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Last Exile boxed set and an early look at Divergence Eve: The Misaki Chronicles


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

As the holidays approach, more and more boxed sets are being released.  This week we have a look at a few more collections including excellent Last Exile, the amusing Happy Lesson set, and interesting Chrono Crusade.  Other reviews include the latest volume of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig volume 2, Kodocha volume 3, and another volume of the "boobs and robots" series Godannar.  Chris Tribbey has an early look at Divergence Eve: The Misaki Chronicles which is more entertaining than the original series (though that's not really saying much.)  The column is rounded out with Holly's Anime Bargains and our table of upcoming titles.  Be sure to be back here in two weeks for the last column of 2005.  We'll have our end of the year look at the best anime disc of the year, and there might be a surprise or two on the list.  

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

Clearly one of the highlights of the week, Last Exile: The Murata Range Complete Set brought together the entire suspense filled set from Geneon's vaults. The well written story featured a couple of teenage couriers, Claus and Lavie, as they get mixed up in an age old war between two groups of humanity with a mysterious race of aliens interfering from time to time. The anime style itself employed liberal amounts of CGI but did so in a manner that worked with the more traditional presentation and the value of having the entire set put together was nothing short of exceptional. If you're into retro-future wars and intrigue, you'll be well advised to pick this one up.

Another winner was the concluding volume of another war story, Shingu: Secret of the Stellar War V5. All the major threads, save one, are capably handled with the quality writing the show has offered up since day one. With one last showdown and a judgment by an age old hero unveiled, Hajime and Muryou attempt to stave off a battle between the Alliance and Federation as each vies for the Earth to join their cause. Nayuta is pressed to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save her family and friends as the truth behind her power finally comes out. For those who've been paying attention, the series ended on a bang and you won't want to miss it.

On a lighter note, Happy Lesson: Teacher's Pet Collection takes a look at the life of slacker Chitose as he deals with five hot boarders in his family home. Unlike the typical harem show though, they are all his teachers at school and trying to become his surrogate mothers as they drive him harder than he can stand with their loving devotion and drive. The light hearted manner in which the set poked fun at a number of anime clichés and itself all added up to make it one of the better boxed sets of recent months.

In a boxed set that provided a different glimpse of war, Peace Maker: Complete Series, a young man named Tetsu seeks revenge on a clan of evil ninja that slew his parents, only to find that those he joined weren't much better. Set in medieval Japan during the endless civil wars, the story provided more than a little humor and drama as Tetsu figured out what his path was and how he should pursue it. The endless bloodshed might be a bit much for the younger audience in the crowd so keep that in mind if it's to become a Christmas present.

In one of the weirder tales of the past week, Princess Tutu v2 offered up a look at the exploits of a girl wanting to become a ballerina as well as rescue the boy she loves from an emotionally draining nightmare. We started this series midstream so some of the details weren't quite clear but the girl, Ahiru, seems willing to risk her safety to find the pieces of Mythos' heart and restore them, regardless of the potential pain he may find and the danger she is confronted with by those who are quite willing to let him stay an emotional cripple. The various aspects of the show appeared to be above average so check out our review and see if this one's for you.

The final half of the remastered Sakura Diaries: Love & Kisses was the object of one of our rental suggestions this week. The love triangle between Urara, Touma, and Mieko came to a conclusion with these last six episodes, this time accompanies by a pair of silly audio commentaries by the lead cast members. It was definitely for fans of love and loss as the majority of threads were resolved in this classic show.

The immortal Yuta and Mana Mermaid Forest: Unquenchable Thirst was the latest installment of the tale of two survivors looking for an end to a blessing turned curse as they walk the land to solve the riddle of their dilemma. They had each eaten the mythical mermaid flesh that provides a handful of people with immortality but most with a cursed life, however short. There were only three episodes and two stories this time so it also warranted a rating of rental but fans of darker anime and gore might appreciate it more than we did.

The third volume of the series, Fafner: Human Force, was a bit of a letdown for us as the story took some sharp turns away from the beaten path it had started out on. Kazuki, the unwilling pilot of the advanced mechanized robot, is captured and his replacement seems more than a little dangerous to those around the island as much as the attacking Festum. The overall themes were not handled as well this time but they will hopefully be turned around by the next volume, given the potential the series initially showed. The sophomore slump can effect even the best series so our fingers are crossed for an upswing.

