Shingu 1 & 2, Melody of Oblivion 1, DICE and John's High and Low 5's
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass
This week we welcome a new member to the Anime Talk review team: Todd Douglass. Todd's been contributing video game reviews to DVDTalk's sister site Video Game Talk, for a while now. Having apparently taken leave of his senses, Todd wanted to try his hand at reviewing DVDs, anime in particular. This week Todd gives reviews for Jubie Chan 2, Tenjho Tenge Volume 1. We also forced the new guy to watch The Best of Tokyo Pig and he didn't even complain (much.)
This week we also have a look at a couple of new series from The Right Stuf: the really cool Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars and the incomprehensibly dull Piano. Next time someone tells you that all anime shows are the same, show them these two discs. The capsule reviews of all the latest anime discs are just a click away.
If you still have any money left Deep Discount DVD's huge 20% off sale, Holly has some great deals, including some great prices the Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta LE set (but only until 6/25), the complete series of Now and Then, Here and There, and various volumes of Azumanga Dioh, one of the funniest off the wall series to be released last year. Check out all the bargains here.
With all the new series coming out, it’s sometimes inevitable that a solid performer ends its run, as was the case with Mobile Suit Gundam Seed 10: Day of Destiny. This series detailed yet another version of the popular Gundam universe with all the political intrigue, action, and detailed mech-robots locking horns in the heat of the battle to end all battles as both factions let loose with everything they have to annihilate the oppositions. With virtually all the threads tied up and many of the main characters meeting their untimely demise in the end, we wondered what would be left for Bandai to show in the upcoming two movies but this was one we highly recommend to anyone into anime.
Another series centered on intergalactic warfare was Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 1 and Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 2 from the fine folks at The Right Stuf. Initially starting out like most series set in a school, the storyline quickly shifted gears as a group of children show the right stuff to fight impossibly powerful aliens intent on discovering the secret of Earth’s powerful defenders. Rather than stick too closely to a formula as many other series seem to do, this one explored alternative solutions by the cast as they managed to prove that they weren’t mindless killers. We’re looking forward to seeing if these two entertaining volumes were the exception or the rule to a series being mentioned as first class by numerous fans willing to accept that some companies seem to favor five episodes per volume, unlike their competition.
Speaking of recommended, most guys out there would probably kill to be the object of desire among a large group of semi-nude young women so it came as no surprise that Girls Bravo 1 appealed to the pervert in us. Harem shows with a wimpy male lead are no stranger to the reviewers of DVD Talk but there was something a bit more interesting with this one as Yukinari finds himself at odds with his own medical condition as he fends off the super hotties from another planet. If the rest of the series can keep our interest up as much as volume 1 did, we may have to take cold showers after watching the further adventures of the cast.
If you’re the type of Otaku that can’t get enough of people fighting with each other, you’ll want to check out Tenjho Tenge. That’s right; it’s that same Tenjho Tenge that started out as an ultra violent manga in Ultra Jump. The anime release by Geneon features some toned down gore and slightly less sexual innuendo. The first volume features a lot of action, humor and the beginnings of an interesting plot for the students of the Todo Academy.
As far as anime for children goes, Magical Meow Meow Taruto is a fun light series perfect for early elementary kids and younger. This program about a magical cat princess in exile has little actual danger or suspense, and the show is sure to be enjoyed by even the most timid children. There is a little comedy in the show and every time Taruto preform a spell she gets a good laugh. Older viewers (and I’m talking nine or ten and older) will likely find the program to be too calm and sedate for their tastes. I’d say they should skip it, but this is Recommended for young viewers.
Gad Guard started out strong with an interesting mystery and some engaging characters. Somewhere along the line it lost its way though. The main story was ignored in favor of a series of stand alone episodes that really didn’t advance the plot much. In the fourth volume we start off with some more single episode stories and then starts what will hopefully be the next major story line. Since there was some plot development at the end of this volume, it was better than the previous disc. It looks like they are setting things up for an interesting conclusion. The next disc should tell.
Fans of the original Jubei Chan have reasons to rejoice with the release of a sequel series featuring the Lovely Eye-patch wearing warrior. Jiyu and characters from her previous adventures return along with some new adversaries and friends. The first volume “Resurrection” showcases much of the same whacky humor and action that made the original so popular. The video presentation for Jubei Chan 2 is fantastic and the five years between productions has done wonders for the show’s quality.
