DVD Review – Bleach: Series 9 Part 1 (Episodes 168-178)

Available on DVD now

As we dive back into the world of Bleach, you will recall we last left our heroes in the world of Hueco Mundo as they strive to put a stop to Aizen and his fiendish… wait, that tale isn’t continuing for a while? Instead we’re going to be treated to a new standalone story set in the world of the living (that has nothing to do with the ongoing story from the last volume) surrounding a mysterious trio taking refuge on Earth?

This is what you will be met with as you pop in this DVD set. As mentioned in my review of Series 8 Part 2 (read it HERE) due to production issues when the series first aired – namely that the anime was far too close to the Manga of Bleach being published at the same time in Japan – series 9 began a new original story to break the flow of what we had been watching. But I’m happy to report that from my perspective this is actually a welcomed change and isn’t as bad of an occurrence as some might perceive. Yes it is an original story, which I appreciate can be a major turn off for some people, but the good thing about this collection of episodes is that it does takes us back to some older ground of the Bleach universe. We get to see our heroes in the world of living attending school and joking around with each other, reminding us that at the end of the day they are only high school students. (Something that in all honestly I had forgotten about given the serious overtone of the Hueco Mundo story.) So, although it has created a bump in the road of a story we have already invested a lot of time in, it is nice to have a break once in a while before plowing on with whatever awaits us next (in this instance) in Hueco Mundo.
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Blu-Ray Review – Angel Beats Complete Collection

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray now

Imagine that you wake up outdoors and crouched down in front of you is a school girl pointing a sniper rifle at a fellow student, who apparently is the enemy, standing across the courtyard. This same girl who’s wielding said sniper rifle then tries to recruit you for a group she fronts during which time you have been informed that you’re now in the afterlife. This is exactly what you can expect in the opening scene of Angel Beats as you follow the (very unique) journey of Otonashi who has no clue what’s going on coupled with the fact he has amnesia & doesn’t remember anything about himself. (Not exactly the greatest condition to be in given the circumstances.)

As you may have guessed Angel Beats surrounds a group of students trying maintain a strong opposing force against Angel, the girl I mentioned who was having a sniper rifle (unbeknownst to her) waiting to deliver a shot to her cranium, in a world that could be best described as unique version of the afterlife that is confined to the grounds a high school. The goal of the students is simple: remain in that world. If they cause an imbalance on how the things should run or perhaps how they conduct themselves in certain situations, they will likely be met with consequences (usually Angel, who coincidentally is the student council leader, coming along to dish out some punishment) or perhaps even being ‘obliterated’.
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DVD Review – Welcome To The Space Show

Available on DVD and as Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack now

Space has always been on the list of challenges for man, a seemingly infinite plateau of cosmic science that even the most advanced scientists are still struggling to find answers too. With the first rocket launches all the way through to the international space station, we are still light-years away from conquering this dark and secretive place.

The joy of this unknown is the wonderful curiosity we find in our imaginations to speculate the ‘what ifs’ of space that lend itself so well to fictional story telling.

Welcome To The Space Show opens with a furious yet beautiful chase between alien life forms, already wetting the palette with some amazing effects and colours, in combat over a substance know as ‘zughan’. After all the commotion disperses, we meet our little group, whom are all on their way to summer camp. Whilst searching for Amane’s pet rabbit, Pyon-kichi, which her elder cousin Natsuki has let escape, our group, lead by the eldestKiyoshi, including Noriko, a quiet but morally strong character and Koji, an enthusiastic young boy, come a cross a crop circle, uncovering a hurt little dog and decide to bring him back and nurse him to health.
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DVD Review – Hetalia World Series – Season Three Collection

Release date: July 23rd 2012

I had wondered if it was just the Hetalia: Paint It White movie that was suffering from a bad case of the ‘What?’, in terms of its pacing, structure and bizarre inanities. Apparently it isn’t. But, having said that, there are some significant benefits to having Hetalia in a series format rather than one drawn-out story.

For those that are unaware, Hetalia is a comedy series which stars personifications of the world’s countries in vignettes that are generally rough allegories of historical events picked throughout time (although mainly focusing on the World Wars), and also a great deal of random irreverence that are completely unrelated to history. There’s no wider story arc other than the simple progression of episodes and introduction of more characters, so unless you’re coming straight into the third season it shouldn’t be challenging to progress through. By this point, there are a lot of characters. Working with countries as a basis actually gives the audience a great advantage with getting to grips with the series, as there are fewer collections of things that we’re more familiar with- at some point in our lives we will probably have heard of most of the names being thrown around, so you’re given a leg up from the beginning. More obscure characters (like Wy and Sealand, which are actually real micronations) take some introduction, but usually this happens as a matter of course during the episode progression anyway.
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DVD Review – Dragonball Z Season One

Available on DVD from July 2nd 2012

Back in the early 2000’s a series aired on the Cartoon Network that I had seen glimpses of in the form of trading cards that a few Japanese friends of mine often brought into school. I had even seeing some clips advertised on tv when on holiday in the states but never actually came to realise what this franchise was all about. The series in question is Dragonball Z.

The series debut on Cartoon Network hooked me from the outset. Yet the one thing that was never present over here in the UK was a home video release (back then on VHS). I knew it was available in other countries and I’ll readily admit I imported some of the VHS and DVDs but never everything because of two reasons. The first, and perhaps very predictably given my age at the time, was the lack of money. Paying £20 for three episodes (sometimes four if you were lucky) on a single DVD or VHS certainly made the funds dry up quickly. The second reason was that I was always hopeful there would be a physical UK release. Well that time has finally arrived. After years of yearning, wanting and hoping, the Dragonball Z television series is at long last being released in the UK. Coming to the masses in the form of season long box sets nicknamed ‘orange bricks’ (because of their packaging design), the first, season one obviously, encompassing the Vegeta saga (also known to many as the Saiyan saga from when it aired on television.)

