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Samurai 7 Complete Collection

AnimeTalk

a bi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai

So many shows, so little time. There just never seems to be enough hours in the day! This week we have a ton stuff to check out and our buddy Wen-Tsai chimes in with hopes to save your some money. Todd Douglass also takes a look at the complete collection of Samurai 7 by FUNimation.


The Latest Anime Reviews:
(Click on the links to read the full review.)

The final volume of the series shows that Speed Grapher V6 ended with a bang rather than a whimper as all the evil and corrupt elements of the series came to a fruitful end with Tatsumi Saiga trying his best to stop the evil plans of his nemesis Suitengu. Still focusing on the task at hand of saving his young friend, Saiga risks it all as double and triple crosses going all the way to the top of the government use every means at their disposal to prevent a holocaust at the hands of a man they thought was out of the picture, resulting in air strikes and the distinct possibility of that even if he wins, Saiga will be forever crippled due to his Eugenic power’s fatal flaw. This was one series most of us were rooting for to end on the darker side and we were definitely rewarded as a result.

The third volume of the series starts to tie things up for Sgt Sousuke Sagara in Full Metal Panic! Second Raid V3 too as he finds his mission altered to accommodate the need of his abilities with the Alebest system since Mithril’s foes are inflicting heavy casualties on the organization. This doesn’t sit well with the young fighter as he alone seems able to protect Kaname from those that would do her harm, leading him down a dark path that others have taken before. Whether he gets it together or not might mean the difference between survival and death for the entire crew as he is pushed by a new commander to find his way back.

Galaxy Railways: Complete Series is a single season series by Leiji Matsumoto airing in Japan several years ago, featuring a small ensemble cast led by Manabu Yuuki; a hot shot cadet in the Space Defense Force (SDF). The futuristic universe is built on the premise that advanced means of space travel in the form of trains has helped spread humanity across the galaxy; opening up colonies and providing a network means of travel from one end to the other. As in all things, criminals develop ways to exploit the system, often in the form of space pirates or more traditional crooks, fostering the need for a law enforcement agency to protect travelers and the system itself.

Origin: Spirits of the Past is set 300 years in the future, showing Earth in what many would call a state of decline after a horrible scientific experiment went awry, destroying much of the moon and causing the collapse of civilization. The tragedy allowed enhanced plant life to limit the spread of mankind to small tribes that rely on the generosity of the ruling elite of the vegetative nation to supply them with life giving water as technology has largely fallen by the wayside over generations. The story follows a young man named Agito who defies the odds in order to maintain the balance, gaining great powers but at a great cost as well. If you’re looking for eye candy, this is the pick of the month.

Tokko V1 is set in contemporary times in Japan. The hero of the story is a new detective by the name of Ranmaru Shindo, a young man who got into law enforcement in part because of the wholesale slaughter of his parents and neighbors in a huge, bloody massacre five years prior at his apartment complex. The official version of what happened is that a gang killed 300 people and tortured them to death, leaving almost no survivors in the process. Ranmaru knows differently of course but no one believed him and his desire to protect his sister from a similar fate keeps him from going off on the handle about it. Five years after the massacre, he works as a member of the elite Mobile Investigation Force, tracking down criminals using his head and his aggressive style of policing, coming across a series of murders that look far too bloody to be considered routine.

Samurai Gun: Complete Collection is set in the 1860's in rural Japan. Unlike the majority of shows that display the biggest threat to honest folk being rampaging bandits, this time it is clear that the forces of the Shogunate, the military leader of Japan, are the ones getting away with murder (literally). The documented injustices at the hands of government officials and their minions provide the backdrop for the fictional account of a band of secret vigilantes known only as the samurai gun; handgun toting samurai that right wrongs and set things right, regardless of who is responsible for them, with no fear of reprisal as they keep their identities hidden. Through an established network of spies, contacts, and operatives, the samurai gun are feared by those who do wrong and privately embraced by the common people as their only hope of justice during the waning days of the Edo Era in Japan, the series focusing on one such member of the group; a man by the name of Ichimatsu.

Bleach V3: The Substitute is the story of a fifteen year old high school kid in Japan named Ichigo Kurosaki. He has the ability to see ghosts and they listen to him in return as he tries to assist them in various ways. His good efforts do not go unpunished when he gets involved deeper in the matter, resulting in him usurping the enhanced abilities of a soul reaper in the process. The rest of the series has Ichigo fighting off the dangerous hollows that attack, with other characters proving to be just as dangerous to him thanks in large part to his newfound status protecting the defenseless.

