Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FUNimations New Show A-Go-Go, What's It Mean?

Evangelion 101 from FUNimation

Twelve. Twelve new acquisitions have been rolled out, announced, from FUNimation over the past few weeks and are highlighted on their New Show A-Go-Go site. Most of these shows have been previously released either by ADV or Geneon, but FUNimation getting them is a good thing. See with the collapse of ADV and the withdrawal of Geneon from the states that left mainly FUNimation, Viz and Bandai as the major players in the anime distro business. Anime had hits its peak and was now coming back down to Earth, but not so fast. FUNimation could have messed up big time by acquiring all these titles, flooding the shelves with releases but something happened on the way to ruin, they are succeeding and saving shelf space. ADV began putting out thinpac box sets, neat full series in the space usually taken by 2-3 DVD's. Now what FUNimation has done is take these series, revamp ones needing it and package them up in very thin, eco friendly packaging where you can get 26 episodes in the space it takes for 1 DVD case, neat! The price point is great also, these are not greatest hits, gold, platinum or some such type of collection, they are just great bargains for the price (and shelf space, did I mention that). Anyway back to the Anime 12.

In quick succession we've seen FUNimation hook up older titles from ADV and Geneon, get them back on shelves in complete collections where they fell short in the past, sometimes broken into part 1 and 2 sets. While these have been more than welcome these new titles are just numbingly tasty, one hell of a way to start the new year. So what is to get excited about, let’s see ... and check out the official sites found on New Show A-Go-Go. (No particular order btw.)

  • Samurai Champloo - Love Afro Samurai, this title is legendary, like Cowboy Bebop meets Afro Samurai, HOT!
  • Soul Eater - I've not seen this title before, but hot design and slick action, yeah a must buy for me in 09.
  • Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone - Eva, nuff said, must have.
  • Gungrave - More style, more action and a great anime based on a pretty good video game.
  • Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo - A classic piece of literature gets re-imagined. This title is made for HD, beautiful.
  • Slayers Revolution - My first eBay purchase was the original Slayers box set. I've been waiting for this for years.
  • Oh! Edo Rocket - Zero idea about this, get back to you later.
  • Last Exile - Beauty in motion, a classic movie.
  • Ikki Tousen - Zero idea about this, get back to you later.
  • Nabari No Ou - Zero idea about this, get back to you later.
  • Vandread - Own it, love it. CGI meets anime with catchy opening tunes and the ladies, yes me likes the ladies.
  • Gad Guard - A throw back to the early days of anime, a boy and his robot but just like Galaxy Railways, brought up to speed with crisp animation.

And to top it all off FUNimation also has a new video portal. Some of the titles you can find here included Darker Than Black, Guyver, Black Blood Brothers, Gunslinger Girl Il Teatrino, Jyu-Oh-Sei, Negima 2, Ouran High School Host Club, Romeo X Juliet, Shigurui: Death Frenzy and more. What FUNimation has done is tackle anime world from the single DVD (traditional) angle, box set angle and online distro. I am excited because FUNimation is hooking us otaku up, ditto for Viz with their collections of hot titles ... Bandai I'll get back to you on, not sure about them just yet. Take care, Happy New Year and here is to a very hopeful future for the world of anime.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Video Games on The Examiner in December

So this has been a great month, a great year really. To wrap it up on The Examiner here I what I've covered over there around video games and their related properties ...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Warcraft Legends vol. 2 Impression

Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy from Tokyopop took the popular MMORPG and gave it a new avenue to explore the characters and settings of WoW. While this manga was met with mixed reviews this has not dissuaded Tokyopop from continuing the manga march with Warcraft Legends volume 2, a new manga that continues one story from volume 1 while crafting three other short stories in the World of Warcraft.

The cover, by Udon, will grab anyone’s attention with its slender night elf perched in a tree just begging the reader to open the cover. This is the proper approach needed for a franchise such as Warcraft. The Sunwell Trilogy was good, but these short stories hit the mark. Some are good, others not so much, but all of them give a taste of WoW without a series long commitment. Not being a WoW player I cannot speak for you, the true fan, but I do know you are getting stories set in the world you dedicate so much time too so from that standpoint it’s worth the look. If you like, then keep reading, if not you’re only out about $11 and can sell to a friend for a discount (good times). For me, worth it as I love fantasy manga, but let’s takes a look at each story and its art.

Fear (part 2) - Richard A. Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim return from their work on The Sunwell Trilogy to tell the tale of Trag Highmountain, his downfall since the Sunwell Trilogy and journey to resist and confront the Lich King who calls to him. Knaak’s story telling is again superb as he touches on the inner-workings of the participants, this time the orc Thrall who tries to help Trag. Readers learn more about the orc liberator as well as see a change in Trag, a good story that will continue in volume 3. Kim’s art is great, always has been from King of Hell till now and it’s by far the best in this book. Fear could stand alone as its own manga, but pairing it with other stories in multiple volumes is a great way to expose the manga to many. Book is worth the buy for this story alone.

Warrior: Divided - If Fear is the hot girl at the bar, guess who Warriors: Divided is? Call in the wing man, this story of orphan twins, one raised by dwarves the other elves, is not pretty. Lieren, raised by dwarves, discovers she has a twin sister, Loania, raised by elves and together they learn their human father was killed, as was their mother. They go on a journey to learn about themselves only to confront their dead mother and save her soul. Yeah, the story is rushed, tries to feel sad and noble, but does neither. The art, not good, was this someone who lost rising stars of manga? Not going to mention anymore, names, nada about this story, it’s not good.

Miles to Go - Kova Broadhorn, a tauren shaman is sent on a journey to find an orc seer and return with her to her village. She’s told along her journey she will encounter help, and does … sort of. Kova meets up with the gnome warrior Miles Corebender who envisioned Kova in a dream. The two set off on their journey, encounter a rogue, defeat the rogue and discover themselves along the way, Kova that she can cope with battle, Miles being brought down a few pegs in his quest for an epic tale about himself. Did I leave out the funny? Yeah, this is a very funny story with good, light art to match the mood, a very short and another very cow hero they way the jab at each other is enjoyable and what short stories are all about. Good art, funny story with known characters and settings, this will make WoW fans smile as it does not take itself serious and is like a random quest.

Family Values - Jaruk Bloodfyre an orc torn between his beliefs and the drive of his tribe led by his blood thirsty brother J’argg. Jaruk cannot stand the bloodshed of the draenei and eventually rescues a girl, Leena, and is hunted by his own kind, his own brother. Without revealing too much more the ending of this story is satisfying and everything before also serves the reader well. Not too deep, not too shallow, just right for a side story, background on an impactful characters in WoW. The violence of the world is shown in this story, but the art feels more like a children’s book, Orc’s by the numbers, nobody really memorable except for Leena (you’ll see). Yeah, ok to read but so-so overall.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bleach DVD vol. 12 Impression

Bleach DVD Volume 12
Welcome to the past Bleach fans. Taking a brief respite from present events Bleach volume 12 looks into the past, to better understand the captains and their lieutenants, how they became Soul Reapers and what drives their present day relationships and actions.

He may be deceased, but Captain Aizen still has a profound affect on those among the living especially lieutenant Momo Hinamori. She remembers how they met and recounts the letter Aizen left that caused her to confront his supposed killers, a battle where Bankai are released and cracks begin to form in the hierarchy that is the Soul Society. In the present Ichigo continues to train with Yoruichi to attain Bankai in a short period and is joined by a former foe while Yoruichi’s history with Mr. Hat and Clogs is also touched on. The biggest history point, a set of memories from Rukia back to her days as a child, joining the Soul Society, her adoption, brother and the death of a comrade which begins to bring her acceptance of her fate to light, a fate that has been moved up to the next day. To understand the present the past must be explored.

