Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bleach Series 8 Part 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Rating: 12
Running Time: 292 Mins
Audio: English & Japanese DD 5.1
Release Date: 19/03/2012
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Ichigo, Chad, Renji, Rukia and Uryu have all gone in different directions to deal with any foes that might be around the corner. Each one has their own foe, and they prove to be more dangerous than they look. Ichigo gets the pleasure of Dordonni's company, Both Chad, and Uryu have their respective Arrancars to come up against, Rukia discovers a long lost friend, while Renji has an encounter of a different kind with the hysterical Dondochakka. So far they have fought several enemies, from Hollows to the Bounts, but the Arrancars are different enemies. They are much stronger due to Aizen's use of the Hogyokou. With it he has managed to create increased strength beings with high intelligence and power beyond that of most standard Hollows.

Kubo has made a clever use of his new creations, and to cause conflict among them in the series, he has put them into several different categories, Espada being the strongest and highest ranked.  Privaron Espada are lower ranked Arrancar who at some point have had their privileges taken from them when they were once high ranking Espada. These have to fight to get the attention of Lord Aizen in the vain hope he might notice them and let them ascend back to their place at his table. Dordonni mentions his experiences of being one of the high ranking ones, and tells Ichigo during their fight that once he has been at the top he gets used to the view. Rukia has the strangest experience of all Ichigo’s friends as she encounters a man she has not seen since she was a young woman, and not even a seated officer at the time. Ichigo doesn’t know what it means to be a Privaron Espada, and misses the plot entirely – maybe he can understand later in the series. Chad’s as strong as he can be, but they don’t like the idea of Orihime being kept in a cell – their horror is not knowing what the Arrancar are doing to her, and after all, she is the reason they went into enemy territory in the first place.

There are several humorous points to this anime that take the viewer away from all the battles that are going on; Ichigo calling Dordonni Don Panini for one, Renji being chased around by the crazy and Nel fixated Dondochakka, Nel drooling all over Dordonni when Ichigo gets in a sizable blow against him – there’s something about Nel’s drool, but it’s too easy to say anymore here.

One of the down points of the recent Arrancar Arc is the annoying intro telling everyone about what happened in the previous episodes – if you are a fan – you will already know what happened!

Bonus Material: Art Gallery and Opening and Closing Songs.

Verdict: Amusing as well as serious, and speaks from the heart even though it is an action anime.

Bleach The Movie: 1 Memories of Nobody
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 12
Running Time: 93 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

This is the first movie in the series, and what considered as the start of three full-length episodes where substitute Soul Reaper, Ichigo Kurosaki has to help his friends in certain cases that come up.

Normally it involves Hollows, but in this case Ichigo comes in touch with a strange girl called Senna who looks like a Soul Reaper, but on seeing her, Ichigo realizes that there is an influx of Blanks. These are already passed over souls who have no memories and they are aimlessly wandering around causing trouble. They are on their trail, but have no idea why it happened and who the ringleader is. Ichigo only remembers that Kon has seen a dark figure hanging around the Blanks.  He doesn't have to wait long, though as Senna is captured and held by The Dark Ones, a faction who are out to cause trouble wherever they go.

They have to go to Urahara’s shop to find out what they can do to stop the problems they are having with the real world and the Soul Society. Kisuke opens their eyes when he tells them there is a barrier between these two worlds that is enlarging, called the Valley of Screams, and the Blanks they saw are lost between those two worlds, but trouble can happen when the Blanks combine to become a single being called a Shinenju.

Senna is seen running away again, and Ichigo tries to talk to her, but only succeeds in fending them off her. When he tries to help her out, the members of the Soul Society come to him ordering him to hand over Senna who they think is actually the evil entity Shinenju they have heard about. The Dark Ones finally come and announce themselves, wanting a fight which Ichigo fails in taking out the ringleader. He instead is badly wounded and taken for healing. In failing he and the Soul Society captains and lieutenants have lost her and Senna is taken by the Dark Ones for their cruel experiments, and in one where she will be the one who destroys both the real world and the Soul Society.

Memories of Nobody is a dark and extremely emotional movie, and it is easy to see that the writers and animators have worked hard on the first movie, hoping for a different kind of story where Ichigo has to rely on his friends a little more. Senna is a victim all the way through the anime, and one who has to prove herself even though she is seen as weak when she appears. She is a trier, and not like the other Soul Reapers. Ichigo, as is usual with him isn’t invincible; in fact he is the exact opposite. Although he has a tremendous amount of power, the can’t always defeat a foe the first time around.

Unlike in the TV series, the movie offers a higher production value, so with the addition of Blu-ray features, it gives a clarity to it that will impress the viewer. Memories of Nobody first aired back in 2006 in Japanese cinemas which saw Ichigo in the substitute shinigami arc of the series. 

Bonus Material: Inside Bleach The Movie, Japanese Production Interviews, US Theatrical Trailer, Original Japanese Trailers and Original Japanese Movie Booklet. (in translated version).

Verdict: Emotionally charged and slower paced than the other movies made after it, yet it is memorable for that reason.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Shiki Part 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: R - 17+
Running Time: 300 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

When an investigative team comes to find out the cause of death to three people in a peaceful rural village, they put the deaths down to natural causes, wild dogs roaming the area, but Toshio Ozaki, director of the local clinic doesn't think so. Megumi is a high school girl who isn't so happy at living in the village. To her every day looks the same, she hates the wildlife, the people there, even her friends, all except a young man - she is in love with him., but he doesn't even notice her. When several people start to die nearby, the sense of peace and tranquility is disturbed enough to make people afraid so they think all sorts of nasty things. And while everyone else is thinking of whether the dead were murdered or not, Megumi is too busy daydreaming about the young man in the castle.

Once the deaths start to mount up, people in the village think about the huge castle on the hill above them, and who they really are, as they are the most recent residents, and suspicion mounts that they could be far from human, but is it the suspicions of an ignorant public, or is there some truth to the rumors  When Megumi takes a walk into the mountains to visit the mansion and the man of her dreams, her parents worry about her when she doesn't return. Her disappearance sparks a search party, which leads them to her, laid out in the forest -they think she's dead at first, but when she wakes up, she isn't herself.

Several characters form the key to this anime; one is Natsuno, his best friend, Tohru, Toshio Ozaki, and his monk friend, Seishin Muroi. Natsuno, known by others affectionately as Yuuki is suspicious of everyone and everything, and this is what makes him one of the first to notice that something is wrong in the village, and the deaths all lead to one family – the ones who live on the hill, but don’t interact with anyone. No one really knows who they are, and most close their eyes to what they are. Natsuno doesn't however, and his thoughts that the deaths are not a part of an epidemic, but are part of a shiki invasion make him a target for death – this much he knows as when his friends an neighbors around him are all dying, he can’t believe it when he starts seeing them, even after he has been present at their funerals. Tohru, his best friend dies, and he is one of the only ones in the village he bonded with – in his mind the rest of them could go to hell.

He takes it as personal when Tohru dies as he has an idea he has been cruelly murdered by the shiki, and all their symptoms seem to be anemia  fatigue, refusal to eat or drink and he notices bite marks on their skin, usually the throat. He has nothing but memories now of being his friend, and when he rises from the grave to visit him, he can’t understand why, but he is even more angered when he is still his normal self even though he is now a shiki. Tohru is the most endearing character in the entire anime, you get to feel emotionally about him which can make you close to tears, as he isn't the ravenous vampire he might look – he actually cries when he sees him, and even more so when he tells Natsuno he has been sent to kill him by Tatsumi, a werewolf type called a Jinrou. Natsuno still loves him as a friend, and even offers to help him, but he can’t accept him as he is, even if he wants to. They are two different people and, as he finds out, they can’t coexist.

