Thursday, April 30, 2009

Darker Than Black vol. 3 Impression

Three volume in and viewers will get to know more about the story driving Darker Than Black from FUNimation. A dark and gripping series, Darker Than Black volume 3 shows that not even those dolls once thought emotionless are fully sperated from their human past.

Hei enters Hell’s Gate by posing as a cleaning person in the facility investigation the zone. There seems to be a stone in the zone that holds secrets to the events of the recent past and creation of contractors and dolls. Hei is confronted by a kindred soul, a man with similar powers as his and together they bond before being ripped apart. What they do share is a view of the stars that lends to more questions. In order to gain what they’ve lost they must enter the zone … cryptic does not even touch on the mysteries left to be revealed. Next the story shifts to Yin, an emotionless doll who was human, a very human little girl with parents and a love of the piano. As she’s marked for elimination can her current piano playing save her as a sign of humanity still left and will Hei disobey orders that drive his existence and just how will the syndicate paying him react? Seems not all the mysteries are in Hell’s Gate.

Darker Than Black is crisp, both the animation and action. Hei is the perfect example of this as without his mask he is a very normal looking, action guy but when the mask is on he’s a deadly killer with crazy powers. The night and day of the show comes with no drag … guess what I’m getting at is the colors used, time of day used in is crisp, sharp and does not drag out the animation with unneeded shading or detail, it looks good. The use of computer animation allows for smooth backgrounds and vehicles, a nice mix with the sharp animation. Now the character designs are not groundbreaking but the powers of the contractors and Hei’s mask, they are very cool and unique. The story is what will hook viewers. This is looking like a six disc series and after watching three so far the story is moving along swimmingly, especially with its 2-3 episode story arcs. Little by little viewers learn more about the world of Darker Than Black and volume 3 knocks out some info on Hell’s Gate as well as Yin and dolls in general. Humor is present from the returning detective but even he has a background.

Overall Darker Than Black is a total action fest with a nice, deep story slowly being fleshed out. Volume 3 continues the multi-episode story arcs and reveals just a bit more about the characters and settings, something a good anime should do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baccano! vol. 2 Impression

Now it’s all beginning to make sense. Volume 2 of Baccano! from FUNimation slowly pieces together the past and present making for an excellent, unique viewing experience. As the train ride continues the past of the large cast begins to be revealed. Who and what is the Rail Tracer, this mysterious monster wiping out mafia and passengers alike? The truth lies in the past as the absorbing past of Szilard Quates is revealed, the pact made a ship, a deal with a very real devil, possibly the true devil itself. In present times … 1930 we meet the Homunculus Ennis, working with Szilard as well as how a certain mafia pair came about their regenerative powers and just how old they are. Jacuzzi comes face-to-face with the Rail Tracer and our favorite pair of thieves reveal a bit more about why they pick on the mafia so much. The story is all over the place in volume 2, but Baccano! makes it work.

You know, I had troubles summarizing the first volume of this manga and now the second (with third right around the corner) is giving me similar issues. Know this, the art and animation is sharp, very crisp but not movie quality. It’s a good looking anime, unique in its setting and style. The combination of the occult, homunculi and such in a mafia setting is very different. Volume 1 really was a make or break, if it confused too much without peaking interest then volume 2 is not going to hook any fans. Now for those who dug volume 1, allowed some confusion in hopes of future explanation then you will be rewarded. The story requires a bit of re-watching but after watching volume 2, 1 makes much more sense. Yes there is still a lot to be revealed but at least now there is hope.

Yeah, that is about the best way to summarize volume 2 of Baccano! Viewers will appreciate the series more as the story is fleshed out, more players revealed and just enough is left hidden for all the revealed information to keep the viewer hooked. If you are interested in this series check out both volume 1 and 2 at the same time, it will be well worth it. (For the record, never have I had to re-watch a series like this to totally grasp it.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Rumic World from Rumiko Takahashi & Free Naruto

Inu-Yasha, Ranma ½ have some company. Meet Sakura Mamiya, a young girl with the power to see ghost. RIN-NE makes it debut today, April 22nd, on the official English site for legendary anime and manga creator Rumiko Takahashi. While there is not too much to reveal about the story, RIN-NE will release simultaneously in the US and Japan, something Viz is becoming quite adept at as seen with Naruto. For manga fans this is an outstanding announcement and not just for the weekly new chapters but the ground this is breaking in manga release. When a manga force like Takahashi publisher content online how can more manga creators not follow suit? Piracy is always an issue but frankly the economy is not great and free manga to introduce a series is a great idea, like free comic day. Limited money means limited series fans can commit to so when going for something new this angle is a great way to entice fans without the $5-10 commitment. So check it out, full link is

