Anime DVD Review: One Piece Season Four Voyage One

One Piece Season Four Voyage One is a two-disc set that contains episodes 206-217 of the One Piece anime series. The first disc has six episodes and a commentary on Episode 211, while the second disc includes six episodes, commentary on Episode 215, and the set’s bonus features. You can watch the episodes with either the English dub or the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. It should also be noted that in addition to watching episodes or using the “Play All” option, there is also a marathon feature, which allows you to watch all the episodes on a disc back-to-back without interruption. In the marathon feature, the opening credits only plays once, there are no next episode previews, and the ending credits are not included.

There are also a couple of interesting things to note on this release. Starting with Episode 207, the episodes in the set are in a widescreen format, because this was the first episode of the series to be formatted in 16:9 widescreen.

The first episode in this set sees Luffy and the Straw Hats making their escape from the marine fortress after Johnathan believes he has them in “checkmate.” But after they escape, Jonathan gives them praise because their arrival helped to boost the morale of his men.

A new story arc begins with Episode 207, when they reach Long Ring Long Land and find that it’s inhabited by elongated of versions of regular animals. Here, they meet a man named Tonjit and his horse, Shelly. But the fun times they have on the island are short lived due to the arrival of the Foxy Pirates. Foxy, the captain of the pirates, challenges Luffy to a Davy Back Fight; this is a contest of pirates where the stakes are the members of the crew. As you’d expect, Luffy is stupid enough to not only accept the challenge, he also agrees to do the maximum amount of contests.

Over the next six episodes, the Straw Hats and the Foxy Pirates compete in some rather ridiculous contests which Foxy tries to rig with his Devil Fruit powers or by having his men as referees that overlook the Foxy Pirates’ blatant cheating. The Straw Hats manage to overcome the cheating and win two of the contests, and it looks like everything will be fine. But when Foxy challenges Luffy to another three contests, Luffy stupidly accepts. The final three episodes in the set begin the second set of three challenges; the first two are completed in this set, but the third one is just getting started at the end of the set.

The Davy Back Fight arc includes the humor and “over the top” feel that viewers have come to associate with the One Piece franchise. The best moment in this arc during this set is seeing Luffy putting on an afro wig for his boxing match against Foxy. It’s a visual that’s going to stick with me for an incredibly long time because it’s going to be so memorable.

As a viewer, though, I was getting a little frustrated after a while with all the cheating that Foxy and his crew were doing. Obviously they would need to do this in order to create tension and to have a conflict in the storyline, but it was still frustrating nonetheless. But how things look at this point, even if Luffy wins this final contest, he can only win back one of his crew members and would have to choose between Chopper and Robin. There’s got to be a way for Luffy to find some kind of loophole in the Davy Back Fight in order to avoid this, but I have no idea what it would be. And I can’t forget to mention that I, like Nami and the other members of Luffy’s crew, wanted to throttle him for accepting the Davy Back Fight not just once, but twice.

And I felt so bad for Chopper, because he was taken by the Foxy Pirates not once, but twice, during this arc. Whenever I saw him crying because he was taken away from the Straw Hats, I wanted to reach through my television screen and give him a hug.

As for the DVD set itself, there are six bonus features on the second disc in addition to the episode commentary. There are textless versions for both opening songs that appear in this set (“BON VOYAGE” and “Kokoro no Chizu”), as well as textless versions for both ending songs in this set (“Dreamship” and “Eternal Pose”). There’s also a “U.S. Trailer,” which is a trailer that was made to promote One Piece Season Four Voyage One, as well as trailers for other properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

If you’re a One Piece fan and are trying to collect the episodes on DVD, you can purchase this set for episodes 206-217. More recent DVD collections are packaging 24-25 episodes per set, and those releases would also be worth considering if you want to add One Piece to your home video library.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of One Piece Season Four Voyage One that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime DVD Review: Bleach DVD Set 14

Bleach DVD Set 14 is a three disc set that contains 12 episodes; each disc in this set includes four episodes and bonus features. The episodes on these discs can be watched either with English dialogue or with Japanese dialogue and English subtitles.

The first seven episodes in the set take place in Soul Society in the past. This arc, which is known as “The Past Arc,” was actually rather fun to watch. It’s quite interesting to see some of the characters that we know looking so much younger and noticeably different than how they normally look in the series. But this arc is rather important, because it provides some backstory for Urahara, Yoruichi, Aizen, Gin, Mayuri, and Tessai. Not only that, but this arc also tells the story of how the Visoreds came to be.

