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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)
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Please Twins: Collection [Import]
Please Twins: Collection [Import]
Price: CDN$ 36.65

4.0 out of 5 stars A Harem Anime that actually isn't!, July 31 2015
Onegai Twins (Please Twins) is sometimes claimed to be a direct sequel to Onegai Teacher (Please Teacher). But this isn't really the case. While the two series are set in the same world and while most of the main characters of Please Teacher do make an odd appearance from time to time; the two series really have nothing to do with each other. With Please Teacher being a sci-fi comedy series and Please Twins being more along the lines of a harem comedy. Although that isn't really the case either though at first glance it appears to be so.

The plot is set about a year after the conclusion of Please Teacher when an orphan by the name of Maiku Kamishiro who has only a single picture of himself as a child with a girl whom he believes may be his twin sister moves into the empty house from the picture in hopes of finding her. Only to shortly thereafter have two girls, Mina and Karen also appear on his doorstep with the same picture and both believing him to be their brother. So naturally they both move in! But which one is his sister and which one may be a romantic future interest? That's the gist of the plot.

So it's not really a harem comedy at all as firstly there are only two girls and secondly, it's more really along the lines of a sweet and romantic comedy as the three principle characters must come to terms with their growing love and affection for one another. While all the usual anime clichés, high school hijinks and misunderstandings abound.

Originally released by Bandai as four singles back in 2006 and then a box set; it has now been license rescued by Rightstuf (who have also license rescued Please Teacher) with the same original Bandai dub and sub and the same 2.0 audio tracks. The only difference being that Rightstuf have reduced the DVD count from 4 to 3.

Overall I found it a very sweet and endearing little series. But for those who liked the more sci-fi oriented Please Teacher; I can see where they might be disappointed. But for romantic comedy lovers, I'd rate this cute little series 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Allison and Lillia: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-26)
Allison and Lillia: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-26)
Price: CDN$ 61.03
17 used & new from CDN$ 48.54

3.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful looking but rather predictable action/adventure series!, July 30 2015
Allison and Lillia is a two part series that originally came out back in 2008 and was released here by Sentai in 2011 under the headings Generation 1 and Generation 2. It's a typical action/adventure series set in a world with two major powers that have been in a low level war for over a hundred years. Technology wise about the mid 1920's to 30's. So you have steam engines, bi-planes and the first generation of monoplanes and 30's style trucks and cars, radios and Dial Phones, nothing more elaborate than that.

It's rather a simplistic series that as I watched, it reminded me of the various serials and comics of the late 40's to early 50's. You know stuff like Boys Own, Terry and the Pirates or the weekly serial before the kid's matinee movie. It has a really similar vibe.

So the first part (Generation 1) starts out with the main characters Allison and her long suffering friend Will taking off on yet another adventure. Which will eventually add two other main characters to the mix and consists of three story arcs. Each pretty much like the others in that you have two teens stumbling into a conspiracy that has to be uncovered and the dastardly evildoers stopped. As I said very similar to the type of kids action/adventure storylines I read and looked at back in the 50's!

The second part (Generation 2) is similar only it's set fifteen years later with the kids of our four previous main characters in the starring roles, namely Lillia and Trieze. While slightly more interesting than the first part especially seeing the old characters now as adults and parents. It's still pretty much more of the same. Three main story arcs, plots and villains to foil, etc. etc. The animation is top notch as are the flying scenes but the storylines are very predictable, the actions and resolutions not always very creditable and I could see most major plot developments from about two episodes away. But it does look good!

So overall I can't really give this series more than about 3 to 3-1/2 stars. While it does have some novel plot twists and a good ending. It's still just too predictable and same so, same so for me. Sentai must have felt similar as they never bothered to dub it and the only extras are Op's, Ed's and Trailers.

J. A.

Vampire Hunter D [Blu-ray]
Vampire Hunter D [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 28.03

3.0 out of 5 stars A very old school classic returns - But don't expect miracles!, July 29 2015
Vampire Hunter D is a REAL old school classic of Japanese anime! By that I mean before the advent of widescreen (it's in 4x3 full frame only); before the advent of surround sound and without the budget of high quality animation that wouldn't arrive until Akira, Nausicaa or the Patlabors arrived on our shores. This is old school more along the lines of The Castle of Cagliostro or Venus Wars. So don't go by the beautiful graphics on the cover page; instead check out the screen shots on the reverse side especially the main heroine in the upper right corner. That's as good as the movie gets.

