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Nanaka 6/17, Kingdom Hearts and Kami Kaze manga


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

This week's Anime Talk is packed full of information.  First off we have a contest where ten (!) lucky readers will win copies of Patlabor:  The Movie courtesy of Image Entertainment.  This is the limited edition version too, will all the cool extras!  Not stopping there, we're adding a new regular feature.  The response to our recent manga reviews has been so positive that we're going to continue to cover them from now on.  This week we have a look at some of TokyoPop's most recent manga releases including Kingdom Hearts and Kami Kaze.  This week we also have one of the largest groups of anime reviews that we've ever had.  There are capsule reviews of the conclusion of Scrapped Princess and Baki the Grappler as well as collected sets of Crest of the Stars, Galaxy Angels A, and Saber Marionette J.  Holly Beeman has her Anime Bargain section once again, and she also has an early review of Nanaka 6/17, an amusing comedy where a seventeen year old high school student gets whacked on the head and forgets everything that's happened to her since she was six.  Our tables of upcoming releases rounds out this packed installment.

What do you think?  Like what you see?  Don't like it?  Have a comment or suggestion?  Drop us an e-mail and let us know!

Patlabor Contest

Image Entertainment has kindly provided us with copies of their newly released edition of the anime classic Patlabor:  The Movie to give away.  Ten lucky winners, chosen at random, will receive a copy of the limited edition, which retails for nearly $90 and is limited to only 10,000 copies.  This two-disc set includes the newly restored version of the movie, ample bonus features, and two books! Be sure to read Don Houston's review of the disc for some exclusive images of the extra material.  How to enter?  Nothing could be simpler!  Just click on this Patlabor Contest Link and fill in your vital statistics.

The contest is limited to people living in the United States and Canada.  You must be 18 years of age or older to enter, and only one entry per person.  All entries must be received by May 14th, 2006.  See entry form for complete rules and details.

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

On a colonized planet far away, a 14 year old Renton Thurston dreams of an adventurous life in Eureka Seven, one of the best new titles to come out of late. His father had saved the planet years ago and all he can do is stumble through life like a loser until he becomes a member of the infamous Gekkostate, a group of outlaw sports celebrities that travel the planet while being chased by the authorities. The glamour gives way to the reality of the situation when he’s treated like a stooge but his overwhelming desire to follow his heart (in the form of a team member named Eureka) and try to do something positive in his life makes for a slight variation of the usual themes the series employs. There’s a lot going on here between the giant robot battles so don’t blink or you’ll miss something in this well made show (that has been picked up by the Cartoon Network for airing at night).

Fantastic Children also caught our eye as a group of immortal children search for the missing link to a mysterious plan that was as yet undescribed. The pacing was a lot slower than usual and from the looks of it, the story is going to have a lot of you initially shaking your heads but then provide replay value as many smaller clues are laid before the viewer to figure out exactly what is going on in this near-future tale of intrigue. With the basic background laid, we’re hoping the adventures of Helga, Thoma, and Chitto pick up the pace a little as the trio makes their daring escape from the clutches of a headmaster scheming towards some unknown goal while the two secret groups search for the missing girl that can uncover an ages old mystery.

300 years ago when the Mesopotamia spaceship crash landed on a barren planet there were only 6 survivors; all men. Through the technology of cloning and a lot of perseverance they were able to turn a bleak, hopeless situation into a thriving civilization. Unfortunately with the way their technology was structured they were unable to create female clones. Instead they crafted androids known as Marionettes for companionship and to be something pretty to look at. Fast-forward to the future and a young kid named Otaru stumbles upon three Marionettes with “maiden circuits” who have personalities and extreme powers. The Saber Marionette series was popular back in the 90s and with good reason. The characters are interesting and the show is a lot of fun, even if the premise feels somewhat generic as a sci-fi harem comedy. Check it out if you enjoy stuff like Tenchi Muyo.

Preaching that the lessons of war are lost on humanity, Mobile Suit Gundam Destiny V1 starts the franchise’s latest round of fighting as the recently ceased hostilities start up yet again, with a series of all new advanced mech-robots duking it out over land, sea and space. The addition of some newly minted characters on top of your old favorites made this one more than a journey down memory lane though as the human government and coordinators plot their moves after a daring plot to steal some advanced, and stolen from Orb, technology that could easily tip the hand of battle to the point where the truce would only be a stopgap measure before one side dominated the other completely (and ruthlessly).

