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Anime Talk Returns!
Anime Talk - January 2012

July 2012 Edition
by Neil Lumbard, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai




Welcome back... and enjoy the latest Studio Ghibli offerings!

Welcome! Dear readers, we now present you with our July 2012 Anime Talk column. I’m sure some of you have noticed that it’s been a while since the last column was released. We’ve met some unfortunate setbacks over here at the column and that’s an issue of relatively colossal or compellingly bizarre importance to us and we hope you will bear with us while we reexamine our own writing patterns and bring you some news tidbits and more! We love this column in many ways. (Don’t misinterpret that line, please.)

Let’s begin this month’s write-up by making one aspect of the Anime Talk column quite clear: this is something we are dedicated to continuing, but we’ve decided to shift the release plans from what those used to be. The column was at one point meant to be a monthly release. It actually was for a while. That was before setbacks eventually drove us all off course and it became more sporadic a release. Bummer, dudes and dudettes, but we hope our newly-ish minted plans will suffice.

It didn’t do anyone any good to not know when a new column would be released. We want to strive to keep anime fans informed on the latest and best releases on DVD and Blu-ray media and to keep people aware of the coolest, most fantastic anime news in general arriving at the airwaves and what-have-you’s.

The DVDTalk.com Anime Talk column will now be released bi-monthly. This means that a brand new column release can now be expected to fall every two months. Not twice a month. Clarification seemed necessary because it could be interpreted either way, but we decided to attempt the two month biz ourselves.

There’s been an onslaught of news lately that has taken us by surprise. Anime is about to be experiencing some neat new things in the coming future. Or, rather, anime fans are about to experience some cool new ways of enjoying their favorites and the best of the latest. This is because of a number of things.

First of all, Toonami is back on the air. This is revolutionary news. I hope you get the cool reference to the heyday of the anime and action cartoon block! Longtime cable channel by generally well-known name of “Cartoon Network” ran a block for years with a host by the fantastic name of Tom, who looked a bit like a cyber space-pilot mixed with an action hero.

Viewers were treated to an eclectic mix of the best of anime and action series like no other television broadcast had ever offered viewers in the United States before (and ever since – understandably in argumentative fashion). The block of programming made an amazingly awesome banner for the kinds of series it contained. It was the birthplace of a great many animation and anime fans (especially the latter). It was the most hip and happenin’ block anywhere on TV. It was what introduced some of our own DVD Talk writers to fandom. Welcome back, Tom (and Toonami)! We’ve missed you.

The block will need to shape up some to continue to survive the new landscape of anime releasing and viewership expectations. I think the fact that the block has so few notable acquisitions for new programming is a detriment to the lifecycle of the block managing successfully to continue on. As far as ideas for block staples, it seems as though there a significant number of series from Funimation that would make perfect additions.

There definitely should be some room for series like One Piece and Fairy Tail at least!

Toonami also has some additional competition coming. The already massively popular subscription service Crunchyroll (which allows subscribers to see newly-created anime) announced recently that it will launch a PS3 app for viewing HD content before summer eventually reaches its close. This service lets people see new anime series only one hour following Japanese television broadcasts, and with English subtitles. You also have some amazing access to a wide-range of series already concluded. That ranges from all of those legendary series such as Naruto and Bleach to classic staples like Gundam. It’s only $6.99 monthly for a premium subscription. Not a bad deal.

VIZ Media has also announced plans to launch a 24-hour anime channel that streams to a popular gaming device (still awaiting announcement). Even more options for anime fans! Surprisingly, the idea is to be programmed-based where the channel follows a traditional schedule like a television network on Cable. I think the idea is brilliant and could meet an overwhelmingly positive response… but only if VIZ manages to convince some of those different anime distributors to contribute to the growth of the channel.

 If it doesn’t then I legitimately wonder who will be up for the channel.

 

VIZ’s anime channel’s has been named Neon Alley and it is currently slated to only air English dubbed production when it reaches its debut later in the year.

What about also offering viewers a select block of Japanese subtitled programs though? Newly airing-in-Japan programs and recent classics like Kimi ni Todoke would make excellent additions.


WTK's July 2012 Tidbits
Presented by Wen-Tsai King


Aniplex of America: After much requests Baccano! (Blu-ray) and Oreimo (DVD) will be coming back in-print this summer. Look for Bakemonogatari (Blu-ray) and the Garden of sinners (DVD) later this fall.

