Thursday, May 22, 2008

Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Impression

I'll never hide the fact I love Square Enix, their games, their music ... pretty much everything they have to offer. I've recently had a chance to get my hands on Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Set Vol. 1 and Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Set Vol. 2 from the Square Enix Store and I must say, for under $20 these sets of four figurres are to die for. Pictured is vol. 2, but I'd like to touch on both sets at once. Each set contains four semi-deformed (cartoon looking) characters, one each from Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X and XII.

Final Fantasy VII - Cloud in vol. 1, Tifa in vol. 2. Hands down Cloud is the reason to buy this set. Sword in hand, hair on point and not an ounce of mopiness around. Tifa is a nice addition, but me want Sephiroth. The detail on each is outstanding for such a small figure, something I will say applies to every figure in these sets. Cloud looks good anywhere you put him and all of Tifa's assets are here to enjoy.

Final Fantasy VIII - Rinoa in vol. 1, Squall in vol. 2. Rinoa has always been one of my favorite female characters in any FF and having her figure with Squall just fits. Squall is even more special due to his appearance in Kingdom Hearts which is just sweet. Like Cloud and Tifa the pairing of Squall and Rinoa is just perfect for any collection. From Rinoa's highlights to Sqall's scar the detail I mention above is seen here.

Final Fantasy X - Yuna in vol. 1, Auron in vol. 2. Ok, Yuna is kinda a cheat since the figure is from X2 and not her look in X. She looks great, but I'm not sure why she is the X2 version. Now Auron, he is just a badass that could very well be the greatest figure in any of these sets. He's large and in charge on my work desk and just reminds me of the ending of FFX, him and Tidus ... damn that was good.

Final Fantasy XII - Vaan in vol. 1, Ashe in vol. 2. It's the latest title, but one full of memorable characters. Vaan in volume one is a stretch, he grew on me in the game, but I want ... I don't know something more manly in the first set. Ashe just knows she's cute and is posing like it. She has some great detail and color in her figure down to her necklace.
All together having one character each from such beloved series will make you want to collect every volume that comes out. At a nice price point and with great detail there is no reason not to pick these up. I highly recommend them and it's not often you have a chance to get affordable goodies for a series such as Final Fantasy.

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures Launch Trailer

A lot can be gained from watching a game in action. In person is the best, but if you must over the internet can work quite well. Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures has the voiceover and epic feel of a major movie trailer and the action looks to deliver with the same brutal action seen in the Conan movies, comics (Darkhorse) and novels. This game looks hot, but how does it play? Take a look at the trailer and if, when, I get a chance to take this puppy for a spin I'll let you know how it stacks up with the comics. Good times.

Metal Gear Solid 4 Images, May 2008

I am drooling over every video, image, story tidbit ... every ounce of information I can get on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. From the limited edition to the art what is not to love about this upcoming Konami title ... nothing I say. Yes, I am an MGS fanboy. Check out these new images that are just money!

Konami Gamers Day 2008

Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid 4, Hellboy and Silent Hill

On May 14th Konami held their Gamers Night displaying their line-up for 2008. They’ve got some interesting titles coming out but there are a handful I’ve got to chime in on, that I’m super geeked about and cannot wait to play. With the price of gaming on next-gen reaching new heights you’ve gotta be picky and these titles will not fail you. Lets start with a true classic.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia – Releasing in the Fall on the Nintendo DS Order of Ecclesia will no doubt contine the addictiveness of the first two DS outings. Playing as a member of the Ecclesia, a group bend on Dracula’s descturion, gamers will play through 20 levels of Castlevania goodness. When you have Iga behind a game you know what you’re going to get. I played forever on the first two games and being portable, damn this is money.

