Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of movies, toys, comics, collectibles, and anything else I can get my grubby hands on!

“Gun X Sword” DVD Review

Take a spaghetti western like “Django”, toss in some “Trigun”, with shades of “Cowboy Bebop” and a dash of “Big O”, with an opening theme song that harkens back to the serials of the ’60’s and ’70’s of Japanese TV shows, and that starts to describe the tone of “Gun X Sword.” You might think all of those various things do not exactly work together, and yet somehow, they fit seamlessly together in this 26-episode series, which I got a hold of in Funimation’s SAVE edition.

Directed by Gorō Taniguchi, who is also known for his work on the Gundam series, Mai-HiME , and Code Geass to name a few, the main story of Gun X Sword revolves around Van, a mysterious tuxedo wearing outlaw/ hobo, who rescues a girl named Wendy Garrett from a gang of thugs. She brings him to meet the mayor of her town, who pleads with him to help protect their city from this group of evil hooligans, but Van (after pouring tons of condiments over his steak dinner) refuses to accept. As the town is overrun by an Armor (a giant mech), Van suddenly changes his mind and summons his own Armor named Dann of Thursday to defeat the baddies. As Van leaves the town, Wendy invites herself along, and thus begins their journey together.

As their adventures continue, they learn they are both searching for similar things while walking down the same path. Van seeks the man with the clawed arm, while Wendy is trying to find her brother. How are these two things the same? Why does Wendy carry a gun on her back loaded with a single bullet with her brother’s name on it? How did Van get this armor in the first place? So many questions – none of which I will answer here to ensure this review stays spoiler-free!

Needless to say, this pair runs into plenty of other characters as the show goes on, including the busty Carmen 99 and Ray Lundgren, who might just hate the claw man more than Van… maybe. The universe that these personalities live in unveils itself gradually as the series goes on, and what a unique place it is. If you thought Trigun was a strange land, Gun X Sword takes its own liberties into creating a place just as bizarre, except now with giant robots battling each other.

The animation style will remind you of a cross between Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, and if you can not help but see the constant parallel’s to those two series from this review, it won’t take you long after watching an episode or two to notice them. However, this is not rehash or copy – Gun X Sword is quite an original concept unto itself. The stories blossom as the episodes move forward, with little pieces of information revealed in the details.

The animation and visuals are smooth and colorful with their own stylish flair to them. The mecha designs are quite unique and original, while the backgrounds are vast and just as unique as the characters. We go from a barren desert to a city by the sea, to a small town, then back to the future in a modern metropolis. The locations are all different, along with the contrasting personalities that dot the series who all meet for their own reasons (which ultimately will end in the same place).

This special S.A.V.E. edition (Super Amazing Value Edition) consists of five discs, four containing the entire series in both english and Japanese, and a fifth disc loaded with special features, all for one conveniently low price since it is packaged in one DVD case, rather than five separate DVD cases.

The special features include Japanese TV commercials, commercials for the audio drama CD version of the show, a version of the opening credits without text, and Japanese language trailers for the series. You can also watch the TV version of episode 17 of the show, “Follow the X Spot”, which has differences from the other version of this on disc three.

You also get thirteen episodes of “Gun X Sword-San”, which is a cel-shaded CG cartoon with the characters as chibi-style hand puppets acting out random skits related to the characters and the world they live in. Can you survive an hour of this cuteness? Lastly, there is a special feature called “Dave Vincent’s Proposal”, which is the voice of Van in the show using a re-cut clip from the show to propose to his real-life girlfriend, which most certainly marks the first time a person used watching anime to get a wife.

Gun X Sword is a fun series that references a lot of anime classics that fans love, and while a boxed set of this series would normally be a ton of money, Funimation has made it incredibly easy for you to pick this up for one low price. You can buy Gun X Sword: Complete Box Set from Amazon.com for around $22, which is less than a dollar per episode – a bargain that can not be beat! I came into this series expecting a Trigun knock-off, and I got something much more enjoyable that truly stands on its own merits.

If you liked this anime review, you may also enjoy these: If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: “Summer Wars” DVD Review, “FLCL: Anime Classics” DVD Review, “Princess Jellyfish” DVD review, “.hack// quantum” DVD review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

Please follow and like us:

“.hack//Quantum” DVD Review

I used to watch the first “dot hack” series that used to air in the early days of Toonami’s Midnight Run on Cartoon Network. Back then, it was the first series, “.hack//”, and since then, the world has grown and expanded into quite a huge playing field. Funimation recently released the newest OVA from the series, “.hack//Quantum”, which I caught on the Funimation channel (back when I still had it… I’m looking at you, Verizon Fios!). Not knowing much about it, I saw some bizarre armored tuxedo cat that was incredibly adorable, and I had to see what this madness was about. Long story short, I came for the cat, but I stayed for the story.

