Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Anime Collection Update: Baka and Test Summon the Beasts Season 1

My first import copy arrived very quickly so I nabbed some screenshots of the version I bought.

This import copy is from USA and is bundled as a Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack. The collection includes the season one episodes 1 to 13 plus a ton of extras stated below. There are five discs included with this combo, 3 for DVD and 2 for Blu-Ray. If you live in the United Kingdom or Australia where you only have the DVD version then this is the definite version for you guys as this package is also available for Region 2 and 4 on DVD and Region B for Blu-Ray. Great deal for us British folk who are missing out on the Blu-Ray release with Manga Entertainment UK distributing it. This is packaged in a DVD case rather than a Blu-Ray case but I guess with 5 discs, the size wouldn't be big enough anyway!

Screenshots are below and maybe a possible YouTube unboxing if the quality and sound is great:

Special Features:
Baka-Only Cross-Dressing Contest
Mission: Impossible: Baka Preview
Mission: Impossible: Baka Mission 01
Mizuki Himeji Girls' Meal
The King Game in Fumizuki Academy
Special Christmas Footage
Promo Videos
Original Commercials
Original DVD Spots
Baka and Test Tales
Textless Songs & Trailers

Languages: English, Japanese
Sound: English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Japanese Stereo
Subtitles: English (for Japanese Dub)
Region: 1,2,4
Other: 16:9, Dolby Digital

Languages: English, Japanese
Video: 1080p High Definition 16x9 (HD Native)
Sound: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1, Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 2.0
Subtitles: English (for both Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0)
Region: A,B

Quick Key for Regions:
Region 1 is United States of America
Region 2 is United Kingdom and Europe
Region 4 is Australia and New Zealand
Region A is Japan, Asia and United States of America
Region B is United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa

So, what's next on my import list? Well now that I trust United Publications I will continue to use their service to purchase more anime (if the package is already in the UK then you can avoid Import Tax). I will try out Otaku UK and CD Japan later in the year.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Collection Update: Imports

UPDATE 14/04/2013: Added photos of the box-cover just to point out which version I have intended on importing.

Just a short update about what's been planned in the next few months.

First of, I now have a debit card and I will be importing anime that has been released in Japan and America. The decision to do this is mainly due to the lack of acceptance to anime here in the UK. Despite we have Manga Entertainment UK, MVM UK, Studio Canal and KAZE FR supporting anime fans with the releases, the titles that have been released are not up to the standard in contrast to the products that FUNimation and Aniplex have done for USA and various companies in general over in Japan. This means that we only get just the basic DVD of each of the titles and no special extras [only Textless Openings/Endings], limited edition [only steel-books being the closest to limited] releases and Blu-Ray versions (with the exception to shows with only 13 episodes or have very high demand such as Code Geass and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood).

There have been problems with few titles that have planned to get a Blu-Ray version but were never able to get them distributed officially in the end. Examples have included:
  • 5 Centimeters Per Second
    • Reason: Technical licencing problem & No agreement to allow Blu-Ray version.
    • Best Version to find: Japan's Global Edition, Region Free and is also Dual Audio.
  • Casshern Sins
    • Reason: Lack of profitable sales from Part 1
    • Best Version to find: Part 1, Part 2 and a Complete Series version is available in USA, Region Locked however.
  • K-On!
    • Reason: Technical licencing problem regarding packaging and cost
    • Best Version to find: At the moment, the USA version is not recommended at this point as they have split the series into parts with a big price for each one. Suggest wait unless there are no plans to make a complete season collection for both Season 1 and Season 2. USA version is Region Locked. However, Madman has released the complete Season 1 blu-ray boxset for Australia, and Part 1-2 of Season 2, all of which are in the same region as the UK.
  • Sengoku Basara
    • Reason: Unknown, possibly lack of profitable sales from Season 1.
    • Best Version to find: Season 2 is available in USA Region Free. Australia also has Season 1, Season 2 and the Last Party movie available on blu-ray.
  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
    • Reason: Technical Fault with Region B conversion, EU PS3's won't accept version
    • Best Version to find: Australia has the film on BD though it's not 100% confirmed it will work on UK PS3 consoles. USA has a Double Play but Region Locked.
  • X-AM'D: Lost Memories
    • Reason: Lack of profitable sales from Part 1
    • Best Version to find: Collection 1 and Collection 2 are available on Blu-ray by Madman in Australia. Collection 1, Collection 2 and the Complete Collection is also available in USA though it's Region Locked.
  • Various other titles that didn't get a BD release because of the audience or cost:
    • Examples include
      • Aria the Scarlet Ammo
      • Baccano!
      • Baka and Test
      • Black Butler
      • Chaos;Head
      • Clannad & Clannad After Story
      • Darker Than Black
      • Fairy Tail
      • Freezing
      • Okami-san and Her Seven Companion
      • Sekirei
      • Spice and Wolf
      • Squid Girl
      • The World God Only Knows

