Anime Limited announce Escaflowne Ultimate Edition details & more at MCM Manchester 2016

This weekend saw the arrival of MCM Manchester Comic Con. While Manga Animatsu made their own announcements through social media and various Amazon UK leaks, Anime Limited’s president Andrew Partridge provided a panel for the Saturday event with a couple new announcements and details to share with everyone.

Ouran High School Host Club

Starting with the new additions to the catalogue, we have Ouran High School Host Club which will once again come back in print for the UK. Manga UK once released this series on DVD but has since gone out of print due to the Funimation deal expiring (same also happened with a couple other titles like Baccano!, Claymore and Eden of the East; all of which Anime Limited have licensed for Blu-ray). Ouran High School Host Club is currently scheduled for release this November as a Collector’s Edition with both the English dub and Japanese audio with English subtitles. You can check out the show for legal streaming over on FunimationNow.

Pigtails

The other new announcements are a bunch of Production I.G. shorts. The main one in particular that was focused the most was the 2015 film Pigtails (Mitsuami no Kamisama), based on the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The film is directed by Itazu Yoshimi who was also Chief Animation Director for Miss Hokusai (another Production I.G. title and Anime Limited license). In addition to Pigtails, Andrew Partridge announced they are planning to release a collection of Production I.G. shorts in one set. These include the Mind Game and Ping Pong director Masaaki Yuasa’s successful kickstarter title Kick Heart, the Anime Mirai shorts (so far it seems to be Tansuwarashi and Wasurenagumo), as well as Oval x Over which has yet to be shown outside Japan. No release date details as of late but Andrew is working on including some of these for Scotland Loves Anime 2016.

In terms of new details on existing Anime Limited products, Andrew Partridge has unveiled the final product for the long-awaited release for The Vision of Escaflowne Ultimate Edition.

Escaflowne UE 2

The Ultimate Edition will include the complete series and the movie on Blu-ray. The TV series was known to feature extended footage for the earlier episodes but thanks to the support of Justin Sevakis they have created an authoring that will allow fans to watch the series with both broadcast style for the Bandai Entertainment English dub and the original for the Japanese audio and Funimation’s new English dub. That way fans of the old dub and those who want the new footage can experience both without any issues. The on-disc extras share the same as Funimation’s upcoming release with Textless Opening & Endings, Music Videos, Video Game Cutscenes, Club Escaflowne Interviews as well as Trailers, Anime Expo 2000 and a special program for the Escaflowne Movie.

The Ultimate Edition exclusives include a 144 page artbook (compared to Funimation’s 40 page hardcover version), 3 soundtrack CDs from composer Yoko Kanno (who also worked on Cowboy Bebop and Terror in Resonance) and 3 Collector’s Edition style sets with digipacks to hold the discs; one for the TV series, one for the movie and another for the CDs. The suggested retail price will be £149.99 with an early bird deal for £90 until the end of August exclusively over on Shop All the Anime. The release date is currently slated for December 2016. You can pre-order the set over on Shop All the Anime. The TV series is also available to stream for free on Viewster in Japanese with English subtitles.

During the rest of the panel Andrew Partridge discussed about how Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 was quite the effort to work on for its Ultimate Edition release, citing Square Enix being pretty difficult to work with and the fact that 60% of the stock has been sold through pre-orders already (remember this release is 970 units only currently at £149.99 and soon to be higher near its release). Andrew noted that the artbook included with the Ultimate Edition is “the biggest we’ve ever done”.

Andrew also talked about trying to include the soundtrack CD for Death Parade‘s upcoming Ultimate Edition release. He notes that it may or may not happen depending on licensing approvals. And Prison School may end up being given the Funimation UK treatment if there’s no assets to make a collector’s edition release but at the moment they are currently awaiting the materials to see what they can do. And finally they pointed out that ADV titles are pretty difficult to acquire.

Paradise Residence Volumes 1 and 2 Review

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Hatsune Takanashi is a girl of simple tastes; she like curry and her friends, but her real love in life is pudding. Hatsune has begun her new life at Kikka Academy, an all-girl boarding school atop a mountain, and she is looking forward to making some new friends and eating delicious food. With a grade schooler for a Dorm Mother, a mean rival who has weaponised soy beans, and a foreign exchange student who doesn’t fully understand how clothes work, her new high school life is guaranteed to be interesting to say the least!

Paradise Residence is one of the latest manga series from author Kosuke Fujishima, the man behind Oh! My Goddess and You’re Under Arrest!, and it’s a fairly enjoyable slice of life comedy, even if it does come across as a little bit forgettable.

Standing out from the crowd is something that I feel is very important in anime and manga, and in the slice of life genre in particular. It’s so easy for a slice of life anime and manga to become just another generic high school comedy, and become instantly forgettable. The best way to make a slice of life show memorable, of course, is to have a memorable cast of characters. The standout example of this has to be the classic Azumanga Daioh, a run of the mill manga on paper, but elevated by a fantastic cast of memorable – not to mention hilarious – characters.

While this is the best way to go about making your series stand out, you could also resort to to using a unique gimmick to pull in readers. Of course, this is less effective; the characters can make or break a series. However, it at least provides something original and fresh. This is where my biggest issue with Paradise Residence comes in; it doesn’t really do either.

Paradise Residence is probably the very definition of a generic slice of life manga and there honestly isn’t really a whole lot to say about it. Whilst there isn’t really a whole lot of story here, as you’d probably expect from a manga like this, it hits familiar story beats and doesn’t really offer anything original or interesting to people who are already familiar with the genre. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable. Despite its shortcomings, I managed to get quite a few laughs out of Paradise Residence, mostly due to its cast of characters. Again, I really don’t find them particularly memorable, and they don’t exactly get any kind of depth or development, however they’re the source of most of the laughs that I had throughout these first two volumes. The protagonist, Hatsune, makes for a decent enough lead, although I do feel that some aspects of her character do come across as a bit forced, like the whole pudding obsession. If I did have to pick a favourite character, it would have to be Stephanie, the English foreign exchange student. Whilst her gag of not really understanding clothes can come across as an excuse for some fan service at points, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get some good laughs out of me.