The third volume of Kodocha is just as wild and wacky as the previous installments. This sleeper hit just keeps going strong. This kinetic show about an 11-year-old TV star and her trials and tribulations at work and school just seems to get funnier as it goes along.  This is the best anime show that no one is watching.

Another sleeper show that is very good is Fighting Spirit.  This week John Sinnott reviews volumes six and eight (volume seven was reviewed earlier) and really enjoys them both.  In volume six Ippo is in the final round of the Eastern Japan Rookie Championship tournament and he's facing a tough opponent; Mashiba and his "flicker jabs".   Since it's the middle of the series, the fight could really go either way, which makes for an exciting disc.  In volume eight Ippo sets his sights on a new goal, and his one time rival, Miyata, is having a tough time fighting in Thailand.  A really fun series that comes highly recommended.

Speaking of highly recommended series,  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig definitely fits into that category.  The second volume hits the ground running with an assassination threat against the Japanese Prime Minister and it doesn't stop to look back. Along with a good amount of action, the story gets more complex and textured in this volume too.  Various sub-plots crop up many of which seem to be related, but then again, maybe they aren't.  With the excellent animation and stellar sound that fans have come to expect from this show, this is a not-to-be-missed series.

Weather Report Girl started out as a manga series written and illustrated by Tetsu Adachi. A two part OVA series was released in 1994, but the series really gained cult status with the 1996 live action movie, Weather Woman, staring Kei Mizutani. Weather Woman is a great exploitation flick, but this earlier version isn't nearly as wild and outrageous as the live action film.  It still has it's moments.  Some of the tricks that are played are hilariously cruel, and the light sex action works well in the context of the show. It's nice to see a hentai anime where they actually try to work on the story and humor instead of just stringing together a lot of fetish scenes. While this won't be everyone's cup of tea, if you have a keen sense of the bizarre, check this out.

FUNimation continues with their releases of the unedited versions of the first Dragon Ball Z saga with Saiyan Showdown Volume 6.  Though it's not a bad volume, this is one where not a lot happens, and the stories just aren't as engaging as they usually are.

The original Dirty Pair TV series was a fairly big hit in the early days of anime.  Though they might not have been the first, Yuri and Kei soon became the poster children for the girls-with-guns genre, and their success allowed for other similar shows to come over to the US.  Now ADV has collected the girl's theatrical movie (Project EDEN) and two OVA features (Affair of Nolandia and Flight 005 Conspiracy) all in one nice boxed set.  Billed as the Original Dirty Pair Movie Collection, these three features are a mixed bag, but still enjoyable for those who like old school anime.

If you've got a fetish for nuns with guns and some sweet buns, then Chrono Crusade is right up your alley. The show takes place during the 1920s and features a group of holy warriors known as the Magdalene Order eradicating devils and such. Rosette is the up and coming destructive force that causes more problems for her superiors than she actually solves. She is partnered up with a devil named Chrono which puts an interesting spin on storylines that develop as the show progresses. This series struggled for a bit to find its voice but the ending left me stunned and it was well worth going from point A to point B.

Even though it came out in the late 90s, the Shadow Skill TV series is finally being released on DVD thanks to ADV. The show is full of fighting in a fantasy environment and really comes across like a cross between Baki the Grappler and Slayers. There's a rich sense of humor to the series, even though it tends to revolve around Elle getting drunk and destroying things. The first volume starts out a little slow but there are quite a few good moments. At this point it's hard to tell how the series is going to shape up, so you may want to rent it before you buy it unless you loved the original OVA.

Ah, Fullmetal Alchemist. This is easily one of the most endearing, action packed and heartfelt shows to come along in quite a while. It's no wonder why the anime has become so popular thanks to its wild characters and cool story. The sixth volume is no different than the last in terms of quality. This time around the Elric brothers butt heads and the Homunculus get some more fleshing out, as it were. Everything about this show impresses and if you haven't checked it out yet, you're missing out big time.

