Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews
My main focus is reviewing manga and anime, but I also review Japanese literature, movies, and videogames. Basically, if it has anything to do with Japan, I'll talk about it, along with a dash of Korea and China.

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  • VAMPYBIT.ME - The official Linda Le Weblog

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  • Just wanted to mention the fact that if you look on the right column beneath my reviews index, I've added a category called "Free to View Anime" where I've included links to sites where you can watch anime episodes for free and it's all legal. So check em out! Funimation has stared its BETA version of its own video channel, similar to Hulu. Since they publish practically everything now, this is good news for anime fans, especially since it's hard to make a $40 investment in these box sets they're putting out now without ever seeing an episode.
    Category:News -- posted at: 9:49pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 143: Darker Than Black Volume 1

    Podcast anime dvd review of Darker Than Black Volume 1. Episodes 1-5. Directed and written by Tensai Okamura (Naruto Movie, Project Blue Earth SOS, Wolf's Rain). Animation by BONES. Music by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop). Published by Funimation, Rated 17+, $29.98.

    From the back cover:

    A new and deadly breed of covert agent walks the streets. Known as Contractors, these assassins and spies wield bizarre supernatural powers to carry out the dirty work of others. They thrive in the underworld, between rumor and reality, their loyalties always in question. One among these operatives is more mysterious than the rest; the masked killer BK201, the Black Reaper. His true identity and intentions remain unknown, but as his path weaves through the shadows and alleys of Tokyo, blood is spilled on both sides of the law. It's a new age of confusion, and the rules of engagement have changed.

    My Grade: A

    Visit the official website to watch the first 3 episodes for free:

    http://www.funimation.com/darkerthanblack/

    Here is the trailer:

    Direct download: Episode_143--Darker_Than_Black_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 9:09pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1, Episodes 7-9

    Anime DVD review of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 7-9. The first season is available as a boxset from Right Stuf for the list price of $49.99, rated 13+.

    The big deal going on in these three episodes is the arrival of Valentine's Day at Lillian Girls' Academy and the dilemma of what kind of chocolate Yumi should make for her bouton, Sachiko. Yumi goes around asking all the other girl's advice but noone seems to be able to help her. In fact, they worsen it when one of them tells her that Sachiko is beseiged every year with tons of chocolate from adoring students, but that she usually refuses to receive any of them. Based on this and other disparaging comments that Sachiko makes about chocolate giving, Yumi begins to wonder whether she just hates chocolate or is just disgusted with the whole idea of Valentine's Day. There is also a accelerating breakdown in communication between Yumi and Sachiko as Yumi's consternation about the chocolate combines with the fear that she will be put aside as Sachiko takes on more responsibilities with the Yamayuri Council as its senior members leave for college. The problem is that Yumi keeps all of her anxieties to herself even though Sachiko can sense that something is troubling her and wants to help. Further complications enter the picture when Sachiko is forced into participating in a school contest whose top prize is a date with a bouton. We also meet Mifuyu Uzawa, who wants to replace Yumi as the object of Sachiko's affections.

    I really like this show so far, even if Sachiko is borderline anal retentive. Actually she IS anal retentive. The original contest as first conceived was about students finding hidden handmade chocolates scattered about campus. Sachiko was instantly against it because she thought it was unseemly and just too unclean to leave food (chocolates) lying around. You get the impression that her room is completely white and germfree and that she is constantly washing her hands. Sachiko needs to get out and deal with the real world instead of stagnating at Lillian with all of her flunkies. She probably wouldn't even be able to change a lightbulb without putting on white gloves, goggles, and a surgical mask! Ok, I could go on hating Sachiko, but I'm gonna call off the dogs. When you get past the mannequin creepiness of the character designs, there's actually quite a heartwarming story of friendship and love here, even if the souer relationships sometimes border on that of slave/master dynamics or platonic lovemaking. If nothing else, the girls of Lillian always seem elegant, even when they're bawling their eyes out. In fact, the series sometimes seems like one long tea ceremony...a tea ceremony you're sharing with a close and engaging friend.

    My Grade: A

    You can listen to Podcast 124 for an audio review of Episodes 1-3:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094

    The official website for the show is:

    http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

    Direct download: maria_watches.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 8:53am CDT

    Podcast Episode 142: Aria the Animation Disc 1

    Podcast anime DVD review of the first 4 episodes of Aria the Animation. the first season is available as a box set from Right Stuf, list price: $49.99. Directed and written by Junichi Sato (Kaleido Star, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu), Rated 13+.

    From the back cover:

    Akari Mizunashi, at the age of 15, has left everything behind to travel to a sparkling planet covered in water, Aqua. More than anything, Akari wants to be an "undine" - a female gondolier who navigates the canals of the Aquan city of Neo-Venezia. As she begins her training with the prestigious Aria Company, will she be up to the challenges that await her on the path to achieve her dream?

    My Grade: A

    (I didn't notice until I completed the podcast that every character's name on this first disc starts with an A!)

    Direct download: Episode_142--aria_1-4.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:14pm CDT

    Otaku USA Lowers Price, Gets Rid of DVD...Sorta

    I was at Barnes and Noble this morning and was looking through the magazines when I spied the newest issue of Otaku USA. I instanty noticed that it wasn't in plastic so I knew something was up. I hesitated on buying it because money isn't exactly falling off trees these days, but when I picked it up I was pleasantly surprised to see that the price had been lowered to $5.99 instead of the usual $9.99. It even has a little blurb by the price heralding "New CHEAP Price!". I thought it was kinda funny that "CHEAP" is in all Caps. I really enjoy the magazine even though the writers sometimes engage in excessive tips of the hat to each other, as though they are writing the articles to give a wink to their clique instead of to anime and manga fans. And the fact that it can't go an issue without comparing at least one anime to a role playing board game gets quite old. Aside from these minor complaints, it blows away the insipid Anime Insider, with its imaginary battles of Naruto versus Ichigo and "Dream" live action movie castings of anime shows with actors about 20 years too old to play the roles.

    So anyway, to get the price down, Otaku USA got rid of the DVD that came with each issue. Apparently, you can still watch the cyber DVD at the Otaku USA website with a code inside the magazine. Of course, that means you can access the content without buying the magazine, but I imagine a lot of people find the content for free on the internet on their own anyway. I have never watched any of the Otaku USA dvds. They're just sitting in a stack collecting dust. When I accumulate enough, I give them to a kid I know that likes anime. So losing the DVD is no loss to me. It's a smart move to cut costs what with the crappy economy we have right now. I wouldn't even have bought this issue if the price had been the usual $9.99. But I wonder if the price point has anything to do with the fact that they're not selling enough magazines? 

    Sorry for not updating my site lately. I've been exhausted with work. But now I'm off for two weeks for Christmas and I look forward to posting some reviews, both text and podcast.  

    Category:News -- posted at: 3:14pm CDT

    Funimation Needs Comments on Sgt. Frog Episode 1

    Funimation needs your comments about its working print of Sgt. Frog Episode 1. They have the first episode up on Youtube.com. Here's the link (the click here picture to the right doesn't work):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ5mQPVQmZ8

    I don't like dubs so I didn't even watch it. I simply posted the comment that they should also put up the subtitled version as well. It seems like this show has been languishing in the dark and disgusting depths of ADV for years now.

    Direct download: sgt._frog.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 11:36am CDT

    Anime DVD Review-- Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5

    Anime dvd review of Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5: "That Old Black Magic". Directed and written by Hiroaki Gohda. Published by ADV Films. Episodes 17-20, Running Time: 100 minutes, Rated 13+, List Price: 29.98.

    Last volume, Marller suceeded in seprating Urd into her two composite halves, demon and goddess. The two bodies were rejoined into one but there are still some imbalance problems between the two personalities. Because her soul is out of sync, one of the personalities will be lost...unless Belldandy and company can find a higher power than themselves to help Urd. They rule out asking the "Almighty", or God, because Belldandy is afraid that he will get rid of her demon side entirely. That leaves only one other entity with the required power...Hilda, the queen of Hell, and the ruler of all demonkind!  She also happens to be Urd's mother.  She and Urd don't really talk much because Urd fears her corrupting influence. Of course, Hilda would like nothing more than for Urd to give up her Goddess life and come live with her. Hilda tells Urd that she will help her in exchange for a unknown favor. Urd agrees as long as the future favor will not conflict with her role as a goddess. Hilda becomes a new character that goads on the ever ineffectual Marller to continue to get out of her depth in an effort to strike a blow for demons everywhere. Marller even sends a magical ninja to take out the goody-two-shoe band of friends. Ironically, as befits Marller's small mind, the ninja is the size of a mouse.

    It was cool to see Urd's mom, who seems to have been married to the Almighty at some point. Now, that's weird... the queen of Hell sleeping around with God? Does that mean that the Almighty is Urd's dad? Ah My Goddess is a series that is at its least when it tries to get too serious, for instance, when Urd or Belldandy lose control of their powers or are possessed. It is at its best when it moves the story along with lightheartedness, humor, and a mood that almost strikes one as langorous. If you've gotten this far into the second season you should know the characters pretty well so they almost seem like old friends. The show is good at adding new twists and new characters like Hilda, which keep the story fresh and funny. Highly recommended.

    My Grade: A

    The six individual volumes of this series were published by ADV Films and you can pick them up at www.Rightstuf.com for $5 each.

    Funimation has the license now and just came out with the box set this week. Here's the official website:

     http://www.funimation.com/ahmygoddess/

     

    Direct download: ah_my_goddess5.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 10:18am CDT

    Podcast Episode 141: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

    The all-girls boarding school Tenchi Academy isn't just known for its quality academics--it's also known for training the top sword fighters in the country. Students in the special "Sword Bearer" program compete in a school-wide battle known as the Star Stealing, striving to win both money and fame.

    Enter Kurogane Hayate. With her sister Nagi recovering from a lingering injury, the spunky and cheerful Hayate must take her place at the Academy until Nagi is well enough to return. When Hayate learns of the mountain of debt her old orphanage, the Dandelion Garden, owes to Yakuza loan sharks, she decides to become a sword-bearer and win the Star Stealing.

    There's just one problem...she needs a partner to compete and the one girl Hayate has her eye on wants nothing to do with her!

    My Grade: B+

    You can view a free manga preview of Hayate Cross Blade at:

    http://www.gomanga.com/manga/hayatexblade.php

    Direct download: Episode_141--Hayate_Cross_Blade_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:02am CDT

    Manga Review: Negima! Volume 4

    Manga review of Negima Volume 4 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Douglas Varenas. Adapted by Peter and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+ for Mature Audiences.

    Most of the third volume of Negima was taken up with Negi's battle with Evangeline McDowell, a vampire who had been cursed by Negi's dad, the Southern Master, and trapped in the body of a young girl. Evangeline believed that his father was dead but Negi tells her the story of how the Southern Master was the one who gave Negi his staff. Negi wants to find him but has no idea of where to look. Evangeline suggests he look in Kyoto, where his dad used to live. In a bit of a selfish act, mixing business with pleasure, Negi proposes that his class go on a field trip there. That way, he won't have to miss work. The headmaster of the school agrees to let them go to Kyoto but he also has a task for Negi to perform. Apparently, Kyoto falls under the territory of the Kansai Magic Association, which has a running dispute with Negi's Kanto branch. In an effort to smooth out the relationship between the two organizations, the headmaster appoints Negi as an ambassador of sorts and gives him a letter to be delivered only into the hands of the leader of the Kansai wizards. Unfortunately, there are elements of the Kansai group that do not want peace with Kanto and want to keep Negi from fulfilling his mission.

    As always, the first thing that jumps out at you with Negima is the excellent art in which Ken Akamatsu cleverly combines cuteness, comedy, realism, sexiness, and and great layout to create a very unique style. The story is where this book could get a bit muddled. I mean how many times can we stomach someone's clothes getting blown off at least once a volume, if not more, without it becoming a cheap parlor trick? Well, the answer for now is...a lot more! This series hasn't worn out its welcome yet, seeing as how we know so little about the 31 girls in Negi's class. In this volume the spotlight focuses on Miyazaki, who is pining to declare her love to Negi, and Setsuna, a sword bearing student  who is a bit of an enigma. She seems to be obsessed with Konoka, but Negi has to figure out whether she's trying to protect Konoka, or working for the Kansai faction.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: negima4.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:24pm CDT

    Well, hopefully, my feed is running smoothly again. I was having a bit of trouble getting Itunes to upload my newest podcast, #140.  As I mentioned in the blog a little bit ago, Feedburner was migrating its accounts over to Google without the permission of its users and somehow mine was getting lost in the shuffle. It pissed me off that they were mucking about with my feed. So I just took Feedburner out of the equation. And now it seems that my latest show has finally appeared on Itunes. It shouldn't affect your feed if you subscribe to my show, but if it does, again, my feed is:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/rss

    I would say steer clear of Feedburner if you're looking for a site to get stats about your downloads, because those faceless phantoms could care less about the people that use its services.

    Oh yeah, I guess it's about time that I came up with an illustration to put up for my show on Itunes. Right now its that oddly disturbing upside down ice cream cone with a ball on top of it. I've gone for over a year now without putting up a picture for my show. So maybe it's something I can work on during the holidays.

    Category:general -- posted at: 8:45pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 140: Inukami! Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Inukami! Volume 1. Story by Mamizu Arisawa. Art by Mari Matsuzawa. Character design by Kanna Wakatsuki. Translated by Rhys Moses. Adapted by Lorelei Laird. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Seven Seas/Tor, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    A wacky love comedy about a boy and his dog-goddess.

    Inukami: a sacred being with a dog-like appearance that forges a contract with a powerful human tamer to help them eliminate evil monsters and demons.

    Though Kawahira Keita is the descendent of a long line of Inukami-tamers, he seems to lack the necessary ability and has been forsaken by his family. One day, he meets a cute Inukami named Yoko, who, at first glance, looks graceful, obedient, and beautiful...but upon forging a contract with her, Keita discovers that Yoko is a wild and mischievous Inukami that no one has ever been able to control.

    My Grade: A

    Here's the opening of the anime version:

    Direct download: Episode_140--Inukami_volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:08pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1

    Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1: Invasion. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 1-2, Rated 15+.

    Something strange happened on the boundaries of space far above the USA in 1995. A pilot named James was testing out the new G-Reaction jet engine, which would allow a plane to circle the Earth in one hour, when a strange sight confronted him. James' last report was that he saw rainbow colored lights, then a flying saucer, and then ground control lost touch with him. Especially hardhit was his friend and commander, Captain Clayton. Now, five years later, strange occurences around G-Reaction powered vehicles have been more and more frequent. Planes, vehicles, and even aircraft carriers have been disappearing. One such incident introuduces us to most of the cast of the show. It is the maiden route of a new G-Reaction train that brings out most of the movers and shakers of Metropolitan, the capital of Earth. That's right, the capital of Earth. Apparently, in this world, all world governments have given up their sovereignty to the United Nations, one consequence being that the world's military is also controlled by the UN. Any weapons which could be seen as other than defensive have been discontinued. Among the important people at the train ceremony is Billy Kimura, the child prodigy and billionaire heir of Kimura Industries, the company responsible for the design of the G-Reactor. Meeting him there is Lotta Brest (what an unfortunate name!), daughter of a famous scientist, and her tutor, the stunning Emely. Just as they are about to board the train, another boy genius named Penny Carter rushes through the crowd with his faithful dog, named Washington, to warn them that something bad is going to happen to the train. At about this moment, cue the rainbow lights, the train is lifted into the air, and disappears in a blink! Billy and Penny reluctantly decide to join forces to figure out exactly what is going on. Little do they know that they are putting themselves into the middle of an alien invasion. On their side is a secret organization named the Labyrinth Alliance which is devoted to protecting humanity from this threat, and a mysterious pilot named Sky Knight, who appears to have the only weapon that can fight the invaders.

     What little I had read about this series before viewing it was that it was a retro style anime with roots in 1950s pulp sci-fi magazines. I would say yes to that in theory. Back in the old days of sci-fi you could just name things like "black hole transponder" or "anti-matter gun" without having to explain how it worked and the readers let you get away with it. It almost seemed as if everything worked off of magic because there wasn't any scientific elaboration. Now, readers and viewers are a bit more demanding. While some of the plot devices seemed rooted in the 50's, I felt more reminded of 60's and 70's anime or even some of the old kid-friendly Godzilla movies where the little smug kid knew more of how to solve world threatening problems than the adults could ever dream of. Also, SOS kinda reminded me of Gatchaman and, surprisingly, Scooby Doo. So, I guess that whatever era you think SOS is a homage to, you have to accept it as a nostalgic trip. Almost as if it were written in another era. I enjoyed this show, especially its sometimes flagrant use of goofiness and whimsy. For example, cats and dogs help out our heroes at different times during the show.  The animation is definitely not retro though, and uses the latest cutting edge CG, and doesn't skimp during the action sequences. I thought it was cool that we don't even see a proper alien in these first two episodes (running 40 minutes each), except for a lone female preaching apocalyptic prophecies. Besides her, we see ships and robots for now. In fact, we don't even know if these aliens are FROM another world. So I liked the mystery of it. I also like shows with ensemble casts....as long as the characters are interesting and memorable. And the characters of Project Blue ARE interesting. I especially enjoyed the tug of war between Penny and Billy as they alternated between feelings of rivalry and respect. This is a really good start to a 3 volume series, but don't go in expecting hard sci-fi a la Ghost in the Shell. Just have fun.

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: project_blue_earth.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 3:00pm CDT

    Manga Review: Gon Volume 4

    Manga Review of Gon Volume 4 by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by CMX, $5.99, Rated T for Teen due to violence.

    Well, Gon doesn't stay in any one place for long. He's already stomped across most of the world's continents, meeting and beating up animals all along the way. But besides taking bites, giving them super headbutts and kicking them in the face, he's also there to take up for the little guy, or more accurately, Gon is a little guy who takes up for animals that usually serve only as meals for vicious predators. In this fourth volume he inserts himself in a turtle shell, and sees the "survival of the fittest" concept in full bloom as he makes his perilous way to the seashore along with thousands of newly hatched sea turtles. He finds that just making it into the water is only the beginning of these fledgling's fight for life. Then he has to make it across a brutal desert after being thrown there by a powerful tornado along with an ostrich, a monkey, and an impala who show all the selfishness and selflessness of humanity. Lastly, we get to see Gon's posse of various big cat kittens as they strut about the plains of Africa, taking on any bully that gets in their way!

