Our biggest column yet!
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
This week we have the largest installment of Anime Talk ever! After a couple of light issues, the column comes back with a vengeance this week with 37 capsule reviews of recent anime titles. The Anime Talk team covers new series like Noein, a unique show filled with dimensional travel and time shifting, as well as boxed sets like the Melody of Oblivion Collection, the first season of Get Backers, and Leiji Matsumoto's Space Pirate Captain Herlock: The Endless Odyssey. There's a look at the last volumes of Fafner as well the end of the first season of Kyo Kara Maoh. If that's not enough Holly has her Anime Bargains and we also have our list of upcoming discs. It'll take a while to go through it all, so we'll let you get right to it.
Our best example of an updated series this week resides in the wonderfully made Full Metal Panic! Second Raid V1; a teaming of the resources of FUNimation and ADV Films that offers up not only one of the best extras packages you will find in a modern anime single disc release, but also the original voices as fans have demanded. The team of Mithral, led by ace AS pilot Sgt Sousuke Sagara, has a new enemy that is just as well equipped; forcing a drastic change in tactics if they want to survive the coming confrontations. Armed with fan service, ultra violence, and a completely upgraded set of technical values, the series is poised to provide the kind of follow up that most series could only wish for. This is one of the best offerings of the year so check it out when it gets released next week.
The third volume of Negima! takes a bit of a dip in quality; sort of the sophomore slump postponed for a volume. After introducing the main characters and setting up the problems in the earlier installments, this set of four episodes is mainly filler. The overall story is mostly ignored and these shows are played for laughs, sometimes more successfully than others. It feels like they are taking a bit of a breather before jumping into the meat of the program.
When it comes to anime from the early 90s you generally have to take it with a grain of salt. While some stuff came out of that era and are considered classics there were several shows and OVA that were probably better off forgotten. Ellcia is an example of one of those lost OVA that found itself collecting dust in ADV's catalog. The show runs long on inspiration from Lodoss War and because of that it loses some of its edge. The story is interesting enough with a tale involving the "chosen one", a ship and a big war. The only problem is that so much of this feels run of the mill that the point behind it becomes moot. Check it out of you enjoy anime from this era but if you're a fan of original material you may want to steer clear.
Nearly twenty years agoWrath of the Ninja: Yotoden Saga was released as an OVA. Ripe with ninja versus demon action the show has lost its poignancy over the years. This is mostly thanks to the fact that the particular genre in question has become saturated beyond belief. It didn't help matters that the American release was changed into a movie and lost most of its point. The plot isn't very deep since it features some chosen warriors battling a demon army but at least the OVA version is worth watching once. I guess the saying is true in regards to the ninja/demon genre; you can get too much of a good thing.
It's not often that an anime makes you stop and think. Filled with dimensional travel, time shifting and gobbledygook regarding quantum mechanics Noein is one unique show. When a strange man in a black robe is seen in town some school kids get it into their heads that he's a ghost. Once they set out to see this ghost on their own two of the kids experience something that changes their lives forever. Haruka and Yu discover that their lives are tied into the future some how and it involves the destruction of a place called La'cryma. Beings from that dimension travel back in time to ours in search of the Dragon Torque (the significance hasn't been revealed yet). Things get pretty intense in terms of action and plot twists though the quality never wavers. I'm anxiously looking forward to the next installment and this is a show you should definitely keep on your radar.
Father Abel Nightroad continues to dominate the majority of episodes in Trinity Blood V2, a tale set 500 years in the future where vampires and the Catholic Church have reached a painful truce threatened by a new group seeking to establish a new world order. With other traveling priests on call as well, the Church has its hands full dealing with them as well the enemy, maintaining a balance for the stability of the planet. With some of the finest animation available and a wealth of extras, the series is clearly a contender for popular awards with just enough comedic touches to provide a smile from time to time.
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny V4 shows the futility of war as Orb, ZAFT, and the Plants all continue their steady march to war with Athrun Zala joining Shin and the crew of the Minerva to battle it out toe to toe with Neo Roanoke and the Alliance's Phantom Pain unit (largely comprised of stolen gundams). If you've seen the series to this point, you'll understand that it is getting better as the conflict heats up so don't miss the battles each side joins in on as they seek to avenge their losses in the recent war.