Then, this is followed be a two episode “filler” story. Urahara decides that with Ichigo heading back to Hueco Mundo, Karakura Town needs protection from Hollows. Urahara forces Kon into a team of superheroes called “Konso Cop Karakuraiser,” which also includes Don Kanonji, Tatsuki Arisawa, Chizuru Honsho, Keigo Asano, and Ururu Tsumugiya. It felt like the writer and/or the director is a fan of shows like Gatchaman and decided to throw in a filler story that pays homage to superhero-style anime. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work or fit in with a show like Bleach. While it seems like the intent was for this to be a humorous filler story, it didn’t come across as funny at all; in fact, it was rather stupid. It was rather unnecessary and felt like a waste of time.

The final three episodes in this set finally return the series to canon material from the manga, and there’s two storylines taking place. First, there’s the gathering of captains and lieutenants in the fake Karakura Town to face off against Aizen and his army of Fracciones. The last episode in the set focuses on Ikkaku, Yumichika, Kira, and Hisagi each facing off against a Fraccione, with the most emphasis being placed on Yumichika and his opponent, Charlotte. These two are very similar in personality, so their battle is interesting to watch. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that there are times when their battle is comical due to their similar personalities.

The other storyline takes place in Las Noches, where Ulquiorra has been left in charge. Ulquiorra is giving Orihime a hard time as Ichigo fights his way toward the tower where they are. The last we see of this storyline in this set is Ichigo and Ulquiorra as they’re just starting into their battle.

With the exception of the “Konso Cop Karakuraiser” episodes, I enjoyed watching Bleach DVD Set 14. The “Past Arc” storyline was informative, yet interesting and enjoyable to watch, while the remaining three episodes in the set finally returned the series to the main storyline after it came to an abrupt stop near the end of Set 13. With the emphasis that was placed on the Visoreds in the “Past Arc,” I really hope that they’ll be appearing again in the series sooner rather than later.

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 appears 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 and locations that appear in these episodes. The first disc includes 12 pages, the second disc has 11 pages, and the third disc includes 10 pages.

Each disc also has a “Clean Ending” option in the bonus features; the first two discs have the first ending that appears on this set, while the third disc has the second ending. Each disc also includes the omake that should have been included with the episodes that appear on the disc.

I was surprised, but glad, to see that there were no trailers included as part of the bonus features. It had gotten to a point on some of the previous box sets that they would just include the same three trailers on each disc, and I just couldn’t understand the point of including them on every single disc. Also, there are no trailers that play on a disc before it goes to the main menu.

If you’re a Bleach fan, then you need to get a hold of this set in order to have all of the episodes of the series in your anime home video collection.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Bleach DVD Set 14 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime DVD Review: Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1

Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1 was released on DVD and on a limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo by VIZ Media on November 11, 2014. This release includes the first 23 episodes of the original Sailor Moon television anime series and some extras. The audio on this release includes the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and a new English dub that was produced by VIZ Media. This review will focus on the DVD release, since that is what I watched to write this review. I watched these episodes with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Sailor Moon tells the story of Usagi Tsukino, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who is clumsy and a bit of a crybaby. One day, as she’s running to school because she’s late, she finds a black cat being tormented by a group of boys. Usagi chases the boys off and finds that Band-Aids have been placed on the cat’s forehead; when Usagi takes them off, she finds a crescent shape. Before Usagi can do anything else, she hears the bell for school and runs off. We also see that Usagi begins having run-ins with a guy named Mamoru, whose favorite nickname for her is “Bun Head” (due to the buns she has in her hair).

Later, the black cat follows Usagi home. She’s a talking cat, and introduces herself as Luna. Luna gives Usagi a brooch; when Usagi says a certain phrase, the brooch transforms her into a hero called Sailor Moon. When Usagi learns her friend Naru is in trouble, she rushes over to save her. At first, Sailor Moon is overwhelmed by the situation, but she is rescued by a mysterious guy known as Tuxedo Mask.

Luna informs Usagi that she has a mission to track down the other Sailor Guardians, find and protect a princess, and to track down the Legendary Silver Crystal. It’s also up to Sailor Moon to save Earth from the forces of evil. At this point in the story, the antagonist is the Dark Kingdom, led by Queen Beryl. She is trying to get power for their great ruler, Queen Metalia. She is trying to track down the Legendary Silver Crystal, but also has her four henchmen extracting energy from humans in the meantime until they find the crystal. Her henchmen are the Four Kings of Heaven: Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite.

