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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Patlabor: The Movie (Blu-Ray)
Patlabor: The Movie (Blu-Ray)
DVD ~ Miina Tominaga
Price: CDN$ 34.39

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best anime movies ever made!, May 20 2015
Patlabor: The Movie is a true classic in the full meaning of the term! Originally released back in 1989, it is visually one of the most impressive cell based movies you will ever see! And can hold it's own against other equally impressive classics like Akira, Wings of Honnemeise, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke, Macross Plus and it's own sister movie Patlabor 2. Visually and technically it's that good!

Originally licensed, dubbed and released here in North America by Manga; the only thing it lacked was a good surround track (original Japanese was stereo) and a really good video release. And while Manga did include an English 5.1 dub; it was derived from the Japanese sub so the surround was pretty much useless. All of this was corrected in the late 90's when a new Japanese 5.1 sub was produced which was subsequently released here by Bandai Visual USA along with a new English 5.1 dub. Video was improved but it remained only in Standard definition and only for a couple of years until Bandai Visual exited North America. So it is wonderful indeed to see this true classic finally re-released once again under the Maiden Japan label in 1080P with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio! If ever an older movie deserved high definition Bluray treatment, it's this one.

Right from the opening scene with military mechs parachuting to the ground and the firefight that subsequently follows; you'll soon realize that this is anything but just another animated movie. With lush visuals, an ensemble cast each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies and a really complicated storyline that slowly unfolds over the course of the movie; it's anything but just another action thriller. Indeed if there's any criticism from some; it's that the movie is part action and part comedy but also equally parts mystery and political intrique. So for those who crave non-stop action, the slow bits may tend to underwhelm. But for those who love good mysteries and police stories as well as action, this movie will be right down your alley. And for everyone, the mech fighting and climactic ending are among the best ever done!

Even now this still remains one of the best animated movies ever made. Definitely 5 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Saiyuki Tv: Complete Collection
Saiyuki Tv: Complete Collection
DVD ~ Akira Ishida
Price: CDN$ 41.24
11 used & new from CDN$ 35.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A darker and more moody road series!, May 13 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Saiyuki Tv: Complete Collection (DVD)
Saiyuki Complete Collection is an older fantasy road series that first came out from ADV back around 2003 and is now being re-released once again under the Section 23/Aesir Holdings label. It contains the first 50 episodes of Seasons One and Two on ten DVD's of this long running series which was all that ADV licensed. Subsequent seasons were licensed by Geneon/Pioneer and are no longer readily available.

Not that it terribly matters though as basically this series is your typical fantasy road series that never really comes to an end anyways. It just basically goes on and on without any major plot development or any seeming progress at times. This is both it's strength and it's weakness. If you like the storylines and demon/fight of the week; you'll keep getting what you want. If you'd like to see some major changes or more than a token change in characters, it's pretty thin.

It's kind of a strange fantasy world as well. Set in China and loosely (veeery loosely) based on the Chinese 16th Century novel Journey to the West; it combines the old and the new in very strange ways. So you have Gods and Demons and Celestial Palaces combined with cigarettes, revolvers and baby dragons that turn into modern day jeeps! Which depending on your tastes, can either be amusing or rather jarring.

It also tends to take itself more seriously than a lot of these types of series do. It can get downright angsty at times and the humour when it does come tends to be quite repetitive. Overall, I found that I liked about half of the episodes and tended to get bored with the other half. But others might find it more interesting especially the ladies as it does have some very strong adult male leads. So your mileage could vary. Personally though, I'd put it one or two notches below other long running series like Naruto or Inu Yasha or Bleach.

The dub is fairly good being your typical ADV dub from the early 2000's and being an older series is in a standard 4x3 full frame format with Japanese stereo and English 5.1 tracks though don't expect much in your rear speakers. Extra's are also pretty minimal. But at 50 episodes, it is very good value.

Overall, I'd rate this about 3 to 3-1/2 stars for the series. 4 to 4-1/2 for the value. However if you like them more dark and moody than the typical DBZ type series, you might rate it higher.