This volume of Bleach is very interesting for one main point; there is little exposure for the main character Ichigo. This series begins to establish itself as more than a one man show with multiple characters with history to share, four episodes worth. Bleach has long established itself a great action anime with oodles of styles, great character design, superb music … the whole package which is laid on top of a story that is getting better and deeper the more characters are explored. There is a depth to these characters and this volume really takes the time to explore each one. This is a background volume, but if you’re this deep in then it’s worth the purchase, not an entry point for noobs, a reward to fans.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jyu-Oh-Sei DVD Impression

Jyu-Oh-Sei: Planet of the Beast King from FUNimation is a very welcome, 11 episode, surprise action fans will enjoy. As young twins Thor and Rai return home to find their parents murdered they are quickly captured and banished to Chimaera, a planet of brutal, carnivorous plants where only the strong survive. Chimaera is a prison planet, one that nobody seems to know exist and before Thor and Rai can question what happened to their parents and why they have been banished they are thrust into a world of factions based on skin color where each tree, shrub and root could jump up and eat you. The brutality of the planet surfaces very quickly as (SPOILER) Rai is consumed right off the bat leaving Thor to fend for himself and forge a new life. Thor quickly learns that the only way off planet, the only way to get answers to what has happened to him, is to become Beast King, and to do so he must scale the ranks, become a First then follow protocol to become Beast King. With the help of a smart Third (think second in command), Thor becomes a very young First during a fight to the death challenge. Years pass and a new, older Thor with only a few years to live (issue with planet condition) decides to become Beast King through a series of event not of his making. Once the ball gets rolling and he ascends to the orbital platform to confront Odin who is responsible for his banishment and many other issues from Thor’s past, the story hits a fevered pace in a race against time to save the planet and possibly the human race.

Jyu-Oh-Sei really did surprise me. First I’ve not read the manga, have not familiarity with the series and at first the thought of watching the annoying Rai (really annoying) turned me off, but this series quick took good design and voice work and weaved it into a story that was both brutal, savage and satisfying all at the same time. There are some sad points, characters that die, that were not expected, some done in a manner that I questioned ‘why’ but all touching the heart on some level. The stories conclusion, the answers Thor was looking for will tie the entire eleven episodes together very well. The opening song grew on me, but is still kind of weird for the action. Music, can’t even recall if there was any (there was) so I’d say it’s inconsequential. Use of Norse names also did not make sense until some of the end explanations.

Long story short, if you’ve read or are a fan of Jyu-Oh-Sei then get DVD set, good price, good buy. Fans on the fence, there are worse anime out there and do not judge by the cover with all the makeup and stuff, this series will surprise you, it’s good and different form other stories on the market, a nice change of pace anime.

Claymore DVD vol. 2 Impression

Claymore volume 2 from FUNimation continues the story of Clare as she travels with Teresa. The organizations number one fighter, Teresa, becomes attached to the small girl who will not leave her side. Numerous attempts to dissuade her from following have no affect and eventually Teresa names the girl, Clare, and is surprised to hear her speak as Clare has been silent since their first encounter. After another run-in with the bandit whom she removed an arm from, Teresa takes Clare to a small village where she proceeds to wipe out the Yoma only to find that by doing so the local bandits move in to burn and destroy the city, a city where Teresa has left Clare in the care of the locals. As she returns the bandits know she cannot attack them as Claymore are forbidden from killing humans upon penalty of death. The connection Teresa has made with Clare, the girl with the same look in her eyes, goes beyond this mandate as Teresa finishes the one-armed bandit who is about to ravage Clare and then proceeds to obliterate the entire band of bandits. Her fate sealed, Teresa and Clare continue their journey and when Teresa is surrounded by Claymore, seemingly ready to accept her execution she has a change of mind, resist and continues to journey with Clare.

Next, Claymore ranks 2-5 come to confront Teresa and while she does best them the new, young number two goes beyond her limits of power and Awakens, destroying not only (SPOILER) Teresa but the other Claymore leaving only Clare alive. From this point on Clare is determined to become a Claymore to hunt the Awakened who took Teresa’s head. Present day now and an impatient, lowly ranked Clare, finds herself assigned to a team of four on the hunt for a Voracious Eater, a male awakened who is more that a match for the hunters, but not all is what it seems as Clare shows a power perfectly suited for fighting an awakened being. As the fight continues the episodes come to an end in volume 2 of Claymore.

Wow, lots of story points in this, just the second volume of Claymore. First the animation is still solid, not movie quality but well at the top of a series that should have a 24-26 episode run. The voice work is surprising well done and just emphasizes the quality the anime industry is seeing here in the states. FUNimation has a nice stable of voice actors working their titles and the experience really shows here in Claymore. Story wise this DVD spends a generous amount of time on Clare’s past, but it’s very important as it introduces Awakened beings, changes that take affect when a Claymore increase their power output as well as why Clare is who she is, why she became a Claymore. These episodes don’t feel so much as a flashback as a series all their own. The present day hunt and history on male Claymore is also important as well as what this particular Voracious eater says, what he tries to bargain with. Claymore rankings and special abilities are touched on over each episode showing there is more to this group than mindless hunters, there is an organization at work guiding each and keeping them in line, eliminating them when needed.

Overall Claymore on DVD is as solid as the manga (from Viz) with no drop-off in story and plot points. The animation and voice work satisfy with only a few weird audio tracks, background music that don’t quite seem to fit. The pacing of the story is solid and after watching viewers will feel like they’ve have more than just two volumes, I did. Hard to categorize Claymore, so if you like a unique design style, fast-paced sword fighting and monsters then Claymore is a must. Mature, yes. Excellent addition to any anime collection, no doubt.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 Trailer

One of gamings oddest combinations gets the follow-up treatment with Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2. I don't know too much about the plot, but when you take everything Gundam and throw it into a blender mixed with fan-served gameplay then guess there ain't too much to plot about. This game is going to be great fun with great achievements just like the first, just more polished. Good times as anime based video games continue to get better and better ... now we just need Dynasty Warriors Shonen Jump.

Monday, December 15, 2008

HunterxHunter Vol. 21 & 22 Impression

Training time is over for Gon and Killua and now it’s time to get involved in the hunt in HunterxHunter volumes 21 and volume 22 from Viz. With the queen dead and the newborn, very mature, Chimera Ant King born all the former servants have begun to spread into human civilizations looking to claim their own stake in the world and Hunters are the only hope for stopping them. The king is on the move and soon Gon and Killua will be also.

Hunter x Hunter volume 21Hunter x Hunter volume 21
The king if born, and a violent birth it is. Colt, one of the queen’s servants, seeks the help of the Hunters to try to save the queen’s life, but she passes pleased to have birthed such a fine king. Meanwhile the king shows his brutality by killing those who displease him and formulates a plan to Nen-baptize the population, meaning gather them all in one place and farm out the strongest Nen capable then, well eat them to gain their power. Taking control, thanks to the crazy Neferpitou, of a neighboring countries dictator allows the king to gather all the population for his plan, one the hunters must stop or the already insanely powerful king will be unstoppable.

Is it just me or does this seem like Cell the second? The look, feel, absorption, coloring … all very similar to DBZ’s Cell, and near as cool too. First, art, solid, story, getting really good. I’ve touched on the king’s story above which sets the stage for future conflicts, but not touched on is Gon and Killua’s desire to help a (not dead) Kite being controlled by Neferpitou as well as the spread of the Chimera ants with the queens death. Gon and Killua wrap their training and are ready to get into the fight, through their own methods of non-direct confrontation but before that Gon goes on a funny date with Palm, the talk about cougars alone is outstanding, very funny to those in the know. So story is ramping up and there is still much training for Gon and Killua to do, heck they are going to have issues with the generals. Nice to see a story where the main character takes a back seat to much more powerful allies and foes.

