Xam‘d: Lost Memories, Complete Collection – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $89.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Genre: Action/Sci-fi
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

What would you do to regain the precious memories that are important to you?

Xam’d: Lost Memories is the type of anime series that is not easy to watch yet it’s the kind of series that you can’t help but be so wrapped up in its complex story that you stick around to see how it all ends because you know it will not fail to surprise. Finally released on Blu-ray, the Complete Collection set of Xam’d: Lost Memories is a new classic that you will not forget anytime soon and that, my friends, makes this well worth the purchase price.

Spanning 26-episodes, the series introduces us to a futuristic world with floating mail ships like the Zanbani, a Native-American-like race of people and a government experimenting with specialized armor and a mysterious organic bio-weapon. In the middle of all of this is a high school student named Akiyuki Takehara who lives in beautiful Sentan Island with his mother who just so happens to be – at the moment – separated from Akiyuki’s physician father, Doctor Ryuzo Takehara. His two best friends are Furuichi who has his eye on their mutual friend Haru who is not only beautiful but also amazing at martial arts.

One morning, after helping a white-haired girl get on their bus to school, this mysterious girl ignites a very unusual explosive that unleashes an organic spore that infects Akiyuki. In fact, thanks to two jewel-like protrusions on his arm and forehead called a hiruko, he transforms into an armored being called a Xam’d. On top of the explosion on the bus, the terrorist attack also includes the unleashing of monstrous humanform weapons that are controlled by those able to manipulate hiruko.

Luckily, Akiyuki is saved by a beautiful young girl named Nakiami the Cloud Rider whose Tessik race is all too familiar with the hiruko and the Xam’d. She is able to get Akiyuki back to his human form and she whisks him away aboard the Zanbani … a mail carrier ship captained by a busty and scantily clad beauty named Ishu Benikawa. With no other choice but to live with the colorful crew of the floating mail ship, Akiyuki finds himself working as a mail carrier as well as learning more about being a Xam’d from a Tessik elder named Madam Tenshin living aboard the ship.

Meanwhile, Akiyuki’s friends, Haru and Furuichi, join the military in hopes of helping Akiyuki in some manner and end up training to operate advanced mobile armor. It is here that we meet Commander Kakisu who is in charge of a secret project involving the Xam’d thanks to a Tessik scientist named Doctor Kanba. Haru finds herself doing her best as a military cadet as Furuichi quickly climbs the military ladder to the point that he becomes obsessed with succeeding in the military. There’s a big reason for this but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Back on the Zanbani, Akiyuki discovers another Xam’d by the name of Raigyo who was also saved by Nakiami. It is through Raigyo that Akiyuki learns that he can learn to live with this new power although there’s the threat that he might be consumed by a condition that could kill him by turning him to stone. Akiyuki also wants to see his friends and his parents who – while having been on the verge of a divorce before the terrorist attack – are seeing more of each another in an effort to comfort each another for the absence of their son.

At one point, Akiyuki is reunited with his friends who are on a mission under the orders of Commander Kakisu. Unfortunately, it’s not a happy reunion between Akiyuki and Furuichi who not only sees his best friend as an enemy but also a rival. In fact, there’s a dramatic confrontation later in the series as Furuichi makes a big revelation that we do not see coming.

The first half of the series has Akiyuki working aboard the mail carrier ship and the other half has Akiyuki and Nakiami traveling together to Nakiami’s home village where we discover that somebody close to her had become village chief. However, they are separated as Akiyuki travels with Haru to the fabled Quickening Chamber and Nakiami travels with a Tessik boy named Yango to meet Lady Sannova who is heading for the Chamber as well and head for a final battle involving the mysterious Emperor Hiruken.

Xam’d: Lost Memories is filled with twists that we don’t see coming, which is what makes for scenes that stand out. A main character ripping his head clean off and another character being sold into slavery and falling into the hands of a kindly old woman connected to another character is but a few examples of what makes this series so enticing. On top of that, there are moments that are profoundly beautiful like a brief and heartbreaking “reunion” between Akiyuki and his mother who is desperate to see her son again. I don’t even mind that the series is clearly inspired by two classic anime series (think Eureka Seven meets Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor and you get the picture).

