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Holiday Edition
Anime Talk December 2012






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




Welcome back... and enjoy the latest news and anime reviews this Holiday Season!

The Anime Talk Introduction

It’s time for another installment of DVDTalk.com’s Anime Talk column! We have compiled an excellent group of reviews to share with our readers this month. We compiled more reviews in an effort to bring you a sampling of the best new anime releases around. This month we bring to you the latest tidings of anime goodness on the horizon, our list of the best anime releases of 2012, an interesting sampling of the latest and best reviewed anime titles, and a post-holiday shopping guide to cure any post-holiday gift blues for those presents you really wanted but somehow didn't manage to receive. So sad.

As reviewers, we often find ourselves watching loads of anime to find the special series worth remembering. We watch both awful and awesome anime series to find you the series that are actually worth our readership’s time, investment, and hard earned moolah. In other words, remember to look to our column as an indication of the best titles available on the anime marketplace. You can find information here about the best titles newly released in home incarnations on DVD and Blu-ray.

The DVDTalk.com Anime Talk column is a bi-monthly offering with information on some of the latest anime releases.There have been a number of notable new releases over the past two months. Please check reviews in the section indicated below to find a sampling of the best discs arriving in our reviewing quarters (not that we actually all sit together in the same office, divided into a fraction while watching anime 24/7). Have fun, readers!



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

Leading off toward 2013, FUNimation Entertainment will be releasing a pair of new licenses that may be of interest for horror and shonen fans. BLOOD-C (TV) from Prudction I.G and CLAMP will be released on Blu-ray / DVD combo pack. The first set of Toriko will be released on DVD. The series is still ongoing and simulcasted on FUNimation.com.

From Sentai Filmworks, the Mardock Scramble film trilgoy continues with The Second Combustion on DVD and Blu-ray.

Other noteworthy upcoming early 2013 collections include: RightStuf/Lucky Penny's Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana), New Video Group's Digimon - Digimon Monsters (Season 2), and Viz Media's Tiger & Bunny (first half on DVD and Blu-ray).

Viz Media has also made a wonderful new annoucement for the release of InuYasha The Movie: The Complete Collection, will will contain all four InuYasha films in a two-disc Blu-ray set to be released in March next year. It's already available for pre-order!


WTK's Shopping Guide
Presented by Wen-Tsai King



Didn't receive every gift you were hoping for this Holiday season?
Here is a guide of releases to gift to yourself in the post-holiday season...
 if you haven't received these wonderful and overlooked anime gems of 2012!

anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day | Review | A group of childhood friends become estranged due to a tragic accident. How would they confront the events of the past, present, and the future? This moving and surprisingly touching series is simply one of the best anime that NIS America has to offer.

Infinite Stratos | Review | If you are looking for a harem series released in 2012, this Sentai Filmworks series could definitely fit the bill. While the layout of the series feel episodic, the element of weaponized combat sport and action fighting scenes make it even more entertaining. And the nice addition to this release is the inclusion of a bonus music CD.

Panda! Go, Panda! | Review | Studio Ghibli fans, this is one movie release that you would want to check out. It's a family movie involving a young girl and her panda family. It's also one of the earlier works from Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. It's a definitely a recommended release for the younger children.

Redline | A racing tournment based movie, can it work? I think it can. While the story may not feel that deep, the animation style and design/environment is fantastic especially on high-definition. This is just a highly entertaining movie that can capture your attention. It's definitely worth checking out.



DVDTalk.com Presents: The Best Anime Releases of 2012

As Selected by Neil Lumbard

1) Tenchi Muyo OVA & Tenchi Muyo Theatrical Films (Blu-ray)

This is the best anime release of the entire year. Yes, that statement is for both the OVA and theatrical film releases. Tenchi is one of the staples of anime and these newly released box-sets containing the entire OVA and theatrical films from our favorite harem-comedy series is one of the best values and highest quality Blu-ray presentations of the entire year.  It’s sure to delight anyone who considers themselves a massive fan of the Tenchi saga. 