J. A.

A Certain Magical Index: The Complete Season 1 [Blu-ray + DVD]
A Certain Magical Index: The Complete Season 1 [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 40.94
18 used & new from CDN$ 38.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Part sci-fi, part fantasy, part harem action/comedy mix!, May 13 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
A Certain Magical Index is your typical action/comedy anime series. Kamijo is a student of Academy City. A city which is set up to train and develop students with advanced Esper powers. Unfortunately he's just a 0 on their scale but fortunately he does have a right hand that can negate the powers of others. Which is fortunate as he soon finds a young nun whose head is stuffed full of forbidden knowledge and before long he's constantly fighting for his life and hers from both rogue science and magical attackers. That pretty much sums up this first season of the show.

I found it was a good series, but not a great one. Though others have told me that it does pick up in the second and concluding season so we'll see. But at least for this first season, I found it's three major arcs all seemed to follow a similar script. A major villain and/or associates would appear and try to kill either him or index for rather dubious reasons. There'd be a big fight and eventually he'd defeat and/or win them over. With lots of collateral damage and the addition of more girls thrown into the mix. It was fun and some new information would be introduced, but never quite enough for me to breathlessly wait for the next episode to begin.

The collection itself is great being one of Funimations bluray Combo Sets. Similar in size and style to the first three Fairy Tale Complete collections and it's sister series, "A Certain Scientific Railgun" which also runs concurrently with this. It consists of four DVD's and three Blurays in one oversized Bluray case with a nice glossy slipcover. Video is your standard 16x9 widescreen with Dolby True HD 5.1 in English and 2.0 in Japanese. DVD's are DD 5.1 English and DD stereo in Japanese. Extras were pretty minimal being the odd episode commentaries, textless songs and trailers.

Perhaps I'll think more highly of this first season once I watch the concluding second season but for now I'll give this 3-1/2 to 4 stars.

J. A.

Initial D - Stage 2 & 3 S.A.V.E.
Initial D - Stage 2 & 3 S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.59
22 used & new from CDN$ 22.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Continuing on from the First Season but with some caveats!, May 12 2015
It's always tough to maintain the same quality in sequels and that's especially true if the original was superb which was definitely the case with Initial D First Stage (26 episode 1st Season). Which I considered and still do as one of the most addictive anime series I've ever seen. So I was curious to see if they could retain the magic and the answer is Yes and No. Here's why........

The first two discs contain the Second Stage which is 13 episodes long instead of 26 and while almost as good as the first season; it does feel at times a little bit like deja vu. Although this is compensated for by a major theme running underneath that good as he is; his car and engine may no longer be up to the task. This is what saves the second season from simply being more of the same. I'd give it about 4 to 4-1/2 stars depending on the episode. Very good but not as addictive as that first season was when nobody including himself realized how good he truly was.

This is followed by the third disc which contains two OVA's called Stage 1 and Stage 2 which were originally a small mini-movie. But in actual fact are simply two standard length episodes that revolve around the two girl racers and their Sil-Eighty which I still regard as the best race of the original First Season. And makes a nice diversion from Takumi and his Eight-Six. I give them 4-1/2 stars.

And that brings us to the last disc (Third Stage) which is NOT a season set but instead is a full length (1-3/4 hr.) movie! And that brings us to some problems! First off, unlike most movie spinoffs which are usually stand-alones, that's NOT the case here! As this movie continues the plot along right where Season Two and the OVA's left off! So if you don't like the movie, you can't simply ignore it. And this movie does have some problems.

First of all the good points. Being a movie it does have a superb 5.1 soundtrack both in the Dub and the Sub so that's a big plus. Plus it's in 16x9 widescreen unlike the 1st and 2nd seasons which are full frame. HOWEVER the 16x9 movie is NOT anamorphic widescreen which means that it ends up letterboxed on your screen (i.e.- shrunk down in size with black bars on all four sides)! That wasn't a problem for me as I'm lucky enough to have an LG Bluray player which allows me to zoom in slowly to get a full size (while keeping the subtitles in the same spot) but most folk may not have that advantage.

And the second problem is that like most movie adaptations of anime series, it felt rushed! I kept thinking during the three major arcs or so of this movie that it would have been much better simply made into another 13 episode series instead of being squashed down into one movie. Especially the races which simply didn't have that long running seat of your pants tension as the original season set! And also because except for the widescreen and sound, the movies animation is actually no better than the series itself anyways! So I can't give it anymore than 3 stars as a result.

Overall, if they had simply taken Stage 2 and Stage 3 (plus the OVA's) and made it into one full length (26 episode) Second Season; I'd have probably given it about 4 to 4-1/2 stars. Almost but not quite as good as the original. But in this type of arrangement......... I can't honestly give it more than about 3 to 4 stars depending on whether it's 2 or 3. So I'll give it 4 stars BUT ONLY for Stage 2 and the OVA's. 3 stars for Stage 3. It could have been sooooo much better!