Fujishima’s artwork in Paradise Residence is fairly nice but nothing really amazing, serving the story well but not pushing the envelope. The character designs are somewhat unique looking, being quite different from Fujishima’s previous popular works such as Oh! My Goddess and You’re Under Arrest!; here the designs look more contemporary than his other series, which were more rooted in the conventions of the 90s. There is a decent amount of panel variety and it all flows well, with it never being hard to tell which character is speaking.

Something worth noting is that as well as coming with the first volume of Paradise Residence, Volume 1 also includes Paradise Residence Zero, a prequel manga that leads into the main series. Although it’s at the back of the book it’s probably worth reading first, seeing as the main manga references some events of the prequel. Also included in Volume 1 is a short story written by Kanan Norihara and seven pages of coloured artwork.

In Summary

Whilst it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, the first two volumes of Paradise Residence still make for quite an enjoyable read, providing a few laughs throughout.

Score 7/10

Title: Paradise Residence
Original vintage: 2014
Mangaka: Kosuke Fujishima
Published by: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, School
Age rating: 16+
Length (page count): 308 (Volume 1) 158 (Volume 2)

Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East Series 1 Review

Hakkenden cover

Ian Wolf’s Review

“Why attack God? He may be as miserable as we are.” – Erik Satie.

If you are familiar with Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East, then probably the first thing you might know about it is that it is an adaptation of a gigantic 19th century novel series written over a period of 30 years. After that, the second thing you might know about it is that this version is based on a manga, still currently being written, by Miyuki Abe, the creator of the controversy-ridden yaoi series Super Lovers (which in my opinion people rather overreacted to, but that’s a matter for a different review).

Five years prior to the story a village was attacked. Only three children survived: 13-year-old Shino Inuzuka, Sosuke Inukawa and Hamaji. They are saved by Rio Satomi, one of the Four Sacred Beast Houses who is able to control the spirit of a large wolf, and who also works for the Imperial Church that rules the land.

Hakkenden 2

Moving to the present, the three survivors are now taking shelter in a parish church, but things are not normal by any means. Shino’s arm now harbours a living sword named Murasame, who can turn into a crow and speak with humans. Because he lives in Shino’s body, Shino is now cursed and thus doesn’t age, meaning he is now an 18-year-old trapped in the body of a 13-year-old. Sosuke meanwhile has the power to shapeshift into a wolf. The Imperial Church learns that Shino is in possession of Murasame and wants him, but he refuses to hand himself in. Thus the Imperial Church kidnaps Hamaji, leading Shino and Sosuke to travel to the Imperial Capital to find her.

While in the city they meet Rio, who asks them to complete a task. Shino and Sosuke happen to be in possession of a sacred bead each. There are eight sacred beads in the world and Rio wants Shino and Sosuke to find all the bead holders for a reason he does not fully explain. However, they agree to the task partly to keep Hamaji safe, which she is, under the protection of Rio and his assistant Kaname Osaki, who has feelings for her.

Hakkenden 1

So far Hakkenden has been OK. Part of the time the story does drag a bit, but when the action kicks in it does so in a lively way. There is plenty of blood spilt, whether it comes from sword, arrow, animal attack or demonic possession. Two of the most interesting characters are military policeman Genpachi Inuki and ex-soldier turned innkeeper Kobungo Inuta, who are also immortal demons. The plot, while at times a bit slow, does occasionally have its moments. One entertaining story follows a train passenger who is constantly accompanied by a “Snow Princess” who makes everything around him cold.

However, there is a major problem in that this story is based on a work that is so long. Currently, two series have been made of Hakkenden, but the manga is still being written. It is hard to imagine how the manga can conclude satisfactorily.

Hakkenden 3

Concerning the extras, there are two episode commentaries, and textless versions of the opening “God FATE” by Faylan and the superior ending “String of pain” by Tetsuya Kakihara.

The series is all right so far, but it is probably best to wait to see the second series before making a full and proper judgment.

Score: 6 / 10

Anime Quick Information

  • Title: Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of the East
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural
  • Studio: Studio Deen
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2013
  • Running time: 325 minutes

Complex Age #1 Review

Complex Age volume 1
Despite being someone who doesn’t cosplay at all, it’s a hobby that I have a lot of respect for. All of the time, effort and money that people pour into making these costumes in order to become their favourite characters is certainly interesting to me, but not a lot of media seems to tell stories about cosplayers (that I’ve personally seen, anyway). So, perhaps to right that problem, we have
Complex Age by Yui Sakuma, which gives a realistic and down to earth look at what it means to balance being a cosplayer and an ordinary adult life.

Our story revolves around Nagisa Kataura, a 26 year old office worker who loves cosplaying in her spare time but chooses to keep it secret from her parents and coworkers. The synopsis on the back of the book implies that the story is about Nagisa deciding “what’s more important to her, cosplay or being ‘normal’?”, but that isn’t really correct for the first volume. The first five chapters of the volume (there are six chapters in total) focus on Nagisa dealing with her low self-esteem after meeting someone who can cosplay her favourite character far better than she can.

Nagisa loves cosplaying as Ururu from the fictional Magical Riding Hood Ururu anime series, which is supposedly a massive hit with females. She is a bit of a expert when it comes to all things cosplay and can sew up her costumes extremely quickly, never even dreaming of compromising on quality, but unfortunately this leaves her with a somewhat judgemental personality towards the hobby – especially when she sees other fans dressed as Ururu at conventions. When Nagisa makes a snide comment at some fellow Magical Riding Hood Ururu fans about how cosplay isn’t just a game and then walks away from a group photo opportunity, Nagisa’s friend Kimiko gets frustrated and orders Nagisa to create a costume for someone else as means of forgiveness for her rude behavior. When Nagisa is later properly introduced to the person she’s been working on the costume for, Aya, Nagisa begins to understand that cosplaying isn’t just about being able to copy the character perfectly.

