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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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The Pirate Fairy [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
The Pirate Fairy [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Mae Whitman
Price: CDN$ 22.97
2 used & new from CDN$ 22.96

4.0 out of 5 stars The weakest entry in the Tink franchise but still a good kid's movie., April 15 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Tinkerbell movies have been surprisingly impressive over the last few years as they proved to be not only a very good kid's franchise, but also equally entertaining for adults. From the hilariously funny and action packed first "Tinkerbell" through the more serious and dramatic "Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure" then on to "Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue" which revolved around the story of a little girl and her parental estrangement right up to possibly the best Tinkerbell of all in "Secret of the Wings!" It has never failed to impress me. So how did this fifth installment measure up? Well.........

It has all the ingredients to be right up there with it's siblings. The same high quality CGI animation, the same cute fairies and yet......... Some how it fell a little flat. Let me explain.

The plot is fairly simple starting with a dust fairy by the name of Zarina who doesn't quite fit in. Eventually being banned from her job, she comes back and steals the blue fairy dust vital to the village and it's up to Tinkerbell and her friends to get it back not only from Zarina, but the future Captain Hook and his pirates as well!

And that's where I found it a little bit lacking of the magic that previous Tinkerbell's have in spades. As the writers brought in various future Peter Pan references like Hook and his well....., hook. The croc (here a baby) and even the ticking clock. It just felt forced. Now there's still plenty to like in the movie. The scenes where their powers are switched is very amusing and it does have a very good ending but overall it still proved a little bit weaker to me than it's previous incarnations. Like a performer who's just trying a little bit too much!

Even it's extras were a bit on the weak side being nothing more than a 5 min. piece on making the film which felt more like an extended trailer, another 5 min. piece on crocodiles which frankly I wouldn't show to any viewer that this movie is intended for and a few deleted scenes. There was also supposed to be a short piece on making of the Frigate song but I couldn't even find that. That's all. No great extra's like the 22 min. Pixie Hollow Games short that Secret of the Wings had. So it's a little lacking there as well.

It's still a very good movie for kids though. They'll be quite happy to sit through it numerous times but for adults it may lack that special little extra that all the previous Tinkerbell movies have had in spades. So where I'd rate the original Tinkerbell around 4 stars and Secret of the Wings around 4-1/2 stars. I can only come up with about 3 to 3-1/2 stars for The Pirate Fairy. Though for the small fry you'd probably rate it about 4 and that's how I'll mark it. However for adults it may lack the magic of Secret of the Wings or Frozen.

J. A.

Birdy the Mighty: Decode - Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Birdy the Mighty: Decode - Complete Series (S.A.V.E.)
Price: CDN$ 28.00
11 used & new from CDN$ 21.06

4.0 out of 5 stars A typical sci-fi/space opera that's more serious than most!, April 15 2014
Birdy the Mighty: Decode is yet another in a long line of typical sci-fi/space operas. With the possible exception that unlike most of these series; it tends to lean much more to the ultra-serious than to any light hearted comedy. Overall, I'd compare it to series like Kurau: Phantom Memory or Shakugan no Shana. Sci-fi action series that can get quite dark at times.

There are basically two plots of thirteen episodes each. The first season being the arrival of an intergalactic agent by the name of Birdy Cephon and her assistant in pursuit of intergalactic criminals who accidentally kills Tsutomu Senkawa, an innocent Japanese schoolboy. In order to undo her mistake and while his body is being rebuilt; he ends up sharing her body instead. While this could be played for laughs; it's actually done quite seriously here and eventually you just accept this switching back and forth as a normal part of the plot.

From here on it devolves into your typical action series. Numerous fights late at night between Birdy and various intergalactic villains hiding out on Earth for unknown reasons. While at other times it's the typical Japanese high school Tsutomu interactions you would expect. But it does get darker near the end.

The second season basically starts off where the first ended. With a new crop of villains who have fled to earth and it's up to Birdy and Tsutomu to hunt them down. This is actually the better of the two seasons as it goes more into Birdy's past and how she was raised to be the perfect warrior. Once again as in the first season; the emphasis is more on the various character interactions and consequences of those actions and less on the actual action. And once again; it can get pretty dark at times. This season basically ends at episode 25 with it's own ending animation! While episode 26 is either an extended epilogue or a teasing for another season that never came to pass. I'm not quite sure which.