What is it about women in maid's uniforms that make them so sexy? Is it because a maid is by definition in a subservient role, or is it that whole "uniforms are sexy" thing? Whatever the reason, anime has more than its share of shows with cute girls in tight lacey maid outfits, and most of them are filled with copious amounts of fan service. As one would expect from the title, Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite falls into that category and is a bit better than the average maid show. There's an overriding plot which is fairly interesting as well as some humor that works well. Oh yeah, and fan service. Lots and lots of fan service. Now fans of the sub-genre can now pick up the whole 12 episode series in one nice collected set.
Believe it or not, we've reached the ninth volume of Kodocha. This comedy series has been a lot of fun, but the show is getting a bit stale by this time. This time around there's trouble in Sana's class when the boys and girls go to war against each other, Aya and Tsuyoshi's romance is on the rocks when the young boy starts finding gifts from a secret admirer, and Sana joins a singing group Three Teens. After 36 episodes the show is still fun, but it just doesn't have the punch that it originally did.
Here's a series we haven't visited in a while; Gun Sword. When the first volume came out the fantastic production values and interesting story were enough to make a positive impression. Taking place on a strange planet called Endless Illusion the show felt like one part Kino's Journey with a little bit of Cowboy Bebop and Trigun tossed in for good measure. Unfortunately in the second and third volumes the future seems to not be as great for Gun Sword as originally thought. The second volume drags on and offers very little with episodic content and stories that just aren't interesting. Things pick up in the third volume with more continuity and an interesting plot though it isn't to the point of a high recommendation. If you're looking for an interesting action series you'll probably want to rent this one first to see if it's your cup of tea.
If magical girls and goofiness are your brand of drug then Ultra Maniac is a series that's probably already on your list of favorites. The show revolves around the concept that a girl from the magical kingdom goes to a human school to learn more. Armed with a magical PDA Nina transforms into a cute outfit and can summon various types of spells. The only problem is that Nina isn't exactly what you'd call a first class witch. She screws up just about every spell and despite being charming she's pretty dense when it comes to education. The series is a lot of fun at the beginning and offers plenty of laughs but the show gets fairly long in tooth towards the end. This is still a strong release for a niche genre and if you enjoy shows about magical transforming girls and all things cute you'll no doubt fall in love.
If you ever wondered to yourself what would happen if man and monster got involved in a war Melody of Oblivion has the answer; we lose. A few years after the conflict and inevitable defeat monsters have become humanities overlords. Their rule is kept in place thanks to a group of humans who support their efforts and think nothing about sacrificing a brat or two. Luckily for those of us some warriors have no reservations about stepping to the plate and take one for the team. Armed with mystical powers, a badass motorcycle and a tune that is constantly playing in their heads they fight against the monsters and try to restore the world to the way it was. Sadly the pacing is all over the map and the plot gets somewhat muddled here and there. That leaves this series firmly in the rent it category but from start to finish it certainly was an interesting ride.
Renton Thurston never thought of his heroes in the Gekko State to be enemies of the people but the more he learns about them, the more he questions his new status as one of their leading pilots in Eureka Seven V4. The recent conflicts have damaged their battleship to the point where the repairs have to take place soon or they will wind up sitting ducks so after Renton and a couple of his friends go on a food run, the team finds an abandoned mine to make do as they commence with the repairs. Eureka is getting worse as she sees Renton handle her beloved Nirvash so the internal conflicts may prove to be just as damning as anything the Federation can throw at them.
We also end our look at an older series that was edited for syndication on cable years back with Teknoman: Collection Three. See Blade evolve one more time and the consequences it has for him and those around him as the battle heats up against the mounting Vemenoid assault. There can truly only be one left standing so Blade's desire to save his friends and family have to be balanced against the need to save planet Earth in this last set of thirteen episodes on two discs.
