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What's up with Final Fantasy VII?


a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott, Chris Tribbey, and Todd Douglass

Tired of having to wait for region 1 releases of popular anime?  This week Anime Talk talks about that problem in general, and the much anticipated release of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in particular.  This amazing looking film doesn't have a firm release date yet, but thousands of otaku have already obtained illegal copies.  Has Sony blown it? Read Chris Tribbey's thoughts on the matter this week.  We also have reviews of recent anime releases including contradictory looks at Yumeria and Godannar, and Holly has her bargain section too.  A look at the upcoming releases finds several series boxed sets, including the complete Robotech saga, Chrono Crusade, Kaleido Star, Please Twins, and more.  A lot of nice sets that would make great Christmas presents.

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

The best example of a high budget, well written anime series in recent years, Akira Kurosawa's Samurai 7: vol. 2 proved that it was more than just style over substance as the show continued to follow the path set forth by original creator, famed director Akira Kurosawa. Expanding on the original movie so beloved by fans of samurai and critics alike, the second volume didn't fall into a sophomore slump as the cast picked up more skilled warriors to do battle with the mechanized bandits terrorizing the countryside. Adding in comic relief, drama, and a lot of skillful artistry to be tied together nicely by a superior soundtrack, the show continued to impress our staff as the type of anime that transcends the genre.

Baki fights again in the third volume of his testosterone laden anime. He and his father butt heads briefly, but it’s set up that in one months time they will beat each other up. This of course means that Baki has to train some more, so he learns about an elite team of warriors with the power to take down an entire battalion, unarmed. Among them is a fighter named Gaia, who is revered by many as an equal to Baki’s father in almost every regard. The red headed brat seems to be in over his head, and if he can’t beat Gaia, then he has no chance to tackling his dad.

Fafner: Ultimate Sacrifice was another second volume that managed to keep our interest as the pilots of a small, uncharted island attempt to fend off alien invaders intent on ending life on a futuristic Earth full of various competing factions. This time, one of the lead characters falls prey to the ravages of war after fighting off the latest attack but will the sacrifice be in vain or will it help rally the others who have been marginally interested in doing anything but returning to the ignorant bliss that was their life before the attacks began in the previous volume?

Gatchaman continues to be a lot of classic fun. If you have been checking out the series you’ll be pleased to know that there is actually a two part story arc in the newest wave. Most of the series has broken down into stand alone, monster of the week story telling, so it was nice to see a slight change of pace, even if it was just for two episodes. This anime is constantly proving how original it was back in the day and it’s easy to see how many modern ideals were influenced by the show.

ADV Films shows the world that it too can clean up older titles for release in the domestic anime market with You're Under Arrest: The Motion Picture (remastered) sporting a nice new 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround audio track as well as an anamorphic widescreen picture that we hopes becomes the standard for all older releases in the future. The squad at the Bokuto Traffic Corps has their hands full when a terrorist group tries their best to use technology to assist them in their plans to dominate the countryside with advanced military weaponry. Will the gals be able to leave their pants on and save the day yet again or will their fan service get in the way of a job well done?

The concluding volume of Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU: Full Metal Mania signals the end of an era for the light hearted hijinks of cast and crew as they find themselves in jam after jam due to various misunderstandings caused in large part by Sousuke's complete reliance on military training to protect his charge from those who would do her harm. Thankfully, a second season of the action packed original series this was derived from seems on the horizon so consider this as icing on the proverbial cake while you wait for that one to come out.

With each of the main contributors to Anime Talk having provided a unique perspective to the opening volume of Yumeria: Enter the Dreamscape, (read reviews from Don, Chris and John) a fan might wonder why the difference of opinion? Well, with a series based in large part on clichés, this was one of those shows that truly helps people understand how reasonable fans can agree to disagree. When slacker Tomokazo Mikuri falls asleep, he enters a universe where alien robots try to destroy him as they plot to enter the waking world and do likewise. It's up to him and his group of super powered female friends to save the day, all in time for him to wake up to the daily torture of a school gym teacher wanting to punish him for things he has yet to do.

Another example of differing opinions we have two reviews of Godannar Mission 1: Search and Destroy.  Don Houston describes the show as "derivative, unfunny, and a testament to style over substance."  Todd Douglass on the other hand, thinks that the show is "a heck of a lot of fun."  Read both reviews and decide for yourselves if this fanservice filled mecha show is worth checking out.

ADV has given fans of Gantz a slap in the face with the release of volume 8.  After having to suffer through six volumes that only had two episodes each, volume seven finally had four.  Now they've reduced the episode count to three, but kept the price the same.  The series is good, but ADV is practically begging people to leave this show on the shelves with the way they are marketing it.  Raising the price of the show by $1/episode in the last half of the series is really insulting.

