Anime DVD Review: The Galaxy Railways: The Complete Collection

The Galaxy Railways: The Complete Collection is a six disc set that is part of FUNimation Entertainment’s S.A.V.E. line of DVD releases. It appears that this set compiled the six individual DVDs that were originally released for The Galaxy Railways into one set. The first two discs each contain five episodes and bonus features, while the remaining four discs contain four episodes and bonus features.

The Galaxy Railways is a science fiction anime series that features flying trains that are capable of interplanetary travel. The trains are protected by the Space Defense Force against such things intergalactic terrorists, meteor storms, and hostile alien life.

The main character of The Galaxy Railways is Manabu Yuki, a young man who had dreamed of joining the Space Defense Force in order to follow in the footsteps of his father and his brother. After both his father and brother died in the line of duty, Manabu’s mother tries to keep him from joining. However, Manabu is determined to pursue his dream and joins the force.

Manabu trains hard and ends up joining the Sirius Platoon, which his father used to command. The other members of the platoon are Louise Fort Drake, Schwanhelt Bulge, Bruce J. Speed, David Young, and Yuki Sexaroid.

When I started watching The Galaxy Railways, it felt like it was going to have an overarching story. The first episode focuses on Manabu and shows what happens from the time he was a child to when he leaves home to join the Space Defense Force. However, once Manabu is established in the Space Defense Force, the arc is suddenly dropped for a significant number of episodes; instead, each episode in this portion focuses on vignettes about the various supporting characters. It isn’t until the final few episodes of the first season when the overall story arc finally returns.

I have to give The Galaxy Railways credit for the excellent job the series did in terms of character development. However, I didn’t think the overall storytelling in the first season of the series worked as effectively as it could have.

When it comes to the character design, Leiji Matsumoto’s touch is very evident. Manabu’s uniform looks very similar to Susumu Kodai/Derek Wildstar’s in Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, and Manabu’s facial features look very similar to Kodai/Wildstar. Whenever I saw Manabu, I had to keep reminding myself that the character I was seeing on the screen wasn’t Kodai/Wildstar.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the first disc contains six bonus features. The first is an interview with Leiji Matsumoto, the creator of The Galaxy Railways. This interview, which runs for about five minutes, has Japanese audio with English subtitles. The second feature is part of a recording session in Japan for the second episode, “Knot In Time.” This runs for almost 13 minutes, and it’s in Japanese with English subtitles. You see the footage of the voice actors performing their lines in the studio, and it’s intercut with footage from the show for the scene they’re recording.

The third extra is the “Title Announcement Press Conference,” which runs for about five minutes. This is the press conference where Leiji Matsumoto, along with the script supervisor, announced The Galaxy Railways; this feature also has Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Next is “Character Profiles,” which contains profiles for Manabu, Louis, Layla Destiny Shula, Wataru, Mamoru, and Kanna; the profiles include a picture and a write-up for each character. The “Textless Songs” are textless versions of both the opening and the closing; however, the subtitles are still included.  The final extra is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released.

The second disc has five bonus features. The first is commentary from the ADR Director and the cast for the sixth episode, “Reason To Love, Part 1.” Next is “Character Profiles,” which contains profiles for Bruce, Bulge, David, and Yuki. The third feature is “Textless Songs,” and this is the exact same feature as on the first disc.

“Mr. Stain” contains a preview of one of the Mr. Stain on Junk Alley CG shorts that were produced by FUNimation Entertainment. This short is “Magic Crayon,” which was the fifth one produced; this feature runs about seven minutes. After watching this short, my husband commented that it made him think of “Aardman on acid.” The final bonus feature is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released.

The third disc contains four bonus features. The first is footage from the Japanese recording session for episode 12, “Twilight.” The next feature is another copy of the “Textless Songs.” The third feature is another preview from Mr. Stain on Junk Alley; this one is “Binoculars,” which was the seventh short produced. The final extra is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

The fourth disc also contains four bonus features. The first is ADR director and actor commentary for episode 18, “Life and Death.” This is followed by another copy of the textless songs. The third is another preview of Mr. Stain on Junk Alley; this one is “Clay,” and it’s the 11th short produced for the series. The final extra is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released.

The fifth disc has three bonus features. The first is yet another copy of the textless songs.  The second is another preview from Mr. Stain on Junk Alley; this one is “Cassette Tape,” which was the sixth short produced. The final extra is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the this this set was released.

The final disc also contains three bonus features. The first is an ADR director and actor commentary for episode 26, “Eternal Hope.” Next is another copy of the textless songs. The final extra is trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

For the DVD set, I felt a little too much emphasis was put on Mr. Stain on Junk Alley in the bonus features. I also wish that on some of the later discs, that character profiles had been included for the characters in the Spica and Vega squadrons. Personally, I can only truly recommend this box set to people who are already familiar with and enjoy The Galaxy Railways.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Galaxy Railways: The Complete Collection that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Anime Film Review: Steamboy

Steamboy is a film directed and co-written by Katsuhiro Otomo. The film was in production for 10 years and utilized more than 180,000 drawings and 440 CG cuts. The film was finally released to Japanese theaters on July 17, 2004, and was released in the United States on March 18, 2005.