The first season of Kyo Kara Maoh wraps up with volume eight and nine of the series. Yuri is determined to obtain four objects of incredible power, The Forbidden Boxes, so that their power won't be misused. One is being held in the kingdom of Big Cimaron, a place that isn't very friendly to the Demon Tribe, so Yuri has his work cut out for him. A bit of a surprising conclusion, the disc doesn't really wrap up the events from the first season, nor does it end in a cliff hanger. It is a little disappointing that the season ending isn't anything special and comes across like just the end of another volume. Even with the lack of an exciting conclusion this is a good series that's a lot of fun.
Hellsing is one of the most prominent vampire animes ever made. The make up of the show consists of military-like action similar to Ghost in the Shell but it features supernatural and demonic targets. The Hellsing organization has made a habit of protecting the secret of the vampire society and snuffing out any rogue elements. With a powerful vampire named Arucard at the forefront the organization fights artificial vampires and other ones that just don't live up to the name. The most interesting thing for me was the inclusion of a police officer named Seras who comes to grip with her recent transformation into a vampire. Her inner battle to save a shred of humanity was one of the most enthralling things in Hellsing that made it so enjoyable. If you miss this show you're missing out on a great show.
Even after fourteen volumes and 69 episodes, Fighting Spirit is still a fun and enjoyable show. The story of Ippo Makunouchi, a young man with a fierce will to succeed, is both engrossing and easy to watch. In the thirteenth volume we get to find out the history of some of the supporting characters in the series as well as start the final) story arc in the series as Ippo starts to train for the Japanese featherweight championship bout. In the fourteenth installment the show takes a breather and sets things up for an exciting (hopefully) conclusion. Ippo trains for his shot at the Japan title and his good friend Takamura looks like he'll get a chance to fight for the world title. Of course getting the match and winning it are two different things so the two fighters work hard in preparation. While Ippo doesn't fight in the 14th volume Sendo, his upcoming opponent, does and we get to see how far he's come in just the short time since their last match. These are a fun couple of volumes that lay the ground work for the series conclusion.
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue: Memories reminded us of the previous volumes of the series that showed a futuristic society where law and order can be bought and paid for simply by hiring the right people to do the job. In the case of this show, the right agents are the women of the Nereids Corporation; amounting to guns for hire when you want to expedite an investigation. A cross between bounty hunters and private investigators, they'll save your day and your hide if you fork over enough dough but the story also involved one girl's quest to find out the truth about her past; a past that is quickly becoming very dangerous for her to remember. With only one more volume to tie up the series, will Maia figure out her secrets before they catch up to her?
Next up was a series hailed by some as the best of the year with the ultimate secrets finally unfolding in the concluding volume of the series of Gankutsuou 6: Count of Monte Cristo. As Albert's world crumbles around him, he tries to save his family, his friends, and the Count that has befriended him from the hatred and vengeance the Count holds deep in his heart. The artistic nature of the anime style made for nice eye candy but the themes employed went right for the jugular as the Count continues his mad spree of destroying those who wronged him years ago. This was another title you'll want to watch from the beginning but even as it started out slowly, the methodological manner that it increased the pace made for some very intriguing anime.
Leiji Matsumoto is no stranger to long time fans of anime who grew up on Star Blazers but certainly his most famous buccaneer, Captain Harlock, holds a special place in the hearts of many too. While many of us await the inevitable release of his older works, Space Pirate Captain Herlock: The Endless Odyssey: Complete Series will suffice as a value oriented offering to show the pirate sailing the solar seas in search of restoring his beloved Earth after an ancient evil called The Noo, go on a terror filled quest to revive their long trapped master. All of our old favorite crewmen were brought back and the package of extras was among the best in anime of late so be sure to catch this retro anime show.
One of the cutest shows on the market these days easily has to be Strawberry Marshmallow. Despite the fact that the anime is quite literally about nothing it still proves time and time again that it's endearing and witty. Focusing on the lives of four young girls and an older sister the show follows them through their daily adventures. This time around the heat of summer becomes unbearable for the kids and because of this tempers flare. It may be embarrassing for some guys to admit but I'm loving this series and can't wait until the next volume.