Natsuno and Seishi are torn between the reality of death, and the strangeness that the undead could be living near them and taking over their village with the intention of making it a vampire village. While Natsuno is visited by his newly made vampire friend, Seishi is visited by a young girl, Sunako Kirishiki who is captivated by his stories and essays on the shiki. Seishi is an unusual character who lives with a permanent cloud over him, from trying to kill himself while in his college years with Natsuno. He always looks like he is hiding something from the villagers, and seems to be full of guilt about what is happening around him.

Unlike other vampire based anime series where the characters would group together to take out the vampires, the villagers for the most part don’t want to believe that there is anything bad happening to the people and so they let the shiki carry on killing.

They do know that the killing is going on, but they are too afraid to stand up for themselves. Natsuno on the other hand is determined to find out exactly what these shiki are, and will even go so far as to kidnap one and experiment on them. There is a dual effect in this series that will have you questioning your sense of morality, as the shiki kill for food, while Natsuno wants to intentionally harm the shiki out of hate – even his friend, Seishi tells him he will lose his humanity if he does this. Shiki Part 1 is haunting, emotional and unlike a lot of anime that have been seen before. In Shiki, unlike in most vampire movies, the ones who have been turned retain their memories of who they were, and have emotions, feelings and thoughts just as when they were human - the only difference is that they are eternally drawn to a thirst for human blood. Even Tohru tells his best friend Natsuno that he can't help his lust for blood, yet he doesn't want to make him a vampire as he still has human feelings for him, and wants him to live - Tohru didn't have a choice in the matter when he was turned, but Natsuno does.

Bonus Material: Bonus features are Commentary on Episode 1 with Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Jerry Jewell (Natsuno) and John Burgmeier (Seishin) and on episode 12 with Mike McFarland joined by Chris Burnett (Toru), Tia Ballard (Megumi) and Alexis Tipton (Kaori),  Original Japanese Preview Featurettes, Trailers of other anime titles, and Clean Opening and Closing Animation.

Verdict: Well-written, scary, and atmospheric - also heartwarming - you get to feel for the characters, even the shiki ones.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Gravitation Vol: 2 
Released By: MVM
Rating: 12
Running Time: 100 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Annoyed he cannot find inspiration with his singing, Shuichi Shindou takes a break, but when the big boss comes in to tell him he has managed to book Bad Luck for a solo concert, Shuichi cannot control himself – the bad thing is it is in two days at Ruido where Nittle Grasper had their debut. Seeing it as fate, he agrees on behalf of the band but still has those feelings of inadequacy creeping into his mind. That stint on Quiz and Pop had a lot to do with it, and feeling rushed the rest of the band get on with it, it is only Shuichi's friend who really understands his ambitions enough to be able to take it easy and not worry like the others.

Shuichi later gets the shock of his life when he calls on Yuki and his brother Tatsua answers it, letting him in and telling him he is a fan of Nittle Grasper. Everything is going well until he sees Yuki and introduces a woman to him who Tatsua has been tracking down – Yuki's fiancĂ©e pre arranged by his family.
Whatever will Shuichi do now?

In this second volume, Shuichi realises he does not really know his true love, not when he has such a strange past and people who are a part of it he does not even know.Yuki is a person who does not easily take others into his confidence, so he will often leave Shuichi guessing as to his inner motives throughout their relationship.

Yuki's past is also one of interest to Shuichi, and his family's constant interference annoys him to the point of depression. It seems only Shuichi will be able to truly find out what happened early in his life.
The story is wonderful, the role of dependant lover Shuichi and independent cold guy Yuki is fun to watch, as is the sight of fans mobbing Shuichi in the train station.

Bonus Material: Art Gallery, Clean Opening and Closing titles and Trailers for other anime titles.

Verdict: Gravitation has got the coolest characters, and superb animation. The overall feel is one of unforgettable proportions. This is an anime I could watch again and again without tiring of it.
This is about two people in love with lots of complications!

Shigure Death Frenzy Complete Series
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 18
Running Time: 320 mins
Audio: English and Japanese 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

As a Shogun who has committed many cruel deeds during his life as lord of the land in feudal Japan, Tadanaga Tokugawa was given orders to commit seppuku as punishment and also as being the youngest brother of the Shogun himself. There are tales of his misdeeds yet most of them are unconfirmed. Before a sword match is to be held at Sunpu Castle, a lord Torii pleads with the lord in the hope that he not force the competition to use real swords, hoping instead that he allow them to use wooden bokken as to kill such fine warriors as these in a mere game of chance would be a great waste of talent and expertise. Everyone who is about to compete in the match have looks of horror on their faces as they know their lord is using them in order to amuse himself and has little or no concern for their lives. Once the match begins the two fighters enter the scene, Fujiki Gennosuke and Irako Seigen, a man with one arm and a man who is blind and infirm. Both are bitter rivals, yet the most excellent fighters, yet both have been offered a chance at winning the hand of their masters daughter and a chance at happiness, yet both have a very dark and troubled past. They are an odd combination indeed, but who will be the victor?

Based on the intriguing original story by Takayuki Yamaguchi, it is based on the novel ‘Surugajyou Gozenjial’ which was written by Norio Nanjoj serially in the “Champion Red” by Akita Publishing and viewers will feel privileged to see this series more fleshed out in a full action anime. Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki who brought fans the gritty and gory Texhnolyze and scripted by Seishi Minakami who brought us Paprika and the subversive Paranoia Agent takes it one step further in the nail bitingly bloody stakes by sending the viewer back several years to the beginning of the Edo Era of Japan where dangerously minded warlords played games with their warriors just to amuse themselves and pass the time. Of course there would be love involved as well as desire, but at the heart of this story is the power of the warriors who are being used by these warlords, and the fierceness of their moves when they fight. Also their past will be discovered at a time where love was just a brief interference in war. The story is both emotive and structured in a way as the viewer can understand the characters in this most extreme of anime series. At the beginning of the story of the sword match at Sunpu Castle it is mentioned in the narrative that only six survived from being twenty-two men competing in eleven matches who used real swords instead of bokken and of the six remaining men two were seriously injured. This is what makes it so cruel a match that a warlord would make his best men die in these trivial circumstances.

Bonus Material: Bonus Material comes as Episode 4 & 10 Commentary, Character Biographies, Settings Gallery, Text-less Opening and Closing Animations and Audio options.

Verdict: Shigure is gruesome, bloody and extremely gory. It takes anime to a new and exciting level – atmospheric and emotive, this captures the cruel and bloodthirsty era of old Japan perfectly.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Gravitation Vol: 1 Fateful First Encounter
Released By: MVM
Rating: 12
Running Time: 75 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Shuichi Shindou has had problems with his song writing, and Hiro tells him he must have an interest outside his band Bad Luck, as he sees he is getting stressed-out more and more lately, even going so far as to suggest he get a girlfriend to take his mind off things for a while. Shuichi, though wants Bad Luck to be one of the biggest bands in the music business, but he cannot do it on talent alone. Taking his lyrics out with him on the street one night strolling through the park thinking aloud, when his lyric sheet is taken by the wind. Running after it, he sees a blond haired older man in the distance who picks it up and starts reading it. After a few minutes he asks him if he has written it and if it is he has zero talent.

His ego deflated from this cruel act of critique, Shuichi is supposed to see the Director to see if his group can get signed up, but his lyrics have to be completed first, but he cannot get what the man in the park said to him that night out of his mind, and one day when he sees a guy in a car, he nearly gets himself run over, and he knows it is the man from the park who takes him back to his plush apartment, to let him get a shower and clean himself up while still giving him an unasked for dose of criticism again. They discuss what he said about his lyrics and he finds more out about the man, but not his name.

Finally finishing the lyrics and saving the band's skin in the nick of time, Shuichi waits with Hiro to start the meeting when he sees the man on TV, discovering he is called EiriYuki and is a successful romance novelist who is a huge name in Japan.

While Shuichi and the others are rehearsing ready for the big night where they are the support act for Ash, the main act who arrogantly want to rehearse without Bad Luck being there. Negotiations are being broken by the arrival of Mako, a mysterious woman who drags Shuichi into her car, and back to Yuki's flat. Shuichi at this point thinks she is Yuki's girlfriend, but when he finds out otherwise, he is shocked and angry at Yuki's deception.