FUNimation Ent.: One of the best news leading to the summer months is the start launch of the Geneon (Universal) titles. Titles include the likes of Ai Yori Aoshi, Armitage III, Ergo Proxy, Shakugan no Shana: Season 1 (Blu-ray / DVD combo), and Texhnolyze. Other upcoming summer releases of interest include Hetalia World Series: Season 4, One Piece: Season 4 Part 1, and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.

NIS America: The summer slate of releases continue on for NISA. It includes Premium Editions (Blu-ray / DVD combo) of anohana - The Flower We Saw That Day, bunny drop, and the last set of kimi ni todoke -From Me to You-.

Sentai Filmworks: More exiciting releases are rolling on Sentai. It includes the likes of Clannad After Story (Blu-ray), K-ON! Season 2, Part 1, and The World God Only Knows (Season 2).

For the readers looking for the Anime Bargains section, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread at the DVDTalk.com forums.

For the readers looking for the Anime Bargains section, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread at the DVDTalk.com forums.


Studio Ghibli:

New Releases on Blu-ray in North America

If you actually managed to be patient enough to not investigate purchasing some United Kingdom, Hong Kong, or Japanese Blu-ray’s of the Studio Ghibli films that were still in essential need of release in North America your waiting paid off with some solid releases recently made available by Disney.

The mouse house finally got around to releasing some more of the Studio Ghibli catalog with the Blu-ray releases for Castle in the Sky, Whisper of the Heart, and newcomer The Secret World of Arrietty arrived too.

If you can’t resist the wait, though, Japan has already released the latest Ghibli film on Blu-ray in an English friendly edition (with subtitles) for Goro Miyazaki’s latest From Up on Poppy Hill. It features a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki. You can order it online here.

Take a look at our DVD Talk reviewer’s opinions on the recent releases:

 

Whisper of the Heart

Review by Stuart Galbraith IV

An unlikely blending of Japanese anime with John Denver's iconic "Take Me Home, Country Road," Whisper of the Heart (Mimi o sumaseba, or "If You Listen Closely," 1995) is another mesmerizing, positively unique feature from Studio Ghibli, the animation studio behind such films as My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Mononoke.  Studio Ghibli is one of those companies that, so far, virtually can do no wrong. Almost everything they've touched has been excellent, both visually and in terms of stories, themes, and characterizations, and Whisper of the Heart is but another superlative example.



Castle in the Sky

Review by Randy Miller III

Studio Ghibli's Castle in the Sky is one of the best animated films of the 1980s, bursting at the seams with mystery, imagination, humor and terrific characters. Disney's Combo Pack features a stellar visual presentation as expected, but the lack of new bonus features (not to mention the unfortunate use of "dubtitles") definitely brings it down a notch. Even so, this is a great family film worth owning---so if you're interesting in experiencing Castle in the Sky in high def, now's your chance.



The Secret World of Arrietty

Review by Adam Tyner

The Secret World of Arrietty doesn't inspire the sort of wonder and hushed awe that I've come to expect from Studio Ghibli's films, instead taking a quieter, more gentle, and ultimately less memorable approach. I greatly enjoyed the film, and I'm astonished as ever at the majesty and beauty of Ghibli's animation, but The Secret World of Arrietty isn't the lingering, revelatory experience so frequently associated with the studio. Still, even lesser Ghibli outclasses most animation the world over, and The Secret World of Arrietty captures enough of that magic to ensure that this Blu-ray disc very much comes Recommended.




Looking for a sampling of some of the best recent anime releases? Look no further. The DVD Talk writing team has put together a list of some of our favorite titles to recently be released on DVD and/or Blu-ray. Take a look below.

(Note: Click on a link for a full review to read.)



One Piece: Collection Six
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

One Piece continues to do something that I never expected from the series when I started it: the series continues to find new ways to keep things fresh, interesting, and satisfying. I love these characters, the animation, and the sense of new adventures that is unparalleled in any other anime. The reason why One Piece is one of Japan's most popular anime series in history is so easy to understand. It's because it's actually the best ongoing series to date.

<>Fans who have continued to support the series by purchasing these collection sets will have a blast with Collection 6. The series is as brilliant as always. If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet now is the perfect time to do so. Seek out all of these collection releases. Just remember to start at the beginning. (Also see: One Piece: Collection Five reviewed).


