Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 18

Bleach DVD Set 18 includes episodes 256-267 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 18

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: September 10, 2013

The first 10 episodes in Set 18 continue the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale story arc, and these episodes show what happens after the fall of Muramasa. The final two episodes in the set finally return to canon material from the Bleach manga.

The first 10 episodes introduce the Sword Beasts, which are the zanpakuto of Soul Reapers who have died. The zanpakuto didn’t die with their respective Soul Reapers, so they are lost and start going on rampages. These episodes see the Soul Reapers and their zanpakuto in their materialized human form taking on these various Sword Beasts. Each of these episodes is a stand-alone story; while there were one or two stories in this filler arc that were interesting, the vast majority of them were rather stupid.

The final episode of the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale made it clear through various dialogue cues that the episode would end with everything resetting to zero. The fact that a super Sword Beast that absorbs the spiritual energies of other zanpakuto and causing them to turn back into swords also helped cement the idea of this being the final filler episode in this set. The frustrating thing about this episode is that the zanpakuto talk about this super Sword Beast like they’ve known all about him for a while, yet this episode was the first time this particular Sword Beast was mentioned or referenced.

And while it was great to finally return to canon material in this set, the first of these two episodes was simply a recap of the various battles that had taken place between the previous filler arc and the Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale arc. And the final episode in the set does a short recap of the very end of the previous canon episode before finally progressing the story arc forward. So while I was grateful to finally return to the canon storyline, I was also disappointed at just how little that story progressed before Set 18 came to an end.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake are still being cut off from the end of the episodes and only appear as part of the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. The omake on this set were rather mixed when it came to how humorous they were. Some were amusing, while others just seemed to fall flat.

Each disc also has Production Art as a bonus feature, which include either eight or nine pages. Most of the production art is line art of the characters that appear in these episodes, with a few pages that also included occasional color art.

Each disc also has a “Clean Ending” option in the bonus features. The first disc includes the textless version of the first ending theme that appears on Set 18, while the second disc includes textless versions for both ending themes that appear on that disc.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of this set. Unfortunately, it’s still primarily filled with filler material and only includes a couple of canon story episodes that don’t progress the main storyline very much. But if you want to have all of the episodes that feature canon material, then you need to get a hold of Bleach DVD Set 18.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime Blu-ray Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 5

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Ranma 1/2 Set 5 includes episodes 93-115 of the series in their original Japanese airing order. Surprisingly, all of the episodes in this set appear in the exact same order that these episodes appeared on VIZ Media’s original DVD releases. This release also uses the original Japanese title cards for the episodes instead of the ones that were created for the English dub. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Ranma 1/2 Set 5

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: March 3, 2015

Ranma 1/2 Set 5 consists primarily of filler episodes and the stranger canon storylines from the original manga. This includes episodes that focus on Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, Martial Arts Dining, Martial Arts Shogi, and Martial Arts Calligraphy. To me, the best episodes in the set are the ones that introduce Gosunkugi, reveal that the principal of Furinkan High School is really the Kuno siblings’ father, and Kodachi being reunited with her long-last father. While there were occasional filler episodes that were somewhat amusing, such as Ranma temporarily becoming Nabiki’s fiancé, the vast majority are either painful to watch or just did nothing for me. Of the five Ranma 1/2 sets that have been released up to this point, Set 5 has the weakest episodes.

This Blu-ray release includes remastered high definition video straight from the Japanese Blu-ray masters. Overall, the Blu-ray remastering looks decent on this set, although I did see an occasional scene that looked grainy or looked washed out. It’s possible that the Blu-ray masters VIZ received from Japan had these same issues, so I’m not blaming VIZ for the occasional visual defects on this set. However, I do have to hold VIZ accountable for the couple of subtitle errors that I saw while watching this set with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

When it comes to the bonus features, there are a total of five that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 5. The first is “We Love Ranma Part 5 – We Love Collecting,” which runs for about nine minutes. It includes interviews with cosplayers, voice actors, superfans, and anime industry professionals talking about the various Ranma 1/2 items that they’ve collected. Once again, this feature places more emphasis on the cosplayers, who I don’t know and don’t really care about, over the industry professionals and superfans. Overall, I’ve been rather disappointed in the “We Love Ranma” interviews that have appeared on these sets.

“Next Episode Previews” is a continuous piece that includes all of the next episode previews that aired with the episodes that appear on Ranma 1/2 Set 5. I don’t understand why this feature is included, since the previews are already included at the end of each episode.