Oh, and the animation is simply breath taking to the point that you will be thanking Sentai Filmworks for bringing it to us on Blu-ray.

On the other hand, there are scenes that will have you scratching your head wondering what just happened and why, such as the time Nakiami is “violated” by a black entity on board the Zanbani. Why does a floating eye who speaks like the Emperor follow Akiyuki around when he lost his memory in another scene? These are moments without explanation. The series also has moments where nothing really happens that moves the plot forward, although some of these moments do give us a chance to flesh out the secondary characters like the crew of the Zanbani. Then there’s the ending that was something of a major disappointment in my eyes.

Still, the Complete Collection of Xam’d: Lost Memories is nothing short of unforgettable and oftentimes even profoundly beautiful despite its various flaws that are too hard to ignore. Yes, there are complex and almost nonsensical moments in this series that will wear a viewer down bet there are also moments both compelling and deep enough to really appreciate. Either way, I cannot recommend this series enough especially for those who enjoy an anime series that does not fail to show you something unexpected or keep you watching to the very end.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
On his way to school with his best friends Haru and Furuichi, a white-haired child ignites an explosive that unleashes an organic spore that changes Akiyuki’s life has he transforms into an armored being called Xam’d. Rescued by a girl named Nakiami, Akiyuki comes to live and work on a mail ship as his friends join a military force that will put them on a collision course with their destiny and Akiyuki discovers the mystery behind his new power.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Definitely a series that deserves the Blu-ray treatment, Xam’d is a visual treat with animation that brings to mind Studio Ghibli’s best productions. Everything from the backgrounds, visual effects and character design comes together beautifully. Then again, it’s exactly what we would come to expect from Studio BONES?

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original Japanese language track is the best way to watch this series but the English dub performances have their shining moments thanks to talented voice actors like Monica Rial (refreshing as Haru), Blake Sheppard (decent as Akiyuki) and Shelley Calene-Black (wonderful as Ishu). The score by Michiru Oshima is as beautiful as the animation and the opening and closing theme songs (all in English) aren’t bad at all.

EXTRAS: C+
I know it’s not an extra but just the fact that this a Blu-ray edition is an awesome extra in itself but other than that all you will find are a few Sentai Filmworks trailers and as well as the clean opening and closing animations that include the original On-Air versions of both.

OVERALL: B+
An impressive, gorgeous and occasionally profound anime series, Xam’d: Lost Memories often gets lost in its own complex narrative but still manages to be an experience anime fans should not miss. Sure, there are scenes that don’t often make sense but these are overshadowed by the things that make it stand out like the gorgeous animation, great character development and scenes with enough emotion depth that they make this series worth watching from beginning to end. Xam’d should be considered a flawed yet impressive anime classic.

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.

Claymore, Chapter 6 – DVD Review

Claymore6

Review by: Sophie Stevens

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 95 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now 

Clare on the razor’s edge.

What began as a story about an emotionless member of an organization filled with sword-wielding warrior women searching for a monster that killed the only woman that cared for her like a mother has turned into a deep love story and a newly awakened emotion that has this sister of the sword finally realizing that there are things really worth fighting for in this world. Clare has come a long way since the first episode of this series as the final chapter closes on the saga that is Claymore.

In Chapter 5, having joined by an impressive army of fellow Claymores in the village of Pieta, Clare finds herself struggling to survive the onslaught of savagely powerful Awakened Beings that are unlike anything either one of these Claymores have faced before. To top it all off, the legendary Silver-eyed Lion King, more appropriately known as Rigaldo, has dropped into the fight to slaughter the remaining Claymores only to find a challenge in Clare.

As Chapter 6 opens, Clare attempts to keep up with Rigaldo’s mighty blows and eerie swiftness. For an Awakened Being as big and lion-like as Rigaldo, the monster can certainly move and it becomes clear to Clare that in order to defeat the beast she must call upon the Yoma power within her. As her injured friends watch from afar, they witness Clare Awakening just a little right before their eyes … yet it still isn’t enough.