Hellboy: The Science of Evil – Ah, the wildcard. Hellboy hits n June (24th). Not based on the movie but the comic (neat) this title will follow Hellboy as he battles Hermann Von Klempt, who like all bad guys is out to rule the world. Why am I excited for Hellboy … because it’s got great source material. Konami has one Hellboy under their belt and I guarantee this title will be fun, not revolutionary, but fun.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – Years, I’ve waited years for this game. It is the cream of the crop on the PlayStation 3, period. The story of MGS can be strange at times but Hideo Kojima is always pushing the limits and this game will be no exception. My birthday is not until July, but I’m getting me an early birthday present this year. Did someone say special edition MSG PS3. From Konami “Created by the legendary Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid®4: Guns of the Patriots is the final chapter in the saga of Solid Snake, which sends him around the world in pursuit of his arch nemesis, Liquid Ocelot. Armed with new gadgets and abilities, Solid Snake must shift the tides of war into his favor, using the chaos of the battlefield to infiltrate deep into enemy territory. In his globetrotting final mission, Snake must sneak deep into enemy locations in the Middle East, South America, and other corners of the earth to foil Liquid Ocelot's plans for total world domination.” Final Mission, hot damn. Oh, there is also this online game included and it looks ok … like winning the lottery ok.

Silent Hill: Homecoming – Ever since Resident Evil went more action than heart contraction the hair raising scares of Silent Hill more than satisfy the need to gory gaming. The thought of playing as Alex Shepherd as he returns to Shepherd’s Glen to search for his brother in full HD with all the lights out and sound turned up high … oh man this is going to be sweet! I have to wait until September with the rest of you, but for a good scare it’s worth it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Death Note DVD vol. 2 & 3 Impression

In a game of cat and mouse there will be blood especially when both participants believe they are the cat. So is the case with Light and L in volume 2 and 3 of Death Note from Viz. By the time I post about these two volumes the fourth one will be hitting, so consider yourself up to speed. Before I chat about either volume let this be known. The animation reflects the manga very well relaying the same beauty seen on the printed page. Each character is unique with both Light and L seeming very real, two perfectionist who cannot be outdone by the other, but who’s demise will it lead too …

Death Note vol. 2
As L steps up the game so does Light by taking out the FBI agents assigned to the case. One particular fiancé of disposed of FBI agent Ray Penbar starts to put the pieces of her fiancés death together and just happens by chance to meet Light before any members of the Task Force. Who is she, and how can Light outwit her without revealing himself or allowing her to reveal what she knows. Since the deceased FBI agents were only trailing Task Force family L ask permission to bug the Yagami household, to keep an eye on Light in particular. Ryuk informs light of the surveillance, ,which he suspects when finding his door trap spring and not put back properly. Light has to take his game to the next level to take care of both situations.

This volume, while only the second does step up the storytelling as Light has to take on Ray’s fiancé, Naomi Misora and eliminate not a criminal, but someone out for rightful justice. Light begins his decent that was inevitable once he took up the notebook. It’s easy to murder once it’s your ass on the line. Needless to say Kira takes care of this little issue only to be faced with a wired house. This issue, solved by using a small LCD TV in a bag of chips. Look like he’s studying while getting criminals on the small TV while being observed as not watching the news shows. Good tactic which is assisted by Ryuk since he can’t eat apples with all the wires around. What is intriguing about volume 2 is the challenge Light faces, two instances he did not expect, one of which moves him closer to the criminals he looks to eliminate.

Death Note vol. 3
A new Kira, one with the ability to see with the Shinigami eyes and who is not afraid to murder innocents. L revealed, but not L’s name. As Light begins his entrance exams and scores the highest possible, he has competition, L. Under an assumed name, that of a famous actor, L introduces himself to Light, a very calculated and unexpected move. The two cats engage in an intense tennis match which epitomizes their back and forth relationship. As L takes Light into the fold, inside the Task Force, it’s a secondary Kira that troubles Light. This new Kira murders a task force member, a news anchor and police officers as they arrive at the studio. Who is the new Kira, and what do they want, why are they trying to contact Light and just how stupid can they be to reveal messages about Shinigami on the air?

Where volume 2 challenged Light in a manner that he resolved with minimal effort volume 3 weaves a web that will not be as easy to escape from. L’s reveal carries with it a measured risk, one that Light is determined to turn in his favor until a lovesick aspiring teen idol gains her very own death note. This new twist and a new protective Shinigami, Rem, who threatens Lights just adds to the drama. This story is not resolved so easily and unlike volume 2 you will not be able to wait for volume 4. I still prefer the manga as it allows for the story to be fleshed out more, but the anime is pure bliss for those otaku with a twisted sense of justice. Death Note is a delicious guilty pleasure.