Steamboy is set in 19th century England, but employs an alternate history. The story opens in 1863, where Lloyd and Edward Steam have discovered a pure mineral water that they believe can be harnessed and used as an ultimate power source in steam engines. An experiment in Russian Alaska goes horribly wrong, and Edward is engulfed in freezing gas. A strange ball-like apparatus is also seen being “born” from the destruction.

Three years later in Manchester, Edward’s son Ray is an avid inventor who works at a textile mill as a maintenance boy. At home, where he lives with his mother, he also works on a personal steam-powered monowheel.

Ray’s life is disrupted by the arrival of a package from his grandfather. Inside the package is the metallic ball from the accident, accompanied by its schematics. There is also a letter instructing Ray to guard it and get it to Robert Stephenson. Two members of the O’Hara Foundation, who Lloyd and Edward work for, appear and demand the ball.

Ray grabs the ball and papers, and makes his escape on his monowheel. More O’Hara Foundation agents, riding on a large steam automotive, give chase. Ray gets onto the locomotive tracks and thwarts his pursuers; he is rescued and brought onto the train.

It turns out Ray’s rescuers are Robert Stephenson and his assistant, David. Stephenson claims to be on his way to Manchester to meet with Ray’s grandfather. As the train approaches the station, a zeppelin descends over their compartment, and Ray is kidnapped; the Steam Ball is taken with him.

Ray finds himself in London, right before the 1866 Great Exhibition. Ray meets Scarlett O’Hara (the granddaughter of the chairman of the O’Hara Foundation), Archibald Simon, and his father. Edward has been disfigured by the accident, and required to have some machinery to replace some of his body. Edward takes Ray and an insistent Scarlett on a tour of Steam Castle, a flying military fortress Edward designed for the O’Hara Foundation. Edward enlists Ray’s help to finish Steam Castle, and Ray develops a love/hate friendship with Scarlett (who has become attracted to Ray).

Ray later encounters his grandfather, who has escaped from his cell in the castle, and Lloyd is trying to sabotage the castle from within. Ray discovers an arsenal of war machines in the castle’s underbelly, and Ray has to struggle with reconciling the influences of his father and his grandfather. As the film progresses, Ray also learns that other people and things aren’t as they seem, either.

The animation in Steamboy is very well done, and the viewer can tell that a lot of time was taken to produce the film. As you watch, you can also see how torn Ray is when he’s having to decide whether to help his father or his grandfather.

A viewer can also tell that an alternate history was utilized. While steam is the main source of power, there are some elements of the technology utilized that either wouldn’t have existed yet, or progressed faster than they did in our timeline.

Overall, I have to say that Steamboy had an interesting story to it. Admittedly, it takes a while to establish the major characters and plot points, so the early part of the film can feel like it’s dragging at times. However, once the story got going, I found myself becoming much more interested in what was going on and wanting to know what would happen next.

When it comes to the DVD itself, it contains several special features. On the special features menu, they are split out into: Featurettes, Animation Onion Skins, Production Drawings, and Previews.

Under “Featurettes,” there are a total of four items included. The first is an almost 19-minute documentary about producing the English dub of Steamboy, which includes interviews with some of the voice actors and some of the crew members involved with the dub.

Next is a five-minute interview with director Katsuhiro Otomo. Otomo speaks in Japanese, but instead of putting subtitles on the bottom of the screen, an American voice-over is dubbed over Otomo’s voice. Personally, I found this rather annoying.

Next is a “Multi-Screen Landscape Study,” which is a 19-minute piece that aired on three screens at a Steamboy exhibition. Here, subtitles are utilized to translate the spoken Japanese. “The Adventure Continues” is a textless version of the ending credits, which serve as a kind of epilogue for the film.

The “Animation Onion Skins” runs for about four-and-a-half minutes, and shows the various developmental stages of five scenes; this shows everything from rough animation to final scenes. “Production Drawings” runs for almost six minutes, and it shows paintings that had been done as the sets were developed. The “Previews” menu includes several previews of both anime and non-anime releases from the studio that released Steamboy.

From reading Internet chatter over the years, I know that there are both very strong positive and very strong opinions of this film. While I do enjoy the film, I wouldn’t put myself in the “very strong positive” opinion group. Like I mentioned earlier, the pacing of the film is a little slow early on as everything is being established. But even with that pacing issue, I do enjoy the overall concept and ideas that were presented in Steamboy.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Steamboy that I purchased for my husband as a gift.

Anime Film Review: Space Adventure Cobra

Space Adventure Cobra is an anime film based on the Cobra manga series by Buichi Terasawa. The film was directed by Osamu Dezaki, and it was released to Japanese theaters on July 23, 1982. As of this writing, Discotek Media holds the North American license for the film. Some footage from this film would later make an appearance in Matthew Sweet’s music video for his song, “Girlfriend.”

The film opens with a bounty hunter named Jane nabbing a bounty. She runs into Cobra at a bar, but doesn’t believe it’s him at first, because he doesn’t look anything like the man on Cobra’s wanted poster. When the two of them are pursued, Cobra uses his cybernetic arm laser “Psycho-Gun”; this is the proof that Jane needs to know that he is Cobra, since he is the only man who is known to have the “Psycho-Gun.”

