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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)
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Big Windup: Complete Season One (S.A.V.E.)
Big Windup: Complete Season One (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Greg Ayres
Price: CDN$ 31.51
20 used & new from CDN$ 21.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A sports anime that really is all about the sport!, July 17 2014
I was tempted to start this review off by calling Big Windup yet another typical sports anime but then realized that in actual fact it is not! That is because most sports anime either tend to over dramatize the sport where the trials and tribulations off of the field (Princess Nine) are just as important as on the field; or they have to overcome ridiculous evil schemes and opponents (Dan Doh) that simply wouldn't happen in a real game or it's simply a very, very funny comedy (Bamboo Blade) that happens to involve a sport.

None of this really applies to Big Windup which with one exception is really, really about the game and the players, nothing more. Except at the beginning where the team is coming together; there's very little about their off the field lives. No fan service, no evil villains and actually very little comedy. In that respect it reminds me a lot of "Initial D" (a simple series about drift racing) that consists of characters who could really exist down at your local school!

The one exception to this ironically is the main character Mihoshi their pitcher. Who is soooooo timid and traumatized that he gives a whole other meaning to the word wuss! It's way over the top and sadly never really gets all that better. Nobody not even somebody as shy as myself is that flaky and still be alive! However if you can get past this; all the other major characters are actually quite normal and not the usual over-the-top anime stereotypes and it soon becomes apparent that the real main character in this show is his catcher Abe and his efforts to bring Mihoshi out of his shell while building a really cohesive team!

And this is where the show excels as a real down to earth sports anime. For it's quite apparent that this was written for baseball fans by baseball fans and unless you are a hardcore baseball player; you will learn more about baseball than you ever imagined. From the various strategizing that both coaches and players do on a continuous basis right through to just how important the role of the catcher is; which I had no idea about. It's also a great insight into why the Japanese have so taken to this Western sport as it's all about the group dynamics and it's fascinating to see in great detail just what goes on in the stands at a typical Japanese school baseball game!

Of course, this is also where some folk may find the series lacking as it progresses at about the same speed as a typical baseball game, i.e.- dead slow! So the first half-dozen episodes is mainly the intro and training of the team, the second half-dozen their first exhibition game against Mihoshi's old team and the last half of the series is simply one looooong baseball game. In which one or two innings can consume an entire episode. As I said it's a really serious look at the game.

So if you're looking for an action packed sports drama series like Princess Nine Princess Nine Complete Series [Import] (the best example of the breed) or a really rollicking comedy like Bamboo Blade Bamboo Blade: The Complete Series (S.A.V.E.) then this may disappoint you. On the other hand if you're a really serious baseball fan then you're probably going to love it. So I'm not sure how to rate this? For the former I'd probably rate it 3 stars. Like the original Dragon Ball Z it's just too drawn out. But for those who want to actually know more about the sport, it's definitely a 5. So I'll compromise and rate it a 4 although you'll probably rate it a 3 or a 5 depending on which camp you fall into.

Oh yes, one final note. This collection effectively ends at episode 24 with the end of the game. It's a good ending point there but if you want to see more, Funimation never bothered to license Season Two.

J. A.

Rozen Maiden Comp Collection
Rozen Maiden Comp Collection
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 39.58
17 used & new from CDN$ 30.38

4.0 out of 5 stars A story about living dolls that's not for children!, July 3 2014
This review is from: Rozen Maiden Comp Collection (DVD)
Sweet and funny, yet also powerful and sad!

Rozen Maiden is another series from the old Geneon stable. In two parts totalling 24 episodes; it originally came out in 2007 under the title "Rozen Maiden" followed a year later by the second part called "Rozen Maiden Traumend". These two series along with a follow-up 2 episode OVA have been license rescued and re-issued here in a complete collection. So what's it all about? In a nutshell, living dolls!

The first part basically revolves around a hermit like young man who has been so badly traumatized that he stays shut up in his room instead of going to school. Then one day a box arrives that contains the most beautiful doll he has ever seen and when he winds the key; Shinku comes alive! From there on for the next 12 episodes; it becomes an intriguing mix of mystery, action, comedy and more serious bits as we're slowly introduced to the Rozen Dolls and their destiny to participate in the Alice Game. And the awakening of this young man to friendships and courage that he didn't know he had! It's a sweet little tale that does have it's own proper ending.

