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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Dance in the Vampire Bund: The Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
Dance in the Vampire Bund: The Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Aoi Yuuki
Price: CDN$ 22.97
17 used & new from CDN$ 22.97

4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing look at the Vampire Mythos in a new economy edition!, Feb. 4 2016
Dance in the Vampire Bund is quite an interesting series that originally came out from Funimation back in 2011 as a BD/DVD combo edition. It has now been reissued in Funi's budget priced SAVE edition as a DVD only collection. But everything else including the English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Japanese Stereo Pro-logic tracks remains the same. The older combo edition is still available but at about double the price.

As for the series itself; it becomes quite apparent right from the get go that this would not be another InuYasha or Naruto type series as it ponders the question - What would happen if the vampire race decided to come out of the shadows and establish their own nation in a corner of Japan? And the leader of the Vampire Nation is not another bloodsucking Count Dracula type character but what appears to be a pre-pubescent girl child? Who can be quite ruthless and mature as any leader must be; but quite touching and childlike at other times? The premise was quite intriguing.

Then couple this with a distinctly different style of animation that at times almost resembles an art house film with muted colours, or deliberate flare or out of focus scenes and it becomes quite obvious that this is something different. At first it was rather disconcerting and I actually thought that my BD's/DVD's on my original collection were defective in spots; but no it's deliberately designed like that. Something like they did with Gankutsuou - The Count of Monte Christo a few years back; but not as bad. You do get used to it after the first few episodes and they do tone it down by the end of the series so don't let this turn you off. It's well worth watching!

As for the storyline, I quite enjoyed it. While it does have some very dark parts it doesn't really stretch out the angst like far too many anime series do. Spread over two story arcs of 7 episodes for the first arc (with it's own distinctive ending) and 5 episodes for the second arc. It's not a comedy yet they do have lighter moments so in this case, being only 12 episodes long may be a definite advantage. It starts out strong and intriguing and like a good whodunit, just pulls you right in. And unlike most anime, it has a satisfactory ending. So big thumbs up there as well.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this series. It's not nearly as angsty or at least not as drawn out as most darker series tend to be. It goes along at a very good clip and it has no filler. Plus it actually has a half-decent ending which is even rarer. So for those who would like to try out one of the darker series, this would be as good a one as anything I've checked out recently. Four stars out of five!

J. A.

Dragonaut - The Resonance: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Dragonaut - The Resonance: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.98
20 used & new from CDN$ 26.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Part EVA, part Gundam with heaps of melodrama and clichés!, Jan. 25 2016
Dragonauts is yet another Funimation budget priced SAVE edition of a previously released series. That means a single case, four disc release with a very nice reversible cover to hide the green SAVE banner. Extras are limited to OP's and ED's and trailers. All the episodes are listed on the reversible cover and dub and sub are standard stereo.

As for the series itself, it's a typical sci-fi action series which is not really as the product description would indicate. Instead being more of a strange amalgam of previous sci-fi series like EVA, Gundam, Eureka 7 or any other mech series you can think of. Only in this case the mechs are like mechanical dragons with human partners piloting them who take human form and act and love as humans except when they go through resonance. Don't worry if you don't fully understand this. As like much of the storyline; it doesn't always really make much sense anyways.

Anyhoo, the plot for what it's worth has a moon sized entity called Thanatos heading to Earth to recover it's dragon eggs and the attempts of these dragons, their riders and the two opposing forces on earth to stop it when they're not fighting each other. That's about it.

Then throw in every anime cliché in the book hiked up to the max from villains who are completely berserk and want to destroy themselves, their people and the world, brave heroes sacrifices, alien and human true love to save the world and at times melodrama so thick you could cut it with a knife and the whole series becomes unwittingly a parody on itself.

Which is a pity as the animation is topnotch, the dub good, and the various character interactions very well written. But the overall storyline is a mess with some things never explained and plot holes big enough to fly a dragon through. Not to mention every cliché in the book.

The series ends at episode 25 with it's own ending animation. While episode 26 is actually a very funny parody in two parts on the characters and their dragons. As if even the animators at that point realized how cliché ridden their series was and decided if you can't beat them, join them. It's very funny.

