Review of DRAMAtical Murder

Aoba lives with his grandmother Tae and works part-time in a junk shop in the Old Residential District on Midorijima, an island divided in two. An entrepreneur, Toue Konzern, has converted the other part of the island into Platinum Jail, an exclusive luxury resort. Aoba and his AllMate AI pet dog, Ren, navigate their way through the various turf wars taking place on the island until they are both propelled into the dangerous online game ‘Rhyme’ set in a virtual world. This unleashes another personality buried deep within Aoba, ruthless and possessing a dangerous psionic power. Aoba’s peaceful life begins to crumble around him as sinister strangers seek him out and those closest to him go missing.  What lies buried in his past that is triggering these events – and how can he solve the mystery without harming those he holds most dear? But as Aoba and his friends are invited to enter the futuristic paradise of Platinum Jail, it becomes apparent that the answers to the mysteries in his past – and the other Aoba – can only be solved by walking into enemy territory and confronting Toue Konzern.

DRAMAtical Murder (2014) is based on a popular Japanese BL visual novel from Nitro+CHiRAL, the company famous (infamous?) for their adult-rated BL series like Lamento and togainu no chi. A lot of artistic talent goes into the creation of these games, with high-end character design and top-notch voice actors. Not surprisingly, they are very popular in Japan, inspiring cartloads of doujinshi and special cafe events and, inevitably cute and collectable merchandise! The manga that have come out based on these series have been less successful, and – like this anime TV series – they don’t portray anything of a sexual nature other than the occasional smooch. It’s also significant that DRAMAtical Murder was made before the recent phenomenal success of Yuuri!!! On Ice which, one hopes, along with the charming film Doukyusei (not yet available in the UK) will make it possible for more Slice of Life, character-based BL stories to be told well in anime and reach a wider audience. DRAMAtical Murder most definitely ain’t Slice of Life, placing itself firmly in the cyber science fiction category, allowing for the presence of AIs, virtual reality and altered minds.

So, yet another anime series based on a popular visual novel, only this time the male protagonist has the choice of several very different male partners. The main challenge is to gently tease the audience as our hero meets each of his potential love interests (could this be The One?) but – in the interests of creating a satisfying drama – the writers may well opt for a path that diverges from the one the viewer personally favours. This can result in a bland, unsatisfying storyline as nothing is ever properly resolved. Touken Ranbu, another recent series based on a popular otome game, almost imploded under the weight of characters that the writers felt duty-bound to introduce so as not to offend any fans by omitting a few. And when watching such a series, there’s always the nagging feeling that the creative team are writing solely for the existing game-playing fans. However, that isn’t really a problem here as the writers have produced a self-contained story that – after a few initial hitches – delivers the goods: it actually resolves the issues that it sets up at the beginning. And how many anime series do that?

Who is Aoba? Why does he suffer from immobilizing headaches and loss of memory? We get to learn more about him in his interactions with the various men he gets embroiled with in his search, ranging from his tattooed childhood friend Koujaku, through IT genius/hacker Noiz to strong, silent, bike-riding activist, Mink. All of the men he encounters have tragic back stories which lend them greater depth and interest as Aoba learns the truth about them. One of the deepest and most philosophical conversations occurs in Episode 4 with Clear, the mysterious gas-mask wearing, umbrella-carrying stranger who insists on calling him ‘Master’. In fact Aoba’s interactions with Clear deliver some of the most touching moments in the series as he comes to realize that Clear is probably not human… but would really like to be. Kudos to this series, as well, for the depiction of Tae, Aoba’s dynamic and feisty grandma, who knows more about the sinister goings-on in Platinum Jail than at first she is willing to share. We need more feisty grandmas!

When I first watched DRAMAtical Murder weekly on Crunchyroll I was rather underwhelmed, but returning to it (some early animation quality issues resolved) I was pleasantly surprised. As science fiction, it’s not very original, but the issues it explores about identity and consciousness through Aoba, Clear and Ren are compellingly and relatably done.  DRAMAtical Murder relies on a street-smart grunge to lend it some authentic street-cred, hence the different gangs like Morphine, Dry Juice and Benishigure with their tags, allegiances, tattoos and territories. Oddly enough this gives it a slightly old-fashioned feel, as if it’s trying a little too hard to combine the gritty realism of togainu no chi with a futuristic VR gamer-vibe. However, the character designs are attractive and the comic potential of the AI AllMate pets is milked (but not too much) alternating between the cute (little blue doggie Ren with his protruding red tongue) and the distinctly eccentric Beni and Tori birds belonging to Koujaku and Mink respectively.

