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X, Rin, and My Bride is a Mermaid


August 2010 Edition

by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai

Summer is winding down and all you kids out there are undoubtedly dreading the "back to school" blitz that's bombarding you. The summer months have certainly been slow on the anime front, however, we still have some new reviews worth digging through for this column. Titles such as Casshern Sins, Golgo 13, Master of Martial Hearts (*shudder*), and My Bride is a Mermaid. Granted not all of those may be masterpieces in the making, but there's an eclectic pile of titles to sift through for sure.

Bobby also takes a crack at a .hack manga and I dig into the awesome second installment of Spice & Wolf. WTK has a slew of bargains for you as well, and for sure there's bound to be something here to tempt your wallet. Spend some time with Anime Talk and let us help you find a fun show you may have missed!

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

Master of Martial Hearts is a ludicrous fanservice series about female fighters who battle each other for the chance to win the Martial Heart--a prize that will grant them their truest wish. Aya and her friend, Natsume, find themselves involved in a secret fight tournament when they happen upon a battle between an airline stewardess and a priestess. Aya jumps into the fight and saves the priestess, Miko, from a loss by defeating the stewardess. Miko disappears shortly thereafter because she technically lost the fight. Aya, as a result, enters the tournament to bring back her new friend. The fights in this series are formulaic and devolve into absurdity as the girls' clothes quickly disintegrate with each punch and kick. Gimmicky enemy fighters and a ridiculous ending seal the fate for this terrible series.

If you like your anime comedy with the slapstick knob turned to "11," then you will love the maniacal series My Bride is a Mermaid: Season One, Part One. Nagasumi is a teenage boy on a summer trip to see his grandmother at Seto Bay. One afternoon, while learning how to swim, Nagasumi nearly drowns only to be saved by the lovely mermaid, Sun. Mermaid Law states that, because Sun has revealed her true form to a human, one of them must die--unless they get married. What follows is a pretty funny, slapstick comedy that parodies most anime genres. The stream of jokes is nonstop throughout each episode. Some of the jokes and gags fall flat, but many of them are hilarious. My Bride is a Mermaid is worth checking out for longtime anime fans that don't mind loud, crazy, over-the-top sight gags and antics.

X: The Complete Series is an older, slow-developing, end of the world story involving two factions: one that wants to save humanity and another that wants to save the Earth by ridding it of humans. X focuses on Kamui Shiro, a young man who must align with one of those two factions. By choosing a side, Kamui causes a chain reaction of events and the fate of humankind depends on whether he can claim the Divine Sword and help defeat the other group. This series is a tale of two halves. The first 13 episodes are dull and give extensive background about underdeveloped characters. The second half, however, makes up for it with an action-packed, twist-filled conclusion.

A couple of columns ago, you probably read a blurb for Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne. Well, that release was for the DVD, and this one is for Blu-ray. That's right kids! FUNimation has upped the ante with a high definition remaster for the incredibly violent and sexy show. In case you don't know what it's about all you really need to know is that Rin features a story about immortal women and their demonically tempting mates. Heavy doses of BDSM and graphic violence take the center stage in one of the most captivating adult shows in a long, long time. The Blu-ray release of the series? It's solid as well. Check out the review for more details.

Speaking of violent and adult-oriented anime, Golgo 13 is back in action. Don't know who he is? Well, he's been around for quite some time, though it wasn't until recently that he resurfaced. Duke Togo is a badass assassin who is renowned for his skill with a sniper rifle. Sentai Filmworks has collected the first batch of episodes and presented it as a two disc set. Totally worth picking this one up!

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is one of the best damn shows I've watched in quite a long time. I was glued to my TV until the last episode and even after that I ran out and bought the novelization. Haven't heard about it? Okay, the description is kind of involved, but basically it's a show about a female bodyguard who finds herself protecting a prince that bears the egg of a spirit from another land. It's much more involved than that, in all honesty. This series from Production I.G. recently received a totally worthwhile collection from Media Blasters. Sure it's expensive, but it's worth every penny!

On the subject of classic anime (referring back to Golgo 13), Fist of the North Star comes to mind. This is an ultra violent show from way back when that features a story about a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is on the brink and gangs rule the land. There's a sole wanderer traveling the wastelands and he cuts down all who stand in his way with a fearsome technique. Lucky for the innocent people he only uses it on bad guys. After all, when he can poke you and make your head explode, I think you want to be on his good side.

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Adventures of the Mini Goddesses: Complete Collection$79.98$29.99-
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Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box 1$59.98$31.99Review
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For more anime bargains, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread, updated by yours truly!
Please Note: Product Availability & Prices are Subjected to Change! Updated on 08/14/2010!

Manga Reviews:
by Todd Douglass and Bobby Cooper


4koma, also known as Yonkoma, is a Japanese format for gag comics that contain one column with four panels, read from top to bottom. .hack//4koma is a collection of these four panel gag strips and a few non-canon comedy shorts that originally appeared in the magazine, .hack//G.U. The World.