D. Gray-Man Anime Acquired by FUNimation

Very few announcements get my skin all goose-bumpy like the most recent from FUNimation. They have acquired from Dentsu 51 episodes of the anime for D. Gray-Man, a manga I’ve talked about often and absolutely love. Check out FUNimation’s D. Gray-Man site for the first glimpse at the trailer. For those not familiar with the series it is published by Viz with superb art by Katsura Hoshino and a story that, while confusing me at times, is full of memorable characters and a very unique story. To summarize, here is what D. Gray-Man is all about …

“Allen Walker is a young boy who is a member of The Black Order; a secretive organization whose members are known as Exorcists. The Order's primary mission is to stop The Millennium Earl, an ancient being who intends to 'cleanse' the world by destroying all life on it.
Exorcists are specially chosen humans who are gifted with the ability to control and use Innocence, a divine substance created in ages past to combat the Earl and his minions.
The Millennium Earl is aided in his plans by The Noah Clan, humans who are direct descendants of Noah himself, and commands an army of demonic creatures called Akuma to do his bidding. Since Akuma can impersonate humans and blend in with society, Exorcists are routinely assigned to track down and eliminate them. Allen is the only exorcist able to see through the Akuma's disguise. Japan takes center stage in this end of 19th Century set battle between the Millenium Earl and the Exorcists – who have God on their side.”

That’s FUNimations stance, for what I think about D. Gray-Man check out these blog post on this site and a few from my old journal here.

Hands down this is an absolute coup for FUNimation. One of the hottest anime companies around just got a hell of a lot hotter … they have Claymore too :)

Zoids Assault Preview

I love anime, and I love video games based on anime. No matter the original source material I have to take a look from the usual suspects of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto to the lesser knowns such as the upcoming Zoids Assault from Atlus. Hitting the Xbox 360, Zoids Assault is a strategy RPG that should leave fans of the series salivating, but what about everyone else?

This is an interesting title as Zoids never received the treatment it deserved here in the states from an anime standpoint. This title is a way of engaging the floundering Japanese Xbox 360 market, and one I must applaud. Unlike its predecessor the 360 is truly looking to establish itself in Japan, but the clock is ticking as they are giving Sony too much time to sort out their issues. See Atlus turns out a lot of niche titles, ones that J-RPG’ers, like me, love. Zoids is just one entry on the Xbox 360 for Atlus along with Operation Darkness and Spectral Force 3. Anyway back to Zoids the source material is very, very rich with tons of mecha to upgrade, each in the form of an animal. Where Front Mission is a gray military based SRPG Zoids will liven things up with great customization options and commanding a team of specially designed Zoids will reflect well on the anime as teams go head to head. According to Atlus there will be “tons of customization and upgrade options, including melee weapons, rockets, rifles, machine guns, shotguns, cannons, and more” which is nice to hear.

So what do I think? Sweet is what I think. Like I said the Zoids series is money, better than you would expect and if this game delivers what it promises fans will have a great time and SRPG’ers are going to be satisfied as well. The waiting game begins.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bleach The Movie in Theaters, June 2008

Kubo is Coming

Bleach The Movie is coming, Bleach The Movie is coming!!!

Yes, this is a big deal, I love me some Bleach. Bleach The Movie: Memories of Nobody from Viz will be hitting select theaters nationwide, about 300 theaters according to Viz on June 11th and 12th. Not only will viewers get the move they will also be treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the talent behind the characters and a first-time ever interview with acclaimed Japanese director Noriyuki Abe. To get all the info you need on where Bleach The Movie is showing click here.

And now for a comment from the official Viz Press Release ...

“This premiere will offer a rare opportunity to see a brand new story inspired by the successful animated series,” said Liza Coppola, senior vice president, corporate relations & partnerships, VIZ Media. “For those not yet familiar with the BLEACH series, this is a wonderful introduction to the characters and thrilling action that have made the property a hit in North America.”

Acclaimed Japanese creator Tite Kubo illustrates the story of “Blanks,” unidentified beings who are being followed by a Soul Reaper named Senna who makes them disappear. Puzzled by these unknown beings and the mysterious girl who follows them, Ichigo and Rukia set out to learn more, but uncover an evil plot when a menacing clan tries to kidnap Senna. Can Ichigo and his fellow Soul Reapers save the World of the Living and the Soul Society worlds from annihilation?

