Boxed sets galore and The Fuccons
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
With the holidays coming, many anime producers are releasing their back catalog in series sets. With so many collections coming out, it's hard to know which ones to hint for and which ones to avoid. This week we have reviews of a whole slew of these sets including Those Who Hunt Elves, Kaleido Star, Requiem from the Darkness, The Robotech Protoculture Collection, and more. We also have the latest single disc releases covered such as Gantz, Shingu, and the final volume of Elfen Lied. Be sure to scan all our capsule reviews of the latest anime releases. We also have an early look at The Fuccons, a decidedly odd show featuring mannequins in all the roles. Check out Chris Tribbey's thoughts on the show this week. Additionally there's our usual table of upcoming titles and Holly returns for more Anime bargains. (Assuming anyone has any money left after Deep Discount DVD's 20% off sale.)
Though it isn't a show from Japan, one DVD set that many anime fans will want to check out is Æon Flux. It is an interesting, perplexing, and visually stimulating show that is well worth watching. This program about a highly skilled spy and the ruler of an authoritarian state who both loves and loathes her has a unique feel and style that is unlike other animated works, from America or Japan. An esoteric program, yet one that is fun to try to unravel, this DVD set is the definitive edition. With many informative commentaries, the original shorts, and copious art galleries, this has everything a fan of the show could want. If you've never seen the program before and enjoy cutting edge narratives and animation, this would be a great blind buy. Highly Recommended.
One of the most notorious characters in Japan made his return in Lupin the 3rd: The Flying Sword, a set of 6 episodes from the television series. See Lupin, Fujiko, Goemon, and Jigen try to stay one step ahead of Inspector Zenigata and all sorts of other nasties as they attempt to line their pockets will ill gotten gain. Just in time for the holidays, this twelve volumes of adventures even had a Christmas themed episode to put you in the mood for the holidays.
The story of "the poison that will destroy the world" takes a dramatic turn in the fourth volume of Scrapped Princess. This volume really fleshes out the story and fills in a lot of the details, but the plot also changes direction in the last episode taking the program off in a new direction. This is a good volume that advances the story nicely.
Well, ADV has released the penultimate volume of Gantz, and it only contains three episodes again. Though I really dislike the way they are treating the fans with this release, I have to admit the series it excellent. If the show sucked, it would be easy to trash the whole disc, but the show is really good and deserves a look. Volume nine is the most intense so far, with a lot of surprises that will keep viewers on the edge of their seat.
DearS Second Contact comes along and provides a little more entertainment than the first volume did, though not a lot. The show is riddled with genre clichés, poor character development, and has an overall "been there, done that" feeling. To be fair the series provides plenty of laughs, eye popping fanservice, and things pick up once Takeya's younger sister shows up. If you like your anime with a fair amount of raunchiness and a sense of humor, then you may want to take a look at this show. The only problem is that it isn't wildly original.
When a group of Japanese nationals are sucked into a magical world filled with elves, monsters and sorcery, all hell breaks loose. They become known as Those Who Hunt Elves, because in order to get back home they have to find spell fragments which have been grafted onto the skin of female elves. That means it's time to travel the land and strip as many as possible! This anime is wild, hilarious and highly entertaining, so if you're looking for a twisted fantasy show with a lot of laughs you won't be disappointed.
Elfen Lied comes to a bloody climax with volume four. Though it's disappointing that they only put three episodes on most of the discs, this is a quality show, albeit very violent. In this final volume Kohta finally remembers his past, and the most powerful Diclonius is released to kill Lucy and Nana. The series races to a very satisfying conclusion. Most anime shows of this type rank the story way down at the bottom of the list of things to put a lot of work into, but this one doesn't. It has a well crafted story that has a very tight plot. Highly Recommended.
The second to last volume of Stellvia brings a new threat to humanity as well as some new revelations and another appearance by the mysterious aliens. Though a lot happens in the three episodes contained on this DVD, the show is still a shell of it's former self. It no longer has the charm or excitement that the first half contained, and the characters aren't nearly as interesting. Putting the climax to the series right in the middle was a big mistake. There's a reason that the climax is always at the end.
In a confirmation of previous reviews, the Kaleido Star: Amazing Collection showed that quality and quantity go hand in hand with the entire series offered up in one big boxed set at a great value. Gone are the extras but this story of a futuristic circus troupe had such replay value that they were hardly noticed when this second opinion rolled in. Sora Naegino, a 16 year old Japanese girl in search of her dream to become a star, finds life under the pressures of the big top to be rewarding yet fulfilling at the same time as she gears up with a rival to attempt a stunt that has killed many in the past. The show is for fans of all ages and both genders though so don't overlook this set.