“.hack//Quantum” is the story of three players in the MMORPG called “The World R:X”. Sakuya, Tobias, and Mary are adventuring, when a twist of fate gets Sakuya stuck in a bad situation of a mistaken identity. She runs into Hermit the Cat, and the world suddenly starts to get a lot more interesting, especially when this kitty has the power to make things disappear with his magical stick. Back in the real world, however, when players run into the living undead in the game and are defeated by them, they are feeling real consequences, including comas and death. What is the cause of this, and who is this mysterious kitty? You will have to watch this three episode OVA for the answers to those questions?

This is the first OVA project (other than the computer animated movie) to not be animated by Bee Train Productions, nor directed by Koichi Mashimo. Instead, Masaki Tachibana helmed the project, with Kinema Citrus animating the film along with Bandai Visual. For me, not being a seriously devoted fan to the series to begin with, I can not attest for a dip or upgrade in quality of any kind with the old guard not involved in it. I can say that i was captivated by the characters and the intriguing story, and especially the lush environments and animation.

I was very impressed with the artwork and style, as well as how they were able to capture the feel of a fantasy-based MMORPG that is represented in this series. Fluid movements and some subtle expression changes, especially with Hermit the Cat, companied with gorgeous landscapes and cityscapes that feel vast and have a real physical weight to them. Things feel grounded and part of their environment, which is very important in being sucked into this world.

The CG is incorporated smoothly into the show and does not stick out like a sore thumb. Rather, it is well integrated into the aesthetics of the show and very well-done. There are great group shots across the entire OVA that were rendered with CG that do not look like faceless mobs of generic people, but rather are all independent and unique. Many of the larger monsters or enemies are also CG, and look far better this way than they would have if they were hand-drawn, especially with their sheer size and movement. The third episode features the most prominent use of CG in the OVA, and it fits the feel of the show while adding some intense movement that would have been otherwise impossible, or absurdly expensive, to produce.

This DVD set is loaded with extras, including some animated shorts called “Go, our Chim Chims!!” The chim chim’s, which are practically eggplant versions of the characters in the OVA, give educational lessons on the world of Quantum to catch new viewers up, and to refresh established fans. There is also three segments hosted by the effervescent and far-too-cute for American TV’s, Yui Ogura (who was the voice of Hermit in the Japanese version). Her features include a cooking segment where she makes a charaben in the shape of Hermit the cat, another where she learns how to animate, and a bizarre quiz show segment which does not really have any relevance to this set as it was made exclusively for the Japanese DVD.

Beyond those segments, you also get the original commercial, trailers, and Japanese promotional videos for the series.

During my research for this DVD, I came upon some negative reviews of the show itself, with some critics calling it a rehash of other stories from the series. As a casual dot hack fan, this was not an issue, and since I am not familiar with the rest of the series, I can not speak on if this feels repetitive to the other episodes. I can say, as a stand-alone movie, it’s a fine piece of work and I enjoyed the experience. There were some twists, some turns, and my minimum knowledge of the series did not affect me from having trouble understanding what the show (or their environment) was about. I believe that is one of the strongest parts of this OVA, is that a newcomer to the series can dive in, and thanks to some carefully placed dialogue here and there, grasp the concept of the show and the universe the characters live in.

You can order .hack//Quantum: Complete OVA Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) from Amazon.com for around $16, which is totally worth it. While I do not have a blu-ray player just yet, it looks brilliant on DVD, so I can only imagine how great it looks at a higher resolution. If you have never tried anything from the dot hack series before, this OVA is a good gateway to get you interested and potentially hooked.

If you liked this anime review, you may also enjoy these: If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: “Summer Wars” DVD Review, “FLCL: Anime Classics” DVD Review, “Princess Jellyfish” DVD review, “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

Please follow and like us:

“Smart Planet Mini Donut Maker” Review

Who doesn’t like donuts? Seriously, what kind of creature devoid of a soul does not enjoy the handheld pastry covered in chocolate and sprinkles (or “jimmies” for you midwest folks). For the true lover of donuts, or doughnuts if you are too fancy to use the shortform, nothing is better than making your own batch.

The problem with that is the massive pain in the butt of making and frying the little beasts. Enter “Smart Planet”, who have lived up to their name by making their own Mini Donut Maker to make your life easier, as well as make a healthier baked version rather than diving your treats into a vat of hot oil. Courtesy of the fine folks at Think Geek, how does this donut maker hold up? Lets take a look and find out!