Presented by NCM Fathom and VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY appears on the big screen in high-definition with Cinema Surround Sound in more than 300 select AMC, Celebration! Cinema, Cinemark USA Inc., Clearview Cinemas, Georgia Theatre Company, Goodrich Quality Theaters, Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres, National Amusements and Regal Entertainment Group movie theatres, as well as the Penn Cinema (Lititz, PA) through NCM’s exclusive Digital Broadcast Network.

“NCM Fathom has experienced great success bringing anime events to movie theatres and we are excited to bring BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY to anime fans across the country this summer,” said Dan Diamond, vice president of NCM Fathom.

The manga series BLEACH has been licensed in more than a dozen countries, selling over 50 million copies in Japan alone. In North America, the popular animated series is viewed weekly by millions on cable television. For more information on BLEACH and BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY, visit

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 Story Trailer

Most fighting games have a passable story, but Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 is like a side-story, one that Naruto fans everywhere should enjoy (more than the filler episodes running now). Good times, enjoy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aquarion Season 1 DVD Box Set 1 Impression

Society is in shambles. Eleven years after the Great Catastrophe society still lives in fear of the Shadow Angels who, after 12,000 years of slumber, returned to wreck the world. With massive harvesting machines rounding up those humans left there is only one hope the mechanical, combining mech Angel Aquarion. Pilots with specific psychic abilities are selected as pilots and no two combinations of Aquarion are the same, each is unique based on the lead pilot and their emotional state. During one such harvest a boy by the name of Apollo is taken in by the Aquarion group and he shows a natural ability to pilot Aquarion, one that may mean he's the reincarnation of Apollonius. With Shadow Angels stepping up their attacks it's up to these pilots, these elements, to fight for the fate of humanity.

Ok, so we've got a devastated society, mysterious alien force, Shadow Angels, and special kids, Elements, who can pilot a combining mech, Aquarion, in fighting these Shadow Angels ... hmmmmm, yup sounds like Voltron (thanks Play!), Evangelion and a slew of other combining robot anime through the years, which is a good thing. In this first collection, 13 episodes total, we meet the main players in Aquarion, Apollo (mangy, raw talent street urchin), Silvia and Sirius (spoiled 'nobility' type pilots) as well as other like Reika who uses her bad luck to fight, a wheelchair bound little girl named Rena, Gen Fudo crazy commander, nerdy pilot girl, techie nerd pilot, soccer loving pilot ... yeah there is quite a cast of characters to meet and follow, each with their own abilities and reasons for fighting. The reason I gloss over some names (besides not memorizing all of them) is that the story really focuses on Apollo, Silvia, Sirius and the Shadow Angel named Toma. The story starts with Apollo losing his friends, most notably Baron, to a harvest then getting recruited into the Aquarion program. There he shows a talent that pisses off others, Sirius especially. These first 13 episodes set the stage, show the characters relationships, talks of reincarnation and prophecy and leave a hell of a lot of questions. Who are the Shadow Angels, are Apollo and Silvia truly reincarnations from the past, where did Aquarion come from, what happened during the Great Catastrophe, why were the Shadow Angels sleeping for 12,000 years and why did they destroy society? Want more ... who is Gen Fudo, where was he when he returned as base commander, what does he know about Apollo and the others and what's the deal with Rena?

So it's a combining mech anime with young pilots battling a mysterious force of Shadow Angels in a devastated future where mankind is looking at extermination ... and there are a ton of questions to be answered. Good. Created by Studio Satelight of Hellsing and Noein fame, directed by Shoji Kawamori (Macross Plus, Escaflowne) and scored by Yoko Kanno, there is nothing not to love about the creative minds behind Aquarion, and you most def see the directors influence. The animation is excellent. The character designs serve their purpose as you can guess each characters mood by their appearance form the prim and proper Silvia to the raggedy Apollo. Aquarion itself is a nice looking mech that take three unique vector units and combines them in any combination where each of the three units can serve as the head, torso or legs. The music is great, not as good as say Cowboy Bebop, but there is no denying Kanno's talent. See with Aquarion, it's the story that shines, but not right away.