That darn Freesia sure did a number on Jiyu in the previous volume of Jubei Chan 2. Fortunately for our heroine, Ayunosuke is there to take care of her and nurse her back to health. Sadly she is still rejecting the lovely eye-patch and this leads to a gut wrenching scene with her little caretaker. Bon recovers from his wounds as well and we get a little more background story surrounding his character. This volume is short on action but big on development with a lot of emotion, and of course the famed cracked-out sense of humor.

Boobs and robots seem to go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Or at least that's the impression that Godannar is giving out. The show continues to entertain with some gaudy fanservice, giant robots, lots of explosions and tons of humor. More mimetic beasts pop up that need to be taken care of and a ghost from Goh's past appears. The group also has to take care of Max who apparently has turned into something not quite human.

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 December 13, 2005

Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.)
Cowboy Bebop Remix Vol. 4
DICE Season 1 Collection
DICE Season 2 Collection
Genshikin Vol. 3
Media Blasters
Madlax Vol. 5
ADV Films
Overman King Gainer Vol. 6
Planetes Vol. 4
Saiyuki Double Barrel Collection Vol. 6
ADV Films
Samurai 7 Vol. 3
($29.98 SE $49.98)
Scrapped Princess Vol. 5
($29.98 SE $49.98)
Stellvia Vol. 8
Super Gals Collection
ADV Films
Tenjho Tenge Vol. 4
Tetsujin 28 Vol. 2
Yukikaze Vol. 2

Scheduled for release on April 5, 2005

Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.)
Case Closed: Case 05 Vol. 5
DearS Vol. 3
Fighting Spirit Vol. 9
Fuccon Family Vol. 1
ADV Films
Gatchaman: Collectors Edition Box Set 4
ADV Films
Gatchaman: Collectors Edition Vol. 7
ADV Films
Gatchaman: Collectors Edition Vol. 8
ADV Films
Ghost Stories Vol. 2
ADV Films
Jubei Chan 2 Vol. 4
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok Vol. 2
ADV Films
Nuku Nuku TV Collection
ADV Films
Samurai Gun Vol. 3
ADV Films
Ultramaniac Vol. 5

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!

Anime Sneak Peek
by Chris Tribbey

Divergence Eve: Misaki Chronicles

DVDTalk reviewer John Sinnott had it right about Divergence Eve, the fan service-reliant "no one can hear you jiggle in space, no one can decipher this plot" anime that ADV Films released in three volumes, concluding in August. The anime was pretty, the girls were busty, and those were the only redeeming points of a confusing and disjointed show about four female cadets with giant chests fighting monsters called Ghouls in space. In this future, interstellar travel takes place through a series of "inflation gates" which pass through a parallel universe. The Ghouls are trying to invade our universe via these gates, and it's up to the soldiers stationed at a distant space outpost called Watcher's Nest to stop them.

Misaki Chronicles fills in the blanks before Divergence Eve, taking us back to Misaki's childhood (when she wasn't so busty) and to her days as a training space cadet. We see Misaki and her equally chesty companions Luxandra, Kiri and Suzanna as they train, and we see the top officers plan on how they're going to use Misaki for their own designs.

Sometimes we delve back into the long-winded techno babble that weighed down Divergence Eve so much, but most of the three episodes on this DVD are enjoyable, a good mix of action and emotion. The story bounces around in time a bit too much (as do some of the characters; suddenly we're in the 1500s at one point), but if you don't spend too much time dwelling on the connections to the original series, you'll find yourself enjoying the simple gunfights, the somewhat interesting characters, and the musings of our heroine. Misaki knows she weighs down her teammates (better with a frying pan than a gun, in her own words), yet she tries hard to be useful (or to get out of the way). She's like dozens of other clumsy anime girls you've met before, yet cute in her unassuming way.

On its own, Misaki Chronicles is a Recommended DVD, because while the breasts are still unnaturally huge and Misaki is still unnaturally unqualified as a member of the armed forces, the story is marginally improved, the soundtrack is pretty good, and the animation is above average. A must-own for those few Divergence Eve die-hards out there, and worth a rental for those who felt burned by the original series.

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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