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Caroline
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Joined: 22 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Okay, so here goes my next review. First of all, though, another delay to Neon Genesis Evangelion. I swear it is on the "to do" list. Right now I'm debating on whether or not to review Vol 1 of the Collection, or Vol 1 of the Platinum edition. Anyway, this time I'll be doing something a bit different, Pandora Hearts. I'm using my PS3-slim , a Panasonic Viera HD TV, Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL .

Pandora Hearts is a 25-episode anime (in two volumes) by Square-Enix. There is also a manga of the same name that has a total of 104 chapters. The anime was licensed by Nippon Ichi Software (hereafter referred to as NIS). As an aside, NIS has released a number of anime, and it's worth checking out their selection of stories.

Pandora Hearts, the anime, was released with two versions, a Premium Edition, and the Standard Edition. I have the Standard Edition, and the Premium Edition is out-of-print.

Oz Vessalius is about to commence with his coming-of-age ceremony, and take a more prominent role in the Vessalius household. However, cultists sabotage the ceremony, and Oz finds himself in Abyss, an otherworldly-prison which he thought was just a spooky story to scare children. In Abyss, Oz meets Alice, a powerful Chain who wants to escape, and is willing to sign a pact with Oz to do so. Will Oz and Alice be able to escape Abyss? Why was Oz's coming-of-age ceremony sabotaged? And, why does the Tragedy of Sablier have to do with seemingly everything? Such is the beginning of Pandora Hearts. On to the review!

NIS does well for the packaging. The dust-cover offers a quiet, but engaging, spot of art of the main characters in the story, done in a portraiture-style. The comments on the back tease you with the story without giving away any of the details. Inside, both DVDs have a full-color, leaflet that offers quick snippets about each episode. Though, on the negative, the leaflet also has an advertisement for other NIS titles and box sets. Each volume has two DVDs, with each DVD having a silk-screen of a character from the anime. I did have to snap one of the DVD-pages (where the DVD locks for storage) back into place, as it had fallen out during delivery. Overall though, very good packaging.

The story itself is a gaslamp-style, high-fantasy. 100 years ago, the Tragedy of Sablier destroyed the old capitol, and brought to power four, new, Dukedoms. The Vessalius family went from low-ranking unknown, to a powerful Ducal House, due to that event. Now, Oz Vessalius is turning 15, and about to take charge of the powerful household. However, various other aristocratic families have their own agendas… all of which seem to tie into finding out, or keeping hidden, what happened 100 years ago.

One of the big themes is the whole Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass. Both of these classic stories I enjoy, and I get engaged in how others reimagine or re-tell the well known coming-of-age story. Pandoria is done in a gaslamp-style (1880s-esq, so very Pleasure Bon Bon or Sherlock Homes in costuming and technology) and that also appealed to me, as it made it stand out from the majority of high-fantasy / modern-day ways to tell a story. The mix of Alice in Wonderland with other occult themes, such as contracts with demons and pseudo-magic-technology, fed into my enjoyment of the supernatural and paranormal. The pacing of the story kept you watching. Overall, an enjoyable re-imagining of the Alice in Wonderland tale.

One of the things that came off as mixed was the decision to have the show "textured", as the creators put it. Basically, the anime is done in a soft-focus style. Normally texturing is used when you want a show to have a "dreamy" effect, or when characters are remembering something from the past. However, to me, the effect on the anime came off as a bad pressing / encoding. It worked fine, when Oz or Alice were remembering events of their past, or when they were in Abyss… but when used elsewhere, it didn't look right. A second detractor would be, late into the second DVD the pacing starts to feel jerky. I understand that emotional episodes are usually followed by a lighter episode, to allow the audience to recover; however, the flow didn't always mesh well, and sometimes felt jarring, instead of a bit of recovery.

Another mixed decision was the sudden change from standard-anime, to using super deformed characters. These events usually occurred during comedic scenes, or episodes meant as breather episodes. Yet, the lion's share of the story up to this point didn't use such nuances, so when Pandora started including this type of art, it came off as if a new writing team had to take up the reins.

As a detractor, the anime just… ends. It doesn't have the feel of "well, we'll pause here to see if people like the story", or the sense that a story arc had completed. It just stops leaving you feeling very empty and unfulfilled. As an aside, the manga continues long after the anime completes, which does fill in a lot of the story; however, it does make me wonder why the decided to stop where they did. The end does fit… just… in the same manner that a square peg can fit into a round hole. It also makes me wonder if Square-Enix is planning to do a second season.

Pandora Hearts went for a early-industrial-era theme and feel for the art. Costumes, architecture, technology all were given a heavily romantic-themed, 1880s vibe. Suits were all commanding and martial looking, while dresses were refined and elegant. As such, Alice's costume makes even more sense, as being she's a Chain from Abyss. The adaptations of classic Alice in Wonderland characters into Pandora Hearts, such as Caterpillar, Card Guards, and the eponymous Alice herself, were all very original. In doing so, they helped sell the supernatural undercurrents of the anime. The cities and buildings were highly stylized to look like fairy-tale, European, old-towns. Color palettes also reflected hidden traits, powers, and characteristics of the cast. In short, I liked the art-style very much.

For me, the music helped sell Pandora Hearts. It reminded me of other animes like dot-Hack and Rosen Maiden. It used baroque / romantic music conventions, ominous, latin chanting, as well as types of instruments that were favored during the 1880s. Each character also seemed to have their own theme that tended to play during a scene they were in. I enjoy that quiet, background, effect. Sound effects themselves were well timed, and made good use of the 2.0 channels, to give you an immersive feel.

Pandora Hearts was not dubbed at all. As an aside, so far only one title in the NIS anime library is dubbed. The subtitle translation was mixed, to me. I understand the choices NIS made; however, the timing / organization of the subtitles sometimes didn't match when the characters were making longer comments. I know that Japanese uses a different format for sentence structure… but… still it sometimes felt like the timing was off. Subtitles could also change very rapidly, depending on the situation. Lastly, while my Japanese is not fully fluent, the translation themselves sometimes felt… slightly off.

Now, on a positive side, the Japanese seiyuu did a wonderful job in bringing their characters to life. Young characters sounded young, while naïve characters had that nuanced mix of know-it-all-know-nothing, and world-wise cast-members felt older and more mature. Very well done.

Onto technical commentary. Music and sound made good use of the 2.0 sound. The show did sound "soft", as it wasn't 2.1 or 5.1 channel (and the voice-track tends to be on the ".1" speaker). Menus were easy to navigate. With regards to the soft-focus / textured style that was used, it was hard to determine if a pixeling or artificing effect was intended or was a mistake of the encoding.

NIS always puts in a bunch of extras for their animes. Pandora Hearts has the standard clean opening and end credits. In addition, after the last episode of each volume, there are about 25 minutes worth of short clips. Some of the clips are the characters thanking you for picking up the show, while other clips are the cast in amusing situations (such as one character being on his 9th attempt to quit smoking.) In short, very well done NIS in the extras department.

Overall, Pandora Hearts is a good, gaslamp-style, adventure tale that doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. The characters are fully developed, the story well paced and engaging, but the abrupt end does make it feel like you're missing something important, or that you've been short-changed.

Grade: B / B+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( First, DesertWolf,

Well... that's unexpected. I didn't think you'd be a fan of anime. But... my fault for jumping to conclusions. Anyway, it is good to have you aboard.

Everyone,

EDIT: Cleaned up some grammar errors I noticed. EDIT

Finally got around to figuring out how I'm going to do this. With as groundbreaking as Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE) was, I'm going to do its review a bit differently. Instead of reviewing the whole series in one go, I'm going to break it up into chunks, similarly to how I'm working on the Utena review. So… without further ado, lets get this party started.

So, here starts Part 1 of my Neon Genesis Evangelion review. I'm going to review Volume 1 of the Platinum Collection, with references back to the Perfect Edition where applicable… and where I remember. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

EDITORIAL ON: Okay… before I really get started-started on this, I wanted to say something. NGE is an old anime, upwards of 20+ years. Because of its age, and how much of a landmark anime as well as a divisive anime it was (and still is) the show has been discussed, analyzed, watched, discussed some more, analyzed even more, and then watched again. Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum. And, in this course of events, you get two camps. Those who really-Really-REALLY think the show is a work of amazing literature which is worthy of such care and diligent study… and those who really-Really-REALLY think it's an overblown piece of self-indulgent art with a convoluted story-line and unlikable and unrealistic characters. So… I'm going to pre-apologize to both camps. I'm going to try to keep my review, to my review. Which… will probably be difficult, and definitely will get someone up in arms. EDITORIAL OFF

Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Edition, Volume 1 covers the first five episodes of the OVA, and is done by GAINAX (the same folks who did the current shows of Gurren Laggan and Kill La Kill, amongst others). In total, there are twenty-six episodes, plus a two-part movie. There is also a manga, as well as a radio drama, several games, and tons and tons of merchandise. So, this review will cover the intro into the story. Volume 1 is a pretty good deal, containing episodes 1 - 5.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is available as a Perfect Edition, as well as a Platinum Edition. Both are out-of-print, but still available on places like eBay and Amazon, used. I've also found them in places like CD-GAME Exchange and Half Price Books. As such, while it is out-of-print, they are readily available, if you do a spot of looking.

It has been nearly fifteen years, since the Second Impact, when the Earth suffered a catastrophic incident, utterly changing everything, including severe climate changes, complete topographic alterations, and nearly 3 billion people killed. After three years apart, Shinji Ikari is about to return home, and reunite with his estranged father, in the rebuilt city of Tokyo-3. As one of the only bastions against the Angel menace, Tokyo-3 is the home of NERV, who Shinji's father is the director of. Almost immediately upon his arrival, Shinji is set upon from all sides by forces beyond his ability to fathom. Will Shinji accept his father's demands to become an Eva pilot, and protect the city? Thus begins Neon Genesis Evangelion.

ADV did very well for the packaging. The DVD comes in its own metallic-sheen, full color, slipcase. The back offers a very good summary, without spoiling anything, as well as the names of the five episodes included. Oddly, this release is rated 15+, while the Perfect Edition Volume 1 is unrated. The DVD dustjacket is full-color, and I believe it is the same style as was used for the laser-disk, offering quick episode teasers, original air dates, as well as the original names in kanji and hiragana. The DVD itself is a simple silver, silk screen. I did like the Perfect Edition Volume 1 DVD better, as it had the NERV logo on the DVD. In all, good, eye-catching packaging.

Platinum Volume 1 covers episodes 1 - 5. The story itself is set 20-minutes into the future. The Second Impact completely changed the world as we know it, and only now, fifteen years later, are things starting to reset themselves and reassert themselves. Shinji Ikari, a quiet, introverted, adolescent teen is returning to Tokyo-3, where he will be reunited with his father. He is both elated about the opportunity to be with his family again, and terrified as to what might happen. Thus begins our science fiction, mecha animation.

One of the things I did like about these first five episodes was how clues are hidden in plain sight. I enjoy shows that reward you for filtering out the red herrings, and for finding the real clues, amidst all the chaff and clutter. For example, there are a couple of background-noise conversations that normally the audience ignores, as "they're just part of the set"… however, if you listen to them, you realize the comments are contradictory to what is going on, usually with undercurrents of a dire truth. One of the oddest comments so far actually came from Dr. Akagi. Also, another quiet, hint are cicadas. Lots of cicadas.

Another aspect of the start that I enjoyed was the in media res feel it gives. Right now, you have zero idea what the whole war with the Angels is about, what the mystery is behind the Second Impact, how NERV came to be, or even why Shinji and his father were apart for three years. The story literally dumps you in the deep end, and expects you to be able to swim… oddly, much like Gendo Ikari (Shinji's father) just expects you to agree to his actions, despite your protests and concerns to the contrary. The method used to tell the story appealed to my sense of irony and Machiavellian machinations.

Several aspects of the introductory episodes will come off as mixed. One of the first things that gives off a mixed vibe is the costuming and tech-level. The costuming does have an 80s-90s feel to it, which I like; however, others feel it hasn't aged well. Along those lines, the technology (tanks, computers, communications, etc) seems very retro. To me, it made sense, as 1/2 the population died 15 years prior, so technological advancement would very well slow down, while people worried themselves over things like eating and survival. This idea also leads to another mixed aspect of the show, in that not everything is explained. A decent amount of expansive thought does need to be input by the audience, in order for some of the oddities to make sense… like Shinji using a Walkman over an iPod, or his cell phone looking pre flip-phone.

Another mixed aspect is Shinji himself. Being 14 years old, Shinji can come off as either an introvert trying to deal with deep, scarring issues such as abandonment and a desire to be accepted… or he can come off as a whiney, emo that craves constant attention. To me, his trying to deal with personal psychoses is how I imagine him being. He's under the impression his father only wants him back in order to use him, he's at a new school where he doesn't know anyone, and his ability to talk and relate to others is very tenuous, at best. Similarly, Rei Ayanami is also the topic of much heated debate.

I guess, a good way to put it, is that the aspects I'm calling mixed are the tip of the iceberg on the divisiveness of the show. NGE is rife with topics and themes that cause people to become partisans.

Overall, while I am not a big fan of mecha shows, the slowly changing focus from robot action to character interaction over these first, few, episodes did attract and hold my attention. I'm curious as to how the relationships develop and unfold. I'm wondering what all the big secrecy is about. I know a number of people are playing their cards close to them, and have ulterior motives… and… even more perplexing, some of the characters have comments and actions that blink-and-you miss. Something seems fishy in the state of Denmark, and now I'm morbidly curious to find out what it is. I do have this nagging feeling that finding out is going to be troubling all its own.

Anyway art, costumes, sets, and style all gave a very 80s to 90s feel, which makes sense, given the age of the show. It was amusing to see work-out clothes from the 80s, as well as 80s fashion. I did like how the uniforms and work-clothes of the various crews and para-military people looked. The sets are varied and highly detailed. From several different attacks, to city-scapes, to the classroom, all have enough familiarity to start to absorb you into the show. I will say, the robotics / mechanical aspects of the show did have an earlier-feel to them. What I mean is, while highly detailed, very stylized, and well thought out, they felt… slightly rusty. I had the same feeling with shows like Key The Metal Idol. One of the problems with "future tech" is that, once the show becomes old… sometimes the technology doesn't age right. Colors were well done, and animation fluid. However, there are definitely scenes that are of higher quality, and there were parts that were re-used (similar to how Robotech used the same ship blowing up scene about a zillion times… but it's just so awesome to watch, you don't care.)

Music was used to superb effect. The intro, while having a very JPop feel and music-video style, is… oddly double-meaning in its lyrics. The ending-credit music was also a moment for double-take, as each time I believe that a different character was singing it. Background music ranged from pop, to classical, to hymnal. Sound effects were also done well, with hydraulic noises for moving machinery to the sound that rapid-fire rockets were making. I fully enjoyed how music and sound effects were used in the show.