The “Clean Opening” includes a textless version of the opening that appears on each episode in Ranma 1/2 Set 5, and “Clean Ending” includes a textless version of the closing that appears on each episode. Trailers are also included as a bonus feature.

This Blu-ray edition also comes with a 32-page booklet. The booklet opens with a “What Happened Thus Far” write-up that summarizes what happened in the episodes that appeared on the previous Ranma 1/2 set. The majority of the booklet provides a brief summary and screen shot for each episode, as well as production credits for the original release of the series and the credits for those involved with this Blu-ray release. The booklet has glossy pages that look nice, but are a little slippery for holding when you’re reading through it. It’s still a nice booklet, though, and I’m glad to see that it was included. The set also came with an art card with a picture of Ukyo that was used as the cover picture for the Ranma 1/2 Random Rhapsody DVD box set.

The box that the Blu-ray case, booklet, and art card come in is very sturdy and looks nice. The back of the box that gives a description of the product is actually something you take off of the box after you unwrap it.

While the episodes included in Ranma 1/2 Set 5 may not be the strongest in the series, I would still recommend this set to fans of the franchise. This is the best way to get Ranma 1/2 in high definition on Blu-ray without having to pay an arm and leg to try to import the Japanese Blu-rays.

Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

The Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack comes with two DVDs and one Blu-ray Disc, and both formats include the theatrical version of the film, the uncut version with 20 minutes of additional footage, and bonus features. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub. It should also be noted that alternate versions of the opening and ending theme songs are used on this release, due to the Japanese licensor not making the original versions available. On the Blu-ray Disc, the film is presented in 1080p High Definition 16X9 (HD Native).

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: October 7, 2014

I saw Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods during its theatrical run in Summer 2014 with the English dub. So when I watched the film on this Blu-ray/DVD Combo release, I was able to see it with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles. It was interesting to discover that the new villain’s name in the Japanese version is Beers instead of Beerus (which is the name he was given in the English dub).

When I watched the film on this release, it was the uncut version with 20 minutes of additional footage. The footage that was missing includes a roughly two-minute recap of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, a couple of scenes of Mister Satan getting drunk, and a scene with Beers challenging Oolong to a game of rock-paper-scissors. I have to say that for the most part, these additional scenes didn’t really add anything to the film with the exception of the recap. After seeing both versions, I have to say that overall, the theatrical version was a tighter presentation of the story.

At the beginning of the film, Beers is awakened after a 39-year slumber by Whis, who informs Beers that Freeza was defeated by a Saiyan. Beers explains he wanted to be awakened in 39 years because the Oracle Fish foretold that a mighty opponent, a Super Saiyan God, would appear before him. He decides that the best way to track down this opponent is to talk to the Saiyan who defeated Freeza.

While Goku is training on King Kai’s planet, Beers and Whis suddenly appear. Goku has no idea what a Super Saiyan God is, but he accepts Beers’ challenge for a battle; but even at Super Saiyan 3, Goku is easily defeated. Disappointed with this battle, Beers decides to go to Earth in search of another Saiyan who might have information on the Super Saiyan God.

A big birthday celebration is being held for Bulma at Capsule Corp., and most of the rest of the movie takes place here. Vegeta receives word from King Kai about Beers arriving and is warned that if Beers gets into a bad mood, he’ll destroy the Earth. Beers and Whis arrive and find Vegeta, and Bulma invites them to join the party. There’s a hilarious scene of Vegeta swallowing his pride and doing a song and dance routine in order to placate Beers; to me, this was probably one of the most memorable portions of the movie, outside of the epic battles.

The party also includes a section where Emperor Pilaf, Mai, and Shu play an important part. They were accidentally shrunk back down to children, and their attempt to swipe the Dragon Balls is thwarted by Trunks. There’s a rather humorous bit here when Trunks has Mai pretend to be his girlfriend.

But the fun and games come to an end when Majin Buu refuses to give Beers any pudding and eats it all in front of him. An angered Beers declares that he’s going to destroy the Earth. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Earth is now in danger all because of… pudding. The conflict ultimately escalates to a climax that includes a battle between Goku and Beers.

This is my second time watching Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, but I can still safely say that this is one of the best Dragon Ball Z films that I have seen. What I really appreciated seeing was the humorous aspect that was so prevalent in the first Dragon Ball anime series being used to great effect here. When Dragon Ball ended and Dragon Ball Z started, the whimsical humor of the first series all but disappeared, and Dragon Ball Z ended up taking itself way too seriously.

