Naruto and Desert Punk
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
This week's Anime Talk has an early look at a new anime release: Naruto. This story of a young boy training to be a ninja is extremely popular in Japan, and the manga on which it's based has sold millions of copies. Viz is releasing the first volume later this month, and it looks like a promising series. Also this week we have capsule reviews of FUNimation's latest series, the twisted Desert Punk which has just the right amount of humor, violence, and sexual innuendo. Other recent releases of note include Fighting Spirit, Jubie Chan 2, and the final volume of Burst Angel. Be sure to check out all of our anime reviews as well as Holly's Anime Bargains and our indispensable table of upcoming releases.
One of this edition's highlights is the twisted first volume of Desert Punk. Earth has been ravaged by war, disease and pestilence with the survivors barely clinging to life through any means necessary. One skilled young man, Kanta Mizuno, earns his living as a modern day mercenary, taking on jobs that require his deadly skills with a rifle and survival instincts honed through years of jobs that others have failed at. His one weakness is a busty young lady named Junko Asagiri, a gal that is smart enough to let Katna do her dirty work while she reaps the rewards. Fans of violence, humor, and just the right amount of sexual innuendo will find this release by FUNimation to be a cut above the rest with some solid extras to add additional value to the show.
As pointed out in the last edition of Anime Talk, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is one weird ride of futuristic cat fights, fan service, and hairy situations. The lead male character is Kazuto Tokino, a guy who pays tribute to his ancestors by continuing to run a bathhouse long after his parents abandoned it to explore the galaxy. Thankfully, his loyal customers, including plenty of space aliens, seem to enjoy a hot soak in public so he makes ends meet up until a spaceship crashes into the business. After nearly killing Kazuto, the royal princess Valkyrie gives up part of her life force to save him, reverting her into the body of a little girl who adores the young man, leading to all sorts of problems with the local population. If you can appreciate the sly winks and over the top humor; you'll like this one too.
While not technically an anime show, Lupin the 3rd : Strange Psychokinetic Strategy is very much of interest to anime fans as the best live action version of the anime legend known as Lupin. Of course it's the only live action version of the character, but this movie has been remastered and cleaned up to give true Lupin fans a glimpse into the past that his character seems so stuck in. Follow the adventures of Lupin, Jigen, and Fujiko as they try to stay one step ahead of Inspector Zenigata and some mobsters hell bent on taking Lupin out of the picture in this 1974 release from Japan.
It's hard to believe that Fighting Spirit is on its tenth volume, but it is. It seems like just a short while ago that Ippo Makunouchi was being picked on by some bullies at school and took up boxing. It wouldn't be unusual for the show to become stale and a little boring by the time the first 50 episodes had past, but this hasn't happened. This show is still as fun and exciting as when it first started. This volume has Ippo entered in the Level A Boxing Tournament battling a powerful Russian Boxer known as the Red Wolf. Like the previous volumes, this set of shows has a lot of action and some really gripping battles. A sleeper hit that really deserves more attention.
Another fun show has been Galactic Railways. The fifth volume of this series picks up the pace and ramps up the action a couple of notches. After starting out with a pair of stand alone episodes, the series sets things up for the concluding volume with an invasion from another galaxy, a terrific space battle, and a heart wrenching cliffhanger.
Question: What do you get when Cartoon Network teams up with the Japanese animation house Production I. G.? Answer: A mess. This latest East-West collaboration is IGPX. Immortal Grand Prix, or IGPX for short, is the hottest sport in the year 2049. This roller derby with mechas race is fast and furious. A pair on three man teams race over a 60-mile course at speed reaching 400 MPH. Sounds like it could be a great series. Unfortunately, like DICE before it, this program doesn't have the charm of either country's work and seems to have been written by a committee rather than someone trying to tell an interesting story. Alternately tedious and confusing, this show aimed at young viewers will have a hard time holding their attention.
Gatchaman volumes 9 and 10 have hit the streets and the show continues to prove itself as a historical look at the world of anime. It has certainly been interesting to watch the progression of the show over the years of its production. Even though the series may be up to episode 60 in this collection the Science Ninja Team is still fighting Galactor in every episode. One thing that has changed up to this point is an improvement in character development. These volumes feature a story arc dedicated to Red Impulse and Ken’s relationship and while this was predictable, its pleasing that the show went in the direction that it did. For fans of nostalgic anime this is another great batch of episodes that can't be missed.
