More Samurai 7, Samurai Gun, and Gantz
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
This week we have a whole slew of capsle reviews. (Maybe even 1.5 slew.) After Don Houston gave Samurai 7 such a rave review last time around, Todd Douglas decided to give the disc a spin and was blown away too. The series D. N. Angel has wrapped up and so has Magical Meow Meow Taruto, but Dear S and Samurai Gun have released their first volumes to fill the void. If you like your anime in season sets, check out our reviews of the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi and Final fantasy Unlimited complete sets. For those who like their anime with an edge, the seventh volume of Gantz continues with all of the violence that the series is know for, and adds a lot of sex too. We also have our bi-weekly table of upcoming anime discs and Holly's Anime Bargains.
One of the best anime series in a very long time has come out and even though we only have the first four episodes the show looks like, it has amazing potential. Samurai 7 is a nostalgic retelling of Akira Kurasawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai, except this new rendition takes place far into the future. The blend of science fiction and feudal Japan design crafts a unique world filled with samurai, mecha, sword and technology. This is definitely one that's not to be missed!
While not the strongest offering of the week, Hammerboy Collector's Series Edition managed to bring a smile to my face more than a few times as young Mangchi was seen fighting the forces of evil in a future where a long ago war reduced the Earth to a number of small, isolated pockets of humanity. Possessing powers he never knew existed, he fights to liberate not only his community but a cute princess as well, using his brains and cunning against a vastly superior army.
Humor seems to be the keyword for the eighth volume of The Get Backers. It contains five stand alone stories of a lighter nature and it includes one of the funniest episodes in the series. In addition we learn some more about Himiko's background, and her relationship with Ban. This is a solid volume, with all five episodes being very good.
In a show that revisited a tried and true concept about demons battling for supremacy against humanity, Sakura Taisen: Ecole De Paris was not the franchise reviving title it could have been. Fans of the Sakura Wars show will get to see how the formation of a similar team, this time in France, was hastily put together with mixed results in what might've served better as the first volume in a new season rather than an advertisement for the latest Japanese videogame put out by Sega. The extras were great but the OVA itself left much to be desired as a very different group of gals is called on to power up some advanced robots to form the Paris Floral Assault Division and fight some nasty beasts.
In another OVA, Stratos 4: Return to Base, the cast of second string world saviors get another chance to save their small corner of the world when a space station plummets towards Earth. Fans of the original series will be the most obvious audience for the show since the insider jokes and characters didn't get a lot of time to develop here but this show is so closely related in conceptual terms to the far more interesting Planetes that I wanted to give it a look all the same. If you developed a taste for the gals of Shimoji Island in the past though, don't sell them short as they seemed in fine form, despite the limitations of the material.
On a brighter note, fans of harem shows will likely appreciate DearS: 1st Contact as an homage to the mainstream hit, Alienation. Stranded on Earth after their ship is disabled, a horde of beautiful slaves decides to make our planet their home, learning our culture and offering to serve as none before them ever tried. The focal point of the show is a young teen caught in a web of his own making when one of the aliens crosses his path and somehow imprints on him as her master. The first volume barely scratched the surface of the possibilities but the amount of fan service displayed will probably work well for male viewers as secrets unfold and the true nature of the aliens is only hinted at.
For the mystery lovers out there, Funimation is releasing Case Closed, the adventures of a master detective who is trapped in a young boy's body. The third volume of season five contains another three episodes in the original order, and they are all stand alone mysteries. Though some of Canon's gadgets and the way he uses them are a little hard to swallow, and even though some of the murders are highly convoluted and implausible, this is an enjoyable show, even if it isn't anything special.
Chock full of adult humor and more fan service than you can shake some Pocky at; Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a show along the vein of Excel Saga. With constantly changing environments and characters plus completely random events the show is constant goofiness. It starts to drag a little during the midsection of its run, but the beginning and the ending episodes are a lot of fun. (For an alternate take on the series, check out our earlier reviews of the individual volumes.)
The seventh volume of Gantz kicks off the second half of the show. To commemorate this event, ADV has increased the episode count to four shows, which it how the discs should be from here on out. This was a good move on ADV's part, and I'm glad they abandoned the two-shows-per-disc concept. As for the show itself, it really kicks into high gear as the third game starts. This time there are more enemies, much more danger, and a lot more sex.
