Code Geass, Bleach, DBZ, and more!
a semi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Hello otaku and welcome once again to Anime Talk's humble little corner on the mother ship that is DVDTalk. The past month has been full of new releases as the FUNimation dominance has continued. Geneon's titles are in full-swing once again, but publishers such as VIZ and Bandai aren't exactly resting on their laurels either. Check out our collection of reviews for the latest and greatest in case you missed them and as always don't forget to give WTK's bargain section a look! Some great shows can be found for marginal amounts of money and it's always worth coming over!
Funimation has been releasing the Dragon Ball Z feature movies on Blu-ray, which seems only natural since it's one of the most popular anime series in the world. After four such films coming out on two discs, FUNimation has taken a step sideways and released the two TV specials on one Blu-ray disc. These specials, which run 96 minutes together, are actually a lot more fun than the movies themselves. The important difference is that they take place inside the regular DBZ continuity and flesh out the story more, rather than trying to tell a whole new tale from scratch. While they appear on the disc in reverse chronological order, that's a small flaw as The History of Trunks and Bardock: Father of Goku are both fun specials that are an integral part of the Dragon Ball Z story.
Along those lines it's also worth noting that the sixth installment of the Uncut series has been released by FUNimation as well. The battle against Cell continues for another batch of episodes in this season. If you have been following the series to date here's another one to add to your collection!
One of the series that really made a splash in 2007 was Beck - Mogolian Chop Squad. Released by FUNimation over six volumes, the show gained a devoted following and was a pretty big hit with the fans. DVDTalk reviewers Todd Douglass and Jamie S. Rich both enjoyed the volumes they reviewed, highly recommending each one. That made John Sinnott curious about the show, but he held off on picking it up, waiting instead, as many otaku do these days, for the inevitable complete series set. Well, that wait is over as Beck has now been released in an attractively priced boxed set that comes highly recommended by the whole review staff.
When Desert Punk was first released reviewer John Sinnot wasn't that excited about the program. It just didn't look that much different from countless other shows. A guy roams a desert with a gun kicking ass and taking names. Yeah, we'd all seen that before. John didn't review the series, or the subsequent boxed set. When FUNimation released it again in a nice economical slim-line set he finally broke down and got a copy to review, and was really glad that he did. Desert Punk is a very fun, funny, and enjoyable show, especially if you can handle a lot of breast jokes. With a good amount of action, a hero you're never sure if you're supposed to like or hate, and a story that's unexpectedly rich, this show is great entertainment.
For those who picked up the first season set of Bleach and have been waiting to see what happens, the wait is over. Viz has released Bleach Season Two: The Entry where the adventures of Ichigo and his friends continue. This set contains the next story arc where the teens from Earth infiltrate the Soul Society in order to save their friend Rukia. Though the constant battles do get just a bit repetitive, the creators put in a few filler episodes to flesh out various characters backgrounds and to break up the story a bit. If you enjoyed the first season, you'll like this one too.
The arrival of BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad - The Complete Series is like a godsend for the music and anime nerd crossover audience, like the big career retrospective of one's favorite band. Though, admittedly, with nothing new that we haven't seen or heard before. Still, the story of Koyuki and how he finds himself after he picks up a guitar for the first time, joining a band, meeting his heroes, and having to learn about the inconsistencies of affairs of the heart is one that should appeal to just about anyone who has been through high school or is even going through it now. Everyone has youthful aspirations, and BECK let's us take a walk in the fictional shoes of someone living out theirs. Based on the Harold Sakushi comic book, it's both serious minded and thoroughly entertaining, an animated drama that is equal parts soap opera, coming-of-age story, and working-class rock opera. The series wants to be a little of everything, from humor to romance to even a little tragedy, and it manages to get it all--not perfectly, mind you, but pretty damn close. The new American dub adds a lot of character to the script, lending even more credibility to the already impressive musical pedigree of the show. The animation team approaches the actual music with the same attention to detail as the writers. The on-stage performances of the many bands look spectacular, employing rotoscoping to ensure that the musicians look like they are actually playing instead of just going through the motions of empty banging and strumming. The style and brands of the guitars are meticulously rendered, and there are even nods given to infamous rock venues of the past in the clubs where BECK works its way up. Not content with being merely pretty, however, real Japanese musicians were recruited to craft the tunes for the show, and so contributions from the Pillows, Meister, and, most prominently, the Beat Crusaders give the show a pretty solid-sounding music track.
FUNimation wraps up Shuffle with volume six. This harem series has been a lot of fun, especially since the tone became more serious as the series progressed. This final volume is very satisfying since Rin actually chooses a girl he wants to date, and has to live with the reactions of the other women. That's something that you don't see too often in this type of show, and it brings the series to a nice finish.
If you read our last column then you undoubtedly saw me raving about Gurren Lagann. This series is absolutely, hands-down, one of the best shows on the market right now. If you spend your money on one anime series this year be sure this one is contending for your hard-earned dollars. The energetic cast, the electric premise, and over-the-top attitude all come together to make a 27 episode series that is an absolutely blast to watch. The second and third volumes have come along so be sure not to miss them!
Hot off the heels of Gurren Lagann's success, Bandai has released the first collection of episodes from newcomer Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. In this show the Empire of Britannia has essentially taken over the world. Japan is the most recent country to fall under the boot of Britannia and its namesake has been stripped away, leaving it to be called Area 11. Britannia made a fatal mistake though; its emperor banished his son, Lelouch, to Area 11. There Lelouch came in contact with a green-haired girl who bestowed upon him the powers of the Geass which allowed him to ignite the spark of rebellion against the Empire. This first part includes the first and second volumes of this ambitious series. So far things are looking very good and Code Geass is shaping up quite nicely. Keep an eye on this one folks!
xxxHolic continues its run with the fifth installment of the series. In case you're unfamiliar with the show, it basically comes from the legacy of the CLAMP universe. That means it features rich characters, fun stories, and outlandish artistic designs. This show in particular follows the exploits of Watanuke as he works for a witch of sorts and tries to pay for the service of having his "curse" lifted. This volume features the group with some free time on their hands and a few more people come along looking for spiritual assistance. All around it's another decent entry for the show.
One of the biggest tragedies of the collapse of Geneon was the loss of Black Lagoon. This high-octane show dazzled viewers with incredible action, fun characters, and some intense writing. Thankfully FUNimation resurrected it from certain doom and recently the first volume of the Second Barrage was released. This continues the story of Rock and his accomplices in the Lagoon Company as they try to take down a sadistic pair of twins threatening their very livelihood. If you missed the series the first time around don't make the same mistake again! Go buy this show now!
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January 2015 Edition
2013 Q4 Top Anime Titles from RightStuf.com, Part 1
Crunchy Roll, Lupin, and Bunny Drop