Cowboy Bebop Remix is the audio enhanced version of the anime classic that has probably led to more people into the world of anime in the past ten years (or longer) than any other series that comes to mind. Led by Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, the team of futuristic bounty hunters takes on mission after mission in order to pay the bills and put food in their stomachs. With Volume 3 and Volume 4 of the series now out, those of you who have been living under a rock for the last decade can catch up on some of the team’s history as well as watch the evolution of a simply fantastic show. The musical themes of the series have received relatively scant attention over the years in favor of the flashy writing, homages to many pop culture references of the past, and excellent character exposition but each episode is crafted with the kind of care and replay value that made these volumes worth a double dip.

After finishing a major story arc in the previous volume, the sixth installment of Kodocha takes a break and presents four stand alone episodes that are mainly played for laughs.  This delightfully off beat series is surprisingly funny and very enjoyable.  Though it's a shojo series the show can appeal to a very wide range, anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

Last year, we got a look at a show called Mars Daybreak V1, a futuristic combination of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Robin Hood set on the red planet. The seas of the terraformed Mars are full of numerous city ships, all governed by the local authorities under the direction of an arrogant Earth leadership. Well, with Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5, we now find out that the bulk of the story deals with a treasure hunt for some priceless Martian artifacts. Now an invaluable member of the team, Gram Rivers is somehow tied to the quest by virtue of a pendant he has worn since birth, and the crew risks it all to combat other pirates on top of the government; all of whom are seeking the mysterious prize. With only one more volume to go, look for the conclusion of the action packed series by watching these episodes first.

FUNimation once again struck gold with the release of their premium edition Samurai 7: Empire in Flux (Ltd Edition) boxed set, providing four separate storybooks detailing the production of the show. We included some pictures of the books, inside and out, in order to give you an idea of the kind of sweet extras the set had (making it well worth the extra cost for fans of the show). Now that the village is safe for the moment, the team brings the fight to the city in order to rescue some of the spoils of war, leading to some dangerous moments as the governing body undergoes some changes at the hands of an old enemy.

One of the longest running road trip series was the subject of a couple of reviews this time with the late season 3 volume of Saiyuki Reload 6 and the fourth season opener Saiyuki Reload Gunlock 1. The main characters are still the same quartet of guys heading west to India on a mission to stop the resurrection of an evil god with the only real difference being the dub cast switch up as Geneon took over the franchise from ADV Films. The Sanzo Party continued to make the little side trips off the beaten path to vanquish erstwhile priests, out of control demons, and hordes of ill wishing people that would get in their way so aside from some minor background details, you can almost pick up anywhere in the series and not be completely lost.

In a future when lost technology poses the greatest threat to mankind, Lt. Colonel Volcott leads a team consisting of Milfeulle, Mint, Forte, Vanilla, and Ranpha in Galaxy Angel A: Complete Collection as they reunite to save the day again and again. The hilarious antics were short on fan service but high on the kind of silly action that fans have come to expect of the group, typically the younger female crowd to be precise. Each episode was about half as long as your typical show but with three discs crammed to the brink with 26 episodes, a bonus episode, and concert footage by the Japanese voice actresses, this is as good as it gets for those of you seeking value in your season sets. Just keep in mind that it’s okay if the show doesn’t always make sense or follow a linear plot and you’ll be okay.

With the conclusion of the wonderful Planetes, fans of action, adventure, and intrigue may find solace in Stratos 4: Complete Collection; a story about a team of meteor sweepers from the future who save the Earth from large chunks of interstellar matter reining down on the planet. There was some minor fan service here too but the main draw of the show was the storyline that showed Mikaze Honjo overcome her self doubts in order to take command and save the day from a plot that goes far beyond the mindless hunks of rock hurling through the atmosphere. In an interesting bit of casting, the dub used former pop star Stacy Q as one of the leads, showing that Bandai was thinking outside the box (and hopefully will use such people more fully in the future).