Beers and Whis are interesting antagonists. Not only were they strong and evil, but they also had a comical side to them; that comical aspect was missing from the majority of the villains of Dragon Ball Z, with the main exception being the original form of Majin Buu. But even with the humor, there’s still the action and fighting aspect that fans of Dragon Ball Z have come to expect from the franchise.

Overall, I enjoyed Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. It definitely has a lot of re-watch potential; of all of the Dragon Ball Z films, this is the one I’d most likely watch multiple times.

There are five extras included on this release. The first is labeled, “Behind the Scenes: Battle of Voice Actors.” This runs for almost 10 minutes, and it’s got the “picture-in-picture” concept going on. This basically shows the second major fight between Goku and Beers, with footage of the voice actors performing their roles in a bottom corner of the screen while the scene is playing. To be honest, I was disappointed in this feature. From the title, I had assumed it was going to be something completely different and more interesting than what we got.

The next bonus feature is “The Voices of Dragon Ball Z: Unveiled,” and this runs for almost 20 minutes. While it does include some of the “picture-in-picture” effect that was seen in the previous feature, it also includes footage of the various actors in the recording studio introducing themselves, recording lines, or just goofing off and having fun. The lines that are being recorded are from scenes that take place at Bulma’s birthday party. I definitely enjoyed this feature more than the first one, and it’s interesting to see the voice actors recording their lines and the characters’ voices coming out of their mouths. In some cases, the voice actors look nothing like I imagined them from the voices that I know them for in Dragon Ball Z.

There’s a textless version of the ending theme. This is actually kind of nice, because the viewer is able to focus on the effect of flipping through manga pages and not be distracted by the credit text. The “U.S. Trailer” is almost two minutes long, and it promotes the home video release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. Trailers for other releases that FUNimation was promoting at the time this film was released on home video are also included as a bonus feature.

I would recommend that fans of Dragon Ball Z add Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods to their anime home video library. For fans that have the ability to watch Blu-rays, I would recommend picking up the Blu-ray/DVD Combo.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Set 21

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

Naruto Shippuden Set 21 includes episodes 258-270 of the series on two DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Naruto Shippuden Set 21

Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: January 20, 2015

Nauto Uzumaki, the star of the series, has gone through incredible growth since the beginning of the Naruto franchise. At this point, he’s gone from being the boy with the Nine-Tailed Fox demon sealed inside him who was shunned by his village to a young man who became a hero after saving his village when it was attacked by Pain from the Akatsuki. Naruto is currently hidden away, training with Killer Bee in order to learn how to control the Nine-Tailed Fox’s chakra, while the rest of the ninja world is gearing up for the Fourth Great Ninja War.

But before we get to see what’s going on with Naruto’s training or the war, the viewer must first sit through three episodes of a four episode 10th anniversary special, which recaps roughly 90 episodes of the first Naruto series. It seems that the point of this special is to emphasize the rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke, but it feels disconnected from the current story arc. Unfortunately, all this special does is to reuse footage from the original episodes and adds nothing new, which makes it feel pointless. Not only that, the flow of the narrative was choppy due to how awkwardly time skips were handled. For a 10th anniversary special, this was very disappointing. It felt more like a way to kill time to allow Masashi Kishimoto to get a little further ahead in the manga before continuing the canon storyline in the anime.

Luckily, the remaining 10 episodes in the set return the viewer to material that progresses the storyline. At first, it looks like the Allied Shinobi Forces are going to fall apart due to grudges that the various villages have against each other. But Gaara delivers a powerful speech and brings the forces together. As a viewer, I think I was just as moved by Gaara’s speech as the characters were.

As the forces mobilize toward the enemy, they discover that Kabuto has used a Reanimation Jutsu to bring many dead shinobi back from the dead and force them to fight for him. In addition, an army of White Zetsu is unleashed to support the Undead Army. As the Undead Army is deployed and encounters the Allied Shiboi Forces, the matchups cause reunions of former friends and former enemies to continue their battles from the past.

Of the reunions that we see in Naruto Shippuden Set 21, the most touching is when Sai comes face-to-face with Shin, his “brother” from The Foundation who had died. While we received backstory on Sai when he first introduced in the early episodes of Naruto Shippuden, this encounter with Shin allows the audience to see how different Sai was when he was younger and how he became the unemotional young man that we’ve seen up to this point. But the most important thing to come out of this reunion is Sai finally allowing himself to show his first real emotions since he was first introduced in the series.