ADV does a good dub. Their producers and directors are familiar with Japanese story-telling techniques, and were able to coach their cast well. I did enjoy Tiffany Grant's acting of Asuka. (Starting on Episode 8, which I'll get to in the next review). Subtitles were, for the most part, timed well, and in an easy-to-read font. Still, there were times when the screen felt like it was covered in a wall of text, and it could be difficult to determine which subtitles were for whom. The Japanese cast gave their characters a real-feel that I found engaging. The youths sounded youthful, the adults adult, and both sets offered up a wide range of emotion to their voice. In the end, I do find myself favoring the original Japanese seiyuu over the American VAs, even with the American cast doing a good job. It is hard for me not to like Megumi Hayashibara.

For tech specs, the DVD has held up pretty well, given its age. Both audio tracks were clear. There were a couple of places where the image seemed to shimmy a bit; however, I'm not sure if that cannot be attributed to the PS3 trying to up-code the DVD picture. Overall, though, colors were solid, and I did not witness any blurring, pixeling, or artificing. Menu navigation was simple and quick; however, it felt… boring. I actually feel that ADV did a better menu set-up for their Perfect Edition. Still, all-in-all, solid marks for technical specifications.

ADV included a number of extras in Platinum Edition Volume 1. As I bought mine used, it is missing the NERV parking decal omake. Included in the DVD is an episode commentary, as well as clean intro and ending credits, and trailers for other ADV shows. A pamphlet about NGE is also included that has stills from the show, a description of the Angels seen, and additional information about the show as a whole, and about episodes 1 - 5. I believe the pamphlet is also similar to what was included in the laser-disk. Full marks to ADV for extras.

Overall, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Volume 1 gives you enough of a taste of the series to spark your interest to see what happens next. A good introduction, and a puzzling mix of personalities offer a preamble to the story itself.

God is in his Heaven, all is well with the world.

Grade: A- ))


Last edited by Caroline on Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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DesertWolf
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2015 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not a problem.
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey DesertWolf,

Um... to put you on the spot, for a moment, what / how would you improve my reviews?

And, any particular shows you'd like me to review? ))
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DesertWolf
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 8:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the delay. This is going to be a quick observance so I may add things later on(that is if you don't mind).

The big thing I see would be investing in newer anime such as Soul Eater NOT!, or Owari no Seraph(Seraph of the End). Similar to movies most people prefer new over the old. I would use the older/lesser known titles as something similar to having a critic's choice.
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey DesertWolf,

I don't mind feedback. I'm not sure how much of it I'll be able to incorporate, but I would prefer some sort of... tacit response from the audience. I would like to continue to improve upon my product.

Anyway, allow me a moment to rebuttal your comments.

1) Overall, with newer shows being more common/recognized, I figured that they would already have a number of reviews, whether it be from posts on Amazon to a video-review on YouTube or something. All of which are probably way more entertaining than my wall-o-text reviews.

So... when I started this idea, my thought was to use other animes that might not have such a grand following or name recognition.

2) But... more importantly to me... I'm the one buying these shows to review. Places like Anime-on-DVD (now Fandompost, I think) used to get licensed copies from the art houses for them to review... then they tended to use those same copies as prizes for their audience.

Anyway, I don't really have that luxury. All of the anime I have, I've had to pick up on my own dime... so... I don't necessarily have a lot of the newer stuff, yet. And I refuse to get fansubs of anything. If I can't get the licensed product, I'll wait until I can. And, if the product is not licensed in the States... I just won't get it. Oddly, I do have a Region 2 DVD player, and the Kakyusei OVA from Pink Pineapple.

Anyway, I have done reviews of newer shows, such as Blood C, Bodacious Space Pirates, Another, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Pandora Hearts, Persona 4, K-On!, Cat Planet Cuties, and Burst Angel.

2-A) But... I do see and understand your point. Anyway, I do have FLCL (finally), WataMote!, Heaven's Lost Property Seasons 1 and 2 and The Clockwork Angel movie, Steins Gate, Shana no Shakugan Seasons 1 and 2, and Yamada's First Time... so... I suppose I could do those shows as well.

Anyway... I hope that makes some sense.

All,

I do encourage you all to post feedback or requests as well. My goal with this is to have something that is useful to you all. If I don't have a show you would like to see reviewed, I will let you know up front.

So... anyway, I do appreciate you all taking the time to spend time with me, and reading the reviews I do post. I'd be open to feedback. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( EDIT: Fixed some typos and grammar.

Whilst I wait for some of my newer anime to arrive… I'll continue with my review of Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE). For this one, I'm going to try something different… a Picture! Here is a photo of Rei Ayanami, EVA 00 Pilot. You all can thank my brother for letting me borrow his photobucket account.



Before I get started, here goes the EDITORIAL warning… again.

EDITORIAL ON Okay… before I really get started-started on this, I wanted to say something. NGE is an old anime, upwards of 20+ years. Because of its age, and how much of a landmark anime as well as a divisive anime it was (and still is) the show has been discussed, analyzed, watched, discussed some more, analyzed even more, and then watched again. Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum. And, in this course of events, you get two camps. Those who really-Really-REALLY think the show is a work of amazing literature which is worthy of such care and diligent study… and those who really-Really-REALLY think it's an overblown piece of self-indulgent art with a convoluted storyline and unlikeable and unrealistic characters. So… I'm going to pre-apologize to both camps. I'm going to try to keep my review, to my review. Which… will probably be difficult, and definitely will get someone up in arms. EDITORIAL OFF

Alright, onto the show. This time we'll review Volume 2 of the Platinum Collection (which covers episodes 6 - 10) with references to the Perfect Edition where applicable… and, again… when I remember to do so. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

As an aside, here is where the Platinum Collection, and the Perfect Edition start to vary, in terms of which episodes are on what volumes. As mentioned earlier, both are out-of-print; however, they are still readily available on places like eBay, Amazon, The Right Stuf International, CD-GAME Exchange, Half Price Books, and similar venues.

The NERV program continues to plod forward, despite a rocky start. Shinji shows his promise at being an EVA pilot; however, will he be able to deal with the mental and physical stress of accomplishing such a task? He still finds himself unable to associate with his father, and fellow EVA pilot Rei Ayanami remains confusing, distant, cold, and aloof towards him. Will he be able to blend in at school, and get used to his new life with his roommate Misato Katsuragi? Will he be able to bond with fellow pilot Rei? And who is this new EVA pilot, Asuka? So continues the story of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

ADV continues to do well with the packaging. The DVD continues with its metallic-sheet slipcase, with a holographic-like image of Rei. The dust jacket I believe is the same cover-art used for laser disk volume 2. The DVD itself is on the plain side, with just the anime name, and the episodes on the disk. Platinum Volume 2 covers episodes 6 - 10.

Mankind is still beset on all sides by powerful enemies dubbed angels. With little training Shinji continues to be thrust into dangerous, combat situations, in his EVA in an effort to stop the continuing attacks. He is not all alone, though, as he is joined by the quiet, terse, and frosty Rei Ayanami. A mysterious girl who seems to get along better with Gendo than Shinji does. Shinji now finds himself being forced to interact with others, which becomes a new test on his psyche.

I enjoy how the interaction between the characters is beginning to play out. I also like how the NERV organization, while extremely powerful and above the law, is not universally liked, or even tolerated, showing Gendo having to regularly deal with a very byzantine, omniscient counsel of peers. However, I still get the impression that director Hideaki Anno wants to tell a slightly different story, and isn't sure if he is given the permission to do so. I say this as some of the nuances and interactions between characters seems curious, as if Anno is trying to hide clues, while still including them. For example, a lot of the taunting that goes on during Episode 7: A Human Work, does offer a lot of double-talk. And, Episode 8: Asuka Strikes! has one you can easily miss, it is so well camouflaged with what is going on. As such, the story continues to pull you deeper and deeper into the whirlpool.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, continues with story-arcs, aspects, and themes that will come off as mixed. For example, the show does play up a bit of old-style etchi-ness. Stripped panties, flirty bathing suits, and under-boob will appear very tame, to those more used to blatantly forward sexuality. Asuka's personality is so different from the cast already introduced that it can seem irritating and disjointed. Episode 7 gives off the feel of a filler episode, when the show has just started. The continuing "monster-of-the-day" themes can make the whole idea that NGE tells a grand story somewhat implausible. All-in-all, these 5 episodes keep offering ammo to the very partisan fans and dissenters of the show.

Episodes 6 - 10 continue the pathway of less-and-less mecha-action, and more-and-more character development. You get to see where and how some of the other characters live. In doing so, the potentially bright image those characters might have had now has a spot of shadow and a growing darkness. While three new angels and one new character are introduced, light is beginning to be shown on all the cracks beginning to develop within NERV. Not only are a number of characters playing their cards close, now it is becoming more obvious that many are keeping each other in the dark about what they know, even if it can have dire consequences. I'm very much enjoying this slow, spiral, of growing, Machiavellian machinations.

Anyway NGE continues with the 1990s feel. I will say, it still feels a bit odd to watch the show, with it being in the older 4:3 format, since so many shows are now 16:9. It still made me smile to see work-out clothes, fashions, para-military uniforms, and suits from the 90s. I will say, it was also a spot unsettling for me to see some of Rei's costumes. The sets and locations expanded in episodes 6 - 10, varying from oceans, to crash sites, to an active volcano. All still offered a level of detail that impresses. A few of the in-story-computer graphics did have a comical feel to them, from the zee-rust, though. Still, all things considered, I enjoyed the art.

Music offered a great way to support the show. I am certain now, that the ending-credit music changes using a different character to sing it each time. Background music ranged from pop, to classical, to hymnal, all of which were used to help frame the scenes and offer additional emotional impact for the audience. Sound effects gave a very immersive feel, allowing the story to swallow you. Overall, I fully enjoyed how music and sound were used in these episodes.

The English Dub continues to do well, as the cast begins to settle into their roles. I did enjoy Tiffany Grant's acting of Asuka, and including her as one of the commentators in the extras was a nice touch. Subtitles were well timed, and in an easy-to-read font. ADV also learned from Volume 1, and did not subtitle everything. Resulting in the screen not being swallowed by text. The Japanese cast continues to give their characters a voice that I found engaging. The youths sounded youthful, the adults adult, and both sets offered up a wide range of emotion to their voice. I will play favorites, though. I do find myself favoring the original seiyuu over the American VAs.

For its age, the DVD has held up well. Both audio tracks were clear. Colors were solid, and I did not witness any blurring, pixeling, or artificing. I think this was a better pressing than my Volume 1. Menu navigation was simple and quick, but was still plan and unengaging. I still feel that ADV did a better, interactive-menu set-up for their Perfect Edition. Still, all-in-all, solid marks for technical specifications.

Volume 2 includes a number of extras. Included in the DVD is an episode commentary, as well as clean intro and ending credits, and trailers for other ADV shows. A pamphlet about NGE is also included that has stills from the show, a description of the Angels seen, and additional information about the show as a whole, and about episodes 6 - 10. I believe the pamphlet is also similar to what was included in the laser-disk. Full marks to ADV for extras.

Overall, Volume 2 starts to warp the story they began in Volume 1. An emerging mystery slowly begins to be unveiled from shadow, getting you eager to see what happens next.

Baka, Shinji.

Grade: A- ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Okay, as recommended by DesertWolf, now for something newer, the Steins;Gate OVA. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.



From left to right: Daru, Kurisu, Rukako, Farris Nyanyan, Suzuha, Moeka, Mayuri, and HOUOUIN KYOUMA

Okabe Rintauro… *cough* Ah, do forgive the slight miscalculation. The previous result, while adequate, is completely unacceptable for a renown erudite scholar and mad scientist such as Hououin Kyouma. Worse, for me to even contemplate presenting such an incomplete work to you, my wondrously attentive audience, is well beneath my high settings of required diligence. Henceforth, I shall put forward my most contemplative and outstanding critique on the Original Video Anime Steins;Gate. As such, enraptured followers, I shall hereby begin this symposium.

Hououin Kyouma is the founding member of The Future Gadget Laboratory, and LabMem 001. His goal is both simple in its elegance, and yet sublime in its scope. Complete, and utter, chaos spread forth by his insane intellect. Few, nay none, can match his intellect… though, when given proper discourse, it can be slightly said that fellow LabMem 004, Assistant Christina, is a satisfactory, though un-astonishing and un-assuming associate. Nothing stands in the way of Hououin Kyouma's goal of world domination and the exploitative use of his most diabolical invention, the Microwave-Phone (real name to be determined). Except, of course, for an omniscient shadow counsel, hell bent on his destruction, and seemingly capable of working against him in all manner of ways... including rigging the supermarket price of beef and Dk. Pepper! From such a humble origins begins the legend of Hououin Kyouma, and how he, single-handedly, bests this Illuminati organization, pushes forth the work on his Microwave-Phone (real name to be determined) and accomplishes his life's most precious dream.

*cough*

Geeze, talking like Hououin Kyouma is… exhausting at best. Anyway, do forgive, but I'm going to go back to normal here. Sesquipedalian loquaciousness, while I can do, is tiring. Anyway, Steins;Gate OVA is based on a multi-path, visual novel of the same name. It has been released by Funimation as a complete series. I picked up the BluRay / DVD combo set. There is also a Steins;Gate movie; however, I have been unable to confirm if the movie has been licensed for release in the States.

Okabe Rintauro, also known by the nom de guerre Hououin Kyouma, is a university student, and self-proclaimed mad scientist who is both founder and LabMem 001 of the Future Gadget Lab. After crashing a symposium on time-travel, he witnesses a dead girl. Frantic and panicking, he runs away, only to crash into the girl he just saw dead, but not alive. So beings the tale of a mad scientist and his quirky lab.

Funimation did very well with the packaging. The slip-cover and dust jacket give off a very X-Files / Dr. Who / Weird Science vibe in their style and color-choice. The description on the dust jacket gives a good teaser without spoiling the show. The DVDs and BluRays themselves are on individual pages, allowing for easy access to whichever disk you are on. Menus were engaging, quick to navigate, and kept with the sci-fi feel of the show. Overall, very attractive packaging and storage.

The OVA is the entire, 24-episode show, including a post-story epilogue. The Future Gadget Lab hasn't had a lot of success with any of its gadgets, or in gaining additional members; however, that doesn't stop the charismatic and egotistical Hououin Kyouma from pushing forth his next, great, world-shattering idea… The Microwave-Phone (real name to be determined), capable of sending text messages into the past. What wonders will be possible and achievable, from such a device? What unfathomable miracles will Hououin Kyouma be able to accomplish? Why, only the mundanities of imagination limit the possibilities! Except, of course, for that secretive, nemesis of a shadow government, who wants to steal his idea, and use it for their own, nefarious purposes.

One of the biggest things I enjoyed about Steins;Gate is its re-watchability. The show makes very good use of hidden clues, flash-cuts, and subliminal, one-frames to tell its story. And, once you go back to watch it again, you are able to pick up on more of these easter eggs each time. Another aspect of the show I enjoyed was the growing and evolving relationships between all the characters. While Steins;Gate is a sci-fi show, a goodly amount of time is spent getting the cast from Point A to Point B, and having all of them grow. I enjoy it when shows have their characters change, especially in positive ways. I also really appreciated how Steins;Gate asks the question that, do you really want to change the past, when some of the changes were positive? In a show about time travel, it is a breath of fresh air to see that question posed… and an even bigger satisfaction to see it answered. Anyway, I really couldn't find anything to find fault with… or even offer as mixed. The entire show was crafted well.

