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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Princess Jellyfish - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
Princess Jellyfish - Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 21.97
11 used & new from CDN$ 21.97

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.

The Cat Returns [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
The Cat Returns [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Anne Hathaway
Price: CDN$ 29.96
5 used & new from CDN$ 29.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Studio Ghibli film that virtually nobody knows!, June 17 2015
The Cat Returns is a bit of a mixed bag. While it comes from Studio Ghibli and has the usual high quality standards; it was not written or directed by Hayao Miyazaki himself but by one of Studio Ghibli's younger Directors Hiroyuki Morita and suffers as a result. While the animation is good, it's more simplistic than Miyazaki's own superb standards and the storyline while sufficient; never is able to quite capture that whimsical magic that Miyazaki himself is renowned for. While it's still a good little animated film (it's only 75 min. long); it's not a great animated film and I'd put it on about the same level as a Porco Rosso and a little better than a Pom Poko or a Tales from Earthsea.

The plot is pretty much as described. Haru saves the life of a cat that turns out to be a Prince of the Cat Kingdom and has to seek out the help of the mysterious Cat Bureau to prevent herself from turning into a cat not to mention being married off to the cat Prince! Along the way having all the usual action and complications you would expect from an animated movie. Not quite up to Miyazaki's standards, but still quite magical in it's own right.

As for this new bluray release, it's in a proper 1080P, 1.85:1 widescreen format but since the animation is simpler than on a movie like Spirited Away (which came out near the same time); it doesn't benefit as much from the bluray format. Still it's nice to see it on Bluray at last.

Audio tracks are also the same as on the previous DVD release though the English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks have been boosted to DTS-HDMA 5.1 on the Bluray. The French track remaining the same DD 5.1. mix. I didn't notice that much of a difference between the older and newer tracks.

Extras are also the same as on the previous DVD release. Behind the microphones for the English dub, original storyboards and a short Japanese documentary on the making of the movie plus Japanese theatrical trailers and some Disney trailers. That's about it.

It's a nice little family movie but not a great family movie. I'd give it about 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Spirited Away [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
Spirited Away [Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Daveigh Chase
Price: CDN$ 29.96
3 used & new from CDN$ 29.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Studio Ghibli's best FINALLY comes out on BLURAY!, June 16 2015
While Hayao Miazaki's Princess Mononoke will always remain his true Masterpiece with it's incredibly complicated and adult storylines, My Neighbour Totoro his best children's film and Kiki's Delivery Service the best feel good family movie of all time........, it is without a doubt his Spirited Away that will always remain one of Studio Ghibli's finest and most intricately detailed animated movies! From the richly detailed gardens to the incredibly complex spirit domain and it's bathouse through to the rich tapestry of the Witch Yubaba's apartments; this film just screams quality. I remember at the time it came out that Roger Ebert just raved over it's animation and when I finally saw it for myself; I was blown away as well! So it's wonderful that this movie is finally getting a proper Bluray release!

The plot is both simple and complex at the same time. as it's based around a ten year old girl named Chihiro who gets pulled into the spirit realm. Here she has to pluck up her courage, save her parents and survive in this strange alternate spirit world of ghosts, demons and other mystical creatures right out of Japanese folklore. It's just a wondrous realm to explore. If you've ever seen any of Miyazaki's previous movies; you'll recognize elements taken from all of them. From a plucky heroine, cute soot bunnies, strange creatures and wondrous plot twists. It's got it all. I even recognised bits and pieces of soundtracks from Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke thrown in as well. So it's no wonder it received the Academy award for best Animated Film and became Japan's number one ranked movie of all time beating out Titanic. A record I believe it still holds to this day.

As for this Bluray, it's similar to previous Disney Combo re-releases of Studio Ghibli titles. The Bluray being a full 1080P, 1.85:1 widescreen with the English and Japanese tracks being bumped up to full 5.1 DTS-HDMA from the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and the French track being bumped up from a DD 2.0 to a DD 5.1 track. And yes before you ask, it's definitely worth the upgrade if you really want to see all the fine detail in Yubaba's apartments or the bath house.

As for the extras, they're identical to the original DVD release. They consist of a special introduction by Pixar's John Lasseter (a big fan), short documentaries on the art of Spirited Away, the making of the movie, storyboard and scene comparisons, making of the English dub and Japanese theatrical trailers. Nothing extra has been added that I could see.

I consider Spirited Away to be one of the top titles of Studio Ghibli being bested only by Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki's masterpiece) and Kiki's Delivery Service (the best family movie ever made). It's a wonderful family movie and I'm delighted that I now finally have it on Bluray. Definitely worth upgrading and definitely 5 stars out of 5!

