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John Thomas Anderson (Southern Ontario, Canada)

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Fate / Kaleid Liner - Prisma Illya Complete Collection
Fate / Kaleid Liner - Prisma Illya Complete Collection
Price: CDN$ 62.63
16 used & new from CDN$ 35.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A lighter magical girl spinoff from the Fate/Stay universe!, July 26 2016
Fate/kaleid is a bit of a strange little beastie. A magical girl spinoff of the much more serious Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero franchises. It proved to be quite controversial when this first season set came out and generated quite a bit of hate from those who really loved the franchise and expected more of the same. Which this is and is not! While it pays homage to all the main Fate characters; it bears the same relationship that a series like Magical Girl Pretty Sammy does to Tenchi Muyo. So if you're looking for a deep dark series like Fate/Stay Night, this ain't it and you're probably going to be disappointed.

However as a magical girl series it's pretty darn good especially if you don't go into it expecting another Fate/Zero. Though because of it's Fate roots, it tends to stray a bit darker and has some damn fine battle sequences that would put the majority of magical girl battles to shame. So it's also not a Sailor Moon either. Being a hybrid half way between a magical girl and Fate/Stay in tone and execution. Perhaps you could call it a Sailor Moon for adults? Which also explains the TV14 rating.

This is the first season of ten episodes but it does have a good season ending finale. With the eleventh and last episode being an OVA which made a fine little epilogue. So you don't need to go on to the second season unless you wish to as this ending is perfectly acceptable by itself. Contains both sub and English dub (but not by the same voice actors as Fate) in 16x9 widescreen and stereo prologic sound. Extras are limited to OP's, ED's and trailers.

2 Stars for the serious Fate Universe crowd. They're probably not going to like this Magical Girl parody. 4 Stars for those who would like a magical girl anime with some serious butt kicking action. It's up to you to decide which category you fall into.

J. A.

Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 3
Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 3
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 15.49
19 used & new from CDN$ 15.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A new team and a new beginning!, July 20 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 3 (DVD)
Like the previous Boxset 2, this boxset starts right off where the previous set ended resolving all the final battles with the two remaining Akatsuki and rescuing Gaara. And also like the previous set; some of the most poignant and best episodes in this entire boxset once again revolve around Sakara and Lady Chiho of the Sand Village. Which is both incredibly addicting and very moving at times. This story arc takes up about 60% of this set.

At which point the series switches to a new story arc with a new Team Kakashi and the introduction of two new major players. Yamato who will temporarily take over the Kakashi Team and a new member called Sai who doesn't always play well with others. It makes for an interesting clash of personalities and the boxset ends once again in a cliffhanger with a very major surprise! So better acquire Boxset 4 while you're at it.

Everything else is similar to the two previous boxsets. Three thinpaks in a nice lightweight box, sub and dub stereo with some pro-logic surround, some very nice background drumming on the soundtrack and in a standard 4x3 format. Once again only one subtitle stream so you can't have signs without dialogue at the same time. (I've always hated that in Viz products!) But they do have a very nice dub featurette detailing some of the new characters and their relationships which appears on the last disc.

Contains episodes 27 to 39. 4 stars out of 5 for the new storyline. 5 stars out of 5 for the ending of the previous storyline. Once again if you liked the two previous sets; you'll like this one equally as well. 4-1/2 stars overall.

J. A.

Bleach (TV) Set 1 [Blu-ray] [Import]
Bleach (TV) Set 1 [Blu-ray] [Import]
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 61.22
6 used & new from CDN$ 57.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good multiple episode series gets a Bluray re-release., July 18 2016
Bleach was another one of those multiple season anime series from Viz along the lines of Naruto, Inu Yasha, Ranma or Dragonball Z. And when it was good it was equally as good if not better. At least for the first three season sets (63 episodes - Soul Society) at which point they caught up to the manga. After which the series went into a pretty good three season filler arc (The Bount) which was much better than typical filler arcs from Naruto or InuYasha as examples. Before eventually going back to the original Manga alternated with filler that varied between good to bad depending on the arc. Until the anime series eventually petered out last year with sixteen seasons and 366 episodes. However everyone agrees that the first 63 episodes were superb. Like Inu Yasha or Naruto being a perfect blend of comedy and action.

What made the beginning so good? Well......., at first it looks like your typical monster of the week anime as Ichigo gets drafted by Rukia into becoming a substitute soul reaper to fight demonic spirts called Hollows. But unlike a lot of anime series that tend to get into a rut at this point; the series kept bringing in new characters or developing old ones. Tired of Ichigo and Rukia fighting Hollows? No problem, suddenly secondary characters like Orihime and Chad started developing powers of their own. Tired of Hollows? No problem, suddenly other Soul Reapers appeared from the Soul Society to arrest Rukia. The first season DVD set (21 episodes) ended with Ichigo and company heading off to the Soul Society (after life) to rescue Rukia. As you can see, that first season box set never got boring!