Hunter x Hunter volume 22Hunter x Hunter volume 22
Ants spread, the Spiders surface to defend Meteor City. The locally established ants find more than they bargained for as the Spiders show up and squash these ants in some quick and brutal fights. Gon and Killua begin their campaign in the Republic of East Gorteau where the population is slowly disappearing. Killua uses his speed to warn towns while avoiding the ants while Gon gets in bit of trouble with a bat and owl and which push him to his limits.

The story continues as the king does his thing and Gon and Killua get into action. Not much more to add to this volume as it packs in the action and moves the story along but since the stage we really set in volume 21, this one just moves it along, good part of this Chimera King story arc. Overall volume 21 really sets the stage for the next phase of battles, 22 carry it on (just said that) and 23 … well that’s for next time. Fans of HunterxHunter, jump on in, all others not a bad point to join in, good background at the beginning of issue 21, but start there, if not you will be really lost.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hancock DVD Impression

Hancock on DVD
Superman, Batman, Spider-Man … all comic super heroes come to life and the big screen. Hancock is a super hero of another ilk, one created for the screen, one more human than any spandex wearing do-gooder. Hancock tells the story of a drunk, collateral damage wreaking ‘hero’ played by Will Smith. The movie begins with various funny antics, the car chase, shooting his liquor bottle, glasses as well as Hancock’s take-off and landings. No matter the lives Hancock saves the collateral damage associated leaves a very bad taste on the public’s tongues. Enter Ray Embrey, played by Jason Bateman, a down on his luck publicist with a smoking hot wife (Charlize Theron) and son who idolizes Hancock. First order of business to clean-up his image is to serve some jail time, to let the public see they need you, which happens. There is a head and butt incident in jail that just about ends the funny. As he’s released to help out a bank robbery situation the movie takes a more serious turn as Hancock is now the responsible hero and one about to learn a great deal about his missing past and lost love.

Stop, this is where my issues begin. Hancock is a movie that starts very funny and in the blink of an eye gets very serious; it’s like two movies in one with many, many holes any comic fan will see. So Hancock is a hero who sleeps on benches and loves to drink. The damage he causes is understandable due to his who cares approach as is his jail time, but don’t you think the government would take an interest in Hancock? Check out the in-print Rising Stars comic series to see government involvement with super humans. Maybe there is background there, but if the government was involved wouldn’t you see that? Second issue with story, he goes to jail, a regular jail with inmates who want to hurt him that he could kill … are you trying to get them killed? A prisoner like Hancock would get special treatment, so two strikes against the government involvement. Yes, it’s movie, and like Rising Stars the writers could have gone very deep into the seriousness of Hancock, but they kept it comical, which brings the third issue. Why does Hancock get so serious so fast? Leave out the fact the writers create some easy villains who somehow escape to hurt Hancock (hmmmm, escape prison, go after super guy, not smart), but what about the background of Hancock. He explains how old he is, how he lost his memory and as he encounters Theron’s character he starts to get gaps filled in, but who at ‘they’ who is this race of supes that, when they get together, age and become normal? How long have they been around, why are the women stronger? BIG gaps in the story which continues into the ending with new hero in new city, what happens to old city? Point is there is much material here for an enjoyable graphic novel, but the movie will leave viewers wanting more background.

Special features on the single-disc DVD are standard from the making-of features to how a big-screen superhero is created. The behind the scenes with ‘Dirty Pete’ was enjoyable, but not much more here. The points made about the story above could have had a huge impact on the extra features. A full documentary on the history of what and what Hancock is would have been great. Overall this movie is a mixed bag. Good performances by some pretty actors, a funny super-hero movie that turns mega serious in the middle. Hancock is all over the place but there is some very fertile ground for comic follow-ups (like where the hell does he get that eagle?).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gaming with the Girlfriend

Rock Band 2 on Xbox 360
Yes, girls play games too and very well I might add. This is not a Wii-effect, this is not a new trend. Girls are gamers and serious ones at that. Many can hand you your ass in Halo or Call of Duty, others, PMS, can whoop you in some team combat. While these ladies can compete with and be the best not all of the better gender dig shooter, some like jus to have a good time, crank up the guitar, sing a song, get Wii-crazy, and some of these girls, women, ladies, don’t mind dating a gamer. Seeing as how I’m a guy I’m not going to lecture you on what to play with the ladies (Need for Speed and Burnout are winners I can say), so I’ll leave it to this little article sent to me by … wait for it … real live ladies. Nerds Do It Better is a site dating and relationships.

The gaming list, 50 Video Games Your Girlfriend Will Like by Jessica Merritt offers insight guys cannot buy. Games are divided into groups, Group Gaming, Physical Gaming, Simulation, Puzzle & Mini, Familiar and Intelligent gaming. The inclusion of Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Burnout on this list is great to see as this is not just a casual gaming list for dummies. Jessica has some solid titles any hardcore gamer will and does love so gents this is not some fluff list, you will enjoy playing these games.

Word of caution … careful, be very careful how, if, when you break out the very exercise focused games, especially one with a Biggest Loser trainer on the cover.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

All Colour But The Black, The Art of Bleach Impression

The Art of Bleach
Every time I write about a manga I mention, no matter how brief, the art and design style. The reason I do this is because fantastic art can stand on its own even without a strong story. This is one of the reasons you’ll see artist paired with writers, especially in US based comic companies. Tite Kubo is one of those rare exceptions, mostly seen in Japan, who has an art style that melts the eyes and is mixed with a story that is as exceptional as any manga that has come before. I’m referencing Bleach of course, and while Kubo has create other works (Zombie Powder) Ichigo and crew are just the best of what he has to offer.

Like Naurto, One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist before it, Viz has released a new art book for Bleach titles All Colour But The Black, The Art of Bleach, and it is as beautiful as one expects and then some. This book takes the cover art, promo art and holiday art from the first nineteen volumes of the Bleach manga and offer them up on glossy pages, full color along with creator notes. This is truly a perfect buy for any Bleach fan and more, which I’ll get to in a minute, but first what is this book made of …

  • The Cover – Of note because the slip cover is pretty, but underneath there is a pretty sketch of various characters.

  • Foldout Poster – Double-sided with Soul Reapers on one side and the main ‘crew’ on the other. It’s a shame it’s folded, would look great framed (but that is what the lower priced poster-zine is for).

  • Content – Made up of Prismatics 1, Direct Rays and Prismatics 2, this is the bulk of the art.

  • Storyboard – A quick page that shows the storyboards for a specific chapter, 181.

  • Captains – Not the name of the section, but this shows non-color pics of each captain along with a note. Interesting to see into the mind of each character.

  • Index – The best section as it gives notes from Kubo into each piece of art in the Content sections. Looking into the mind of a master, it’s a rare treat.

Besides fans of Bleach this book truly appealed to the artist in me. The style, clothing, color choices, moods of the art offer great inspiration. I found myself sitting and sketching out many of these images just for fun. Seeing the progression of the characters, you can tell earlier art, is also of note, gives hope to new and aspiring artist that the more you work the better you can get. Overall this book will go perfect on fans shelves and is worth the look, and since it only covers up to volume nineteen there is more sweetness to come.

Naruto The Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom Impression

Naruto the Movie 3
An escort mission of a foreign prince and his son, simple in concept but does anything with Naruto go smoothly? In Naruto The Movie 3: Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom Naruto, Sakura, Rock Lee and Kakashi are assigned to escort prince Michiru Tsuki and his son, Hikaru, back to their island home, the Crescent Moon Kingdom. The journey sees Naruto butt heads with the spoiled younger prince, the round Michiru buying a travelling circus as well as visiting Hikaru’s mother who is discussed at the size of Michiru. As the group boards a ship back to their kingdom a storm is encountered where Hikaru shows his worth, an arguing point with Naruto, while saving the monkey Kikki and tiger Chamu. With new friends in tow, Naruto, Sakura and Lee pledge to be friends, they arrive at the kingdom to find tragedy waiting.

