Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two


Seraph of the End
is a title I’ve been especially fond of since Weekly Shonen Jump started publishing the manga in English a few years back. When the anime aired back in 2015 I regarded it as one of my favourites for the year, and now I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and rewatch the second half of this series.

As a general note, this review contains spoilers for both parts of Seraph of the End. If you missed the review of Part 1 written by my good friend and coworker, Joshawott, you can find it here.


This part of the series kicks off with Yu and his comrades being sent on a mission in Nagoya, however this is after the higher ups interrogate Yu to determine if he’s working with vampires. Part 2 of
Seraph of the End is heavily dedicated to exploring the relationships between Yu and Captain Guren and Yu and Mikaela, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of time for some fun vampire hunting. This part also gives us some focus on the vampire society and works to develop them as characters.

The mission Yu and his team are sent on with Guren and other members of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army is to kill numerous noble vampires, who have been spotted in the area. It’s a life-or-death mission and sadly it doesn’t always go to plan – but thanks to our team’s misfortunes, we’re given some remarkable action sequences as the humans fight for their lives (more on those in a minute). On the flip side, the new perspectives on Mikaela and the vampires leaves us to ponder if they’re really the bad guys in this world, especially as it becomes clearer that the Imperial Demon Army is up to no good.


While I usually wouldn’t go too in-depth into the end of a season, I want to talk about a couple of episodes closer to the end of this set because they really made the series for me. Episode 21 sees Mikaela finally find Yu and his team and features some truly stunning animation as Mikaela storms through hordes of enemies to reach his long-lost family. The scene is set to a remix of the first ending for the series (“scaPEGoat” performed by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh), and between that and the way the camera pans in and out, the sequence looks fantastic. I’ve watched a lot of anime by
Studio Wit but I think this scene stands out as some of their very best work to date. It’s animated, choreographed and executed extremely well and I cannot praise the scene enough for the lasting impact it left on me as a viewer.

The other episode I want to talk about follows directly afterwards . It’s titled “Yu and Mika” and largely focuses on an exchange the two have, in private, away from the battle raging on elsewhere. It’s the first real interaction the two have had since Yu escaped from the vampires as a child and at this point, after suffering a mortal wound which requires human blood to fix, Mikaela is struggling with the decision to remain as he is or become a full vampire. The two argue and bicker and the conversation flows so naturally, and is filled with so much emotion, that it really stood out to me and remains one of my favourite episodes. I’d usually talk about voice actors later on but today I’m going to break my usual trend and mention that Miyu Irino (Koshi Sugawara in Haikyu!!, Ritsu Kageyama in Mob Pyscho 100), who plays Yu and Kensho Ono (Takato in Charlotte, Slaine Troyard in Aldnoah Zero, Phichit Chulanont in Yuri!!! on Ice), who plays Mikaela, both perform exceptionally well for these scenes. I rewatched the scene in English, French and German and none of those dubs even held a candle to the emotional weight that the Japanese VA’s put into their take.  


As previously mentioned, animation for the series has been handled by
Studio Wit and looks really nice. Action scenes were always detailed and fluid, and even the scenes where the characters just stand around talking look great, thanks to some exceptional work on the backdrops. Wit have gone for a pastel-shaded effect for the backgrounds, so they always look very detailed, which it means any action scenes played out against them looks even better than usual. It creates a nice contrast between the smooth, neatly drawn characters and the messy, less detailed backgrounds. It’s a style I really like and would enjoy seeing more of from the studio.


The music for the series has been handled by Hiroyuki Sawano and is fairly impressive. It’s full of piano and orchestrated arrangements which really work with the tone of the series, but as mentioned earlier the track that I especially like is the remix of the previous ED for the series. I do have to admit that a lot of the music for Seraph of the End reminded me of the work of Tomoki Miyoshi, who provided the music for the I Am Setsuna game released last year, which is by not a bad thing but means that it didn’t seem as unique to me as it should have done. The opening for this set of the anime is “Two souls -towards the truth-” by fripSide and the ending is “Orarion” by Nagi Yanagi. Both tracks are rather forgettable but work within the context of the show (and at least the animation is very nice for both).

This release comes to the UK thanks to Universal, who have been nice enough to provide AnimeUKNews with a full retail set for our review. Thanks to that I have all of the extras for the release on hand, and what a nice collection it is! Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two is available on both Blu-ray and DVD and the physical extras include four trading cards, a poster depicting the art on the cover of the box, a set of 12 3D stickers (which, it has to be said, are really cute), four artcards, and, if that wasn’t enough, a 31 page booklet! The set is well, made with the trading cards and artcards being produced in a thick enough grade that I’m not too worried about them bending. The stickers being 3D is a welcome touch and although (as is usual with stickers) I don’t actually want to use them for anything, they’re at least more fun to look over than stickers normally are. It’s worth pointing out that the booklet contains a gallery of the end cards for each episode, which I like a lot.

Physical extras aside, this set also contains clean opening and ending videos, as well as a
Seraph of the Endless bonus episode/special, trailers for the series, and music clips. My only real complaint about the release is that the box is top-loading and I know that many members of the community commented about this with the previous release. It’s something Universal are apparently looking into for future anime sets but at least in this case I’m glad it’s consistent with the previous release. It’s also nice that the spine doesn’t make it clear that this is a DVD set as my version of Part 1 is a Blu-ray, so despite being different formats at a glance you wouldn’t know any different.

Seraph of the End is a remarkable shounen series. While the season doesn’t conclude the whole story because the manga is on-going, it ends in enough of a satisfying manner that it’s easy for me to recommend. If you’ve watched the first half and enjoyed it then you certainly won’t be disappointed here – and if you didn’t then what are you doing reading this? Go and buy Part 1 right now!

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? Complete Collection Review

My final anime review of 2016 was none other than Fullmetal Alchemist Part 2, and so going into 2017 I wondered what title I’d be tackling first. Something fantastical set in an alternate universe, with heroes straight out of my favourite stories? Or perhaps a slice of life/romantic series to warm my heart in the cold winter months?

Well, actually, I was completely off the mark, and instead I’m here reviewing the harem series Invaders of the Rokujyoma?!.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? tells the story of Kotaro Satomi, who thinks he’s found a bargain when he moves into Room 106 of Corona House – only 5,000 yen a month in rent! With a part-time job at an archaeology site and a friendly landlady in the form of Shizuka Kasagi, Kotaro believes that he’s going to live out his highschool years peacefully and content. What he doesn’t know is that Room 106 is said to be haunted, and all who’ve lived there previously have ended up fleeing the scene, scared out of their wits. The place being haunted isn’t the only problem either, as suddenly strange females begin appearing one by one with desires to claim the room for themselves. It seems that Kotaro may have found himself in quite a predicament…

Kotaro is first visited by Sanae Higashihonogan, the notorious ghost haunting Room 106, who begins to fight with him over which one of them should live in the room. It’s not long before they’re interrupted by the appearance of a magical girl, Yurika Nijino, who wants to occupy the room due to the high levels of magical power within it. If that isn’t enough, Kotaro is then visited by Kiriha Kurano, who is a descendant of the Earth People and wants to take over the room as the first step in invading the surface. And just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, our cast is invaded by Theiamillis Gre Fortorthe (later shortened to Theia), an alien princess who wishes to claim Room 106 for herself in order to prove herself as a worthy successor to the throne.