The second part (Traumend) starts off similar to the first part. The remaining dolls are introduced, new characters are added and by the time it gets to the last half the tone of the series has gotten much more serious and dark. As now the dolls and their masters are going to be facing the Alice Game and the consequences will be real and tragic. As a result, it's not a tale for the young ones. The last three episodes are at times very moving!

While not perfect as the main character Jun is a bit too obnoxious at the beginning, some of the plotlines and character interactions too unbelievable, bits and pieces too convenient and it's left a little too open ended in case they wanted to do another sequel? This is more than compensated for by the dolls themselves which are the true stars with their own motivations, character interactions and dreams. So overall, it's a series I found quite charming and the ending quite satisfactory. This collection also contains the two episode OVA which is basically a prologue of their creation. So that's a nice bonus as well.

The closest things I can compare this to would be series like Princess Tutu, LaCorda d'Oro or perhaps the last couple of episodes of Petite Princess Yucie. Tales that can go from silly and fun to powerful and sad and back again. It's quite unique. Recommended for those who want something different that doesn't involve space aliens, fan service or magical girls. Overall, I rate this at four stars.

J. A.

Serial Experiments Lain: Complete Series (Anime Classics) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Serial Experiments Lain: Complete Series (Anime Classics) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Price: CDN$ 27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An absolute classic from the past but very dark and very creepy!, July 3 2014
Serial Experiments Lain is yet another classic from the old Pioneer/Geneon stable that has been license rescued and re-issued by Funimation. First in a premium BD/DVD Combo Box set back in 2012 and now once again in one of their more economy oriented "Anime Classics" collections in a simpler single case, multiple disc collection. The two Blurays and the two DVD's remain the same.

Though Lain is from the same artist who created Haibane Renmei: The Complete Series (Anime Classics) (also rescued by Funimation); the two series could not be any further apart. Where Haibane is full of wonder and light, Lain is dark and creepy. Both are weird, but Haibane is joyful weird whereas Lain is anything but! So don't pick this up if you expect another Haibane; you could be in for quite a shock!

At first it seems like a normal anime with a young school girl by the name of Lain, her parents and older sister but this soon changes when she receives an email from a classmate who recently committed suicide! But claims that she still lives on in the net which here is called "The Wired!" And then it really begins to get creepy! Slowly Lain gets sucked into the wired and begins to lose touch with the present. Or is it the other way around? What is reality? What is fiction? If this is beginning to sound a bit like The Matrix? Then I guess in a way it is!

The closest animes I can compare this series to would be Paranoia Agent, Perfect Blue and Texnolyze. It's that sort of series. It was made back in '98 when the internet was just really getting rolling so don't expect state-of-the-art animation. But it does blend elements of The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell and Cyberpunk all in one weird and very disturbing package! Is her life real or fiction? Is Lain God or delusional? What in heck is this story really about? Just 13 episodes of increasing weirdness very well done. I guess you could almost call it an art film. A very highly crafted one.

If you like this sort of series, dark and introspective, mysteries within mysteries, no clear plotlines or perhaps even an understandable ending? Then Serial Experiments Lain may very well be one of the best ever made and you should seriously consider it. It is a true classic! But if you like series with clear plotlines. lots of action and a clear ending, then you should steer clear of this!

Two stars for those into the likes of Dragonball Z or other action oriented series. Five stars for those into the likes of The Matrix and their ilk. Personally, I'd rate it a three since I'm not really into this sort of storytelling but I have to admit; it is very well done if confusing! So I'll compromise and rate it a four. Depending on your tastes, your rating will undoubtedly vary from one extreme to the other!

Highly recommended for those who like them dark and mysterious. Not recommended for those who don't!

His and Her Circumstances Collection (Anime Value) [Import]
His and Her Circumstances Collection (Anime Value) [Import]
DVD ~ Atsuko Enomoto
Price: CDN$ 42.92
16 used & new from CDN$ 27.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the best relationship series ever made!, July 1 2014
Kare Kano (called His and Her Circumstances in the English title) is an older anime series first released here by Rightstuff International back in 2001. Based on the first seven volumes of the Kare Kano manga; it revolves around the two main characters, Yukino Miyazawa and Arima Soichiro. It is a romantic comedy about two perfect students who in fact are anything but perfect. And the peeling away of their perfect facades and the growing dependence on each other are at the core of this anime series. It is wonderful to behold and even today can still hold it's own as one of the best relationship series out there! It's a series I would happily have given 5 stars to if it hadn't had some flaws.