As you can tell I’m a big fan of the franchise. (Phrasing it like that may be an understatement in itself.) But for the benefit of those who might not be as familiar with Dragonball Z, allow me enlighten you in as short a time frame as possible.
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DVD Review – Roujin Z

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray now.

After reviewing some excellent new titles of anime, especially CG epics and pristine Blu-ray releases, it can be a challenge to re-tune my eyes to older animes, although if you allow yourself to sit back and just watch, you will be thoroughly rewarded and Roujin Z is no exception.

Roujin Z (old man Z) was first bought to us on good ol’ VHS in 1991 from acclaimed Akira director and writer Katsuhiro Otomo, which this re-release definitely capitalises on.

An old widower, Kijuro Takazawa, who is lovingly looked after by a young student Haruko Mitsuhashi and is very much in need of full time care, has been ‘selected’ to be a test subject in a governmental healthcare project where a nuclear powered, robotic medical bed prototype may take over the 24/7 care of Japans rising elderly population, instead of nurses and full time carers, thus, in theory, relieving the strain of an almost overstretched medical service.
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DVD Review – Hetalia Axis Powers: Paint it, White

I have no idea what’s going on.

I’ve never watched Hetalia before. Thinking I’d be able to get by based on what I’d read online, I jumped into this review not fully understanding the intricacies of anything it has to offer. How difficult can it be to get the jist of an anime, though, right? In its broadest sense, Hetalia is a comedy series which stars personifications of the world’s countries, principally Italy (hence the name, which is a contraction of the Japanese word hetare meaning ‘cutely pathetic’ and Italy, who lives up to this in spades). It’s mainly set during the Second World War, where the characters’ interactions form a loose and not-entirely-accurate-or-serious-in-any-way-but-fairly-intricate history of events, and bits and pieces from other eras too.

While you only need to know the outline to understand the premise of the show, actually getting into the movie requires a much greater knowledge of the interactions the characters have had over the episodes previously (not that this is by any means part of that continuity. More importantly, it’s more than handy to know what the characters are like, because there’s no introduction to them or their antics, or the show’s layout. And you’ll have no clue what you’re getting yourself in for. So I’m going to be fair in this review; given that I don’t know the series it’s likely I’m missing a lot of the nuances that make it so popular. So, on we go.
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DVD Review – Naruto Shippuden, Box Set 9

Continuing on the journeys of Naruto and his ninja comrades, this box set picks up with the second half of the Three Tails story arc that sees the dedicated follower of Orichimaru & user of crystal style technique, Guren, still essentially playing the role of babysitter to the young Yukimaru who plays an important role when it comes to the control of the Three Tailed beast. All the while Ninja from the Leaf Village are determined to counter this plan, enlisting the help of more comrades to keep things on an even playing field.

The addition of the three tails beast continues to add a level of intrigue to the overall plot but in all honesty the most prominent part of this entire tale surrounds the developed (mother & child style) relationship between Guren & Yukimaru and how Naruto feels closely connected to it from personal experiences. You also have Guren’s underlings and their battles with other the Leaf Village ninja and some presence from members of the Akatsuki. All the while this is linked to the capture or sealing  (depending on which side the coin, good & evil, the characters fall on) of the Three Tails beast.
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DVD Review – Baka & Test: Summon The Beasts

When thinking about the anime’s I have watched recently and enjoyed very much, there has been a clear recurrence of serious and mature animations filling my collection; Akira, Tekken BV,  Evangelion, countless Ghibli’s; so on and so forth. When tasked with watching a Shonen anime, I must admit it was going to be a tough watch; large beady eyes and cutsie dialogue are not per ce, ‘my thing’.

However, I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed that my insatiable lust for fight scenes, complex character divulgence and overall quality had been quelled enough by Baka and Test.

Set in Fumizuki Acedemy high school, we can already deduce that this is no ordinary learning establishment. Fighting in my high school was forbidden and punished very highly, so it came as a shock that this academy is promoting fighting; mixed with an excellent twist. Here, the students grades are their strength, with higher test scores in particular studies being made the ammunition which fuels the students fighting avatars (Shokanju, ‘Beasts’), in battles named ST wars; battles approved by teachers whom can open special fighting grounds for our students to fight in using their avatars, which look wonderfully reminiscent of the characters in final fantasy 3 et al, coated in cool armour and wielding close combat weapons.
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DVD Review – Clannad: Series 1 Part 1

Release Date: May 28th 2012

When it comes to indulging in anime set in schools, I will admit from the outset that my experience is limited. From those that focus on the development and continuation of a Kendo Club (Bamboo Blade) and to the trials & tribulations surrounding a light music club (K-On!!). Even high schoolers fighting for their very survival while only being able to trust a certain few individuals and at the same time having their ideals being questioned on many an occasion in the process (High School Of The Dead). My experience with them is very sparse, yet quite diverse at the same time. On each occasion I have enjoyed myself tenfold. Be it because of the over the top personalities, the unique situations facing the characters, even just the charm that comes with what was presented in front of me. However I can safely say I have enjoyed them. When the opportunity to experience a new series of similar ilk (at a casual first glance anyway) with Clannad presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Whenever the name Clannad has been mentioned in conversations I’ve been apart of it had always sparked a new lease of life into a conversation. Almost like a sugar rush of enthusiasm was suddenly brought to the forefront. Now I had the opportunity to see why this enthusiasm was generated, and I would ultimately share that same enthusiasm, with the Manga Entertainment release of Series 1 Part 1 on DVD.
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