After the room is almost destroyed during the squabbling over who should live there, landlady Shizuka goes into a rage and punishes Kotaro and the girls. After making repairs, she lays out a contract instructing that the debates over the room must be conducted peacefully. To determine who will obtain the room (without destroying it in the process) Kiriha proposes that they should decide through games.

I’d explain more about the games but by the fourth episode the series starts to move away from the girls wanting to claim the room and instead focuses on their daily lives, so I shall skip forward a bit instead.

Earlier I labelled Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? as a harem series, and while that’s true, it’s not the kind of harem series that I usually dislike. As the girls spend time living with Kotaro they all become fond of him, but it’s not played up to an extreme level as in some other anime. While the girls are fond of Kotaro, only one of them truly appears to have any romantic feelings towards him. It makes the whole thing a lot more watchable for me as I’m not usually someone with a lot of patience for a series such as this, and it ends up being fairly enjoyable for what it is.

The series is split into arcs focused on each of the girls, taking a deeper look at their reasons wanting Room 106. This does mean that if you don’t like one of the girls, their set of episodes will be fairly uninteresting (for example, I wasn’t fond of Theia and therefore I found her episodes boring) but it gives Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? the chance to develop its characters fairly well. I haven’t come away from the anime feeling like I didn’t know any of the main girls and, actually, while they were all very one- dimensional in personality (we had the clumsy one, the quick to anger one, the smart one…) they weren’t a bad cast. I even managed to become quite fond of Sanea!

The anime is based on a light novel series that is on-going in Japan and currently sits at 23 volumes. As the anime is only 12 episodes, it will come as no surprise to anyone that it doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion. There is a lot more to this story than what we get to see in the adaptation (the final episode makes this quite clear), and it does feel throughout the shows run that two semi-important characters are pushed to the sidelines: Harumi Sakuraba, who is the president of the school knitting club that Kotaro is part of at school, and Kenji Matsudaira, who is introduced as Kotaro’s best friend. Despite the two being large parts of Kotaro’s life, it feels asif we never get to know them properly. In some respects I feel like this could be because Sakuraba becomes more important to the plot in later volumes of light novels, but I think in Matsudaira’s case the issue really comes from the series introducing him as a ‘best friend’. Had he simply been dubbed as just a friend, I might not have noticed his absence so much.


The series was handled by animation studio Silver Link (who I’m quite fond of for their adaption of Strike the Blood) and their work here is passable. Character designs and the overall style is smooth but I can’t help but feel that the anime was a low budget affair. It was aired in Japan in July 2014 but despite that, the animation looks a good couple of years older, which is a shame as some of the battle scenes dotted throughout the story were animated much better in comparison. It’s not bad animation but it’s nothing special either.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?’s soundtrack is provided by Ryosuke Nakanishi, who has also provided soundtracks for High School DxD, Kuroko’s Basketball, and Sakura Trick. While the work on display here didn’t really stand out and certainly isn’t memorable away from the series, it’s not a bad soundtrack within the context of the show. The opening is called “Koukan win-win Mujouken” by Heart Invader and is a fairly generic song both musically and in its animation. The ending is “Love is Milk Tea”, which is sung by the voice actresses Aoi Yuki and Ayana Taketatsu. This seems odd to me as the two only had minor roles in the series as Kiriha’s servants/battle drones but as far as the ending itself goes, it’s certainly a nice piece.

Speaking of voice actors, I’d like to drop a mention to Eri Suzuki (Hikari Kohinata in Amanchu!, Chinatsu Kuramoto in Flying Witch), as I really enjoyed her work as Sanae. The character is quite emotional and flips into various different emotions quickly but she’s also a lot of fun and very energetic, which Suzuki gets across wonderfully. The other voice actor of note for me is Yuichi Nakamura (Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Gray Fullbuster in Fairy Tail, Guren Ichinose in Seraph of the End), who plays Kotaro. I always find it fun when such a prolific actor does a series like this and gets to let loose with a slightly less serious character than those they’re usually cast for. Nakamura provides a fun performance, even if it might not be as intensive and interesting as some of his other roles.

This release comes to the UK thanks to MVM Entertainment, who have released the series on both Blu-ray and DVD. The release contains all 12 episodes in Japanese with English subtitles and the only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending videos as well as a scattering of trailers. This release is subtitle only as an English dub has not been created for the series.

Overall Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? was an enjoyable start to my year. It might come from a genre of anime that I’m not a huge fan of, but it manages to be interesting enough so as not to matter. The series may not end in a satisfying manner but it’s a fun ride all the same, so it’s worth checking out if you like this kind of thing.

One Piece, Collection 14 Review

Episodes 325-348, may contain spoilers.

On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered ’round;
And they gazed in wide wonder at the joy they had found;
The head nurse spoke up and she said leave this one alone;
She could tell right away that I was bad to the bone.”
– George Thorogood

A quick look at the DVD cover will reveal that this collection of One Piece is very special, as at last we see the debut of the final (at the time of writing) member of the Straw Hat Pirates.

However, we don’t see him right away. Following the conclusion of the “Water Seven” arc, the collection begins not with Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, but with his older brother Portgas D. Ace, who has tracked down Marshall D. Teach, aka Blackbeard. Blackbeard, a former member of the Whitebeard pirates of which Ace is also a member, is now wanted for murdering another Whitebeard pirate and stealing a Devil Fruit: the Dark-Dark Fruit that allows him to control gravity. Thus a battle between his crushing powers and Ace’s control of fire begins.

But this is just one episode. After this, and perhaps not surprisingly following the massive “Water Seven” arc that preceded it, there is a “filler” arc. Here, the Straw Hats find what appear to be an abandoned group of fishermen who were attacked by a group of pirates. They go to help, with Chopper tending to one member of the ship’s crew who is on the verge of death. It is discovered that this is not a crew of fishermen, but the “Phoenix Pirates” who have suffered the greatest of humiliations: having their Jolly Roger flag stolen. The man being tended to by Chopper happens to be their despondent captain, Puzzle the Phoenix. The Phoenix crew try to poison the Straw Hats, but they easily spot the trick and the Phoenix pirates tell them all that has happened.

Then, what appears to be a group of marines arrives. Fortunately, new crewmate Franky is able to use the modifications on the Thousand Sunny to help both crews escape, such as turning the ship into a super-fast cola-powered paddle boat. Unfortunately, it turns out that the marines are fake, and the pirates find themselves in an arctic region governed by a family of bounty hunters, the Accino family. The head of the family, Don Accino, likes to collect pirate flags and is responsible for the theft of Puzzle’s flag. The family then steals the Straw Hat’s flag, meaning that the rest of the crew have to try and get it back before Luffy finds out.