Not everything that ADV does is bad though.  They've been releasing much of their back catalog in thinpak cases at a bargain price.  The Slayers movies have gotten this treatment with five of their movies coming out as a boxed set.  This comedy/action swords and sorcery series is a lot of fun, and the movies are even more enjoyable.

Another ADV thinpak set is Angelic Layer. CLAMP, the creators of Card Captor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth, have another one of their manga series brought to the small screen with this show about fighting robots, but this time they aren't giant sized, they are small dolls.  With some great characters, a good amount of action, and just the right dose of comedy, this show is sure to appeal to a wide audiance.

Just in time for Halloween, the second volume of a horror series, Mermaid Forest: Bitter Flesh, comes out as ghouls and humans wanting to become immortal vie for the chance to end the lives of Yuta, a 500 year old man, and his newly immortal friend Mana. While not the best horror release of the year, it had enough meat on the bones to give any of you a taste of what mermaid flesh really tastes like. Rent it for the holiday and greet trick or treater's to some extra thrills as Yuta gets to feel the caring embrace of a loving puppy enhanced on the flesh so sought after.

Shadow Star Narutaru ends its 13 episode run with the fourth volume. In this final set of episodes the series takes yet another direction, telling a story that is only tangentially related to the previous shows. When all was said and done, this series is just an incomprehensible mess. Not much of it makes sense, and there were many storylines that were just ignored.

In another enhanced re-release, Sakura Diaries OVA Collection 1 was given a new soundtrack to enhance the fan service and melodrama the series was known for years ago. ADV Films seems to be on a kick to rework the audio portions of older titles and seeing the love triangle of Urara, Touma, and Mieko play out in six full episodes of this jam packed OVA was worth a look. The concluding volume comes out next month and those of you interested more in relationships than giant robots bashing each other senseless might like it a lot.

With the second movie of the series, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Movie II: The Far Away Dawn took a look at the highlights of the superior series that ended earlier this year. In a future where genetically enhanced beings fight with the mundane normal folk, much like X-Men without the super powers, the tides of battle come down to a handful of dedicated opponents willing to sacrifice it all to save their ideals and friends from the terrible outcome their foes would thrust upon them via the use of advanced mobile robots. The series had lots of detail and nuances lost here so unless you want an overview of the wonderful series, pass on this one in favor of the better version.

FUNimation continues releasing the first two storylines from Dragon Ball Z in their original and uncut form with the fifth volume of the Vegeta Saga.  Goku falls off of Snake Way and later meets Princess Snake while his son Gohan makes friends with a Sabertooth Tiger while in the wilderness.  With a lot of new content, including most of the third episode, this is fun disc.

The latest volume of Case Closed contains a pair of two-part stories that are more enjoyable than the average single show tales. The first story introduces a new interesting villain, one who is a match for Jimmy Kudo. After that there is a murder in a rich old man's mansion that is more than it appears.  A great show for younger viewers and mystery lovers.

When an android gets equipped with the brain of a cat, all hell breaks loose. All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku Dash is something of a revival of the old series from the early 90s. Dash takes the same concept, spins it around a little bit and takes the idea in a new direction. It’s a lot of fun, and never takes itself seriously, which is probably a good thing in this case. Nuku Nuku goes from being a sexy teenage girl to butt kicking super dynamite warrior in the blink of an eye when trouble comes knocking. If you enjoyed the original series or just really like cats, androids and cliché love stories, then you can’t really go wrong with this one.

Be sure to take a look at recommendations by DVDTalk’s twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 articles.

Upcoming Releases

Scheduled for release on Nov. 1, 2005

Title (click on the link to purchase at Amazon.com)
Case Closed: Case 5 Vol. 5 $19.98 FUNimation
Chrono Crusade Complete Collection $89.98 ADV Films
Get Backers Vol. 10 $29.98 ADV Films
Girls Bravo Vol. 3 $24.98 Geneon
Golgo 13: The Professional $19.95 Urban Vision
Kaleido Star Amazing Collection $49.98 ADV Films
Kyo Kara Maoh! Vol. 4 $29.98 (SE $34.98) Geneon
Tokyo Underground Vol. 5 $29.98 Geneon

Scheduled for release on Nov. 8, 2005

Title (click on the link to purchase at Amazon.com)
Ah! My Goddess The Movie DTS $29.98 Geneon
Chobits Complete Collection $99.98 Geneon
Doki Doki School Hours Vol. 1 $24.98 (SE $34.98) Geneon
E's Otherwise Vol. 4 $29.98 ADV Films
Eden's Bowy Complete Collection $39.98 ADV Films
Galaxy Railways Vol. 3 $29.98 FUNimation
Irresponsible Captain Tylor OVA Box Set LE $69.95 Right Stuf
Mahoromatic Complete Collection $99.98 Geneon
Mars Daybreak Vol. 2 $29.98 ($39.98 SE) Bandai
Original Dirty Pair Movie Collection $24.98 ADV Films
Please Twins Box Set LE $49.98 Bandai
Robotech Protoculture Collection $129.95 ADV Films
Shadow Star Narutaru Vol. 4 [review] $19.98 Central Park Media