So how should I rate this? Eighty percent of the time it's a really good sci-fi action series. But then the storyline collapses or the melodrama sets in or the clichés multiply or a major villain suddenly turns good in two minutes flat and it just makes you wonder what the writers were smoking that day? So overall I'm going to give it 3 to 3-1/2 stars for the action when it's good and add another 1/2 star for the parody episode at the end. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary!

J A.

Revolutionary Girl Utena Set 1: The Student Council Saga Limited Edition [Import]
Revolutionary Girl Utena Set 1: The Student Council Saga Limited Edition [Import]
Price: CDN$ 61.44
13 used & new from CDN$ 44.77

5.0 out of 5 stars A quirky classic from the late nineties!, Jan. 19 2016
This review will be of all three Limited Edition Sets!

Back in the early days of Anime in addition to the big three (ADV, Bandai & Pioneer); there were half a dozen smaller distributors of which Central Park Media was one While mostly specializing in small OVA's, Hentai and movies; they also did series on occasion of which the most popular were "Slayers", "Record of Lodoss War" and a very quirky series from 1997 called "Revolutionary Girl Utena".

Unlike Slayers which remains a very popular action/comedy fantasy series to this day or Lodoss War which was a really serious Fantasy series. Utena was like nothing anybody had ever seen before in an anime series. A dark and strange tale that immediately gained a huge fan base both among anime lovers and critics alike.

So how do I explain this series to you folks who have never seen it or even heard of it? First it's not a normal action/comedy series. Rather this 39 episode series stretched out over three story arcs (and three boxsets) is more along the lines of a dark psychological thriller which just happens to have a duel every episode or two! All the duelists have their own motivations, eccentricities and failures. Indeed everybody in this tale is seriously flawed in one form or another. And the whole tale basically runs along like a huge stage play. In fact it's about the only anime series I've ever seen in which you could simply lift it virtually unchanged, dump it down on a live action stage and run it as a three act stage play with virtually no changes! Not surprising considering it's mostly dialogue driven with minimalist backgrounds deliberately made to look like stage backgrounds! It's that quirky!

Then throw in everything from an eccentric storyline that whoever wins the duels and possession of the Rose Bride will be able to bring world revolution and gain their fondest wish, a dueling arena that can't exist in reality, along with an upside down castle and it starts to get even weirder. Then throw in The Shadow Girls who are basically like a Greek Chorus to comment on it and then once in each story arc (boxset) throw in a completely silly comedy episode which has nothing really to do with the rest of the tale. And it gets even stranger. Then finish off by the third story arc with random stuff or events that simply appear but aren't seen or noticed by the participants. And it reminds me a bit of Kabuki theatre where you're supposed to ignore the puppet masters and their props. It's one weird and quirky series!

Drawbacks? Well..... it's obviously not for everyone. There's some strong Yuri themes. Animation is mostly simple, backgrounds mostly minimalist and the overall storyline......... well you decide that for yourself! It does start off pretty good though it can get pretty repetitive at times. Especially the second Black Rose arc which the director says was intended to be a Black Mirror image of the first and third arcs but which to me looked more like a way to turn a 26 episode storyline into a 39 episode series? But it does get back on track in the third and final Apocalypse story arc and does improve in the end.

So is it for you? Not if you're mainly an action/comedy anime fan. Most likely not. You'd probably get into about the third episode and simply go WTF!!! However this is a series that would go well among those who like dark and more eccentric anime like Serial Experiments Lain, Princess Tutu or Paranoia Agent. It would also be quite appealing to art film fans, off broadway fans, those who like movies like Being John Malkovich or folk who find the ending of Evangeleon or the Starchild in 2001 as perfectly all right. So judge accordingly.

As for Rightstuff's new license rescue and reissue? It's superb. Each boxset (story arc) comes with it's own glossy, full colour artbook which range from 42 pages to 130 pages and contain virtually everything from directors commentaries on each episode, narratives from virtually everybody and lots and lots of full colour storyboards, background art, etc. etc.

The first two boxsets consist of three thinpack discs each plus their accompanying artbooks. The third Apocalypse boxset has four discs plus another disc for the Utena movie (made a couple of years later and basically a better looking and sounding redo) and a final disc of on-disc extras. The three sets are very complete.

Video has been remastered and is as good as you're ever going to see on a DVD and the Japanese sub has also been remastered up to a 5.1 surround track which really improves over the original stereo dub and sub tracks. Although I'm normally a dub fan, I recommend this new 5.1 sub track instead.

