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.

Anime DVD Review: Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete Second Season

Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete Second Season is a four-disc DVD set that contains 28 episodes; however, the title of this set is a little misleading. The first three episodes of the second season appeared on the first box set, and the last 10 episodes of the second season were put onto the box set for the third season. The first disc of the set contains eight episodes; however, the DVD box only lists seven episodes on the disc. The second disc contains six episodes; however, the box claims this disc has seven episodes. The third disc contains eight episodes, and the fourth disc contains six episodes. The episodes are available with both an English dub and the Japanese audio with English subtitles.

The episodes in this set focus exclusively on the Dark Tournament Saga. Kuwabara is defeated in his first match, while Kurama and Hiei win their first matches. Yusuke’s first match lasts for about two episodes before he is determined to be the winner.

Then, we see Yusuke, Kuwabara, and the masked fighter participate in a three-on-three battle with members of Team Ichigaki. Kurama and Hiei have to deal with two other members of Team Ichigaki. Several episodes in this set are devoted to Yusuke and the others fighting against members of Team Ichigaki. Then, members of Team Mashotsukai join in the battle. Also, we see Team Urameshi battling against Team Uraotogi.

When they’re able to get a break, the group to different areas to either recuperate or do more training. Revelations are made regarding Genkai, and one of the characters in the series dies. The final round of the Dark Tournament is just getting underway when the set ends.

The tone of the series definitely changes in this box set when compared to the episodes that appeared on the previous set. The second season of Yu Yu Hakusho definitely becomes more of a fighting anime along the lines of Dragon Ball Z. For me, this change was a little on the disappointing side, because the whole concept of Yusuke being an Underworld Detective seems to have been completely forgotten in favor of turning the series into a shonen fighting anime series that sees the fighting stretched out quite a bit. While in this set, it hasn’t gotten quite as bad as Dragon Ball Z in that respect, I’m afraid it might get to that point in the remaining two seasons. But the elements that got me interested in Yu Yu Hakusho in the first place are no longer here, and now there’s not much to differentiate this series from other shonen fighting anime.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the only bonus feature on the first and third discs are trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the FUNimation Channel.

The second disc has three extras.  The first consists of character profiles, which are a single page for each character with an accompanying picture. On this disc, there are profiles for Roto, Kurama, Zeru, Hiei, Chu, Yusuke, M1 M2 M3, Masked Fighter, Dr. Ichigaki, Younger Toguro, Botan, Keiko (misspelled as Kayko), Ruka, Butajiri, Gama, Touya, Baken, Kuwabara, Risho, Jin, and Yukina. “Textless Songs” has the same opening as the opening on the first box set, but it also includes the new closing that appears during the second season. There are also trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

The fourth disc has three extras. The first is more character profiles, done in the exact same style as the profiles on disc two. On this disc are profiles for Makintaro, Kuro Momotaro, Juri, Hiei, Genkai, Yusuke, Onji, Suzuka, Puu, Yoko Kurama, Shishi Wakamaru, Ura Urashima, Kuwabara, Bui, Younger Toguro, Team Gorenja, Elder Toguro, Sakyo, Karasu, Koenma, and Botan. The textless songs that appear on this disc are exactly the same as what appears on disc two. The trailers available on this disc are for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

I would recommend this set to fans of Yu Yu Hakusho that want to own the episodes of the series in their anime home video collection. There’s also a Blu-ray pressing of this set that might hold appeal for Yu Yu Hakusho fans that have the ability to watch Blu-ray Discs.

In wrote this review after watching a copy of Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete Second Season that I purchased for my husband as a gift.

Anime DVD Review: Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season

Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season is a four-disc DVD set that contains 28 episodes; however, the title is a little misleading. The set actually contains the entire first season, as well as three episodes from the second season. The first disc contains eight episodes, the second disc contains six episodes, the third disc contains eight episodes, and the fourth disc contains six episodes. For the audio, you can watch the episodes in the set with either the English dub or the Japanese language with English subtitles. It should be noted that on the DVD boxes, the English episode titles are used; however, on the actual discs, the original Japanese titles are used in the episodes.

Yusuke Urameshi, the main character of the series, is a teenage delinquent. He’s 14 years old and constantly gets into trouble at school during the times he bothers to even go there. Yusuke’s mother, an alcoholic, had him when she was 14 and is raising him as a single mother. Yusuke doesn’t have many friends; his main friend is a girl named Keiko Yukimura. They have known each other since childhood and are classmates at school. As the series progresses, Keiko becomes a love interest for Yusuke.