So why is it so good? It's a combination of things. The rivalry of the perfect appearing principals as contrasted to their real inner selves. The beginning of the series as seen through the eyes of Yukino's younger sisters. (Who also do all the next episode previews.) The introduction of another major character/rival on both sides every time the storyline gets stale. I could go on. It's a darn nice balanced series at least for the first half and that's where it disappoints for some people. In the second half of the series.

Firstly, the second half starts off with one and a half recap episodes (14 and half of 15). The sort of thing you'd expect in a 50 episode series, not a 26! Then gets even more quirky with various cut screens and static screens as it goes along culminating in episode 19 (the beginning of the last major story arc) being a complete episode comprised of nothing more than static screens and storyboard scenes! Whether this was because of budget constraints, creative differences or the whole staff was on LSD that week? You can decide for yourself. And then finally they threw in yet another recap at episode 24!

However, the real problem is that there was a falling out over creative differences between the anime director and the author so the series simply stops at episode 26. So what we end up with is one year in the life of Yukino, Arima and their friends. It's a shame it never got a proper ending but it's still well worth watching and owning. Especially for the first half.

The dub is exceptionally well done. The English actress for Yukino (the most important role) is spot on and Rightstuff did an exemplary job with all the subtitle streams which is very important as many scenes in this anime are very similar to the manga. It's first rate throughout.

Even without a proper ending, I still highly recommend this series. Five stars for the first half of the anime. Three stars for the second. Four stars overall.

J. A.

Nyan Koi!: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
Nyan Koi!: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Shintaro Asanuma
Price: CDN$ 59.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 39.40

4.0 out of 5 stars A simple little harem comedy with lots and lots of cats!, June 16 2014
Nyan Koi! is yet another in a long, long line of harem comedies. And as a comedy it's pretty good. The twist this time being that the main male character accidentally damages a cat god statue and as a result has to do one hundred good deeds for cat kind or be turned into a cat himself. Which since he is wildly allergic to cats, would mean his doom!

Where it becomes interesting though is that as the story goes along, it becomes much more of a romantic harem comedy and much less of a sci-fi/fantasy comedy. As he encounters first his secret crush who is crazy for cats, then his estranged childhood friend, a post-mistress with a terrible sense of direction, the daughter of the town's Head Yakuza boss and finally the twin daughters of the local shrine monk who have mystical powers and so his harem grows. Every new encounter bringing it's own romantic entanglement and a ton of comedy with some of the best lines and observations being made by well....., the cats!

As I said it's a pretty good harem comedy with the only major weakness being the ending as it becomes pretty clear in the last few episodes that it was intended to be a 24 ep. series but either never got a second season or never got licensed. So it just sorta peters out with a weak but acceptable ending.

Extras are minimal. Clean opening and closings and a few Sentai trailers, that's it. The series itself is in a 16x9 widescreen format and has a standard stereo track in both English and Japanese. Because of it's shortness and slightly weak ending, I'll give it an overall rating of between 3-1/2 to 4 stars.

J. A.

Monsters Vs. Aliens (Blu-Ray + DVD) (Bilingual)
Monsters Vs. Aliens (Blu-Ray + DVD) (Bilingual)
Price: CDN$ 11.97
14 used & new from CDN$ 8.48

5.0 out of 5 stars DreamWorks best animated movie since Shrek!, June 14 2014
DreamWorks has produced a lot of animated CGI movies over the last few years; of which three have always stood out above the rest. "Kung Fu Panda" which is a perfect parody of every kung-fu/fighting movie around, "Shrek" (the original) which was and is a perfect parody on every Disney type fantasy movie you can think of and "Monsters vs. Aliens" which is the perfect sci-fi/monster parody equivalent to Shrek. Why is this movie so good?

First of all because it literally has no parts that drag. Right from the very first frame right through to the very end; it's simply 90 min. of non-stop what's going to happen next action. But more importantly like Shrek did to the fantasy world; it never takes itself too seriously and lampoons virtually every sci-fi movie cliché you can think of. From nerdy scientists running around in panic, to the President trying to converse with an alien probe using the keyboard from Close Encounters; it hits all the right notes.