Over the course of these 23 episodes, Usagi finds two more of the Sailor Guardians: a studious girl named Ami Mizuno (who is Sailor Mercury) and a shrine maiden named Rei Hina (who is Sailor Mars). This set also sees Usagi develop a crush on both Tuxedo Mask and Motoki Furuhata, a boy who words at the video arcade that Usagi likes to hang out at. This set also sees Usagi getting a second item from Luna, which is a pen that lets her transform into whatever disguise she needs in order to get into locations in order to stop Queen Beryl’s schemes.

Before I review the actual content of the episodes that appear on this set, I’d like to make it clear that I did not watch Sailor Moon during the time that it aired on American television, and prior to watching this set, I only watched the first episode online with both the original English dub on YouTube and with the original Japanese audio on Neon Alley when VIZ Media began streaming the series earlier this year. I’m also watching the episodes on this set after having already read all 12 volumes of the Sailor Moon manga and watching the first 9-10 episodes of the currently running Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. I hope that by putting all this out here that it will explain how and why I review the content of these episodes the way that I do.

The first episode basically lines up with how the story went in the original manga, and it does a great job establishing Usagi and the overall premise and ideas for the series. However, after this point, there’s only three other episodes in the set where the story came from the manga (episodes 8, 10, and 22). The remaining 19 episodes are original stories that were written for the anime series.

After watching this set, I would have to say that the episodes based on the manga chapters are stronger and better than the original stories; this is true for both the writing and the animation. There’s a distinct look and feel to the manga stories when compared to the anime original stories, and this difference can be rather jarring when you’re watching the series by seeing several episodes back-to-back on a nightly basis. Episodes 8 and 10 are very similar to what was seen in the manga, but the story in Episode 22 has the same basic premise but new elements were added to it since the anime had diverged enough and added important elements that weren’t in the manga at that point; these added elements needed to be used in this episode in order to keep the anime series’ continuity.

Rei’s character ended up getting changed drastically in this original anime adaptation. First, a major sense of tension was created between Usagi and Rei; while they may not have always seen eye to eye in the manga, their disagreements were never this petty and stupid. To me, including this tension really damages the message of teamwork that Sailor Moon seems to be trying to convey. Also, the anime writers decided to have Rei develop an interest in Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, which did not exist in the manga, in order to turn her into a romantic rival for Usagi. I didn’t like that change, either.

I’m also not a fan of the new romance plot that was added with Naru falling in love with Nephrite in his disguised form. It just feels wrong on so many levels.

A major problem I had with these anime-only stories is the fact that there were only a couple of mentions of Sailor Moon’s overall mission when Luna would try to remind Usagi about it. But the writers seemed to eventually give up on trying to force mentions of the overall mission into the episodes, so it gets ignored.

Several of the anime-only episodes were rather painful to watch, due to ridiculous premises. My least favorite episode in this set was Episode 20, “The Summer, the Beach, Youth and Ghosts.” Usagi, Rei, Ami, and Luna go to the beach for a training session, but we never see them train at any point in the episode! Not only that, but the main antagonist doesn’t show up anywhere in it; instead, we get some guy who’s been experimenting on psychic abilities on his daughter and has been hypnotizing her to draw out her power. Her power goes out of control, but it’s ultimately not the Sailor Guardians who save the day; in fact, they hardly do anything. To me, this never should have been included as an episode for the series. While I understand that the anime was airing at the same time the manga was being released, the amount of anime-only episodes can feel like overkill at times on this set.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there’s three discs included. The first disc has a Sailor Moon theme and includes the first eight episodes of the series. The second disc has a Sailor Mercury theme and includes eight episodes. The third disc has a Sailor Mars theme and includes seven episodes and the set’s extras.

There are a total of three extras on the DVD. The first is, “AX Sailor Moon Reel.” It runs for about two minutes, and includes brief clips of the various Sailor Moon related activities that took place during Anime Expo 2014. Unfortunately, the only audio is background music. There’s brief text to explain what each event we see is, but these events go by so fast that it was hard me to follow what exactly I was seeing. The last thing we see is text saying to look out for a feature on the next set, so this made me feel like this was simply a trailer to promote a feature in the next box set. In the end, I personally didn’t get much out of this particular extra.