J. A.

Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-39)
Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection (ep.1-39)
Price: CDN$ 74.64
21 used & new from CDN$ 49.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Fan Service meets ancient Chinese legends!, June 15 2015
Koihime Muso: The Ultimate Collection is basically the three separate season sets of Koihime Muso gathered together in one complete set. It consists of the 1st season set Koihime Muso: Complete Collection (12 ep. plus an OVA), the 2nd season set Shin Koihime Muso: Complete Collection (12 ep. plus an OVA) and the 3rd season set Shin Koihime Muso: Otome Tairan (12 ep. plus an OVA). 39 episodes on six discs in a compact stackpak (1 spindle holding all 6 discs) case. And is otherwise identical to the original season sets being sub only and a simple stereo track.

As for the series itself, while it's based on The Three Kingdoms era of Chinese legend, the peasants and soldiers dress and look like the real deal and all the main characters are named after real (mostly) characters of that era. That's about as close to reality as it gets. As the girls (they're all girls) dress like a combination of Japanese school girls and idol singers and the plots are basically just excuses for lots of sword swinging, fan service, light yuri and fantasy. If it was sci-fi I'd call it a space opera but since this is fantasy; I guess I'll call it a fantasy opera instead. It's all about lots and lots of cute half naked girls!

Each of the three season sets is pretty much self contained and since this is basically a road type series there really is no definite ending. They could simply add more season sets if they wished. It's fun and lively with a decent amount of action but it's not going to compete with the likes of a Bleach or a Naruto. Overall I'd rate each set at about 3 to 3-1/2 stars. They're okay but you can live without them. It's up to you to decide if the sub only complete collection is worth the price.

J. A.

Kekkaishi: Set 1, Episodes 1-13
Kekkaishi: Set 1, Episodes 1-13
Price: CDN$ 24.98
19 used & new from CDN$ 24.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Another multi-season action/comedy series from Viz!, June 15 2015
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Kekkaishi is yet another action/comedy fantasy series from Viz along the likes of Bleach, Inu Yasha and Naruto. Though shorter at only 52 episodes spread over 4 boxsets. Basically you can think of it as another Bleach but not quite as good. Though it is quite similar in it's execution with a young man by the name of Yoshimori and his arch rival (and best friend) Tokine, a young girl from a rival clan spending all their free time battling demons that are attracted to their school and it's hidden demonic power spot. The plot at least in these first 13 episodes is basically as simple as that though it's obvious that plots and devious plans are developing underfoot.

To be honest about it I hadn't even heard of this series until I picked up this first set and it turned out better than I expected. Their powers to erect square shaped forcefields which they use to guard and destroy is quite interesting and the intereactions between the two young leads reminds me a lot of the interactions between Kagome and Inu Yasha. But it's still not quite up to the levels of those other Viz series. Where they would all score 4-1/2 to 5 stars; I'd rate these first 13 episodes of Kekkaishi between 3 to 3-1/2 stars, maybe a 4. It's okay, but it could be better.

Still......, it's good enough that I will eventually pick up the other three sets. But with only 13 episodes to a set; I'll probably wait for a price reduction or at least a very good sale.

J. A.

Origin: Spirits of the Past - Special Edition Movie - S.A.V.E. [Blu-ray]
Origin: Spirits of the Past - Special Edition Movie - S.A.V.E. [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 14.97
13 used & new from CDN$ 14.94

3.0 out of 5 stars Visually as good as Nausicaa but without Miyazaki's magical touch!, June 15 2015
Origin: Spirits of the Past is yet another in a long line of eco-apocalypse movies that the Japanese seem to do on a regular basis and like most of these movies; it's all about lush visuals, mutated plants and the remaining humans just trying to survive the best they can. It's better looking than most of these movies but just as preachy. In fact I'd say that visually it's as good as Studio Ghibli's Nausicaa but lacks Hayao Miyazaki's magical touch!

In fact that's the real disappointment in this movie that is so high quality otherwise. What with gorgeous animation, lush visuals and a wonderful soundtrack in full 5.1 surround for both the English and Japanese soundtracks! But then simply doesn't live up to that standard story wise with an absolutely ridiculous plot regarding mutant trees from the Moon (no I'm not making this up) that destroyed human civilization 300 years ago in the past. And the discovery of a young girl in cryo sleep who may have the power to destroy everything. And of course, the obligatory young hero who must stop her before it's too late! In other words, it looks like and reminds me a lot of Nausicaa but without Nausicaa's high quality plot.

So like EA Solinas in his review, I can't really give this movie more than about 3-1/2 stars out of 5 even though the visuals and animation deserve a 5. The plot is just too ridiculous and has plot holes you could drop a mutated tree through. So enjoy this movie for what it is. Which is a great looking and sounding 90 min. of animated eye candy. But if you really want a good eco-apocalypse movie with a really intelligent plot, take a look at Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind [Blu-ray + DVD] which is probably the best of this type that has ever been made!

