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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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He Is My Master
He Is My Master
DVD ~ Ai Shimizu
Price: CDN$ 29.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Yet another Maid Harem Comedy!, Nov. 29 2015
This review is from: He Is My Master (DVD)
This is a reissue of the previous boxset from 2009 in a more economical "Sentai Selects" format. Just like Funimations SAVE reissues; this means a simple single sized case, multiple disc format and a reversible cover. The sub only 2.0 audio, 16x9 video and extras are identical from the previous edition.

As for the series itself; it's a typical harem comedy with a ton of fan service hiding under a maid persona. However unlike most maid anime, it never really manages to engage you that much in the storyline or rises to more than a simple comedy. It has all the elements that should have made it a top notch comedy. Girls running away from home to save their pet alligator. Rich boy agreeing to hire them as maids if they'll wear all his fetish dream clothes? Tons of fan service and yet........

There's nothing I can really put my finger on that says there's anything particularly wrong with the series. Simply the fact that I never had any desire to watch more than one episode at a time and if a few weeks went by between them that was fine as well. Know what I mean? In other words, in the end it just became yet another in a long line of harem/maid anime series that has been done better somewhere else.

Overall, I give it 3 stars out of 5. It's okay but could have been a whole lot better.

J. A.

Night on the Galactic Railroad [Import]
Night on the Galactic Railroad [Import]
Price: CDN$ 33.16
13 used & new from CDN$ 19.25

4.0 out of 5 stars A touching tale of love and loss based on a pre World War II fantasy novel!, Nov. 10 2015
Ginga Tetsud' no Yoru (Night on the Galactic Railroad) is a very popular Japanese children's fantasy novel from the late 1920's that was subsequently made into an animated film in 1985. It was then licensed by Central Park Media, dubbed with Veronica Taylor and Crispin Freeman in the title roles and released on DVD in 2001. Out of print for years, it has now been license rescued by Discotek (Eastern Star) and will be re-released here with both the English CPM dub and the original Japanese audio track. It is 105 min. in duration and is in a semi-widescreen 1.66:1 video format (the way it was made) with a stereo soundtrack. It is rated for All Ages.

As for the movie itself, it is not your typical anime movie. Filled with tons of symbolism both Japanese and Western. It's more about simple tales of love and loss, happiness and sorrow, self-sacrifice and coming to terms with death itself! It's not a tale for those looking for lots of action and daring do.

Instead it is centered around a young cat (in the novel all the characters were human) bullied and ridiculed who has only one true friend. Whom one night find themselves whisked off on a magical train that may possibly be headed to the afterlife? And who along the way see, pick up and discharge a number of very interesting characters. Spoilers prevent me from saying anything more about this.

It's also a very slow paced film with simple but beautiful animation. Almost like an art house film at times. It's definitely not aimed at the action crowd. Darker and quieter the closest thing I can think of in a western animated movie would probably be "The Last Unicorn!" It's that type of film.

Recommended if you like a deeper, quieter, gentler type of film. Not recommended if you want a typical good guy/bad guy action story. But for those who are into this kind of film, 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Digimon Collection - Seasons 1-4
Digimon Collection - Seasons 1-4
Price: CDN$ 148.92
23 used & new from CDN$ 139.51

4.0 out of 5 stars The original 4Kids season sets in a light cardboard sleeve!, Oct. 22 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Digimon is a long running animated series from Japan along the lines of Pokémon, Yugioh and other similar kid's series. Although at times, it can get pretty dark and serious. Which is why for a kid's series; it garnered a considerable adult following and is definitely considered better than Pokémon. It was dubbed and cut for North American viewing and ran in various time slots through the early to late 2000's.

The first couple of seasons were simply called Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02 and were the lightest and most kiddie of the entire franchise. Though I should point out that kid friendly in Japan is more adult oriented than in North America and there were some really strong heart-breaking moments in the final episodes of these first two seasons.

However, where Digimon really became interesting and grabbed my attention was in the third season called Digimon Tamers which took a much more realistic and serious approach to it's storytelling where characters could and did die and both Tamers and their Digimon were much more complex. Of all the Digimon seasons, this was for me by far the best one.

