Naruto Vol. #46 Manga Review

Naruto Vol. #46 Manga Review Pain is coming to Konoha

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Masashi Kishimoto
Translation/Adaptation: Mari Morimoto

What They Say
Naruto’s friends are tested as an attempt to overthrow Tsunade begins and they must all fight – or fall. New secrets about Pain are revealed, but they only add to the mystery of his identity. As Pain commences with the final destruction of Konoha, Naruto and the Toads prepare to take him on in battle. Can Naruto save his beloved village?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The multiple Pains have descended on the Village Hidden in the Leaf and the strongest shinobi are finding that their attacks are being nullified by the strange powers this mysterious group possesses. It quickly becomes apparent the only chance that the village has for survival is if the ninja can somehow quickly break the mysterious secret to the powers that their attackers posses but that the cost to do so may be incredibly high as they must somehow both look for clues to the attackers skills while trying to survive powerful and deadly attacks long enough to relay that information back to the rest of the village’s members.

To make mattersnot all of the strongest fighters can be present on the front lines including Tsunade who is using her summoned familiar to channel heeling energy into as many of the fighters as she can while a number of members of the secret intelligence operations are desperately trying to figure out the source of power behind the Pain persona they captured which leaves a hole in both fighting ability and leadership- a hole which a traitorous cabal from Konoha looks to exploit to gain control over what is left of the village when the fighting stops.

The Pains’ goal is to track down Naruto so the Akatsuki can gain access to Nine Tails which was sealed in him and they are willing to go to any length to find him. To Pains’ consternation though they discover that Naruto is no longer considered a hated and dispensable member of the village and that the members have embraced him to the point where they would rather give up their own lives than sell him out. When all seems lost for Konoha with the casualties already high, Pain unleashes his ultimate attack which has the ability to wrack enormous damage. Will Konoha finally be crushed or will the faith of its members be rewarded by a last minute arrival of a determined youth who just may have surpassed both the previous Hokage as well as his fallen mentor?

One of the things that Masashi Kishimoto is really good at is creating a massive payoff for events that he has built up over the course of a few volumes (even if some of that building up comes off as a touch repetitive at times) and this current volume is a shining example of just how many layers he can pack into any given battle. As the village finds that Pain has brought war to them the individual battles will push some of the characters that the reader has come to be at least familiar if not fond of to their very extremes as they come up against what looks to be an invincible foe whose abilities dwarf anything they can comprehend.

The best part though of this volume is not found in the tense intrigue or even superbly illustrated battle but in the fact that Kishimoto never forgets to include the heart that he has embedded into these characters as they go about their seemingly impossible task. While it could have been easy to let the action carry events it is the individual characters stepping up for themselves and their fellow villagers that really cements this volume as special as it is the emotions on display more than any blistering action that compels the reader to feel for the current plight and gain an understanding of why they would go so far and risk so much when it would be far easier to just surrender and give up the information that the aggressor wishes.

It’s in the moments where the village fights with one goal that the title has some of its most touching moments while exemplify the underpinnings that serve as a foundation for the payoff once Naruto makes his return. Kishimoto uses this to masterfully create a perilous situation for his protagonist to enter to attempt to hold back the wave of destruction that is being unleashed and which serves as an outstanding climax to give a vent for the pent up pressures that he had subtly created in the early part of the volume. This volume is one that mixes shonen staples with heart and produces a finished product that feels so much greater than the sum of its parts.

In Summary
When Pain invades Konoha it is going to take every ounce of the combined shinobi’s skills to hope to crack the puzzle behind his abilities before he wipes out the entire village. As Pain stalks through the village leaving carnage and destruction in his wake, it showcases the dedication and devotion that the members have to their fellow villagers as the casualty list rises when each person decides that they will fight to try to protect each other rather than attempt to scurry away and hope to survive. In the midst of all though a hidden threat rises its head and it may take more than the re-appearance of one of the village’s most powerful members complete with new power to assist the village in surviving the day.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: Digital Review
Text/Translation Grade: B

Age Rating:
Released By:
Release Date:
MSRP:

Naruto Vol. #46 Manga Review

Bleach Chapter #648 Manga Review

Bleach Chapter #648 Manga Review And a wild Ichigo was spotted!

