Top Ten Anime DVDs of 2006
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
It's hard to beleive another year has come and gone. 2006 has been an interesting one for anime with a lot of great titles, and some not-so-great ones, being released. To wrap up the year we have our Top Ten Anime DVDs of 2006, as voted on by the Anime Talk review staff. There are some great anime on the list, and a few choices that may surprise some of you.
This column is also the last for intrepid bargain hunter Holly Beeman. Holly has been with us since our first column nearly two years ago and hasn't missed a deadline, something that editor John Sinnott really appreciates. We're all sad to see her go, and she will be missed. Holly's departure won't be the end of our bargain section however. Be sure to check back in two weeks time to see who we've found to fill her shoes and what changes are made to the section.
It's not often in anime that a series gets redone completely from the ground up. There are so many risks involved when doing just that, not the least of which is alienating fans. When I heard about Hellsing Ultimate we were a tad skeptical at first thinking to ourselves, "How could they improve the original?" By incorporating the manga Ultimate has gone above and beyond what you'd conceive as a remake. This new series completely reinvents the adventure of Seras and Arucard and is worth a look whether you're a fan of the original or not. The only problem with this release is a 50 minute run time and complete lack of bonus material.
Fantastic Children V5 started wrapping up the series with one more volume to go as the Children of Befort confront the choices laid out before them. Do they go back home and risk a premature demise or do they give in to the demands of their former colleague when he makes a proposition to save them, all for the very high price of giving up everything they hoped to achieve?
Gaogaigar returns for its second installment of giant robot versus big alien insanity. This over the top and rambunctious show presents an ancient (by anime standards) concept but it does so lightheartedly with an endearing cast. In this volume more humans with darkness in their hearts get enticed toward the dark side and turn into destructive monsters. It's up to Mamoru and Gai to work together to stop their madness in another collection of episodic adventures. If you liked Godannar then you'll definitely want to give this series a chance.
The technological advances of Kirameki Project: Robot Girls showed that Studio Fantasia has a lot of stylish moves up their collective sleeves but the substance was lacking in this tribute to giant robots battling it out for supremacy in the not too distant future. The focus on female pilots saving the day is nothing new at this point but without any character development to speak of yet fans of the genre might appreciate the total package offered here with some unique extras and a colorful story.
If you frequent DVD and anime sites you have no doubt seen an advertisement for Black Cat kicking around. Released by FUNimation the show presents a fantastic anime with a bit of science fiction on the side for a unique combination. It's a world of Sweepers (bounty hunters) and assassins we're everyone is a charming anti-hero and each episode focuses on a specific mark. In this world there is nobody who is more feared than Chronos Agent XIII, otherwise known as Black Cat. From a troubled past this young man lost his way and lives by the gun but when he meets a gentleman's gentleman named Sven his world turns upside down. This first volume is definitely worth a look and we'll stay tuned to see how the series unfolds in coming installments.
Comic Party Revolution is the sequel series to Comic Party; the anime all about drawing doujinshi. With an established set of characters and relationships fully blossomed newcomers to the series will be baffled at the start. Nothing is explained or fleshed out so Revolution remains a set of continuing adventures that only fans of the original should bother checking out. Another problem (with the first volume at least) is that there is only one "good" episode on the disc; the rest are kind of just there. Still, there are some laughs to be had and the concept that includes doujinshi is unique so those with interest in manga may want to see what it's all about.
Scheduled for release on January 2nd, 2007
Scheduled for release on January 9nd, 2007
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10) Ninja Nonsense: Comedy shows are a dime a dozen these days but a comedy show about ninjas? That's a rare thing indeed. Ninja Nonsense is the nonsensical journey of Shinobu, a young girl from a ninja village and Kaede, her friend from the regular world. Together they go on one misadventure after another with the lovable goofy group of ninja and their master Onsokumaru. This four volume series had enough charm to last a life time and truly was enjoyable from start to finish. If you need a laugh definitely keep this one on your "to see" list.
9) Naruto Uncut: Next to Dragon Ball, Naruto has become arguably the biggest anime phenomenon in Japan and America. The popularity of the manga and sheer number of episodes that the anime has pumped out is daunting to say the least. While Viz had started releasing the show in individual volumes they also gave love to the series in the form of an uncut boxed set. Otaku don't want their anime to be censored and as such Naruto: Uncut lives up to its namesake. This is a fun show about a young boy with the spirit of a fox demon growing up in a ninja village. He aspires to be the best of the best and as such constantly competes with his fellow classmates. The series has an upbeat atmosphere and can-do spirit so it works well for both younger and older viewers alike. Check it out and see what all the fuss is about.