In the final chapter of the volume Aya, who has become good friends with Nagisa and Kimiko, asks why Nagisa keeps her cosplaying a secret from her family and workmates. It’s here that the story feels like it’s finally coming into what it should have been from the start, but it’s cut short by the end of the volume. Now I feel like I’ve been left hanging for the next installment. That’s not to say the arc we started with was a bad one, because it wasn’t and I really enjoyed it, but it’s obviously not as important as what’s to come next and that’s a shame.

Story aside, what’s on show in this first volume is well done. Mangaka Yui Sakuma captures the feeling of conventions, cosplayers, and the general mindset of those who like anime and manga very well (with a nice amount of comedy slipped in). Nagisa and her friends are genuinely nice characters and very relatable, especially in one scene where Nagisa is working out if she can afford to attend to an event and is subtracting the costs of the new anime boxset she wants, costume materials, and the general cost of living. This is not a cheap hobby to have and I definitely fall into the pitfall of being distracted by shiny collector’s editions like poor Nagisa! I feel that Sakuma has worked hard at the little things to create a series that could be rather special.

This volume of Complex Age opens with some colour pages which quickly warm you to the art. Sakuma has gone for a pastel inspired style that looks really nice in colour, and throughout the book the artwork continues to captivate. The shading has been handled extremely well and adds a lot of detail to every panel. The end of the book is filled with designs and info for characters from Magical Riding Hood Ururu, which brings the series to life and helps connect us with the show that Nagisa loves so deeply.

Publisher Kodansha Comics have done a wonderful job with the release, which is bigger than your average volume of manga in both width and height. The extra space helps to emphasize the artwork. My best comparison for its size, that I own, is Viz Media’s release of the Tokyo Ghoul manga, which looks to be the same when I held them together. The Wolf Children manga from Yen Press matches up pretty closely as well. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with cosplay and the many different terms associated with it, Kodansha have put together a “Cospedia” in the back of the book alongside their usual translation notes. Between the Cospedia and the translation notes I never found myself lost with the many new terms, so hats off to Kodansha for a job well done there. This volume of Complex Age also comes with the original one-shot for the series which tells a similar (but very different) story to what we now have, so it’s well worth a read.

Overall I’ve come away from Complex Age rather impressed. The story has been well thought out and approached respectfully, and the artwork is simply wonderful to look over. Cosplay is a subject that generally isn’t covered that well, at least not as a main subject matter, so it’ll be interesting to see where the story is taken from here. My only issue is that the story we’re led to believe we’re getting doesn’t even begin until the end of the volume. That said, I’m more than happy to stick around for what’s to come and I’m willing to bet almost everyone else will be too. Highly recommended!

Score: 8/10

Manga Quick Information:
Title: Complex Age
Original vintage: 2014
Mangaka: Yui Sakuma
Published by: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life, Seinen
Length (page count): 208

Manga Animatsu brings Digimon Adventure Tri & more to the UK this Q4 2016!

It’s been a while since we last saw some new acquisitions from Manga Animatsu (the new joint company name for Manga Entertainment UK and Animatsu Entertainment, though they continue to use the respective logos for their products), and just recently they took to their main website to announce a couple new titles for the fourth-quarter of 2016. Let’s take a look to see what they plan to bring!

Wish Upon the Pleiades

On October 17th using the Animatsu brand is studio Gainax’s Wish Upon the Pleiades (Houkago no Pleiades) from the summer 2015 season. This 12 episode TV series will be released as a Blu-ray & DVD combo pack in Japanese with English subtitles only. You can check out the series for free legally over on Crunchyroll. Manga Animatsu describes the story as follows:

When Subaru goes to her local observatory to prepare for an upcoming meteor shower, she ends up seeing far more of the stars than she expected.

Instead of a simulated viewing of astronomical phenomena, she gets recruited to take part in a fantastic adventure with a mysterious young man, a bizarre alien creature, and a group of girls dressed in cute, magical garb. Together with the other girls (who are suddenly and strangely members of Subaru’s school), Subaru becomes part of a clandestine effort to retrieve fragments of an alien spaceship! However, the fragments are being scattered all over the universe.

Time is limited, and the girls face a nemesis who is seeking to gather all the parts for himself! The space race is on, and the sky is no longer the limit as the legendary animation studio GAINAX sets Subaru’s eyes on the stars in WISH UPON THE PLEIADES!

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace

On October 31st using the Manga brand is studio Trigger’s When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de) from the autumn 2014 season. This 12 episode TV series will be released on Blu-ray and DVD separately in both English and Japanese with English subtitles. You can check out the series for free legally over on Crunchyroll. Manga Animatsu describes the story as follows:

The origin of the Senko High School Literature Club’s powers might be a little sketchy, and they may spend more time chatting than engaging in superhuman feats.

Still, there’s no questioning the incredible abilities of the club’s female members: Tomoyo can control time; Hatoko is a mistress of the elements; Chifuyu can create matter; and Sayumi can return any item to a previous state. With these powers, there are few tasks these girls can’t handle.

Meanwhile, Jurai, the club’s only male member, has a dark flame that seems a little pointless in comparison, and only time will tell if it matures into anything more useful.

Toss in a Student Council president who’s developed powers of her own and things are about to get seriously weird as the study of literature takes a comic book turn in When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace!

The Perfect Insider

On November 14th using the Animatsu brand is studio A-1 Pictures’ The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru) from the Autumn 2015 season. This 11 episode TV series will be released as a Blu-ray & DVD combo pack in Japanese with English subtitles only. You can check out the series for free legally over on Crunchyroll. Manga Animatsu describes the story as follows:

For most people, finding a dead body on their vacation would mean the vacation is over. However, for Souhei Saikawa, a professor of architecture, and his student Moe Nishinosono, a math prodigy, it’s a different kind of challenge.