J. A.

Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 - Complete Series - Anime Classics 2
Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 - Complete Series - Anime Classics 2
Price: CDN$ 33.47
12 used & new from CDN$ 29.81

4.0 out of 5 stars A TV reboot of the original Cyberpunk OVA classic!, May 9 2015
Bubblegum Crisis 2040 is a 26 episode TV series reboot of the original 8 episode OVA Cyberpunk classic; Bubblegum Crisis which originally came out back in the late 80's to early 90's under the old AnimEigo label. This was then followed up by this Tokyo 2040 TV spinoff under the ADV label back in 1998 and is now being re-issued for a second time under Funimation's Anime Legends label in a budget priced set. It retains the original ADV English dub and is the quintessential Cyberpunk series.

The overall plot is similar (though the individual storylines are different) to it's OVA predecessors; just more complete and with a proper ending. (The OVA series never got completed.) And revolves around the four members of the Knight Sabers. An all girl power suited vigilante group who go around their normal jobs by day and fight rogue boomers(androids) and the evil intentions of some of those in the corporation that manufacturers them at night. Think Batman and robots and you can pretty much figure out the rest.

It's a pretty good slam-bang sci-fi series with the typical amount of anime comedy. However because the Knight Sabers are adult women; it's closer in tone to a Birdy the Mighty or a Sakura Wars in style and storyline than the typical teen school anime series. So don't expect teen angst, school girl harems, fan service or supernatural themes here. However, do expect lots and lots of mech battles, creepy boomers, metal tentacles and adult angst instead. It's a good example of early cyberpunk/mech series and was very well done for it's time. I'd rate it four stars.

In addition if you really want to see something special; I'd also highly recommend the original 8 episode OVA series Bubblegum Crisis: Special Collector's Edition (Sous-titres français). While it's double the price of BGC2040; it's a true classic in the full sense of the word and considered a must have in most older Otaku collections. While a little dated now and a couple of the episodes slightly shop worn; each of the original OVA episodes are actually mini-movies ranging in length from 30 min. to over an hour in length and had a ton of unique full length songs composed just for each of them which were also fully dubbed in BOTH Japanese and English! So it's quite special. It was just too bad they were never able to complete it and only managed 8 of the 12 planned episodes. But what they did accomplish was superb. So if you like 2040, you should seriously check out the original OVA's.

So four stars for Bubblegum Crisis 2040, it's good value for the price. And five stars for the original OVA series if you want to see a true Cyberpunk classic from back in the day.

J. A.

Air Gear: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Air Gear: Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 29.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 22.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Skateboarding and Gang Culture meet Anime!, April 21 2015
It's always amazed me how the Japanese can take pre-teen pursuits like spinning tops, card games and pocket devices and turn them into Bukugans, Yu-Gi-Oh's and Digimons! Some of which are really quite good and could almost make you believe that the world does indeed, depend upon them! So it's no surprise that eventually they would take an older teen pursuit like rollerblading and make it into a full fledged manga and anime production! Though with mixed results.

So the plot revolves around a young man (Ikki) whom one day discovers the sport of storm riding. In which souped up rollerblades with incredibly powerful wheels allow their riders to zip up buildings and jump incredible distances. It's the usual law of physics doesn't apply to me stuff like you'd get in the typical action/comedy ninja fantasy. Just transplanted to the modern world with rollerblades in place of chakra!

The good points are the usual stuff. Good animation and lots of action. Some very good writing regarding his female and family connections along with a good dub from virtually every female veteran of ADV just before it went under. (Funimation license rescued this, they didn't dub it.) Plus lots of increasingly strong opponents, assembling his own team, winning over rivals to allies as a bigger overall plot slowly reveals itself and an upbeat ending.

The bad points are the really, really over the top ridiculous fights, too much emphasis on glorifying gang culture and violence and the fact that the main character is a real jerk at times (though probably not that far from a lot of teen males). And the fact that they never really finish it. Indeed I got the impression that quite possibly episode 20 might have been intended as a season one ender and the remaining episodes 21 to 25 the first act of a second season that never materialized! Just supposition on my part but that's how it felt to me.

