Princeless #2 Review

Princeless #2 Review Having a proper belt is highly underrated.

What They Say:
Now that Princess Adrienne has escaped, it’s up to her to save her sisters. The first on her list is the youngest sister, Appalonia. But saving Appalonia means going back to her family’s castle and…even worse…facing her father. Will Adrienne be able to break into her old home and if she does, will she be able to get out again? The story of the Princess who saved herself continues in Princeless #2, “All For the Want of a Proper Belt”. Brought to you by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin.

The Review:
In the first issue, Adrienne is placed in a tower by her father, the king. He’s hoping that at least one of his daughters will be rescued by the perfect prince who can become his heir. Adrienne, however, has no intention of waiting around for her prince to come. She befriends the dragon and rescues herself.

Our second part of the story picks up with Adrienne heading home to rescue her youngest sister Appalonia before she ends up in a tower of her own. Devin, her twin brother, faces his own problems with their father. The king has decided that he’s not worth being the heir either, as he just isn’t excited about swordplay. A messenger arrives with the news of Adrienne’s tower being burnt to the ground, and the king is livid. Devin is devastated to learn of his sister’s death. Just then, a dragon flies into view, with an unrecognizable Adrienne in armor on its back.

There’s just so much I love about this comic. First, it’s just a fun story. There is plenty of humor and action, enough to keep any reader entertained. Between riding on dragons, sword fights, and slapstick parts like Adrienne hanging upside down as the dragon flies away with her; this is a comic that is sure to appeal to kids and adults alike. The relationship between Adrienne and Devin is perfect. Siblings; they support one another even through quarrels. I love them!

The “fairy tale turned on its head” idea isn’t new, but it draws me in. I love the switch of the gender roles between Adrienne and her brother. Yes, the kingly father is an unmitigated jerk, but that’s the kind of antagonist that works for a tale like this. I both hope he learns to be less obnoxious and love his nastiness. It’s usually the stepmother that ends up with this kind of role, so it’s a nice turnabout. This is exactly the kind of tale that everyone needs as a balance to the Disneyfied princess tales. The art is bright and fun, and fits perfectly with the story being told.

In Summary:
I went into the second issue of this comic with high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed. The story continues to be action packed and funny. This is the perfect comic to use to hook younger readers, especially girls. I know many of the people I chat with online are looking for something exactly like this. Yes, Princeless wants to teach us a lesson about gender roles – but it’s so much fun that I’m thrilled to be along for the ride.

Grade: A

Readers Rating: [ratings]


PR: Sentai Filmworks Announces License Of ‘Ro-Kyu-Bu Fast Break!’

PR: Sentai Filmworks Announces License Of ‘Ro-Kyu-Bu Fast Break!’ Sentai Filmworks today launches a full court press on the anime marketplace with the announcement of their acquisition of the red hot new girls’ basketball series RO-KYU-BU FAST BREAK! Based on the hitseries of seven light novel written by Sagu Aoyama and illustrated by Tinkle, as well as the twin manga series illustrated by Yūki Takami and Futaba Miwa, respectively, the 12 episode series is directed by Keizo Kusakawa (Sekirei, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s,) with character designs by Takayuki Noguchi (Queen’s Blade, Papillon Rose) and script supervision by Michiko Itō (Special A.)

Talk about games being called unexpectedly!  Hasegawa Subaru joined the basketball club at Nanashiba High, only to have his hopes dashed when the teams’ play is suspended after the captain is suspected of having inappropriate feelings for the coach’s underage daughter.  Blindsided and blocked by bad luck, Subaru expectedly finds an opening for his talent with the hoops when his aunt asks him to take on the task of coaching a young girls’ basketball club – a Ro-Kyu-Bu.  But can a superstar wannabe find true satisfaction while playing sixth man to a team of five girls?  Get your scorecards ready and find out in RO-KYU-BU FAST BREAK!

Digital distribution of RO-KYU-BU FAST BREAK! will begin through The Anime Network on Wednesday, July 27 with a video release of the 12 episodes on English subtitled DVD to follow next year.