It then changed tracks once again and went on to a season four collection called Digimon Frontier and once again became a little more lighter (at least in my opinion) and kid oriented though as I've already pointed out, that's a relative thing. I'd slot it in between Tamers and the first two seasons in complexity and plot. And this is where the original 4Kids/Fox and YTV broadcast versions came to an end. So it is simply the original North American dubbed Season One through Season Four sets put into a light cardboard slipcover that makes up this collection. Nothing new is added to the original 4 season sets other than a single 20x30 poster.

As for each of the individual season sets; each comes in it's own single case with 8 DVD's and a coloured booklet. Season One consisting of 54 episodes with a 36 page booklet. Season Two of 50 episodes with a 32 page booklet. Season Three (Tamers) of 51 episodes with a 32 page booklet. And Season Four (Frontier) of 50 episodes with a 24 page booklet. However, the booklets are not that useful since they consist of nothing more than pictures and descriptions of the various characters, their Digimon and all their various evolutions. Nothing on the storylines or episodes or anything else. Even a listing of the various episodes or even their titles would have been nice (only on the discs themselves which doesn't really help much) but no. Nothing more.

Audio is the original English dubbed stereo pro-logic. (Though the back channels do get a little workout during evolutions so it's not too bad.) Menu is simple, "Play All" which goes from one episode to the next or "Episodes" which plays only the selected episode and then reverts back to the menu. Even the chapter skips are simply where the original 4Kids commercial breaks were. Which can be aggravating as the first commercial breaks were always 1 to 2 minutes into the episode. So if you wish to skip the opening animation you'll have to fast forward instead or lose the beginning of each episode! Annoying.

If you've already acquired any of the individual season sets, there's no point in picking up this collection unless it's the cheaper way to go. Ditto if all you want is the more adult oriented Seasons Three and Four. But if you haven't or you want all four of the original season sets. Then it's as good a way to acquire them as individually. Especially if you wait for a sale.

Season One and Season Two are more kid oriented. I'd rate them about 3 to 3-1/2 stars. Season Three (Tamers) is definitely a step up and more suitable for both kids and adults. I'd rate it a strong 4 to 4-1/2 stars. Season Four being in between around 3-1/2 to 4 stars. Lets say 3-1/2 to 4 stars for the overall collection.

J. A.

P.S. - Please note that since the original 4Kids Season sets 1 to 4 came out. A few years later a dubbed version of the fifth season called Digimon Data Squad appeared which once again became a little more dark and serious as it was aimed at the children who had grown up with Digimon and were now in their late teens. I only saw a few scattered episodes here and there over the years so I won't comment any further on it.

In addition a Sixth Season (Digimon Fusion) came out just recently and will consist of three season sets. Once again I haven't seen any so I won't comment further.

Dears Complete Series [Import]
Dears Complete Series [Import]
Price: CDN$ 53.03
21 used & new from CDN$ 34.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An older harem anime originally from Geneon!, Sept. 22 2015
DearS is another one of those older Geneon properties that has been license rescued and re-issued by Discotek (Eastern Star). And like most older properties it comes in a standard 4x3 full frame format with the original Japanese and Geneon English stereo dubs. The 13 episode collection is in a simple two disc DVD case with 6 episodes on the first disc and 7 episodes on the second. There are no extras.

As for the series itself, it's your typical sci-fi action harem comedy. Though it tends to take itself more seriously than most and I found the comedy a bit lacking. An alien ship crash landed in Tokyo Bay a year before and now the alien DearS are slowly being introduced to Japanese society through homeschool programs. And of course our hero (though he's pretty much a jerk most of the time) finds an extra DearS that doesn't quite fit in! Who immediately calls him Master! Think Chobits or any other harem/maid anime though it's not quite as good.

It's an okay series but I never could really warm up to it. The main character Takeya can just drive you crazy and too many plot points and characters never really got properly developed. It was also pretty obvious that they intended at least another 13 episodes which never materialized. So it just kinda peters out in the end.

Overall it's okay but don't expect a Tenchi Muyo or Ai Yori Aoshi here. I give it about 3 to 3-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust Movie [Blu-ray] [Import]
Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust Movie [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 39.70
18 used & new from CDN$ 26.16

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't confuse this with the original Vampire Hunter D movie!, Sept. 15 2015
The first thing you should know is that there are TWO different Vampire Hunter D movies! The original movie made way back in the 80's which I've already done a review on - Vampire Hunter D [Blu-ray] And this newer remake (Bloodlust) done a couple of decades later.