 


2) Castle in the Sky/Whisper of the Heart/ The Secret World of Arrietty/Grave of the Fireflies (Blu-ray)

We couldn’t pick just one of these excellent Studio Ghibli Blu-ray releases. All four of these feature films (Castle in the Sky, Whisper of the Heart, The Secret World of Arrietty, and Grave of the Fireflies) are all essential cinematic experiments and classics in anime. These are four of the greatest anime films of all time and each release is worth adding to any anime fan’s collection.


3) Kimi ni Todoke V.1-V.3 Premium Editions (Blu-ray)

Kimi ni Todoke is the most romantic, sweepingly beautiful, and heartfelt anime series released in the past year and these three excellent premium edition releases by NIS America offer a tremendously satisfying presentation for one of the best anime series we’ve ever seen.

4) One Piece Collections & Voyage Sets (DVD)

One Piece is one of our favorite anime series and it’s one that we call always count on for some great comedy, action, and adventure on the high seas (and beyond). We were thrilled to find the rerelease “collection” sets become available for One Piece fans and we are excited by the continuation of the Voyage sets. We enjoy the journey so much and are sure that anime fans will either want to jump onboard the series (at last!) or continue this wonderful saga.

           

5) Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (Blu-ray)

This is easily one of the most ambitious anime series produced in the past few years and anyone who hasn’t seen the series yet and considers themselves an anime fan will at least want to give it a chance, because there’s a good possibility that it could wind up a series favorite. The Blu-ray collections from Funimation offer a tremendous value to fans. 


6) K-On: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

K-On is one of the most charming, entertaining, and “fun” series we reviewed in 2012. Combine that with the beautiful video/audio on the Sentai Filmworks Blu-ray releases and we had one of our top favorites of the year overall.

 

7) Bunny Drop Premium Edition (Blu-ray)

Bunny Drop is one of those rare anime series that is near-perfection from beginning to end. It beautifully combines heartfelt storytelling with strong characterization and some of the best animation around. The NIS America set is a gorgeous release that will delight all series fans.

 

8) Fairy Tail Part 4 (Blu-ray)

Fairy Tail is one of our favorite new(ish) series and we were sad to reach the end of the fourth part released by Funimation. We are anticipating future set releases and hope that the dub continues production. This series has a fun dub: it’s a great series and a high quality presentation overall.

 

9) Panda Go Panda (DVD)

One of the early pre-Ghibli creations that is often overlooked but that is just as brilliant as any future creations from Miyazaki and Takahata. These short two-episode specials are a clear precursor to the creation of My Neighbor Totoro and it is a classic tale that will delight anime viewers of all ages. The rerelease brings the classic back into print for future generations to enjoy time and time again.

 

10) Digimon Season 1 (DVD)

One of the best anime series produced for children in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Digimon was an entertaining, exciting, and complex series with greater storytelling than most children’s fare. This is easily one of the best releases of the year. Fans have anticipated a release for years and it’s nice to finally have an official product available now. This set is wonderful for fans.



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





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.)
 



Steins;Gate: Complete Series, Part One
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by John Sinnott

This is an unexpectedly good series.  The first episode felt like it was being strange for the sake of being strange, but after that the story quickly got rolling and sucked me in.  Before I knew it, I had to get up and change discs, then the next thing I knew the first half was over, leaving me (at least metaphorically) on my knees, fists raised to sky, screaming that life was unfair.  I can't wait until the second set is released.  Check this one out.


Shakugan no Shana: Season One Box Set
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Todd Douglass Jr.

Sporadic in its pacing, mildly generic (by anime standards) in its execution, and too drawn out for its own good, Shakugan no Shana is definitely a show with some flaws. It is, however, a series with great characters that evolve and develop and the story is good enough to carry it along for 24 episodes (and them some as evident by future series and other projects).



