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The latest Studio Ghibli wave and the Death Note manga


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

This week Anime Talk has a look at the three Studio Ghibli films that Disney released earlier this month, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and Whisper of the Heart, three wonderful films that belong in every anime collection.  We also profile a series that mecha fans will want to check out, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, and a great new series from The Right Stuf, Boys Be... Holly's back with some anime bargains, and we have a table of upcoming anime discs too.  The column finishes off with a new feature: Anime Talk looks at Manga.  This week we look at Death Note, a dark tale about a young genius who finds a special notebook that will let him kill anyone.  All he has to do is write down a name, and that person dies.  A great manga series that is intellgent and thought provoking while also being very entertaining.

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

Disney continues its release of the Studio Ghibli catalog this month with My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and Whisper of the Heart, three wonderful films that belong in every anime collection.  All three had a lot of input from by Japan's premier animator Hayao Miyazaki.  (He directed the first two and wrote and created stroyboards for the third.)  Often described as the "Japanese Walt Disney", Miyazaki makes endearing films that are unlike anything else being made.  Family movies in the truest sense of the term, these films will be enjoyed by both the children and the adults.  Charming and incredibly creative these films are not to be missed.

The continuing adventures of the dark Count of Monte Cristo provide even more entertainment in Gankutsuo: V3 as the secrets of the wealthy (and resentful) nobles start unveiling themselves in this tale of revenge and destiny. The midway point of any series is often a great place to look when trying to determine how a series holds up, or falls apart, and such was the case here too. The beauty of the animation style employed to tell the story is worthy of a separate column itself but the highlight for most fans will be the intricate story woven with lots of detail and layers to explore; giving it great replay value. Albert is in deeper than ever as he weighs his loyalties to friends, family and his principles this time, something you don't see all the time in an anime series designed for an older crowd.

While the first half of the series tied up most of the plot threads nicely, Princess Tutu 4 allowed the main one to continue as the Prince continued to get pieces of his heart returned to him and the Raven to set him up in an even more nefarious scheme. This causes Prince Tutu to have to continue to intervene on his behalf but is she winning the battles only to lose the war? While centered on ballet and romance, the darker nature of the material is better than the show sounds when reading the box cover so check this one out as a recommended title too, though get them in order to fully appreciate the quality of the episodes and the extras included.

Godannar keeps proving itself as a fun series with a lot of fanservice, super powerful robots, and tons of explosions. If you have been following the show thus far then you've witnessed the resurrection of Mira, the death of a couple main characters, and the splitting up of Goh and Anna. There have been a lot of questions raised and unfortunately there have been like no answers to any of them. This time around Anna and Goh get back together and Shizuru comes back from the dead, though that wasn't really surprising. More Mimetic Beasts attack and another mystery about the monsters is unearthed. The whole questions unanswered game is starting to grow a little long in tooth, so I hope that the next volume moves things along.

Fans of futuristic war and conflict stories in anime probably already know about the classic Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Stage 1, since it has been released previously but this two disc set combines 13 full episodes with a couple of choice extras to elevate our interest levels above the norm. This version of the show looks better than ever and Central Park Media has gone out of their way to make it worth a double dip for those already owning the NuTech version as well as providing a whole new generation with the best possible release they could offer. Watching soldier Chirico Cuvie fight to survive in an unforgiving world as he sets out to uncover a large conspiracy involving genetic manipulation and internal power struggles within his own command structure has long been a favorite pastime of anime fans. The complexity of the plots and talented crew made sure it would be an experience fans would want to relive decades later, and seeing this value priced set for the Uoodo City arc will hopefully knock some sense into the competition who routinely think 3 episodes per volume is acceptable at a higher price.

The fourth volume of Speed Racer is out, and it doesn't bring the series to a close like many fans were hoping.  Unfortunately they only included eight episodes this time around, the least of any release so far, leaving eight more shows to go.  Even with this being a light volume, the disc is a lot of fun.  Speed and the gang get in and out of more than their share of trouble and drive in some pretty exciting races.  Speed enters Pineapple Grand Prix where each driver has to carry a pineapple with him through the entire race, and the Mystic Grand Prix where he discovers that a group of ruthless assails are trying to take over the country that it's being held in.  No fan of the show will want to pass these up!

As we mentioned last week, the fine folks at Viz are releasing the popular anime series Naruto starting, naturally, with the first volume.  Based on the wildly popular manga by Masashi Kishimoto, this action adventure series about a boy who wants to become a master ninja has a lot of laughs and some endearing characters.  Unfortunately, this disc only has the edited version of the show that was telecast on American cable, not the original version, something that will make a lot of fans stay away from this version.

Missing a few volumes in the series so far hasn't helped us develop a sense of continuity with shows like Ultra Maniac 6: Magical Love but if you like light, airy, romance series that toss in some magic, there may be enough for you to rent if you've seen the story so far. The story of Ayu and Nina learning about love and schoolwork has been done, and done better, many times before; giving the show a retread appeal but little else worth your time. It isn't a bad show but it seems designed almost exclusively to a small niche audience as each gal tries to obtain her goal in life from dating the cute boy to finding magical objects and winning a contest to insure the fate of another.

Fans of teenage romance anime have something to rejoice about thanks to Boys Be… The series that was a hit manga has been released thanks to Right Stuf and it breaks the boundaries for what a teen series is. The show has a discernibly different attitude and takes everything it does semi-seriously. Each episode focuses on a pair of the characters as they begin to fall in love and form relationships. In this volume there are only three episodes but they are presented in a way that makes it almost not matter. If the rest of the show turns out the way this introductory disc did I can easily say that I'm hooked.