The former advisor, Shadadaba, has recruited three ninja to help overthrow the king, who lies dying, protected by his loyal troops. After a daring escape the fight beings for Michiru and Hikaru to retake their homeland, but only after a failed escape attempt. How will Naruto, Kakashi, Lee and Sakura get through this jam (and in their new summer uniforms)? That is what watching is for.

This third Naruto movie offers up what is the standard big screen Naruto formula. Escort mission, spoiled and/or rich client (both usually) and a fight to retake a homeland, heritage or something of value. The animation is very loosey-goosey. Not in a bad way, but the action reminds of something out of Fooley Cooley, especially Rock Lee’s second fight. Things get fast and furious and a little wacky at times but looks great with crisp animation and the movie quality. The voice acting is above par with all the actors from the series intact. So solid voice work, good musical score, fluid animation, crisp movie-quality look and feel … and a forgettable story.

Yes, the story does not offer the flare of Clash in the Land of Snow or the super powered baddies of Stone of Gelal (spelling). The prince with his fat father and bow skills do not gain any sympathy from the viewer. The brief appearance by King Kakeru Tsuki gets more sympathy. Our heroes do their thing with Rock Lee just thrown in with minimal lines, no real value of him being in this movie. The battles are good, but the bad guys don’t add to much either, they are not memorable from the poisonous Karenbana, strong Kongo and stone glove wearing Ishidate. Even Kikki and Chamu are novelty, not adding to the story besides becoming friends with the prince.

Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom has all the spit and polish expected in an anime movie, but with forgettable characters it’s worth the rental while purchasing the previous two movies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Inukami! vol. 1 Impression

Inukami! volume 1 manga
Inukami! volume 1 will feel instantly familiar to any fan of InuYasha. Inukami are doglike, tails, mystical being’s that contract with a human tamer to form a team that hunts demons who prey on humans. One such would-be tamer Keita Kawahira, is a shame to his family. He was unable to attract an Inukami when he came of age and went into the mountain where they reside. That was until the Inukami Yoko shows up. She is both attractive and very docile … until the contract is struck. Keita thought he would be getting a maid, servant, submissive servant, instead he has a rowdy and wild Inukami to deal with, one that even makes him wear a collar as a sign of their contract (she waits till his life is on the line to finalize the contract and force him to wear collar). As a new relationship begins one can only wonder how this new pair will do as they begin to take on assignments hunting demons and dealing with each other.

The duo of Mari Matsuzawa (art) and Mamizu Arisawa (story) really clicks in Inukami! The art is beautifully drawn, perfect for poster, pencil boards with an immature hero (loosely used) and a very attractive if not immature mystical creature in Yoko. The style will feel very anime, meaning it looks like what most fans would expect anime/manga to look like, big eyes and all. The lead characters are well drawn but don’t hold nay out of the ordinary traits beyond the collar worn by Keita and Yoko’s large tail. The story of hunting demons in modern Japan does not break new ground but serves well for this story. The duo, besides meeting each other, also deal with some hotel demons a wandering cat demon as well as the assignment of a new Inukami, temporarily, named Nadeshiko, which ends the volume and speaks to more zaniness and possible secret feelings for ones master. The story is fun and really shines thanks to the art.

Earlier I mentioned a comparison to InuYasha, here is why. First you’ve got a school age kid in Keita, and a dog demon. There is a collar worn, they fight demons and there is some kind of feelings going on between the two. It’s a twist as gender is reversed and everything is in modern day but otherwise I feel very safe saying InuYasha fans will enjoy Inukami! and vice-versa. A good manga from a lesser known manga publisher (Tor) but worth the purchase.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Darker Than Black vol. 1 Impression

Darker Than Black volume 1 from FUNimation takes government conspiracy to a new level. A new breed of covert agents, Contractors, roam the streets. Each Contractor wields unique abilities, the result of the gate opening 10 years prior. The gate showed up and of the initial group to investigate only one man survived. Since then the government hunts Contractors and erases the memory of anyone who comes into contact with one. The mystery as to why is to be revealed, the here and now deals with one particular Contractor, a hunter, BK201, the Black Reaper. The BK201 designation is assigned to each star that appears. As a person comes into their power, becomes a Contractor, they are assigned a number by the Star Gazer. This alphanumeric designation is how they are identified and tracked. As one becomes a Contractor they begin to lose their humanity paying a unique price. Much is left to be revealed about Contractors, the gate, dolls … but let’s get back to the Black Reaper.

BK201, the Black Reaper, his name is Lee, a man who’s past is to be revealed and who, while a Contractor himself, hates and seeks to destroy any other Contractor her encounters. He considers them monsters, but what occurred in his past for him to hate them so? Utilizing a mask to conceal his identity and a grappling weapon BK201 hunts with a thirst for destruction it’s hard to believe he’s the same calm Lee we see in normal day settings. Always in tow with Lee is a talking black cat, a mysterious (aren’t they all) girl and a shady short guy. All of their past are to be revealed also. The government’s reasons for wanting the gate and Contractors covered up is a mystery, but we’ve met Kirihara the local police chief assigned to hunt these Contractors and who becomes entangled with Lee.

In this first volume of Darker Than Black viewers are introduced to a slew of characters breaking into factions such as Contractors and Dolls, the government, police and Lee’s group. The overall mystery of what Contractors are and what occurred 10 years ago is the main story point as well as Lee’s personal vendetta against Contractors … and what is up with paying a price for your powers? The stories told in volume 1 set the stage as Lee encounters and kills a Contractor, is lured into a trap by that Contractors associates, becomes and errand boy, a driver to Tahara (lone survivor guy mentioned before) and then encounters a fire wielding Contractor who’s just come into her power.

The story leaves more questions open than answered, but it’s the desire to see these answers that will keep viewers coming back and for fans of mystery mixed with action Darker Than Black is solid. Design and animation breaks no molds but servers to tell the story of a future where powers are possible and the government is working to cover it up. Fight sequences are smooth as unique powers come into play, so while you learn Lee moves quickly, how he uses them against different powers is fun to watch. The voice acting is also solid, not great but solid. This brings me back to where I’ve been a few times, the story. The larger mystery of the gate (Hells gate), Contractors and Lee himself make this a very interesting series. Wolf’s Rain and Witch Hunter Robin come to mind when I think about the overall story and design of Darker Than Black. So where does this leave anime fans? Simple put, looking for a good spy, government conspiracy, super power, and mystery filled action trip? Darker Than Black is for you, nuff said.

Blank Slate vol. 1 Impression

Blank Slate from Viz is a mis-labled manga. Aya Kanno has created a manga that Viz has put under the Shojo label but there is so much Shonen action to love in Blank Slate volume 1.

Zen is a wanted killer, a man without a memory. He is legendary, feared and gives no compassion no matter the circumstance. We meet Zen through the eyes of a bounty hunter who chances across our killer serving as a male prostitute. From this story, which ends with the life of the Bounty Hunter Zen finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as a bank robbery goes bad and a general’s daughter is kidnapped. Zen goes along with the fleeing rebel robber and the general’s daughter because it amuses him. The blind daughter sees a unique side of Zen and helps him to escape from the summer home they hold up in. Things go bad rebel kidnapper, Maka, is killed but gives Zen a bracelet to give to her brother Hakka, a doctor in a small town. As the generals daughter is rescued and states only one kidnapper was involved the rescuers know she is lying, but why, why is she covering for Zen? A showdown in the small town and a prison break ensue for Zen and Hakka as hidden powers and personality are revealed.