On a very related note how about this treat from Viz. Free Naruto Shippuden swag. Don’t believe me, here it is from the Nine-tail Fox’s mouth … “Beginning today (April 22nd) Trans World customers who purchase $20.00 worth of NARUTO Shippuden merchandise at any of the company’s more than 500 participating FYE and Suncoast stores will receive a free NARUTO Shippuden Sampler DVD, while supplies last. The special Sampler DVD features the entire first episode of the new NARUTO Shippuden story arc, along with a video game trailer for Namco Bandai's NARUTO Shippuden Ultimate Ninja 4 and a variety of colorful downloadable NARUTO Shippuden wallpaper designs that allow fans to customize their computer desktops.”

Sooooo, I’m heading out to get this for myself, it’s a purchase I’d make anyway and it’s more fan appreciation from Viz, gotta love it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

D.Gray-Man vol. 10, 11, 12 manga Impression

Allen Walker and the Millennium Earl are headed for a major confrontation, but first there is the little issue of a collapsing Ark and of course the Noah to deal with. D.Gray-Man volumes 10, 11 and 12 from Viz cranks up the action that’s almost too much to keep up with.

 D.Gray-Man volume 10 mangaD.Gray-Man volume 10
As Lenalee and Lavi enter the fight with the Noah the Earl also gets involved. In order to escape a newly arrived Allen Walker (stronger too) must guide the group into the Ark in order to survive. Within the Ark the collapse is going level by level which means our heroes have a chance to survive but they must get by the Noah. First up its Skin Boric and to take him on, Kanda. It’s time for the Black Order and Noah to go head-to-head.

I’ll say this once, the art is impeccable, action pact, fast (sometimes hard to follow) and some of the most unique and beautiful found in any series, period. This applies to every volume I’ll touch on. After a few rehab volumes for Allen he’s back in action and better than ever for the rehab. He arrives just in time to save his fellows but still not ready to beat everyone so time to escape. The faceoff with the Noah, learning about their past as well as the limits of the Black Order, in this case Kanda, power is the best part of this volume. Seeing why perceived good and evil do what they do, what drives them is something not every manga … not every story does. Usually they are one sided tales but not this one. Fear the Noah but learn to pity them also.

 D.Gray-Man volume 11 mangaD.Gray-Man volume 11
One door down, yet another to get through, the fate of Kanda unknown it’s time to take on the twisted Devit and Jasdero. Seems these two Noah have a bone to pick with Allen thanks to another debt courtesy of General cross. Their weapons are guns, but their true power is in the mind and as they unleash their attacks its Arystar who steps forward so the other may pass. As Jasdevi (combined Devit and Jasdero) shows new powers so does Arystar. More history is revealed, a visit from the past and even more unique innocence powers as the battle continues and another door is entered.

Much like volume 10 readers learn about the history of the bad guys with a bit more on Arystar and his unique powers. The fight is not as good as Kanda’s but still enjoyable and shows are very dark side of the Exorcist. A good volume but it’s just another step, continuation of what started in volume 10.

 D.Gray-Man volume 12 mangaD.Gray-Man volume 12
Yup, another door but this time the battle steps up as both Allen and Lavi must take on Tyki Mikk and Road respectively. Allen reveals a power not seen before that take Tyki by surprise and, oddly or not, causes comparison to the Earl in power. Road occupies Lavi on a mental plane while the rest of the group is held as spectators with no hope of helping. A fight to remember, but one that has no end in sight.

Yup, short summary but this volume is all about two major fights, Allen vs. Tyki and Road vs. Lavi. One it totally physical the other mental and neither is resolved so volume 13 is going to be hot. One has to wonder what tricks creator Katsura Hoshino has left in the bag. With the Noah (soon) out of the way is the final Earl confrontation next? What other baddies will appear? Will Cross make an appearance? Yes, lots of questions but when you are 12 volumes into a series and it still feels fresh with questions to be answered you know you've got a solid story. D.Gray-Man offers up all the action and story manga fans could ask for in action packed volumes that go by way to fast.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Luuna vol. 1 Impression

Luuna volume 1
Luuna volume 1 from Tokyopop will give anime and comic fans a taste of what is popular in Europe while introducing a beautifully drawn world touching on subject matter often ignored in the medium.