Nearly two years after the release of the first DVD, the second volume of Yukikaze has finally comes out.  Bandai, who releases the series, isn't totally to blame as the series was released rather slowly in Japan.  Now that the second volume is out though, it's going to be a hard sell though, and that's too bad because it's a show worth seeing.  While the story of alien invaders being held off by the military in Antarctica is a bit confusing, the animation is absolutely stunning and the strong point of the series.  From the air rippling in the heat of a jet's exhaust, to a missile's vapor trail, every detail has been carefully animated.  The CGI effects are meshed perfectly with the traditional animation to create an amazing world.  This release, while only having two shows for a retail pride of nearly $30, does have a dts track as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1.  An excellent looking and sounding disc.

Unlike Yukikaze, one anime show that doesn't have much going for it is Dandoh.  This golf based show features the title character who manages to be great at golf, not through hard work and constant practice, but through a lot of inborn talent.  With unrealistic plays and stereotypical characters the program glosses over the rules and terminology of the game and may be a bit confusing for viewers not familiar with the game.  Aimed at younger viewers, it tries to teach fair play and the value of friendship.  Because of this, there's not as much drama or suspense as one would expect.  This is one to rent.

Fan service shows about school girls with magical powers are pretty old hat. It seems that a new one of these comes out like every year and in the 90s the world of anime was booming with them. Fortunately though, My-HiME (he-may) seems like something special after seeing the first volume. At the mysterious Fuka Academy some monsters known as Orphans have been appearing and terrorizing people. It's up to a few girls with special powers known as the HiME to step in and hunt the Orphans down. This series by Sunrise Inc. certainly breaks the mold of a stereotypical genre, though I am interested in seeing where the second volume takes things. Look forward to it because this show has all the potential to garner a cult fanbase.

Winding down to the last of the unreleased Dragon Ball Z animations, Viz has released the second to last Dragon Ball Z movie:  Fusion Reborn.  This is the twelfth movie to be based on Akira Toriyama's classic adventure series, and it's a fun romp.  In this adventure, a careless worker in the realm of the dead accidentally causes an explosion that lets the dead back into the world of the living.  It's up to Gohan, Videl, Trunks and Goten to take care of the dead (including Hitler) while Son Goku and Vegeta tackle the monster that's been created in the afterlife.  Though there's not a lot of substance to it, this film is an enjoyable way to kill an hour.

With the sucsses of several anime shows broadcast on TV aimed at young boys (such as the aforementioned Dragon Ball Z), its only natural that more and more would find their way to region one.  The latest such program is The Law of Ueki.  It involves a group of young teens that are battling with fantastic powers, with the winner gaining amazing abilities.  It sounds a lot like Shaman King, and it is very similar, but the powers that the children wield are really strange.  Ueki, for example, can change garbage into trees.  While this does add a fun element to the show, it's not enough to really make the show entertaining.  This children's program is a battle-of-the-week show that, while not bad, doesn't have much to recommend it.

An excellent show that has managed to fly under a lot of people's radar is Crest of the Stars.  Bandai is releasing this series for the third time in a nice collected edition.  Crest of the Stars is one of those series that's easy to pass up based on the write up on the back cover.  It doesn't sound exciting or action packed.  It is an excellent show however and one that deserves a lot more attention.  An enjoyable story of two people from different races who have to rely on each other to survive in a time of war, this show is easy to get into and well worth watching and highly recommended.

Another highly recommended series is Scrapped Princess.  Volumes five and six wrap up the story of Pacifica Cassul, the poison that will destroy the world.  These last two installments of the fantasy series wraps up the story in a very satisfactory manner, explaining just who and what Pacifica is, what will happen when she turns sixteen, and why.  An entertaining program that was quite rewarding to watch.

The latest volume of Baki the Grappler has hit the streets with more bulging muscle and physical abuse than you can shake a stick at. Baki is still on his quest to destroy his father, but before that can happen he has to get his butt kicked yet again. It seems that Baki is never going to be strong enough to take on his dad, though a new challenger faces Yujiro who just might be. The series keeps chugging along at its own pace with a lot more fighting and new warriors tossed into the mix. The sixth volume was another fun installment that fans of the show will love.