This was one of the first collections FUNimation has released like this. Thirteen episodes in place of a five episode volume 1 DVD, good call. As I said the story is pretty standard mech fare with a team of kids, and if you were left to decide after one DVD to continue this series I'm not sure if every viewer would. I for one would have been 50/50, but not after the final 2-3 episodes of this collection. This is when Kawamori's genius shines, when viewers will feel a touch of Macross Plus and a heaping dash of Escaflowne. The relationships, hints of the past, the questions I talk about above really start to come to the fore. No longer is this just an anime about kids piloting a robot and fighting, no it turns into a suspenseful story where so much is to be revealed and Aquarion takes a backseat to relationships, both from the past and present. I loved Escaflowne and there is just something about this story that plays on those emotional chords for me. So here we are thirteen episodes in, collection 1 of Aquarion done and wanting more.

Animation is good, story is great (give it time to build), music is typical Kanno and this collection is a great addition for mech fans. It was bold of FUNimation to release a new series like this, quite a gamble, but I will say it paid off. You will not feel cheated in any way with Aquarion from FUNimation, so pick it up now, support the industry and enjoy.

Guinness World Records: Gamers’ Edition 2008 Impression

When I was younger, back in elementary school I loved when the new Guinness Book of World Records would come out. Seeing all the tall, short, heavy and just odd records with background information was great. This was well before you could find similar data on the internet so it really was a treat. Learning about the tallest man ever to live with old black and white photos, or the longest someone jumped on a pogo-stick, never earth shattering but fun to see, and to see who was setting new records year-in and year-out. Now I have a new book to look forward too, from Guinness of course, but all about gaming. Say hello to Guinness World Records: Gamers’ Edition 2008.

There have been collections of games in the past, but I've yet to see one that hits the mark. Give me a history of RPG's book and within 6 months it's outdated due to the latest WoW expansion or Final Fantasy release. Guinness solves this problem due to its unique content layout. Let’s take a look.

Since this is a yearly publication there is no need to capture everything there is to know about games or even their records, Guinness can take their time and they have. Readers get a rundown of how and why this book was put together, it's vision along with a look at the history of gaming, of video gaming, that is not too much, not too little, just right. There is some speculation about the future of gaming tacked onto the back of our current systems. Learn about Sega's systems as well as the current big three and more. This look at the current hardware and the future will be great to revisit in the 2009 addition, see what came to pass. So a good introduction touching on all the systems someone like me in their 30's has played.

Before getting into the content, into the sub-sections I wanted to mention the four interviews spread throughout the book. Learn about LiL Poison, the youngest record setting gamer along with interviews of Walter Day, Tommy Tallarico (composer) and Jonathan Smith. Each has a contribution to gaming and it's a nice touch to the overall book.

Game Genre and Records
Ok, my heading may not be accurate but that is what the meat of this book is about and why I really enjoy and will purchase this series in the future. Guinness takes an overall look at each major genre including Action Adventure, Fighting, Shooting, Platform, Sports, Racing, Role-playing, MMORPG, Strategy, Simulation, Music and Puzzle & Maze. When you go to a section, say Fighting games you get two page spreads of anywhere from 2-3 to 5-6 of the major titles in that category, so Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, Virtua Fighter each has their own two-page spread with facts about the franchise and records with a recap of the genre at the end. This pattern is repeated with titles, franchises such as Zelda, Super Mario, Sonic, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Quake, Metal Gear Solid and more each getting their own pages with a genre recap. Lots of details on each series, lots of fun facts and of course existing records.

Index & Top 100 Arcade Games
Index, good times, yeah you can check that out yourself but what you need to see if the Top 100 Arcade Games and Record-braking high scores sections. Fun to see just how insane some of these scores are especially with the arcade dying in the US.