    Wow, I'm a little behind in this series (it's currently on Volume 6) but it's one of my favorites. First, the drawings of Masashi Tanaka are almost divine. The dude uses no screen tone whatsoever. Even when he colors in shadows, most of it is just crosshatched linework. There is an incredible amount of work that is going into every page of this manga. Sometimes, you just turn a page and you just sit there, awestruck, thinking "Man, just look at this! It's insane!". The artwork is just that damn good. Even though the animals sometimes have anthropomorphic expressions, Tanaka is still able to retain their otherness even as he uses them as metaphors for the human condition. The animals that are dangerous SEEM dangerous, not because they are super villains, but simply because it is in their nature to kill. A scene in which Gon confronts a giant squid is a bit creepy, that is, until Gon kicks the crap out of him. This is masterful storytelling and panel layout that is lightyears beyond most other manga artists. Eden or Akira are two titles I would say are on the same level. And imagine this, Tanaka does this level of work without any dialogue or sound effects at all, only art. A great title. Not to be missed.

    My Grade: A+

     

     

    Direct download: gon4.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 4:27pm CDT

    If you haven't seen the most recent episode of my podcast on Itunes, episode 140, in which I reviewed the first volume of Inukami, there is a good reason. The feed for my show goes through Feedburner.com because it tells you how many people subscribe to your show. Starting this week, I stopped getting those stats, and also how many downloads I get from Libsyn. Upon further investigation, I found out that Google bought Feedburner and that they are forcing Feedburner users to sign up with Google accounts and change URL's and stuff. They seem to think this is a minor footnote as evidenced by hardly a mention on the Feedburner website. So I've decided to take them out of the loop. So there might be a delay in Itunes updates while it redirects, but there might not. My feed is:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/rss

    I'm basically computer illiterate so that is what really pisses me off. Everything that I do on here is through hard work and lots of scratching my head, so when a greedy company devouring entity like Google, or Gobble, throws a wrench into my fragile thread, it gets my goat.

    Category:News -- posted at: 8:54am CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Black Blood Brothers Volume 2

    Anime DVD Review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 2: Emergence. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series composition by Yuu Sugitani. Episodes 5-8, Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 15+.

    Jiro and Kotaro have made it inside the Special Zone, with the help of Mimiko, professional compromiser. We still don't know exactly why Jiro has travelled to the Special Zone, but he seems to have come at the worst possible time. A Kowloon Child has infiltrated the Special Zone somehow and it appears it is the work of Jiro's old enemy, Cassandra Warlock, whose very presence nearly sends Jiro into a murderous rage. She seems to have something to do with Jiro's lost love, a girl named Alice who he was assigned to protect long ago. Not all is peace and harmony in the Special Zone, where a very delicate balance exists between human and vampire and even between vampire and vampire. Along with Company, three vampire families control everything in the city. All of them are concerned about whose faction Jiro will join, because they know how powerful this legendary hero is. Whoever he casts his lot with will be the main power broker of the Special Zone. Surprisingly, the majority opinion seems to be that the Zone would be better without Jiro in town. Only Zelman Clock, leader of one of the vampire clans, is willing to take Jiro and his brother in. His main goal is not to acquire power, but simply to stave off boredom. But one of his underlings has a different agenda that could start a vampire civil war.

    Black Blood Brothers is a show that succeeds in spite of the fact that you can tell the creators didn't have a lot of money to spend on character design or animation. The costumes are mostly dreadful and there are quite a bit of static battles with action lines in place of animation. But the director makes up for this by staging the fight scenes with some interesting shots, dramatic effects, and close ups which convey the action quite well, and give you the illusion of more motion than is actually happening. One of the things I like about the show is the humor. Even though Kotaro is an idiotic pain in the butt, he still makes me laugh as he clumsily makes his way through the life and death stakes of the Black Blood world. Mimiko is also quite funny, but her goofiness is tempered by her extreme dedication to helping Jiro and Kotaro. She might even have a "thing" for Jiro, even though she won't admit it to herself. One criticism I have of the show is that it is two thirds over and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the characters and the plot. I doubt that there are enough episodes left to get through the backstory in anything less than a quick flashback or exposition. Still, this is a series definitely worth watching.

    My Grade: B+

    Funimation just released the box set of this series for $49.98. Best Buy has it for $35.99, but be careful because I picked it up in store and saw it was missing a disc. So check to make sure it's all there before you purchase it.

    You can also watch the first three episodes for free at Hulu.com. Here is episode 1. Just push the play button.

    You can also download the series at Funimation.com

    Direct download: black_blood_brothers.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:12pm CDT

    Death Note Anime Box Set 50% Off!

    Retail Sesho to the rescue! If you're a fan of the Death Note anime, you should get over to Amazon.com quickly! They are selling the Death Note Box Set, which contains 5 dvds with the first 20 episodes of the series for $34.99. That's 50% off the list price. That's the best price I'm seeing. Plus, you don't have to pay shipping or tax. So put in your pre-order now. Here's the link:

    http://www.amazon.com/Death-Note-Box-Set-1/dp/B001CZJP0S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1226889503&sr=1-1

    I have actually only watched the first volume of the anime but have read the entire manga series. I just never got around to watching the rest of the anime, but now I can. I didn't really have a lot of mony left this week to blow but this was too good a deal to pass up.

    Direct download: death_note_box.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 8:37pm CDT

    Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP

    Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by Bill Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T for Ages 13+.

    Volume 2 of xxxHolic opens with the arrival of  Syaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai, events already recounted in Tsubasa Volume 1, the sister manga of this series. After the time/space travellers leave, it's back to business for Yuko and Watanuki. Of course, that return to normalcy means that Watanuki goes back to being the gopher slave of Yuko. But Watanuki has something occupying his mind, or rather his heart. His crush on his classmate, Himawari Kunogi, is becoming more and more intense. But Watanuki is not known to be one of the braver souls in Japan, so he's finding it hard to broach the subject of going out on a date with Himawari. Yuko tries to help him by giving him a quick crash course in divination, seeing as how Himawari is pretty interested in horoscopes and the like. She even agrees to go on a double date with the two lovebirds. Much to Watanuki's annoyance, the fourth member of the party turns out to be a guy named Domeki, Watanuki's hated rival. The question is, rival at what? Currently, it seems that Watanuki fears that Domeki could capture Himawari's heart. It's not going to be a normal date anyway as Yuko plans to have a "100 Ghost Story Night" at the temple where Domeki lives.

    After finishing the first two volumes of Tsubasa and xxxHolic, I have to say that Holic is by far the superior series. Tsubasa sank into a pit of shonen spirit animal Pokemon fighting which bored me and reminded me why I gave up on the Tsubasa anime after one volume. Tsubasa seems more intent on fitting in every character of the CLAMP universe, no matter how insignificant. Holic doesn't have that burden and is the better for it. Instead of serving as the vehicle for cameos of all stripes, Holic actually concentrates on telling a story. The first thing I have to say about Holic is to make a comment on the beautiful covers that adorn all the volumes, so intricate that they would fit in well on an Oriental rug. Somehow, CLAMP is able to pull out the feat of making you laugh, creeping you out, and expanding your mind with mind-blowing concepts all in the same book. You can tell that CLAMP really went the extra mile in challenging their readers by grappling with the concepts of destiny, love, and the interdependence of all human beings. A really good book.

    My Grade: B+

    You can watch the first 12 episodes of the xxxHolic anime for free at www.hulu.com . Here is the link to the first episode. Just hit the play button on the video panel:

    Direct download: xxxholic2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:46pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 139: Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1. Story by Sho Aikawa and Bones. Art by Yaeko Ninagawa. Translated by Shoko Oono. Price: $9.99. Rated 16+.

    In Edo-era Japan, the land is under attack from demons called Youi and a secret group of ghost slayers known as the Ayashi roam the land, seeking to destroy the creatures wherever they appear. Ryuuda Yukiatsu, a vagrant samurai, might be the next ayashi, but will a secret from his past keep him from facing his destiny?

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_139--Ghost_Slayers_Ayashi_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:11pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 138: Otoboku Volume 1

    Podcast anime dvd review of Otoboku:Maidens Are Falling For Me Volume 1: Crossplay Capers. Episodes 1-5, Running Time: 125 minutes, $19.99, Rated 13+. Directed by Munenori Nawa. Series Composition by Katsumi Hasegawa.

    Mizuho can't believe his ears when Grandpa's will is read out. Grandpa's final wish is for Mizuho to attend the same academy as Mizuho's mother. The catch is it's an all-girls school. With the help of friend Mariya however, he gets a makeover good enough to fool everyone at the academy.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_138--Otoboku_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:56am CDT

    Manga Review: Vampire Knight Volume 2

    Manga review of Vampire Knight Volume 2 by Matsuri Hino. Translated and adapted by Tomo Kimura. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    There was a pretty startling revelation in Volume 1 of Vampire Knight when we learned that Zero Kiryu, vampire hater and hunter, was actually a vampire himself, and had been fighting against his urges for a couple of years. In addition, the blood tablets that the vampires have been using to sate their thirst for blood do not work very well on former humans, so Zero has become more and more unstable. In Volume 2, we find out that Zero is classified as an "Level E" vampire. Yes, that's right, there's a pecking order, or should I say, a "biting" order even in the vampire world. At the top are the Level As, or Purebloods, who are the only ones that can turn humans. Then at Level B, we have the Aristocrats. Both Level As and Bs are the rulers of the vampire world. At Level C, we have the Commons. Level Ds are former humans. This is where we start to have problems. Eventually, Level Ds begin to go crazy with bloodlust and become nothing more than blood-craving maniacs, which are known as Level Es. The "E" stands for "The End". The Level A and Bs are responsible for keeping the Es in check, and sometimes they even kill them when there is no other option. Unfortunately, what this means is that Zero will eventually lose control of himself and turn into a Level E. He has even asked Yuki to kill him if this ever happens. Yuki has a special bracelet, a controlling mechanism a la Inuyasha, that she can use to keep Zero under control. Zero's former sensei, Toga Yagari, a powerful vampire hunter, is brought in as a temporary teacher to keep an eye on Zero.

    I have a hard time figuring out why vampires are seen as erotic seducters. To me, they are simply superhuge leeches or humanoid mosquitoes. So when Zero takes a bite out of Yuki's neck, I feel a bit of revulsion and disgust, not gothic romanticism. I mean, in the end, vampires cannot live without sucking the life essence out of a human. But I guess humans aren't any different. We have to eat other life for us to have life. It's just meat and vegetables instead of blood. So I'm not into the current fad of urban vampire/werewolf/female detective/student novels/manga. But I do appreciate the characters in Vampire Knight. Sure, it can sink into melodrama at times, almost like a higher stakes Peach Girl, but Zero, Yuki, and Kaname, rise above the material. It also helps that Matsuri Hino is surprisingly adept during action sequences. It makes for quite an intriguing series. I am very curious to see how it all works out and if it has a happy ending.

    My Grade: B+

    Listen to my podcast of Volume 1:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=385148

    Direct download: vampire2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:39am CDT

    Podcast Episode 137: Afro Samurai Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Afro Samurai Volume 1 by Takashi Okazaki. Translated by Greg Moore. Adapted by Joshua Fialkov. Published by Seven Seas, $10.99, Rated OT Ages 16+.

    When Afro Samurai was a young child, he witnessed the death of his father, known simply as "Number 1", a swordsman, get brutally killed by "Number 2", a mysterious gunfighter. What these numbers siginify are the ranks of the fighters. So, if you wear the Number 1 headband, it signifies that you are the deadliest warrior in the world. Over the years, a number of legends have sprung up around the Number 1 headband. For example, whoever wears it will rule the world, or the tale that it grants immortality. Nobody knows if any of this or none of it is true. But it doesn't stop people from coveting it anyway. Since then, Afro Samurai has grown into a brutally remorseless warrior, working his way up to Number 2. He now wants to take down Number 1. It has nothing to do with the power he would gain if he wins. It has to do with simple revenge. He wants to kill the guy that killed his father. But the problem when you are wearing one of the top headbands is that you always have those who want your spot. Afro has the additional complication of being a wanted man. A group of underworld kingpins, known as "The Empty Seven", have put out a contract on Afro because some of their number believe that even the Number 2 headband has some sort of divine power.

    My Grade: B+

    Official website: www.afrosamurai.com

    You can download the entire first season from Funimation for $9.95

    Direct download: Episode_137--Afro_Samurai_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:35pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 136: Dokkoida Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Dokkoida Volume 1 by Yu Yagami (Those Who Hunt Elves). Original Story by Taro Achi. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by CMX, $9.99, Rated T+.

    Space alien Tanpopo (who looks like a 10-year-old human girl) has  come to Earth to find a test subject for the Dokkoida Transformation Belt. It was made by a famous toy company called Otankonasu in hopes of landing a lucrative contract with the Galaxy Federation police force to mass produce the suits. Tanpopo enlists unemployed Suzuo to test the suit out. How will it be tested? The Galaxy Federation has let some of its most dangerous criminals loose on Earth to test the effectiveness of the suit. If they can defeat Dokkoida in battle and unmask him, their criminal records will be wiped clean. So, let's just say they are highly motivated. Suzuo also has to compete with Neruloid Girl, another superhero testing a suit for the Emerald Company, who is also vying for the police contract. The Federation has also taken the extremely comedic step of housing the heroes and the villains in the same apartment building! Of course, the characters in Dokkoida are so clueless that they never make the connection between the people they see in normal life every day and the enemies they fight while in costume. Very funny book.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_136--Dokkoida_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:20pm CDT

    If you're a fan of Azumanga, you have to check this out. It's a compilation of some great music videos and user generated animation. It goes through many different types of music and skits. The full running time is around 10 minutes and is really funny.

     

    Category:Video -- posted at: 11:42pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 135: Blank Slate Volume 1

    Podcast manga review for Blank Slate Volume 1 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue). Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Carla Sinclair. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teens.

    Zen has no memories of the past 20 years. All he knows is that he woke up and began to hear a voice in his head that urged him to kill, rob, and commit evil. He followed the commands of that voice and has become the most wanted criminal in Amata. The country of Amata was invaded by Galay 20 years ago and a war ensued that took a number of Amatan lives. Even after two decades, the Galayans have refused to leave the country. Instead, they have imposed their own ultra law and order morality upon the occupied populace. According to the propaganda, Amata is prospering under their rule, but under the surface, there is an Amatan resistance gaining more and more momentum. The biggest thorn in the Galayan side is not the strengthening insurgency, but the fact that Zen has not been captured or killed. To some people, Zen is becoming a sort of folk hero, someone who is unwilling to bend his knee and accept the Galayan occupiers.

    My Grade: F

    Direct download: Episode_135--Blank_Slate_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:58am CDT

    Podcast Episode 134--Castlevania:Curse of Darkness Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness Volume 1 by Kou Sasakura. Translated by Ray Yoshimoto. Adapted by Jeremy Black. Originally published in Japan by Media Factory. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated T for Ages 13+.

    Count Dracula's demon army has swallowed up the land of Walachia in 15th century Europe and is poised to invade the rest of the continent. A vast army was sent to Walachia by the Eastern Orthodox Church several months ago but none of the soldiers ever returned alive. Only a noble named Lord Belmont, a self-styled vampire slayer, has shown any backbone or skill in fighting Dracula's armies. Hoping to dispense of humanity's last hope, Dracula sends one of his two trusted generals, a demon alchemist named Hector, to kill Belmont. Somehow Hector ended up being found half-dead on the side of a road by a nun named Rosalee who has been nursing him back to health. Dracula sends his other general, Isaac, to find out Hector's fate. A young boy named Ted gets caught up in the story when a werewolf on Hector's trail comes to visit his village.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: episode_134--Castlevania_Curse_of_Darkness_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:10pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 133: Tsubasa Volume 1 by CLAMP

    Podcast manga review of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Volume 1 by Clamp. Translated and adapted by Anthony Gerard. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T ages 13+.

    Sakura and Sayaoran live in the land of Clow and are currently in love, even though neither has directly stated it to the other. They also don't get to spend too much time together. Sayaoran is too busy helping in the excavation of some buried ruins, while Sakura, the princess of Clow, has very little freedom of movement.Even though she doesn't know it, Sakura is a very special girl. She has the ability to bend space and time and there is a mysterious villain that wants to kidnap her for his own nefarious reasons. Luckily, Sayaoran is able to save her, but in the process, Sakura loses her memory.Sayaoran is sent to Yuko, the mysterious wish granter from xxxHolic, to get help. He soon finds he is not the only one seeking her help. Kurogane is a ninja from Japan who was banished from his dimension by his princess that had grown weary of his ego and bloodlust. His wish is to go home. Fai, a wizard from Seresu also shows up, his goal the opposite of Kurogane's. He NEVER wants to go home. Yuko tells them that their wishes can only be realized if they work together.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_133--Tsubasa_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:13pm CDT

    Well, I had originally planned to do a review for Negima Volume 3 and got the review completely entered, but for some reason, the second paragraph got deleted.  I don't rewrite things. So I deleted what was already on the site. I did give it a B+.

    Now, for your viewing pleasure, the closing montage from Five Centimeters Per Second, one of the greatest anime I have ever seen. Seriously, if you like a good love story, check out this film.

    Hear my podcast review at this link:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=337878

    Category:Video -- posted at: 10:43pm CDT

    I just added my XBOX 360 gamertag to my webpage. Surprise, its "Sesho"! Can you believe it? I have a ton of 360 games but I only play a few of them at any one time. Lately, I've been playing COD 4 and SoulCalibur 4 and I play a lot of Arcade games.  I've been meaning to review the excellent 360 Naruto: Rise of a Ninja game for some time now. It's just beautiful-looking. And the cool thing is that the actors in the anime do the voices for the game. You can hear the Japanese audio track too, if you're like me and hate the dub. When you are playing it feels you like you are really there in the Leaf Village. Plus, all the music from the anime is there as well. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome.

    Anyway, if you ever want to play a game, send me an invite or a friend request. But when you do, tell me or write me that you know me from my show or site. I don't add just anyone. But if you listen to my show, you must be pretty cool. Even though I'm not.

    Oh yeah, just to clear something up. Yes, my name comes from Inuyasha's brother, Sessho-Maru, and YES, I know it's spelled wrong. When I first registered my XBOX 360 gamertag back in 2006, Sessho was already taken, so I just modified the spelling. So that is where the Sesho name started and I liked it, so I used it as my nickname on my website as well. But over the past year, many people pointed out to me that Sesho was misspelled. This is just to let you know that I am not slow.

    Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am CDT

    Manga Review: Arm of Kannon Volume 2

    Manga Review of Arm of Kannon Volume 2 by Masakazu Yamaguchi. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Originally published in Japan by Gentosha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Mao and Maya have escaped from the clutches of the Garama Industries facility and are hiding in the nearby forest. Unfortunately for them, Garama has been doing all kinds of weird genetic experiments on animals and humans for years and some of these mutated lifeforms are crawling around the surrounding woods. The siblings have a lot of people looking for them. First, there is the swordsman from Isurugi Temple, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Arm of Kannon from taking over Mao in Volume 1. It is not known whether he can exorcise the evil from Mao or whether it is now his intent to kill the host body. Garama has called on a group known as Manma, who are imbued with supernatural powers no normal human can hope to defeat...oh, and did I mention that the members of Manma are almost evil incarnate? How evil, you ask? Well, in one scene, they force a husband to watch his wife being raped and then killed. What makes it even worse is that it's his decapitated head watching it all, somehow kept alive with black magic. Another group interested in catching up to Mao, who appear to be on the side of good, is C.I.R.O., or the Cabinet Information Research Office. They work for the government and have been taking an increasing interest in Garama activities. They have special powers as well, but based more on sci-fi than magic. Of course, with all these various factions vying to catch Mao, conflict is sure to ensue, and does.

    The thing I like about Arm of Kannon is its logical realism that follows comic book cartoon violence and good versus evil to its appropriate end. What I mean is that the "bad guys" do really bad, really evil things and don't just seem like glamorized versions of Dr. Evil. No matter what the Joker does in a Batman comic, it is still sanitized for a young audience. Even the worst comic book villain hardly ever comes close to real monsters like Adolf Hitler or even the fictionalized evils of a writer like Stephen King. But the fact that Yamaguchi is writing for a mature audience allows him to portray some very vile acts and imagery that make you feel horror, an emotion that most writers, artists, and filmmakers, have lost touch with. And the crazy thing is that he does this in the midst of a shonen like battle atmosphere. The art has a creepy 1980s style to it combined with the slightly enlongated designs of CLAMP with a dark and strongly erotic tone. Yes, this title is about sex and action and violence, both graphic and more subtle. So if any one of those things frightens you, stay away. This is definitely not a series you want lying around on shelves that kids can reach.

    My Grade: A+

    Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=358190

    Direct download: arm2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:02pm CDT

    Manga Review: Eden Volume 4

    Manga review of Eden Volume 4 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers.

    As Khan and what's left of his crew along with Elijah and Helena try to escape from the clutches of Propater controlled territory, Hiroki Endo takes a little time to bring the deadly knife master Kenji to the forefront, which comes off as a masterful move. Up until now, Kenji has been a strong but silent killer who slaughters even Propater's superhuman genetically modified monsters with relative ease. But Endo reveals Kenji's past with such richness and masterful storytelling that he could have easily been the main character of this series.

    It's one thing to "design" iconic characters but quite another to give them a background and hidden life that lives up to the surface coolness and fireworks. As always, the art on display here is some of the greatest I've ever seen in a manga. The writing can be a tad suspect when it tries to delve too shallowly in philosophy but that's ok. I'd rather see an attempt at addressing the big issues of life than no attempt at all. That overreaching writing and beautiful art is what makes Eden one of the greatest manga series ever produced.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: eden_4.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 2:22pm CDT

    Manga Review: Eden Volume 3

    Manga review of Eden Volume 3 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers.

    Colonel Kahn and his crew of deadly freedom fighters are surrounded by attacking Propater forces and it's just a matter of time before they move in for the kill. But his soldiers, along with Elijah, Cherubim, Kachua, and Helena, have had plenty of time to prepare the battleground among the ancient Indian ruins. The whole volume is really just a depiction of one battle but the drama contained therein and the insight we get into the character's pasts and motivations make it as riveting as the opening minutes of the D-Day assault in Saving Private Ryan.

    Hiroki Endo is playing for keeps in this masterpiece of a manga that has deep connections to the core of human existence. Lots of characters have died in this manga, and many more will in this and future volumes, but that's what happens in war. The coup that Endo pulls off is making us care about these characters, even if all the story isn't out there yet. We don't really have all the details about what the fight is about yet, but I get the feeling that this manga will only get better. The art is EXQUISITE and ranks as some of the best comic art I've ever seen this side of Akira. The characterization, the panel layout and action, the dialogue, all at the levels of genius. I cannot praise Eden enough. One of the best manga out there. Buy it!

    My Grade: A+ 

    Direct download: eden_3.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 2:17pm CDT

    Manga Review: Eden Volume 2

    Manga review of Eden Volume 2 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers.

    The first volume of Eden was a little ambiguous in terms of setting and the reasons why Elijah was in the middle of nowhere with the human-like security robot Cherubim. He was taken captive by a group of fighters led by Colonel Kahn who wanted to use his vehicle to get out of Propater controlled territory. As it turns out in this second volume, most of South America is a battleground between Propater and the United Nations and various assorted warlords, drug kingpins, and bandits. It's pretty much like the Wild West where the person with the most firepower usually wins an argument. When Colonel Kahn's group wipes out a bandit emplacement, they unwittingly pick up two new members, Kachua and Helena, two women who were going to be sex slaves for the competing armies on the frontlines. The problem is that Kahn and the others don't like loose ends or baggage, so they might end up dead anyway, unless Elijah can save them. And Propater soldiers are hot on their tail!

    I think Eden is great. The art is perfectly rendered and beautiful, beyond anything Western comic book artists are doing. Hiroki Endo captures the complexity of human beings, especially in their out-loud thinking sililoquies on the state of the world one minute showing gentleness and caring and then the next slicing through an enemies neck with blood bursting all over the place. That's really what Eden is all about, terrible moments of battle and violence and then, in the quiet afterwards, the battle between staying human or becoming a mindless killing machine. Cherubim doesn't have a choice at this point, he can simply be programmed to murder, but the humans have a choice.  I look forward to great things from this series.

    My Grade: A+

     

    Direct download: eden_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:59pm CDT

    I had to put the first episode of the Naruto anime which is based on one of my favorite manga. This is in Japanese with English subtitles and uncut. Enjoy!

    Category:Video -- posted at: 9:37pm CDT

    This is pretty hilarious. A Japanese TV show has the real L'Arc En Ciel on and decides to do some skits based on the band's true life secrets. The first one concerns Hyde's reputation as a crybaby and the second parodies a meeting in which the band tries to name tour merchandise. Subtitled in English. The skits start at about the one minute mark.

    Category:Video -- posted at: 9:12pm CDT

    Well, so I guess this is my first video I've added to the site. This is the first episode of Death Note from Hulu.com and is completely legal...that's why there are commercials in the video. It seems to be a cool site where you get anime and live action episodes for free. So, anyway, here we are...

    Category:Video -- posted at: 8:31pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 132: Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino

    Podcast manga review of Vampire Knight Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino. Translated and adapted by Tomo Kimura. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ Older Teen.

    Cross Academy, an elite boarding school, holds a hidden secret. Namely, at night it is attended by young and beautiful vampires. I'm not just talking bishojo, I'm talking girl fantasy bishonen as well. Since this book is shojo, there is a heavier focus on the guys. The students that attend class during the day are human and have no idea that the Night Class is composed of vampires. And it's the job of Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu, acting members of the Disciplinary Committee, to keep it that way. They're also there to keep the vampires in line with their Bloody Rose pistols, which are harmless to humans, but dangerous to vampires. Yuki is indebted to the Night Class president, Kaname Kuran, because he saved her from a hungry vampire 10 years ago. She might even be in love with him. Kaname seems to show a special interest in her as well, which drives Zero up the wall. Zero doesn't have much love for vampires because their hated race killed his parents 4 years ago, not to mention the fact that he might have a crush on Yuki as well.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_132--Vampire_Knight_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:29pm CDT

    Good news for anime fans, both subbed and dubbed. Two online video services have announced free streaming anime episodes, completely legal and on the up and up.

    First there is www.hulu.com which is featuring the following series:

    1) Naruto Episodes 1-20 (English subtitled)

    2) Death Note Episodes 1-37 (English subtitled)

    3) Mushi-Shi Episodes 1-12 (English dubbed)

    In addition they have episodes of Speed Racer and Astro Boy. They promise that they will be adding more series in the near future. Here is the direct link to their anime page:

    http://www.hulu.com/channels/Animation-and-Cartoons/Anime

     

    The other site launching free anime today is Joost.com which is featuring the same Naruto, Death Note, and Astro Boy episodes as Hulu, plus these other series:

    1)Blue Dragon, Zatch Bell, and Mar (all dubbed)

    2)Cosmo Warrior Zero

    3)Gun Frontier

    4) Ikki Tousen

    Here is the link to their anime page:

    http://www.joost.com/epg/shows/animation/anime/o/1/

    Of the two sites, Hulu seems to be much more user friendly and is very easy to find shows and does not require registration unless you want to share it with a friend. From what I see so far of Joost, the site does not have a very good index and makes you waste time browsing to find shows. But who cares, these shows are free to watch and fully authorized by their publishers, so enjoy!

     

    Category:News -- posted at: 1:14pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 131: Goth by Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa

    Podcast manga review of Goth. Story by Otsuichi and based on his novel. Art by Kendi Oiwa. Translated by Lori Riser. Adapted by Anthony C. Andora. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Itsuki Kamiyama is a high school student that has always been a bit weird, if not dangerous, but he's been able to conceal his true nature with a fake smile and a charming personality. It's his inner life that is pretty twisted. Lately, he's been following the infamous wrist-cut case, a tabloidesque series of mutilations in which a psycho has been cutting off the hands of what appear to be random victims. The person is so crazy that even animals are not safe. Itsuki admires the wrist-cut perpetrator and even secretly longs to have some hands himself. Actually, he wants the hands of one girl in particular: Yoru Morino, a girl who is infamous throughout the school for having scar marks on her wrists. Things get even weirder when Itsuki begins to suspect that one of his teachers might be the wrist-cut case perp. This is only the first of four cases that Ituski and Yoru get involved in.

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: Episode_131--Goth.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:31pm CDT

    Manga Review: Rave Master Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima

    Manga Review of Rave Master Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Adapted by James Lucas Jones. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Y for Youth Ages 10+.

    Haru, along with Plue, has sailed to the main continent of Song after spending most of his young life living a carefree existence. Now he is the Rave Master, the only person that can defeat the evil Demon Card organization with its Dark Bring users. But before he can start an offensive against them, Haru must repair the 10 Powers Sword after breaking it in battle last volume. The only craftsman capable of fixing it is the legendary blacksmith named Musica. Their main problem is that they have no idea where to find him. The first city they reach is Hip Hop Town, which is controlled by Demon Card. It's easy to get into the city but you can't leave unless you pay Demon Card a high fine. In other words, the city is like a prison, and you have to bribe your way out of it. It doesn't take long for Haru to get into a jam when Plue is kidnapped and entered into a dog race run by Georco, the main rep of Demon Card in Hip Hop Town. While trying to rescue Plue, Haru makes a new friend, a girl named Elie, who bets all of her money on the most unlikely candidate to win a dog race....Plue!

    The main thing that stuck out about this second volume of Rave Master was the wickedly awful job James Lucas Jones did with the English adaptation. There was just too much ghetto eubonic rapper language spread throughout this book. Haru's favorite phrase seems to be "Aw, Snap!". "Dawg" gets used way too much, "Ain't no thang" makes an appearance, and "You goin down" and other phrases bring "down" the language even worse. Of course, I've listed only a few phrases. Oddly enough, a 1950s "Daddy-o" even slips in. Even the backstory and preview page are written in horribly rhymed rap lyrics capped off by a "Word to your mother!". Oh my Lord, the attempt at appealing to street culture comes off as so pathetically bad. This language was cliched and goofy even back in 2003 when this book was first printed. It's even goofier now. The funny thing about Rave Master is that it uses  musical terminology heavily without being in the least about music. None of the characters introduced so far play an instrument or sing. So I'm wondering why there is so much emphasis on musical words without music being an important part of the story. In fact, it's non existent. If you can get past the bad English, Volume 2 is a bit more entertaining that the first volume, and also a bit funnier. Elie seems like she's going to be an interesting character. In fact, the oveall characterization seems a bit better than such a book deserves. I checked out the first two volumes of this series from my local library. I can read these books but Rave Master isn't good enough to spend money on...at least so far.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: rave2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 2:26pm CDT

    Manga Review: Zombie Powder Volume 2 by Tite Kubo

    Manga Review of Zombie Powder Volume 2 by Tite Kubo, creator of Bleach. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    Volume 2 opens with the aftermath of Gamma's battle and ultimate defeat of Ranewater Calder, the leader of the Ash Daughter Bandits, and owner of a Ring of the Dead. Calder left Gamma and the others a present before he died, namely of rigging the entire hideout to explode skyhigh! Then it's on to the town of Alcantara, where rumor is that a Ring of the Dead is housed at the local hospital. Of course, Gamma isn't the only person interested in finding the Ring. A powerful super villain named Balmunk the Mystic arrives on the scene to look for it, sporting magical abilities that let him go toe to toe with Gamma's armor encased limb. Adding to the mix is a crusading investigative reporter named Wolfina Getto who feels it his her duty to protect the hospital from Balmunk. She is a champion of justice, but she also wants to protect her comatose brother, who is housed there.

    While not as polished or as funny as Bleach can somtimes be, White Powder is nonetheless an interesting and entertaining debut work from Tite Kubo. Wolfina has quickly become one of my favorite characters with her personality stolen from Captain America and boobs supplied by Dolly Parton. She also serves as good comic relief. The art style is nothing new to fans of Bleach even though the character designs are a bit boring in this series. Kubo makes up for this with excellent panel layout and carefully choreographed action sequences. This volume also includes Kubo's very first attempt at writing and drawing a manga, called "Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine". It concerns a mercenary hitman, uncleverly called a "deleter",  and his android TinaTina (a young female right out of the 1980s) who are hired to take down a major drug cartel. That's about all I can tell you about Unholy since it was so dreadful, I didn't make it past the first few pages. One interesting thing about it was the art, which was much more generic and lacked the characteristic Kubo look.   

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: zombie_powder_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:29pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 130-- Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 1, Episodes 1-3

    Podcast anime dvd review of Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 1, Episodes 1-3. Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi. Written by Mamiko Ikeda. Box Set published by Right Stuf, List Price: $49.99.

    Emma is a maid in the household of ex-governess Kelly Stoner where she keeps the house spic and span and runs errands for her mistress. It's not a hard life but it's not a good life either. Her room is in the attic and it's pretty spartan. She has a bed and a dresser. That's it. She's beginning to want more. Enter William Jones, the heir of a rich merchant family that was raised by Mrs. Stoner and has to come to pay a visit on his old governess. He's instantly attracted to Emma and begins to court her, even though he would never admit that is what he is doing. After all, his parents want him to marry some noblewoman to bring prestige to their business, not a poor maid! Hakim, an Indian prince and friend of William, arrives on the scene looking for a wife and he also sets his sights on Emma. Uh Oh! A love triangle develops...or actually a quadrangle, because there is a young noblewoman named Eleanor Campbell who is in love with William as well.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_130--_Emma_Season_1_part_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:42am CDT

    Podcast Episode 129: Rave Master Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima

    Podcast Manga Review of Rave Master Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Adapted by James Lucas Jones. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Y for Youth 10+.

    There is a war raging on the continent of Song, but Haru and Cattleya Glory know very little about it, living on isolated Garage Island. The brother and sister have been on their own for the past 10 years after the death of their mother and the disapperance of their father 5 years before that. The war is being waged by Demon Card, an organization in control of the Dark Bring, a demon stone wielding the power of darkness. The only force that can oppose it is Rave, a sacred stone imbued with the powers of good. But it needs a new wielder. Could Haru be the new Rave Master?

    My Grade: C+

    Direct download: Episode_129--Rave_Master_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:45pm CDT

    Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 10

    Manga Review of The Law of Ueki Volume 10 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Kenichiro Yagi. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    After battling their guts out for 9 volumes, imagine the surprise of Ueki and pals when they find out that their battles were just the FIRST round of the Celestial King Tournament! Something that is different in the second round is that the fighters can form teams of up to 5 people. It goes without saying that Ueki's team consists of himself, Rinko, Seiichiro, and Mori. So all that's left to do is find a fifth member. Rinko remembers hearing of a fearsome combatant named Hideyoshi Soya. The only solid info she can give is that anybody that ever fought against him never wanted to go through the experience twice...oh, and that Soya looks like a gorilla. When they finally do meet him, Ueki and company find out that they are not the only team looking to add Soya. Another team, led by a thug champion named Zack wants Soya on HIS team. Unfortunately for both Ueki and Zack, Soya has decided to set this round out and has no interest in fighting. During this recruitment period leading up to the second round, king candidate champions are allowed to fight each other without penalty. So, technically, you can force someone to join your team...after you beat the snot out of them!

    I've always enjoyed the wacky nature of this series, with all its dementedly sad super powers, but Volume 10 takes ridiculousness to a new height. For example, one of Zack's goons has the "power to turn beautiful hair into a drill" while another has the the "power to turn rubber balls into acid". I don't want to tell too many of the powers since finding out what they are is half the fun of The Law of Ueki. The character designs are as over the top and gaudy as the powers they wield. Zack, instead of looking the part of the evil villain, looks like someone pressed his head into a point, pulled and extended his eyebrows, and played makeup doll with him. I still enjoyed this volume but it goes a little too far sometimes in terms of goofiness. It is written as a semi-parody of shonen battle manga instead of trying to lay claim to that already cluttered genre. As long as Ueki continues to battle for justice, I will continue to read this series. Just make sure you don't take it too seriously.

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: ueki_10.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:00pm CDT

    Hurricane Ike Well, I went to sleep last night around 11pm and thought I might not even wake up when Ike came through. Boy, was I wrong! I woke up around 5am with no power and the sound of cyclonic winds hitting my apartment. I've never been through a tornado but the winds were so strong and so loud that I quickly got all of my stuff like flashlights, radio, and batteries into the bathroom. I called my brother and mother and learned that this had been going on since around 2am, so it was nothing new to them. So when I figured out I wasn't going to die right at that moment I felt a little relief. But not much. I laid down on the floor away from the window (which I had barricaded with boxes of books) and tried to get some rest. But it's kinda hard when you're listening to a radio which is declaring that your city hasn't even seen the worst of the storm yet.