The same was true for the two season DVD sets that followed. In season two they had to break into the Soul Society and a most screwed up society it was. With Guard Squads and various players within them as they constantly introduced new and interesting fighters. And by the time the third and last season set of the original Soul Society arc rolled around; they had Soul Reapers fighting Soul Reapers and surprising alliances all over the place. It was 63 episodes of one slam bang, fighting up the yazoo, monstrous story arc!

So if you haven't seen the original beginning of Bleach? Then this new Bluray introduction is probably as good a way to see it as any. As it contains the first 27 episodes (out of 63) of the Soul Society arc. If you have the original DVD or re-release sets? Then it's a little more problematic as unlike DBZ which was cell animated and benefited from 1080p reshooting. Bleach was digitally animated in standard definition so all it's going to be is a full frame BD upscale. And most likely with the original English/Japanese 2.0 tracks intact. Plus we don't yet know how they intend to do the episode counts on future BD releases. Since there's 27 episodes now instead of 21 on this first BD set; will they still end the arc on one or two BD sets? Or could it end up in the middle of a BD set? So for those who have the DVD sets, you might want to wait.

But for those who haven't seen or own Bleach? The beginning of this series is highly recommended if you like your fantasy/comedies with lots and lots of action. It's up to you though to decide if you want to get it on this new Bluray release or pick up the older DVD sets to save money. Either way, 4 stars out of 5 for these first 27 episodes. And 5 stars out of 5 for the remaining 36 episodes (when it really gets good) however or whenever they're re-released.

J. A.

Baka & Test - Season 1 - S.A.V.E.
Baka & Test - Season 1 - S.A.V.E.
DVD ~ Not Available
Price: CDN$ 22.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 22.92

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the silliest comedies since School Rumble!, July 11 2016
Baka & Test is yet another one of those silly, waaaaay over the top school comedies that anime does so well. In this case being centered around a class of misfits (suitably called Class F) in a private academy where ones academic standing not only determines how nice your classrooms are....... (Class A gets leather sofas and private catering. Class F gets packing crates and floor mats!) But also how strong your avatars are. Which can be brought out in special holographic battles between classes to move up or down in the standings. Hence the secondary title - "Summon the Beasts". Except in this case the avatars are actually more along the lines of cute little chibi duplicates of their summoners and it's a real hoot to see them beating up on each other!

Then throw in the fact that the main character Yoshi is without a doubt the dumbest guy on the face of the planet! That most of the class are idiots, a best friend who has a super jealous girlfriend, a photog seeking the ultimate panty pics, a pretty boy who keeps getting mistaken for a girl and/or his twin sister, the prettiest girl in the class secretly in love with him as is the resident bad girl, super jealous classmates, a ton of rivals from other classes and it just keeps getting zanier.

The closest I can compare it to would be series like Pani Poni Dash or even better School Rumble School Rumble - Season 1 & OVA (S.A.V.E.) which is quite similar and just as screwy but without the avatars and which I also highly recommend. I just wish that Funimation had rolled both Season 1 and Season 2 into a single SAVE collection. As School Rumbles 26 episode Seasons are a better value than Baka & Tests 12 episode Seasons. Still......., Baka & Test are well worth acquiring and since the series doesn't really progress; you don't need to acquire both series at the same time as the second season is simply a continuation of the first with no definitive ending. Each set stands fine by itself.

Everything else on these two SAVE Season Sets is as expected. Video is 16x9 widescreen, audio is English 5.1 and Japanese pro-logic stereo. Extras are minimal but the Season 2 set does include the 2 episode OVA special. And like most SAVE editions, both sets come with very pretty reversible covers that list all the episodes. Something I always appreciate. So overall for both season sets, 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Only Yesterday [Blu-ray + DVD]
Only Yesterday [Blu-ray + DVD]
Price: CDN$ 23.79
2 used & new from CDN$ 23.79

4.0 out of 5 stars The last of the Studio Ghibli classics makes it's North American debut!, July 10 2016
Of all the Studio Ghibli movies from the late 80's through to the early 90's; there was always one missing movie. Only Yesterday which came out in 1991. It wasn't that there was anything particularly inferior with it. Indeed it stands up equally as good in animation and in its music as the other early Ghibli movies made around that time. Movies like My Neighbour Totoro, Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky. But like Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies made just before it. It is less about the Miyazaki magic and fantasy and more about simple reality. In this case, being nothing more than a young woman of 27 on vacation in the countryside superimposed on her memories of her ten year old self. It's a very laid back movie and as a result, was the only early Ghibli title along with Grave of the Fireflies that Disney never dubbed or released.

