Friday, March 27, 2009

Tantric Stripfighter Trina vol. 1 Impression

Tantric Stripfighter Trina vol. 1
Tantric Stripfighter Trina from Tokyopop mixes scantily clad, well endowed ladies, mystical martial arts, high-tech weaponry, space ships and an oppressive religious run government for a cocktail that is one tasty guilty pleasure worthy of a mature teen but not adult rating.

Trina Devi is the last survivor of planet Rama, a planet once populated by a peaceful religious sect that practiced the Shaolin martial arts with tantric sensuality. From this mixture was developed the art of strip fighting. For unknown reasons the planet was set upon by mercenaries under government order to eliminate anyone on the planet. As the sole survivor, Trina is now older and out for vengeance by hunting down the slave trafficker, martial arts master and anyone else involved with this raid. Having seen her sister gunned down protecting her Trina is driven to discover the truth and why the COG and Crown government exterminated her race. Accompanied by her robot Bonds and a new apprentice in-training (almost) Chrome Abbey, these three will travel and fight until the truth is discovered and Trina discovers her own path in life besides vengeance.

Ok, from the intro above sounds pretty tame, race destroyed has lone survivor, lone survivor seeks vengeance, corrupt government behind destruction, mystery begins to unveil. Yes, the story Ken Faggio weaves is pretty standard but it’s the stripping twist and Fernando Furukawa’s art that will set this book apart from others. See, Trina has a fighting style that does not kill, it incapacitates, and the core is sensual dancing in barley any clothes … yup stripping. There are times Trina is down to her skivvies with nothing but stars covering her ample … assets. See the story is actually fun to follow, and there are times Trina shows a deep spiritual side, but this is watered down by the fact she has only stars covering her lady parts.

The art style is more detail than most any manga, really. It follows a more American comic style in its look and feel and really only its format keeps it manga classified. There was a very well drawn comic a few years back called Exposure that really upped the panty fetish factor. Never could you take this series serious and sadly Tantric is on that same course. The art is outstanding, very detailed but which galaxy exist where every woman has perfect, if not a little too big, proportions?

Overall there is a good story here mixed with interesting story points from revenge, corrupt government, sci-fi, martial arts and that creepy inquisitor. That story is brought to life by excellent art but also brought down by a ‘taken to far’ stripper concept that when all is said and done could have still been included in less proportion and severed a larger manga audience. Sadly the cover will turn off a certain number of anime fans while attracting little boys for giggles.

Claymore manga vol. 12-13 Impression

The mystery of what transpired in Pieta seven years prior is revealed in Claymore volume 12 and 13 from Viz.

 Claymore volume 12 mangaClaymore volume 12
Two sisters, one the fighter the other the anchor. Luciela and Rafaela were supposed to be the ultimate weapon for the organization, one sister keeping the other rooted in her humanity while she awakens more power within, but the lure of the awakening is too much as Luciela awakens. Rafaela survives but is a shell of her former self. Given the opportunity to find and confront her sister, atone for her past failure, Rafaela does so but will one sisters pleas change the course of death? Seven years since Pieta a group of new Claymore are sent north to handle an awakened, but are ambushed by a group of three organized awakened. 24 warriors died, but only 17 graves are found by #47 Clarice. Someone saves these ambushed Claymore but just who are they? Miria’s plan from seven years prior is revealed as the surviving members of the 24 reveal themselves, to an extent, before Clare decides to re-enter the fight after hiding. Her search for Raki continues and she is followed by her fellow survivors only to encounter Riful of the West in their first battle.

Confusing, volume 12 is confusing as the timelines do not really flesh out neatly. Is it seven years ago, seven years since, in-between? Who’s awakened, who’s not, which alliances have the Abyss creatures formed, so many questions. If reader can get by this confusion, or better yet make sense of it by a few re-reads what we get is a story much larger than just Clare, one that is carried out with excellent, unique art. The twins were introduced as just tools before with only one fate given to readers. Now the others path is revealed and their ultimate fate set before the reader. This story telling, while confusing at times, shows a deeper and darker side to the organization not just for what they did to the Claymore in Pieta but how they view these ladies as just tools. They may not eat human flesh but the Organization seems just as evil at times. Once we get to Clare and gang learning about their survival, training and how just badass they seem really offers a new wrinkle to Claymore as a manga. No longer bound to the Organization our group of survivors has their own agenda(s) and their anticipated encounter with Riful.

 Claymore volume 13 mangaClaymore volume 13
The battle with Riful of the West is not going so well for two new hunters, Audrey and Rachel, who believe their new strategy is enough to defeat a creature of the abyss. They are quickly proven wrong after Riful dissects their attack. As Clare and her group step in to rescue these fighters it’s Clare who questions Riful about the events of the past seven years. Presented with an offer to join Riful, Clare considers in order to gain the information she desires. The history of Priscilla and Isley is revealed leaving to new revelations for our survivors. As she turns down the offer she was considering it’s an angry Riful who is left with no victory and no new allies. Even with their aura suppressed the Organization sends out Clarice with the current number 4 Miata, who is just a child with incredible power. Their mission, to find a certain, long thought dead Claymore and end her life. Seven years later, new players, a new game is about to begin.

So besides the face the Organization is show in even more horrid light with their use of Miata the lines between good and evil become very blurred when Riful throws in her arguments. Here is a group, the Organization, who wants to save humanity but has shown time and again a willingness to throw away Claymore lives and work with awakened ones. Keep the conflict going without any one side making too much of a push or any foot solider becoming too independent. The survivors from Pieta should be embraced for their abilities but instead will be hunted. Seeing the faces of the Organization heads also does not scream human … just who are they. While the story began with a focus on Clare, and her search for Raki continues, the introduction of more Claymore and awakened ones with their backgrounds being fleshed out is making Claymore much more than a one woman show.

Overall these two volumes help to expand on my comment above that this is a more than one person series. Who is right, wrong and what about all the gray in-between? There is still much to be determined and readers can start to see the coming conflict, after all if Miata is number 4 who is above her?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Naruto Uncut Box Set 9 Impression

Naruto Uncut Box Set 9
Naruto’s final story arc kicks into gear as friends face off and a choices are made that will change the landscape of Naruto forever in Naruto Uncut Box Set 9 form Viz.

Having healed from his injuries an emotionally wounded Sasuke must ponder how the inferior Naruto keeps pace if not surpasses him at every turn. How is he to exact vengeance on his brother if not even Naruto can be passed? The frustration boils over as the two friends take their rivalry to new heights and truly seem willing to kill each other before Kakashi steps in. Thinking everything will work out Naruto goes on his way but Sasuke is approached by Orochimaru’s personal Sound ninja team who have an offer to join their master in order to unleash the true power of the curse mark. As Sasuke closes the door on his old life to join Orochimaru and seek revenge a newly anointed Chunin, Shikamaru, is tasked with assembling a team to retrieve Sasuke. Shikamaru, Naruto, Choji, Neji and Kiba all head out. One by one, starting with Choji, the retrieval squad must face-off with a member of the Sound ninja team. At the end Naruto comes face-to-face with Kimimaru, a very wounded and dangerous enemy. How will the fight conclude … that is for box set 10.

The animation in Naruto continues to be top notch for such a long running series, so prop there. The uncut DVD format is just perfect not only for quantity of episodes but also for offering fans a true version of the series. The voice work, solid as ever and with the tough emotional choices Sasuke makes and their affects on Naruto and Sakura we begin to see the maturing of these young ninja. The absolute best, 100%, part of this box set are the fights and story. Each member of the retrieval squad has to push their limits and none come away easily. The overconfidence of our young fighters bites them in the butt a few times, but again this goes back to the maturation process, it’s not just Naruto and Sakura, everyone is growing up. Seeing Sasuke make this choice is tough on viewers because they truly want him to be friends with Naruto and for the two to get his brother back, but sadly not every story has a happy ending and this crash course was set from the beginning. The arrival of Kimimaru is enough to send viewers into a tizzy with his seemingly incredible power and tragic past, but then the volume is over.

To date this has to be the best volume in the uncut series. Not only does it continue the excellent voice work and animation but the action steps up to a new level and the maturation process gets viewers set not only for what is to come in volume 10 but also for the true transition to Shippuden. If only all anime could be this engaging, but if that were the case then this would just be ordinary, not extraordinary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

PlaySpan Market Place & Ragnarok

So I decided to affiliate with a legit gaming purchase, microstransaction site called PlaySpan and I'm very interested to see how this ... plays out. It seems very cool with tons of games to pick from so I figured lets take a look shall we. I'd love to hear what some of you out there think about this program, if it's good I keep it rolling and look at their promo, like Ragnarok below, if it's sketchy then say bye-bye ... but I don't think that will happen. So check it out and give some feedback, good times.
Buy Ragnarok - Hunting Pack, Survival Pack or Siege Mode Pack, the New Way! At PlaySpan- the Megastore for virtual goods.

Monday, March 23, 2009

King of Hell vol. 20 and 21 Impression

Ah, King of Hell, one of the best manga that is really a manwha but oh so good. Story by Ra In-Soo with art by Jae-Hwan Kim (Warcraft Sunwell trilogy artist) the story of Majeh is easy to follow and packed with action. Volumes 20 and 21 do not stray from this course as the fights are fast and furious and the good guys don’t always win. Let’s take a closer look …

 King of Hell volume 20
King of Hell volume 20
Majeh, Young, Chung Poong and Dohwa are all in the Sa Gok headquarters and each are faced with a unique challenge. Majeh is teamed up with the formerly missing Insane Hounds, Young and Chung Poong have a date with a wolf man and a steel bodied fighter while Dohwa and Cerberus take on a series of living dolls. Majeh encounters a female fighter who offers him the choice to follow for a better fight, which he takes up while Young and Chung Poong realize they have a ways to go to go with their strength and technique promoting flashbacks for Poong. It seems almost everyone is overmatched except for Majeh

Not a lot of commentary in this volume, the meat comes from Chung Poong’s history. Both Majeh and Dohwa find themselves advancing on their paths, one through his own choice the other through being captured. Seeing also that Poong is not as strong as he believes offers a layer of depth that most action based stories gloss over, the hero always wins but not here. The story continues in this volume but by no means is it resolved. The art is sweet as always. I’ve said it before that it’s not the best in the world but it reminds me so much of DBZ in not only action and speed but some of the design.

 King of Hell volume 21King of Hell volume 21
All the fighters are now in one place and the Sa Gok present Majeh with an interesting dilemma. Face his allies in battle, over a snake pit of course, or the captured Dohwa dies. As she hangs Dohwa must reflect on her past, ties to the Sa Gok and how her brother is still the same age as when she last saw him and on top of that in with the Sa Gok (whew!) its’ time for a look at Dohwa’s background, and a fight to the death for Majeh as he takes on first the Insane Hounds then Hyur who unexpectedly shows up.

More action, but meat of this story is Dohwa background. The way Majeh pounds on the hounds is a trip, and the brutality surprises even the Sa Gok. The arrival of Hyur allows for the two fighters to have their long awaited re-match but also to take pot shots at the Generals watching … which they of course are accused of cheating by doing. The story ends with Majeh and Hyur exposed for what they are trying and like every volume of King of Hell it’s over much too soon. BUT the best part of this book, the additional CSI spoof that takes readers through the murder of Majeh. It’s good and shows a different side of King of Hell.

Overall this is a great action series, but because of how heavy on action and light on text it is I’d suggest picking up 3-4 volumes at a time for best enjoyment. The art is outstanding and unique, action fast and sweet to read. A great series, something fans don’t need to be told but that noobs need to know.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wanted – Shojo Beat Manga Impression

Wanted Shojo Jump Manga
Wanted … more volumes of Wanted from Viz. This manga has a very Caribbean feel to it, a certain inspiration that fans of those movies will enjoy. Matsuri Hino has crafted a very enjoyable manga that reminds not only of Pirates of the Caribbean but also the Princess Bride.

Armeria is in search of her childhood love, a boy named Luce, who was taken by the infamous pirate Skulls when they were young. Now older and ready to seek out Luce, Armeria disguises herself as a boy and boards the pirate ship of Skulls all in search of Luce. As Skulls discovers Armeria is a girl there is also a discovery she makes about Skulls. Where is the young boy she loved enough to search out and as an adopted member of Skulls pirate crew she will encounter not only the rough life of a pirate but also interesting encounters with the Navy and even more unexpected relationships. The high seas are a very interesting place in the 17th century Mediterranean, something Armeria finds out rather rudely as she sails with Skulls.

First the art is beautiful. This is delicious Shojo that both guys and gals can enjoy. There is nothing ground breaking about the character deigns, backgrounds or settings but everything just fits and feels right. The story is what is so charming about this mange. Wanted takes the best of Pirates and mixes it with Princess Bride for a story that is touching at times and quite hilarious at others. The truths Armeria and encounters she has show a softer side to a certain someone while her adjustment to being on a pirate ship is where the humor comes in. These story points mixed with naval encounters and a specific treasure hunt just feel like the beginning, but sadly it’s both that and the end. See this is my only gripe with Wanted, it’s too short. This reader found himself enjoying these adventures and wanting more, wanting to see relationships fleshed out more but sadly they are not. The extra story, Spring Cheery Blossoms, is nice but not a good as Wanted.

Overall the art is classic Shojo, the story a touching mix of romance, action and humor but it’s too short a journey for what could be a great series. Hino mentions more ideas for Wanted so here’s to hoping those ideas take flight … set sail into a new volume for readers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dark Side of the Horse VII

Sad to say this is most likely to be my last Dark Side of the Horse. Keeping up with the various Star Wars comics is taxing and not easy on my pocket or the generosity of Dark Horse. You’ll note that the books I’m covering below are a few, quite a few, volumes behind as I have not even wrapped up Vector which was a 2008 event. That being said I’ll of course still tackle Dark Horse properties, Blood + for example and look for movie tie-ins and other hot items, but for now lets take a look at the (possibly) final installment of Dark Side of the Horse. Who knows, things are not always as they seem and while the Sith may have seemed exterminated, ditto for the Jedi, they can and have come back in full force … read what you may from this …

 Knights of the Old Republic #30Knights of the Old Republic #30
Zayne is up to his neck in trouble as he’s captured after obtaining evidence of the stash of Sith artifacts which Lucien and his alliance is holding. Things are as bad as they seem as Zayne must face off with Master Feln, one of the conspirators with Lucien, who is plunging his own tribe into darkness along with himself. As the fight reaches its conclusion Feln is a victim of the rules of his tribe that brought him to power and now see his downfall. Zayne is quick to leave as yet another Master fades into history.

So this story is a continuation and the core is the fate of Feln, but overall the art is just not that great. For such a dark time, a dire conflict the colors are vivid and bright and the expression of each character, body proportions, it just takes away from what is a very intriguing storyline.

 Knights of the Old Republic # 31Knights of the Old Republic # 31
Zayne, having dealt with Feln, now shifts his focus to a return to Corsuant and a reveal of the Sith artifacts which Lucien is keeping hidden from the Jedi Council. One little problem, the fleet waiting for Zayne and crew around the planet, so just how to get planet side? The tricks of the trade, a bit of starship slight of hand and Zayne is on the ground ready to reveal what he knows and take down Lucien and his alliance once and for all … but an unexpected host is waiting for them as they leave their ship.

The art continues in its comical manner as stated above and the story continues to progress at a much more rapid pace as Zayne will come face-to-face with Lucien. The best thing about this volume of KOTOR is the anticipation for what is to come. Zayne vs. Lucien is what drives this story, Lucien’s goals and all that was taken from Zayne because of a prophecy.

 Knights of the Old Republic #32Knights of the Old Republic #32
The tricks have been used, now it time to put up against Lucien. Plans begin to unravel and truths are revealed. The alliance, the covenant has its own little dirty secrets and of course when dealing with evil, evil turns upon itself no matter how right those taking the actions may be.

Finally the fight we want and more plot twist. Readers, if you’ve followed the story this far you will not be upset at what you get, which is why I’m so vague above. As for the art it’s excellent, more realistic and helps to really set the tone and mood to what is should be, quite a fine chapter.

 Star Wars: Rebellion #15, Vector Part 7Star Wars: Rebellion #15, Vector Part 7
Vector continues as Luke and Han take a team to an isolated planet to investigate a strange presence. The planet just happens to be one containing an infected Celeste, stranded right where Vader left her 20 some odd years earlier. Let’s just say time has not softened our infected Jedi and as she encounters Luke that little Sith voice in her head convinces her to confront Luke.

Vector is by far one of the most enjoyable comic experiences I’ve read since … Marvel’s Inferno of the last century. Luke’s encounter with Celeste is tasty and seeing how she’s changed is good storytelling. The art is excellent, characters recognizable and everything sets up for a larger clash in volume 16.

 Star Wars: Rebellion #16, Vector Part 8Star Wars: Rebellion #16, Vector Part 8
Vector part 8 continues the fight between Luke and Celeste as Han and the other very infect able humans get to their ship only to be separated from Luke and Leia. The talisman decides to go after a new, potentially more powerful and bendable host only to be stopped by Celeste. As Luke and Leia make their escape Celeste manages to obtain a ship and gives a quick fly-by hello to an old heavy breathing buddy.

Celeste is the star of this book as her challenges and choices trump those of both Luke and Leia. She makes a very difficult decision and her little hello to Vader is just priceless. The art is excellent yet again and the story set in Vector continues.

Star Wars: Legacy #25Star Wars: Legacy #25
Their nest discovered Cade, Syn and the rest of their friends make their way to a hidden Jedi Temple that Cade’s uncle helped establish. Little to our bounty hunters realize but they are being tailed by a group of Imperial Knights, sold out by one of their own. As they enter the hidden temple Syn comes face-to-face with his father’s killer and must himself decide the best course or vengeance.

By far Legacy has the best art of any comic on this list. All three volumes are very well drawn, detailed showing great emotion, darkness, humor and proper action that the Star Wars legacy deserves. That goes for all three Legacy comics covered here so I won’t repeat. The story is a bridge to bigger things. The there are alliances formed against Darth Krayt and the stage is getting set for some all out action.

 Star Wars: Legacy #26Star Wars: Legacy #26

Syn encounters the Jedi who felled his father only to be presented with the truth of who his father really was. Cade also must fight with a former friend to prove his true intentions as the new Jedi, Imperial alliance kicks in it’s Cade who decides to take the fight to the Sith.

Short summary, but great story points. We’ve got Syn with some major revelations and Cade taking the role of a leader, not a Jedi, but one with power who must face and destroy Krayt if there is to be hope for the galaxy after what befell the Mon-Calamari (SPELLING). This is one storyline that is going to be epic on a very Star Wars level.

 Star Wars: Legacy #27Star Wars: Legacy #27
A side-story as Darth WyYrlok take a journey to seek greater power and confront the Spirit of Darth Andeddu, a long deceased Sith. Their fight is on they physical and to a grander scale the mental plain. The living will survive but at what price?

The price is one hell of a sweet one-shot side story where two Sith put their minds to the test. Not knowing much or really caring much about this particular Sith did not take away from the enjoyment of seeing two twisted mind go at it for domination of each other. A really good read that requires no ties to any prior story.

Overall these books have been great, especially Vector. Fans already know this and I’m just a bit sad that I’m so behind in these updates. Fortunately Dark Horse is really good about doing collected volumes so maybe I’ll start taking a look at those. See you on the flip side.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baccano! vol. 1 Impression

Baccano!; a mix of 50’s style and dress mixed with some Cowboy Bebop coolness and a heaping of ‘what the hell is going on.’ FUNimation’s latest anime has a ton of characters and will take possible a few watches to get, but its well worth it.

Meet Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent, two thieves who just can’t pass up a score involving hitting the mafia, passengers on a train, heck even steal from the Earth. Speaking of the mafia (NAME) meet Firo Prochainezo and his mentor Maiza Avaro, two members of the Martillo crime family … the mafia Isaac and Miria like to hit. Firo may seem like just an average up and comer but when his fingers get cut off they grow back. Four characters in a very large cast, one that all seems to board a train and shows the same caper from various angles. Hmmm, what else …

Ok, there are a lot of characters and it’s very tough to outline just what the story is as it’s all over the place. We’ve got our thieves and their funny dealings, mafia folks, occult going-ons, some alchemy as well as a formula for eternal life. This is all wrapped into a 1930’s setting that seems odd at first but begins to fit. The music, especially the intro, invokes memories of Cowboy Bebop, both stylish and a pleasure to listen too. The character designs are fresh and unique, uncluttered and just clean looking. The animation, background, dress, settings all look 30’s –ish and it’s violent to say the least. It’s tough to classify and as I said not only does Cowboy Bebop come to mind but so does Lupin. I’m also trying to figure out what is going on with the little girl Eve Genoard … is she telling a story, looking back in time, I don’t know yet but hope to soon.

Baccano! takes a few watching’s to ‘get’ but fresh music, clean/crisp animation and action mixes with a unique design era to offer up a unique, enjoyable anime. Yeah … I need more time with this one but the train story is fun so far.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine game trailer Impression

X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the history of Wolverine and from the looks of the movie trailer it’s much more than just a quick cash in by the studio. The movie looks to surpass the original X-Men movies in every way from the action to the characters introduced. The video game also appears to be on the same path as seen in the trailer below. For a very, very long time movies based on games, comics or other geek salivation properties have always been bad, but Spider-Man began to reverse this trend. Sure the original Batman was great, but Tim Burton ruined the sequel and it was all downhill from there. Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Batman Begins (Dark Knight) the second Incredible Hulk … these have all been very enjoyable if not great movies and their gaming counterparts have been fairly good also. Of this group only Spider-Man was a top tier game but Spidey will have company soon is Activision gets Origins rights.

From the trailer below gamers will be taken through Wolverines enhancements at the hands of the government, travel and fight in jungle settings and faceoff with Sabretooth. The graphics look as excellent as would be expected from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC while the action sequences are ripped right from the movie with Logan flying through the air at opponents, choppers, having cinematic angles as a truck flies over him … no leveling up here it seems. There is one spin move Wolverine unleashes but otherwise the fights look like a bar room brawl. Voice work is on par with the movie, ditto for story from what can be seen. Only seeing Sabretooth in the trailer and a bunch of cookie cutter grunts leaves a nagging feeling that the game won’t have everyone in it, but heck, it’s the first trailer.

Activision has a very promising looking game on their hands with X-Men Origins: Wolverine as if they can nail the controls the action and story seem to be set for Logan to join Peter Parker as the star of a great movie based game based on a comic … which it seems only someone named Uwe can butcher properly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 Gameplay Trailer

Namco Bandai is giving PlayStation 2 owners a treat only the next-gen gamers can dream of right now. Ultimate Ninja 4 looks and plays in improved ways over the prior Ultimate Ninja titles but there is one major hook ... it's Shippuden. This is the first game to hit our shores (in the states) that includes Naruto's new, older adventures and not the filler material the anime offers up. This is true bliss for Narutards (like me) so check out the video content below and check back soon for more on the gameplay itself.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Neji vs. Asuma

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Kankuro vs. Shikamaru

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Itachi vs. Naruto

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Deidara vs. Naruto

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Tenten vs. Shizune

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja 4 - Sasori vs. Tenten

Monday, March 9, 2009

Darker Than Black vol. 2 Impression

Darker Than Black volume 2
Darker Than Black volume 2 from FUNimation continues the contracting action and takes some time to flesh out the past of our favorite detective Kirihara.

A Hei learns more about his missing sister and reveals a bit more about his past he gives hope to a contractor just before she is eliminated by another Contractor. It seems BK201, the Black Reaper, is drawing a bit more interest from outside sources. Next up is an old time detective story where the widow of a deceased perfume mogul is looking for her cat and a certain talking cat, Hernandez, gets involved. As the case unfolds a body jumper, like Hernandez, is revealed to be the mark and Hei makes his move. As this sometimes comical case comes to a close the story turns to detective Kirihara. Pieces of her past are revealed including her relationship to a certain Yakuza daughter. A series of high-profile murders in their ranks is causing the Yakuza to get antsy and the cause is one who can kill with his blood and a snap. How will the Black Reaper deal with this new threat … that’s the fun of Darker Than Black.

The animation in Darker Than Black is not the most detailed but it’s crisp, sharp lines and excellent use of color makes it one of the better looking series to watch, especially in HD. Hei starts to show some true emotion as bits of his past are revealed, like the mystery of his sister. Also a look into how Contractors suffer for their power. Hernandez, talking cat, reveals his powers and gets into a few funny situations in the second adventure while the meat of volume 2 comes in the form of Kirihara’s background. Learning about her father, childhood friend and ties to the present all make for a very good story with the mafia and a blood killing Contractor. What volume 2 of Darker Than Black manages to do is add some layers and personality to the characters introduced in volume 1, which was a lot of action and background on the world of Darker Than Black. It’s to be seen (soon) if volume 3 continues the trend but what is being established is a series worthy of the single release DVD price as opposed to the season 1 and full series box sets getting released now.

Fate/stay night Manga vol. 1 & 2 Impression

Fate/stay night; first a game then anime and now a manga from Tokyopop. The battle for the Holy Grail, known as the Holy Grail Wars, gets into full swing with Masters and Servants ready to fight to the death. That is all but one; Shirou Emiya. Penned by Dat Nishiwaki with story by Type-Moon the manga is not some throw in for the anime, it’s a very well told, drawn adventure new and old fans will enjoy.

Fate/stay night manga volume 1
Fate/stay night manga volume 1
Shirou Emiya has a secret. On the surface he looks like an average high school student. Emiya is a magi, a magic user although not a very adept one. He can utilize trace to enhance the basic structure of an object, making paper like steel, but he does not approach the level of his adopted deceased father, also a magi. After school Emiya witness a fight between two unbelievable adversaries and thus must be eliminated for these are two of the seven legendary warriors tied to their masters in the Holy Grail Wars. Chased down by Lancer, one of the fighters, Emiya’s fate is death but he wakes to find he’s alive, after being stabbed, with a pendant next to him. Emiya was saved by another magi and fellow student, Tosaka, but even as he heals he’s attacked again and summons his own servant Saber. After defending himself Tosaka teaches Emiya about the Holy Grail Wars and warns him that when next they meet it will be as foes. Thrust into the was with a desire to protect innocents how will Emiya cope … that is the story to unfold.

First the story. It moves along a much faster clip than the anime with all the action intact. The rules of the war are explained easily and the action is appropriate for the down times. A good action story that is not too deep right now. There is more to this story than what I’ve outlined above. The art on the other hand is very, very close to the anime but there are a few tweaks. First, for fan-boys, Tosaka’s skirt is much longer, sorry. All of the characters look as they should, sharply drawn with great action and I was glad to see Emiya not looking as wimpy as in the anime. Sadly he is still a sap at times, but that goes with the territory. The introduction of Illyasviel von Einzbern and her servant Berserker not to mention the hell they wreak (told you more story) is also well drawn and just plain cool.

Fate/stay night manga volume 2Fate/stay night manga volume 2
Healed from his protection of Saber at the hands of Berserker, Emiya now must face the reality he is a participant in a war that could very well end his life and will endanger the innocents he wishes to save. Two of these innocents, childhood friend Sakura and free loading teacher Fuji, make an appearance while Saber hides. A brief break from the action sees the telling of Tosaka’s history and how she summons her servant. As Tosaka follows up on her promise to fight Emiya she encounters yet another assassin type servant and the fight continues.

The art continues to be excellent and the story is actually better than the anime. The telling of Tosaka’s background is more fleshed out than in the anime and she seems more human. This volume also sees some downtime to flesh out the human side of our combatant’s right before getting into more action. It’s nice not to have to hear so much about Emiya and his bleeding heart and the secondary characters are given enough face time without taking away from true story. A good second volume to a really good action manga.

Overall these first two volumes of Fate/stay night offer up the same story and action found in the anime without all of the fluff in between, which is odd. Usually the manga will take more time to tell story but not so here. The story is good, hell if you like the anime or just fighting manga then this is indeed for you, but the art is what I really like as it steps up a notch from the anime and is poster worthy. Good times indeed and a good manga.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hayate Cross Blade vol. 2 Impression

Hayate Cross Blade volume 2 manga
To save an orphanage from the Yakuza debt, this is the task Hayate has undertaken at the exclusive Tenchi Academy, a quest that continues in Hayate Cross Blade volume 2 from Tor/Seven Seas.

Hayate is now on her own, no longer needing to pretend to be injured sister Nagi. Her mission to earn money with sister in-arms Ayana, is accelerated as the Yakuza step up the payment deadline. Hayate’s roomate Momoka reveals her reasons for being a lone wolf and she is in turn seeked by the creepy Isuzu. Her reason, a childhood friend and promise, the challenge and task eventually fulfulled but the results are not as they seem but a sister in-arms is gained. The best part, the makeover of the new partner. With their minds back on the collection of money Hayate and Ayana look to the upcoming sports day where they can challenge a higher ranked couple. The side-bar, they are now targeted by the Yakuza leaders daughter Mizuchi, who has her own bone to pickwith Ayana and her very Hayate-ish sidekick Sou who shows the underhanded way things go down at Tenchi. Fight day appraches, will Hayate be able to earn the money she needs, time will tell.

The story and art of Shizuru Hayashiya continues to prove why no manga fan to just pass this by. Each character is unique and very detailed. The backgrounds are decent, not overly complex but not bland. The charactrers, the humerous beattins Hayate takes and now the creepy Isuzu, they are what make this story so enjoyable. Each story segment ends nicly and deepens the charactes while expanding upon their background. Rules are introduced at a nice speed so even Hayate can comprehend and the fact the specail abilites of Hayate are not even touched on but readers will still be engaged is just great storytelling. Yes, Hayate Cross Blade is a good and enjoyable manga with great action, funny moments and leads that take themselves not too serious.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ghost Hunt DVD Set 1 and 2 Impression

Ghost Hunt DVD sets 1 and 2 from FUNimation combine the supernatural horror found in Japanese Cinema (Ringu, etc) and combines it with a technologically targeted study of the unknown as seen in Sci-Fi Channels Ghost Hunters series.

Ghost Hunt DVD Set 1
Freshman Mai Taniyama just broke a very expensive camera. To pay off the owner, Kazuya “Naru” Shibuya, Mai joins the Shibuya Psychic Research team in the investigation of the paranormal. It’s a good thing Mai has a fascination for the unknown because Naru will put her through the ringer with his turned off at times attitude. Using the most advanced technology Mai and Naru are hired to investigate paranormal activities and find themselves often times working with a spirit medium (who just happens to be famous), a shrine maiden with a thing for nature, a monk as well as an Australian priest. This trio works to resolve the issue of evil spirits in a school, a possessed doll house, a Hexer, a jaded female spirits and a missing boy at a church on Christmas. Each mystery gets more challenging and it seems Mai is unlocking her own hidden potential.

Ghost Hunt is a very enjoyable anime. The characters are each unique in their design but still root themselves in the real world with their beliefs, dress and practices. The stories, usually 2-3 episodes each are just perfect as time is allowed for the mystery and story to flesh itself out without the need to cram into 20-30 minutes while keeping the viewer wanting more. These five stories over 2 disc (13 total episodes) introduce a set of unique characters then advances them, matures them right before the viewer. There seem to be nods to other supernatural titles, a well anyone, but it’s the fusion of ghost and technology that is thrilling. Imagine if Ghost Hunters encountered a very angry spirit, yeah I like very much. Of all the stories the best has to be the one of the little boy at the church. It’s both haunting and sad.

Ghost Hunt DVD Set 2
Mai continues to come into her own with dreams that provide great insight but at times endanger her on the jobs she and Naru take. The resolution of the missing boy at the church as well as a manor that is just pure evil set the stage for a cursed family and a spirit that seems set on destroying all including our group of hunters. One ongoing case and two new cases will put Mai, Naru and the other spiritualist to the test.

Vague on detail, why yes, but would telling each story and its outcome serve any point? Nay say I and for good reason. Mai is the center of these two DVD sets but seeing the other characters develop as well as the limit of their powers is quite a fun journey. The two main cases in this 12 episode, 2 disc set, are not in the form of a scorned girl friend or upset student. No, these are dangerous jobs that put the team in great danger and show a evilness to the supernatural no ghost hunter wants to encounter.

Overall Ghost Hunt is rock solid supernatural, borderline horror, action that fans of the shows I’ve mentioned above should check out. It’s an anime yet pulls so much from real Ghost Hunter type encounters and investigations while adding a mystery to each case where the supernatural is real. One can only feel while watching that yes, this is fiction but could there be some truth in these stories, some real possibility? Chilling isn’t it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hunter x Hunter vol. 23 Impression

Hunter x Hunter volume 23 manga
Killua and Gon continue to avoid the Kings troops as Hunter x Hunter volume 23 kicks into high gear. As Killua fights an evolved better he’s also being snipped by a long range foe that is not what he seems. This octopi foe is spared by Killua right before Killua is targeted by a brother and sister combo that turns him into a dartboard. Some very, very sharp skills are needed to survive this attack and an unforeseen ally is all that stands between Killua and death. Meanwhile Gon is approached by a beast ant name Jail who has a plan to get close to the king to attack. Seems not all the ant soldiers are pure evil. While the king waits for his meals to mature he is occupying himself with all manners of games which he masters then kills his opponents; that is until he faces a blind dimwit who he can’t beat in a game of Gungi. Finally the rest of the hunters in position around the king’s lair find themselves in fights with a few lower level soldiers, but no sign of the royal guards just yet.

This is volume 23 of an excellent series that, well it’s just plain good. I still have a few qualms with how much the king looks like DBZ Cell, but oh well. The action is non-stop from the hunters at the castle (least fave action in book) to Gon … which is more plotting than action to the best which is Killua’s fight and most of all his new friend. The ants have proven they are not dumb, mindless creatures. They each have goals and ambitions but up until this point they’ve yet to prove any form of kindness until this volume. Both Gon and Killua’s new buddies have much to prove but they’ve both been in positions to hurt our duo yet have chosen to either save or ally for a greater purpose. Yes, Hunter x Hunter is moving along at a splendid pace and to tell the truth it does not feel like 23 volumes already.