The plot is pretty simple. Susan a simple girl gets hit on her wedding day with an alien space rock and ends up as the incredible 50ft woman. Needless to say the wedding is off and she ends up confined by the U.S. government along with a mad scientist who turned himself into a cockroach, the missing link who just wants to have a good time with the ladies, a 300 foot Insectosaurus who just wants to be cuddled and B.O.B. a living gelatin who has a good heart but isn't the brightest blob in the universe! And when an alien probe soon to be followed by it's owner comes looking for the missing space rock; it's up to them to save the world. Plenty of non-stop action, a ton of comedy and a great surround sound track. It's a class act all the way.

Presented in a true widescreen 2.25:1 format, the Bluray has a 5.1 True HD English track plus Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. The DVD is similar with DD 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish plus an English Stereo Pro-logic track. The surround sound and bass are exemplary.

Personally, I think Monsters vs. Aliens is the best animated movie DreamWorks has ever made. Followed closely by Shrek. So if you like the original Shrek, I guarantee you'll like this one equally as well. 5 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Lost Universe Litebox [Import]
Lost Universe Litebox [Import]
Price: CDN$ 31.99
12 used & new from CDN$ 20.37

3.0 out of 5 stars Slayers in Space!, June 10 2014
Lost Universe is an old school space opera in the true sense of the word. And it is very similar in tone and style to the old school fantasy series "Slayers" which is hardly surprising as it's done by the very same folks. And like Slayers I find it best when it concentrates on the humour; less so when it tries to be all dark and angsty.

The entire series really revolves around the three main characters. Millie, an ex detective who's a crack shot but usually fails at everything else. Kain Blueriver, a trouble contractor (i.e.-bounty hunter) who goes around the universe putting things right. And Canal, the holographic A.I. of his ship "Swordbreaker." One of the legendary "Lost Ships" which were created by an unknown past race. And it's the typical interactions between these three that keep the series humming.

At the beginning it's pretty much what you would expect. Lot's of missions involving sword fights (laser swords of course), lots of misunderstandings and fights between Millie and Canal, the introduction of some recurring villains and of course, tons of Slayers type humour. It's not too bad. But eventually as the series goes on, it gets darker in tone and introduces the type of over the top "Oh my God it's Armageddon" type seriousness that would work in a more serious balanced series like a Gundam or an Eva but just seems out of place here. It also doesn't help that certain plot points never really get properly explained either. You're just supposed to accept them on faith. So your acceptance of or enjoyment of the series will really boil down to whether you can accept the change in style and the ending.

For those like myself who can't, it's about 3 stars. In other words, it's okay but nothing more. For those who can accept the change, it would probably rate about 4 stars. They'll find it emotionally satisfying. So you'll have to decide for yourself in which category you reside. As a compromise, I'll rate this 3-1/2. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary.

This is a reissue of the previous Rightstuff thinpak set from 2007 in a new budget litebox format. So that means it will be a 4:3 standard video with a simple stereo track in both sub and dub. As the English track varies a bit from the original Japanese track, you may want to check out both tracks to see which one you prefer. And extras are minimal, mostly character bios, liner notes and trailers.

J. A.

Samurai Bride - Complete Collection (Blu-Ray)
Samurai Bride - Complete Collection (Blu-Ray)
Price: CDN$ 62.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 62.98

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harem comedy and fan service up the Yazoo!, June 4 2014
Samurai Bride is the second season of a previously released Sentai series called "Samurai Girls." And if you're not familiar with it, you should probably acquire it first.

"Samurai Girls" which came out back in 2011 was basically one of those alternate timeline type series that the Japanese do so well. In this case being the fact that the Japanese Shogunate remained in power and Japan never lost the war against the U.S. as they were protected by Master Samurai who wouldn't you just know it; all happened to be incredibly well endowed voluptuous young females! In fact the opening scenes of the original Samurai Girls shows them bouncing from B-29 to B-29 slicing and dicing! It was that sort of ridiculous over the top series!

Anyway the plot for what it was worth at the time was that a gifted young male swordsman discovered that he could endow this legendary Master Samurai power on any Samurai girl merely by kissing her! Well......, you can pretty much figure out how the plot went from there. Lot's of fan service, slicing and dicing, a growing harem, the whole ball of wax. It never took itself seriously and went on like that for 12 episodes. I quite enjoyed it.