Jane and Cobra appear to suddenly fall in love with each other, and Jane asks Cobra to assist her. Jane wants Cobra to help her free her sister Catherine from a prison that she’s being held in. The prison is run by Cobra’s archenemy, Crystal Boy. Cobra also learns that Jane has another sister named Dominique, and that all three of the sisters are a group of triplets.

When Cobra makes it inside the prison and finds Catherine, he is surprised to hear her say that she doesn’t want to be rescued. By the end of the battle, Jane is killed. Cobra goes off on a search to try to locate Dominique, and the rest of the film progresses from here until it reaches a climax.

I apologize for the vagueness in the plot summary, but saying too much more than I have would wander into some very serious “spoiler” territory. Because of all the spoilers I have to try to avoid, it will make reviewing this film a little on the difficult side; however, I will try to do my best.

When I watched this film, quite a bit seemed to happen with little to no explanation. For example, the viewer finds out that Cobra has changed his appearance, but never learns why this happened. From reading a synopsis for the manga series this film was based on, I would assume that Dezaki expected viewers to already have familiarity with the original manga source material, so he didn’t want to take the time to explain this during the film.

The story of the film is a little on the strange side, especially in regards to the triplet sisters. However, from what I’ve read about the anime series that retells the story of the film, I get the impression that their storyline is a little less strange in the television series. If you’re willing to simply accept some of the things that are presented in the film, then you will probably get some enjoyment out of it.

When Discotek Media released the film on DVD in 2012, they included three audio options for the film: Japanese Dolby 5.1 with English subtitles, Japanese Dolby Stereo with English subtitles, and English Dolby Stereo.

The only items included on the DVD are the film itself and trailers for other properties that Discotek was promoting at the time this DVD was released. Considering the age of this film, I wasn’t terribly surprised that there were no special features included on it; to be honest, I would have been surprised if there had been any.

Discotek appeared to put what effort they were able to into this release. I would recommend purchasing this DVD if you have an interest in anime from the 1980s or already have familiarity with the Space Adventure Cobra franchise. This film is definitely worth viewing if you remember the Matthew Sweet music video and are curious about where exactly that anime footage originally came from.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Space Adventure Cobra that my husband and I purchased.

Anime Film Review: Project A-Ko

Project A-Ko is a comedy film that was directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima, and was released to Japanese theaters on June 21, 1986. Central Park Media produced an English language version in 1992. Before the company went under, Central Park Media released the film twice on DVD in North America; this review is about the “Collector’s Series” DVD release from 2002. Eastern Star has since gotten the North American rights to Project A-Ko, and released the film on DVD in May 2011.

There are three main characters in Project A-Ko: A-Ko, B-Ko and C-Ko. A-Ko is a friendly redhead who also has superhuman speed and strength; she is basically the heroine of the story. She is friends with C-Ko, a blond who acts rather childlike for someone who is supposed to be in high school; she’s also rather hyperactive. B-Ko is a wealthy genius, and she has developed a “crush” on C-Ko; throughout the film, B-Ko goes to great lengths to try to get A-Ko out of the picture so she can have C-Ko all to herself.

While this is happening on Earth, there’s a battle going on up in space. The two storylines dovetail together by the end of the film; however, I don’t want to say how they come together, since that would end up spoiling a surprise about one of the characters.

Project A-Ko is intended as a comedy, and parodies elements of its anime contemporaries in the 1980s. There are obvious references to Fist of the North Star, Macross and Captain Harlock, and I found these to be very amusing; the reference to Fist of the North Star really made me laugh out loud. From doing some research, I discovered that the teacher in the series is designed to look like the character Creamy Mami (which I didn’t know, since I have never seen the Creamy Mami anime series). I’m sure there’s other references included in the film that went over my head, since I currently only have familiarity with 1980s anime that was brought and dubbed into English, such as Macross and Beast King GoLion.

After watching this film, I can say that it’s a bit on the strange side. However, since Project A-Ko was designed to be a comedy, the strangeness of the story actually works. This is definitely a film that is best appreciated by anime viewers who are fans of 1980s anime and get the references being parodied. If you’re a more casual anime fan, Project A-Ko really isn’t a film that is a “must-see” that you watch as soon as possible. However, if you intend to delve deeper into anime than just the current hits, then this is a 1980s anime classic that you need to make an effort to watch.

When it comes to this DVD release of the film, I have to give Central Park Media a lot of credit. When you watch the movie, you can see how much effort was put into the remastered video and coloring. Also, the company went above and beyond when it comes to the special features included in the set. The only real gripe I have is in regards to the set up menu; after making a selection in this menu, the viewer is taken directly to the film instead of back to the main menu.

There are a total of nine items included as extras; the more minor extras include trailers for other Central Park Media releases, a promo for Big Apple Anime Fest and entries from a Project A-Ko fan art contest. The fan art contest extra is a bit of a waste here, since the exact same feature is also included as part of the DVD-ROM features.

There are 17 minutes worth of trailers and TV spots for Project A-Ko, which include trailers in Japanese, English and French; Japanese TV spots; and a Japanese synopsis reel for special events. The only real issue I had with the Japanese spots is the fact that subtitles are provided for the voice over being said, but not for any of the dialogue from the movie. This wasn’t as bad for the TV spots, but the synopsis reel is a lengthier piece, and so not being able to understand the movie dialogue was a bit of a distraction.

