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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Daria: The Complete Animated Series
Daria: The Complete Animated Series
DVD ~ Tracy Grandstaff
Price: CDN$ 25.98
28 used & new from CDN$ 20.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Just as good as I remembered it!, Oct. 23 2014
The trouble with acquiring something you haven't seen in years is that it doesn't always stand up to the test of time. Luckily that was not the case with Daria which not only lived up to my fond memories of the series but actually surpassed them. Even though it's been almost 20 years since I last saw this on Canadian cable it's still just as funny as it was back then. Namely the best animated comedy series MTV ever made! Much, much better than the crude Beavis & Butthead from which it was spun off of.

With a witty plotline that's as intelligent as Daria herself, it's a perfect parody on teen school life that's just as relevant today as it was the day it was made. An anti-social outcast who only has one friend; she's surrounded by everything from an overly ambitious mother, a highly strung father, a popular girl sister and a huge cast of schoolmates and neurotic teachers. With parodies on virtually everything popular at the time from movies to culture. And over the course of five seasons and two movies; never loses that sardonic touch. It's not the highest animation quality you've ever seen but it's typical of most late night adult series like Archer or Undergrads and it will do. Likewise for the original musical soundtrack which had to be changed due to horrendous licensing costs. Compromises that don't change the quality of the storyline while giving us the entire series at a one season price! So kudos there as well.

As for this collection, it's on eight discs with nine episodes per disc. With the last two episodes plus the two movies and extras on the last disc. In fact, if I have any criticism it would be that they couldn't have put each season on one or two discs instead of simply running from one season to the next without any breaks. Or at least, included a slip sheet listing all the episodes and which season they belong to.

The other thing to look out for is when you access the main menu. If you pick "Play All" instead of the "Episodes" button it will play all the episodes in order BUT the episodes that have animated intros (about one out of three) called "Daria Day Intro's" will NOT be shown! Which is a great shame as they definitely should not be missed. The only way to see them therefore is to pick the "Episodes" menu and play each episode individually. Only then will a menu option appear asking if you want to see the Daria Day intro? Why they didn't make this the default on "Play All" is a mystery to me? You definitely want to see them!

And one last thing, the two movies are hidden in the extras. Which is bad as the first movie (Is it Fall Yet) is the actual transition storyline between Season Four and Five and is integral to the plot. So you DEFINITELY want to see it at the end of Season Four (assuming you know when you come to the end of Season Four) as the only way to figure that out is by checking on the DVD cover as to how many of the episodes are part of Season Five? Again why they didn't put it in the proper order is a mystery to me? But the second movie is okay to leave to the last as it's the actual end of the Daria storyline.

So if you want a very intelligent, witty storyline on teenage angst that's just as relevant today or tomorrow as it was fifteen years ago; then I highly recommend this. You won't be disappointed. 5 stars for the witty storyline and value for money, 3 stars for the animation and 2 stars for not providing a slip sheet on the episodes and seasons, hiding the Daria Day Intro's and not explaining where the first movie fits! So 4 stars overall.

J. A.

Modern Magic Made Simple Complete Collection
Modern Magic Made Simple Complete Collection
Price: CDN$ 44.09
18 used & new from CDN$ 31.53

3.0 out of 5 stars A twist on the usual sci-fi magic user genre!, Oct. 22 2014
Modern Magic Made Simple is anything but simple in this 12 episode plus 1 anime series.

Supposedly revolving around a young girl named Koyomi who wants to learn to be a master mage but all she can accomplish is random washbasins falling from the heavens or so it seems! And watching episode 00 at the beginning of the first disc (which in fact is the OVA); it appears to be a light hearted action/comedy series. But in actual fact once you get into episode 01 (which is the real start of the series); the storyline becomes much more complex and darker revolving around four magic user girls and a nasty villain or two with murderous intent!

Then spice it up with each girl using different ways to conjure, different agendas and different weaknesses, appearances in two different timelines and some even using computers and cell phones to generate magical code while others use classical magic. And finally throw in various flashbacks, out of sequence episodes and even a bit of time travelling to six years in the past and the storyline gets so twisted at times that your not sure whether your coming or going. And it will take until the last few episodes just to figure it all out. In fact, I'd strongly suggest that if you haven't watched this before, you start with episode 01 and leave the OVA (episode 00) to the last where it can become a light hearted epilogue. (Why Sentai made it episode 00 is a mystery to me?) It will make a lot more sense and be much more enjoyable that way.