J. A.

4 Kids Favorite: Scooby Doo! [Import]
4 Kids Favorite: Scooby Doo! [Import]
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 18.56
17 used & new from CDN$ 12.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Scooby Doo movies for the price of one or two!, June 14 2015
Beginning in l998, Warner Brothers (which had by then acquired Hanna-Barbera) started making Direct to TV animated Scooby Doo movies. While not up to theatrical standards; these were real movies of about 70 to 75 min. in length and much better than the earlier Hanna-Barbera movies of the late 70's to 80's which were little more than poorly extended TV episodes that rarely ran longer than 45 min. While mostly full frame for the first ones and now 16x9 for the later ones; they have real plots and are quite enjoyable kids movies. With the latest one out in July, there are now no fewer than 24 of these little guys; four of which are in this compilation. So here's the rundown on these four:

SCOOBY DOO AND THE LEGEND OF THE VAMPIRE - Made in 2003, this Scooby mystery is set in the Australian outback at an outdoor concert in which rock musicians are mysteriously disappearing. It's a fun little tale with just the right mix of action and mystery. I'd give it about 4 stars.

SCOOBY DOO IN WHERE'S MY MUMMY? - From 2005, this is your basic pyramid full of mummies and other creepy crawlers tale and an evil villainess out to grab the treasure. It's good clean fun, not too scary for the little ones but not quite as good as the Vampire one. About 3 stars.

SCOOBY DOO AND THE SAMURAI SWORD - From 2009, this is the best one of the four here. Daphne goes to Japan to engage in a martial arts contest and once the Black Samurai appears, it's basically non-stop action from there on in. It's got a great plotline, some very interesting characters, oodles of Ninjas and it might be up to Scooby and Shaggy to become Legendary Samurai Warriors! What more needs to be said? 4 to 4-1/2 stars.

SCOOBY DOO! LEGEND OF THE PHANTOSAUR - From 2011, this is the newest and only one of the four in 16x9 widescreen. Set in the desert at a small town and archeological dig, it's all about ghostly dinosaurs and uncovering a possible conspiracy. In other words, it's a pretty normal day for the Scooby Gang. I'd rate it about the same as Mummy around 3 stars.

Value wise this is a pretty good deal as these little Direct to TV Scooby movies normally run about $5 to $15 each. The only other compilation pack that I'm currently aware of being this one - Scooby-Doo Fun Pack - from about 4 years ago. So I'm hoping this is the beginning of a trend.

All four movies come with English DD 5.1 audio tracks. In addition Vampire comes with a French Dolby Pro-logic surround track and Phantosaur comes with DD 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. Except for Phantosaur which comes in a 16x9 widescreen, the other three movies are all in standard full frame (1.33:1) format which is how they were made.

Provided you don't expect theatrical quality video and are happy with the direct to TV animation. Then overall, I'd rate these at between 3 to 4-1/2 stars for the movies and 4 stars for the overall value.

J. A.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Trilogy [Blu-ray]
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Trilogy [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 42.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 25.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Here's the specs on this 3 disc Bluray Collection!, June 3 2015
Of all the original Star Trek movies; it's pretty well accepted that Star Treks II, III & IV were the best of the bunch and the only three that ever actually made a complete story arc. So it's nice to see these three packaged together in one deluxe Bluray collection. I won't go into the descriptions of the movies themselves as after nearly 30 years; you undoubtedly already know them off by heart. Instead here's the spec's and information on this particular collection.

The Bluray Trilogy is actually a three disc digipack which is housed inside a fancy embossed silvery bluray slipcover. And once removed opens up into your standard style digipack. Under each disc is the full product information on that particular movie including running times and audio options. It's a very pretty little package that takes up minimal room (about the width of two standard bluray cases) and beats the heck out of collections that are simply multiple cases stuffed into a slipcover.

The movies themselves are all 1080P with English 7.1 Dolby True HD soundtracks (The Amazon audio description is only for the DVD set). There is a French 2.0 Dolby Surround track and a Spanish Mono track as well. But only the English track is high definition lossless audio. Extras are plentiful on all three discs. In addition to all the standard definition extras that came with the original DVD versions of the movies; there are also a number of high definition extras that are exclusive to this set and full commentaries on each movie. It's quite complete.

Unless you wish to collect the entire original picture set; this trilogy set is probably the way to go as you'll get the best three of the original Star Trek movies at about half the price. And have a very pretty and space saving set to boot. I'd rate the overall value of this set as 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Patlabor: The Movie (Blu-Ray)
Patlabor: The Movie (Blu-Ray)
DVD ~ Miina Tominaga
Price: CDN$ 34.39
17 used & new from CDN$ 26.43

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 in North America a few years later by Bandai Visual USA along with a new proper English 5.1 dub. Video was greatly improved and a new Bluray release was done along with the DVD but both were very expensive and hard to find in Canada as most retailers only had the older Manga releases in stock and they were only available for a limited time until Bandai Visual exited the North American market. So it is wonderful indeed to finally see this true classic re-released once again under the Maiden Japan label at an affordable price point in 1080P with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio! If ever an older movie deserved high definition treatment, it's this one and it's sister movie Patlabor 2 which will also be released shortly.

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$ 29.96

3.0 out of 5 stars A darker and more moody road series!, May 13 2015
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.

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