About Sentai Filmworks:

Sentai Filmworks is one of the fastest-growing anime companies in North America, including hit series like Highschool of the Dead, Guin Saga, Needless, Canaan and Angel Beats.  Sentai Filmworks programs can be found on home video distributed by Ingram Entertainment, Baker & Taylor, Section23Films, The Right Stuf and other good and fine distributors.  Digital product offerings may be found at iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Zune Marketplace, Anime Network, Playstation Network and YouTube.

Naruto: Shippuden Episode #359 Anime Review

Naruto: Shippuden Episode #359 Anime Review

Naruto Shippuden Episode 359

Look! There’s Naruto… well, at least briefly.

What They Say:
Kakashi visits the Uchiha District and notices that the community seems more antisocial than the last time he visited. Meanwhile Itachi finds concrete evidence regarding the Uchiha Clan’s coup against the Leaf. The fateful moment is fast approaching…

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The politics and intrigue of the Hidden Leaf Village definitely has its moments across this series, though it took awhile to really get to it. But that made sense since Naruto was young and unaware are the early focus of the series was on him trying to cope with being on the outside, struggling to make friends and then working his way up in being a ninja while understanding what it was that resided in him. So there is a certain appreciation for going back in time to the days when he was just a baby and exploring more of what was going on then since it has an impact in the present with Danzo’s manipulations to take control of the village with his belief that only he and his plans would save it from utter ruin. And bringing in a greater understanding of Kakashi certainly helps, as does exploring more of the Uchiha clan.

With life moving forward and intrigue always out there, Kakashi has continued to grow and grow up since we saw him as the stripling this arc started with. He’s been through a lot and is a bit more mellow in a way, but there’s also the sense that it’s a cover and an act that he has used to protect himself and to ensure that people keep a certain distance. We see he’s still friends with Guy, which is always amusing, and there are some interesting moments as the two make their way to the Uchiha distract and walk through it. It mixes in some minor flashbacks for Kakashi with things he had done there in the past, but the coloring and tone of it all shows a far more distrustful place than it once was as everyone is keeping their distance and just observing what the pair are doing. It says a lot about the nature of the clan at this point, things we knew, but in a newer light.

As it moves on, we do see a good bit more of the intrigue in general with how the village elders and Danzo are starting to butt heads in some ways, and everything about Danzo is painted in such a dark and ominous light that it’s almost comical with the foreshadowing that’s placed on it, which we obviously know about already. But it does put us in the mindset of understanding more of what was going on then, and contrasting it with the daytime situations with young Naruto and Sasuke shows just how big of a situation that they’re caught up in that they had little control over. Some of what we get is interesting with the adults in an abstract kind of way, especially once the whole civil war issue is largely settled, and the elders work through plans to move forward to protecting the security of the village, but it just lacks the kind of impact it needs to really feel important.

In Summary:
Well, it’s nice that we see Naruto for a couple of seconds, isn’t it? I’m enjoying this arc in a kind of passive and casual way because while it does fill in some of the blanks with the past or expands and explores them a bit more, it’s all rather underwhelming in terms of pacing and actual key moments in a lot of ways. It’s better than pointless fart filler or other stuff that we got back in some previous anime original arcs and there is something to get out of all of this, but for me I still find the back story too many years too late. It’s interesting but not captivating or engaging outside of seeing familiar characters in their younger years and understanding their connection to events a little more closely.

Grade: B-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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

Modern Magic Made Simple Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

Modern Magic Made Simple Complete Collection Anime DVD Review The magic may be simple, but even that doesn’t really mean it’s easy or you can do anything you want.

What They Say:
Life hasn’t been fair to Koyomi Morishita. Even though she’s in high school, she’s so short that everyone assumes she’s still in grade school. The boys and girls in her school tease her mercilessly, and she’s not exactly graceful either. On the other hand, she’s still better off than Yumiko, who has a magician trying to kill her… or at least, Koyomi was until their paths crossed!

