Manga, Astro Boy, and much more...
April 2010 Edition by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
Now that the nice weather is here convention time is upon us! Local gatherings have been popping up everywhere and in my neck of the woods Anime Boston has come to town. I had a chance to attend this year's festivities and will have a report up soon, but for now let's take a look at what we've been watching and reading! As usual we have plenty of anime reviews and also feature some manga, and other releases of interest. Also with this column we're pleased to introduce the latest addition to our Anime Talk team, Bobby Cooper!
Perhaps you've heard of a little show called Evangelion? The wildly successful anime from the 90s has recently been redone for a new generation. With improved visuals and a tighter story Evangelion 1.11's Blu-ray release is something to marvel at. FUNimation really pulled out all the stops for this edition and if you don't know what it's all about, I suggest you check out the review for details. All you really need to know is the original was classic and this new version is much better all around.
Maria Holic is one of the latest releases from Sentai Filmworks and stands out as a rather unique comedy series. It focuses on an all-girl's school where a lesbian student has transferred to in an effort to find love. She winds up falling for a girl, who is actually the one person in the school that's actually a male in disguise. Quirky and bizarre, Maria Holic is something that will appeal to some viewers more than others. It's still worth checking out though and has the makings of a cult favorite.
Disney recently re-released some Miyazaki films and My Neighbor Totoro happened to be among them. Totoro is about a man who brings his two daughters to a rural town in order to be closer to their ailing mother. Along the way the girls meet a magical spirit named Totoro who befriends them and takes them on a wild adventure. The story itself may be rather simple, but the characters and setting are about as classic as they come. Adding to the quality of this release is a slew of bonus features that really make the double-dip worthwhile.
The second part of Soul Eater has arrived with another 13 episodes that take Maka, Soul, Kid, Black Star, and the gang, on some good missions. This show continues to be a treat to watch. It's wonderfully animated, packed with action, and downright hilarious at times. Nearly as enjoyable was the first installment of the second season of Kenichi, which also just came out.
If you like panty-shots, boobs, and young girls then let me introduce you to Strike Witches. The latest release from FUNimation stands as one of the most ridiculous shows ever conceived, but you know what? It's pretty fun! The takes place in an alternate history where the world is at war in 1944, but instead of fighting each other they are combating an alien threat. The only means of really battling these beings is a group of young women known as Witches. Read the review for more, but if you're looking for a guilty pleasure then pick this up blindly.
Gunslinger Girl is an incredible show that we've talked about here at DVDTalk for some time now. FUNimation has gone back to give it the Blu-ray treatment and recently we received the first and second seasons. Also released on Blu-ray recently was Ouran Host Club which is all about a group of eccentric boys who entertain ladies at a privileged private school. It's downright hilarious at times, but trust me when I tell you that it takes a while to get used to the flamboyant style.
"Darkness beyond twilight, crimson beyond blood that flows..." If you can finish this incantation or even just have a vague memory what a Dragon Slave is, then you will probably enjoy the first Slayers TV release in almost a decade: Slayers Revolution. The latest season of Slayers, takes place after the events in Slayers Try. Lina, Gourry and the gang are thrust into an adventure that that brings back many familiar faces and introduces a new character to the main cast that could be just as powerful as Lina. This tale is classic Slayers: comedy and slapstick with a surprisingly deep story.
Dragon Ball Z: History of Trunks is an old school, made-for-TV movie that originally aired back in 1993. An unstoppable android duo has taken over the world. Most of Earth's fighters were killed in the battle leaving only Gohan to wage the war against them. Thirteen years later, young Trunks desires nothing more than to learn how to fight and help Gohan rebel against the androids. Will Gohan train him? Can they somehow stop the androids that handily defeated Earth's other fighters? Despite the fact that this release is aimed at Dragon Ball Z faithful, even those unfamiliar with the series will find this 48 minute glimpse into the past (er, future) of Trunks very watchable.
Fans didn't have to wait too long for Naruto Shippuden to be released in multi-disc sets. It was originally put out in the traditional 4 episodes per disc single volume style, but that method has thankfully all but vanished from the anime market in the US. Now Viz has released the newest adventure of everyone's favorite ninja with a demon fox trapped inside of him in the first of a series of three disc sets, Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1. This second Naruto series is a bit darker than the first. It's less juvenile, which is good, and takes the series to the next level by making the characters adults with larger problems. Fans of the original Naruto should enjoy this series just as much, if not more, than the original.
The Alabasta Saga comes to a sad, joyous, and surprise-filled conclusion with the release of FUNimations One Piece: Season Two, the Sixth Voyage (though Wikipedia has this set finishing up season four...) It's a great conclusion to the best One Piece story so far, and one of the more interesting and fun chapters in any shojen anime series. The tale ranks right up there with the Cell Saga from Dragon Ball Z and any fan of fun and exciting kids show should put this on the top of their "must watch" pile.
For more anime bargains, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread, updated by yours truly!
Please Note: Product Availability & Prices are Subjected to Change! Updated on 03/22/2010!
by Todd Douglass
The second version is the Dark Phoenix, which was another personality that emerged from Jean Grey during one particular saga of the X-Men comic:
Which version do you like? Personally I think the Dark Phoenix is the way to go, but then again that just happened to be my favorite interpretation of the character.
Both figures measure 9 inches tall (1/8 scale) and are available for pre-order now (released in August) with an MSRP of $59.99.
The manga, Houkago Play, was something of a sensation when it was released in Japan in 2009. The was a Dengeki 4-Koma comic from Kurosaki Rendou sold out on its first run and became a hot topic shortly thereafter. Word of mouth was great for this particular manga and many likened its success to the characters, style of humor, and erotic content.