The original movie was real old school with animation to match. That meant old style OVA quality animation, a 4x3 full frame and simple stereo (actually mono) sound. It also meant waaaay over the top exaggerated monsters, tons of gratuitious violence and was quite cheesy at times. I gave it 3 stars out of 5. For more on the original, read my review from the link above.

Anyhoo, about 16 years later, they decided to redo it as a real modern movie which was subsequently released here by Urban Vision in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 English only dub. I haven't seen this new Bluray release yet but from what's been reported on the forums, it appears to be an upscaled version of the original DVD release. So don't expect miracles here.

Now for the good points. Bloodlust is just a gorgeous movie to view with deep rich animation and some really far out combinations of gothic horror combined with a sci-fi twist. While I wish they could have gotten a newer master; It's still a beauty to behold. In addition unlike the old movie; the characters are much more fleshed out with real character flaws and motivations. This isn't simply a white hats versus black hats horror bash. But more of an everybody's a grey hat with agendas to match! Even the main villain isn't always what you would expect!

Overall, I'd rate it 4 stars for the animation, 3 stars for the video and 4 stars for the plot. 3-1/2 to 4 stars overall. Recommended if you're into gothic horror and demons. And you don't mind the at times far out plot.

J. A.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series
Price: CDN$ 33.88
2 used & new from CDN$ 33.88

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best animated series returns in a new complete package!, Sept. 13 2015
For those who have never seen it or even heard of it. Avatar is quite simply an American animated series that those of us who are heavily into animation consider quite possibly the best Western animated series ever made! Period! Like the very best of Japanese anime; it's a damn near perfect blend of sci-fi action coupled with perfect comedic timing.

Originally coming out from Nickelodeon between 2005 to 2008. It's a three season series of 61 episodes which were subsequently compiled into three fancy digipak season sets called Book 1: Water, Book 2: Earth and Book 3: Fire. Each season set comprising 4 (5 for Book 1) DVD's plus a bonus extras DVD. 16 DVD's for the entire series.

I haven't been able to discern yet if this new master collection of all three sets will still be in digipak form but since new artwork has been commissioned for the individual books....... I suspect it will probably be a simpler three case collection repackaged together. For the price it looks like a really, really good deal if you haven't already acquired it!

As for the series itself? Suffice to say it's still as good as when I first acquired it. Being based around a mythical world which is basically divided into four nations each specialists in one of the four elements. Earth, Water, Air and Fire and in which many of the citizens called Benders can manipulate that element for their own or their countries use. So Water Benders can pull water or freeze it solid, Earth Benders can fling bolders or pull up walls of earth and Fire benders can shoot fire. While overall there is one and only one Master Bender called the Avatar to keep things in balance.

What makes the series so incredibly good is it's depths of character development and the world itself! There's a ton of characters, backstories and each and every nation has it's own unique flavour and culture. Then throw in the proverbial snake in the garden in the form of a Fire Nation that has gone rogue, adult themes on everything from racism to power that corrupts and this is one series that never gets stale or predictable. You just never know what they're going to do next. With a unique opening and a very powerful ending, it is and was an almost perfect series. And spawned off a sequel series called "Legends of Korra" which is equally as good. These writers know what they're doing.

If you haven't seen this complete series yet and you like high quality animated series; then this is your chance to get one of the very best for less money than other series of half it's quality. If you already have the series sets? Then there's probably no major reason to upgrade as this is still just the same 16 DVD's as the original book sets. Just in a more compact and economical form. Now if it had been upgraded to a Bluray format; it might be another story...........

Highly recommended if you don't already have it. 5 big stars out of 5.

J. A.

Full Metal Panic! - Fumoffu - Classic [Blu-ray + DVD]
Full Metal Panic! - Fumoffu - Classic [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ not applicable
Price: CDN$ 34.98
19 used & new from CDN$ 30.20

4.0 out of 5 stars A very funny spinoff of the original Full Metal Panic!, Sept. 11 2015
Firstly I should point out that this is not really a sequel (or second season) to the original Full Metal Panic (one of the better sci-fi action series out there)! But instead is a comedy driven spin-off. Like FMP it was originally available from ADV back in the early 2000's and subsequently license rescued and re-released by Funimation in 2010 in both a 2 disc DVD collection and a 2 disc Bluray collection. This newest release on Funi's Anime Classics label being simply the previous DVD and BD collections packaged as a Combo collection at a lower price than either of them singly! If you loved the original FMP or comedies in general; then this is well worth acquiring.

