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Revolutionary Girl Utena, Excel Saga, and more

Anime Talk September

September 2011 Edition
by Neil Lumbard, John Sinnott, Wen-Tsai, and Todd Douglass

Hello everyone, and welcome again to another month of our ongoing Anime Talk column written exclusively for DVDTalk.com! It's been a while since our last column, as many of our readers have surely noticed. The column went on a miniature hiatus because there has been some changes to our scheduling and Todd Douglass (one of the best anime contributors around) had to take a break from extensive Anime Talk contributions due to personal matters (i.e. he had a super sweet job-related promotion). Todd is still working with us, but just at a more limited capacity time-wise.

We decided that for the start-up of the column again that we should introduce a few new changes to the way the monthly column is handled. Change can be a scary thing... it's not always what we want. Yet these changes are positive and actually help to keep the column staying fresh and continually engaging for our readers. The most noticeable change might be the lack of a table with the top anime bargains from WTK (Wen-Tsai King). These bargains will continue to be accessible but we will now be linking to the always very reader-friendly monthly compilation threads found on the DVDTalk.com forums.

For the readers looking for the Anime Bargains, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread

Another change-up to the column will be the addition of some spotlight news items that will be compiled each month for readers to have access to the best and coolest anime news around. This month's inclusions have been brought to you by Wen-Tsai.

Some news tidbits...from U.S. and Japan:

Back on 7/12/2011, North American distributor Discotek Media announced their license acquisition of Lupin the Third: Season 1. The series is slated for a spring 2012 DVD release. Select episodes of the first season was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, which makes it both an important and exciting acquisition. Part of Season 2 was previously licensed by the now defunct Geneon Entertainment USA.

A couple of weeks ago, FUNimation Entertainment revealed the lastest list of Geneon licenses that have expired (The Familiar of Zero: Season 1 and When They Cry: Season 1 were the previously announced expired licenses). The list includes Paradise Kiss, Kamichu!, Kyo Kara Maoh!, The Story of Saiunkoku: Season 1, and The Law of Ueki. FUNimation also noted that they have no current plans to re-acquire them. For the late collectors, be prepared to pay a lot more than the original retail price.

AnimEigo revealed back on July 7th that their You're Under Arrest: Season 1 will be going out of print on 1/31/2012. Releases may go out of print prior to the 2012 date should the stock become exhausted. Sentai Filmworks currently has the DVD licenses to Season 2 and Season 3: Full Throttle.

For those Japanese anime importers out there, the next wave of Japan Ghibli Blu-ray releases were recently revealed. Upcoming releases include Howl's Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, and a repackaged re-release of Ponyo that matches the style of packaging design featured on the other Japanese Ghibli Blu-ray releases. All three movie releases will be retailed at 7140yen and will be released on 11/16/2011. The three films will also include both the English sub and dub. While Ponyo has been released in the U.S. already, Disney has not reaveled its Blu-ray intentions for Howl's Moving Castle and Tales from Earthsea, or other recently released Ghibli Blu-ray titles.

November isn't just for Ghibli fans, three of Makoto Shinkai's films will be released on Blu-ray in Japan. On 11/18/2011, 5 Centimeters Per Second will be re-released in Japan. The Blu-ray movie (international version) will retail at 6825yen and will include both the English sub and dub. The very same release will also include Voices of a Distant Star (English sub and dub) and She & Her Cat (English sub). 5 Centimeters Per Second is currently licensed in the U.S. by Crunchroll (distributed by Bandai Entertainment). Voices of a Distant Star was last released by ADV Films (currently out of print).

About a week later following the 5 Centimeters Per Second re-release, Shinkai's latest film Hoshi o Ou Kodomo (Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below) will be released (on 11/25/2011). The Blu-ray release will be offered in a regular edition (5775yen) and limited edition (8715yen). The main movie feature will include English subtitles.

The Latest DVDTalk Anime Reviews
(Note: Click on a link for a full review to read.)

Reviews by John Sinnott

When it first burst onto the R1 anime scene over a decade ago (on VHS) Revolutionary Girl Utena was a strange and very different anime. Taking the trappings of a magical girl show and twisting the conventions around to make it nearly unrecognizable, the show gained a lot of praise from critics and fans. Now the good people from The Right Stuf! have started to rerelease the unconventional and cryptic story from a newly restored print. Both set one, The Student Council Saga and set two, The Black Rose Saga, are currently available. How does the show stack up after all these years? While it's not as ground breaking today as it was when it first arrived, the program is still a surreal adventure that is totally unique but still quite entertaining. Fans should run out and make sure they get copies of these limited editions for their collections.