In this set, Kankuro is able to have a rematch with Sasori, and Kakashi and Sakura get to see Zabuza and Haku again. I thought it was interesting to see that while Sasori was more than willing to fight Kankuro, Zabuza and Haku were only attacking their opponents because they had no control over their actions. We get to see flashbacks of Kakashi and Team 7 from the Land of Waves arc, but instead of simply reusing the original footage, a decision was made to reanimate the scenes. Personally I didn’t think the new animation worked very well, and I would have preferred to simply see the original footage.

Outside of the first three episodes, Naruto doesn’t appear much in Naruto Shippuden Set 21. He gets one episode that’s devoted to his training with Killer Bee, and there were occasional times where we might see him briefly before returning to the action taking place in the war. Hopefully we’ll see more of Naruto’s story mixed in with the war material in future episodes of the series.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there were only three bonus features. First are “clean” versions of the opening and both of the endings that appeared on the episodes in this set.  There are three versions of the clean opening and endings: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. There are also English credits, along with trailers for other properties that VIZ Media was promoting at the time this set was released.

Unfortunately, the bonus features on Naruto Shippuden Set 21 are rather lacking when compared to previous Naruto Shippuden releases. Set 21 didn’t include any production art or storyboards, which had always been a feature previously. I don’t know if this is due to the Japanese rights holders not sending these materials to VIZ Media, or if the company chose not to include those features on this release.

Even with the three filler episodes and the relative lack of bonus features, Naruto Shippuden Set 21 is still a “must get” for Naruto fans who want to own the entire franchise in their anime home video collection. The canon material included on this release more than makes up for the filler, especially the backstories and the ninja from the series’ history that the audience has never seen before now.

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 16

Bleach DVD Set 16 includes episodes 230-242 of the series on three DVDs. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the English dub.

Bleach DVD Set 16

English Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: DVD
Release Date: March 12, 2013

Set 16 starts into the arc referred to as Zanpakuto: The Alternate Tale, which consists of anime exclusive material. Unfortunately, the canon storyline was stopped just as another battle between Ichigo and Ulquiorra begins in Hueco Mundo in order to include this filler arc that runs for 36 episodes.

This particular arc sees the zanpakuto, the Soul Reapers’ swords, assuming human form and declaring war against their wielders. They are led by a mysterious man named Muramasa, who is a former zanpakuto. Unfortunately, I have a hard time buying this particular story, especially when the Soul Reapers and the zanpakuto seem to not recognize each other. Early on in the series, when Ichigo met Zangetsu in his human form, it seemed like meeting the human form of the sword was a rather common thing for Soul Reapers to experience. If the Soul Reapers and the swords in their human form had met previously, how come they don’t recognize each other now? I’m willing to give a pass to Toshiro and his zanpakuto, though, since it was blatantly stated that when his sword became human, he had lost his memory. Ichigo and Zangetsu didn’t have this issue, which also seems to contradict what the other Soul Reapers were experiencing.

But with the zanpakuto taking on human form and going on a rampage in the Soul Society, chaos ensues. Genryusai is captured and sealed away, Byakuya disappears, and there’s quite a bit of damage. Rukia manages to escape to the World of the Living, where she finds Ichigo. After learning that Byakuya has disappeared, a wounded Rukia returns to the Soul Society. Ichigo goes after her, and finds himself embroiled in the war with the zanpakuto.

There are several battles that take place throughout these episodes where some of the Soul Reapers find themselves going up against their own zanpakuto. They discover that if a Soul Reaper can defeat their zanpakuto in battle, the sword will return to its master. At most, only two or three of the Soul Reapers manage to regain their zanpakuto before the end of this box set.

Filler story arcs aren’t always bad, but this one runs way too long. Not only that, I have a hard time caring about what’s going on due to the fact that the writer(s) for this filler seemed to completely ignore a fact that was established in the canon material. To me, this is a sign of lazy writing. I also think this is insulting to the audience to expect them to forget such a major detail from the manga.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the omake are still cut off from the end of the episodes and only appear as part of the “Omake” feature that’s included on each disc. Unfortunately, the omake included in this set really weren’t that funny or amusing; in fact, these were probably the weakest omake I’ve seen for Bleach up to this point. And the main menu on each disc continues to be silent, which I find to be rather annoying because of my dislike for silent DVD menus.