“I need more,” Clare says to herself as she manages to keep up with Rigaldo. “More strength and more speed!”

When she does, it becomes clear to the other sisters that Clare has pushed herself closer to the point of no return. Somewhere in the nearby forest, the frail young girl named Priscilla and her ward stop worrying about Raki’s wellbeing and concentrate on the raw Yoma power that is flowing as Clare comes to Awaken parts of her body to continue fighting her dangerous foe. Priscilla freaks out to the point that she runs off to the very source of the power flow.

Meanwhile, Raki finally reaches Pieta only to find the streets littered with dead or badly injured Claymores and the damage their battle had caused the village. He is recognized by Clare’s friends such as Jean and Deneve but when Raki sees Clare in her nearly Awakened form it frightens him to the point that the kid isn’t able to move. When Clare does push herself once again, it is only then that the battle does finally end.

Unfortunately, even with the enemy no longer a threat, Clare cannot hold back the power that threatens to turn her into an Awakened Being. Afraid of turning on her own friends, she begs Helen to end her life before its too late and she finally changes. Unable to revert back, Clare begins her slow transformation but she senses something nearby that is far too familiar to ignore. As Clare takes off to find this person, a badly injured Jean sets off with Raki to help save Clare as do the last remaining three Claymores. What they find is Clare battling against the Awakened Being that had beheaded Teresa so long ago. We also come to discover a secret about Clare in these final moments during one of the more intense battles in this series.

I won’t go into the details about the outcome of the fight or what is discovered during this fight but it is surprising. It’s also endearing to see Clare, even in her monstrous nearly-Awakened state that she recognizes Raki who pours his heart out to her in the end during a crucial moment in the battle. What I will say is that Claymore as a whole has managed to remain just as intense as these last episodes of this chapter and that’s saying a lot right there.

The final four episodes that make up Chapter 6 of Claymore is nothing short of brilliant and highly energetic just like the source material. The two massive battles will not easily be shaken from your memory as Clare not only comes to the end of her journey but also discovers something about her that’s more important than the mission or the organization and that is humanity. Now this is a great ending.

 

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A
In the village of Pieta, the other Claymores fall at the feet of Rigaldo so it is up to Clare to go up against the powerful Awakened Being. As she calls upon more power and pushing herself to her very limits, Clare finds herself in a dangerous situation she may recover from and even more so when the person she was looking for finally shows up.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
This final chapter features even more stunning visual effects such as the scene where Clare and Priscilla display their full power that literally lights up the night sky. The series has always been visually pleasing and filled with unforgettable visceral moments throughout.

AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The strength of the original Japanese as well as the English dub has always been the emotional impact of each performance as far as the Claymores are concerned. Personally, I think Raki sounded better in Japanese but then again I can’t imagine anyone else doing the voice in English than Todd Haberkorn. There’s good music in this series (and better opening and closing theme songs) but sometimes it’s the silence of a key scene that makes it more memorable.

EXTRAS: B+
There’s an audio commentary track for Episode 26 with Brina Palencia and Stephanie Young that’s fun to listen to and there’s the original Japanese TV commercials on the DVD as well. Aside from the collection of trailers and the textless songs, the 24-page book with art and production notes is the real treat.

OVERALL: A
Chapter 6 of Claymore reaches its climax as Clare battles the Silver-Eyed Lion King and she isn’t able to contain the Awakening power that begins to eat away at her soul. In these final moments of the series, a lot is revealed to us and thus makes this a chapter that will not fail to shock and surprise.

COMPLETE SERIES GRADE: A
True to the source material, the anime version of Claymore is dark, bloody and downright haunting. It’s one of those stories that feels epic in scope thanks to its bigger-than-life characters and story that goes beyond a typical revenge story. Beautifully directed and featuring amazing animation, Claymore is one of those anime series that is truly unique and amazing.