Holly's Anime Bargains - Presented by Holly Beeman

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For more anime deals check out the Official - ANIME Bargains! - Thread.  Updated daily by yours truly!

by Chris Tribbey

It's the most anticipated anime title this side of Naruto, and nobody seems to know exactly when it's coming out on DVD. If you listen to Amazon.com, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children streets Nov. 29. If you listen to AnimeonDVD.com, it's out on Jan. 10. And if you listen to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, neither is certain. They don't have it on their Web site as an upcoming release (nor through Columbia TriStar), and a Sony spokeswoman said that no certain date has been set.

This seems like the wrong way to protect your bottom line. Whatever the street date, shouldn't Sony be worried about its ability to move this DVD through American stores? This is THE gamer/anime fan, 13-28 male, "I love torrents!" movie, something that was on the Web within a day of the Japanese DVD release in mid-September. Some file-sharing sites claim to have registered more than 100,000 downloads of Advent Children. Shouldn't the Sony brass be scrambling to throw this out on store shelves, English dub be damned?

But not so fast. Remember Samurai Champloo? Of course you do, you're still watching it. The Japanese DVD for volume one of that show was out in August 2004. We didn't see volume one until January this year. Yet Champloo has been sitting pretty as one of the top anime on DVD sellers all year long, right up there with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and the Inuyasha movies, according to Nielsen Videoscan research. Release something good on DVD - even if everyone downloads it beforehand - and the fans will buy. It defies logic, but it's true.

Still, Sony and other companies that distribute anime should take a long look at their licensing agreements and plans for these staggered Region 2, Region 1 DVD releases of hot titles. Bootlegging anime is different than, say, stealing Star Wars, partly because this is something a large portion of the anime fan base has become used to doing for years. If it's not getting a theatrical release here, and has been out in Japan for months, a distinct "why wait" attitude springs from the masses. Download it, burn it, drop a crappy fan-sub on it, and mail it off to us in an unmarked envelope with "Top Secret" written across the top, like we're smuggling state secrets or black-tar heroin. No special features? No English dub? Shotty video? Pa-lease. We want the movie, and we'll pocket the $30, and this is revenge for Steamboy, thank you very much. It's wrong, but it's reality.

Now, Sony does have something unique and special in Advent Children, an all-CG, amazing-looking follow to the PlayStation game. Yes, I've seen the movie, and no, I didn't download it or burn a DVD. I hate piracy. It makes everything cost more, hurts artists, and just feels icky. I've never downloaded a movie, or an illegal song for that matter. But, in my age group, I'm in the minority. Advent Children, having such name-recognition behind it, will probably do well on DVD regardless of all the downloads. Delaying the release must still cost Sony, however. Say only one out of 100 people who download something first - because it's not available at the store down the street - doesn't follow through on the DVD purchase. That's $30 the distributor is missing, $30 they might have earned if the DVD was available.

Sure, value add-ons is something anime thrives on, making DVDs more attractive than that piss-poor torrent you have sitting on your hard drive. By including extras and toys and art boxes and script books and English dubs, (most) U.S. distributors make their products attractive. But by allowing anime fans that timeframe between the DVD release in Japan and the DVD release in the U.S., you invite them to steal. Anime distributors can't control the Internet, but they can give consumers the option to be honest.

I almost forgot: the show. Advent Children's description begins "Two years after the events in the video game ..." See, I own an Xbox, not a PlayStation 2, so I had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE what was going on in this show. The story is geared directly at you PS2 players, and while there are quite a lot of them, just as many people will have no idea what the LifeStream, Shinra Corporation or Geostigma are. It took me less than five minutes to become hopelessly lost, as a young man named Cloud attempts to stop some blue-haired, handsome bad guys from doing something bad. That's as specific as I can get. I kept trying to stop myself from asking why only certain characters could defy all laws of gravity, why when Cloud gets shot in the face he just kind of winces and keeps fighting, why the head bad guy keeps calling that black box "Mother." I guess it doesn't matter how muddled this story is, because the visuals are beautiful, much better than Appleseed, which I raved about to no end. Some scenes could be confused as live action. The fights are some of the best ever imagined. This is a visual masterpiece, an exciting treat even with puke for a plot. You'll see in November... Or January... Or ...

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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