Overall, it was a good series but not a great series. All the twisting plot points and character interactions can slow the plot down at times and it really needed a little more levity to counter-balance the dark spots. So I'd rate Birdy around 3 to 3-1/2 stars if you like them with more humour and action. 4 stars if you like them more darker.

J. A.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade [Import]
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Visually and audibly superb but you may find the plot too depressing!, April 13 2014
Jin-Roh was and is one of the best crafted animated movies ever made. Written by Mamoru Oshii and animated by Production I.G.; this is a movie that visually and audibly can hold it's own with his other high quality creations like Ghost in the Shell and the Patlabor's 1 and 2. So why have you never heard of it? Or why is it only now being license rescued by Discotek (Eastern Star) after it's last American release years ago under the old Banda label? In a word, because this is a very dark and angsty film!

Set in an alternate 50's/60's timeline; this is a semi-totalitarian society in a dark and depressing upheaval. Anarchists and demonstrators and revolutionaries are running wild and there is no easy solution, no magic bullet to end the chaos. Beautifully rendered and visually stunning; this just makes the opening scenes of bloodshed and the death of a child soldier all the more horrific as one elite officer and one grieving sister try to come to terms with the chaos that surrounds them. Then throw in all sorts of inscrutable Japanese plots within plots and a pace that at times seems to slow down to a crawl. And then couple this with an overall storyline in which not only is there no guarantee that anybody will live happily ever after but in which you're not even sure who or whether there actually is any good guys? And it's no wonder this movie will never achieve the fame or popularity of a Ghost in the Shell!

So while Jin-Roh will always sit in my permanent collection of top quality animated films; this is also a film that like Akira, Vexille or Grave of the Fireflies will also tend to very rarely if ever actually end up in my Blu-ray player because it's just too damn depressing!

By the way although Amazon doesn't indicate it, my Bandai copy of this film comes with both a Japanese DTS and an English DD 5.1 audio track. Extra's were minimal, mostly director/creator and cast interviews. So you can reasonably assume that this re-release will have them as well.

Five stars for the undeniable quality of the animation and audio. Four stars for the convoluted and at times slow pace. And three stars for this not being in a Bluray edition which the animation really deserves! Four stars overall and recommended mainly for those who like them very dark and very gritty!

J. A.

Frozen [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Frozen [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Kristen Bell
Price: CDN$ 19.97
2 used & new from CDN$ 19.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Golden Age Disney, Modern Age Audio & Video!, April 8 2014
As I watched Frozen it soon became apparent that unlike the typical modern Disney feature; Frozen is actually a throwback to the Golden Age of Disney films when movies like The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast reined supreme. In other words, less contemporary humour and sci-fi type action and instead lots more of fantasy, beautifully rendered scenes and lots and lots of singing and dancing. And that's exactly what you get in Frozen.

Right from the get go with the workers cutting up the ice blocks, to the Royal Palace which wouldn't look out of place in any of dozens of older Disney flicks right through to Elsa's Ice Castle. This is one absolutely gorgeous rendered movie and in a true 2.24:1 widescreen to boot. Then add in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray only, Dolby Digital 5.1 for the DVD plus French and Spanish tracks) and the choral music at the beginning of the movie just swirls around you. It's very impressive.

So if you prefer the old Disney, you're just going to love Frozen. It will definitely meet your expectations. However, If you prefer more contemporary Disney like Wrecking Ralph or Brave with the emphasis on action and comedy; then you may find all the musical numbers a bit overwhelming and the actual storyline a bit underwhelming. So I'd rate Frozen 5 stars for those who missed the old Disney and 4 to 4-1/2 stars for those who prefer the more modern fare.

J. A.

Appleseed [Blu-ray]
Appleseed [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 34.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 29.60

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best looking CGI movies ever made!, March 27 2014
This review is from: Appleseed [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Appleseed is an all CGI movie from the legendary Shirow Masamune (creator of the magnificent Ghost in the Shell) and is almost as good. Originally released as a DVD back in 2004 by Geneon; it has now been license rescued and re-released by Sentai in high definition Blu Ray and with a new English dub using the same voice actors as on it's sequel movie - Appleseed Ex Machina [Blu-ray] (also highly recommended - see my review).

The plot is about a future world ravaged by war in which there is one gleaming beacon of hope. A magnificent city built out of the ruins called Olympus. A city in which humans, bioroids (human clones) and even cyborgs can live in peace. But of course there's always a serpent in Eden! And it may be up to a war weary human female plucked from the ruins; her former male partner now more machine than man and their bioroid hosts to make sure it survives!