The movie is divided almost equally between her adult journey to the country and numerous flashbacks to her ten year old self and the growing realization that it may be time for a change. Like all Ghibli movies, it's beautiful to look at as she works in the fields, interacts with her host family and reminisces about the past. It also has a wonderful and very understated musical accompaniment that though purely Japanese almost reminded me of Inca style music at times. The movie really is as simple as that but masterfully told. Though in a very understated and in a very slow way. Not surprising therefore that Disney took a pass on it when compared to the likes of Totoro and Castle in the Sky that came just before it. So it's very nice that GKids has now license rescued it, added a very nice English dub and come out with both a DVD and a Bluray Combo edition.

As for this combo release, it's in a true 1080P with a 1.85:1 format for the BD and anamorphic widescreen for the DVD. There are only two audio tracks on the Bluray, Japanese and English both in DTS 2.0. But for some unknown reason, DTS-HD lossless audio is only on the Japanese track. There is a French subtitle track. Also because the audio tracks are linked directly to the Japanese and English opening and closing credits; audio can only be switched from the main audio setup menu.

Extras include the original 45 min. Japanese documentary from '91 on the making of the film and a couple of smaller English documentaries on the making of the dub. A feature length storyboard is included on the Bluray. Plus a handful of Trailers and TV spots.

Not a movie for the action buff (no villains, no daring do, no action packed chases or rescues). Just simply a wonderful little tale of a woman's childhood memories and perhaps a brand new beginning? It's a tale that women will absolutely love. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Kekkaishi: Set 4 (ep.40-52)
Kekkaishi: Set 4 (ep.40-52)
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 16.77
7 used & new from CDN$ 16.77

4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfactory ending to a good series!, July 7 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Kekkaishi: Set 4 (ep.40-52) (DVD)
After the strong and powerful ending to the third set; everything starts to wind up to a final showdown between the Kokuboru and the Kekkaishi now aided by Masamori and his Night Troops who have literally moved in. But where there is a bit of humour at the beginning with all these new characters; it soon turns much more serious as everyone on both sides start their final battles. And there are some major surprises along the way.

If there's a weakness to this series; it's simply that the Manga was still ongoing when they finished the anime so while we do get a proper ending to the Kokuboru storyline with various fates and resolutions and even flashbacks for all the major Kokuboru characters. It does feel a bit rushed at times with certain plot twists that appear to come out of nowhere. Plus other major non-Kokuboru characters and their future storylines which were hinted at are left for another day assuming they ever wish to do so. So where I gave 5 stars to the final ultimate battles of Bleach and Naruto (before they went into their filler arcs.) I'd have to give 4 to 4-1/2 stars to Kekkaishi.

It's a good action/comedy series but just a notch below the level of the early Bleach or Naruto animes.

J. A.

Kekkaishi: Set 3 (ep.27-39)
Kekkaishi: Set 3 (ep.27-39)
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 18.46
7 used & new from CDN$ 18.46

4.0 out of 5 stars It just keeps getting better!, July 4 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Kekkaishi: Set 3 (ep.27-39) (DVD)
You can always tell which of the longer running series will turn out to be the best by the simple fact of observing - do they get better or do they simply get longer? And luckily Kekkaishi like Bleach and Naruto just keeps getting better as the sinister forces that were gathering now launch an all out attack on Karasumori.

With the introduction of major new characters, both allied and enemy and surprises galore. The old demon of the week format is now long gone and you can't wait to see what's going to happen next.

Everything else in this third set is similar to the previous sets. Same simple stereo for both the dub and sub and minimum extras. Plus the same quirky lack of sufficient skip points so if you're marathoning you have to fast forward through the opening because there is no skip point at the episode beginning. (It's at the middle of the first commercial break instead!)

If you've come this far, you'll definitely want to continue. 4 to 4-1/2 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Okami-san and Her Seven Companions - Complete Series [Blu-ray + DVD]
Okami-san and Her Seven Companions - Complete Series [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ Joel McDonald
Price: CDN$ 39.98
19 used & new from CDN$ 33.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A short but fun action/comedy series!, June 26 2016
Forget about the alliterations to western fairytales which is prominently promoted in the advertising. Yes the so-called Wolf and major female protagonist, Ryogo has your typical tough girl exterior with good girl interior. And yes her best friend Ringo looks and acts like a tiny Red Riding Hood. While their companions at the Otogi-Bank (a student run help club) and some of their clients are supposed to parody various fables but it's very subtle and frankly easily forgotten.

