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Entries in review (14)

Monday
Oct032011

Katanagatari Volume 2, Anime Review

 Review by Dominic

I thought I would make life easier on myself by reviewing the second half of this interesting show since it captured my interest, even though there were a couple things that sort of irritated me. To find out what that was, you can listen to our Shootin’ the Shit, episode four.

Picking up on the reigns of where part one left off, our antagonists Shichika and Togame are continuing their journey to reclaim the twelve Klesha Bringers to restore peace to the land, or so they say. The first episode on this set actually starts out pretty grim as we are presented with the first opponent for Shichika: His Own Sister! As we saw in the previous volume, she is one seriously screwed up chick, and it was only a matter of time before these two would be forced to fight.

As you could imagine this is an emotional episode, as Shichika is forced to choose between completing his mission, or sparing his sister, though she is a character that people really shouldn’t feel any sympathy towards, especially with the brutal and emotionless treatment she has given to others.

This episode is only the first of the six, but it does its job of getting the viewer back into the mix of things, and it only gets better from there. If the first set seemed like a setup, this second set is the culmination of that set as more characters get thrown into the story and the plot comes together in a culmination as many characters meet their end, leading to a final episode that more or less ends things on a pleasant note.

A few other characters are introduced in this series including Togame’s “rival”, Princess Denial and her vassal, Emon-Zaemon, who play a larger role in this set as they both become the final antagonists as the series draws to its close.

As a whole, this series starts out slow, but does pick its heels up, and gives the viewer an enjoyable experience. The episodic nature of the series makes character development difficult, but it is made possible by dedicating each episode to a theme or lesson for Shichika, and sometimes Togame.

  1. Intro
  2. What to Protect
  3. Purpose
  4. Friendship
  5. Love/Resolve
  6. Conscience/Loneliness
  7. Death
  8. Human Will
  9. Discipline
  10. Swordsmanship
  11. Fate/Past
  12. Freedom/Future

Shichika started out as an emotionless weapon that blindly followed Togame's orders, acting as her sword. By facing the variety of opponents in their journey and influence of Togame herself, Shichika gradually grew up as a human being, learning the ways of society and new emotions with each encounter. By the end of the show, Shichika was no longer a brutal killing machine; he had his own purposes and opinions.

As I said in the last review, the character design and the art here really made the show for me. Even characters that died quickly had very distinct personalities and features that left lasting impressions. Speaking of characters dying quickly, I’d have to say the most painful death would have to be that of the ninja Maniwa Pengin. He was the only Maniwa character with enough screen time to care about, and he got killed in a painful and graphic way.

I could go on about this show, but at this point, just watch it for yourself and see what I’m talking about. All in all, I’m glad I purchased the first part from AX as this show went completely under my radar last year.

Katanagatari Parts 1 and 2 are available from Nis America as well as Rightstuf.com and Amazon.

Rating

Set: 4/5

Series: 4.5/5

Monday
Aug222011

Katanagatari Volume 1, Anime Review

Review by Dominic

Katanagatari which translates to “sword story” is a twelve episode anime series based on the light novels by Nisio Isin. The series was released last year in Japan an episode per month and has finally made its way to the Western shores courtesy of Nis America.

Our story begins in feudal Japan during one of its many wars where different shogunates vie for power. A clash between two men in a burning building during the latest rebellion introduces Takahito Hida(the rebellion leader) and Mutsue Yasuri(the head of a sword art), two characters that don’t really show up much after this scene. These two fight for the future of the land and Hida is slain as a young girl watches in the shadows.

In the present day, which is about twenty or so years later, we are taken to an island where we are introduced to our main character Shichika, who just so happens to be the son of Mutsue who we saw in the introductory scene. It seems that after the rebellion was quieted down, Mutsue and his family was exiled by the ungrateful Shogun and has been living quietly on this island. Shichika and his older sister, Nanami live a peaceful life on the island batting a blind eye to the outside world. Shichika spends his days mainly practicing his father’s sword art style called Kyoto Ryu which is actually a sword style that doesn’t use an actual sword. Instead the wielder of this art style uses their hands, legs, and overall body as a sword and the style is more defensive than offensive.

Shichika’s mundane life is changed when he is visited by a young woman named Togame who has come on orders from the Shogun to quest out for a set of twelve legendary swords known as “Klesha Bringers” that are supposed to bring peace to the land when brought together. Togame also reveals that her father was the man that Shichika’s father slew in the beginning and that she was the young girl that witnessed it all. Watching her father killed turned her hair white and causes one of her eyes to change into a snake like eye whenever she devises plans.

Togame asks Shichika to join her on her quest to bring the swords back from their respective owners and Shichika agrees for the most part. As Togame finishes her story, an unexpected guest arrives: Komori, a ninja from a faction known as the Maniwa Ningun which is also after the twelve swords. After much exposition, he is defeated and the two set off on their journey with the first sword intact.

If you thought that description was long, that’s just a quick synopsis because every episode of Katanagatari runs about 50 minutes long, that’s almost an hour folks, two times longer than a normal anime episode. These episodes can get pretty long but the length helps to bring about more character interactions and overall plot movement.