    It was pretty harrowing to sit in the dark and hear just all kinds of weird and unsettling noises like trees splitting, windows shattering, and then you hear the weird ghost sound of something rolling back and forth on top of your roof. And this wasn't a flat roof either. It was sloped and something kept rolling back and forth, back and forth. Who the hell knows what it was. I don't really say "I'm scared" but early this morning I have to admit I was. The last hurricane that hit Houston full blast occurred back in 1983 and I was here for it, but I was a kid and I didn't remember much about it. The really scary thing is that Ike was only a Category 2 storm. I can't even comprehend the damage it would have done if it was a Category 5.

    With the sunrise, you could really get a sense of the devastation of the storm. My apartment was fine (I had a little water drip from the ceiling), except no power and no running water. But some of the other apartments in my complex suffered a lot of damage. Chimneys had fallen over, entire walls had been ripped off, windows had been shattered. The worst damage was to the roofs. The parking lots and walkways are covered with shingles that blew off during the night. I think the last estimate was something like 3 or 4 million people had no power in the Houston area. Cities closer to the coast suffered even more severe damage.

    Now I'm at my mom's place. She's the only one among my friends and family that has power and running water. And I've talked to many people in different areas of the city. My workplace has been closed since Friday and is also going to be shut down on Monday. Who knows when I'll get power and water back. But you know what? I count myself lucky. Because a lot of people have lost houses, cars, valuables, and sometimes even their lives. What is my minor inconvenience compared to that?

    I did manage to read a little manga today on my patio. It kinda helped my get my mind off things. So hopefully, I'll be posting a review later on tonight. Text only, mind you. I didn't bring my microphone.
    Direct download: ike.JPG
    Category:general -- posted at: 6:51pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 128: xxxHolic Volume 1 by CLAMP

    Podcast manga review of xxxHolic Volume 1 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by Anthony Gerard. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated Teen 13+.

    Kimihiro Watanuki has always been able to see spirits that regular humans can't see. Unfortunately, the spirits can see him as well, and are always annoying him. For some reason they are drawn to his blood like moths to a flame. Sometimes Watanuki can't even walk down the street without being crushed by gigantic amorphous spirits. But there's hope for him yet when he meets Yuko Ichihara, a time space witch that can fulfill his desire to be rid of his power forever. Yuko runs a shop that specializes in granting wishes. But nothing in life is free. In return for the wish you must give Yuko something of great personal value. If the exchange is not even, the laws of the universe are upset and those involved will suffer great calamities. In other words, the more difficult your wish, the more sacrifice you will have to endure. What Watanuki is going to have to give up is his time. Yuko demands that he will have to work part-time at her shop, mostly doing menial work like cleaning, until he has paid off his wish debt. Of course, Watanuki becomes more involved in the business end of Yuko's shop than he wants.

    My Grade:A-

    Direct download: Episode_128--xxxHolic_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:35pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 127: Zombie Powder Volume 1 by Tite Kubo

    Podcast manga review of Zombie Powder Volume 1 by Tite Kubo. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published by Shueisha in Japan. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.99, Rated Older Teen.

    Zombie Powder was the debut work of Tite Kubo, the artist and writer of Bleach. Gamma Akutabi is a mysterious swordsman with an armor clad right arm that gives him superhuman abilities. He's killed a lot of people in his quest for the Rings of the Dead. If he collects twelve Rings he will be able to create Zombie Powder, a substance that can raise the dead or give the living immortality. Of course, he's not the only one searching for such power. It seems like a lot of the Rings are in the possession of armed gangs who are willing to shoot anyone in search of them. A young teen named Elwood works for one of these gangs called the Grey Ants, run by a powerful thug named Kinqro. Elwood is a good kid. He only works for the gang to make money to pay for his sister's heart operation. But his plans go awry pretty fast when he gets caught in the fight between Kinqro and Gamma.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_127--_Zombie_Powder_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:10pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 126: Black Blood Brothers Volume 1

    Podcast anime dvd review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 1, published by Funimation. Episodes 1-4. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series Composition by Yuu Sugitani. List Price: $29.98.

    10 years ago there was a great war in which humans and vampires teamed up to battle the Kowloon Children, a vampire bloodline that can infect and turn humans with just one bite. The normal vampires in this series seem to only use humans as food sources and very rarely if ever kill their victims. In fact, it appears that the only way humans can be turned into vampires is through directly swallowing vampire blood. There is still a lot of tension and suspicion between the Black Bloods (vampires) and the Red Bloods (humans) but a city called The Special Zone is seen as a model of human and vampire cohabitation. A vampire named Jiro and his brother Kotaro are headed towards the Special Zone but get caught up in a hunt for illegal vampire refugees. The Zone leaders and military are afraid that some Kowloon children are mixed in with the vampires and are sent to kill all of them. Of course, Jiro isn't about to sit by and let his beloved brother get executed.

    My Grade: B+

    You can watch the first two episodes for free at:

    http://www.funimation.com/blackbloodbrothers/

    You can also download the entire series at $1.99 per episode at the Funmation website.

    Direct download: Episode_126--Black_Blood_Brothers_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:44pm CDT

    Manga Review-- GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 9

    Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 9 by Tohru Fujisawa (creator of Rose Hip Zero, Rose Hip Rose, GTO: The Early Years, and Tokko).  Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Ruraka is still trying to avoid the fated prophecy of her dreams in which GTO became her true love. She and her friends were willing to do anything to break the charm, including using black magic cookies to poison Onizuka. They finally have the last ingredient: GTO's pubic hair! Now they intend to cook up some cursed cookies, but how are they gonna get GTO to eat them? Azusa has some problems of her own as she begins to garner more and more attention from her male students. They think she is very cute and are basically willing to become her lapdogs in order to curry favor. This doesn't sit too well with the female students and their jealousy soon turns to rage as they begin to pull all sorts of pranks meant to hurt Asuza. And don't think that after nine volumes, GTO has made peace with all of his students. Miyabi and her pals are still deadset on getting him fired and blackmail another teacher in order to get his aid in their quest.

    As always, GTO piles on the humor but also touches on some important issues in education. One of the main themes hit upon in this volume is the lack of a significant age gap in young teachers that are starting their careers in high school. Basically, the closer you are in age to your students, the harder it is for them to respect you as an authority figure. It's probably not a good idea for a young 22-year-old teacher straight out of college to begin their career as a high school instructor. Especially if you're a pretty woman or a handsome guy. It brings all kinds of weird factors into play as seen in GTO. Students can sometimes see you as a romantic interest since you are so close in age. Azusa made no moves on any of the guys in her class. Not in the slightest. It just comes naturally to guys to treat pretty women with more kindness than ugly ones. It's just something in the hormones I guess. Probably everybody male or female had a teacher sometime in their school career that was so good looking or pretty that everyone wanted to be in their class simply to be around them. It doesn't help that Azusa is a very kind person and seems a bit helpless. Again, it plays on the male chivalry gene. Fujisawa's art is sparkling and masterful as always and the humor is deadon hilarious.

    My Grade: A+

     

    Direct download: gto_9.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:33pm CDT

    Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 10

    Manga Review of Hikaru No Go Volume 10: "Lifeline". Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata (Death Note). Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Andy Nakatani. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump imprint, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.  

    Hikaru just barely managed to survive the prelims of the pro test, not because he lacked the skill but because he lacked experience playing against adults. His playing has been pretty insular in terms of variety. He had only really been playing against the formal and quite dry styles of his Go study group. So when he went up against a maverick like Tsubaki he became quite rattled and let what were simply eccentric mannerisms ruin his concentration. But he's gained a ton of confidence after Waya and Isumi took him around to different Go salons last volume. Meanwhile, Akira Toya, still feeling the fear of being beat by Shindo at the beginning of this series, wants to find out just how far his rival has progressed. To do this he wants to set up a teaching match with Ochi. What he wants to do is teach Ochi to use his own style of play so when Ochi plays against Shindo, Toya will be able to tell how his own strategies would work. Unfortunately, Ochi doesn't want to be Toya's lab rat and refuses to accept his help. While he helped Shindo in volume 9, Isumi is currently the one that is suffering from a crisis of confidence and begins to lose games after being spooked by Shindo's newfound skill.

    I'm still amazed after reading 10 volumes of this series that I still have interest in a book that is simply about playing Go! I mean, would I feel the same if someone wrote a manga about Monopoly? Weirdly enough, if the right Japanese artist and writer were doing it, I would probably give it at least a chance. I don't think a comic like Hikaru No Go could be done by an American comic book dude or dudette. I think the very foreignness of the concept is what attracts me to Hikaru No Go. The very oddity that a game could be taken so deadly serious that people become professional Go players. But really, I guess it's no different than people becoming professional baseball players or some other sport which is just a child's game really. The art by Death Note's Takeshi Obata is spot on as usual and he manages to convey a Rocky-like physicality and dramatic flourish to a game that is essentially an intellectual cat and mouse endeavour. Sorta like Death Note. I question sometimes whether I will get sick of this title. Then I find myself answering with a definite no. At least as long as Shindo and his friends don't develop superpowers and start swordfighting with demons.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: hikaru_10.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:21am CDT

    Manga Review: Tetragrammaton Labyrinth volume 3

    Manga review of Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 3 by Ei Itou. Translated by Kenji Komiya. Adapted by Shannon Fay. Originally published in Japan by Wani Books. Published in US by Seven Seas under their Strawberry yuri imprint, $11.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    As Meg and Ann continue their mission to Germany by train, we flashback many years ago when Meg and Ann first met in Nepal. At that time Meg was just a child and traveled with her father, a missionary preacher set on seeking out unbelievers to convert them to Christianity. His wanderings had taken him to Katmandu in Nepal where Ann is being worshipped as the earthly incarnation of a local goddess. Unknown to him, some of the natives had begun to grow resentful of his presence and felt threatened by his new religion. Some of the angriest decided to take matters into their own hands and deliberately sabotaged a tall wooden pillar so that it fell and critically wounded Meg. When he learned what really happened, he snapped, completely lost his faith in God, and sought out a darker power to save his daughter and take revenge. Coming back to the present, Meg and Ann are attacked on the train by Prelati, the high ranking demon that showed up last volume, and this time he isn't alone. Thankfully, neither are Meg and Ann as some old acquaintances show up to give them aid and new weapons.

    First up, this manga should definitely be rated Mature 18+ because it has some pretty graphic violence. There are scenes of dismemberment and even bodies torn in half with their guts hanging out. Even though the title is marketed by Seven Seas as yuri, it has practically no girl on girl entanglements or romance. So if you're into that sort of thing exclusively, you should probably skip this book. The relationship between Meg and Ann is one of friendship. Very intense friendship, but not romantic. Both girls need each other not because they lust for each other, but because they need companionship. In the last volume, Meg was complaining that there were no "normal" people in the organization that they work for and Ann had to put her in check by replying that Meg herself was not normal. The true extent of that statement is fully revealed in this third installment. The fact is that the two girls cling to each other because each is a bulwark against solitude and loneliness. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth's style is more like that of Bleach or Chrono Crusade without as much humor and a better feel for horror. In fact, the author acknowledges his debt to Crusade and even recounts a conversation he had with the creator of that series, Daisuke Moriyama, and got his ok that his own work wasn't a ripoff. Moriyama even contributes a drawing of Ann for this volume. While I enjoyed the first half of Volume 3, the second half has me worried. When two characters from previous volumes show up to help Ann and Meg, it almost plays out like an American superhero comic, and the work suffers for it because it loses its hardwon sense of creepiness. Hopefully, volume 4 will get the series back on track.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: tetra_3.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:40pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 125: Sola Volume 1

    Podcast Episode 125: Manga Review of Sola Volume 1. Art by Chaco Abeno. Story by Naoki Hisaya. Character Designs by Naru Nanao. Translated by Azusa Hatori. Adapted by Jan Suzukawa. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Broccoli Books, $10.99, Rated 13+.

    Yorito Moriyama, a 15-year-old orphan, doesn't have the ideal life. His parents are dead and his older sister, Aono, is hospitalized with an unknown sickness. So he pretty much has to look after himself and make sure he keeps his sister's spirits up. While his life to some onlookers might seem a bit tragic, he seems to deal with the responsibility pretty well. Things turn a little weird when he meets Matsuri Shihou, a girl who looks Yorito's age, but is really a Yaka, an immortal being. She is actually about 350 years old. Hot on her trail is a swordsman named Takeshi, who wants to kill her and use her blood.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_125--Sola_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:00pm CDT

    Manga Review--GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 8

    Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 8 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Tohru Fujisawa starts Volume 8 of GTO out pretty cleverly by doing a whole chapter from Onizuka's first person point of view. In fact, we never even hear him talk. All the dialogue comes from Saejima, one of his old motorcycle gang buddies that holds an even more surprising job than GTO. Saejima is a cop! But he's not above swiping seized drugs and hiring call girls. He's probably not the best guy to go to in times of moral crisis. But Onizuka is desperate. He's being driven crazy by Urumi Kanzaki, the legendary school terrorist that GTO almost buried alive last volume. She's basically made him her slave by threatening to tell the authorities about the incident. GTO is looking for a way out of the situation or to reach Urumi and turn her to the good side. Or to at least make her value her life. You see, Urumi lost her faith in not only teachers, but in humanity and life in general back in the 6th grade. GTO and some other students, including Urumi, run into Ms. Fujimori, her 5th and 6th grade teacher. Back then, Urumi was recognized as being gifted and talented with a genius level IQ, and she never caused any trouble. Ms. Fujimori did something pretty horrible to her due to her lack of maturity and teaching experience that has caused a wound inside Urumi that continues to fester to this day. It's up to GTO to heal her soul and, as he quite eloquently states, "open up her butthole", to let out all the crap that she's been holding inside of herself.

    The cool thing about GTO besides all the great art, vulgarity, and humor, is the fact that it takes up some pretty powerful issues that continue to be argued about in education and probably always will be. This volume takes up the debate about whether teachers coming out of college with no experience are equipped to deal with gifted and talented students. Fujisawa appears to give a big NO as the answer to this question. Everyone can probably recall a classmate sometime during their school career that always seemed to have the answer to a teacher's question. You might have also encountered someone that seemed SMARTER than your teacher as well. Some of them would even argue with the teacher when they found something wrong with their reasoning or a fact they found erroneous. The fact is that a lot of really smart kids are BORED in a typical public school. In the best case, these kids should be placed in more advanced classes, or if they must stay in a regular class, the teacher has to give them more intellectually challenging activities. Ms. Fujimori found herself ill equipped to serve Urumi's needs and started to resent her because she began to fear that maybe Urumi was smarter than her because she came from a second rate college. A teacher should never belittle a student because of their own insecurities. Tohru Fujisawa continues to crank out volume after volume of comedy, drama, action, outstanding art, and great theses on what is wrong with the current state of government run, assembly line education models. Excellent series.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: gto_8.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:49pm CDT

    This is the start of my manga review index page covering titles that start with M-Z. Simply click on a title and it will take you to the review. Reviews that are in podcast form will say podcast. Otherwise, the reviews are text. If a review is a podcast, you can click on the pod button or click on the direct download located underneath the show notes.

  • Maison Ikkoku Volume 13
  • Maison Ikkoku Volume 14
  • Mar Volume 15
  • Monkey High! Volume 1 (podcast)
  • My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 2 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 3 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 4 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 5
  • Naruto Volume 14 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 22 (podcast)
  • Naruto Volume 28 (podcast)
  • Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood
  • Negima! Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Negima! Volume 2
  • Orfina Volume 1 (podcast)
  • The Other Side of the Mirror Volume 1 (podcast)
  • The Outcast Volume 1
  • PhD Phantasy Degree Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Pick of the Litter Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Psycho Busters Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Psycho Busters Volume 2
  • Pumpkin Scissors Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Puri Puri Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Puri Puri Volume 2
  • Rose Hip Rose Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Rose Hip Rose Volume 2
  • St. Lunatic High School Volume 1
  • Samurai Commando Volumes 1-2
  • Sand Chronicles Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Shiki Tsukai Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Shinshoku Kiss Volume 1
  • Sorcerer Hunters Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Sorcerer Hunters Volume 2
  • Sorcerer Hunters Volume 3
  • Sorcerer Hunters Volume 5
  • Space Pinchy (podcast)
  • Strawberry 100% Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Strawberry 100% Volume 2
  • Street Fighter: Sakura Ganbaru! Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Sunshine Sketch Volume 1
  • Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2
  • Togari Volume 2 (podcast)
  • Togari Volume 3
  • Uzumaki Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Welcome to the NHK Volume 4
  • Wild Ones Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Yen Plus, August Issue, Part 1 (podcast)
  • Yen Plus, August Issue, Part 2 (podcast)
  • Yggdrasil Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Yotsuba&! Volume 5 (podcast)
  • Zombie-Loan Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Category:general -- posted at: 9:28pm CDT

    This is the start of my manga review index page covering titles that start with A-L. Simply click on a title and it will take you to the review. Reviews that are in podcast form will say podcast. Otherwise, the reviews are text. If a review is a podcast, you can click on the pod button or click on the direct download located underneath the show notes.

  • 10,20, and 30 Volume 1 (podcast)
  • 10,20, and 30 Volume 2
  • Ai Yori Aoshi Volume 17 (podcast)
  • Alice on Deadlines Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Alive:The Final Evolution Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Angel Cup Volume 5
  • Arm of Kannon Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Atelier Marie and Elie Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Batman: Death Mask Issues 1-2 (podcast)
  • Chibi Vampire Volume 5 (podcast)
  • Chunchu the Genocide Fiend Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Color of Rage (podcast)
  • Coyote Ragtime Show Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Cromartie High School Volume 12
  • Eden Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Dark Metro Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Dragon Eye Volume 2 (podcast)
  • The Drifting Classroom Volume 7
  • The Drifting Classroom Volume 8
  • Eden Volume 9
  • Elemental Gelade Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gakuen Alice Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gantz Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gon Volume 2 (podcast)
  • Gon Volume 3
  • GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 1 (podcast)
  • GTO:Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 6
  • GTO:Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 7(podcast)
  • GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 8
  • Guardian Hearts Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 2
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 3
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 4
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 5 (podcast)
  • Gunslinger Girl Volume 6
  • Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2
  • Heavenshield Volume 1 (podcast)
  • High School Debut Volume 1 (podcast)
  • I, Otaku Volume 1
  • In Odd We Trust (podcast)
  • Inuyasha Volume 22
  • Kashimashi Volume 4
  • Kashimashi Volume 5 (podcast)
  • Koi Cupid Volume 1 (podcast)
  • The Law of Ueki Volume 8 (podcast)
  • The Law of Ueki Volume 9
  • Love Attack Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Category:general -- posted at: 9:22pm CDT

    This is my anime dvd review index page of titles starting M-Z. Simply click on a title and it will take you to the review. Reviews that are in podcast form will say podcast. Otherwise, the reviews are text. If a review is a podcast, you can click on the pod button or click on the direct download located underneath the show notes.