The eyes, there is something in Zen’s eyes that reveal to the Galay army he is more than he seems and much more dangerous. In the land invaded by the Galay Army, Zen finds himself wandering, doing what he finds amusing whether it’s going along with the kidnapping of a general’s daughter, delivery the bracelet of a deceased rebel to her brother or breaking into a prison to free rebels and villagers. Zen is no doubt a cold-blooded killer, but he seems to help others are the oddest times. He says he does it for interest, and enough folks die to confirm this, but there is a depth to Zen that urges for more reading. The story is the highlight here as there is plenty of action and the mystery of who is Zen, what is his past and where will he travel next keep the reader engaged.

So, what we have with Blank Slate is a great, yes great, story. Kanno tells a tale that will entice the action fan, enthrall the mystery lover and utilizes character design and art that will wrap in the Shojo crowd. Zen is a very pretty man and seems to deal with other easy on the eyes gents. His methods of persuasion, calm and cool demeanor would have Bond wrapped around his finger, yes he’s that good. The story flows well also with a unique chapter at the beginning then a story chronology that all ties into a nice bow. I, as a major Shonen fan, recommend Blank Slate to any action anime fan, any fan of espionage and spy manga. This is a really good title, and guys I know its Shojo, but give it a spin, good stuff.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Trailer

Beginnings, every game has one and for a mashup as interesting as MK vs. DC you've got to have one worthy of the comic pages. Universe coming together as bad guys of equal power are vanquesthed works. How the game plays I will tell you soon, but for now here is a bit more background on the story as well as some finishing moves from Batman and Lui Kang. Enjoy.

The Examiner Gaming Post Updates

Another week in the books of writing on The Examiner. This past week, past few weeks actually there are been some very anime, comic centric postings, take a look.

Anime as Video Games - This takes a look at some of the recent games that have been turned into anime as well as a look aback at anime turned into games, very common, as well as anime and games created at the same time.

LEGO Batman Impression - My views on the latest LEGO game, this time with my favorite DC hero Batman.

Naruto on Nintendo - An impression of the latest D3 published Naruto titles on the Wii and DS.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Castlevania Judgment Characters Trailer

Castlevania Judgment is a very unique take on the storied franchise. Pulling characters from every game possible, Judgment weaves a new design style around a fighting game engine that is unique to say the least. Check out the characters in game with the trailer below, pay attention to the graphics and remember this is a Wii title, so expect GameCube-ish looks. More to come as this game gets a playthrough.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blue Dragon DVD vol. 1 Impression

Meet Shu, obnoxious young boy who aspires to be a hero, traversing the land on heroic adventures gaining fame and glory. Little does Shu realize that his dreams are closer than they appear, but as the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for. No sooner does the powerful Zola and her companion Jiro enter Shu’s town does it come under attack by the Grankingdoms troops who are searching for something, but what? The answer, gather up the young kids, but why? Shadows are the name of the game as both Zola and Jiro unleash their counterpart shadows to do battle. During the conflict Shu unleashes his own shadow for the first time, the legendary Blue Dragon, who does anything but listen to his master. With the fight won Zola decides to have Jiro accompany them in search of the descendants of the legendary heroes, each who controlled a shadow. Shu packs up as does childhood friend Kluke and they hit the road. As he trains to control his shadow the group encounters a Devee Tribe member, Marumaro, with his own shadow (and a spot for the ladies in his heart), a duo of commanders wielding manufactured shadows and an old acquaintance of Zola who controls a powerful shadow. The adventure begins, but will the group assemble the legendary descendants in time to challenge the Grankingdom?

Ah, Blue Dragon, a well designed, fun it not completely memorable role-playing game for the Xbox 360 that is now a younger targeted anime. The design and simplicity put forth by the game remains the anime with all the core shadow abilities intact, but the story twisted a bit. The voice work is on par with any of a hundred anime these days, solid with each character sounding like they look with no depth beyond their stereotypes. The animation is flat, very basic and colorful, kids will enjoy but not on the top tier of animation seen in other shows. Listening to and watching Blue Dragon reminds a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon. Not bad company, but will give a feel for production. Going back to the story, sticking to what the game offered would not leave much incentive for fans (the target audience) of the game to re-engage in another media format, so twisting relationships, how powers are revealed and the path of the journey is a good thing. New characters can be introduced, and are, but the core players are still engaged. The action does not take too long to build up, again this is not a deep anime, just a very entertaining one. The voice work, design, animation and story melt together into a good anime that is only separated from the rest by it’s association with the game. With a new card game hitting shelves and a new DS title upcoming it’s a good time to be a Blue Dragon fan, and the anime, well it’s for you.

There is a lot of good anime with excellent animation and voice work, not to mention storylines, on the shelves thanks to the efforts of Viz as well as groups like FUNimation. Blue Dragon is a worthy addition to the smaller kids market, and has enough appeal that older gamers, fans of Blue Dragon will want to give this one a look. Know this, with Blue Dragon, what you see on the cover is what you get. It’s animation 101 for young boys, good but not great.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ouran High School Host Club Season 1, Part 1 Impression

Never judge an anime by its cover. A lesson repeated with FUNimations Ouran High School Host Club, part 1 of season 1. At the prestigious Ouran High School breaking a vase can lead to strange debts as Haruhi Fujioka learns. As she stumbles into a seemingly empty music room this commoners life takes an interesting turn as she encounters Ouran’s own host club. A group of pretty boys who appeal to all taste of the ladies and are there to please. Haruhi inadvertently breaks a vase that was for auction and to pay off the insane debt becomes a host herself, but she’s not a he, something the host discovers later but it does not matter. There’s the King, Tamaki Suou, blond hair, blue eyes, ever charming, the mischievous twins Hikaru & Kaoru Hitachiin, the boy Lolita Mitsukuni "Honey" Haninozuka, strong type Takashi "Mori" Morinozuka and calculating Kyoya Otori. Each has unique appeal; each is charming in their own way. Throw in a power hungry female manager, Renge, and you have one interesting club.

If the stereotypes and how they play their roles, Haruhi pretending to be a boy and their obsession with commoner’s coffee was not funny enough, then each adventure is pure comedy bliss. A day at the beach leads to accusations of S&M, a rival girl school vies for Haruhi’s attention, a strange brother and sister, a cavity and a trip to Wonderland just touch on the fun that is the Ouran Host Club. Did I mention Haruhi’s father is a tr … I’ll save that one for now. This is not your ordinary Host Club and as our heroine keeps saying, ‘rich people.’

The animation and character design is straight out of a Shojo manga but with a twist of humor that reminds of the best the Erlic brothers delivered in Full Metal Alchemist (voice actors being the same helps). This series delivers the good on look and feel but seals the deal with the characters. The king, Tamaki is especially outstanding as he obsesses over Haruhi who herself takes everything in stride. Honey being ever cheery and cute, Mori always there to protect and the twins doing their … twin thing, each character delivers such perfect humor. Never have I watched an anime that from the cover I frowned a bit at. This just did not look like an anime for me, but now, now I’m eagerly waiting for part 2. It’s been a long time since an anime surprised me with it’s humor and charm (been a long time since I’ve said I so much too). For a Host Club, Ouran has done its job and charmed this anime fan.

Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Trailer

Yes, even the lowly exploding Prinny can be the star. NIS America gives the PSP some much needed original juice with Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? Check out this teaser trailer, very good use of a plushy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One Piece Season 1 & 2 Uncut Impression

One Piece Season 1 parts 1 & 2 from FUNimation, the best thing to happen to One Piece since its debut in Shonen Jump. Meet Monkey D. Luffy, a young pirate looking to assemble his crew and become the King of the Pirates and find Gold Rodgers treasure One Piece on the Grand Line. As a child Luffy ate one of the fabled Devil Fruit, fruit which grants its consumer powers but robs them of the ability to swim, kind an issue for a pirate.