The box itself is colorful and relatively light, considering what is housed inside it. The donuts look like Martha Stewart herself made them, but we will get to that in a few paragraphs. I did not spend much time admiring the packaging, though, as I was hungry for some donuts!

And here is the machine itself, which is straight-forward and easy to use. The one thing you may notice immediately is the lack of any dials, buttons, or a timer. This is a super simple to use donut maker, but if that is for better or worse, you will find out by the end of this review. The only other thing in the box besides the machine is a very brief instruction manual.

The manual includes a recipe for French breakfast donuts, which was fine to use, but I decided to try a different one. Here is the recipe I went with that I adapted from Food Network’s website:

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted shortening
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt

Because I am lactose intolerant, I swapped real milk for rice milk, which will affect your flavor a little so I would suggest adding a little more butter to compensate for that. I also was lazy here and did not sift the flour, and trust me, that does make a huge difference in the density of your donuts. Sifting will make them lighter, so if you have the time, make sure you sift first before incorporating other ingredients into your dry mix. It should be noted that the manual’s recipe called for less flour, and that would probably be the better way to go, but more on that later.

I was not expecting to make delicious donuts with this since the goal was to review the product, not recipes. It was a good thing my expectations were low since I screwed up the incredibly easy recipe from the start, but let’s just pretend I did everything else right for the sake of moving this article along.

The manual is a skimpy eight pages long, two of which being the front and back covers. In other words, do not expect much direction since the majority of the booklet is safety precautions. If you need help learning how to make better donuts, consult the internet like I did, since the manual glances over donut creation and maintenance.

As warned in the booklet, the machine will emit an odor and some steam once you first plug it in, but after that, you will not have to worry about any of those annoyances. There is no timer on the donut maker other than the natural timer that the donuts are built in with, which is that they begin to rise when they are done. Your donuts should take no more than three minutes to finish baking, but you can leave them in for up to five minutes if you make really thick donuts (like I accidentally did).

Back to those instructions – the guide does not exactly tell you how much batter to put into the machine, so it is a bit of a trial and error. In my first batch, I tried bigger lumps, which took longer to bake and had unpleasant excess forming those nifty handles on the sides. When I say it took “longer”, keep in mind this is a mini donut maker, so longer just meant 30 more seconds in most cases.

If your donuts are too big, they will rise and slowly push the lid off of the machine. This is their natural way of saying “take me out, I’m done.” Unfortunately, this can cause for some uneven cooking if your dough is not the exact same size. The donuts on the outer ring will lift off more than the ones closest to the hinge, and will make those less brown. If you cover them in chocolate, you will not notice them, but I got in a habit of moving the ones on the outer ring closer towards the hinge once the ones by the hinge were done, just to give them all the same color.

My first batch, as you can see, came out looking awful. Because there were no instructions on how much batter to put in, I just dumped as much as I wanted, and I paid the price for it. But, by the second batch…

I had started to figure it out. Thanks to this being a mini donut maker and not a full-sized one, the trial and error process is not too terrible. After all, each batch will take only a few minutes to make, so you can play around, and by the time you run out of dough, you will know what to do the next time you make donuts.

I managed to squeeze out about five batches of mini donuts here (which I covered in dark chocolate, and on half of my batch, dried apricot chunks), although your results will vary depending on your dough. Each donut will fit in the palm of your hand, but if you find a good recipe, will have as much flavor as a normal sized donut. By the end of my time making them, I had figured out the right way to do them and made some sweet looking treats. After the machine cooled down, a quick wipe with a paper towel is all you need to clean the trays. Then, simply put it back in the box or store wherever else you like, and dream about your next batch of donuts!

This is one of those products where you get what you pay for. At the low cost of only $20 on Think Geek, this is a great purchase. Your mistakes will still end up tasty, and you will learn quickly since you can immediately see the results. The biggest thing to watch out for is how hot the top of the machine can get, since there is no proper handle to grab it with. Otherwise, this would make a great gift for a friend, or for yourself, since donuts have never been easier to make. Is this the best machine on the market for this? No, but for this price point, you will get what you need until you are ready to make the plunge for a more expensive unit (if you even need it).

Check out the gallery below for more photos!

Thanks to Think Geek for sending us this cool product!

Please follow and like us:

Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars Review

Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars is a 2-4 player competitive board game based off of the Godzilla franchise made by Toy Vault. Players take on the roll of four fan-favorite giant monsters, the titular Godzilla, Rodan, Gigan, and King Ghidorah, as they battle across different cities in a race to cause the most destruction.