The next extra is, “Official Announcement Trailer.” This runs for almost three-and-a-half minutes, and it shows clips from the various Sailor Moon series as well as text to explain what VIZ Media’s plans for releases were. If you didn’t get to see this trailer before buying this set, then it’s a nice thing to watch once.

The final extra is “Trailers,” which runs for almost four minutes and includes two trailers that runs back-to-back to promote a couple of other series that VIZ Media holds the rights to.

There’s been a lot of talk on the Internet about the video quality, especially in regards to the limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, which included complains about ghosting and smeared colors. After watching this DVD, I didn’t personally notice any ghosting. When it came to colors, I only had a complaint about Episode 20; the characters’ skin looks pink instead of flesh-colored in a few scenes.

In the end, this is a release that I can only truly recommend to fans of the original Sailor Moon television anime series that can get past the changes of the new English dub. I’d also recommend this series to young girls who might have an appreciation for magical girl stories. Even though I may not personally care for the original Sailor Moon anime that much, I showed the first episode to my almost 10-year-old daughter; after we finished, she said, “That was AMAZING!” When I watched this episode with her, I saw it the new English dub. After watching it, I have to say that Stephanie Sheh did a good job portraying Usagi and hit all the appropriate emotional marks for the scenes she did. The other dub actors also seemed to do a decent job for their characters.

While I may not be enjoying this release 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.

I wrote this review after watching a review copy of Sailor Moon Season 1 Part 1 that was provided to me by VIZ Media.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Shippuden Box Set 20

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 20 is a two-disc set that contains episodes 245 through 257 of Naruto Shippuden. The first disc contains seven episodes, and the second disc includes six episodes and the set’s special features.

Right at the beginning of this set, we see Naruto overcoming his dark self and passing the first test. Killer Bee becomes Naruto’s instructor to help Naruto learn how to conquer and control the Nine-Tailed Fox; this is accomplished by having the Jinchuriki fight against the tailed-beast.

As Naruto battles the Nine-Tailed Fox, he receives some surprising help from his dead mother, through chakra that had been infused into him before she died. There’s a five episode arc that gives backstory on Naruto’s mother, Kushina, as well as on how Kushina and Minato met, and the birth of Naruto and the attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox that took place the day Naruto was born.

I absolutely loved getting this backstory. As we learn from Kushina, Minato hadn’t given Naruto all of the details during the time that Naruto had been able to communicate with his father earlier in the series. While I liked seeing how Naruto’s parents met, I was most appreciative of getting to see what actually happened on the night that the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked the Hidden Leaf Village. While we’ve heard some bits and pieces about it since the very first episode of the first Naruto anime, it was nice to finally get to see exactly what happened. I did have one gripe, though. For the animation that was used when the Nine-Tailed Fox was launching its attack on the village, there were either still and static shots or animation that looked as if the animators were cutting corners. It could have been worse, though. I mean, the animation quality could have been as painful as what appears in a particular section of the Invasion of Pain arc!

After Naruto finishes his fight with the Nine-Tailed Fox and can begin controlling its chakra, he’s able to sense negative energy coming from Killer Bee’s weapon, which was the Samehada he had taken from Kisame earlier when Bee thought Kisame had been killed. Kisame appears and tries to escape in order to send what he’s learned to the Akatsuki. Killer Bee tries to stop him, but Kisame forces Samehada to absorb Killer Bee’s chakra. It’s up to Guy to try to stop Kisame, and there’s an epic fight that sees Guy taking down Kisame. But when Aoba tries to extract intel from Kisame, Kisame escapes and summons sharks to come and eat him.

Before Kisame is killed, though, the audience gets to see some backstory on him, from both before he joined the Akatsuki and after he’s partnered up with Itachi. I was glad to finally have some backstory for Kisame, because we knew so little about him prior to this point. But this seems to be something that Kishimoto has done several times during the series: just before killing off a character (usually a villain), that character’s backstory is provided to the audience shortly before the character’s death. When I saw in a preview that we’d be seeing Kisame’s backstory, I knew that Kisame was going to die.

The next two episodes see Madara going to the Hidden Rain Village to try to retrieve Nagato’s Rinnegan. Konan intercepts him, and the two of them have an epic battle. Unfortunately, Konan is the one who loses. It’s a shame about Konan, because I really came to like her at the end of the Invasion of Pain arc.