Spice & Wolf: Complete Series
Blu-ray/DVD Combo


Review by John Sinnott

A slow paced but enjoyable show, Spice and Wolf is a unique anime series where making a profit by trading from town to town takes the center stage over fights and action.  If you're willing to give it the time to unravel at its own pace, you'll find a nice show.



Hellsing Ultimate: Volumes 1-4 & Volumes 5-8 Collections
Blu-ray/DVD Combo


Reviews by Michael Zupan

Hellsing Ultimate is unquestionably the faithful manga translation we've all hoped for. The original Hellsing series was a lot of fun, but these OVA's overshadow it in every perceivable way. Sure, there's an excessive amount of gratuitously violent fan service, but the improved plot, character backgrounds and atmosphere finally add some layering and depth to the mix, so Ultimate is likely to appeal to a wide variety of anime fans.



Martian Successor Nadesico: Complete Collection (Remastered)
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

Anime fans looking to watch a series now considered a "classic" of the art-form will be pleased to know that the series contains many interesting genre elements, while the longtime, devoted fandom for Nadesico will be thrilled to own the series and feature film in this DVD collection containing both with gloriously remastered prints and a generous selection of supplements. It might be worth renting first for newcomers to the show, but if you can enjoy a few episodes, there's a good chance you'll want this set in your anime collection. This is a stellar Nozomi Entertainment re-release of a popular and much loved anime creation.



Maria Watches Over Us: Season 1
DVD

Review by John Sinnott

This show is a hard one to rate. It is very good for what it is: a clam, slice-of-life show that takes place in a girl's school. The only problem is that I didn't care for shoujo-ai too much. Taking that into account, I did enjoy many of the episodes in this set, while I would occasionally roll my eyes at some contrived plot devices. In any case I can't say that this gentle character driven story isn't worth checking out, so I'll recommend it, especially to fans of shoujo-ai programs. They shouldn't miss this one.


Tenchi Universe
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

Tenchi Universe is one of the best series to exist out of the Tenchi saga and it is one of the most essential anime productions ever made. The artwork isn't truly on par with the earlier OVAs but the writing, comedy, and characters are some of the absolute best you will ever find in the genre. If you love character-based and original stories this is one show that manages to interweave both aspects, even despite the fact that it is an alternate-universe telling of the original Tenchi OVA's storyline. Simply put, Tenchi Universe is outta this world, and a genuine must own DVD release (in one form or another) by all serious anime connoisseurs.



Tenchi in Tokyo
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

Tenchi in Tokyo might not be the most respected Tenchi outing, but it has more than enough creativity and originality to keep viewers interested in seeing where the story will go. It also ended on a decidedly high note that wrapped up the series in a way that was intriguing and satisfactory. I enjoyed the show and would recommend it any Tenchi fan as a fun anime diversion.  Just don’t expect to find a series that is on par with the original or Universe.



Boogiepop Phantom Complete TV Series
DVD

Review by Michael Zupan

After the first couple of episodes, I feared that Boogiepop Phantom would have been a full pasta bowl of loose ends. Fortunately, the series is all business - the violence isn't gratuitous, and absolutely zero time is wasted on racy skin or undergarment shots - and things are tied up nicely after all is said and done. It's hard to describe exactly what Boogiepop Phantom is, but whatever it is, it's good. It's a dark and atmospheric nightmare that rivals the palpable uneasiness in earlier seasons of The X-Files, and it's an experience that drops its puzzle pieces at such a magnificent pace, that you won't be able to see the full picture until the final episode has concluded, and that's a large part of what makes this series so hauntingly captivating. If you're looking for some anime with substance, something that will play with your mind and present many dark, but not entirely unrealistic thematic ideas, then Boogiepop Phantom is exactly what you've been waiting for (not that the series is new or anything). The series alone is worth a high recommendation, but a lackluster A/V presentation and unimaginative extras keep a good release from being a great one.