It's also old school anime of the time with tons of gratuitous gore, waaaay over the top monsters and demons galore and quite cheesy at times. But it's also got great atmosphere and is one of the very best examples of old school anime movies of the 70's and 80's which were made with low budgets, no concerns for political correctness and great enthusiasm for cutting off heads!

As for the plot, E.A. Solinas has pretty much nailed it; so I won't repeat it here. It's old school with tons of atmosphere and at times a really silly plot like he has a left hand with a talking face on it. No I'm not making this up! But it does have it's own dark charms. However those who claim it's as good as a Ghost in the Shell or an Akira? No it's most definitely not. It's an old school classic so don't expect more.

As for those of us who have seen or own the original Urban Vision release; please note that the original English dub has been replaced with a newer Sentai dub. But this release is still in simple DTS-HD 2.0 audio to match the Japanese track. So don't expect miracles here either. However the original video has been remastered so be it the good, the bad or the ugly? It's now cleaned up and brighter and is as good as it's going to get!

As an example of very old school classics, I'd rate this movie a 4 for it's dark atmosphere and overall importance. But for animation quality and soundtrack, realistically it's only a 3. So that's how I'll rate it. Enjoy it for what it is and was. Just don't expect it to be another Akira.

J. A.

Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth
Price: CDN$ 44.09
17 used & new from CDN$ 40.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A sweet and gentle little series!, July 25 2015
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is one of those rarities in Japanese anime. There's no monsters to fight, no villain to vanquish, no fan service and it's not even set in Japan. Instead it's simply about a young Japanese teen or perhaps pre-teen (her age is never specifically mentioned) who arrives one day in Paris with the Grandfather of Claude, a young metalworker to learn Western ways. And of the inevitable culture clash that follows. It's as simple as that.

What really makes the show is Yune, the young Japanese girl who is without a doubt one of the cutest anime characters you're ever going to meet. And stays that way through the entire series. Oscar the Grandfather who just happened to pick her up in his travels. Claude the rather introverted angst ridden grandson trying to save the family business while dealing with this unexpected addition. Alice the rich girl from the adjoining neighbourhood who's crazy about everything Japanese and once she lays eyes on Yune is determined to make Yune her own! And her older sister Camille who has a hidden backstory with Claude when they were kids.

While there is an overarching story of the Shopping Galleria trying to survive the growing competition from Alice's family and Claude trying to overcome past memories. It's mainly just the growing interactions between Yune and Claude and the rivalry with Alice for Yunes' affection that's at the heart of the series. You're looking for tons of action, a fast paced plot or a definitive ending; then you've got the wrong series! It's just twelve episodes plus an OVA (episode 4.5) of sweet and gentle interactions. There are a lot of things such as the backstory between Claude and Camille, the future of the Galleria, etc. that do not get finished but it does have a good if not definitive finish. Think of it as the first chapter in an unfinished book.

The series is spread over 3 DVD's. Episodes 1 to 5 plus OVA on the first, 6 to 10 on the second, 11 to 12 plus extras on the third. Extras include six picture dramas of about 2 to 3 min. apiece which are simple pieces on Yune's Kimonos, Parisian backgrounds, Promos, etc. Another half dozen so-called Special Movies each 6 to 7 min. in length which are also simple pieces on Japanese culture, cuisine, etc. Four radio dramas of about half an hour each with the various voice actors and a video which is an 8 min. promo piece. Plus various other Japanese promos, Sentai trailers and clean Op's and Ed's.

The bonus CD is just a short 20 min. piece with ten solo and duo background tracks using mostly guitar, violin, oboe and piano. Unfortunately the main opening and closing orchestral themes and all of the song tracks which are the best parts of the series are missing! So that's a bit of a disappointment. Though it might make a good de-stressor or putting a fidgety baby to sleep.