Overall it's not a bad little series but it's not the sort that you can get wildly enthusiastic about either. Like a lot of Sentai's second tier offerings; it's in Japanese sub only with a simple stereo format. So no dub either. But unlike the Amazon listing, it does at least have a modern 16x9 widescreen format and good animation. I rate it 3 stars out of 5. It's okay but not great.

J. A.

Naruto Uncut: Season 4, Box Set 1 (ep.(164-191)
Naruto Uncut: Season 4, Box Set 1 (ep.(164-191)
Price: CDN$ 11.99
23 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Filler....., lots and lots of filler!, Oct. 15 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Like the Season 3, 2nd box set; the Naruto Season 4 box sets 1 and box sets 2 are all filler! And like the preceding box set; the filler ranges from pretty good to pretty silly depending on the episode. With no new important powers or any real advancement to the overall storyline.

So in the case of the Season 4, Box Set 1 it starts off with a side story concerning Anko and what happened to her when she was Orochimaru's Genin (which is probably one of the best storylines in this boxset), then a major storyline concerning a star crystal that is beefing up Ninja fighters to an incredible degree but with deadly consequences and finally ends with another pretty good storyline about a small Land of the Green under siege by rogue ninja which isn't too bad. Interspersed with small or single episodes that range from okay to downright silly. In other words, typical filler.

I'd give the first Anko storyline a 4 as it does quite a bit to fill in her backstory; perhaps a 3-1/2 for the Star Crystal and Land of the Green story arcs. Everything else from 2 to 4 depending on the episode. In other words this box set is okay, but you can live without it.

The same will be true of the Season 4, Box Set 2 which I will review later.

J. A.

Jewel Bem Hunter Lime - Complete Collection
Jewel Bem Hunter Lime - Complete Collection
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 21.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A completely forgettable old school OVA series!, Oct. 8 2014
Jewell BEM Hunter Lime is another license rescue by Sentai of an older Media Blasters OVA series that's been OOP (Out of Print) for years. But why they choose to revive this particular property is a mystery to me.

The OVA series consists of 3 episodes and revolves around an airhead called Lime who along with her lecherous companion Bass and a slime called Poogie have come to our world to retrieve some monsters called BEM's. And that's about the essence of the plot from what I can remember of it.

The monsters are your typical monsters of the week and are very similar to what you'd see in a Sailor Moon episode. So there's a very mean syringe that just wants to stick it to her, a panty stealing purse and some very malevolent candles. It's supposed to be an action comedy but from what I remember none of it was very good, interesting or even particularly funny. Obviously the Japanese consumers must have thought so as well as they only ever produced the three episodes and then simply stopped dead. So there's no ending either.

Usually I'll keep almost everything in my collections even not so great series and OVA's. But after watching this, I just gave my copy away to my anime loving nephew. He only ever watched one episode, gave up on it and discarded it. It's that dumb and forgettable.

There's a lot of old school OVA's out there that I'd love to see license rescued but this sure as heck isn't one of them. So save your money for something better or wait until it ends up in the bargain bin. 2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Space Pirate Mito Complete Collection 1 & 2 [Import]
Space Pirate Mito Complete Collection 1 & 2 [Import]
Price: CDN$ 23.72

3.0 out of 5 stars A Space Opera that's far out even by Space Opera standards!, Oct. 7 2014
Originally released and dubbed by Media Blasters back in 2002 as a 13 episode series; Space Pirate Mito never really garnered that much attention. Thus when Media Blasters did eventually pick up the second season of 13 episodes later on; it was issued as a stand-alone sub release called Aoi and Mutsuki. This is why only the first half of this license rescue from Rightstuf has a dub in addition to the sub.

As for the series itself, even by space opera standards Mito is pretty far out there. Revolving around a 15-year-old Aoi Mitsukuni whose father is deceased and whose mother is always away working as a supermodel or so he thinks. And that's when this sci-fi comedy really kicks into space opera overdrive!

Now it's no Tenchi Muyo but it does have (especially in the first dubbed season); a very nice blend of touching and serious moments combined with some of the strangest and most wacky elements you'll ever see in an anime space opera. Including the fact that his mother is actually a three foot tall alien in a mom suit that he didn't even know existed! Voiced here on the English dub by Lisa Ortiz of Lina Inverse Slayers fame who does an exemplary job of being crazy and over the top one moment and a loving and caring mother the next.