The second installment in the Starship Operators series has been released and we get to see more of the Galactic Network broadcast. The crew of the Amaterasu finds their way to the planet of Shu for a little bit of reloading and some respite. Naturally the Kingdom finds out their location and calls out war against Shu because of their new ally. A coup d'état erupts with our heroes stuck in the middle. This leads to some nice bits of action and more character development than the first volume had. The second volume here is a nice change of pace compared to the first, but the show still feels like it's lacking something.

With more super-powered Greeks than you can shake a loincloth at, Saint Seiya is a peculiar series that is very similar to Dragon Ball. The show focuses on a young Japanese boy named Seiya who was sent to Greece in order to train as a warrior. There he learns about the power of the cosmos within and wins the Saint Cloth in a contest. From there he enters a tournament so he can find his sister and win a more powerful cloth. Along the way things change as new villains emerge and Seiya makes friends with his fellow combatants. The show has a lot of fighting and a lot of screaming, so fans of the fighting genre may be interested, but everyone else can get by just fine without seeing it.

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 April 4, 2006

Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.)
Armor Trooper  Votoms Stage 2: Kummen Jungle Wars Central Park Media 35.95
Diamond Daydreams Vol. 2 ADV Films 29.98
Flame of Recca Vol. 07 Viz 24.98
Inu Yasha Vol. 40 Viz 24.98
Karas Vol. 1 Manga Entertainment 19.98
Lupin the 3rd TV Vol. 14 Geneon 24.98
Munto 2 Central Park Media 19.95
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok Vol. 4 ADV Films 29.98
Viewtiful Joe Vol. 2 Geneon 19.98


Scheduled for release on April 11, 2006

Title (click on the title to purchase at Amazon.)
Escaflowne: Anime Legends Complete Collection
Fantastic Children Vol. 1
19.98 /SE 29.98
Ghost Stories Vol. 4
ADV Films
IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix Vol. 2
Maburaho Vol. 7
ADV Films
Mars Daybreak Vol. 5
Megaman: NT Warrior Vol. 9
Otogi Zoshi Premium Box Set
Media Blasters
Panda-Z Vol. 5
Saint Seiya Collection 2
ADV Films
Tenjho Tenge Vol. 6
Tetsujin 28 Vol. 4
Zatch Bell Vol. 3

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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Dai Guard: Complete Collection: $9.99, [review] retail price: $49.98 - 80% off!
Excel Saga: Imperfect Collection: $34.99, [review] retail price: $89.98 - nearly 62% off!
Gunparade March: Complete Collection w/ Tin Artbox: $22.99, retail price: $79.95 - nearly 72% off!
Infinite Ryvius: Complete Collection: $23.99, [review] retail price: $59.98 - 60% off!
Love Hina: Movie Box Set: $23.99, [review] retail price: $59.98 - 60% off!
Mirage Of Blaze: Complete Collection: $26.99, retail price: $69.95 - nearly 62% off!
Saber Marionette R: $6.99, [review]
Samurai X: OVA Collection: $26.99, [review] retail price: $69.98 - nearly 63% off!
Steel Angel Kurumi: Complete Collection: $22.99, [review] retail price: $59.98 - nearly 62% off!

Scorching Hot Deals from Deep Discount DVD:
Astro Boy: Collection Box Set: $19.96, [review] retail price: $39.95 - 50% off!
Descendants of Darkness: DVD Collection: $21.58, retail price: $49.95 - you save $18.37!
DNA²: DVD Collection: $26.98, retail price: $49.95 - 46% off!
Real Bout High School: Complete Collection: $24.00, [review] retail price: $40.00 - 40% off!
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Rose Collection: $21.58, retail price: $39.95 - you save $18.37!
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!
Demon Lord Dante DVD Box Set (Hyb) [Limited]: $34.99, retail price: $99.99 - 65% 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!
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!

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

Anime Talk looks at Manga

by John Sinnott

Death Note

What would you do if you could kill anyone in the world?  Not just one person, but as many people as you want just by writing their name down in a book while picturing what they look like in your mind.  You can chose the time, place, and manner of their demise if you want, or not.  It's up to you.  Nice, clean and virtually untraceable murder.

That's the situation that Light Yagami finds himself a bored shinigami (Japanese demon of death) purposefully leaves the notebook that he uses to kill humans laying on the ground.  Light happens to be incredibly smart, he earned the highest score in the whole country on the college entrance exams, and he quickly realizes that the notebook he found isn't a gag.  With instructions for it's use written on the inside front cover, Light hatches a plan:  he'll make the world a perfect place by killing everyone who commits a crime.  Starting with criminals in jail and those that the law can't touch, he wipes out hundreds of people all around the world.  It's not long before the police start taking notice and call in "L" a person who is just as smart as Light, but no one knows his name, not even the head of the police investigation, who just happens to be Light's father.

This manga by Ooba Tsugumi (story) and Obata Takeshi (art) was originally serialized in Japan's Shonen Jump magazine and has sold over 2.8 million copies of the collected editions in that country.  It is currently being released in the US by Viz so that American fans can join in the chorus of people singing the series praises.  A dark and morally ambiguous tale, this manga asks some hard questions.  Is it right to kill a criminal if that death will help bring about a utopia?  What about killing an innocent person who would stop you from realizing your dream of a perfect society?  Is Light a hero or a Hitler?  The answers to those questions are left up to the reader.

One of the best manga series that Viz has released so far, this comic is the perfect start for someone who wants to try a manga series but wants something more sophisticated than Dragon Ball or Yu Gi Oh.  The first four volumes have been released so far.

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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