Fortunately, salvation arrives in the form of master mage and graduate student Misa Anehara, who agrees to take Koyomi under her wing in learning the new style of magic, which breaks enchantment down into sequences of code. That’ll be quite a task, given that so far Koyomi’s talent seems to consist of making washbasins randomly fall out of the sky. But if it was easy, it wouldn’t be magic, would it?

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release pretty basic as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that has a good mix of action and dialogue to it where both sides play out well. It’s not an expansive or really immersive show with what it wants to do but it uses the forward soundstage well to give it a clean and sharp feeling. Dialogue is well place when needed and the action ramps things up to quite a good degree with both the action effects and the various magical elements that are brought into it. The cast is pretty small here overall so there’s not a lot of variety tot he voices and what they do but it’s well handled across the board. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in the summer of 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across two discs with the OVA and five episodes on the first disc and seven episodes on the second. The series has a lot of bright, clean colors to it and the transfer captures studio Nomad’s animation really well. While the show may not have distinctive character designs or backgrounds, it has a very good look to it that’s really appealing here. It has a vibrancy to it that draws you in and it utilizes the computer code aspect in a great way to make it engaging to watch. It’s a solid looking transfer overall that lets the shows quality shine through.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard single sized keepcase with a hinge insde in order to hold both discs. The front cover goes with a fairly standard cast shot of the main group of women in the outfits we usually see them in. They’ve got a mix of expressions to them with a bit of humor and seriousness in there and they’re all wrapped around by the binary source code magic symbols. Add in a pretty good background that has a bit of a circuit board look to it that’s done faintly and in soft colors and it keeps the attention on the characters and the source code itself. The logo is kept simple like the title and looks good though I wish they kept the original series name somewhere on the front cover. The back cover is much brighter overall with a soft white and blue background that has a rather detailed summary about the show. The episode count is clearly listed and we get some good shots from the show and character artwork that’s definitely of the cute variety. Add in the usual elements with the production credits and the technical grid and you’ve got a solid looking design here that makes the show easy to figure out and entice with. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this release are rather standard but it utilizes the colors and artwork well to provide for a good looking piece. The menus are split down the middle almost with the left side featuing cast artwork that’s different with each volume while the right has the episode numbers and titles with some cute code next to it. The two sides are split with a curved strip of ride which plays well to the blues and whites along the right side. It has a bright, upbeat and pretty look to it all that defintiely sets the mood right. Submenus are quick and easy to load, what few of them there are, since there aren’t any language submenus.

The only extras included on this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahō that’s currently ongoing in Japan as written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Modern Magic Made Simple is a twelve episode series and OVA that takes a fun look at how magic can be reworked into the modern day. The show actually does things fairly right here when it comes to the OVA department as well as it precedes the TV series itself and just adds to the overall feel of the show rather than something that fits somewhere in the middle of the series but is viewed after the fact. It’s a good progression for story rather than just an odd piece that doesn’t fit in the flow of things.

The series takes place in the present day and focuses largely on Koyomi, a highschool freshman who has some aptitude for magic but not the actual application of it. What we come to understand is that magic is handled in two different ways. One is the classical form of it in which there are incantations and other verbal methods for invoking the magic. That’s how it was done for ages and there’s a real artform and appreciation from those that work that route. The other is modern form in which magic is understood in how it’s in the fabric of everything and that “source code” can be manipulated. Things are done through the code and in computers to write up spells that can be used but understanding the code and applying it can also simply be done by the person. Koyomi is of the modern style but she’s not exactly all that good at it as all she can do is make washbasins. Some pretty neat ones at times, but still that’s all it is.

Within this world, most people don’t know or see magic or understand it, but there are those with some history with it. And that history comes in the form of families, though they’re not used to a great extent here. What we do have is that Anehara family with Misa being the one of this generation who excels at magic and runs a pretty good business with it. Her residence used to be a large restaurant that was well known quite some time ago and it’s also a bit of a school now though she only teaches Koyomi since she knows there’s a lot of potential in there with here and the two made a good team. Misa does come with a brother, Soshiro, who is rather amusing in that he doesn’t see magic at all and thinks it’s just crazy talk, which is even harder to rationalize when he has washbasins dropping everywhere. And while it is a gag for awhile, it also has a really good explanation later in the series that made me grin quiet a bit.