Woo-hoo! Otaku in Region One finally get new episodes of Sgt. Frog! FUNimation has continued with the series after a long 16 months hiatus with no new episodes. It was worth the wait, as Sgt, Keroro and his Armpit Platoon are still hilarious with their bizarre and off-the-wall plans for taking over the Earth. Sgt. Frog: Season Three - Part One is another 14 episodes of goofy fun.

What if after you died, you woke up in high school? That's what happens in Angel Beats, a pretty cool anime series that has been released by Sentai Filmworks, a unique mix of classroom comedy and shoot-em-up action. This complete collection includes all 13 episodes and the single OVA adventure (which is pretty funny.) The only real flaw with the show is that it's too short.

Fans of school comedies will be pleased with FUNimation's latest release: Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts. An amusing show with just a dollop of action, the full 13-episode first season is available in a nice edition that includes both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the show. Not sure why you'd need both formats (it's not like a Disney film where you might want to let the kids have the DVD and the adults will keep the Blu-ray unmarred for family viewing. I guess it would be nice if you are planning on upgrading to Blu-ray soon but haven't made the leap yet) but in any case they're both included if you need them.

FUNimation continues releasing the definitive version of the most popular anime series in the world with the DBZ: Dragon Box - Volume 6. This set finished off the Tenkaichi Tournament, encompasses the entire Babidi Saga (its only 12 episodes long) and jumps into the Majin Boo (that's the way it is spelled in the guide that comes with this set. Previously I've always seen it as "Majin Buu.") Saga that will finish up in the next and final box. Overall it's an exciting set of episodes, though it's a small step down from what has come before.

Reviews by Neil Lumbard

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie

"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
is a rare example of near-perfection in adapting the formula of a TV series into the feature-length format. The film manages to be incredibly entertaining and it tells an exciting story that should appeal to newcomers and fans of the original series. The film itself is very easy to recommend. The Blu-ray release has strong video (much improved over the DVD release), but the lack of surround sound (which was available on the DVD) is a major disappointment that can't be entirely overlooked."

Yu Yu Hakusho: Season 2

"Yu Yu Hakusho: Season Two
is a fun thrill ride with a lot of intense action sequences and some good revelations towards the end of the season. It also features one of the best characters in the show, the martial artist Genkai, in a stunning and unforgettable way. The unfortunate thing is that the series is significantly darker season two and less comical or character-focused. Those moments spring up occasionally but more fleetingly than before. The season is also slower to fully develop. The Dark Tournament Saga isn't over just yet and viewers will want to discover the third season and soon as this one ends. It's a wild ride, one with mixed results, but it is still worth taking."

Noir: Complete Series

is a dark action-suspense anime series with a higher emphasis on style than on actual substance. At least the series features enough interesting visuals and impressive animation to make the experience worthwhile. The beginning and concluding acts are strong (even if there is a merely decent middle). The score by Yuki Kajiura is fantastic. Noir is definitely not a perfect series but it is unique enough to warrant giving it a fair chance."

Wagnaria!! Complete Series

is a pretty entertaining show for the most part. It has strange, quirky characters that keep the show interesting most of the time. The romantic plot-line also provides the series greatest moments. Fans of romantic-comedy anime series will want to check this series out as it may just be a nice little surprise series."

Sound of the Sky: Complete Collection (L.E.)

"Sound of the Sky
was an interesting series that focused on the importance of friendship and music. The lead characters were likeable and the tone of the series was light and optimistic. The animation is beautiful. The scripting could have been quite a bit better at times, and the show suffered for that. The overall experience is still worthwhile."

Excel Saga: Complete Series

"Excel Saga is a fun show that is worth seeking out for those who think the premise of the show sounds intriguing: It's an experimental anime comedy that lovingly pokes fun at the art form and all the wacky series and character that exist in the medium. This is a show for knowledgeable anime fans who are looking for something a bit different and with plenty of humor. It's not going to appeal to everyone but for those who end up enjoying the show it's a wild blast of total randomness."

Reviews by Todd Douglass

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Part 5

"Throughout its run I haven't been able to get enough of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The show is simply something to behold from start to finish. It doesn't skip a beat and it continuously improves upon itself with is simply unheard of. It's a rare show indeed and I was wholly entertained right up to the end. "

Chobits: Complete Series

"Chobits is a blast from start to finish. It's a show with a lot of heart and it's packed with personality. There are inappropriate jokes aplenty, spot on comedic timing, and there's something about the show that will keep you watching again and again. If you haven't seen the show before then you should definitely consider this Blu-ray collection highly recommended. Even if you have the prior Geneon release, you may want to pick this set up for the up-conversion in the picture quality. It's a solid release from FUNimation's Anime Classics line and it shouldn't go unnoticed. "

Soul Eater: The Meister Collection

"Soul Eater is a must own kind of show. The series is a blast from start to finish and there's hardly any downtime what-so-ever. If you haven't seen it before you'll want to pick the show up regardless of if it's on Blu-ray or DVD. "

Soul Eater: The Weapon Collection

"Soul Eater is wildly whacky and entertaining. The characters are memorable, the action is constantly one-upping itself, and the show has a brand of humor that genuinely works. All the pieces come together to create one heck of a ride. Sure there are some stumbling points along the way, but the adventure as a whole is a trip worth taking."