A “Comic to Film” comparison includes five parts from the Project A-Ko manga, with the dialogue of the English dub being said over “animated” images from the English translation of the manga. “Music Videos” includes videos for two out of the three vocal songs that appear in the film.

There are also three documentaries included. The first is “Behind the Scenes from Japan,” which is a half hour special about the making of the film; this includes footage from the production of the music in America, as well as interviews with the Japanese crew. The narration of the special was on the cheesy side; while other Japanese documentaries I have seen also have cheesy narration, this one seems to go over the top. Also, it was amusing when all of the production staff included in the documentary were asked which of the characters they would choose to be their lover. That’s really not something you would see asked if it was an American documentary!

There’s a two-minute piece which shows and explains the process that was used to restore the film for this DVD release. There is also a four-minute interview with Yuji Moriyama.

The DVD-ROM portion of the release has seven options, one of which is the fan art entries already referenced earlier in this review. There’s an Art Gallery with 29 pages of characters, backgrounds and promotional materials. Both volumes of the Project A-Ko manga are included, but in the viewer, it’s nearly impossible to read due to its size. However, you can access the manga pages outside of the DVD-ROM interface to make it bigger, but the quality of the image is sacrificed.

A script for the English dub is included, but it is displayed over an image in the interface, which makes the script a little hard to read. “Vocal Cast” is a listing of the English and Japanese voices for each character in the film. “Credits” include the Japanese production credits and English production credits; unfortunately, this is laid over an image, just like the script. There is also a “Links” page with links to Central Park Media and some other entities.

And if that wasn’t enough, the set is also packaged with a soundtrack CD. The CD includes all three of the songs with vocals, as well as the background music used in the film.

If you want to add Project A-Ko to your anime library, then this is the best release to get. However, since it is now out of print, you will need to look around at outlets that sell used DVDs in order to locate a copy.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Project A-Ko that my husband and I purchased.

Anime OVA Review: Oh My Goddess!

The Oh My Goddess! OVA series was released in Japan between February 21, 1993 and May 17, 1994. The series, which was based off of a manga by Kosuke Fujishima, was directed by Hiroaki Goda. The animation was done by Anime International Company, and the series was produced by KSS, Tokyo Broadcasting System, and Kodansha. AnimEigo used to have the licensing rights for the OVA in the United States; as of this writing, the OVA is unlicensed in North America.

This DVD release of Oh My Goddess! is a three-disc set. The first two discs have two episodes, while the third disc only has one episode.

The story of Oh My Goddess! opens with a first year student at the Nekomi Institute of Technology named Keiichi Morisato who was left home alone by his dormmates. He becomes hungry and tries to order dinner; in the process of doing that, he accidentally dials the Goddess Relief Office, and this summons a goddess named Belldandy to his dorm room. Belldandy says she can grant Keiichi a wish.

Thinking it’s a prank set up by his dormmates, Keiichi wishes for Belldandy to stay with him forever. When Belldandy says his wish has been granted, Keiichi is taken aback because women are not allowed to be in the dorm. At that moment, his dormmates return and find Belldandy; as punishment, Keiichi and Belldandy are kicked out of the dorm.

Keiichi tries to find someplace to stay for the night, but he is unsuccessful. Through overuse of her magic, Belldandy leads Keiichi to an abandoned temple. The next morning, Belldandy uses her powers to restore the temple, and the two of them begin living there. Suddenly, Keiichi’s younger sister, Megumi, drops by. She’s about to start attending the same school that Keiichi goes to, and needs a place to live. Belldandy invites her to stay.

A few months pass, and everything is fine… until Belldandy’s older sister, Urd, appears. Urd begins meddling with things in order to try to advance Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship. Unfortunately, everything she tries backfires. Her last resort is a love potion that she gives to Keiichi; the effects of this potion almost tear Belldandy and Keiichi apart. As punishment for her interference, Urd is banished from the heavens.

Belldandy’s younger sister Skuld also makes an appearance; she’s lonely and wants Belldandy to return with her to the heavens. Skuld tries to interfere in order to break up Keiichi and Belldandy, but it doesn’t work. A few months later, bizarre things start happening at the temple, and it must be determined what is happening and how it will affect Keiichi and the goddesses.

Oh My Goddess! is one of the earlier titles  use the “harem” concept, which was shown as the story progressed. Of the three additional characters that were introduced, Urd seemed to add the most. While Urd and Skuld both served as obstacles for Keiichi and Belldandy’s relationship, Urd had a strong personality and she really made herself known in the story. To me, Skuld didn’t have quite as dynamic of a personality as Urd did. For the OVA telling, Megumi didn’t really add a whole lot.

I’ve read some of the manga series, so it’s interesting to see that the OVA decided to leave Sayoko Mishima, a girl trying to get Belldandy away from Keiichi, out of the story. Perhaps the director of the OVA felt he needed to pare the story down a little for an OVA, and ultimately had to decide to leave Sayoko out of it.

Even with those observations, I found the episodes in the series to be compelling, and they left me wondering what would happen next. The storytelling and animation complemented each other well, which made this series an enjoyable viewing experience.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, all of the discs contain these bonus features in common: Special Audio Options (Dub Your Own and Commentary with the American voice actors and directors), Image Gallery (includes stills from the OVA done in a slideshow format), and trailers for various AnimEigo properties.

