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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Patlabor 2: The Movie [Blu-ray]
Patlabor 2: The Movie [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jinpachi Nezu
Price: CDN$ 34.39
15 used & new from CDN$ 30.62

5.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY a BLU-RAY of this true classic!, Aug. 21 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Patlabor 2 is a sequel and like it's predecessor Patlabor; is a very high quality and at times hauntingly beautiful animated movie. Not surprising since it comes from Mamoru Oshii, the creator of Ghost in the Shell (One of the best anime movies every made!) So it's very nice to finally see this out on Blu Ray where it belongs. Quite simply, this is an old school movie at it's very, very finest!

Like Ghost in the Shell, both Patlabor movies are visually superb. And like Ghost both have very quiet introspective moments when the movies simply pan along through the city with a richly detailed background. But where the first Patlabor movie concentrated more on the action parts of a Ghost in the Shell; Patlabor 2 tends to concentrate more on the political machinations, infighting and detective work. It does have some very good action scenes especially at the beginning and end; but it's less about the fighting than the previous Patlabor and Ghost movies were. And more about the rising tensions and both the viewers and citizens wondering what in heck is going to happen next? So when somebody says it's boring this is what they really mean. It's not for non-stop action fans, but more for the Sherlock Holmes crowd but with Mech's!

Like the previous Bandai Visual DVD release, on disc extras are limited to just a few trailers. And it lacks the BV booklet. But it does have a full 1080P 16x9 video and the previous English and Japanese DD 5.1 audio tracks are boosted to full 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The surround is very impressive and fully matches the beautiful animation. There is no French track.

Like Patlabor, I give this movie 5 stars out of 5. It's one of the very best of the early old school anime movies. But it's more for those who love gorgeous visuals and haunting music than continuous action fans who will probably find it too slow.

J. A.

X - Complete Series - Classic 2
X - Complete Series - Classic 2
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 29.95
2 used & new from CDN$ 29.13

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the darker series from the Clamp Universe!, Aug. 12 2015
X is based off of a very long running Manga series from Clamp and like all Clamp series is beautiful to both look at and listen to. So it has all the iconic signatures that those familiar with Clamp properties like xxxHolic, Tsubasa or Magic Knights Rayearth will be familiar with. Dramatic figures perched on roof tops with hair blowing in the wind, dramatic confrontations with soaring musical backgrounds and gorgeous character art that makes these series very popular with a female audience. While underneath winds a deep storyline of tragic backstories, misunderstandings, betrayals and Greek tragedy! In other words, a typical Clamp property but darker than most.

Although the storyline ostensibly revolves around a young man named Kamui and his two childhood friends. In reality it's a much larger and more complicated universe with dozens of characters all with their own motivations, desires and psychologies. Not to mention their own special powers and vulnerabilities. The best way to describe it is if you were to take the entire cast of X-Men and pit them up against the entire cast of The Justice League but with a typical Japanese mythology and fighting style. It results in some beautiful choreographed battles and no idea who or how it's going to end up. That's it's strength.

The plot is really quite simple. Human warriors from opposing sides have to join with either the Seven Dragons of Heaven to save mankind or the Seven Dragons of the Earth to destroy all of mankind. And everybody has their own reasons or thinks they're on the right side! While Kamui gets to decide the final vote. It's the typical death wish that's so common in Japanese anime culture. Where there always seems to be one party who has to destroy everything because humans aren't worth saving or their honour demands it or it they're just plain crazy. But ramped up to the max. It's probably the darkest of all Clamp works so I wouldn't recommend watching it when you're feeling depressed!

It is a beautiful series to watch though, has some very interesting battles and techniques and a very dramatic (if at times overly melodramatic) soaring soundtrack! But it's also very dark and angsty at times, there's no guarantees of any sort of happy ending for most of the characters involved that you may get to like and depending on your tastes and experience with anime the resolution of the series may leave you wanting or not quite understanding what in heck it's all about! So I'd recommend this primarily to those who like them dark and angsty and for those folks, I'd give this 4 to 4-1/2 stars.

J. A.

Appleseed: Alpha (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Appleseed: Alpha (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Luci Christian
Price: CDN$ 19.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A darker and paler copy of the original movies!, Aug. 11 2015
The original Appleseed movie came out from Geneon back around 2004; was license rescued and redubbed by Sentai and remains to this day one of the best looking CGI anime movies ever made! It was then followed about three years later by it's sequel movie, Appleseed Ex Machina which was equally as good. Both of those movies I highly recommended and still do. And then we came to this movie........

I had really hoped that Appleseed Alpha would live up to it's illustrious predecessors but I guess that was too much to expect. Like the Aliens franchise or The Mummy movies; you get a couple of really top notch movies and then the franchises just kinda slide into mediocrity. Which is also the case with Appleseed Alpha though I wouldn't rate it quite that low. It does have very high quality CGI animation and lots of top notch battle scenes. However overall, it just doesn't live up to the high standards of it's predecessors.

Set as a prequel before the two main characters Deunan and Briareos arrive at Olympus. It's a much darker and grittier tale set in a city ruined by war. The animation is top notch and the action never slows down so you really won't get bored. But the plot is muddled and ridiculous, never makes any proper sense and there are inconsistencies that even a hulking huge cyborg could fall through. The main villains never become anything more than CGI cardboard cutouts and it never rises to the point where the characters ever become living and breathing human beings that you would care about. In other words, it's basically a 90 min. standard CGI video game. Lots of shooting and explosions, but nothing more.

As a sci-fi/action CGI movie for kids, teens and videogamers; I'd rate it a solid 4 stars. They'll enjoy it.

But as an intriguing and fascinating look into a future post apocalyptic world in the act of rebuilding. And with a deep plot and characters you can really empathise with like it's two predecessor movies; it's a big disappointment! So for adults who want something more, I can only give it 3 stars. If you haven't seen the two original movies ( Appleseed [Blu-Ray/DVD Combo] ) ( Appleseed Ex Machina [Blu-ray] ), pick them up instead and save this one for the CGI gamers.

J. A.

Please Twins: Collection [Import]
Please Twins: Collection [Import]
Price: CDN$ 52.69
16 used & new from CDN$ 31.54

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)
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 61.73
19 used & new from CDN$ 49.99

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
19 used & new from CDN$ 39.49

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$ 9.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 9.08

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
Price: CDN$ 31.00
12 used & new from CDN$ 31.00

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$ 28.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

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.

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