Based on the extremely successful Yaoi manga created for a purely female audience and created by Maki Murakami, author of Gamerz Heaven, and directed by Bob Shirohata of Diamond Daydream and Let's Dance With Papa.

This series concentrates on lead singer and lyricist Shuichi Shindou who wants his band Bad Luck to do really well, but as usual other aspects of his life affect his decisions. Shuichi has an idol, singer Ryuichi who was with the band Nittle Grasper, one of his favorites, and has just managed to get signed by a record label. While one part of him wants to see his band get to the top in the music industry, the other part of him cannot help but get Yuki to come to terms with how good a musician he is and that his lyrics do not suck as much as Yuki thinks they do.

But in the meantime they both do a lot more than talking after Yuki kisses him in the elevator and notes that Shuichi wants more. A credit to the original manga, the anime version does a great job of making the story believable as much as the characters have been well drawn and exceptionally animated. The whole anime is lavish and topped with a great, rocking soundtrack viewers will enjoy. The episode titles, listed as tracks have been kept faithful to the manga, Shuichi has been made to look more feminine than in the manga and the viewers will see the difference and appreciate it looks better. Eiri Yuki has been left as he originally looked in the manga which is good, and there is an all round bunch of great secondary characters who make the anime the fun watch it is - Hiroshi Nakano, Sahano their Producer who is always stressed-out and suicidal, and representer of their band Tohma Seguchi. With Eiri and Shuichi it is a case of love at first sight.

Bonus Material: Art Gallery, Original Gravitation Trailer and Trailers for other anime titles.

Verdict: This is one sure fire hit. Gravitation rocks big style!

Black Cat Box Set
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Running Time: 600 mins
Audio: English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Two people who should never have met - ever! get a chance to do just that when they are both on the same mission to take out the new Governor Liv Tyrant, a former gangster, dealer and no good trash. Sven Volified sees Liv shot using his special 'vision eye,' a five minute episode where he can see into the future and the man he sees do the deed is Train Heartnet. Horrified that he couldn't prevent him being killed, he has to move on and find another target after getting warned off by Train  outside the mansion before.

Sven is a 'sweeper' who collects his bounty and brings him back alive for cash, not that it's that much while Train Heartnet is an 'eraser'  and member of the Chronos Organization named Kuri Neko or Black Cat whose number is Thirteen and is tattooed on him and etched into his gun. He is sent out on a mission to track and erase his targets for food as he has been trained, his fast reaction, timing, and speed is amazing and some would say inhuman, but he is feared by everyone who hears his name mentioned.

Sven's next target is a young woman who wants him to get a girl who just happens to be her sister, the bio weapon Eve a dangerous and destructive menace who looks in reality like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. The only problem is Eve is also Train's next target for erasing. When Train sees her he spares her life but no one knows why. Sven plans to see Eve again and he knows Train will be there too, but will he carry out his plan to actually kill her?

It is an interesting anime to watch as two characters who shouldn't be together end up friends after the first few episodes when Train starts to question his moral standing in Chronos and goes his own way in life. Train's seriousness and Sven's comedy and laid-back manner make for the perfect double-act all the way through. It has action, romance, fun and serious parts that make the viewer think about the next episode in the series more than they would normally.

Bonus Material: Text less Opening and Closing animations make this a great box set for everyone who likes action in their anime.

Verdict: Two mercenaries, a girl and not enough time on their hands - this anime is a recipe for disaster but in the greatest possible way! It's a five-star ticket to mayhem and brilliant doesn't even cut it.

Paranoia Agent Complete Box Series Box Set
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Running Time:325 mins
Audio: English and Japanese 2.0
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Tsukiko Sagi, a Character Designer leaves work one night and instead of getting the bus or train decides to walk. This is a bad move for her as she runs into a mysterious stranger who lashes out at her with a baseball bat.

In Hospital two police officers come to Tsukiko, creator of Muromi, her latest plushie creation, and when they ask her questions about the incident, she can only remember certain things and that he was a sixth-grade kid who wielded a golden baseball bat he clubbed her with that night.

One of them believes there was a similar case before to the one which happened recently, and the rumour running around the city is the story of a kid called Lil' slugger who travels the streets on inline skates with a baseball cap and crooked bat, but the cops just thought it was originally just a rumour and nothing more until now as Tsukiko was so vague in her answers.

When a second assault takes place, and it ends up being a guy trying to help the police, they know they have a serial attacker on their hands.

Paranoia Agent is an eerie and terrifying anime series that depicts society as it is in modern day Japan. It tells of the pressures of the young who grapple with the tradition in a modern society of change and new technology. But there is also the pressure of young people to conform in society, work extremely hard even before and after school and the stress it eventually causes.

This anime enlightens the viewer to several points of interest about Japan's less nice side. The depression through stress, mental illness which is not talked about in polite circles, suicide and paranoia in the everyday world which disturbingly causes a type of antisocial behaviour in people. Usually the young who commit violent acts to others, often without a reason. These types are known in Japan as Hikikomori who stay in their rooms and normally have no casual friends and spend their time on computers harbouring grudges against people secretly.

The character in this anime, Lil' Slugger, is shown only in silhouette at the beginning, and for good reason. He is seen wielding his crooked baseball bat at young Tsukiko Sagi, and it affects her life in this dark take far removed from the usual anime fare of school children and humorous fun prevalent in the genre. It is haunting in many places, as the characters in this are suffering in their own way as life is so fast paced, and having to understand what is going on in a strange and varied country as theirs.
The darkness of this series will make the viewer more eager to watch the whole thing through.

Bonus Material: Episode 1 storyboard (multi angle), Satoshi Kon Interview, Creditless Opening and Closing Japanese animations, Art Gallery, Audio Commentary by Satoshi Kon, Seishi Minakami and Satoki Toyoda (on all three episodes) create a superb viewing experience.

Verdict: A disturbing, noir piece. Thrilling in every way.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne Part 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 15
Running Time: 100 mins
Audio: English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

In Shinjuku 1990 a woman is chased from an apartment block only to be killed by one bullet from a gun held by a lone woman.

Rin, a girl who can definately look after herself meets a young man who is about to be taken away by thugs and brings him back to her apartment office; her assistant Mimi is hoping she'd actually bring back the cat she mentioned before. The young man tells them he is Maeno Kouki, and has details from  his life, but they don't feel genuine to him. He actually thinks he is someone else. Rin and Mimi try to find out more of who he is, but either way he keeps getting thugs in his way who want to beat him up for some reason and Rin wonders what kind of possible connection he has to them, believing them to be some kind of Yakuza organized crime syndicate.

Rin has troubles of her own though, while on an assignment to get information for one of her current clients, she is attacked by someone claiming to be working for Apos.

Rin, it turns out is a jack of all trades, and one who gets into plenty of mischief. Her relationship with Mimi is, it seems not entirely platonic and her leanings do come in handy later on when she gets captured by enemies once she finds the organization she discovered earlier. The basic storyline is the organization's surgeons are into taking away individuals off the street and using them as part of their strange experiments, yet they don't always go as planned. Even from the opening credits it is obvious that this anime is aimed at older teens to view, as well as those who will see a resemblance to X The Series and Saiyuki Reload, it features unusual people and that is pretty much what a lot of Otaku are into right now. The series is graphically sound, and its animation quality is on par with Ghost in the Shell. It has the feel of Darker Than Black and Speed Grapher and it has mild fantasy violence and sexual situations as well as a torture sequence, but that in itself is not as graphic as it could have been. And with Aoyama Pharmaceuticals Yamanobe Sayara missing, Rin and her team of investigators are sure to get into more trouble soon.

Bonus Material: Episode Commentary for Episode 02 Angels Don't Cry.

Verdict: As far as fantasy thrillers go, this is by far one of the best around - Rin has enough hard edge to keep the viewers watching.