Requiem from the Darkness has been collected in a boxed set too. Taking place during the Edo period in Japan, this show concerns that travels of Momosuke, an aspiring writer. He encounters a trio of strange people: Mataichi an old monk who is very adepts at using charms, Ogin the puppeteer, and Nagamimi a shape-shifter. These three people have the job of dealing out punishment to those who have eluded the law. They do their job effectively and with a certain amount of relish. This horror based show has a lot of style and atmosphere, not to mention creepy moments. Sure to please fans who want something a little spooky.
Surreal and sublime are two words that best describe Kino's Journey. The show is unlike any other on the market and it carries with it a completely different tone and purpose. It proves to be very thought provoking, emotional and packed with action when need be. The series follows a young girl named Kino as she wanders the countryside with her talking motorcycle Hermes. The two visit various countries and learn about different cultures in one of the most memorable and impressionable anime on the market.
Bandai is releasing s-CRY-ed for the third time, this time under their Anime Legends series. They've packaged two of the individual volumes together and selling them at a reduced price. This is a pretty good fighting anime. The battles are fast and furious but even more there is a good amount of plot (when compared to most fighting shows.) A fun and exciting show that is recommended.
As the series starts wrapping up the major threads for the inevitable conclusion coming soon, Shingu: Secret of the Stellar War V4 reminded us of how much quality is available in some of the least heralded titles. With Earth's defenders dropping like flies and the Federation finally about to step up and assist, this volume of the increasingly popular Shingu provided even more action than we had hoped for, easily earning a Highly Recommended from our staff.
In a show set just slightly in the future, the trio of the Danger Service Agency combine their talents in the complete series run with Mezzo: Complete Collection to offer up action, adventure, and a bit of fan service as they take assignments dealing with deadly viruses, space aliens, and even a ghost or two as they set out to put food on the table and stay just one step ahead of those who'd have their heads on a platter. Like Kaleido Star, the extras were sacrificed in order to drop the price greatly and offer as choice to fans more interested in the episodes than the "watch once" extras of the individual volumes.
ADV is releasing Robotech almost as often as Anchor Bay puts out another version of one of the Evil Dead movies. Even so, the latest release, The Protoculture Collection, is easily the best so far. Containing the best of all their previous releases, this collection has the Remastered discs, plusthe Legacy Collecion bonus discs all in four nice books with a page for each DVD. These are all contained in an attractive slipcase. If you have been waiting to buy this series, now is the time to do it. I can't imagine a nicer package than this.
In another retro title come to DVD, Golgo 13: The Professional, offered up the original tale of an assassin pit against his prey when a billionaire stops at nothing to gain his revenge on the infamous Duke. Combining graphic sexuality, ultra violence, and a non-stop pace that many have appreciated over the years, our reviewers found the tale a bit limited in terms of the one dimensional characters but still worth a look.
One of the most baffling titles to hit our reviewing piles in recent memory, Bottle Fairy 1: Spring & Summer was a tale of four young fairies trying to become more human by imitating the Japanese ceremonies around them (as filtered through the eyes of a neighborhood child). The combination of silliness and saccharine sweet antics didn't involve us as it might a child but the title will appeal to younger audiences in search of something wayyyyyyy out in left field.
Even some of the better series fall into the dreaded sophomore slump so it came as little surprise that Ultra Maniac 4: Magical Feelings was so afflicted. The trials and tribulations of wannabe witch Nina Sakura and her best friend Ayu Tetsushi might be more appealing to a young female looking for her own boyfriend or special place in the world than us but the generic situations and stories were boring to us compared to some of the quality titles showing up of late. Rent it if you must but don't say we didn't warn you.
Cardcaptor Sakura is a lot of fun. This shojo anime show aobut a ten year old girl who has to hunt down magic spells that she accidently released has a good amount of humor and is sure to please younger viewers. The show also has three dimensional characters and plots that are a little more complex than your typical kid's program which make it fun for older viewers too. With Geneon's release of Cardcaptor Sakura: The Clow Book, viewers can get the first nine volumes (the entire premier season of the show) in an attractive book style case at a greatly reduced price. A delightful show that will please the young and young at heart.