Creative Staff:
Story/Art: Tite Kubo

What They Say:
Ichigo Kurosaki never asked for the ability to see ghost – he was born with the gift. When his family is attacked by a Hollow- a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper, dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping tortured spirits themselves find peace.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When you have as expansive a cast as you have with Bleach it doesn’t take much going on to lose sight of your main cast. Of course, Bleach excels at running a lot of subplots at the same time and spreading itself out so that it can go on for awhile, making it a double-edged sword depending on situation and characters of interest. This chapter does continue its focus on both Lille and Shunsui, which is a big plus, but it also dips us back to Ichigo himself and a few others briefly. Having only really reconnected with the manga less than ten chapters ago it certainly feels like forever for me since I really saw Ichigo, as my last real time wsa with the end of the anime. So getting something new with the character is pleasant, even if only briefly.

Getting a little prologue with Ichigo is definitely nicely done as we get him running about to his next encounter only to end up stumbling across someone else from the other said. Owing to good manners, he’s introduced as Askin Nakk le Vaar, who had apparently faced off (and defeated) Grimmjow recently. That certainly adds an air of unease to Ichigo since that means there’s definitely some power involved here, but all of that has to get shunted to the side as the nature of the area is suddenly changing. This is pretty nicely done since it has to convey the atmosphere as the spiritual pressure increases and there’s a dark sense about things that comes from Shunsui’s bankai power. Ichigo knows what it is and that’s a huge, huge, red flag as to what’s going on elsewhere and just how high the stakes are.

The bulk of the chapter is focused on what Shunsui and Lille are going through as the two continue to face off. We’ve seen things being pushed back against Shunsui while knowing that he’s likely just getting things in place for what he wants to do. And with his bankai in full effect we get to see that kind of pressure and how it seemingly doesn’t have any impact on Lille, which makes Lille even more confident and cockier. But seeing the truth of what Shunsui’s able to do and the nature of his power makes for a really solid turning point in the battle between them. There’s some really nicely laid out pages here that sets the tone well with the backgrounds making it feel more a part of things, especially since of the scale aspects with how Lille’s attacks work. It’s certainly not as richly detailed as it could be but it definitely clicks well when combined with what we get from Ichigo’s smaller sequence.

In Summary:
While I enjoyed this installment just for reconnecting with Ichigo and getting a few others gracing the panels ever so briefly, the main attraction is definitely still all about the Shunsui and Lille fight. With it having shifted away from exposition and rules to actual encounters it’s definitely moving well and fast here with a quick scaling up of who can do what. It’s no surprise to see Lille believing he has the upper hand based on his background and knowledge of his own abilities, but the discounting of things like the bankai – which he admits he has no knowledge of its abilities – is just a dangerously foolish move. There’s a good sense of style about this installment, helped by my own happiness at seeing more backgrounds or stage settings at least, but a lot of what drives it is just Shunsui feeling like he’s right at that tipping point with just being done with all of this.

Grade: B

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media via Weekly Shonen Jump’s ComiXology Release
Release Date: October 26th, 2015
MSRP: $0.99

Bleach Chapter #648 Manga Review

Blue Drop Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

Blue Drop Complete Collection Anime DVD Review Life goes by as always as humanity is unaware it’s about to be invaded by a dying race of alien women. Hot women. In skimpy skintight outfits.