The first disc’s extras also include “Character Cards,” which is a slideshow of character artwork; “Character Designs,” which is a slideshow of character model sheets; and “Program Notes,” a text-only history of the series and a primer on Japanese sounds for pronunciation. The Program Notes are done in a slideshow manner, where the viewer cannot control how quickly the slideshow goes by. If you can’t read all the text fast enough, you keep having to go back with the “back” button on the remote until you’ve read it all. After a while, this became rather annoying and frustrating.

On the second disc, the extras also include: information for the two episodes included on the disc, such as various pictures and text related to the episode that include storyboards and text-only interviews. Unfortunately, these are done in the same slideshow manner as the Program Notes on the first disc. There are also Program Notes on this disc, which include the credits and lyrics for the opening and ending theme songs.

The last disc’s extras also include a text-only interview with producer Toru Miura, which is done in the same slideshow style of the Program Notes on the first disc. There’s also information on the episode included on the disc, which is done in the same way as the episode information on the second disc. There’s also a “manual” for Nekomi Institute of Technology included, which features a campus map and information on the clubs, as well as a mockup of a student newspaper and an ID card.

You can also see a karaoke version of the opening and ending theme songs, complete with Japanese lyrics printed on the screen. You can also see a textless version of the opening credits, as well as of all five versions of the ending credits.

The Oh My Goddess! OVA is decent for what it is, but viewers who are already familiar with the manga are going to notice how much has either been changed or removed from the original manga source material. I think that viewers who don’t have any familiarity with the original manga will probably be able to enjoy this OVA more than viewers who are fans of the manga.

Unfortunately, this box set is now out of print. If you’re interested in adding it to your anime home video collection, be sure to look around at various outlets that sell used DVDs and try to find the best bargain.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of the Oh My Goddess! DVD box set that my husband and I purchased.

Anime Film Review: Metropolis

Metropolis is based off of the Metropolis manga created by Osamu Tezuka. The film was directed by long-time Mushi Productions staff member Rintaro, and the script was written by Katsuhiro Otomo (the creator of Akira). Metropolis was animated by Madhouse Studios, and was released to Japanese theaters on May 26, 2001. The film was released in the United States on January 25, 2002.

The film opens with the celebration of the completion of the Ziggurat, a towering governmental tower built by Duke Red, the most influential citizen of Metropolis; he overshadows the president, the mayor, the heads of state, and the government of Metropolis.

Metropolis is a very industrialized and futuristic world, and artificial intelligence has advanced tremendously. Robots are seen everywhere and are performing many tasks; they do not have any of the rights that are granted to human beings, and they are not allowed to have human names or travel between the four Zones that Metropolis is divided into without special permission. The Marduk is a political party that evolved into vigilantes who destroy robots as they please. It’s a public secret that Duke Red founded the Marduk, and that his adopted son Rock is a leading figure in the organization.

A Japanese private detective named Shunsaku Ban and his nephew Kenichi arrive in Metropolis, looking for a man named Dr. Laughton; the doctor is suspected of human rights violations and the trading of human organs. Shunsaku and Kenichi are assigned a police robot to assist them, and Shunsaku nicknames him “Pero.”

Unbeknownst to Shunsaku, Laughton has been hired by Duke Red to build an extremely intelligent robot in the shape of Duke Red’s deceased daughter, Tima. Tima is to sit on a specially designed throne at the top of the Ziggurat, where she will help him take over the Earth. Without consulting the military, Duke Red tested the Ziggurat’s weapon of mass destruction and compromised national security. President Boon and others in the government plan to arrest Duke Red for treason once enough resentment has built up against him.

Duke Red is already looking at the robot as Tima, and has started to reject Rock. Rock discovers Tima and what her purpose is, and he goes to Laughton’s lab. There, he mortally wounds Laughton and sets the lab on fire to destroy all traces of Tima and the project. Shunsaku, Pero, and Kenichi arrive at the fire, and Shunsaku finds Laughton; unfortunately, Laughton dies before being arrested.

Tima wakes up from her suspended animation, and Kenichi finds her. Tima and Kenichi fall down a sewage drain and become separated from Shunsaku. This starts a chain of events that lead to the climax of the film.

Tezuka seems to enjoy using the idea of robots being created to replace dead children; there’s Tima in Metropolis, and there’s Astro Boy in Astro Boy who was created to replace a scientist’s son. Some of the character designs in Metropolis also look rather similar to some of the characters in Astro Boy.

If you look past that little bit of recycling, though, there’s still a good film here with a story that kept me interested in what was going on. The friendship that develops between Kenichi and Tima is very touching, so it makes what happens at the end even worse because of how much Kenichi came to care for Tima.

Metropolis blends traditional animation with 3D animation, and the filmmakers did a fantastic job at melding the two animation styles. I believe this is a case where the combination of the two animation styles really helped to define the futuristic world that is portrayed in the film. Also, when I watched the film, I could tell that Fritz Lang’s classic science fiction film Metropolis had an influence on this film.

Metropolis is a very well-done film, and you can tell that the animators went to great lengths to preserve Osamu Tezuka’s original character designs. The soundtrack for the film, which sounds a lot like New Orleans jazz, really helps evoke a certain ambience to the film.  While the city itself may look futuristic, the score and the character design evoke the “Roaring 20s.” And I think this melding of the past with the future really adds a layer to this film.