  • Mar Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Maria Watches Over Us Season 1, Episodes 1-3 (podcast)
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Mushi-Shi Volume 1
  • Naruto Uncut Box Set 3 (podcast)
  • Peach Girl Volume 4 (podcast)
  • Phoenix Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Red Garden Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Red Garden Volume 2 (podcast)
  • Rescue Me: Mave-Chan
  • Simoun Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Solty Rei Volume 2
  • Step Up Love Story Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Tekkonkinkreet (podcast)
  • Tokyo Majin Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Tweeny Witches Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Venus Versus Virus Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Welcome to the NHK Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Witchblade Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Witchblade Volume 2
  • Witchblade Volume 3 (podcast)
  • Xenosaga: The Animation Volume 1 (podcast)
  • xxxHolic Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Yo Yo Girl Cop (podcast)
  • Zegapain Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Category:general -- posted at: 9:15pm CDT

    This is the start of my anime dvd review index page. Simply click on a title and it will take you to the review. Reviews that are in podcast form will say podcast. Otherwise, the reviews are text. If a review is a podcast, you can click on the pod button or click on the direct download located underneath the show notes.

  • 009-1 Volume 2
  • 009-1 Volume 3 (podcast)
  • Ah My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 3 (podcast)
  • Air TV Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Air TV Volume 2
  • Air TV Volume 4
  • Appleseed: Ex Machina (podcast)
  • Aquarion Season 1, Part 1, Episodes 1-5 (podcast)
  • Aquarion Season 1, Part 1, Episodes 6-9
  • Area 88 Volume 1
  • Batman: Gotham Knight (podcast)
  • Beck Volume 2 (podcast)
  • Best Student Council Volume 5
  • Black Cat Volume 6
  • Bleach Volume 7: The Entry
  • Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 1-4 (podcast)
  • Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 5-8
  • Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 9-13
  • Eureka Seven Volume 7 (podcast)
  • Flag Volume 1
  • Galaxy Angel AA Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Glass Fleet Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Gunbuster 2 Volume 3 (podcast)
  • Guyver Volume 3
  • Hell Girl Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Innocent Venus Volume 1 (podcast)
  • Innocent Venus Volume 2
  • Category:general -- posted at: 7:38pm CDT

    Hey, everybody! I hope everybody is enjoying their summer. Mine ended this week. I had to go back to work on Monday, but I hope to keep on writing and recording reviews. It seems that right when I get into a groove, summer ends. But, anyway, what I wanted to say is that I'm fixing to begin making some sort of index system on the site for all the different anime and manga titles I've reviewed. The little search box on the right side that Libsyn has up pretty much sucks. So I'm gonna try to put a category over there that says something like "Index of My Reviews" or something so you can look them up by title. I won't be able to do it in a day, so I'll probably start with the most recent reviews and work backwards.

    I'm computer incompetent and illiterate so I basically have to figure out things as I go. I had no idea how to write HTML code until I started working with my blog and podcasting. Libsyn is pretty cool and cheap but they only give you the barest bones on how to set up your site. I've been meaning to change up my colors on the page for a decade now. They only give you about 3 templates or so and they aren't very good. So you basically have to teach yourself how to make a webpage if you want to do anything unique, which I guess is good and bad at the same time.

    Category:News -- posted at: 12:17pm CDT

    Manga Review: Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2 by Ei Itou

    Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2 by Ei Itou. Translated by Kenji Komiya. Adapted by Shannon Fay. Originally published by Wani Books in Japan. Published in US by Seven Seas under their Strawberry imprint, $11.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Angela needed a new weapon after her previous scythe was broken during the intense fighting we saw in Volume 1. The scythe she wants now is held at a Church research facility under lock and key. It is a weapon so powerful that it could kill that which could not be killed, a heavenly angel! In fact, the scythe is still stuck in the fossilized remains of the angel. Many people have tried to wield it, but in the end they were all killed and their spiritual power was added to the scythe. So, every person that has died trying to get their hands on it has made it even more deadly. Not only do Meg and Angela have to deal with the ghosts that haunt it, things get a bit crazier when they remove it from the dead angel and it comes back to life...as a fallen angel, with murder on its mind. After that, the duo are called to Germany for unknown reasons and encounter Hugh Williams, a demon's servant who uses the shipping lanes between England and the mainland to offer sacrifices to his master.

    The biggest surprise I got from this second volume was the fact that Angela is around 400 years old. Just looking at the two girls from a purely physical standpoint, Meg looks much older, like around 18-20, while Angela looks about 12 or so. What we find out is that it is Angela who is the big sister figure and that even though she says she only exists because Meg needs her, it is Meg who leans on her most of the time instead of the other way around.  Something else that is revealed about Angela is that she has no compunctions about killing innocent people if it serves a greater good. For example, when Hugh Williams takes hostages on the boat, Angela takes out at least 3-4 of them to take away his bargaining chips. Let's just say she takes the Keanu Reeves option from his film Speed of "Shoot the Hostage" to a whole 'nother level. She seems a little inhuman in her dealings with anyone but Meg but it is that very relationship that gives her humanity. It is Angela who reigns as the star in this second volume. It closes with the promise of revealing how Angela and Meg first met in the next installment.

    My Grade: A

    Here is my link to my podcast review of the first volume:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=241904

    Direct download: tetragrammaton_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 11:40am CDT

    Magazine Review: Future Anime Magazine a Big Ripoff

    Oh, Future Anime Magazine, of thee I blog, What piece of trash is this that hovers before my eye. What crap on yonder rooftop gleams? Could it be Future Anime Magazine? Yes, it is, quite so.

    Let me just start with a simple imperative sentence. Do not buy this magazine. I will explain why shortly.

    First, its pedigree. It is published by Future, US, Inc. If you dont know, Future is also the publisher of such castrated magazines as Nintendo Power, Playstation: The Official Magazine, and the Official Xbox Magazine. All these magazines are barely disguised, if not completely naked, mouthpieces of three huge and bloated companies. Yet all the writers of these magazines say how impartial they are and how their respective companies can't tell them what to like or not to like. That is, until they fire them for being too critical and they find themselves on the street. So you always have to take their coverage and reviews with a grain of salt. Kinda like a presidential news conference.

    Then there's the editor's note in the opening pages of the magazine where Gary Steinman bitches at anime and manga fans. Bitching about what, you ask? Over the fact that anime and manga fans are no longer buying anime and manga. Instead, they are downloading anime and reading manga in the bookstore aisles. The mistake that Gary makes is that he never qualifies that SOME fans are doing this. Not all. He also probably doesn't realize the failure of both industries to keep their fanbase as they get older. Theoretically, as fans of manga and anime get older, they should be getting better jobs and be able to spend more money on books and dvds. If they kept their fanbase, both mediums should be EXPANDING, not CONTRACTING. I think a lot of kids now that are otaku will leave it behind when they go to college and start families. It's more like a cool fad. There's a difference between passionate, fleeting love for these artforms and passionate, longterm love. Unfortunately, I think the former describes the current state of these markets. I guess before I get any more pretentious I should shut my blog. But sometimes I worry if anime or manga will still be around in 10 years. Hey, I guess I might not be either!

    Anyway, if you're not familiar with Gary, he used to be Editor-In-Chief of Newtype (which has since folded to be replaced by the already folded PIQ), which was a ventriliquist's dummy for ADV (which could be folding, and whose manga line might be folded....so many foldeds, like a blanket of failure.....) and who is the executive editor for the aforementioned lackey Playstation Magazine. So do you see how this magazine might have some issues?

    Ok, now for the insides, the primal guts, the meat in the tamale of this magazine. First of all, the entire anime section of the magazine, except for the Gurren Lagann cover story, are written by one person, Lesley Smith. Well, I wouldn't say written, I would say summarized. The anime stories are almost identical to the format that Newtype used, with big anime photos, a tiny blurb summary, and then a more fleshed out summary with very little if any critical response to the show in question. Just like Newtype, this magazine never finds a series it doesn't like. The fact that the entire section of the magazine is written by one person flagrantly throws the fact that this is going to be boring and one dimensional flatly into your face. Even the Gurren Lagann cover story is written by David Smith, who I strongly suspect is Lesley's husband. Maybe Lesley used Shadow Clone Jutsu to write all these articles?

    Then there's a summer manga guide, written by.........Guess who?.....David and Lesley Smith! Surprise!

    It also includes 12 "sizzling posters". Now if two page posters are your cup of tea, more power to you. But I don't really want to put up posters with a fold and staple holes in them....owww, they're hot!

    Once you've gotten past the pyrotechnic display of the posters, you get to the game section, which was such a ripoff, it almost made me lose my cookies. Why? Well, all the games are supposed to be anime related, even though some aren't. They're conveniently renamed "anime-inspired", which means they "look" animeish, but aren't based on any anime properties. So, anyway, they "ask" the editors of Playstation: The Official Magazine to give them their favorite picks. First up, what the hell is wrong with the Wii and the XBOX 360? You could've found plenty of real anime games from all three systems instead of Gary being lazy and relying on his own POM staff. What makes the reviews of the games even more insulting is the fact that they are almost all lifted word for word from the original Playstation Magazine reviews. Some paragraphs or wording has been changed, but very little. They even use the some screenshots, although they not so cleverly reorient and resize the pictures.

    So in the end, what do I think of this magazine. Is it worth $9.99? Let's just put it this way, if this magazine was thrown on a koala bear, it would turn into a raging bloodthirsty beast. It is a blatant attempt by Future to cash in on a market that doesn't need any more pretenders to be cluttering up shelf space. In fact, you should use the $9.99 you would spend on this litter basket refuse to buy the manga volume that Gary scolded you in his opening statement. In fact, every issue of this magazine that sells does an equivalent exchange for a volume of manga so Gary is just contributing to the problem

    My Grade: F

    Direct download: futureanime.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 6:14pm CDT

    Podcast Epiosode 124: Maria Watches Over Us Episodes 1-3

    Anime DVD review of the first disc of the Season 1 box set of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 1-3. Published by Right Stuf. Directed by Yukihiro Matsushita.

    Yumi Fukuzawa is a first year at the prestigious Lillian Girls' Academy, known for its piousness, elegance, and impeccable uniforms. The school is ruled by the Yamiyuri Council which has installed a system to keep student discipline from being a problem. Under the Souer system, older girls pick a younger classman to be their petite souer, or little sister. In practice, the older girl is supposed to look after the younger like she really is a sister by blood. Soon after her arrival at the school, Yumi encounters one of the members of the Yamiyuri Council, Sachiko Ogasawara, little realizing how entwined their lives are to become. It seems Sachiko, the star of the school, wants to make Yumi her petite souer. While Yumi is in awe of Sachiko (maybe even smitten with her), she refuses her because she is afraid Sachiko has ulterior motives.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_124--Maria_Watches_Over_Us_Disc_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:43pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 123--Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion volume 1. Manga by Majiko! Original Story by Ichirou Ohkouchi and Goro Taniguchi. Character Designs by Clamp. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Bandai Entertainment, $9.99, Rated 13+.

    In the year 2010, war broke out between Japan and the Holy Empire of Britannia. Within a month, Japan had been defeated and absorbed into the Empire. In fact, it is not even recognized as a country anymore. It has been renamed Area 11, and its inhabitants are now called 11s. The Britannians move into nice settlements while the 11s are herded into crappy ghettoes. While we haven't mentioned the word genocide yet,the Britannians seem on the brink of committing such an act. Even as the Empire is tightening its grip, some 11s are trying to fight back, even though they are labeled as terrorists. Ironically enough, even some Brittanians have taken up arms against their own country because of its treatment of Japan. Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian, has sworn to bring down the Empire, even though he is the secret heir to its throne. Suzaku, his childhood friend, and also an 11, has joined the Imperial military to bring about a change from within. Both their lives will be changed by the arrival of a mysterious girl with the power to grant Lelouch's wish.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_123--Code_Geass_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:59pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Bleach Volume 7

    Bleach Volume 7: The Entry. Directed by Norikyuki Abe. Series Composition by Masashi Sogo. Published by Viz Video, List Price: $24.98.

    Ichigo is finally able to make a cannonball, the art needed to pierce the shield surrounding the Seireitei, the fortress of the Soul Reapers. He is able to do this after getting a few pointers from Ganju. He was the last one of his group comprised of Orihime, Chad, and Ishida that had yet to master it. And he still hasn't. While his cannonball packs a lot of power he lacks the skill needed to keep it under control so it tends to explode in his face. Nonetheless, time is running out for Rukia, and the group must rescue her before she is executed. Things don't go as planned when the cannonball gets stuck in the Soul Reaper shield, which causes it to explode and seperate our heroes. Chad and Yoruichi are by themselves, while Ishida is teamed up with the ever stumbling, ever ditzy Orihime. Ichigo lands with Ganju by his side, and they are the first to have to fight Soul Reapers, as they face off against the psychotic Ikkaku (he's not crazy, he just really likes to fight) and the overly vain Yumichika who is all about his looks. Even though both of them seem to have some major psychological hangups, make no mistake, they are deadly fighters, and perhaps too powerful for Ichigo and Ganju to handle.

    You knew that Ichigo and friends were never going to make it to the Seireitei without getting seperated didn't you? Of course they had to be split up. It wouldn't have been any fun if they had arrived en masse and just started slugging their way to the tower where Rukia is being held. No, they had to be split up so their powers could be diluted and they would have to face foes whose powers might be stronger on an individual level. Through these battles we get to see if our main characters have indeed grown stronger or whether they've just been talking the talk. It's great to see them all rise to the challenge, albeit in very different ways. For example, Ichigo relies on his enormous spiritual energy and his enemy's tendency to underestimate his skills while Ganju uses his speed, wit, and guile to fight. Volume 7 of Bleach was quite good in spite of the fact that maybe some of the fights were a bit too long. But Noriyuki Abe keeps you engaged with some very well orchestrated battle sequences, choreographed with little or no static action lines. He always keeps a sense of coolness about the characters as he reveals their new powers with dramatic relish.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: bleach_7.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:30pm CDT

    Manga Review: Rose Hip Zero Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa

    Manga Review of Rose Hip Zero Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Emi Onishi. Adapted by Michael French. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99. Rated Mature 18+ for mild sexuality, intense violence, excessive gore, and moderate fanservice.

    Shohei and Asakura, alias Rose Hip, were almost killed by the crazed psycho who called himself  "The Sheep" (uh, is that a reference to Silence of the Lambs or what?). But Asakura was able to defeat him and hand him over to police custody. But we found out at the end of the last volume that the Sheep was just a lackey of "The Shepherd". His intent is to kill Asakura because he feels she is standing in the way of his "cleansing" of Tokyo. What he means by cleansing is to get rid of all the scum. And the Shepherd's definition of scum is politician (don't know if I completely disagree with that).  He's bored, sick, and tired of the current corrupt government that is running the show. He probably intends to extend his program to the whole country after he takes care of Tokyo. He has planted what amount to sleeper cells all across the city by using post-hypnotic suggestion. All it takes is a spoken word, whether it be in person or over a phone, to turn a normal person into his mind controlled slave. He even makes one of Shohei and Asakura's teachers blow her brains out! The dude is not messing around. Help arrives in the form of Natsuki Kuonji, who, just like Asakura, was trained to be a killer from an early age. But she isn't called the "Angel of Mercy" like Asakura, who never takes lives. Natsuki's nickname is "Bloody Angel" and also "Kiss Maniac Natsuki", and she is much more prone to take people out with her weapons. Just from their names, you can tell these two girl's methods of dealing with criminals is going to be like fire and ice. But Asakura, Natsuki, and the Shepherd share a connection. They were all raised by a league of assassins called ALICE.

    John Keats once said that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. I'm tempted to use that in reference to Tohru Fujisawa's art. He's just great. Fujisawa achieves the perfect balance between highly detailed characters, liberal use of elaborate backgrounds, excellent action scene layouts, sympathetic characterization, and sexy women. Don't worry ladies, he draws pretty guys for you as well. We get more of a feel of Asakura's disconnect in this volume when we learn that she lives alone and doesn't ever remember having a family. All she remembers faintly is that she was raised by the assassin organization called ALICE. Fujisawa does a good job of showing that from time to time, if not frequently, Asakura longs for a normal life, longs for a family, regular friends. Maybe at this point, Shohei is the closest thing to that dream. There's even a bit of romantic tension between the two as we get to see that most lovey dovey quintessential scene in manga, the "oops, I fell, making you fall on top of me, isn't this awkward, why are you blushing" scene. Great read, action packed. Not for kids though.

    Here is the link to Podcast Episode 119 where I did a review of the first volume:   http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=364248

    (Is it just me or has Tokyopop been quietly raising prices on some of their titles to $10.99 even though you're not getting any more pages than the $9.99 books? Is this a page from ADV Manga? We all know where they are today, don't we?)

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: rose_hip_rose_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:35pm CDT

    Naruto Fangirl and Sesho Confer With Haruhi Suzumiya

    Ok, so I'm really horrible at making headlines. Please forgive me. I haven't posted any reviews in a couple of days. I've been too busy completing an online Defensive Driving course for a speeding ticket I got a couple of months ago. Yep, I got caught burning nitrous on the city streets. Drifting on the roof of the Astrodome. Most of the course is actually text you read in small segments but as soon as I'm done I want to get off the computer. And then there's the rapid impending death of summer coming up on Monday when I return to work after a long vacation. But I have been watching anime and reading manga all the while. I plan to do text reviews of Rose Hip Rose Volume 2, Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2, and and a podcast for Code Geass Volume 1 (the manga) by weekend's end. Also, an anime text review of Bleach Volume 7.  I guess it could be worse. I coulda not had a vacation at all.