Luckily, the UK Otakus are allowed to import anime from overseas (with the cost of paying a bit higher and getting screwed with import tax) so various titles can still be bought to keep everyone happy. Manga-wise, they are still being distributed in various book stores so there is no worry about those.

Just to sum up my point, I will be importing anime soon though it won't be very expensive like the Haruhi Suzumiya Blu Ray collection which is almost £200 if converted from 30,000 Yen. Shows that I have considered to import as a starter include:
  • 5 Centimeters Per Second

  •  Baccano!

  • Baka and Test

UPDATE: I have the US copy of Baka & Test Season 1, very good quality and works for UK DVD and Blu-ray players. I have also updated the information above.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Anime, Part 3: 15+1 Great Films (Watched so far)

In the third part of my major discussion topic of anime, I have finally decided from the list of films  I have seen to choose fifteen of the best recommended that I can give you. Remember my opinion may differ from the final overall verdict as I have only limited this list from films I have seen so there may be other popular films not included, such as the big three.

In no major order, except how I have viewed them, here's my list:

Honourable Mention:
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

I personally left this film out of the big list for a few reasons. While it is one of my favourite Japanese anime films and really does fit the game's themes and story, the overall presentation is more CGI orientated than any other anime. Another reason is because the target audience for this film is mainly to those who really love the franchise and the games in general. I don't see a way to present this film in the list as a recommendation without the person's knowledge of the franchise, personally I didn't even play Final Fantasy VII but I do know the overall plot behind it and the characters.

If you manage to find the film in a rental place, then I do recommend you check the film out in your spare time. In fact, the fight scenes and the music are very good. I have also watched the Extended edition 'Advent Children Complete' which is Blu-Ray only and has 20+ minutes of new footage to add to the mix. This mix also helps give a better understanding of the plot so I recommend searching for that version if you have a Blu-Ray player.

Honourable Mention:
Studio Ghibli films

I have left all major Studio Ghibli films out of the list mainly because they will ruin the list in general as each of them deserve to be included (well a majority to say). But since it has been placed into one honourable section also means that I can discuss my favourite Ghibli films.

Princess Mononoke

This film really contrasts from the other Ghibli films. I say that because rather than having a happy or family related story, this film is rather dark in the same way Grave of the Fireflies has been presented. The story focuses on a young male who has been attacked and infected with a deadly infection that will consume his body in a matter of days. His only hope was to locate the source to where the infected animal came from, and thus ends up running into a small mining village and Princess Mononoke, the princess of the forests.

The film is quite lengthy with 130 minutes of screen-time so there's plenty of character development and story-telling going on. I picked this title because the film really got my attention during the battle scenes and the very well designed CGI thanks to the big budget the studio used. I watched the dubbed version however but the sound is doable. Well worth the watch if you want to start your Ghibli collection.

Whisper of the Heart

My personal favourite from the whole collection. This film is a slice of life that follows a young girl who encounters a shop which influences her to create a story about a cat in a suit. I felt the plot was literally almost flawless (I say that because of the decision the sole director made about the film's ending) and the characters get along with really well. The sound and music really fits the film's theme perfectly especially the film's translated cover of Country Road, which is one of the main key points of the film overall.