Instead it's simply another typical action/comedy high school series which revolves more around bailing out fellow students than anything to do with actual school activities. And in it's mix of characters has all the usual anime stereotypes. In addition to Ryogo and Ringo, there's the shy boy Ryoushi who loves her and may be more than he appears, the club president who's the schemer, the hot guy and his jealous girlfriend, the eccentric sci-fi girl, the maid, the evil head of a rival school who wants to take them down, etc., etc. In it's 12 episodes it's a pretty good mix of action and comedy.

If it has a weakness, it's too stereotypical. Every other episode always has a bunch of goons with lead pipes they have to fight for no good reason. And by the end of the 12 episodes nothing really gets wrapped up. Although the ending is fine; it's also quite obvious that they planned to do more which never materialized. So it does feel a bit uncompleted.

As for this collection, it's your typical Funimation Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack with two Blu-Rays and two DVDs. BD's are 1080P native, 16x9 with Dolby True HD 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese. DVD's are Dolby 5.1 English and Stereo Japanese. Extras are limited to commentaries, promotional videos, Op's and Ed's and various trailers.

Overall, it's not a bad little series but really deserved a second season to finish. 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

Rozen Maiden: Complete Collection
Rozen Maiden: Complete Collection
DVD ~ Asami Sanada
Price: CDN$ 54.71
16 used & new from CDN$ 37.23

4.0 out of 5 stars A story about living dolls that's not for children!, June 17 2016
Sweet and funny, yet also powerful and sad!

Rozen Maiden is another series from the old Geneon stable. Originally in two parts totalling 24 episodes; it came out back 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 called "Rozen Maiden: Ouverture were then license rescued and re-issued by Sentai in 20ll. And is now being re-released by Sentai once again in this "Sentai Selects" budget/re-release edition. 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? (Which they now have called Zuruckspulen which will be out in the Fall.) 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 collection itself is on 5 discs, 2 each for the two main parts and 1 disc for the OVA's. Video is 16x9 and both English and Japanese are in Dolby Digital 2.0. Extras are limited to clean OP's and ED's and trailers similar to the original Geneon release. But Sentai has included a nice reversible cover like most of their "Sentai Selects" editions. There will be no Blu ray release of this older series.

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. While not for everyone. For those whom enjoy series like these; I rate it a strong four stars.

J. A.

Lucky Star:  The Complete Series [Blu-ray + DVD]
Lucky Star: The Complete Series [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ Wendee Lee
Price: CDN$ 50.99
7 used & new from CDN$ 50.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A simple little slice of life anime series!, June 17 2016
Lucky Star is yet another great little slice of life schoolgirl comedy that came out originally from Bandai back in 2008 and has now been license rescued and re-issued by Funimation in one of their Blu ray, DVD combo packs. Like other full length Combo releases, this will consist of 4 Blu rays and 4 DVD's housed in a double thick Blu ray case with a slip cover and reversible cover art. All the extras from the original Bandai release including Key Scenes Galleries, textless OP's and ED's, Promo clip The Adventures of Minoru Shiraishi, On Screen Text Reference Guide, Cast Interviews and trailers will be included.

As for the series itself. There's no space aliens, demons, villains out to conquer the world or harems here. It's just a simple little anime series about the day to day lives of (initially) four high school (though in animation style, they look more like public school) girls which expands in the last half to about eight or more girls and their day to day tribulations. The closest thing to it in terms of feel and quality would be "K-On" K:On!: Season 1 [Blu-Ray] (highly recommended) or "Azumanga Daioh" Azumanga Daioh: Complete Collection (also highly recommended). Sometimes it's just nice to have a simple little comedy to watch!

Like Azumanga Daioh, the series is based on a four strip comic series. And again like Daioh, this results in each episode being a bunch of mini-episodes strung together. In the case of Lucky Star, most being about one to three minutes long. None of the mini stories are earth shattering, just fun exploring everything from meal etiquette to study procrastination. In other words, stuff we can all relate to. There's also a ton of references to other anime series that they parody especially Haruhi Suzumiya which also came out from Bandai around that time.

Like K-On and Daioh, I found it the perfect series to watch late at night when you just want to unwind. In a way, it was even better as with such short storylines, you can shut it off almost anywhere and not leave anything hanging!

As a bonus, it's also very interesting right from the very beginning to the very end of each episode. While the Opening is always the same, it's an extremely catchy song and dance number that I never got bored of watching and every ending has a different animated monologue from a very bored voice actress plus different ending credits for every single episode. This is one series where you won't want to jump through the end credits.

Highly recommended by otaku at the time; many of whom are now going to be double dipping to get this newer blu ray version. And definitely recommended if you're a fan of either K-On or Azumanga Daioh. I rate it a strong 4 stars out of 5.

J. A.

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