Personally I'm not too much into this type of quirky series so for me it would rate a 3. But among those who are fans of this type of show and would buy these sets; it would undoubtedly rate a 5 so I'll mark it accordingly. You decide if it's right for you.

J. A.

Stella Women's Academy
Stella Women's Academy
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 54.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 41.12

4.0 out of 5 stars A lightweight clone of Girls und Panzer!, Jan. 16 2016
This review is from: Stella Women's Academy (DVD)
Stella C3 at heart is basically a sports anime using pellet guns. In this respect you could call it a lighter and simpler version of Girls und Panzer where the weapons of combat are simply pistols, rifles and pellets rather than 30 ton tanks and artillery shells! It's not a bad little series.

Like Panzer it starts off with a new student transferring into a new school who gets drafted into the school's Survival Games Club. But unlike Panzer she's shy, timid and unable to make friends easily. And slowly grows in both confidence and ability over the course of the series. In fact one of the best parts of this series is that she has a way over active imagination and seeing the battles through her eyes as real warfare is a hoot. And the mix of characters in the club is also very well done.

If there's a drawback with this series; it's the fact that unlike Girls und Panzer the main tournament battle ends about two-thirds of the way through the series rather than at the end. And then it tries to get a little bit too serious and dark for awhile which really doesn't suit a short series like this. (12 episodes with the 13th appearing to be either a stand-alone OVA or an epilogue, I'm not quite sure which.) But they do redeem themselves in the last couple of episodes which are right up there with the high quality beginning! So I'll cut them some slack.

Video is in your standard 16x9 widescreen, audio is standard stereo and extras are minimal. Mostly just Op's, Ed's and trailers. Contained in a simple single case, 3 disc collection.

There is no dub and while it's a good series; half a dozen girls with pellet guns and small survival courses isn't going to quite measure up against Panzers two dozen with armoured beasts and entire towns to destroy. Not to mention that panzer never gets too dark and angsty. So where Girls und Panzer I gave 5 stars (It's superb). I'll settle for 4 stars for Stella. It's a good but not great little series.

J. A.

A Certain Scientific Railgun - Complete Season 1 [Blu-Ray + DVD]
A Certain Scientific Railgun - Complete Season 1 [Blu-Ray + DVD]
DVD ~ Tatsuyuki Nagai
Price: CDN$ 34.97
16 used & new from CDN$ 34.97

4.0 out of 5 stars A great little sci-fi action/comedy!, Dec 31 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A Certain Scientific Railgun is a companion series to "A Certain Magical Index". Both series are centered in the same city and the same universe; consist of two seasons and even have an overlap of characters at times. However you don't need to have seen the first season of Index to enjoy or understand Railgun as it stands perfectly alright on it's own. Nor do you need to get or see the second season unless you wish to as this first set also has a very good and complete ending. As a stand alone; it's a great little sci-fi action/comedy series! I actually preferred it to Index as it was less angsty and more comedy driven.

What really makes it so good is the cast of characters. From the main characters of Misaka whose electro abilities are only exceeded by her temper while hiding a more childlike inner self and her pervy roommate Kuroko whose teleportation abilities are only exceeded by her crushing love for Misaka. Then throw in half a dozen supporting characters each with their own abilities and eccentricities; three main story arcs plus some single comedy episodes and you have a 24 episode series that will never really disappoint. If there's anything to criticize, it's simply that they overdo the thugs in the alley picking on helpless damsels bits and every second villain seems to be a mad scientist bit. But I guess that's inevitable in this kind of show.

Like other Funimation Combo packs; this set comes with a nice reversible cover that lists all the episodes and if you're lucky, a nice slip cover. And consists of 4 DVD's each of 6 episodes and 3 BD's of 8, 9 & 7 episodes specifically. Extras consist of a few episode commentaries, OP's & ED's and a few trailers. Video is 1080P 16x9 HD native on the Blu-rays and audio is DD 5.1 English, Stereo Japanese on the DVD's. Dolby TruHD 5.1 and 2.0 on the Blu-rays.

