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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)
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Noir - Complete Series - Anime Classics [Blu-ray]
Noir - Complete Series - Anime Classics [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 34.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and beautiful mystery series. A true classic!, March 26 2015
Originally made by Bee Train back in 2001 and released here back in 2003. Noir is a true classic from the old ADV stable and one of their first titles released in a true 16x9 widescreen format with a native Japanese 5.1 track as well. As a result it is a beautiful series to watch and an even better series to listen to. So it's nice to see it re-released once again by Funimation in it's first Bluray edition.

The plot is very convoluted revolving initially around two young women. The first Mireille Bouquet a professional assassin who is as deadly as she is beautiful who one day encounters a young Japanese school girl with no memories who is even more deadly than she is. And who has searched her out because they have one thing in common, an old pocket watch with a haunting melody that somehow binds them together. And with that they go on a quest to find their hidden pasts while an unknown society sends ever more deadly waves of assassins after them! Anything more would be a spoiler!

Now the series is not for everyone. While the action scenes are very good when they happen; they also tend to be only once or twice per episode while the rest is long panning shots, explorations and an incredibly complex and growing mystery. In other words, like other series made by Bee Train at the time (Madlax, .hack//SIGN); the pace is downright glacial at times with the journey as important as the destination! You want continuous action, fan service or comedy; look elsewhere.

But if you don't mind a slower pace, the journey and slowly revealing mystery are beautiful to see. Made even better by the haunting melodies of Yuki Kajiura whose chorale music is incredibly complex and rich and is something that you'll never forget. If you've ever heard her work in Madlax, .hack//SIGN or Aquarian Age you'll know what I mean. It's one of the best parts of the series.

Part Gunslinger Girl, part mystery, deep and dark and always beautiful. If you don't mind a slow pace, it's well worth checking out. 4 to 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Ultimate Avengers 3 Movie Collection [Blu-ray] [Import]
Ultimate Avengers 3 Movie Collection [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 13.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Marvels best two animated movies plus a bonus!, March 26 2015
There was a time back in the mid to late 2000's when Marvel made animated movies that were every bit as adult and every bit as good as DC's Universe line. These ranged from Ultimate Avengers and it's sequel Ultimate Avengers 2 in 2006, through Iron Man and then Dr. Strange in 2007, a slightly more Kiddy friendly Next Avengers in 2008, on to a Hulk vs Wolverine and Hulk vs Thor (2 mini-movie pkg.) in 2009 and finally Planet Hulk in 2010. After which it deteriorated into sporadic junk like Tales of Asgard, Heroes United or the latest Avengers Confidential. But those first half dozen were all pretty damn fine movies so it's nice to see the two best re-issued in this veeery budget priced set!

Ultimate Avengers (the first and best in this set) is basically an origin tale showing how SHIELD brings together half a dozen superheroes to form the Avengers. It's got great animation, an English 7.1 PCM lossless audio track, rolls along at a great pace since it's only 71 min. long and is a nicely developed adult tale of folks who don't always play well together but must learn to do so or all is lost! I give it a good 4 to 4-1/2 stars and enjoy rewatching it every once in a while.

Ultimate Avengers 2 is your typical sequel movie though better than most. It starts off pretty much where the previous movie stopped and is basically more of the same. Like the first movie it's short at 73 min., runs along at an equally fast pace and will undoubtedly come with the same English 7.1 PCM, DD 5.1 EX and Spanish DD 5.1 EX tracks as the first. I put it just a hair down from the first at around 4 stars.

Next Avengers is the bonus movie throw in to this 3 movie package. It's not so much of a sequel as a spinoff imagining what would happen in a future where there is no Avengers, Tony Starks Ultron rules the world and it's up to the children of the Avengers to set things right. It's slightly more kid friendly than the first two but is still a pretty good movie. Being made two years after the originals it comes with an English 7.1 DTS-HD and a Spanish 5.1 DD audio track. I'd rate it between 3 to 3-1/2 stars.

Since all three movies are reissues of their previous editions; that means both the original movies will be on one 50 GB bluray disc and the third on a single 25 GB bluray disc. Also like the originals there will be no French language track!

Since all three of these movies are also being re-issued at this time in single DVD collections for around ten bucks apiece; this all-in-one Blu Ray edition is a much better deal.