If you'd like a sweet and gentle little animated series that's slow paced like a lazy summer afternoon relaxing under a big Oak tree? Or with the most uber cute little heroine you've ever seen? Then this series is a big 4 stars! If you want something more, then obviously it's less and I'd suggest you look elsewhere.

J. A.

The Book of Life / La Legende de Manolo [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] (Bilingual)
The Book of Life / La Legende de Manolo [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Diego Luna
Price: CDN$ 10.49
10 used & new from CDN$ 9.15

4.0 out of 5 stars Visually impressive, very colourful - here's the spec's you need to know!, July 18 2015
There's nothing subtle in either the presentation or the colour pallet of The Book of Life. Colours pop and characters are wildly depicted as basically blocks of wood. In fact I found this one of the more interesting facets of this movie that though it's CGI it's been designed to look like puppetry. So all the characters have jointed arms and blocky heads and it really works to make this all CGI movie look at times almost like a stop action one. It makes a nice change from normal CGI fare.

And while the Latino mythology is probably more understandable to a Hispanic audience than an English one. Everyone can relate to the overall theme of family (whether alive or dead) pulling together and the efforts of the three main protagonists to live up to family expectations while trying to chart their own course through life. Then add in a lively soundtrack, a good plot, some incredibly detailed and very colourful scenes in the land of the dead and a fast paced (if rather predictable) ending and it's 90 min. of action will go by lickety split.

As for this Blu ray release; we basically get a universal edition rather than just an American one. Included is an English 7.1 DTS-HD track, a French 5.1 DTS (no HD) track and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Quebecois French, Spanish and Portuguese. And at least a dozen different subtitle tracks with everything from Arabic to various European languages. Also please note that audio tracks can only be switched from the set up menu, not on the fly.

As for extras, the Bluray comes with a 3 min. short on Chuy (Maria's pig). Also 10 min documentaries on making the movie, another on the soundtracks and music and a third on the digital creation. All are quite interesting. There's also a feature called Music Machine that will play back any of the movies musical pieces (25 min if you play them all). Plus trailers, a short music video and 4 picture galleries of characters, background, concept and development art. I didn't bother checking out the accompanying DVD.

Overall I'd call it a good movie for both kids and their parents. Nothing really scary for the little ones and enough humour and unpredictability that it won't bore mommy and daddy either. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Aquarion: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Aquarion: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Not Available
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 35.09
18 used & new from CDN$ 27.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of Voltron, a dash of Vandred and a lot of EVA!, July 3 2015
Aquarion is yet another in a long, long line of Evangelion clones. Like EVA it revolves around young pilots fighting to save a decimated future world from huge mechanical Cherubim robots and their very strange Angelic masters. But also like Voltron, it also requires three advanced human mech's to combine to form their own giant Angel Aquarion. Though they take it a step further here by combining the three souls as well which depending on who takes the lead changes both the power and looks of Aquarion. In this regard it's quite similar to the Vandred space opera though a lot more serious and at times mildly orgiastic!

The plot is also quite similar to EVA. Unknown Shadow Angels have returned after 12,000 years to harvest humans for their own sustenance and every new Shadow Angel or it's Cherubim surrogate is stronger and different than the one before. Also like EVA the plot is convoluted, really weird at times, has plot holes you could drop a Cherubim through and some questions never get properly answered. Though unlike EVA they do have a proper if rather far out ending. Not exactly unusual for an EVA clone.

What saves Aquarion from being just another clone is some very good animation, even better fight sequences, some very nice character developments including the supporting cast and some very good musical accompaniment from Yoko Kanno. One of the best composers in Japan. At times the music is very haunting and beautiful!

As for this release, it's your typical Funi SAVE economy re-release. 26 episodes on 4 DVD's in one single sized case. The series is 16x9 widescreen and comes with an English 5.1 and Japanese stereo audio tracks. It looks and sounds fine.

Overall I've always considered Rahxephon to be the best of these EVA type storylines with EVA being number two. From there on it basically depends on the individual though I'd say that either Full Metal Panic or Gasaraski would be strong contenders for the number three slot. After that it's up to your own personal preferences. So for Aquarion I'd say about 3-1/2 to 4 stars out of 5 would be about right.