While the game is far from perfect, it has a unique and striking sense of aesthetics that the players are immersed in from the time they open the box. Everything about Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars is well-designed from a visual perspective. Regardless of any other aspects of this game, hard core fans of the series and some of the more dedicated board game enthusiasts might find Kaiju World Wars a worthwhile buy just because of how neat looking everything is.

The first thing a player is going to go for when they unpack the box is also the crown jewel of the design: the monsters themselves. The four figurines are probably the best looking mass-produced pieces in any board game out there. There’s something viscerally juvenile about the figures that forces people to click them together while making roaring sounds. The cartoonish qualities of the monsters plays very well with the rest of the game’s aesthetics.

Illustration of proper way to make monsters fight

Destroying the board is a fundamental mechanic of Kaiju World Wars. The game provides several “scenarios” with different goals and victory conditions. But, in all rules of play, crushing buildings and setting the scenery on fire is necessary to achieve success. Wanton destruction is very satisfying when combined with the game’s visuals. A destroyed building can be flipped over to indicate that it is now “rubble” and, on the rubble side are footprints that the monster can stand in, meaning players actually act out the trampling of buildings.

The rubble feature is just one of many beautiful details that make the game have a high fidelity look and feel.

For a game with such an eye for detail in the aesthetic department, the rules and the way the game teaches players are highly slapdash. Actually figuring out how to play is a long and confusing process even for veteran board game enthusiasts. Kaiju World Wars is not in any way friendly for casual players.

The problem isn’t that the rules of the game are terribly complex, but the game itself gives the player no help in figuring them out. The instruction manual seems to gloss over major points while belaboring details that seem unimportant. This is largely because most of the rules and mechanics of Kaiju World Wars are printed on a deck of “info cards” kept with the game pieces. The information the player needs to know is scattered between the manual and the cards without rhyme or reason, and the info cards are not packaged where the player has to look at them, first. It’s easy to get thoroughly frustrated with the game before even noticing that the cards have vital data on them.

The combat rules in the game are broken into “Basic” and “Advanced.” Presumably these two sets of rules are to allow an easier transition for players trying to learn the game. But, in practice, Kaiju World Wars is hard to figure out, no matter what. The Advanced rules simply provide a greater amount of differentiation between the monster characters. There will never be a reason to play the Basic rules.

Once the players have the game sauced out, Kaiju World Wars works best four players. As previously mentioned, the game book provides different scenarios with different rules, goals, and number of players. But the most generic scenario, which also happens to be the most fun, will get the most use and runs best with four.

While the more specialized scenarios have pre-designed city setups to play the game with, the basic scenario allows the players to redesign the board each time. The buildings, parks, icons, and military vehicles are split between the players who are allowed to place them down wherever they like.

The board-building process is a huge and unexpected bonus of Kaiju World Wars. The building pieces are each single levels that fit on top of one another, with complete buildings between one and four stories in height. Since any player can build up on what any other player has put down, one person can turn a one-story building into a four-story building and greatly alter the strategic importance of that part of the board before the game begins.

Once players start to get a feel for what to do in the game, the building of the city becomes the most engaging part of play: making the city’s imminent destruction all the more cathartic.

Even with the entertainment involved in building the board, Kaiju World Wars does not have the same infinite replay value of a game like Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan. Hard core board game enthusiasts who are not specifically Godzilla fans will likely only bust this game out every now and then when they meet a friend who has never played it.

The level of complexity in figuring out the game generally doesn’t make it good for the younger end of its target audience. It’s hard to imagine anyone under 14 actually having the patience to play by the rules. So, while younger kids may appreciate how good the game looks, they’ll probably get more use out of a toy.

Kaiju World Wars has some great ideas and is a fun game to play once it gets started, but it lacks mass appeal. Consider this a game strictly for Godzilla fans and avid board game players.

Please follow and like us:

“Princess Jellyfish” Review

You have to hand it to Funimation – those folks know how to find some darn good anime. Case in point, the anime adaptation of the popular romantic comedy manga, “Princess Jellyfish.” Produced by Brain’s Base and directed by Takahiro Omori, this anime garnered a ton of attention when it first came out, but this reviewers luster for anime had fizzled out back then. Only recently, thanks to getting the Funimation channel on cable tv (Verizon, bring back Funimation!), my spark was lit once more, and I got hooked on Princess Jellyfish. The question is, will other readers get into it, or is this rom-com not worth the hype? Let’s take a look and find out!