Sports anime and manga are very popular in Japan, though only a few series have made it across to Pacific to the US. The latest show in this genre to be released in America is Dan Doh! a show based on golf. Aimed at young boys, this show aims to teach fair play and the value of friendship. Not nearly as interesting as other sports anime, Dan Doh doesn't have much charm or the engaging characters that the genre is noted for. The story is a little stupid, and if you think about it there's a lot that doesn't make sense. If you're willing to turn your brain off though, it can be fun to watch, especially for younger viewers. The volume is a great deal too. With 10 episodes for only $29.95 MSRP, it cost about 1/3 of the price of many series. This would make a good rental.
The peaceful ceremony at the Holy City is well underway in the third volume of Shadow Skill; though if Elle has anything to say about it, don't expect it to be too peaceful. In the whopping five episodes on this installment the show takes on a more serious tone instead of the happy go lucky one that it has featured. A war erupts between Solfan and Karuda and our band of heroes finds themselves stuck in the thick of it all. Diaz Ragu makes a return to the screen as the Solfan battalion surrounds him, though if Gau puts himself in between the two.
Intrepid reviewer Todd is really gushing over Jubei-Chan 2 after seeing the fourth volume. This sequel series to Akitaro Daichi’s original puts it all in perspective and is a showcase for what anime should strive to be. Everything about Jubei-Chan 2 was executed flawlessly and even though the brand of humor is a little too out there at times, there is enough raw emotion and powerful action to draw you back in. The characters are fully developed, the world is rich in detail, and everything in the plot was handled masterfully. As the series ends with this volume it does so with a bang and proves that it was one of the best anime we saw from 2005.
Yugo: The Negotiator has been an interesting series with an off-beat nature and deliberate pacing. There are no ninja girls, cyborgs, or cute fuzzy characters to be found in the show and everything has a certain real-world edge to it. The thirteen episode anime was broken down into two separate negotiations: Pakistan and Russian. The fourth volume here is not only the end of the Russian tale, but also the finale for the series. Unfortunately there really is not an appropriate ending for the show itself and things are left kind of hanging. Everything here is also very anti-climactic too, but I suppose that's just the nature of Yugo. This has been a fascinating series because it does what it wants to and doesn't try to live up to the standards that other anime created. It does it's own thing and it's comfortable doing it.
Though it had its share of not so great episodes, the final volume of Burst Angel ends the series on a high note. The series really picks up pace and ramps up the action, all while telling a intriguing story. Just about all of the mysteries that have popped up in the series are finally answered as the Angels take on one last assignment. A high-octane show that just doesn't stop.
After releasing the fourth and fifth seasons of the Case Closed (or Detective Conan as it's known in most of the world), FUNimaiton has gone back to the beginning of the story. The newest release is a two disc set that includes the first nine episodes of the series and shows how teenage detective Shin'ichi (Jimmy in the English language version) Kudo became trapped in the body of a small child, and why he can't let anyone know who he really is. These episodes actually play a lot better than the later ones that were released earlier. Mysteries fans will be sure to eat up this series.
More teen angst, more pointless battles, a few surprising (and not so surprising) revelations and a plot that is rolling forward ever so slowly. That what's in store for viewers of the fifth volume of Gilgamesh. While the series started off with a lot of promise, it has gotten bogged down with long exposition and plot lines that seem to go nowhere. That's too bad since the show started off with a lot of potential.
Another series that didn't live up to it's potential is E's Otherwise. The sixth volume brings the series to a close, thankfully. Though the main plots are resolved and a lot of the mysteries are answered, it's a case of too little too late. The series was too aimless and disjointed to really get involved with, and the characters weren't very interesting.
Scheduled for release on March 21, 2006
Scheduled for release on March 28, 2006
Out Your Local Best Buy for:
by John Sinnott
Later this month Viz is scheduled to release the first volume of Naruto. Based on the wildly popular manga by Masashi Kishimoto, this action adventure series tells the tale of young Naruto, a boy living in a village populated by ninja. Naruto isn't the best student around, he's failed the test to become a ninja twice as the series opens and it's not looking good for the third time either, but what he lacks in discipline he more than makes up for in moxie: He loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that he's going to be the best ninja ever! The fact that everyone in the village shuns him and treats him badly just makes him even more determined.
There's more to the story than Naruto knows though. Twelve yeas ago, a giant nine-tailed fox attacked the land. The village all turned out to face the monster, and many ninja were killed, but the creature couldn't be stopped. Then the village elder sacrificed his life in order to trap the fox inside a human body: a baby boy named Naruto.
This show is one to keep an eye on. The manga, which has been serialized in the states in Shonen Jump, has gained quite a following and the anime is sure to do the same. Naruto is the perennial underdog that we all love to cheer for, but with a twist, he's containing a vast and powerful evil. Will he be able to tap this power for his own use, or will it start to control him? Only time, and future volumes, will tell.
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