Season 1, Part 1 introduces viewers to Luffy from the beginning, shows his first encounters with Naval officer Axe-Hand Morgan and pirate Buggy the Clown as well as his first meetings with Zoro and Nami. Through his encounter with Buggy we learn more about how Luffy gained his signature straw hat and gum-gum powers. The first volume ends with a new fight about to begin, this one introducing the cowardly Usopp.

Season 1, Part 2. The encounter with captain Kuro picks up steam as his plot as Miss Kaya’s butler is revealed. Usopp shows a hidden resolve to protect those he cares for and as the battle rages more of Luffy’s abilities are revealed. As the fight ends Luffy has another crew member in Usopp and a ship, The Going Merry, a gift from Miss Kaya. Nami is not fully signed on as navigator yet, she’s just along for the ride. Next up, a cook, and the Sanji story-arc in which the armored Don Krieg is encountered, past of Red Foot Zeff and Sanji is revealed along with their dream of finding the deep blue and Zoro’s past with departed friend Kuina and his first encounter with Hawk-eye Mihawk, a true beast from the Grand Line. Krieg also reveals how his fleet was destroyed and how tough the Grand Line is. As Sanji goes toe-to-to with the Invincible Pearl it’s time to Luffy to step in on behalf of his new chef … to be continued.

There is sooooooooo much more than these very quick summaries. There is a side-trip with an interesting fellow in a box, Gaimon, and a fight with a fat lady pirate. Over these two volumes Luffy, Zoro, Sanji and Usopp all reveal back stories. Nami is the only one who does not, which we shall see later. There is not censorship as in the previous version of One Piece, this is pure, as it should have been seen and is in the manga, One Piece action with blood, smoking, drinking and cussing. Not to extremes, but also not kiddied down to ridiculous levels.

This is what it comes down to. By now One Piece has a solid fan-base thanks to the manga. That base should not hesitate to pick up these volumes as they do true justice to the manga with great pacing, voice work and animation. This is how manga to anime should be done with enough parallels and differences to truly enjoy. One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Buso Renkin … just the beginning of affordable box sets of uncut anime that will and is changing the way anime is done.

Dog Eaters Comic Impression

Dog Eaters, a comic from Malcolm Wong was adapted from his screenplay into a six issue comic with a very heavy manga influence. With art by Chilean illustrator, Guillermo A. Angel, Dog Eaters brings a very Mad Max vision to the printed page that you can just see jumping off the page onto the silver screen. The preview pages below show off not only the unique design (check out the cover) but the excellent use of color. I love comics that take a path less traveled with new stories and adventures and in this Dog Eaters delivers. check out more on the official site and enjoy some screenshots below. Without original ideas the industry will go stale, but with folks like Wong creating then we have nothing to fear. For some reason I keep thinking about King of Hell from Tokyopop when I look at this art ...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blood + DVD vol. 3 Impression

Saya’s journey continues as she encounters the Cinq Fleches Group CEO Solomon Goldsmith at the schools ball. Just who is this mysterious new suitor, what are his ties to the phantom and the school Lycee du Cinq Fleche? Before the ball is over David encounters the phantom deep under the school where Saya does battle and is captured on film by Ryukyu Daily report Akihiro Okamura. As the battle concludes with only more questions to be answered, like what the phantom means by confronting Saya when she has her full memory, the group moves to a small village within Vietnam with a history. Saya remembers this village; a bloody memory which soon appears to be due to the fact the village is a breeding ground for Chiropterans. As a Red Shield strike force moves in Chiropteran children appear and a fight ensues which sees Saya revert to her old self and attack friend and foe alike.

Another battle, more questions and a new path to take, but before that a brief visit back to Okinawa, to pay respects to George, deliver a memento and spend one last care-free day with friends on the beach. As the journey continues more secrets will be revealed and Saya will come closer to her past.

These five episodes on volume 3 of Blood + continue what is already a very engaging journey. The story at the school concludes with a future battle against the phantom to come, the past comes to life as creepy little chiopterans attack in the village of Saya past and there is a break before the next stage of the journey. The story is excellent with great pacing, action and character development. Even with all they mysteries revealed there is so much more to discover, such as who is Red Shield really, what’s up with Solomon and his associates, where did the phantom get to after his fight with Saya … so much to discover that even three disc in viewers will feel like they are just getting started.

Blood + established in volume 1 that it’s design, animation and story are all top notch and into volume 3 there is nothing, nothing to prove otherwise. Blood + is a keeper, from a non-traditional anime distributer in Sony.

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe Story Trailer

Over on The Examiner I wrote about Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe then went into some other gaming mashups. Well the two trailers I have for MK vs. DC show that this game is going to be flat out fun for fans of boths MK and DC. The storyline is standard Mortal Kombat fare, with another universe ripe for the taking and only Mortal Kombat to decide the fate while for DC it's yet another parallel universe story just perfect for the printed page. How it turns out, we'll see very soon, for now enjoy the trailers and just how much fun this game is going to be ... and yes Superman can be beat by magic.

Persona 4 Long Story Trailer

Persona 4 looks sweet, just put down my pre-order today. For a PS2 game I gotta say I'm geeked for this title. This really is the last hurah for the PS2 JRPG and while there will be others coming soon how many will measure up to Persona 4 and it's pre-order goodies.

Sgt. Frog coming from FUNimation

You've read correct, the very humerous Sgt. Frog anime, long listed from ADV Films, is not set to be released by FUNimation. The number of titles saved to put it simply, by FUNimaiton is outstanding. Sgt. Frog is just the latest, and a very welcome addition to an animation landscape needing more humor afterall Shin Chan can't do it all himself. Check out this YouTube Sgt. Frog trailer and let the invasion begin ... and the voices you'll recognize are a freaking trip coming out of a frog, you'll see.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Claymore DVD Vol. 1 Impression

Claymore DVD Volume 1
Yoma, inhuman monsters who prey on humans and once were human themselves. They can assume the form, memories and traits of anyone they consume. Claymore, part human, part Yoma. These women have consumed the flesh of Yoma to obtain the power and strength to sense and kill the monsters they are slowly becoming. Clare is one such Claymore, named for the swords they carry and as the story picks up Clare is on the hunt for a hidden Yoma. As the sliver eyed witch enters the village all stare at her in awe and fear except for one boy whose life will never be the same.

Claymore volume 1 from FUNimation follows the tale of Clare, one of many Claymore, hunters of Yoma. We see her hunt and destroy a Yoma, but also show a compassion to a young boy, Raki, that is very uncommon for the emotionless hunters. As Raki follows Clare her past begins to be revealed as she once in Raki’s shoes, orphaned because of a Yoma. Raki’s family was devoured by a Yoma, who assumed the role of his brother. As Clare leaves his village Raki is cast out for fear he too is a Yoma. Clare assumes the role that Teresa of the Faint Smile assumed with her. A reluctant protector and eventual mentor. As the story goes viewers learn more about the organization that runs the Claymores, sends them on their missions and collects the money from each job.

Clarymore is a tough anime to write about. Why? Because I’ve read so much of the manga and am very, very familiar with the story. I was very interested to see how the anime turned out. Very pleased I must say. The story follows very close to the source material utilizing Clare, her meeting with Raki as well as the beginnings of her back story (to be continued in volume 2). No major changes to what Yoma or Claymore are, back stories are in place and it’s pleasing to a fan of the manga. The art style translates very well into the animated form and the action pops off the screen as it danced in many a readers head as they turned the manga pages. The voice acting is solid with Clare especially good showing some emotion, but hidden under a stoic persona.