Nerdy and bespectacled eighteen year-old Tsukimi Kurashita is a resident of Amamizukan, a modern-day nunnery to a group of Otaku girls whose group they refer to as “the sisterhood.” All of the ladies are socially inept and obsessed with various things, such as Tsukimi’s craziness for jellyfish, Mayaya’s lust for all things “Records of the Three Kingdoms” merchandise, or Jiji’s insatiable desire for old men. All of the girls are virgins, and have never dated a man, let alone talk to one.

One night after a depressing failed trip to Harajuku, Tsukimi laments by checking in on a jellyfish friend at a pet store that she named Clara. Unfortunately, the jellyfish is threatened by a species that can kill Clara, forcing Tsukimi to attempt to speak to a “stylish boy” that is running the store. Shoved out of the store for her awkwardness, Tsukimi bounds into a beautiful living Barbie doll named Kuranosuke, who helps Tsukimi rescue the jellyfish by using her sexuality to force the clerk to give them the sea creature. Kuranosuke invites herself over to the nunnery for the night, and when Tsukimi awakens, she learns the truth – Kuranosuke is actually a boy in drag!

This is simply the starting point of an eleven episode series that takes plenty more twists and turns as it progresses, introducing more characters and stories of star-crossed lovers and love triangles with nothing but weird situations. This wacky cast of geeks, freaks, and “stylish” people clash and combine as the saga moves along, leaving viewers wondering what will happen next (and sadly, I can not say too much without giving away huge spoilers).

Maxie Whitehead, who some fans will recognize as the new voice of Alphonse Elric in the Fullmetal Alchemist series, is simply exceptional as the voice of Tsukimi. You can not help but to fall in love with her in the english dub, which I actually preferred over the original Japanese track, mainly because of Whitehead’s performance. Josh Grelle as Kuranosuke also stands out, playing both the role of a man and woman with subtlety and easily transitioning between the two, especially as the character becomes more complex as the series continues. The entire cast is perfect in both versions, but this is one of those series that I can honestly recommend to check out in english since it carries over very strongly.

The story is what really sells “Princess Jellyfish”, and while I am far from a fan of romantic comedies, I could not help but be enamored by this series. Maybe it was because I could identify with Tsukimi in some ways, or maybe it was just that the show really was that damn good, but I was hooked halfway through the first episode before the first major plot twist even happened.

“Princess Jellyfish” is available in a DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack, and contains a ton of special features on them. Aside from some trailers, you also get commentary on the first and final episodes of the show with some of the english voiceover actors, and textless versions of the incredibly catchy songs from the opening and closing credits.

In addition to those, you get these other special features:

Princess Jellyfish Heroes – A four-part mini-series of 4-5 minute long backup stories that chronicles the other Otaku girls in Amamizukan, diving deeper into who they are and their obsessions, and are just generally fun

Go, Sisterhood Explorers! – A six-part mini-series of 30 second shorts done in a more simiplistic animation style of the girls from the nunnery trekking through a jungle. Nothing important to plot development here, but it’s some good fun nonetheless.

Tsukimi and Jiji’s Octopus Tour – A 22-minute live action short featuring the Japanese voice-actors of Jiji and Tsukimi going to an aquarium to learn about jellyfish. Educational aspects aside, the ladies are pretty cute, so that’s a good reason to watch.

The Princess Jellyfish Field Guide, which runs down the various jellyfish species in the series

This boxed set is a must-have for all anime fans, and can even transition to the broader spectrum of non-anime fans (since they do exist out there, the sad mortals). “Princess Jellyfish” has quickly become one of my favorites of all time, and you will not be addicted to this series by the end of the first episode. No spoilers here, but by the end of the last episode, you will be screaming for more, and I genuinely hope we do get a sequel, but you’ll have to watch the series to understand why!

You can grab Princess Jellyfish: The Complete Series on Amazon as a Blu-Ray and DVD combo for $60 new, and it is definitely worth it.

If you liked this anime review, you may also enjoy these: If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: “Summer Wars” DVD Review, “FLCL: Anime Classics” DVD Review, “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

Please follow and like us:

“Summer Wars” DVD & Movie Review

Released in Japan in 2009 and brought to America courtesy of Funimation, “Summer Wars” tells the story of high school student Kenji Koiso, who excels at math, and is working for Oz during the Summer. Imagine if the social and gaming aspects of Facebook combined with banks, stores, and every other facet of life from hospitals to electricity, and there you have Oz. Natsuki, the girl of his dreams, invites Kenji to join her for a week at her family’s home to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday, but little does he know he must pretend to be her boyfriend while he is there. On his first night over, Kenji’s Oz account is hacked by someone called “Love Machine,” and things quickly go awry for not just Kenji, but the entire planet as every human being is connected to Oz. The family soon comes together and overcomes various adversities to take on Love Machine and save the planet, even if they are just one family against a powerful hacker… and that is as much as I can say without spoiling things.