Naruto Hokage Uchiha Itachi Pre-Painted Resin Figure

He isn't the best fan favorite  but this is a rather good model of him, and the bonus is he is pre-painted. The one thing I like about this model is its general look, the sight of Itachi manipulating his crows, and the swish of his Akatsuki outfit makes the overall model look amazing.

No one can say he doesn't look similar to his brother, Sasuke as the face is the one thing that can make or break a model. Whoever made this model and painted it got his likeness just right, down to the shinobi headband  eyes and eyebrows.

Itachi's eyes are at his mangekyo sharingan stage and look well drawn. His outfit is shiny and the clouds are set of by the deep red and white of the detailing which sets it all off as one very striking Itachi Uchiha model. I like the image of the crows, one actually seems to be smiling (the one at the bottom) and the crows are strewn around the entire model making it animated, as if he is flying rather than stationary.

Verdict: This is one that would take pride of place in anyone's room.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Speed Grapher Vol: 1
Released By: Tokyopop
Author/Art: Tomozo/Yusuke Kozaki/Gonzo
Format: Japanese/BW
Pages: 111
Rating: 18
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

"How could he awaken as a euphoric? A natural carrier shouldn't exist. Could he have been there at the battlefield?"

Former war photographer Tatsumi Saiga thinks he has settled for a much easier life after being injured in the Middle-East becomes an opportunist photographer, a papparazzi hated by all who are in business who want to keep their secrets out of the papers. Unsuspecting Saiga though is about to find his easy life turned upside down when he chases his new target for the photo opportunity of the moment to a prominent man's address, finding the guy dead, but nothing looks normal, certainly not when the one who has killed him is still in the building  A man clothed in black rubber and wearing a mask to hide his identity and on the surface he seems like any felon until strange things start to happen earning him the name 'plastic man.'
When Saiga finds out about the famed and notoriously peculiar Roppongi Club, infiltrating its walls, he discovers Kagura, a girl who is set to be head of the Tennozu empire where he meets her and is given the gift of a strange power, the power to kill using his camera. Rescuing  her from the club seems like a piece of cake but until he is faced with the chairman of the club, Choji Suitengu, one of the richest men in the area who has his hands in all kinds of unsavoury dealings. After this chance encounter, Saiga's life just gets more dangerous along the way.

Originally a hit anime series staring Choji Suitengu as the main antagonist who appears to want to use Kagura to entertain the millionaire guests at the club who are reported to pay very highly to become members in order to indulge in their wildest sexual and depraved fantasies. The manga based on the story by Gonzo and illustrated by Tomozu and Yusuke Kozake reads like an adult rated kink romp through a photographer's life  interrupted by a girl he just cannot let go of and a case that eats at his very soul to solve it. This is lavishly illustrated in the mainly shonen style with the absence of cuteness unless the reader does not count the rather dashingly shonen-ai looking Choji who can cause more trouble in the manga than anyone thinks.
Readers will like the detailed artwork, action scenarios, sharp dialogue and gripping story. For those who have watched the anime series they will find the manga the perfect compliment to the series. Bonus material includes an Afterword telling how the story came about plus a mention of the three main characters and what the manga-ka thought of drawing them.

Verdict: A real shonen treat for fans of action, drama and nail-biting suspense.

Kiddy Grade Collection
Released By: MVM
Rating: 15
Running Time: 600 mins
Audio: English and Japanese 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

The original story for this title was written by gimik of GONZO and directed by Keiji Gotoh , and serialized in Monthly Shonen Ace and Monthly Dragon Jr. and published as a Kadokawa Sneaker paperback. FUNimation took up the license and distribution for the anime, putting it on air in 2007. The series itself was re-released as three different movies 80-90 minutes in length to a rapt audience, called Ignition, Maelstrom and Truth Dawn. Later due to great interest in the series, there was news of a sequel known as Kiddy Grade 2. A DVD preview was put out for all to see and later it was announced that there would be a new series called Kiddy Girl-and plus another anime called Kiddy Girl and Pure.

There has been many manga series made out of this concept, Kiddy Grade Reverse, Kiddy Grade Versus, with Light Novel Kiddy Grade EX Partner by Fumihiko Shimo, and Kiddy Grade Secret Affair.

It is set in Star Century Zero-One-Sixty-Five, which is 162 years ago when a Global Union was set up. The Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs known as GOTT when it was inaugurated. Once it was on Earth, and its role was to promote the settlement of agreements and contracts between the governments. The premise of this story sounds very serious, but that isn't what the anime is actually like. There are a few bursts of fan-service for the guys, and some rather handsome bishonen men to balance it all out.  At GOTT everyone has a right to be protected by the team there, they are the ES Force that has only twelve physically fit and well young people who also happen to have extraordinary powers. It is their job to have their mettle put to the test with organized drills where their team can stop any threat to their safety and the peoples as easily and quickly as possible. It does cause trouble though. As the girls go about their mission they soon find out that the organization they so know and love are not as nice as they thought. GOTT contains many secrets, and they have to uncover them as well as do their job - for Lumiere and Eclair this is a dangerous time.

Kiddy Grade Collection is a slick and well animated show where it shows a team of young girls employed by GOTT can kick ass just as good as the men who work there. Behind the scenes of their perfect planet, Lumiere and Eclair have to mediate in order to prevent a possible devastating war. All they have to do is deliver a man to Medeia, a distant planet and to their Prime Minister there. Traveling in their S-2 Cruiser La Mine they are in one scrape after another as far as their missions are concerned with the possibility of danger and even death. The girls wander around in unusual and comical outfits but know how to fight when the time comes. Science fiction seems to be a staple of Japanese anime and manga, and there are plenty more series where this one came from that are of that genre, including Ghost in the Shell.

Bonus Material: Image Gallery, Character Profiles, Promo Video, Original Commercials, Text less Song, Trailers and DVD credits.

Verdict: Bouncy, fast, energetic and laugh out loud!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Ergo Proxy Box Set
Released By: MVM
Rating: 15
Running Time: 575 mins
Audio: English and Japanese 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

A new world has been born, one of greater futuristic proportions where the people thrive in a clean and germ free environment. After an ecological disaster that killed off most of the population, this new utopia has been set up as its replacement where humans work and live along with androids in a domed city called Romdo. All  is supposed to be well in this new world, though the residents are controlled by those who are above them in station, using robots called Auto-Reivs in everyday life they help out the humans in their duties. The moderated world they live in is disrupted by a number of murders they believe to have been done by robots gone insane once they have been infected by the Cogito virus making them emotional and giving them feelings and fear. To investigate the murders, Re-l Mayer a gothic looking woman clad top to toe in black leather and her partner Iggy, an Auto-Reiv assigned to help her out with the case. In an operating room, a strange creature of inhuman origin escapes from its bonds and leaves the confines of the city, urging Re-l and Iggy to come and look for clues. Along the way new characters are met as are new and dangerous challenges.

Contains episodes 1-23 o n 6 DVD'S. look at the EXTRAS section for more information on the series box set.

Ergo Proxy itself has been labelled as a follow-up to many great serious sci-fi classics. Some that have stood the test of time like Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner and I Robot. The interesting thing about this series is it mixes the sci-fi aspect with gothic and thriller parts too that can be described as unforgettable. With an excellent popular voice acting cast to bring the characters to life it is no wonder it has been so popular with those who enjoy their sci-fi and cyberpunk themes. Proving its popularity, their closing theme was recorded by none other than Radiohead, the song 'Paranoid Android' giving  the series that apocalyptic and desperate tone it needed to convey the tone of the series. The scenes are dark, the animation crisp and original, the concept an intriguing one that will keep the viewer guessing as those who liked such films as Dark City and Casshern will undoubtedly take to this straight away.

Bonus Material: Bonus features include Trailers for other anime titles in the MVM series, the box set comes as six thin cases inside one large presentation box, the box itself is a gothically black with a half face of Re-l Mayer on the front, on the spine she stands in a modest pose while on the back she strikes a dynamic pose with a gun, her mannerisms meaning business.

