Boxed Sets and more!
a semi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Ok, so in case you haven't noticed the anime industry is taking a few hits as of late. With the semi-recent news about ADV coming down the pipeline you may notice that our column lacks reviews of their titles. Things seem to be up in the air as some sort of negotiations take place and for the time being we are not receiving any current releases to check out.
Fortunately some of the top performers in the market such as FUNimation, Manga, VIZ, and Bandai are still pushing content out and there's plenty to love. It's hard to argue the fact that at this stage in the game everyone seems to be going at things their own way. As the business strategies unfold and the brunt of the economy comes to fruition we'll see exactly where these publishers land. With that being said here are some of our recent reviews and some fine bargains brought to you by WTK. Thanks for reading!
For some reason, Bandai Visual decided to release the concluding OVA from Super Robot Wars before TV series that actually should have come first. That was pretty confusing, and though the OVA is pedestrian and uninspiring, especially if you haven't seen the show, the TV series is actually quite enjoyable. We looked at volumes one and two this time around and over these five episodes the program starts to become more fleshed out and though it is still a standard mecha show, it has a lot of action and some fun, if typical, characters. It's unfortunate that BV has priced these discs so extraordinarily high that most otaku won't be able to watch this enjoyable show.
The fourth volume of The Third departs from the metaphysical hokum of that wrapped up the previous volume and gets back to basics, telling the story of Honoka and her adventures across the desert-like planet where she lives. The four episodes that make up this disc tell one story from beginning to end, and while there was some deus ex machina aspects it was a fun ride and worth checking out.
From Akamatsu Ken, the creator of Love, Hina, comes another romantic-comedy show, Negima! This story of a ten year old boy with secret magic powers who just happens to be teaching a class of eighth grade girls is a lot like Hina. It's funny, sweet, and has just a touch of mystery to keep the story interesting. Fans of Ken's earlier work will surely want to give this series a look, and this boxed set containing the whole series is just the way to do it.
Tactics is one of those shows that shouldn't work, but does. The idea of a man hunting demons with a super-powered ally is nothing new, but rather than being a run of the mill anime this series is something unique. A thoughtful show will well written stories, viewers will soon find themselves engrossed in the stories and wanting more. This attractively priced series set is the perfect way to get the whole show at one time and gets a very strong recommendation.
Witchblade keeps chugging along as the fourth volume has recently been released. The storyline receives some more fleshing out this time around as Masane and Riho's relationship is tested in a big way. Things are revealed about the past that shed light on what happened after the earthquake and it's definitely an interesting twist (though not one that we didn't see coming). Without giving much away some lead characters die in this volume and others step forward for their time in the spotlight. This was a strong release all around and quite honestly it was probably one of the better ones that Witchblade has seen.
When a comedy series comes out it's always a question of its viability. Do the jokes continue to be funny? Do things grow stale and tired after a while? Unfortunately for School Rumble the fifth volume has the show feeling kind of long in tooth. The gags aren't quite as fresh and though the writing is still strong each episode winds up kind of boring in a way. You can only sit through the same situations over and over again before the well starts to dry up. With that being said if you've been following the show you'll probably continue to enjoy it but maybe not quite as much.
An oldie but goodie is always fun to watch. Unfortunately as shows continue beyond their designed means they sometimes lose their steam. Such was the case with Ranma ½. By the fifth year things had declined in such a way that only about a third of this season is really worth paying attention to. Some glimmer of hope remains and I suppose staggering the viewing of these episodes may help. I personally love this series but this season just wasn't anywhere near as good as the previous ones.
by John Sinnott
Funimation has released the 24 episode anime series Kiddy Grade several times. In 2004 they released it on 8 individual volumes with 3 episodes per disc, then the next year they put the show out again, this time as four double disc sets. In 2006 they released the whole series once again in a boxed set with a $90 price tag. Now, as part of their Viridian Collection the show gets a fourth release as well as a big price cut. The entire series will now set you back only $50 MSRP, even less if you shop around a little. The show is definitely worth seeking out too. It's an all around fun show with some great battles, a few nice twists and some really funny moments too. While not a deep show, it is very entertaining and amusing series that ends much too soon.