What They Say:
When Mari Wakatake arrives at the gate of the exclusive Kaihou Academy, she is a girl without a past. Five years earlier, something happened to her. Something that took the lives of her parents and every other human on Kamioki Island then wiped her mind clean of even memories. But if Mari’s past is an unknown nightmare, her future may soon become even more terrifying.Because while she was the sole human survivor, there is something else that lived through that same night, and her path is about to cross Mari’s again. Something in a female skin has invaded Kaihou Academy, and Mari is its target. The subjugation of Earth has begun, and the heart of one young woman may be the key to our race’s ultimate salvation or damnation.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series gives us a monolingual release in that we get a good stereo mix of the Japanese language track encoded at 224kbps and that’s it. The series is mostly a dialogue piece as most episodes focus on the day to day lives of the girls at school, but the action sequences when they do come up have a bit more impact to them and utilize the soundstage better. The dialogue scenes work well too though most of them only have one person talking at a time and there isn’t a whole lot of depth to be found during it. It’s a good solid mix overall that serves the material well and it’s free of problems such as hiss, distortions, and dropouts.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in the slightly unusual format of six/seven. Blue Drop has a good clean look to it though there are some areas where it feels a little soft intentionally to create a mood. Colors have a good look to them throughout with only some scenes, such as a sunset, showcasing a bit more noise than you’d normally see. Line noise is very minimal during panning sequences and there’s just a hint or two of cross coloration in a particularly busy scene. Blue Drop doesn’t intend to be a strong visual show so it plays with softer colors throughout, but when it wants to do vibrant colors such as the purple on the ships, it does so very well as they stand out beautifully. There’s very little to really do more than nitpick with here and fans of the show will likely be pleased by what they see.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this series uses a good piece of artwork from the original Japanese releases by having Hagino and Mari reaching across to each other, hand in hand, while the Blue ship is behind them moving across the water. The light background draws all the attention to the characters and the ship while the shades of blue help to give it a bit more definition. The Japanese logo is also a really good one as it uses the title along with the Earth itself in an eye-catching way. The back cover keeps to the same light shades of blue and white as it has some design artwork in the background while the foreground is given over to more color. Slim shots from the show are done up along the sides of the cast while the middle has a decent summary of the overall premise. There’s also more good larger character artwork here along with another shot of the ship that looks a bit more like a whale than the front cover angle does. Production information is clean and clear to read and the technical grid covers everything very well though it does list the show as being in 5.1 when it’s a stereo mix. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu layout for Blue Drop is rather straightforward as it uses some of the futuristic designs from the back cover of the series as its background here while placing different pieces of character artwork on each volume. It’s a simple menu design with some nice moody instrumental music that plays along for about half a minute before looping back again. The lower middle section of the menu features the navigation strip which allows for top-level access of each episode as well as dipping into the special features section. Because of this being a monolingual release, no language selection menu is available but you can turn subtitles off on the fly during regular playback. Everything loads quickly and smooth and because of its monolingual nature our players’ presets weren’t an issue at all.

Extras:
The extras are made up of the clean versions of the opening and closing sequence as well as a really nice little gallery of full colors pieces of artwork. Some look to be from the Japanese DVD releases while others are conceptual pieces of artwork of the various ships.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the world created in the two short form manga series by Akihito Yoshitomi, Blue Drop is a thirteen episode series with some rather mild yuri overtones to it simply because it’s an all-girls cast at an all girls school. What makes this series interesting is that it isn’t an adaptation of an existing manga but rather serves as a prequel story to it as the events here are before the war between humanity and the Arume. The manga material takes place after the war, which is what the bookend periods of the show deal in for about a minute at the start of the series and for a minute at the end of it.

Blue Drop takes place in a present-day world where we’re introduced to high school senior Mari Wakatake. Her life has just been upended as she’s being forced from living with her grandmother to living at one of the dorms at Kaio Academy, a somewhat privileged place where very few people without some money behind them go. Mari is completely against it and can’t understand why her grandmother is doing this. Unfortunately, her grandmother is keeping a secret from her that she’s close to dying so she doesn’t want to be a burden on Mari and wants her to get on with her life.

Mari’s life has not been easy and we learn that she’s never even been in school, at least according to her memory. Some five years prior, Mari was the sole survivor of an incident on Kamioki island where all eight hundred or so residents died mysteriously in an unexplained natural disaster. Only it wasn’t truly a natural disaster as when the bodies were discovered, half of the people had died before the water hit and the majority of them appeared to have been murdered in various and cruel ways. Because of the incident, Mari lost her parents and her memory of what happened, so it’s understandable that another big change in her life is causing her to act like quite a petulant child.