Each disc includes Production Art, which range from 11-14 pages on each disc. Most of the production art is line art of the characters that appear in these episodes; however, there is some color art that’s been mixed in with the regular line art.

Each disc also includes a “Clean Ending” option in the bonus features. All three discs include the same ending theme, since the same theme appeared on each episode included in this set.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of this set. Unfortunately, it’s filled with episodes from a filler arc that may not be very enjoyable, so keep this in mind if you decide to purchase a copy of Bleach DVD Set 16.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Anime Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review: Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2

Originally written for WatchPlayRead.com

The Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2 Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack includes the remaining 23 episodes of Season 1, as well several exclusive bonus features. Audio options include the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and the new English dub produced by VIZ Media.

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2

Publisher: VIZ Media
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Release Date: February 10, 2015

Before I begin this review, I need to disclose that I did not watch Sailor Moon when it aired on American television in the 1990s. Instead, I am coming at this series as a viewer who has already read all 12 of the Sailor Moon manga volumes, both of the short story volumes, and both volumes of the Codename: Sailor V manga. I also started watching the Sailor Moon Crystal simulcast before I watched the previous home video release, Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1. I should also add that when I watched the episodes on this set, I saw them with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. All I know of the new English dub is some of the footage that was included in the bonus features on this set.

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2 opens with Usagi’s friend, Naru, learning the truth about Nephrite but still caring about him anyway. Just as it seems Nephrite will accept Naru’s love and turn good, he’s killed by some of Zoisite’s servants. Naru is there when Nephrite is killed, and is understandably upset. However, what should have been an emotional scene ends up being unintentionally comical when Naru spends more time crying over the fact that she never got to share chocolate parfaits with Nephrite than the fact that Nephrite died.

The set returns to canon material from the manga with the introduction of Makoto Kino, an unusually tall girl with physical strength. The way Makoto saves Usagi the first time they meet is a little different between the manga and the anime, but both versions convey Makoto’s strength. By the end of that episode, it’s revealed that Makoto is Sailor Jupiter.

Then we reach a stretch of seven filler episodes that introduce the anime-only concept of the Rainbow Crystals. It’s said that when all seven are gathered, the Legendary Silver Crystal will appear; however, the Rainbow Crystals also extend into the next couple of episodes that contain canon stories from the manga. To be honest, I hated the concept of the Rainbow Crystals, and I felt these episodes only truly served two purposes: to stretch the series out a little longer in order for Naoko Takeuchi to get a little farther in the manga and to introduce love interests for Ami and Rei. And I think the only reason the love interest for Rei was created was so she would have someone after Mamoru dumps her when the anime catches up to an important plot point from the manga.

We then get two episodes that included canon material, which covers the introduction of Sailor Venus and Usagi and Mamoru learning about their past lives. I would have liked these episodes more than I did if they hadn’t forced the Rainbow Crystals into them. But the series quickly returns to filler, which lasts for seven episodes. These filler episodes either rely on the concept of the Rainbow Crystals again or introduce plots that really had nothing to do with the overarching story. There really aren’t any well-written episodes within this batch of filler, and these seven episodes felt even more like they were there to kill time than the first batch of Rainbow Crystal episodes.

It was painful for me to watch the filler episodes, because many of them had ridiculous premises going into them. While some of the filler episodes attempted to provide some kind of character development, this development didn’t seem to add much in the long run.

The final three episodes not only return to the canon material from the manga, they’re also the final three episodes of Season 1. While there may be basic ideas and concepts that came from the original manga, the way they were executed ended up differing greatly from the original source material. And I have to add that I absolutely hated how the first season of this anime ended, because it’s nothing like how the first arc ended in the manga.

Overall, I have to say that I liked the episodes of Sailor Moon Season 1 Set 1 better than the episodes on this release. With these episodes, Toei had changed so much of the story by this point that the overall concept was weakened considerably. I still strongly dislike how Rei’s character was changed so drastically from the manga, because she comes across as a major bitch in this anime adaptation. The petty disagreements and arguments between Usagi and Rei, and the tension they cause, undermine the message of teamwork that Sailor Moon is trying to convey.