When it comes to the DVD itself, there are several subtitle options available: two English options (original Japanese translation and U.S. theatrical), French, Spanish, Portugese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Audio selections include Japanese Dolby Digital, Japanese DTS, English Dolby Digital, and French Dolby Surround. Four trailers are also included on the main disc.

The DVD pressing I watched of Metropolis came with a second 3” DVD that contained all the special features. The first special feature on the 3” DVD is a photo gallery, which includes model sheets split into three sections: Tima & Kenichi, Supporting Cast, and Art Direction. Next, there is a 33-minute special about the making of Metropolis. Filmographies for Rintaro and Osamu Tezuka, as well as text-only history of Metropolis are included. The “Animation Comparisons” uses a multi-angle feature to select various stages of the animation proves for the Wheel Room and a City View. The final extra is an eight-minute interview with Rintaro and Katsuhiro Otomo. Overall, the bonus features were good for what they are.

I enjoyed Metropolis, and I think fans of Osamu Tezuka’s work will also enjoy it. Even if you aren’t familiar with Tezuka’s work, you should still check it out if you’re a fan of science fiction anime. This is a film that really should be in the DVD library of almost any anime fan.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Metropolis that my husband bought for me as a gift.

Anime DVD Review: K-ON! Anime Legends

K-ON! Anime Legends is a four-disc DVD box set that includes the 12 episodes of the main series, as well as two “extra episodes.” When Bandai Entertainment released this box set, all they did was take the four individually released DVDs and put them together into one box set. The first two discs contain four episodes and bonus features, while the third and fourth discs contain three episodes and bonus features. For the episodes, you can watch either the English dub, or you can watch with Japanese audio and English subtitles.

K-ON! begins with four girls at Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School joining the Light Music Club in order to save the group from being disbanded. Ritsu Tainaka is the self-proclaimed president of the club, and she plays the drums. She has an upbeat personality, but has a problem with remembering club activities. Mio is the bass player, and she’s Ritsu’s best friend; she is forced to join the club by Ritsu at the beginning of the series. Mio has a fear of being in the spotlight and is embarrassed easily. Tsumugi Kotobuki is a wealthy girl with a sweet personality, and she plays keyboards.

The last member to join the Light Music Club is Yui Hirasawa. She’s a clumsy girl, gets distracted easily, and doesn’t know how to play an instrument when she first joins the club. The other girls keep her, since the minimum number of members a school club needs to continue is four. At the beginning of the series, the others attempt to teach Yui how to play the guitar, but it’s a feat that seems to be easier said than done.

As the series progresses, it’s brought to their attention that an advisor is needed; luckily, they are able to find a teacher to fill this role in order to keep the club going. The next school year, a new underclassman named Azusa Nakano joins the club; she’s another guitarist, and she’s been playing the guitar since the fourth grade. Shortly after Azusa joins, the band finally gets a name.

Unfortunately, K-ON! isn’t a very realistic show. Things happen a little too easily for the characters, and it also requires the viewer to use a “willing suspension of disbelief.” One of the most unbelievable things for me was the fact that Yui seemed to learn how to play the guitar rather easily, but then just as easily forgets the things she’s learned. K-ON! isn’t bad for what it’s trying to accomplish, and it seems to have captured its primary demographic (which, in my opinion, is teenage girls). However, this isn’t a series that I’m personally going to rush out and add to my own home video collection.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the bonus features seem to follow a pattern.  Over the course of the four discs, there are interviews with the four main voice actors: Stephanie Sheh, Cristina Vee, Cassandra Lee, and Shelby Lindley. These interviews run anywhere from six to 10 minutes in length, and they all are conducted the same way. The question is shown on the screen, and then it cuts to the voice actor sitting in the studio, responding to the question that appeared on the screen.

Three of the discs also had English language music videos for the songs “Fuwa Fuwa Time,” “My Love Is a Stapler,” and “Brush Pen, Ballpoint Pen.” Instead of simply using the performance of the song that appeared in the series, new music videos were edited together with existing footage from the series. All four discs also had trailers for properties that Bandai Entertainment was promoting at the time this DVD set was released. Each disc also had DVD Credits included in the “Extras” menu.

If you’re a K-ON! fan that didn’t purchase the individual DVDs when they were released, then this set would be worth purchasing in order to add the first season of the series to your home video collection. Unfortunately, when Bandai released the first season of K-ON! in a box set, they only released a DVD box set. If you want the first season on Blu-ray, you would still have to buy the four individual Blu-ray releases. And now that Bandai Entertainment has gone out of business, this DVD set is now out of print. Sentai Filmworks has acquired the North American distribution rights for K-ON!, so I suspect a new home video release will come out at some point.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of K-ON! Anime Legends that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime Film Review: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is an anime film based on the manga by Masamune Shirow. The film was directed by Mamoru Oshii, and was released to Japanese theaters in 1995. This review is for Manga Entertainment’s 2-disc special edition DVD release of the film.

The main character of Ghost in the Shell is a female cyborg named Major Motoko Kusanagi. She is the leader of Section 9’s assault team, which has been assigned to capture an elusive hacker called “The Puppet Master.” Kusanagi’s teammates are Batou (Kusanagi’s second in command) and Ishikawa.

