Patlabor LE and the Naruto Manga Series
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
Anime Talk has a look at the new Patlabor Movie release this week, a rerelease that has improved sound and picture and is definitely worth the double dip. Another interesting title this week is Saikano, series that asks the question "what would you do if your girlfriend turned out to be an ultimate weapon of mass destruction?" With all the press about the new Naruto anime series on TV and on DVD, writer Todd Douglass looks at the manga series. Not only is it where the character started, but its the best selling manga in Viz' line. Not only that, but we also have Holly's Anime Bargains and our table of anime discs that are scheduled to be released in the next couple or weeks.
Marginal upgrades (informally known as double dips by fans) are plentiful in anime these days and usually not worth spending money on but Patlabor: The Movie (Limited Edition) was definitely one of the rare exceptions. With an upgraded set of audio tracks, a better picture and a set of fine collectable books as part of the set, it should sell out in no time as the first movie in the popular franchise about near-future construction robots and a plot to destroy Tokyo. While later episodes in the multitude of television series and the OVAs had a lot more action, the quality of the cerebral roller coaster ride the movie offered up stands out as a fine tribute to the fine police officers of the Specialized Vehicular Unit (SVU). With intrigue and a tensely plotted story to back up the premise, this upgraded edition finally provides the kind treatment the material deserves.
Next up were the latest four episodes of the Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender 2 where Aang, Sokka, and Katara seek out the wisdom of the former Avatar, Roku to find out why he has been trying to contact them from the spirit world. The hunt for the Avatar is still on by the ruling Fire Nation but by the end of this volume, the series gets a time line for Aang to learn the other three styles of “bending” in order to challenge the rule of the Fire Nation lest the world be forever plunged into chaos at their hand. With minimal extras and a mere four episodes on the DVD, the value of the set may be questioned but fans of morality plays may enjoy this straightforward series designed to instill a sense of balance in youthful viewers.
With the sixth volume, Kyo Kara Maoh takes a turn for the better and becomes a bit more dark and serious. Building on the events that have gone on in the past, as well as filling in some gaps and answering a lot of questions about the series, the four episodes on this disc really bring things to a head as a war is about to break out and the outcome is anything but certain. Much more engrossing than the previous volumes, this volume is one of the best yet.
What would you do if your girlfriend turned out to be an ultimate weapon of mass destruction? That's the reality that Shuji faces in Saikano. The world is waning after years of war and Japan is constantly on the defensive. The government was looking for a powerful weapon and found it in the body of a seventeen year old girl. Now instead of writing notes in her journal and making lunches for her boyfriend she's destroying cities left and right. Cities aren't all that are being destroyed though for Chise as she slowly starts to lose her humanity. She fights to save her love but at the cost of her very being. Saikano is a peculiar series to say the least but it's one with a ton of emotion and an interesting concept. Despite its premise it's a much slower anime than you'd expect though it's a unique series worth looking into.
Reviewer John Sinnott wasn't really impressed with the first volume of Panda-Z, and finds the second volume is actually a bit worse. The limited novelty that the first volume had has worn off by this point, and these very short stories still fall flat. Panda-Z doesn't have a plot, and there is no thread linking the episodes. It is supposed to be a parody of anime, possibly, but it falls far from being either funny or witty. The show involves a panda, Pan-Taron, who sometimes fights in a giant panda robot, and sometimes not. That's about it. With only 15 minutes of content (excluding the credits) on each disc, this isn't worth it.
An OVA sequel to the 2004 film Munto, Munto 2: Beyond the Walls of Time is a very gorgeous looking show with wonderful character designs, detailed animation and some impressive battle scenes. Unfortunately the confusing story and drab characters and uneven pacing do little to make the program enjoyable. The show starts off with a quick recap of the first movie and then launches into an impressive battle scene. At about the 15 minute point however, the narrative switches from the battle lines to an Earth girl who spends all of her time staring off into space. Unfortunately she's the focus for the rest of the movie, just zoning out while her friends worry about her, until the confusing conclusion that doesn't really solve all of the problems. This is another disc that you should just skip.
Like many companies, Viz is putting out some of their anime series in season sets after the initial release has run it's course. Rumiko Takahashi's fan favorite series InuYasha is getting this boxed set treatment and the second season has recently been released. This season was excellent, building on the success of the first year's shows and coming up with some great story lines. New characters are introduced, the evil Naraku becomes more powerful, some problems with Inuyasha's older brother Sesshoumaru pop up and there is some very good character development with the main characters growing as the series progresses. If you've put off buying this series, these season sets are definitely the way to go.