Then throw in everything from a boyish Galactic Police Agent with a device he calls "Mr. Roboto" that can turn any mechanical device such as a vending machine into a mechanized menace. A girlfriend who is falling for him when she's not being another G.P. agent trying to catch his mother or trying to hide the mushrooms that arbitrarily pop out of her head whenever her allergies kick in. Then throw in the arrival of a galactic ruler with his fleet who has personal issues with his mother. Plus gender swapping aliens and one waaaay out pirate crew. And you have one really funny over the top space opera that's surprisingly touching at times as well. At least for the first 13 episodes which ends up with a really surprising and novel twist ending!

The second season isn't quite as good as it turns much more serious and looses some of that original humour and steam. As it deals with the surprises and aftermath of the first seasons ending, a new villain and a plot which I personally found a little too angsty for my tastes (though you may feel differently) and some very interesting inter-personal relationships that involve Yuri. Plus of course there was no dub!

Funny yet also touching and serious. I'd rate the first season at a good 4 stars (if you like space operas, less if you don't) and 3 stars for the sub only second season. So let's say 3-1/2 overall.

Recommended if you like space operas and you don't mind the cheesy CGI space ships that pop up at times or some Yuri in the second season.

J. A.

Ghost in the Shell 25th Anniversary BD [Blu-ray]
Ghost in the Shell 25th Anniversary BD [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Atkio Otsuko
Price: CDN$ 24.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great movie but badly flawed audio!, Oct. 2 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When it comes to the best of the best of Japanese animated movies; there are only a handful that truly stand head and shoulders above the rest. Movies so well crafted, so intelligent, so superb in every respect that they remain the templates on which all subsequent movies are judged. Princess Mononoke, Patlabor 2, Wings of Honneamise and Ghost in the Shell are among these movies.

Even back in the late 90's when I first picked up the VHS version of Ghost in the Shell; I was just blown away by the sheer quality of this film. Right from the opening scene of a nude Major Kusanagi free-falling off a skyscraper through to the introduction of a future society based on cyber technology. Everything had been done right! A musical soundtrack that's haunting and evocative. Action scenes among the best ever done such as the chase in the marketplace interposed with quiet reflective scenes so finely animated that you can see every rusty rivet in an overhead bridge or dozens of individuals going about their daily routines. A convoluted plot that asks disturbing questions like what happens to a society when a human brain can be found in a suitcase or even cyber hacked? Or when human body parts can be swapped out with cyborg body parts or your cyborg body is indistinguishable from an AI droid? At what point do you cease to be a human being? This is a movie that's much much more than just another action flick!

So why did I give this anime Masterpiece only 3 stars instead of the 5 it deserves? Because we've never really had a perfect release. And I had hoped this would be it! First came the VHS which was surprisingly good for a tape with above average video, a good dub and a fairly good Pro-logic mix. Then came the first DVD release which slightly improved on the tape. Followed in 2005 by a DVD Special Edition with a really good 6.1 DTS-ES audio track. But still no HD video.

Then in 2010 came the first Bluray release called Ghost in the Shell 2.0. This did give us high definition video and a great though not lossless HD audio track. But the trouble was that they decided to "improve it" (hence the 2.0 designation) by removing some of the cell based animation in favour of CGI and while it's very impressive; it's not our original well-loved movie anymore! So you had a choice - you could either watch the new bluray with a version 2 video that for some detracts but it had a great soundtrack. Or the older DVD movie that you loved but with no high definition!

Which is why I was soooo looking forward to this release. But quite simply they blew it. Instead of the 6.1 DTS-ES audio tracks on the older BD and DVD; they went to a 5.1 DTS-HD track and quite simply, it sucks! SFX effects are badly attenuated in many scenes with surround sound that goes MIA at times where it was very impressive in both of the previous releases!

As an example there's a scene by the canal in the marketplace shootout where Batou gets shot at with bullet holes appearing all around his position. In the DVD DTS track, there's impressive machine gun fire from my rear speaker when this happens. While in the 2.0 BD DTS track, there's less gunfire but lots of sound of flying wood chips crashing and tinkling through all the speakers. But in this newest release all you get is muted gunfire ONLY in the front speakers! Very disappointing for a 25th anniversary edition! Plus there are NO on-disc extras unlike the previous editions and those who prefer the sub have complained about timing and spelling issues as well.