8) Moon Phase: Moon Phase is another series that combines elements of darkness and comedy for an uneasy mix using the supernatural setting of Japan to full advantage. The story largely focuses on the relationship between Kouhei Morioka, a spiritually retarded member of an otherwise gifted clan, and a young vampire girl named Hazuki. Upon being freed from her supernatural shackles thanks to Kouhei and his family running interference on assignment in Germany, Hazuki moves in with Kouhei with comic results, at least until her former captors come looking for her. The resulting battles work on multiple levels and it is clear that the series is getting better with each volume.
7) Eureka Seven: Eureka Seven is the story of fourteen year old Renton Thurston set in the far future on a planet controlled by the military. Renton signs up to become a member of a rebel group known as the Gekkostate that are a traveling road show with numerous fans, using alien technology to outgun their numerically superior enemy as they seek to unveil some of the secrets that have been kept from the people. As the series progresses, Renton finds out that his new friends are not without dark secrets of their own, forcing him to repeatedly question whether he is fighting the good fight or not, all while courting a mysterious and reluctant girl named Eureka. The series is best when it examines the nuances between the rival factions but at midpoint, the introduction of two new characters on their opponents side livens things up more then a little bit.
6) Full Metal Panic!: Second Raid: Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid proved that the original series was not just a fluke with the continuing adventure of Mithral and Sgt. Sousuke Sagara as he balances protecting Kaname, saving the world from well funded & equipped terrorists, and passing his latest tests in High School. The emphasis on the series this time is clearly the action exploits of the team as they try to figure out who is attacking them so successfully, and what they want. FUNimation and ADV Films, the two Texan leaders in anime, both took a hand in this one to show that cooperation makes for mighty fine DVD releases so check it out if you like seeing giant robots used in militarily realistic fights.
5) Speed Grapher: Speed Grapher is a futuristic look at a world consumed by greed and corruption as photographer Tatsumi Saiga uses his newly acquired super powers to save a young girl from the Tennozu Group; a corporation led by the richest and most powerful people in Japan. As the mystery unravels; he finds out that secret genetic experiments might well prove to be the cause, and salvation from his abilities; abilities that come with a steep price. While battling super humans are nothing new in anime, the twists here were enough to make the series unique with a decidedly adult approach some may find discomforting but you will be glued to the edge of your seat as the action packed series provides some of the best intrigue of the year.
4) Area 88 OVA: ADV Films was kind enough to provide fans with the complete Area 88: Original OVA Series; a popular title from long ago that fans have clamored for thanks to the company’s release of the updated series not long ago. Following the exploits of Shin Kazama, a mercenary pilot tricked into service by a former friend, the show focused on the loss of humanity of war and the impact on those who fight. Shin desperately fights each day in order to accrue enough credit to release him from his contract while his fiancé comes close to marrying his rival. The newly remastered project was light-years ahead of the previous release that only included the first part of the series, making it a must have for fans everywhere.
3) Trinity Blood: Trinity Blood has sparked a lot of interest this year thanks to the interesting way it combines darker themes with the kind of comedy that many fans seem to enjoy. The setting is 500 years in the future with the world split into two main groups; humans led by the Catholic Church and vampires led by a hierarchy of royalty, both groups endangered by a radical faction willing to risk everything for total domination. A secret agency called AX is the only thing that stands in their way, led by a seemingly bumbling but powerful agent named Abel Nightroad who shows the enemy the error of their ways with the help of his friends. Each of the characters has dark secrets but nothing, and no one, gets in the way of their missions to protect the peace in this fantastic series.
2) Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Ever since Fullmetal Alchemist began coming out on DVD you've been reading in this column about how great the show is. To be honest, we can't talk enough about the journey of the Elric brothers. Sadly, as is the case with all good things, the series has finally come to an end with Conqueror of Shamballa. This twisted tale weaves in and out of our world and the one filled with alchemy that fans came to know throughout thirteen volumes. The emotional story packs a wallop and high production values help make this one of the best adventures for Edward and Alphonse. So many reasons go behind making this one of the top ten releases of the year and if you've already seen it then you know every one of those.
Howl's Moving Castle: The first
place slot goes to a film made by one of the world's greatest animators.
Hayao Miyazaki is known as the "Japanese Walt Disney" and has been responsible
for some of the most enchanting and magical animated features to ever grace
the silver screen including the 2001 Academy Award winning film Spirited
Away. His latest feature film is Howl's Moving Castle, and it is
just as good as his other movies. This film is an intimate portrait
of a young girl trapped in an old body who experiences her first love and
a grand epic adventure at the same time. Miyazaki has the rare ability
to make a large scale film seem small and personal, and he uses that ability
to great affect in this movie. A vastly enjoyable film, this movie
is also lovely to look at; the images and colors that are painted on the
screen are simply beautiful. A wonderful film that is truely one
of 2006's best DVD releases.
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