During their hunt for “The Puppet Master,” they find a garbageman using a program he received from a sympathetic man to illegally ghost-hack his wife’s mind. It turns out the man is not married, and has had false memories implanted into him. The program the man was given actually hacked into a woman connected with the government.

“The Puppet Master” also triggers the creation of a female cybernetic body at the corporation that supplies cybernetic material for Section 9. The new cyborg escapes into the city and is run over. Section 9 retrieves the cyborg to investigate it, but they are interrupted by an ambush by Section 6. Section 9 also uncovers the mysterious Project 2501. From here, the plots weave together into a dramatic climax.

Ghost in the Shell is highly regarded as one of the first anime films to seamlessly blend cel animation and computer graphics. After watching this film, I can say with certainty that Oshii and his crew did a fantastic job combining the two elements together to create a visually stunning film. By combining these two elements in this way, it really helped to bring about the futuristic vibe that the story needed. While this film obviously doesn’t look like a modern production, it doesn’t truly look dated, either. Visually, I think Ghost in the Shell has held up well over the years.

Story-wise, the film utilized its 82 minute runtime very effectively. You got enough background throughout the film to understand what was going on, and it didn’t feel like you were getting an “info dump.” Also, the story moved and flowed in such a way that I didn’t feel like the story was bogging down. After seeing this film, I understand why Ghost in the Shell is regarded as a classic anime film.

Content-wise, there is some nudity as well as some bloody violence. From the trailer I saw in the bonus features, Ghost in the Shell was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America; because of this, I can only truly recommend the film for anime viewers who are 17 or 18 years of age and older.

When it comes to the 2-disc special edition DVD, the first disc just has the film on it. On the first disc, you can choose to watch the film in its entirety, choose where in the film you want to begin watching, and access the setup menu to decide whether you want English or Japanese audio and if you want subtitles.

The second disc in the set contains two menu options: “Features” and “Extras.” The “Features” option has six choices, while the “Extras” option includes three options.

First in the “Features” option is Production Report, a 26-minute documentary aimed at an English-speaking market. It talks about the animation style of the film, recording dialogue and audio, the music, and more. While this documentary was informative, I felt as if it was “talking down” to the audience. Because of that, I found it to be a little on the boring side.

Next in “Features” is Digital Works, a 29-minute Japanese documentary on the film that has Japanese audio with English subtitles. Unlike the previous documentary, this one was better produced and was more interesting to watch. This documentary focused exclusively on the animation. The only issue I had with this documentary was the fact that the subtitles tended to be delayed.

“Character Dossiers” contains a writeup and pictures for Aramaki, Batou, Ishikawa, Kusanagi, Nakamura, Puppetmaster and Togusa. “Creator Biography” is a two-page biography of Masamune Shirow, and “Director Biography” is a 3-page biography of Mamoru Oshii. “Ghost in the Shell Trailers” includes English language trailers for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Ghost in the Shell.

The “Extras” portion of the disc includes Manga Video Previews, which is 18 minutes worth of previews for Manga Entertainment and various releases they were promoting at that time; Manga DVD Catalogue; and Weblinks (which include web addresses for Manga Entertainment, the official Ghost in the Shell website, and for Production I.G.)

Ghost in the Shell is a “must see” anime film from the 1990s for viewers who really want to delve into anime. This 2-disc special edition release of the film also makes a fantastic addition to an anime fan’s DVD collection.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Ghost in the Shell that my husband and I purchased.

Anime DVD Review: D.Gray-man The Complete First Season S.A.V.E. Collection

D.Gray-man The Complete First Season S.A.V.E. Collection is a four-disc DVD set that includes the first 26 episodes of the D.Gray-man anime series. The first disc has seven episodes, the second disc has six episodes, the third disc has seven episodes, and the fourth disc has six episodes. The episodes in the set are available with both the original Japanese audio and an English dub; for the Japanese audio, there are English subtitles available. Additional material is also included on the discs in the set.

D.Gray-man is set in England at the end of a fictitious 19th century. A 15-year-old boy named Allen Walker is the main character of the series, who was abandoned by his parents due to a “deformed” left arm. Allen was adopted by a traveling clown named Mana Walker. When Mana died, Allen was approached by Millennium Earl, who offered to resurrect Mana; however, Mana reappeared in a machine called an Akuma, and the Akuma was ordered to kill Allen. Allen’s “deformed” left arm had a substance called Innocence embedded into it, and his arm became an anti-Akuma weapon. Against his will, Allen killed Mana. Before Mana died, Allen’s left eye was cursed; the curse gives Allen the ability to see the souls of Akuma.

After Allen discovered that Millennium Earl was tricking people to resurrect their loved ones into Akuma in order to create an army to destroy mankind, Allen decided to train himself in order to stop Millennium Earl. As part of his training, he became an apprentice to General Cross, an exorcist of the Black Order. Allen is sent to the Black Order’s headquarters at the beginning of the series, where he meets and fights alongside other Exorcists.

When I first started watching the episodes in this set, I kept seeing things that reminded me too much of Fullmetal Alchemist. These similarities include the time period, the “bean sprout” insult used in regards to the main character’s size, and the main characters in both series trying to bring a loved one back to life. I believe there were some other similarities as well, but those are the main ones that stick out to me as I’m writing this review.