Much of the series focuses on Mari’s integration into the school where she befriends a girl named Michiko. Michiko isn’t like most of the girls in the school as she’s a local who was accepted there without much money, but it’s interesting that the other kids don’t come across as fabulously wealthy. They’re a little snobbish and they don’t talk to Michiko at all and Mari finds herself in the same boat, though she doesn’t want to talk to anyone whereas Michiko wants to be a part of things. The dorm that Mari lives in has a small cast of cute characters to it that help flesh things out, but nothing that delves all that deeply though we do get some nice small moments of knowing some of them. Where Mari has things go really wrong is when one of the most popular and respected girls in the school, Hagino, starts to take an interest in her. An interest that initially has her trying to strangle her.

The story of Hagino is the real focus though it’s one that plays out in two different ways. One of them is the aforementioned integration as Hagino ends up being taken by Mari and that causes all sorts of issues. Mari and Hagino, at least in my eyes, have a very strong friendship born here, almost a sisterly love rather than a pure romantic love. What complicates it is that Hagino is actually a commander in the advance fleet that’s come to investigate Earth. Or that’s at least what Hagino was told and believes as the fleet is actually testing out things before its invasion of the world, as her people – the Arume – are close to extinction and they need Earth to continue on. The science fiction elements often feel very out of place here because it lacks a kind of internal consistency to make it work. So many resources are put out in order to eliminate a rogue ship from the advance fleet – a rogue ship that’s in very rough shape – and they have a nearly impossible time doing it. Yet they’re going to invade the world?

The visual design of Blue Drop is fairly standard school material as we get the private-ish academy that’s set off in the woods outside a town that’s fallen on rough times. The locales look good if indistinct overall (and I love backgrounds that put business phone numbers as 123-456-7890) and the school itself works well though it lacks anything that really distinguishes itself. The Arume side of the show doesn’t make out as good in some ways as it plays more for fanservice than being anywhere near functional. The advance fleet has costumes that are basically silvery white swimsuits and they have no obvious issues with it. Only the command level characters seem to wear anything more than this and really doesn’t look good for the cast. The ship designs themselves are interesting, especially where we see Blue moving through the ocean like a dolphin as it introduces a neat design idea, but with the general scheme being all about gray, silver and purple, the ships really aren’t all that compelling. The megabomber moment is another example of this as it looks like one of the ships drops a massive metallic egg which takes you out of the show completely, never mind the sheer overkill of the story moment itself.

In Summary:
Blue Drop left me rather uncertain about it overall. After watching it, I went and read up on the original manga for reference and that material seems like it’s far more interesting as it deals with the war and invasion itself, as well as a story taking place after the war. This prequel to all of it has some interesting moments, but it doesn’t seem to know how to tell it in a compelling way. The concept of an alien invasion working this way isn’t bad, it offers some fun ways of dealing with it, but it gets stuck with overly dramatic moments that don’t connect well for the viewer. Subplots lack impact and much time is spent on the scholastic side. Both stories can be told well at the same time, but it waffles too much between figuring out which one it really wants to focus on. In the end, this series left me really wanting to read the manga more than anything else as I wanted to see the invasion, the war and the aftermath of it all rather than the lead up to it.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promotional Video, Japanese TV Spot, Art Gallery, Clean Opening & Clean Closing

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 17th, 2009
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Blue Drop Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

Super Sonico Episode #12 Anime Review (Season Finale)

Super Sonico Episode #12 Anime Review (Season Finale)

Super Sonico Episode 12

Sometimes you just need a positive and life affirming series to enter your life. Super Sonico completely fits that need.

What They Say:
“Super Sonico” debuted as Nitro+’s live mascot girl, and her world will be brought to life in the anime, “SoniAni – SUPER SONICO THE ANIMATION -”!

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final episode of the series, it’s not hard to imagine that we’d get more slice of life material that actually provides an actual look at life more than just some banality that leaves you feeling tired of its triteness. With a series that focused on Sonico going through school or spending an episode simply traveling – on her own no less – and the kinds of things you have to do in order to live a normal life, it’s been surprisingly engaging on a level that I don’t think those who became fans ever expected. Particularly when you consider that this is an anime series about a mascot character. Which is why it’s ease to just slide into the musical aspects of it, which may be its strong point for some but is a weaker point for me. But even with that, Sonico’s personality shines through with her outlook on life that makes it fun to see them perform.