In this set, we also see that Kabuto has teamed up with Madara, and Madara shares with Kabuto what he has for the upcoming war. Kabuto also reveals that he knows Orochimaru’s reanimation jutsu, which he uses to resurrect Deidara. Together, Deidara and Kabuto go to the island where Naruto and Killer Bee are. Onoki and his bodyguards, Kurotsuchi and Akatsuchi, try to stop both Deidara and Kabuto. But it turns out Kabuto’s not interested in either Killer Bee or Naruto; his true goal is Yamato, who he manages to capture and uses him to bolster the abilities of Madara’s Zetsu Army.

Just as it looks like the war is actually going to start, we see that the final episode is the first of a four-part ten year anniversary special that’s basically a recap of scenes of Naruto and Sasuke. At the last at the beginning of the first episode, there’s a couple of new scenes I’d never seen before; outside of that, everything else was basically footage I’d already seen earlier in the series. This was a disappointment for me, both because it delays the start of the war, and the fact that I’m not really a fan of “recap” episodes that primarily recycle footage. And since this is a four-part recap, the remaining three episodes are going to be opening the next box set.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, there are six bonus features included. The first is an art gallery, which includes six pages of line art of characters that appeared in the episodes in this box set.

The second feature is omake, which includes the five omake that appeared at the end of five episodes that appeared on the second disc. These omake were done in order to help promote the then-forthcoming Naruto spin-off anime, Rock Lee and His Ninja Pals. So it uses the chibi style that appears in that series, and the segments are humorous in nature. For me, these were a mixed bag; some were funny, while some either weren’t funny or were frightening.

Next is storyboards, which contains three pages from Episode 250. “Clean Openings and Clean Endings” includes three versions of the openings and the closings that appeared on this set: a version without any text, a version with English subtitles, and a version with Romaji subtitles. The English credits are also available.

“More From Viz Media” includes links to a lot of trailers for properties that Viz Media was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

This DVD set is a “must get” for Naruto fans who want to own all of the episodes of Naruto and Naruto Shippuden in their anime home video collection. This set is worth it not only for the plot progressions that take place, but for the backstory on Naruto’s parents as well.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Naruto Shippuden Box Set 20 that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Anime DVD Review: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series is a four-disc set that includes all 26 episodes of the series. The first and third discs include seven episodes, while the second and fourth discs include six episodes and bonus features. For audio, you can choose to watch with the English dub, the English dub with English subtitles, the original Japanese audio, or the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is based off of the first of a series of Japanese fantasy novels written by Nahoko Uehashi. The story follows Balsa, a female spear wielder and bodyguard who serves as a wandering warrior; she vows to atone for eight deaths in her past by saving an equivalent number of lives.

In the first episode, Balsa saves Prince Chagum, who has been the victim of assassination attempts ordered by his father. Chagum bears an egg of the water spirit, and it’s believed that this will be a reincarnation of a demon who had been defeated by Chagum’s ancestor. Chagum’s mother hires Balsa to hide and protect Chagum in an attempt to save his life; it’s revealed that if Balsa succeeds, Chagum will be the eighth life that she’s saved.

Balsa and Chagum travel together trying to elude capture by the emperor’s forces. Along the way, they receive help from Toya and Saya (two orphaned children who know Balsa), Tanda (an herbalist who is a long-time friend of Balsa’s), and Torogai (an old shaman and Tanda’s teacher). As the series progresses, both Torogai and the emperor’s Star Diviners discover that there have been misunderstandings about the egg and the water spirit, and must work together to find a way to allow the egg to hatch without killing Chagum.

Overall, I was rather impressed by the storytelling in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. It was a very solid story, and I never found myself questioning whether or not the series was contradicting itself. Also, many of the characters were very well developed, which allowed the audience to care about them and want to follow their adventures. I can also say that within its 26 episode run, there truly isn’t any “filler”; everything that appeared in the episodes ended being important for either plot or concept revelations in the overarching story.

Knowing that Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is only based on the first book in the series, I was a little concerned about whether or not it would have a proper ending. For the most part, I thought the series ended well; my main issue is that there was one loose end that was never tied up, which was whether or not Balsa and Tanda ever ended up together in a relationship. The series did such a great job building up their chemistry that the lack of a clear answer was a little disappointing.

The animation in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit was well done and looked very impressive. The first episode contained a lot of detail and looked very lush, and I was afraid of how the animation might potentially deteriorate as the series continued. While the animation didn’t stay to the high level that was seen in Episode One, it was only a minor deterioration in quality that took place throughout the rest of the series. I didn’t see any evidence of the animators trying to cut corners or any signs of animators rushing through their work.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit is a well told and executed fantasy anime series, and it’s one I would highly recommend to anime viewers for both its writing and its animation.