One Piece: Collection 8
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

One Piece is one of the grandest anime adventures. This series manages to stay around as a fun ride with great characters and it does so with epic story-arcs and amusing side-stories. This set contains a sampling of both elements with the conclusion of the Skypiea arc and the beginning (and most of) the G-8 side storyline. I loved these episodes, and consider myself to be a huge fan.

The only downside to this release is that the set represents the last collection from Funimation for the time being. We are likely over a year away from seeing any more collection sets because the Voyage sets are still being released and it takes time for the series to be dubbed in English. Still, the wait will be worth it if you have been collecting One Piece Collection sets. These collection releases represent some of the best value for your money in the entire anime on DVD market.

Newcomers should start at the beginning, but for those of you who are already collecting these One Piece sets, you can now enjoy another must-have DVD release of one of the best anime series around.


K-On Season 2, Collection 2
Blu-ray

Review by Neil Lumbard

K-ON! is an awesome, rock-tastic series. If you enjoy rock music, friendship, and good humor it will be a series that appeals to you and your brand of enjoyable coolness. While K-ON! is aimed more at girls than boys it is a series that should appeal to both genders and a wide variety of ages too. Tales of friendship are timeless, and K-ON! is one of the more exciting ones to come out the past few years.

<>This set contains the second half of season two (episodes 14 through 27) and fans will be thrilled with the top-quality nature of these episodes. I was immensely pleased, but saddened that this was the last batch of K-ON! episodes ever. It's a Blu-ray set that shouldn't be missed by fans. K-ON! will remain as a true gem of a show that is worth purchasing and cherishing by devoted anime lovers everywhere.



C: Control the Money and Soul of Possibility
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Randy Miller III

As an infrequent follower of anime, I can't say with authority that C: Control is a purely original series; perhaps it's just a notch above average, compared to all the wacky stuff I've missed in recent years. Either way, the ambitious visuals and interesting stories overshadow some of its more clichéd elements, so those looking for a swift kick in the occipital lobe should enjoy what C: Control brings to the table. FUNimation's Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is decent but expensive, pairing a great A/V presentation with only a handful of modest bonus features. A rental might be in order for the budget-conscious, but its perceived replay value makes C: Control a worthy investment for anime fans.


Serial Experiments Lain: Complete Collection
Blu-ray/DVD Combo

Review by Neil Lumbard

Serial Experiments Lain is one of the weirdest anime series of all time. It sounds a lot like a big hyperbole to begin with that kind of statement, but I don't consider it one. This is genuinely an incredibly odd and offbeat series with a twisty sci-fi narrative that questions the path of human existence, the role of technology in society, and many philosophical questions about people in general. This isn't a cookie-cutter anime series or even a massively plot-driven one. It's a big, weird, and fascinating experience in thought-provoking anime. It inspired the creation of The Matrix. It redefined the way many anime fans thought about the genre as a whole.

As long as you can call yourself a fan of the show, the Blu-ray set is absolutely one worthy of a place in your collection. The transfers aren't perfect - but a huge part of that is because of the way this series was originally made in the first place. I wouldn't expect a better release of the series to ever be released. Essentially, this is a definitive collection. The PQ has a few minor issues, but the presentation of the packaging and all of the notable inclusions here (along with transfers that are still significantly better than the prior DVD editions) is something to consider when deciding on a purchase. Personally, I still find the series a bit more convoluted than most and wouldn't necessarily consider it a "must own" show.  However, I know that any fan that is serious about owning Serial Experiments Lain will want to have it on Blu-ray in this jazzy, fun, and well-made edition.


Natsume's Book of Friends: Seasons 1 and 2 - Premium Edition
DVD

Review by Neil Lumbard

Natsume's Book of Friends is an entertaining series that is worth checking out for anime fans, and this premium edition DVD release from NIS America is a real winner despite the lack of many on-disc extras. The quality of the presentation is good and the packaging is amazing. It definitely is a release that deserves consideration.  For fans of the anime, this will be an easy purchase.  The set is well worth owning.

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