Music is by Yuuki Hayashi (who has recently provided some fine soundtracks for My Hero Academia, Kiznaiver, Haikyu!!) and delivers here an appropriately futuristic palette of electronic sounds and tracks (synthesized and guitar) to enhance the futuristic world of Platinum Jail and Rhyme. A nice touch is the retro game music vibe that accompanies the teasing game clues Aoba receives. Nevertheless, it’s Hayashi’s understated and subtle theme for piano and strings which underscores some of the more emotional scenes that is by far the most effective.

The Opening Theme “Slip on the Pumps” (frankly not my favourite) and main Ending Theme “Bowie Knife” are by rock band GOATBED and are notable mostly for their unintentionally funny lyrics. There are also four different Ending songs for each of the other main characters: “BY MY SIDE” by Kanako Itou (Ep. 7) for Koujaku; “Felt” by Seiji Kimura (Ep. 8) for Noiz; “Lullaby Blue” by Kanako Itou (Ep. 9) for Clear and “Soul Grace” by VERTUEUX (Ep. 10) for Mink.  These play over a sequence of luminous and attractive character stills.

A US dub script by George Manley flows more colloquially than the subtitles (although with some questionable choices) and the delivery by the voice cast is way too variable in quality. Veteran VAs like Greg Ayres as Clear and Andrew Love as Mink deliver but, disappointingly, in the crucial main role of Aoba, Gabriel Regojo just hasn’t got the range or the charm that the excellent Atsushi Kisaichi brings to the role.  I’d recommend the Japanese cast every time.

The inclusion of the unaired 30 minute OVA “Data_xx_Transitory” is a bonus that will make this Animatsu set very attractive to BL fans as it includes slightly more edgy material (and is probably what earned this set the 15 certificate in the UK). My own feeling is that it doesn’t really add that much to the story as it’s a tad repetitive (and, if it’s only taking place in Aoba’s mind, suggests a rather more masochistic personality than the one we’ve been shown throughout the episodes).

The DVDs are reviewed here – but the set on sale from Manga-Animatsu is a Blu-ray/DVD combo comprising 5 discs. The only extras are Clean Opening and Endings and four trailers.

In Summary

DRAMAtical Murder works rather well as a sci-fi mystery adventure with sympathetic main characters, luminous backgrounds and an attractive, versatile soundtrack. If you’re a BL fan, however, there’s very little to get excited about as it’s all (bar the OVA) very chaste.

Title: DRAMAtical Murder
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, BL
Studio: NAZ
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2014
Format: Blu-Ray and DVD (DVD version reviewed)
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles and English dub audio
Age rating: 15
Running time: 300 minutes

Score: 7/10

Manga Entertainment Brings Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the UK for Home Video!

It’s nearly time for the new adaptation of Saban’s Power Rangers but now Manga Entertainment have stepped up their game with a very special license.

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MCM London Comic Con October 2016 Anime Licenses Round-Up – Day 2

The second day of MCM London Comic Con has ended and both Manga Animatsu and MVM Entertainment have stepped in to reveal more new additions to their catalogue alongside Anime Limited. Here’s a round-up of all of the titles revealed for the second day of the weekend.

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MCM London Comic Con October 2016 Anime Licenses Round-Up – Day 1

It’s that time again. MCM London Comic Con has now begun and many new pieces of announcements have been unveiled bit by bit. Anime Limited have already started revealing six titles for their catalogue with many more to be announced, while Manga Animatsu have shown off one new title prior to the weekend. Here’s a round-up of all of the titles revealed for the first day of the weekend.

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30th Leeds International Film Festival 2016 Anime Line-Up Revealed!

2016 marks the 30th year for the Leeds International Film Festival and recently they have announced a whole bunch of films that will be screened across Leeds between 3rd to 17th of November 2016. Alongside these art house and cult titles are also some anime feature films; both new and old are included!

What’s in store? Let’s find out!

leeds-international-film-festival-30

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Akira returns to UK Cinema for Manga UK’s 25th Anniversary this September

Earlier this month we reported that Akira would be given another release that included the Blu-ray, DVD, a digital copy and tons more content. And just recently Manga Entertainment have announced plans to bring Akira back to the UK cinemas to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.

Akira Movie Poster 2016

Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality. Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon – telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project’s most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again.

The film will be screened nationwide with over 70 screens selected for a limited run on 21st September 2016. Manga notes this is the widest UK theatrical release of the film since its original run many years ago.

Andrew Hewson, Marketing Manager
“Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime classic which even after decades since its initial release still holds up as one of the most thrilling and visceral films you will ever see! In celebration of Manga’s 25th anniversary we will be re-releasing Akira in cinemas this September on over 70 screens across the UK. Not only that, in November we will be releasing a collector’s edition triple play – DVD, Blu-ray and digital copy housed in a rigid box, containing both English dubs as well as brand new artwork. This is an absolute must for any Akira fan!”

Here’s a list of all the cinemas taking part. You can also view a map on the Akira UK website to find your nearest cinema that will be showing the film:

Aberdeen Union Square Cineworld
Basingstoke Festival Place Vue
Bath PictureHouse
Belfast Odyssey Independent
Birmingham Broad Street Cineworld
Birmingham Electric Independent
Birmingham, Star City Vue
Bluewater Showcase CDL
Brighton Komedia PictureHouse
Bristol Showcase
Bristol Showcase CDL
Cambridge PictureHouse
Cambridge Vue
Cardiff Showcase
Cheshire Oaks Vue
Coventry Showcase
Crawley Cineworld
Derby Showcase CDL
Dublin Cineworld
Dudley Showcase
Dundee DCA Independent
Edinburgh Cineworld
Edinburgh Cameo PictureHouse
Enfield Cineworld
Exeter PictureHouse
Exeter Vue
Gateshead Vue
Glasgow East (Out of Town) Showcase
Glasgow Renfrew Street (Central) Cineworld
Hull Vue
Inverness Vue
Lancaster Dukes Independent
Leeds Showcase CDL
Leeds Hyde Park Independent
Leicester Showcase CDL
Liverpool Showcase
Liverpool, FACT PictureHouse
London Central, Central PictureHouse
London Central, Prince Charles Independent
London East, Hackney PictureHouse
London East, Newham Showcase
London East, Stratford East PictureHouse
London East, West India Quay Cineworld
London East, Westfield Stratford Vue
London North, Crouch End PictureHouse
London North, Finchley Road Vue
London North, Islington Vue
London North, Wood Green Vue
London South, Croydon Grants Vue
London South, Ritzy PictureHouse
London South, Wandsworth Cineworld
London West, Westfield Vue
Manchester Showcase
Manchester Red Vue
Milton Keynes Cineworld
Northampton Vue
Norwich PictureHouse
Norwich Vue
Nottingham Showcase CDL
Oxford PictureHouse
Oxford Vue
Paisley Showcase
Peterborough Showcase
Plymouth Vue
Portsmouth Vue
Portsmouth No. 6 Independent
Reading Showcase CDL
Sheffield Cineworld
Sheffield Vue
Southampton PictureHouse
Stirling Vue
Swansea Vue
Teeside Showcase
Walsall Showcase
Watford Vue
York PictureHouse
York Vue

If you can’t visit these locations, the film is also available on Blu-ray and DVD. The new collector’s edition release will be available on the 28th of November.

Manga UK to bring the Pokemon films and Transformers: The Movie on Blu-ray to the UK

Last month we reported that Manga Animatsu will be releasing Digimon Tri and a couple other titles to the UK this Q4. And it turns out that they also have a couple more surprises left in store!

It’s been a long time since Pokémon has been handled for home release properly here in the UK, and now Manga Entertainment UK were pleased to announce the return of this beloved anime franchise with the announcement of their acquisitions for four of the Pokémon films released so far. These four films are Pokémon: The First Movie, Pokémon 2000, Pokémon 3 and Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages.

Marketing Manager Andrew Hewson had this to say:

“We are incredibly proud and excited to announce the release of the first three Pokémon movies on limited edition Blu-ray steelbook. We pride ourselves on being the home of classic and perennial franchises and this is a great addition to the family. With the success of Pokémon Go this is the perfect time to be releasing the movies, especially as this is the first time fans can get them on Blu-ray!”

Pokemon Movies 1-3 collection

That’s right, the first three films (Pokémon: The First Movie, Pokémon 2000 & Pokémon 3) will be coming to the UK as a trilogy set; in standard DVD and as a limited edition Blu-ray steelbook on November 14th 2016. Details are unknown on whether the Blu-ray version is based on the Viz Media US masters or the Beyond Entertainment Australian masters given the audio is a tad different between the two, but regardless we are getting the first three films in HD with English audio only. These films did receive a UK release before under Warner Bros but they have since been out of print for a very long time.

Pokemon Movie 1

Pokémon: The First Movie
The adventure explodes into action with the debut of Mewtwo, a bio-engineered Pokémon created from the DNA of Mew, the rarest of all Pokémon. After escaping from the lab where it was created, Mewtwo is determined to prove its own superiority. It lures a number of talented Trainers into a Pokémon battle like never before—and of course, Ash and his friends are happy to accept the challenge!

Ash’s excitement turns to fear and anger when Mewtwo reveals its plan for domination, creating powerful clones of our heroes’ Pokémon so it can even the “imbalance” between Pokémon and their Trainers. Despite Ash’s protests, Mewtwo refuses to believe that Pokémon and people can be friends. But faced with the determination and loyalty of a young Trainer, Mewtwo just might have to reconsider…especially when pitted against the power of the mysterious Mew!

Pokemon Movie 2

Pokémon: The Movie 2000
In the Orange Islands far south of Kanto, a Trainer named Lawrence is on a sinister quest: catching the Legendary Pokémon Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres in an attempt to awaken Lugia, guardian of the sea! When Ash and friends arrive, the islanders ask him to gather three elemental orbs from different islands. As the weather across the world goes out of control, it becomes clear that the capture of the Legendary trio has thrown the environment out of balance! With Lugia’s help, can Ash find the orbs, restore the balance, and be the “chosen one” that everyone turns to?

Pokemon Movie 3

Pokémon 3: The Movie
A crystal catastrophe is unleased upon Greenfield, and Ash, Pikachu, and friends must figure out how to undo the damage to the once-beautiful town. But the unthinkable happens when Ash’s mother is kidnapped by the powerful Entei, a Pokémon thought to have existed only in legend. Now Ash must go to her rescue, uncertain of what he’ll uncover when he unlocks the real secret power behind the unbelievable turn of events: a young girl whose dream world is being turned into a nightmarish reality by the mysterious and unstoppable Unown!

Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages is one of the latest films released in the franchise for the past few years and will be available on its own for Blu-ray and DVD separately with English audio only. The release will be put out first on October 24th.

Pokemon Movie Hoopa

Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages
In a desert city by the sea, Ash, Pikachu, and their friends meet the Mythical Pokémon Hoopa, who can summon all sorts of things—including people and Pokémon—through its magic rings. The little Mischief Pokémon likes to use this talent to play harmless tricks on people…but when its true power is released, it loses control and becomes the towering and terriying Hoopa Unbound! Long ago, a brave hero stopped its rampage by confining its power in a special bottle. Now that the bottle has been rediscovered, Hoopa must confront its greatest fear! Can Ash help his new friend overcome the darkness within—or will this dangerous struggle erupt into a clash of legends?

Pokemon isn’t the only thing that Manga Entertainment have to offer this Q4! To the surprise of many, the distributor is pleased to bring the classic 1986 film Transformers: The Movie to the UK for its 30th anniversary on December 12th! The movie is technically classified as an anime because of Toei Animation’s involvement but nevertheless the movie will be available on Blu-ray in a special limited edition steelbook!

The Transformers Movie

The Blu-ray release will feature the newly remastered movie from a new 4K transfer of original film elements in wide-screen and full-frame plus a digital copy of the movie and a ton of special bonus content including:

  • ‘Til All Are One – A brand-new, comprehensive documentary looking back at TRANSFORMERS: The Movie with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!
  • Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu
  • Featurettes
  • Animated Storyboards
  • Trailers and TV Spots

Transformers: The Movie
The AUTOBOTS, led by the heroic OPTIMUS PRIME, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of MEGATRON and the DECEPTICONS. Unknown to both sides, a menacing force is heading their way – UNICRON. The only hope of stopping UNICRON lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the AUTOBOT who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the AUTOBOTS be able to save their native planet from destruction or will the DECEPTICONS reign supreme?

TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE is co-produced and directed by Nelson Shin; produced by Joe Bacal and Tom Griffin; supervising producer, Jay Bacal; executive producers, Margaret Loesch and Lee Gunther; music score by Vince Dicola and Ed Fruge.

Also included in the Q4 line-up is a special re-release of the classic Akira film, one of Manga Entertainment’s best selling anime in their catalogue. The film was released on Blu-ray once a couple years back, but now it’ll be available once again with the updated contents that both Funimation and Madman had put out not too long ago.

Akira

Akira: The Collectors Edition will include the Blu-ray, DVD and a digital copy of the movie in a special rigid box full of artcards, a reversible in-lay and a classic movie poster with a ton of new on-disc content. The most notable inclusion is there are now two English audio options; the iconic 2001 Pioneer/Animaze dub that many of us know of, and the original 1988 Streamline dub which was never included in any of the Manga UK releases. The original Japanese audio with English subtitles is also included so nothing is left out.

Bonus on-disc content includes the Akira Sound Clip (1988), Music for Akira, Director Interview (subtitled), Storyboard Collection, The Writing on the Wall, Original Trailers (subtitled), Original Commercials (subtitled), Restoring Akira, Glossary, U.S. 2013 Trailer, Trailers.

This new re-release will be available on the 28th of November. The standard edition Blu-ray and DVD sets are still available if you wish to acquire those instead.

You can pre-order the Pokémon Movies 1-3 collection, Pokémon: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages, Transformers: The Movie and Akira: The Collectors Edition over on Amazon UK and many other online retailers.

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.