When it comes to the DVD set itself, the second disc includes five bonus features, while the fourth disc has four bonus features. Both discs have a textless version of the opening credits and a textless version of the ending credits. However, if you watch them with the Japanese audio and English subtitles, then you will see the subtitles when watching them.

The second disc also has the original Japanese trailers; there are three trailers in all, with a runtime of about seven minutes. The trailers include the original Japanese audio, and I was surprised to discover that there English subtitles included; usually when I see Japanese trailers on a VIZ Media release, the subtitles aren’t included.

The “Full Promo Film” runs for about five minutes, and it’s kind of like a trailer, except this gives more of an explanation for the overarching story of the series. The “Pilot Film” runs for about three minutes, which includes footage from the series, some early animation that didn’t make it into the final production, and interviews with Nahoko Uehashi (the author of the book) and Kenji Kamiyama (the director for the anime series).

Disc Four includes a press conference that runs for about seven-and-a-half minutes, which includes appearances by Nahoko Uehashi, Kenji Kamiyama, Mabuki Andou (Balsa’s voice actress), Naoto Adachi (Chagum’s voice actor), and Sachi Tainaka (the performer for the series’ ending theme song).

“Discussion Panel With English Credits” runs for 20 minutes; roughly the first half is the actual discussion panel, while the second half was the English credits for Episodes 8-11 of the series. From what I’ve been able to tell, these bonus features had originally been included on Media Blasters’ release of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, which would explain the English credits. I don’t know if VIZ Media was under contract to leave this bonus feature as it was from the Media Blasters release or not, but I can only hope that’s the explanation for leaving those credits tacked onto the discussion panel.

The discussion panel itself featured Nahoko Uehashi, Kenji Kamiyama, and the animation supervisor. This panel was done in a way where the question is shown on the screen as the panelists answer them. During these 10 minutes, they discuss the planning process, what animation supervisors look for, the type of person that Kamiyama is, their hopes for the anime version, and how they want the work to be viewed. Overall, this wasn’t too bad for what it was.

If you’ve seen Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit but haven’t added it to your anime home video collection yet, I would recommend purchasing either this DVD set or the Blu-ray pressing if you have the ability to watch Blu-rays. While the Media Blasters release of the complete series is still available at retailers such as Right Stuf, it’s retailing for about $130. VIZ Media’s release is much more economical; you get the same content, but it’s only retailing for about $45 for the DVD set and $50 for the Blu-ray set.

I wrote this review after watching a review copy of Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit The Complete Series that was provided to me by VIZ Media.

Anime DVD Review: Naruto Triple Feature

Naruto Triple Feature is a three-disc set that contains all three of the movies released for the first Naruto series: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, Legend of the Stone of Gelel, and Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. VIZ Media released this set on October 14, 2014.

In Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke, along with their sensei, Kakashi, are sent on a mission to accompany famous actress Yukie Fujikaze, as she heads for the Land of Snow to shoot her new movie. While on their travels, it comes out that Yukie is actually someone important from the Land of Snow, and that someone is after a crystal necklace that she has. Can Naruto and the rest of Team 7 protect Yukie from the danger that she is in?

Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is a good film; however, it was definitely written in a way where you already had to be familiar with the Naruto anime series in order to fully understand what was going on. No time was used for any kind of exposition to explain some of the things that are common knowledge from the series. But then again, it was probably expected that viewers who watch Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow would already be fans of either the Naruto manga series or the Naruto anime series.

This film is pretty much what one would expect from a film based on a Shonen Jump property. Characters and story elements are introduced in the movie that will never be seen in the anime series ever again, and there’s also plenty of action. The animation in Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow is rather decent overall, and it seems to have received the best animation of the Naruto films that I have seen up to this point.

One of my favorite moments of the film was getting to see a flashback that shows a younger Kakashi Hatake. I believe that by this point in the anime series, the viewers would have seen a picture of a younger Kakashi, but not actually seeing the younger Kakashi in action.

In Legend of the Stone of Gelel, the film opens with a battle on a beach between the Sand Ninja and unknown warriors wearing bulky armor. As the Sand Ninja are becoming overwhelmed by these mysterious warriors, reinforcements arrive; the reinforcements are led by Kankuro and Gaara, and the tide of the battle turns. However, when the Sand Ninja shine a light on their retreating enemy, a large warship appears and begins firing. Gaara’s sand armor barely protects the Sand Ninja.