AX 2009 News – VIZ Media Panel: Anime

Ax2009Logo

Written by: Edward Zacharias

Our good friends at VIZ Media have certainly been very busy and that’s a very good thing in our book, albeit exhausting on their front. Still, this all adds up to good news for anime fans seeing as the announcement they made today will surprise, delight and will have you begging for more.

Yeah, that’s how good the news is in the VIZ Media panel. Here’s why …

ANIME RELEASES

* BLEACH The Movie 2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion  = The second movie is headed our way on September 8 of this year and will be screen in movie theaters on August 19 and 20. We will give you more info on where and when as we get closer to the date.

Speaking of BLEACH news, you can win a BLEACH themed guitar autographed by BLEACH creator Tite Kubo. Just go to http://www.bleach.viz.com/rockstar for more details.

* Death Note Relight 2  = The second DVD will be released on October 27, 2009 while the first one is available right now.

* L: Change the World  = Ok, it’s not anime. This is the live-action movie and it rocks. Expect the DVD to be released on August 18, 2009.

* Hunter x Hunter: Box Set 4  =  It will be released on December 1, 2009. I can’t think of a better Christmas present … in my book, anyway.

* Naruto Shippudden, Vol. 1  = At last, we finally get the first volume of the Naruto Shippudden series on August 29, 2009. This is the only way we can see it – well, aside from logging on to http://www.naruto.com – so this news has us very excited.

* Naruto Shippudden The Movie  = The first of the Naruto Shippudden movies will be available on November 1, 2009.

While we’re on the subject of Naruto, it was announced that http://www.naruto-viz.com hinted at the “Kakashi Chronicles,” a side story about Kakashi-sensei’s early days as a student. This sounded way too good to be true when we first heard it and now it is confirmed. Look for more news about it right here.

* Nana, Box Set 1  = All you Nana fans will be happy this September 8, 2009 when the anime finally comes to our shores. I can already hear Faith begging me to review it when it comes out.

* Honey and Clover, Box Set 1  = Ok, this is one even I am excited about. The anime of Chica Umino’s manga will be released on September 22, 2009.

* Boys Over Flowers, Jewelry Box  = I can already hear Ai begging me for this one. Expect it to come out on October 13, 2009.

With so many exciting titles headed our way, we can safely say that VIZ Media has us covered on the anime front. This is really starting to look like a great year for anime fans.

Naruto, Vol. 33 – Manga Review

naruto-33-cover

Review by: Edward Zacharias

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Masashi Kishimoto
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shonen Jump Manga)
MSRP: $7.95 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available

The other side of Naruto we have not seen.

With one teammate short, Naruto and Sakura know very little of their commanding officer named Yamato and even less of the odd young man that calls himself Sai. What they do know is that Commander Yamato really knows how to spring a trap and dressed as Sasori – one of the Akatsuki the others defeated after Gaara’s kidnapping – the trap seems to be a success. In the end of Volume 32, we learn the true identity of the Akatsuki spy and boy was it a huge surprise. Oh, but surprises have a way of blowing up in your face as we can see from the beginning of Volume 33 of Naruto.

I won’t be spoiling things now by revealing that the spy was actually the medical ninja named Kabuto and Yamato’s trap seemed to be going great until another surprise is revealed to us. It seems that Orochimaru has been following Kabuto and, in an instant, Commander Yamato’s disguise is torn the shreds. It’s clear that the confrontation will be an ugly one without back up and Naruto and Sakura spring out to come to the Commander’s aid.

While Naruto and Sakura have grown up and become more powerful now, Orochimaru hasn’t changed at all. In fact, he’s the same manipulative, power-hungry and dangerous enemy that he always was and – despite the fact that he recognized Naruto’s new strength – he certainly knows how to get under his skin. Just the mere mention of Sasuke’s name sends Naruto into a rage that manifests itself in a most hazardous manner. We all know that Naruto, as a Jinchuriki, holds the Nine-Tailed Fox spirit but what we don’t know is that the unleashing of the Fox spirit’s power is nearly uncontrollable. In fact, Lord Jiraiya knows this first-hand during their two-year absence.