It's been almost a year since we last took a look at the Fafner: New Divergence (V4), Fafner: Rebirth (V5), Fafner: Next Evolution (V6), and Fafner: Going Home (V7) finish up the tale of a group of futuristic military pilots that must use their genetic gifts to stave off an invasion of hostile beings known as Festum, all while figuring out how to save the world before they succumb to their programming that causes them to fall prey to assimilation by the enemy. Watch the series in order but keep in mind that it borrows heavily from classic tales such as Gundam Seed and Neon Genesis Evangelion; applying just enough of a twist to remain fresh.
When Tenjho Tenge first started the show had a lot of promise and a strong backbone stemming from the ultra-violent manga. Unfortunately as things progressed in the show the ride got very bumpy along the way. Some volumes were great while others; not so much. This was mostly due to the terrible way in which the DVDs were handled with three episodes here and there being spaced out with some time in between. At two different points the series also jumped back in time by two years to show some of the history. With the way the DVDs were handled and the rift created in the anime by this time shift things get mucked up. As part of a complete collection the tale may become more cohesive but if you're just picking up a volume here and there you'll be lost by the time the show ends. Read the review for volumes seven and eight.
Months ago, we provided an early sneak peek into the futuristic world where the ancient enemies of mankind were on a rampage to reclaim Earth in Jinki: Extend V1. While a bit heavy on retreading old ground, the show provided a warm look at the struggle of Aoba Tsuzaki to master her gift while gaining acceptance from the military team that relied on kidnapping her and bringing her to the jungles of Peru. Quickly finding her life in danger, she learns that she'll either sink or swim on her own merits rather than find solace in the arms of her cold mother who sees her as yet another tool in her mysterious quest.
Our review team has written this series up before when released in individual volumes but the boxed set of Get Backers: Complete Season 1 proved to be one of those value driven titles that had up smiling and unable to sleep as the team of Ginji Amano and Ban Midou seek to profit by selling their special skills to those seeking their possessions back. With just the right blend of humor and hardcore fighting action, the young men prove to the world that their record of solving cases is better than their ability to hold onto money.
The trials and adventures of Yurie Hitotsubashi, Japan's youngest god, continues in volume two of Kamichu! This time around the poor god gets sick, has to play matchmaker, and even turns into a cat. This quiet and gentle show has a lot of charm and warmth to it and is the perfect solution to someone who's wondering what to watch until the next Miyazaki film is released in region one.
Kouhei Morioka may be spiritually retarded but he unearths the powers of a young vampire that not only develops a crush on his personality but seeks his blood too in Moonphase 1. Hazuki, on the other hand, wonders why her supernatural powers had little effect on the lad as she eventually sets up house with him and his family while tring to stay one step ahead of the forces that seek to return her to a dreaded castle in Germany with the help of powerful Elfride, another girl vampire that falls for Kouhei's mysterious ability to evade mystical charms. This was one of the lighter series offered up this week but certainly seemed in the spirit of Halloween so check it out already.
Burnout photographer Tatsumi Saiga finds that his luck runs out in Speed Grapher V3 when his girlfriend teams up with the power brokers of the infamous Tennozu Group; led by some of the fiercest cutthroats on either side of the laws they fluff off. Saiga's bond to Kagura is tested yet again as he musters the will to battle the toughest Euphoric of the bunch; Suitengu in a winner take all match up. The series isn't half over yet and already shows signs of evolving into something special, using the themes as a modern day allegory that those who pay attention might recognize.
Last but not least, The Law of Ueki returns for a second and third volume. Marginally better than the first installment, the series starts developing a bit more than one would expect for a kid's show. The plot has a few twists and turns and though it's still a battle-of-the-week show, it's a bit more enjoyable than the average kids show. Aimed at pre-teens, the program has just enough weirdness to set it apart from the other children's anime, but enough battles to keep youngsters interested.
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That's all for this column. With so many DVD reviews, we decided to skip the manga reviews and the sneak peeks at early releases. Come back in two weeks for more anime goodness!
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January 2015 Edition
2013 Q4 Top Anime Titles from RightStuf.com, Part 1
Crunchy Roll, Lupin, and Bunny Drop