The plot at times is a bit convoluted and does stretch credibility to the limits; but by God it's never boring. Right from the get go it starts out with one of the best battle scenes I've ever seen and just keeps on going. Everything in the movie is just visually stunning! From that very first fire fight in the ruins to the arrival at Olympus and right through to the end of the movie; it is just breath taking to watch with incredibly complex visuals and CGI characters that are almost real. In fact the movie actually looks even better than the cover art itself would indicate. It's that good.

On the Blu Ray the video is in a 1080P 16x9 ratio. The audio is not in high definition but does include both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both English and Japanese. There is no French track. But there is a second English audio track of the original Geneon dub also in Dolby Digital 5.1 for those who might prefer it. Both English versions sounded fine, but only the newer Sentai dub is in DTS which I prefer.

While the plot is a little too over the top and the ending predictable; this is more than made up for by the incredible graphics and the intensity of the action! So 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Familiar Of Zero: Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Familiar Of Zero: Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 52.49
2 used & new from CDN$ 52.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A great little action/comedy fantasy series!, March 19 2014
The Familiar of Zero (Season One) was one of my personal favourites in the action/comedy genre from the old Geneon USA stable. And it was also one of the very last properties ever released by them before they exited the American market so I never did get to acquire anything beyond that first season. So it's very nice to see that Sentai has now license rescued it and will be releasing the entire four season series. I can hardly wait.

The story is set in a typical fantasy world of castles, mages and dragons where at the Tristain Academy of Magic there is one 2nd year student who has come to be called "Louise the Zero" for her zero talent. With spells that never work out the way they're supposed to or one's that entirely fizzle and this despite the fact that she's supposed to have high magical potential. And this gets compounded even more during one of the most important parts of their training when it's necessary to summon up a familiar that as others get mighty mythological creatures; she inexplicably gets nothing more than a Japanese schoolboy! Of course, what neither she nor her derisive schoolmates realize but her teachers do; is that only the very most powerful magic users of history have ever been able to summon anyone from another world! I think you can see where this story is going to go!

So we have all the usual story elements. The clash between an underdog and her classmates, a boy stuck in a fantasy world who won't accept the aristocratic status quo and of course, lot's of misunderstandings, fan service, growing romantic entanglements and various villains waiting in the wings. I greatly enjoyed the season I got to see and I'm quite eager to see it grow.

Highly recommended for those who like series like Fairy Tale or Tenchi Muyo. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices [Blu-ray]
Children Who Chase Lost Voices [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Hilary Haag
Price: CDN$ 29.78
19 used & new from CDN$ 27.63

4.0 out of 5 stars Japanese Fantasy and Mythology done in the Miyazaki style!, March 18 2014
Children who Chase Lost Voices is the newest film from the young Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai and is the closest I've seen him come to a Studio Ghibli type film. Indeed there were times at the beginning as we were introduced to the main character, a young girl by the name of Asuna when it could easily be mistaken for a Miyazaki film like Totoro or Ponyo. You know what I mean, the plucky heroine/hero running around and soon discovering an amazing adventure. Even more so when she gets taken into the alternate fantasy world of Agartha which so reminded me of the beginning of Nausicaa. The main characters are quite similar and visually it's almost as good as a Studio Ghibli production.

However having said that, it still can't quite stand up to a Ghibli film in two respects. Overall storyline and detailed animation. While the backgrounds are visually very appealing, he still doesn't quite have either the ability or perhaps the budget to do the finely detailed animation that Hayao Miyazaki is world renowned for. And the other problem is the storytelling. While the overall storyline is basically okay and some scenes are very good; there were other times when I found it to be a little bit disjointed, not so seamless as it could be and at times even a bit contradictory. Based on Japanese fantasy and mythology and with a storyline in which each of the major characters is mourning the loss of a loved one; it's also quite a bit darker than a typical animated fantasy film would be and would not be suitable for children under ten.

However, it's still pretty impressive for only his third major film, the backgrounds are very beautiful at times and it has a good immersive DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack. So I'll give it 4 stars out of 5. Adults who like fantasy tales should quite like it.

J. A.

Naruto Uncut: Season 3, Box Set 1 (ep.107-135)
Naruto Uncut: Season 3, Box Set 1 (ep.107-135)
Price: CDN$ 10.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The most powerful episodes of the entire original Naruto series!, March 14 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review and this rating is ONLY for the SEASON THREE, VOL. ONE BOX SET! (You'll see why at the bottom of my review!)