The book features a story about a boy and his girlfriend who are hanging out after school. There's a series of four-panel stories revolving around their time together, and in between the Girlfriend really stands out for her seductive and dominatrix-like nature. A little while ago Kotobukiya announced that a figure was on the way of the famous Girlfriend. This figure has some striking detail from the accentuated hair to her long legs and dark clothes.
Kanojo (Girlfriend) stands an impressive 10 1/2 inches tall (1/7 scale) and is made of PVC. She's available for pre-order now, though she should be out later this month with an SRP of $79.99.
by Todd Douglass and John Sinnott
We had so many manga reviews this time around that we had to give them their own page. Check out the latest manga reviews here.
by Todd Douglass
Rather than delve into the complete history of Astro Boy as a character, we'll just focus on the story as it pertains to this film. Basically, everything takes place far into the future near the year 3000 A.D. Humanity has trashed the planet with junk and the scientists in Metro City have decided to rescue themselves from the smog and trash. They put their minds together and figured out a way to lift their city into the atmosphere, leaving the rabble behind.
Metro City seems to be an idyllic place with plenty of clean air and robots to do your bidding. Unfortunately there's corruption in the government and if you tick off the wrong person you're banished to the surface. Stuck somewhere in between is a scientist named Tenma (Nicolas Cage) who is head of the Ministry of Science and works for the militaristic President Stone (Donald Sutherland). It's revealed shortly after the movie begins that a Dr. Elefun (Bill Nighy) has discovered and extracted the core of a comet. This effort resulted in two types of energy cores: Blue and Red. The Blue Core is a symbol of pure energy, while the Red is unstable and somehow the more destructive of the two. With this discovery Stone wants to get his hands on the Cores for a project known as the Peacekeeper, which is basically a giant destructive robot he hopes to unleash on the population below.
During a Peacekeeper demonstration gone wrong Dr. Tenma's boy, Toby, is caught in the crossfire and winds up being vaporized before his very eyes. Distraught and lost, Tenma seeks to use his wits and the power of the Blue Core to recreate his son in a robotic form complete with memories. The result is Astro (Freddie Highmore), though he's not everything Tenma thought he would be. The doctor turns his back on the robot and President Stone tracks him down to recover the Blue Core.
Through a series of events Astro is knocked out of Metro City and winds up on the surface where he poses as a real boy and befriends some other kids. From this point on the film focuses on the exploits of Astro as he tries to find his own identity and carve out a living for himself. He comes to the realization that even though he has Toby's memories, he's not Tenma's son. There's a certain level of maturity there and the self-aware nature as a robot really sets Astro aside from the other machines seen in the film. He doesn't try to become a "real boy" like Pinocchio, but merely accepts who he is and deals with it from there.
The film itself is pretty entertaining and there are plenty of moments that will amuse audiences young and old alike. The film does have a few flaws that are tough to overlook, however. For starters the plot is very predictable with events occurring just as you might expect they would. This severely limits the interaction with viewers and really keeps the confrontations and challenges Astro faces feeling rather dry. The sense of humor brought into the picture is all over the map from the absurd to the mildly funny. The inevitable battle between the hero and Peacekeeper also fails to reach the climax that it should emotionally. Visually it's impressive, but explosions and cool action aren't necessarily all audiences want to see.
Another aspect to Astro Boy that was disappointing was the voice acting. Some performances here are quite solid with Highmore's Astro being the most notable. Kristen Bell is endearing as Cora and Sutherland seems to have a good time playing Stone, though he often sounds bored and as if he's forcing lines. Unfortunately Cage's wooden acting skills really detract from Tenma's character and this removes the viewer from some key emotional scenes. I mean, Tenma's son was killed right before his eyes and Cage's lines come across as though he was reading a newspaper article about a quilting convention. Thankfully his character wasn't the be-all and end-all of this film, but it definitely set the tone for the rest of the cast.
Ultimately Astro Boy is an entertaining film, but it doesn't stand out quite enough. The visuals are great (kudos to Imagi Studios), the action is exciting, and there's a variety of humor here, but it just winds up feeling flat. The script is too predictable, the acting isn't as energetic or emotional as it should have been, Astro feels too much like he's trying to fit in rather than stand out, and overall the film just seems a little underwhelming somehow. Astro fans should consider the film worth watching once, though the best I can muster for Astro Boy is the recommendation of a rental.
Astro Boy is presented on DVD with its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like many other CGI films this one looks particularly sharp and vibrant from top to bottom. Coming straight from the source material Astro Boy is free of flaws such as grain and there's no aliasing of any kind. Some artifacting was present in a couple of scenes, but these elements were very minor. All around this is a solid transfer for the film and one very nice looking DVD.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (and Spanish 5.1 for interested parties) is included here. The soundtrack is booming with a great presence on the soundstage. The bass is used liberally and effects utilize the front and rear channels intelligently to create a decent sense of immersion. Some ambient effects are a little too subtle though, and in the end the squeaky clean production left something out of the atmosphere. Dialogue is front-centric and not incredibly diverse. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
Astro Boy was fun for what it was, but in all fairness it's a spotty effort. Some parts of this film (the action) were pure genius, while others (the script) simply failed on all accounts. The end result is a picture that's worth renting for interested parties, but it's a title that will be lost on everyone else. Perhaps that's why the film didn't do so hot at the box offices? Whatever the case only fans of Astro Boy need apply. Rent it
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