Genius programmer Shiki Magata, one of Souhei’s idols, is inexplicably murdered inside the sealed research lab she disappeared to after being found innocent of her parents’ murder. As Souhei and Moe take the first steps into a deadly new world, they must untangle the complex web of events and clues leading up to the murder. With danger creeping up around them, this may be the last mystery this pair of human anomalies attempts to solve in THE PERFECT INSIDER!

Digimon Adventure Tri

And last but certainly not the least, on December 19th using the Manga brand we will finally be able to see the first film in the new Digimon Adventure Tri series from Toei Animation. This new movie series was split into four parts each per film for online streaming sites like Crunchyroll but the UK & Ireland were the only English speaking zone to not have access to it, so now we can finally see the series for the first time. The first film will be released first as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and Standard Edition DVD in both English and Japanese with English subtitles. Manga Animatsu describe the story as follows:

Six years have past since Taichi Yagami and the rest of the DigiDestined crossed over to the Digital World for the first time. And nearly three years have passed since the final battle between Hikari Yagami’s group and BelialVamdemon. As the peaceful days passed by, suddenly the gate to the Digital World closed, and not even the DigiDestined know why…

In addition to these four announcements, Marketing Manager Andrew Hewson had this to say on the Manga UK website.

“We are extremely happy to be bringing UK fans so many exciting titles, including Digimon Adventure Tri Movie 1. Ever since we announced the series back in May, we have been swamped with tweets and messages asking about a release for the films – and we are thrilled to be able to finally confirm this will be happening!”

All four titles will be available for pre-order soon.

Attack on Titan: The Movie Part 2 Review


Attack on Titan the Movie Part 2When I reviewed the first part of the
Attack on Titan live action movie I came away from it intrigued to know more about the story and the world it presented us with. Sure, the movie had some flaws, but overall I was looking forward to seeing part 2. However, having now watched it I don’t think my feelings are quite the same as they once were.

As a general note, this is a review for the second part of the live action movie so there are some spoilers for the first part.

This movie picks up just after Eren, who had gone out of control after transforming into a Titan, is saved by Mikasa. Eren has been captured and chained up due to the chaos he caused at the end of the first movie. His transformation ability throws whether he’s human or Titan into question, and whether he’s a risk to humanity.

Ultimately Captain Kubal decides that Eren must be killed, and despite protests from Armin and others in the Survey Corps (who feel he could be a tremendous aid in sealing the hole in the outer wall), the order is given to shoot Eren. However, before Kubal’s squad is able to kill him, a new, seemingly intelligent Titan drops into the prison to capture Eren (killing numerous Survey Corp members in its path) and quickly flees the scene with the boy in tow. When Eren next wakes he is greeted by Shikishima, who explains that he rescued our hero from the Titan and brought him to safety. The Titan apparently escaped, which Shikishima suspiciously glosses over, but Eren never questions this further. Instead, after a “philosophical” exchange about how Shikishima wishes to change the world, Eren decides to fight alongside him and use his newfound power for good (starting with blocking the hole in the wall). Will the two, combined with the Survey Corps, be able to make a difference?

Attack on Titan the movie 2 screen 3
As this whole movie is a bit of a mess and full of plot holes I need to warn you now that it’s unlikely to make much sense from this point onwards. From what I can piece together, in this world the government experimented on humans to change them into a stronger form. The government succeeds in their pursuit but it’s not long before everything goes horribly wrong (because don’t it always?). Not only does the first transformed human (which later comes to be known as a Titan) turn on the scientists, other humans begin transforming without warning and wreaking havoc all over the world. The remainder of humanity comes together to build up the giant walls to protect themselves. With little land, room, and food available inside the walls, humans had to coexist peacefully to preserve what was left of the human race – something that the government was seemingly aiming for all along.

Eren appears to have the ability to transform into a Titan due to his father experimenting on him as a child (perhaps he wanted to bring down the walls and go outside?). This is conveniently revealed through a dream sequence. It’s also mentioned that Eren has an older brother, but this is only talked about for a single line and then never resolved. On top of that, do you remember the big bomb that I talked about from the first part? The one that meant nothing but Titans could apparently survive beyond the outer wall? Yeah, that plot point wasn’t mentioned during this movie whatsoever, which is not surprising but would have been nice for consistency’s sake.

Attack on Titan the movie 2 screen 2
Even if we leave the plot holes aside, this movie is full of issues regarding continuity and convenience factors. The entire movie is set within the area that was invaded by Titans in the first part of the film yet we rarely see any beyond a few select scenes. They’re often briefly mentioned as being in the distance but even though human activity is meant to attract them, they never pose a problem for the group. Likewise, many important characters are protected from fatal injuries/mishaps because of convenience, like my personal favourite, Hans (the woman who creates the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment the group use). She really should have died a few times over. On the flip side though, any characters who aren’t classified as important are simply killed off without a second thought. It’s a mess of a story and very difficult to put any emotional investment into because you’re never given a reason to care.

The characters overall aren’t handled too badly, as long as they’re either Eren or Armin. Eren, Mikasa and Armin all get their time to shine and are a good mix of personalities that make for a somewhat interesting group. Regrettably Mikasa loses some of her fearless attitude from the previous movie and instead stumbles about wishing to know if Eren is safe or not, and even when she discovers that he’s fine this behaviour doesn’t really improve. However, Armin is much better than I found him in the original Attack on Titan series, so perhaps it’s not all bad. The rest of the Survey Corp members are good enough but don’t stand out. While Hans and Shikishima are the best characters on offer here they’re also laughably stupid if you take them too seriously – but then so is the movie itself. All of the actors do a fine job in their roles though, so at least I can say that the characters aren’t being let down by those playing them.

Attack on Titan the movie 2 #1 screen
There isn’t a great deal on offer here in terms of soundtrack. The vast majority of tracks are reused from the first movie and even the new stuff isn’t really memorable because its usage is either badly timed or overshadowed by the action on screen. Animation for the Titans also falls into the category of being ineffective as although the normal Titans are done well, the human-Titans, like Eren, just look like Power Ranger monsters. They’re not scary at all.