Highly recommended if you like the early Marvel or DCU animated movies!

J. A.

Demon King Daimao: The Complete  Collection
Demon King Daimao: The Complete Collection
Price: CDN$ 52.49
15 used & new from CDN$ 37.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Sci-Fi/Harem beginning, muddled Technobabble ending!, March 23 2015
Demon King Daimao actually starts out as a pretty good sci-fi/magic/harem anime. You know the type, a mix of fantasy, sci-fi and comedy all rolled into one. As a new male student enrolls in The Constant Magic Academy only to discover that he may be destined to be the next Demon King whose predecessor almost destroyed the world a hundred years ago! And of course along the way picks up a parcel of various butt kicking female associates. The usual harem fan service anime. And for the first half it's pretty damn good if only it had stayed this way.......

But alas, once it gets around episode 9 or so; it starts to slide into a muddled mix of Japanese mythology, sci-fi and fantasy all rolled up into a complete and total mess. That never makes any sort of sense whatsoever to well...... anybody I suspect. It's not that it's boring or anything; there's lots of action but it's just absolutely and totally uncomprehending and downright silly. Think A Certain Magical Index with an Evageleon ending!

So overall, I'm not quite sure how to rate this? The first half with it's mix of humour, magic and butt kicking females is definitely worth a four! But the muddled nonsensical ending only a one or two with the fighting a good three to three and a half! So I'll compromise and call it a three.

On the plus side the dub is the usual high Sentai standards. Both dub and sub are standard stereo with nothing in the back channels that I was away of. It is also in a modern 16x9 widescreen unlike the 1:33 Amazon listing. But the only extra is a 5 min. Production Sketches piece. Plus the usual clean Op and Ed.

Recommended for the first half but it's up to you if you can tolerate the ending.

J. A.

Hyakko Complete TV Series [Import]
Hyakko Complete TV Series [Import]
Price: CDN$ 45.63
16 used & new from CDN$ 30.17

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice little schoolgirl comedy!, March 7 2015
Hyakko is yet another one of those nice little school comedies that the Japanese do so well. If you've ever seen an Azumanga Daioh, Girls High or A-Channel you'll know what I mean. Simple little slice of life everyday comedies that like their Mangas, usually have multiple mini-stories within each episode.

While the story starts out with Ayumi, the ultra cute, shy little freshman and Tatsuki the cool aloof rich girl; it really starts to cook once you meet Torako the brash rebel who will try anything even when she knows nothing about it and her best friend Susume who actually is good at everything but nobody knows it. And it's around Torako that the entire series will revolve. As once Torako decides you're going to be one of her special friends; no force in nature will stop that from happening!

Since it's only 13 episodes long, there's really no time for filler. Especially as the later episodes usually revolve around yet another school classmate and every cliché in the books. Including but not limited to Nene, a gay pervert who lusts after the other girls, Koma who specializes in racy photos she sells to the boys, Ushio the tomboy rebel, Chie the glasses wearing robotics engineer, Inori who appears like an apparition always scaring the bejeezus out of her classmates but is actually a very nice and lonely girl underneath and my favourite Minato, a tall and gangly blonde who could easily dominate but instead is an utter klutz and crybaby. It's a great ensemble piece.

The storyline really ends at episode 12 when it get a little more serious as we delve into Torako's chaotic home life but even here it's not that dark and does have a very good conclusion. While episode 13 is actually a prologue showing the first day of school before they all met. Where you can see the beginnings of each of their personalities and how they'll develop.

I wish there had been a dub but it's still a very satisfactory series. If you like anime like K-On or A-Channel then you should like Hyakko equally as well. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

P.S. - Despite Amazon's markings, it is a true 16x9 widescreen series!

School Rumble - Season 1 & OVA - S.A.V.E.
School Rumble - Season 1 & OVA - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 21.97
13 used & new from CDN$ 21.97

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the screwiest school comedies ever made!, March 7 2015
THIS REVIEW APPLIES TO BOTH THE SEASON 1 AND SEASON 2 SETS!

School Rumble is yet another slice of life school anime. I was going to add typical except that it's anything but! Based on the long running Manga; it consists of two 26 episode seasons of the craziest goings on you'll ever see in a Japanese anime. Imagine Azumanga Daioh or A Channel or K-On being merged with Pani Poni Dash and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it's like!

