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Honorable Mention series for 2005


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

To start off 2006, Anime Talk looks at a few excellent anime shows that just barely missed making it onto our Top Ten list.  These Honorable Mention titles were selected by the staff and represent some fine programs that haven't gotten a lot of notice in the press.  We also have capsule reviews of the latest anime releases including the last volumes of Saiyuki Double Barrel Collection and Stellvia as well as the first volume of Doki Doki School Hours and many other anime discs.  Be sure to check them all out.

Honorable Mentions - 2005

There were a lot of great anime DVDs released last year, and the best made it onto our Top Ten list.  Unfortunately there were a few excellent series that just didn't make it into the ten slots that were opened.  The Anime Talk contributors wanted to point out their favorite also-rans from last year and came up with this list of anime shows that deserve to get a little more notice.

All year end lists involve compromise and it was unfortunate that Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars didn't make it onto our list this year. The story centered on a handful of characters including Hajime, Muryou, and Nayuta as they brought forth their unique abilities and perspectives during a series of chaotic battles threatening Earth. That each volume had 5 episodes, substantial extras, and even decent printed material to help provide value was only icing on the cake as the writing and thematic ideas presented were so solidly presented that you're likely to find substantial replay value in what is being hailed as one of the best sleeper series of the year. Kudos to The Right Stuf for recognizing the worthy attributes of the show and bringing it to us in such a proper fashion.

In general, sequel series aren't that entertaining.  They tend to be either a shadow of the original or change gears all together so that they are unrecognizable. Jubei Chan 2 is neither of those things and really proves to capture the soul and feel of the original in just about every fashion. The crazy humor is still there in spades, the fantastic artwork still takes my breath away and most importantly the action is out of this world. You'd be hard pressed to find another series that offers as much quality as Jubei Chan 2 in just about every regard. We cant wait to get our hands on the final volume of the show and see what becomes of Jiyu Nanohana and the gang.

It seems like there is one truly funny anime show released each year.  There was Excel Saga in 2003, Azumanga Daioh in 2004, and 2005 had an outrageously funny show too: Cromartie High School.  This off beat show concerns the student at Cromartie High, Tokyo's worst high school.  The student body consists of all of the delinquents that none of the other schools will accept.  Told from the point of view of Kamiyama, the only regular kid in the school, Cro-high has an odd assortment of students who excel in getting into trouble.  There's a mute student who looks to be in his thirties and is a dead ringer for the lead singer of Queen.  (Everyone calls him Freddie.)  Then there's Mechazawa, a robot.  The only thing is that no one except Kamiyama seems to notice that he's made out of metal and not a real person.  Oh yeah, and one of the students is a gorilla.  A laugh-out-loud funny show, this is one that fans of off the wall should definitely check out.

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

Did you enjoy Azumanga Daioh? If you did you may want to check out Doki Doki School Hours for more cracked out high school comedy that is just about as random as it gets. The show focuses on a 27 year old teacher that happens to look like she’s six and her crazy students that pay her no respect because of her appearance. The anime is only a half series with 13 episodes, but even in the first batch several of the jokes were starting to repeat themselves. Check it out if you are looking for something a little off the cuff, but to be fair the show hardly holds a candle to Azumanga Daioh so far.

The Saiyuki Double Barrel Collection wraps up with volume 6.  This two disc set presents volumes 11 and 12 of the original releases at a reduced price, and finishes up the story of Homura, the War God and his attempt to remake heaven and earth in his own image.  Though the story does reach a conclusion, it was a little dissatisfying.  When all was said and done the show just seemed to drag on too long and have too many filler episodes.  It was still nice to see how the show wraps up, making this a good rental.

Another title worthy of a rental this week is the latest DVD movie for the world's greatest, and lecherous, thief with Lupin the 3rd: The Columbus Files. Lupin must deal with a rival nearly as cunning and skilled as himself with Fujiko’s life hanging in the balance as she uses amnesia to prevent a dangerous artifact from falling into the wrong hands. The material in question would’ve made for a great television episode but the filler used to expand it to a full length movie got in the way a little too much for our staff.

One series that is worth buying is Madlax.  The pace accelerates and the plot thickens quite a bit in the fifth volume.  With Madlax and Vanessa trapped in Gazth-Sonika with the army, police, and mafia all looking for them, things look bad.  Madlax is used to fighting against the odds though, and she's not about to stop fighting now.   There are several interesting revelations in this volume, and the pieces of the mystery finally start falling into place.  With a lot of action to fill in the gaps, this is an exciting volume.