The one that shakes up events most of the time though is Yumiko, a young woman with a foreign background to her that has her set apart in Japan. She’s the one that as a child was very determined to be a magic user as she understood that she was one of the rare ones that could grasp it. And her origins introduced her to the Classical form of magic first and foremost which she took after. Yumiko brings in the catalyst for the series as well as she has a staff that contains an immense amount of knowledge and power that others, in “ghostscript” form, are looking to acquire from her in order to reshape the world as one that has more awareness of magic. Because of her possession of this, there’s a decent storyline that takes shape over the course of it that lets everyone work together at different stages to understand with what’s coming after them.

The early part of the series is rather confusing at times depending on how closely you’re paying attention. It uses a bit of magic for time travel, but it’s not exactly clear when things jump back and forth a bit since it starts with a jump to the past without cluing us in. It’s rather neatly done when you put it all together though as you get a look at the evolution of some of the characters, notably with Yumiko, but you also get a better appreciation for Koyomi because she does a pretty good job at keeping her own counsel during the time trip. But even as we do get to see Koyomi better through this, and it reflects well back in the present, it’s Yumiko that makes out the best as we get the most understanding of her and her situation. Hardly anyone else has any family mentions here, even Misa’s own brother is but a bit player, but Yumiko is the one that feels like she comes from some place.

Modern Magic Made Simple does keep to a straightforward visual design so it’s not a series that looks radically different or does anything to stand out in a big way. The character designs are appealing though and the use of magic is rather well handled with the way they visualize the source code itself. The cast themselves do have a pretty good look to them and the way they handle the ghostscript characters, essentially ghosts given a different origin of sorts, adds a good bit of flavor to things. The show does feature a good bit of action as well but it’s not one that generally uses it in a very big way, though it doesn’t shy from making a scene strong and important.

In Summary:
Modern Magic Made Simple wasn’t the smoothest of series to get into with the way it moves back and forth without it being clear why it’s doing so, but once it found its groove it got into it well even if it didn’t do anything big for a lot of it. The show avoids doing the silly subplot and filler type that tends to populate these kinds of shows as it instead works the larger plot in smaller doses and in pieces woven into everything else. It’s a slow build with some interesting bursts along the way. It’s the type of series you’d almost call uneven if you didn’t realize what it is that it’s trying to do. This show would have likely frustrated a bit in weekly form, but watching it over the course of a day made for a good bit of fun even if it didn’t do much to really flesh out the cast much.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 20th, 2011
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan Vol. #06 Manga Review

Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan Vol. #06 Manga Review The fight with Shikoku comes to an end, but it’s not long before another enemy threatens to come for Rikuo.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Hiroshi Shiibashi
Translation: Yumi Okamoto
Adaptation: Mark Giambruno

What They Say
Yokai rumble! Rikuo leads his Night Parade of a Hundred Demons in a street fight against the 88 Demons of Shikoku. But Rikuo doesn’t know that the maniacal leader of the 88 Demons, Tamazuki, is wielding a secret weapon: the Devil’s Blade, a legendary sword that absorbs the energy of the demons it slays. When the sun rises, the Paranormal Patrol visits a girl who’s being visited by a jyami, a type of ghost that only haunts outcasts.

Content: (please note that the content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the help of Yuki-Onna, Rikuo is able to take on Tamazuki. To increase his own power Tamazuki uses his sword, the Devil’s Blade, to kill his subordinates and absorb their power, but Rikuo strikes back with the power of his own living allies. Before Tamazuki can be killed Nurarihyon and Inugami-Gyobu, Tamazuki’s father, interrupt. Inugami-Gyobu begs to have his son’s life spared, which Rikuo grants as long as those who were killed are buried and honored. Later, we see the Paranormal Patrol again as they travel to an ocean town to save a girl from the ghost Jyami who watches her as she sleeps. Then as they return home, a pair of onmyoji appear in town with plans to kill all the demons.