The first time I saw “Summer Wars” was on the Funimation Channel, and while I missed the beginning and just started towards the middle of the second act, I was completely enamored and hooked. The animation is gorgeous and smooth, with vibrant colors that take you from the quiet nature of the Japanese countryside, to the hustle and bustle of the cyber world of Oz. Watching it on TV, I saw the dubbed version, which I still loved due to some great voice-over acting from an experienced cast.

The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who also directed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, The Digimon movie, and several others, as well as animating other prolific series through his career. Hosoda helmed the ship at Madhouse for this film, and has produced a great work of art. If the name “Madhouse” sounds familiar to you, it may be because they are also the creative team behind many other great titles, including Redline, Paranoia Agent, Rideback, Sakura Wars, Wicked City, and many of the Marvel Comics anime titles just to name a few of the dozens of animes they have made.

Breaking up the real-life scenes is that world of Oz, which is where the creativity of Madhouse truly shines. Thousands of unique creatures habituate in this online universe, each one with their own animated character. Most of the action happens in this place as well, including the fight scenes with Love Machine and the family, which are spectacular, exciting, and dramatic. There is a real sense of tension and urgency in these scenes, translated with what is happening back in the real world, on a level that few animes can capture without going over the top.

Funimation put out a two-disc DVD (or Blu-Ray) set of Summer Wars, and both are filled with goodies. The first disc features the full-length film with your choice of dubbing or subtitled film, as well as the option to hear a commentary with the english voice-acting team. Disc two features all of the special features, which include trailers and TV spots, and interviews with the original Japanese voice-over actors, as well an enlightening interview with Hosoda himself. While the trailers are no big deals, the interviews are interesting and shed some info on how the actors approached their characters, and discuss the depth of the film, while the director talks about filmmaking and how Summer Wars went from a concept into a masterpiece.

The DVD set also comes with four art cards inside, that feature the avatars of some of the characters in the film. The cards are double-sided, so you are technically getting eight cards, depending on how you want to look at it.

Summer Wars won several awards including the 2010 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year, the 2010 Japan Media Arts Festival’s Animation Division Grand Prize, and the Anaheim International Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Animated Feature. Is it any wonder they won so many with this piece of work? Summer Wars is a great film on multiple levels, and while the satire of social networks is at the forefront, at the end of the day is about family ties, and just how strong one family can be. Amazing animation, great voice acting, and an original script combine for one masterpiece of a film that I could not give a higher recommendation to.

You can buy Summer Wars on DVD from Amazon.com for around $15, and it is absolutely a must have for anime fans.

You can also buy Summer Wars on Blu-Ray for around $30 new.

If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: FLCL: Anime Classics Special Edition review, “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

Please follow and like us:

“FLCL” DVD Review

In 2001, three of the mega-power creators in Anime joined forces to create one of the most ground-breaking series since… well, since their other series. Combining influences from Japanese and American pop-culture and zeitgeist, “FLCL” (also called “Fooly-Cooly”) was something that viewers had never seen before, and blew their minds clear out of the water.

Funimation released a brand new version of this landmark series as part of their “Anime Classics” line, but is it worth the money, or should you skip this DVD like the plague? Let’s find out!

The official series synopsis from Funimation describes the show like this:

Naota is a detached sixth-grader afflicted by the pangs of puberty. He’s fooling around with his brother’s ex-girlfriend when a crazed girl on a motor scooter runs him over, brains him with a bass guitar, and moves into his house. This pink-haired girl, Haruko – who claims she’s an alien – hurls Naota into the middle of a mega-corporation’s secret agenda. Oh, and now giant battling robots shoot from his skull. Mix in mind-bending animation and tunes that echo through your cerebellum to top off the trip that will have you falling hard for FLCL.

I could not have done it better, but the meat of the show lies deeper than the obvious storyline. Much like “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, the plot itself is merely a catalyst to the development of the characters in the show. The meta-world they live in is what makes the show stand out amongst other animes that would take a much more direct take on the emotional output of the protagonists. Even the episodes that do not focus on the main characters of the show move the story along, and develop the mindsets of this young cast.

This one-disc DVD contains all six episodes of the show: 1. Fooly Cooly, 2. Fire Starter, 3. Marquis de Carabas, 4. Full Swing, 5. Brittle Ballet, and the series finale, episode 6. FLCLimax. Each episode is dubbed and subtitled, and FLCL is one of those series where I prefer the dub since the acting is just so good. On top of the series, this new version of the DVD includes about 10 minutes of outtakes with those voice-over actors, several music videos with the familiar songs you heard in the series, commentaries by the directors, and the famous closing credits of the show without text blocking your view of the awesomeness.