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 May 16, 2006
Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.) Studio MSRP
Dragon Ball Z Saga 9 FUNimation 24.98
Fafner Vol. 6 Geneon 29.98
Godannar Vol. 5 ADV Films 29.98
Green Green Vol. 1 Media Blasters 19.99
Kaleido Star: New Wings Vol. 3 ADV Films 29.98
Macross Vol. 3 ADV Films 29.98
Ranma 1/2 Movie Box Set Viz Media 49.98
Sukishi Complete Collection Media Blasters 39.98
Law of Ueki Vol. 1 [review] Geneon 19.98

Scheduled for release on May 23, 2006
Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.) Studio MSRP
Doki Doki School Hours Vol. 4 Geneon 24.98
Gun Sword Vol. 1 (also w/box) Geneon 29.98/39.98
Hoop Days: The Complete Collection Bandai 49.98
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Vol. 02 Bandai 24.98
Nanaka 6/17 Vol. 1 ADV Films 29.98
Princess Tutu Vol. 5 ADV Films 29.98
Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie Capsule Monsters FUNimation 14.98 

Holly's Anime Bargains - Presented by Holly Beeman

Check Out Your Local Best Buy for:
Blue Seed: Complete Collection: $22.99, retail price: $59.98 - nearly 62% off!
Big O II: Complete Collection: $19.99, [review] retail price: $49.98 - 60% off!
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Saber Marionette R: $6.99, [review]
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Wedding Peach: Season 1: $21.99, [review] retail price: $39.98 - 45% off!

Scorching Hot Deals from Deep Discount DVD:
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Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Black Rose Saga Collection: $21.58, retail price: $39.95 - you save $18.37!

Right Stuf New Weekly Specials:
Ai Yori Aoshi DVD/CD Combo Box Pack (Hyb): $9.99, retail price: $44.98 - nearly 78% off!
Akira DVD/CD Combo Box Pack (Hyb): $9.99, [review] retail price: $44.98 - nearly 78% off!
Burn Up Scramble DVD Box Set (Hyb): $36.99, [review] retail price: $59.98 - nearly 39% off!
Crusher Joe Complete DVD Set (2 discs) (Hyb): $9.99, retail price: $24.98 - 60% off!
Hand Maid May Box Set DVD (Hyb) + Extras CD-ROM [Limited]: $29.99, retail price: $89.98 - you save $59.99!
His and Her Circumstances [Kare Kano] DVD Box Set (Hyb): $44.99, retail price: $129.95 - nearly 66% off!
Last Exile DVD/CD Combo Box Pack (Hyb): $9.99, [review] retail price: $44.98 - nearly 67% off!
Please Teacher DVD Box Set (Hyb) Limited Edition w/CD: $29.99, [review] retail price: $49.98 - 40% off!
Saber Marionette J - Ultimate Collection DVD Set (Hyb) (Limited Edition): $69.99, [review] retail price: $199.98 - 65% off!
Texhnolyze DVD/CD Combo Box Pack (Hyb): $9.99, [review] retail price: $44.98 - nearly 78% off!

Overstock Sweet Steal:
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Apocalypse Saga Collection: $24.81, retail price: $39.95 - 37% off!

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

Anime Talk Looks at Manga

Kingdom Hearts Vols 1-3:

Any PlayStation 2 gamer worth their salt can tell you all about the Kingdom Hearts video game. There’s almost no way that the merging of two industry giants could have gone unnoticed and chances are good that if you walk through your local mall there is signage everywhere for it. Of course, that was roughly four years ago when the game came out and it was popular enough to warrant a direct sequel. It shouldn’t be surprising then with the popularity of the franchise that a manga/comic book has been released.

If, for some reason, you do happen to live under a rock and you don’t know what Kingdom Hearts is all about, let me fill you in. The game’s plot takes place in a universe where Square-Enix characters (from the Final Fantasy series) and Disney characters (from the movies) co-exist. At the center of the story are three children named Sora, Riku, and Kairi who all live on a mysterious island. One day as they are about to set out for sea to get away from their solitary island a huge storm hits. This isn’t any ordinary storm though. Creatures known as the Heartless attack the trio and Sora is left to battle them.

During the thick of it all Sora is given a weapon known as the Keyblade while Riku and Kairi are swallowed by the darkness. When the dust clears Sora finds himself in a completely different world known as Traverse Town. He isn’t alone for long though since Donald and Goofy come across him on their quest to find King Mickey. I’m not going to spoil the story for you considering that I’ve read through the first three volumes, but after the three characters meet, they team up to search for Sora’s friends and Mickey. This involves them traveling to other worlds like Agrabah, Atlantis, and Wonderland in order to seal those world’s keyholes and save the many princesses.