This release comes to the UK thanks to Animatsu and is on both DVD and Blu-ray. This is a subtitle only release and there are no extras to speak of on the disc.

Considering all of the above, I’m now left in the sad position of not being able to recommend this movie at all. Part 1 seemed like the story had potential and it was genuinely scary at times, but part 2 had so many problems that I’m not even disappointed – just sad. I’m sad because of wasted potential and wasted time on my part because these movies could have easily been so much more. The Attack on Titan live action movie is only worth your time if you have nothing else in the world to watch, and even then your time is better spent elsewhere.

Score: 2/10

Quick Information

  • Title: Attack on Titan: The Movie
  • UK Publisher: Animatsu
  • Genre: Horror, Drama, Action.
  • Director: Shinji Higuchi
  • Year: 2015
  • DVD/Bluray Release Date: July 25th 2016
  • Run Time: 83 minutes
  • Classification: 15

Platinum End Chapter 9 Review

Platinum End

Ian Wolf’s review

Platinum End © 2015 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata. SHUEISHA Inc.

“There’s an ‘A’ bomb in Wardour Street. They’ve called in the army, they’ve called in the police too.” – The Jam

The ninth chapter of Platinum End sees hero Mirai continue to worry about whether or not he should attempt to kill someone.

It begins with serial killer Misurin, under the influence of Metropoliman’s red arrow, dumping her latest victim on the top of a large tower. She attracts the attention of the media and the local police, but she is able to deal with them with her own red arrows. Nanato and Mirai finally decide it is time to act and stop them.

In order to do this, Nanato has used his background working for an apparel company to get both himself and Mirai outfits to do the job. Nanato has a gigantic suit that was designed for the defence force, while Mirai has a rather fashionable suit that was designed to be used in motorsports, complete with a facemask with which to disguise himself. They then fly off to the tower with Mirai still unsure about using his lethal white arrows to kill Metropoliman, secretly preferring to use his red arrows instead. When they get to the tower, Nanato confronts Misurin, but she has something prepared for him: a bomb.

This chapter appears to be mainly setup for what appears to be a big battle between Mirai and Metropoliman. There is plenty of action, but this is just the build-up for something much bigger.

Therefore it seems that the main reveal for this chapter is the new costume that Mirai is given. His all-in-one suit made out of a special material, complete with hood and mask, gives Mirai a kind of cyberpunk look to him.

Score: 7 / 10

Title: Platinum End
Original vintage: 2015
Mangaka: Tsugumi Ohba (story) Takeshi Obata (art)
Published by: Viz Media
Genre: Action, Death Game, Drama, Fantasy, Supernatural
Age rating: 18+
Length (page count): 68

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 2 Review

fate UBW part 2 cover DVD

This review will contain spoilers for Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 1

With his contract to Saber ripped from him by Caster’s Rule Breaker Noble Phantasm, Shirou is now officially out of the Holy Grail War, but he refuses to let Rin continue to fight on alone. Although badly injured and not standing a chance against the other masters and servants, he tails Rin and her servant Archer to the location where their battle with Caster is taking place. Little do they know that Archer has his own agenda and a secret that will change their lives forever.

The second season of Unlimited Blade Works picks up right from where the first season left off, but despite there seemingly being no break in time between them, there are a few obvious changes in atmosphere and production. Luckily, the animation is not one of them.

Firstly; there’s a shift of focus from both Rin and Emiya, to just Emiya. Somewhere between seasons Rin has stopped being the assertive, powerful and competent mage she was introduced as; now she’s mostly a side character to make way for Shirou Emiya’s arc, which is the entire focus for this season. Despite the sudden jump in power and ability that Emiya has gained between seasons, he still remains the weakest link in the series and sadly his story development in these 13 episodes does not help.

The main conflict is this: Shirou Emiya wants to be a hero of justice, a man who saves all lives at the cost of his own without sacrificing anyone else, which is of course impossible to do as not everyone can be saved and some might not even want to be. Archer shows up as a result of these ideals taken to the extreme; he shows Emiya that the only thing that clinging to these flawed ideals will do is make him an emotionally and mentally broken man, cursing the day he was born and wishing to undo everything. Emiya is shown exactly what the fruit of his labour will bring, and how unhappy it’ll make him and those around him.

So what does Emiya do? He decides to continue holding onto these ideals just as before. Why? Because… I don’t know, he’s got nothing else better to do, apparently. I’m not saying that I did not watch what happened, I’m saying that there’s no solid reason for Emiya to continue down this path. Despite the fact that Emiya and Archer talk for three episodes straight about what the ideals are, how flawed they are, why they bring about destruction and why they must be nipped in the bud, and then again just before the final battle, Shirou decides to do what is equivalent to a child sticking his fingers inside his ears and shouting ‘la la la I can’t hear you!’ when a parent tries to tell them off. Instead of repeating the same conversation over and over we could have had Emiya pointing out a more positive outlook on Archer’s memories, focusing on those who are living instead of the hordes of corpses we keep getting shown (which horribly is mostly piles and piles of black people) or Emiya recognising that just knowing his future is enough to change things like other time-travelling narratives tend to suggest. But we get nothing; we’re not presented any decent, strong upside to Emiya continuing down his route; he comes to the conclusion that because in this very moment he feels no regrets and he still likes the idea of a hero of justice, he’ll continue on. Instead of accepting his limitations and changing his unnatural view on life into a healthy one, it falls to the people around him (mostly Rin) to help him not become the broken man he might turn into.

What a horrible message to land on, and what an awful position to put the poor girl in; Shirou can monologue all he wants in this show but nothing warrants this dim-witted attitude. If the show painted it as a terrible tragedy, it could have been a sad but effective continuation of Fate/Zero. A man’s sacrifice for the one boy he could save ends up turning him into someone just like him but worse; a man who wants to save everyone but ends up only bringing death. Sadly, the series wants us to think he’s being ‘noble’ – sorry, I’m not sold.

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The other reason these episodes differ from the first set is that, despite the first season trying very hard to tie itself with Fate/Zero whilst also maintaining the bridge for new fans to hop on by introducing new magical terms and techniques clearly, these batches of episodes give up on both entirely. They do try in the beginning with two episodes deviating from the visual novel to give backstory to Caster, and Illya has her own episode to wrap up her arc (abruptly, but it still tries) with links to the tragic end her parents had in the prequel, but from then on no attempt is made to clue the audience in on, for example, what Gilgamesh’s Ea (large black sword) is, or what makes Saber come to an emotional closure in episode 22 when all she’s done for the past few episodes is stand around and watch Emiya fight. Even the reveal of important Servants’ identities are blurted out and swiftly explained in throwaway dialogue with next to no impact; say what you want about Sailor Moon Crystal, despite most audiences knowing the Moon Princess, it at least they tried to make the reveal a big deal, given that it had a huge influence on the characters and the audience. Unlimited Blade Works, however, doesn’t feel the need to because, as many Type Moon fans would say, it was already covered in another route, which we don’t see here. Saber’s character arc was in the Fate route, so in Unlimited Blade Works she takes a back seat. This would be understandable if you were playing the video game and went through one route straight to the next but we haven’t. At best the audience knows next to nothing about her and won’t care much, at worst the Fate/Zero fans will desperately want to know why the poor girl ends up being a pawn for the Emiya family.

This is where we reach the true problem of Unlimited Blade Works; it’s not an effective adaption of Fate/Stay Night. (I’m going to deviate a bit to explain why, but bear with me…)

Adapting a story from one medium to another has been done many times over; from book to film, from comic to TV series, from video game to big screen, etc. And yet there’s no one sure way or foolproof equation for adapting from one to the other seamlessly and without error; each story and every medium has its own pros and cons to consider when adapting, and that’s without taking into consideration the fan expectations. For example, when adapting a book you have to consider its mountains of text; the detail that went into the world building, the characters’ inner monologues and descriptions of locations. For video games it’s the interactive element; how do you get around the player immersion and present the story just as effectively without a controller involved? Visual novels have a combination of these strengths and weaknesses, especially Fate/Stay Night which had three routes with their own character focus and stories to tell; there were pages and pages of dialogue and the player was experiencing it all from Shirou’s point of view.

So when adapting the story, especially from a text-heavy medium to a more visual one such as television or cinema, you have to consider the following;

Who is the adaptation being made for?

The obvious answer seems to be ‘for fans’ but that’s where a lot of more niche attempts such as Vampire Academy and the more recent Warcraft film fail to break bank, because an adaption can’t just be for a small minority. You can’t expect everyone who loved the original story to cross over to the new medium to experience it again in a new way. For example, the first Star Wars film has probably been seen by an extremely large majority worldwide; however, not every person who has watched the film has gone on to read the books, or to play a video game version of it, or to listen to the radio drama. Having an audience follow the story in the same medium (film, in this case) is a big ask in itself, but asking them to pick up a comic book would be a stretch. So despite fans wanting it to be for them, the answer is that it has to be for a general audience; the more people (whether they liked the original story or not) that come to see the new, more accessible version, the better. Aim broader and hope the fans of the original will follow suit.

How much of the story do you adapt?

Again, the temptation is to answer ‘all of it’ but sometimes it’s just not logically possible; a scene where characters think of a scheme then talk to their opponent to fish information can work wonders written down, but visually it’ll be incredibly boring. Trying to cram an entire video game backstory into one movie will only result in being incredibly rushed and making little to no sense. The Harry Potter franchise split the last book into two films to avoid this problem, while Game of Thrones is a TV series spreading each book across its own season because George RR Martin knew squeezing each book into the restricted time of a movie would be intolerable.

Does the adaptation work on its own?

Imagine if The Lord of the Rings movie did not have the opening scene explaining all the different rings, why the ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’ has a special pull to it and the villain’s motivation for wanting it. Imagine if you had to read the book first before watching the first film to understand what’s going on; not only would you be incredibly confused and frustrated, but the movie trilogy would have nowhere near the amount of fans it has now. Luckily, The Lord of the Rings explains its mythology, the world and character motivations clearly, so non-book-readers can understand the story and become attached to the characters without needing prior knowledge.

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Now that all that information is laid out, let’s put these questions to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works.

Who is the adaptation being made for?

This adaptation fails to pick an audience and stick with it. At first it was Fate/Zero fans, then it wanted newcomers, and then Fate/Stay Night fans. Aiming for everyone is fine but you have to remain consistent, which this adaptation does not. Where it matters most (the approach to the climax and the actual climax itself) it’s clear it sits firmly in the ‘fans only’ club and no one else applies. Which is a shame considering how welcoming the opening episodes were (remember the first two double-length episodes?)

How much of the story do you adapt?

Because of the nature of the three routes, adapting just the one with no additional material from the other routes would be detrimental to anyone outside of the game fans. In the Visual Novel, Fate served as an intro, Unlimited Blade Works was middle ground, and Heaven’s Feel is the final conclusion. Studio ufotable did include some anime-exclusive scenes to help connect the dots when it needed to for the side characters and villains but it does not take cues from any other route. Which is why Saber is mostly cast away and does not get a fitting continuation from her development in Fate/Zero, why Sakura disappears after episode 8 and is not seen again until the Epilogue, why Shinji gets away with his horrible actions and seems to learn nothing as a result in the end, and the less we think about Kotominei’s final unfulfilling moments the better. The 2006 Fate/Stay Night anime was flawed but at least it did try to add depth with arcs for all the characters, giving weight to the right moments and padding out the revelations (such as the connection between Rin and Sakura) to make the story more than just Shirou and Saber’s love. It didn’t always work but at least it tried to be its own story, without relying on outside knowledge to support its weight.

Does the adaptation work on its own?

The answer is a resounding no. The anime falters at deviating from the source material to make the big character reveals and emotional payoffs work. The world building is hastily explained at best or just ignored at worst; as previously mentioned most characters outside of Shirou and Rin are half baked or not developed at all, and the main conflict by itself is not deep, interesting or resolved strongly enough to carry itself through all 26 episodes.

Before we wrap up let’s throw in a few positives. The animation is still really good; it’s not as polished as the first half but it still glimmers with effort. The same can be said for the action scenes; although they rely a lot on recycled set pieces (the Unlimited Blade Works desert world and Gilgamesh’s glowing sword powers) but they’re well-choreographed regardless. The score by Hideyuki Fukasawa also packs a punch; Type Moon fans will get a kick out of the new version of Emiya’s Theme especially. The new opening theme by Aimer, ‘Brave Shine’, sounds very different to the previous opening; like an early 00s rock anthem. Kalafina return with the ending ‘Ring Your Bell’, which sounds like part 2 of ‘Believe’, using similar chords and chime sounds but with a more uplifting vibe to the song.

DVD extras are sadly restricted to clean opening, closing and promo trailers. The OVA ‘Sunny Days’ (animating the alternative ending to the original game route) is not included here.

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Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works had a great start and heritage to work from with all the right elements to make it a superb masterpiece, but instead its poor writing and rigidity in deviating from the restricted POV of the original Visual Novel shackled it before it could take off. It all looks and sounds impressive but in the end, the dialogue and main character who never learns turned the whole journey into wasted noise. It’s for fans of the original game only, I’m afraid.

Score: 5/10

Anime Quick Information

Director: Takahiro Miura
Number of discs: 3
Classification: 15
Studio: MVM
Release Date: 25 Jul. 2016
Run Time: 312 minutes

Yona of the Dawn Part 1 Review

Yona of the Dawn Part 1 (Eps 1-12)

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“Upon her sixteenth birthday, the cheerful Princess Yona intended to tell her doting father of her love for Su Won, but her life was turned upside down after witnessing the man she loves cruelly assassinating her father. Heartbroken by this painful betrayal, Princess Yona fled the palace with her loyal servant Hak. Now, she will take up the sword and the bow on a quest to gain new allies and protect her beloved people. “

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Yona of the Dawn is a good old-fashioned (but none the worse for it) fantasy adventure-quest in which the betrayed heroine, forced to flee for her life, seeks out the descendants of the four legendary dragon warriors who once made a sacred vow to protect her ancestor. It’s also a coming-of-age story as Princess Yona, having led a sheltered existence in her father’s palace, has to learn how to survive on the run and in the wild. And, because it’s based on an ongoing shoujo manga by Mizuho Kusanagi, there’s a central triangle of childhood friends: Yona, Hak of the Wind Tribe and Lord Su-Won, Yona’s cousin. Or is it more of a reverse harem as the doughty 16-year-old princess gradually acquires more handsome young men in her entourage?

Everything about this anime series has a traditional feel to it, from the character designs (faithful to the original manga) through the stirring orchestral score by Kunihiko Ryo. And yet it has a certain charm, good humour and narrative flair that keeps you watching. Yona makes for a likable, sympathetic heroine and her struggles to learn to become stronger and adapt to life on the run are very relatable. General Hak (aka the Lightning Beast) is the stern, gruff-natured (but loyal and warm-hearted) bodyguard that most heroines would yearn to have at their side – although he’s constantly teasing Yona (a clever tactic as this distracts her from feeling sorry for herself, even when they’re in desperate danger.) But by the end of Part 1, the quest is only half underway and it’s by no means certain that Yona will achieve her aims, find all four dragon warriors and regain her kingdom.

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I first watched this series when it streamed in 2014 on Crunchyroll and genuinely enjoyed following it from week to week. So how does it stand up to a second viewing – and does the addition of a US dub do it justice? And what makes it stand out from other similar series?

Thanks to a tight script and slick direction from Kazuhiro Yoneda, the pacing of the story is good; even though the quest proper doesn’t get underway until Episode 8, it never slackens, letting us get to know Yona and Hak better as they flee the treachery at court and face life on the run together. Comedy chibi moments lighten the tension and show us a different side of the main characters. And the legend of the Four Dragon Warriors is irresistible; even though the Kingdom of Kohka (based on Korea?) never existed, Mizuho Kusanagi has crafted a story that has all the atmosphere and appeal of an authentic historical adventure. Although Su-Won’s treachery – and Yona’s feelings about his act of betrayal – is not explained here, he is not portrayed as a one-dimensional villain. There are hints at complex motivations for his actions which will be further explored in Part 2.

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The US dub has Monica Rial as the heroine with excellent support from Christopher R. Sabat as Hak and Micah Solusod as the duplicitous Su-Won. At times Monica Rial veers into the shrill and strident, especially when Yona is being teased by Hak, compared with Chiwa Saito (Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica) who makes a more convincing sixteen-year-old heroine. Chris Sabat easily matches Tomoaki Maeno (Tenga in Kiznaiver) as snarky yet charismatic bodyguard Son Hak. The US dub script works well on the whole, with only a few jarring moments (“Hey, you guys!” doesn’t sit well with me in a fantasy context.)

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The opening for the episodes is unusual (these days) in that it’s an orchestral piece, “Akatsuki no Yona”, which showcases the atmospheric pentatonic theme Kunihiko Ryo has created for the central character. This opening was so widely liked that when the second set of episodes aired, many fans were disappointed to hear it had been replaced with a more conventional opening song. The mysterious animation here shows the legend of the dragons, whose relevance is explained later on, before a montage of moments from Yona’s imminent flight. The ending song “Yoru” is a rather undistinguished sentimental ballad from vistlip.

This BD/DVD combo release is the first Funimation series to be officially issued in the UK on R2 by Anime Limited. Extras include commentaries on Episodes 4 and 8, Promotional Videos (TV Spots, BD/DVD trailers, Promo videos), Textless Opening and Closing title sequences. The edition reviewed here is the Blu-ray which delivers excellent picture quality and sound, as well as easy navigation.

In Summary

With epic battles, nail-biting cliff-hangers, dragon warriors and sympathetic, relatable main characters, Yona of the Dawn is one of the most enjoyable fantasy anime to be released in long while. I’m looking forward to Part 2!

Score 8/10

Classification: 15
Studio: Funimation
DVD Release Date: 25 July 2016
Run Time: 300 minutes

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 1 Review

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 1

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Prince Arslan is the heir to the kingdom of Pars, a strong nation that sits at the heart of the trade route connecting the East and the West. When the neighboring nation of Lusitania begins to invade Pars, the naive and timid Arslan is soon thrust into his maiden battle, a battle that goes horribly wrong when the Parsian army falls for a Lusitanian stratagem which leads to Ecbatana, the Parsian Capital, being occupied by Lusitanian forces. With the help of his loyal warrior and friend Daryun, he barely manages to escape with his life and goes into hiding. Soon, Arslan, aided by his allies, makes plans to retake the kingdom of Pars and to find his father, King Andragonas III, who went missing after the invasion.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a 2015 anime adaption of the 2013 manga series by Hiromu Arakawa which, in turn, is an adaptation of the long- running and popular Japanese novel series by Yoshiki Tanaka. Whilst I do think that Arslan has its merits, the first half of this Action-Fantasy show leaves a lot to be desired, despite its stellar presentation.  

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The real root of the issue here is that there really isn’t a whole lot going on, both in terms of its story and characters. If you read the synopsis for the show, you’ve gotten almost as much story as you do from watching the show itself. After the initial 5 or 6 episodes which set up the world, introduce the characters and execute the premise, the story starts to meander and doesn’t really do anything of significance, mostly just showing Arslan and his allies in hiding or on the run from the Lusitanian soldiers. A lot of it feels like padding and can be rather tedious in some places. However, there is a revelation towards the end of this half of the show that could make for a compelling plot development going forward but it’s revealed too late in the game for it to have any real impact on the story in the first half. After said reveal, Arslan definitely feels like it has the potential to head in a far more interesting direction, so hopefully the second half lives up to that promise. Despite the lack of an interesting story, I was still thoroughly entertained and kept watching mostly due to some really fantastic action sequences. The best of these appear at the beginning, with the initial battle between Pars and Lusitania and the invasion of the Parsian capital of Ecbatana being the highlights of the entire first half for me. These are very well animated with a good blend of traditional 2D animation and some above average CGI animation that really makes the action stand out.

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The characters of Arslan are, for the most part, just as lacklustre as its story, with a couple of exceptions. The first would be the titular Arslan; whom I found to be an instantly likable lead, mostly because he’s one of the most genuinely pure-hearted characters we meet, and has a real charisma about him that really makes you want to root for him and his noble goals. The second is Gieve, a charming bard who’s a really lovable rogue. Apart from those two, literally every other character in the show is just kind of dull. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they all lack personality, but they just aren’t developed enough to really make me care for them. This isn’t helped by a lack of screen time for most of the cast in the first few episodes, with the action predominating and some characters like Farangis not being introduced until later in the story. The main antagonist, Silver Mask, whilst having more of a personality than many of the others, is mostly just a two-dimensional, clichéd villain, which is a real shame because I think a more morally ambiguous villain could have made for a really interesting dynamic going forward.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a co-production between Liden Films (Terraformers, Berserk (2016), Aiura) and Sanzigen (009: Re: Cyborg, Black Rock Shooter, Arpeggio of Blue Steel) and they have created a really fantastic looking show that stays true to the manga it was based on. As mentioned before, the action sequences in Arslan are definitely the best thing about it, thanks in no small part to the excellent animation, which has some of the best-looking CGI I think I’ve seen in an anime and works well with the 2D animation, not sticking out like a sore thumb unlike most other shows.

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If there is one other department I must highlight as being amazing (apart from the visuals) it would have to be the original score. Composed by Taro Iwashiro, the spectacular soundtrack really stands out and helps to create a magnificent atmosphere. Despite the soundtrack, one thing I can’t really say I was overly fond of was the OP song, ‘oku no Kotoba de wa Nai, Kore wa Bokutachi no Kotoba’ by UVERworld, as I really didn’t think it fits a show like Arslan. Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan comes with both a Japanese and English audio track. The English dub is all around pretty good, although I can’t think of anyone who was particularly outstanding. The cast includes some notable voice actors such as Aaron Dismuke (Fullmetal Alchemist, Cat Planet Cuties, Blood Blockade Battlefront), Ricco Fajardo (Seraph of the End, Fairy Tail, Prince of Stride: Alternative) and Jerry Jewell (Baccano, Evangelion 3.33, Shiki).

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As well as the first 13 episodes of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Universal’s Limited Edition release is packed to the gills with extras, both on disc and physical. On the disc, you get trailers, TV spots, clean versions of both the first and second opening and closings (which is a little strange considering the second OP and ED aren’t featured on any of the episodes in Part 1) as well as the Short Comedy of Arslan, a short chibi comedy spin-off. In terms of physical extras, not only does Arslan feature a high quality rigid box, you get an 80 page, full colour art book, with character profiles and translated interviews with the creators of the show, 12 gorgeous artcards, 4 collectable character cards and a map of the Kingdom of Pars, which when flipped over doubles as a game board and includes tokens featuring characters from the anime. It’s a really fantastic set that fans of the show will absolutely adore.

In Summary

Whilst the action and sheer spectacle seen in The Heroic Hero of Arslan will keep you watching, the mostly bland characters and overly simple story will do little to hold your interest, even if it looks and sounds spectacular.

7/10

Director: Noriyuki Abe
Format: PAL
Number of discs: 2
Classification: 15
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Release Date: 25 Jul. 2016
Run Time: 284 minutes