So if you have or are a fan already of Ghost in the Shell and if you want the best soundtrack and you don't mind them enhancing parts of the movie with new CGI effects; I'd recommend you stick with the older 2.0 blu ray. And if you want your movie without the CGI changes; I'd stick with the ten year old Special Edition DVD release.

Now if you haven't seen this movie before or you have no intention of getting a surround system, you'll probably be satisfied. And maybe they'll eventually fix the audio problems. But until or if they do; I can't recommend this 25th edition to anybody upgrading!

5 stars for the movie itself - it's superb! But only 2 stars for this release because of the audio! 3 stars overall.

J. A.

Bleach: Set 4, Part 1 (Uncut)
Bleach: Set 4, Part 1 (Uncut)
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 11.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 11.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Filler but pretty good filler!, Sept. 25 2014
This review is for both PARTS ONE and PARTS TWO of SEASON FOUR (THE BOUNTS)!

After the rocking conclusion of the Season Three box set and the return of Ichigo and company to the land of the living. The producers of Bleach ran into the same problem as the creators of Naruto did at the conclusion of the Sasuke/Naruto fight. Namely they caught up to the original manga and had to resort to continuing the series with filler. However unlike Naruto's three box sets whose filler ranges between pretty good and well..... not so good? Bleach's filler is almost as good as the original, is only half as long as Naruto's and has a much more complete and comprehensive storyline!

In two main arcs titled Season Four and Season Five; the first arc (The Bounts) consists of 24 episodes spread over 6 discs in two box sets called Parts 1 and 2. The second arc (The Assault) consists of 4 discs and 18 episodes in a single Season Five box set. This review is for the Season Four Bounts arc.

While the first disc starts off a bit slowly with the introduction of the Mod Souls. Once the Bounts appear on the second disc, things start heating up quite nicely and soon our characters are back in the thick of it. Trying to figure out who the enemy is, what they want and how they're going to respond to it. While not as good as the original three seasons which were superb; it is surprisingly good for a filler.

The overall storyline in many ways is basically a copy of the original series with the Bounts and their powerful Dolls taking the place of Guard Captains and Zanpakutos. However, there is lots of variety in the dolls and while some of the fights can be a little long winded, it's seldom boring. The major problem being a certain monster of the week predictability at times, some of the Soul Reapers seeming to be weaker than you'd think they should be and the fact that we've seen this all before. But that was to be expected in a filler storyline and overall it's pretty good.

Where I'd give the original Bleach Season Sets (1 to 3) 5 stars. (They're superb!) I'd have to give this first half of the filler arcs 3-1/2 to 4 stars. It's good in it's own right but suffers a bit in comparison to the first three seasons.

J. A.

Shattered Angels: The Complete Collection (S.A.V.E.)
Shattered Angels: The Complete Collection (S.A.V.E.)
Price: CDN$ 20.83
22 used & new from CDN$ 12.22

4.0 out of 5 stars A romantic tearjerker done in the guise of a sci-fi action series!, Aug. 22 2014
At first Shattered Angels starts off as your typical sci-fi space opera. A young girl by the name of Kuu comes to the City of Academia. A City that consists of hundreds of Schools each devoted to a single discipline. And there soon discovers that mysterious girls called Ultimate Angels can manifest strange powers against each other while at the same time they all appear intent on capturing her! In other words, a typical sci-fi action series.

However as the relationships and interactions develop, it soon becomes clear that this is really a romantic tearjerker with all the angst, betrayals and surprises that you would expect in a romantic series. Just with some super mech type powers thrown in. So you have the conflicted hero, the bad guy who may not actually be that bad, the rivals who may have to band together, the small band of heroes who must overcome incredible odds to triumph and of course being a typical anime series; the obligatory insane villain who wants to end the world for no good or logical reason.

As a result it never really makes any sense as an action series. Clichés abound, the inner workings of the world and the Angels never really get explored and perhaps because it's only 12 episodes long; the storyline never gets a chance to be properly developed. Indeed the whole story revolves around only a few handfuls of folks and their interactions and it's as if the rest of the world never really existed.