Verdict: If you plan on seeing a darkly futuristic anime box set,  get this one - robots, guns, plot twists - it's all here.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Yaoikuza: Oruji
Released By: Yaoi Press
Writer and Artist: Yamila Abraham
Cover Art: Studio Himitsu
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Okina knows what happened the night he found Aruji and his brother, Sobokuna in a compromising position. Since then, Okina is annoyed at him for daring the seduce someone who he sees as an innocent. He is his younger brother, after all and always wanted to look out for him, and in the one moment he should have been there to protect him, he couldn't. He carries a lot of guilt, and as a form of punishment, Okina can think of nothing more satisfying than to make Aruji pay for taking Sobokuna's virginity - he wants to do the same to him, right there and then, making him submit to him just as his younger brother had to. What he doesn't know is that it was the boss who submitted to Sobokuna.

Aruji didn't like the idea of him knowing his most intimate details and could have done without him pressing him for the information. Aruji didn't feel as though he had done anything wrong, after all he didn't love him - it was just sex. Okina though, likes teasing Aruji, and knows more than anyone about his gay inclinations, and he isn't afraid of telling him how handsome he looks in the throes of passion. This annoys him deeply, and the two characters from the first story has now turned into three - a definite love triangle, and one that Subokuna doesn't know about.

While Subokuna thought his brother would disapprove of what he did with Aruji, readers will remember what Aruji said to him in response - his brother could be a hypocrite for telling him off about it. As Aruji knows too well, the majority of the Yaoikuza have gay inclinations, and will either fuck or be fucked by others.

This is the perfect second part to a series like this as it mixes Japanese yakuza history with the yaoi knack for bringing those naughty ukes and semes together. It is just as saucy and erotic as the first one, and has Okina and Aruji arguing over Sobokuna, and for good reason. Fans of yaoi novels and stories will like the characters who are always in denial, plus the cover artwork which has the characters on it, and behind them a couple of kissing Japanese dragons!

The Yaoikuza: Oruji can be purchased at the Yaoi Press website for on Kindle or iPad at your leisure.

Verdict: This one's a surefire candidate for the keeper shelf.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Countdown Seven Days Vol: 1
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Writer and Artist: Kemuri Karakara
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Mitamura, a very lonely teacher at the Sheol Soul School thinks he is pretty good at what he does, even if others think he is a bit big headed about his achievements - one such person thinks this of him, and wants to sort him out in a big way. The school is a top academy dedicated to the teaching of pupils about the afterlife and what happens after the death of the body, when the soul searches for the light. This is hardly so serious a novel though, with crazy characters and only one way to find the truth that lies in a place no one would think to find it.

Unhappy with his lot, Mitamura has to keep looking round after his star pupil, Tsuru has gone missing in the world of the living. His dealings have normally been with the dead, so he has no idea how to talk to humans, have fun with them, love them or interact with them in any way, so he has his work cut out to get to her without showing who he is to others - they wouldn't believe him anyway!

He discovers there is little time for that -  so he has to enlist the help of Hanasuke, a kid off the street he asks to help him find her, but with only seven days to do it, he has an idea he might lose. The strangest thing of all is Hanasuke is actually dead, so he can get along fine with him as he has so many times before.

Countdown 7 Days Vol:1 is an unusual story of a guy being given the slip by a girl who knows what she is doing, the question all the readers will want to know is whether he does too.

Verdict: A heartwarming story full of comedy and social comments.

Great Place High School Student Council Vol: 2
Released By: June
Writer and Artist: Naduki Koujima
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Rin Amanohara and Eichi Shidou act as Student Council President and Vice President of the Great Place High School, but as cruel and heartless they can be, and tyrannical too, they don't stand a chance against a newcomer who threatens to destroy all they have built so far. 

This manga is well drawn and hellishly comical in every sense. Right from the beginning it grips you and reels you in. The manga is made up of small four panel cartoons that with their tag lines make you smile, then giggle at how funny they are. With chibi versions of the characters at the side, it makes for fun reading, and also gives you and insight into the characters real feelings along the way. If you are in any doubt as to whether it's a yaoi, it puts paid to the doubt as soon as you turn the pages, as you are instantly met with naughtiness right from the first page, porn sites, sites you wouldn't let anyone else look at in a million years, and this is from the Information Management Club - which for these guys seems to double as the Computer Club too, even if the sempai doesn't like it being referred to as that!

The four panel look to the manga makes it look funnier as you are watching for the looks on the characters faces as a result of what they are experiencing or what the other characters have done. From crazy character mouse pads, to stranger students who think everything they do at Great Place High is just a big laugh. You can't really blame them as it's a hoot no matter what others may think. From the manga-ka who brought us the ever popular Our Kingdom, Be Honest and Selfish Love she puts the effort in and creates a really excellent novel that is just as good as the first. 

If you liked Ouran Hight School Host Club, and Gakuen Heaven, then you are guaranteed to love this all the way through as it is a continuation of the previous volume. Everyone liked the first one, so this one got brought out, and who can blame them when it looks so darn good. Get it, you won't be disappointed - the fun is right there. 

Verdict: Enjoyable, fun reading entertainment yaoi style. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Finder Vol:3 - One Wing in the Viewfinder
Released By: June
Writer and Artist: Ayano Yamane
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Akihito comes back to his apartment to find that the place has been burgled, and all his stuff is strewn all over the place, and if that isn't enough to shock him, he also finds that at least whoever wanted to take what he had, left his cameras alone. He had them hidden in a special place he hoped no one would find them and he's right. Others think it is unusual they could not find his cameras, as they would be the only things worth stealing out of all the stuff he calls belongings. A rival gang lord wants something of his and he has sent his best men along to take it - but when they prove they are more incompetant than even he thought, he realises he needs to use someone else to get to him, and the thing he wants the most.

What annoys Akihito the most is the men who burgled him stole some important cds that contained photos, and they are those he will have to shoot again later, making him behind with his projects as a photographer. When he is on a routine assignment, he is horrified to find that Fei Long, the man who abducted and tortured him and hurt his friends is the one who wants what he has, and if he doesn't give it to them, he is in big trouble as Fei is prepared to put his friends at risk if he can't come up with the leaked data from Asami's organisation they will die along with him.

When Akihito goes to see Asami for the information, he doesn't want to give it to him - instead he tells him Fei's demand is a bluff, as he has nothing to gain from killing his friends, so the story ends up being a double-edged sword, he gives over the information, and his friends live, or don't and they die, but if he does give over the info, then the people on the list will be targetted by Fei's assassins.

Fans of the Finder series of novels will enjoy the pages of sweet love-making these two get up to at times through the story. Akihito becomes the lover of Asami once again, and even though he won't save his friends, he will protect his lover, but being his lover is a dangerous thing and he hopes Akihito will be prepared for what happens as a result.

Asami is a more seasoned fighter, and one used to being tracked by assassins, so when the deal doesn't go as planned for Fei Long, Asami can sort out the ones who are after him without Akihito worrying too much about it.

Verdict: A touching love story with all the fun of assassins and intrigue that you can only find from one of Ayano Yamane's novels.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 9
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 12
Running Time: 300 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Kakashi is uneasy about their recent run in with the Sound Ninja, especially the crystal style user, Guran. Yamato can tell something is wrong, and knows they need to formulate a plot that could help the team win. While they are going through that, Shizune, Lee and the others are running as fast as they can to get to help Naruto and his team as he goes in search of young boy he had met before, Yukimaru. His mistress, Guran is mindful of anyone who might be wanting to take him away. She knows this would have an effect on the mission to control the three-tails. Guran already has the beginning of a bond with Yukimaru, and she isn't about to let Kabuto use him, and possibly kill him in the process of reaching his and Orochimaru's personal goals.