Luuna is coming of age and as a member of the Paumanok tribe she must travel into the forest to meet her totem which will guide her life. Unfortunate there is an evil moon in the sky and a fight for Luuna’s very soul is waged by the Hohopah and the evil Unkui. An agreement is reached where Luuna is assigned two totems, one a white wolf the other a black one. Each full moon, for one night, Luuna belongs to Unkui to wreak havoc in his name. In order to resolve the duality Luuna leaves her tribe in search of the spirits who can help her … a trip in which Luuna is dogged by those seeking Unkui’s power and a journey where Luuna will discover who she truly is. Light and dark, they both live solely in Luuna.

Luuna, the creation of Didier Crissse and Nocolas Keramidas. The story is very engaging due to the personality of Luuna, a very attractive Native American girl who shows off a curve or two equaled out by her drive and determination. The spiritual journey is nothing new but the setting is. Touching on the often ignored Native American mythos is both refreshing and interesting. Accompanying Luuna are the Pipintoos, small chipmunk looking spirits. There three Pipintoos, Wombat, Wambat, Wimlat, are like a miniature three stooges and offer up commentary via conversation about Luuna as well as the world’s background. The artwork is just beautiful. It’s well drawn with sharp, deep lines that are accentuated with colors (yes manga fans, color) that really show the difference between light and dark, not just the daytime vs. nighttime but those shades of Luuna’s personality. The design reminds of Disney but not a Pokohantas, a more playful, nicer to look at Disney more like Aladdin.

Overall the story setting is very interesting, characters are engaging, humor is present with serious moments and the look, feel and color all dance off the page. The larger format, colored pages may turn off traditional manga fans, but for comic fans this is worth the look, no spandex here, but wait till you see Luuna.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Q1 2009 Gaming Report

I just finished posting my Q1 2009 gaming report over on The Examiner and while there were some hot titles this past three months overall it was not that deep a release schedule. Head on over and check it out, divided up into three sections ...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Articles on The Examiner, March 2009

Just wanted to share a handful of links, artilces I've written over on The Examiner ... good times.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 Space Battle Trailer

This is just a guilty pleasure. Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 continues the over the top story where everything ever Gundam collides in one pretty look Dynasty Warriors title. So tasty. Again, I'll chime in on this puppy very soon on The Examiner.

Dragon Ball: Evolution PSP Game Trailer - Goku vs. Gohan

The Dragon Ball: Evolution movie hits theaters on Friday and the game has already rolled out. I'll be chatting about it on The Examiner very soon but for now check out this video for Dragon Ball: Evolution on PSP where Goku faces off with his grandfather Gohan.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dragon Ball GT Season 2 Impression

Dragon Ball GT Season 2 DVD Box Set
The end of an extended legacy. The promise of a bright future. These are the storylines in the second season DVD box set of Dragon Ball GT from FUNimation.

With Baby defeated, even after going SS4 the Earth seems to settle back into a sense of normalcy. Even the eventual evacuation of the planet and demise of one particular green skinned friend cannot keep Goku and crew from taking part in a new martial arts tournament, one with similar results to previous tournaments (Buu helping Mr. Satan of course). A battered Trunks reveals that Android 17 has returned, the question is how. Even in death Goku’s two favorite doctors have created a way to bridge the gap between earth unleashing foes from the past. The trick comes when Goku is brought to hell for a faceoff with Cell and Freza. His eventual escape from hell, thanks Piccolo, allows for an epic face off with a new Super Android 17. Long story short, another bad guy down and an unexpected new one to follow. While trying to wish the departed back a new, evil Shenron surfaces and proceeds to scatter the now cracked Dragon Ball’s across the earth. In times past too many wishes lead to negative energy being stored in the dragon balls and this is when the Shadow Dragons appear, each created from a wish of the past. Blame Bulma as the balls were not supposed to be found as quickly as her radar allowed thus allowing for the buildup of negative energy. More fights follow as Goku and Pan faceoff with each Shadow Dragon leading to an epic (of course) fight where both Goku and Vegeta go SS4 and fuse into Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta. Not enough to win, Goku goes back to a very, very old trick drawing energy from across the universe and the good guys win. As a tired Goku rest on a restored Shenron farewells are said, old friends appear one last time and a true ending to the saga occurs.