It helps that it’s not all about the performing as that has been a part of the show from the start but never a dominating factor. It’s another piece of her life, something that younger fans may get something from since it doesn’t become the totality of Sonico or the show. Giving more time to her singing aspirations is rather welcome here, especially as the group does run into some trouble as they’re running out of funds to perform. While it’s her passion, you can also see that because of the way they do it, they’re probably not bringing in a ton of money to do the kinds of concerts they do. So the focus comes down here to her working with the adults that hang around in her grandmothers restaurant where they’re coming up with ideas on how to put together a concert for everyone. And because of the connected nature of the district and those that live and work there, it’s the kind of thing that gets done well and is spread across the entirety of the episode as we move back and forth in time to see it unfold.

Getting that back and forth usually is problematic in a story structure, but the light nature of it works here and the music ties it together just as well, though it’s not without its challenges along the way either as it can’t all be a breeze. This also brings us some fun as we get to see Sonico’s grandmother stepping up to the stage to play, which brings back a great flashback to the distant past of her own youth that the other older guys all remember quite well, adding a fun layer to the show. Between this, the character touches in the present and the nods towards the previous stories in the series done as a musical montage, Super Sonico hits all the right notes here and reminds you exactly why you like it. You may not connect deeply with some of the characters, but you like what it presents and how it presents it.

In Summary:
Super Sonico surprised me since I sort of tried it on a whim, expecting the usual mascot kind of show that would provide superficial fanservice and perhaps some comedy, which is a great way to start off the week with what one watches. Instead, I was treated to a thoughtful, introspective and fairly feminist series in a lot of ways that was restrained with what it did and sought to have fun in realistic ways. It’s not an out of the park hit that does something truly amazing, but it’s a bright spot among the sea of shows that just pander. And when you really look at what it’s all about, it’s the kind of show that actually treats its mascot right, and that in turn makes you feel a lot better about the company itself and the other works that they’ll produce.

Grade: B

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Super Sonico Episode #12 Anime Review (Season Finale)

The World God Only Knows Season 2 Anime DVD Review

The World God Only Knows Season 2 Anime DVD Review A gamer’s work is never done.

What They Say:
Every otaku’s favorite dating-sims champion is back! Keima still has his adorable lost soul-hunting, demon cutie with him, and together, they continue their pursuit of finding escaped lost souls who are hiding within beautiful, young school girls. But how to release these trapped spirits? Why, they have to get the girls to fall in love, of course! This time when lost souls turn up in everyone from the school’s sexy bully to the school’s hottest new student teacher, Keima finds even his romantic powers are going to have to work over time. And when a giant loose soul turns the entire school into a group of love-starved zombies, Keima and Elsie have to recruit a new demon to help!

The Review:
Audio:
The release of this television series contains two language options- English and Japanese- though both tracks are limited to only a stereo mix likely due to the materials only being available to Sentai in that manner given how the original Japanese track was constructed. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth. The track also works well to provide directionality when appropriate and it covers the low sounding effects as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance. On top of this the dialogue is presented clearly and there were no dropouts or distortions noticed during playback.

Video:
Originally premiering on Japanese television during the 2011 season, the series is presented here in its original 1.78:1 ratio with an anamorphic widescreen encode. The series itself is one that likes to make use of quite a bit of the color spectrum including rather bright colors as well as also making use of more subtle ones with some of the clothing choices and for the most part colors come across well and the blacks are solid and vibrant as well. The DVD release has a few encode issues though, most noticeably a rather distracting level of noise that has the ability to really make its presence known and be disruptive on occasion. In addition to this, though not nearly as distracting, is the presence of blocking, aliasing, dot crawl, banding, bleeding, artifacting, moiré, and some minor ghosting. It certainly doesn’t reach anywhere near “unwatchable” scale but it is prevalent enough that I would suggest going for the Blu Ray upgrade to those whose setups will accommodate the format.