J. A.

Princess Jellyfish - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
Princess Jellyfish - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 21.97
19 used & new from CDN$ 21.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A cute and quirky little comedy!, June 20 2015
Princess Jellyfish at it's core is basically a love letter to the nerds and otaku of the world; primarily the female kind. And it's not out to turn them all into Swans or Butterflies; but simply to present them in the way they are. Something many of us can relate to and thoroughly enjoy! Though they will blossom a bit in time in their own special and unique ways.

So you have Tsukimi, the main female lead who could be pretty and attached if she tried; but instead is plain, timid and obsessed with Jellyfish. Chieko the building Manager who's obsessed with Kimonos and collects traditional Japanese dolls, Juon a Manga artist you never see, Mayaya who's completely into the Chinese Three Kingdoms period and tends to grate on your nerves, Jiji a quiet almost invisible girl who has an obsession with photographing older men and Banba who sports an Afro and is utterly into model trains! Living together in a small apartment building for unattached females only.

Then throw into the mix Kuranosuke, the second son of a rich political family who could have any girl he wants but instead prefers crossdressing, fashion and makeovers as a way to escape his family connections. And who decides to help them whether they want it or not! His straightlaced brother Shu, their chauffer who's in love with their BMW, the growing affections between Tsukimi and Kuranosuke and Shôko Inari a femme fatale out to demolish their apartment building for a new development and it becomes a truly cute and quirky little romantic comedy indeed!

The anime is only eleven episodes long and does have a proper ending; but at the same time the relationships between Tsukimi and Kuranosuke, plus Shu and Inari is never fully resolved so it could easily continue into a second season though one doesn't exist now.

The series is on two DVD's and is in a 16x9 widescreen with the English audio track being a DD 5.1, Japanese is stereo. Extra's consist of four separate 5 min. mini specials that are even more quirky than the series, five smaller mini's on each of the main female characters, an interview with the main Japanese actresses, a small guide to jellyfish and various promotional videos, trailers and clean Op's and Ed's. Like all the recent SAVE economy editions, there is a clean cover on the reverse side! (i.e.- no Green Banner).

It's not quite up to the level of a full sized series like The Wallflower or my own personal favourite Genshiken but it's a nice gentle little (though quirky) series non the less. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

The Cat Returns [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
The Cat Returns [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Anne Hathaway
Price: CDN$ 29.96
20 used & new from CDN$ 25.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Studio Ghibli film that virtually nobody knows!, June 17 2015
The Cat Returns is a bit of a mixed bag. While it comes from Studio Ghibli and has the usual high quality standards; it was not written or directed by Hayao Miyazaki himself but by one of Studio Ghibli's younger Directors Hiroyuki Morita and suffers as a result. While the animation is good, it's more simplistic than Miyazaki's own superb standards and the storyline while sufficient; never is able to quite capture that whimsical magic that Miyazaki himself is renowned for. While it's still a good little animated film (it's only 75 min. long); it's not a great animated film and I'd put it on about the same level as a Porco Rosso and a little better than a Pom Poko or a Tales from Earthsea.

The plot is pretty much as described. Haru saves the life of a cat that turns out to be a Prince of the Cat Kingdom and has to seek out the help of the mysterious Cat Bureau to prevent herself from turning into a cat not to mention being married off to the cat Prince! Along the way having all the usual action and complications you would expect from an animated movie. Not quite up to Miyazaki's standards, but still quite magical in it's own right.

As for this new bluray release, it's in a proper 1080P, 1.85:1 widescreen format but since the animation is simpler than on a movie like Spirited Away (which came out near the same time); it doesn't benefit as much from the bluray format. Still it's nice to see it on Bluray at last.

Audio tracks are also the same as on the previous DVD release though the English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks have been boosted to DTS-HDMA 5.1 on the Bluray. The French track remaining the same DD 5.1. mix. I didn't notice that much of a difference between the older and newer tracks.

Extras are also the same as on the previous DVD release. Behind the microphones for the English dub, original storyboards and a short Japanese documentary on the making of the movie plus Japanese theatrical trailers and some Disney trailers. That's about it.