DearS: Complete was the boxed set of all four volumes of the harem series that showed a time in the very near future, when an alien spacecraft crashed to Earth. Its cargo was a number of female alien love slaves, each so beautiful as to defy description. As slaves, the aliens had no means to repair their damaged craft and end up stuck here, which was probably a good idea since they were, after all, slaves. The story focuses on a runaway alien, Ren, who gets involved with a local boy, Takeya, and the comedic situations they get themselves into thanks to the many misunderstandings that ensue, complete with numerous sexual moments in this adult oriented affair.

Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Movie is as much a tribute to the butchered series that comprised the American edition of the entire Robotech saga as anything else as it largely picks off from where the show ended. Another alien race is helping Earth forces with advanced technology to ward off the Invid but they have plans of their own and the race is on to see if Scott Bernard will discover the secret of the Haydonites in time to keep them from further destroying what is left of humanity. This was another high budget, high gloss movie for those willing to overlook the myriad of clichés and plot loopholes of the original material made for big fans of the series to enjoy.

Talk about hard times! Kouhei Morioka barely managed to get out of the last trap alive when the events of Moon Phase V4 overtake him and Hazuki. His status as a threat to the entire vampire order by means of his special ability puts him squarely in the path of the order, forcing his family and friends to bear the brunt of their scheme to end the possibility that he gets in their way. While the series had darker elements before, it goes all out to prove the show is not for kids as murder, mayhem, and wholesale destruction reign on the family home while the couple flees in the dead of the night for refuge in a secret hideaway. The threads of the plot are starting to come together so be sure to check this one out as the next volume is sure to have a lot of surprises in store for fans.

Speaking of vampires, Father Abel Nightroad and Sister Esther sure have their job cut out for them as the first major arc of the series concludes in Trinity Blood V5. There is still more excitement to come but let’s face it, fighting what amounts to the entire vampire nation without backup or support in order to save it from itself is no small order, especially when the evil Rosen Kreux plan to seize the throne seems unstoppable. Abel has a few secrets up his sleeve though and while he appears to be a humble servant of the Pope, in reality, his secret shows him to be far more deadly than any of those crossing his path. Will he sacrifice his humanity in order to win becomes the question of the day as the series continues to prove why it was so highly places in our top of the year list last year.

Fans of the Rurouni Kenshin series have long complained about the way the owners sold the rights to different companies for the various releases over the years, especially since some companies seem far more likely to milk the franchise dry than others but absolute completists might want to spring for Samurai X Complete. The boxed set contains different versions of the motion picture release and the OVA, offering nothing new except the artwork on the cover of the cases and box but still an easy place to pick up the ADV Films selections from the series in a single place. The life of the legendary samurai is covered at several places in his career where the tide of change is washing over Japan quickly, putting him at odds with the old and new orders at the same time; forcing him to rely on his code of honor over the letter of the law here so if you haven’t seen it previously, it might work for you.

The concluding half of the series shows that the eye candy of Kirameki Project 2: Metal Hearts may be just what a younger audience is looking for as the evil capitalists attack the kingdom yet again, this time wielding a weapon even Junerin can’t resist without some help from an unlikely sourse. The quality extras made it a better title than you might think at first glance though and some of the CGI looked really stunning as the possible wave of the future so if you’re into a little fan service and a lot of metallic battles, you might like this more than average.

Kazuto Tokino wanted to live a traditional life when his parents went cruising around the universe in the futuristic UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie: S2 V1 but a little mishap involving a spaceship crashing into his family bath house put a kink in his plans. Now in the second season, the show provides a few new members that add some sparkle to the show as Valkyrie uses her abilities to fight off all sorts of problems, mostly those of her own making. Harem shows can be a pain in the neck all too often but this one tosses in the proverbial kitchen sink so you might appreciate it as much as our staff did given the nod to so many other shows and pop culture the volume offered up.

Kodocha is one of those shows that means a lot to the people who watch it. The characters are memorable, the world is well realized, and the story is full of emotion and meaning. The show is long into its run and recently release the twelfth volume but FUNimation just put together a collection with the first six volumes. The 24 episodes here are great and once you watch them you'll fall in love with Sana and friends.

I appreciate it when anime tries to blend concepts to create something new but if it's not handled properly it becomes a disaster. Ok, so Yumeria isn't quite that bad but there is certainly something left to be desired while watching it. The show spends some time in the real world and tries to be a harem comedy with the high school backdrop. The rest of the time is spent in a dream world where the main characters are fighting to save the future. It's a weird combination that doesn't entirely work and feels disjointed in the end.

It's not a rare thing when school days and magic come together. Harry Potter caused the sensation but some anime have taken it to the next level. One of these shows is Negima, a fun little series about a ten year old who is actually a teacher and magic user. Throughout its run Negima has proven itself to be amusing though it has been filled with some fluff in between the good bits. The final volume of the show is no different. The overall story presented here is very good as it wraps things up but there is a bit of dead space in between the decent parts. This volume offers a safe way for things to end that will please fans and throughout its run this has been a recommended series.