Final Fantasy and anime come together in kind of an unfortunate way with the Final Fantasy Unlimited series. The show frequently uses some low-grade CGI effects that donut mesh well with the overall art design of the show. That and repetitive animations every episode really cut down the seemingly small production values. The show is minimally interesting for fans of Final Fantasy but the story becomes kind of sloppy at times.
In the latest silly adventure of the master thief Lupin, our anti-hero finds himself searching for some ancient photographic plates that contain the whereabouts of a famous treasure. Lupin the 3rd: Crisis In Tokyo starts off pretty much in tune with the series and other movies, never letting up to give you a chance to catch your breath as Lupin and his associates fight off their own dilemmas as much as a wealthy industrialist with plans of his own for the plates. Inspector Zenigata continues his own quest too (to catch Lupin of course) but has to do so without his badge when he gets caught short during an early escapade to bring in his quarry.
The seventh volume of D. N. Angel wraps up the story and brings the series to a close. In a rather surprising move, they started a new story-line in the last two episodes. Equally astounding, it turned out to be one of the better stories in the series. Too bad it didn't occur earlier in the show when it could have given the series some coherence. As it is, this was an okay show, but not one that you'd want to recommend to friends.
The journey of the Elric brothers continue as Ed and Al make their way back to headquarters. The search for Dr. Marcoh begins as several of the top brass from Central have come to the eastern branch. It would seem that a man named Scar is going around blowing State Alchemist’s brains out and before long the Elrics find themselves in danger. This fourth volume of Fullmetal Alchemist is another great collection of episodes that offer a blend of humor, development and storytelling.
Baki is back in the second volume of his new series and this one picks up where the last left off. After returning home Baki comes face to face with the monstrous Hanayama in another round of battles that bring the roof down. With all of the training out of the way from the first volume the show is allowed to flex its muscles and develop the characters some more. This is shaping up to be a pretty entertaining series if you like fighting anime and lots of violence.
The Ghost in the Shell series has been some of the most exciting anime to come out of Japan. Both from an animation and story point of view the series is cutting edge. For those of you who just can't wait for the second season of the TV series to be released in region 1 starting later this month, Bandai has released Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - Music Video Anthology. This is a series of songs from the movie accompanied by some eye popping images.
What happens when you give a samurai a gun? A whole lot of blood, that's what! Samurai Gun comes along and proves to be a very adult oriented anime with sexual references, adult humor and blood by the gallons. The show is a little bit of secret government agent mixed with a historical and futuristic feudal Japan coat of paint. Fans of stuff like Ninja Scroll will definitely want to take note, but well have to see where this series goes in the future volumes.
A fun and exciting show for younger children Magical Meow Meow Taruto wraps up in the fourth volume. The story ends in a very satisfactory manner with an conclusion that children are sure to enjoy. (To give you a hint at how it ends, the last episode is entitled "Happily, Happily Ever After.") All of the questions about Taruto and her past are answered, and the series ends on a high note. While older viewers used to Power Rangers and Yu-Gi-Oh may be disappointed that there isn't more action, girls and younger viewers are sure to enjoy it a lot.
Hoop Days is a fun show with a lot of excitement and action as well as some interesting characters. The second volume slowed down a little from the first though, a fault that is pretty common in anime. The main reason for this deceleration is that the sub-plot of the girl's basketball tournament took center stage at the cost of the main story. Still, this is a fun volume which is Recommended.
One show that keeps getting better with each passing volume is Scrapped Princess. Not only has it managed to avoid all of the clichés that fantasy based anime often have, (there are no cute pets following the group around) but it has also made some interesting characters and a richly textured story. Volume three reveals some secrets about the world, and viewers finally discover the nature of the power that is hidden in young Pacific's. A fun show that can have some dramatic moments, this is a highly recommended series.
If you've sat through the first season of Orphen then chances are you probably have already checked out the Revenge series. If for some reason you haven't then you should be ready to expect much of the same with familiar characters and stand alone monster of the week episodes. Unfortunately the second season just really doesn't get going until around the halfway mark and isn't as good as the original. This release is really only for fans looking for more adventures so if you're a newcomer you'd better start with the first season.
The third volume of the Great Saiyaman story from Dragon Ball Z has Gohan, the strongest fighter in teh world, struggling in high school. He doesn't want anyone to know how powerful he is, so he gets Bulma to make him a super-hero costume and uses it to help the citizens of Satan City. His troubles aren't over though, because his classmate Lois Lane, umm, I mean Videl, is trying to prove that Gohan is the new super-powered person in town, but another classmate may have already discovered his secret identity.
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, Sept. 20 , 2005
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005
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