Friday, February 27, 2009

Bleach: Memories of Nobody Impression

Bleach: Memories of Nobody from Viz is the first theatrical release featuring Ichigo and the gang here in the states. As cool as Tite Kubo’s creation is there was just something lacking in this first movie.

As Ichigo and Rukia take care of a hollow they encounter white souls, tons of them wandering the streets and they do not look human, so what are they. Before an answer can be found an unknown Soul Reaper shows up. Her name is Senna and as Ichigo and Rukia look on she eliminates these Blanks, souls with no memories in one swirling attack. Ichigo is tagged with keeping an eye on Senna and while Rukia looks into her past there are larger issues at hand. The human world and the world of the Soul Society are merging, coming together in what will only end as the destruction of both worlds. The key is the Shienju, a collection of memories stripped from their souls (thus creating a blank). As Ichigo and Senna are attacked by a new group of powered adversaries it’s revealed that a man named Ganryu, from a banished clan, is the cause of the problems in both worlds and he is looking to use Senna to accomplish his goals. As a handful of Captains and their Lieutenants step in to arrest Senna all hell breaks loose as Ganryu unleashes his minions and takes Senna to the Valley of Screams where the fate of both worlds will be determined one way or another. A banished clan, crashing of worlds, mysterious Soul Reaper with no past in the society and Ichigo is all wrapped up in the middle.

So, overall this is a very enjoyable movie, but one with a few faults. The voice work is excellent as always. The animation is good, but seemed to lack that movie quality, my biggest gripe with this feature. If you watch Naruto or even DBZ movies they have a higher quality than the shows, but with Bleach it’s a bit off. The show is great quality to start with but beyond a few special powers the animation just does not deliver that oomph fans expect. The action if excellent with each Soul Reaper showing off their powers as they clash with new foes. Story wise the movie is also a bit lacking as it really forces Senna on the viewer. Some viewers may be confused if they are following Bleach by the DVD release as the overall timing of the story is not quite there on the DVD yet, Rukia is still prisoner on series yet free in this feature and fighting with the other captains. There is a potentially tear inducing ending, but one reserved for a long established character, it’s forced with Senna. I blame this on Tite as he’s created such outstanding characters in the normal show that Senna as well as Ganryu and his goons just seem like so much fodder. It’s tough to make a cool show that much cooler I guess.

So, great voice work, character design and action mixed with adequate animation a so-so story and forgettable new characters leads to what is an enjoyable watch, but not much else. Not every movie of a long running series is hot stuff and sometimes it takes a bit of magic to really click. The DBZ Fusion Reborn movie is one of my all time favorite anime period. It hit on all cylinders (in Japanese audio of course) and sadly Memories of Nobody is not even close. The special features are really good and the included book is a Bleach cliff notes. For fans of Bleach this movie is a must, hey it’s the first, but for noobs go pick up the DVD box sets until Rukia is free then come back and watch the movie … heck there may be 2-3 more out by the time you catch up, be we’ll wait.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Orange Graphic Novel Impression

Orange, from Toykopop, is a story of a teenage girl that transcends culture and time. Orange, a high school girl, young, depressive and about a dime a dozen. As she is ready to take the final step off the ledge, her suicidal letter in hand explaining her reason for ending a life not yet begun a young man steps in. His name Dashu, and it’s not that he cares what happens, but rather it’s his lack of any type of emotion that grabs Orange and brings her back from the edge. Dashu is no knight in shining armor, and Orange is no saint, just another girl with obnoxious friends who dream of boys and other inconsequential things. Through Dashu, Orange begins to see a different side of life, one that is darker than hers and she begins to connect with this foul smelling, drunk smoking vagrant. As one steps over the edge it’s the one left alive who realizes things may not be so bleak.
Wow, what an interesting story. I won’t ruin it by pointing out on the first few pages Dashu is the one that takes the leap. The story works its way backwards from this point to when it was Orange on the ledge. The story is interesting because it’s not a typical Tokyopop title. First it’s in a more Western comic format and in full color. No, the story of Orange is that of a young depressive girl who never really reveals why she is unhappy other than just that, she’s unhappy. Dashu also seems to have much more of a story to tell but he is left in a veil of secrecy. The story never really resolves anything, but it is a nice work in the psyche of a young depressive girl.
The true star of Orange is Benjamin. His art is just that, art. Each page is masterfully created with colors that meet the mood. The characters are real, not big eyed or super powered, they are real people in the real world with real, relatable problems. Benjamin’s art brings this story to life and is the reason to buy Orange. In addition to the surprisingly short story (for the book size) there is a lot of extra content that will please Benjamin fans as well as inform noobs to his work. He provides note on his current and past work with samples of said work and there is also a nice preview of REMEMBER, a new graphic novel coming soon from Benjamin. Orange is an interesting diversion from the usually manga fair. It provides a full color, background filled, and beautifully created depressive tale of a young girl that some readers may relate to. The extras and low commitment (one book) warrant a look from those readers looking for manga and comics as art or just something different.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Afro Samurai: Resurrection DVD Impression