While there are some noticeable changes from the manga to the anime, this stylish show mixes mind-bending animation with a rocking soundtrack that will make you think like no other series. After reading the manga, I had a better grasp of what the show was about, which is the thin veil between reality and the world of dreams. This helps to explain a lot of the bizarre visuals and references you see through the show, but the anime took a unique spin on the manga and created deeper stories with their lead characters, adding much more depth and intrigue to them all.

It’s hard to discuss FLCL without giving away spoilers, and more so to simply describe what happens in the show since it’s an experience unto itself. The special features on the DVD are all very exciting. While I wish there were behind-the-scenes features documenting the animation and creation process, i Know that is wishful thinking since this was a series that was essentially created over a decade ago. However, the director commentaries are enlightening, and also as humorous and inane as the show itself. For example, the first episode’s commentary spends about five minutes discussing the rationale for why certain characters are left-handed, and why that is important to the show, as well as why southpaws are so much “cooler” than righties.

Fans of the music in the show will love this DVD, since it includes all your favorite tunes in full-length combined with snippets of the show. The songs are also subtitled so you can finally figure out what “The Pillows” were singing about with their thick Japanese accents, although after hearing some of the lyrics, I rather enjoyed not knowing what they were saying (“Revengeful lobster” and “grungy hamster”?).

Overall, the special features truly make this DVD stand out from the previous FLCL release and complete the experience, since that is what FLCL is – an experience. You can not just watch it once, it’s a series that you will love to view again and again, to either enjoy the animation, try to flesh out the story deeper, or just rock out to the music. FLCL has the total package, and was an important stage in the development of the studios involved in creating it. If you have never seen it, this is a must buy, and if you have, it’s time to watch it again in a new way.

You can buy FLCL: The Complete Series on Amazon for $21.99 new, and it is completely worth it (especially considering I used to pay double that for half of the series on VHS when it first came out).

You can also grab FLCL: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray at this link here

If you liked this anime review, you may also like these: “First Squad: The Moment of Truth” DVD & Movie Review, and “Redline” DVD & movie review

Please follow and like us:

Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 DVD Review

Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 is, as the title would imply, the first DVD set release of the past season of Ghost Hunters International. The SyFy original series once again sends an investigative team around the globe to collect information on paranormal hot spots. The DVD release is four discs containing 13 episodes, reflective of the long seasons that GHI enjoys on SyFy, so there are a lot of hours to watch. However, Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 is disappointingly minimalistic and can only be recommended for die-hard fans of the show.

The lack of pizazz in the DVD set is noticeable before you ever actually put on the show. The packaging is a single DVD case with a sleeve over it containing the exact same cover art as the box. In what would be a standard container for a single disc, all four DVDs are stacked on one spool. Most TV series’ DVD releases use some kind of larger, fold-out box to give each disc its own spot in the package.

This bare-minimum packaging decision has more than just aesthetic drawbacks. If you’re looking to use the box GHI came in to store it and intend to go through the DVDs enough to justify buying them, retrieving individual discs from the single spool can be annoying. It’s a minor inconvenience, obviously, but just reflects poor design.

The first three discs are exactly what they say on the tin: each of the first 13 episodes of season two, shown in order, exactly as they aired on SyFy minus advertising content. The fourth disc of the set is where the new material and, simultaneously, the biggest missed opportunity came in.

I am not a fan of Ghost Hunters International and having to look through this DVD set did not win me over to the series. Though, I actually thought that it would when I first previewed the bonus disc.

See more details after the jump. Continue reading Ghost Hunters International Season Two: Part 1 DVD Review

Please follow and like us:

Zombie Apocalypse Essentials: Gerber Gator Machete Pro

If this particular weapon seems familiar, it is because it is. The Gerber Gator Machete Pro is used by Glenn from the AMC series The Walking Dead. Before you get your underoos in a bunch, let me clear up a little misconception about this; it is NOT a prop. The same guys who made the Bear Grylls knives have rolled out an entire ‘Apocalypse Kit’, which includes the aforementioned machete which we’ve been lucky enough to test out ourselves. Let’s take a closer look, shall we.

Click. Click, click, click. Nothing. Your once impressive 9mm or shotgun is nothing more than a paperweight at this point. Sure, you can throw one like a brick and hope to slow down the reanimated corpse of the local high school wrestling coach, but you won’t hinder his forward progress much. And, yeah, you can swing the shottie like a Louisville Slugger hoping to knock a few skulls out of the park, but that’s not exactly ideal either. Equip yourself with the sharpest ten and a half inches of cold steel this side of Atlanta and you won’t ever have to worry about bullets again, that is of course, as long as they’re not being fired in your direction but I digress.

