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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)
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Shattered Angels: The Complete Collection (S.A.V.E.)
Shattered Angels: The Complete Collection (S.A.V.E.)
Price: CDN$ 20.41
18 used & new from CDN$ 12.21

4.0 out of 5 stars A romantic tearjerker done in the guise of a sci-fi action series!, Aug. 22 2014
At first Shattered Angels starts off as your typical sci-fi space opera. A young girl by the name of Kuu comes to the City of Academia. A City that consists of hundreds of Schools each devoted to a single discipline. And there soon discovers that mysterious girls called Ultimate Angels can manifest strange powers against each other while at the same time they all appear intent on capturing her! In other words, a typical sci-fi action series.

However as the relationships and interactions develop, it soon becomes clear that this is really a romantic tearjerker with all the angst, betrayals and surprises that you would expect in a romantic series. Just with some super mech type powers thrown in. So you have the conflicted hero, the bad guy who may not actually be that bad, the rivals who may have to band together, the small band of heroes who must overcome incredible odds to triumph and of course being a typical anime series; the obligatory insane villain who wants to end the world for no good or logical reason.

As a result it never really makes any sense as an action series. Clichés abound, the inner workings of the world and the Angels never really get explored and perhaps because it's only 12 episodes long; the storyline never gets a chance to be properly developed. Indeed the whole story revolves around only a few handfuls of folks and their interactions and it's as if the rest of the world never really existed.

However as a romantic tearjerker; it's pretty good. The animation is top notch and there are lots of typical romantic moments from a hero on a white horse swooping in to save his damsel to acts of sacrifice and betrayal. So those who like series like Kannazuki No Miko will undoubtedly like this.

As a sci-fi series, I'd give it a 3. It's just too slow, confused and underdeveloped to deserve more. But as a romantic series, I'd give it about 4. It's not as good as series like Kanon or Fushigi Yugi but it should appeal to the same demographics. So I'll mark it accordingly.

J. A.

Daddy, I'm a Zombie/ Papa, Je suis une Zombie (Bilingual)
Daddy, I'm a Zombie/ Papa, Je suis une Zombie (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Kim Wharton
Price: CDN$ 6.88
3 used & new from CDN$ 6.88

3.0 out of 5 stars A simple little kid's movie that Tim Burton would love!, Aug. 11 2014
Daddy I'm a Zombie is a typical kid's movie revolving around Dixie, a 13 year old girl who doesn't quite fit in. Her parents have split up and she lives with her Dad who's an undertaker. She's ostracized by her schoolmates and even her best and only friend is starting to avoid her. So one night she runs into the forest and gets hit by a falling tree and wakes up as one of the living dead. i.e.- a zombie.

In tone and animation, the movie is very similar to movies like Tim Burton's "The Corpse Bride" or "The Nightmare Before Christmas" just on a lower budget. So the animation is simpler, backgrounds less developed, action scenes are not as complex and there are fewer overall characters. In other words it's more along the likes of a good made for TV movie than a theatrical masterpiece.

However, it does somewhat make up for that with a very telling (if simple) storyline of teenage alienation, school ostracism and finding friends in the strangest places. Plus it does retain that very accurate Tim Burton look and vibe. So I'll give them fair marks for that. The first half hour is especially good.

To sum up, if you want a top CGI theatrical movie, this ain't it. But if you want a simple kid's movie at a budget price with a good family message then this will do. So 2 stars for the TV quality animation, 3 stars for the plot and 4 stars for the family storyline (which in my opinion is the best part of the movie). You decide which part is the most important to you.

J. A.

Cybersix Complete TV Series [Import]
Cybersix Complete TV Series [Import]
Price: CDN$ 39.89
7 used & new from CDN$ 32.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting sci-fi/action series that virtually nobody knows!, Aug. 7 2014
Cybersix is an interesting animated series that while animated by TMS in Japan back in '99 was actually based on an Argentine comic first published in '92 for an Italian comics magazine. It was then dubbed and broadcast on Teletoon in Canada, Kids Station in Japan, Telefi in Argentina and a horribly cut and edited version on Fox Kids in the U.S.A. So it has quite an international pedigree.