The path to number one is long and bloody, and as we learn in Afro Samurai: Resurrection from FUNimation, not every casualty is a dead body. Having avenged his father and become number one Afro is now at peace until an old friend comes calling. Geno shows up proving he is not as dead as once thought, the reason, his sister Siyo. In her quest for vengeance, Siyo will torture Afro by bringing back the one thing which can bring the most pain … his father. As Siyo and Kuma step in, whoop up on Afro and take the number one headband a new quest is undertaken, one to reclaim number two then head to confront Siyo. On his journey Afro will encounter the new number two, Shichigoro and his young son, take on a new trio of assassins in Siyo’s technologically ramped up Bin, Michael and Tomoe, face off in a crooked game of dice with the remaining brothers and of course be tailed non-stop by the smart ass Ninja Ninja. The journey is not as long, but the enemies and bloodshed will leave a deep a mark on Afro as any gash he’s ever received.

Ah, Afro Samurai, a bridge between East and West, anime and hip-hop and so much more. Spike TV helped make Afro Samurai popular with its initial run, and thus the promo of the sequel Resurrection. The animation is as beautiful and stylish as any anime on the market (Blu-ray is hot1) and the design continues to mix feudal Japan with modern hip-hop style into which the collaborators on this project just fit. So animation and design is outstanding, something to praise creator Takashi ‘Bob” Okazaki for, not just of for his creation but what he did with Afro that many may not realize and something I really learned about form interviews and the Afro Samurai manga from Tor. Bob opened up his creation to a collaborative powerhouse team and game them the freedom to make Afro what it is today.

While I can praise all day the animation and design, the later of which was juiced up from Bob’s original works, it’s the music, style and voice work that shines as an example of what Afro Samurai is, and how Resurrection came to be. First the music, inspired and created by the RZA of Wu-Tang fame (btw, the Wu had a short comic run of their own set in a similar setting). The music sets the pace and action and just accentuates the cool, bad-ass feel of the entire franchise. Resurrection starts off with a motorcycle sequence that just jams with the music, it is great and never once slows down the entire feature. Next up the style which Okazaki was very wise in going urban with. This is his franchise, but he has let many smart people be involved and the viewers are the beneficiary of a style that is as cool as Cowboy Bebop, Trinity Blood and Bleach combined. It’s that cool and stylish folks. Finally when you lead with Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Hamill and Lucy Liu then as a viewer you are expecting gold and with Resurrection you get it. There is emotion in all the flavors from too cool for school to utter panic and fear.

So Afro Samurai: Resurrection offers up a stylish, great sounding, well sound tracked, beautifully animated thrill ride backed by an outstanding creative team and great voice work. The special features also give great insight into how this collaboration came to be. The only issue I have with this feature is one little story trait which honestly could ruin the whole movie for sticklers for detail. How does Afro, as the number one, have his headband taken by someone who is not the number two, and then in turn why must he seek the number two headband to challenge for number one again? I’ll leave you with that thought as you drool over this feature.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blu-ray Anime Roundup, Feb 09

It’s that time of month again, time for a look at the latest Blu-ray releases from FUNimation. While there are two titles on this list release in months past there are also two very big steps forward for anime on Blu-ray. Samurai 7, a full anime series and Afro Samurai: Resurrection, a hot movie release on Blu-ray at the same time as the regular DVD release. These two releases signify the next stage in anime on Blu-ray, why, well that is what I’m here to tell you.