Surprised by Naruto’s transformation, this is the first time we see Orochimaru really put up an effort to fight back against Naruto. Equally surprised is Sakura who sees the physical effects of the manifestation as frightening. I’d describe the transformation but it’s really something you should see instead. What I will tell, however, is that Naruto’s attacks are not only impressive but also extremely destructive without giving much of a thought as to who might get hurt in the process.

Meanwhile, Sai sees this as an opportunity to carry out his real mission. Having been under direct orders of Danzo, a member of the Hawk faction whose past is linked not only to the Leaf Village but also to the Third Hokage, Sai approaches Orochimaru. So committed to his mission, Sai doesn’t even lift a hand to save Sakura when she is flung back by one of Naruto’s attacks. Words are exchanged between Sai and Orochimaru and the trio runs off together. Who is Sai really? What is his true mission and Danzo’s intentions?

While most of the volume concentrates on Naruto’s battle with Orochimaru, a big secret is finally revealed about Commander Yamato as well as the reason he has been chosen to take over Kaskashi’s position. Besides that, the real surprise comes with Sakura’s reaction when Naruto is restored to normal. For years, we have come to know that Sakura and Naruto’s relationship was mainly composed of Naruto pissing her off and being clobbered by Sakura. Yet in a surprisingly tender moment, Sakura sheds tears for Naruto. What this means is yet to be revealed but it’s intriguing nonetheless.

Naruto, Volume 33, shows us another side of Naruto that had yet been revealed since his two-year absence and it’s quite shocking. This also marks the return of Orochimaru but, most importantly, we learn a bit more about Commander Yamato and come to question Sai’s intentions. Oh yeah, it’s just one of those volumes that is sure to be truly memorable.

 

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
The trap Commander Yamato, Naruto and Sakura have set for the spy blows up in their faces as Orochimaru springs his own trap successfully. Unleashing the hidden power of the Nine-Tailed Fox, Naruto becomes an uncontainable force to be reckoned with that shocks even his teammates. In the wake of Naruto’s destructive power, revelations are made.

ART: A
Kishimoto-sensei’s expressive artwork is simply leaps off the pages in this volume and you can definitely feel the helplessness Sakura feels when she sees the uncontrollable power Naruto unleashes.

OVERALL: A
Volume 33 of Naruto is nothing short of surprising and even more so now that some of the missing parts of Naruto’s training is finally revealed. The villainous snake, Orochimaru, is back and the confrontation is yet another unforgettable moment in the Naruto saga. The good news is that we don’t have to wait too long for the next chapters.

Hideyuki-Kikuchi- Two Great New Horror Titles Licensed By Digital Manga Publishing

 

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Gardena, CA (April 2, 2009) – Digital Manga Publishing, one of the industry’s most innovative and creative publishing companies, is thrilled to announce the acquisition of two great Hideyuki Kikuchi titles: Yashakiden: The Demon Princess and Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist.

From acclaimed Japanese horror writer, Hideyuki Kikuchi (Vampire Hunter D & Wicked City novel series), comes his next big hit novel series: Yashakiden: The Demon Princess. Taking place in the city of Shinjuku-the novel is based in the same universe as the popular Wicked City animated series, and is spun out of the Demon City Shinjuku world. Of all the novels Kikuchi has ever written, Yashakiden is the one series he has wanted to have published stateside, and he considers it to be in his own words, “…the best novel series I’ve ever written, this is my vampire masterpiece. In my personal opinion, this novel transcends Vampire Hunter D.” The novel is peppered with beautiful illustrations by Jun Suemi, who also illustrated a number of “The Guin Saga” novels in Japan. Beginning with volume one in December, Yashakiden: The Demon Princess will span four vampire-filled volumes of horror. Read the first chapter preview in the May 2009 release of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D vol. 3 (

pre-order available now) and on the newly revamped DMP books website www.dmpbooks.com

. Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist

is based upon a novel series also by Kikuchi, and is illustrated by manwha artist Shin Yong-Gwan. An ongoing series in Japan, with over 20,000 units sold, Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist is a crafty story about a demon-hunter who traverses between the worlds of the living and the dead, all to save lost souls being preyed upon by evil spirits of the underworld. With amazingly detailed art by Shin Yong-Gwan, this manga will appeal to horror lovers everywhere! Catch preview pages of this title in the November 2009 release of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D vol. 4 and on the newly revamped DMP books website www.dmpbooks.com.

