UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, Gantz Season 1
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Todd Douglass
This week we have a look at some more anime series released in thinpak season sets. This is a great way to stretch your anime dollar, as they are usually priced at a small fraction of what the individual volumes go for. Originally released on 2 episode DVDs, Gantz is an untraviolent fan favorite which is much more enjoyable to watch as a season set. On the other end of the spectrum, Wedding Peach is a fun Sailor Moon type show that is sure to please the young and young at heart. We also have reviews of Outlanders, a classic show that doesn't quite stand the test of time, and Samurai 7 which continues to be an excellent series. There's also an early peek at UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, Holly's Anime Bargains, and our table of upcoming releases. All in this week's Anime Talk.
If you've been reading our reviews over the last year, you'll know how reviewer John Sinnott has felt about the individual releases of Gantz: Season 1 Box Set. Now in a value packed complete thinpak set for the first time, we get to see just how the dynamic changes when watched all at once and we must say it works beyond our expectations. The story is about a crew of alien fighting humans that are forced into their situation by a mechanical device known as Gantz to risk their existence after already dying once. The rules of their reincarnated existence are clear; fight the aliens to gain enough points in order to be set free. While this sounds simple enough, the aliens have a few things to say about it and most of the group perishes before getting a second attempt. The pacing and sheer eeriness of this ultra violent series was more than even the Japanese television censors would allow so come see the uncensored version in this new boxed set today.
Outlanders was one of the shows to get released on VHS back in the relatively early days of anime fandom. Distributed only in a dubbed version (and a rather awful dub at that if memory serves) the show was fairly popular due to manga release by Dark Horse Comics. CPM has now released this classic show on DVD with both the original track, for the first time in the US, and a new English dub. While this show did have a lot of charm a decade and a half ago, it hasn't stood up well to the test of time. The story about a female alien warrior who falls in love with an Earth teen while trashing the planet, and the troubles that causes was entertaining enough back in the day, now it leaves something to be desired. The animation is rather poor, there is too much plot crammed into too little time, and now a days the show seems a bit silly.
In a far flung futuristic Earth, powerful robot bandits that were once honorable samurai terrorize farming villages at the bequest of corrupt merchants. One village is fed up with the status quo so they send a water priestess to the city in order to recruit a team of samurai willing to fight the bandits in Samurai 7 V4: The Battle for Kanna (Ltd Ed.) This big budget series has generated a tremendous amount of buzz due to the fact that it had the largest budget of an anime series to date, showing the kind of quality a fan would expect of a story based on the Kurosawa classic. This time, the already assembled team fought off the bandits, making grave sacrifices to accomplish their deadly mission. This doesn't go unnoticed by the merchants though that battle will come later. The limited edition collector's box adds in some wonderful sketch books that are sure to become highly sought after but the four episodes were once again the main reason for picking up this excellent series.
In Tetsujin 28: V3: The Phantom Thief, Shotaro Kaneda, a genius boy detective in mid-1950’s Japan, wields a giant robot built by his late father to fight a variety of menaces all tied to the end of WWII. The retro nature of the show will certainly appeal to many anime fans as well as those looking for something to watch with their kids. This four episode set sees the end of the Super Human Kelly arc, a story about a shape shifting alien, another about a medical experiment gone awry, and yet another about a scientist using forbidden technology to steal from the rich and give to himself while Shotaro seeks to capture him. Each plays off as a morality story though does so in the manner already established in this fine show, making it worth checking out by young and old alike.
Lastly, in ADV Films’ own little experiment with ad-lib dubbing, some of the most talented names in voice acting are given almost completely free reign to make up the stories as they go along in Ghost Stories 3: Junior Jitters. As in other volumes of the series, you'll either like it or hate it depending largely on your own taste for juvenile humor as this team of junior ghost busters tries to rectify the release of a number of dangerous ghosts by a construction company near their school. For our team of crack reviewers though, the end result was far less satisfying as the unstructured experiment in dubbing relied far too heavily on appealing to the lowest common denominator fan with lame bathroom humor, jokes about homosexuality, and the like.
The third volume of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig continues to craft an interesting and multilayered story. The plot thickens as the enigmatic and grossly disfigured Mr. Gohda reveals a tiny portion of what's up his sleeve, and the problems with the refugees escalate. The disc ends with some bizarre events taking place that don't seem to make any sense, drawing viewers deeper into this season's mystery. If you enjoyed the first season of this excellent show, you'll want to pick up this series too.
If you enjoy magical girls that can transform into butt-kicking heroines then you may find yourself getting into Wedding Peach. The show is off beat with a whacky sense of humor and a nonsensical plot, though to be fair it doesn't really go anywhere. This thinpak collection is only half of the entire series and features all of the episodes from season one. The show also doesn't find a voice of its own and feels like a copycat of stuff like Sailor Moon. Fans of the genre will appreciate it much more than others, but the average otaku is better of skipping or renting it.
The last volume of the Samurai Gun series has been released and it brings the violent amine's tale to a close. Ichimatsu and company have been through a lot over the twelve episodes of the show, but in all fairness we never really got to know the characters all that well. There was a certain stand-alone nature to the series and each story was pretty much contained within a regular episode's time frame. In particular these last two episodes (and one un-aired adventure) don't have a lot to do with anything and the show closes out on an extremely anti-climactic note. More questions are raised than answered and the whole thing just leaves you hanging. This volume features a decent story but considering that it's the last time you'll see the Samurai Gun it's really disappointing the way it was handled.
Videogame to anime crossovers are not a rare commodity in today's industry. We've seen Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, and Mega Man all get their own series so it should be no surprise that yet another one has joined their ranks. That new kid on the block is Viewtiful Joe. If you've played the games then you already know that Joe isn't your usually superhero. He's a regular bloke who got sucked into a movie (kind of like Last Action Hero) and was given superpowers by his idol, Captain Blue. The anime features a lot of action and humor, but there are some flaws here in the presentation of the show on DVD. There are only three episodes on the first volume and the entire thing is presented with the English dubbing as the only audio track. Needless to say this makes for a very barebones and disappointing release, but none-the-less it proves to be a lot of fun.
Scheduled for release on March 7, 2006
Scheduled for release on March l4, 2006
Out Your Local Best Buy for:
UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie
Poor Kazuto. He's a high school student who lives with his younger sister and runs the bathhouse that his grandfather started. It's hard running the bath house, studying for school and making ends meet, but things get even worse when an alien space ship crashes into his house....and kills him. The ship was being driven by an outerspace babe/princess Valkyrie who is running away from an arranged marriage that she doesn't want any part of. In true Ultraman fashion she feels guilty about killing Kazuto, so she gives him half of her soul. This brings Kazuto back to life, but also turns Valkyrie into an very young girl in both mind and body. She moves in with Kazuto and his sister and helps around the bath house. The fact that she goes around telling everyone that she's given Kazuto "the most precious thing a girl can give a boy" doesn't help Kazuto's social life any either.
This can be an amusing show, even if we've seen it all before. Kazuto is a Tenchi-like guy who soon finds himself handling not only with the six year old princess Valkyrie, but an army of cat-girl maids sent to take care of the princess and Hydra, a tough as they come woman who is supposed to take Valkyrie's place at the wedding if she doesn't bring the run away princess back. On Kazuto's side though, is Valkyrie, and whenever they kiss she turns back into her adult form, albeit briefly, and can use her magical powers to get out of just about any hairy situation.
Taking place in a bathhouse there's a lot of nudity including Valkyrie's transformation sequence when everyone can watch her breasts explode onto the screen. With a good amount of humor and the cast of wacky characters, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie may be a winner.
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