Throughout the three volumes the story follows the events of the first Kingdom Hearts video game to the letter. There are no surprises what so ever and frankly, that’s a bad thing. I was hoping for some deviation or maybe a side story or just something different than the story I saw four years ago. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

The Kingdom Hearts manga also reads from left to right, which breaks the rules of traditional Japanese manga. This Americanized approach is a no-no when it comes to manga purists, but to be honest it doesn’t really affect the readability of the material. One thing that does affect the readability of the material however is the sometimes stiff translation and placement of the panels.

In manga (and comic books) the most important factor in telling your story is the fluidity of the artwork and dialogue. Sadly while I was reading this particular series I found that the panels jumped around too much. Characters would often go a few panels without referencing something that happened on the last page. It didn’t affect the story itself really, just the enjoyment of the book. To me, at least, it felt a little haphazard compared to other manga I’ve read, but that could have something to do with the source material.

Overall though, for a $5.99 price point the Kingdom Hearts manga is very affordable. The fourth volume is still a couple of months away so there’s plenty of time to track these ones down if you’re interested. I can’t quite figure out who the target audience for the book is though. I played the original game and am familiar with the story so reading the manga feels like I’m experiencing a re-run. On the other hand if you want to play Kingdom Hearts 2 and haven’t tried the first one, then the manga would be a good place to start to fill in the blanks.

Kami Kaze Volume 1:

One series that will please a lot of manga fans is Kami Kaze.  This dark modern-era fantasy saga has an epic feel to it as well as plenty of action and interesting characters.

Misao Mikogami is a typical teenage high school student.  Though she's orphaned and living with a group of nuns, she seems normal in every way.  Except for when it rains.  Then she will stare out into the falling water for hours, looking at the shapes and images she sees projected in the downpour. This is because she is "the girl of water" a special person who has an affinity for an element.  She has no idea that she's anyone important though, or that she has extraordinary powers.  Or that a group of people are looking to capture her.

One evening Misao is attacked in her convent by a trio of unusual people with special fighting abilities, including a friend from her school, Aiguma.  They want to capture her in order to release the 88 Beasts, a group of demons that have been imprisoned for 1000 years.  Flying to her defense is Ishigami Kamuro, a mysterious individual who is the Man of Earth.  Kamuro is a fierce fighter who can anticipate his rivals moves, an ability that he attributes to the stone he wears around his neck, a rock that he was clutching in his hand when he was born.  A member of the Matsurowanu Kegai No Tami Clan, Kamuro has vowed to protect Misao so that the Beasts can't be resurrected.

Though the premise, two groups fighting over a young powerful girl who doesn't realize her potential, isn't exactly new the well paced and plotted execution makes this manga very enjoyable.  The book has a good amount of violence, and just a bit of sex, to give the story some punch, but it's the characters that really bring the reader in.  Aiguma is a loner and outsider who everyone at her school thinks is scary and dangerous, and she's truly disturbed when she finds out that she may have to kill the only person who was ever kind to her.  The most interesting person is Kamuro who is a cipher.  His fighting ability is stunning, but his drive to save Misao, while not caring if anyone else gets killed, is odd.  This mysterious character has never been defeated, and when someone walks up and bests him without breaking a sweat, readers are instantly hooked.

The first volume of this series weighs in at a hefty 264 pages and is a great introduction to the series. Written and drawn by Satoshi Shiki who has also drawn a number of hentai comics, this title is rated "older teen 16+" for good reason.  It contains nudity and adult situations, as well as severed arms and heads, but not to excess.  If you're old enough to handle the occasional bloody fights and even rarer sexual situations, the first volume of this manga is highly recommended.

Juror 13:

Taking a dramatic swing, we now move from the highly recommended to the must-avoid-at-all-costs. Juror 13 is a Tokyopop title that they call a manga, though it wasn't actually made in Japan.  I  don't have any problem with that.  Though the purist in me insists that this technically isn't a manga, if Tokyopop is able to expand the comic/ graphic novel market by labeling a North American product as manga, more power to them.  It's the simplistic story line and complete lack of internal logic that makes this title so poor.