As for this second season, it's basically a continuation of the first. New more powerful opponents will appear, there will be lots more of semi nude and fully nude girls, the dojo will be turned into a maid café and he will have to upgrade one of his girls to the legendary Samurai Bride! Like the first season, it's all about the fan service, sword swinging and big boobs! Need I say more?

To sum up, I find the Samurai Girls/Bride series to be just a slight notch below Ikki-Tousen, Sekirei and Queen's Blade in overall quality. So where I'd give them 4 to 4-1/2 stars, I'd give this one 3-1/2 to 4. Recommended if you like those type of series, not recommended if you don't. But in any case, if you haven't seen the original Samurai Girls? Then I'd suggest you start there first.

J. A.

Kampfer - Complete Collection
Kampfer - Complete Collection
Price: CDN$ 44.09
18 used & new from CDN$ 28.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good fan service and comedy, but a very muddled plot!, June 2 2014
Kampfer is basically yet another fighting/harem comedy but with a yuri twist. In this case being that the male lead spends about two thirds of the series as a female which is perfectly all right with at least one of his growing harem. The plot for what it's worth has various school kids (all girls except for the lead who has to turn into a girl when fighting) turn into warriors who are then supposed to fight each other for no logical reason. It's basically as simple and stupid as that.

As a comedy with heavy does of fan service, it's pretty good. Especially the first half as the male lead keeps fluctuating between male and female. All the various clichés abound. But as a shonen fighting series it's much less successful as it never ever really makes any sort of logical sense at all even in it's own universe.

Some reviewers have compared it in quality to series like Ikki Tousen or Queen's Blade but that's not really true. While Queen's Blade definitely is silly plot wise and Ikki Tousen also has large doses of Yuri; once you accept the basic premise and rules of their worlds. They stay pretty true and logical to their basic premises. That's not the case with Kampfer which muddles along with plot holes big enough to drive a bus through, contradicts it's self on more than one occasion, has explanatory scenes that start and then never finish and looks like it was intended to be a 26 ep. series but they never completed it so there isn't even any proper ending. It just stops. It also doesn't help that the first half is better than the last half either. Frankly it looks like it was written by a committee with no one in charge!

So for the first half, I'd have to give it 4 stars for the humour and fan service. The parts where he has to transfer to the girl's half of the school are a lot of fun. But as a semi-logical fighting series it's a total mess and gets more ridiculous and illogical at the end. So I can only give it 2 stars for the ending if you can even call it that. So overall, 3 stars. It's okay but it could have been sooooo much better!

J. A.

P.S. - It does have a proper anamorphic 16x9 ratio. NOT the 1.33:1 ratio listed by Amazon.

La Corda D'Oro Primo: Passo Complete Collection
La Corda D'Oro Primo: Passo Complete Collection
Price: CDN$ 62.99
15 used & new from CDN$ 41.67

4.0 out of 5 stars A sweet and loving series for those who can appreciate it!, May 30 2014
First off I have to tell you that LaCorda d'Oro is not a series that everybody is going to appreciate. If you want lots of action, sci-fi, fan service or a heap of comedy; then you're not going to find this series that interesting. But if you think you might enjoy a light hearted look at the day to day life of classical music students and their efforts to improve their craft? If you love classical music and you just want something that doesn't involve aliens, half naked girls or villains intent on taking over the world? Then you may find this series as sweet and wonderful as I did.

The plot is simple. A new general studies student who deeply loves music but never had the chance to take it up is given a magical violin by the fairy of music and finds herself accidentally enrolled in the music schools top competition. And it's up to her to figure out how to become what she was always meant to be! While along the way proving that one single individual can have a profound effect not only on herself but all those who surround her. It's as simple as that.

In a lot of series this would be the excuse for lots of screwball comedy, fish out of water plot points and fan service. But that's not the case here as once you get over the fairy part you realize that there's not a lot of comedy and it's played straight and serious as is the music! Just 25 episodes of beautiful playing (the last episode is an epilogue) and character interactions all revolving around our main star. It's obvious that this series was written by and for serious music lovers and it shows!

If you like anime series like Initial D, Kaleido Star or Kanon. Then you might seriously want to check this series out. Or if your favourite movies include Studio Ghibli fare like Arrietty, Kiki's Delivery Service or Totoro. All series/movies that have no real villains and simply embrace life and living, then this series may just be down your alley. If on the other hand, DBZ and Code Geass are your favourites, then you should pass.

Highly recommended for those who like them sweet and simple. I just wish it had had a dub. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

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