The battle with Tamazuki and the Shikoku demons comes to a quick end as the Nura yokai win their fights one by one. The pacing here is a little uneven, as many of the fights are concluded within a couple of panels, while others are lengthened by dialogue and sudden flashbacks. Even the final push against Tamazuki and his sword, while exciting, feels rushed, as many of the pages are taken up with backstory and meaningful speeches. It still comes to a pretty satisfying end, as Rikuo finally defeats him not only with the help of his subordinates, but also while his demon blood is ebbing away with the sunrise, proving that his true strength isn’t something physical.

It’s a treat to finally see Yuki-Onna show her stuff. Initially her fight against Yosuzume looks to be disappointing, as she’s immediately blinded, but then we discover she played a trick to freeze her own eye, preserving half of her sight. She quickly freezes Yosuzume, allowing Rikuo to continue his own battle. Her moment in the sun lasts only a chapter, and she immediately looks to Rikuo for his praise, but at least we were able to see another girl in this manga hold her own.

After the intriguing battle, we jump right into another Paranormal Patrol story arc. This once again proves to be more goofy than anything else, as half the group complains of losing their summer vacation and Kiyotsugu yammers on about yokai. The biggest yield in this story arc is that Rikuo gains another member of his Night Parade, but half a book seems an awful long time just to obtain a minor ally.

In Summary
The Shikoku fight ends with Rikuo’s obvious victory, but also with the enemy Tamazuki still alive. With all of the character development and backstory Tamazuki received, this leaves me to believe that he’ll come back, with his final introspection making it seem that he’ll be an ally rather than a foil. After all the fighting and death it’s unsurprising that the next plot involved the Paranormal Patrol, but while a bit of humor keeps the story light the second story arc just brings the overall manga plot to a stall. But even though a good portion of this book is taken up with a goofy side story, a number of intriguing things pop up to keep our interest. At the end of the fight with Shikoku we are reminded of the possible traitor in the Nura clan, and finally get a glimpse of who it might be. And at the end of the volume, we see that Yura Keikan, the demon hunter and Rikuo’s friend, has two siblings coming to town with a more black-and-white, and more vicious, view of yokai. A fight with the Keikan family is definitely more imminent, and luckily promises a more serious and interesting story to start off volume 7, while the possible traitor will likely remain a mystery, an important unanswered question that will hopefully carry us through more volumes.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: B

Age Rating: 13+
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: December 6th, 2011
MSRP: $9.99

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Movie: Sacred Star of Milos Blu-ray/DVD Anime Review

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Movie: Sacred Star of Milos Blu-ray/DVD Anime Review The chance at a new form of alchemy sets the brothers off on a new mission of discovery only to find a complicated and twisted past infecting the present.

What They Say:
A fugitive alchemist with mysterious abilities leads the Elric brothers to a distant valley of slums inhabited by the Milos, a proud people struggling against bureaucratic exploitation. Ed and Al quickly find themselves in the middle of a rising rebellion as the exiled Milos lash out against their oppressors. At the heart of the conflict is Julia, a young alchemist befriended by Alphonse. She’ll stop at nothing to restore the Milos to their former glory – even if that means harnessing the awful power of the mythical Philosopher’s Stone.

The Review:
Please Note:
The technical portions of this review covers only the Blu-ray in this DVD/BD combo release.