Meanwhile, Naruto, Shikamaru, and Sakura are on a mission to deliver a lost pet ferret to its owner; however, they are intercepted by Temujin, who gets into a fight with Naruto. The two are knocked off a cliff at the peak of their battle; as they fall, a giant ship appears. In the ship is a traveling caravan, and it turns out they are the people who had lost the ferret. The caravan takes care of Naruto and Temujin. At first, Naruto and Temujin don’t get along; however, as they are with the caravan, they learn to tolerate each other.

As Sakura and Shikamaru search for Naruto, Shikamaru comes upon a fortress; he finds a lab with children in capsules. He also sees two women who wear armor like Temujin’s, and they talk about the Gelel Stone. As the movie progresses, the audience learns more about the Gelel Stone, and how Temujin has a connection with it. Also, the storylines of the Sand Ninja and of Naruto and his friends converge together during the film.

Compared to the first Naruto film, the story of this film falls more into the “fantastical” side due to the Gelel Stone. Outside of that, though, this story does actually work well for the Naruto universe. It was also nice to see Gaara and Kankuro also make an appearance in the film; however, it would have been kind of cool if the writer had found a way to include Temari, since she and Shikamaru always have fun interactions to watch. However, there is a scene where there’s an amusing interaction between Shikamaru and Temari’s brother, Kankuro. Of course, with this being a film for a Shonen Jump property, this film introduces characters and story elements that are never seen again in the Naruto series.

When watching the film, it was obvious that for the animation, a lot of effort went into rendering the backgrounds. Unfortunately, the animation of the characters was not as strong as in the first film. Shikamaru and Kankuro both received consistently bad animation. The animation for Sakura would fluctuate between being rather good to being very poor. While Naruto tended to get good animation, there were sections where he would occasionally get some bad animation. Gaara and the new characters all seemed to get consistently good animation. The inconsistent animation styles being used for the film does weaken it to some extent; if the animation had been better, I might have appreciated this film a little better than I do.

In Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom, Naruto, Sakura, Lee, and Kakashi have a mission to protect Michiru, the prince of the Land of the Moon; accompanying Michiru is his son, Hikaru. Michiru believes he can buy anything he wants, and he has passed this attitude down to his son. Hikaru’s attitude rubs Naruto the wrong way.

On their way to the Land of the Moon, they make a stop at a circus. Hikaru uses his bow and arrow to shoot an apple in a circus act. He impresses the ringmaster, who says Hikaru can have anything he wanted if he could shoot another apple that was being held by a monkey riding on top of saber-toothed tiger. Hikaru gets the shot, and he says he wants the tiger; Michiru ends up purchasing the whole circus. Before boarding the ships to return home, Michiru makes a visit to the home of his ex-wife, Amayo, bringing her a bunch of flowers. Amayo says that Michiru doesn’t understand what’s really important, and refuses to go back to him.

On the voyage home, Hikaru tries to befriend the saber-toothed tiger, but it wants nothing to do with him. He becomes bored with the animals, and doesn’t seem to care about them when a storm hits. Naruto gives Hikaru a major lecture, and this seems to make Hikaru realize how foolish he’d been acting. Hikaru helps to save the animals, and the next morning, Chamu (the saber-toothed tiger) befriends him. Not only that, Naruto, Sakura, and Lee also become friends with Hikaru.

When the group returns to the Land of the Moon, they discover that the country has been taken over by one of the royal advisors, with the help of three powerful ninja he has hired. Can Naruto and the group save the kingdom and return Michiru’s family to power?

Like the first Naruto film, this storyline fits in rather well with the Naruto anime series. However, just like the other two Naruto films, characters and story elements are introduced that are never seen again during the series. Overall, I do enjoy the story of Naruto the Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom. I especially like the scene that takes place between Michiru and his ex-wife, Amayo. Admittedly, her speech does hit the audience a little over the head, but I liked how she was willing to speak her mind and not feel like she had to hold back due to speaking to royalty. I also appreciated the interactions Naruto has with Hikaru, even though I have to admit that some of those interactions can come across as a little preachy sometimes.

While there is a good story in the film, I was rather disappointed with the animation; of the three Naruto films, this one easily received the worst animation. There isn’t as much detail on the character drawings, and the computer graphics that were used just drew too much attention to themselves. I guess I have to give this film credit for the fact that it consistently utilized poor animation, unlike the second film, which wavered too much between good animation and poor animation.