The series begins with Yusuke having a particularly bad day. He actually goes to school, but is chewed out by Keiko for his behavior. He also has run-ins with school officials. After ditching school, Yusuke’s rival, Kazuma Kuwabara, challenges him to a fight. Yusuke ends up easily beating the other boy.

As Yusuke walks along, he sees a little boy playing with a ball near the street. Yusuke lectures the boy about the unsafe behavior, but then spends time making funny faces at the boy and entertaining him. After crossing the street, Yusuke sees the boy playing with the ball again, and the ball rolls out into the street. Yusuke sees the boy going into the street, and a swerving car heading toward him. In an uncharacteristic act, Yusuke tries to save the boy’s life… but he ends up being struck and killed by a car.

His ghost is greeted by Botan, a young woman who flies on a broomstick and serves as the pilot of the River Styx. Her job is to ferry souls to the underworld to be judged for the afterlife. Botan tells Yusuke that his uncharacteristic act of helping the boy caught the Underworld by surprise. Since he wasn’t expected to die yet, there’s no room for him in either heaven or hell.

Koenma, the son of the Underworld’s ruler, gives Yusuke a chance to return to his body. He has to raise a spirit egg that, when hatched, may return him to his body. He’s able to help the fact that he’s a ghost to possess people to make sure his body isn’t cremated, as well as to give Kuwabara a helping hand. When Yusuke earns the right to return to life, but he has to get someone to kiss his body within one day, since this will allow his soul to return to his body; Keiko ends up being the one to do it.

After being brought back to life, Yusuke is hired by Koenma as an Underworld Detective. It’s Yusuke’s job to investigate supernatural activity in the Human World. He’s also given the task three artifacts stolen by master thieves of the Spirit World. It’s this arc that Yusuke meets two thieves who ultimately end up becoming important characters in the series: Kurama and Hiei.

Yusuke then enters a fighting tournament; the winner gets to learn the secret techniques of Genkai, a master psychic. Yusuke is told to enter because Koenma knows a demon named Rando is after Genkai’s techniques. Yusuke is the ultimate winner of the tournament and gets to train with Genkai.

After his training with Genkai, Yusuke returns to his hometown to discover that it’s been invaded by Makai insects inhabiting humans controlled by the Makai Whistle that’s used by the four Saint Beasts. This story arc sees Yusuke, Kuwabara, Botan, Kurama, and Hiei fighting against the Saint Beasts.

This is followed by another story arc that sees Yusuke getting his next case: rescuing an ice maiden named Yukina from a greedy and cruel human crime lord named Gonzo Tarukane. It turns out Yukina is Hiei’s sister, and Kuwabara falls in love with Yukina.

The final three episodes in the set see the beginning of the Dark Tournament Saga, and Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei, and a mysterious masked fighter participate in the Dark Tournament.

When it comes to the episodes in this set, I really enjoyed the 25 episodes that made up the first season of Yu Yu Hakusho. The idea of the main character dying in the first episode, having to earn the right to come back to life and becoming an Underworld Detective was an interesting premise and it felt unique. However, when the final three episodes in set start into the Dark Tournament Saga, there was a hint of a change to the tone and feel of the series. But this hint ends up being the tip of the iceberg for the shift in tone; it doesn’t become more blatant until the next box set.

The animation in the series reminds me a lot of the animation in the Ranma 1/2 series, and the tone and feel of the first season also felt rather similar to Ranma  1/2. Unfortunately, that tone and feel starts changing with the Dark Tournament Saga.

When it comes to the actual DVD set itself, there are a few bonus features included. On the first and third discs, the only extra are trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the FUNimation Channel.

The second disc has three extras. The first consists of character profiles, which are a single page for each character with an accompanying picture. On this disc, there are profiles for Yusuke, Kuwabara, Botan, Keiko (misspelled as Kayko), Koenma, Atsuko, Hiei, Kurama, Gouki, Genkai, Kazemaru, Kibano, Shorin/Rando, and Ogre. Next is “Textless Songs,” which has both the opening and closing credits; the credits are available in both Japanese and English. For the Japanese version, you still see the subtitles for the lyrics on the screen. There are also trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

The fourth disc has three extras. The first is more character profiles, done in the exact same style as the profiles on disc two. On this disc are profiles for Genbu, Seiryu, Byakko, Suzaku, The Toguros, The Triad, Sakyo, Tarukane, Yukina, Yusuke, Kuwabara, Koenma, Gondawara, Rinku, Koto, and Shizuru. The textless songs that appear on this disc are exactly the same as what appears on disc two. The final extra are trailers for properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for the Z-Store.