Project A-Ko

I can't stress enough exactly how much fun Project A-Ko was. It's a classic among classics and the brand of humor the show offers really sets it apart from everything else on the market. If you've never seen the OVA before, you'll want to pick this up. It's a must own title that deserves to be in every anime fan's collection. "

High School of the Dead: Complete Collection

"Unrelentingly trashy, High School of the Dead offends the senses in many regards. With knockers being bared in every other frame and gratuitous use of gore, it would seem this show is strictly for those looking for shlocky fan-service anime. For the most part that's what you get with the show. At its core; hidden beneath all the clichés, stereotypes, blood, and flesh, is a surprisingly entertaining series. As long as you can leave your brain as zombie food at the door and don't mind the raunch, the show comes lightly recommended. "

Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 5

"Dragon Ball Z: Kai Part Five is a fine continuation of the Z saga. The action is fantastic and the storytelling is much more refined in this version. Gone are the days where episodes were made up by half filler clips. That's okay in my book and Kai is a great accompaniment to the original in that sense. Fans and newcomers will want to check the series out, though only those who have been collecting will want to consider picking this one up."

Toradora: Volume 1

"Toradora! is simply a joy to watch. The way Aisaka and Takasu play off each other really drives the show and makes it absolutely entertaining. The support cast that surrounds them reacts wonderfully and the writers really utilized the secondary characters to their fullest. In terms of comedy you're going to get mostly slapstick or awkward reactions, but there are a few witty lines scattered throughout that don't lose their effect in translation. Overall this is a wonderful anime that left me impressed and exhausted because I watched all 26 episodes in the span of a few days. That almost never happens."

Toradora: Volume 2

"I could not get enough of Toradora!. I was glued to the show from start to finish and for a few days it was all I watched as I tore through all four discs. The ending was satisfying in a way that few anime shows actually are. Sure it was a little predictable, but that didn't lessen the charm or drama that resolved around the conflict. Toradora! is highly recommended in almost every day. Pick this set up and you won't be disappointed!"

Other Recent and Notable Anime Reviews

(Writers Indicated for each individual review.)

Rideback: Complete Series
Review by Nick Hartel

"Visually stunning both artistically and technically, "RideBack" is a relatively safe excursion into Rin's world of futuristic motorcycles, oppressive governments and heroes waiting to rise up. The flaws of the series are apparent, but are lessened by the moments when the story is on-point and emotionally engaging, just don't expect it to be that way the majority of the time. Those looking for distilled genre entertainment that doesn't leave a bunch of narrative gaps, give "RideBack" a shot. Recommended."

Dance in the Vampire Bund: Complete Collection
Review by Michael Zupan

"Dance in the Vampire Bund can't hold a candle to many of the anime series that are currently available on home video, but it's still an interesting experience nonetheless. The artistic design is wonderful to look at (when it's not focused on making us privy to intimate physical details of the main character), and the numerous plots vying for attention are interesting enough in and of themselves. Unfortunately, the creative team behind Vampire Bund didn't know how to pace themselves and culminated them into something that's frankly, a mess. I would highly recommend that anyone who's looking to see why this show has drummed up so much controversy gives this a rental. It's worth watching through once for what it has to offer, but I highly doubt most of you out there, anime die-hards or even casual viewers such as myself, will find this to warrant any repeat viewings. "

ShinChan: Season 3 - Part 1
Review by Francis Rizzo III

"Despite the layoff between seasons, Shin Chan hasn't lost a step, remaining the bizarre, mildly offensive blast of comedy oddity it was in its first two seasons, though this set lacks those signature episodes the other collections offered. Remove any real extras (while thankfully maintaining quality audio and video) and there's not much to earn this set a recommendation over the previous releases, though fans will want to check out these additional episodes."

Manga Reviews
by Neil Lumbard

DVDTalk.com has had a decent number of recent new manga reviews. If you haven't already had the chance to catch up on reading these reviews (or the manga volumes themselves) feel free to check out the recent(ish) additions on the forum.

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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