Le Chevalier d’Eon V2: Agent Provocateur follows the life and times of an infamous cross dresser from hundreds of years ago, D'Eon de Beaumont; an aristocratic fellow that served as a spy and secret agent for King Louis XV. After his sister is murdered, he sets out to find her killer and fight for justice in the king’s name, channeling the spirit of his sister when called upon to find the ghastly horde of supernatural demons that try to stop him. This was another excellent title to enjoy for fans of historical fiction that doesn’t sink to all the anime clichés so many find childish, making it a solid contender for the yearly top anime list early into the season.

Kurau Phantom Memory: Between Two Worlds was one of the highlights of the month as a young girl gets endowed with special abilities thanks to a tragic accident in a super secret laboratory on the moon. She uses her powers to take care of society’s dirty work as a special agent/mercenary, until the government decides she is too dangerous to the established order. Her status switching from hunter to hunter, Kurau tries to figure out what is going on and why her powers are starting to cause her grief in this futuristic tribute to the heroine on the run theme we’ve seen many times before but never quite so well put together.

Everybody loves a good ninja fight, right? In that case Basilisk's all out bloodbath is sure to please those of you looking to get your jollies. As the show nears the end more people kick the bucket and some history is revealed about one of the main characters. The series' plot is reaching a point of climax and I'm really looking forward to the last volume. Fans of the show will appreciate this one though it's a little slower paced than prior installments.

Tokyo Pop has recently agreed to a distribution deal with FUNimation which involves the later company releasing some of the anime titles that Tokyo Pop has licensed.  One of the first shows to be released under this new agreement is Initial D, an exciting racing anime that has many fans on both sides of the Pacific.  The show centers around Takumi Fujiwara, a high school student who helps his father out by making deliveries to the top of a mountain every night.  After five years of driving up and down the mountain, he's become quite a skilled driver as everyone discovers when he passes a top street racer one evening.  This story of a yong man discovering his talent and love of racing is filled with fast paced action and a lot of excitement.  Check it out.

Media Blasters gives us one of the few pure shonen-ai, or boy’s love, anime to come out on this side of the Pacific with Gakuen HeavenThis story about a high school student, Ito, who unexpected gets an invitaion to attend the most prestigious academy in the country is a bit of a disapointment.  The cute guys and homosexual undertones may make some viewers uneasy, and the story itself isn't anything too exciting.  While this isn’t a bad show, there just isn’t enough drama, action, or comedy to make it memorable.

Be sure to take a look at other recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 20032004, 2005, and 2006 articles.


Wen-Tsai's Anime Bargains
Presented by Wen-Tsai King

AnimeNation:
Hari+Guu: Complete Collection (7 DVDs + Artbox + Wig): $74.95, retail price: $219.83 - 66% off!
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Best Buy & BestBuy.com: Titles without links may be purchased at your local store if they are in stock or they can be ordered at the store computer kiosks (BestBuy.com)!
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Robert's Anime Corner Store:
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Robotech.com:
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Trans World Entertainment Stores (FYE.com, SamGoody.com, Suncoast.com):
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For more anime deals, please check out the Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread, updated daily by yours truly! Please Note: Product Availability & Prices are Subjected to Change!
 


Anime Spotlight:
by Todd Douglass

Samurai 7 Complete Collection

The Show:

Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is one of the most important and influential films of all time. The tale about honor and sacrifice holds value to this day some fifty years later. It's this inspiring work that brought about The Magnificent Seven and the latest incarnation, Samurai 7.

Heralded as one of the most expensive anime shows ever produced Samurai 7 offers a futuristic parallel to Kurosawa's masterpiece. There are many elements that inspire memories of the original film and throughout the series homage is paid in nearly every scene. Granted the show takes place in a bizarre future where mecha creations have run amuck amidst historic technology so you have to come to the show with appreciation for that kind of content.

One could simply summarize the show by saying it's about a village that hires samurai to protect them against some bandits but it is so much more than that. On every level Samurai 7 challenges its characters as it forces them to make difficult decisions. The enemies are vicious and without scruples though the plot does a fine job of graying the definition of who is an enemy. There are bigger things at work here than a group of bandits terrorizing some farmers and as the story unfolds many things are revealed.

The world of Samurai 7 is split among various classes and societal structures. The show takes place after the Great War and most of the technology that survived has decayed over the many years. Peasants work the fields to cultivate rice, the middle class struggles with poverty and hunger, merchants and politicians rise above everyone else with their money, and samurai wander listlessly searching for adventure or trouble.

Some samurai have forsaken their heritage to become bandits though this goes beyond simply running around the countryside looking for villages to pillage. The bandits are a highly organized group of thugs who operate heavy machinery and fly around in giant mechanized creations. They are feared throughout the land and have caused destruction on a scale equal to what the Great War wrought. Naturally these are the main bad guys in the show but they have ties to the merchants and a subterranean people known as the Shikimoribito.