So it's okay if you want a rollerblading action/comedy series to tide you over until the next Naruto or Bleach comes along. So 3 stars for those fans. 4 stars for rollerbladers and DBZ fans who will probably enjoy it more. 3-1/2 overall.

J. A.

Barbie in Princess Power (Bilingual)
Barbie in Princess Power (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Kelly Sheridan
Price: CDN$ 19.98
6 used & new from CDN$ 15.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A lighter Barbie that's more about the comedy than the angst!, April 12 2015
A lot of Barbie movies tend to be pretty serious affairs. There's always some nefarious and extremly evil villain to foil or a terrible sacrifice to make or rivals that must be turned into friends or all is lost. Stuff like that. So while important to the overall plots; it's nice once in awhile to just get a Barbie movie that doesn't tend to take itself so seriously and this movie is just that!

So here Barbie is just a happy go-lucky Princess who one day gets zapped with super powers (think Spiderman) and spends most of the rest of the movie trying to master her powers, prevent from plowing into trees and not let her ego swell to gigantic proportions. In other words, it's all about the flying and swooshing and makeovers and rescuing the odd boy in distress! While the second rate villain is more bumbler than terrifying and couldn't organize a one car parade! Little girls should love it! It's actually pretty funny (something I thought I'd never say about a typical Barbie movie) and fairly action filled as well especially at the end with swooping aerial dogfights.

Now there has been some criticisms from some mothers that this new Barbie is a little more gaunt and anime like than past Barbies and I can see their point. Although being basically an anime lover myself; she looked fine to me. But if this worries you; just check out the cover photo. It's pretty much spot-on on how the series looks; so judge accordingly.

Like most of the later Barbie movies; animation is simple and not up to the standards of a Tinkerbell or a Despicable Me. But it's okay. Like most Barbie movies; I'd rate this about 3 stars for mommies and 4 stars for the kids at which it's aimed.

J. A.

Bodacious Space Pirates: Complete Collection
Bodacious Space Pirates: Complete Collection
DVD ~ various
Price: CDN$ 56.24
16 used & new from CDN$ 51.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the space pirates that you would expect!, April 12 2015
Bodacious Space Pirates is an anime offshoot of a series of light novels called Miniskirt Space Pirates. In which a schoolgirl by the name of Marika Kato discovers one day her father, a legendary space pirate has passed away and in order to keep their Letter of Marque (Privateer license); she will have to become the new Captain of her father's ship the Betenmaru! It's as simple as that. Originally put out by Sentai in two 13 episode sets called Collection 1 and Collection 2; it's now been re-issued here in both a DVD and a BD 26 episode complete collection for about the same price as one of the previous 13 episode sets.

The plot is not completely what you would expect as after a hundred years of relative peace; the space pirates are usually more about giving a show for the intergalactic cruise lines than actually being well......, bloodthirsty pirates or alternatively swashbuckling heroes trying to take down some evil galactic empire. And when real danger does ensue; it tends to be more along company or political machinations. In other words; it's more of a simple action comedy series set in a wider universe which is only very narrowly explored.

So for example the first major story arc simply revolves around her learning her job of Captain while still doing her day to day school work and is more about resurrecting an old pirate ship with the help of her all girl (space) yacht club than anything more. Only when the second major story arc kicks in does it really revolve around the Bentenmaru. In fact I'd say about half the series revolves around mini-skirted school girls in space (hence the name) and only the other half around various motley crews of space pirates. The same is true for the combat itself; in which electronic warfare is the first line of both defense and offense and only if that fails do they resort to the guns. It's mostly a lighter series like that.

This new collection is similar to the older two part collections except that the six DVD's have been re-authored into five and the four BD's into three. Sentai has also relabeled the BD's as 1080P from the previous 1080i which may or may not make a difference. Like the previous sets, both audio tracks are simple stereo with very little in the back channels and extra's are minimal, OP's, ED's and trailers. A pity as I wish they could have filled in some of the backstory of the bigger universe which is left hanging. In fact the series ending while sufficient, pretty much gives the impression that there's a lot more that may or may not come.

It's pretty good for what it does but don't expect a Crest of the Stars which had a much bigger overarching war theme or even an Outlaw Star or a Cowboy Bebop which can have some pretty serious moments. This is just a simpler action comedy series that's about the middle of the pack. I'd give it about 3-1/2 but I can't do half stars so I'll be generous and call it 4.