Final Impression
The recap of hardware is interesting, interviews passable and Top 100 Arcade Games fun to digest, but it's the layout of the genre sections that impressed me. Where so many of these gaming books have failed Guinness excels. If there is a franchise missing from this 2008 edition, a two-page spread its potential content for future years. If a new hot game comes along it can be touched on in the future, you can even add an anime game section, or dating simulation down the road. You are not limited to one volume of a book where you have an insane need to cram in every ounce of info, just let it wait till next year. It makes sense that a book about gaming records and information comes out each year when so many gaming franchises are annual or if they have any success they will get a sequel. Competitive gaming is also on the rise, so you can bring these guys in with records and whatnot. If you're a gamer like me, old enough to have played Atari, but not the original Space Invaders then this book is a great purchase. Lots of nostalgia on old games and systems and fun quick reads. For younger gamers a great purchase also to see what records you can target and to 'Know Your Roots' to quote a Nintendo t-shirt. I have a hard time finding fault with this book as they did not over do the content and have left a lot of flexibility for next year ... and pictures, they have lots of pictures.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blood + vol. 1 Impression

Back in 2000 anime fans were introduced to Saya in Blood: The Last Vampire. Saya hunted vampire like monsters called Chiroptera who were masquerading as students in a local high-school. The anime was beautiful in its entire execution form sound to animation, truly a thing of beauty. Even with this praise there was one major drawback, the length. Blood clicked in at around 45 minutes and left viewers wanting more, wanting questions answered about Saya’s past, what she is, what is an original. Well, it’s 2008 and anime fans are finally getting the answers they want, in a manner that is. With Sony releasing Blood + on DVD and airing it on Cartoon Network it’s time to learn about Saya as she rediscovers herself.

There are numerous Blood novels and manga in Japan that flesh out the story of Saya. We got just a taste of this banquet back in 2000 and Blood +, while not as beautifully animated, is quite the main course. This telling of Saya has a different art style than back in 2000, to be expected when you consider the production cost of a 20-30-40+ series run vs. a 45 minute movie. The Saya we see in Blood + has a younger, more innocent feel to her, a look and feel that fits once you get into the storyline. There is also the mysterious Haji and various government organizations to absorb. So, let’s take a look at volume 1 of Blood + on DVD.

Saya is just your average high-school track athlete, one who can only remember the past year of her life, a life spent with adopted father George and brothers Kai (older bro) and Riku (younger). Life is normal until Saya forgets her track shoes at school and while retrieving them one evening is attached by a monster, a Chiroptera. As she’s assaulted the cello playing Haji (tall, dark, handsome, mysterious guy, an anime staple) hands her a swords and tells her it’s time to fight. Saya has seen Haji around town, playing music that stirs her memories, but why? Things begin to unravel as Riku sees the Chiroptera, the role of George as protector is revealed by David, a government agent of some type and we see Argeno, a French gentleman working with the US Military to capture mice (Chiroptera) and seem to have their own shenanigans going on. Saya begins to learn about herself, we see glimpses of her past with Haji, George is attacked and hospitalized and then taken by the US Military. There is much going on in Okinawa, and in the past Vietnam conflict that all involves Saya and her blood which is the only weapon against the Chiroptera.

I mention earlier that the animation is not as good as back in 2000, but it is crisp for a longer running series. The character designs are quite good, better than I expected in fact, reminds me a lot of Witch Hunter Robin in the characters dress and manners. The stories pacing is excellent with great action stirred into a cornucopia of mysterious past, secret government agendas and more. What happened in Vietnam, why does Saya no longer have her memory, what is up with Haji’s hand. No, there is no end to the questions viewers will want answered, and that is a great thing to say after any volume one of a series. You want viewers to come back for more and Blood + does just that. The music is top notch, from Hans Zimmer, the animation is top level for a long running series and the characters are very engaging. Saya shows flashes of the ruthless assassin from 2000 that just teases at what the series will become. With 21 more episodes to go this is a series that any vampire, super-natural anime fan will want to check-out. Pick up volume 1 on DVD or splurge for the box set complete with a sweet t-shirt and preview of the Darkhorse Blood + manga which I’ve touched on previously. I was a doubter of Blood + a few years ago, after all how could you top Blood: The Last Vampire. Answer is you don’t, you just add to the story in a manner that just fits. I highly recommend this series … and I’ll let you know what else is going on as I continue to watch.