So Harima, the school's bad boy (who's actually a softie inside) is madly in love with Tenma (the school's resident cutie) who's secretly in love with Karasuma (the school's perfect student and about as exciting as a brick) who's in love with....... Well, you get the idea. We have love triangles, quadrangles, whatever up the kazoo. With all of the participants never really getting a clue and each attempt to do so going madly down in flames! While you really want to slap them up the side of the head and tell them that it's that one over there you should be rooting for!

If this were played more seriously all the time, it would probably be angst overkill. But here it works as the series is constantly switching and changing. Since like Daioh or A-Channel, each episode is repeatedly broken up into smaller mini-episodes and can switch from serious to screwy in a heartbeat. Plus they're constantly bringing in more characters and entanglements. So it never really gets old.

Then throw in everything (and I do mean everything) from escapee zoo animals, a little girl with enormous strength, some mind reading and oh..., did I mention the space aliens? And mix with clichés and parodies on virtually every anime you've ever seen (the more you've seen, the funnier it gets) and you just never know what the creator is going to throw at you next! The infamous 2 episode late night school battle (near the beginning of the second season) which parodies every war film you've ever seen being one of my personal favourites. The only major downside being that there's really no ending as they had planned a further third season which never materialized.

Highly recommended if you like them really screwy and you're willing to park any resemblance of logic at the door. 4 stars out of 5 for either season.

J. A.

Armitage III - THE MOVIE COLLECTION - ANIME CLASSICS
Armitage III - THE MOVIE COLLECTION - ANIME CLASSICS
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 21.97
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.94

4.0 out of 5 stars The Original OVA series plus it's spinoff movies in one budget collection!, March 6 2015
Back in the early 90's the Japanese produced some very high quality OVA series that were of theatrical or near-theatrical quality. Of which the very best were probably Macross Plus, Blue Submarine No. 6 and Bubblegum Crisis. Not so well known was another 4 part OVA series called Armitage III.

Armitage III was a very nicely animated OVA series set on Mars that ran 50 min. for the first episode and 30 min. each for the three remaining episodes and revolved around two main characters. Naomi Armitage, a cyber punk police woman in red hot pants and her partner a cynical burnt out cop by the name of Ross Sylibus. Who have to uncover a growing conspiracy while dealing with at what point does a man cease to become a man and at what point does a woman cease to be a cyborg? It was a pretty damn good if rather long-winded OVA series.

So in the mid-90's Pioneer came out with a shorter 90 min., cropped 1.85:1 (the OVA is 4:3 full frame), full THX certified Dolby Digital 5.1 English dubbed (the OVA was standard English and Japanese stereo) movie version with Elizabeth Berkley and Kiefer Sutherland in the lead roles. Which was called Armitage III Poly Matrix. Then a few years later that was followed up with a sequel movie set on Earth called Dual Matrix. This collection contains all three.

Between the original OVA and the shortened movie version, it's a bit of a trade-off. The OVA goes into more details but it also tends to drag a lot more. The movie has a great theatrical soundtrack, is shorter and more action packed and is widescreen but that comes by cropping off part of the original animation. And it doesn't have the Japanese audio track. So you'll have to make up your own mind which you prefer.

As for the sequel movie, it's got lots of action but I found the storyline more silly and less realistic and the animation a couple of notches below the original in overall quality. But it does have the same superb 5.1 audio in both English and Japanese.

So overall, I'd give the movie version (Poly Matrix) a 4 to 4-1/2 stars. The original OVA 3-1/2 to 4 stars and the sequel movie (Dual Matrix) about 3 stars. Good old school cyber punk action, 4 stars overall. You could do a lot worse!

J. A.

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] (Bilingual)
Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Ginnifer Goodwin
Price: CDN$ 21.00
25 used & new from CDN$ 15.77

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than Pirate Fairy, not as good as Secret of the Wings!, March 3 2015
In a refreshing change of pace; this sixth installment of the Tinkerbell franchise does not revolve around Tinkerbell but instead her friend Fawn, the Fairy of Animals. Who discovers a strange beast in the woods and makes it her mission to protect it. The plot is basically as simple as that. Perhaps it's indicative of the fact that they're running out of ideas but whatever; it does make a very nice change.