Of all the episodes in the original (i.e. - non Shippuden) Naruto series; this Season 3, Vol. 1 set has to be considered among the most powerful of the lot. For if you thought that the Naruto series was good up to this point (and you wouldn't have gotten this far if you hadn't); then you're really going to be in for a treat as the Sasuke/Naruto rivalry comes to a thundering close.

The plot is simple. Obsessed with killing his brother, frustrated at not being able to outdo Naruto; Sasuke lets the darkness that dwells in his heart overtake him as he is lured away from the Leaf Village by Orochimaru's personal bodyguard, the Sound Ninja Four. And it's up to Shikamaru as a newly appointed Chunin Squad Commander to gather together as many of the elite Genin that the Leaf Village has and to get him back before it's too late! And what a chase it becomes!

While there's lot's of action and comedy in a typical Naruto episode; that's not the case with this set. Right from the get go with Naruto and Sasuke literally trying to kill each other; it becomes quite apparent that this is going to be a deadly serious and a very special set of episodes and that's exactly what it becomes. As every one of the Genin (Choji, Neji, Kiba, Shikamaru and Naruto) will have to put everything on the line with no guarantees of success or even survival in order to save Sasuke from the darkness.

There are some incredible moments, some very touching flashbacks and some even more incredible surprises as the boxset comes to a thundering close on disc six with a three episode fight between Naruto and Sasuke at the waterfall of the Final Valley which beats any battle I've ever seen on Dragonball Z! Then sums it all up with a final episode that's basically a very touching epilogue.

An incredibly powerful ending to the original Naruto series and an absolute must have for anybody who has followed the series up to now. Absolutely 5 stars out of 5.

J. A.

P. S. - And now a little bit about the next three box sets which follow this and why my rating is only for the Season Three, Volume One set. Hopefully you will find it of use.........

SEASON THREE, BOXSET TWO, SEASON FOUR, BOXSETS ONE & TWO - After the thundering conclusion of the Season 3, Vol. 1 Set in the Naruto saga; the animators caught up to the Manga storyline. And they had to make a decision. Either wait three years to accumulate enough material to continue the series or........ do three years of filler! And that's exactly what they did. So the next three box sets are ALL filler! Some very good filler using various left over bits and pieces from the original Manga not incorporated into the main anime, some flashbacks filling in backstories and some well......, just your basic filler. I'd basically rate each of them around 3 stars.

So at this point you can continue on with the remaining three sets and see all the little bits they added in to the series (83 episodes worth of bits) and as I said, some of it is pretty good! Or you can bypass the filler and go right to the continuation of the main Manga storyline with the newer Naruto Shippuden series which starts up (no big surprise) exactly three years later!

Princess Nine Complete Series [Import]
Princess Nine Complete Series [Import]
Price: CDN$ 40.47
11 used & new from CDN$ 29.27

5.0 out of 5 stars The best Sports Anime that I've ever seen!, March 12 2014
There are series that you go into thinking that they will be good and then they sorely disappoint you. And then there are series that you think will be just another in their particular genre and they blow you away with their quality and uniqueness! Like Ai Yori Aoshi and Ai Yori Aoshi Enishi - Complete Series (Anime Classics) in the harem/romantic comedy genre or Initial D: First Stage (S.A.V.E) which was a simple series about drift racing in Japan; they actually BECOME the model for that genre and the series you end up recommending to all your friends and family! Princess Nine is such a five star series!

Originally licensed and distributed by ADV back in their early years and overshadowed by series like Evangelion; it never got the attention it rightfully deserved. Out of print for almost a decade now and virtually unknown to many younger Otaku; it's a true classic in every sense of the word. And for those of us who were fortunate enough to own the original ADV series; you'd get our copies away from us ONLY over our dead bodies! That's how good it was. So it's wonderful to see this license rescued and re-issued by Right Stuf under their Nozomi/Lucky Penny line for a new generation.

At first glance Princess Nine appears to be yet another typical sports anime. But nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, it's a sports anime about the founding of a girl's high school baseball team with all the usual action/comedy elements that you would expect and all the usual cast of suspects from the red-haired thug, the geek, the shy one, the strong one, the model, etc., etc. But don't mistake this for another Bamboo Blade or Kenichi the Mighty. For each of these players and the supporting cast is a believable person with their own hopes and dreams. And running underneath all of this is a much more serious storyline about a high school president intent on breaking the gender barrier by having her team not only compete in the boy's league but actually winning the Koshien, the National high school baseball Championship!