A series that started off with less appeal was Melody of Oblivion 1. The show is set in an uncertain future where humanity lost a war against a group of monsters that now rule the Earth. A small band of gifted warriors continues the fight, recruiting a teenager, Bocca, from a small town to join the battle as he discovers his unique abilities but the action was kind of generic in a very crowded field (half the anime series on the shelves these days sound a lot like that one). It’s still worth a rental and the series may liven up in due time but we had our doubts after watching the first volume.
Another disc that rates a rental rating is the first volume of DICE. This show, while it is marginally entertaining, leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lot of action, but since you don’t really care about the characters it’s not that exciting. There is a race against time in almost every episode which gets tiresome after a while too. The show comes across as a marketing team’s idea of what would sell to kids, not something that a writer thought would be entertaining. The nearly total lack of fight scenes in most shows ensures that parents won’t protest the show, but it also means that kids won’t find it exciting.
On the lighter side, if you are a six year old with ADD you may be interested in Best of Tokyo Pig. However if you don’t fit that category, you’re probably better off avoiding the show all together. With tons of nonsensical random plot twists, annoyingly unique characters and jarringly irritating voiceovers, it’s no surprise Tokyo Pig was cancelled. There are a few memorable moments that will make you laugh, but those rare instances aren’t worth the overall cost of sitting through the rest of the show.
Scheduled for release on June 28, 2005
Scheduled for release on July 5, 2005
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1. Anime DVDs in general: Overall, publishers have done an excellent job putting anime out on DVD. Remember the days when you had to choose between sub and dub versions on VHS? That’s no longer a problem. Many series also give four or even five episodes on a disc which is better than a lot of the discs that are released in Japan. There is also a much wider variety than ever came out on VHS. Face it, we’ve got it pretty good.
2. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: A great show that has a lot of action and a puzzling mystery. You’ve got to love the Laughing Man.
3. First volumes that come with slipcases for the whole series: When I started collecting anime on DVD, you were often left with the choice of buying the series as it came out and watching it when everyone else did, or waiting (and hoping) for a collected edition at the end and getting a slipcase for the whole series. More than one time I felt ripped off because I supported a show I enjoyed by purchasing the discs as they were released only to find out that I was missing out on the slipcase. The solution of releasing two versions of the first volume, one with a slipcase and one without is a great compromise.
4. DVDs loaded with episodes: You just gotta love getting a lot of anime on a single disc. I get a warn fuzzy feeling when I pop in a disc and discover there are five episodes on it.
5. Liner notes: Some of the anime companies have followed Animeigo’s lead and have included notes with cultural references along with their discs. The inserts for Azumanga Dioh were particularly illuminating.
1. Anime commentary tracks: The English voice actors rarely have anything interesting to say. These tracks often turn into narration of the action of screen: “this is where my character shoots the bad guy.” Its not really their fault, they had very little to do with the creation of the work that’s up on the screen. While I applaud the companies that try to give extra value their discs, this doesn’t work for me.
2. Unfinished series. I hate when an early disc doesn’t sell well enough and a series is cancelled right at the start. Where’s the rest of Cyborg 009 and Yukikaze??
3. The price of anime slipcases: While I really like initial volumes of series that come with slipcases, I think they are just about always overpriced. They usually jack the price up $10 as compared to the stand alone version, and that’s a lot of pay for a slipcase. They should really cut fans some slack on the price since someone who has a slipcase is more likely to finish off the set.
4. The lack of early anime: There are some good early shows that have been released, Gigantor comes to mind, but where’s the original Astroboy and Mach Go Go Go?
5. Excessive fan service: Nothing brings a story to a story to a screeching halt easier than an oversized pair of breasts in a bra three sizes too small bouncing all over the screen while some guys smiles mindlessly and has a nose bleed. I don’t mind sex in movies or anime, but most of the fan service interrupts the plot and, even worse, isn’t funny. Does anyone really think that these caricatures of women are sexy? The wasp thin waists and watermelon sized breasts make them look almost unreal.
What do you think about the column? Like what you see? Don't like it? Have a comment or suggestion? Drop us an e-mail and let us know!
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