If you're not familiar with the original Full Metal Panic Full Metal Panic! - The Complete Series - Classic [Blu-ray + DVD] ? It is one of the better Mech sci-fi action/comedy series out there being about a high school girl who ends up with a young mercenary soldier as both her bodyguard and eventually boyfriend. Who is as inept at being a teen student as he is superb at being a soldier. The series being an almost perfect blend of both serious action and comedy. So good in fact that they decided to do a spin-off.

As a result, this 12 episode spinoff ditches most of the Mech and battle action and simply concentrates on the day to day actions surrounding our fish out of water and his exasperated protectee. It is extremely funny. While it helps to have seen the original FMP first. (And I'd recommend you do if possible; it's a great series.) You don't really need to have seen the original as Fumoffu can stand on it's own as a simple little comedy series. And as such I'd give it 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Full Metal Panic! - The Complete Series - Classic [Blu-ray + DVD]
Full Metal Panic! - The Complete Series - Classic [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ not applicable
Price: CDN$ 38.68
19 used & new from CDN$ 34.29

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of the classic Mech Series returns!, Sept. 11 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Full Metal Panic is one of the very best of the older Sci-Fi Giant Mech action/comedy series out there. Originally released by ADV as 7 singles back in the early 2000's and then re-released as a 7 disc thinpak collection in 2004. I considered it at the time as one of the better ADV Giant Mech series out there and I still do!

It was then subsequently license rescued and re-released yet again by Funimation back in 2010 as a 4 disc DVD collection and a separate upscaled 3 disc Bluray edition. This newest re-release therefore is basically a 7 disc Combo collection of the two older Funi releases packaged together under their Anime Legends budget label. This new edition actually being cheaper than either of the two separate releases and half the price I paid for my original ADV DVD thinpak collection! Making it a very good deal indeed for a full 24 episode series!

The plot is quite simple really. MITHRIL a secret Mercenary organization discovers that a schoolgirl by the name of Kaname Chidori may be one of the Whispered. A very rare and special group of individuals who have the ability to think and use tactical and strategic possibilities (here called Black technology) that others can't and terrorist organizations intend to grab her. So they assign their best agent, a young man by the name of Sagara Sosuke to infiltrate her school to protect her! You can pretty much figure out the plot from there!

What makes it so good is it's an almost perfect blend of action and comedy especially at the beginning. The Mech and battle action is first rate and the fact Sagara grew up on the battlefield and knows absolutely nothing about normal society and how to interact with other teens his age makes him the absolute perfect fish out of water. You'll be laughing your head off in one episode and then the next episode could be deadly serious. It's that type of show. The only downside to the series being for me in this first season is that the main villain is one of those characters that never really gets killed off no matter what you do to him and keeps reappearing like a bad penny. Though in all fairness he is a pretty damn good villain. Still......... it can get a little exasperating.

Please note that being an older series it's in the standard 4x3 format. With the original DVD Japanese Stereo bumped up to a Dolby True HD 2.0 on the Bluray and the English from a DD 5.1 to a Dolby True HD 5.1 track. But since both the HD video and the 5.1 audio are both conversions from the original Japanese SD and Stereo; don't expect a dramatic improvement. I found the Funimation DVD's to be pretty much identical to my older ADV set. While the BluRays did improve on the video a bit and I found the audio a bit richer as well.

As for this newest Combo release; it's in Funimations standard Blu Ray multi-disc case that they're pretty much using for every combo release now. It's a nice compact case with inner flippers and a slip cover. And has a reversible cover with inner artwork that doesn't duplicate the front outer/slip cover artwork. And a back with a simple listing of all the discs and the episodes they contain. I really liked this and immediately flipped it over to the front.

As for the rest; there are four DVDs with six episodes per DVD and three BDs with eight episodes per disc. Seven discs in all. But the Funimation release lacks the older ADV animated production galleries that were on each of ADVs seven original DVDs. So that's a bit of a loss. But on the other hand they do have an interview with the original author and the anime producers. Plus it's a Blu Ray and it only takes up about a third of the space of the older ADV set! So if you have the original ADV DVD collection; it's up to you to decide if you feel it's worth upgrading? But if you don't; then this is definitely the one to buy!