I would recommend this set to fans of Yu Yu Hakusho that want to own the episodes of the series in their anime home video collection. There’s also a Blu-ray pressing of this set that might hold appeal for Yu Yu Hakusho fans that have the ability to watch Blu-ray Discs.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Yu Yu Hakusho: The Complete First Season that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Anime DVD Review: Those Who Hunt Elves Complete Collection

The Those Who Hunt Elves Complete Collection is a four-disc DVD box set that was released by Sentai Filmworks that contains all 12 episodes of Those Who Hunt Elves and all 12 episodes of Those Who Hunt Elves II.

Those Who Hunt Elves is included on the first two discs in the set, and each disc contains six episodes of the series. Those Who Hunt Elves II is on the remaining two discs in the set, and each disc contains six episodes. The episodes are available with both the original Japanese audio and an English dub; for the Japanese audio, there are English subtitles available. All of the discs in the set include bonus features.

Those Who Hunt Elves follows three “Elf Hunters” named Junpei, Ritsuko, and Airi; they are humans from Japan who are stranded in a sword and sorcery world after a spell was cast by an elf named Celcia Marie Claire. Celcia tries to send them back home, but she is distracted while reciting the spell. The spell pages divide and spread out in five different directions, and the words on those pages end up on the skin of five elves. In order to return home, the group must find the five elves; they have to determine whether they’ve found the right elf by stripping off their clothes.

This series follows their adventures as they try to find the right elves and the repercussions of the chaos that their actions cause. The series itself is humorous enough, although if you think about it, there are some things that happen that make you question the premise of the series.

After failing to return home at the end of the first series, Those Who Hunt Elves II sees the group on a new search to re-locate the spell pieces in order to attempt to go home again. Unfortunately, it’s obvious as you watch this second series that not a lot of thought seemed to go into it. This time, the spell fragments are split out into a much larger number, there are a number of episodes in this 12-episode series that feel like “filler,” then they are able to get the majority of the spell fragments quickly after the filler, and the series itself doesn’t seem to truly end. Overall, the second series felt like it was thrown out there just to have more episodes of Those Who Hunt Elves.

When it comes to the extras in the set, the first disc contains trailers (which is labeled as “Also Available From Sentai Filmworks”) and DVD Credits. When you choose the menu for the trailers, you are given a menu of six trailers to choose from. The DVD Credits is just one screen of text.

On the second disc, there is a clean closing animation for the closing sequence of the first Those Who Hunt Elves series and Production Sketches. The production sketches consist of 15 pages of line art; however, the art is focused rather heavily on Ritsuko and Celecia. In addition to these two, there is one page of art of Junpei, as well as extra characters from the first episode of Those Who Hunt Elves and the elf who appears in the second episode. I was very surprised to see that Airi wasn’t included in this feature, since she is one of the major characters of the series.

The extras on the third disc are the clean opening and closing animation for the opening and closing for Those Who Hunt Elves II. While it was nice to see both the opening and closing for this series included, it makes me wonder why a clean version of the opening of the first Those Who Hunt Elves series wasn’t included on the second disc. And the extras on the fourth disc are trailers for both seasons of Those Who Hunt Elves.

Personally, I can only truly recommend this DVD box set to people who are already fans of Those Who Hunt Elves who don’t already have any of the DVD releases that were previously released through ADV.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Those Who Hunt Elves Complete Collection that my husband and I purchased.

Anime DVD Review: The Animatrix

The Animatrix consists of nine animated shorts that revolve around the Wachowski Brothers’ trilogy of The Matrix films. Seven of the nine shorts are considered to be anime; “Final Flight of the Osiris” and “Metriculated” are the two shorts that are not considered to be anime. Madhouse, one of the major animation studios in Japan, was involved with almost all seven of the anime shorts. The names involved with the seven anime shorts are Mahiro Maeda, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, and Koji Morimoto.

The first anime short is “The Second Renaissance Part I.” This short tells the story about robots serving humans, and how the robots rise up against their human masters. There are some gory images in the short, as well as a shot of nudity. It should be noted that some of the riot sequences are modeled after real-life riots, such as Vietnam protests and Tiananmen Square.

This is followed by “The Second Renaissance Part II,” which is the war between machines and mankind. The shots of the humans in the trenches evoke some World War I imagery. This short also contains gory imagery, and both parts of “The Second Renaissance” provide the backstory for The Matrix trilogy.

In “Kid’s Story,” we see the backstory for a character that comes into one of the later Matrix movies. In “Program,” we see a woman going through a simulation program, and there is some blood during the fight sequence. In “World Record,” we see a runner trying to defeat his own speed record. He ends up being one who “gains wisdom about The Matrix through different means.”