It's a nice little family movie but not a great family movie. I'd give it about 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Spirited Away [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
Spirited Away [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Daveigh Chase
Price: CDN$ 29.96
17 used & new from CDN$ 29.96

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Studio Ghibli's best FINALLY comes out on BLURAY!, June 16 2015
While Hayao Miazaki's Princess Mononoke will always remain his true Masterpiece with it's incredibly complicated and adult storylines, My Neighbour Totoro his best children's film and Kiki's Delivery Service the best feel good family movie of all time........, it is without a doubt his Spirited Away that will always remain one of Studio Ghibli's finest and most intricately detailed animated movies! From the richly detailed gardens to the incredibly complex spirit domain and it's bathouse through to the rich tapestry of the Witch Yubaba's apartments; this film just screams quality. I remember at the time it came out that Roger Ebert just raved over it's animation and when I finally saw it for myself; I was blown away as well! So it's wonderful that this movie is finally getting a proper Bluray release!

The plot is both simple and complex at the same time. as it's based around a ten year old girl named Chihiro who gets pulled into the spirit realm. Here she has to pluck up her courage, save her parents and survive in this strange alternate spirit world of ghosts, demons and other mystical creatures right out of Japanese folklore. It's just a wondrous realm to explore. If you've ever seen any of Miyazaki's previous movies; you'll recognize elements taken from all of them. From a plucky heroine, cute soot bunnies, strange creatures and wondrous plot twists. It's got it all. I even recognised bits and pieces of soundtracks from Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke thrown in as well. So it's no wonder it received the Academy award for best Animated Film and became Japan's number one ranked movie of all time beating out Titanic. A record I believe it still holds to this day.

As for this Bluray, it's similar to previous Disney Combo re-releases of Studio Ghibli titles. The Bluray being a full 1080P, 1.85:1 widescreen with the English and Japanese tracks being bumped up to full 5.1 DTS-HDMA from the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and the French track being bumped up from a DD 2.0 to a DD 5.1 track. And yes before you ask, it's definitely worth the upgrade if you really want to see all the fine detail in Yubaba's apartments or the bath house.

As for the extras, they're identical to the original DVD release. They consist of a special introduction by Pixar's John Lasseter (a big fan), short documentaries on the art of Spirited Away, the making of the movie, storyboard and scene comparisons, making of the English dub and Japanese theatrical trailers. Nothing extra has been added that I could see.

I consider Spirited Away to be one of the top titles of Studio Ghibli being bested only by Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki's masterpiece) and Kiki's Delivery Service (the best family movie ever made). It's a wonderful family movie and I'm delighted that I now finally have it on Bluray. Definitely worth upgrading and definitely 5 stars out of 5!

J. A.

Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-39)
Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-39)
Price: CDN$ 76.99
12 used & new from CDN$ 49.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Fan Service meets ancient Chinese legends!, June 15 2015
Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection is basically the three separate season sets of Koihime Muso gathered together in one complete set. It consists of the 1st season set Koihime Muso: Complete Collection (12 ep. plus an OVA), the 2nd season set Shin Koihime Muso: Complete Collection (12 ep. plus an OVA) and the 3rd season set Shin Koihime Muso: Otome Tairan (12 ep. plus an OVA). 39 episodes on six discs in a compact stackpak (1 spindle holding all 6 discs) case. And is otherwise identical to the original season sets being sub only and a simple stereo track.

As for the series itself, while it's based on The Three Kingdoms era of Chinese legend, the peasants and soldiers dress and look like the real deal and all the main characters are named after real (mostly) characters of that era. That's about as close to reality as it gets. As the girls (they're all girls) dress like a combination of Japanese school girls and idol singers and the plots are basically just excuses for lots of sword swinging, fan service, light yuri and fantasy. If it was sci-fi I'd call it a space opera but since this is fantasy; I guess I'll call it a fantasy opera instead. It's all about lots and lots of cute half naked girls!

Each of the three season sets is pretty much self contained and since this is basically a road type series there really is no definite ending. They could simply add more season sets if they wished. It's fun and lively with a decent amount of action but it's not going to compete with the likes of a Bleach or a Naruto. Overall I'd rate each set at about 3 to 3-1/2 stars. They're okay but you can live without them. It's up to you to decide if the sub only complete collection is worth the price.

J. A.

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