Guyver vol. 7 Impression

Guyver volume 7 from ADV Films is a mixed bag. One year later, both Guyvers still missing after Archanfel destroyed the relic. Tetsuro and Mizuki are in hiding not able to even see their parents and unknown to anyone they are being looked after by Aptom, who has his own motivation, waiting for the Guyver to return. It’s a bleak future where Chronos took over all the worlds’ governments in a matter of weeks thanks to planted zoanoids and now society is promoting optimization, all with no opposition. Almost no opposition that is. Makishima makes an appearance as the head of an anti-Chronos group, his Guyver powers intact but still no match for the zoalords of Chronos. He is searching, searching for Sho, but where is our hero? He was encased, merged with the remains of the relic in a cocoon where the command metals from the relic have merged with his own. Meanwhile Chronos is in possession of this cocoon with no idea what is inside. Before he can make an appearance a rebuilt ZX-Tole wreaks havoc and seeks revenge on Aptom, who he quite nicely kicks all over town, until (cue music) a massive Guyver appears and annihilates ZX-Tole. Seems Sho, who happened to transport half-way around the globe to save the day, has merged with the Relic and is now the most powerful Guyver ever. Reunited with his friends with newfound power it’s time to retake what Chronos took. Right?

I really enjoyed this series. It truly was a new level of violence and reminded me of the live-action Guyver films and earlier anime series. This Guyver was not about happy endings as seen when Sho’s father is transformed and killed and the bad guys actually take over the world. But the good guys win, right? Nope. See just when I get goose bumps about Sho returning and being just a badass, poof, that’s it, series over. Yes, right after the fight with ZX-Tole, after we watch an entire episode of Tetsuro and Mizuki in seclusion the series ends. Yes, Sho is alive which is great, but we never get the rematch with Archanfel, we never get to see what this new Guyver can really do. I could live with society’s issues no being resolved if only the new Guyver had a chance to take on a few zoalords. I feel empty, like there are a few episodes missing, and no move in sight to wrap things up. For a series that evoked so many of my anime roots, emotions I’ve not had since I first got into anime, I’m upset. The action, the character design, the story is unique and has been around for quite a few years now and finally getting to see a new evolved Guyver, yeah it’s just sad to see it end with so many plot points left unfinished. Does this mean the series is bad … no, not by a long shot. It was quite good and very enjoyable, but like the Sopranos it just left something to be desired at the end. As sad end to such a good anime.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Afro Samurai Game Trailer and Screenshots

Afro Samurai, most well known for airing on Spike TV in 2007 and having quite a voice cast headlined by Mr. Royale with Cheese Sam Jackson, is getting the video game treatment and it is looking suh-weet! The anime from FUNimation was excellent telling the story of #2 Afro as he hunted the owner of the #1 headband who just happened to kill his pappy. The action is bloody and stylish mixing traditional samurai action with a hip-hop flare. Namco Bandai is bringing this title to us and with their history of good and excellent anime based titles (and a few poopers) it's still up in the air just how good a game this will be (hope for Naruto, pray against Zatch Bell). Here's to hoping the game measures up and to tide you over and myself of course, check out this trailer and screenshots below.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Witchblade vol. 5 Impression

What’s a mother to do when her corporate sugar daddy takes a dive for the better of the company, new and stronger enemies appear, romance is in the air and a daddy appears? Evolve of course. In Witchblade volume 5 from FUNimation Masane is faced with new challenges, both from Cloneblades as well as personal challenges. I will warn you now; there are spoilers here, so you’ve been warned.

Reiji steps down from his role in the Doji Group as a fall guy for the recent murders and also spends time with his daughter who does not know he is her father. Masane finds herself giving into her feelings for Reiji, with a little encouragement from Rihoko. Tatsuoki has a major legacy complex and it cost him his life as his genetics come to a crashing end as secret alliances are revealed. Oh, the Witchblade undergoes a major transformation as Masane finds herself outclassed by a new weapons grade cloneblade. She changes color and just becomes even more badass and sensual all at the same time.