The storyline starts out fairly strongly and although the overall plot is pretty far-fetched it does provide a fair amount of humour and a very touching ending. And unlike the fifth movie (Pirate Fairy) which seemed to be a vain attempt to link the franchise to the Peter Pan storyline and suffered accordingly; this one returns to a more proper Pixie Hollow genre.

The movie is pretty short at 76 min. (8 of them the credits) and on the Bluray has a full 7.1 DTS-HD English soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD). While French and Spanish audio is the same DD 5.1 on both the Bluray and the DVD. Extras are pretty minimal, a 5 min. piece on making the movie, a 5 min. piece with the producer and the usual assortment of deleted scenes, etc. That's about it. So it looks like Disney is running out of ideas here as well.

In overall quality, I'd put this Legend of the Neverbeast above Pirate Fairy (the weakest of the genre) and about on a par with The Great Fairy Rescue; both movies being both humorous and able to be serious at the same time. But not quite as good as the original Tinkerbell (which I consider #1 in overall quality) which had superb humour and action or the second movie The Lost Treasure (#3 overall) which had superb visuals and a great plot or Secret of the Wings (#2 or perhaps even #1 quality wise) which dispensed with the humour and became a very deep and touching storyline with some very important plot twists. So overall, I'd rate this one about 3-1/2 to 4 stars out of 5. It's not the best Tinkerbell out there but it will do. Tinkerbell lovers should be quite satisfied.

J. A.

Gun X Sword - The Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Gun X Sword - The Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.95
22 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good sci-fi action series if you can make it through the first disc!, Feb. 24 2015
Every full length anime series usually has some filler, especially later on as the creators try to pad out the series before the major windup occurs. However Gun Sword may be unique in that it soon becomes apparent that all the filler is in the first 8 episodes! And only around episode 9 does the main storyline really kick in.

As a result, the first disc is mostly silly monster (or more accurately bad boys with mech's) of the week that have to have their butts kicked! In fact so predictable, silly and boring had it become that I seriously considered quitting the series with disc one. However, I decided to check out the second disc and all of a sudden, it started to develop into a fairly good series. With a main villain who's quite a bit different from what you would expect, a bunch of very interesting subordinates and the hero (or more accurately anti-hero) developing his own set of fellow travelers. And from there on it improved considerably.

Now of course it does have a number of serious drawbacks. It's very disjointed and very little time is spent showing the back stories on their opponents. And it's never really explained in a believable manner where the various tech comes from or exactly who the main villains band of techies (cultists) come from. Plus the final showdown spread over the last disc has all the usual clichés of various heroes making one last stand, overwhelming enemy mech's (is there some sort of Mech's R Us on this semi-civilized western themed planet that we didn't know about?) and heroes who always show up just in the nick of time. That sort of thing. It just never fully develops into a believable world. However the action is pretty fast and furious and it does have a decent if somewhat silly ending.

The series has a standard dub and sub with nothing of significance in the back channels and is in a 16x9 standard widescreen. Extras are minimal and mainly involves a short and silly set of finger puppet parodies on the first 13 episodes which are all located on a fifth disc. I found it quite boring. But like most SAVE budget editions, it does have a very nice reversible cover so you don't have to worry about that Green banner!

So overall, I'd give Gun Sword 2-1/2 to 3 stars for the beginning (episode 3 with it's Voltron parody 3-1/2), 3-1/2 to 4 stars for the ending and 3 to 3-1/2 stars for everything in between! Overall 3-1/2 stars out of 5. It's okay but could have been significantly better.

J. A.

Tales From Earthsea [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
Tales From Earthsea [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Timothy Dalton
Price: CDN$ 29.96
18 used & new from CDN$ 29.96

3.0 out of 5 stars Good visuals and audio, confusing plot!, Feb. 17 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Tales from Earthsea is the very first movie from the newest generation of Studio Ghibli, namely Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro. And while it's pretty darn good for a first attempt; there are some glaring weaknesses. So don't expect quite the superb finish of a Ponyo or a Kiki's Delivery Service here. This ranks a little bit lower in the Studio Ghibli pecking order.