The audio presentation for this film contains the two standard audio tracks in that we get the Japanese and English language mixes in 5.1 using the Dolby TrueHD codec. Due to licensing restrictions, the tracks cannot be changed on the fly and the subtitles are locked to their specific tracks, which is unfortunate but didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film. The audio mixes are essentially the same with the music and effects tracks as they use the forward soundstage well with some good bass moments, but it’s the music that primarily uses the rear channels in both soft and loud ways that helps to enhance the moment. The dialogue is largely restricted to the forward soundstage but it flows very well with some good placement in many scenes and a solid sense of depth as well. It’s not an over the top mix but it doesn’t shy from going big in the right ways. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2011, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature has a very rich design to it and the transfer captures iti very, very well. Colors are rich where appropriate, the detail is solid and well defined and it brings the theatrical flavor of the animation home in a compelling way. Owing to its theatrical nature, there is also that thin sliver of film grain here that gives it a bit more richness but avoids any problems such as noise and other complications. Cross coloration is a non-issue and in general the transfer comes across as rich, beautiful and clean as it should be. There was really nothing of note to make here that would detract from a normal viewing experience.

The packaging for this release, at least the first pressing edition, has an O-Card on it that mirrors whats on the standard size blu-ray case inside. The front cover artwork is a good piece with the usual array of headshots in emotional moments set against an explosion of power and a mixture of energy striking out against the darkness that is the black background. The heavy shadows and overall look is quite good and it’s definitely distinctive. The logo is kept along the bottom adheres to the usual style design and has a good thematic look while also keeping things simply but effective. The back cover runs with the black background in a good way because the text, while a bit soft, is readable against it and is laid out without being too small of font size. The small strip of pictures doesn’t do the film justice but it does show off some of the variety to it. The films extras are clearly listed and the summary of the plot covers the basics well enough without giving away too much. Add in the good dual format technical grid that lists it all accurately and you’ve got a decent cover here. My only gripe is that the run time is kept outside of the technical grid so that a cursory look will have you seeing the extras runtime and thinking the film runs that long. The set doesn’t have any inserts of note related to the film but there is artwork on the reverse side in a greyscale that shows off part of the ruin from the film itself.

The menu design for this release is decent and about as expected as it utilizes a lot of big action clips from the film that run in a decent loop. All of it is set to the end music, which is definitely something that sets up the active aspect of it, and it all loops together with the logo at the end. Amusingly, while I liked it when I first loaded up the disc, going back to the menu after the end of the movie where the song plays, you realize just how much weaker high-end Dolby Digital audio is compared to the lossless Dolby True HD mix as the menu is kept to the 640kbps level. It feels very empty in comparison. The layout of the menu is alright, not really thematic or anything, with a small navigation strip near the bottom that doubles as the pop-up menu and has the basic selections which are all quick and easy to access with no problems. Submenus load quickly and cleanly and we had no issues in getting around.

The extras for this release, the majority of which are kept on a second disc for the DVD release but are all on the Blu-ray, are definitely the kinds of things you want. The big extra for the Japanese language fans is an hour long behind the scenes feature which is in high definition and covers a lot of ground. Bringing in the voice actors to talk about it, the creative staff and showing what went into its production is always enlightening and this one is no exception. It’s the kind of extra that really lets you see the people and effort and how they did it all, in a positive light, that helps to expand your appreciation of the end result. English language fans aren’t left out as they provide a commentary track for the feature to talk about their experiences as well, which we sampled a bit of. Add in a selection of trailers, TV spots and the web promo and you get to see some of the marketing that went into it as well. There may not be a lot in terms of the extras you can select, but what we do get is pretty extensive and encompassing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the overall period of time that the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series runs, there’s certainly enough room for a couple of side stories to take place. The series itself is rich with adventure but little in the way that isn’t necessary to the core storyline. That’s one of the big advantages to it in that it’s pretty focused and working towards telling that tale. It meandered a little but even those pieces were part of the larger puzzle in some important ways. So when it came time to a movie to be made, I’m definitely glad they went this route of a new original story rather than trying to do movie version of the TV series itself or mucking with the continuity in some way. Or even worse, a completely different retelling of things in compressed form.