I watched the subbed version from the Great Collection I own and the actors fit the roles very well done. For those who want to watch the dubbed version should know that the main roles are voiced by none other than the actors from Kingdom Hearts who voiced Riku and Namine (interesting isn't it). If the film wasn't enough, there's the spin-off The Cat Returns that is also great to watch (standing up cats is rather humorous).

Other good titles to watch from Studio Ghibli include:

  • Nausicaa
  • Grave of the Fireflies
  • Howl's Moving Castle
  • Ocean Waves
  • Porco Rosso
  • Spirited Away
  • The Cat Returns
But really, every single one of them is really worth the watch, well almost since Earthseas was average.

Now to get back onto the major list of the discussion. The above was mentioned because they are also great films to watch, but Studio Ghibli will most likely take out about 8 of the films in this list. The list below contains a majority of the films that I have watched since I started watching anime properly. Ranging from classic sci-fi hits to brilliant work from Makoto Shinikai.


Akira is like the granddaddy of anime for English localisation. Alongside Ghost in the Shell, Akira has presented itself as a science fiction epic about a boy who gains powers and tries to seek out revenge on Akira who caused an catastrophic impact on Tokyo decades back. Akira is based on the six volume manga of the same name and provides great story telling, characters and epic music (DAAAA DAAAA DA DA) during the second half of the film. The main characters Tetsuo and Kaneda are like brothers (one of them argues that ones better than the other but they both stick out for each other) and the story develops as one of them becomes much more dangerous while the other gets caught in a terrorist resistance group after saving a member of the group Kei. The presentation is stunning, like no anime could get as much detail to the action at its time (well some of them of course but this film is a masterpiece).

The film is rather mature thanks to one uncensored partial nudity scene and tons of violence presented in the film, so for those who are quite young might want to skip this one unless they can handle the amount of gore thrown to them (not as gory as Elfen Lied, but slightly less). For my first time watching this, I was quite disturbed by the ending battle (and I'm sure I am not alone on that one) but that being said, this film is one of the best to watch and a good starting point for novice users.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is an interesting film to talk about. For starters, this film alongside Akira helped give anime localisation to the US. But the major difference between this and Akira is that the film's main character questions herself about whether she is human or just a replaceable cyborg. The film's setting is based on cybernetics and advanced technology which helps us give a good feel to what the future could be like. Ghost in the Shell may be short for its length (only 90 minutes long which is my only flaw about this film) but the story and action scenes really keep my enjoyment up throughout the film. The intro music itself really gets my attention in this film and the plot's outcome is rather surprising.

The presentation for this film has no CGI whatsoever, and since it came out during the 90s does show its age nonetheless. So guess what Production I.G. did half a decade later? They made a revised version with CGI animation, known as the '2.0' version. See the comparison between the images above, slightly modified for one hand drawn scene. But still I'll make some comparisons later, but not to worry about that. This film is a great masterpiece to watch and if you do end up with the 2.0 version, have no fear as the new version does include the original since I checked the Blu-Ray box about five times already (plus these comparisons are from the Blu-Ray version of GitS 2.0).

Summer Wars

A surprising choice to make for this film. This is the perfect example of using CGI and anime at the same time. Summer Wars involves a teenager geek who coincidently disrupts a social network service and with the help of his friends's family, plan to fix this before it gets worse. The story may be simple but it's the character development that really got my attention in this film. The most important character may be in fact the grandmother who was celebrating her 90th birthday as she has really dedicated in herself to support everyone as she can and offering advice which really gives the derp expression to the others.

Speaking of CGI, this is mostly used during the social network scenes and they work perfectly. It allows better excitement and makes it look like a brighter stimulated version of Tron (bad example but you'll get what I mean). The whole film is perfect in terms of presentation and the ending is very well done. Watched the film in dual audio style and both are good to use, though watching it subbed feels much better for this film in my opinion. If you happen to see this film in stores, I recommend you do so.

Cowboy Bebop: Knockin on Heaven's Door

Cowboy Bebop is one of the best animes ever made for television, with its enjoyable music and great cast of characters. The popularity was so great even a movie was produced. The film, dubbed 'Knockin on Heaven's Door', returns the Bebop crew to Mars when a sudden terrorist attack occurs and the crew decide to capture him to earn the big reward of cash. With that simple plot out of the way, the film is actually rather interesting as Spike then ends up tagging along with a new female character who also wants to capture the terrorist attacking the city. The jokes presented in this film are worth noticing as each one is as good as the others presented in the series. The overall conclusion for the fans may not be brilliant as the series' finale but this is a nice addition to the franchise.

Speaking of jokes, examples like this scene above is golden.

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Technically speaking, this is a Ghibli related film as it was directed by none other than Miyazaki himself. This is one of the first films created from the Lupin the Third franchise and continues Lupins adventure in stealing treasury goods and chaotic mischief. This film takes a major departure to the others in the series as the tone has been lowed to allow young audiences to watch, as many should know the series and the films tend to be rated 15 (UK) or R (US) for strong sex references and mature humour.

But thanks to Miyazaki's great directing, the film is actually well done and one of the better Lupin III films made in the series, above with Secret to Mamo and Farewell to Nostradamus opinion wise. Lupin is humorous as always and the actions between him and Zenigata are fun to watch. This film is recently been made available on Blu-Ray and is worth picking up if found (it's Double Play as well for DVD owners). 

5 Centimetres Per Second

One of my top 5 favourite anime films of all time, 5cm/s is a one hour film about a young couple who drift apart as they get older. The film's main focus is put to the main male character and we see how he copes with his relationship from each of the three parts in this film. Even though the film was short, the film manages to put enough character development into this film to make the audience care for their characters. This is a tragic love story to say, and for those who loved Clannad will definitely feel the same way as I did with this film. 5cm/s is directed by Makoto Shinikai, and this is a masterpiece worth watching in HD.

I only watched this film subbed since it's set in Japan and it's obvious that there will be various references to Japanese culture, but a dub version is also available. In terms of finding a copy of this film on Blu-Ray, you may be put off depending on where you live. For UK fans (including myself), Manga UK confirmed a UK Region B won't be released due to licencing reasons (this was confirmed from my question during the Manga UK Podcast in March 2013). Ironically, Madman has a Region B copy available for Australia (but the cover looks awful and messy). As for America, I don't think there's a version available, though they can import the Japanese copy which also includes Voices of the Distant Star alongside it. DVD-wise, it's available worldwide.

The End of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion was a great show to watch. It had the action, the mechs, the characters and a good plotline. Then suddenly the show lost its focus and budget was criticial that forced the show's end to be filled with confusion and lots of attention to understand what was going on for each character's mind. But after a big amount of backlash to the end, the director Anno announced Death & Rebirth which was to be the summary of the important pieces of the series into a feature length and a new conclusion to the series. Unfortunately, budget became a problem again and Rebirth was left incomplete. And thus, Rebirth was then remade into another feature length, The End of Evangelion. The film itself is a better conclusion to the series as Anno has brought back the action, the good suspense and more intense mind-fucks for Shinji Ikari to handle.

The film was less controversial in the end, but it does require a lot of knowledge of the series and the characters to understand the concept of Human Instrumentality but at least they have done this in a third person perspective of the world rather than what was going on in their minds like the original series did. One of the major differences in this film as a result was the ending itself. It does bring some rather odd closure to the franchise with no speculation to what would happen to the characters. On the positive side of things, the music composed by the show's Shiro Sagisu really fits the film's tone well, with an odd happy song when the end of the world begins but well it is the end of Evangelion after all. Character development for Shinji, Rei and Asuka have improved from the series which is another good thing. In terms of finding a copy, it's currently out of print and won't be reissued until the Rebuild Tetralogy is complete. Speaking of the remake...

Rebuild of Evangelion

Now I'm probably being quite sneaky adding this to the list, but I have a reason for this. For starters, the Rebuild of Evangelion is a 4-part theatrical remake of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion series. This version ignores the depression part that Anno used because of his past and adds a much better presentation to the characters and drifts towards a different approach to how the Evangelion universe works. While the first movie 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone is a 95% remake of the original six episodes, 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance slowly drifts to a different path by adding new characters, new scenes, alternative plot events and a good conclusion to the film.

Although 3.33 is coming to home release in Japan and 4.44 is not out yet (at this point, we are not far off from releasing the final part which should be around in 2013/2014), the first two movies are one of the best I've seen and the most excited overall. The story follows a young pilot Shinji Ikari and a group of others trying to stop the monstrous angels from destroying mankind by piloting giant robots known as Evangelions. As mentioned, 1.0 is very close to the original series, so fans may be disappointed with this one but the redesigns with CGI blend really well together, in comparison to the Berserk remakes. But personally, it's 2.0 where the plot gets better and absolutely represents the Evangelion story to its max and I highly recommend it to anyone. Both are available on Blu-Ray everywhere and I recommend nabbing that version (1.11 and 2.22) as it contains extra bits of fixes and scenes to add towards the full experience.

The Place Promised In Our Early Days

Another Shinikai masterpiece, The Place Promised is set in an alternative timeline where Japan is occupied by the United Nations and Japanese Government. The story focuses on two friends who dream of building a plane that can fly around the tall skyscraper that separates the two borders. The film could be said to be another love story as the two friends meet a girl whom they both fall in love with. Unlike 5cm/s however, the love story with this film is a little less tragic than the successor.

The film in HD is stunning and the animation is well drawn out that literally made my jaw drop every time I look at Shinikai's work. The film is about 90 minutes long but there's plenty of content that will give the audience less of a headache and good character development that you can enjoy. Another one of my favourites and if you enjoyed the Studio Ghibli films will definitely enjoy Shinikai's works.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

An interesting concept this film was. Set in a world where German won World War II, the film focuses on a soldier who falls in love with a resistance fighter's sister after the fighter committed suicide in front of him to prevent capture. The film's main influence is based on the classic Red Riding Hood tale with numerous references represented in this film. This film is rather dark and makes the audience understand the main character's actions and why he is doing them. The tone for this film is quite depressing but the film's climatic ending took me by surprise, which I felt was reasonable enough.

A great film to watch and worth having a look at when you have some time to spare.


Paprika was a surprising choice I made when choosing an anime to watch. This film has a similar concept that Inception used regarding dreams and then mixes it up when a cat and mouse chase that ends up going chaotic. Paprika's concept was overall, not that bad at all and is a good film to keep an eye on as the story takes an interesting turn halfway through and gets really interesting when a major event starts to occur.

I watched the film dubbed and the voices are suitable enough to listen to. Last thing to mention about this film is that music actually fits the film perfectly especially when Paprika appears on screen, making this thriller look like a happy fun film to enjoy despite this film is oddly violent in a cartoonish way.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

A sequel to the popular Japanese novel, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time follows a girl who stumbles across the ability of time travel and finds out how much events can change around her. This film has its comedy moments and heartbreaking moments while also engaging the audience to various events that change each time. The film could also be called a romance film since the main character gets involved in love issues between her friends and the people around her but the main focus is still kept on time travel.

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda who also worked on Summer Wars and Wolf Children, the film is probably one of the best shown during the last decade and one of that I felt was enjoyable to see even on Blu-Ray. It's a beautiful movie with simple animation and is well worth adding to your collection.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

For those who don't know what the series is about, it follows a high school teenager Kyon who winds up in the SOS Brigade by Haruhi Suzumiya and decides to tag along with the crazy adventures involving time travel, aliens and espers. In this film however, it takes the current plot even further and adds better character development and more dedication to the mangas the series was based on. The film continues from where the show left off so I recommend watching the series first before going to this film, thankfully the first 20 minutes has a slight recap about what Kyon is currently doing and the members of the SOS Brigade.

This film was a definite response to the outrage of the second season's Endless Eight episodes and shows that the studio has full respect for their fans by giving them about 150 minutes of the Disappearance Arc (it's about the equivalent of 8 parts for an episode). The sound and plot are much darker and the development to Yuki Nagato really represents the story really well plus the film's conclusion is very well done. I loved this film and for either dub you watch the film in, it doesn't matter as both of them do a good job on this film.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise

I had this film on my list for a while and ever touched it until about a few months later when I caught a cold (December time). Surprising enough, I enjoyed this film throughout the way. The film has this odd concept of a different world where technology and religion kind of blended with each other, though it was a time where the space program was about to commence. The main character is a bored soldier who decided to participate in becoming an astronaut. His life goes upside down when he reaches fame, falls in love with a religious girl and gets caught between a war where they each try to stop the space program. This film is a few decades old and one of Gainax's first produced animes of their career (in fact, the film was a success and a sequel was planned, which then became something else known as Neon Genesis Evangelion).

The dub was a bit odd to listen to but it was good enough for an old film like this. In fact, this film is quite old that it's actually rather hard to find nowadays. Hopefully a remastered released would be nice.

Ninja Scroll

My most recent film which I received at Christmas as a 20th Anniversary Collectors Edition Double Play (it was rather cheap). I was wondering why this film was rated 18 and I now know why that this. This film is surprising way mature than most of the other animes I've seen and adds blood, sex and violence to a simple samurai story. Set during the old Japanese folk-tales  a samurai saves a ninja from being raped and has to fight 8 warriors each with mysterious abilities with one of them from his past thought dead.

With a same length as Ghost in the Shell, the film was quite short but manages to end the story on a good note. The action sequences are fun to watch and well drawn out I admit and the characters are nicely developed. The film is great to watch if you're old enough and well worth adding to anyone's collection.

Well that's about it for my list of good films, I know there are many other films but I did spend some time sorting this one out and will watch others when I have the time. I have a big list of anime to watch on My Anime List so there's a lot for me to have a look at especially from the reviews I seen for some of them suggesting fans like myself to watch. This is also the final part of my anime discussion though I have further plans for other interesting things, possible reviews is a maybe through YouTube though that will depend on my usual scheduling.

Other titles that I haven't yet watched but are also worth considering:
Berserk - The Golden Age Arc Trilogy
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa [Series Knowledge Recommended]
Eden of the East Movies (King of Eden and Paradise Lost) [Series Knowledge Recommended]
Kara no Kyoukai (all 7 part movies)
Makoto Shinikai's Children Who Chase Lost Voices & Voices of a Distant Star
Mobile Police Paltabor Movies (I and II)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack [Series Knowledge Recommended]
Origins: Spirits of the Past
Perfect Blue
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movie Trilogy
Studio Ghibli's From Up on Poppy Hill
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Movies [Series Knowledge Recommended]
The Little Norse Prince
Wolf Children

Monday, 1 April 2013

Manga Collection Update: Blue Exorcist, Death Note and One Piece

I now have more manga added to my collection. Though I initially wanted to get the next 3-in-1 version of the Neon Genesis Evangelion but they were not available in the stores. Instead, I decided to get more different mangas and another edition of Death Note since each one is only 2 Volumes long.

The manga collection is in alphabetical order starting from left to right.

Blue Exorcist - Bought the first two volumes rather than grouped. Read the first chapter, rather promising concept.
Death Note (Black Edition) Vol.2 - Volumes 3 and 4 of the Death Note manga series. Yet to read Volume 3.
One Piece 3-in-1 Vol.1 - The first three volumes in the long running shonen One Piece manga series. Read Chapter 1, nice intro to the story.

I will get more manga when the exam period ends in mid-June, so stay tuned for more collection updates.

About this blog

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Member of the Anime UK News forum, and also once part of the Sheffield Hallam Visual Arts society throughout 2013-2017. Been collecting anime since 2012 and supported the anime distributors ever since. Also been hanging around on the Blu-ray forum and Fandom Post forums.