Jeremy Rosen is an insurance investigator who is having some problems.  His knock-out girlfriend has dumped him (how he ever rated a girl like her in the first place is a mystery that's never answered) and his boss is always on his case.  His best friend and co-worker Jake is acting strange too.  Jake's spending money like crazy, more than he could ever hope to make, and has suddenly gotten very protective of some of his case files.  When Jeremy gets suspicious, he sneaks a peek in Jake's office only to discover that his name has been forged on falsified claims.  Could Jake really be setting up Jeremy?   If so, why?

American comics have the reputation of being unimaginative and cliched, and this book lives up to that reputation.  This story with an easy to see twist ending might have been accepted for an early 70's issue of Unexpected, but how it was published in this day and age is the biggest mystery of all.  The characters are all idiotic and nearly every action that occurs is ludicrous.  A good example (of many) is when Jeremy goes back to Jake's office to get the proof that he's being framed (why didn't he take it in the first place??) the files are gone.  He tears the office apart looking for the proof that will clear him until Jake walks in.  Jake yells at Jeremy, calls him a dick, and then Jeremy apologies to the man he knows is framing him and helps him clean up the office.  What?!?! In heaven's name why?  He's sorry he tried to clear his name??  Things just spiral out of control after that with Jeremy doing one asinine thing after another until the predictable ending.

While I won't give away the ending, suffice to say that the totally irrational things that Jeremy does clues the readers in as to how this will all be resolved.  The ending itself, after the twist has been revealed, doesn't make much sense either if you think about it.  An all around poor effort that will only convince reader as to the inferiority of American made comics.

Something to Look Forward To
by Holly Beeman

Nanaka 6/17

From director Hiroaki Sakurai of Cromartie High School and the producers of Azumanga Daioh comes the charming new show Nanaka 6/17. While not necessarily epic in the realm of anime, Nanaka is filled with laughs and even moments that are likely to touch one's heart. The first installment of this 13-episode series shows a lot of promise and gives one much to look forward to in the volumes to come.

Nanaka is a 17-year old high school student who is suffering from what her doctor terms "regression": Her mental state has regressed back to her younger years, particularly to the age of six. How could something like this have happened?

Episode 1 - Nanaka Kirisato, 6 Years Old: Before the accident, Nanaka Kirisato is considered to be somewhat of a self-centered, stuck-up high school student whose only concern is the college exam. Because of this, she and her childhood friend Nenji Nagihara have grown apart exponentially. Their exchanges are few and far between and consist largely of Nanaka nagging at Nenji to grow up, take better care of himself, and stop getting into fights so frequently. On one rainy day in particular, Nanaka and Nenji get into an argument of epic proportions, one that is to end their friendship. This leads to the so-called "accident"; Nanaka falls down a flight of stairs and hits her head, ultimately causing her regression.

After a glimpse into Nanaka's childhood, we learn that her mother passed away when she was only six-years old. Nenji, knowing that her favorite anime is Magical Domiko, convinces her that with magic, she can grow up and not have to be sad anymore. Well, this certainly comes in handy when Nanaka awakens because it serves to explain why she and Nenji look the way they do. The magic actually worked! They are now adults! Even her dad has grown older (maybe a little too much, according to Nanaka). While her father is naturally concerned, he is also given the unforeseen pleasure of being needed once more and seeing his only daughter grow up all over again. He and Nenji had forgotten just how cute and innocent Nanaka could be; she had grown distant from the two of them probably due to her mother's death ocurring when she was at such an early age. Her relationship with Nenji is also renewed as he makes a vow to protect and watch over her in this seemingly foreign world.

Episode 2 - Nanaka the Pianist: Little Nanaka, full of hopes and dreams, decides she wants to be all of the professions that Magical Domoki was in her show, namely a pianist. When her classmate Yuriko Amemiya (who happens to be really great at playing the piano) announces that they need a pianist for the upcoming choral performance, much to everyone's shock and dismay (remember, Nanaka is hardly popular among her fellow classmates), Nanaka raises her hand with enthusiasm. The only problem is, she has no experience with the piano! Yuriko is thoroughly annoyed. She assumed that no one would volunteer, and as a result, she would be the natural candidate to do the job. Nevertheless, she sees an opportunity to exploit Nanaka and offers to give her "special lessons" after class.