However as a romantic tearjerker; it's pretty good. The animation is top notch and there are lots of typical romantic moments from a hero on a white horse swooping in to save his damsel to acts of sacrifice and betrayal. So those who like series like Kannazuki No Miko will undoubtedly like this.

As a sci-fi series, I'd give it a 3. It's just too slow, confused and underdeveloped to deserve more. But as a romantic series, I'd give it about 4. It's not as good as series like Kanon or Fushigi Yugi but it should appeal to the same demographics. So I'll mark it accordingly.

J. A.

Daddy, I'm a Zombie/ Papa, Je suis une Zombie (Bilingual)
Daddy, I'm a Zombie/ Papa, Je suis une Zombie (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Kim Wharton
Price: CDN$ 7.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A simple little kid's movie that Tim Burton would love!, Aug. 11 2014
Daddy I'm a Zombie is a typical kid's movie revolving around Dixie, a 13 year old girl who doesn't quite fit in. Her parents have split up and she lives with her Dad who's an undertaker. She's ostracized by her schoolmates and even her best and only friend is starting to avoid her. So one night she runs into the forest and gets hit by a falling tree and wakes up as one of the living dead. i.e.- a zombie.

In tone and animation, the movie is very similar to movies like Tim Burton's "The Corpse Bride" or "The Nightmare Before Christmas" just on a lower budget. So the animation is simpler, backgrounds less developed, action scenes are not as complex and there are fewer overall characters. In other words it's more along the likes of a good made for TV movie than a theatrical masterpiece.

However, it does somewhat make up for that with a very telling (if simple) storyline of teenage alienation, school ostracism and finding friends in the strangest places. Plus it does retain that very accurate Tim Burton look and vibe. So I'll give them fair marks for that. The first half hour is especially good.

To sum up, if you want a top CGI theatrical movie, this ain't it. But if you want a simple kid's movie at a budget price with a good family message then this will do. So 2 stars for the TV quality animation, 3 stars for the plot and 4 stars for the family storyline (which in my opinion is the best part of the movie). You decide which part is the most important to you.

J. A.

Cybersix Complete TV Series [Import]
Cybersix Complete TV Series [Import]
Price: CDN$ 42.97
15 used & new from CDN$ 28.37

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting sci-fi/action series that virtually nobody knows!, Aug. 7 2014
Cybersix is an interesting animated series that while animated by TMS in Japan back in '99 was actually based on an Argentine comic first published in '92 for an Italian comics magazine. It was then dubbed and broadcast on Teletoon in Canada, Kids Station in Japan, Telefi in Argentina and a horribly cut and edited version on Fox Kids in the U.S.A. So it has quite an international pedigree.

What intrigued me about the show when I first saw it on Teletoon was that I couldn't really place it. The action was typical anime in style and looks but the location always had an old European style feel to it. You know, cobblestone streets, narrow Italian style buildings, etc. It was only later on when I discovered that it was based on a South American comic that it suddenly made sense to me!

The series was considerably toned down from the original adult oriented comic which was quite dark in places and revolves around Cyber-6. A genetically engineered artificial female who escaped her creator and now has to hunt down his dark creations in order to keep herself alive and healthy while at the same time protecting her identity as a male high school teacher. (Think Clark Kent and Superman.) It works surprisingly well here.

The action is thick and furious from the get-go and while the series does have a certain monster of the week feel to it at times, it never gets boring. Animation quality is very high and the character designs are quite exaggerated so the villain has a huge crooked nose and hair styles are wild. The backgrounds and storyline are always intriguing, the dub was good, the music haunting and with only 13 episodes; there never was any time for filler. The ending is good and I feel sufficient although it is a bit of a cliff hanger. So they most likely intended a second season that never materialized. But it's fine the way it is.

As for this new collection from Discotek, it consists of 2 DVD's with 7 episodes on the first disc and 6 episodes on the second. There will also be voice commentaries with Cathy Weseluck (Cyber-6), Liner Notes, clean OP's and ED's, Original Pilot and Production Art. Video is standard 4x3 and because of the age and International nature of this; there will only be the original English dub in Dolby Digital 2.0. NO Japanese or French tracks will be included. No subtitles either.

I was sufficiently impressed with the series at the time ('99) that I actually went to the trouble of taping it and I still have the VHS tapes to this very day. So if you want something a little bit different from your normal anime fare; I highly recommend this. Overall I give it 4 stars. You could do a lot worse.

J. A.

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