As everyone knows Orochimaru is only interested in using allies as pawns in his carefully crafted games. After Guran has shown that she has an other interest in Yukimaru as more than a mere test subject, her men are feeling used as well when they hear what Orochimaru wants to do with the three-tails. Team Kakashi have to find out the three tails so that Orochimaru doesn't get what he wants. Lady Tsunade has thought of what they should do, and decides on two teams. They are all ready for battle, but the winner is still as of yet undecided.

Through most of the series, Naruto has been obsessed at how Sasuke has left Team Seven, and strived to get him back. In the past few episodes, Naruto's interest has turned to Yukimaru. He still has the same enthusiasm for taking him as he did with Sasuke, and Kakashi can see how it will get him into more trouble. Naruto thinks Guran is alright with using Yukimaru for their experiments, but he si so far from the truth. Guran has shown she is very fond of the boy since he said he felt he belonged with her, yet she is torn between her affection for him, and wanting to earn the respect and admiration of her master, Orochimaru. There is a confrontation with her and Kabuto, but Kabuto has hidden information on Guran that he uses to his advantage. This goes to prove just how cruel and devious Kabuto can be with his subordinates.

While all this is going on, the Akatsuki are hot on their trail in the form of Deidara and Tobi. Tobi being the new Akatsuki member introduced into the anime is a welcome addition as he is a comical type that annoys his partner most of the time. He is erratic, bounces around the screen and is fun to watch. Viewers will notice the story getting closer to what they expected of the manga, and that the incidental music chosen for the scene where Yukimaru is unleashing his terrible power is the one where Naruto faced up to Orochimaru as the nine-tails.

Kabuto is his usual sneaky self. He has been manipulating Guran since the last series, using her desire to get Orochimaru interested in her abilities. Some may get the impression that Kabuto is all promises, and Guran might not even get the recognition she thinks she deserves.
Orochimaru has already thought up what they must do, and has considered all the options so that his plan can't fail. And as this series is starting to change in a different direction, the viewers are assured of an exciting time.

Bonus Material: Production Artwork and Trailers for other anime series.
Verdict: This set has the usual intrigue, action and pacing we have come to know and love.

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 8
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 12
Running Time: 300 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Hidan has been taken down, but Kakuzu is still at large. Naruto and the others of Team 7 have come to the rescue though, and Naruto for one isn't afraid to put up a good enough fight to save his comrades. There is still the threat of the other Akatsuki getting to them and Naruto. When a new mission is set up where Sasuke might be in their grasp along with Lord Orochimaru, Naruto is kept out of the loop and might not appreciate it if he finds out.

Their tactics are a bit cruel as Naruto has been waiting for a long time to meet Sasuke once again so he can persuade him to come back home where he believes he belongs - but Sasuke has other ideas. He isn't about to be sidetracked by Naruto or anyone else. He has his own mission to take care of and he feels he has already told Naruto, his supposed best friend that he is no longer a member of Team 7 or will ever be. Naruto never gives up on his friends though, and has annoyed him on many separate occasions - and judging by his style he will continue doing so!

These two discs are more of a catch up and a break off from the characters - Naruto takes some time out with Master Jiraiya at a hot spring in order to take his mind off his recent successful battle with the Akatsuki while Shikamaru does some serious soul searching of his own after the death of Asuma sensei, his master and former shogi partner.

Through all of this, Naruto has proved he has got stronger now that he has learned a new technique - the rasen shuriken, but the jutsu is seen as too dangerous as he used it on someone who could be described as one of the best Akatsuki around. Viewers are likely to feel for him when Sakura is concerned about the damage to his body as a result of using it. She has to hide it, but it is hard for her as she has been absent for so long. She has stopped seeing him as such an idiot due to all the heartache he has been through. Lady Hokage has to get him to see reason, and tells him personally he must stop using the rasen shuriken or he might not recover from his injuries.

Shikamaru on the other hand has not just lost a shogi partner; he's lost a mentor and a friend, a man he looked up to even though to some he was evasive and not easy to get to know personally. Shikamaru has mourned his loss, and now he has to help others, not least Kurenai sensei who carries Asuma's child in her womb, and will be part of the future of Konoha, and he promised to help her raise the child on Asuma's behalf.

I found this quite heart-warming in the face of the threat from the rest of the Akatsuki. Shikamaru is a brave shinobi and knows how to lead his team, yet he doesn't think he is ready until his mentor and master dies. It is only them when he has to grow up quick, and decide his team are relying on him to make the really big decisions in battle, and we already know how great he is with thinking up strategy plans. So while he is undergoing an emotional change, and Naruto has to revise his use of the rasen shuriken jutsu that has taken a lot of time to perfect, out there viewers are treat to a few episodes that involve Lord Orochimaru and his men, Kabuto and Sasuke. While Kabuto has to go on a short mission to get another of Orochimaru’s henchmen who thought he would never have need. Viewers will enjoy seeing Sasuke in training as it shows he has become more powerful, even than he was before. It is enough to make his master think he is ready to take his body as the vessel he has always desired. They might get the impression he isn’t going to let him take his body so easily. Not when he has his own mission to kill his brother, Itachi.

These two discs are all about the decisions the characters have to make if they want to move on in their lives. Shikamaru has to truly be a leader of his team, and leave uncertainty behind. Naruto has to find another jutsu, one that is not so self-destructive and perfect it ready for future battles with the Akatsuki. Kakashi has to pass the baton onto Naruto as he feels he has surpassed him, though Naruto needs the help of Jiraiya to train him again after such a failure with his new jutsu. It is good to see him reunited with some of Chief Toad’s family and fans of the series will see a few more characters they never expected to see at all.

The general feeling of the series so far is serious, as you get the sense Sasuke is plotting something on the inside, and that Naruto is still not ready enough to face him yet.

Bonus Material: Production Art and Trailers for other anime series in the Manga Entertainment range.

Verdict: This is Shikamaru's turn to shine in a series of difficult situations.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Beloved 4490
Released By: Yaoi Press
Writer and Artist: Yamila Abraham/Archie The Red Cat
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Janis and Edwin are drinking together for the last time as free men in a world where slavery was rife. Now that he is nothing more than an ordinary man, and a handsome one at that, he has to be careful not to cause any trouble for anyone, not even those he was once a slave to. He can never allow anyone to know he was once a powerful avatar who could dampen the extreme powers of the demigod Malachi. Janis jokes about his time there with Edwin and how a revolution would be a great thing to happen, but Edwin calms his spirits, telling him he does not know who is listening to him. There could be spies everywhere, and he wouldn't know it.

Edwin has a different belief to him, and it isn't a good one, he believes they will always be in slavery to Malachi, no matter what they do, even if they organize an uprising. As they are the ones who mine the gems for the demigod, he in a way needs them, yet he can destroy them any time he feels like it as he has a devil of a temper if moved to anger. And as only Janis can calm his anger, he begins to feel strongly about Malachi, as they have been apart for so long.

Janis finds he doesn't want Malachi as much as he thought, instead he hides out of his way and finds love with old friend Edwin who is estranged from his wife who doesn't want to go near him anymore. Janis comforts him when he would otherwise have felt lonely, though he does have to watch what he says around others.

Edwin does know how obsessed Janis has become with Malachi, and he doesn't understand it, only Janis does - and recalls a time when he first saw a portrait of him - his mouth agape at his handsome looks, then on hearing his voice, it made him tremble with desire, and he still can't understand it. Janis knows if he is not around Malachi, then he has lost the war, as he cannot hurt him. For once Jace as Janis is using his brain, and he finds he is more at home with Edwin as a lover - even if the prospect of getting with Malachi at some point could give him the pleasure he has long since searched for.

As the other territories have been defeated, there is only one thing that can happen, Jace must go to Malachi and defeat him and become his beloved after all, but will Janis reveal who he really is to the men in the mines and the magistrates?

In this part of the story, Jace as Janis the avatar is a young slave who works in the mines pretending to be oblivious of his responsibility as an avatar purely due to him wanting to keep the peace. He isn't as pure as others might imagine even though he has a kind heart; he likes his men, and he likes them big in certain departments, and will sometimes let two or more men inside him on some nights. It is what Janis gets up to as a slave that will set the hearts of the readers fluttering, but he does retain a kind of normality. He is not big-headed, or brash in any way. He is seen as an unfortunate caught up in a dark time where a demigod could have them killed on a whim. Even though he is the chosen one, he has the chance of suffering the same fate as the others around him, and what is worse he knows it. Malachi still searches for him, though, even in his dreams, and these will also prove interesting for readers who like their sexual play as descriptive as possible.

There is no ignoring the depth of this twenty-five page stunner of a story. There are parts that are truly pornographic, and sensual, but that doesn't detract from the powerful story Yamila has managed to weave her characters around it. Archie the Red Cat has done the equally powerful and sensual cover art for this part, and its loose style, plus the colours she has chosen give the reader a great deal of clues as to how erotic the story is going to be – especially with the dark figure in the background.

Beloved 4490 is now available on Kindle and at, so go get yourself a copy before they all go.

Verdict: A heart-rending tale of love and how it can blossom in even the most dangerous of places.

Saihoshi Redemption: Part 1
Released By: Yaoi Press
Writer and Artist: Yamila Abraham/Archie The Red Cat
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Saihoshi Redemption is the long awaited sequel to Saihoshi the Guardian, one of the most intriguing and talked about manga series that graced the shelves of popular book stores. This volume continues where the last one left off. For those who have no idea what the series is about, it would be advised to familiarize yourself with the setting and story by taking a look at Saihoshi the Guardian first so you get the general look and feel of the story as well as the various characters.

After the guardian Sastre went his own merry way and betrayed the organization, it has been no more than a year with him and his lover, Kaleth, the former servant and confidante of Prince Anel doubling their efforts and escaping the wrath of warriors and bandits along the way - as they were originally in enemy territory, they were lucky to find Yinn the guardian of the Eastern forest who protected them and helped them. The problem is the guardian order has found out about their betrayal and has in turn sent their own band of warriors to kill them, the cruel and wrathful executioners who no one has ever evaded for long.

In this story there is plenty of humor and drama with a tenseness thrown in that keeps the reader hooked to the mystery of who the executioners are and why they act like they do.

This novel unlike the previous series is not a graphic one, but written in prose format as an e-book instead. It loses none of the interest though as the story reads just as well as a normal yaoi manga. Created by Spanish art studio Kosen, this first part is an exciting look at the next stage in the evolution of the Saihoshi series and from what can be seen it is an amazing start.

Verdict: An excellent sequel to the original series - something you can really get your teeth into.

Spring Demon
Released By: Yaoi Press
Writer and Artist: Yamila Abraham/Himitsu Studio
Release Date: Out now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Takuma is at a loss to keep his emotions in check, but it is even more difficult for his lover, Lord Ryuuto to keep him happy. Being a demon it is a part of him he would rather not have. He has been with Takuma for over a month back when they were in the hot spring, kissing and holding each other, yet Ryuuto could not make love to him, he was too afraid of his demon side emerging and hurting him when in the throes of passion.

As a demon, Ryuuto would love nothing more than to make love to him life mate, but in order to do this he decides he has to invite another demon who will show him how to control the demon side of his nature. The problem is if he goes through with his plans, Ryuuto has to let well-known demigod demon, Figaru make love to him without Takuma being around. The last thing he wants is to see his jealous looks at them.

Ryuuto sees it as his addressing his lover’s needs, but Takuma doesn't want him to be dominated by another demon - he's jealous, yet he is also torn between waiting Ryuuto to be able to make love to him. Ryuuto isn't doing this out of wanting to sleep with another demon; he is devoted to Takuma, and really wants to make him happy in bed. While he wrestles inside with this, Ryuuto also tells him he has made a bargain with Figaru, as Fuyu had sent him along; Figaru is an incubus and if he doesn't mate he gets ill, so they are both doing each other a favor.

As expected, Takuma doesn't see it this way, though, as any reader will know it feels like he is cheating on him no matter what kind of good deed he is doing for the other incubus, or how good the outcome. It will always be on Takuma's mind that he let a demon have his way with him in their bed.

When Takuma leaves his side on the night of the full moon, he goes into the forest and bumps into Figaru - who, sensing he doesn't like what he will do to his lover, Ryuuto, asks him to watch them make love - if Takuma doesn't like what he's doing to him, he will call it off and Figaru will leave. For Takuma this is all too unexpected, and he has to make a choice - leave them to make love alone and let it pray on his mind, or watch and see the outcome.

Spring Demon is a forbidden treat, a guilty pleasure that has to be read to be believed, and I would say this is Yamila's longest and best sex scene yet! Takuma plays the jealous lover who has always stood by his demon lover, yet when the thought presents itself of Ryuuto being made into a better lover, he has to sit back and watch rather than act, as he could jeopardize how his lover reacts to him later. You might think it is in Takuma’s best interests to listen to what Figaru says to him, but jealousy is a funny thing and can make anyone thing anything, good or bad. I liked the steady progress of the character development, and what each character was thinking in turn.

Verdict: This is a nice continuation of the Winter Demon series of novels.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Naruto Shippuden Box Set 7
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 12
Running Time: 292 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Release Date: Out Now
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Shinobi have to protect the Hidden Leaf village from attack by shinobi who have been turned into zombies, they have to be eradicated, or the whole village will become like them. Asuma knows what Sora meant when he mentioned the king, and it doesn't help when it looks like they might lose their village to the enemies who want to seal their fate. Their enemies from the land of fire are using similar techniques that Orochimaru employed when he reanimated two of the Hokage's in a previous battle with the fourth. Just when everything looks like it is going to go the way the enemy wants it to, Naruto and Shikamaru have something to add to the battle that will make sure they don't lose in a fight.

Naruto has a harder fight though, he has to fight a friend who has become an enemy, Sora, and he's not just his enemy, but the leaf villages too. He already planned to kill the fifth Hokage, and wants to destroy the village, as his hatred of others and his anger grows with each passing moment.

Even though it isn't the first time the village has been in serious jeopardy, this series of episodes proves to be the most dramatic in terms of how serious the damage to the village. and the deaths of its people are in comparison with the previous seasons of Naruto. Good is pitted against what their opponents believe their cause to be righteous evil. They seek to obliterate the village and the reign of the Hokage, as they believe there can't be two rulers or kings.

Furido shows his maniacal side as the leader of the land of fire, and what kind of person he is to have wanted to make his cause grow stronger by using someone else as a scapegoat and his pawn, but for him, a mighty pawn can only come from one person, and the twist in this story is only made more cruel and shocking by its reveal later. Sora is used to such an extent that Naruto is forced to fight him, but try his best to hold back his nine-tails power.

Iruka sensei has his own series of problems to deal with, and a realization that comes to him about his relationship with his father, the fourth Hokage. He appreciates being a part of his life, and a member of the Sarutobi clan even though he was a difficult child who often wanted to be left alone in difficult times. This has a heartwarming effect that the viewers will enjoy as it's out of character for him. Also in this series, the Akatsuki arrive again, this time looking for the rest of the tailed beasts.

Bonus Material: Production art and Trailers of other anime series in the Manga Entertainment range.

Verdict: Naruto has got action, style and story in bucket loads - it deserves to be considered the best anime series of all time.

Fairy Tail Series 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 12
Running Time: 300 Mins
Audio: English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0
Release Date: 05/03/2012
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

Fione is a kingdom in a far away land where its people live a peaceful existence. It is also a place of great magic and magic can be traded like goods in the market place. For the residents of Fione magic is a part of everyday life, but for some, say wizards, it is more special than that, there are the wizards who are part of various guilds where they have honed their skills for the better. One guild in particular though is the best of them all, and which some of the most intriguing tales are still told today.