Wow, what a journey. The end of Baby, quick fight with 17 then the Shadow Dragons, this is quite a bit of action that is both great, and well not so much. Baby was a cool concept, but weak design, too many off the cuff colors in this series. Baby is a poor mans Buu while 17 looked like an overgrown mouse, big ol’ ears. There are also holes in the story like how did 17 get back to Earth, how does Vegeta cut his hair and Gohan stopped going Super Saiyan and why can’t Pan to SS? Goten and Trunks were supposed to surpass their fathers yet they are overall pathetic. Yeah, holes a plenty but thank the maker for the Shadow Dragons. The design of each dragon takes GT back to it’s Dragon Ball roots of over the top and goofy designs while Goku’s personality shines with Pan stepping in for Bulma. The final three foes remind more of DBZ and Gogeta is plain excellent. For all the design flubs and interesting color choices this final battle and Goku’s farewell on Shenrons back is just perfect. The bonus movie, Goku’s Legacy, gives a nice peek into the near future and shows what happened with our heroes who must be fighting in the afterlife.

Overall, while I really shrunk down the story summary, this is a must have collection for Dragon Ball fans. It puts all the final touches on one legendary anime. Many otaku cut their teeth on DBZ so they owe it to themselves to pick this up. It’s this simple, if you like Dragon Ball buy this and the first box set. The one and only complete collection of the tacked on adventures of the DB gang that Toei just could not let die with the end of Z. A strong finish saves the series.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ral Ω Grad, vol 2 Impression

Ral Grad Manga volume 2
Ral Ω Grad volume 2 from Viz offers up more of the outstanding art of Takeshi Obata while building out Tsuneo Takano’s storyline of humans in a world of shadow beast. This is not some kiddified, shadow driven adventure, this is full on adult action.

Rested and ready to go it’s time for Ral, Grad, Miss Mio and Aia to move onto Sphaelite castle. Having spent time at Stora castle the journey must continue and with the urging of the Queen, Kafka and his shadow Riz also join the journey after many invitations by Ral, all turned down. As the troupe enters Sphaelite castle they are encountered with a new mystery, disappearing maidens. Even with the large wall and fortification it seems shadows have made it inside the castle and are slowly picking off the young ladies there. After thwarting an attempt to take Miss Mio the group is approached by a young boy, Sunsu, whom Ral promises can accompany the group across the sea if he can make himself useful, say with a water shadow. Sure enough Sunsu comes through and Ral honors his agreement. The group seems to be following in the steps of the White Tiger, Sir Ganette, a man both legendary and powerful who has already made his way across the ocean to confront Queen Opsquria. Ganette is shown accompanied by two lovely ladies each with their own powers and shows just how powerful he is with the bodies left on the beach as well as at sea, but not all is calm on the ocean. Ral’s group must fight their way across the sea and even encounter a young shadow wielder in trouble on the beach. Lucile is her name and a serpent shadow is her partner. After being saved she looks to reward Ral, but not all is as it seems as Ral quickly finds out. It’s a new land, stronger enemies and not everyone can be trusted, humans or shadows.

Ah the transition manga. Yes it’s only volume 2 but already readers are seeing the group expand and make their way to a new land for an eventual confrontation with Opsquria … if Sir Ganette leaves anything to confront. Who knew main characters, even a booby loving one like Ral, could be turned into a second fiddle so quickly in his own book. Sir Ganette seems like the real deal leaving Ral and Kafka to clean-up duty. The story can be text heavy at times but the action, when it hits, is fast and furious. Ral gets to the point and so does the overall story; it’s all about defeating Opsquria. Two volumes out, released from his prison and now onto a new land all for the sake of saving and touching the ladies. The story is mature but oh so excellent thanks in very large part to the art style. The detail, unique look of each character, settings, castles, backgrounds … everything is a joy to read and look at. Obata’s style brought Death Note to a new level of detail and is very unique. Ral’s adventures continue to utilize this art in a more mature story that is not raunchy or rude, just mature.

A great series that is as much a joy to read as to look at, don’t miss out on Ral Ω Grad volume 2 from Viz.