s expecting is to have to rescue planeloads of orphans, dodge assassins and unravel a network of twisting plots and secret identities! But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and even if her boyfriend is literally turning out to be a royal pain, Lillia’s going to stand by her prince now that he’s come! Some girls are always in the wrong place at the right time in ALLISON & LILLIA – COMPLETE COLLECTION!

Title: PERSONA 4 COLLECTION 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 9/18/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s been used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life. Or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it! Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer, or lead him to his doom. Journey into the Velvet Room and beyond as the hit PlayStation 2® game becomes a spectacular anime in PERSONA 4 Collection 1!

Title: PERSONA 4 COLLECTION 1 BLU-RAY
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 9/18/2012
Format: BD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $69.98

SYNOPSIS: When Yu Narukami moves to the country town of Inaba to stay with his uncle and cousin, he’s expecting a lot more peace and quiet than he’s been used to in the big city. What he isn’t expecting is for his uncle’s job as a police detective to spill over into his own life. Or for the murders that are occurring across town to be somehow linked to Yu’s own strange experiences, odd local weather patterns and a mysterious TV show world that seems to be attempting to get Yu to enter it! Now, together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer, or lead him to his doom. Journey into the Velvet Room and beyond as the hit PlayStation 2® game becomes a spectacular anime in PERSONA 4 Collection 1!

Title: CROISEE IN A FOREIGN LABYRINTH COMPLETE COLLECTION
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 9/25/2012
Format: DVD
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $49.98

SYNOPSIS: Revolutions always wreck mayhem and carnage, and the Industrial Revolution is no different as it engulfs Europe, leaving outmoded businesses and millions stripped of their traditional ways of life forever as its casualties. Cultural Revolutions are no less devastating, and as the 19th century comes to an end, young Yune has seen her native Japan shaken to its very core as the walls separating it from the western world have finally crumbled, sending an entire nation on a quest for a new identity. But, like the phoenix, the new is inevitably born from the ashes of the old, and when Yune decides to accompany her new acquaintance, Oscar, to Paris where his family’s metal declining shop is barely making ends meet in the face of its new competition, she may just be setting a new wave of changes into motion. Could Yune be the critical spark needed to rekindle the fires in both the hearts and minds of the Enseignes du Roy? As old worlds come to an end, new beginnings will be forged in Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth!

Title: HAKUOKI SEASON 1
Published by: Sentai Filmworks
Distributed by: Section23 Films
Run Time: 300 min.
Street Date: 9/25/2012
Format: DVD
Language: English & Japanese with English Subtitles
SRP: $59.98

SYNOPSIS: Disguised as a man, Chizuru Yukimura has come to Kyoto searching for her missing father, a doctor who developed a magical elixir that increases the drinker’s speed, strength and healing abilities. Instead of her father, however, she stumbles across a battle between the Shinsengumi and the Furies, evil vampire-like creatures of their own making. As things turn out, the Shinsengumi are also searching for her father. And when they discover who she is, they decide to take her into their custody for safe-keeping. But her sex is not the only secret Chizuru has, and as more and more Furies begin appearing in Kyoto and the situation becomes ever deadlier, the Shinsengumi may find that the Furies are the least of their problems in Hakuoki!

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.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, OVA Collection – Blu-ray/DVD Review

Review by: Felicia Day

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $24.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack)
Running Time: 60 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

Welcome to another reason Fullmetal Alchemist fans’ wallets will be thinner.

It looks like 2012 has been a good year for Fullmetal Alchemist fans seeing as this was the year the Brotherhood animated film was released and now we find ourselves looking an another Brotherhood release that includes a collection of four short OVA episodes plus 17 volumes of the hilarious Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater. Despite its short length, the OVA Collection for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood definitely has a lot to offer fans of the series.

Obviously, the OVA Collection is strictly for the fans who already know the story of the Elric brothers and those around them so don’t expect an explanation or a re-introduction of the main cast. These episodes are four individual tales that actually add more depth to some of the characters by revealing key moments in their past.

First, however, is an episode titled “The Blind Alchemist” that features Ed and Alphonse Elric as they sit in a café talking about a rumor Al heard. Rumor has it that an alchemist working exclusively for the wealthy Humbergang family has been successful in performing a human transmutation. This news is surprising and, because of their current predicament as far as their bodies are concerned, the Elric brothers see this as a sign that there might actually be a way to right the wrong that cost them Ed’s limbs and Al’s entire body. This is certainly worth investigating.

So both brothers go to the Humbergang where they aren’t exactly greeted with warmth as they go to meet the alchemist named Judeau who just so happens to be blind. Carefully guarded by the estate‘s staff, Judeau is accompanied by Mrs. Humbergang and their rambunctious daughter named Rosalie. As it turns out, Judeau is an approachable man but there’s a reason why he can’t give Ed details about pulling off a human transmutation. As they dig deeper, the truth comes out and it is completely unexpected.

Then, in the second story called “Simple People,” we witness the meeting between Winry Rockbell and Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye that we had seen in the Brotherhood series only this episode reveals the aftermath of this meeting especially the affect it has on Hawkeye. Meanwhile, Winry receives a present from Ed and Al who have come back home to Resembool. As it turns out, the present explains Winry’s earrings while it also explores a day in the life of Riza Hawkeye around Central as well as why she grew her hair long.

In the third episode, we get a glimpse of Izumi Harnet, Ed and Al’s tough-as-nails teacher, when she was 18-years old. Already a fiery woman, Izumi has traveled a long way to meet a renowned alchemist named Silver Steiner so she could become his apprentice. Although a bit long in the tooth and hard of hearing, Steiner is willing to accept her as an apprentice if she first survives one month on the icy Briggs Mountain with nothing but a knife.

While not really getting the purpose of such a challenge, Izumi accepts and finds herself regretting her decision to go through with it but she soon discovers ways of surviving that includes stealing rations from the nearby soldiers of Fort Briggs. It becomes clear during her training why Ed and Al has so much respect (and fear) of Izumi. On top of that, we also witness how Izumi met her muscular husband-to-be named Sig that involves love at first sight and a dead bear carcass.

Finally, in “Another Man’s Battlefield,” we meet an 18-year old Roy Mustang who is a military cadet at the academy who finds himself hating a group of fellow cadets that are bullying the only Ishvalan recruit named Heathcliff. It is here that he meets an upperclassman named Maes Hughes who Mustang competes against and, eventually, develops a friendship with as they bond over a fistfight with said bullies while defending Heathcliff.

Then things change a few years later during the Ishvalan war as Mustang finds himself slaughtering Ishvalans and finds himself struggling to make sense of the war itself. Then, on the battlefield, Mustang encounters Heathcliff who is shocked at the sight of the young man who had once stood up for him. How did they both suddenly find themselves on the opposite end this conflict?

While the episodes are brief in length, the content is beautifully handled to the point that you will be so absorbed by the episodes that you won’t care about the short running time. I found myself loving the fact that we got to see Izumi battle the elements near Fort Briggs, which was something that was only briefly mentioned in the anime and the manga. Also, a chance to see how Roy Mustang met and befriended Maes Hughes is another big plus in my book mainly because both these characters play such a major role in the series. Even the Ed and Al story has a deep meaning to it.

Then there’s the Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater that features animated shorts that bring to life the four-panel comics found in the end of each manga volume of the series. They’re short and silly but in the best possible way and it’s obvious that the English dub cast had a blast working on them. Here you’ll find Hughes on the phone listing to recorded hold music of Roy Mustang rapping and a short with King Bradley as a Magical Girl. With 17 volumes you will find more than enough reasons to watch the Comic Theater and love every second of it.

The OVA Collection of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood may be short but what it doesn’t have in quantity it more than makes up for in quality to the point that even casual fans of the series will be drawn in by the four tales. We’ve seen OVA collections before but this one has enough substance and surprises that it will not fail to please longtime fans of the series. Fullmetal Alchemist fans, no collection is complete without this title.

BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
In one of the four stories, Ed and Alphonse check on a rumor that an alchemist working for a wealthy family has performed a successful human transmutation. Then, in another story, we catch a glimpse of young Roy Mustang during his days as a military academy cadet and his involvement in the Ishvalan uprising. In another glimpse into the past, we follow Ed and Alphonse’s teacher, Izumi, as she takes on test of survival in the Briggs Mountain. Finally, we discover the origins of Winry Rockbell’s ear piercing and why Riza Hawkeye’s hair is long.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Like the Brotherhood series, the OVA Collection includes a Blu-ray version that looks absolutely gorgeous and should be the way to watch these four stories. Sure, the DVD version looks good too but with animation this beautiful, it is best appreciated in a format that compliments your HD setup.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The entire Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood voice cast is back again and that includes both the Japanese and the English dub voice actors so you will find Romi Park and Vic Mignogna as Ed Elric depending on how you like to watch the episodes. Also, the score by Akira Senju is absolutely stunning and a treat for the ears.

EXTRAS: B
Sure, there are a few FUNimation trailers and the set includes both the Blu-ray and the DVD version but the star of the extras happens to be the 16 volumes that makes up the Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater extra. Like the four-panel funnies found in the manga, the Comic Theater features short yet hilarious vignettes that poke fun at scenes from the series as well as some comical scenes like King Bradley poking people with his multiple swords while riding a crowded train or Father and Hohenheim hanging out together in a noodle stand. They feature the English dub voice cast and are actually quite funny.

OVERALL: A
Although the stories in the OVA Collection for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are on the extremely short side, they are certainly meaningful and actually adds something to the already impressive and epic main story. This one is strictly for the fans who will find more than enough to love about this collection of OVA episodes. Don’t let the short running time fool you, this is a Must Have for anyone who looking to complete their Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood collection.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Volume 3 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: June 12, 2012

Could this be the last stand for all Magical Girls?

I said it many times before but having been a fan of the Sailor Moon series as well as other classic Magical Girls titles already available, none has captured my complete attention quite like Puella Magi Madoka Magica that, in just three short volumes, has proven to be a unique anime series that does justice to the genre in the best possible way. In Volume 3, the truth behind Magical Girls is revealed as a major threat leads to a finale you really have to see to believe.

A lot has happened in the four episodes that make up Volume 3 of the series as Sayaka Miki – Madoka’s closest friend – had decided to make a contract with the creature they know as Kyubey. Her choice to become a Magical Girl that battles dangerous witches was out of genuine love for a boy who had lost all hope in ever playing the violin again so you would think a selfless deed like that would be rewarded, right? Well, this is not the case as Sayaka is not only losing the boy she made a sacrifice for but she is also regretting her decision to become a Magical Girl seeing as the job itself will eventually lead to something catastrophic.

Suddenly, Sayaka not only begins to regret her decision but a horrible change comes over her as she flees in a time when she really needs help. With Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi looking for her, it is another Magical girl named Kyoko Sakura who finds Sayaka. Unfortunately, it is far too late to do anything to save Sayaka as a terrible tragedy occurs in the moment that a witch suddenly appears before the girl. I won’t spoil the surprise but the witch is deadly for a reasons that involve Sayaka.

Kyoko feels that she could save Sayaka but that would mean confronting the new witch and for this she asks Madoka for help. Yes, it would put Madoka in danger but if there was a chance they could save a friend then Madoka is more than willing to help. Sadly, the confrontation does not go down as planned and the end result is both heartbreaking and surprising. Really, you will not see it coming.

It is there and then that Madoka finds herself alone and finally confronts Kyubey who she accuses of lying to all the girls it had “tricked” into making a contract. It is then and there that we discover the truth behind being a Magical Girl as well as their connections to witches. On top of that, Kyubey also reveals the real motivation behind the Incubator’s need to make contracts with girls. Through this eye-opening conversation, we begin to finally understand Homura as well, particularly why she had tried to kill the little being.

Speaking of Homura, Volume 3 shifts its attention to her as we meet the real Homura Akemi. In the second volume we found out that her special power allows her to bend space and time but it is here that we understand what she did with that power and why she had always seemed like she had always known Madoka.

Homura’s story is both intriguing as well as heartbreaking as we meet the girl she use to be and her relationship with Madoka and her friends that also included Mami Tomoe (who in the first volume was killed) and we also witness how and why she became a Magical Girl. It is Homura who comes to the awful conclusion that Kyubey has never lied to any of them but it did know how to manipulate human desire. We all want something and if there was a way to get what you want instantly, magically, who wouldn’t trade something as seemingly worthless as a soul for a wish that was guaranteed to come true?

The truth is that the very concept of wishes that are instantaneously granted defies the boundaries of reality. If such a thing did exist it would be logical to assume that in order for a wish to be granted you would have to lose something in exchange. The loss in Homura’s case is too much for the girl to bear and, as a result, she had tried to change the future by changing the past … several times.

Meanwhile, with no other Magical Girls left, and the news that a powerful witch entity known as Walpurgisnacht already headed their way, Madoka feels conflicted about whether she should make a contract with Kyubey or respect Homura’s sacrifice. As Mitakihara City begins preparing for a massive storm that is really Walpurgisnacht, both Homura and Madoka prepare for a final showdown that will lead to an unforgettable and satisfying ending.