The art in this series is seriously some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen and really brings out the characters and landscapes that the characters venture through. If you need a reason to watch this show, just look at the art, I can’t think of too many series that looked quite like this one.

The characters in Katanagatari are also one of the main draws, and they’d better be with the length that we’ll be seeing them. Shichika is the most clueless person in this world having been raised on an island only knowing his sister and father. He follows Togame as her “sword” and he fits that description pretty well. Though Shichika is a likeable character, he doesn’t really think for himself and finds himself confused by everything, the only thing he really knows how to do is fight. As for Togame, she considers herself a “Strategist” and is the know all character when it comes to the world and introduces Shichika to new experiences. Though these two are apparently in “love” Shichika can’t really comprehend what that means and becomes a target for Togame’s tsundere tendencies to beat him usually with a “Cherrio!”

Along with the main characters are the Maniwa Ningun ninjas which all have their own flashy costumes which brings up the question of how they are ninja, as well as the wielders of the legendary swords which all have a unique look to them. The sword carriers all have interesting back stories and from what I could tell, don’t seem to be bad people which also brings up the question of why the Shogun wants these swords.

On the negative side of things, this series can get extremely repetitive. Each story for the most part runs in the same order: We find out who has the sword, then Togame thinks up a plan, then Shichika challenges said sword wielder, and promptly kills him/her and reclaims sword. This can get old real quick but the fights themselves are generally interesting. Speaking of fights good luck waiting for those cause there is a ton of dialogue in this show. I can understand how this was once a novel, because at least for the first couple of episodes, the dialogue just keeps going and going. There are times when you think the scene could be over, but the characters just keep talking. There are moments when it’s actually quite funny, but for the most part it really gets in the way especially before a fight. There were times when I just wanted to yell at the TV for the fight to begin.

Overall though, Katanagatari is a series that has a lot going for it. It has a unique look to it, nice fleshed out characters, and an interesting premise as at the end of this set things are going on in the background that promise to explain any questions. Even with the long episode times, and the not-so-original premise, I would recommend this to people who want a slower paced action series, and be ready to read….a lot since this release is a subtitled only release.

This first set contains episodes one through six and comes in a Blu-Ray/DVD bundle pack with a small art book and postcards relevant to the episodes included.

Katanagatari is now available from NiS America as well as on Rightstuf.com and Amazon.

Score: 3.75/5 Total

4.5/5 Just for Art alone

Saturday
Jul162011

High School of the Dead, Anime Review

Review by: Dominic

High School of the Dead or H.O.T.D. as I will be referring to it from here on in is an anime based off the manga by Daisuke Sato and Shoji Sato. The series has been well received in both Japan and America with the manga being published in the states as of last year and now the anime being brought overseas courtesy of Sentai Filmworks. Seeing as Sentai is a smaller company I thought it would be interesting to check out their dub work on a series such as this and see if they can hold their own in a market dominated by other bigger budgeted studios.

The first episode actually begins at the middle with a trio of teenagers fighting off what seems to be undead swarms of fellow classmates simply referred to as “Them”. After the opening, we are then taken back to the beginning of the day as we meet our first protagonist, Takashi. He’s bored with life after being rejected by his childhood friend Rei, and spends his day sulking around the school when he notices a disturbance at the school gates. One thing leads to another and before long a Zombie outbreak starts to occur at the school with the expected consequences. People go into a frenzy and it becomes every man for himself.

This part of the episode is where H.O.T.D. will either make or break the show for people. There is a substantial amount of gore and violence as students and teachers get attacked and blood gushes from every orifice. If you haven’t noticed by now, there are many panty shots and random breast jiggling, because in this show every female character has the strangest proportions, so people who are not fans of violent gore or blatant fan service should just leave now.

Back to the story….as the school starts to slide into chaos, Takashi grabs Rei and his best friend Hisashi (who’s dating Rei…awkward) to find a safe location. Needless to say, lots of zombie beatings occur with more gore and Hisashi gets bitten protecting Rei. As Hisashi becomes one of “Them”, Takashi has to make the decision to kill his friend, and thankfully does so. Thus ends episode one, and if you were able to enjoy this first episode, the rest of the series should be a walk in the park.

Takashi and Rei are later joined by other classmates such as Kohta who is a weapon enthusiast, and in my opinion the resident badass. Accompanied by Kohta is Saya, a self proclaimed genius and preppy girl who eventually changes over time when she’s forced to kill the undead. The last two main characters are Saeko, a crazy upperclassman who delights in killing the undead with her wooden sword, and Shizuka, the incredibly buxom school nurse who doesn’t really fight and most times is relegated to driving.

I would say that the series doesn’t really hit its stride until the third episode when all the characters are together fighting to escape the school and find their families. Once on the outside, they find that not only the school, but the town and in fact the entire world is being affected by the zombie outbreak. The rest of the series is dedicated to the cast reuniting with their families and seeing how the world around them has changed with the outbreak.