Éclair and Lumiere seem like ordinary kids, about 16 and 10 years old respectively who work as receptionists at the GOTT (Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs.) But looks can be deceiving. They're actually ES members, a high powered fighting team who are assigned to the most difficult missions. Even though they only have Class-C powers, they use their abilities to the utmost and manage to get into, and out of, several sticky situations.
Éclair has the ability of "Power." Not only is she strong, she's inhumanly fast and quite agile. She tends to run into situations announcing her presence (and giving up the element of surprise) with a hilarious "Ta-Da!" Her main weapon is her lipstick, which she uses to write her name on a wall and then peels off the writing into along, flat rope that she then uses as a whip. As a backup Éclair packs a Walther P99 automatic gun which sometimes comes in handy. (A possible nod to James Bonds Walther PPK perhaps.)
Lumiere doesn't go in for the flashy theatrics of her partner, preferring to follow the advice she often gives Éclair: "A lady really should be more elegant." Her power is "Puppet" the ability to hack into and take control of any computer she can touch or access with nanite 'strings' that she can emit from her fingertips. The girls are also helped on their missions by their giant robot/mecha Donnerschlag and their sentient spaceship La Muse.
The first third of the show is pretty much a 'mission of the week' type program, and these are the most fun. It's funny to see Éclair burst into a meeting of hostile foes dressed as a pizza delivery girl with her trademark "Ta-Da!" and then proceed to wipe the floor with them. Lumiere's powers are even more impressive, and when the other ES members make fun of Lumiere and Éclair because they only have Class-C abilities, you really start to wonder what the more powerful ES teams can do. (It's quite impressive when you eventually find out too.)
The show takes an unexpected turn about a third of the way through as we see that the GOTT and the group's commander aren't the benevolent organization that everyone thought it was. The show grow more serious in this middle section, and truth be told the show moves a bit too fast. The GOTT goes from being a great and wonderful organization to the pawn of evil in a blink, and some of the actions the organization takes doesn't necessarily follow from what has gone on before, but this wasn't enough to mar the series.
The final third has the organization, as well as Éclair and Lumiere rebuilding. This section had some good twists in it and, while still having a serious tone, was a little lighter and more energetic. There's not a lot I can say about the final story arc without giving away some significant spoilers, but the series ends well with a giant battle that was impressive and fun.
For another take on the show, read Todd Douglass' reviews of the earlier boxed set here.
The eight Kiddy Grade DVDs, which seem to be identical to the individual releases, come in an eight page pressboard 'book'. Each DVD is housed on one side of each page. This isn't my favorite style of packaging. The pages are a bit flimsy and I can see them becoming worn and damaged over the years, and I worry about the DVDs themselves getting scratched as they are slid in and out of their pockets. I wouldn't let this packaging dissuade anyone from buying the set, but it is worth mentioning.
The show comes with the original Japanese audio in stereo as well as an English dub in both DD 5.1 and stereo. I alternated languages for a while and eventually settled on the 5.1 track since the action scenes sounded much more impressive than the stereo Japanese track. During the battles the rears got a good workout as did the subwoofer. The English cast was pretty good too, though Lumiere's voice was a bit too high pitched for my tastes I soon got used to it. There were no audio defects worth noting.
This full frame show looks pretty good. The colors were solid and the blacks were strong, especially in the shots of deep space. The level of detail was fine too. On the digital side there was some aliasing, especially among fine lines in the background when the camera was panning across them. Aside from that, the show looked fine.
There are a fair amount of extras scattered across these eight discs, though nothing really earth-shattering. There's the obligatory clean opening and closing, a series of image galleries, some Japanese promotional videos and commercials used to promote the show, and text profiles of some of the main characters.
This was a fun series! Though the middle third was a little unexpected and not as entertaining as the other parts, the series taken as a whole is very enjoyable and well worth watching. This is one of those series that when it's over you're a bit sad that there isn't any more. This nice set collects the whole series at a bargain price and comes highly recommended.
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