 One Piece, Movie 8 on Blue-rayOne Piece, Movie 8 – This was FUNimation’s first One Piece release on DVD to which they’ve now seen a few season sets released also. Yes this is movie 8 but what it does is pick up where fans of the series were on TV, show them what is to be expected from FUNimation going forward and set the stage for a revival of a very good, not kiddified, anime. The story is a condensed version of the shows showdown with Crocodile and his Baroque Works gang. The action is fast and furious, looks outstanding in in 1080p, but it’s not a movie quality anime feature. Since it was pulled from the TV show it lacks that true polish anime movies usually have but it’s an outstanding addition for One Piece fans.

 Dragon Ball Z Double Feature: Super Android 13 / Bojack Unbound on Blu-rayDragon Ball Z Double Feature: Super Android 13 / Bojack Unbound – How can you not love what FUNimation is doing with the whole Dragon Ball franchise. First viewers get re-mastered season box sets that don’t take much space then they hook up all of DBGT as it was meant to be seen and finally the release re-mastered DVD movie sets (in cool metal case) and ditto in a Blu-ray format. Two movies in HD for the price of one. This latest set is what DBZ is all about with Android 13 and on of my personal faves Bojack. Taking place during the Android and Cell arcs we get a younger Gohan whooping butt against very cool bad guys. The animation is a bit dated but still looks and sounds excellent. A must have for DBZ fans with a Blu-ray player.

 Afro Samurai: Resurrection on Blu-ray Afro Samurai: Resurrection – The movie sequel to Afro Samurai is what Blu-ray is all about. The animation, the quality of picture and sound on an HD screen will make otaku weep in joy as anime has arrived. Yes anime has been around for a while but the collaboration behind Resurrection is truly incredible where a manga creator, hip-hop artist, actor, anime studio and TV station all come together to create a true interactive media explosion, but more on that later (over on The Examiner). This Blu-ray is packed with features tacked onto the story that sees what Afro does after becoming number 1. Unlike many Blu-ray release this puppy comes with a sweet book that has notes form creator Bob Okazaki as well as Fuminori Kizaki and RZA along with profiles and art from the movie. The special features are excellent also with a look into the creation of the series, how it came to be what it is and the collaboration needed. A Groundbreaking Blu-ray for all the media it covers.

 Samurai 7 on Blu-ray Samurai 7 – Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece re-imagined where samurai and technology combine. Samurai turned bandits turned mercenary to survive, some are human, others more machine than man. The story telling is masterful and animation a pleasure … and that was before Blu-ray. Long story short this is one fantastic series and the move to Blu-ray, an entire anime series on Blu-ray is freaking mesmerizing. The sound and picture quality will spoil your viewership on all those regular DVD series, yes we are being spoiled here. A full series on Blu-ray surrounded by beautiful art, makes one happy to be an anime fan and that there was a clear winner of the HD format wars.

So for One Piece and DBZ, pretty much standard fare, re-release of available DVD that look and sound better but don’t warrant another purchase unless you either 1) don’t have the feature or 2) must build up your Blu-ray collection. The simultaneous release of Afro Samurai and it’s DVD counterparts tacked onto all the features, TV airing and video game, this is why Afro is truly amazing and hopefully not the last crossover of it’s time AND it released at the same time as the regular DVD meaning fans don’t have to wait for true HD afro action. Samurai 7 is another story, the complete collection will hopefully lead to some new anime fans while giving those with a bit of money to burn something truly beautiful to watch. It’s also the full series, 20+ episodes on Blu-ray. A movie is one thing, but a whole series, this is hot.

Monday, February 16, 2009

.hack//XXXX vol. 2 Impression

.hack//XXXX volume 2 manga
Kite, Blackrose, Aura and the other players in The World return from Tokyopop to put a new spin a tale that's spanned the video game, anime, manga and collectible card game genres in recent years. In .hack//XXXX volume 2 from Tokyopop the very abridged version of the tale of The World and Kite's involvement comes to a conclusion as the mystery of the comatose players, Kite's data-drain bracelet as well as Aura and Cubia existence is revealed. It's a lot to swallow, but let’s take a look at the story.

With friends and fellow players comatose in real life, twin blade Kite teams up with Cubia, another player, to hunt down the various Phases that seem to be the cause of all The World's trouble. The power utilized, the bracelet, is revealed to be not just the solution to The Worlds troubles but also partly the cause. First Cubia and Kite must, reluctantly, destroy an infected Mia much to Elk's dismay then as his power grows and Aura warns of impending doom Kite alienates his friends leaving him to Cubia's whims, which are not good to say the least. The confrontation with Cubia leads to revelations about the existence of this particular AI and its ties to Aura. Not all bad data is evil it seems and while the ending is bitter sweet for Kite having his friends is a good start to recovery.

First let me say this, .hack// and all it's games, anime and manga are deep, very deep but this two volume treat really does an excellent job of getting to point of the story without too much about The Epitaph of Twilight, we even get to see Helba's face (hottie). The color spread at the beginning of the manga would look just dandy as a poster. Megane Kikuya should be applauded for adapting such a complex story into two volumes as Hiroshi Matsuyama’s original work is, as stated, very deep. The absolute best, most outstanding feature of this manga is the art. All the characters look dead-on with their original vision and there is a sense of humor, love, loss and pure emotion that is not easily conveyed in a manga but comes across very well here. Page 186 has to be one of my favorite pics in any manga,

So any .hack// fan wondering what is up with another manga know this, you should pick up .hack//XXXX as it will help you relive what you love about this franchise and only in two volumes. For fans new to .hack//, looking to get into it this is actually a great starting point, though with some spoilers so beware. There is a lot of manga out there, a lot of .hack// to choose from, but this has to be at the top of that pile.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

StarCraft Frontline vol. 2 Impression

StarCraft Frontline volume 2
(I've also posted this on The Examiner, just in case you've seen it there also.) StarCraft, real-time strategy role-playing at its finest. The three races, Zerg, Protoss and Terrans, offer gamers three unique options when choosing the proper strategy for themselves and while there is story behind these battles in-game it’s the races and their units that drive the online and head-to-head battles that have made StarCraft so cultish. Now manga fans and StarCraft players alike can take a peek inside the background, look inside the heads of the races and individuals in the world they either love or would like to get more information on. Tokyopop has published StarCraft Frontline, a manga that collects short stories from various authors and artist that take place in the world of StarCraft but may not tie directly into those games. These side-stories can create connections to a game the same gamer may not have known were possible. That being said this manga is not for everyone. Sci-fi fans will enjoy as there is not too much prior knowledge needed and of course StarCraft fans should check it out, but everyone else, if anything below sounds interesting then give it a spin.

Heavy Armor Pt. 2 – Continuing the story of Wes Carter, a Viking pilot who has been tasked with stopping his former mentor, Jon Dyre, from using his Viking to kill Terrans. The two face-off with a surprise sacrifice at the end, one not to be ruined here. Overall the story is quick, plot very vanilla but it’s the art that really stands out. The Viking’s are very details, crisp and sharp. This is a very good looking story, but does bear reading part 1 in volume 1 of Frontline.

Creep – Go inside the Protoss hierarchy as the lowly scientist work on the dangerous Creep. As containment on the Creep is broken death inside the facility begins to ramp up until finally there is no one left … in a manner of speaking. Story wise Creep is interesting for it’s look inside the Protoss hierarchy but the art is very good, really makes these aliens come alive and reminds of the Jim Lee, Marvel comics days of the 90’s. Excellent line work and an interesting premise that reminds of The Thing.

Newsworthy – The best story, art and plot, in the book. Kate Lockwell is a reporter granted access to go on a mission with the Dominion Marines Corp, something the media has been denied for a very long time. The ‘fluff’ mission for good PR turns bad as the marines are called into action and Kate is shuttled away only to find the ‘alien’ issue the marines were sent to fix is more political control. Things go from bad to worse, airlocks are used for deadly reasons and Kate must move in with her new found knowledge. The art in this story is perfect, worthy of its own full line manga, so take the hint and read this story.

A Ghost Story – A small salvage team, a deadly, abandoned facility with valuable knowledge but a deadly secret. As the salvage team moves in and they being to learn what happened to the facilities their own members begin to be picked off by a mysterious ghost. When there is only one left, one particular female tech, does the truth come and, and hindsight being 20/20, there are some things worse than death. Rush story, so-so art and poor pacing seal the fate of this story. The art has a charcoal look that frankly does not work, the characters are not memorable and the story is just blah. Sad that this ends the book because the other three stories in this manga really do shine with great art and story each.