What intrigued me about the show when I first saw it on Teletoon was that I couldn't really place it. The action was typical anime in style and looks but the location always had an old European style feel to it. You know, cobblestone streets, narrow Italian style buildings, etc. It was only later on when I discovered that it was based on a South American comic that it suddenly made sense to me!

The series was considerably toned down from the original adult oriented comic which was quite dark in places and revolves around Cyber-6. A genetically engineered artificial female who escaped her creator and now has to hunt down his dark creations in order to keep herself alive and healthy while at the same time protecting her identity as a male high school teacher. (Think Clark Kent and Superman.) It works surprisingly well here.

The action is thick and furious from the get-go and while the series does have a certain monster of the week feel to it at times, it never gets boring. Animation quality is very high and the character designs are quite exaggerated so the villain has a huge crooked nose and hair styles are wild. The backgrounds and storyline are always intriguing, the dub was good, the music haunting and with only 13 episodes; there never was any time for filler. The ending is good and I feel sufficient although it is a bit of a cliff hanger. So they most likely intended a second season that never materialized. But it's fine the way it is.

As for this new collection from Discotek, it consists of 2 DVD's with 7 episodes on the first disc and 6 episodes on the second. There will also be voice commentaries with Cathy Weseluck (Cyber-6), Liner Notes, clean OP's and ED's, Original Pilot and Production Art. Video is standard 4x3 and because of the age and International nature of this; there will only be the original English dub in Dolby Digital 2.0. NO Japanese or French tracks will be included. No subtitles either.

I was sufficiently impressed with the series at the time ('99) that I actually went to the trouble of taping it and I still have the VHS tapes to this very day. So if you want something a little bit different from your normal anime fare; I highly recommend this. Overall I give it 4 stars. You could do a lot worse.

J. A.

Moribito Complete Series Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Moribito Complete Series Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 44.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 44.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A serious fantasy series for the Twelve Kingdoms crowd!, Aug. 6 2014
Moribito is not your typical fantasy series. If you go into it expecting another Naruto or Samurai Champloo then you're going to be disappointed. As this is a fantasy series with no fan service, no comedy, no non-stop battles or over the top outrageous ninja action. Instead it's a more serious fantasy along the likes of Twelve Kingdoms or Princess Mononoke where the characters actually act and fight like real warriors would.

The action follows the mercenary warrior Balsa who instead of being a swordswoman is instead a spear carrier and her pledge to the mother of the young Prince Chagum to be his bodyguard. Which is not going to be easy as he has been condemned to death out of fear that he is carrying a water spirit and only his and the spirits destruction can avert a terrible drought. It's a deadly serious tale indeed.

What makes it believable is that there is not really any major villain. Like many conflicts, everybody on both sides are doing what they think is in the best interests of their families and the Kingdom. So as the storyline unwinds, Balsa has to wrestle with the demons of her past. The young Prince who is quite believable in the role has to learn what it's like to be a commoner and even the soldiers pursuing them have to face the fact that they have been ordered to kill a child! The battles are relatively realistic (for an anime fantasy anyways) and nobody can be assured of the outcome or even if they are doing the right thing!

The downside to this is that the 26 episode series can be a bit slow-paced at times especially for those who were expecting a typical anime series. But if you've ever seen Twelve Kingdoms, you'll know what to expect.

Originally released by Media Blasters back in 2008, this series has now been relicensed by Viz and is being reissued in both a Blu-ray and a DVD complete collection. Each collection consists of four discs in a standard 16x9 format and Viz claims that the Blu-ray edition has been upgraded to a true 1080P from Media Blaster's original 1080i. Those who have seen it say it does look slightly better. However Media Blasters 5.1 English and Japanese audio tracks (which some folks weren't too crazy about) have been returned to English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks for audio clarity.

I don't remember the extra's being all that memorable on my Media Blaster's release and this release appears to be similar. Consisting of various trailers, a promotional film, a pilot film and a panel discussion. Extra's are identical for both releases.

Overall I'd rate this series 3 stars for the Naruto and Ninja crowd. It's just going to be too dark, angsty and draggy for them. 4 stars for those into the likes of Twelve Kingdoms or Fushigi Yugi. Slower paced series that take a while to establish themselves. Since these are the folk most likely to pick this up, I'll rate it accordingly.