 

 

Look for these two great titles to slither their ways into your hands this dark December, all part of “D”emon month from Digital Manga Publishing.

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YASHAKIDEN: THE DEMON PRINCESS VOL. 1-Rated YA+ (for ages 16+), MSRP: $13.95, Available: December 16, 2009, DMP Novel,

5 1/8″x 7 3/16″,

Preview Pages HERE!

After a devastating earthquake leaving most of Japan in ruins, the district ward of Shinjuku in Tokyo has opened up a doorway into another dimension—becoming the halfway-house suspended between the real world and the supernatural. It has become a place where the living fights a losing battle with monsters and demons from the netherworld—a constant struggle for control on grounds which inevitably may be consumed into the depths of Hell.

Factory manager by day and moonlighting P.I. by night, Setsura Aki is no stranger to danger. Specializing in missing-persons cases and considered the best “man hunter” in the business, he allies himself with friend and rival, Doctor Mephisto—a wizard of physical and spiritual surgery. Together in battle, there is none that can compete with their combined wit and power—until now.

Coming from the deepest and darkest parts of China, four immortal vampires, lead by one of unmatched beauty and calling herself nothing more than “Princess,” mystically sail into landlocked Shinjuku aboard an ancient ghost ship one roiling hot night. She and her ancient undead entourage with powers never before seen of vampires, have surmounted four thousand years of space and time to seize control of Shinjuku and to make it their own.

It is up to Setsura and Mephisto to uncover their new formidable foes’ true origins and to reveal the truth to the Princess’s dark plans for the city. Can the duo stop them before they plunge the living populace into a new level of fear and slavery none can escape?

Set in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s popular demonic ward of Shinjuku—favorite locale for his other recognized works, the Demon City Shinjuku and Wicked City novel series—this new epic tale touches the conscious fear of the unknown and dips deep into the soul of one’s own heart of darkness.

TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST VOL. 1- Rated 18+ (for ages 18+), MSRP: $9.95, Available: December 16, 2009, DMP Manga,

5 1/8″x 7 3/16″,

Preview Pages HERE!

 

 

 

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HIDEYUKI KIKUCHI was born on September 25, 1949, and is one of Japan’s top horror/sci-fi writers. Over the past two decades, several of his works have been adapted into animated movies including VAMPIRE HUNTER D and his first novel, DEMON CITY SHINJUKU. He is the writer of the best-selling VAMPIRE HUNTER D novel and manga series also available through Digital Manga Publishing.

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About Digital Manga Publishing

Located in Gardena, CA, Digital Manga Publishing is one of the industry’s most unconventional and innovative companies, specializing in building corporate and cultural bridges from Japan to the Western Hemisphere – specifically through the licensing, importation and preparation of anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese comic books) and related merchandise for the North American mainstream and subculture markets. In this capacity, DMI serves as a catalyst for the expansion of Japanese pop culture institutions into global arenas. The company’s imprint line includes DMP: its mainstream imprint, DMP PLATINUM: its classic manga imprint, JUNE´: its boys love imprint, 801 MEDIA: its adult boys love imprint, and DokiDoki: its exclusive co-publishing imprint with Shinshokan Publishing.

For more information about Digital Manga Publishing, visit

www.digitalmanga.com

VIZ MEDIA CELEBRATES THE EVOLUTION OF DRAGON BALL WITH NEW DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION TITLES

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DRAGONBALL © 2009 Fox, Based on DRAGONBALL series by Akira Toriyama.
DRAGONBALL TM & © Bird Studio/Shueisha, Inc.