As for the dub for H.O.T.D., I felt that the dub cast did an outstanding job with the source material. This is already a mature show what with the violence and sexual undertones, so it would only make sense to have mature language. Just like any good B-movie, there are a fair share of fucks and shits. For the most part the cast is made up of actors that used to work for ADV along with a couple Funimation voices such as Monica Rial and Brittney Karbowski. Each actor does their character justice except maybe Monica as her character is the ditzy school nurse, but for some reason I just didn’t buy the voice that she gave to the character.

In conclusion, H.O.T.D. is a show that knows what it wants to be. It’s all about blood, T&A, and zombies, all in an entertaining package. Obviously most people will know if they’re going to enjoy this series simply from the first five minutes of the show, so you can decide for yourself. I’m hoping that Sentai Filmworks can continue to supply more dubs to their series and that they’re able to pick up more big name series. I remember when I was at AX earlier this year at the Sentai panel, the representative said that people buy more of their shows that have dubs they will continue making them, so it’s all up to you guys.

High School of the Dead is available from Sentai Filmworks on Blu-ray and DVD and can be purchased at their website at http://www.sentai-filmworks.com/. This series is also available on Rightstuf.com and Amazon. The manga is available from Yen Press and is ongoing.           

Rating:

- 4/5 for action, gore, and fanservice fans

- 2/5 for everyone else

Friday
Nov052010

Eden of the East, The Complete Series Anime Review

Hey all,

My DVD review for Eden of the East is now up at here.  Check it out!

This isn't my first review for Mania.com, but expect to see links to all my reviews I do for them on the site as they roll out. 

Thanks for the patience with my podcast break, and I guarantee I'll be coming back full force in a couple weeks!

 

Tuesday
Oct192010

Hetalia: Axis Powers, Season 1 DVD Anime Review

Review by Dominic

When I first heard of about Hetalia back in July at Anime Expo, I was an instant hater.  It sounded stupid and somewhat offensive, and I wondered what exactly all the fuss was about.  It intrigued me enough to give at least give it a shot.  After all I’ll give anything a chance….sometimes two in Durarara!’s case.

Hetalia: Axis Powers is a “historical satire,” and I use that term very loosely because any given episode can take place in a certain time period. In Hetalia, countries are personified as bishonen pretty boy characters that interact with each other the same way the countries in real life do. For example, Germany is a strong gruff character, Italy is a complete coward who loves pasta and pretty ladies, and America is a loud-mouthed, hamburger-eating douchebag whose war plans always end with him being the hero. The series takes place in, of all times, World War II, hence the subtitle Axis Powers.  As the title suggests, you’ll see plenty of Germany, Italy, and Japan. These three interact with each other almost like the Three Stooges, and many episodes consist of Germany trying to whip Italy into shape.

Now to say that these episodes are structured is giving it too much credit. Hetalia plays more like a variety show. The episode can start with the Axis Powers, then move to the Allies, then randomly have a mini episode of “Chibitalia” (which is a cutesy part of the show which tells the history of Italy when it was still a developing country and how every other country around was constantly picking on it). I find it interesting how many random history facts actually show up in this series, such as the fact that the Italian army in Africa nearly died of dehydration because they would use their ration water to cook pasta, or that early on in the war the Russian military deployed men out of their planes without parachutes, thinking that the snow would cushion their fall. Things like this really got me interested in the real history behind the jokes.

Despite the subject matter, it’s all done on a very shallow level, so it never really offends too much. If anything, the most offense someone could get out of this would be the jokes that were added by Funimation, or the accents that the voice actors make for the show, all of whom did a wonderful job. Todd Haberkorn’s Italy is a riot, Patrick Seitz’s Germany is just vat I vould expect, and J. Michael Tatum’s horribly faux French is freaking hilarious. Though I will have to say that my favorite is Eric Vale’s performance as America, as I think he does the greatest job embodying everything that America is probably perceived as to the rest of the world. With this show I noticed that Funimation took the Sgt. Frog/Shin Chan approach to the writing, that is to say they were very liberal with their adaptation; mostly so that they’d be more relevant to the typical American viewer.

With this DVD release we get the first 26 episodes, which may sound like a lot, but when each episode is about 5 minutes each, really only lasts about two hours. This would normally piss me off, but the cost is half a normal set so it’s priced right. The second disc is probably the most informative as there is a historical notes section where it goes through every historical thing that was shown in the episodes, even the jokes you might not have gotten. There are the commentaries and interviews with the Japanese Director of the show--which I haven’t seen on many Funimation releases. For some lucky buyers, there is also a free bandanna included, although I don’t know why the Axis characters bandana is pink. This series is a recommended buy for those who are fond of history or just like to see caricaturized, personified countries poke fun of each other.

Strong Lines from the English Dub:

"Germany is strong, pretty, and whiter than anybody, and that has to account for something nowadays, at least at keeping liquor stores out of your neighborhood"

- Italy’s description of Germany

“Ohhh, Germany I have a surprise for you…. Germany: Vat? Another Jew?- The only Jew joke in the show.”

-Italy

Rating: 8.5/10

Pros: Funny, Irreverent, and all around fun to watch, with plenty of bonuses

Cons: Really? Only 5 Mins? Oh well, on to the next episode…