What Claymore volume 1 does very well is introduce noobs to story and settings, introduces an ample amount of info from characters to monsters to background to make you want to come back for more, but not feeling like you’ve been jipped. The question I have is how will the story progress, knowing what I do about the manga, will it continue beyond six volumes or wrap up sooner than expected. Ah, that is the lure of this series. A must have for fans of the manga and nice addition to any fan of action anime with a fantasy setting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dark Side of the Horse VI

It’s been a while, but time for another look at the Dark Side of Dark Horse with some analysis of Star Wars comics. There are times I find myself getting behind on what I want to chat about which makes it all the more enjoyable when I finally sit down and put my thoughts and impression on virtual paper. So I hope that my joy and relief comes through in this latest chapter of Dark Side of the Horse.

Star Wars: Rebellion #13 - Small Victories Part 3Star Wars: Rebellion #13 - Small Victories Part 3
The side story continues as Luke and Leia must free themselves with the hop that Deena Shan can assist their escape. Meanwhile Admiral Ackbar finds himself with a tough decision, leave two of your greatest assets in the Imperials hands or send the non-battle tested B-Wings to the rescue. The answer, a little B-Wing action, clone trooper named Able and some good ol’ Jedi type luck for Deena.

This story takes place on the Imperial Bannistar Station, a refueling depot that is the lifeline of the Imps in this sector of space. Unlucky to be captured, Luke and Leia take a backseat to the real stars of this book, Deena, Able and the B-Wings. Seeing how new, well known, Star Wars ships first get into action is a treat, as is seeing an older clone trooper, Able, in action with the original trilogy stars, ties the trilogies together in more ways (also makes you wonder how the hell Obi-Wan got so dang old). The art in these books is some of the best in the Dark Horse Star Wars line; the story is interesting, a nice side-story, but not much more. Worth the pickup if you’ve already started this series, but I’d wait for trade paperback.

Star Wars: Rebellion #14 - Small Victories Part 4Star Wars: Rebellion #14 - Small Victories Part 4
The fight continues as, having escape here assailant, Deena manages to take out an entire Star Destroyer with one little detonator, something Luke compliments her on later. The resulting explosions, confusion and arrival of the B-Wings all tie into on sweet escape for Luke, Leia and the rest of the survivors. Our heroes are safe, the B-Wings have been battle-tested and it’s time for the next story arc.

Not much more I can add here than what I said for Part 3 above. Really good art, action packed story and characters more secure in their spots in life … Deena folks, I’m talking about Deena.

Star Wars: Legacy #23Star Wars: Legacy #23
Fresh from the Sith Temple what is Cade Skywalker to do … clear up some debt and get a ship back of course. A visit to former colleague Rav, who happened to issue a bounty on Cade, is visited by his intended mark only to see a more stern, Force wielding Skywalker smack him down, force him to swear a blood oath as well as release the Grinning Liar from it’s debt. With ship in hand it’s time to head to safe harbor, which just happens to be under attack by the Black Sun.

So earlier I stated that Rebellion has the best art, well only slightly ahead of Legacy. Legacy carries a more realistic style, where even Luke looks like his silver screen self as opposed to the more action oriented Rebellion. The story, it’s a transition story, common in comics and manga. We just finished with the Sith Temple story arc and it’s time for Cade to lay low. Some loose ends are tied up here, but not much else.

Star Wars: Legacy #24Star Wars: Legacy #24
Black Sun disposed of, Cade, Deliah Blue and Jariah Syn all settle in for some good food and relaxation on the Rawk’s Nest. Not all is fun and games as a bounty hunter has tracked our young Skywalker and there is a confrontation brewing as Cade questions is Uncle Nat about his mother, and why Nat abandoned being a Jedi himself. There is also the lecture from both Cade’s Father and Luke, guess dead Jedi just can’t leave the living to themselves. That bounty hunter we touched on, it’s Azlyn Rae, an old friend of Cade’s and one who touches off the next story arc in our adventure.

As the Imperials show up to question the confrontation with the Black Sun , Azlyn proves her trustfulness by convincing the Imps all is well and to leave the planet. As Nat and Cade come to the realization the nest is no longer safe, they conclude it’s time to get packing and the decision is made to head to a secret Jedi location, temple, hidden from only those who helped discover it, including Nat during his days as a Jedi. Unknown to the group a cloaked Imperial Knight ship is following them. The story, it speaks for itself, it involves the Sith, Empire, Imperials and a Skywalker. Jedi on the run with great art, this is a good book and a great jumping in point for anyone new to the book.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #28 - Vector Part 4Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #28 - Vector Part 4
Celeste Morne comes to realize the power she now contains within her as the amulet looks to exert it’s power. She makes the choice to have Zayne seal her in a chamber which will contain the Sith power so that he may transport her to a planet full of Sith relics and a solution can be found to the Rakgoul powers she now carries. Before Zayne can transport Celeste the Mandalorians in orbit decide to decimate the planet from orbit, sealing Celeste fate and setting in motion events that will ripple across generations.

This fourth part of Vector is just the beginning as Celeste now will become part of the future, and Zayne will move onto his next path of action. These two paths, one that will keep you with KOTOR, the other following Vector, both offer enjoyable reads are Zayne is just a small fish in a grand story, very refreshing, while Celeste is about to become much larger than the chess piece she is in KOTOR. The art, worst of the lot. Very, very cartoony, like Cartoon Network tweens action hero tooney, but with body proportions that just don’t seem right. Good story, great cover at, but inside is a mixed bag.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #29 - Exalted Part 1Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #29 - Exalted Part 1
To avenge Celeste and reveal the secrets of Lucien, Zayne and crew head to a secret storehouse of Sith artifacts. The storehouse is hidden on the home world of the Feeorins where one of Zayne’s murderous masters, Feln, commands. Using a guise of Celeste to gain admittance Zayne and Gryph spend days cataloging the artifacts for proof before making their exit … where they are promptly captured.

While the art does improve the story takes a hit as there is very little action. The bit of excitement we get is the conclusion which leads to Zayne’s facing off with one of the Jedi Covenant, Feln. The best thing about this book is it’s lead into the next chapter.

Star Wars: Dark Times #11 - Vector Part 5Star Wars: Dark Times #11 - Vector Part 5
Bomo and the crew of the Uhumele, having faced many losses, choose to sell As Bomo and the crew of the Uhumele decide to sell the package they so dearly paid to obtain. Seems things can never go right for Bomo as the crew is yet again betrayed as Darth Vader is there to claim the package for himself, a package which contains Celeste. As she awakens and the plague begins to spread again the amulet senses a dark presence, one more powerful than Celeste, Vader himself. Vader sees an Old Republic Jedi, who serving with him can overthrow the Emperor. Battle begins and Bomo must work fast to escape.

Excellent art, very realistic mixed with great action as we learn what happened to Celeste, how her package has been passed around through the ages and as she awakens she must deal with her new, harsh reality and a confrontation with a Sith. Great story and fight that leads into the next issue.

Star Wars: Dark Times #12 - Vector Part 6Star Wars: Dark Times #12 - Vector Part 6
The fight continues as Celeste decides to pass on Vader’s offer and to prevent the amulet from claiming a new host. As she resigns herself to a new fate of isolation and Vader leaves the planet the crew of the Uhumele must deal with another set of losses and just where their path will take them.

The story, Vector, is moving along very nicely, and this chapter in Vader’s past is very interesting as it draws parallels to The Force Unleashed in that Vader was always looking for an apprentice to use against the Emperor. The title is so proper as Bomo has nothing but dark times and you wonder what keeps him going. The real gem is the further indoctrination of Celeste into the Star Wars universe, something I for one am very interested to see continue. The art takes a turn for the simpler, but not on the level of KOTOR. As Bomo and Vader leave the planet there is also a very real sense of hopelessness as Celeste is isolated on planet with only her Rakgouls.