If you ever encounter walkers on your journey or need to move covertly through the forest to a safe zone, you’ll need one of these suckers to avoid giving up your location or making a temporary shelter. Gerber’s multipurpose machete can take out a branch up to 1 1/2″ in diameter with a single swing and make quick work of all bones between the base of the skull and the bottom of the neck.

Gerber Gear constructed this with a full tang gives you maximum durability, so you won’t need to worry about breaking the blade off in some random brain muncher. One of the most impressive features of this weapon is the Gator grip. It feels like it belongs in your hand. Even when sweaty, my grip remained constant and comfortable allowing me to continue swinging away. Should you happen to lose grip on the 6″ handle, the lanyard will keep you from dropping your prized possession.

As with all blades, the Gerber Gator Machete Pro will eventually start to become dull after prolonged use. Not to worry, it comes with a sharpening stone inside the military grade nylon sheath. Military grade means it’s built to withstand the nastiest of nasty environments without failure from wear, mold, or mildew. Not enough? It quickly attaches to your belt when you need to free your hands. Think of it as a holster for your new sidearm.

Not only do they run out, but every bullet fired gives you away. The living dead know where you’re at and so do the bandits running around stripping people of their food and weapons. Using a machete gives you the advantage of stealth. A few swoops with this and you’re good to go. Just be sure to protect your hands since you will be fighting in close quarters. You can buy your Walking Dead machete HERE.

Please follow and like us:

Comic Review: “Dragon Age: The Silent Grove” #1

 

Dark Horse Comics brings you another issue one comic with Dragon Age: The Silent Grove; one of several 99 cent digital comic book issues available through digital.darkhorse.com, or through the Dark Horse app available on Android (beta) and iOS. This new series will be bi-weekly, alternating alongside the new Prototype digital series going for the same price.  Like the Prototype digital comic series, Dragon Age also has its lead writer working on the story in David Gaider, who also wrote the novels based in the same universe titled The Stolen Throne, The Calling, and Asunder.

Unlike the Prototype 2 comic series, the place in the Dragon Age series’ storyline in which this comic takes place isn’t as concrete. There is, however, a brief prologue citing a few previous events such as a civil war and battles against the darkspawn, but that’s as far as it goes.  The comic does is introduce you to the protagonist, King Alistair Theirin, and his two wise cracking companions, Isabella the thieving pirate and Varric, the dwarven spymaster.

As the story progresses, you’re given bits and pieces of each of the three characters’ strengths and weaknesses as you find out where they are, where they’re going, why they’re with one another, and what the good king is looking for. There’s quite a bit of interaction between the three characters, and that’s where their personalities shine through. While the characters move from location to location and interact with one another, you also get a feel for the world around them and the dangers they face, too.

This, so far is the difference between Dragon Age and its sister comic, Prototype 2. While Prototype 2 narrates everything from the beginning, telling the reader outright of the events of the game to where the comic starts, Dragon Age shows you. Even though neither comic spoils much of anything from the games previous to their stories (just in case you feel the need to go play them after reading the comics), Dragon Age’s approach gives you a different way to enjoy the story, even though both are established in a way not having prior knowledge of the material doesn’t hurt the experience.

The artwork greatly helps enhance the experience. Chad Hardin’s attention to detail on everything from armor and jewelry to hair stubble and rock textures fit well into the medieval feel Dragon Age is known for. The choice to use solid pencil work instead of inking was a good choice to make, giving it a more rustic look. That’s not to say Hardin should be given full credit for the great artwork Dragon Age has. Michael Atiyeh’s coloring skills, with mood setting contrast and great color control really bring the pages together. It’s somewhat painterly, but it’s not quite since the line art is still prominent, which isn’t a far cry from the cover art created by Anthony Palumbo. The cover serves its purpose. It’s pretty and shares everything good the art on the inside of the comic is; just more painterly.

So far, there is a lot of content based in the world of Dragon Age; three novels, a web series, multiple online games, other digital comics, an anime cartoon and even a table-top role playing game. The universe is pretty big to say the least. The story has developed a huge fan base that David Gaider has successfully ported to multiple mediums, and it seems this comic is just as well done. If you’re a fan of his work or the game, it’s no question you should get a hold of this comic, and if you’re new to the series and into dark fantasy set in medieval times, then this is still worth the read. Dragon Age: Silent Grove #1 is available now in Dark Horse Comics’ online store.

Please follow and like us: