Archive for Reviews

Anime Review: Evangelion 1.01 – You Are (Not) Alone

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

An event known as “Second Impact” changed the world when a massive explosion in the arctic melted the polar ice caps and flooded over Japan. Fifteen years later, Tokyo-3 has rebuilt itself as a retractable underground city, and a whole new generation of kids has been born and raised in the post-Second Impact era.

Then one random day, a giant monster appears and moves his way towards the city. These monsters, known as “Angels”, have one target in mind. Buried deep underground of Tokyo-3 is Lilith, the Angel at the heart of Second Impact. If Lilith were to make contact with another Angel, Third Impact will occur and all of humanity will be destroyed forever.

The Japanese military are useless against stopping the approaching Angel, so they call on the government agency NERV to take care of the monster. NERV commander Gendo Ikari enlists his estranged 14-year-old son, Shinji, to pilot the giant bio-mechanical robot known as Evangelion. And so suddenly thrust into battle, we begin the epic story of a timid and reluctant teenager who suddenly becomes mankind’s final hope against the Angels and Third Impact.

… but really, do I need to explain the plot to you? Are you the only otaku in the world who has not seen Eva before?

The 1995 anime TV series was a landmark achievement that turned the giant robot genre into a psychological trip that dove deep into the human condition. It blew my mind when I first saw it eight years ago, and it still goes down as my favorite anime series of all time.

However, Eva had the misfortune of being released just before the anime industry shifted from hand drawn animation to digital. This change in technology drastically improved the visual look of anime and made the lines crisper, colors more vibrant, and eliminated the need to recycle old sequences again and again through out a series. Even though it is less than 15 years old, the hand drawn Eva series appears very dated among all the digitally animated shows from the past decade.

So director Hideki Anno set out to create a brand new remake of his anime masterpiece over the course of four theatrical films. Evangelion 1.01: You Are (Not) Alone is the first of these films, and it retells the first six episodes of the TV show. While the film does not diverge too far from the original just yet at this stage of the series, it still offers enough visual enhancements to make this fanboy nearly blow his load while watching it.


Manga Review: The Lizard Prince (vol. 1)

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The Lizard Prince tells the story of Canary, a young princess who has been betrothed to Heath, the prince of a nearby kingdom. But Heath is a real jerk, and he has no desire to wed the girl. So he conjures up a plan to mess with the girl’s head. Heath has a pet talking lizard. With a little bit of magic, he switches bodies with the reptile and then forces his pet to go on a date with the girl in his place.

But it turns out that the lizard was quite the gentlemen, and Canary ends up falling head over heels for him on their first date. The prince is royally pissed that his mean plan did not work out, so he decides to take matters in his own hands and expose the princess to what was really happening. How will Canary react when she finds out her true love was really a lizard?

This is CMX’s second shojo release from Asuka Izumi after her manga adaptation of Ballad of a Shinigami last June. When I reviewed that title, I really enjoyed her storytelling and her surprising conclusions, so I am happy to report that she hits yet another home run with this fairy tale story.


Anime Review: Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Based off of the classic arcade game from Bandai-Namco, Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk is the tale of wannabe hero Jil. Sixty years after the Tower of Druaga was defeated, it has once again returned to the Uruk Kingdom. But fortunately for the people of Uruk, the Summer of Anu approaches, which subdues the monsters living in the tower enough to give the villagers a fighting chance to enter and climb its many levels.

While most of the folks who venture into the tower merely wish to take the treasure hidden within it, Jil has much bigger plans in mind. He wants to reach the top level and beat the evil Druaga himself. But his first guild fires him after he nearly gets them all killed in the lower levels. So he gathers another colorful band of warriors, mages, and other characters you’d expect from a typical fantasy story, and ventures on into battle.

If you remember a few weeks ago, I reviewed Blassreiter, one of the first anime series legally simulcasted on the internet while airing on Japanese TV 20 months ago. Well, Druaga was the other simulcast that aired that season, and just like Blassreiter, I absolutely loved watching this series on a 2-disc DVD box set from FUNimation.


Manga Review: The Ghost in the Shell

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Watch out, America, there’s a new manga company in town.

Kodansha is the largest publisher in Japan and puts out some of the country’s most popular manga magazines like Morning, Nakayoshi, and Weekly Shonen Magazine.

They shook up the American manga industry five years ago by going into an exclusive partnership with Random House to create Del Rey Manga. Thanks to Kodansha’s amazing catalog of works from artists like CLAMP and Ken Akamatsu, Del Rey entered the market with a bang, and is now considered to be the second largest manga publisher in America.

But over a year ago, rumors began circulating that Kodansha was going to be setting up their own manga division in America that would run separately from Del Rey. Personally, I’m cautious whenever something like this happens. When Toei Animation and Bandai Visual decided to bypass their American partners and enter into the domestic anime market themselves, it was disastrous. So, I was worried that a “Kodansha USA” would meet a similar fate in the manga world.

Well, the rumors turned out to be true, and the new domestic manga publisher, now officially called Kodansha Comics, released their first two manga volumes last month. They were Akira and The Ghost in the Shell, both originally released in America by Dark Horse Comics many years ago.

So considering that I have no idea who is running the new company or if they even had a PR department, you can imagine my surprise to see these two books magically arrive in my mailbox last week for review. And being that I’ve never read either of these series from Dark Horse in the past, I decided to see what this new publisher was all about with their first volume of The Ghost in the Shell manga by Masamune Shirow.


Anime Review: Dragonaut: The Resonance (Part 1)

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Dragonaut: The Resonance is the sci-fi story of Jin Kamishima, a boy who has felt alone in the world after surviving a space shuttle accident that killed the rest of his family. Suddenly one day, he discovers Toa, a beautiful and powerful pink-haired babe that has sworn to protect him and stay by his side forever. With the appearance of this mysterious girl, Jin is thrown into the clutches of the ISDA, a protection agency that is secretly researching how to save the Earth from an asteroid heading directly for the planet.

Not too long ago, the ISDA had discovered an alien egg deep in the ocean. They use the egg to create “Dragons”, artificial humanoid beings that are able to morph into large flying mechanical weapons that look like… well… dragons! When a dragon is born, they’re paired with a human Dragonaut. The dragons fully obey their human Dragonauts and serve as their slave and protectors in peace, and the Dragonauts pilot their dragons during battle.

The ISDA figures out that Toa is a dragon and that Jin has unexpectedly become her Dragonaut, but there is something different in this situation. Toa was not created by the ISDA, she’s a naturally born dragon and far more powerful then any they’ve seen before. And not only has Jin partnered up with Toa, but he’s also taken control of Gio, a newly-born dragon who already has partnered with another Dragonaut.

Can the ISDA utilize Jin and Toa to help them save the world from the deadly asteroid, or will the reluctant two refuse to become lab rats to the organization’s secret operation?


Book Review: Sayonara, Mr. Fatty!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Like most people, I made just one New Years Resolution last January: 2009 was going to be the year I was going to get in shape!

I had gained a lot of weight from college, and I’ve kept it on for the few years since graduation. I was six feet tall and 238 pounds. So my goal was to be under 200 by the end of the year, which would be reasonable for a man of my size and body type.

It couldn’t be any easier for me as a new gym had just opened a few blocks away from my apartment. So I joined the gym and for the first half of the year, I worked out three days every week.

But there was a problem. Sure, I lost weight as soon as I started working out, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get under 232 lb. I was working my ass off on the treadmill and lifting weights, but it quickly became apparent to me that the work was not paying off.

So around Otakon, I gave up hitting the gym. In the few weeks after that, I had rebounded up to 243 pounds, the most I have ever weighed in my life. That’s when I finally decided to pick up my review copy of the diet book Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! A Geek’s Diet Memoir from Vertical Publishing.

And this book has possibly changed my life forever.


Manga Review: Deka Kyoshi (vol 1)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Detective Toyama is assigned to investigate the apparent suicide of an elementary school teacher. He goes undercover as a teacher himself and fills in for the victim’s class of fifth grade students. He is determined to find out if the suicide was just that, or if there was any foul play was involved that could put the kids in danger too.

He quickly discovers Makoto, a strange boy who seems to be an outcast and bullied by his classmates. But it turns out that the reason why Makoto is so strange is because he has a special gift. He is able to look at people and see all their stresses and worries manifest into hideous demons and monsters. So with the help of the kind undercover detective, the two work together to fix the problems that plague these early adolescent students.