House of Five Leaves: Complete Series
DVD

Review by John Sinnott

House of Five Leaves is a very good drama that's enhanced by the excellent care that has gone into the release by NIS America.   This is a high quality release all around.  From the packaging to the menus to anime itself, everything about this set was top notch. An anime that I really enjoyed and one that I'm sure I'll re-watch soon, it is well worth checking out.





Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 2 (Premium Edition)
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Reviews by Neil Lumbard

Kimi ni todoke may very well be the best romantic anime series I have ever seen. It's one that can easily be considered a top-contender. There is no disappointing area to the series and it can be recommended with great enthusiasm. It has the kind of emotional power to give viewers the butterflies that other shows are never quite capable of delivering to the audience. 

Simply put: If you truly consider the anime craft an art form this essential romance series has enough wonderful characters and animation to satisfy even the most critical of anime fans.

Combine with absolutely stunning PQ/AQ, and fancy packaging and a purchase does seem to be a must for anime collectors. Expect a review for the third and final volume to be out soon!



\

Fairy Tail: Part 4
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Neil Lumbard

The final collection of Season One episodes of Fairy Tail has arrived and it doesn't disappoint at all! It even surpassed all of my expectations and wound up being the best of all four collection releases by Funimation Entertainment to date. The characters are easily some of the most entertaining in recent anime (a massive selling point), and the scenarios and magic backdrops help an excellent experience become the perfect match for anime fans.

We need to continue supporting Fairy Tail releases if we want Funimation to continue to dub and release quality sets and with a nice turnaround time too. Fans accustomed to following the series will be pleased. Newcomers? Begin at the beginning of the series, and enjoy.


 

Hetalia: Axis Powers - The Complete Series
DVD

Review by Bobby Cooper

Hetalia is hilarious. I had more laughs with this DVD set than any other anime I've ever seen. It's complete lack of a coherent plot and frantic pacing affects its watchability over long time periods--take this 52 episode set in 20-30 minute doses when you're pining for a laugh. Preferably with your favorite adult beverage (Kirin Ichiban mixes phenomenally well with Hetalia).


 

Infinite Stratos: Complete Collection
DVD

Review by Bobby Cooper

Look, Infinite Stratos is not a high-brow, multilayered story. When it dips its foot in those waters, it feels out of place and the scenes falls flat. At its core this series is pure, simple fun. Its humor is similar in spirit to other popular harem series. If you can imagine an amalgamation of Tenchi, Hetalia, Fighting Spirit, Evangelion, and Vandread then you might conjure something close to this series. It takes successful elements of many popular shows and mashes them into a highly watchable series. The extra OVA episode is not enough. I demand more Infinite Stratos!


Zakuro Complete Series Premium Edition
DVD

Review by John Sinnott

This was a fun and enjoyable series.  The characters were delightful, the animation was good, and the plot was much more developed than I expected.  Add to that NIS America's excellent packaging which includes a very nice hardcover book and you've got a can't-miss set.


Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge: Premium Edition
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Neil Lumbard

Arakawa Under the Bridge didn't quite manage to equally match the first season... it's still a beautiful anime with an immensely lush world of remarkable animation, solid characters, and comedic moments. The pricing for the Premium Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo release is expensive but worth it, and more so considering the excellent video/audio presentation in combination with collector-worthy packaging and an art-book with plenty of material.


Princess Jellyfish: The Complete Series
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Adam Tyner

Princess Jellyfish latches onto a group of unrepentently geeky women in Tokyo and slathers on a gleefully surreal streak. The end result is a series that's really sweet, extremely funny, teeming with personality, and is rightly more fascinated with its small army of really strong characters than it is in overly familiar anime tropes. It's one of the only anime series I've come across that passes the Bechdel Test, revolving around strong female characters who aren't tossed in there to fall in love, aren't ever exploited for shameless cheesecake, and aren't told that they have to act a certain way or look like a cover girl to be women.

Princess Jellyfish manages to be both cute and feminist, two great tastes that seem like they'd be pretty tough to get to taste great together, and that head-on collision somehow works beautifully here. I fell pretty hard for Princess Jellyfish from its very first episode, and it's without a doubt one of the most distinctive and unique anime series I've ever come across.