When it comes to this DVD set, it simply contains the first of the two discs that were included when these films were released individually; the only difference is that a new label was created for the discs to indicate that they’re from the Naruto Triple Feature release. Unfortunately, by losing the second disc from the original releases of these films, you end up losing a lot of the bonus features that came with them. Fortunately, since the “Konoha Annual Sports Festival” short was included on the first disc in the original release of Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, which means it’s also included here.

The bonus features that aren’t part of this set include: documentaries, interviews, featurettes, the original Japanese trailers, Japanese credits, art galleries, storyboards, a clean ending, and a trivia quiz.

If you’ve held off from purchasing these Naruto films in the past and are now considering adding them to your anime home video collection, this set is an economical way to obtain all three films; I would highly recommend this set for viewers who are only interested in owning the actual movies and don’t care about bonus features. However, if you are an anime collector who has an interest in bonus features, then you might be better off trying to track down the three individual releases for these films.

I wrote this review from a review copy of Naruto Triple Feature that was provided to me by VIZ Media.

Anime DVD Review: One Piece Season Three Fifth Voyage

One Piece Season Three Fifth Voyage is a two-disc set that contains episodes 196-205 of the One Piece anime series. The first disc has five episodes and a commentary on Episode 196, while the second disc includes five episodes and the set’s bonus features. You can watch the episodes with either the English dub or the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. It should also be noted that in addition to watching episodes or using the “Play All” option, there is also a marathon feature, which allows you to watch all the episodes on a disc back-to-back without interruption. In the marathon feature, the opening credits only plays once, there are no next episode previews, and the ending credits are not included.

Right at the end of the previous set, Luffy and the Straw Hats fell right into the middle of the Marines’ stronghold of Navarone. When they realize where they’ve landed, Luffy and the others scatter themselves throughout the stronghold in an attempt to avoid being discovered

The episodes in this set see the various members of the crew end up in various situations, many of which include needing to have a disguise. Sanji and Luffy disguise themselves as chefs, Nami disguises as a nurse, Chopper disguises as a doctor, and Robin and Usopp disguise themselves as the same visiting inspector. Usopp is jailed, and finds himself in the same cell as Zoro, who didn’t bother to even try to put on a disguise. Luffy inadvertently reveals himself to the leader of Navarone, and the Marines hunt him and Sanji down as they try to make it to the brig to rescue Usopp and Zoro.

During this section, one of my favorite parts had to be when Chopper and Nami end up helping out a doctor who’s nervous about treating the Marines’ injuries since she’s a pediatrician and doesn’t like surgery or the sight of blood. With Chopper having medical training, he was an incredible help to this doctor. Later, after the doctor discovers they’re actually pirates, she’s still grateful to them for their help and decides to help them reunite with their friends at the Going Merry.

But after they manage to escape from Navarone, Nami discovers that the Marines took the gold they got in Skypiea. As you’d expect, Nami freaks out about it being gone and insists that they return to Navarone to retrieve it. It actually ended up being rather comical how the Going Merry manages to make it back into the stronghold without being detected by the Marines who were pursuing them as they escaped.

Unfortunately, this story arc does not conclude at the end of this set. From what I’ve seen, it appears there’s only one episode remaining in this arc; this is a little frustrating, especially since this was only a 10 episode set. It makes me wonder why they couldn’t have acquired that final episode of the arc and placed it on this set. I seem to recall that there had been a bit of a gap between this DVD set and the next one, so maybe this was as far as the Japanese licensors had licensed to FUNimation at the time this set was released? If that’s the case, then I’m more forgiving about this situation.

But I have to say that this story arc was relatively short, especially when compared to how long the Skypiea arc ran. And after making it through such a long arc, this shorter one is a nice change of pace. The humor in this arc has really helped to lighten the mood, and it’s a nice break before potentially launching into another longer story arc.

As for the DVD set itself, there are two selections for bonus features on the second disc: “Textless Songs” and “Trailers.” The “Textless Songs” feature includes “BON VOYAGE” (the opening song that appears in this set) and “Dreamship” (the ending song that appears on the set). There are also trailers for other properties that FUNimation was promoting at the time this DVD set was released.

If you’re a One Piece fan and are trying to collect the episodes on DVD, you can purchase this set for episodes 196-205. More recent DVD collections are packaging 24-25 episodes per set, and those releases would also be worth considering if you want to add One Piece to your home video library.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of One Piece Season Three Fifth Voyage that I checked out through the King County Library System.