     


     

    Me and my best friend went to a comic store today, and then Borders where I picked up a manga or two. A manga bum that was there actually moved when I wanted to look at the manga! It was incredible! There were also two girls there talking about Yaoi, something about the guy that was on top and the guy that was on bottom (the exact Japanese terms for these positions escapes my mind at the moment....thankfully).  My friend wanted to go into Best Buy so I of course went straight to the anime section. I was standing there looking for about 3 seconds when this girl who looked about 13 or 14 asked "Are you a fan of anime?" I usually don't talk to strangers but we got into a pretty animated discussion about Naruto. She had been watching fansubs of the Naruto Shippuden anime while I had been reading fansubs of the Naruto manga.

    Yes, I admit that. I have bought all 30 volumes of the manga so far and I will continue to buy them as they come out. But I love that series so much that I don't want to wait another two years to read what the Japanese already have. I also have to admit that this is the only series that I've ever sought out online. We talked about some things that would be spoilers for people that haven't read farther than the current releases....way farther, so I won't go into that. I asked her whether she thought Naruto and Sakura would end up together in the end. She said she thought they would. I think he will end up with Hinata. We also talked about whether in the end, Naruto and Sasuke will become friends again. She emphatically said they would. I think they will too, but I think there will be a lot of tragedy before it happens.

    I soon found out that she was trying to figure out a way to butter up her mom to buy her a volume of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya! About that time her mom showed up and I heard her say "Mooooom" in a way that kids do when they ask their parents for something that they know there is a chance they could get......"Moooooom, can I get......" I'll never know if she got that dvd or not.....hopefully she did.

    Speaking of Haruhi, that's a series I need to go back and finish. I own the first volume and that is the only one I have watched. I liked it but for some reason never carried on with it. Now you can get it in a boxed set so maybe I'll wait and save for that.

    Direct download: haruhi.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 12:17am CDT

    Closing Thoughts on the First Issue of Yen Plus

    I talked about the individual titles in Yen Plus but I just wanted to make a few general comments about this attempt by Yen Press to put out a more reader friendly rather than boy or girl centered anthology. Of course, I'm talking about Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. It's not that I don't buy Shojo Beat because I think Shojo manga are too girly. I don't buy it because it TARGETS young girls so explicitly and the bright colors make my eyes hurt. I don't read Shonen Jump (at least, until recently) either (ok, I do buy it, but the only thing I read is Naruto!). But its Donkey Kong leveling up plots can be a little offputting as well. It targets young boys that like to hit people.

    So I am very glad that Yen Press is trying something a bit different with Yen Plus. They just seem to have put a batch of titles together with no regard for genre readers. There seems to be a little bit of everything for everybody. The danger with this kind of strategy is that by trying to please everyone, you please noone.  Myself, I LIKE variety.

    But there are some readers that feel uncomfortable wading into strange waters. Witness the incredibly negative reaction that Jack Frost got from some bloggers and board posters. They were put off by the violence and fan service mainly. Has anyone heard the words "dark comedy" before? If someone gets their head cut off and then sits there, oblivious to pain, and commenting on what jerks the two supernatural fighters are, you should know things are not meant to be taken seriously.

    I remember someone commented on a scene in Maximum Ride when we meet a little girl named Angel and another character named Max is coming to wake her up for breakfast. One reader even said it was "straight up gross". The panel shows the girl fixing to get out of bed. To me, what is creepy is that someone can see the panel and get all kinds of weird connotations out of it. Same thing with a title like Strawberry Marshmallow. Some people have told me how that title is a moe title for perverts, but I don't get that out of it at all. I think it's just cute and funny. I guess some people just bring some weird thoughts into their manga reading experience.

    In the Editor's letter at the front (back?) of the magazine, JuYoun Lee wrote that this magazine was going to be a way to introduce readers to titles before they are released as tankobans. So I asked myself which of the titles in this first issue would I buy in book form? The titles I could guarantee are Bamboo Blade, Higurashi, and Pig Bride. Borderline purchases would be Jack Frost and Nabari No Ou. I would probably pass up on Sumomomo. Titles I wouldn't take even if  they were free would be Maximum Ride, Sarasah, and Night School. I don't even count One Fine Day as a title. It was pointless drivel.

    Some people have also complained about the running order of the OEL/Manhwa section, citing mainly the outrageously cute One Fine Day somehow being a antithetic prelude to Jack Frost. My suggested reordering of the titles would go like this. Put Pig Bride as the lead title, followed by One Fine Day, Sarasah, Maximum Ride, Night School, and lastly, Jack Frost. It seems like a more coherent arrangement of content.

    Direct download: yen_small.gif
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:10pm CDT

    Japanese Women Have #1 Lifespan in the World

    You probably hear all the time about how Japan has one of the longest living populations in the world, but maybe you didn't believe it. Japan's Health Ministry conducted a study in which it concluded that Japanese girls born in 2007 would live to an average age of 86 years old. That makes them #1 in the world. Japanese boys born in 2007 are projected to live an average of 79.2 years, placing them third behind Iceland and Hong Kong. Ironically, even though the Japanese are living longer, they have one of the world's lowest birth rates, and it is projected that around 40% of the population will be 65 or older by the year 2050 if current trends continue.

    Here's the link to the full article:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080806/lf_nm_life/japan_longevity_dc

    Direct download: japan_girl.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 2:03pm CDT

    Tropical Storm, Code Geass Manga Inspires, and Best Buy Deals

    Ok, so I live right outside of Houston, Texas and if you didn't know we had a tropical storm pass through here today, by the name of Edouard. Of course the local media tried their very best to make it seem like the Four Horsemen were coming to town. I woke up this morning around 10am and had to call someone to find out if it had upgraded to a hurricane or not. There really wasn't a lot of wind or anything. Just rain. But light enough to where there wasn't any widespread flooding. So I decided to hunker down with a manga. I started reading the Code Geass manga and I just loved it. So much that I had to drop it and go to Best Buy to buy the anime. This was after it had stopped raining. It was closed! Barnes and Noble was open and I would say over half of the businesses I saw were as well. Best Buy did end up opening around 4pm and I was there like a flash.

    So here's the funny thing about the Code Geass dvd release. You can buy the slip cover version for $24.99, which contains volume 1 and 2 of the series...or you can buy volume 1 & 2 seperately for the extremely cheaper price of....$19.99 each! So I'm wondering who in their right mind would buy them seperately? I mean, even if you're just trying the show like I am sight unseen, if you're going to spend $20 on it, why not $5 more for an entire extra volume? It just seems a total waste of space on the retail shelves. There's also a limited edition that I THINK was going for around $40 (I don't buy the boxes or special edition of any show so I didn't really pay attention).

    Two other releases caught my eye. The Gokusen TV Collection, a repackaging of an earlier show from Anime Works was only $14.99. This is a really funny show and well worth this extremely low price for all 13 episodes.

    I don't know if this is going to be a steal or not but I also picked up Teknoman: The Complete Collection for $13.99. So get this, for that price you got 6 dvds, 43 Episodes, 1075 minutes of anime! It just sounded like a great deal. I've never seen the show, but I've heard about it. I can't remember if what I have heard is good though. But for that price, what did I have to lose?

    I think at a $20 price point, people are reluctant to try out shows. But lower that just a bit to $15, and I think you're going to sell a lot more units. Anime Works dvds are usually around that price. I also applaud Bandai Entertainment (not the bloated warthog Visual (are they even a company anymore?)) for releasing a dubless version of their show. I mean, when I started thinking about it, I am subsidizing a anime dvd feature I don't even use. I never watch the dubs (Cowboy Bebop is the exception), so why should I have to pay for the dub? And the hardcore fans like me get to see the show early instead of waiting for the dub as well. So, thank you Bandai Entertainment. But can the seperate volumes. It's a waste of shelf space. Put them out in the 2 volume slipcases only. Thanks for Toward the Terra as well. It seems like only Bandai is trying something different to please their customers.

    Check out the official Code Geass Site:

    http://code-geass.bandai-ent.com/

    Direct download: code_geass.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 10:01pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 122: Yen Plus Part 2: The OEL and Manhwa Section

    In this podcast I review and discuss the OEL and Korean manhwa titles in the first issue of Yen Plus.

    Maximum Ride by James Patterson and Narae Lee

    Nightschool by Svetlana Chmakova

    Sarasah by Ryang Ruy

    One Fine Day by Sirial

    Jack Frost by Jinho Ko


    See podcast Episode 120 for a review of the Japanese manga section. Simply click on this link to take you there or scroll down the page:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=364318

    Direct download: Episode_122--Yen_Plus_Part_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:33pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Disc 3, Episodes 9-13

    Anime DVD review of the third disc of Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 9-13, published by Viz Media. Price for the for the 3-disc set: $49.98 (I usually see it for around $35). Rated T+, Older Teen.

    Kazuki has been training every day with Captain Bravo and he's worn out physically and spiritually. But he can't resist a challenge when he sees the star of the kendo team, Shusui Hayasaka, effortlessly defeating all comers. When he hears Shusui mention that he wants to get stronger, he senses a kindred spirit, and decides to take him on. Even though Kazuki has no training whatsoever in kendo. The two quickly become friends and training partners, lifting each other to new heights of fighting skill. Unfortunately, Shusui and his twin sister, Ouka, are agents of the League of Extraordinary Elect (LXE). The LXE knows that an alchemical warrior is attending the school, but they do not know which student he or she is. The one person that knows, Papillon, refuses to identify Kazuki because he wants to fight him alone and in his own due time. So the Hayasaka twins are enlisted to find and kill the alchemical warrior. Dr. Butterfly wants it done quietly as well, because the school is somehow involved with his plans to resurrect the king of the Homunculi, he who is neither human nor a Homunculus, but more powerful than both.

    First thing up with this series is the fact that it should come out and admit its gayness. I don't mean that in an insulting way, but in an honest entreaty. For example, when Kazuki and his friends stop at a public bath house, all the guys start looking at each others schlongs and compare sizes. They seem especially eager to find out Shusui's too, almost falling over themselves to get a look. And then Papillon shows up with a washing bowl hanging off of his! And the League of Extraordinary Elect ratchets up the homosexuality by acting like they are in Rosie O'Donnell's favorite Broadway musical. It doesn't help that they strike effeminate poses and wear leotards either. Moon Face....need I say more. This guy jumps around shouting, or rather, flirtingly cooing "Mooooooooooooon!" as he leaps in the air clicking his heels. And why the hell is Papillion always reaching into his pants to get objects out of his thong? And he seems to be a little more busy in there than just reaching for his kakugane.

    I have to say that the character designs in Buso Renkin are some of the worst and most ridiculous I have ever seen in a manga or anime. I mean, at times these guys, mostly the villains, made me laugh out loud just looking at them. What makes it more funny is that they think they actually look good in their costumes. Papillon goes on and on about how cool his suit looks, even though he looks like a dandified buffoon. While the villains are a complete wash, the heroes are done with at least a sense of good taste. How could the same guy that did Rurouni Kenshin design characters right out of Michael Jackson's wardrobe fantasies?

    If you can get past the horrible design choices and the incredibly cheezy characters, Buso Renkin can be quite entertaining in a Shonen Jumpish sort of way. It seems incredible to me that the same writer behind the extremely well received Rurouni Kenshin could present something this goofy. Too often, the series looks very cheap as we are treated to static scenes with tons of action lines the like of which I haven't seen since the last decade. It seems like Xebec didn't spend a lot of time or money animating this show. Is it worth seeing? Yes. Is this show worth buying? I don't know yet. Probably not. I'll have to check out the second box set before I make a choice. Right now, it is not a series that I would watch more than once. Back in the day, the glory days of anime in 2004-05, I would buy almost every new show that came out. But I was burned too often and now I rent first. If I really like it, enough that I would watch it again, then I buy it.

    Grade for disc 3: B

    Grade for Box Set 1: B

    Here is the link for my review of the first two discs, I did Episodes 1-4 in a podcast and 5-8 in a text review:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/?search_string=buso+renkin&search=1

    Direct download: buso_renkin.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 4:19pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 121: xxxHolic Volume 1

    Anime DVD podcast review of xxxHolic Volume 1. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 1-4. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 13+.

    Kimihiro Watanuki has had a problem ever since he was a child. Ok, he's an orphan but he's been able to do pretty well by himself up to this point. His real problem is that he can not only see spirits, but much like Ichigo in Bleach, he attracts their unwanted attention. It's gotten to be so bad that he can't even walk down the street without them piling on top of him. Of course, when he's rolling around on the street trying to get them off, regular people think he's crazy because the spirits are invisible to them. Watanuki meets a young woman named Yuko Ichihara who runs a wish granting shop. She says she can remove his power but only if he will work part-time for her until his debt is paid. Yuko doesn't do anything for free. She requires something precious from the person asking the wish in exchange for her services.

    My Grade: B

    For more info on the series, videos, wallpaper, and icons go to the official xxxHolic site at:

    http://funimation.com/yuko/

    Direct download: Episode_121--xxxHolic_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:50pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Aquarion Boxed Set 1, Disc 2, Episodes 6-9

    This is a text review of the second disc of the Aquarion Boxed Set 1 comprising Episodes 6-9 from Funimation. Click on the following link to hear podcast review # 104 of  Episodes 1-5:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=356987

    The Elements of Aquarion have become stronger and are functioning better as a team, but the pilots still have a lot to learn. First up, Gen Fudo, the strange Merlin-like commander of the Elements sets up a Thought Projection Exercise. Partners will stand a kilometer away from each other, with one facing away. The goal is to make your partner turn around with the force of your thoughts. You just know everyone is gonna be paired up with their least favorite person. Sirius and Reika are getting kinda cozy and it's starting to drive Silvia crazy. You see, she has a bit of a "brother complex". She wants so bad for him to be the Solar Wing, her reincarnated lover....uh, but if he is, that brings up some pretty weird issues. I think at this point everyone has decided that Apollo is the real deal. Everyone EXCEPT Sirius and Silvia, and that's probably due to their hypocrisy. Surely, the Solar Wing would be reborn as a noble and not as an animalistic street kid. All these weird resentments reach a boiling point when the Shadow Angels use a device that feeds off negative emotions. Two supporting characters take center stage in Episode 8 as Tsugumi and Jun contemplate what it will be like to merge for the first time with all the attendant innuendoes and comparisons to losing their virginity. But when the time comes will they be able to step up to the plate? And then there's a Mythic Beast lurking in the dreams of the Elements that brings A Nightmare on Elm Street to mind. 

    I'm not really a big fan of giant robot anime but I don't dislike them either. As with any anime genre, if a show is good, it doesn't matter to me what it is about. I will tell you this. I think Evangelion was way overrated and that Rahxephon took the same path but did it even better. Aquarion falls into a cross between Rahxephon and Gravion (I mean the good parts of Gravion) and comes up with a very enjoyable anime. To start with, this show just looks good. The character designs are very beautiful and distinct. The sleek and acrobatic robot designs give a humanity to the battles. There are very few static cut scenes and the CG blends as well as it can with the traditional animation. Everything about this series screams the word EPIC with its attendant 12,000 year old battles between angels and humans and its take on Greek mythology and Christian scriptures. The music of Yoko Kanno just adds to the grandeur with her symphonic and choral score. But, like the director and writers of this show, she never forgets the more intimate characterization elements of the show, composing with simple instruments and singing and a variety of electronic instruments when the mood calls for it. A great show so far.

    My Grade: A

    You can view the first two episodes for free at the official Aquarion website:

    http://funimation.com/aquarion/

    Direct download: aquarion.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:26am CDT

    Boogiepop Arrives at Borders

    Just browsing the Borders manga section today, not looking for anything in particular, and was nicely surprised to see a new Boogiepop novel from Seven Seas. This one is entitled Boogiepop at Dawn and supposedly tells Boogiepop's origin. The company had not put out any Boogiepop works since the end of 2006. I love this title in all its incarnations of anime, manga, and the novels and hope that Seven Seas is back on the ball with the franchise. You can read free previews of most of the books at the official Boogiepop webpage at:

    http://www.gomanga.com/manga/boogiepop.php

    The best resource on that page is where it says "Read Boogiepop: The Ultimate guide" which is a four part article about the chronology and story arcs of the entire Boogiepop Universe.

    If you have no experience with this title, I would suggest reading the novels first, then the manga, the movie, and lastly the anime. I say the anime last because it does not adapt the first book and was made for fans already familiar with the novels. You can get the thinpack collection of the anime and live action movie for around $40 at most retailers online like Amazon or Right Stuff, and probably even cheaper on Ebay. The music soundtracks are relatively easy to find as well.

    Boogiepop at Dawn goes for $7.95 and is bound in the small light novel format that Seven Seas seems to prefer. They give real weight to the term "pocketbook". Seriously, you can actually put these light novels in your back pocket, which is actually pretty cool when you're on the go.

    Direct download: boogiepopatdawn_vol1_full.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 6:53pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 120: Yen Plus Part 1: The Japanese Manga Section

    This is the first of two podcasts reviewing the first issue of Yen Plus Magazine. In Part 1 I will be discussing and reviewing the Japanese manga titles. Part 2 will cover the OEL and manhwa section.