As an action comedy series this first season of Railgun is definitely one of the better ones. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime:Complete Collection
Lunar Legend Tsukihime:Complete Collection
DVD ~ Michelle Ruff
Price: CDN$ 41.98
13 used & new from CDN$ 26.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another license rescue from the old Geneon stable!, Dec 23 2015
Lunar Legend Tsukihime is an anime adaptation of a highly regarded adult visual novel that came out around the turn of the Millennium. Originally distributed here by Geneon back between 2004 to 2005; it is a small 12 episode anime that has been license rescued by Sentai and re-released here on their new budget/re-release "Sentai Selects" label.

As a stand alone anime for those who have no knowledge of the original novel; it's about middle of the pack. Being a combination of comedy, romance and horror rolled into one. It looks very good and has a lovely musical soundtrack but can also drag at times and the plot can be very muddled. As the main protagonist is a young man who can see the strings of fate and if not careful; can actually cut them resulting in death. Then couple this with a resurrected Vampire Princess who acts like a giddy schoolgirl at times, a main villain that only shows up near the end and a family and friends with all sorts of dark secrets that don't always get the backstories they deserve and by the end of it; you realize that it's the sort of anime that should have had at least 24 episodes instead of 12! However it does look good, sounds even better and while not great, doesn't suck either.

However......., this is where the second part of my review comes in. That's assuming you've never seen the original interactive novel! I haven't but for those who have this is an absolute travesty! Since the original apparently is very deep, very dark at times and very fully developed which obviously is not the case with this short little anime series. From what I gather on the forums, it would be like taking the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and making it into a well......., 12 episode anime! You get the idea. So for those folk; this is definitely a one star story!!!

As for this release, it's on two DVD's rather than Genon's three and like other recent Sentai Selects releases comes with a gorgeous wrap around reversible cover. It does include both the original stereo Japanese track and Geneon's English dub whose voice actors will be very familiar to anyone who has ever watched Bleach! It is available only as a DVD release.

Recommended only for those who have never seen the original adult visual novel. It is an okay series but obviously could have been a lot better. I still have my original Geneon releases and I have no desire to get rid of them; yet at the same time I have no desire to re watch it anytime soon either. So I guess you could call this a 3 stars out of 5 series. It's okay but not great!

J. A.

Angelic Layer
Angelic Layer
DVD ~ Jessica Boone
Price: CDN$ 59.18
13 used & new from CDN$ 43.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly under rated and addictive series!, Nov. 29 2015
This review is from: Angelic Layer (DVD)
At first glance Angelic Layer appears to be nothing more than yet another robot girl fighting anime along the lines of a Chobits, Mahoromatic or a Nuku Nuku. But first impressions can be deceiving. Instead I found this little gem of a series to be one of the most addictive series that I've ever watched. So addictive that when I first watched it back in 2005, I literally had to watch one or two episodes every night. Something I practically never do. It was that fascinating!

So what makes it that good? First and foremost it's got all the best parts of a sports anime. You know the type where a newcomer comes out of nowhere and by the end of the series is gunning for the championships. Only this sport is robotic dollies that are only 9 inches tall and they're controlled by their owners mentally in a holographic playing field! Then throw in a ton of different tactics, dollies and opponents and it never gets predictable. There's just something about seeing little robotic dollies parodying every major ninja anime series or movie you've ever seen and it just becomes a hoot.

However equally important is the adult storyline running underneath. Of a young girl who feels abandoned by her mother and with full backstories on every major character and this becomes much more than just a dolly of the week battle series. I consider it one of the very best and right up there with Princess Nine, Chobits and Ai Yori Aoshi in overall quality.

As for this re-issue, it's in Sentai's new budget/re-release "Sentai Selects" label. Which means like Funimations SAVE label; it's a single case, multiple disc collection. In this case being five discs with the original ADV 5.1 dub and the Japanese stereo sub, 4x3 full frame and with a full reversible cover.

Highly recommended by Animeondvd at the time. And which I still second to this day. As there's no appreciable fan service; this would also make a fine introduction to anime for non anime viewers and a good present for girls of any age. (Though the boys would enjoy it as well.) Five stars out of five.

J. A.

He Is My Master
He Is My Master
DVD ~ Ai Shimizu
Price: CDN$ 41.98
17 used & new from CDN$ 26.23

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
17 used & new from CDN$ 21.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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$ 148.42
16 used & new from CDN$ 136.44

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.

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