Packaging:
The release comes packaged in an eco DVD case that includes a middle flipper page to hold one disc while the other disc is held on the back inside portion of the case. The front cover features Elsie as well as a fellow demon/Loose Soul hunter Haqua du Rot Herminium as they stand close facing toward the viewer with their bodies facing each other while holding hands against a warm crème- orange colored sky with the series title and key logo present in a banner at the bottom of the cover. The spine meanwhile features a smiling image of Kemia against the same orange sky backdrop at the top in an almost noble type pose with his right leg lifted as if placed on a step to give him a bit of a regal air with the title being present just under this.
The back cover features an angled image that has Haqua on the left riding her scythe while the right has an image of Elsie riding her broom (and showing off a lot of leg in the process for fanservice) against a crème orange backdrop with white lines as they form almost the sides of a triangle in their presentation. Above the two the series copy is listed against a white backdrop while the space between the two demons is filled with 8 stills of various sizes taken from the episodes within while below that are the listings for Extras, copyright information and the discs technical specs.

The series is presented on two discs in an even 6 episodes each split, the first disc using an image of Kusunoki Kasuga who is kneeling on the ground while leaning slightly forward against the wind with a small kitten clutching the back flap of her school uniform for the label while the second disc features an image of Jun Nagase with her class roster held high in her right hand and her pink PFP behind her back in her left as she stands in front of a large school window with a blue sky with white clouds and whiter birds.

Menu:
The menus for the discs are similar in presentation and function as they are static affairs in terms of the images present on them. Disc one uses an image of Haqua on the left as she sits leaning back almost like she is about to lean on the part of a large circle that is partially presented which contains the episodes that are included listed on the right in a stacked fashion as a short bit from the opening plays as background music. As a game joke the episodes are again referred to as “Flags” which is a term from the type of game that the main character plays and which was used in the series itself. The sub screens use an image of a smiling Chihiro looking over her left shoulder for the Language one and Kusunoki Kasuga from the cover of disc one for the Special Features as a portion of the close plays for both screens.

Disc two’s main image features Elsie behind and slightly above Keima who stands in a powerful pose at an angle with his right hand held against his temple while his left thrusts his PFP toward the viewer. The Language screen uses the image of Elsie and Haqua from the packages cover and the Special Features screen uses the image of Jun Nagase from the disc label though it places her against a crème-orange background with white lines like is found on the back of the DVD packaging cover. Disc two also uses the same audio tracks in the same places as disc one and both menus use a small skull icon to indicate the currently highlighted option which changes color when selected. The icon is quick to respond to selection changes and the implementation of selection choices is made with minimal delay.

Extras:
In addition to the almost industry standard clean open and closings Sentai also includes a pair of short extras that collect commercials used to promote both the series itself both before and during its airing in the TV Spots extra as well as a selection named Japanese Release Spots which collect some of the commercials used to promote the home video release of the series as well as some of the CDs theme and character songs associated with the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are still Loose Souls rampaging about and as such Keima Katsuragi is still bound by his contract with Hell to pair up with Elsie and recapture them if he ever hopes to have his time back to himself to play his games to his heart’s content not to mention if he wants to keep his head. To this end the second season brings with it some familiar tasks as he must still use his gaming skills to try to free unfortunate girls from the Souls that have wormed their way into the empty spots in their hearts.

This time around though there may be some new events with twists that Kemia has to navigate as the concepts that he knows so well when it comes to games may have higher stakes in the real world as there is no “reset” option to undo a bad decision if he misjudges things and some of the actions that appear in games may have more painful consequences in the real world. Still with his life on the line and more importantly his free time at stake Kemia is going to have to use all his skills to help those around him who become trapped by souls from hell while trying as best he can to pretend that he can hide the effects his efforts have on his own heart while also making time for his precious games.

The World God Only Knows hits its second season in full stride using the structure that the series set up in the first season to allow it to leap right into events. This is both a good thing in that it allows the series to get right into the meat of things again but it does run a risk of pushing things to a point where the rather repetitive nature of the setup and its lack of developing a deeper core may finally be working against it. That most story arcs revolve around a character type that has become a staple (if not stereotypical archetype of its own) doesn’t make for the greatest of starts as the lack of having many reoccurring characters or repercussions takes some of the emotion out of events.

Whether it is to answer that start or to try to push the series in a new direction, a pair of story arcs early in the second season look like they might allow for events to change as the introduction of new character Haqua along with a new type of Loose Soul allows both for some explanation behind the series setup as well as the potential ability to shake things out of their groove but it is the story that follows that where the true brilliance and possibilities of the series concept shine. In that tale Kemia finds himself in a brand new position of both having to deal with a lack of desire to help someone caught up in events as well as having to really focus on his own tendency to only see things from the point of his gaming history rather than recognize that some events will fall outside of that and people can be so very much more than a collection of tropes that make for easy storytelling devices.

In addition to this, the series also throws in a pair of tales that are used as comical little moments of satire that attempt to poke fun at times of the anime or gaming world in general which provide some hit or miss comedy but it is actually the quiet moments of a series that uses a lot of energy and humor that I find the most attractive. While the series is built on its humor the moments that really bring the characters to life are found in between the frenetic pace of events when the characters pause and take a bit of reflection, particularly in Kemia’s case as his general level of conceit and self absorbed nature could easily make for a better antagonist character but when he drops his defenses and shows just how human he is and how much events have impacted him that the series really stands out and which the series could have used more moments of to step out and seize some fantastic character potential.

This season much like its predecessor walks a very fine line at times as the idea that a person can be classified to a point where someone can say just a couple of right words at the right time to win their heart is pretty borderline insulting to its characters and also audience. The saving grace is often just how delicately the writers work to handle events and how they can show that Kemia is more than just cynically treating “real” people the way he does those he manipulates on his game screens. It takes a really deft touch which the series doesn’t always manage as skillfully as one might wish but when added to the humor and heart that is inserted to lay behind each of the tales the series avoids falling completely into a pitfall. The only other major weakness here is in the need to follow the manga as a seemingly major character is introduced in Haqua who then almost completely disappears in the stories that follow which leaves a kind of empty spot in her wake after the amount of setup she receives. Still those who enjoyed the first season of the show will likely find that much of what they loved exists here as well though the repetition of the basic concept may be close to wearing out its welcome.

In Summary:
The second season of The World God Only Knows arrives on home video and brings with it most of the same concepts from the original season as it also takes care to mix in some new twists and facets so it doesn’t become just “more of the same.” Those who loved the first season will find much to like here as the series continues its pursuit of its theme though in doing so it may wear on some viewer’s patience. In a number of cases this season feels like one that covers a fair amount of the same ground as the original and as such which lacks some of the initial sparkle the first created but fans may find that this season contains a few moments where it is able to surpass the original, even if the whole of the season can’t quite manage to do so.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promo, TV Spots, Release Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 7th, 2012
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

The World God Only Knows Season 2 Anime DVD Review

Tokyo Ravens Episode #18 Anime Review

Tokyo Ravens Episode #18 Anime Review

Tokyo Ravens Episode 18

The fallout from Natsume’s revelation is dealt with.

What They Say:
Harutora and the others return to school for the first time after the incident that revealed Natsume’s true gender.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tokyo Ravens has moved along with its couple of storylines fairly decently, depending on how much interest you have when it comes to the behind the scenes adult storyline going on, but it’s also done some decent things when it comes to the characters. While Harutora can be sidelined for a bit or made a tad impotent for a storyline, it’s just interesting to see him in general with other characters. He’s been a good influence on Suzuka and that’s made her more palatable at times but the real meat continues to be in seeing how he and Natsume get along. The two have steadily gotten closer and closer over the past year of stories in their world, with a few months happening off camera at that, so seeing them being more comfortable around each other doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. There’s a lot to like with the pairing, though it’d connect more if we saw more of them in casual mode.

Natsume is front and center with this episode as the first half largely deals with the fallout from her revelation about her gender in the previous episode. She’s fine with those that are closest to her in general, though Kyoko is keeping her distance in particular, and Natsume’s time in the dorm is a bit awkward since she’s still in the same boys dorm. They’re keeping their distance as one would expect. But Natsume is finding some positive thoughts and words from many other classmates, especially since she and the others saved so many of them during the recent incidents and that hasn’t been forgotten. It’s a pretty realistic aspect, but the main focus is on Kyoko herself. Harutora is trying to smooth things over a bit with her for Natsume, but Kyoko has her issues that won’t let it be dealt with quite so easily as there’s some real meaning behind her concerns and thoughts.