    Part one contains reviews of the following titles:

    Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo

    Sumomomo Momomo by Shinobu Ohtaka

    Nabari No Ou by Yuhki Kamatani

    Bamboo Blade by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi

    Higurashi: When They Cry by Ryukishio7 and Karin Suzuragi

    Direct download: Episode_120--Yen_Plus_Part_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:20pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 119: Rose Hip Rose Volume 1 by Tohru Fujisawa

    Manga Podcast Review of Rose Hip Rose Volume by Tohru Fujisawa, writer and artist of GTO, GTO: The Early Years, and Rose Hip Zero. Translated by Emi Onishi. Adapted by Michael French. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    While this is billed by Tokyopop as the sequel to Rose Hip Zero, this series actually came out first, so in fact it is a prequel. Aiba Shohei is a kid not very interested in the elite high school he attends or the life his father has laid out for him. You know, the whole go to a good school, go to a good college, get a good job, have a good life, or face being a loser speech! Shohei would rather be a criminal than live such a life. Him and his friends have been profiting from an internet site they run in which they offer panty shots of unsuspecting girls they photograph on the train. But one of these girls is about to change his pathetic life. Her name is Kasumi Asakura. She catches him trying to take a picture of her and steals the memory card out of his cell phone camera to hold over him as leverage. Little does he know that this sweet looking girl is actually the ace police agent Rose Hip, the Angel of Mercy. He will soon be caught up in her hunt for the homicidal Goldilocks Killer, who has been murdering and mutilating women in Tokyo.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_119--Rose_Hip_Rose_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:14pm CDT

    Obama and McCain Become Comic Book Stars

    Well, here we go, it seems John McCain and Barack Obama are going to be the subject of comic book biographies in early October. IDW, the comic book publisher, says that they are going to stick to the facts (Yeah, right). I wonder if any of the crew from Air Gear are gonna be in it? They also say that comic books are a more effective teaching tool than other media. I guess what they mean is any dummy can look at pictures, even if you can't read, and get some idea of a message. The article also says that the comics can already be preordered and will also be available for cell phone download. Here's the link to the full article:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080730/ap_en_ot/presidential_comic_books

     

    Direct download: Presidents.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 10:00pm CDT

    EGM Does Japan, Naruto, and an Angry Suicide Woman

    Electronic Gaming Monthly is doing a 38 page Special on Japanese videogames and features Soulcalibur 4 on the cover. The game was released yesterday. The cool thing about the next-gen consoles, at least Xbox 360 and PS3 (Wii doesn't count), is that you usually have the option to change to the Japanese voice acting with subtitles on a lot of the titles developed there. It's always cooler to me to play an RPG in the original language. Right now I'm playing Naruto: Rise of a Ninja on 360 and it's cool because you have the option of playing it with the English dub actors or the original Japanese actors from the anime. Speaking of, that will probably be the first videogame review I do for this site. There's another Naruto game in development for the PS3 as we speak (or sorta speak).

     I got Soulcalibur 4 yesterday and have been playing it a bit. It features an online element as well as a custom character option where you can modify existing models of characters. There was a thread on the 360 forums asking whether anyone had tried making any Inuyasha characters. There wasn't any replies so I guess that was a no. But it got me thinking.....

     There was an article in the Houston Chronicle, you know, just one of those little throwaway stories in a far column. It said that a woman had flipped out at a train station in Hiratsuka, about 43 miles southwest of Tokyo. Apparently, she tried to cut her wrist with an army knife, but when she was trying to do it, someone bumped her, and she got pissed, so she stabbed seven men before a crowd held her down. For once it was good that a Japanese train station was crowded! Or was it? I mean she didn't kill herself because she got bumped, but if she had been alone, she wouldn't have stabbed anyone. I think if you try that type of thing in a crowded place, you want to be stopped.

    On the lighter side of things the second Naruto movie came out yesterday. The cheapest I saw it for was $17.99. I was wondering why it was so expensive but it comes with two dvds in a hard case, almost like a hardback book. Pretty cool. Ok, I'm a Naruto nut but I'm a bit behind on the anime. I've read all the manga volumes and also some that have been translated. I've bought all of the uncut boxed sets as they came out, but I think I've only watched through the fourth set. So, yeah, even though I have both movies, I haven't watched either. Maybe I will watch one tonight.

    Direct download: egm.bmp
    Category:general -- posted at: 7:38pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 118: GTO Volume 7 by Tohru Fujisawa

    Podcast manga review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka volume 7 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Well, it looks like Onizuka has foiled the plans of Teshigawara and Mrs. Oda. He's become quite the celebrity after rescuing Oda's daughter, Hidemi, from some thugs who had kidnapped her to blackmail Hidemi's father, an important politician. But GTO got shot in the process. Can you believe he not only took the National Scholastic Achievement Test before going to the hospital, but also scored the highest in the country? So his job seems safe for the time being, but a new enemy rears its pretty head in his class. Her name is Urumi Kanzaki, a legendary classroom terror that had dropped out of school, much to the delight of the Holy Forest faculty. Now she's returning with the express purpose of torturing GTO.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_118--GTO_Volume_7.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:06pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 117: Elemental Gelade Volume 1 by Mayumi Azuma

    Manga review of Elemental Gelade Volume 1 by Mayumi Azuma. Translated by Alethea Nibley. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Originally published by Mag Garden in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.

    Cou has been trying everything he can to fit in with the Red Lynx Sky Pirates but he can't get his fellow crewmembers to respect him or take him seriously. It probably has something to do with the fact that he can't even pilot a plane by himself. Still, things begin to change when he opens a ancient sarcophogus-like object in the ship's treasury and finds a beautiful young girl inside it. At first he thinks it is a doll but then the girl opens her eyes. Her name is Ren and she is an Edel Raid, a living weapon that bonds with another person. She wants to go to a place named Edel Garden and Cou agrees to accompany her. Just then, the Red Lynx is attacked by a trio looking for Ren.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_117--Elemental_Gelade_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:02am CDT

    Podcast Episode 116: Beck Volume 2

    Podcast Anime DVD review of Beck Volume 2 and a general introduction to the series that will be released as a box set tomorrow from Funimation.

    Koyuki didn't have too much interest in school before but now that problem is compounded by his increased interest in playing guitar. But his schoollife becomes a bit more complicated when he chips a piece off of Rikiya Kitazawa's Fender Jaguar guitar by accident. Kitazawa is the resident bad-ass of the school and the number one thug. Luckily, he wasn't around when it happened and Kitazawa's friend, Hyodo, promises to keep it secret. That is, IF Koyuki becomes his personal gopher and errand boy, and is willing to loan him money whenever he asks. Yes, that's right...BLACKMAIL. But things are looking up outside of school as Ryusuke's band, which he has dubbed Beck, seems to be fully formed, and Koyuki might even become a member.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_116--Beck_Volume_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:09pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 115: Eden Volume 1 by Hiroki Endo

    Podcast manga review of Eden: It's an Endless World Volume 1 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.

    A viral pandemic has ravaged the Earth and killed off a lot of the population. Enoah and Hannah are two of the lucky few who are immune to its spread, and along with Professor Morris Layne, continue to eke out a living at a ruined research facility. They are the only survivors out of a group of scientists and their families who once walled themselves in the biodome type environment in an effort to find a cure for the virus. Now it is in ruins, and Layne is slowly dying. Nobody knows for sure if anyone else on the planet is still alive or whether a cure was ever found. But the arrival of armed troops in helicopters is going to change their little Eden forever.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_115ver2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:42pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 114: Appleseed Ex Machina

    Podcast Blu-ray review of Appleseed: Ex Machina. Directed by Shinji Aramaki. Produced by John Woo. Based on the manga by Shiro Masamune. Published by Warner Brothers, List Price: $34.98, Rated PG-13.

    In a post-apocalyptic world in which war killed over half the world's population, mankind has started rebuilding out of the ruins. Olympus, the shining city on the hill, serves as an example of what humanity can achieve. But there is always someone who wants to throw a wrench into things, isn't there? A lot of the city's inhabitants have cybernetic enhancements or are dependent on a super Blackberry device called a Connexus. A terrorist element is able to send out a signal that can control cyborgs and Connexus users and make them kill, rob, pillage, or whatever strikes their fancy. It's up to Deunan, a human, and Briareos, a cyborg, to hunt down who is behind it all. But a conflict arises as Deunan is forced to partner up with a combat Bioroid named Tereus, who is a clone of her former lover Briareos, and sports all of his former bishonen handsomeness.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: Episode_114--Appleseed_Ex_Machina.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:21pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 113: Future Anime Magazine, Manga Bums and Guardian Hearts Volume 1 Manga Review

    I take a look at the new Anime Insider and a new magazine, Future Anime, which seems more style than substance and way too expensive, and comment on manga bums, which seem to infest bookstores, and are very hard pests to remove. Then it's on to a review of Guardian Hearts Volume 1 by Sae Amatsu, a new manga from Tokyopop which should be published under a new imprint called Tokyoslop!

    Guardian Hearts Volume 1 by Sae Amatsu. Translated by Monica Seya Chin. Adapted by Erin M. Blakemore. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen Ages 16+.

    Hina has been sent by the Planet of Light to be the superpowered guardian of Earth. But her track record at beng a superhero isn't too great and this is her last chance to redeem herself. She is advised to not do anything stupid like reveal her secret identity. She says she won't but when she turns around, there is a guy that had been standing there the whole time. His name is Kazuya and he has instantly blown her cover. To make sure Kazuya doesn't reveal her secret, she moves in with him and his mom and also enrolls in his school. Pretty soon, other strange alien girls begin to move in to the house as well. There's Kurusu, who can absorb abilities through clothes, Ooba Maya the space ninja, Chelsea the magical princess, Koto the space Miko, and a little cat girl named Daisy.

    My Grade: F

    Direct download: Episode_113--Guardian_Hearts_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:12pm CDT

    Manga Review: Negima Volume 2 by Ken Akamatsu

    Manga Review of Negima volume 2 by Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and A.I. Love You. Translated by Douglas Varenas. Adapted by Peter David and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT ages 16+.

    Negi sees a lot of students really putting pressure on themselves studying and wonders why his own Class 2A seems to be going about their usual business. When he asks one of the girls what the deal is, she tells him that in 3 days the school will be taking the all-important high school exam. 2A always has the worst average so none of the girls even bother getting upset about it, especially the Baka Rangers. They get a bit more serious when they hear rumors that Negi might be fired or their class might be dissolved if they don't improve their class ranking. The truth is that if Negi can somehow get his class out of last place, he will "officially" become a teacher at the Academy (up to this point he's been in a probationary type position). He starts to come up with some sort of magical solution, but Asuna talks him out of it, saying that the girls should fail or succeed on their own merits. Negi even goes to drastic lengths by taking away his own powers in the 3 days leading up to the test so he won't be tempted to use his magic. Asuna quickly changes her tune when she hears the rumors going round the school and enlists the Baka Rangers to help acquire a mythical book in the school library that supposedly makes you smarter if you read it. The Mahora Library is the largest library in the world and contains millions of books, with a lot of them being rare and irreplacable. Due to the nature of the tomes inside it, there are lots of traps on its first floor to keep out would-be robbers. Traps which Negi and company are going to have to deal with minus his magic.

    The two things that instantly grab you just flipping through this manga is its beautiful art and sexy fanservice. Akamatsu is pretty much at the top of his form doing harem comedy. But the fact that Negi is so young eleminates some of the horndog nature that you find in some male protagonists of this genre. Instead of being a perverted male surrounded by pure and innocent girls, Negi is the pure and innocent one being played on by females that find him cute and irresistible, especially Ayaka, the class rep. Of course this wouldn't be Akamatsu if the writer didn't find a ton of ways to get the girls bathing naked, have their clothes blown off, or bend over for various reasons for panty shots. It's just the nature of Akamatsu's game. While he focuses a lot on comedy, he is not afraid to draw epic background environments pulled right out of Kurosawa's vast shot forte. This is something a lot of manga artists lack nowadays, the use of wide shots. The character designs are great. I never have trouble recognizing any of the 31 girls of class 2A. They are distinct enough, at least in outward form, so you don't confuse them very easily. We haven't really got to know them all as personalities but then again, this is only the second volume. I look forward to learning more about the characters. Negima is really funny and is a very entertaining adventure.

    My Grade: A

     

    Direct download: Negima_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:00pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 112: Sand Chronicles Volume 1 by Hinako Ashihara

    Manga Podcast Review of Sand Chronicles Volume 1 by Hinako Ashihara. Translated by Kinami Watabe. Adapted by John Werry. Published by Viz under their Shojo Beat imprint, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    Ann is a young woman preparing for marriage to a foreign businessman. As she is packing her stuff, a young girl asks her about a miniature hourglass she finds in Ann's room among her valuables. It makes Ann flashback 14 years ago when she was 12 years old, shortly after her mom and dad got divorced. All those years ago, Ann and her mom visited the Sand Museum in Nima, home of the largest hourglass in the world. Ann and her mom, Miwako, had to move in with Ann's grandparents in the small town of Shimane to make ends meet. This is a crushing defeat for Miwako, who always felt trapped in her old hometown. Meanwhile, Ann has to quickly adjust to life away from Tokyo as well and soon meets a boy named Daigo, whose father hunts, kills, and eats game animals he shoots in the countryside. She also finds out that Daigo's mom and her mom were close friends when they were younger and begins to learn about her mom's dreams and aspirations. She begins to realize she belongs in Shimane even as her mom realizes her disgust with the place has not changed.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_112--Sand_Chronicles_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:54pm CDT

    Anime DVD Review: Buso Renkin Set 1, Disk 2, Episodes 5-8

    This an anime dvd review of Episodes 5-8 of the second disk of the Buso Renkin Box Set 1. The box set is published by Viz and is available for the list price of $49.99. I've seen it at Best Buy for $34.99. Directed by Takao Kato. Series Composition by Akatsuki Yamatoya. Rated 16+.

    The first dvd of this set ended in a cliffhanger, or in reality a FIGHThanger, as Kazuki and a handicapped Tokiko began their battle against Chono's servant, the hawk-type Homunculus named Washio. Tokiko is not operating at full capacity because she has a Homunculus embryo inside her that is slowly making its way to her brain, at which point she will turn into one of the very monsters she has been fighting. It is imperative that they finish the battle quickly so they can find Chono and get an antidote that will save her life. But Washio is not like the other Homunculi. He seems to have extremely acute reasoning skills and even exhibits a very human-like loyalty to Chono that causes him to fight to the death against Kazuki and Chono. And Chono is no longer the only villain of this piece. We are also introduced to the League of Extraordinary Elect, a group of humanoid Homunculi that are apparently led by a turncoat alchemist warrior that disappeared 100 years ago.

    The highlight, or more accurately, the lowlight, of this dvd has to be the transformation of Chono as he assumes the powers of a Homunculus and begins to call himself Papillon. Ok, how low does this anime go? Pretty low. When Chono transforms, all his clothes strip away, revealing him in all the glory a grayish thong with a purple butterfly on it can impart. Instantly he reaches into his thong, moves his hand in a very subversive way and pulls out a huge butterfly mask that couldn't possibly have fit in that tiny little thong. Then he does a little ballet spin in front of a shojoesque background of yellow glitter and strikes a pose, even as he is getting shot at by some of his father's goons. The costume he adopts later on is almost in worse taste than the too-revealing speedo. Papillon has to be the fruitiest villain I have ever encountered in an anime but he fits right in with some of the utterly ridiculous character designs of the monsters and bad buys in Buso Renkin. One of the Elect actually has a head in the shape of a crescent moon! This seems to be weak point of a lot of Shonen Jump titles. For example, the Hollows in Bleach, the monster forms of Naruto and Sasuke in the Naruto manga and anime. I mean, these series are drawn by good artists but when they do monsters, bad guys, or demonesque figures, they just show a complete lack of imagination and make something that is supposed to appear scary look funny. Or they make the villain overly feminine like in Black Cat. So however disturbed Chono makes you feel in his insane rant phases, it is severely undercut when he prances around like he's in a Broadway cabaret.

    Buso Renkin at times seems cobbled together from other manga and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Bleach, but all in all, I have enjoyed the first two volumes of this show even with the whole Papillon debacle. It was cool that we did get some backstory on Chono and that he is simply living his life like his father taught him. Taught probably wouldn't be the exact words I would use. It does seem as though he might not be quite beyond redemption though. I like all of the characters and the chemistry between Kazuki and Tokiko works quite well. They seem to respect each other and there is a very quiet relationship blossoming between them on the down-low.

    My Grade: B

     

     

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 5:45pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 111-- Batman: Gotham Knight

    Podcast Review of the Batman: Gotham Knight dvd, a collaboration between American storytellers Greg Rucka, Alan Burnett, Brian Azzarello, Greg Olson and Japanese Animation studios Studio 4C, Production IG, Madhouse, and Bee Train. Published by Warner Brothers, $19.99, Rated 13+. Also available in a 2-disc special edition and Blu-ray for a higher price.

    If you ever saw the Animatrix, which bridged the timespan between the first and second Matrix movies, you will be familiar with the concept behind Batman: Gotham Knight. This dvd doesn't really introduce many new characters or storylines taken up in the The Dark Knight movie. It seems to be a device to whet the appetite for Batman fans before the new Dark Knight opens in theaters. Nothing less and nothing more. You get six loosely connected animated tales of Batman from American writers and Japanese anime studios which vary in quality from decent to really good.

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: gotham_knight_form_3.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:35pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 110: Yggdrasil Volume 1 by Lay Matsuki

    Podcast manga review of Yggdrasil Volume 1 by Lay Matsuki. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Mallory Reaves. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Go Comi, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    In 2010, Wood Soft Inc., a software company, ships the Leaves Operating System, which comes bundled MMORPG game Yggdrasil. It quickly picks up millions of players. Kaoru and Koki, two high schoolers, and buddies since childhood, are among those millions. But something seems to a little screwy in the online world of Yggdrasil. Monsters are appearing out of context, such as a creature usually only found in water appearing on land, or a forest monster appearing in a city. Not only that, but a legendary character from Yggdrasil's beta-test days, called The Phantom, has shown back up, and nobody knows why.

    My Grade: C-

    Direct download: Episode_110--Yggdrasil_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:58pm CDT

    Manga Review--GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 6 by Tohru Fujisawa

    Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 6 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Things were not going very good for GTO at the end of Volume 5. Representatives from "The Mother and Child Victim's Support Group" showed up at school demanding to observe Onizuka's classroom. It seems they have gotten word of inappropriate behavior in his class and they want to check it out for themselves. Wouldn't you know it that GTO is on one of his slightly crazy kicks and is walking the halls wearing nothing but suspenders, a bizarre elephant head tutu around his crotch area, and some boots! In a hard to miss Freudian metaphor, Onizuka sprays some sort of substance, which I can only hope was water, out of his trunk onto the face of the leader of the support group. He's on the verge of losing his position, but Teshigawara, the evil math teacher, wants to make sure Onizuka never gets another teaching job for the rest of his life. He wants to expose him for the unqualified joke that he really is. He proposes a plan to Ms. Oda, the support group leader, in which Onizuka will take the National Scholastic Achievement Test. This is an academic test that students take three times a year. If GTO is able to make the top score in the country, then he will be able to keep his job. If he can't do this then he will have to give up being a teacher forever. Of course, we all know Onizuka is a complete moron so there is little hope he will even pass it, much less ace it. Since he only has a week to prepare, Azusa invites him to stay over at her place so she can coach. You can imagine the fantasies that start going through our hero's head when he hears this proposition.

    The main thing that this volume and the series as a whole has going for it is its humor. Tohru Fujisawa is a great master of the common joke. He can make you laugh. When Onizuka starts daydreaming about all the fun he's going to have staying over at Azusa's (He actually visualizes the info he has to study being written on her naked body), he is rudely awakened when he finds out the dictatorial study regimen she has laid out for him. And some incredibly horrifying dishes to eat as well. He goes to an almost exclusive diet of grilled tuna head. She even supplies extra tuna eyeballs for him to eat that supposedly increase brain activity. Besides that she has electric head bands, pyramid triangles, wave generators, memoryman headphones, alpha wave music, and computer software to aid him. It doesn't really bode too well for his confidence that she's willing to go to such extreme lengths. The art is great as usual and is drawn very realistically. While there are moments of visual morphing during moments of humor or high emotion, there aren't any chibi figures to be seen in this series. So while the humor can be very funny, it never achieves this through drawing characters in wacky styles. It is done more by having the characters react to certain situations or to each other. Fujisawa also handles the action sequences very well. A great read. A great series.  

    My Grade: A

     

    Direct download: gto_6.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 2:24pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 109: Step Up Love Story Volume 1

    Anime DVD review of Step Up Love Story Volume 1: For Better, For Worse. Directed by Yuji Moriyama. Written by Chiaki Konaka. Based on the manga Futari Ecchi by Katsu Aki. Published by Media Works, $19.95, Episodes 1-2, Rated Mature.

    Makoto and Yura are newly married, both 25 years old, and still virgins. Their first night of romance is ruined when Yura falls asleep before anything can happen. But both partners soon realize that neither have any idea of how to satisfy each other sexually. This is further hammered home by Yura's slutty sister, Rika, who soon realizes that Makoto is clueless in the ways of love and has no idea how to make her sister happy and tries to instruct him on how to change the situation. Yura's friends try to give her advice as well on how to satisfy a man. It doesn't help that two co-workers are coming on to Makoto at work, even though they know he is married.

    My Grade: C-

    Direct download: Episode_109--Step_Up_Love_Story_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:25pm CDT

    Manga Review: Psycho Busters Volume 2

    Manga Review of Psycho Busters Volume 2. Story by Yuya Aoki, creator of Getbackers. Manga by Akinari Nao. Translated and adapted by Stephen Paul. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published by Del Rey in US, $10.95, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Kakeru and his new psychic friends are holed up at his house after being attacked by two Category Ones last volume. They won't be disturbed since Kakeru's mom and sisters are on vacation in Hawaii and his dad has been out of the country on business for 3 years. He doesn't exactly have the most tight-knit family. If you remember, there was a ticket mix-up in volume 1 and they were short by one ticket. Instead of cancelling the trip, they dumped Kakeru and went without him! Pretty ghetto if you ask me. We learn a bit more about the "Greenhouse" facility that Ayano, Xiao Long, Kaito, and Joi escaped from. Psychics are taken there by hook or crook and experimented on or made to serve the ends of its directors, the Frontier Committee. Some of the psychics were driven insane or even killed due to the methods the Greenhouse used. Ayano, the faculty member of Kakeru's school is still along for the ride as well, and is beginning to show that she is more than just a simple teacher. While the kids try to get some downtime at the school pool, the Greenhouse sends out one of their most powerful Category Ones, Takemaru, who has a serious inferiority complex, which causes to kill a lot of people with his powers and suffer from delusions of godhood.

    I'm beginning to really like this series. Mainly because of the changes that are occuring with Kakeru. In Volume 1, he was a computer game geek who looked forward to masturbating to his dad's high school girl porn. Slowly, he has evolved into a hero willing to sacrifice his life for his new friends. This is due mainly to his growing affection for Ayano, to whom he was attracted at first sight when she appeared in all her naked astral form last volume. As he gets to know her, his initial attraction is developing into love, even if he doesn't know it himself.  Kakeru wants to protect Ayano even though he is not really aware of what his psychic power is or how to activate it. It's always nice to see a cliched horndog manga character go beyond themselves and think about something other than sex. The art by Akinari Nao, while not great, is pretty good, and is an odd mix of bishonen and bishojo art styles that will appeal to both genders of manga readers. The story too, is a mix between superpowered battles combined with almost slice of life storytelling showing how all the kids are cohabitating. That's probably another reason Psychic Busters is growing on me. It takes some well known manga conventions and puts them together in an interesting mix.

    My Grade: A

    Check out Podcast Episode 100 for a review of Volume 1

    Direct download: psycho_busters.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:22am CDT

    Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 6 by Yu Aida

    Gunslinger Girl Volume 6 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+.

    The Social Welfare Agency believes that it has learned from its past mistakes and is ready to begin production of a second generation of cyborg assassins. There will be an initial run of 10 girls with design improvements. While the physical abilities of the cyborgs will be less than that of the first, the new "conditioning" process will double their lifespan and make them easier to maintain. If this new system works, the SWA has even started thinking about a way to make money by selling its cyborg girls commercially. The first candidate is Elizabeta Baranovskaya, a ballet dancer who is suffering from bone cancer in one of her legs. It's gotten so bad that the doctors say the only way to save her life is to amputate it.  But nobody realizes that Elizabeta's dream of being a great ballerina is stronger than her will to live. If she loses her leg, in her eyes at least, her life is over. End of story.  Meanwhile, Giuseppe and Jean take their fratello, Henrietta and Rico, on a rare vacation where they hope to get away from their job. Unfortunately, it ends up dragging up old memories as Jean is reminded of his dead parents, a dead sister, and a fiance killed by Padania. He's not really a happy fellow.

    Gunslinger Girl really stands out in the writing and characterization departments. That's not to say that Aida can't handle the action sequences as well. In fact, while there is only one short battle in this volume, it is handled exquisitely and cinematically. The way the panels are laid out is something he couldn't do in earlier volumes. It's really cool to see someone mature not just artistically but as a writer too. The new girl, Petrushka, joins a cast that the reader was already very sympathetic to, but in a surprise move, her backstory is front and center. In the past, Aida has glanced over the lives of the girls before they became part of the SWA.  It was merely a footnote, so it was a clever twist for Aida to use the newest member to begin some character exploration. Alessandro, Petrushka's handler, comes across as a bit of a jerk, but maybe he's insensitive simply because of the nature of his job. It's pretty creepy that the handler can actually tell the doctors of the SWA exactly what they want their girl to look like. I mean, the hubris of these guys to play God like they do. Unfortunately, if you like this series, it is currently in publishing limbo. This volume was published in December 2007 and there's been no word when ADV will put out the next book. After losing most of their newer anime titles, I'm beginning to wonder if ADV will even be in business this time next year.

    My Grade A-

    Direct download: gunslinger_6.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:33pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 108: Gunslinger Girl Volume 5 by Yu Aida

    Manga Podcast Episode 108: Gunslinger Girl Volume 5 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+.

    A brief overview of the series and then a review of Volume 5. Padania has begun to suffer from a bit of infighting and the first victim is going to be Cristiano, the leader of the Milan faction. His only allies are Franco, Franca, and Pinocchio. All of them feel a sense of loyalty to Cristiano, especially Pinocchio, whose life he saved many years ago. The Prime Minister of the government sees this as the perfect time to eliminate Padania once and for all, so he sends out the SWA girls to begin an offensive.

    My Grade: A+

    Check out Podcast Episode 90 for a review of Volume 1

    Direct download: Episode_108--Gunslinger_Girl_5.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:11pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 107: Arm of Kannon Volume 1 by Masakazu Yamaguchi

    Podcast Manga Review 107: Arm of Kannon Volume 1 by Masakazu Yamaguchi. Translated by Erika Jones. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Published in Japan by Gentosha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    This Podcast contains mature language so keep the kids away!!

    Mao and Maya's archaeology professor father has been missing for 3 years, but now he's come home to see his kids. But he's not the same devoted familyman he used to be. He has been corrupted by the evil Arm of Senju Kannon which, while granting unlimited power, only lets its host use it for evil until they become a burned out husk. Then the Arm chooses a new vessel. Mao, with his concealed sexual energy and lust for blood, would seem to be the next candidate. A strange nameless swordsman shows up on the scene to stop the transfer even as a military contractor seeks to capture the arm for itself to aid in making monstrous reptilian super soldiers. This first volume contains graphic violence and sexual imagery definitely suited to adults only. Fans of Gantz, Battle Royale, and Eden will dig it.

    My grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_107_small--Arm_of_Kannon_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:24pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 106: Gantz Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku

    Podcast Manga Review of Gantz Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. Translated by Matthew Johnson. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.

    The highly violent, highly sexualized, and highly anticipated series is finally out from Dark Horse and it doesn't disappoint. Kei and Kato are saved from death in a subway accident only to find themselves trapped in a room with a group of people from all walks of life whisked away in a similar manner right before they died. They cannot leave and are commanded by a strange black globe to hunt down and kill an alien. 

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_106--Gantz_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:57pm CDT

    Podcast Episode 105: Koi Cupid Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Koi Cupid Volume 1 by Mia Ikumi. Translated by Rie Hagihara. Adapted by Jason R. Grissom. Originally published in Japan by Soft Bank Creative. Published in US by Broccoli Books, $9.99, Rated E for Everyone.

    The job of the cupids Ai, Koi, and Ren, is to make sure that those that are fated to be lovers come together to fulfill their destiny. Sometimes it might be the shyness of the boy or girl that is keeping them apart. Or it could be a job or a misunderstanding. Whatever it is, the three girls must find a way to overcome the obstacle. They not only struggle with their own ineptitude at times, but also must faceoff against cute demons like Lizette, whose goal in life is to foil angel missions.

    My Grade for 8-10 year old girl readers: B

    My Grade for readers 11+: C-

    Direct download: Episode_105--Koi_Cupid_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:35pm CDT

    Gurren Lagann Beats Batman

    Well, I had put in my order for the Dark Knight Blu-Ray dvd from Amazon, but after reading some negative reviews online, it just did not seem like a safe bet to buy it sight unseen. So I cancelled my order. I'm going to rent it before I put down money on it.

    But I did find an unknown quantity to buy today. I bought the first volume of Gurren Lagann at Best Buy for $19.99. It's quite a good deal from Bandai Entertainment, which seems a complete antithesis of Bandai Visual with its overpriced monstrosities. Bandai Enter has always had very reasonable prices for its anime dvds. This first volume of Gurren actually has two dvds comprising episodes 1-9. You can't beat getting 225 minutes of anime for that price. Thank you Bandai Entertainment! I've never seen the show, but Gainax is doing it so it can't be that bad. (Even though I pretty much despise Evangelion, I like FLCL, Abenobashi). So, hopefully, my money will be worth it and I will enjoy it.

    Direct download: Gurren.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 5:18pm CDT

    Manga Review: Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2

    Manga Review of Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2 by Court Betten. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.

    Souza of the North Wind still hasn't recovered his memory, and it might be a bit late anyway, as he is apparently killed by an assassin named Kurusu of the Sun. Or at least severely wounded.  Kurusu was sent from the Rokka corporation, which on the surface appears to be a normal career placement business. And this is not quite a lie. In reality it takes on ANY assignment as long as the money is right. They have even gone so far as to begin making an "ultimate man" called a "Yoh", which in essence is a kind of super soldier that Rokka can use to complete its missions. Souza was one such operative until he went rogue. Of course, Chiyoharu and Kaede have no idea that Souza has been captured by the company, but they have their own problems. Chiyoharu's buddy, Tomason, has been taken hostage by a Yakuza thug named Sanjuro Araki in an effort to extort money that their teacher, Ayame, owes the mob. I don't think we really know at this point exactly what sum it is or why Ayame had to borrow it from the Yakuza. But I doubt they would be coming after her for petty change.

    If you listened to Podcast Episode 84 in which I reviewed Volume 1 of this series, you know that I did not particularly care for that book. I actually had second thoughts about buying this next installment but I decided to give it one more chance. Volume 2 was more of the same, but for some reason, I liked it more. Probably because there was some explanation of what was going on. For instance, we find out what Souza is and why his memories have been lost. Since the reader can understand why things are happening now, you can begin to develop a plot, which seemed to be largely absent from Volume 1. It just seemed to be a hodgepodge of different character types and genres thrown together under one title with no rhyme or reason. This is still the basic weakness of the book. You have Yazkuza, girl detectives, evil corporations, martial arts battles, mixed in with some metamanga. It almost becomes a parody of itself, with the characters sometimes being fully aware that they are in a manga. In the end, Harukaze is just meant to be a fun diversion, and is never meant to be taken seriously, even for a millisecond.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: harukaze2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:37pm CDT

    Batman, Geneon, and Barack Obama in Air Gear!

    Batman: Gotham Knight is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today featuring the animation of such popular Japanese studios as Production IG, 4c, and Madhouse. I haven't had a chance to see it yet. I looked at Hollywood Video today but for some dumb reason they did not receive any copies. Amazon.com has a pretty good price for the Blu-Ray version: $21.95 which I will probably order tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about the new movie. The official site link is:

    http://www.warnervideo.com/batmangothamknight/


    Funimation has listed some of the release dates of series it picked up from Geneon:

    August 19: Black Lagoon season 1, Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage volume 1, Elemental Gelade volume 1

    September 2: Karin volumes 1-4, Kyo kara Maoh! season 2's volume 1-7

    September 9: Shakugan no Shana series box

    September 16: Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage volume 2, Fate/stay night
    series box, Hellsing Ultimate volumes 1-4, Rozen Maiden series box

    September 23: Kamichu! series box, Paradise Kiss series box

    September 30: When They Cry - Higurashi volumes 1-4
    (source: ANN)

    I definitely will pick up the Fate/Stay Night and Kamichu sets. These are both great shows. From what I understand the prices for the box sets will be in line with Funimation, not Geneon. So I would expect them to run around $50. Rozen Maiden would be a borderline purchase for me.


    Lastly, on Madeleine Rosca's Live Journal, she posted a picture of a new character that was introduced in the Japanese manga Air Gear in chapter 206 who is purported to be a takeoff of presidential candidate Barack Obama. The character is named John Omaha. I can't vouch for the translation but one of the comments on her blog says the panel translates his dialogue as "Why is it on this night when I'm meeting such a lovely person, I have failed to bring my tuxedo" and the side panel reads "the candidate for the next president of the United States". Now if he would just put on some ATs! Of course, Rosca is the artist and writer of the exquisite Hollow Fields from Seven Seas, with two volumes out now. She makes me believe that OEL has a future and can be better than Japanese manga in some cases. You can click on my link to her Live Journal underneath blogs on my webpage.

    Direct download: obama.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 9:03pm CDT

    Manga Review: Samurai Commando Volumes 1-2

    Manga Review of Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volumes 1&2. Art by Ark Performance. Story by Harutoshi Fukui. Original idea by Ryo Hanmura. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by CMX, $9.99 each, Rated T+.

    35-year-old Yusuke Kashima is having a hard time finding a job that he can hold on to. Currently he's on the verge of losing his eighth one since being discharged from the Japanese Self Defense Force. In the SDF, he was part of the special marine brigade "F Unit" serving under his idol, the charismatic and now deceased Colonel Matoba. After F Unit was disbanded, Kashima became disillusioned with both the military and Matoba and has been trying to adjust to the civilian life ever since. He finds out how little his own problems matter when the military comes a callin'. They show him pictures of strange globes of black energy both large and small that have begun to appear across Japan. These black holes are replacing our space and if they continue not only will Japan be replaced, but our entire dimension. What does all this have to do with Kashima, you ask? Six years ago, his mentor, Matoba, was killed in action. Well, at least, that's what the military said. The actual truth of what happened to him is a pretty amazing tale. 6 years ago, while testing some new military technology, Matoba and his unit were somehow transported back in time to the year 1549! It is believed that these holes are being caused by Matoba changing the past. Their suspicions are correct. Matoba plans on using his technological know-how to conquer not only Japan but the entire world. Kashima is going to be part of a mission to go back in time and bring Matoba back to the present. How long is he given to save the world? 3 days!

    Whenever you involve time travel in a story, you always run into questions that spawn more questions. For instance, if the black holes are caused by changes in the time continuum, it wouldn't make any difference if you brought Matoba back to the present. The damage has already been done, and any change in the past would result in a completely different reality, especially for Japan. And once the future technology was introduced by Matoba, the cat would be out of the bag as well. For example, Matoba fashions a hybrid armor for his men, blending the craft of  Japanese and European metalwork. It's too much to ask us to believe that someone back in 1549 would not emulate this armor and perhaps change the course of warfare in the past. The art is pretty good if lacking soul and passion. That pretty much sums up this two volume manga as well. Since the plot only allows 3 days to complete its mission, we don't get to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, so the writer has to paint their personalites and motivations with very broad strokes with very little room to add nuances and depth. The main theme comes across loud and clear and has been echoed through the ages from ancient Rome to current America. Namely, that there are always those who wonder if their present country is living up to the ideals of its ancestors. Matoba and Kashima are very concerned that modern Japan has lost something very vital that it once had. Could it be the fact that our consumer culture has stripped men of everything they once cherished? Is our century even capable of fostering the traits of bravery, loyalty, and sacrifice? These are questions that other nations have asked themselves when the intelligent among them believed their country had lost its way. The problem is that this manga throws the moral of its own sermonizing message directly in your face too many times, especially in the second volume. For better handling of this same plot device, I would highly recommend watching the anime Zipang. This was an ok read, but there just wasn't time to flesh it out.

    My Grade: C+

    Direct download: samurai_commando.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:43pm CDT

    Episode 104: Aquarion The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 1-5

    Anime DVD review of Episodes 1-5 of the Aquarion Complete Series Box Set Part 1. Published by Funimation.

    12,000 years ago the human race was saved from defeat by the Solar Wing, a Shadow Angel who betrayed his own race for the love of a human girl. All of these thousands of years passed with no word of the Shadow Angels but they reawakened in the aftermath of the Great Catastrophe which devastated the planet 11 years ago. Now the only force that can stand against them is Aquarion, a giant mecha composed of three seperate vehicles called Vectors, that unite to battle the Angels. Only those with special psychic abilities, called Elements, can pilot the Vectors, so a world-wide search to find the best candidates has been launched. It is the hope of the searchers to find the reincarnation of the Solar Wing in the hopes that he can save mankind.

    You can watch the first two episodes for free at the official Aquarion website:

    http://funimation.com/aquarion/

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_104--Aquarion_Episodes_1-5.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:52pm CDT