Three-Part Chapter Book Series, A Junior Novel And A Collectible Sticker Book Offer Unique Ways To Enjoy Books Based On The New Feature Film DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION

San Francisco, CA, March 6, 2009 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, has announced a fun array of DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION books, including a Junior Novel, a Sticker Book and a trio of Chapter Books in support of the debut of the action-packed 20th Century Fox film, opening nationwide on April 8th.

The new DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION books are based on the upcoming live action adventure film. Directed by James Wong, the movie and the books center on a team of warriors, each of whom possess special abilities. Together, they protect Earth from a force bent on dominating the universe by controlling the mystical objects from which the film takes its name. DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION features Justin Chatwin as Goku, Emmy Rossum as Bulma, and Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi. Each of the books include glossy color pages with photos from the movie. DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION the movie is based on the popular Japanese manga series created by Akira Toriyama (also published in North America by VIZ Media).

”VIZ Media is very excited to celebrate the upcoming release of the live-action feature film DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION with a variety of fun, kid-friendly books,” says Gonzalo Ferreyra, Vice President, Sales & Product Marketing, VIZ Media. “The DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION Junior Novel and Chapter Books are published under our popular VIZKIDS imprint, and are an ideal way to introduce the mystical world of DRAGON BALL to younger fans and help them develop a lifelong love of reading.”


DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION JUNIOR NOVEL • Recommended for Ages 9-12
MSRP: $5.99 US / $6.99 CAN • Available Now!

Goku thought he was just a normal high school kid until his whole world turned upside down and he found out he’s actually a martial-arts whiz with all kinds of special powers. It was bad enough that his grandpa just died. But now he must save the whole world from a madman named Piccolo who is looking for the seven fabled Dragon Balls. Whoever finds them all will have any wish come true instantly! Can a regular guy like Goku become the strongest fighter in time to stop the end of the world? The Junior Novel is aimed at readers ages 9 through 12 and also features 8-pages of full-color glossy photos from the live-action film.

DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION CHAPTER BOOKS • Recommended for Ages 7-10 •
MSRP: $4.99 US / $5.99 CAN • Available Now!

The DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION Chapter Books is a series composed of 3 volumes designed for younger readers, ages 7 through 10. Based on the upcoming feature film, the Chapter Books depict the adventures of Goku as he tries to save the world from a madman that is looking for the seven Dragon Balls. Whoever finds them all can have any wish come true! Can a regular guy like Goku become the strongest fighter of all in time to stop the end of the world? Find out in these fun new Chapter Books from VIZ Media.

DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION STICKER BOOK • Rated “A” for All Ages •
MSRP: $6.99 US / $7.99 CAN • March 24, 2009

All the excitement of the DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION movie is featured in over 100 stickers. The book collects 8 pages of stickers and 8 pages of full-color backgrounds to bring the fun of DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION to fans of all ages. The stickers are reusable and adhere to just about anything to give a fun DRAGON BALL flair to any item.
DRAGON BALL has become a global pop culture and entertainment phenomenon that has generated more than $3 billion in worldwide sales of a vast array of manga, DVDs, video games, toys, apparel and other collectibles. Over 1.6 million copies of the manga series have been sold in North America while the animated counterpart remains the most successful domestic anime series ever with over 500 episodes and 17 animated movies broadcast or released on DVD to date. Over 30 DRAGON BALL video game titles are also available for the PS2, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 platforms, and have sold a total of more than 11 million units worldwide.

 

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), is one of the most comprehensive and innovative companies in the field of manga (graphic novel) publishing, animation and entertainment licensing of Japanese content. Owned by three of Japan’s largest creators and licensors of manga and animation, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa and is a global ex-Asia licensor of Japanese manga and animation. The company offers an integrated product line including magazines such as SHONEN JUMP and SHOJO BEAT, graphic novels, and DVDs, and develops, markets, licenses, and distributes animated entertainment for audiences and consumers of all ages.