That does it for now, and there is more to come. Dark Side of the Horse is one of my favorite pieces to prepare and write for, but it takes time. So let me get cracking on the next part and May the Force Be with you (cheesy I know, but so cool).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Q3 Gaming Report on The Examiner

Something I started earlier this, my quarterly gaming review, is now being continued on The Examer DC. Q1 and Q2 I posted here on AnimeSentinel, but for Q3 you'll need to check out the links below. There are three part, next-gen (Xbox 360 and PS3), Nintendo with Wii and DS then PS2, PSP and one PC title. Few tweaks is I don't go school house and grade each title, and I also don't have a top 5 for the quarter, just one 'best of' game. So check it out, make some comments and enjoy, I hope I'm getting better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Afro Samurai Manga vol. 1 Impression

Afro Samurai Manga volume 1
Afro Samurai manga volume 1 from Tor/Seven Seas takes all the action found in the FUNimation released anime and delivers better than expected. Made famous by its run on Spike TV as well as support and voice work by Samuel L. Jackson, Afro Samurai follows the tale of No. 2 headband wearer Afro Samurai. At a young age Afro witnesses his father, then the owner of the No. 1 headband, slayed before his eyes by No. 2. Fast forward and Afro, now as No. 2 must fend off the attacks of any and every challenger for only No. 2 can challenge No. 1, but anyone can challenge No. 2. The owner of the No. 1 headband gains power, what power we shall learn, but it seems to be godlike, if not eternal life at the least.

As the manga progresses through it’s five chapters we see Afro face off with assassins sent by a group of brothers called the Empty Seven, confront an old warrior on the run from the brothers, use an innocent as a shield, then take on three of the brothers as well as a teddy bear assassin who seems to have a bone to pick. The story ends with Afro, bloodied and close to being buried tossed into a waterfall.

This manga by creators Takashi Okazaki is beautiful. It takes a vivid anime and loses nothing as it moves to 2D black and white pages. The only color used is red, for blood to emphasize the brutality and it works so well. Red, black and white, simple colors yet they work so well to bring the story to life. The art is a mirror of the anime, you can almost hear the hip-hop playing as you read, the style is intact. Learning that Afro Samurai started as a doujinshi manga then evolved into the anime, back into a manga, quite a road and a change in art style. This is an anime East and West collaboration that the industry should be proud of. Storyline you get the basics in place, No. 1 vs. No. 2, the Empty Seven, Teddy Bear assassin, but the stories along the way vary and this is more than enough reason for fans to pick the book up.

This is my first experience with a Tor/Seven Seas published manga, but I assure you it won’t be the last. Like Dark Horse the subtle additions of color and a very premium feel to the book make me proud to have this as a reviewer, fan and collector. High praise, but well deserved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Lagoon: Second Barrage 001 Impression

Black Lagoon The Second Barrage 001
Revy, Rock, Dutch and Benny. The crew of the Black Lagoon get ready for more gun toting, fast paced action in Black Lagoon The Second Barrage 001 from FUNimation. Murder, gruesome and targeted at Hotel Moscow, have left the city shaken and leaders on guard. As the murders continue those who perpetrated the crime come to light, twins. One young boy, one young girl, who thirst for the kill, for the taste of blood. As the murders continue a bounty is put out on Hansel and Gretel, a bounty nobody can ignore including our twisted sister Eda as she teams with Revy to hunt down our twins. Things get really dicey as Balalaika calls in her old Russian special ops unit to handle the twins, which she does with her own style and voracity. As the curtain closes on our blood drinking twins it opens on some slick counterfeiters on the run. When on the run from Miami mafia, where do you go? Why you stumble on the doorstep of the Rip Off Church.

Lots of story elements left out above, and done for a reason. Long have I read comparisons of Black Lagoon to Cowboy Bebop. Long have I said whatever, until now. I found Black Lagoon to be lacking, not in action or unique characters, it has and has had those in spades. No, it’s been lacking in story, until now. The same solid animation and character design seen in the Geneon released first round of Black Lagoon returns, ditto for the solid voice work, but the story really steps up with these twins, and begins to feel like the dark side of Bebop. Three episodes are dedicated to the murders, Hotel Moscow and the hunt for the twins. Learning who hired the killers, their origins and the emotion, it’s a rock solid offering that is propelled by a dark and gothic art style. I found myself drawn to this story, sucked into it like the vampire these children were supposed to be. They were not just more fluffy characters, they had depth and a history, tragedy mixed with a very sad ending. Three episodes that changed my perspective on a franchise. The final, to be continued, episode about a US counterfeiter on the run is ok so far, but it’s not over yet, so more on that soon. This episode has potential thanks to Groovy Guy Gus who’s on the hunt for some funny money makers on the run, so we shall see.

Hmmm, one more thing. These episodes which hooked me had limited, almost no interaction from the crew of the Lagoon until the final part of the final episode. There is an interaction with Gretel but its ties to Rock feel forced. Revy’s hunt with Eda is more a side-story to a story that the twins and Balalaika take over. I now have great hope for Black Lagoon. I may be a bit scattered in my summary but it’s tough when you don’t want to ruin a story this good, worth the purchase.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Aquarion Season 1 DVD Box Set 2 Impression

Aquarion Volume 2 DVD Boxset
Question answered, past lives revealed, enemies unite and lost allies rise in the second volume of Aquarion from FUNimation. After over 12,000 years will the past repeat itself or will a new destiny be forged for Shadow Angel and mankind alike? As Apollo, Sirius, Silvia and the other vector pilots continue from one confrontation to another they are faced with not only physical encounters but mental challenges just as, if not more dangerous. The dangers of merging come to light as Pierre becomes addicted, and is almost destroyed and Sirius is lured to the other side. The girls decide to diet only to see the earth’s food supply ravaged and all the pilots enjoy some cross-dressing to better understand each other. Aquarion itself also faces its own battles as its Aquarion vs. Aquarion and a biting battle with a vampire.

All these encounters lead to one fateful capture as the only Shadow Angel child is isolated and captured by the planets government, is experimented on and finally ‘harvested’ himself allowing for the creation of single pilots who can control three vectors at once, a mixture of both races who are unleashed en-mass on Atlandia in one final battle where Sirius, Toma and Apollo must decide to doom the world, or unite and save it. This final decision is … well it’s for you to see, and not for me to tell.

This second collection of Aquarion, the final fifteen episodes, is more of the same and a very satisfying ending. The animation is really good, not movie quality good, but above 50+ episode series good and the voice acting is sufficient with each character acting like they should, meaning their personality types. There are attempts to go outside these norms, Pierre with his addiction and one single romance, but overall this series is about the Shadow Angels vs. Mankind. The single-episode stories from Pierre’s addition to the vampire, food shortage build a bond with the characters, but it’s not until Sirius betrayal that the show gets darker and much more interesting. The vectors are no longer whole and everyone must come to grips that they may lose this battle. When the new Vectors appear and the source of their power is revealed the series really gets good as its epic, final battle time, and truth be told I did not see the twist coming at the end. I’d really like to mention them, but I just can’t ruin this series. I left wanting more, and that is one of the best compliments I can give a series.

Here’s the deal. If you purchased Aquarion volume 1, then you must get this second set. If you are on the fence about getting Aquarion I am very confident in giving the thumbs up as it delivers great action, humor and interesting characters with all the giant robot merging action you need … if you can get over some unanswered questions, mainly about origin. I’ll be thinking about Aquarion for a long time to come, not because it’s a legendary anime, but because it did so many things right to stick with me.