First of all, visually it's almost as good as his father would have done. Not surprising considering Goro was able to call on the superb talents of his father's veterans. So it's fine there. While musically it is also very high in quality with haunting melodies that perfectly match the sweeping panoramas. In addition audio is also up to a very high standard with good bass and surround sound right into both the side and back channels. Plus the dubbing was also the usual high fare. That's the good points. So where does it falter slightly? Three main areas.

Firstly Goro is not quite the master storyteller that his father is. At least not yet. Based on a very popular series of fantasy novels by Ursula K. Le Guin; it's a tale that in his hands never quite gets fully developed. It has all the elements to be great, but seems to be aimed at only those with an intimate knowledge of the book series. And as a result, many elements of the storyline never really get explained, especially a startling element near the end that's never explained whatsoever! And even those familiar with the books find some of the divergences downright baffling. Not something you want to do with a mainline movie!

Secondly, the Le Guin books can be pretty dark in places and this shows in the main character who seems to alternate between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for no discernible reason. As a result this is a tale without any humour whatsoever in it and a main character that at times you just want to knock up the side of the head and say "What's wrong with you!" So that hardly helps matters either.

And last but not least because of the way the plot is laid out, the first half of the movie which explores the lands of Earthsea and the City tends to be a lot more interesting than the second half which mainly involves a farmstead, the villains run down castle and a half dozen guards. Couple that with a villain who gets downright creepy at the end, appears to have no way to actually do whatever in heck he's supposed to be doing(?) and it's not a great way to end a movie either. But it does look and sound great!

As for this Blu ray edition. The audio track is very good. The Japanese track being the best as it's a full 6.1 DTS-HD while the English track is almost as good being a 5.1 DTS-HD with ES encoding for the back channel. The third track being a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 French track. Extra's include the entire movie storyboards, a one hour feature on the music (one of the best parts of the movie) and a short 4 min. piece on why and how they made the movie. Plus a handful of original Japanese promos and TV trailers.

The DVD is identical to the original DVD release from 2011. So as a result the Japanese audio track is a simpler Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the English track has the same audio glitch as the 2011 edition in which it tries and fails to give me a DD 5.1 track and falls back on a simpler DD stereo pro-logic mix and there's NO French track! Plus in the extras there are no storyboards (they were on a second DVD back then) and no featurette on the music. But it does retain a fun little interactive map piece on the various Studio Ghibli movies and a handful of Disney trailers which aren't on the main Blu-ray release. (I'm guessing there wasn't room.)

So summing up, a good first attempt from Goro Miyazaki marred by a rather confusing plot. (He admits in a Director interview later on the Blu-Ray of his second movie "Up on Poppy Hill" (which is much more rounded) that he should have spent more time on Earthsea and that he could have done better.) So as a result I give it 4 to 4-1/2 stars for the animation, 4 stars for the music and 3 stars for the storyline. 3 stars overall. It's okay, but could have been much better.

J. A.

Jyu-Oh-Sei (Planet Of The Beast King) - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
Jyu-Oh-Sei (Planet Of The Beast King) - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 20.36

3.0 out of 5 stars A dark and depressing sci-fi action series!, Feb. 16 2015
At first glance Jyu-Oh-Sei looks like the typical Japanese sci-fi action series. In a modern space colony twin brothers Thor and Rai appear to have everything until they come home one day to find their parents murdered and the next thing they know they've been exiled to a murderous planet where only the worst criminals are sent. And from then on it's survival of the fittest. In other words the storyline goes from glittering space colony to Lord of the Flies within one episode! It's that sort of anime series.

The story certainly had promise. From trying to fit in, discovering how the plants and humans interact and the determination of one young man to survive and avenge his parents. But despite the high quality animation and some pretty damn good fight scenes especially at the beginning it never quite jelled for me. As certain things just never really get explained, far too many characters suffer from a cultural death wish and certain things as it nears it's end just never really add up or make any sort of logical sense. In other words it's the sort of series that starts out with great promise but as it goes on you begin to wonder exactly why you bought it?

However it does look good and those who like them dark and angsty may enjoy this a lot more than I did. Recommended mainly for those who like them dark, with no humour and with lots of self-sacrifice! So 4 stars for those folks and 3 stars for the rest of us.

J. A.

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