After this escapade (and a one-episode filler of spoof superhero “Chopperman”), the Straw Hats find themselves on the move again, and spot a barrel that is supposedly offering food and drink to the god of the sea. Luffy opens it to reveal the barrel is empty, except for a flare that is fired. The crew then find themselves blown into the dangerous and perpetually-dark Florian Triangle. Here they encounter an old, wrecked ship, which has only one resident on it: a rather pervy skeleton with a huge afro, singing to himself. Luffy, Sanji and Nami climb on board to investigate, and Luffy is so impressed by him he instantly offers the skeleton the chance to join his crew, which the skeleton, named Brook, appears to accept.

Brook tells his story, about how the crew for whom he was a musician were attacked by a much stronger force, but he survived by eating the Revive-Revive Fruit, which allowed his soul to return to the living world. But as the Florian Triangle is so dark, it took a year for his soul to find his body, by which time all that survived were his bones and hairdo. Brook also reveals that actually, he cannot join the crew, because someone has stolen his shadow. He can only live in the dark Florian Triangle, because if he is touched by sunlight he will be destroyed. Luffy decides to help Brook find his shadow again.

However, the Straw Hats find that the boat has somehow arrived on an island, which Brook knows to be the ghost island Thriller Bark. Brook leaves the rest to try and find his shadow on his own, while Nami, Usopp and Chopper venture out first, onto an island that is full of ghosts and zombies. There Chopper learns to that the island is reportedly the home of Dr. Hogback, the greatest doctor in the world, but they eventually learn that his experiments have a dark purpose.

Concerning the first arc in this collection, it is not that bad as far as filler stories go. The main entertainment comes from the rest of the crew desperately trying to prevent Luffy from realising that their flag has been nicked because of all the problems that would follow caused by him. Thus you end up with action and fight scenes being mixed in with some rather farcical comedy.

On the downside, neither the Phoenix Pirates or the Accino Family are really that remarkable. Out of the Phoenix Pirates, the best one that comes across is the cabin boy Jiro, the only member of the crew that seemingly hasn’t given up on finding the flag again. Meanwhile, in the Accino Family, Don Accino has a Devil Fruit power, but his Hot-Hot Fruit which allows him to raise his body temperature to up to 10,000 degrees feels too similar to Ace’s Flame-Flame Fruit.

In the Thriller Bark arc, the main point of interest is Brook. With him now in the show, it feels as if we have made a big development. The whole unit is finally here. Although, it has to be said he doesn’t appear that much in the first part of the arc. It mainly features the regular Straw Hats venturing onto Thriller Bark and battling the evil monsters on the island. These range from a zombie that Luffy attacks by simply pushing it back into his grave; ghosts that cause anyone they pass through to feel instantly depressed; and a gigantic bridezilla boar-zombie who tries to attack Nami whom she sees as a rival for the zombie she loves – but Nami gets out of it by claiming to be a crossdressing man.

One other detail of note is of cultural differences. The main fights the Straw Hats have on Thriller Bark are with these zombie creatures, but rather than in the west where they are killed by going for the head, they are instead frightened by fire. Thus all the really successful attacks are coming from cowardly Usopp using his “Exploding Stars”.

In this collection there are extras including episode commentaries, interviews with Luci Christian (English voice for Nami) and Stephanie Young (English voice for Nico Robin), and the really long textless openings – as there are no endings except for a “To Be Continued” caption and details of the next episode. Among these openings include a new one, “Jungle P” by 5050.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 Review

Contains spoilers for The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episodes 1-13

After finding refuge from the Lusitanian forces in the fortress of Peshawar and reuniting with his allies Kishward and Bahman, Crown Prince Arslan, along with his small party, soon find themselves embroiled in a new conflict between brothers Prince Rajendra and Prince Gadhavi, who are warring to determine who will succeed their father as the king of Sindura. Realising that an alliance would boost his numbers and help him to retake back the Parsian capital, Arslan soon agrees to aid Rajendra. However, standing in the way of Arslan and the throne are villainous double-crosses, spies and countless battles. The young prince has come a long way, but will he fall at the final hurdle?

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is the latter half of the 2015 adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series of the same name. A few months back, when I reviewed the first half of Arslan, I felt fairly lukewarm about it, having complaints about both the story and characters. However, since then I have actually warmed up to this show a fair bit, and having finished it, I can safely say my overall impression is largely positive.

Since it had been a while since I watched the first half, before embarking on the second half, I went back and rewatched the initial 13 episodes to refresh myself before moving on to the remainder of the series and I found myself enjoying it a lot more the second time around. In my review of the first half, my big complaint about the story was the fact that it didn’t really go anywhere and was rather meandering, and whilst I think that in terms of progress alone, not a lot does happen, the second time around, I really came to appreciate the politics within the series. Not only does Arslan show the politics between the warring kingdoms of Pars and Lusitania, but also the internal conflicts and struggles for power, which I found to be very enjoyable to follow. This focus on politics continues into the second half of the series, and is just as entertaining as it was in the first half, as we see the conflict between the various leaders within Pars debate whether Arslan is right in wanting to free all the slaves, as well as a power struggle amongst the Lusitanians as the Arch Priest Bodin battles the king’s brother, Guiscard, for power. It isn’t all just politics though, as we also get a lot of action in this half of the series, a fair bit more than in the first 13 episodes, and it’s just as good as it was before. Not only do we get some fantastic large scale clashes on the battlefield, but we also get a few sublime one-on-one confrontations, the best of which comes in the penultimate episode as we see Daryun take on Prince Hilmes.

If I had to pick one major flaw in the plot in Arslan Part 2, it would have to be with the whole Sindura storyline. Whilst it isn’t a bad arc in terms of pure entertainment value, packing in great amounts of the politics and action that I love about the series, it is ultimately utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. After the arc ends, the characters are in an identical place to where they were when it began, and almost nothing has been gained nor has the story progressed in any manner. All that we get out of the 5 episode arc is a new character joining Arslan’s party, Jaswant, who is incredibly dull, and barely gets a few minutes of screentime after the Sindura story is finished. This entire story could have been cut with no real great loss to the overall plot, and I think the show would have been much better for it. Only adding to my annoyance at this pointless tangent, is that the ending of the show is inconclusive. Yes, there is a short sequel series, which I can only assume finishes off the story, but if the Sindura arc had just been excised, they could just as easily have finished it here.