Under the boot of the bandits lies Kanna Village which is a peaceful town that is now forced to harvest rice for their oppressors. The villagers have finally had enough and the elder dispatches a shrine maiden, Kirara, her sister, Komachi, and a resident, Rikichi, to search for samurai. They wind up traveling to the city with little more than the rice strapped to their backs which they hope to offer to noble samurai in an effort to employ their services.

When they arrive they first encounter a young and inexperienced samurai named Katsushiro who assists them when their rice is stolen. Unfortunately his lack of battle experience means that he is not one that they are looking for; well, not yet anyway. As they venture forth they discover a situation where a man has taken a baby hostage. A mechanized samurai attempts to intervene but does not succeed. That's where a warrior dressed in white steps in.

The man cuts down the hostage taker in a matter of seconds and saves the day. This man is indeed a samurai of worth and one the Kanna folk aspire to obtain the services of. After Kirara and company are discovered by a merchant they are forced to go on the run. This leads to Kirara throwing herself into the bowels of the city which gets the attention of Kambei, the white samurai.

Once the Kanna villagers get Kambei the rest of the samurai seem to fall into place. Each of their names mirror those of the ones featured in Seven Samurai. That means you can expect to see Gorobei, Shichiroji, Heihachi, Kyuzo, Kikuchiyo, and of course Katsushiro. They each take up traits similar to those of the samurai from Kurosawa's film. Kikuchiyo used to be a farmer, Shichiroji was a companion of Kambei, and Katsushiro remains the aspiring samurai.

As the plot moves forward the samurai gather and form a strong alliance as they make their way towards Kanna Village. Once they arrive the villagers are fearful of them and liken their presence to that of the bandits. Still, they win the villagers over and fortify Kanna for defense against the bandits. The rest as they say is history but I won't get into details because I don't want to spoil it for newcomers to the storyline.

Samurai 7 is a powerful show from start to finish. On the surface the story may appear to be relatively simplistic but it's the development of the characters that is the driving force of the series. Since the show focuses equally on development as well as action you can expect quite a few slow spots though they serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. You simply can't go wrong with Samurai 7 no matter how you look at it. This is one of the better inclusions in FUNimation's catalog and something every otaku must check out.

The DVD:

Video:

Samurai 7 originally aired in 2004 and offers some fantastic video quality. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is simply astonishing when you get right down to it. Few shows on the market look this good from beginning to end and it's safe to say that the cost of production was well spent.

This is one of the most well designed shows that I have ever seen and every location, every character absolutely pops. The colors are vibrant and the picture is exceedingly clear throughout. There were a few spots where some grain was noticeable though I didn't encounter any aliasing or compression on any of the seven discs. FUNimation handled this release well and Samurai 7 is undoubtedly one of the best products put together by GONZO.

Audio:

Four choices await you once you pop in the disc. There is of course the English dubbing which is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 stereo. The English track is acceptable with a decent cast of voice actors but I really dug the original Japanese track which also has the 5.1 and 2.0 treatments which offered a better dub in my opinion. The sense of immersion is decent with a mixture of subtle and prominent effects. The soundtrack is another spot where Samurai 7 makes an impression on the ears. With fresh music similar to that of Seven Samurai the show not only offers elements from the film in terms of plot but for sound as well. This is a great sounding series though the effect is not as impressive as the visual.

Extras:

Considering this collection is essentially a repackaging of the seven volumes that have already been released you can't expect new content. For starters the seven regular edition art booklets are included in the set and they feature production are as well as interviews. These are a very nice addition and compliment the release nicely.

Apart from the booklets the content on the discs themselves is very limited. Essentially all that is available are the standard features associated with anime. Textless animations, trailers, character profiles, image galleries, and a promotional video are really all that you'll find in the collection. The fourth disc does present a commentary track for "The Offering" with voice director Chris Bevins and voice actors R. Bruce Elliot (Kambei), Sean Michael Teague (Katsushiro). They basically spend the whole commentary talking about the show as they watch it and cracking jokes.

Final Thoughts:

Samurai 7 is one of the most inspired shows to come along in quite some time. The high production values show in every frame thanks to the hard work of GONZO from the story to aesthetic presentation. With loads of inspiration from Seven Samurai the series feels familiar yet foreign at the same time. It's a fresh take on an old classic and it's one that remains enjoyable from start to finish. I found myself glued to my chair in order to watch episode after episode and I'm sure once you start the same thing will happen to you. Highly Recommended


Name That Anime! :

If you guessed last week that the screenshot was from Kiddy Grade then you'd be wrong. It was actually a cap from Saber Marionette J. Here's another anime screenshot just for fun!


 
 


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