J. A.

The Legend of Korra: Book 2 - Spirit [Blu-ray]
The Legend of Korra: Book 2 - Spirit [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 26.97
7 used & new from CDN$ 22.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some surprising twists for the second season!, Aug. 5 2014
Just as in the original Avatar series, this second season of the Korra series does not disappoint. Now fourteen episodes long; it stays up to the same high level of animation quality and surround sound. And most importantly of all, clever dialogue and neat little twists in the storyline just as good as the first season did. The Legend of Korra: Book 1 - Air [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)

This time it starts out with a conflict eventually leading to war between the southern and northern water tribes with no less than her father and uncle being the two main protagonists. But soon develops into much, much more including betrayals and plots in the Republic itself and the introduction to the Spirit realm which could lead to everyone's destruction!

And this is where I found this second season to really take an interesting and unexpected twist as the second half of this season set has first Korra and then others enter into the spirit realm. And a strange and surprising beastie it is! For this is done in a completely different manner from the rest of the series. Instead of the normal animation style, they go to a different, more oriental, simplistic water-colour style which at first is quite shocking but as it goes along seems more than appropriate as they are now in an entirely different magical realm. It really makes for an interesting contrast. Then throw in an explanation of how the Avatar and bending came into existence and it will certainly surprise!

As for this Blu-ray set, it consists of two discs in a single blue ray case. With a nice glossy embossed slip cover designed to match the first season set. But unlike the first season, they've split the episodes up evenly now with seven episodes on each disc. Ditto for the extras. Most of which are only available on this Blu-ray edition. Like the first season, I've uploaded pictures so you can see for yourself.

Extra's include a commentary track for each episode. Fourteen in all. (The DVD edition has only a few.) Plus fifteen of what they call scene bendings which are short little pieces comparing storyboards of some of the most important scenes next to the finished product. I found this of only marginal interest as they play fancy with this and either show the storyboard full size with the finished scene in a little box in the corner or they use the top quarter for the storyboard and the opposite bottom quarter for the scene. Either way it's too small to be of much use.

More important extras are two little 5 min. pieces. One on Korra's family and the second one on Tenshin's family. (Only the Korra piece is available on the DVD edition.) They also have a 9 min. piece called "Inside the Book of Spirits." Which is basically a making of documentary on the second season from conception through to a few little hints on what the third season will bring. I found all three of these quite interesting. Plus a 33 min. piece called "The Re-telling of Korra's Journey" which is basically a long recap episode on the first season and will only be of interest to those who haven't seen or don't own the first season set. These last two extra's are only on the Blu-ray edition.

Video is a full 1080P and looks great. Audio is a full 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in English and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. On this Blu-ray there is NO FRENCH TRACK! (I don't know about the DVD edition.) Nor is there an English Dolby Digital track if your equipment requires one. But if you have the system, the DTS sound is great.

Overall I'd still give the first season a slightly higher mark at 4-1/2 as this one tends to be slightly darker but it's still very good so I'll call this one a 4. Just like the first season, it's highly recommended.

J. A.

Big Windup: Complete Season One (S.A.V.E.)
Big Windup: Complete Season One (S.A.V.E.)
DVD ~ Greg Ayres
Price: CDN$ 31.50
19 used & new from CDN$ 19.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sports anime that really is all about the sport!, July 17 2014
I was tempted to start this review off by calling Big Windup yet another typical sports anime but then realized that in actual fact it is not! That is because most sports anime either tend to over dramatize the sport where the trials and tribulations off of the field (Princess Nine) are just as important as on the field; or they have to overcome ridiculous evil schemes and opponents (Dan Doh) that simply wouldn't happen in a real game or it's simply a very, very funny comedy (Bamboo Blade) that happens to involve a sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. A.

Rozen Maiden Comp Collection
Rozen Maiden Comp Collection
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 41.48
13 used & new from CDN$ 34.87

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His and Her Circumstances Collection (Anime Value) [Import]
His and Her Circumstances Collection (Anime Value) [Import]
DVD ~ Dick Rodstein
Price: CDN$ 43.76
13 used & new from CDN$ 25.25

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. A.

Nyan Koi!: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
Nyan Koi!: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Shintaro Asanuma
Price: CDN$ 59.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 43.91

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

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

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

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

J. A.

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