While its “monster-of-the-week” episodic formula seems very simple and shallow on the surface, Deka Kyoshi turns out to be a very delightful read.


Anime Review: Blassreiter (Part 1)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

In a fictional modern day Germany, a new terror has emerged as bio-mechanical zombies called “Demoniacs” reek havoc on the unsuspecting masses. The XAT, Xenogenesis Assault Team, fight the Demoniacs in an attempt to keep the people safe and to figure out where these monsters are coming from.

Enter Gerd Frentzen, a prized motorcycle racer who’s suffered an accident that will paralyze him and end his career for sure. Left with no other option, he takes an experimental drug to regain feeling in his legs. It works, but the side effect is that it turns him into a Demoniac himself.

Unlike the other Demoniacs, Gerd is not dead, he’s still alive. So he becomes of interest to the XAT as a test subject and a weapon against other monsters. But as Gerd’s personal life falls apart in front of him, will he be able to stay a hero to the human race, or will he succumb to the bio-mechanical beast he’s turning into?

Over a year ago, Blassreiter made anime history for being one of the first titles to be simulcasted around the world via legal internet distribution. Many folks doubted if the simulcast idea would work out or if it could possibly hurt the chances of the show seeing a proper American release.

Well, twenty months later, the simulcast trend is still going incredibly well, and Blassreiter has finally seen an R1 release with the first 13 episodes in this two disc box set. So how does this landmark series stand up?


Anime Review: Welcome to the NHK

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

After a summer of amazing anime and with a packed November quickly approaching, FUNimation has been pretty sparse as far as October new releases go. A good bulk of the review units coming in lately have been either re-releases or re-releases of previous re-releases for the anime giant.

So rather than going a fourth week sans anime review, I decided to look through this stack of re-releases and pick out the best of the best to pop into the ol’ DVD player and take another look. And sure enough, FUNimation had released an all time favorite of mine, Welcome to the NHK, in a complete series box set a few weeks ago.

Tatsuhiro Satou is a hikikomori, a shut-in unable to leave his apartment to find a job or meet new friends. But after nearly four years of not leaving his room, he begins to freak out. The walls are caving in on him, the house appliances have started speaking to him, and his goddamn otaku neighbor won’t stop playing the same goddamn magical girl theme song that has been on repeat for days. On top of all this, he is convinced that the Japanese public broadcast network, the NHK, is really a huge elaborate government conspiracy that is out to get him. After all, why wouldn’t he believe this? The refrigerator and air conditioner told him it was true.

In comes Misaki, a relatively harmless teenage girl who discovers the shut-in while going door-to-door passing out pamphlets. For reasons unknown to anyone, she offers to personally consult Satou on how to shed his hikikomori ways. Now thanks to Misaki’s pet project, Satou goes down a long and twisted road filled with otaku, hentai video games, internet addictions, porn, pyramid schemes, suicide pacts, and every other real-life national pandemic that is scaring the citizens of Japan these days.

And would you believe this is all a comedy?


Manga Review: Oh! My Brother (vol. 1)

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Masago has the best older brother a girl could ask for. Shiro is popular. He’s goofy. He’s good looking. He’s the head of his student council. But most of all, he’s a kind boy and loves his little sister dearly.

But his niceness and his love ultimately leads to his death as he is accidentally hit by a car while protecting Masago from being hit by it herself. Masago and all of her classmates are devastated over Shiro’s tragic death, and while she cries out for her big brother, a gust of wind blows in through the window into her room.

Next thing you know, Masago is her older brother. That is, Shiro’s soul now possesses the body of his little sister, and they alternate back and forth for who controls the girl’s body or not. They believe it is because Shiro left the world with unfinished business. Now with the help of his little sister, they will set out to ensure his soul can finally move on to the other side, all the while trying to keep the fact that Shiro’s soul is inside his sister a secret.

Hold on… you go through that huge, tragic setup just to create a story of two people sharing the same body?! Really?! What kind of contrived plot is that?!  Have we not seen this done a million times before?!

I wanted to hate Ken Saito’s Oh! My Brother on this premise alone, I really did.  But with all of its charm and subtle comedy, I ended up loving this goofy – albeit flawed – shojo story.