J. A.

Noir - Complete Series (Anime Classics) [Blu-ray]
Noir - Complete Series (Anime Classics) [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 40.94
17 used & new from CDN$ 35.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and beautiful mystery series. A true classic!, March 26 2015
Originally made by Bee Train back in 2001 and released here back in 2003. Noir is a true classic from the old ADV stable and one of their first titles released in a true 16x9 widescreen format with a native Japanese 5.1 track as well. As a result it is a beautiful series to watch and an even better series to listen to. So it's nice to see it re-released once again by Funimation in it's first Bluray edition.

The plot is very convoluted revolving initially around two young women. The first Mireille Bouquet a professional assassin who is as deadly as she is beautiful who one day encounters a young Japanese school girl with no memories who is even more deadly than she is. And who has searched her out because they have one thing in common, an old pocket watch with a haunting melody that somehow binds them together. And with that they go on a quest to find their hidden pasts while an unknown society sends ever more deadly waves of assassins after them! Anything more would be a spoiler!

Now the series is not for everyone. While the action scenes are very good when they happen; they also tend to be only once or twice per episode while the rest is long panning shots, explorations and an incredibly complex and growing mystery. In other words, like other series made by Bee Train at the time (Madlax, .hack//SIGN); the pace is downright glacial at times with the journey as important as the destination! You want continuous action, fan service or comedy; look elsewhere.

But if you don't mind a slower pace, the journey and slowly revealing mystery are beautiful to see. Made even better by the haunting melodies of Yuki Kajiura whose chorale music is incredibly complex and rich and is something that you'll never forget. If you've ever heard her work in Madlax, .hack//SIGN or Aquarian Age you'll know what I mean. It's one of the best parts of the series.

Part Gunslinger Girl, part mystery, deep and dark and always beautiful. If you don't mind a slow pace, it's well worth checking out. 4 to 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Ultimate Avengers 3 Movie Collection [Blu-ray] [Import]
Ultimate Avengers 3 Movie Collection [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 18.84
17 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvels best two animated movies plus a bonus!, March 26 2015
There was a time back in the mid to late 2000's when Marvel made animated movies that were every bit as adult and every bit as good as DC's Universe line. These ranged from Ultimate Avengers and it's sequel Ultimate Avengers 2 in 2006, through Iron Man and then Dr. Strange in 2007, a slightly more Kiddy friendly Next Avengers in 2008, on to a Hulk vs Wolverine and Hulk vs Thor (2 mini-movie pkg.) in 2009 and finally Planet Hulk in 2010. After which it deteriorated into sporadic junk like Tales of Asgard, Heroes United or the latest Avengers Confidential. But those first half dozen were all pretty damn fine movies so it's nice to see the two best re-issued in this veeery budget priced set!

Ultimate Avengers (the first and best in this set) is basically an origin tale showing how SHIELD brings together half a dozen superheroes to form the Avengers. It's got great animation, an English 7.1 PCM lossless audio track, rolls along at a great pace since it's only 71 min. long and is a nicely developed adult tale of folks who don't always play well together but must learn to do so or all is lost! I give it a good 4 to 4-1/2 stars and enjoy rewatching it every once in a while.

Ultimate Avengers 2 is your typical sequel movie though better than most. It starts off pretty much where the previous movie stopped and is basically more of the same. Like the first movie it's short at 73 min., runs along at an equally fast pace and will undoubtedly come with the same English 7.1 PCM, DD 5.1 EX and Spanish DD 5.1 EX tracks as the first. I put it just a hair down from the first at around 4 stars.

Next Avengers is the bonus movie throw in to this 3 movie package. It's not so much of a sequel as a spinoff imagining what would happen in a future where there is no Avengers, Tony Starks Ultron rules the world and it's up to the children of the Avengers to set things right. It's slightly more kid friendly than the first two but is still a pretty good movie. Being made two years after the originals it comes with an English 7.1 DTS-HD and a Spanish 5.1 DD audio track. I'd rate it between 3 to 3-1/2 stars.

Since all three movies are reissues of their previous editions; that means both the original movies will be on one 50 GB bluray disc and the third on a single 25 GB bluray disc. Also like the originals there will be no French language track!

Since all three of these movies are also being re-issued at this time in single DVD collections for around ten bucks apiece; this all-in-one Blu Ray edition is a much better deal.

Highly recommended if you like the early Marvel or DCU animated movies!

J. A.

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