This makes for a pretty good first half, but the second half once again just spirals into other areas that supposedly will be important but leaves me cold. It focuses on the Tsuchimikado residence and some of what’s going on there as it introduces more characters, or perhaps characters that made minor appearances before but were largely forgettable, and it showcases a bit of power both in terms of ability and the more classical sense of it. Similar to previous episode that have done this with other characters, it’s trying to build a larger narrative about what’s going on but it’s simply not working for me in the slightest, making half the episode essentially without meaning and pretty much empty. Which is unfortunate since when it focuses on the core cast as it did in the first half of the series, it’s a lot more engaging.

In Summary:
The show has a decent enough episode in the first half with what it has to approach as we see the fallout from Natsume’s gender revelation made and how people are reacting to it. There’s some good stuff in there with the characters and I liked how it spun off to deal with the issues Kyoko has, allowing Harutora to try and figure it out and help her with it. The second half again lays more foundation for the big finale arc, but similar to attempts at doing that in previous episodes, it leaves me simply not caring. Which will undercut a lot of the importance of what’s to come outside of the core cast’s participation, which won’t be enough to salvage it I suspect.

Grade: C

Streamed By: FUNimation

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Apple TV via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Tokyo Ravens Episode #18 Anime Review

Moretsu Pirates Episode #17 Anime Review

Moretsu Pirates Episode #17 Anime Review Marika’s facing some tough choices but the risks could certainly be worth the reward.

What They Say:
For Marika, being a pirate is about taking risks, and kidnapping is something licensed pirates do not engage in. Before Marika can put her plan into action, an unidentified ship heading toward the Bentenmaru changes everything.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The exploration of what it manes to be a licensed pirate is definitely interesting since it’s a bit of theatrics, a bit of commerce and a fair amount of risk when you get down to it. But because it’s legalized, there are regulations and rules about what you can and can’t do. So when the Bentenmaru is approached by a young man who has orchestrated events to get their attention, they learn that he wants to hire them so as to kidnap his true love before she’s married off to some interest. Lynn is intent on making sure that she doesn’t end up in a bad way as Jenny has an impressive life ahead of her, from a company that she has to going to university. It’s something that definitely moves Marika, which isn’t a surprise.

While Chiaki is the only one that’s against this, even she comes over to agreeing to it after making it clear what some of the costs will be if things go wrong, especially considering the inexperienced crew they have overall. The first half of the episode deals with the whole catching up to where she is and the rescue itself, which plays out in a rather surprising form as things go much quicker than you’d expect based on how the series has progressed to date and we get to see that Jenny is and isn’t like what Lynn has portrayed her to be. The reunion is far quicker than one would expect and that leads to its own bit of fun as the two get to have a passionate embrace, which cutely has all the girls on the bridge squealing with delight. Pirates indeed.

The second half deals with the fallout from the event as there’s some amusing connections going on here, from who Jenny really is and the group that’s now after her to cause trouble. Not surprising is the direction that Jenny’s uncle takes when he finds out that she’s on the Bentenmaru as he doesn’t go for the heavy force approach but rather massaging it from the back by going to their insurance company to try and get things resolved in a cleaner fashion to his liking. It’s fun to see that approach used since not only does he do things as you’d expect but you see Jenny and Lynn have their own strengths here to play, which in an amusing way puts Marika in a position of power with all of this, something that you wouldn’t have expected considering all the risks she did take from the start of this whole arc when he crew ended up sick.

In Summary:
While this part does set things to a close in one way, it opens it up to more as the real mission begins and the true part of the arc gets underway. The use of Lynn was mildly interesting at first but the bringing in of Jenny and who she really is makes for a lot more fun since it makes it all quite personal for the yacht club members who are now playing at being Cosplay Pirates for Marika as he crew is down and out in quarantine. Not unlike the series as a whole, the show here definitely has its own vibe and goes in a particular way with its pacing and structure that feels a little off but still manages to work because of how it all comes together. There’s some fun to be had here even if it overplays its hand a bit with the Lynn and Jenny relationship and reunion

Grade: B

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Moretsu Pirates Episode #17 Anime Review