Another big complaint I had in my review of Part 1 was with the characters, and unfortunately, my opinion hasn’t really changed. Even in this second half, we still see very little in terms of character arcs for most of the main cast. The exception to this is the titular Arslan, as we watch a fairly naive young boy turn into a suitable ruler who learns from his experiences on campaign. Barring that, the rest of the cast lack any kind of real depth or development. The biggest offender is Daryun who is entirely defined by his loyalty to Arslan. Admittedly, Daryun is somewhat of an exception, as the rest of the characters are at least likable and some, like Gieve and Narsus, are actually rather fun. In terms of new characters that show up in Part 2, my favourite is probably Alfreed, a tribe girl who is insistent on marrying Narsus. Not only is she instantly likable, she has some good chemistry with both Narsus and Elam, which adds some levity to what is otherwise quite a serious show. Another new addition is Jaswant but, as noted earlier, he is such a non-presence, he is barely even worth a mention.

Animation and music are consistent with the first half of the series, and, as before, I was quite impressed with both of those elements. Liden Films and Sanzigen continue to create some breathtaking battles that blend together traditional 2D and CGI animation, and the score by Taro Iwashiro is as great as ever. From Episode 14 onwards, we hear a new opening song from Nico Touches Walls (who provided the brilliant second opening song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) which is quite good, and is probably on a par with the first opening, which, much like the show as a whole, grew on me upon revisitation. 

The English voice cast also remains quite stellar, and is, in my opinion, preferable to the Japanese. Not that there is anything wrong with the Japanese audio at all, but with a high fantasy series such as this, I simply think that the English language is more fitting considering the European inspired setting. Both the English script and voice cast do a fantastic job, with the kind of dialogue and inflections you’d expect from film and TV series in this genre outside of anime, and it really helps with the immersion. Leading the cast as the titular Arslan is Aaron Dismuke, whom you may know as Alphonse from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. There are also good performances from Jerry Jewell, Ricco Fajardo and Christopher Bevins.

Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is just as jam- packed with high quality physical extras as the first part was, including 12 art cards, character cards, a double-sided poster and a 100 page booklet, which contains character information, artwork and interviews with the creative staff.

In Summary

Whilst the conclusion to The Heroic Legend of Arslan may not be perfect, mostly due to 5 episodes being wasted on a rather pointless side story, I found myself enjoying this second half, and the series as a whole due to the excellent action sequences, as well as the engaging political aspect.

©2015 Hiromu Arakawa, Yoshiki Tanaka • KODANSHA/ “LEGEND OF ARSLAN” Project Committee,MBS. All Rights Reserved. Packaging Design © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Review of Nerima Daikon Brothers

Look at the darkest hit musicals – Cabaret, West Side Story, Carousel – they are exuberant experiences. They send you out of the theatre filled with music.”
– John Lithgow

While anime has covered many genres, one of the genres it has not delved into that much is the musical. Yes, there have been plenty of anime about music and bands such as K-On! and Love Live!, but in terms of a traditional musical, in which the characters often randomly burst into song, this is much rarer. One of the few examples is the comedy musical Nerima Daikon Brothers.

Set in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, the story focuses on a musical threesome. The central figure is Hideki, who owns his own field growing daikon (if you are not familiar with them, imagine a turnip that’s exactly the same shape as a thingy). His ambition in life is to build his own concert dome where he and the rest of his band, the Nerima Daikon Brothers, can perform to the locals. However, he is too poor to do so.

The other members of the band are Ichiro, the band’s straight-man who works in a host club. He is able to make just about anyone fall in love with him by giving them a slap across the face, but his main love is for small furry animals. The other brother is actually a female cousin. This is Mako, a former idol from Okayama (she still has the accent) who Hideki is in love with. Mako constantly points out to him that they cannot marry because they are cousins – although Ichiro frequently points out that under Japanese law, marriage between cousins is legal. Mako is actually in love with Ichiro thanks to his slapping. There is also arguably a fourth member of the band; Pandaikon, a small panda that is constantly eating Hideki’s daikon, but is spared by Ichiro thanks to his love of animals – a love that almost borders on the bestial.

In each episode, the trio are constantly trying to find a way to raise the money to build their concert dome. This normally leads them into conflict with several villains who are trying to make a quick buck (or rather yen) for themselves, so the Brothers are constantly in need of things to fight back and take the bad guys’ money. The person they go to is the owner of a rental shop – who is actually the show’s director Shinichi Watanabe reprising a role he previously played in surreal comedy Excel Saga. He offers the band useful tools in exchange for a song (actually it is always the same tune, but with the words tweaked every time to suit the situation).

The band’s schemes normally cause more damage than they’re worth, and their schemes later fall under the suspicious eye of local cop Detective Yukika Karakuri, a woman armed with all sorts of crazy gadgets. At first she suspects the band of being up to no good, but as the series goes on she ends up admiring the group, and Pandaikon especially, going crazy for him every time he touches her. Ultimately, the roots of all these plans find their way to the very top of Japanese society, including the Prime Minister – by which I mean a direct parody of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, looking like a lion.

Obviously the music is the main appeal to the show. The music is great, full of funny numbers. These include not just the songs towards the rental shop owner, but Hideki expressing his love for Mako, Mako expressing her love for Dom Perignon champagne, and Ichiro expressing his disturbing love for Pandaikon. Some viewers may get tired of the fact that some of the tunes are used over and over again, but at least the dialogue is changed to suit the situation. The opening title song, “Ma·Ji·Ya·Ba” is wonderful, and one of the extras is the live-action music video performed by the actors. However, on the DVD menu this is seemingly hidden away, accessed by scrolling down the bottom of the menu on Disc 1, and the icon selecting your choice is not over any text. I slightly unsure as to whether this is an Easter Egg or just shoddy menu design. You also get the textless opening and closing, as well as episode commentaries on both discs.

The other main draw is the comedy, which differs from most comedy in anime in that quite a lot of it is satirical. For example, the character based on Prime Minister Koizumi looks like a lion because in real life his hair was described as looking like a lion’s mane and he embraced it. The character’s plans are to privatise the whole of Nerima, a reference to his then-real plans to privatise Japan’s postal service. All these topical references will fly by the average British viewer unless you look everything up, but on the surface there are still loads of laughs.

One example occurs in the very first episode. Ichiro is harassed in his host club by a gay customer who is a band manager, where all of the subtext indicates that he is giving Ichiro a hand job (cue lots of cutaways to sausages as Ichiro groans). Later on, the whole band meet the same manager, where Hideki tries to impress the manager similarly, with his thingy being represented by a daikon. This routine is based on an actual boy band manager, Johnny Kitagawa, who was once subject to claims that he had sexually abused the boys he managed. Thus you can either laugh at the satirical comments made against Kitagawa, or at some gags about wanking someone off.

I would definitely recommend giving Nerima Daikon Brothers a watch, partly because it differs to most anime in several ways: there are very few musical anime, very few satirical anime, and very few anime that can make you laugh as much while also providing you with rather catchy tunes.

Sakura Trick Review

I have a confession to make: I love yuri. Whilst it isn’t my intention to make myself sound perverse, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge my fondness for all things yuri, or Girl’s Love as it’s sometimes called, when reviewing Sakura Trick, just so you know I’m coming at this from a place of huge bias. Sakura Trick is based upon the 4-koma manga series by Tachi, and is probably the most well known and popular yuri series to come out in recent years, and has accumulated a sizable fan base since it first aired in 2014. Is there more to this series than just girl-on-girl action though? In short; yes.

In case you’re not aware, Sakura Trick is about best friends Yuu and Haruka who have just started their freshman year in High School. Although they’re in the same class, they’re given seats at opposite ends of the classroom and Haruka quickly gets jealous of Yuu making new friends. To remedy this, the pair decide to do something in order to deepen their bond that they wouldn’t do with anyone else and they end up sharing a kiss in a vacant classroom full of sakura petals. After that one kiss leads to many, they quickly realise that their friendship will never be the same again.

Despite the fact that my overall opinion of Sakura Trick is generally positive, the biggest issue I do take with it stems from the relationship between the two leads. It’s certainly not bad, in fact I’d say it’s downright adorable, however the problem is that it doesn’t feel as if there’s any kind of growth or arc for their relationship. Right at the beginning of the series, the two girls are already very close friends, and even after they share the first kiss, I can’t help but feel nothing really changes in the grand scheme, other than the fact that they sneak off to kiss now and again. There’s no real build-up to the two becoming a couple, in fact they share their first kiss about 10 minutes into the first episode, and after that, there isn’t really any turbulence or struggle in the relationship either, at least, not until right near the end, but by then, it’s too little, too late. I’m not trying to say there has to be some sort of drama for a relationship to be good, but there definitely could have been more done in this  department to make it a little more interesting. Only compounding this matter is the fact that there is an interesting relationship in the show, it’s just not between the two main characters. Yes, two other girls, Shizuku and Kotone, also have a secret relationship, albeit one with a bit more going on in it, as it’s revealed that one of the girls’ parents has already arranged for her to get married. Honestly, I think that alone has enough potential to carry a show, but it’s largely in the background and is rarely mentioned. It’s really frustrating because I genuinely think that this is a brilliant idea, yet it’s just squandered. If this idea had been applied to Yuu and Haruka’s relationship, it would have made the series infinitely better, in my opinion.

Now, despite the fact that I just spent a whole paragraph complaining about it, I actually did end up liking Sakura Trick quite a bit. This is mostly because of the characters who are a likable bunch and have some great chemistry together which produces a lot of great comedic moments. It’s not exactly laugh-a-minute, but there’s a decent amount of jokes that managed to make me laugh a surprising amount. Then of course, there’s the inclusion of all the yuri scenes, which is probably going to be the most divisive element of the whole show, and could make or break this anime for some people. I’ll be totally honest, the yuri elements are my favourite part of the whole thing, and are very well executed. If people have read any of my reviews before, they’ll know I’m generally not huge on fan service, and whilst all the yuri here is very much fan service, it feels a lot less exploitative than a general ecchi anime, as well as appealing directly to my interests, so I really liked it. If you’re not into the whole yuri thing, I still think that there’s enjoyment to be had here, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first romantic comedy I’d recommend, and there are better examples out there, such as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, that deliver more laughs.

Sakura Trick is animated by Studio DEEN (Fate/stay night (2006), Is This a Zombie?, When They Cry) although you might not think so at first glance. The studio is very much going out of their way here to do their best impression of Shaft (Madoka Magica, Nisekoi, Monogatari) and the general art style and direction is heavily reminiscent of Hidamari Sketch, although I’d be hesitant to call the style a rip-off, considering the fact that the director of Sakura Trick, Kenichi Ishikura, directed several episodes of Hidamari Sketch, as well as the entirety of the third series. Still, even if the style isn’t wholly original, that doesn’t make it any less of a good-looking show. I’m a huge fan of Shaft’s general style, so it’s no surprise that I absolutely love the look of this series too, with its bright colours and use of textures to really make scenes pop. I haven’t seen much of Studio DEEN’s work, admittedly, but this is probably the best-looking show of theirs I’ve watched.

MVM’s release of Sakura Trick is Japanese audio only, with English subtitles. The Japanese cast all do great, providing the group of cute girls with suitably cute voices, with the cast including voice actors such as Yuka Iguchi (Monogatari, Fairy Tail, Girls und Panzer), Haruka Tomatsu (Coppelion, Gintama, Punchline) and Hiromi Igarashi (Hellsing Ultimate, Brave Witches, High School Fleet). Music is provided by Ryosuke Nakanishi, and is a pretty decent soundtrack, but nothing too memorable. The same can be said for the OP and ED too, which, whilst serviceable, are generally nothing spectacular.

In Summary

If you like yuri, then this is absolutely a must-see, in fact, if you like yuri, you’ve probably already seen this show. Even if you’re nonplussed by yuri, I could still somewhat recommend Sakura Trick, as it’s largely enjoyable, although don’t expect anything groundbreaking or new.

Streaming review of Yuri!!! On Ice, Episodes 9-12 (Crunchyroll)

WARNING: Contains spoilers

Link to review of Episodes 1-8.

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” – Matt Groening.

Having finally reached the end of the series, waiting to see what would be the outcome of Yuri Katsuki’s progress through the Grand Prix, and the nature of his relationship with coach Victor Nikiforov, my overall reaction is one of… well, I don’t really know to be honest. I’m not ecstatic, nor am I as disappointed as I thought I was going to be. However, by the time I had finished writing this piece, I think I finally cracked it.

The eighth episode ended with Victor flying from Moscow back to Japan after Yuri K. learns that Victor’s beloved poodle Makkachin has been rushed to the vets when it was found choking. Thus Victor’s old coach, Yakov, who is also Yurio’s current coach, agrees to serve as Yuri K.’s temporary coach while Victor is away. In the end, Yuri K. gets third place in Moscow with Yurio coming second, and first going to the rather overbearing Canadian J.J. Leroy. Yuri K. then returns home, with Makkachin perfectly well.

The scores for both Yuris are enough to take them to the grand final in Barcelona, with the tenth episode being told from Victor’s viewpoint rather than Yuri K’s. This episode, mainly serving as a run-up to the main competition, has what I think is the best scene in the series. While much has been made of the kiss scene in episode seven – a scene which Crunchyroll has nominated for a prize in their first ever “Anime Awards”, for me the single best scene in the whole of Yuri!!! On Ice occurs when Yuri K. decides to get a good luck charm for the final. This charm is a pair of gold rings for both himself and Victor, which they both wear. As a result, it is seen as deeply symbolic in terms of their relationship. When they meet the other skaters people think they are married, but Victor just says they are engaged.

The final two episodes cover the grand final itself, with the competitors being the two Yuris, J.J., Yuri K’s friend from Thailand Phichit Chulanot, Victor’s friendly Swiss rival Christophe Giacometti, and Kazakhstan’s Otabek Altin who becomes friends with Yurio. In the first half of the competition, the highlight is when J.J. cracks under the pressure, which for me is a good scene because you can finally start to sympathise with him. At the end of the episode, however, Yuri K. says to Victor: “After the Final, let’s end this.”

This remark clearly upsets Victor, and the final episode is partly about whether or not Yuri K. and Victor will continue working together. As to what happens in the final round, well, I don’t want to give away the critical details, but I think it is safe to mention the things that occur after the contest is over. One is is a gala exhibition in which Yuri K. and Victor are skating together – something fans of the show are saying is a big deal because two men skating together in a competition is something that never happens. The other thing is a message to the viewer: “See you NEXT LEVEL”, indicating the possibility of a second series.

As I said, I was expecting to react to the ending in one of two ways: anger or joy. In fact, anger was my reaction when I logged onto Crunchyroll to watch the last episode. For starters, I needed to update my Adobe Flash Player, so I thought, “Oh God, I’m now going to be behind everyone else watching it.” What I didn’t notice while I was updating the software was that everyone else was angry because Crunchyroll hadn’t put the episode up at all. They were nearly 20 minutes late putting up the most anticipated finale of the season and people were understandably furious. I admit it is a bit of a ‘first world problem’, but as the main anime streaming website for most people, you expect Crunchyroll not to have these issues.

In terms of watching the finale itself, I think I have finally reached my conclusion as to the proof of whether Yuri and Victor are a gay couple. I think there actually is conclusive proof – but again, not the sort of proof I was expecting. It comes at the top of the episode, following on from Yuri K. saying he wants to end it all. As he explains, I think I see the true indication that Victor loves Yuri – Victor cries. For all this time, I was hoping to see something happy to indicate their love, but in the end, it was something that was sad. The idea that your relationship might end, the possible heartbreak, is for me the final indicator. If the kiss is the initial spark, and the rings the visible sign of love, then the tears are proof that you don’t want it to end. I have been saying all the time that what I wanted was text rather than subtext – but in end, I think the subtext did actually pay off. If there is a second series we might get text then, but for now, I think everything’s OK.

That crying scene overall speaks volumes to me. All the time it has been the kissing and the verbal indications, yet what love really is, when you get down to it, is emotional. As I said in my previous review, I’ve been in a long distance relationship with a genderfluid American for six years. The one thing we have never been able to do is meet in real life. If and when we do, it will be a glorious, passionate moment, but when he no doubt gets on the plane back home and returns to his everyday life, I know I will cry bitter tears. As I write this passage out, I am even on the verge of tears knowing that this moment might never even happen, because we still might never get to physically encounter each other.

This show has put me through so many emotions: love, frustration, joy, bewilderment, and finally anger – not at the show, but the way people are debating it. Yes, there will still be people arguing about whether Yuri K. and Victor are gay, battles between zealous fans and haters, but for me the most annoying and tedious have been the rows on the AUKN forums between Rui and IncendiaryLemon, which even on the day of the finale have still raged on, because of the show being nominated for awards. I did end up posting on the forums a message that included the phrase: “Won’t you two get a room.”

If there is a second series, I really do hope we get to see the relationship between Yuri and Victor flourish, and I do think that if we see that fully uncensored kiss I would put it up to 10, but I would also really hope that Rui and IncendiaryLemon bicker less.

Review of Death Note: Blu-Ray Collection

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“You must believe in God, despite what the clergy tell you.” – Benjamin Jowlett

If Death Note succeeds in at least one thing, it is that it has possibly created the most interesting and intriguing character of all anime. This is a big claim to make, but there are so many ways that you could describe lead character Light Yagami: genius, ruthless, draconian, misguided, charismatic, megalomaniacal, psychopathic, influencer, passionate, deadly and godly. It is hard to think of another anime character so complex that they can be described in so many different ways.

It is also hard to think of a modern anime or manga that has attracted so much controversy. While there are some series that have attracted people’s anger because they contain sexual or violent scenes, Death Note has had been through several attempts to ban it in various countries including China and Russia, has been the cause of several school expulsions in America, and was even linked to a real-life murder in Belgium.

The story follows the highly intelligent 17-year-old student Light Yagami, who one day spots a black book falling past his classroom window. After class he finds the book, the “Death Note”, and takes it home with him, reading a set of instructions that say:

  • The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
  • This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
  • If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, it will happen.
  • If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.
  • After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Light tries the book out and discovers it actually works. After this, he encounters the book’s original owner, a Shinigami (death god) called Ryuk, who was bored and thought things would become more interesting if he dropped it in the human world. Light decides what to do with the book: he opts to use it to make the world a better place, by killing wrong-doers. He wants to make the world free of criminals, where only the good can survive in peace. Thus, Light starts to kill as many criminals as he can, and soon ends up being nicknamed “Kira”, a Japanese corruption of the English word “Killer”.

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When so many criminals start dying all other the world, Interpol gets into contact with the world’s greatest detective, a man simply known as “L”. Using a fake video, L is able to track down Kira’s location to Kanto, and soon Light ends up in a battle of wits with L, as well as the Japanese police, of which his father happens to be a member.

As the story continues, the battle between Light and L intensifies as the viewer tries to figure out what will happen: will Light be caught, or will he be able to discover L’s real name and put in the Death Note? Also, we witness how much Light changes. He starts off a vigilante, and soon ends up becoming almost godlike in his desire and power. Light wants to become the god of this new world, and he is not going to let anyone stop him.

As stated, the main reason for watching Death Note is Light. This is a character that you can look at in so many different ways, and can develop so many different opinions on. One the one hand, he is an egotistical, draconian serial killer with a messiah complex who is responsible for the deaths of millions over his lifetime, and is so ruthless he will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. On the other hand, you could argue that because he is trying to kill bad people the ends justify the means. Over the course of the story, Light’s activities cause crime worldwide to drop by 70% and he even manages to bring about world peace. Also, as far as gods go, his abilities seem to be more on show than God’s. Then again, you can argue that while Light is in a way well-intentioned, he is corrupted by his powers and misguided by his own ideas.

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This is also why I think that Light is charismatic. Draco, the ancient Greek lawgiver from whom we get the word “draconian”, was incredibly harsh, executing people for the smallest of offences (e.g., stealing a cabbage), but during his lifetime he was incredibly popular. People threw their coats at him in appreciation – which actually was a mistake because so many people threw their coats that according to legend he suffocated under a massive pile of them.

Similarly, Light gains many followers as Kira, and these are followers that he is able to manipulate to his advantage. In this modern age of “post-truth” politics, it seems as if it is those with charisma rather than political know-how who get into power.

This leads us to the storytelling. Original writer Tsugumi Ohba, along with artist Takeshi Obata, are able to do something remarkable: they are able to take Light Yagami, who is the biggest murderer in possibly all anime, and make him likeable. You sympathise with his cause, because his cause is ultimately to make the world a better place by getting rid of people who are awful, even though the thing he is doing is awful too. Ultimately, there is that bit of us that is a bit like Light, in that at some point just about everyone, whether as a child or an adult, has thought of someone particularly bad and hoped they would die. We all know of sci-fi stories about wanting to travel back in time and kill Hitler; we all wanted to get our own back on people who have committed atrocities around the globe; even during the US election, I bet you there were millions of people who looked at Trump and Clinton and thought to themselves: “Wouldn’t be brilliant if one or even both of these people just dropped down dead, so that the US can have a leader who is actually good”.

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If you were to ask me which character in western fiction Light is most similar too, oddly I would go for a sitcom character: Rik Mayall’s right-wing MP Alan B’Stard in the satirical sitcom The New Statesmen from the late 1980s and early 1990s. B’Stard, like Light, is horrid in so many ways: corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and bigoted. However, B’Stard is also rather likeable, mainly due to what is seen as a lack of hypocrisy. B’Stard was honest about his views. The character is honest when says things like: “I hate queers almost as much as I hate poor people”, or when he once suggested the way to cut NHS waiting lists was to shut down the health service, and he is the only character in all fiction to be proud of the fact he has an incredibly tiny penis and it takes him less than a minute to orgasm.

Again, similarly Light lacks hypocrisy. He obviously has to lie to hide his identity from the police, but as Kira there are no double standards with his brand of justice. If you are suspected of having done something wrong, regardless of your race, gender, sexuality, class or whatever, you are down for the chop. There are those he does keep alive for his own purposes; those people will be due to die later. The main differences between the two characters is that Light is not comedic, but serious in his goals. Also, if B’Stard did exist, his name would no doubt go in Light’s book.

Ultimately, it is up to you the viewer as to whether Light is good or not. Is he a brilliant vigilante righting wrongs, or just a murderer? Personally speaking, I would classify him as an antihero. His goal is basically to improve the world by letting the good survive, it’s just that his way of achieving his goal is so unforgiving in its scope. As to whether I want him to succeed, shockingly for myself there is a big part of me that says: “yes”.

Regarding the rest of this collection, the only extras are two OVA collections which retell the entire series. The quality of the animation is good, there appears to be nothing wrong with the subtitling, and the soundtrack mainly provided by metal acts Nightmare and Maximum the Hormones is great. On the downside, the second half of the series is not as good as the first due to some characters not appearing in it, and depending on whether you are for or against Light, the ending might disappoint you.

If there is any problem with it, it is there could be another Death Note related murder: in the form of a Hollywood adaptation of the series next year, with Nat Wolff playing the role of a character named “Light Turner”. Now, I personally don’t mind them changing the name of the character and setting the story in the USA. That is no different to taking The Seven Samurai, setting it in the Wild West, and turning it into The Magnificent Seven. Yes, there are always going to be people upset that the cast is not made up of Japanese actors and that there isn’t a Japanese actor in the lead, possibly even calling it racist, but by the sound of things, it’s at least a bit better than other manga adaptations I can think of. What I’m bothered about is the fact that L is being played by American actor Keith Stanfield when in the story it is made clear that he spent much of his childhood in England, while his assistant Watari is still being played by an Asian actor, Paul Nakauchi. This seems inconsistent. Surely you should change all the characters or none of them.

The big problem however, is that I cannot think of a decent American adaptation of an anime. If this is the first then that would be great, but I doubt it will, and what I suspect will happen is that more American parents will panic about their kids being corrupted.

In the end, the best thing to do is watch this series and decide for yourself, because it is a brilliant story with so much going on around it.

Fullmetal Alchemist Collector’s Edition Part 2

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When I was given the chance to review the first Collector’s Edition of 
Fullmetal Alchemist I was overjoyed (you can find my first review here). I really love this series and so it’ll come as no surprise to anyone that I am also reviewing the second Collector’s Edition. Has the second half lived up to my memories of this beloved anime?

Fullmetal Alchemist Collector’s Edition Part 2 starts off with Episode 28 of the 51 episode series and sees Ed and Al reunited with their old alchemy teacher, Izumi. Having discovered the sin that the two committed as children in trying to bring a human back to life, she decides to place them on Yock Island where the two once learned an important lesson while training under her. A scary teacher and being left on a deserted island for a month is the least of the boys’ worries, however, as they’re also being hunted by a group of Homunculi…

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This half of the series is also where things become more complicated with the military and we finally get an idea of what has been going on. When Colonel Roy Mustang and his group of followers are relocated from their remote station to the main central branch of the state headquarters, Mustang starts investigating the odd goings-on that have been taking place. While these story developments are important for Ed and Al as well, I truly believe that what I enjoyed most of the first 15 episodes of this set was the focus on the military.

It has to be said that Roy Mustang has always been one of my favourite characters in the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. He’s not quite my top favourite (that position belongs to Edward) but there is something special about him, and as the story progresses, he starts to become more human. And as his character develops, he becomes infinitely more likeable.

fma-set-2-3The same can be said for those that work under Mustang, especially Hawkeye, as they become a lot more important than just side characters. They’re not quite “main cast” but they do get a lot of focus, and that really helped me engage with the military storyline where I otherwise might not have done. In fact, the only one who lacks in development during these episodes is Major Armstrong. However, Armstrong was given a lot of development during the first half of the series and remains an awesome character, so I’m not sure that lacking some development here really matters.

Military cast aside, it’s nice to see that Ed and Al are still learning and growing throughout the course of their adventures. At this point we’ve already seen them go through many a hardship, and this set of episodes certainly has a lot more in store, but despite this, they continue to stand up and keep moving on. It’s a quality that I admire in the two brothers. I also enjoy their relationship and how it isn’t perfect. The two don’t always get along despite how much they love one another. They fight, run away, but eventually come back and are all the stronger for it.

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The animation for this final stretch of episodes continued to be handled by Studio BONES, and towards the end of the series they truly began to outdo themselves for the time period the anime was produced in. Although the series isn’t in widescreen, because it was produced before the transition to HD, it’s still very well animated and could even stand against some of today’s series quite well. BONES have a good sense of how to animate action scenes smoothly, and considering how many there are in Fullmetal Alchemist that was definitely an important quality for the studio to have! As you may expect, this means that the action generally flows well throughout the show and the final episode is simply terrific to watch from an animation point of view.

Fullmetal Alchemist’s music continued to be handled by Michiru Oshima and overall the soundtrack makes a greater impact in this second half of the series. The score never once overpowers the action on-screen, instead amplifying it to a height that it might not have otherwise reached. It’s easy to see why she’s regarded as such a legendary composer, judging by the work on offer here. Across this portion of the series there are three different opening and ending themes, although one set of OP/ED themes kicked in during Part 1’s set of episodes. While I won’t mention them all, my favourites are the final opening, “Rewrite” by Asian Kung-Fu Generation (whom you’ll probably have heard of before because they have provided numerous anime openings, including many themes for Naruto as well as the opening for Tatami Galaxy), and last ending, “I Will” by Sowelu.

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The English voice actors continue to offer simply outstanding work for the series and the English dub remains my favourite. I spoke a great deal about the voice actors for Ed and Al in my previous review, so I thought I’d take the time to sing the praises of Travis Willingham (Free in
Soul Eater, Takashi Morinozuka in Ouran High School Host Club), who plays Mustang. It probably goes without saying that Mustang is a character who is not good at showing his emotions and Willingham voices that type of personality very well, but when Mustang begins to crack, Willingham makes the explosive transition remarkably well.

This second set once again comes to the UK thanks to Anime Limited and includes Episodes 28 through to 51 in both English and Japanese across three Blu-ray discs. Extras include clean opening and ending videos and a scattering of trailers. There are seven art cards included as well, depicting some of the key characters featured in this set of episodes.

Overall, after rewatching the whole series, I can safely say that Fullmetal Alchemist is still my all-time favourite anime. I also think that, without a doubt, it’s one of the best anime with mass market appeal to come out of Japan in the last decade. Hopefully with this release many more people will be introduced to Fullmetal Alchemist and become anime fans through it, but even if they don’t, I’ll still be just as in love with this series as I was the day I first started on this journey through Japanese media.

The Transformers – The Movie 30th Anniversary Edition

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The classic, and often controversial, theatrical special of the original Transformers cartoon is now 30 years old and Manga have released the restored version on Blu-ray, but does the film still have the touch? Does it still have the poweeerrrrrr? (Sorry, couldn’t help it…)

Before anyone wonders why it’s being reviewed here on Anime UK News, it’s simple: it was written by the American cartoon team, but it was animated by Toei Animation in Japan, which includes the cinematography. Rule of thumb is if it’s animated in Japan, it’s an anime, if it’s animated in the US, it’s a cartoon, but let’s not go down the route, that way lies madness…

So the plot is quite… odd. It’s set a full 20 years after the end of Season 2 of the TV series, and the war on Cybertron isn’t going well for the Autobots. In fact the Decepticons have conquered the planet, leaving Optimus and co. hiding out on the planet’s two moons, as well as their old Earth base. The obnoxious little boy Spike Witwicky is now an adult and working with the Autobots on one of the afore-mentioned moons, but … ahem… luckily, his son is about the same age as he was back in the day and is on Earth, so… thank goodness for that, nearly didn’t have an obnoxious kid in an 80s animated property for a second there!

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Here is where things get unexpectedly dark. Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, after over 20 years of constant war (and never-ending retreats where nothing gets accomplished) finally realises that a good way to win a war is to kill your enemy. I’m talking Megatron and co. arriving on an Autobot shuttle, Megatron declaring he’s going to kill them, and then transforming into his gun form followed by four friendly Autobots being gunned down and killed. That’s only the beginning! The Decepticons soon arrive on the Earth base and so begins a would-be-bloody-if-they-weren’t-robots war where several characters on all sides either die or are near death, including a fated showdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron, where instead of one standing while one falls, it ends in pretty much a draw, with Optimus dying (spoiler! … for a 30-year-old film…) and Megatron being all but dead. This is all pretty shocking coming off of a “nobody is killed, let’s not even mention the words kill or die” cartoon.

Newly introduced Autobot Hotrod is to blame for Optimus Prime’s death, getting involved with the fated duel and getting Optimus shot several times in his bungled attempt at help. It’s actually quite amazing that beyond having a “cool” flame paintjob, Hotrod is a pretty bad attempt at creating a new lead character, which is what it was all about. Anyway, as if things couldn’t get any worse, a giant sentient transforming planet named Unicron arrives and is disturbed by the “Matrix of Leadership” that Optimus once held, that was then passed to the dull-as-dishwater Ultra Magnus. He sees the object as the one thing that could defeat him, and so regenerates Megatron and a few other near-dead Decepticons that had been thrown into space by their new “brave” leader Starscream, and uses his immense power to force them to hunt down and destroy the Matrix.

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This sets up the rest of the film, where the remaining Autobots are chased around several newly introduced planets by Galvatron (the new Megatron) and eventually have to rally to defeat Unicron before he destroys Cybertron. I could go on for many more paragraphs about some of these characters, planets and a certain universal greeting, but I’ll leave it there on the off-chance you haven’t actually seen the film already (and for the sake of review length!)

On to some other points. Firstly, the soundtrack. If you like 80s power ballads and rock, it’s great. Hell, even if you don’t I’d like to see you not get a little more excited and invested into the film when “The Touch” or “Dare” comes on in the background. Even the moody (and synth-filled!) music that plays when Unicron is introduced is great, top marks to composer Vince DiCola on that front. There isn’t a mention of whether the audio mix was upgraded along with the picture, but everything was definitely loud and clear on my end. The voicecast is also worth mentioning, the classic cartoon actors return, but are joined by the likes of Leonard Nimoy and… Orson Welles! In his last ever performance… always a weird fact. The animation is often fluid and the art switches between really detailed drawings come to life (particularly the scenes with Unicron devouring planets, so many little lines and bits everywhere) and more simple drawing that’s closer to the TV series. The (4K, although it’s still a standard Blu-ray) restoration is great too, everything is really bright and clear, yet still featuring some film grain for that touch of authenticity.

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It’s worth saying that this is the full, unedited version of the film. That means Spike Witwicky exclaims “Oh shit! Whadda we do now?!” when Unicron eats the second moon of Cybertron unaffected by their attempts to blow it up, and there is no “Optimus Prime will return” message at the end that was quickly added after the supremely negative feedback from their decision to kill the character off. I don’t know if this is the first time the unedited version has been released in this country, but the swear word wasn’t on the VHS or DVD version I’ve seen in the past, though I know there have been a few different DVDs, so I can’t say for sure.

It should be noted that this comes in two discs, one labelled “Full Frame” and the other “Widescreen”. Much like most of the films by Toei at this point, it was created using 4:3 animation with the intention of it being zoomed in to fit the cinema’s widescreen. This also meant that the film could be released on VHS and fill up the 4:3 TV screens without the need for black bars. The “Full Frame” version is the full 4:3 version, meaning it’s not zoomed or stretched, but it is a 4:3 box in the middle of your now standard 16:9 screen, and the “Widescreen” version is the cinematic version and therefore fills your screen, but you lose some of the top and bottom, but that was always taken into account when it was created anyway and is therefore the more authentic way to view it. What’s nice is that the full compliment of extras is on both discs, meaning whichever way you choose to watch you won’t have to switch discs to watch the extras.

As for the extras, they include a well-made and interesting Making Of Documentary titled “Til’ All Are One”, Audio Commentary on the film with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu, a few featurettes, storyboards and trailers (both cinematic and TV). It’s a good chunk of extras, that’s for sure, and again they’re all on both discs.

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So should you buy this? Well… yeah. I mean, if you grew up with the film like myself, or you’ve come to like it, or even if you want to try it out, there is no better version of it out there, picture, audio and extras-wise. Hell, the steelbook box is nice as well, by the looks of it. If you have no intention of watching an 85 minute 80s-fest based on a cartoon that’s being more and more lost due to never-ending Michael Bay-created films, then that’s a shame, because to answer my question from earlier, this film does indeed still have the touch… and the poweeeerrrr