The writing is taut and the storyline at times incredibly addictive. This is one of the very few anime series that I've watched where I actually felt compelled to watch three to four episodes at a time as there are a lot of cliff hangers. And even better is the rivalry between the two main female leads. Ryo Hayakawa who has been picked to lead the team and has inherited her late father's legendary pitching arm but can she survive the pressure? And Izumi Himuro the school's top tennis star who excels in everything and will not be number two! Then throw in various romantic rivalries and the voice acting here between Hilary Haag (Ryo) and Monica Rial (Izumi) is just exemplary. I've never shown this series to anybody who didn't come away impressed!

As for this re-issue, it comes with both the orginal sub's and dub and what appears to be all the extensive extra's including music clips, actress interviews, karaoke and a piece on the history of baseball. Even the price is about the same as what I paid for my original ADV brick collection purchased from ten years ago. (One of my first anime purchases.) So I'm really looking forward to this re-issue as it will give me a chance to replace my big bulky ADV brick with a newer more compact (and Rightstuf claims) better looking collection.

Highly recommended for those who want something a little more than just action and comedy. Definitely 5 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Eureka Seven - Part One - LE [Blu-ray]
Eureka Seven - Part One - LE [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 34.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic sci-fi of love, mech's and redemption returns!, March 10 2014
Back in the early 2000's there were a number of high quality anime series that hit our shores that just stood head and shoulders above the rest. These were series like Rahxephon from the old ADV stable, Last Exile from Geneon and a whole host from the late Bandai including Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex, Code Geass, Gundam Seed and of course Eureka Seven. They stood out not just for the sheer video and audio quality, though they had that aplenty; but even more importantly because of vastly superior storytelling with complex plots, even more complex character developments and completely unique and visually fascinating worlds. So it's very nice to see this one license rescued and re-issued by Funimation.

While Eureka Seven appears at first glance to be another typical Mech show, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it's basically a love story about a boy and a girl (a very unusual girl), a boy growing into a man and an incredibly complicated plot of humanity fighting for it's very existence which just happens to have Mech's in it. Like Evangelion, there are elements in it which can just drive some folks nuts while at the same time (again like Eva) really, really enjoying the action and the series itself even if they don't necessarily agree or even understand half the plot or the ending.

Among the more strange elements, that most of the world on which Renton (the boy to man hero) lives is covered with a scrub corral that not only is alive and sends out anti-bodies to kill humans when attacked; but may be intelligent as well. That the sky is permeated with an energy called Trapar waves that not only are used to propel ships and Mech's, but also individual surfboard type devices as well! And it may well be up to Renton and Eureka (the enigmatic girl) and a renegade group called the Gekkostate to save the planet! Saying any more than this would just spoil your sense of discovery. Let's just say that it's a series that over it's 50 episodes will keep you continually surprised if not at times downright mystified.

It's not perfect of course. For one thing like Gundam Seed, it was one of the last top line series to be done in a standard 4x3 format before the Japanese went over completely to the 16x9 format. More's the pity. And of course even though there are lots of mech fights, it's not really about mech's but about relationships (incredibly complex relationships) so those hoping for another Gundam might be sorely disappointed. And the overall plot is really, really out there in terms of believability at times as well.

But if you like this sort of plot and a lot of folks do; well this is certainly one of the better ones. Whether you like the ending (and a lot of folks do) or you're more ambivalent....... Well....... in that respect like Rahxephon, Evangelion or Code Geass; you can disagree with the ending while still very much enjoying how you got there! There's some real deep and complex writing going on here and there are a lot of folks who really, really love seeing this series once again available in North America.

As for this re-release, Funimation is not doing a Combo pack type release. Instead they are doing two separate re-issues, one a standard DVD boxset of Parts 1 (26 episodes) and 2 (24 episodes). The other a Blu-Ray only release in which Part 1 can come by itself or as a LE with an additional chipboard box big enough to hold both parts 1 and 2. This would probably be your preferred option.

For mech lovers, I'd rate this about 3 to 3-1/2 stars. They're just going to find the complex plot and relationship episodes too slow for their liking. For those who love Evangelion type endings, Stand Alone Complex plots and the burgeoning love story, a good 4-1/2 to 5 stars. So let's compromise and call this about 4 to 4-1/2 stars overall. No matter which camp you fall into, it's definitely a series you should check out!

J. A.

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