In “Beyond,” a girl and some local kids go to find her lost cat; the cat is at the haunted house that no one is supposed to go to. It turns out the house is a place where the kids are able to do things that shouldn’t be possible, and agents come and chase them away. In “A Detective Story,” a detective is hired to track down Trinity. It should be noted that this short is in black and white, and evokes the atmosphere of the old classic detective stories.

While all seven of these stories are done in an anime style, the animation style is different for each story (with the only exception being the two parts of “The Second Renaissance,” which have the same animation style). Each director brought their own style to the short they were working on, so it gives each story its own distinctive look and feel. While most of these shorts are not inter-related, you can still tell that they are part of the same whole unit of The Animatrix.

Overall, I enjoyed most of the shorts that appeared in The Animatrix. But I would have to say that my favorite shorts would be the one that give direct backstories to things that were seen in The Matrix trilogy.

The DVD release includes some bonus features. There are audio commentaries for “The Second Renaissance Part I,” “The Second Renaissance Part II,” “Program,” and “World Record.” There are subtitles provided, because the audio for the commentaries is in Japanese.

There is a documentary titled, “Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime.” This 22-minute documentary talks a little bit about The Animatrix, and then goes on to tell the history of manga and anime. Anime footage from Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, Space Battleship Yamato, Gatchaman, Vampire Hunter D: Blood Lust, Ninja Scroll, Cowboy Bebop, and Wicked City are included in the documentary.

There are text-only biographies for the directors and the segment producers involved with The Animatrix. There are also “making of” mini-features for the various shorts, and each mini-feature runs for roughly seven minutes. There is also a DVD-ROM link.

I would recommend The Animatrix to anyone over the age of 18, due to the violence included in the shorts.  I would definitely recommend this DVD to a fan of The Matrix films, so they can acquire some backstory for the films, as well as see some additional stories for The Matrix universe.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of The Animatrix that my husband and I purchased.

Anime DVD Review: Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki

Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki is a three-disc DVD box set that FUNimation Entertainment released of the seven OVA episodes that are not included in the Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection The Complete Series DVD/Blu-ray combo box set. This is actually the third OVA series produced for Tenchi Muyo!, and it came out about eight years after the second OVA series ended.

This series includes many of the elements that have come to be expected from the Tenchi Muyo! franchise, such as Tenchi’s “harem,” the Jurai race, as well as the sister-goddesses Tsunami and Tokimi.

The main antagonist in this OVA series is Z, an anomalous being with great power. He’s capable of punching holes through planets, and can even produce the Lighthawk Wings. Z spends much of the third OVA series stalking Tenchi and the others. At the same time, Mihoshi’s brother Misao wants to destroy Tenchi and to get his sister away from him.

In this series, we also meet Tenchi’s older sister; she bears quite a resemblance to Tenchi’s mother. In addition, a new girl joins the “harem,” and it’s claimed that she’s a fiancée who was chosen for Tenchi when he was young.

Overall, I have to say that this third OVA series isn’t quite as strong as the first two OVA series. On the one hand, new elements did need to be introduced so the concept wouldn’t become stale. Unfortunately, I don’t think all of the new elements included in this series truly worked. There were also times when this series felt as if it was a little choppy in places. It’s not necessarily bad, but it just doesn’t quite hold up in comparison to the first two OVA series.

There’s also a noticeable shift in the animation when it comes to the third OVA series. While the characters basically look the same as they did in the first two OVA series, it’s obvious that these episodes were animated at a different time than the first two OVA series were. Fortunately, the differences in the animation style is nowhere near as jarring as the change in animation style between the first two parts of the Megazone 23 OVA series.

As for the DVD set itself, all three discs have some bonus features on them. The first disc has character profiles for Tenchi, Ryoko, Ayeka, Ryo-Ohki, Washu, Sasami, and Mihoshi; these are basically a brief text write-up for the character that is accompanied by a picture. There are also trailers for four shows that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

The second disc has a total of five bonus features. The first is “The Real Tenchi Tour Part 1.” This is a 12 minute featurette with a composer and a vocalist for the OVA series visiting real-life locations that either inspired locations in the series or the names of some of the characters in the series. This is followed by “The Real Tenchi Tour Part 2”; this runs for 11 minutes, and only the vocalist is touring the locations in this part. These are actually rather well-done featurettes. Personally, I like these kinds of bonus features, because I enjoy getting to see the real-life inspirations and behind-the-scenes stuff.