Lucy has the desire to become a true mage, but it will be a struggle for that to happen. While in Harujion she comes across a young man called Natsu who is a member of Fairy Tale; it is considered by many to be one of the best mage guilds around. Natsu gets into town but doesn't have much luck when it comes to travelling as he's sick all the time, yet he needs to find his way to Fairy Tail as soon as he can. Lucy wants to buy something from the local magic shop but can't use her feminine wiles on the shopkeeper. Instead, she has to settle for something else, and that is when she sees a handsome man called Salamander who tries to get her to go with him to his castle - she also meets Natsu and other girls can't help but get into the famous mage. Her meeting Natsu could lead to a wonderful friendship providing she takes notice of what he says.

Like Hei from Darker Than Black, Natsu has one hell of an appetite when it comes to food, yet that can be put down to the journey he's just come back from. He knows Lucy wants to be a part of the guild, but can Salamander offer her more than him?. Salamander is the wizard in town and Lucy thinks he is as impressive as he looks, but on a second look notices he wears a charm spell ring that can get other girls to fall in love with him - after that she thinks he is a low life - but you can't blame him for trying even if he is an impostor. With the promise of getting her into Fairy Tail, she goes along with his wish to go with him to the party, but what will happen once she gets there?

Ritsu is an adventurous type who tries as hard as he can to get what he wants, and he doesn't like it when impostors make out they are the real deal. Lucy is kind, yet easily distracted by handsome men who make promises they can't keep, but luckily for her, there is someone who can get her into Fairy Tail. The first episode establishes the characters; while the next one lets Lucy gets to meet the others at the guild. Fairy Tail Part 1 is a funny, feel good anime and viewers will realize just how many characters are in it that can provide them with an excellent time. Grey Fullbuster a talented man yet he has to rip off his clothes and wander around half-naked when he fights; Karia barely wears any clothes, and is the heaviest drinker of all the guild put together, while Elfman Strauss thinks all you need to get on at the guild are a good pair of strong fists; Loke is the ladies man of the guild, and the girls just keep on coming; Mirajane is the beauty who ends up in bikini swimsuit photos in Sorcerer Weekly magazine.

These aren't all the characters, these are what I consider to be the best of the bunch - and there are many more. it is a perfect anime for those who like watching magic and wizard anime series like Naruto, Negima and Bleach.

Bonus Material: Episode 1 Commentary, Text less Opening Song: "Snow Fairy," "So.W. Sense of Wonder," Text less Closing Song: "Kan Peki Gu-none," and "Tsuioku no Merry-go-round."

Verdict: Enter the world of Fairy Tail where it’s fun, enchanting and bursting with colorful characters you won’t want to miss.

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society OVA
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Rating: 15
Running Time: 105 Mins
Audio: English & Japanese DD 2.0
Release Date: Out Now!
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

In the futuristic world of Japan, the year is 2034 and flights in and out of Japan are put on a holding pattern as the suspicion of terrorist activity sharpens the senses of Section 9, the elite counter terrorist and crime Police unit who are looking for suspects and their officers are scouring the area. As the Police gather in the airport terminal they are assured the suspect they had been following has willingly submitted to be questioned. Section 9 uncover a kidnap plot by one Colonel Ka - Gael who has taken a hostage to negotiate himself out of the country. As they try to corner him, he screams that the Puppeteer is coming to get him, and as they come forward to capture him, he shoots himself in the head. Operatives swearing allegiance to General Ka - Rum have begun committing suicide one after the other in Japan and with the deaths of Ka - Gael there is a rumor of a link between them.

At a blood-spattered crime scene Section 9 officers discover the body of the 13th tattooed male with the "true believer" glyph in the palm of his hand. Thinking that he is the next suicide.The Police decide to go to the hidden location to find out what they can about the suicides to get more clues.

Major Motoko Kusanagi has been away from Section 9 for two years since she left the service. The personnel have got 20 individuals along with Togusa who is their leader and they have been getting on with things in her absence.

Motoko though has recently been seen around listening in on conversations Section 9 have been recieving, and turning up in places where other Section 9 officers have been investigating. Is she ready to come back, or is she working undercover. No one really knows, but she is around at certain moments during the movie.
The officers come across another dead body who was recieving treatment of an illness and was hooked up to a machine keeping him alive. He looked to have pulled out the cables tot  he machine, killing himself in the process. They also find he had been using a computer trying to get through a backdoor in the system. Ka - Rum was communicating with his people through the Comm Log. They believe he was planning a terrorist strike using a micromachine virus.

Motoko spends time listening in to conversations and finding clues as to the events.
Section 9 think there is another rumour circulating that someone is going around assasinating the people who are members of the society as they did not want anyone else to know Ka - Rum was dead. Then something mysterious happens. Underneath the body on the floor are the characters for "puppeteer" written in blood.
They remember Ka - Gael spoke of a puppeteer before his death and think it is the codename for one of his men.

Batou watches Major Motoko and she tells him that they are on the same case about the tattooed suicides, giving him a polite warning not to go near the Solid State or he would end up killing himself just like the others did. Ma - Shaba is dead too which rules him out as being the puppeteer as they once thought. Batou wants to know who the puppeteer is supposed to be when one of the points out it is a rebel's codename, he is the one who hacks other folk's cyberbrains forcing them to commit suicide, believing him to be the Wizard - Class hacker.

The plot thickens later when they uncover a secret place where children have been kept against their will and are implanted with micromachines in order that Ka - Rum could spread his virus. A Raj Puhto who has not entered the country is also under suspicion of being the puppeteer.

The animation is in perfect balance with the richness of colour that address the eyes of the viewer, as the layout and composition of the buildings and robots is one to be enamoured by. There is an air of surreality as this is usual with the Ghost in the Shell series phenomena and it keeps the tension as it builds up throughout the movie.

This has solid plot, exciting characters and a story that can be interepreted in many ways as the murders have many suspects. Who is the very elusive puppeteer? Will be the question on the lips of those who watch this, and they will be fulfilled with the outcome.

Bonus Material: This two disc set has its own separate disk full of extras, such as: Work World File, Making of Tachikoma Report, Anime and Car Design, English Production Interview, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa Interview, Uchicomatic Days, English Trailer, Japanese Trailer, Trailers, and English End Feature Credits.

Verdict: Brilliant action and thrilling suspense all rolled into one gripping movie!

Mahoromatic - Something More Beautiful Vol 1
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Rating: 15
Running Time: 600 Mins
Audio: English & Japanese DD 2.0
Release Date: Out Now!
Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

There is a huge difference between aliens and humans and for Mr Ryuka, a Saint combat android it is an eternal struggle for him to understand them - there's a catch though, he has those in the human world who want him dead including a robotic cat, Slash who can't believe he's so interested in the humans.

Mr Ryuka is investigating Mahoro and her home, school as he had originally failed to kill her in a war he waged on her in the past. As failure is not an option for him, he decides to wait a while until he gets a chance to kill her once and for all. His attempts have proved useless as he becomes more interested in her than he considered and she thinks nothing of him posing on earth as a sexy school teacher.

Slash, Mahoro's faithful feline friend isn't all he seems either as he has a deep seated hatred of Ryuka, yet what he doesn't know at first is he has a genuine interest in humans even to the point of admiring them and wanting more than anything to lead a decent life pretending to be a human in order to shed his past as an android assassin.

This is a comedy with plenty of  laughs and some scenes that aren't really meant for children to watch as they are steamy, or is that known as fan service? When Seguru is caught with the signed Miho Asaoka Photo Collection  "Beautiful Doll" Ryuka acts as teacher confiscating it, then decides to read it himself at the same time discovering human emotions and desires.

It might start out as a science fiction story, but halfway through the first episode viewers will find it is more than just that, it is a meaningful comedy that will be enjoyable for older teens and adults alike. Mahoro and Seguru have a decent relationship most of the time, yet his interest in girls tend to annoy her enough to scald him for it.

Bonus Material: Trailers for anime releases from MVM.

Verdict: This is a fun drama, action-packed sci-fi with rip roaring comedy that will never go out of fashion - oh, did I say fan service?