Admittedly, seeing these similarities with Fullmetal Alchemist was a little distracting as I was watching the episodes, and it made the series feel a little derivative. Fortunately, by the time I finished watching this set, the series started finding ways to differentiate itself from Fullmetal Alchemist. D.Gray-man isn’t a bad show, but it does take a little while for it to get going and to find its own identity.

When it comes to this S.A.V.E. release, I believe that all that FUNimation did was to combine two previous DVD releases into one. The first and third discs only contain an episode commentary as an extra. On the first disc, the commentary is for episode two, “The Black Order.” On the third disc, the commentary is for episode 18, “Lenalee’s Love.”

On the second disc, there are two extras listed: “Textless Songs” and “Trailers.” In “Textless Songs,” there are textless versions of the first opening and the first closing available. The trailers are for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

The fourth disc also contains textless songs and trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released. There are textless versions of the first opening and the second closing included on this disc.

If you’re a fan of D.Gray-man and haven’t already purchased the series on DVD, this would be a good item for you to purchase. Since FUNimation has now released this title under its S.A.V.E. line, this means that the company doesn’t intend to hold on to the license for too much longer. In an interview on Anime News Network’s ANNCast podcast, company representatives admitted that once a series is released as a budget-line S.A.V.E. edition, it is the last chance consumers have to purchase a series before the company drops the license. In other words, if you haven’t purchased D.Gray-man on DVD before now, you probably should consider doing so before it’s too late.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of D.Gray-man The Complete First Season S.A.V.E. Collection that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Anime DVD Review: Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Ultimate Collection

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Ultimate Collection is a six-disc DVD box set that includes all 26 episodes of the series. This set just takes the six individually released DVDs and bundles them into one package. The first and third discs in the set each contain five episodes, while the remaining four discs each contain four episodes. When it comes to the episodes, you can either watch them with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles or you can watch the English dub.

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is a retelling of the Bubblegum Crisis OVA from the 1980s. The series is set seven years after a devastating earthquake that almost totally destroyed Tokyo. The Genom Corporation has been producing Boomers, a kind of autonomous intelligent robot to help rebuild Tokyo. They occasionally go rogue and morph into new shapes; they also assimilate nearby machines and kill humans.

A group of women with powered armor suits, known as the Knight Sabers, fight against the Boomers. While the A.D. Police are supposed to be the ones to take the Boomers on, they are seen as incompetent. The A.D. Police harbor some resentment toward the Knight Sabers, and have even gone so far to try to capture or kill them.

The four women who make up the Knight Sabers are Sylia Stingray, Priss Asagiri, Nene Romanova, and Linna Yamazaki. Sylia is a billionaire and the founder of the Knight Sabers. Priss is the strongest member of the group, and is also the vocalist for an underground rock band. Nene is a hacker that is employed as an operator for the A.D. Police. Linna is farm girl who moved to Megatokyo; she is now employed as an office lady for the Hugh-Geit Corporation.

Before watching Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, I had managed to see the first episode of the original Bubblegum Crisis OVA. While there were a number of similarities between what I saw from the original Bubblegum Crisis OVA and Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, there were also distinct differences. What I easily noticed was that the look and feel of the series was drastically updated to be more modern, and the character of Mackey Stingray is completely different between the two tellings. If I’d seen more of the original OVA, I probably would have noticed even more.

Overall, I have to say that Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 was pretty decent for what it was. It was an enjoyable enough series to watch, and I would recommend it to anime viewers that appreciate post-apocalyptic stories.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there are a few bonus features included; each DVD set in the set includes the DVD credits as an extra. The first disc also contains a voice actor commentary on the fourth episode from the English dub voice actors for Priss and Linna.

The second disc has three voice actor commentaries. The sixth episode has commentary from the English voices for Mackey and Nigel, the eighth episode has commentary from the English voices for Daley and Leon, and the ninth episode has commentary from the English voice for Nene. The second disc also includes character biographies, textless versions of the opening and closing credits, as well as previews for other ADV releases.

The third disc in the set has three voice actor commentaries. The 11th episode has commentary from the English voice for Linna, the 13th episode has commentary from the English voice for Sylia, and the 14th episode has commentary from the English voices for Priss and Linna.

The fourth disc has commentary on the 16th episode from the English voices for Sylia, Priss, Linna, and Nene. There is a gallery of concept art for the hardsuits; however, this feature is labeled as “Character Sketches.”  Vehicle Technology has pictures and explanations for the mecha that appears in the series. There are voice actor profiles for the Japanese and English voice actors for Linna, Priss, Sylia, and Nene. The textless opening and closing are included, as well as ADV previews.

The fifth disc has a video interview with the English voice actors for Sylia, Priss, Linna, and Nene; however, the audio on this feature has a tendency to fade in and out, especially on the voice actor for Linna. A question is posted on the screen, and they cut in the answers from each of the voice actors.

The sixth disc includes two voice actor audio commentaries. Episodes 25 and 26 both have commentary by the English voice actors for Sylia, Priss, Linna, and Nene. The textless opening and closing are included, as well as ADV previews.

If you’re a fan of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, this set would be worth purchasing to have all of the episodes in one set, instead of purchasing each disc individually. However, this particular pressing is now out of print. But FUNimation Entertainment has since acquired the rights to the series and has reissued it

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Ultimate Collection that my husband purchased for me as a gift.