Madoka Magica did not disappoint in the very least and its final four episodes do a brilliant job of tying together all the loose ends that was introduced to us in the beginning. The result is a series that is well-written and unpredictable. Even the animation is delightfully unique.

An astonishing and fitting finale that you will not forget anytime soon, Volume 3 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is – without a doubt – destined to be ranked at the very top of the list of Best Magical Girls series in anime. From intriguing beginning the riveting end, no other Magical Girl series had me on the edge of my seat quite like Madoka Magica. It really is that good and believe me when I say that I cannot recommend this series enough. For anyone who has lost faith in the genre, this series will rekindle your love for Magical Girls in the best possible way.

BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Despite finding Sakaya, Kyoko is a witness to a terrible tragedy and the birth of a new witch as well as the Magical Girl makes a final attempt to bring back a friend. Meanwhile, we finally discover Kyubey’s real agenda and the truth behind Homura and her past that is linked to Madoka and her friends. With Walpurgisnacht approaching, Madoka must make a decision that could change the world.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This series really is downright gorgeous to the point that you will be thanking Aniplex for including a Blu-ray version. There’s a lot of eye candy in this final volume and it will not disappoint in the very least.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting has been consistently strong in this series and Volume 3 is no different so whatever your preference is you will find that the original Japanese voice or the English dub performances are easy on the ears. The music is so good that you will definitely love the fact that the rest of the soundtrack is included in this Limited Edition set.

EXTRAS: A+
There are no new extras on the discs except for the credits, however, the Limited Edition release once again contains an individual disc for the soundtrack and – of course – both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the four episodes. Then there are the two exclusive two-sided posters that are simply awesome and the 24-page booklet filled with art, interviews and the cute four-panel comics. There’s also the collection of postcards with the amazing “Previews” artwork. The sets are pricey but well worth the money.

OVERALL: A+
A brilliant and compelling ending to a mesmerizing anime series that did not cease to amaze from the very beginning, Volume 3 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is everything you can ask for in a finale to a great series. There are Magical Girl series and then there’s Madoka Magica that will not only rekindle your love for the genre but also make you glad you love anime.

Review copy provided by Aniplex of America

Monthly Editorial – June 2012: Live from the E3 2012 Show

Summer means a lot of things for a lot of people but for us it will always mean swimming pools, ice cream, shaving Uncle Harry’s hairy back in the backyard and, of course, conventions. While I always look forward to the Anime Expo each year, summer also welcomes to the Los Angeles Convention Center one specifically geared towards gamers. That’s right, E3 2012 is here and, this being the last day of the show, I got a chance to join the kids at our little brother site, Game Revolver.

While the show seemed to have toned down just a tad, there was still much to see and I’ll give you gamers a full report on the Game Revolver site (http://gamerevolver.wordpress.com) soon. However, I’m happy to report that there are some titles that may interest anime and manga fans like a new Dragon Ball Z game for the Xbox 360 by Bandai Namco that makes good use of the Kinect hardware. That’s right, you’ll be able to pull off some awesome moves as Goku or any of the other characters from the series like Vegeta just to name a few.

Now you can “Ka-Me-Ha-Me-Ha!” without a controller!

Then Bandai Namco also displayed a playable demo of a new One Piece game that I had been dying to see in action since I heard about it from some Japanese friends. Now, One Piece: Kaizoku Musou comes to North America with an all-new adventure featuring Luffy and his crew and believe me when I say that it looked awesome.

There’s much more and I will bring you all the latest news on this front later this month along with game reviews for both these titles when they hit stores in 2012. Meanwhile, I’ll get back to running through the halls of E3 where I swear has gotten so loud that presentations now require headphones.

“I’m going to be king of the pirates … again!”

Also, Animanga Nation will be happy to be back in the same venue for Anime Expo 2012 that is already sounding like an amazing show this year. We’ll also be happy to get to meet favorite guests that include Monica Rial and Jamie Marchi who we absolutely love as well as a number of other amazing guests like Nobuhiko Okamoto who voices Rin from one of our favorite anime series, Blue Exorcist.

Anyway, I’ll get back to E3 where I’m currently sitting near gaming journalists who have been reduced to teenagers at the sight of so many awesome new games.

Much love to you all,

Eduardo Zacarias
Editor-in-Chief