The first half of the book contains 4koma comics that mix the characters from the .hack//Games video game series and .hack//G.U. The comics focus on Kite and Haseo meeting each other and going off on adventures such as battling foes in arena battles. The majority of the humor is Kite making fun of Haseo's low level character and how much Haseo despises Kite. Other characters such as Black Rose, Atoli, and Pi make appearances in many of the comic strips as well.

The second half of the book is a collection of short stories, two-page comics, and another set of 4koma comics. Peaco's Story is a traditionally formatted manga comedy that takes place across multiple pages instead of 4-panels. In this story, Atoli takes on a new avatar and personality to try and gain Haseo's affections. A series of two page comics entitled Gaspard's Go, Go To The World, by Inumaru, follow the adventures of the unlikely duo, Gaspard and Silabus. There are a few more 4koma comics, created by Keena Aruto, that feature characters such as Haseo, Ovan and Atoli. The last comic in the book, Gabiman, by Sumihito is a short skit involving the characters, Gabi and Ovan. The book concludes with reviews of the .hack//G.U. game by the artists involved in the .hack//4koma collection.

Although the introductory page welcomes both .hack fans and readers who are new to the series, you have to be a serious .hack fan to appreciate much of what this book has to offer. If you have some experience playing MMO games, you will understand some of the jokes and gags, but the vast majority require an understanding of the .hack universe and its characters. I consider myself a fan of the .hack franchise. I played most of the PS2 games, watched .hack//SIGN, and read some of the manga. Even with that background, many of the jokes were either over my head or just not funny. In one sitting, reading 52 straight pages of 4koma formatted comics becomes tiresome. The switch to the traditional manga format of Peaco's Story was a welcome break.

Many of the gags require knowledge of Japanese culture to understand them. The translators, Ryan Peterson and Peter Ahlstrom, do a good job of explaining these types of gags. One example is a comic where Kite raises his middle finger "accidently." The gag was that he was supposed to raise his pinky finger, which in Japan signifies a romantic relationship. The middle finger means the same thing there as it does in the U.S. While they explain most of these cultural nuances, many of the sound effects in the stories are not translated. I'm not sure if an English adaptation of these effects would have made much of a difference to the comics. Most of the effects are, presumably, easy to figure out based on the context, but if you don't understand Japanese you'll never know for sure.

Overall, the 4koma strips that make up the first half and a few other sections of the book are best taken in small doses. The compilation does not have much of an overarching plot. Even the writer, Koichi Sumimaru, admits that at least the first twenty 4koma comics were a challenge to create. It feels strained at times, but a few of the gags were humorous and seeing the interactions between Kite and Haseo, even in a comedic, non-canon setting, was fun. Peaco's Story is the true standout in this book. It's interesting and amusing to see Atoli take on a new persona to try and get Haseo to like her. The Gaspard's Go, Go To The World shorts were hit-and-miss, but aided by Inumaru's unique art style. The rest of the comics in .hack//4koma were a disappointment and not at all funny.

If you have not played all of the .hack videogames, there's no reason for you to read this book and even then, there's nothing here that is hilarious, must-see material. This collection of gag comics is aimed solely at hardcore, completionist .hack fans.

Spice & Wolf Volume 2

If you couldn't tell from my review of the first volume; or the review for the anime series for that matter, I freaking love Spice & Wolf. For some reason there's just something about it that grabs me. The characters, the setting, the dialogue, the story; everything just clicks. The second volume of the manga has hit my mail box and I read through it immediately. Was it worth the wait? Hells yeah!

I won't recap the series for you if you haven't read the book. Instead I'll just point you to my review of the first volume of the manga, and of the series.

For this installment of Spice & Wolf the book starts out in the midst of Lawrence figuring out what's transpiring with the plot involving money and literally short-changing people. He and Holo go to the Milone company to fill them in on what they discovered, and soon enough things go south.

The corrupt forces track down Lawrence and Holo to put an end to their nosiness, but thanks to Holo's brilliantly beautiful ears she's able to hear them coming from a mile away. They escape into the night and discover there's quite a large amount of people that is after them. In order to trick them they go their separate ways. Holo calls their attention to divert them away from Lawrence, and he barely makes it to the Milone Company before being caught.

I don't want to divulge much else about this book because it would spoil some of its better moments. The story here is every bit as intriguing as it was in the first installment, and to be perfectly honest I think it's even better here. The relationship between Holo and Lawrence continues to grow and we see some major strides in that regard throughout this second volume. I particularly enjoyed some of the pieces towards the end of the book and felt they showed some real feelings between the characters that should be explored in the next volume.

If you haven't read Spice & Wolf, then damn it all, go buy this now. The series is simply a charmer in every way. Sure it's probably not for everyone with its lack of action and talk of finance and economics, but something about it strikes a cord within me. I think the characters win me over more than anything else, but the work as a whole is something to be cherished. Highly 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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