Ghost Stories 2: Sophomore Scare was another volume in ADV Film’s great experiment using general guidelines rather than a fully fleshed out script to get their voice actors to try their hands at comedy. The material this time worked slightly better than the initial volume in the series but all too often, the crew opted for a set of cheap laughs aimed below the belt and unless you want to hear variations on how “gay” the guys are repeatedly, it might not work as well as you’ve heard from other media sources.

Everybody knows about Rurouni Kenshin and chances are good that you have seen the long running anime at some point or another. If you’re a diehard, or even passing fan then you may recognize Samurai X as the OVA that accompanies the series and broadens the tale. The Director’s Cut collection includes Trust & Betrayal as well as Reflection with some extra fluff content and a more theatrical presentation. If you’ve already seen the originals there’s really not enough to bring you back for this set, but if you need more Kenshin and haven’t checked them out you definitely need to.

The A-Class Tournament gets underway in the ninth volume of Fighting Spirit.  Ippo is entered, of course, but some problems at home may more difficult to overcome than his toughest opponents in the ring.  This is another exciting volume with some good drama and just the right amount of humor.  One of the unsung series of 2005, it's able to maintain an interesting story so far and shows no signs of slowing down.

The fourth volume of Galactic Railways goes down a notch in quality from the previous discs. While the earlier episodes in this series toyed with melodramatic elements, most of the shows on this volume fully embrace it. There's just a bit too many people pining for their lost love and not enough action that had previously made the show so entertaining. While it's not a bad set of shows, it didn't have the charm of the other volumes.

The fourth volume of Baki the Grappler comes along and it’s time for Baki and dear old dad to fight it out to the death. The first three volumes built a climax up to this point, but unfortunately the offering here is a tad disappointing. There’s still a great amount of action and the series takes a new direction at the end of the installment, but it’s not the strongest release that the show has seen. It’ll be interesting to see where Baki goes from here and if the new road will be a path worth seeing traveled.

The eighth volume of Stellvia brings the series to a close as the cosmic rift races towards the Earth.  The fate of humanity hangs in the ability of Shima and Kota to pilot their spacecraft.  Though Kota is ready, Shima is doubting her abilities once again.  In this final volume there's a lot of action and suspense, making it one of the better volumes in the second half of the series.

If you enjoy hot naked alien chicks and tons of fanservice but don’t care that much about plot or uniqueness, then DearS may appeal to you. The show is nearing its end with the third volume and while the series hasn’t broken any ground or changed gears, the latest three episodes are actually a lot of fun. A couple of hilarious things happen when Ren finds Takeya’s stash of pornography and the group gets to go to a spa for the weekend. With only one volume left it’s doubtful that the show will become what it could have been, but there is a glimmer of hope.

The fourth volume of Gilgamesh has some interesting twists in the plot that will entice fans of the show.  While there's a lot to recommend in this show, it is still hampered by stylized animation and a slow moving plot.  That wouldn't be so bad, but the gaps in plot development are fill with teenage angst that really has been overdone in anime recently. The good aspects of this show definitely make it worth watching, but I can't help but think that with some slight alterations this could be a much better show.

The second volume of Mythical Detective Loki: Ragnarok is doesn't really improve on the first disc, which is unfortunate since the premier volume was pretty bad.  This boy detective series tries to add an original twist of having the main character be a Norse god, but the stories are nonsensical and the characters just aren't that interesting.  You'd think they'd be able to write an interesting tale about the Norse god of mischief.

Be sure to take a look at recommendations by DVDTalk’s twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003Best Of Anime 2004, and Top Ten Anime discs of 2005 articles.

Upcoming Releases

Scheduled for release on Jan. 10, 2006
Flame of Recca Vol. 6 $24.98 VIZ Media
Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 7 $29.98 FUNimation
Gankutsuou Vol. 2 $29.98 Geneon
Kodocha Vol. 4 $29.98 FUNimation
Macross Vol. 1 $29.99 (SE $39.98) ADV Films
Shadow Skill TV Vol. 2 $29.98 ADV Films
Steam Detectives Collection $49.98 ADV Films
Wedding Peach Collection $39.98 ADV Films
Yugo the Negotiator Vol. 3 $29.98
ADV Films

Scheduled for release on Jan. 17, 2006
Area 88 Vol. 4 $29.99 ADV Films
Fafner Vol. 4 $29.98 Geneon
Gantz Vol. 10 $29.99 ADV Films
Godannar Vol. 3 $29.99 ADV Films
Gravion Collection $39.99 ADV Films
Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. 1 $29.98 ADV Films
Otogi Zoshi Vol. 6 $29.98 Media Blasters
Rurouni Kenshin Collection 2 $89.98 Media Blasters
Trigun Tin Set 2 (LE) $89.98 Geneon

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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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