With a nearly two hour running time, the film certainly gets to take its time doing what the series did best in bringing out all these various events and characters to tie it all together. And rather than working with the cast at large, it does keep it to Ed and Al for the most part and the new characters. The central motivation here is a good one that ties into the series as a potential new flavor of Alchemy may be out there due to an incident that unfolds and that gets the brothers heading off to investigate. Their natural desire to find some way to get their bodies back is what drives them, but it also ties into their job as well which is a big bonus. That incident has them going to Table City, a border town against the nation of Creta where tensions are seemingly always running high.

The feature introduces us to some of the characters from the start in a painful way as two young children, a son and daughter of alchemists themselves, find their parents slaughtered at the hands (or claws) of something brutal. Their lives change dramatically after that, and as we learn they ended up in the valley between Armestris and Creta. Ashleigh didn’t stay there forever though as he ended up heading out for his own goals, leaving his sister Julia there where she attempts to learn alchemy herself. This area, a land once belonging to a group called the Milosians, has an intriguing history of abuse by various nations that has now left them barely surviving in a deep stone valley along the border. It’s one of the more intriguing areas of the world to come into play between this and the series and really gives you a sense of history and scale that a lot of the main show did not for various locales.

What draws Ed and Al into things is when in the capital, an escaped prisoner uses the strange alchemy to overpower them and get away, which puts them hot on the trail that leads to Table City. That has them following Ashleigh, who has plenty of secrets of his own, but also introduces a Chimera of sorts at first with a werewolf type that’s causing plenty of trouble and hunting down Ashleigh pretty fiercely. The arrival at Table City is pretty spectacular in terms of action and layout as things just turn out as they usually do for the brothers, but it then spends a lot of its time exploring the nuance and intricacies of the city itself and the various groups that occupy it. Nothing is like it seems at first and the further it gets in and the more we understand of the Milosians and their struggle, the more curious a turn it takes yet with a certain predictability. With Ed and Al getting caught up in it, things do spiral out of control at times but there’s also a very strong sense of purpose about them as they want to do what’s right as the learn more of the history.

While the TV series spent its time detailing the locales over several episodes but within the confines of the multi-character arcs that were going on, this one gets to spend almost all of its time really building this area. And it’s very unique, making it a visual treat on many levels. There’s a good sense of continuity between the series and this, though this is obviously a theatrical level budget in the sheer amount of detail and design. The payoff is huge as it makes this a richly designed and engaging film just in watching them move through all the places. It’s almost a little too distracting at times from the main storyline. But the character animation, while very good, also doesn’t detract by being radically different or overdone from what we saw in the series. This film really is the perfect complement to the series. It adds to the richness of the world without screwing anything up.

In Summary:
With the TV series being one of my all time favorites, I had a certain hesitation with this feature before watching it after what the previous movie did to the previous series with all its changes and alterations. Thankfully, none of that is here and what we get is something that is, while standalone, a spot on perfect addition to the series. It’s a fine line to tread in how it can either add to the world or corrupt it, but they did a fantastic job here. And it is pretty accessible to people who haven’t seen the series (as proven with the group I was with that hadn’t seen it but thoroughly enjoyed this). Though things are essentially self contained here, it provides for an engaging story that deals with large scale issues, a sense of history and a connection to everything else that the TV series operated with. It’s a striking film with its visuals, set design and character animation and it essentially hit everything just right for me.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Making of Sacred Star of Milos, U.S. Cast Commentary, Theatrical Trailer, Web Promo, TV Spot, U.S. Trailer

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Humor: Harrison Ford Settles Old Grudge

Humor: Harrison Ford Settles Old Grudge If you’re involved in a series of movies (or several movies across different franchises) that earn you worldwide fame, you have to maintain a sense of humor about it all or you just go nuts at some point and rail against everything. While Harrison Ford does get questions about his past on both Star Wars and Indiana Jones, he has done a wide enough body of work that he doesn’t continually get the drumbeat and hasn’t been pigeonholed by it. Which is why it’s doubly fun to see him in a bit like this for Jimmy Kimmel Live in which he gets a visit from an old friend who he has had a significant issue with for the past thirty years or so and makes it clear that shit is not going to change in his mind.