   

Sekirei: Complete Series
Blu-ray

Review by John Sinnott

While Sekirei doesn't break any new ground in terms of action or harem shows, it is a fun, short 12-eisode anime that fun to watch.  There are some good battles and some funny bits and it doesn't overstay its welcome.


     

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood: Complete Collection One
Blu-ray

Review by John Sinnott

Fullmetal Alchemist:  Brotherhood is excellent, and in some ways better than the original.  It's not just telling the same story once more; it expands the tale with new characters and situations.  I was floored after watching this first collection.  Both fans who enjoyed the original anime and those who are who are new to the series should strap themselves in for a great time. This is a great, great, show.  Whether you've seen the original anime series or not, you owe it to yourself to check this show out.


  

Occult Academy Complete Series Premium Edition
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by John Sinnott

Occult Academy.  This show, about a time traveler who arrives at a school for the occult in order to prevent an imminent alien invasion has the right mix of adventure, mystery, and comedy for a short but sweet show. I really had fun watching Occult Academy.  It ended up being much better than I was expecting.  Running only 13 episodes in length, the show manages to put a lot of story into that time frame and the result is a program that is full with characters that are nicely fleshed out.  With a nice mix of adventure, humor, and mystery as well as a conclusion that doesn't leave things hanging, this is a show that's worth seeking out.



    

Okami-san and Her Seven Companions: Complete Collection
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Neil Lumbard

Okami-San and Her Seven Companions is a pretty straightforward genre anime show. You have a school-setting with the Otogi Academy being the place of education and there's something that seems unusual about most of these school students. There's a school club where the students of Otogi are willing to do useful tasks requested of fellow students and the price is that the club be paid for the services at some point in time. Pricing isn't discussed as much, though. It is in this club that Okami-san resides. She is strong-willed, intelligent, and a leader of the group. Joining her in these quests to help fellow students are her friends and a school-boy who crushes on her the entire show. Most of the characters go on little quests throughout the show and adventures ensue.

Okami-San and Her Seven Companions is a cute, lighthearted, and charming series. Too bad things don't seem to go much of anywhere. The characters are entertaining but lack depth in development. The plotline is barely existent. While I don't hesitate to recommend renting it, seeing the entire series may prove unsatisfactory to some degree. Only purchase if you have viewed the entire series and are a fan of collector packaging (this set is beautiful to behold).


.hack//Quantum: The Complete 3 OVA Series
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Neil Lumbard

Imagine a world in which the video-games you played were not merely about pressing down buttons in a repetitive-like manner on plastic key-pads to earn high scores and bonus points. Instead, try to visualize what it would mean to have a video-game focused entirely upon the possibility for interactivity.  That is a question of essential importance to .hack// Quantum.

.hack//Quantum is essentially a motion-picture. Technically, it's a three episode OVA but it does flow almost entirely as a movie would. This effort should be pleasing for longtime .hack fans as well as for newbies just getting started on the franchise. The story is exciting, the characters are well developed, and the entire thrill ride is a blast from start to finish. Funimation has outdone themselves with very impressive PQ/AQ (even more so for the English language dub), and a bucket-load of extras. In Yoda speak: Have fun, you will.


            

Cat Planet Cuties - Complete Series
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Francis Rizzo III

Cat Planet Cuties (Asobi ni Ikuyo) brings more to the table than many sets of ample breasts (unlike other series that shall remain named earlier in this review.) Yet another harem anime, this show surrounds nerdy Kio with not only Aoi and Manami, a pair of girls who want him, yet can't let themselves show it, but a buxom alien cat woman named Eris, who is more than willing to make her affection for the guy known. Of course, as is par for the harem course, Kio is debilitated by his shyness regarding the girls, and freaks out any time there's a bit of contact or a flash of flesh. It may help drag out the tangled romances a bit, keeping him from pouncing on the first available girl, but it gets tired seeing a guy lose it whenever he sees a breast.

Approaching this series, the main appeal was as obvious as the lumps on Eris' chest, but after watching the set, it became clear that it offered more than T&A-powered laughs and titillation. Even if it was still silly harem anime at its core, at least it's funny. The set presents the show in beautiful quality, and throws in a few entertaining extras to boot, making it easy to recommend this set to anyone who enjoys curvy cartoons, male wish fulfillment, exciting action and fun comedy.


What do you think about the column?  Like what you see?  Don't like it?  Have a comment or suggestion?  Drop us an e-mail and let us know!
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