It's rare that a series be both pretty as a picture and timeless as a work of art but Haibane Renmei: Complete Collection managed both with ease. In a story about angels and ascension through a small town, the journey of Rakka was explored. We're not even sure of all the details since the story is as much an allegory as anything else, but watching all the episodes at once made this boxed set all the easier to swallow at a better than usual price.
The Juken Club continues their fierce battle in the bowling alley of doom as the Executive Council appears in force to put an end to them once and for all. The third volume of Tenjho Tenge features three episodes that are packed with action and some much needed character development. We learn what motivates Maya to train Souichiro and why she loathes Mitsuomi as much as she does. As usual there is plenty of blood, cleavage, and screaming as the series continues to move forward. We just wish that there were four episodes (and maybe some features) per disc, instead of the flimsy barebones treatment.
The World Martial Arts Tournament starts to get underway in the fifth volume of the Dragon Ball Z: The Great Saiyaman. A lot happens in the three episodes in this volume: Goku teaches Goten and Videl to fly, Gohan comes back from the dead for a day, and qualifying for the tournament begins. This story is played for laughs, and there are a lot of them to be found too. A highly entertaining volume.
While the copy of Hakugei 1: Legend of Moby Dick we received was only a limited value screener, the series itself had a lot to offer in this look at a futuristic version of Moby Dick. Rather than offer up the best quality of animation, this story set in the year 4699 offered superior writing as the web of intrigue was slowly woven into an interesting tapestry for our enjoyment. The dangers of whaling has gotten worse in the years between the original and the space faring society shown here but the concept of Captain Ahab is as timeless as that of his legendary prey so give this recommended title a look.
Full of personality and action, Jing: King of Bandits is a unique half series that takes a different twist on the fantasy genre. He may not appear so on the surface, but as young and cocky as Jing is, he is also the king of all bandits. He and his bird companion, Kir, travel the countryside in search of treasures to steal and people to help. They aren't exactly Robin Hood and Little John, but they do use their thievery skills to aide people in need. Along the way there are a lot of interesting characters and adventures, though more conjoined story arcs would have been appreciated instead of stand alone plotlines. It's an entertaining series that is worth your time if you're looking for something with a little bit of a different tone.
Created in honor of the 50th anniversary of influential comic artist Leiji Matsumoto's first published work, Galactic Railways continues on strong with the third volume. This four episode disc contains some excellent episodes including the touching story of Captain Bulge's true love as well as a pair of action packed shows. It's a nice mix that shows just how diverse this series is.
Scheduled for release on Nov. 29, 2005
Scheduled for release on Dec. 6, 2005
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by Chris Tribbey
Since we're hitting a thin time for new anime series and features, I took the screener ADV Films sent me for The Fuccons, a series of three-minute shorts following a family of 1950s American mannequins transplanted to Japan. This "live action" series was segments on the Japanese variety show Vermillion Pleasure Nights, acting as a bumper between other programs. It's apparently become quite a hit in Japan, inspiring tons of licensed products and even themed restaurants.
I've been wanting to see this since ADV announced the acquisition at Anime Expo over the summer. A family of American mannequins who have to figure out how to live in Japan? It's got to be funny, right?
Not even close.
Something must be lost in the translation of what's funny in Japan and what's funny here, because while the characters -- Mikey and his father James and mother Barbara -- laugh hysterically at themselves every episode, I didn't chuckle once. It starts with an episode about Mikey trying to go to school on Sunday and being told to brush his teeth after breakfast, so he doesn't have bad breath. Hahahahahahaha. Mikey goes on to travel all over mainland Japan looking for things his mom has on her shopping list. And, get this, dad is following him! Hahahahahahaha. Mikey is forced to rescue two girls from drowning in a lake. Oh kids, his parents muse, they lead such interesting lives. Hahahahahahaha.
After watching this first DVD, I'm now convinced the Japanese at large must be insane or extremely bored if they find The Fuccons (Oh! Mikey, as it's called over there) funny. There's nothing funny about the dialogue, situations or characters.
I congratulate ADV for taking a chance in bringing The Fuccons to America, and the company is launching a shrewd marketing plan with the first DVD costing only $6. But to make this series successful for Americans, ADV should have scrapped the original Japanese script, and rewrote this entire thing, to make it more sensible and humorous for U.S. audiences. Rent It if you're looking for something completely new; Skip It if you're actually looking for something funny.
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