This volume of Witchblade has it all. Excellent animation, great voice acting, super story and exclusive cover art. Lets start there where Dale Keown of Hulk fames depicts the death of the father, quite nice. Having these artist contribute to the covers really helps to tie this series back to the Top Cow comics. Ok, animation, great, touched on that before, voice acting ditto, story, oh yes the story is getting spicy now. Not only do we get a new intro and theme song to match the transformation of the Witchblade but we begin to learn much more about the past, why Masane was at the eye of the storm, about Reiji and his fatherly role as well as where the clone blades came from, what their purpose is. The secret agendas of those within and outside the Doji group add to the spice, it’s just really ramping up at the right time. One hell of an anime I must say. As we speed to the conclusion there are still plenty of questions to be answered and with the overall package Witchblade delivers anime fans just can’t lose.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Devil May Cry DVD vol. 1 Impression

Take one half demon, half human demon hunter mix in one nasty sword named Rebellion, two guns named Ebony and Ivory along with one deadly Lady, a dash of Trish and a heaping load of action, top off with style and you’ve got Devil May Cry from ADV Films.

Adapted from the video game franchise of the same name, Devil May Cry follows the adventures; I should say cases of hunter-for-hire Dante. The story takes place before the events of Devil May Cry 4 and after the original Devil May Cry. Viewers are introduced to Dante and his Devil May Cry agency where he’ll take on any job for the right price. We start off with some bodyguard action as Dante protects a little girl in transit to a will hearing (she later stays on with our white haired hero) then head into Dante’s dealings with a demon in love, with a human, and her vengeful father … next up a motorcycle ride from hell finished off with a story about the ladies. Four episodes, tons of action and quite an excellent effort for an anime based on a video game.

Before getting into the story and animation know this. If you’ve never played a Devil May Cry video game your enjoyment of the anime will not be hampered in any way. There are plenty of story tid-bits sprinkled within, usually relayed via conversation pieces (like Dante’s demon blood). There is a history with each character viewers may not understand, but many an anime have done this before. The stories in this first volume are all about introduction, characters and their relationships. So far no major plot points revealed but this is just volume one so that’s to be expected. The one constant thus far is the little girl Dante saves, but not sure where that is going yet so maybe that’s a main plot point. The story has impressed so far. The animation works and works well. Dante moves and fights like the badass he is. He does not look out of place or too cheesy when racing down a highway, shooting up a bridge, shooting through a curtain of taking care of a demon in a dark train car, he’s just plain smooth. He’s also a slacker sitting at his desk always ordering pizza and staying behind on his depts. So we have dark, action packed animation mixed with and old 50’s style detective office feel … meaning he just sits around reading and eating. The voice acting is better than the game. Ok, maybe that’s not the greatest comparison but I had true fears when Dante opened his mouth it was going to be like Black Eyed Griffin when the talkies became the norm, and if you watch Family Guy you know what I mean ;) No worries. He moves smooth, fights fierce and talks with a swagger that just fits. Lady and Trish also have a seductiveness to counter Dante.

So where’s that leave us? We are left with a solid story, great animation and character design topped off with superb voice action. The only knock I have on the DVD is its only four episodes deep, I want more. I want to know what main foe will step to the front and face Dante and it’s this want that has me looking forward to volume 2 of Devil May Cry and highly recommending Devil May Cry volume 1 on DVD to any action anime fan, and must have for fans of the Devil May Cry video games.

The World Ends with You Trailers

Ok, jury is still out on The World Ends with You from SquareEnix. Why? Because I'm still plugging away on Crisis Core (sooooooooo good) and I'm just not popping in TWEWY. The style is outstanding afterall I'm a huge Kingdom Hearts fan, and the music is catchy. I'll tune in later with some impressions of the gameplay, but for now here are (drumroll) some trailers to check out.

The World Ends with You - Field Trailer
Running around from screen to screen and then doing some shopping in The World Ends with You from SquareEnix.

The World Ends with You - Event Trailer
This game just bleeds style. Check out this clip of one of the events where every still screen is a work of art ... love the character design.

The World Ends with You - Battle Trailer
The battles in The World Ends with You are about as funky as they get, just like the games overall style.

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2 Trailer

The first Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes was a great fighting game on the PSP, one that's still in my PSP today. The action is fun and fast and there is no reason the follow-up won't be the same, especially after I got my hands on these trailers. Check out the action and some of the new characters to be seen in the game ... good times.

It's girl on girl action as Sakura unleashes her wild side on Hinata in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress.

Getting the upper hand again, Naruto destroys Gaara in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress.

Kakashi lays the smack down on Kisame in Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress.