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Anime Round Up July 2012

Bleach Series 9 Part 1
Released by Manga Entertainment 25 June 2012 on DVD

Last season of Bleach, the quest to defeat the Espada and rescue Orohime from Hueco Mundo reached a turning point. Having finished his climactic bout with Grimmjow, Ichigo needs to rush to the aid of his comrades and finally put a stop to Aizen and his army of Arrancar. Now, forget everything you just read because it has absolutely no relevance to Bleach series nine.

Due to the anime catching up with its source material, it’s literally interrupted itself to bring you a new plot. This isn’t news to dedicated Bleach fans, but to those who’ve stuck exclusively to the DVD’s it is a new low in filler story arcs. It’s one thing to wedge an original story in after another concludes, but to leave one midriff for another that’s not even in continuity is horrendous, especially when that new story is mediocre at best.

In the two separate interwoven storylines, one follows Ichigo as he gets tangled up with a young princess and a plot to assassinate her, the other involves a new captain to lead the Soul Society’s Squad 13. The latter is undoubtedly Bleach at its worst. It’s the office politics of the Soul Society, encompassing everything I personally disliked about the shift from a unique ghost hunter story to an attempt to create a modern day Japanese feudal system with spirits, complete with a ‘Department for Research in Development’. Urgh.

The main plot is slightly better, but by premise alone it feels uninspired, and in actual viewing comes across as extremely repetitive. Part of the problem with filler story arcs is if the plot is standalone then you know that no one of real importance can or will die, thus robbing it (a battle anime of all things) of all tension and drama. In the second disk we’re given a bit more depth to the princess Lurichiyo Kasumi?ji and her handlers, and the stakes are raised slightly, but it’s hard to forget the plot you wish you were watching.

Anime filler is a long standing problem that has lead to series being re-titled (Naruto Shippuden) and re-released (Dragonball Kai), but never have they been so lazily introduced as here. They are supposedly an unavoidable outcome, but not an excuse for sub-par writing and storytelling. Last review I said that if the next series didn’t shed light on those characters whose status as alive or dead was unclear, due to swaying story focus, then piss would truly be taken. Well, truly it has. (1.5 out of 5)

Words > Graham Ashton
Welcome to the Space Show
Director: Koji Masunari / Studio: A-1 Pictures
Released by Manga Entertainment 2 June 2012 on DVD and Blu-Ray

Check out the review of this release here.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonball Z Season 1
Director: Daisuke Nishio / Studio: Toei Animation
Released by Manga Entertainment 2 July 2012 on DVD

Say the word Toonami to cartoon fans and they’ll be magically whisked back in their memory to the glory days of the Toonami channel showing great cartoons and awesome anime on a regular basis such as Gundam, Ultimate Muscle and of course Dragonball Z. Believe it or not this was the only way UK fans could legally watch Dragonball Z, that is until now, because Dragonball Z has finally made the journey to our shores with the first season spanning a mighty six discs.

For the few people who don’t know the story of Dragonball Z by now, it stars Goku now an adult (after the ninth season of Dragonball, which is still unavailable on dvd in the UK) on a reunion with his long time friends showing off his four year old son Gohan, the happy moment is interrupted by a warrior from outer space named Radditz, who reveals the origin of Goku and why he was born with a tail.

A causal glance back a Dragonball Z will only reveal a dated and formulaic anime, however Dragonball Z was the inventor of the modern shonen (meaning for boys) anime as it stands today, without Dragonball there would be no Naruto.

With its action packed scenes, its “ok just one more episode” story pacing and the unmistakable art style of Akira Toriyama its place in history as one of the most influential anime shows of all time is assured. The Holy Grail of anime has finally arrived in the UK its uncut glory and it’s not to be missed by anyone. (5 out of 5)

Words > Jason Potter

Black Lagoon Complete Season 1 and 2
Director: Sunao Katabuchi / Studio: Madhouse
Released by Manga Entertainment 9 July 2012 on Blu-Ray

Rokuro Okajima is just an ordinary Japanese businessman, stuck working unappreciated all day long, but when he’s sent on a business cruise to deliver data his world gets turned upside down when his ship is hijacked by modern day pirates. Rokuro ends up a hostage and rather than have their shady practices revealed, his bosses leave him for dead. So with no where else to go Rokuro changes his name to Rock and joins his captors as part of Black Lagoon.

Rock gets on quite well with the Black Lagoon team who are all quite nice (for pirates) except for Revy who’s run-of-the-mill business man Rock’s opposite, an unpredictable foul mothered woman who’s armed to the teeth and prone to rash behaviour. Whilst Rock prefers to negotiate his way out of trouble or overcome it with intelligence, Revy prefers to shoot it.

A lot of the humour comes from this duo, such as their drinking contest with Revy challenging his manhood. Rock responds that he has to social drink everyday with clients – never underestimate a Japanese business man!

Black Lagoon manages a near perfect mix of character story development and all out action, watching mild mannered Rock come alive after being abandoned by his company is a thing of beauty, one moment shy and quiet and the next planning how to launch a boat of a semi sunken ship so they can torpedo a helicopter in mid air. A must watch. (4 out of 5)

Words > Jason Potter

Black Butler Complete season 2
Director: Toshiya Shinohara / Studio: A-1 Pictures
Released by Manga Entertainment 16 July 2012 on DVD

Following on a few short months from the events of season 1, the second season of Black Butler (split over two discs) follows new character Alois Trancy, a twisted young boy who in the opening episode thinks nothing of poking out his maid eye and making his butler dress him only to unbutton his shirt so he has to start again in an almost perverse display of callousness.

Fans of the original will not be disappointed though, as it’s no long before Ciel Phantomhive and his bodyguard Sebastian Michaelis show up to shake things up in the Trancy house.

On a purely technical level Black Butler has delivered with a sharp picture quality and nice smooth animation and the gothic art style certainly helps it stand out. Meanwhile the voice cast in both English and Japanese perform well.

While it’s dark and disturbing tone (although not needless or overly so) will put some people off Black Butler is certain to find its niche among anime fans. Fans of the first series are going to want to grab this although it’s short running time compared to the first season (with only about half the amount of episodes) may disappoint. (3 out of 5)

Words > Jason Potter

Fairy Tail Part 3
Director: Shinji Ishihira / Studio: A-1 Pictures, Satelight
Released by Manga Entertainment 16 July 2012 on DVD

While the most influential shonen series of all time Dragonball Z is getting its much deserved UK release this month, the next generation of shonen shows are still going strong. Chief amongst them is the fantastic Fairy Tail now on its third release spanning episodes 25-36 over two discs.

Finishing off the phantom lord arc in action packed fashion and moving the story on with secrets of some of the guild members revealed, Fairy Tail continues to engage the audience with excellent character and story development of the whole cast, rather than falling into the trap of building only the main characters, and the series as a whole benefits for it.

The animation quality is still superb with no noticeable mid-season dips in distinctive visual style or animation smoothness. As of yet the humour and pacing are still on the ball and by the DVD set’s end it leaves you wanting more. The mark of a good series. (4 out of 5)

Words > Jason Potter

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