Overall this was an enjoyable read for this non-StarCraft playing gamer. The stories are bite-size and if a reader does not want to commit to a full manga series month after month, then this collection of stand alone stories will satisfy. Make the call, browse the book online and enjoy during those bio breaks from playing StarCraft.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Astro Boy Movie Images

Check out these new pics, first actually, for the upcoming Astro Boy movie. It really is amazing how sharp these pics look but knowing what's been down with animated featues recently this is one good looking flic. More to come on this but check out the pics, neat eye-candy.

Astro Boy Movie Images
Astro Boy Movie Images
Astro Boy Movie Images
Astro Boy Movie Images Astro Boy Movie Images

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Star Ocean: The Last Hope Images

SquareEnix is getting ready to give it another go on Xbox 360 with Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Unlike the Final Fantasy series the Star Ocean games all tie together in one form or another. Actually gamers can check out the first two volumes recently released on PSP. The story takes place post World War III in 2087 where the remnants of civilization band together and look to explore space. Add in some genre basic characters, big swords and magic and gamers will get another shot on role-playing goodness on the Xbox 360. The screenshots look very promising and after The Last Remnant 360 owners deserve a solid, franchised title even if it’s not Final Fantasy … yet. More very, very soon on The Last Hope, but for now check out the latest screenshots that show off the gorgeous animation, detailed environments and battle system.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman Dragonships Interview

Ok, this was so very, very cool. Recently I had a chance to review Bones of the Dragon, the first book in Weis and Hickman's new world called Dragonships. So after writing my impression of Bones of the Dragon I floated some questions to the authors on the book, its creation as well as some gaming and anime questions. So here it is, the two part interview as posted on The Examiner so check it out now and let me know what you thought, this was indeed fun.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Video Game Trailer

During the Super Bowl there were two movie trailers that just tickled me pink. First was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra the second ... Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. While there are many questions to answer about the movie one thing is clear, there will be a video game and Activision confirmed this by releasing the trailer. The game will mirror the movie and it should allow gamers to play as both sides, standard fare as seen in the first game. The setting looks to be Japan (based on street signs) but no sign in this trailer of that big behemoth from the movie trailer. More to come but for now check out the trailer below.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Claymore DVD vol. 3 Impression

The battle with an awakened one continues in Claymore volume 3 on DVD from FUNimation. As Clare and her assigned team unexpectedly take out the awakened one they were not supposed to defeated they come to a realization, they were sent to fail. The common thread between these four Claymore is one of power, or more specifically the fact that each has moved beyond their limit, awakened then come back, something that is not supposed to be possible. The organization does not seem to like this and to prevent any ‘problems’ they look to have sent these four Claymore to their death. Having succeeded in not only defeating their opponent but also coming to this realization puts each of the four hunters on edge and on the lookout for the inner conspiracy. They part, but understanding their need to blend in and avoid the top tier of Claymore for their sense of power could reveal the quartets secret.

If only things were this easy, as Clare learns upon being sent to face another awakened one with number 4 Ophelia, who toys with Clare and begins to hunt her after the death of their assigned hunt. Things go from bad to worse then a few notches up, but things don’t go all wrong. Sure Clare loses an arm and goes into hiding, but she eventually meets with Elaina, trains in the quick sword an gains a new … well arm. A new power and understanding of her place in life leads to a new path for Clare, which will continue in volume 4.

Now this is what I’m talking about. Action, conspiracy, ladies with large swords. The style and art in Claymore continues to mirror the unique design set forth in the manga with subtle colors highlighting the fast-paced action. The action itself leaps off the screen as the movements and special abilities of each Claymore take center stage. Previous volumes introduced the characters, world and history of the characters but now it’s all action all the time. From the realization of their being setup, to the parting of the ways and the encounter with Ophelia, it’s revealed that there are monsters within the organization in the form of leaders and Claymore themselves. Things are not all they seem in this latest volume of Claymore and Clare must adapt to her new surroundings or end up another casualty of this endless war.

Bottom line, action, animation, story in Claymore is solid, an excellent, violent, anime that takes a unique look at some fantasy story telling, monsters, heroes and whatnot and mixes it all together in a must have set that is now up to three volumes. Fans know what I’m talking about and if you like fantasy based epics, then it’s time to pick up Claymore.