Speaking of InuYasha, Viz has is also releasing the 41st volume in that series. Though it only has a mere three episodes, the trio on this disc are filled with action and some significant plot developments. Not only does Inu battle Bankotsu in a mortal fight, but a very powerful villain from the past proves that it's hard to keep an evil demon down. Fans of the show won't want to miss this one.
The surprising, wacky, and off beat series Kodocha returns with the fifth volume, and this time things are a little different. Sana's mom publishes her tell-all book about she and Sana's life, and the revelations have an impact on Sana, putting her on an emotional roller coaster. That's not to say that the series has turned maudlin, it hasn't. There's still the bizarre humor that fans have grown to love, but this volume proves that there's more to the series than just its odd sense of humor.
We'll end off this issue's capsule reviews with a look at a show that fans either love or hate: Dragon Ball Z. John Sinnott loves the humor and action in the show (though he'll admit that the fights can be drawn out too much) and is eagerly anticipating FUNimations releases of the earliest episodes in their uncut form. The first volume in the second saga, The Saiyan Invasion, has just been released, and it's a great installment. Things look pretty desperate as not one, but two Saiyans have landed on Earth. They're not here to conquer though, they are here to destroy all life and then sell the planet to the highest bidder. With Son-Goku still not back from the dead, the Z-Warriors have their work cut out for them.
Out Your Local Best Buy for:
by Todd Douglass
If you watch a lot of anime and consider yourself an otaku then at some point in your life you have read a manga. Just about all of the big series that we see on DVD (or TV) today got their start in a printed publication of some kind. Shows like Full Metal Alchemist, Azumanga Daioh, and Ghost in the Shell first came to us on a completely different medium before their respective animation studios got a hold of the licenses. Recently John had the chance to check out the popular Naruto series thanks to the newly released DVDs by Viz.
I do have to admit that I haven't had the chance to check out the anime yet, but I have been a big fan of the manga for some time now. I guess I have been dragging my feet on checking out the DVD due to the edited content and fact that there is only an English dubbing track available on it. Of course that fact doesn't have anything to do with the enjoyment of the manga, so here at Anime Talk we figured that we'd draw your attention to amine's sibling.
Naruto is a tale about ninjas, mysticism, and a young boy who loves to cause trouble. You could almost say that he's like Denise the Menace. Well, a Denise the Menace that possesses the soul of a fox demon, aspires to be a ninja, and eats ramen noodles every day. You see, twelve years before the series takes place the Nine-Tails Demon Fox wreaked havoc upon the world. His tails could raise tsunamis and flatten mountains and he was so powerful that he could not be killed outright. Instead the fourth Hokage sealed his spirit into an infant child named Uzumaki Naruto.
When the series picks up Naruto is twelve years old and in school to become a shinobi. The only problem is he isn't the most attentive and he really likes to cause trouble to get attention. Due to the nature of his past all of the adults in town have shunned him and he's been basically branded as a social outcast. That explains the reason that he acts out so frequently and why he always receives failing grades. In fact he's one of the few that doesn’t appear to be graduating from his class. At least until he steals an ancient scroll.
It wasn't the act of theft that brought him to the point of respect where he was able to graduate; it was what he did after he read the script. He was duped into stealing it because it held some secrets involving the demon spirit within him, but after reading a portion of it he learns a powerful doppelganger technique. Naruto now has the ability to create hundreds of clones and because of this newly acquired skill he becomes a ninja. The training doesn't stop there and as the school year goes on new sensei are brought in to pass or fail the students.
Hatake Kakashi proves to be an unorthodox instructor right from the get-go. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura all have the dubious honor of being his newest victims, er… students. From this point the Naruto manga gains more personality. The three prospective ninjas play off of each other very well and having Kakashi tossed into the mix gives a new direction for the second volume. I've read up to the newest (ninth) installment but since we're featuring the first volume in this column I won't spoil anything that’s coming down the road.
Naruto has become the best selling manga in Viz's library and with good reason. There have been 31 volumes released in Japan and the series’ popularity continues. The characters are charming, the world is rich with detail, and it's pretty funny to boot. If you’ve watched the anime and want to see how the manga compares, or if you're just looking for an entertaining read you can't go wrong with Naruto.
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