Next is “Japanese TV Spots.” This runs for 52 seconds, and it includes two spots that have Japanese audio and English subtitles. Next is the “Lovely Cookin’ Music Video,” which is for the ending credits song for this series. This music video is essentially footage from the recording session with some animation footage from the OVA series appearing during an instrumental break. The final extra is trailers for seven shows FUNimation was promoting at the time, a trailer for the FUNimation Channel, and a trailer for the Z-Store.

The third disc includes the “Himitsu Nabe Tenchi Muyo Special!” This is a 40 minute live-action special that aired in Japan that explains the concepts of the series; the live-action footage is intercut with some animation. This special was produced as a lead-in to the Tenchi Muyo! GXP series. Personally, I found this special to be a little on the cheesy side, and it’s probably something that I’ll never watch again.

Next is a 30 minute radio drama. This feature has the audio from the radio drama playing over still images. Over the course of this radio drama, six stories are presented. I thought the stories in the radio drama were a little “hit and miss.” Some were amusing to watch, while others were just kind of “meh.” It’s not bad for what it’s trying to accomplish, but this is probably another bonus feature that I really wouldn’t go out of my way to watch again This disc also includes trailers for six shows FUNimation was promoting at the time, a trailer for the FUNimation Channel, and a trailer for the Z-Store.

While this third OVA series may not have been quite as strong as the first two series, you still need to purchase a copy of this DVD box set if you want to have a complete Tenchi Muyo! collection in your anime library.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki that my husband purchased for me as a gift.

Anime DVD/Blu-ray Combo Review: Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection The Complete Series

Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection The Complete Series was released by FUNimation as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. This release contains the first 13 episodes of the Tenchi Muyo! OVA series, and it comes with two Blu-ray Discs, three DVDs, and a 16-page art booklet.

Tenchi Masaki is a stereotypical teenage loser who manages to bumble his way into various situations. At the beginning of the series, he accidentally releases an alien space pirate name Ryoko Hakubi from the seal she was under at the shrine where Tenchi lives.

At first, Ryoko attacks Tenchi to try to get revenge for being under a seal for 700 years. As the episodes progress, other female characters are introduced, and many of them become attracted to Tenchi. Ayeka Masaki Jurai and Sasami Masaki Jurai are princesses from the Jurai Royal Family; Ayeka has been searching for Yosho, her half-brother who had left Jurai to pursue the space pirate Ryoko. Ayeka detects Ryoko on Earth, and her tree-ship crash lands on Earth. Ayeka and Sasami end up staying with Tenchi and Ryoko at the shrine.

Mihoshi Kuramitsu is a Detective of the Galaxy Police, but she’s also ditzy and clumsy. She crash lands on Earth while trying to track down a villain, and she also ends up with Tenchi and the others. Washu Habuki is a former Director of the Galaxy Academy and is ranked among the top scientists in the galaxy. She is the one who created Ryoko, and Washu also ends up joining up with Tenchi and the others.

As you can see, there’s a rather typical “harem” setup of a loser guy surrounded by several girls. Fortunately, the storyline in Tenchi Muyo! is strong enough that it helps to lift the OVAs above many of the “harem” anime that have been created and produced since the Tenchi Muyo! franchise started back in the early 1990s.

Admittedly, the animation in these OVA episodes look a little “dated”; if you know what to look for, then you can easily tell that these episodes originally came out in the early 1990s. Again, the story itself is able to rise above the animation, so the “dated” animation isn’t as distracting as it could be.

Content-wise, there is some occasional female nudity, primarily with the character of Ryoko. While there are other characters who are occasionally seen in just a towel or wearing something a little skimpier, Ryoko is the only female character I can think of who actually has any actual nudity.

As for the release itself, there really isn’t much in the way of bonus features. The second Blu-ray Disc and the third DVD contain the bonus features that are included in this set.

The first extra is an omake titled, “Here Comes Jurai Part 2.” This seven minute long omake is not actually animated; instead, it is made up of still images with dialogue being said over them. I personally wasn’t too terribly impressed with this omake, but it does seem to serve as a bridge between the episode at the end of this DVD box set and the first episode in the Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki box set.

The second feature is the U.S. trailer for Tenchi Muyo!, which runs for about one minute. The last bonus feature are trailers for seven shows that FUNimation was promoting at the time this set was released, as well as a trailer for FUNimation’s website.

If you’re a fan of the Tenchi Muyo! franchise, then this is an item you want to purchase for your anime library if you don’t already have these episodes. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, this DVD/Blu-ray Combo is the only way that FUNimation Entertainment has released these episodes, so you’re stuck with the DVDs if you’ve already upgraded to Blu-ray.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Tenchi Muyo! OVA Collection The Complete Series that my husband purchased for me as a gift.