Overall, if you like Giant Mech series; this first season set is definitely a keeper. I'd rate it 4-1/2 stars out of 5. While the second season (Second Raid) I'd rate about 3-1/2 to 4 stars. (It's considered a little weaker.) And the Fumoffu spinoff is a heckuva fine 4 to 4-1/2 star comedy as well.

J. A.

Simoun: Endless Melody Collection (Animeworks Classic)
Simoun: Endless Melody Collection (Animeworks Classic)
DVD ~ Mediablasters
Price: CDN$ 19.99
7 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A great little sci-fi space opera!, Sept. 6 2015
Simoun is another one of those little jewels that never got the attention it deserved. There's probably a couple of reasons for this. Firstly because it came from Media Blasters which tends to specialize mostly in smaller and more niche anime productions. And secondly because it never got dubbed. (Amazon's dub listing is incorrect!) But mostly because it got marketed under a Yuri label which really, really is a misnomer. As it's not really about Yuri and fan service at all. But instead is simply a beautifully looking, high quality sci-fi action series that just happens to be on a planet in which all the children are born female and choose their own sex when they grow up! The series could just as easily have been done with mixed sex couples piloting the Simoun and would have been just the same. So don't let the Yuri label throw you off. It's actually just a great little sci-fi space opera.

The animation from Studio Deen is first rate and the designs are very unique. From the enemy flying craft all black and spindly, their ship the Arcus Primo which has a real retro 30's art nouveau feel to it and the Simouns themselves. Which consist of two big spinning helical rotors with twin cockpits which require both crew to be in perfect sync. The action is right from the get go and as the series progresses you just never know what surprise they're going to throw at you next. Like the better anime series out there; it's never a battle of the week style; but continuing surprises and powerful moments as these young girls have to deal with a war and casualties that they never wanted!

It's not perfect of course. Media Blasters couldn't afford to dub it so if you don't like subs that could be a turnoff. And it is deadly serious and slow at times so if you're looking for a fan service heavy series or some lighter moments you won't find it here. And some things like why only females are born or why entering the waters of the Spring chooses one sex is never really fully explained.

But if you can get over that. Then like the best anime out there; it will stay true to the rules of it's universe and give you a very interesting voyage. And though it does have some EVA like moments in the last few episodes; it also has a proper ending and even an epiloque. Though like the ending of any war; not everyone will live happily ever after. Overall though, the series turned out to be a lot better than I expected.

Highly recommended if you like more serious sci-fi action series. And you don't mind a quiet leisurely ending. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Initial D - Stage 4 S.A.V.E.
Initial D - Stage 4 S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.82
27 used & new from CDN$ 25.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as the First Stage!, Sept. 2 2015
This review is from: Initial D - Stage 4 S.A.V.E. (DVD)
The 4th Season Set (which they call Stages) of Initial D goes back to it's First Stage roots being a true 24 episode series and as a result; it improves considerably over the 2nd and 3 stages of the previous set. Which consisted of a 2nd Stage 13 episode set which was a bit angsty at times and which I would rate at about 4 stars. Followed by a 3rd Stage set which had been turned into a movie and suffered accordingly feeling a bit rushed, stuffed and underwhelming and which I rated about 3 stars out of 5. So it's good to see the series return to it's regular roots.

Like the previous 3rd Stage movie, this 4th Stage set is also in a 16x9 widescreen format unlike the 4x3 formats of the previous 1st and 2nd Stages. And like the 16x9 movie; suffers the same problem in that it's NOT an anamorphic widescreen which means that it's window boxed (black bars on all 4 sides) on a normal widescreen TV. (It's not Funimations fault; that's how the Japanese did it.) This was not a problem for me as my LG Bluray player allowed me to zoom in to 126% to fill my screen but of course you may not have that luxury. And zooming in 126% means 26% lower resolution.

Having said that though, everything else is a plus. Like the first Season; it's back to the basics of multi episode fights against increasingly tough opponents and even better they concentrate almost as much on Takumi's Initial D racing partner Keisuke as Takumi himself which is also a nice change of pace. Otherwise it's pretty much same so, same so like the first season.

I still like the first season best of all. It was fresh and it was fun seeing experienced street racers go down to defeat at the hands of this unknown. Now it's more a given and like long road stories; it simply stops with the knowledge that there's lots more to come. So close to the first stage, but no cigar.

Recommended if you loved the First Stage. But if you haven't seen any of Initial D? Start with the First Stage first. Then decide if you wish to continue. So I'll give this 4th Stage 4 to 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

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