After watching the entirety of the first season of the original Sailor Moon anime, I have to say that it wasn’t as well done or as enjoyable as I had hoped. From what I’ve seen of the Sailor Moon Crystal reboot anime, I think it has a stronger and tighter story going into it. About the only thing that the original Sailor Moon anime has going for it is the fact that the animation doesn’t look as awkward as it does in Sailor Moon Crystal. I’ve seen it commented on the Internet on several occasions that Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of the Sailor Moon, was never entirely happy with the original anime adaptation. After seeing all of the first season, I can see why she feels that way if there’s any truth to those comments.

When it comes to the extras in this set, there are a lot more features available on the Blu-ray Discs than there are on the DVDs. For the DVD part, only the third disc includes any features: the Sailor Moon Day Highlights and a trailer for the first Sailor Moon Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. Both of these features also appear on the third Blu-ray Disc that’s included in this set.

The first and second Blu-ray Discs each contain an art gallery. The first disc focuses primarily on Sailor Jupiter, while the images included in the second disc’s art gallery focus on Sailor Venus.

The third Blu-ray Disc contains all of the remaining bonus features. The first is “Moonlight Memories Pt. 1,” which runs for nine minutes and cosplayers, super fans, industry professionals, and a couple of other people share their favorite moments from the first season of Sailor Moon. The answers are intercut with the scene that each person is talking about. To be honest, I felt like I was watching a bunch of random people talking about the show. I would have liked this better if perhaps the current English dub cast or the original cast had been brought in to share their favorite moments of the show or favorite memories of working on the dub.

The longest feature is the AX Sailor Moon panel, which runs for 26 minutes. This panel features the introduction of the new dub cast for the series, as well as a Q&A panel with the new cast. The panel is hosted by Charlene Ingram, VIZ Media’s senior manager of animation marketing. Of the bonus features included on this set, this panel was probably the best one.

Then the official Sailor Moon cosplay teams from both Anime Expo and Otakon are interviewed for a 10-minute feature titled, “Cosplay Teams Interview.” I’m really not into cosplay, so this particular feature didn’t interest me as much as it could have. The Sailor Moon Day Highlights feature runs for almost six minutes, and includes footage from Anime Expo, San Diego Comic-Con, and Otakon. For me, at least, this wasn’t a very interesting feature.

The third Blu-ray Disc also includes another art gallery, which focuses on Serenity, Endymion, and objects associated with them. There’s a clean opening, as well as clean versions of both endings; however, the first ending is under the label “Clean Ending,” while the second is under the label “Ending Song.” The textless versions of the opening and ending can be watched with English subtitles, Romaji subtitles, or with no subtitles. It was a little disappointing to see the second version of the opening not receive a textless version. The song may not have changed, but there’s some very different animation sequences included in it. This omission could have been due to the fact that Toei didn’t provide a textless version of that opening when they sent materials to VIZ Media for this release. The same trailer for the first Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack that appears on the DVD also appears on the third Blu-ray Disc.

When all is said and done, I can only truly recommend this release to fans of the original Sailor Moon anime. However, the fans of the original series who would most appreciate it would be the ones who don’t have a problem with VIZ Media restoring the series into its original presentation and providing a new English dub.

While I may not be enjoying Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 2 as much as I hoped I would, I’m still glad to have the opportunity to see this series. It’s a classic anime from the 1990s that ultimately helped to bring more girls into anime fandom, so it’s good for me to view the whole series at least once in order to have more knowledge about this piece of anime history.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 15

The Soul Reapers and the Fraccions battle it out in the fake Karakura Town!

Bleach DVD Set 15
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: December 11, 2012

Bleach DVD Set 15 is a three disc set that contains episodes 218-229 of the Bleach television anime series. Each disc in the set includes four episodes and bonus features, and the episodes can be watched with either the English dub or with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

The first nine episodes in this set focus on the battle between the Soul Reapers and the Fraccions in the fake Karakura Town. Over the course of these nine episodes, we see battles that feature Yumichika, Kira, Izuru, Hisagi, Komamura, Soi Fong, Omaeda, Kyoraku, Ukitake, and Matsumoto. Matsumoto’s battle even includes a surprise appearance by a character that we haven’t seen for a while in the series.

Is it just me, or do Kubo’s designs for the Arrancar and the Fraccions make them look like the freakiest villains up to this point in the story? It almost seems like Kubo keeps challenging himself to up the ante in how freaky the villains look with each new story arc. One of the freakiest things I saw in this set was when the three female Fraccions merged their left arms into a giant, grotesque and stupid creature named Ayon.

