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.