The costumes, props, character designs, and locations are 20-minutes into the future. I do enjoy sci-fi that is near-future like this, as it allows me to dive in much quicker, and set aside my willful suspension of disbelief easier, since I can say things like "Oh, I have a phone that looks like that." You can definitely tell that some locations in Akihabara gave their permission to be used. And, it was also fun to see some of the bland-name products (such as Dk. Pepper) be used as well. Oddly, while the locations were diverse, they were also few, allowing for more and richer details to be used in them. For example, the living-room-lab of the Future Gadget Lab gave a very good "college dorm room" feel to it, without being in-your-face about it. The cast and costuming was relatively small, allowing for more detail than you would think. I do enjoy how Steins;Gate also offered a variety of character designs. From scruffy and unkempt Rintaro to the willowy and graceful Rukako. As an aside, the suffix "-ko" is a feminine diminutive… so… Rukako is a bit redundant. All-in-all, I enjoyed the artstyle, character designs, locations, and costuming.

I enjoyed the very art-house stylized music intro. The ending credits were creepily enchanting, using a different style of song to pull at your sense of otherworldly-ness. As an aside, make sure you watch the intro each time. It offers clues, as well as sudden changes, making it a good place to spot foreshadowing. Music was used to very good effect, helping to enhance scenes. It also sounded like each character had their own, signature, music. I did not notice and distortion in the music or audio. The Japanese track made good use of the 2.1 channel sound; however, the English track made superb use of the 5.1 sound. Overall, solid marks for sound and music.

Funimation did a solid on the English Dub. In fact, both casts are fun to listen to. Both had some solid coaching and direction, giving their characters life, and helping to involve you in the story. Okay, one mixed aspect of the show is that the English Dub does use Woosley-isms, which some audience members may disagree with. Subtitles were well timed; however, there were some points where a lot of text zips by quickly, due to the extent of the conversations going on. Also, there are times were on-screen writing, such as on a whiteboard, are subtitled as well, which blinks in-and-out so rapidly, it is easy to miss it the first couple of times you read it. I will say, their translation of Mayushii's flier is pretty funny and spot-on. Overall, both casts did very well with the show, and I can't really play favorites with their the seiyuu or dub cast.

The Blu-Rays hold up fantastically. It is a bit odd to see some of the soft-focus, but it only is used during low-light and darkness moments. As such, the fuzzy-ness does look more like a shroud of darkness, over pixelation. As such, it comes off as more threatening and dangerous, thus the soft-focus adds to the tense scenes. Colors were solid and vibrant. I did not see any artificing or pixelation, and there are a number of times where light-and-dark are displayed next to each other, as well as scenes of rapid, choreographed movement. I did not test out the DVDs that came with the set.

Funimation favors packing in the entire show into one value-enhanced set, over adding in extras. You can pick up the entire show for about $30 USD. Extras for Steins; Gate include a couple of director commentaries, a map of the locals that the Future Gadget Lab hangs out at, as well as trailers to other shows. A bit slim; however, for getting the entire show (both in Blu-Ray and DVD format) as cheap as it is, not bad.

Overall Steins;Gate is a fantastic near-future sci-fi that starts of slow, but smashes through all expectations like a freight train on full steam. Highly recommended.

El psy congro!

Grade: A+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Well, one more review, before I go on vacation. This time, it'll be a blast from the past, Millennium Actress. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

Chiyoko Fujiwara has long since retired from her long career as an actress, and left the public scene. Her career spanned over three decades, hundreds of films and movies, and covers a period a thousand years of Japanese history. Yet, with the closing of the studio she worked for, all of her memories may be lost. Amateur film director Genya Tachibana has managed to secure a rare interview with the aged and reclusive actress. He has traveled long and far for this honor, and is not about to squander it. So begins our tale.

Millennium Actress was released in 2001 and is a film by Satoshi Kon, who also directed titles such as Perfect Blue and Paprika, as well as the OVA Paranoia Agent, and was released in the states by Dreamworks Entertainment. While an older show, it is still easily available from places like Amazon.com and Robert's Anime Corner Store. I have the DVD of it, and am unsure if there is a BluRay release.

Dreamworks made an engaging and alive cover. The front cover shows a very young Chiyoko in a summer kimono over several photos that you'd see in a photo album. The back of the dust jacket gives a good tease to the story, without spoiling anything, and offers up additional, dynamic stills from the film.

The film is on the shorter side, being only 87 minutes. Yet, during that short time we get to sit with Chiyoko, we are spun into an epic tale spanning a thousand years. Years of strife and conflict… of honor and duty… of nationalism and change… of science and monsters… of creativity and imagination… all the while, being teased about a mysterious key that Chiyoko always has with her, and of the person who got her started on her career of being an actress.

Millennium Actress starts out a bit slow, which does tend to be how Satoshi Kon tells his stories. He lets them ferment over time like a good whiskey. It also has his stamp all over the film… in the way he draws backgrounds, half-sleeping facial expressions, dreamlike fantasies, a blurring of reality and wonder, and music to accompany the scene. The pacing helps tell the story. As Chiyoko remembers her filmography past, the story jumps in speed during scenes of action and tension, slows during introspective, and sounds confusingly frantic when a chase is going on.

Being as this is a shorter movie, and a film about a legendary actress, everything is packed full of details. The animation and choreography are extremely fluid and dynamic. Costumes are elaborate, and well researched. Sets are expansive. For example, when Chiyoko is reminiscing about films set in the Heian period of Japanese history, the detail put into the castles, uniforms, and formal garb is phenomenal. When she is remembering about movies where she is at a train station, you feel like you're right there with her waiting to hear the announcer say that the next train is due to arrive in five minutes. Millennium Actress has a silver age of Hollywood feel to it. In short, Millennium Actress offers up everything you'd expect to see from a blockbuster-producing studio.

The audio track is in Japanese only, but you do have the option of either 2.1 channel sound or 5.1 channel sound. Music accompanied the show, as a good butler would. Id est, it helped to frame the show, but stay subtle at the same time. I used the 5.1 channel track. While most of the audio still came out of the front speakers, and subwoofer, the rear speakers helped sell the ambient sounds, such as trees rustling in the breeze. It does come off as quiet at times, which I'm not 100% sure if it was intended, or just how the encoding took.

With how well Dreamworks did with the subtitling, I'm not sure why they didn't elect to offer a dubbing as well. It's a big studio house, and could have hired a solid cast of voice actors. Anyway, translation for the subtitles was well done. The font was easy to read, timed appropriately, and did not swallow the screen.

For such a small circle of people, the cast did amazingly. Chiyoko sounded like a starlet who was waxing didactic about her previous career, and was unexpectedly honest and open about the ups and downs she endured, yet, at the same time, wonderfully pleased with the time she spent. Tachibana comes off as a respectful, thoughtful, and dedicated filmographer who wants to take this one chance he has to make the best biography-documentary he can. Full marks to the cast.

Now, a couple of things that may come off as mixed. First, Satoshi Kon makes his characters look real. What I mean is that his Asian people look… well… Asian. They don't look "anime" at all. Not only that, but he makes all his cast look unique, without using colorful hair or other standard tricks. In doing so, you have to pay more attention to the cast, in order to learn about their motivations and who they are… as you don't have color-clues. I actually think it's kinda neat; however, others may not enjoy that sort of art-style. The Japanese Imperial period of Chiyoko's film career might also come off as mixed. While much of that period of history is referenced, it is done so in a soft manner. Not apologetic or glossed over, but… soft. Lastly, the CGI during parts of the show can break or crack the mood that was established by the cell-animation up to that point. I was able to give it a pass; but, I can see how it would cause others to jump-skip for a moment, before they get back to the story.

For technical marks, the DVD holds up well. I did not see any pixelation, shimmer, skipping, or artificing, and there are a lot of high-motion scenes to stress the DVD. Sound quality was good; however, as mentioned above, it is quiet at parts. Overall, very good technical specs.

Extras are moderate-to-thin. Included is a trailer for the same movie, as well as an interview and commentary with Satoshi Kon. I think Dreamworks could have added storyboards or stills from the movie, though. Millennium Actress has a number of scenes that would have been very interesting to see as a story board.

In summary, Millennium Actress is a quixotically teasing tale where so enthralling and enrapturing is the actress Chiyoko, you feel you are right next to her, as she weaves a wondrous and marvelous story.

Besides… it's the chase I enjoy.

Grade: A ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2015 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( I think it's about time for another review. Since I do mention my enjoyment of NISA's Disgaea game series regularly, I figured I'll do a review on the Disgaea OVA. I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

As an aside, I think the next one I'll do will be X/1999… but that might not be for a while, as that series is a bit long, and I really want to get back into the swing of watching Utena. But, more on that later. Anyway, back to the show!

Ever wonder what would happen in the demon-run Netherworld, if the Overlord died? Well, wonder no more! For Laharl, son of the last Overlord, is here to claim his throne! Once he reaches the capital, that is… and stops to deal with CAPTAIN GORDON: DEFENDER OF EARTH… and loses this insane angel who keeps talking about the power of love. But, once that occurs, then it'll be free reign to take over the Netherworld… and, from there… THE UNIVERSE!

Okay, Disgaea is a 12-episode OVA released by Geoneon, rated at 13+. I have Volumes 1 - 3 (each with four episodes.) As far as I can tell, it was re-released as a complete series (12 episodes in one set); however, the set is out of print. So… I'm not sure of the availability of it. And, I do not have the set, so I cannot compare the two. It seems I have a penchant to review anime that might be trickier to get.

Geoneon did a solid on the packaging. All three volumes are full color, with humorous, and eye-catching cover art. The back cover offers a quick summary of the episodes, without spoilers, as well as a few screenshots of the show. I like the fact that the DVD cases are clear-plastic. Not sure why. I just do. The dust-jackets themselves are double-sided, with more art on the inside. Each disk also has a full-color leaflet, with even more art. The DVDs themselves are silkscreened with the three main characters, Laharl, Etna, and Flonne. Superb work for the packaging.

The OVA is the entire, 12-episode show. It starts off with Flonne, from Celestia, the land of Angels, in the Netherworld, looking for the Overlord. When she finds out that the Overlord is dead, and only his son Laharl remains, she changes her mission to that of teaching Laharl about the power of love. Overall a quirky start to a tale that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The story itself is pretty standard, fantasy faire. Nothing wrong with that. It tells the story well, even if it is well-trod ground. If you were expecting something different from the game, it pretty-much follows the game-story to the Laharl conclusion. As such, if you want to play Disgaea, but haven't, I recommend you play the game first, and then watch the OVA, else you'll be spoiling a lot. As a mixed bad, Disgaea really doesn't take itself seriously. In many ways, the humor is similar to things you'd see in the Muppets... self-aware... breaking the fourth wall... innuendos... puns... slapstick... etc. Some audience might find the humor to be low-brow or too "teen" for them to enjoy. To me, it makes me smile and chuckle.

Disgaea OVA uses the art established in its nom du guerre game. It's simple, humorous, straightforward, and dramatic at the same time. Laharl has his heroically-flowing red scarf; Etna has her demonic-succubus costume, and Flonne is Flonne. I enjoy the art, as it touches all the right spots, so all the characters are unique and memorable. Being an anime, you also get the chance to see some of the zany facial expressions that are so common for Disgaea. The locals are pretty diverse (castles, temples, deserts, forests), while still having that crazy fantasy feel to them. As a counter-point, though, the designs are on the simple side, and that might appear dull or unimaginative to some. Disgaea was also done during that awkward phase where CGI can look very conspicuous on the screen. Overall, I find that its pretty standard fare, but well done.

Intro and Ending credits are good bookends to the show. Both are upbeat and lively, playing along some of the themes of friendship and love and hopes for the future. Both, also give shout-outs to other, famous, intro and ending credits. Disgaea, as a whole, is chock-full of shout-outs, so the fact that they even include them in the Intro and Ending is fun. As an aside, the teaser for the next episode also follows along the Disgaea franchise standard of being the most unhelpful trailer ever. The music is 2.1 channel; however, I think my receiver is able to split it so that it takes partial advantage of the 5.1 channel sound I have.

Geoneon did well on the English Dub. They were able to use the same cast that NISA hired to dub the game. As such, the actors were already familiar with the material, and helped bring the anime to life. I must say that it was amusing to hear one of the Michelle Ruff's earlier roles. Anyway, subtitles were timed well, and displayed in a way that did not cover the show. The Japanese Seiyu also did a fantastic job. Again, NIS (the parent company of NISA) hired the same cast for the OVA that they used for the game. Chiwa Saito and Yuko Sasamoto are entertaining actresses to me. In all, good work done by Geoneon on the subtitles and dubbing.

For technical specs, the show displays in 16:9 Widescreen format, so it filled the entirety of the screen. The DVD seems to have held up very well. I did notice some stuttering while playing. And, when I did play the show on my laptop, it seemed to take the player a moment for the video to catch up with the audio. Overall, though, the DVD has held up pretty well. Sound effects, voices, and music were clear. There were some times where things seemed to get a bit quiet; however, I could not get the issue to repeat itself. So… it might be due to the DVD being older, and my receiver trying to upscale it.

As mentioned with the packaging, Geoneon did pretty well with the extras. There were trailers for other Geoneon titles, as well as for Disgaea 2. They even included an extra interview with the Director and VA for Laharl. It was a bit dated, though, as the Director kept talking about Disgaea 2 coming out. Which amused me, when I re-watched it. Anyway, a decent amount of extras for the show considering all effort put into the dust jacket and pamphlet, as well as the interviews on the DVD itself.

Overall a light drama that well mirrors the first Disgaea game. Not great literature, but a fun show to watch, when you don't want something filled with angst.

Forward, for the power of love!

Grade: B ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all,

Hey all, since I watched a rather unsettling episode of Utena, I figured I'd do another review… of something completely different, in order to get my mind off it... which isn't working, but that's another story. Anyway, don't worry, I'll get back to Utena soon enough, for those of you waiting. And, yes, I know I said I would do X next... and Evangelion as well. Ugh, I'm so far behind with these.

Anyway, this time around I'm going to review the bishoujo anime Maple Colors, a 2-episode OVA based on the eroge game of the same name. Licensed for release in English by Critical Mass Media, the adult branch of Right Stuf!, and produced by Milky Animation. It is still in-print, and easily picked up from places like Right Stuf! International and Anime Corner Store. For the show, I'm using my Sony Vaio Laptop with Logitech G430 headphones.

And, for fun, a cast-shot! ^_^



Yoshijiro is the new transfer student, and quickly gets pushed into class 2-B, the school's ragtag bunch of misfits. Outclassed, bullied, excluded, and shunned by every other class at school, Yoshijiro shows his renegade nature when he intervenes to stop a group of bullies harassing one of his classmates. In the aftermath he and 2-B class hot-head Mirai are accused of starting a fight, and going to be expelled, unless they win the class theater contest. Mirai's tired of her class being the butt of the school, and plans on showing everyone just how good 2-B really is. Problem being… she's not the most charismatic girl out there, and most of 2-B is laconic and indifferent on the whole idea. So, she recruits Yoshijiro to recruit others to join the cause. And… with this being a bishoujo anime, Yoshijiro knows just how to sway others.

Maple Colors is a 2-episode OVA based off of the game with the same name. Critical Mass did mixed for the DVD. The art for the dust jacket is that right mix of "something is about to happen" without showing anything, which I like the playful sexy nature of it. I also liked how the 18+ warning label is visible, but doesn't become the front cover. However, the quick summary on the back of the dust jacket spoils the entire show, and downgrades its light plot by over-emphasizing the sex aspects of the show. Included in the DVD is a mail-in questionnaire from Right Stuf! / Nozomi. The DVD itself is silkscreened with the same full-color art as the dust jacket. With the spoilers on the back of the cover though, it ruins all the other effort put into the presentation, not to mention it waters down a plot that actually does start to grow.

The art, characters, and settings of Maple Colors have a standard-feel to them. What I mean is every design seems well-trod material. The athletic-girl has short hair and a swim-suit tan. The school uniforms for the girls emphasize short skirts, stockings, and corsets. The ditzy and spacey girls have very tareme eyes. All the other male characters look plain or fugly (other than the main, male, villain). Unfortunately, this also extends to locations and whatnot as well. The classrooms felt repeated from other animes, and the forest-next door felt a bit overused. In addition, the cast of characters also seemed to have only one outfit. Admittedly, the OVA is only two episodes, as such I guess you can give it a pass. So, while the art and character designs were good, they were pretty generic at the same time.

As for the sexual scenes of the show, Maple Colors packs in a lot, with only 60 minutes. In fact, the show itself starts with the president and vice president of the student council going at it. So, there is etchi naughtiness within the first 30-seconds. Still, though, the scenes had a generic/normal feel to them, similar to the character designs, sets, and locations. For example, you have a scene in a dark gym, a bathroom stall, a library, and the forest. Pretty normal fare for locations in a bishoujo story. Though, the forest scene did have an amusing ending. Anyway the scenes weren't bad, they just felt like the staff was more doing a check-list of "what's sexy" instead of something more involved.

I have to say, for the most part, in bishoujo anime, the Japanese cast just does a better job. The seiyuus add life to their characters, and make the etchi and love-making scenes entertaining. Too often, I find the English VAs to be stupidly cheesy and over the top. What really makes me notice it this time is that NuTech Digital actually did a commendable job by hiring adult movie stars to be some of their voice actors. Right Stuf! didn't… and it, unfortunately, shows. As such, I'd have to recommend the original dialog over the dub. The Japanese seiyuu just did a better job for the entire show.

Related to this music for the show was entertaining. It wasn't necessarily memorable; yet, it did help sell the show as a harem, light-drama, comedy. Music was upbeat, and had light, J-Pop sound to it. Overall, full marks for the music.

Subtitles are mixed bag. The translation, with the exception of the age-upping, is solid, the timing is good, and the font is easy to read. The problem being, at times the subtitles swallow up the screen. However, I did appreciate that Critical Mass Media also did things, like try to translate some of the slanderous-graffiti on the class walls, and limited their wooseylisms. Overall, a good job, but it could have been a bit better.

For tech specs, being from 2006, the OVA is done in a 4:3 format, and at standard resolution, meaning non-HD. The DVD seems to have held up pretty well, and played without error or pause on my laptop. No graphical errors or problems were seen. Sound was clear and not distorted. Menus were responsive and easy to navigate. So, full marks.

Extras are a mixed bag. Included are trailers for other bishoujo titles, an art gallery of stills from the game and from OVA, and Outtakes. And… the outtakes is what makes the bag mixed. An outtake is a mistake that is made, that is still funny, but "ruins" the scene. For example, slurring "L"s or mispronouncing a word. Instead, the "outtakes" used were more ad-libbing of the VA cast, and they came off as juvenile, banal, and pedestrian. As such, they could have just as easily been avoided, and it would not have affected the show at all. Overall, mixed.

Now, for something new in my review, a few personal thoughts. I still find it… eye-rolling with all the efforts to age-up the characters and show. Instead of Sakamoto being their teacher, she's their professor. Instead of being in high-school, it's implied they're in junior college (though the school board scene is still very high-school). I know why it's done. It's just… eye-rolling to me. Anyway, I have to give Right Stuf! a pass for their choice to do this. Secondly, one thing that is not explained well in the OVA is the animosity between Mirai and Yukihito, and this can be distracting, as a lot of the machinations from Yukihito deal with him trying to forcibly coerce Mirai, and get her to become some sort of sexual play toy for him. Overall, I get the impression that the game itself covers a lot of the things that I found mixed, plain, simple, or unresolved, offering a better product than the OVA adaptation. And I understand that on a multi-ending game, the OVA usually covers only one of the many pathways. I think a number of issues I had with the OVA would have also been covered, if there had been a third and final episode, which it seemed to have originally planned based off the end of the second espisode, and from news I found online when doing a quick search. Ah, c'est la vie.

Overall, Maple Colors is a formulaic short OVA that passes muster, but could have been more.

Grade: C+ / B-

P.S. As an afterthought, I'm thinking about giving away some of my extras, via some type of mini-contest. I'm not sure of the rules yet, or if I'm going to do it, but... more than likely you'll have to be at least a Royal Member of Bon Bon to be eligible to participate. If you have any questions, let me know. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all,

Time for another review. I think I'll continue with an old powerhouse, Revolutionary Girl Utena. I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

So, here is part of the cast.



From Left to Right:

Miki, Touga, Anthy, Utena, Sayonji, and Juri.
Missing: Nanami, Kozue, Akio, Wakaba... and a bunch of others.

Be advised, this'll probably be one of my longer reviews to date.

As mentioned in my previous Utena review, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a 39-episode anime with a manga, PS2 game, and movie of the same name. As an aside, for you purists out there, transliteration of the Japanese name is: Shoujo Kakumei Utena. If you want to look up more information on the show, you might want to search using SKU or Shoujo Kakumei Utena. However, being as I've called it Utena or Revolutionary Girl Utena for years and years now, I'm just going to keep doing that.

For the second review in the Utena anime series, I'll be finishing the Student Council arc. I'm going to review Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Rose Collection: Volume 2, which covers episodes 8 - 13, and was released by Software Sculptors. Be advised that the re-released version from Nozomi-Right Stuf! varies how they have divided up the series. For a bit of foreshadowing, the Nozomi-Right Stuf! version also appears to call episodes by different (but similar names). Please keep this in mind, if your version is different than mine.

Given the nature of the series, and how influential it has been since its inception, I'm going to put forward the following caveat (similarly to the caveat from my part 1 review.) CAVEAT ON: Okay, RGU is an older anime, originally released in the late 90s. Due to its age and narrative the show has been discussed, analyzed, watched, discussed some more, analyzed even more, and then watched again. Rinse. Repeat. The result is all sorts of interpretations of the numerous themes presented in the show. Compounding this problem is that the director/creator of the show Kunihiko Ikuhara has pretty much said "all interpretations of the symbolism and characters are correct." More often he gives contradictory and shrug answers to questions. Resulting in more confusion to what something can mean. I actually like the fact that Ikuhara has left a lot of his show open to the audience, as it makes you more than an observer. You become a participant. Anyway, what this boils down to is that RGU is a complex story that can be correctly interpreted numerous ways, even when those ways are contradictory. So, I'm going to pre-apologize. I'm going to try to keep my review, to my review, which will be difficult. Worse, I know I'll go over a spot of my interpretations of some of the themes used in the epic tale. CAVEAT OFF

Utena continues trying to adjust to life at the Ohtori Academy, and understand what it actually means to be a Duelist and involved with the Rose Bride. Young and naïve, but full of a passionate desire to be Prince like the one who rescued her, Utena begins to see just how deep the waters are during the conclusion of the Student Council arc. Will she be able to wade these waters, or will her idealized Prince fairy-tale begin to falter, crack, and fail her? Thus continues the Utena saga.

Software Sculptors did very well on the packaging. The DVD case keeps the translucent-clear-plastic, but the dust jacket is now soft-grey in color. Cover-art keeps with the pink-rose coloration theme, and continues to predominately feature Utena. The summary on the back does well with giving more teasers about the conclusion of the story-arc. The end result is a cover that is eye-catching and pulls at your curiosity. The dust-jacket is double-sided. The inside is black-and-with, with chapter-stops, character art, and a quick cast reference. A questionnaire post-card from Software Sculptors was also included. The DVD is silk-screened with a new 1/2-shot of Utena. Full marks for creativity, attractiveness, and design.

In this volume, Utena continues her personal quest of becoming a Prince, like the one who saved her so long ago. She is now joined by Anthy, a quirky, dissociative, quixotic friend who is intimately involved in the duels going on at school being the Rose Bride. No matter what Utena does, her actions draw the attention of the School Council, a group of elite students packed with Duelists. Now Utena has to deal with Duelists who all have their own reasons for wanting the Rose Bride, including creating a new revolution. Will Utena be able to overcome these ever more powerful Duelists, and how will she interact with the sublime patters of Anthy. However she does it, one thing is sure, Utena will be a Prince.

Overall, these next six episodes continue to impress, as they conclude the Student Council arc, and transition into the Mikagi Seminar arc. Utena continues to make her way through Otohori Academy, yet now begins to show early signs of faltering. What does Anthy mean to her? Has she already found her Prince? What does it mean to be a Prince… or a Princess? The conclusion of this arc seems to begin to now start to pick at the seams of the groundwork laid in the previous seven episodes. And, in doing so, drives to you want to watch more.

One of the things I noticed while watching volume 2 for this review was that time seems… off. What I mean is you see a day cycle (morning, day, afternoon, evening, night). You also see a couple of types of weather (some rain, but mostly sunny days). And… nothing else. No fall. No winter. No late summer. Everyone just wears a light outfit… no coats… no boots… no sweaters. Sometimes some of the characters mention other seasons, but you never see evidence of it. Time is always stuck at late spring… which is usually considered one of the best seasons, as it is warm and a return to life. Yet, it also hints at a lack of change, growth and maturation. And, more unsettlingly, foreshadows perpetual forced youth and stagnation. As an allegory, think about the story Peter Pan. The Lost Boys live in a world where they try to solve adult issues with childish antics, and are never allowed to grow up. As for RGU, sure Spring is one of the most romance-focused seasons… but all seasons are needed for anything to grow.

Another thought that snuck up on me was the idea of eternity. Throughout the conclusion of the Student Council arc, the cast mentions a desire for something "eternal". The only exception being Utena. While she may not vocalize it, she doesn't believe in the concept or idea. Utena's thoughts about nothing being eternal are even emphasized during a flashback between Touga and Saonji. And the effect is jarring because many of her notions of princes and princesses are "eternal". To me, I think this is done on purpose. Utena only seems to see things in an "either-or" manner. Id est, black-or-white. While we, as the audience, have already born witness to several types of grey.

A third thought that percolated in my mind while watching the conclusion of this arc is Utena's age and knowledge. It's referenced that Utena does well in math, which, with her being an Ace in everything she seems to do, could be extended to say she does very well in school with little effort as mathematics are usually considered the "hard" class. Now for the twist. Couple this with her age. She's 14. She's not a tween (id est 11 - 12), or a new teen (id est 13). She's 14. She's a second year teen. In high school and college, your second year is your sophomore year. RGU has now reminded you as an audience that while Utena is intelligent… she's a wise moron. She has just enough intellect to get herself into trouble by thinking she has the answer to everything and understands everything, without fully realizing what's going on around her. She has knowledge, but no real experience. I'm… pretty sure this is going to come back to haunt her later.

One last, quick, thought and then we'll move on with the review. This one I'm going to color-out, and mini-font as it has some spoiler-type comments in it. SPOILER START: Utena wants to possess Anthy as much as the other duelists? Why? To Utena, she's being Anthy's friend, and is the only just one of the bunch. However… if you take a step back, Utena is being just as selfish. When she is brought out of her funk by Wakaba, Utena isn't going to save her friend… she's going to take back what is hers. Those are Utena's own words. Take back what is hers. She wants Anthy as her princess, so she can be a prince. Being a Prince is that foundationally important to Utena that is bleeds over all of the negative connotations of what she is doing. In fact, the name of the episode itself is "For Friendship, perhaps", and that "perhaps" question at the end is another, quiet, commentary on Utena's character. As far as Utena is concerned, she isn't taking Anthy, so she can be a Prince. Utena is saving Anthy, since Anthy is a Princess and needs saved. Curiously, throughout the entire series, you rarely, if ever, actually witness Utena ask Anthy what she wants. You start to see examples of Utena's immature-childish-selfishness, and one of the biggest critical points to her own self-delusions, when she decides to "take back what is hers". For me, I enjoy how this first illustration shows Utena's fantasy Prince and Princess ideals could very easy destroy her.
SPOILER END

Anyway, I mentioned the above to show the level of detail, foreshadowing, themes, and symbolism used in RGU. For me, that is one of the reasons I enjoyed this second volume. I'm certain that if I went back and watched it again, I'd notice something different, or interpret a scene in an adjusted way… possibly the exact opposite of how I had previously saw the scene. For example this time around, while the Greek Chorus parts tend to be goofy non-sense, a number of them offer frightening implications. It was something I hadn't noticed… or vain-fully overlooked. In short, RGU's continued used of symbolism draws in its audience and makes them more than just a fly on the wall. You're now part of Ohtori Academy, for better or worse.

I will say, while most of the episodes finish off the School Counsel arc, the last episode (episode 13) included in the DVD is both a recap and introduction to the next story arc. I do advise you to watch the recap episodes. They… often sneak things in that you will miss if you skip over the episode. Anyway, I can see why Software Sculptors decided to include it, as it primes you and peaks your interest for the next part of the story, yet it also can be frustrating as well since now you have to wait for the next DVD to continue.

On an art note, I do like how Be-Papas stretched their budget. Utena does have several, reused scenes, or scenes that are very similar. As such, extra value is put into these reused scenes, and you don't notice them as much. It also shows in how the series uses a lot of "impressive-shots-little-motion". Instead of animating an entire conversation, the two characters are pushed back far enough in the shot, that they don't need animated. Little tricks like this make the show feel more high-budget than it is, and is a testament to the creativity of the crew.

Dubbing continues to be mixed. The English cast does begin to settle into their roles on the conclusion of this first story-arc; however, they just don't seem to offer the same feel the Japanese seiyuu do. For me, the best example of this is with Anthy. Sharon Becker just doesn't seem to understand Anthy and doesn't sound right, while Yuriko Fuchizaki makes Anthy come alive through her voice. Subtitles were well timed, and an easy-to-read font. However, as with the previous disk, the song-lyric subtitles were hard-coded into the show. There are also times the subtitles fill the screen. Overall, I would recommend the original Japanese with Subtitles, though.

Volume 2 has a solid number of extras, from trailers, to clean credits, to character briefs and music videos. It also includes DVD-ROM features, allowing you to access line-art, backgrounds, artwork, and interview. Full marks for extras.

For technical marks, the DVD holds up well. I witnessed no audio problems during the show. On a couple of the episodes the screen seems to "wobble". It doesn't look like the disk itself is warped, so I'm not sure what is causing it. In addition, I'm not sure if its due to the age or my receiver trying to upscale it to HD, but some of the episodes come off as slightly dulled, like you're looking at older photos, and not newer, crisper, digital ones. Volume 2 continues with the 4:3 ratio, as well as the 2.1 channel stereo. Menus are easy to navigate, and very responsive to selections. Overall, good marks for tech specs.

Utena is now a Duelist and engaged to the Rose Bride Anthy. What challenges may come, she will face them in her best, Princely manner. Yet, as the introductory shadow play asks, is this necessarily a good thing?

Grade: A

p.s. As an aside, going back and re-watching these episodes, after seeing the series through to conclusion, offers some… disquieting echoes and future parallels. If you get the chance, once you finish RGU, go back, and watch it again. More on this when we start with the next RGU story arc, the Mikagi Seminar.))
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Caroline
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Joined: 22 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Today's positive headlines... another review from Caroline's-Real-World-Avatar.

For this episode of Caroline's All Access Anime, I'm going to cover another anime licensed and released by Nippon Ichi, Nyaruko: Crawling With Love (original title Haiyore! Naruko-San… which is also a shout-out to a game system). I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.



From left to right: Hastur, Mahiro, Nyaruko, and Kuko

Nayruko: Crawling With Love is a 12 episode OVA, released in the states by Nippon Ichi Software -- USA. I'm not sure if there is an associated manga with it or not. As far as I can tell, it is BluRay only. I picked up the Premium Edition, but there is also a Standard Edition available.

Mahiro Yasaka is in trouble. Something horrible has him cornered in an alley, with no possibility of escape. Cowering in fear and terror he screams for someone to save him. Luckily for him, Nyarlathotep hears his cry, and comes to his aid. Except… instead of a eldritch, sanity frying monster, Nyarlathotep is a bouncy, hot, chick who goes by Nyaruko. So begins Nyaruko: Crawling With Love.

Again, Nippon Ichi keeps wowing me with their packaging. The entire set comes in an oversized, slip case covered in full-color art. Each BluRay cover jacket is full color, and plays up the etchi, harem, comedy fun. Even the BluRay disks are silk-screened with full-color art from the show. Included in the Premium Edition is a hard-cover book, self-called PDA Handbook, that also is full color. The Handbook has stills from the show, additional artwork and sketch work, comments about various episodes, and commentary from various cast and crew. All-in-all, the Premium Edition packs in the packaging, like a boss.

Mahiro Yasaka is a rarity. He's a male Tsundere, with quite the capability for snark. He would like nothing more than to just have a normal day. Instead, though, he has caught the intergalactic attention of the Planetary Defense Force and, in particular, its most energetic detective, Nyaruko. Now he's stuck with the maddeningly frantic eccentricities of a girl he couldn't possibly hope to comprehend. Worse, it looks like she's brought her own harem of unwanted guests as well, as she just wants to be with Mahiro. As such, life won't be the same for either of them.

Overall, I have to say, while Nyaruko is an unwanted-harem-comedy story, it dials up the fun-o-meter in such a way to grab your attention and just pull you along for the ride. The story-themes are nothing new; however, using a cthulhu mythos setting for a romantic-harem-comedy is. And, being as I'm a big fan of the cthulhy mythos, I found myself enjoying this lighter take on the cosmic horror genre. In addition Nyaruko is packed, and I mean PACKED, with shout-outs to all sorts of stuff such as other anime and TV shows, board games, video games, console wars, fourth-wall leanings. Nyaruko also pokes fun at the fourth wall and their own voice actors at times as well. In short, while the show isn't deep, it is fun.

Costumes, character designs, and sets are varied and well detailed. Each character has a predominate color, based on their cthulu mythos persona, a predominate costume, as well as several other sets of clothes. Sets vary from school and classroom to beaches and indoor pools. I enjoyed the art and character design. I especially enjoyed Nyaruko herself. The long hair mixed with an athletic, but not super-endowed figure, was really attractive to me. Anyway, I found the show to be perky, with a little bit of everything. There definitely will be at least one character you find to fit your tastes.

Something else I enjoyed about the show was its randy-ness. For me, it was that right amount of pervy, flirty, double entendres, and bold forwardness without being excessive. The show greatly uses steam censors, Godiva hair (Nyaruko has some of the most expressive hair ever), clothing damage, shadows, and well positioned limbs to tease and hint at nudity, without actually showing anything. I enjoy that style of raunchy humor and sexual situations. So, full points to the writers.

I also enjoyed how, while Mahiro is often at wits end due to the hyperactive exuberance of Nyaruko (what with him being the tsundere and all), you can tell he means something to her. There are only a couple of scenes were Nyaruko "calms down", and… they're so out-of-character for her that they are pretty impressive turning points. During these moments, you can tell that, while Mahiro doesn't want to admit it, he actually enjoys Nyaruko's company. It strikes me as memorable, when the cast members actually pick someone, even when that means they still need to juggle the affections and friendships of the rest of the cast.

The anime Nyaruko is Japanese only with subtitles. The cast does very well, and includes some of my new favorites like Kana Asumi, as well as some old favorites like Kikuko Inoue. I will say the VA who plays Hastur (not going to mention who it is) was a stroke of comedic genius. There are parts where the subtitles are quick, due to the lightning speed of the conversation, or take up a bit too much of the screen. Still, Nippon Ichi offers a good translation, and keeps much of the humor and conversational antics in tact. Audio also makes good use of the 5.1 channel sound and speakers.

EDIT: UGH! I should have pre-read this better than I did. I totally forgot to include the intro / ending section. Anyway, intro music is fast and frantic, well mixing with the overclocked antics of the show. Ending music is more relaxed, with echoes of Nyaruko's deep and earnest feelings for Mahiro. Overall, I enjoyed the intro and ending. Both set you up for each episode, and then gave you a quick pause to catch your breath, before grabbing your hand again on a mad dash forward. END EDIT

Extra's included in the show are fairly minimal, and I think that's due to the fact that they're basically included in the PDA Handbook. It does contain clean opening and ending credits and trailers for the show. Overall, acceptable extras.

For technical marks, the BluRays do very well. I witnessed no audio or visual problems, and the show took full advantage of the 16:9 ratio, HD-TV as well as the 5.1 channel sound. Menu's were easy to navigate and I enjoyed the user interface used. Full marks for technical specs.

Nyaruko: Crawling With Love is a fun, raucous, randy show, with a number of very clever jokes and jests, and a lot of its own, earnest, tenderness. Worth seeing.

Grade: B / B+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2015 6:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all, I know, I know, it's waaaaaaaay too long since my last review, and you were all hoping to get one before the Holidays, so you could spend your funds on new shows. Well, mea culpa for being late. No reason, just am.

Also, Happy Holidays and End of Year celebration, stuff to you all.

Anyway, without further ado, here's my next review. This time an older show, Martian Successor Nadesico, complete OVA boxed set. I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system. Also, as an aside, I'm listening to Peter Gabriel Shaking the Tree as I type this.




pictured, most of the Nadesico crew. From left-to-right, top-to-bottom:

Izumi, Ryoko, Minato, Erina
Ruri, Akito, Hikaru
Yurika, Megumi

not pictured... about 2/3s of the cast


Nadesico is a 26 episode OVA, originally released by ADV, and now licensed by Right Stuf! International. Further compounding the issue, ADV had two sets of releases for Nadesico; single-volume DVDs, as well as a complete boxed set. Be advised, I have the old ADV copy of the boxed set of Nadesico. The show has been picked up by Right Stuf! International. As such, your version may differ from mine. Anyway, there was a related manga as well a feature length movie as well. I'm not 100% sure if there was a game associated with the series either.

Akito Tenkawa just wants to be a chef. However, when a chance encounter has him reunite with his child-hood friend Yurika Misumaru has him drafted unceremoniously onto the Nadesico, a privately built by the Nergal corporation, super-dexterous, space battleship, and quite possibly the last, best hope for Earth against the Jovian Alliance. Now Akito is caught in the midst of an inter-solar war that he doesn't want a part it. Will Akito be able to convince Yurika that he's just a chef and not a mecha pilot… or will the eccentric, rag-tag crew of the Nadesico embolden him to take part in the war.

ADV did a solid for the packaging. The perfect-edition boxed set comes with six, slim-case DVDs. The box itself feature some of the main characters, such as chef Akito, ship's captain Yurika, ships computer operator Ruri, and communications officer Megumi. The art on the box feels like comic-book adventure stills, and fits. Each DVD case offers a different, subdued background color, as well as various crew. The DVDs themselves are all silkscreened with matching art from the case. Overall, impressive packaging done by ADV.

Akito Tenkawa just wants to be a chef. He doesn't want to be part of the Earth-Jovian War, and he also doesn't want to the affections of ship's captain and his long time friend Yurika Misumaru. Yet, he's the best Aestivalis pilot the Nadesico has, and very likely carries the key to a peaceful resolution of the war. So, from a dull beginning as a fry cook, Akito is on a planet spanning adventure, whether he wants to be on one or not.

Overall, Nadesico is one of those shows that is hard to categorize. In the first, few episodes, you get the impression that the show is going to be an affectionate parody of the space opera genre, and then the show brutally murders one of the main cast, and then the crew has to make a devil's-choice. Nadesico does this throughout the show. And, while it often slides back into parody mode (with some Mel Brook's level satire and comedy), it is flecked with enough deconstruction events that it makes the show difficult to categorize. As such… I'm going to be super broad and say that the show is a space opera.

One of the aspects I enjoyed about the show was it's joke towards Megumi Hayashibara (one of my favorite seiyuu). The communication's officer is named Megumi… she was a VA before becoming one of the Nadesico crew… and, in the 'pick-a-captain-for-a-day' contest, she dresses up like a nurse. I really enjoyed that tongue-in-cheek, inside-humor. And, this is one of the reasons I found Nadesico to be an affectionate parody. Another example similar to this one was how ADV played up the parody via their own dubbing cast, and their parallel project of Evangelion. A third, though quick one, was when the Jovian Ambassador Yukina "steals" Ruri's lines, and Ruri visible pouts towards the fourth wall. Nadesico is full of obsurdities like this, greatly growing into its parodidic nature.

Oddly, I also was drawn in when the show does a mood whiplash as well. During the show, sacrifices are made… or were made. And all of them have repercussions that come due. While the timing was jarring, it helped make the show more than just a parody of itself and of the genre. For example, it is implied that Erina, a senior staffer of Nergal, had feelings for Akito's father (and possible Akito as well), and the reveal of what happened to Akito's father visibly shakes her normal resolve. Overall, these deconstructive moments, offer Nadesico legs to stand on its own, and lets it grow to be more than just a humorous space opera.

Costumes, sets, character designs were solid. The crew of the ship looked semi-military, and the ship itself seemed very familiar, that is, it gave off the vibe that the ship was something you'd be expecting to see, such as from Serenity, Star Wars, or Star Trek. Colors were used to differentiate between the different sections of crews, with only Yurika being unique with her white, Captain's uniform. About the only costume I didn't like were the ones selected for the UN fleet. I also enjoyed the ship and mecha design. While the ships didn't have a particular feel to them, the mecha (Aestivalis) reminded me of designs from RoboTech, while the Jovian bug-droids made me think about El Hazard. Overall, good work with the costumes, sets, and character designs.

For the voice acting, I have to play favorites. ADV did well with the cast, and gave their dubbing team a superlative script. Spike Spencer and Tiffany Grant easily fell into their characters. However, I just enjoyed the original Seiyuu better. Houko Kuwashima gives a solid performance of the ditzy, though wickedly crafty, Yurika, and Omi Minami's quiet, only-sane-man acting as Ruri amused me to no end. (It also probably didn't hurt that I enjoyed Omi Minami in Excel Saga as well.) Along those lines, ADV did well for the subtitles of Nadesico. Font was sized so that it could be read quickly and easily, and did not obscure the entire screen.

Nadesico does have one of the catchiest intro tunes that I've heard. It has that right mix of rock and power ballads that gets you psyched to watch the show. The ending music is a bit calmer, but equally as ear-catchy with Yurika going over her earnest feelings about what is going on. Both are good, and help frame the show.

ADV does include a decent number of extras, from interviews with the cast, character bios (including the cast from Gekigangar 3), clean opening and ending credits, and trailers for other ADV shows. All-in-all, well done with the extras.

For tech specs, my copies hold up alright. I did see some pixelation, and "low-res" graphic effects, especially when I paused the show momentarily. Still, the graphics do hold up well and don't feel old. Colors were bright, crisp, sharp, and did not appear to be faded. The show itself was done in 4:3-TV ratio. As such, you'll have to watch the show with black-bars on the side. Sound and audio was 2.0 channel only; however, my system was able to upscale it to use the 5.1 channels. Overall good, but not great, tech specs for the show, especially given that my DVDs are a couple of decades old now.

In summary, Martian Successor Nadesico is a curiosity to me. On the one hand, it acts like an affectionate parody of the space opera while on the other hand, it is a devastating deconstruction of the same genre. All-in-all, worth a watch.

Grade B / B+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all, with it being near the beginning of the year, I thought I'd give you a close 2:1 reviews. So, instead of the normal month, or several weeks, between these posts, this time it'll only be about a week… well… okay, closer to two weeks.

Anyway, on this review, we're going to keep with some of my older shows, and review To Heart OVA. At some point, I'm going to go back and do something more recent, like Everyday Tales of a Cat God or Kill La Kill.



From Left to Right: stoic Tomoko, foreigner Lemmy, quiet princess Serika, moe gynoid Multi, long-time friend Akari, tomboyish Shiho, mysterious Kotone, and cute bruiser Aoi

Not pictured: Secret characters, other classmates, and Hiroyuki


As an aside, To Heart was one of the most successful eroge games, and was groundbreaking in its storytelling and multiple ending possibilities. To this day, other animes, such as Lucky Star, reference To Heart. The To Heart eroge game has a direct sequel in To Heart 2. The To Heart OVA also has a direct sequel in To Heart: Remember the Memories. The To Heart anime was originally released in 1999, and Right Stuf picked it up in 2004.

Being as the To Heart OVA is based on the eroge game Aquaplus decided to pick the "official" pairing of Akari and Hiroyuki to use as the main story-line.

It is a new year for Senior High Students Akari Kamigishi and Hiroyuki Fujita. These two friends have grown up and known each other since elementary school. Now, with them almost completely done with High School, maybe it is time for them to change their relationship as well. So begins the romantic tale of To Heart.

The Right Stuf! International did very well for the packaging. I have a boxed set, with four, slim-case DVDs. The boxed set predominately features characters Akari and Multi on a white background. The back offers a good summary of the show, without adding any spoilers. Overall, the predominate light and white colors do pull attention to itself. The DVDs themselves all posses full-color dust jackets, and are silk-screened with the cast. Oddly, the dust jackets are listed as double-sided, but not a single one of mine was. Overall, full marks for the presentation.

Hiroyuki Fujita is a bit of a slacker, and prone to want to be a member of the going-home club. Yet he also has an uncanny tendency to quietly help others in need, from class rep Tomoko Hoshina to friendly gossip monger and tomboy Shiho Nagaoka. So, while Akari does monopolize much of Hiroyuki's time, he does find moments where he links up with his other classmates.

One of the things I enjoyed about the show was that it wasn't a harem show. Instead, it was a quiet, tranquil, tender growing up and coming of age romance. Hiroyuki is an everyman, and while he's shown to be a bit on the lazy side and playfully snarky, he is the kind, neighbor-next-door that offers a lot of assistance to those who need it. For example, instead of asking quiet Serika to speak up, Hiroyuki leans in closer to hear her, and repeats what she said to make sure he understands. And, if you think about it, that's a very generous thing for him to do. It's one of the reasons that the various girls in the cast do begin to open up to him. Anyway, while he develops friendships with various classmates during the OVA, he does pick one girl. I actually like it when the cast pairs off like this. The story even includes a moment where Akari and Shiho have a mature talk about Hiroyuki. As a mixed point, only one pathway was really shown, and only one was hinted at. As such, if you're not a big fan of Akari, it might not be you favorite path. Anyway, I found Aquaplus' OVA-script to be very faithful to the game.

The character designs were quite lovely. While To Heart use what are considered standard character-archetypes today, such as Lemmy being the blond-haired-blue-eyed-ditzy-American, she also has a lot more depth to her. I also liked how Lemmy was almost as tall as Hiroyuki. Anyway, the cast is varied, and does include at least one standard-eroge girl you'll enjoy… such as the perky girl, the quiet princess, the energetic foreigner, and the girl next door. Characters also had various costumes as well, so while most of the time you watched them in their school uniforms, they also had club outfits, pajamas, and various seasonal clothing sets as well. On a mixed note, some people may object to the designs OLM used as they weren't a 100% match to the eroge game, but… oddly, they are often associated as the true-face of To Heart. Overall, well done with the character designs.

Detail and choreography are amazing! Oriental Light and Magic pulled out all the stops, and produced a product of Pink Pineapple level production quality. To Heart feels like a big, high-budget, movie-house production, from the quality of the work. Clothing and hair move fluidly, and there are multiple layers of shading and highlighting. You can see details in everything, including backgrounds, buildings, and costumes. Movements, from walking to hair to weather to sports, are all fluid. Full marks for the level of effort put into the work.

I enjoyed the original cast over the dubbing. However, To Heart also has some of my favorite seiyuu's, such as Aya Hisakawa, Yui Horie, and Ayako Kawasumi… so it's hard to compete against that cast. The translation was good, and the direction solid. Yet…the Right Stuf! cast does well… just… I still find the original cast better. Subtitles, on the other hand, are mixed. The font and color are good; however, the timing is not always there, and sometimes they float around signs and billboards. Good work overall for translation and acting, even with regards to the subtitles.

Intro music is light J-Pop, and has an easy-listening feel too it. Ending credits evolve, where the music stays the same while the credits scroll over stills from the episode. Solid work done with the intro and ending.

The Right Stuff offers a number of extras for the series. Line art, character bios, omake episodes (with chibi characters), and trailers for other shows are all included. Full marks for the extras.

For tech specs, the art does show some signs of either age or transfer problems. Nothing is pronounced, but you do get the feeling that the show is not as sharp as it could be… similar to the sense that you're looking at the show through a pane of glass that just needs a bit of cleaning. You can also see shimmer and pixelation in a number of the backgrounds. As a parallel, I got this same feeling when I swapped from my Software Sculptors licensed Utena to the Right Stuf licensed Utena. Sound quality was good with no popping, fading or distortion. Sound made good use of the 2.1 speakers, and my receiver was able to up-signal it to take advantage of the full 5.1. Menus are responsive, and quick to navigate.

In summary, To Heart shows that you can take an eroge game and make a very warm, heartfelt, tender, enjoyable story.

Grade: A ))


Last edited by Caroline on Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ezra Lee Stewart
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(I still enjoy reading this now and again, keep it up Caroline.)
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey Ezra Lee Stewart,

Thank you for the encouragement. It is good to see you again.

Hey all,

Just wanted to send a mini update of sorts.

Normally, when I'm listing where you can find a show, I mention places like Animecornerstore.com, The Right Stuf! Internation, and Amazon. However, keep in mind that you can also find them at places like Crunchyroll, Hulu, NISA, and Sentai Filmworks.

I guess, overall, an easy way to see if you can find a show I do a review on would be just to ask Uncle Google. He seems to know everything.

Anyway, on my to-do list. I've been meaning to continue with my thoughts on Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Revolutionary Girl Utena. I've also been meaning to put up reviews on shows like Everyday Tales of a Cat God, And Yet the Town Moves, Masquerade, and Spaceship Agga Rutter (I haven't forgotten about my promise to do adult shows either).

Anyway, if anyone has a particular title they'd like me to do a review on, please let me know. If I have the show, I'll be happy to watch it again, and give you my thoughts. ))
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Well, with it being February, it is time once again for me to post a review.

Since it is a bit shorter of a show (being only 12 + 1 episodes), I'm going to review Everyday Tales of a Cat God. At some point, I'll get back to my multi-part reviews of Utena and Evangelion… someday soon. Oddly, for being a shorter show, I think this is one of my more complete reviews. Nippon Ichi released two versions of the show: the standard version, and the premium version. Being as I enjoy the extras that NIS adds in the premium, I picked up that edition. The series is split onto two blurays.



Mayu and Yuzu

Mayu has always been a bit of a sneak and a troublemaker, but her mother has had enough of it. Being the matriarch household cat-god, Ama-no-kura-no-moriakari-no-hime, has decided to teach Mayu a lesson for disobeying her mother one to many times. As such, Mayu is cast out of Takagamara, and down to earth to learn a lesson. It is here Mayu meets antiquities store owner Yuzu… and it's here where our story begins.

I really enjoy the work and care NIS puts into the packaging of the premium set. The box is another slip-case, similar to the one's used for Persona: Trinity Soul and Nyaruko: Crawling with Love, id est, a longer box that is a bit odd looking on a movie shelf, but covered in art about the show. The slipcase is full-color, with eye-catching attractive use of characters from the show. The blurays cases each have a full-color dust jacket, and the blurays themselves are also silk screened. Full marks for the very attractive and designed packaging

Mayu, being a cat-god, is very much a lazy genius. She would be impressive and powerful… if she really wanted to do anything other than play games, hang out with her other odd-job god friends, and generally relax the day away. Still, Mayu does take her responsibilities with care and diligence… when she isn't dreaming about eating, or sleeping, or goofing off.

Character designs are cute and adorable, fitting with the light feel of the show. Color pallets helped to flesh out the various cast members. I also appreciated the attention to detail in the eye-colors chosen for the various cast. For example, golden eyes can note nobility (which Mayu has, being the daughter of the Household Cat Goddess Princess.) Meanwhile, Gonta and his mother Shizuka both have purple eyes, denoting their deity status. I also enjoyed the in-show genre-savvy humor that Everyday Tales of a Cat God used to mildly poke fun at itself. Yukina is a mangaka (as well as an onmyoji), and she assigns the other gods jobs based on their look. For example, Yukina pegs Sasana as "detail oriented", and Yuzu as "good in the kitchen" due to their appearance. I also got a kick out of the fact that she uses her shikigami to assist her with various aspects of actually creating the manga. Costumes were limited, with one big exception near the end of the show. Anyway, good work with the character designs and color pallets.

Backgrounds and sets offer a solid variety such as Yuzu's store, the beach and beach resort, city parks, Yuzu's Grandfather's house, an abandoned shrine, and Takagamara. Each place is well designed, and offers a unique feel (as well as some inside jokes as well). The variety of locations makes the show feel grander than it should, being only 12 +1 episodes long. Good work on the sets.

Nippon Ichi choose not to dub the show. As such, the only language track is the original Japanese (which may bother some viewers, as NIS generally does a pretty good dub.) It was good to hear one of my other favorite seiyuu, Yui Horie. Haruka Tomatsu is also starting to grow on me as an actress. It did catch me off guard to hear Alicia Heart (from Dungeon Travelers 2) as the voice of Sasana. (Okay, so the seiyuu was Ai Kayano for both… just caught me off guard.) Overall, very well done voice work by the cast.

Subtitles came off as mixed-but-good to me. The font, timing, and color were all well done, allowing for the show to be seen without cluttering the screen. While, the translation was solid, it did use some Woosleyisms that allowed for the humor and relationships to translate better… though purists might not care for the alternations. Also, NIS choose to translate the onomatopoeia sound effects as well, which did distract a bit. Still, all-in-all, good marks for the subtitles.

Music and sound are done well. The intro and ending music are both ear-catchy and fanciful, and help to frame the show as a slice-of-life light-drama-comedy. I enjoyed the intro music just a bit more than the ending theme though, as it was upbeat and perkier, while the ending felt like another page was closing in the yearbook. I did catch myself sort-of humming along to both tunes. One of the oddball parts that I really enjoyed was the random dance number credits at the end of the festival episode. It is done in a slightly-different art style that feels more like flash animation then anime. But the simplistic dance routine done to the festival music is just adorable. Anyway, the dance routine seems to come out of nowhere, and its whimsy greatly complements the light-hearted nature of the show.

On a mixed note, the show doesn't care to develop the characters much. While they are not cardboard or props, with the exception of Mayu and Yuzu, the cast is fairly thin on depth and development. For example, Ama-no-kura-no-moriakari-no-hime, Mayu's mother, stays as an aggressive tsundere mother, and Sasana is Mayu's feminine-gender-crossed fiancé. I felt it fit, due to the show being more focused on daily non-sequitors; however, other viewers who want a more fleshed out cast may be a bit disappointed.

On a second mixed note, the series isn't terribly deep in story either. While it did offer some melancholy themes and scenes, for the most part the show was goofy, upbeat, and comedic. If you're looking for a series that is more balanced, or more dramatic, Everyday Tales of a Cat God is thin in this area. I enjoyed the whimsy, brevity, and lack of gravity… but others may not.

As par for the course, Nippon Ichi offers some solid extras, in their premium bundle. Included in the bundle is a scrap-book of sorts, that also kinda feels like a high-school yearbook as well. It's full color, hardback, with commentary from the crew and the cast (as well as Mayu herself.) As a second extra, six mini-episodes are included, where Mayu gets trapped in various genres of games, and has to find her way out. A cute little homage to Mayu's character-trait of regularly playing video games in front of the TV. All-in-all, full marks for extras.

For technical marks, Everyday Tales of a Cat God is a quality pressing. Colors are crisp, and I witnessed no pixelation, shimmering, or artificing. Animation is smooth. Music, sound, and voice work are all clear, make good use of the 5.1 channel sound, and I heard no distortion, hissing, or popping. Menus are quick and easy to navigate, and very responsive. Overall, full marks.

In conclusion, Everyday Tales of a Cat God is a sweet, easy-going, light, relaxed, slice-of-life comedy with very endearing characters and a relaxing charm.

Grade: B/B+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 23, 2016 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all,

Okay, another mini-update of sorts.

So, I'm looking through the Playstation Online TV show store (as right now PS Online has a credit bonus thingy going on), and I noticed that several of the shows I've reviewed here are on the store. For example, I know I saw Martian Sucessor Nandesico, Blood+, Rozen Maiden, Gurren Laggan, and Revolutionary Girl Utena. I'm sure there were others, I just wasn't writing them down. It seemed like it was a lot of the old licences from Pioneer / Geoneon, ADV, and Funimation.

Anyway, point being, some of the shows that might be out-of-print are available as digital copies. I'm not sure of the quality, or if its dub/sub, or HD/SD, but they are available. I think they might be dub-only, as Daganronpa was distinctly listed twice, once where it was listed as Japanese - With Subtitles.

Anyway, it looks like they are sold a la carte by the episode. Revolutionary Girl Utena was offered as both a season, and per episode.

So... yeah. Another place to find / check out shows that I mention. ))
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( I have a few days off, so I figured I'd post up another review. This time for one of the first slice-of-life anime that I remember, Lucky Star. And... as per my own, personal vexation, apparently I keep bringing up shows that are more and more tricky to find. Lucky Star is out-of-print, and I'm not sure if you can find it on Crunchy Roll or on the PSNetwork or whatnot anymore. So... it might be a bit more work to find. Still, it makes for a good theory and anime-history reference.

For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

Konata Izumi is a bit of a dual-natured character. Brilliant, yet lazy. A jokester and instigator, but having deep connections with all her school friends. A gaming slacker who somehow also does competitively in sports and academics. Welcome to the neighborhood and daily-life of Konata Izumi, main character of Lucky Star.

Lucky Star was produced by Bandai, and released in the States via Geoneon. I think Geoneon might have had originally released them one DVD at a time, as my collection has what looks like two, different types of DVDs.



As you can see, disks 1 - 3 look a bit different than disk 4. Anyway, my collection has 6 DVDs, each with 4 episodes of the show. Each DVD has a bit of silk-screening on it. The case itself is clear plastic, with snap-slots for all 6 DVDs, on 3 pages, and a full color dust jacket. The dust jacket uses a lot of pastel pinks and blues to draw your attention, and the teaser comments on the back give enough intro into the show, without giving away too many jokes or craziness. My dust jacket also lists this collection of Lucky Star as an "Anime Legend". Overall full marks for packaging.

Lucky Star follows the daily antics of four, high school friends: Konata, Miyuki, Tsukasa, and Kagomi. These four girls are seemingly inseparable in school, at play, on vacation, and around the neighborhood. With oddball humor, these four can take seemingly unimportant topics, and make an entire day of them. If nothing else, at the end of the show, you too will wonder, which end of a chocolate cornet is the head.

Intro and Ending segments for Lucky Star was quite good. Intro music was perky, upbeat, and a rapid-fire sort of jpop sound, and got you ready for the nonsensical series. End credits varied quite a bit. They start out as various karaoke songs by the main characters, and then evolve into short-skits from the cast and crew. As such, credit segments do evolve during the duration of the show. The intro only changes a little bit, while the end credits vary quite a bit from episode 1. Overall, solid marks for intro and ending.

Character Design and Setting get good marks. The cast is fairly diverse in looks and appearance, from body and hair types, to costuming and outfits. One big plus of Lucky Star is that the main cast does have several outfits, as they spend their time at school, at each others homes, on vacation, and at work. It does use the trope of unusual colored hair to help differentiate the various cast members, but I'll give it a pass, as it is an older show. Lucky Star also offer quite a few set pieces and locations, from homes and rooms, to karaoke bars, to beaches and beach houses, to classrooms and cafeterias. The sheer diversity of sets did make the one-season show feel more expansive. Full marks on character design and sets pieces.

For Lucky Star, voice acting was done very well by both casts. I didn't really have a favorite, and often found myself swapping between the two. Both casts add to their characters, and do make them, and the humor of the show, come alive. Subtitles were mixed, though. The timing, font, and translation were all well done. However, some of the rapid-fire humor, or multiple conversations at once, events tended to have the subtitles cycle past very quickly, or flood the bottom of the screen. I did notice that, occasionally, the subtitle text seemed to shimmer or blur. Also, for purists, the translation does use Woosley-isms, in order to keep with the humor and feel of the show. Overall, though, good marks for voice acting, translation, and subtitles.

For me, Lucky Star does hit a lot of good nostalgia buttons. And I enjoy it all the more for it. It is one of the first slice-of-life animes that I remember. As such, the jokes and humor really appeal to me. There isn't a lot of drama or character development, yet everything is thought out enough that you more just sit back, and reminisce about some of the good years in high school. Since it is a daily adventures / drama, the show is more softer and silly than deep and meaningful. Yet, it does balance the underlying relationships these characters have. You are dropped a bit into the in media res, as the main four already know each other; however, the way all the interactions are scripted does give an understanding that the cast has known each other for many years. The story flow quickly pulls you into the whimsy and goofball chaos the cast gets into. Overall, good marks for the light-hearted, fun-leaning story.

Another way I enjoyed Lucky Star was its own self-awareness, and quasi 4th-wall breaks that were woven into the story. For example, during the introduction, the four main girls are given each a few moments where they are dancing to the intro music. After a few episodes, you actually recognize the locations / set pieces of where the girls are. The Lucky Channel segments were also full of 4th-wall moments that made me chuckle and snicker each time. The show is full of little gems and nuggets like this, and it makes re-watching the show somewhat of a scavenger and hidden-object hunt.

One of the aspects of Lucky Star than can come off as mixed are the references it makes to other shows, and even to itself (when it references the radio drama and website.) When Lucky Star came out, the references were to contemporaries, and were easily noticed. Now, it gives the show an aged feel, as the jokes and jests aren't about the genre or tropes, but about specific animes, mangas, and people. I enjoyed them, as I grew up watching and reading the various shows and manga; however, others might find the references obscure or non-sensical.

As a second, mixed, aspect of the show, after the first, few episodes, the cast greatly increases. It goes from about 7 characters (the main four, their teacher, and the co-hosts of Lucky Channel) to a couple of dozen characters… many of which are only really used in the manga, and just get brief cameos in the anime. For me, it came off as mixed. I enjoyed the core cast, but the rapid expansion of characters diluted a lot of the interaction in the show, with several characters seeming like copies or derivatives of the main four.

For Tech Specs, the show gets average results. Sound quality is good, with both tracks utilizing the 5.1 channels to good effect. Menus were quick and responsive, and used a bit of animation as you switched from one to another. However, visual has taken a bit a loss. I'm not positive, but I think it is due to the age of the show, as the DVDs themselves look fine. I did witness stutter, shimmer, and artificing. It most often happened during the intro and ending credits, and when a lot of activity was going on. As such, I do need to mention the degradation. The episodes generally played well, but not perfect. Overall, good sound quality, but average visual quality.

Lucky Star has quite a few extras. Interviews with various VAs, slide-shows of scenes from the show with comments from main character Konata, trailers for other shows, as well as a quirky, behind-the-scenes with the original cast and crew. Full marks for extras.

In summary, Lucky Star is a fun, slice-of-life show, that is a bit dated, yet still offers that nostalgic, smile-inducing charm. It was one of the first of these shows I watched, and, while not perfect, I do go back and re-watch it for enjoyment.

Grade: B- / B ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2016 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Well, I think I've waited enough between the previous volumes and this one, so I'll continue with my review of Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE) Platinum, Volume 3. As a head's up, NGE is out-of-print and, as far as I can tell, not available on Crunchyroll, though it may be elsewhere. The DVDs regularly come up on eBay (though I would question the authenticity of the disks), and Amazon (where they're a bit more expensive.) I did manage to pick up Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, and End of Evangelion… but I'm still missing Platinum Volumes 5 and 6. Still… there's time. I have to review 3 and 4 before I even need to worry about 5 and 6. Anyway, without further ado, onto the show.

As with my previous NGE reviews, here goes the EDITORIAL warning.

EDITORIAL ON: Okay, before we continue, I want to reiterate. NGE is an old anime, upwards of 20+ years. Because of its age, and how much of a landmark anime as well as a divisive anime it was (and still is) the show has been discussed, analyzed, watched, discussed some more, analyzed even more, and then watched again. Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum. And, in this course of events, you get two camps. Those who really-Really-REALLY think the show is a work of amazing literature which is worthy of exhaustive care and diligent study… and those who really-Really-REALLY think it's an overblown piece of self-indulgent art with a convoluted storyline and unlikeable and unrealistic characters. I'm going to pre-apologize to both camps. I'm going to try to keep my review, to my review. Which will probably be difficult, and definitely will get someone up in arms. EDITORIAL OFF

Volume 3 of the Platinum Collection covers episodes 11 - 14. Here is where the episodes-per-volume begin to decrease a bit. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system.

NERV continues to be on the front lines against the Angels battling them with their enigmatic EVA units. However, the otherworldly Angels are quick to adapt and change, making them more and more dangerous. Compounding the evolving Angel actions, Shinji, Asuka, and Rei all seem at odds on ways to close the gaps between each other, straining their combat abilities. Worse, despite functioning on the surface, the NERV staff is becoming more byzantine and secretive. Will NERV be able to stop the escalating Angel attacks? Will Shinji, Asuka, and Rei be able to successfully bridge their wildly different personalities? And what secret project is the SEELE oversight committee so interested in? Thus begins the next arc of the NGE drama.



Maya and Misato working on MAGI computer Casper

ADV does well with the packaging. I do like the stylistic choice of a shimmery slipcase predominately featuring plug-suit-wearing Asuka. Though, for my copy, the slipcase is showing signs of wear and age. Still the art and metallic-sheen are good. The DVD dust jacket is taken directly from the laser disk. The DVD itself is on the unimaginative side, featuring a grey silk screen and colored text. Overall, good marks for the packaging, even with the wear on the slipcase.

Voice work continues to improve for both casts. I find myself now switching between the two and enjoying both. Studio Gainax and ADV did very well in coaching and directing their Japanese Seiyuu and English VAs respectively. Both casts are also now fully engaged in their characters, helping them to come alive. Translation and subtitles are well done. Font doesn't obscure much of the screen, and ADV even uses white and yellow when multiple audio events are occurring. On a mixed note, there are some tense scenes were the subtitles do jump on and off quickly. On a second, mixed note, there are also scenes where the subtitles do blur more of the visual as there are multiple conversations going on at the same time. Overall, however, ADV does very well with its translation and subtitles. Full marks for voice work, translation, and subtitles.

Costumes and sets continue to impress. Detail and functionality are well thought out for the costumes. The quasi-military uniforms of NERV feel martial and official, while the school uniforms seem cheap and mass produced as if the world is spending the vast majority of its budget on fighting the Angels and trying to prevent the Third Impact. Attention to detail such as this keeps my imagination fully engaged, as there is regularly something to notice. (There are also a number of freeze-frame bonuses as well.) Anyway, while there are only a couple of different outfits per cast member, they are well designed and memorable. As an aside, the cast even mentions other senses, such as smell and tactile feel. Unexpectedly, these events also bring up potentially unsettling questions as well as begin to show the underlying strain between some of the cast. Sets are varied, from labs, to offices, to parks, to emergency ladders, to EVA units allowing for the NGE world to grow and feel like a complete universe. Locations even include a couple of goofier spots, such as a politician-van driving around a neighborhood and a late-night ramen noodle cart. These changes of scenery help with the willful suspension of disbelief, as you can imagine the cast going to a fast food joint, or hearing the blaring radio of another car. Lastly, NGE uses the day-night cycle exceptionally, further framing the show. Well done on the costumes and sets.

Volume 3 has a number of things I enjoy. First, I like the retro-future look. What I mean is, while the show does have that 80s / 90s near-future tech look, the thought and detail that went into the final designs still holds up very well. Everything gives the nod to "oh that could work and makes sense," while at the same time feeling just a touch more advanced. In other words, they were all near-future-tech ideas which appealed to me. I do tend to favor this style of technology over a more cyberpunk world (such as in Ergo Proxy.) Next, I enjoyed how the show continues with subtle double-talk, body posturing, and facial expressions. For example, a comment made about Dr. Ritsuko causing the power failure primarily gives off the idea of joke or tease at her expense; however, when you look at some of the previous events with her in them… you begin to wonder how capable she really is. (Oddly, it made me think about Shion Uzuki from Xenosaga.) Also, Dr. Ritsuko is shown to be able to twist words very well. There are even clues littered on the various sets about the amount of corrosion and cracks in the entire crew. It does help to sell the idea that, while NERV seems exceptionally powerful and fully operational from the outside, there are serious problems developing on the inside. Problems that are actively festering and getting worse. As callous as this might sound, I enjoy shows that display both the positive and negative aspects of the human psyche in realistic ways. It seems that with Volume 3, Hideki Anno has fully taken the helm, and is now beginning to cultivate a much different show than expected. As such, Volume 3's change in story-telling really hooked me.

As an odd thought, one of the things I now notice more often are when cicadas are used as background noise… mostly due to very good use of the sound effect in the Higurashi visual novel. Anyway, NGE regularly uses cicadas. Not fully sure why, but it perked my ears each time I heard them.

As another odd thought, NGE does keep me looking up stuff on the internet. For this volume, I couldn't think of what a Pinbrow Box was, even though I knew I had heard of it before. It's related to a promoter site for DNA transcription in bacteria. So, kudos to NGE to get me to ask Uncle Google what something was. The show is heavy with crew research like this.

As a mixed point, hitting the mid-point of the season, Episode 14 was a recap episode. With a series that can be interpreted at multiple levels, a recap episode was to be expected. It does set up for the next story arc, much in the same way that Episode 13 of Utena closes out the first arc, and begins to establish the next arc. As a second mixed point, even though ADV does a good translation and dub, they do use Woosley-isms to help convey emotion, humor, and drama which may detract from the show for audience members who more enjoy direct translations.

Tech specs for NGE remain good, which is a credit to the work put in by ADV. The show is over 20 years old, and still looks crisp and clean for visual or audio. I did witness some screen shake during episode 11, mostly during the first, few, minutes of the show. I also noticed some blurring on the "tsuzuku" at the end of episode 13. Menus are easy to navigate and responsive. Overall, full marks for tech specs.

ADV continues to include a solid group of extras. As well as clean opening and ending credits, Director Matt Greenfield and Actress Tiffany Grant comment on Episodes 11 and 13. A brief overview of how the DVDs were re-mastered from stereo to 5.1 is included. Lastly, Volume 3 continues to be accompanied by a booklet going into additional aspects of the show. Full marks for extras.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum: Volume 3 continues to impress. The story is continuing to turn from the expected path, and starting to weave in a new tale. NERV continues to be successful against the Angels, yet there will be a dangerous reckoning.

*In my best Asuka* But, before we do anything, we have to pick a leader. I nominate myself.

Grade: A / A+

P.S. As a note, feel free to request anime reviews. If I have the show, I will be happy to queue it up for review. Also, I've been considering upgrading my subscription to Crunchyroll, so I will consider doing reviews for those shows as well. ))
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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2016 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all,

No update, yet. My new training / apprenticeship is taking a lot of time. A lot.

Anyway, I did want to give you all a teaser... here is what I am currently working on. Since I tend to do older shows from the 80s and 90s, here is something considerably more recent.



(( from Ghost D Dan, over at Deviant Art ))

If you can't tell what it is, from the pic, then... you'll just have to wait ^_^ And yes, I did use a mocking-smile.

Anyway, I should have a review up of Volume 1 some time this week... hopefully. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2016 6:06 pm    Post subject: Caroline's All Access Anime: Update -- Kill la Kill Vol 1 Reply with quote

(( Alright, it has been way overdue for me to do another one of these reviews. But I made it. Just under the wire, but May 31st still counts as May ^_^. Anyway, I guess with some 240k worth of hits, someone has to be reading these things. Not sure if it has convinced anyone to get any of these titles… but I'm a sucker for at least trying to do my part to help spread the news. Anyway, without further ado, onto this month's anime review.

I'm going to do something considerably newer, Kill La Kill, Volume 1 in BluRay. Vol 1 contains episodes 1 - 4. For the review, I'm using my PS3 Slim, a Samsung PDP Series 5+ 5300, Monster-Brand HDMI and stereo cables, and Yamaha YHT 493BL home theater sound system. This will probably be the last review I have on the old TV. I'm in the process of getting a new one.

And, since I had the teaser pic in the previous comment, no pic in this review.

Ryoko Matoi has one goal in life, to find the butcher who killed her dad, and bring them some old school, vigilante justice. Her quest has brought her to the elite Honnouji Acadamy. Now, all she has to do is beat the truth out of prissy School President Satsuki Kiryuin, and find out who killed her dad. A task she's more than eager to get to work on. So begins our tale, Kill La Kill.

I find this show to be a dirty pleasure, no caveats. I'm not really sure how else to put it. It isn't high art or literature or drama. It isn't really worth severe amounts of analysis (though, oddly, it does offer enough that you can analyze it, should you so choose too.) Instead, Kill la Kill just checks all the boxes for shows that decide to sit in the Awesome category. Hot chicks… check. Beefcakey dudes… check. Hot chicks in skimpy outfits, and beefcakey dudes in ripped clothing… double check. Extreme fighting scenes… check. Dangerous and Dark back-stories… double check again. Explosions… check. Severe property damage… check. Over-the-top choreography… check. Pounding sound track… check. So… in short, it's just popcorn fun. I guess another way to look at it was that the crew of Kill la Kill said to themselves, "What if, we re-did Gurren Lagaan… but this time, WITH CHICKS!" And it was awesome.

Episodes 1 - 4 start the tale of Kill la Kill by using the old trick of in media res. You have no idea who the characters are, but their motivations quickly become apparent. And it does so by using a number of old Western movie tricks. Camera angles, costuming, posturing, and downright delicious dialog are designed to delight, dominate your senses, and just get you wanting more. The first couple of episodes focus on Ryoko arriving at Honnouji Acadamy, and the brew-ha-ha she starts by demanding an audience with school empress Satsuki Kiriuin. The pacing is frantic and hectic, and feels like a train about to derail. And, in doing so makes it that much more of a delicious rush of excitement. The start of the show definitely gets you wanting to see more. As such, well done Aniplex. Well done.

The Blu-ray dust jacket is… okay. Which is a shame, as it doesn't do these intro episodes justice. It is full color, and reversible, offering some good teaser comments and art… but it isn't grab-your-attention enough to really separate it from the rest of the shows out their. Weirder still, the spine art is… kinda dull, all things considered. The Blu-ray is silk-screened with some sketch work of Ryoko eating a lemon. So… average marks on the dust jacket.

Costuming and settings are all pretty well thought out and varied. While the show cheats with the "one-to-two outfits per character", it makes sense, as they're going to a private school. It also adds a spot of detail, as the poorer cast have simpler, plainer clothes, while the élites look the part, with more flash and individuality. Costuming also adds to the personality via colors and personal flourishes, as well as lets you easily distinguish between the haves and the have-nots. Settings vary from city slums, to docks, to a crazy death-maze that would make a minotaur go insane. They are furthered varied by time-of-day as well, offering a local that feels fully alive and vibrant. All-in-all, full marks for costumes and settings.

Choreography was well done; however, Aniplex also cheated in equal measures. For as many times as they use finely scripted action scenes and events, they reuse an equal number of high-detail transformation sequences, or draw action so blurry and chaotic that it allows them to skimp on actual content in the scene. Overall, good, but not great.

Voice acting is freaking amazing. Both casts, English and Japanese, totally put all they can into making their characters completely over-the-top and larger-than-life. I found that I had a blast listening to both sets, and really don't have a favorite. Well… the English cast does have one advantage. Sometimes the subtitles can eat up the screen, or display past so quickly that you might miss something. Also, while Aniplex did a solid on the translation (keeping the humor, drama, character interplay and the like), it is easy to miss some of the Japanese word-play humor in the show. Still, both casts did very well, and they both earned full marks.

Music and sound effects were solid. All the main cast has their own leitmotif, which range from classical sounding music, to thunderous heavy metal. Intro and ending music also are very bombastic and dramatic, adding to the whole "eating-the-scenery" effect. Sound effects used the 5.1 channel sound to good purpose, offering a 3-dimentional immersion. I especially enjoyed how they used the Doppler and stereo effects to add directionality to various scenes. In short, music and sound effects were well done, and helped to carry the show.

The show has a great deal of replay value. The entire crew, from the sound guys, to the translators, to the artists, all add a ton of easter eggs scattered through the show. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are entire fan-pages based on all the eggs people have found per episode. It's quite a long list. And, it leads to a lot of re-watchability. Also, the show itself is very good at hints and foreshadowing that are obfuscating in plain sight, which you'll only notice on the second or third time you watch the show. I really enjoy shows which put this much emphasis on puzzle clues, as it lets you play detective along with main femme fatal Ryoko.

One large complaint I do have about it, is the price. With the current competition for digital downloads vs physical disks, Aniplex seems to be pricing this on the more expensive side. When entire series (13+ episodes) are contained in one volume, it seems at odds that, even with the popularity and familiarity of Kill La Kill, it is priced so expensively. Especially when coupled with a lack of extras or even a BluRay / DVD combo pack.

Another complaint is that Aniplex is fairly thin on the extras. Overall, just trailers to the next episodes, dual soundtracks, and clean intro and endings. This is another reason why I find the price to be a bit on the high side.

Technical marks, very good. The Blu-ray took full advantage of the HD TV. The frantic motion, extremely evocative choreography, and greatly contrasted light-dark colors displayed and played flawlessly. Sound was crisp, clear, and I witnessed no distortion, white noise, buzzing, or fading. All-in-all, full marks for the tech specs.

Overall, a dirty pleasure, pretty fun and hyperactive start to a series that only gets more frantic as it goes.

Grade: B+ ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all,

Life has been keeping me from having the time to do one of these reviews. I know it's been nearly three months since the last review. I'm going to have one... maybe two... up during the Labor Day weekend.

If you all have any requests, please let me know. If I have the show, I'll be happy to review it. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Hey all, again life has kept throwing me monkey wrenches making it trickier to find the time to post up these reviews. Still, I promised you all I would post some updates. So… I figured I'd compromise, and post a couple of quickie summation reviews. Now, mind you, these reviews aren't going to be as comprehensive as the previous ones. As such, if you are curious about getting some more information about a title I post, just let me know, and I'll put that title up for full review. And, since it has been a while, three, mini-reviews on bishoujo titles.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the first batch of mini-reviews.



(Miho and Kurumi share a moment in the alternate dimension)

Body Transfer: Is a short bishoujo anime licensed and translated by Kitty Media. I believe it was originally done by Pink Pineapple, and based off of a game by the same name (but I've been unable to confirm this.) The Archaeology Club has found itself trapped in a parallel dimension, after discovering a curios artifact. Now Kenichi and his club mates have to find a way back to their dimension. Overall, Body Transfer is light-romance about various classmates and their affects towards Kenichi. While being trapped in this parallel dimension, each girl gets to take advantage of swapping minds, usually at random, and being able to experience sexual activities with each other and Kenichi. The sexual scenes are fairly tame, but well done and enjoyable. Nothing particularly special about this bishoujo title, but it is a good diversion from some of the more violent and graphic stories.

Grade: B



(I do have a soft-spot for elegant, gothic, lolitas… and Aunt Rikka fits that bill to a "T")

Dark Love: Is another bishoujo anime licensed and translated by Kitty Media. Orignially from Green Bunny (and Clock-up), I believe the show was animated by Pixy-Lilith. Tetsuya is called to work at the manor of one of his obscure relatives, Aunt Rikka. His job will be to help train the staff of Gekkokan. Little does he know what is in store for him, as he begins his debauched task. Dark Love is considerably more graphic, abusive, and violent than Body Transfer. As such, it isn't really for the faint of heart, or easily upset. What Dark Love does very well is tell a twisted story about a family, how it came into its power, and what it is willing to do to keep it. The sex scenes can be a bit nausea inducing, as a number of them use a "shakey-cam" type of perspective. However, the entire show scores full marks on all the technical aspect,s. If you want to see a very dangerous tale of love, power, and corruption, Dark Love delivers in spades.

Grade: B+ / A-



( I think Mercedes dropped that tray on purpose.)

Viper GTS: Is a three-episode tale translated and licensed by Media Blasters, and originally produced by Front Line. Based off the old Viper visual novel game series by Hobbibox, Viper GTS follows the sexual and comedic adventures of the otherworldly creatures Carrera, Rati, and Mercedes as they quest for human souls and human sexual energy. As such, when summoner-want-to-be Ogawa summons Mercedes to satisfy his wishes before he commits suicide, he unwittingly initiates a long-chain of events. I really enjoyed Viper GTS. The show is highly detailed, the story fun, the character interactions solid, and the humor I enjoyed. Viper GTS smashes down on the fun-sexual-antics button, and doesn't let up. While mostly "vanilla", Viper GTS does pack in a number of different sexual adventures, and its cast offers a little bit of something for everyone.

Grade
: A

So… there you go, three, quick, reviews. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Alright, I just noticed it's been since the end of September since I've posted even mini-reviews, so it's time again for me to get caught up… sort of. So, without further ado, here is the next batch of mini-reviews.



(No job is to big for tiny-but-big-heart May)

Hand Maid May: Is a 10 + 1 part bishoujo harem anime originally licensed by Pioneer Animation. I'm not sure if any of Pioneer's successors have picked up the title, so it might be a bit out-of-print. Kazuya Satome is a sophomore computer and mechanical engineering student at Ochanomizu Industrial University. While attempting to debug his infected computer, he accidentally orders a Hand Maid doll from Cyberdine. When May arrives, the pint-sized doll starts Kazuya on a 3-part adventure full of harem craziness and fanservice gynoids. With a girl for every taste, Hand Maid May offers a little smile for everyone. Overall, not too deep a story, but a fun and quick watch tale with a bunch of extras provided by Pioneer. It does feel a bit 80s/90s though, so it didn't necessarily age well.

Grade: B-



(Miyuki-chan is often startled by the forward way the denizens of Wonderland greet her.)

Miyuki-chan in Wonderland: Done by CLAMP, is a one-episode OVA based on the manga by the same name. Miyuki finds herself pulled into the eponymous Wonderland as "Alice", except this time the entire land is populated by CLAMP beauties who all have an un-natural fixation on flirtation and feeling up Miyuki. While the teasing and etchi nature of the story is fun and harmlessly kinky, and I find the way CLAMP draws and costumes its cast very attractive and enjoyable, the overall feel is very thin and flat. The manga did not translate well into a short OVA, and it just seems to be missing something to make it completely fun. Worth seeing, just for the nostalgia effect of CLAMP beauties from the early 90s and for the etchi fun, but not necessarily worth picking up.

Grade: C+



(This trio of angels is ready to serve.)

Angelium: is a 2-episode OVA, which, I believe, is based on an eroge game by the same name. Zeus is a randy god who has a lewd interest in three of his underling angels. Hera, in order to try to keep her husband's goods in his pants, sends these angels down to earth, to keep them away from Zeus. However, Zeus has his own plans. Licensed and brought over by Kitty Media, Angelium is a good, harem story. And, much to my amusement, its one of the few eros-bishoujo anime where the characters have pubic hair. Anyway, the story is fun, if a bit unbelievable, the characters all sexy and attractive, in their own way, and its amusing to my sense of humor how Zeus does his best to make sure that his bevy of beautiful angels are taken care of. Worth picking up and watching. I just wish that JAST-USA or Manga Gamer would release the game as well.

Grade: A-

So… there you go. Another three, quick, reviews... and, apparently, today was fanservice day, since I picked three titles with quite a bit of vavoom. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

((Hey all,

I haven't forgotten about this. Just life.

Anyway, right now I'm debating on doing Kill La Kill vol 2, Higurashi: When They Cry, or Atleier Escha and Logy as my next title. Though, I should really work on the next volume of Neon Genesis: Evangelion too.

If you have any requests, please post them, and I'll see what I have of those as well. ))
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Caroline
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Again, it has been way overdue for me to complete one of these things. Part of the issue is that much (~95%) of my anime is packed up right now, as I'm still moving and whatnot. But that's neither here nor there. Anyway, after being inspired by Anime News Nina, I decided it was finally time to write up another one of these reviews. So, lets go!

Okay, we have a new set-up for the system. Monster cable and PS3 Slim are the same; however, we're now wired directly into a Samsung Slim Series 6 TV. The speaker set is a Bose 2.1; however, I cannot confirm the type. Once I get settled, I'll eventually unpack the previous set up, and return to using that. Now, with this new, temporary set-up, we're going to review one of my newer BluRay pick-ups, Atelier Escha & Logy.


Most of the cast of the OVA

Since she was a little girl Escha has been tutored and mentored by her automaton caretaker Clone. While she is an alchemist, her mother only taught her the very basics. Now is her first day on the job at the Closiet branch of Central's R&D, and she has to do her best. Her dream is to visit the floating ruins near her hometown, and she plans on using alchemy to get there. Will our heroine be able to accomplish her dreams? Will she become a great alchemist like her mother? Will she be able to uncover the mystery of the floating ruins? These, and more, will be discovered in Atelier Escha and Logy.

Atelier Escha and Logy is based off the game by the same name for the PS3. The Atelier series of games themselves span some 15+ titles. As an aside, my first introduction to the Atelier series of games was from Atelier Rorona. (Not the remake, the original release.) Escha and Logy is a 12 - Episode OVA that starts off with Escha as a girl, and then quickly transitions to her being a teenager. From there, our foundation is set that Escha is an adventurous soul, and she wants to be a great alchemist, as her mother was. Each episode builds on previous episodes, expands the cast a bit, and introduces you to the town of Closiet bit-by-bit. I do enjoy how the anime blends the story parts with the game-play parts, so it mirrors how the Atelier series of games play. Anyway, it's a lazy-paced story that takes it's time. It kinda has the feel of someone remembering their past, and talking to you about it on the back porch. Laid-back, fun, goofy and silly at times, a spot of drama here and there, but all-in-all easy going.

The BluRay dust jack is pretty neat, showing an ensemble of the female cast members. Now, some may take offense to this, as the story is Escha and Logy; however, Logy is predominate on the back. The game itself has separate, but parallel tales for the two protagonists. The anime chose to show Escha's story, which is probably why the front cover features the female cast. Though… oddly, the witch Wilbell actually has a better "eye-grab" spot than Escha does. The BluRay itself is Escha sitting and smiling while she looks up at you… not realizing that she has a lot of cleavage showing. Cute, and eye-rolling at the same time. Overall, pretty good dust cover, and silk-screen art.

Costuming was good, but not varied. And, from what I've seen of the game art, the anime does a slimmed down version of the character designs. Don't get me wrong. The anime does have good, unique, outfits for each of the cast… just they simplified the game-art a bit, in order to translate it to anime. I will say, from all the awesome hats everyone wears, I enjoy Katla's, the merchant, the most. It is very theatrical, fitting of a merchant who wants to get your attention. Each character has about one outfit, which is a shame, as they don't even have "adventuring" clothing or anything, for the times they are outside town. Locations are varied, from ruins, to town, to the airship docks (can't have an alchemy show without airships), to orchards. Overall, good costuming and sets, yet it could have been a spot better.

Choreography was well done. Movements and spell effects were fluid, well balanced, and dramatic. Whether stirring the alchemy pot, sailing on the skies, casting spells, beseeching demi-gods, or walking through the orchards, everything had a well polished, smooth feel and look to it. There is an odd feel, though, when one of the automatons awakens, and defends one of the ruins. Though… I think they meant for the animation to look slightly-off, as it adds to the fact that it was from a bygone era. Solid marks for the show.

The anime itself was in Japanese only. No dubbing. The cast itself was solid, well balanced, and gave life to their characters. I did not recognize any of the voices to start with, but I did start to look up some of the seiyuu via Google, to see who they were, and what else they have worked on. Subtitles were mixed. For the most part, they were well timed, good font, and were well translated. However, there were times where they seemed to cause shimmering or optical-tricks. For example, in some instances, when the background itself was moving, via a pan-shot or tracking-shot, the area around the subtitles would blur or shimmer. I did get the effect to re-occur. I'm not sure of the reason for the technical issue, but it is present. Also, while I understand why they sometimes posted "TL:Notes", it sometimes distracted from the show as well. A flier inside the BluRay cover may have been a better way to say "This show follows X, and sometimes the characters make reference to X". That way the TL:Notes wouldn't have been a spot distracting. Good scripting, good voice acting, good translation, but technical issue with the translation display.

Music and sound effects were good. The opening and ending songs were what you'd expect from a light-drama adventure. Enjoyable, yet… not necessarily memorable. The music, sound effects, and vocal tracks were only DTS-HD 2.0, and I lack true 5.1 sound right now. As such, I cannot comment on how well it sounds with 5.1. It did sound good on the 2.1 speakers I do have. No fading, distortion, crackling, fuzzing or anomalies. All-in-all, good music and sound.

Now for some of the mixed bag thoughts. First, the show itself has limited replayability. The story and cast are good, but… not a lot is hidden for re-watching. It story is told very linearly, and you don't really learn anything until it comes up. Not much foreshadowing or anything. It's worth re-watching, as it’s a fun, light story. Yet, if you want to view it again it to see if you can early-uncover any mysteries, you'll be a spot disappointment. Extras on the BluRay itself are limited to clean intro and ending, and trailers for other Sentai Filmworks shows.

Next, I will say, one of the things I found amusing is that the first "alchemy" they have Escha doing is literally cooking. In fact, the whole scene looks like she's making a stew. In contrast Logy's alchemy is more akin to blacksmithing. So… alchemy done by girls is cooking (very feminine), while Logy gets to be all manly at the forge. Well… I found it eye-rolling amusing. Anyway.

One last mixed bag, some of the viewers might get frustrated with the fact that, the male cast of Escha and Logy plays more of supporting role in the anime. In the game, both Escha and Logy are dual protagonists (regardless of which path you follow.) Most of the male cast is present… just… limited in focus and screen time. I didn't mind it, but other audience members might.

Technical marks were solid, other than the noticed glitch with the subtitling on tracking and pan shots. The Blu-ray took full advantage of the HD TV. Colors were solid, vibrant, and sharp. Load times were quick and rapid. All-in-all, good marks for the tech specs, with the caveat about the subtitles.

In summary, Atelier Escha and Logy is a cute show. It's light drama that's an easy watch with a good opening, fun story, and good conclusion to our protagonist's tale.

Grade: B / B+ ))
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