These nine episodes feature a lot of action due to all of the battles going on, but the pacing for the overall arc in this set is slow, due to how much recap is utilized at the beginning of each episode to help stretch out this section of the story. Closer to the end, it became even worse when Ichigo suddenly starts narrating an additional recap at the beginning that goes all the way back to when he first met Rukia at the beginning of the series! With the way this recap was done, it wouldn’t be of use to anyone just starting out in the series at this point, so it felt rather pointless. It definitely felt like this was added in order to have another way to make the battle in the fake Karakura Town last longer and hopefully not catch up to the manga source material too quickly. The worst, though, was in Episode 226, when the recap runs for nearly five-and-a-half minutes! This particular arc would have been more enjoyable if it could have been animated with a more natural pacing.

Right at the end of Episode 226, the story finally returns to Hueco Mundo, where we get to see Ichigo and Ulquiorra clashing swords. As this battle is just getting started, the episode ends… but then in the preview, it’s revealed that the canon story is taking a break at this point in order to focus on filler episodes. Ugh! This is the second time the anime teased the audience with the beginning of a major battle and then switched to filler episodes. I was upset enough when this trick was used the first time, so I was rather unhappy to discover that this trick was used a second time.

This set includes a total of three filler episodes to finish it off, all of which either serve as a prologue for the story or take the viewer back in time to somewhere within the actual series continuity. Of the three filler episodes, the first one is the only one that’s truly worth anything.

The first filler episode is set on Ichigo and his classmates’ first day of high school, and we get to see what happened that day. This episode also shows that at the same time in Soul Society, Rukia receives her orders to patrol Karakura Town and Renji receives his promotion to lieutenant of the sixth division. I recognized some of what happened at the school from reading the manga, but the rest, as far as I can tell, was created for this episode. At least this filler shows the pieces falling into place for what was seen in the very first episode of the series, so it feels like it’s actually adding something to the series.

The second filler episode was definitely the worst of the three in this set. I can’t pinpoint exactly where in the series this would have been set, and it simply feels like an excuse for Bleach to be able to have the “beach episode” that a number of anime series seem to have at some point in their run. It also felt like an excuse for the animators to be able to draw many of the female characters in bathing suits in order to provide “fanservice” to the audience. When I finished this episode, it just felt like a pointless waste of time.

The final episode in the set sees Ikkaku and Yumichika being sent to Karakura Town on an assignment to catch a particular Hollow. They need to find a place to stay, and they end up being forced to stay at the home of Ichigo’s classmate, Keigo. Keigo’s older sister Mizuho is all over Ikkaku because she loves men with shaved heads, so Yumichika tries to help Ikkaku out by gluing a wig to his head. I think this was an attempt at a humorous episode, but I didn’t find it as funny as I think I was supposed to. I’ve never been much of a fan of Keigo’s older sister to begin with, so that didn’t help. And I found the overall story to be rather lame and stupid. Both this and the beach episode felt like the anime production crew was struggling to come up with story ideas for filler episodes.

When the series briefly returned to Hueco Mundo, there was one section that bothered me when it came to the animation. It’s a scene where Renji and Chad are in a fight, and both of these characters are animated in a way where it’s obvious that the animators skimped on details. They looked much less defined than usual, and it really bugged me just how noticeable this was. Either they got the C team animators in to animate these two characters, or corners had to be cut due to not having enough time to finish the episode.

Unfortunately, I have to say that Bleach DVD Set 15 wasn’t as enjoyable of a viewing experience as I had hoped it would be. The stretched out canon material, combined with overall unenjoyable filler episodes, made this set more of a chore to watch than usual for me when it comes to the Bleach DVD sets.

When it comes to the DVD itself, the omake continue to be cut off from the end of the episodes and only appear as part of the “Omake” special feature that’s included on each disc. I still hope this will be rectified in one of the future DVD box sets for Bleach. Not only that, but the main menu on each disc continues to be silent; personally, I have a dislike for silent DVD menus.

Each disc has Production Art, which is line art of the characters that appear in these episodes. All three discs include 10 pages of Production Art on each one.

Each disc also has a “Clean Ending” option in the bonus features; all three discs have the same ending theme included on them. Each disc also has the omake that should have been included with the episodes that appear on the disc.

If you’re a Bleach fan and want to have all the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection, then you need to get a hold of this set. However, if the earlier part of the review didn’t make it clear, this set may not be a very enjoyable viewing experience.

The reviewer wrote this review after watching a copy of this item that was checked out through the King County Library System.