Harmless, right? Not quite. At school, Yuriko appears to be giving Nanaka ordinary piano lessons, especially in front of Nenji. However, behind the scenes at her home, she is much harder on Nanaka. Here, Yuriko uses these extracuricular practice sessions to try and wear Nanaka down, but what she does not expect is Nanaka's refusal to give up. In fact, one day after school, she finds Nanaka in the piano room working on the choir piece, harder than ever. So hard that her fingers are bleeding. Yuriko then remembers her childhood and how she loved playing the piano so much that the same thing happened to her. This experience indirectly inspires Yuriko to pursue her long lost dream of being a pianist like her mother.

The choral performance arrives, and while the class nominated Yuriko to play after realizing that Nanaka could not cut it, we see little Nanaka on the stage. Just prior to this, Yuriko advises her to play a little of the Magical Domiko theme to warm up. She does, and everyone is petrified at first, but Nanaka manages to pull through and surprise them with a more than decent and heartwarming performance.

Episode 3 - Nanaka the Big Sister: Before Nanaka's transformation, Nenji was getting into fights on a regular basis, particularly with a boy named Jinpachi Arashiyama. One day, they got into the ultimate showdown in which the loser had to cut his hair in the same style as the winner. Needless to say, Jinpachi lost and had to cut his hair like "Raging Hair Nenji"! Confusion is bound to occur when Nanaka's glasses fall off and a truck runs them over subsequently. Looking around for help, she sees Jinpachi across the street; without clear vision, he appears to be Nenji-chan! Nanaka runs up to him, and soon after, he is suckered into treating Nanaka throughout the day. How can he say no to such a cute little girl?

More trouble arises when Jinpachi's sister Satsuki witnesses him rapidly turning into putty. Nanaka is not worthy of being the wife to the future head of the Arashiyama family. Satsuki must dispose of her! Through Nanaka's clumsiness, she manages to avoid all of Satsuki's determined attacks. In her final attempt, Satsuki almost harms herself inadvertently, but Nanaka trips and pushes her out of the way. Satsuki sees this as an admirable gesture of protecting the enemy. She is so touched that she asks Nanaka to be her big sister, a title which Nanaka happily accepts.

Episode 4: Not included on this screener.

I think the mixture of humor and seriousness works well for this series; these two elements do not really work independently of each other, but moreso in concert. The story is actually not one I have experienced in the form of anime before, and while not the most original work I have seen, its predictability does not take away from the strength of the show. I would actually probably be disappointed if it turned out otherwise. The animation is not extremely elaborate, but for a series like this, I do not really consider this an issue. The best part of the show for me was being able to relate to the characters. Seeing little Nanako interact with her father, Nenji, and others really made me think about the prospect of having children. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, but it really was just a pleasure to watch. Nanako successfully serves as a testament to childhood and growing up.

The DVD:


Using the technique of DVDTalk reviewer and Anime Talk editor John Sinnott, I alternated between the Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 tracks, both of which I enjoyed equally. The English 5.1 track features such recurring voices as Chris Patton and Monica Rial, making it easily enjoyable. The Japanese 2.0 track, while not having the same sound capabilities of a 5.1 track, is still very good especially in an anime like this where surround sound is not an absolutely crucial component.


Nanaka is presented in its original 4:3 or 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. It looks clear and crisp, particularly nice for an unfinished product. The use of soft colors for the backgrounds contrasting with the bright colors of the characters and animation is suitable for this kind of anime. Overall, the transfer looks great, and everything is clean and easy on the eyes.


Minimal in extras like most anime discs, this volume includes a clean opening animation and clean closing animation (not included on the screener) as well as a Magical Domiko music video, DVD credits, and ADV previews for UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie, Michel, Super GALS!, Happy Lesson, Sister Princess, and Moburaho.

Final Thoughts:

Nanaka is a light-hearted and downright fun to watch anime. It has an exceptional blend of both funny and serious moments. At some points, my eyes even got a little watery, but then again, that is not saying a whole lot considering how much of a sap I can be! I can understand why it might not appeal to everyone, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth a watch. I am psyched to see the final product in addition to the series in its entirety. Recommended.

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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